Beginnings, and a Time to Be of Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent one picture

Beginnings, and a Time to Be of Service

Yes, here we are at the end of November, the waning of the calendar year. Yet—here we are at the beginning of the liturgical year—the beginning of Advent.

I led the worship service today, highlighting the first Sunday of Advent. A Sunday of waiting. A Sunday when we look forward to Jesus returning for the second time. It is also traditionally a Sunday of hope.

Sure, when some people think of Advent, they want to get through it quickly! Let’s get to Christmas, already! Enough with this waiting, this time of preparation. Race ahead to the baby Jesus, being born in Bethlehem. Yet—our Scripture passages for the first Sunday in Advent do not tell us about that baby Jesus, and a warm, fluffy Christmas card picture. Instead, we are focusing on the hard stuff. On the fact that Jesus is coming again in power. On the sin, and unworthiness, and the fact that God takes us dirty, sinful, unclean people and cleans us up.

At our church today, we had a guest preacher, a student from one of the local bible colleges. Noah preached a sermon on one of the readings for the day, from Isaiah 64:1-9. He did a fine job at explaining the text. I built the whole service around that Scripture passage, lifting up various parts of the passage in the different hymns and prayers, besides the reading of the sermon text.

So, that was how I was of service today. In formatting the worship experience today, I hope I tied it together with a biblical bow—I kept ringing the changes of Isaiah 64, in different ways.

I earnestly tried to make a cohesive structure for our congregation. And, I was glad Noah helped me to lead in worship today. All in all, I did the best I could. Or to paraphrase the words of the prophet, from Isaiah 55:11, I provided a space for the Word of God to go forth. God, bless Your word. I pray that it accomplishes that for which You sent it forth. Amen!


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In Which I Have Patience. And Am Kind.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, October 11, 2014

things you can't buy in stores

In Which I Have Patience. And Be Kind.

I like to people-watch. I enjoy it! When I sit in a coffee shop, browse at a book store, even walk outside, down a busy sidewalk. All prime places to people-watch. I know, through experience.

My husband and I went to a coffee place nearby, this afternoon. It was a mom-and-pop establishment, later on a Saturday afternoon. Quiet, not many patrons in the shop. An older couple, seated a little way from the cash register. A younger man on his laptop, at the counter facing the window. A knot of men speaking Italian, heads close together.

As the two of us approached the cash register to order, we both noticed the bag casually slung under the table. A clear Chicago Marathon bag sat at one of the men’s feet. Including the official entry form and number. Was he from Italy, I wondered? What was his story? Were any of the others running in the Marathon tomorrow? All this flashed through my head in a split second while I considered what to drink. Waited for the woman ahead of us to finish and pay.

It didn’t look hopeful. For a quick turnaround at the cash register, that is. The young person working the cash register apparently was a new hire. Not familiar with the register, not used to the menu, not that facile with the money. My husband and I were patient, slowly giving our order. (One simple coffee drink, one tea. No frills. Straightforward.) We gave it again. And again. And, one more time.

We decided to sit down. We did not have a time crunch, or anywhere particular to go or do at that time, so we pulled up chairs. (Next to the men speaking Italian, by the way.) We watched the proceedings, and made editorial comments. Not particularly snide ones, either. My husband surprised me by relating a story about his dry cleaners, and how something similar had happened there just this morning. They somehow misplaced my husband’s order. My husband patiently waited, standing quietly. Just standing, not upset, not distraught. He could see the lady behind the counter get a bit frazzled. However, the clean clothes were simply misplaced. All was well, at last.

But, that was at the dry cleaners. This afternoon at the coffee shop was another story. We waited. And waited some more. Finally, another young person brought my husband his tea, and then about two minutes later, my coffee. Out of habit, more to double check than anything else, I asked whether it was decaf. Crestfallen, the young person said, “No, it’s caffeinated,” and disappeared. I waited even longer. Finally. I got a coffee drink, decaffeinated, at last.

I wondered just now. Does God ever get impatient with me? God knows, I give God plenty of reason to get impatient and upset. Even disgruntled. Thank You, God, for not getting impatient and angry with me.


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Lovely Afternoon to Be Kind!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lagoon at Chicago Botanic Garden, May 17, 2014 (photo-Rachel Jones)

Lagoon at Chicago Botanic Garden, May 17, 2014 (photo-Rachel Jones)

Lovely Afternoon to Be Kind!

So there we were, on our way up to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Absolutely gorgeous May afternoon. The sky was blue, and partly cloudy. With big cumulonimbus clouds stacked in huge piles around the sky. A great day to be outside, and especially going to such a wonderful place as the Botanic Garden!

My daughter wanted some lunch, so we stopped at a Subway sandwich shop on our way up Green Bay Road. As we got out of the car in the jam-packed strip mall parking lot, I noticed the car next to us, on the north side. Being a friendly sort of person, I smiled at the man standing next to the car. He nodded back at me, but didn’t smile. That’s okay. Sometimes people don’t feel like smiling.

We walked the short distance to the sandwich place, stood in line, got our order, and went upstairs to the cute seating area (first Subway I’ve ever seen that was two floors!). My daughter and I often have excellent conversations: today at lunch was no exception. After the leisurely lunch (did I mention the wonderful conversationalist I had to talk to?), she and I walked back to the car. There was the same car. And there was the man—still waiting. Or just standing there. He was on the shorter side, almost compact. Small mustache, light gray jacket, still hanging out next to his car.

I almost drove off without a second thought. Almost. Then, I did have second thoughts. And third ones, too. I put down the window on the passenger side of the car while my daughter almost died of mortification. “Hello!” I smiled again. “Can I help? Do you need something?” The man seemed honestly surprised. “Hmm—n-n-no,” was his response. I stayed put. He continued, “I wait for someone.” He nodded at another person talking on her cellphone, some two hundred feet away. “All right, if you’re sure,” was my exchange. He nodded. I smiled again. Then drove on further north, on Green Bay Road.

We had a lovely time at the Garden. My daughter took a number of photographs, and almost very flowering bush and tree was in bloom. (Gorgeous!!) But that man wouldn’t leave my mind. I have found that this is what happens when I am supposed to pray. I did pray for the man and for his companion, the woman I saw at a distance on the telephone.

I thought about the man and his companion, when we were on our way out of the Garden, as well as on the ride to the nearby bookstore. I am concerned about this gentleman, and for his companion. I hope their car is working properly. And knowing what I do, sometimes? About people on the North Shore suddenly getting a change in economic circumstances. I hope nothing like that happened to him.

I hope he and his companion had a lovely afternoon, too. I pray so, too! God, please hear my prayer.


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Holy Saturday, Batman!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, April 19, 2014

Daffodils - photo by Kevin Jones, 4/18/14 Chicago Botanic Gardens

Daffodils – photo by Kevin Jones, 4/18/14
Chicago Botanic Gardens

Holy Saturday, Batman!

Today is Holy Saturday. Or the Great Sabbath. Or the Saturday of Holy Week. Whatever we call it, today is the day after the commemoration of the death of Jesus on the cross. Traditionally, this is a day when Christians wait outside our Lord’s tomb, in quietness, prayer and fasting. The Church is to meditate on Jesus, His Passion and death, and His descent into Hell. (As is spoken of in the Apostle’s Creed, just to serve as a reminder for those of us with non-liturgical backgrounds.)

Yes, I grew up with a liturgical tradition, but I have never observed a Holy Saturday service, with the altar stripped bare. Or, an Easter Vigil on Saturday night. So, these practices are very interesting to me—and somewhat odd. Different.

How do I see Holy Saturday? I look on today as a waiting-time. Waiting for the celebration of Easter, waiting in the quiet of that garden long ago, waiting beside the tomb—with the stone still standing in place. I do not necessarily think of going into a church for a service on Saturday; but that does not mean I am not thinking of Jesus, His Passion and death, and His presence in that tomb.

My husband, daughter and I took today to go to the Chicago Botanic Garden, to see the lovely growing things. As I reflect on this now, after the fact, going to the Botanic Garden reminds me of the coming of Easter, for the most part. Sure, there are a few blooming spring flowers (You should see the daffodils and crocuses!). For the great part, the garden itself is waiting. The buds and leaves of spring are almost ready to unfurl and push their way out into the sunlight. For example, the vivid, bright green of the weeping willows—about to pop open! But, not yet.

Sure. The Botanic Garden on Holy Saturday is not the first thing that jumped to my mind this morning. However, this choice of ours (in response to my husband) to go up to the Garden and to enjoy the relative warmth of the day? Certainly a welcome opportunity after the long, harsh, cold winter.

My intentional act of service today came later in the afternoon, when I brought over some things to my sister’s house. And I did enjoy myself as I spent some time with my sister, family and friends (Yes, the food was definitely a high point!).

I hope the time of quiet I had this morning helped me to concentrate on the death of Christ. I know this afternoon in the gentle beauty at the Garden caused me to think of the beauty and infinite creativity of God, even while waiting for the resurrection on Easter morning. Lord Jesus, I’m waiting! Waiting for You, the Light and Life of the world.


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Be Kind in a Grocery Store

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, March 3, 2014

BK kindness is contagious

Be Kind in a Grocery Store

Brand new month. Bright, shiny snow. I went on some errands for a friend of mine today. I needed to go to the pharmacy, and to the grocery store. Wonderful opportunity to be kind to someone today!

After I picked up a few things at the pharmacy, including two prescriptions, I went across the street to the discount grocery store. I do enjoy shopping—it’s almost always a pleasant experience. I entered the store and found some new displays—seasonal items on sale near the doors. It’s so interesting to see what items will be featured at this cut-rate store.

It didn’t take me long at all to dash in to the store, grab a few items, and proceed towards the front of the store to check out. I needed to wait for several people in line ahead of me. In fact, I was waiting in line for quite some time. That was okay. I didn’t mind. But as I was standing there, waiting patiently in line, the older man in front of me said that I could go ahead of him, in line. A bit flabbergasted, I soon picked my jaw up from the floor.

I gathered myself together. Shook myself (almost like a trained animal or something), and said “Thank you! Thanks so much!” I smiled at the man, and walked over to the head of the line. I knew he had been in line there for more of a long time, at least longer than I did. Funny thing—I kept telling myself that I was out of place. Almost subversive, like I was doing an action that felt somehow like I was “cutting” in line. Good thing I had someone like that kind man offering his slot to me. Gracious at last, I did take the older man up on his welcome offer.

Another quirky thing: I had the strangest feeling that I would go ahead and try to pay it forward. I mean, I would try to offer my place in line (waiting for the cashier) instead of focusing on myself, front and center. I don’t want to let things go, paying attention to nothing and no one but myself. I need to think of others . . . and be intentionally kind.

What about you? Have you ever had someone offer you a place in a line—like what happened to me? Has someone been unexpectedly kind and thoughtful to you, so much so that you intend to pay back the kind act of service? I keep thinking that God will send me some interesting thoughts, not to mention some service opportunities. I’ve been praying for them!

As we enter the season of Lent, I pray the same for you—whether you are participating with the calendar 40 Days & Ways to Be Kind, or not. I encourage everyone to pray for service opportunities. And then, don’t be concerned! God will send them your way! I know God has sent me any number of opportunities to be kind. Praise God, get ready, set—serve!


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In Which I Wait for a Delivery

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, February 3, 2014

LOVE John 15-12

In Which I Wait for a Delivery

As I think about how to show love in deed, in action, waiting for a delivery did not immediately leap to my mind. However, here I sit, doing that exact thing. A friend of mine could not be at home today, but the delivery was all set up. So—I said of course I would be available. Certainly, I would wait for the delivery. That’s what friends are for.

I realize that some people absolutely cannot stand sitting around, twiddling their thumbs and tapping their foot. Waiting?? Gah! Irritating! Gosh, what a waste of time. I’m too important for this. Don’t I have a million things I need to get done? (You get the picture.)

That might have been my attitude some years ago. And could possibly be my attitude now, depending. I am not sure. Regardless of now or then, I must admit—I had kind, generous tendencies. At times. As I’ve mentioned already in previous posts, I do have the spiritual gifts of helps and encouragement This waiting-for-a-delivery would very much be something I’d do for a friend or relative. I just never was asked to do this specific kind of thing before.

Being kind—intentionally—involves all sorts of situations. Things. People. This being the month of February, I wanted to display a specific facet of being kind. Yes, showing love. Not the generic, fuzzy, smarmy expressions of love that sometimes are wrapped up in Valentine’s hearts or Hallmark cards, but a real, down-to-earth, even gritty kind of love. Rigorously honest, true blue, genuine.

A few weeks ago, I found a photo online that said “Kindness is just love with its workboots on.” Just so, I have a feeling that God is going to bring me some interesting expressions of love. I mean, acts of kindness and expressions of love to get involved in, this month. God has certainly given me some interesting, touching opportunities so far this year. I know, I know. I did ask God to send me (at least) one way of being kind, every day in 2014. I was the one to open my big mouth.

It isn’t like I was ignorant of what could possibly happen. No, I have seen God work before, during my few decades of being a believer in God. But here, I put myself on the line. One day at a time, each and every day, I ask for my daily marching orders. And each day, something turns up. It’s amazing, but true. (And it’s only the beginning of February.) I’m not certain whether that’s a brilliant brainwave, or a cockamamie, crackpot concept. Whichever it is, it seems to be working. And, I am continuing to receive gratitude, appreciation, and lessons from the people I help. Sometimes (and I’ve talked about this, too) I try not to let them know I have made an attempt to help. I want to put myself out there and be of service. That is, usually. Some of the time. God, help me to make that most of the time. Please.