Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sharing Space - We Do It All The Time

Standing in line at the grocery store, Target, hardware store or any other place can often bring challenges. Sometimes, if we're in a hurry it seems that the person in front needs a price check or got the wrong size or needs another color of the same item or forgot one more apple in the farthest aisle from the checkout lane.

So we wait.

And while we wait, we deal with mounting impatience and frustration when we just want to get on with our day. Why did I get stuck in this line with these people? Why did I have to show up at the exact same moment?

Like it or not, we're sharing space with others in the world.

And yes, sharing space can be aggravating. But sharing space can also offer an opportunity to pray for those around us.

Try offering a general thought or blessing such as "God come to _________ (this woman, this man, this child)" or "Let ____________ (him or her) know the reality of your presence" or "Help this mother have patience with her child while she waits." The simple act of bringing that person to mind, heart and spirit, as we stand in line and share space can bring us new joy or offer a new perspective to the situation.

Sharing Empathetic Space

Recently, I participated in a yoga class held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Saturday morning before the museum opens. It's one of my favorite things to do. As I was waiting for the guide to take me to the third floor gallery where the class meets, my mat slung over my shoulder, I shared space with a woman standing next to me. She started talking.

A retired breast surgeon, she was dealing with the challenge of her children living in two faraway places: Florida and Texas. She was debating whether to move closer to one or the other. I listened, sharing my own story of a child who lives far away. We shared empathetic space as we waited for class to begin.

Sharing Soothing Space

Every week when I volunteer at IU Hospital North, I share space with anxious families who are waiting until their loved one returns from surgery. As I sit with them, I listen and reflect their concerns, offering compassion to soothe their anxiety. Walking with them down the hall, the final time for a reunion with the patient ends our moments of shared space.

Sharing Heart Space

Sharing space is about sharing my heart - opening my heart through God's heart. What an honor each day to be given the opportunity to share space with someone else.

A few weeks ago, I shared space in a funeral home. I stood in line to pay respects to a family whose 20-year-old son died suddenly. I starting talking to the woman in front of me. A winding line of college students who wore perplexed and confused expressions, surrounded us. The woman explained a few details of the man's death. "My son, was one of his best friends since elementary school," she added. With each word she said, my heart expanded to envelop her and all others in the crowded setting. Sharing space in this encounter reached the deepest places of my heart as I mourned with her and shared a common bond of shock and sorrow.

Sharing space with others can open the heart in unexpected ways - even those moments that begin with frustration can end with concern and care.

For Your Reflection

1. What places do you share with others?

2. What happens during those long or short moments?

3. How do others share space with you?

Prayer: God, we share space with many throughout our days. Sometimes we engage in dialogue with people; other times our interaction is silent. Open our hearts deeper and deeper to receive your great love, so we can pout out this love with listening, attention and empathy, for those with whom we share space. Amen.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A Thank You Note - A Nice Surprise

A thank you note for a birthday card helped me appreciate the value of writing gratitude to others.

Every March, I send a birthday card to my friend, Katie, an energetic 88-year-old I met in a water aerobics class at the YMCA. Each year,  along with a birthday greeting, I write on her card, "I want to be just like you!" - meaning in my eighties I hope to have the zest for life I see in Katie.

This year, she sent a thank you card. Along with her gratitude, she said, "I think you are wonderful just the way you are!"

I chuckled when I read these words that led me to pause for a minute and consider the beauty in my life.

An Unexpected Thank You

A few months ago, I received a thank you note from the CEO of Indiana University North Hospital, Randy, expressing gratitude for the time I volunteer each week. I was surprised and never expected to receive a note for my service.

Next time I saw Randy, I thanked him for his gesture of kindness. He told me he tries to write a thank you note each day to an employee or volunteer at the hospital. I was impressed with the faithfulness of this wonderful habit.

My Own Experience With Thank You Notes

Although I didn't like writing thank you notes when I was a child for gifts I received at Christmas, I was glad my mother made me write them. I carried that practice into adulthood. I  taught my children to write thank you notes from the time they were little, beginning with scribblings interpreted as "thank you." I continue to write and send notes myself all these years later as a joyful habit - in fact, I cannot begin to enjoy a gift I receive until I write a thank you to the giver.

Thank you notes express appreciation, but not always for gifts. I have received notes expressing gratitude for leading a program, for vocational and professional support, for being a mentor for remembering a birthday or special occasion, and for support following the loss of a spouse.

I have written thank you notes for a meal provided, for gratitude of a friendship, and most recently I wrote a note to an old friend who gave me reassurance that a mutual friend's final days were pain free and peaceful.

Jesus Says Thank You

Jesus realized the value of offering thanks on three occasions: following the raising of Lazarus, before he fed 4,000 people and at the Last Supper.

Jesus learned that Lazarus was sick. A few days went by before he went to Bethany. When he arrived, Lazarus was already dead. Mary and Martha were grief-stricken.

Martha said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

Jesus replied, "Your brother will rise again."

Jesus, Mary and Martha went to the tomb. When the stone was rolled away, Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out. Lazarus walked out of the tomb with strips of linen wrapped around his hands and feet.

Jesus looked up and prayed, "Father, I thank you that you heard me." (John 11:41-42)

Then, when Jesus was preparing to feed four thousand people, he "took the seven loaves of bread and when he had given thanks, he broke them." (Matthew 15:35-36)

Finally, when Jesus and the disciples gathered for the Last Supper, "He took bread, gave thanks and broke it.: (Luke 22:19)

Jesus knew and modeled the value of giving thanks to God.

More Thanks From Reader's Digest

The April, 2018, issue of Reader's Digest, contains an interesting story, "Showing Your Appreciation - The Power of a Thank You Note Can Last A Lifetime." (pages 110-117)

Fifteen people shared their experiences of receiving or writing a thank you note. One was from a woman who'd been a mail carrier for 30 years. When she retired, she wrote a note to each of her 436 customers, thanking them for allowing her to serve them. On her last day, she was surprised when many hung balloons on the boxes and wrote her a thank you note. She concluded, "I hope I delivered all the mail properly that day, as there were tears of gratitude filling my eyes."

Final Thoughts

Last week at a funeral visitation, I saw a woman who was a member of Mike's first church. I met her in June, 1976. I remember writing her a thank you note for bringing us a meal after we moved.

Next time I saw her, she thanked me for the note and said, "You are just beginning to write a lifetime of thank you notes as Mike's career starts."

At the time, I didn't realize the scope of her words, but surely I have written a lot of thank you notes over Mike's 37 years with churches, because affirming people by expressing gratitude is a way I show God's love.

Questions for Reflection

1. Are there people from the past to whom you would like to express gratitude by writing a note?
2. Make a list of these individuals, and write one note a day.
3. Is there someone who has recently completed a kindness you want to acknowledge? Take a moment to write a note of appreciation.

Prayer:  God, you give us everything we need, beginning with the gift of life. You provide for us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. How can we ever thank you for your goodness and love? Guide us to live our lives so we show gratitude in how we respond and interact with others. Help us daily to always give you thanks. Amen.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

An Interrupted Prayer Life - Maybe

Mike walks every morning along the busy street bordering our housing addition. He often picks up trash or coins he finds along the sidewalk or in the road. He tosses the trash in our recycle container, and donates the coins to mission project offerings at church each Sunday.

Last Sunday, Mike came home with a soaking wet prayer book filled with leaves, evergreen needles and mud. I took the book and examined it closely.

An embroidered green cloth with side pockets on the inside covered the prayer book, "Give Us This Day - Daily Prayer for Today's Catholic, October, 2019." A purple ribbon marked the place where the person was reading.

Inside I found two laminated prayer cards, a prayer to St. Michael and two small pieces of tablet paper from "Princess Cruises." The person had written errands to accomplish along with each store's address. I wondered if she was new to the area. A pink and green cross with a pink ribbon down the middle was in the back pocket.

Soaking the cloth cover and crochet cross in soapy warm water, removed the dirt and grit. I set the book in a warm corner of the laundry room so the pages could dry.

Someone Else's Prayer Life

Handling all of these pieces of someone else's prayer life made me want to find the owner. I wondered if the person put the book on the roof of her car, drove off perhaps in a hurry to get to church, forgetting to retrieve what was on top. Since Mike found the book early Sunday morning, I wondered if the owner was going to Saturday evening Mass.

Holding the crochet cross reminded me of a nearly identical one a dear friend made me, which I keep in my Bible and treasure.

What should I do with these holy tools of someone's prayer life? Was her time of daily reflection interrupted because she lost her prayer book, prayer cards and crochet cross? I am sure she paused and felt disappointed when she realized cherished pieces leading her to God were lost.

The prayer book is only for the month of October.  I committed to pray for this person until the end of the month. Perhaps I can be a link between her and God using her materials.

What to do?

My house is equidistant between two Catholic churches. I plan to take everything Mike found to  each church hoping the owner called the office to report the missing items. All of the contents reflect someone whose walk with God was meaningful and who came to God each day, following the guide for prayer and scripture reading.

Although I hold her in prayer as her treasures rest rest on my desk, I feel certain her time with God has remained solid. Perhaps she even purchased a new book cover, and copy of "Give Us This Day" for November. Maybe she asked he person who crocheted her cross to make another one. Her faith and trust in God are aided by what Mike found and I cleaned, but not dependent on these items.

The person I'm holding in prayer knows God, God knows her. And I, as I glance at the cross and say today's prayer, I feel as if I know her a little bit too.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for prayer books, prayer cards and handmade crosses, all of which keep us focused in your presence and close to you. I pray for this woman who lost items meaningful to her connection to you. Help my prayers sustain her until she is able to purchase replacements for her faith walk. Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Pause - to cease or suspend an action temporarily; a temporary stop in action or speech

Back in the fifties, there was an advertisement for Coca-Cola showing a man in a business suit holding a bottle of the drink. The caption said, "At 4 pm the pause that refreshes." The slogan, "the pause that refreshes" became popular, suggesting that stopping or pausing for a drink of ice-cold Coca-Cola at any time of the day can offer refreshment.

Pauses also occur when we are in conversations and need a moment or two to collect our thoughts and think of a word we want to say. The pause button on our remote enables us to stop a movie or recorded show to get a snack, use the bathroom or get up and stretch.


Focusing on the word - pause - during the past few days enabled me to find value in a word that might not quite define our fast-paced world of instant communication. For example, I needed to find  a small bookcase to use in my office. Driving through our neighborhood, I stopped at a garage sale, spotting a bookcase before I got out of my car. I reached in my purse to pay, chatting with the mother and daughter who were in charge.

They explained how many friends and family members made donations to the filled garage. The mother told me all of the sales were being used to finance an adoption for her daughter who had lost four babies. While she helped me carry the bookcase to my car, the mother explained the various options available for adoption locally and internationally. We stopped outside my car as the mother detailed the anguish of her daughter's struggle with infertility.

Driving away, I realized that pausing to listen to the mother, added meaning to my purchase, gave me a lot more information than I expected when I walked to the sale. Now whenever I walk or drive by this house, I ask God to comfort this couple and guide them as they plan for the future.

Then, I went to visit my friend, Donna. When I arrived she had a bouquet of daisies and pink roses picked from her yard ready for me to take home. Donna paused during her busy day to pick a bunch of flowers that speak of her compassion and care for challenges I face. Donna set aside time from preparing for her niece's baby shower and caring for a sick family member, to send a grouping of love my way.

Quilt Store

Saturday morning, after swimming, I stopped by one of my favorite quilt stores. Being the only customer at the time, the two employees welcomed me into their conversation about the valedictorian at one of the large Indianapolis high schools who is homeless. Amazed at the witness of resilience to persevere despite horrible circumstances, we concluded this young lady will be an inspiration as she goes to college and pursues a career path.

At the cash register, the employee told me the story of one of her adopted children finding her birth mother. Pausing to listen to the complications and joys of the discovery, I learned about implications I'd only read about in the newspaper or magazines.

Once again, pausing in places and with people I didn't know, opened a window into their souls that tapped compassion in my heart.

Jesus Paused

Jesus modeled pausing. When people came to him seeking healing and advice, he patiently responded to each one. He could have said, "I need to go _____;" "I'm too busy;" "I need to rest." Instead, he paused at each encounter, offering God's presence through his attentive listening and care.

Pausing does take time, extra time.  I look at what I gained at the garage sale and the quilt store by pausing and listening which added depth and meaning to each experience. Now, when I look at my bookcase or drive by the house where the garage sale occurred, as I said, I can bring the couple to God as they await a child.

When I use the fabric purchased at the quilt store, I remember the homeless valedictorian and the employee whose daughter's knowledge of her birth mother added a new dimension to their relationship.

Being the recipient of Donna's pause brings a smile to my face and comfort to my heart when I see the vase of daisies and roses on my kitchen table.

Take a moment today and pause ---- what happens? Become aware how you are the beneficiary of someone else's pauses.

Prayer: God, you pause frequently to hear our prayers and receive our praise. Fill us with patience to pause at each encounter for we are meeting those who are made in your image. Amen.