Tag Archive | Advent

Bucket List for Advent

Claudia

Claudia

The best thing about Facebook is that it has provided a means to reconnect with several people from my past. One of those connections is Claudia, an old friend from my freshman year in college. I haven’t seen her in almost 50 years. Our only communication had been Christmas cards, until we somehow found each other on Facebook – I don’t remember how it happened. Now we enjoy reading, commenting on, and often sharing each other’s posts at least weekly, sometimes even daily.

Yesterday Claudia shared an idea from her pastor’s sermon – to have a “Bucket List” of things to complete before Christmas. “The actions on this list reflect and share the true reason for the season.” He provided eleven items to help us get started on our own bucket lists for Advent. Here’s his list, along with my comments.

  1. Help a total stranger. I don’t know who this will be, but I’m on the lookout for an opportunity.
  2. Do something special for a neighbor. Maybe I’ll take our new dog Floey to visit dog-loving neighbors.

    Floey waiting for me to finish writing this blog post so we can go for another walk.

    Floey waiting for me to finish writing this blog post so we can go for a walk and see neighbors.

  3. Extend grace to a family member (let them off the hook). That’s easy. My brother Danny and I don’t see eye-to-eye on much of anything, but we still love each other. I think I’ll bring him a tin filled with a variety of the Christmas cookies that Mim and I bake every year using Mom’s recipes. I know that will bring back lots of happy Christmas memories for him.
  4. red kettleDon’t miss a red kettle. That’s a little harder for me. I haven’t given anything to the Salvation Army in years because of their strong anti-gay position. But, I know they help a lot of people. I guess no organization is perfect, and I want to be supportive of all the good they do. I’ll try to keep a little cash in my coat pocket so I can drop something into every red kettle I pass over the next four weeks.
  5. Give of your time to listen to someone’s story. That’s another easy one for me. At a minimum, I can ask each of our 93-year-olds to tell me about their childhood Christmases. That will certainly lead to some good reminiscing, and I’ll learn more about the good old days, and more about the significant memories of each person. And, the 93-year-olds will have the opportunity to relive those memories as they tell their stories.
    2014 Birthday - Ann w Marty 2
  6. Write a note expressing your thanks to someone who has blessed you. I’ll have to think about this one a little. I have been blessed by many people. Maybe I’ll have to write several notes.
  7. Double your tip. This should be fun! Even when the servers are grouchy, maybe a generous tip will make them feel better.
  8. Take a cup of coffee/cocoa to someone out in the cold. I might cross this one off my list. I don’t typically see people working out in the cold. Instead I might heat up a glass of spiced red wine for Mim to help her relax at the end of an extra busy day.
  9. Start a “chain of blessing” by paying the bill of the person behind you (drive through, checkout, etc.) Rather than doing this, I might invite someone who looks extra busy or hassled to cut in line ahead of me (if I’m at the end of the line) in a grocery or department store. I’ll be giving them the gift of a few minutes. Maybe they’ll do the same thing for someone else in another checkout line some day when they’re not quite so hassled.
    checkout line 2
  10. Give an anonymous gift of value to someone in need. Our church makes it really easy to do this. We can provide anonymous gifts to residents of the YWCA, and to families at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services Center and the Road Home (a service to homeless individuals and families). Suggested gifts are listed on a bulletin board in church with a code name for each person. Mim and I can identify the gift we want to give and simply bring it to church.
  11. Donate your time to help someone else. This will be one of my favorites. I’ll play the piano for the women’s worship service in jail twice in December. We’ll include an extended time of singing Christmas Carols in these services. Nothing makes me feel the Christmas spirit more than hearing the inmates enthusiastically singing their favorite Christmas carols.

Claudia ended her pastor’s list with the suggestion to add your own list items. Here’s the first addition I made as I customized her pastor’s list into my own Bucket List for Advent.

Giving Tuesday Generosity

  1. Make a generous donation to a favorite charity on “Giving Tuesday.” Today is December 2, “Giving Tuesday,” the day that follows the sequence of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Today Mim and I will make an extra donation to Casita Copan, “a community-based organization in Copan Ruinas, Honduras dedicated to providing a loving and supportive family environment to kids in need.” We found out about this organization a couple years ago from a friend of a friend. We sponsor a little six-year-old girl, Dulce Maria, with a monthly contribution. Today’s extra gift is to help the organization meet the needs of others they care for.

I think I’ll print out my Advent Bucket List and keep it handy so that I can check off items as I complete them. I may think of other things to add to the list, too, to be sure the Advent Season of waiting is filled with doing the things I choose to do. I don’t want Advent to be just a pre-Christmas rush, a time of being too busy to keep my true priorities in line.

Advent Week 1

 

 

I Look Forward to “Church” in Jail

Advent Wreath w HOPE text

Last week I participated in one of the most inspiring worship services ever at the County Jail. As usual, I was there to play the piano, and the chaplain and inmates welcomed me into their circle of sharing. Last Thursday afternoon there were 13 women inmates plus Chaplain Julia and myself sitting on wooden chairs arranged in a circle inside the chapel of the jail.

We began our worship by singing a new Advent hymn, “View the Present through the Promise.” (Same tune as “Go, My Children, with My Blessing.”) Then we went around the circle, each of us reading a verse or two from a reading in Isaiah and a reading in Luke. After the Scripture readings, the chaplain invited us to share what, if any, hope and peace we were feeling – hope and peace being the themes for the first two weeks of Advent.

This is a “congregation” that really cares about each other, and it shows. One woman said, “We were just talking about hope and peace in our cell block this morning. We were talking about the nine gifts of the Spirit. I am so thankful I am in a cell block with all these wonderful women. We all get along, and we really care about each other. I am learning so much that will help me live a better life when I get out of jail. Because of this time in jail with these caring women, I have hope, and that gives me peace.”

Another woman said she was glad to be among such loving people, and that today was her 39th birthday. I stepped back to the piano and we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her. One of the inmates, an older woman (the one who knew the “nine gifts of the Spirit”) led us in singing a second verse, “May God bless you …”

Later in the worship service, when we were praying for each other – each of us praying for the person sitting on our right – the “birthday girl” prayed for the person next to her saying, “Catherine is one of the kindest women I’ve met. God, please bless her. I am so proud of her and so thankful that I know her. She is so caring, and and is so good to all of us. As proud as I am of her for being such a kind, loving person, God, I can’t imagine how proud of her You must be. Amen.” Spontaneously, all the inmates in the circle repeated an enthusiastic “Amen.”

I am always inspired when I see the love of Christ reflected in the lives of these incarcerated women. When the service was over and Mim picked me up in front of the jail, I told her “It feels like I’m back at Whispering Winds hosting retreats, and that a group of nuns just invited me to join them for their retreat time.”

Even though it was a cold day, my heart was nice and warm from all the love I felt inside the jail chapel. Hope and peace can definitely be found within these walls. “Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

Advent Candles - 2 lit - PEACE