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The Measure You Use
AUTHOR
Bob  »

For several years I had the opportunity to volunteer at a homeless shelter one night a month.  My responsibilities primarily involved turning off the lights at 10pm and putting on the coffee in the morning.  Other than that, I mostly talked with the guests and slept – good work if you can get it.  For me it was simply a service opportunity; for the guests being there was the result of one grave circumstance or another.

An itinerant preacher once said the foxes have dens and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.  That is the situation that these brothers and sisters find themselves in.  Given our current economic disaster, unfortunately, many more people may not have a place to lay their heads in the months and years ahead.

At the shelter I enjoyed talking with the guests about sports and politics, but the best part was hearing their stories.  I met some amazing people and learned a lot from them about resiliency, perseverance and courage.  I am better for my time with them.  The “homeless” are less an abstraction; they are persons with all the uniqueness and complexity that we all share.

It is a cliché that you get more out of volunteer service than you give.  But it is repeated so often because it is universally true.  Life is too short for us to remain in the confines of our comfortable little worlds.  Whatever sacrifice self-giving entails is repaid many times over.  That same itinerant preacher said, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

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Leadership is like Fire
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Earlier this year I facilitated a presentation (via Zoom of course) entitled, “Leadership Like Fire: Stop Drop & Roll.” In that presentation I expounded upon by observations of what leadership is. In sum, leadership is about others, it’s about service, and it’s about discernment.

To make my case, I cited three leaders, three figures of the Church (I figured it would be less controversial to cite church leaders rather than cultural or political leaders) and they were: Vincent de Paul, Catherine McAuley, and Therese Couderc. I used their lives, their actions, as examples of good leadership, of servant leadership. The framework I used to adjudicate what good or servant leadership looks like was the model I became familiar with in graduate school: the Markkula Center Model.

A good leader is a servant leader, one who wants to serve, one who is concerned with the growth of those they lead, and whose decisions ensure the least privileged are helped or at least not harmed. Again: service, others, and discernment.

But, leadership is far more art than science, and so tidy categories and succinct definitions as well as charts and brief biographies of past leaders don’t quite get us to the heart of leadership. Prose is necessary to explain the heart of leadership but poetry is necessary to understand what makes the heart of leadership beat. As such my presentation, like my personal opinions on leadership, employed some poetry, some beautiful themes and words from Joseph Grant of JustFaith and his book, Still in the Storm.

Grant spoke of making space, making time, and dropping down to learn, to grow, to be where we ought to be – to lead. And so to me, good, ethical, moral and yes servant leadership is best encapsulated on Holy Thursday. The example Christ provided by stooping down, and washing the feet of others, to be of service to the least and the last, that’s leadership.

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Refuge in Friendship
AUTHOR
Joan  »

These are words to remember during these challenging times.  When I keep my friends in my mind and heart (and maybe in the little image box on my computer screen) I find the time of social distancing and staying at home are much easier.  I find myself complaining less, if at all, because I know I have friends who I can reach out to and find common ground with – if only in our sharing of creative ways to manage this new normal.  So Eeyore, the perfect mascot for the less than content and optimistic among us, finds the bottom line is friendship.  His friends in the Thousand Acre Woods keep him moving along.  Similarly, my friends keep me from feeling overwhelmed or discouraged and I do my best to keep them from feeling discouraged and isolated.  As with the inhabitants of the Woods, we all share this common space called Earth and are called to find in friendship a refuge and salve.  

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Unknown Faith
AUTHOR
Jill  »

During this time of uncertainty, we must remember to keep the faith. Our days right now are being strung together with news broadcast and media, that continue to alter our daily existence. It feels like a “tall order” some days to have faith in the unknown of tomorrow, but we must remain vigilant in the encouragement of one another. As we safety connect from a far via our phones, computers and through our prayers. We must keep our faith in God our redeemer; He has brought humanity through the wilderness and will do it again. For all the uncertain things, have faith we will overcome together.

Share your faith, and think of ways to encourage someone today?

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A Sacred Act
AUTHOR
Joan  »

Ah…the things we seem to sacrifice as we move through our lives.  We might sacrifice a night’s sleep to sit with a dying friend, a big expenditure in order to save money for a grandchild’s camp fees, a Saturday in order to help an elderly friend move  When we do this we are reflecting the true meaning of the word Sacrifice.  The genesis of this word is sacrificus – sacre meaning holy or sacred and facere meaning to make or to do.  This seems important to me.  When someone sacrifices for me I need to see the holiness, the sacredness of this act.  And when I am called to relinquish something important to me can I do so with a sense of the holy rite of compassion and love that this action reflects.

What have you recently sacrificed and did you feel the true depth of how this impacts your world and those around you?

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Let's Grow!
AUTHOR
Jill  »

This year I challenge you to participate in the communities that serve you. Whether it is your church or neighborhood, take time to consciously be a blessing to the people and environments that have blessed you. Community is not just the groups that occupy a space, but is also the relationships that we build there. Life without intentional engagement leaves us mentally and spiritually fragmented by a lack of understanding, patience and compassion for those we share our communities with. There is growth in our humanity when we choose to grow together.

Who is taking on this Community Grow challenge with me this year? Share your thoughts in the comments and grow with the Chicago Cenacle in 2020!

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AUTHOR
Mark  »

As Jean Vanier wrote in Living Gently in a Violent World:

The Word became flesh to bring people together, to break down the walls of fear and hatred that separate people. That's the vision of the incarnation — to bring people together. ...

Maybe the most important thing is to learn how to build communities of celebration. Maybe the world will be transformed when we learn to have fun together. I don't mean to suggest that we don't talk about serious things. But maybe what our world needs more than anything is communities where we celebrate life together and become a sign of hope for our world. Maybe we need signs that it is possible to love each other.

 

Some years ago I read that excerpt of the late great Jean Vanier on a retreat. It resonates with me, especially as we progress from holiday gatherings to the newness of time in this New Year. We’ve gathered. We’ve celebrated. But, alas, have we built communities of celebration?

 Sometimes Christmas parties may seem like “forced fun” insofar as we’re obligated to spend time with folks we may not want to. Sometimes we think the only way we can have a celebration is by having a potent beverage in our hand. But striped of liquid courage or of family obligations, immersed in total freedom how would we choose to love one another? How would we build communities of celebration? In the bleakness of winter how are we going to be a sign that life, and love, and our relational nature is both possible and hope-filled? I, for one, plan on asking a specific question: What do you need? For I believe we can only build community when we know what we’re building with.

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Inner Hospitality
AUTHOR
Joan  »

There is a lovely portion of 1 Peter 4 where he states:

"....keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.Show hospitality to one another without grumbling."

Other translations of this verse use the word complaint or grudging.  I prefer grumbling because it strikes me as such a visceral word.  It sounds like the sound I do make when I am grumbling inside my head.  I was raised with very proper manners so I rarely, if ever, externally grumble or complain when called to be hospitable.  But I must admit to times that I am glad I don't have a microphone in side my head proclaiming my grumbling about it to the world.  

This time of year there are many opportunities to welcome, feed, house and entertain family and friends.  I will pray for the grace to not only welcome all who enter my home with external joy and love but to deeply feel the presence of Christ in all who enter.  When I do that all inner "grumbling" is dispelled and replaced by "earnest love" and hospitality.  Perhaps if I embrace all opportunities for hospitality as God's gift to me to BE love, patience, joy and graciousness I'll truly grow in my relationship with all of God's creation.     

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Share A Cup of Hospitality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Being hospitable can be a most challenging trait. At the Cenacle we borrow the line from the Benedictines: when a guest comes, Christ comes. The idea being that we must be welcoming and hospitable to all. It is easy to have a very narrow gate, to allow just a few worthy souls to enter and receive your hospitality, at the appointed hour; it is quite another, to have an expansive sense of hospitality, which includes the unscheduled and unexpected.

“Do not neglect hospitality,” Sacred Scripture reminds us, “for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). Again, it can be easy to prepare for the times we expect to be hospitable, when holidays approach or planned gatherings happen. This we know and thus prepare to be hospitable perhaps by cleaning up, making arrangements, by preparing gifts or food especially things our planned guests may like. It’s the unexpected, the welcoming, the hospitality at the many unexpected guests and instances where we didn’t plan to have a comfortable cup of tea ready, or our time expended in listening to another. Try as we might, being hospitable is not dependent on being proactive (though it helps to be prepared). Being hospitable is a mindset, and a choice: a choice to welcome, a choice to share, a choice to lay previous plans aside to honor, help, and welcome another whether or not they are expected. Having a hard time with hospitality? I’ve found that gratefulness is a regular companion with hospitality. Perhaps there are other ways to engender a spirit of hospitality, to encourage us to say yes, and to understand that, whether angels, persons, or Christ himself, when someone approaches us we can choose to be hospitable.

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The Joy of Hope
AUTHOR
Joan  »

I have grandchildren who, at this particular time, are full of a special sort of hope. The kind of hope that keeps them in a cloud of excitement as Christmas Day approaches.  The kind of hope that leads them to be able to tell you exactly how many days are left until December 25.  I have the impression no matter what is under the tree that day they will have their hopes fulfilled because their hearts will be open to the joy of the unexpected goodness of the people who love them. 

This is the sort of hope I try to embrace myself as the days have darkened and the world seems off kilter more than usual.  The hope that enables me to feel gratitude and joy for each day because I know God loves me and gifts me with what I need to be happy and free.  The things I put on my "list" are not always what I receive but I hold tight to the hope that the God who loves me as a parent loves a child will gift me the grace I need to grow and express God's presence in this world.

May you find and share such a hope in this season of giving and in the year to come.

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