We had very few people on my last scheduled volunteer day at Good Shepherd Hospital. We began dismantling the vaccine clinic and bringing it back to its pre-clinic state as a conference/ educational center. One of the jobs was to remove the blue tape on the cement floor used to direct the patients to registration and to the vaccine clinic. Getting down on my knees was not too difficult for me since I stay active, walking, exercising and riding my bike. But my finger nails were really taking a beating while I continued pulling up the stubborn tape. I began conversing with a lovely volunteer named, Judy, who apologized for not helping due to physical restraints. “No problem,” I said. I enjoyed conversing with her about her daughter working in Norway and her mother in a nursing home. At one point, I said, “Well here I am on my knees; Is there anything I can pray about for you?” “I pray all the time,” she said. And then our sweet fellowship began. I told her as a kid in the Lutheran church, I had memorized prayers like the ‘Our Father’. I would try to say it at bedtime, but I always fell asleep before the end of the prayer. Then I’d feel guilty. As a child, I only knew Jesus as an historical figure and not as someone who wanted to have a close relationship with me. Now I understand how much he loves each of us and wants us to come to Him with everything. He has created an empathy in my heart for others like my new friend, Judy. “How has prayer connected you to others and deepened your relationship?”
After serving four years in the Marines and eighteen in the Navy reserves, Larry and I were able to enjoy retirement benefits. One of these benefits was to be able to stay on US Military bases throughout the world. Here are some pictures and videos of our February trip to Hawaii.
The Lighthouse trail is spectacular
To those who are close to retirement or if you are looking for a place to volunteer, I highly recommend looking for a Care Center. It has been a blessed year for me and hopefully for those I have served. Each Saturday morning people walk through the doors looking for food, clothing, shelter, dental/eye care or legal help. We provide in various measures according to the need.
My job is to be the greeter and show them around our facility and explain the many services we have. Sometimes as they tell me their life stories it’s as simple as, “Thanks for listening to me. No one takes the time to really listen anymore.” I tell some, I need to practice my Spanish and I help them with their English and explain that we have classes for them at the center. Others are looking for jobs and we have job fairs and employers looking for employees. Sometimes, we have women who have been victims of abusive situations and don’t know where to turn next. But we have a wonderful staff of volunteers at the center as well. This past Saturday we focused on Dr. Donovan who is featured in this picture.
He is a very busy doctor who teaches other doctors and yet he takes the time twice a month to help our many clients and staff with their health by taking blood pressure and giving advice. He told me if I cut my intake of salt, I could have a second cup of coffee. I still can’t eat a tomato without salt. But my blood pressure has gone down and is normal. I encourage everyone at the Care Center to see Dr. Donovan even if they speak little English. We look forward to his visits and his wealth of knowledge. In this picture, we awarded him a pin that said, “Peace” because that is what he brings to our clients and volunteers—-a sense of peace and hope for a change if needed.
Know how you are wired and how you can make a difference helping others. It’s also a wonderful place to teach your children or grandchildren the benefits of volunteerism. As a guest host, I look at each client as a jacket of an interesting book to read and I see in my heart the love that Jesus has for each one of them. It doesn’t matter what their religious or ethnic background may be. We welcome them ALL!
“God has given us two ears and one mouth that we may hear more and speak less.” I work as a guest host at a Care Center in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago. My job is to explain how our center works and to tell new people about the many benefits that could be theirs. After I give them a tour, I listen to their life story. Last Saturday, Emily poured out her heart. It was therapeutic for her. She told me, “No one listens to me. When I tell about my problems, they just butt in and bring up their own.” “You think that is bad,” they say,”let me tell you what happened to me.”
Listening is a skill that takes time to learn. While someone is sharing, be respectful and focused. While keeping eye contact, look below the surface of the words and ascertain what the person is saying and not saying. Ask questions to get the person to really open up. Looking at individuals as if they were the jacket of an interesting book has worked for me. Be mentored. Larry, my husband, has helped me be a better listener by pointing out how I would ask someone a question. Instead of listening to the response, I would start a conversation with someone else. I’m dismayed about my lack of sensitivity.
As Emily shared her story, tears were flowing down her cheeks. She was so grateful for a listening ear. Telling her story helped her get a grasp on her own life and the direction she should take next.
What would our world be like if we truly listened to one another and if we didn’t jump in with our opinions as soon as our friend took a breath. We would have better relationships, better communities and a better world. Let’s give it a try today.
Willow On Wheels, a bicycle and camping group, was going strong at the church during the 90’s. We would meet on a Thursday night and ride our bikes anywhere from 10 to 30 miles through Barrington Hills. We made some great friends during the years WOW was active. As a result, we planned a biking tour to Kentucky. My husband and I and our teenage son, Aaron, lagged a bit behind the group after crossing a hazardous metal bridge from Illinois to Kentucky towards our next night’s destination. Then it happened. Aaron got a flat tire. There were no cell phones then to notify our team that we were stuck in a small town in Kentucky. A man rolled down his window and asked if we needed help. “We need to find a bike store,” I said. “My house is up the road,” he pointed. “Just go in and use my phone.” I was surprised at his friendly gesture. “Help yourself to some water, too,” he said. We made a stop at the local bicycle store only to find out that they did not carry the unique bike tube. They advised us to set up our tent in the city park while we tried to figure out our next move. Up the hill we could hear a party going on. It wasn’t long before they noticed us camped below. “Come on up for a hamburger,” they said. We filled our plates and found out what it was like to live in a small coal mining town where getting a marriage license came before getting a driver’s license.
A young couple asked us if we would prefer sleeping in their living room rather than in our tent. “Thank you— that’s very kind of you,” I said,” but we’ll be fine here.” “But wouldn’t you like to take a shower?” they replied. “Showers,” said Aaron as the sweat rolled off his brow. “Mom! You better say yes.”
This kind family opened their home to us. It was indeed a culture shock. As I closed my eyes and settled into my sleeping bag, I looked around the walls where stuffed turkey vultures and an assortment of other prized animals decorated the walls. I had never seen walls like that in the Midwest. The next day after serving us breakfast, they loaded our bikes in the back of their truck and took us to Paducah, Kentucky where we got the tube for my tire and soon joined the rest of our team. We will always remember the kindness of the Kentucky folks who shared the little that they had with us out of the kindness of their hearts.
These strangers have inspired me to reach out to those in need and to remember the words of Jesus.
“Truly I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” Mark 9:4
On Sunday November 13th 2016, the Tribune posted an article entitled,”Readers weigh in on talking to Strangers.” It caused me to remember some very special strangers that came to our aid.
Larry and I and our son, Aaron, were bike touring with friends. We had crossed over a hazardous metal bridge from Illinois to Kentucky towards our next night’s campground when we got a flat tire. There were no cell phones then to notify our team that we were stuck in small town Kentucky. The bicycle tire was unique and the local store did not have it so we put up our tent in the city park. Up the hill we could hear a party going on—actually it was a family reunion. It wasn’t long before they noticed us camped below. “Come on up for a hamburger,” they said. So we filled our plates and found out what it was like to live in a small coal mining town where getting a marriage license came before getting a driver’s license.
A young couple asked us if we would prefer sleeping in their living room rather than in our tent. “Thank you— that’s very kind of you,” I said,” but we’ll be fine here.” “But wouldn’t you like to take a shower?” they replied. “Showers,” said Aaron as the sweat rolled off his brow. “Mom, you better say yes.”
We spent the night in their home where stuffed turkeys and an assortment of other prized animals decorated the walls. The next day, Sunday, they were kind enough to load our bikes in the back of their truck and take us to Paducah, Kentucky where we got the tube for my tire and soon joined the rest of our team. We will always remember the kindness of the Kentucky folks who shared the little that they had with us out of the kindness of their hearts. What’s your story? Reply on Facebook or www.lifewithlarry.org my blog.
My earliest memories are of my mom putting us to bed upstairs and then returning to the room downstairs to play us a lullaby to calm us down and put us in a state of sleep. My love of piano began with her as she filled the house with music. My older brother would gather his friends around the piano and I sat as a child curled up on the sofa enjoying the singing of various current songs and musicals of the time. Oklahoma was one of their favorites. I was especially moved by my brother’s gifted voice and my mother’s ability to play just about anything requested.
After retiring from teaching English, I have returned to my love of music by playing the piano at a nearby hospital. I saw the grand piano in the newly built lobby and was drawn to it like a bee to a flower. I sat down to play this fantastic donated piano and then got the idea to volunteer to play it once a week. It was my fourth week of playing a variety of tunes from classical to musicals and pops. After I finished playing, I went up to the receptionist to chat when an elderly woman came up to me and said, “Was that you playing the piano?” “Yes”, I said. Then she told the story about how much she missed her husband even though she knew that God was now her husband. [Isaiah 54:5]. As she walked into the hospital, I was playing Moon River. That was our song. God used you today to help me,” she said. We all got teary eyed and there was an instant bonding.
What a year of turmoil, division, and mudslinging this election season has caused. Let’s hope we never see the magnitude of it again. My friend Jayne McGrath who I knew through Bright Hope, an organization that works with the very poor in the world has written this response. I share part of it with you now.
The Trumps and the Hillary’s will come and go and the common issues will always be there for each new President and Government. What will be measured is the ability to create impactful, meaningful change through individuals. One way to do that is to take your strongest voting issue and work on it, or volunteer to make it better. Join a board, join a coalition, fund a need, and put your “back into it.”
Spend time IN the issues instead of on the issues.
An example: Many have talked about their core issue was Pro-Life in
this election. I encourage those people to look into a foster care
agency and change a life to foster a child or adopt the over 100,000
children waiting for adoption and 402,378 in foster care nationwide
that did not ask for the circumstance they are in. Less than 49% of
foster youth complete their GED and therefore go on to have employment difficulties, thus adding to our national costs and their suffering.
If looking to foster or adopt a special needs child, please call me to
put you in touch with a 20 year established solid resource. Children
need love of a real family not only money given to charity. Churches
often have programs to help foster or single parent family children in need. Or fight for free birth control, saving the state money on
healthcare and reducing abortions by 40% (program working in CO) or volunteer to educate moms to discuss options for adoption or help single moms care for their children. These are workable solutions,real-time action that actually helps the issue.
Veterans lives matter as well, so pull up an organization to get
involved with re-career training, homelessness or injury
rehabilitation. USO needs volunteers to help make family time
memorable with those in active service. Paralympics/paralyzed vets
need volunteers to help with activities like teaching vets to downhill
ski, fishing etc. Combine your hot topics. Vet and sports or Vets and
homelessness, education etc.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters help children locally, or if interested
in a specific impoverished country to serve, please call me for
referrals if needed. Feeding programs for extreme poverty food packs are held in local communities through Feed My Starving Children. Northern Illinois Food Bank and Chicago Food Depository are always looking for the help of hands and feet.
Environment – there are local activities to help with environmental
issues or plantings, gleanings, animal care and foster, animal and
natural park preservation groups. Many fantastic ones are right here
As we know, there are many ways to make an impact, many of you already are.This is the only way I know of to make things better is to BE better, to collectively put our hands into action. May this serve as a reminder for those that feel powerless to affect change after the
effects of this election. As we enter into a new paradigm with many
new challenges as a nation, I wish you well, Go with God, Serve
others, keep moving forward in betterment through self-development, seek company of others, keep loving your families and direct your steps towards the future, hopefully a better one each day. Thanks for listening to my thoughts, it helps me to write, so consider this your loving gift of a free therapy session for me! Still sad, but faith-filled for a master plan and hopeful through the power of people’s compassion, thoughts, and ideas. Thank you Jayne.
I would like to end with a thoughtful verse from James 2:15-17.
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well;keep warm and well fed; but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
I looked into the eyes of Joe, a middle aged man, seeking help at the Willow Creek Care Center. His complaint was that God was not meeting his needs. As he talked, I realized that so many of us look to God as our butler or valet, someone to meet our every whim without movement on our part..” We are part of the body of Christ created to fit into a much larger picture. Individually”, we are told to “Work hard to show the results of our salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear,” Philippians 2:4. Yet, I have a picture in my mind of a generation of not workers, but spoiled children whining because God hasn’t given us our cookie when he has provided the means for us to get our own. God is not our butler. The Israelite children grumbled in the desert for better food and clothing. After being delivered from the cruelty of the Pharaoh, they longed to be enslaved again. They missed the garlic and leeks and didn’t recall having to make bricks without straw. We so quickly forget our enslavement to sin and like pigs become eager to wallow in the mud again.
I was once that spoiled child. After marrying my husband, Larry, we moved to the Marine Corp Air Base in Beaufort, South Carolina. I missed my college friends and family and I was feeling very sorry for myself. When Larry would come home from his job as an Air Traffic Controller, he would often find me crying. In frustration, he took a long walk and talked passionately to God about my situation. When he returned, he said, “I don’t want to come home and see you crying. If you are going to cry, cry for someone who is blind, deaf or disabled.“ The mirror he put to my face brought both shame and clarity. Something inside of me shifted and I quit having my pity parties. I started reading the Bible rather than just books about the Bible. As I got the focus off of myself, I was able to see the needs of others in our community. God was then able to use my gifts, and my joy returned.
But I will always remember the prison of my own making. Perhaps you are in one saying I can’t escape because the walls are thick and the bars are strong when actually the door is open and you can easily walk out. So many of us would rather stay in prison and complain. When I have a problem, I ask myself this question. “Is this a first world problem or a third world problem?” I have food, clothes and shelter. The Bible says with these, be content. It has helped me be grateful for my many blessings.
As I continued to converse with Joe, I suggested stepping out and looking for part time employment. I suggested getting exercise to strengthen his back, and I suggested connecting with his maker through walks in nature. I could tell that my advice was falling on deaf ears. He wanted God to somehow magically come down like a genie he could command to make things happen in his life. “God promises to meet my needs, but he isn’t doing it for me,” he lamented while blaming his Creator.
God is not our butler. He has given us the tools to change our lives, but we must take the steps out of our prison to do just that. I’m thinking of my friend who as a child had a leg amputated due to cancer. Hailey just went to Rio where she won a silver medal in the Triathlon category of the Paralympics. She overcame her limitations through discipline and hard work. As a result, she brought honor to herself and the United States.
What can we do to change our circumstances? We can pray, read the Bible and get wise counsel from trusted friends, and Godly mentors. The book of Proverbs is a good place to begin. It’s a treasure of wisdom teaching us how to live a full and productive life. As servants of the living God, we are called to diligence and giving. No, God is Not My Butler.
“We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we may walk in them.” (Ephesians2:10)
We live in a time when so much information is swirling around us through multiple means of media. When we were raising our family, Dr. Spock was the author everyone was turning to for wisdom. It was a time of no discipline and wisdom crumbled into a time of anarchy.
We raised our children through insights found in the Bible–We found the book of Proverbs and the words of Jesus our best blueprint for living. It spoke about how to deal with enemies by overcoming evil with good. Julie, our daughter, was the new kid on the bus and was not greeted warmly. We made cookies and the next day she distributed them and built a bridge of friendship through kindness.
We are living in difficult days where marriages are crumbling and the suicide rate and death by bullets is at an all time high. Our society has all kinds of directional devices but not one for living a good life. We need a societal directional system. Today I put together wisdom I found in 2 Timothy 3 and 4. I hope it will help you understand the times we live in and give you strength to stand firm.
“People will be lovers of themselves. Boastful, proud, abusive. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–Always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. To suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers saying what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth. But you, keep your head in all situations. Endure hardship–Discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 3 & 4
By committing your life to Christ and spending time in his love letters to us, life will have purpose and meaning. “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.