Tag Archive | trusting God

A Glimpse of God’s Love

Last Saturday, Mim and I tried to drive to Chicago, normally about a two and a half hour drive, for a memorial service. Unfortunately, we got only as far as the distant northwest suburbs before we decided to turn around and go home. Although the weather forecast for Chicago was to get only 1 to 3 inches of snow, visibility had diminished to just a few car lengths, and the roads were getting pretty slippery. We thought it would be wiser to write a letter to our friend’s adult children to explain how much we admired their dad and how much we learned about God’s love from him.

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Jon presented me with a chocolate cake when I retired from the CCHC board.

Jon Beran was one of three founding doctors of Circle Christian Health Center (CCHC), a not-for-profit clinic on the far west side of Chicago – a very poor and violent, mostly African American neighborhood, and a medically under-served part of Chicago. Mim worked at the clinic in the early 1980s after she completed her advanced practice degree as a nurse practitioner. I served on the board of CCHC when I completed my MBA. We both chose Jon to be our personal physician. He was a good doctor, a good listener, and perhaps the kindest, most gentle, and most humble person I’ve ever met. 

When Jon was in medical school in the early 1970s, he attended Circle Church, an Evangelical Free congregation that met in rented space – the Teamster’s Union Hall on the near west side of Chicago, close to Circle Campus of the University of Illinois. The mostly college-aged and young professional members of the congregation enthusiastically committed their lives to serving Christ in their chosen professions wherever the needs were greatest. 

At that time, one of the most socially and economically distressed neighborhoods in Chicago was Austin, on the far west side of the city. A group of people within the Circle Church congregation decided to move into Austin to serve the people of that community. Circle Urban Ministries was founded as the network that would link a medical clinic, a counseling center, a legal aid practice, a youth center, and eventually a church. 

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Staff of CCHF in the late 1970s. Jon and Nita on left.

Jon and his wife Nita (a nurse) bought a house in Austin. They had two children and raised them in that neighborhood. (Their son has become an architect and their daughter has become a family practice physician, like her dad.) Both Jon and Nita spent their entire careers serving the people of Austin through CCHC. Nita passed away two years ago. Mim and I made it to her visitation. It was obvious by all the people from the neighborhood at the funeral home that Nita and Jon were very much loved by their community.

Mom crocheting

Mom kept crocheting afghans for babies of teenage mothers in Chicago until just a few weeks before she died.

One of my favorite memories of Jon relates to my mom. When she was in the last stages of liver cancer, Mom and Dad came to live with Mim and me in Chicago for her last six weeks. Although we got Mom signed up to receive hospice care while she lived with us, she needed to have a local doctor see her and prescribe medications. We asked Jon if he would be her doctor. Of course, he said yes. Mom was too weak to ride to the clinic, so Jon made house calls to see her. We lived pretty far from Austin, about a 30-minute drive or 45-minute trip on the “L” each way, but Jon came over to see her as often as she needed him, usually coming by “L.” He carried his stethoscope and other doctoring tools in a Jewel Food Store plastic bag. He didn’t carry a doctor’s bag because he didn’t want to look like a doctor who might be carrying drugs.

Besides caring for Mom’s physical needs, Jon also took time to listen to Mom talk about how she was trusting God to heal her. I didn’t eavesdrop on the whole conversation, but I know Jon somehow related her trust in God to the trust his children needed to have in him when he was teaching them how to swim. They needed to trust that he would take care of them even though they didn’t totally understand how everything was going to work. Then Jon prayed with Mom.

As I mentioned in this blog last week, my special word for 2019 is LOVE, as in the LOVE OF GOD. One of the books I’m reading to kick off my year-long reflection on LOVE is BUMPING INTO GOD: 35 stories of finding grace in unexpected places by Dominic Grassi, a Catholic priest who lives in Chicago. From the back cover of the book,

fullsizeoutput_2785A natural storyteller, Dominic Grassi invites readers to share his warm memories of life in Chicago over the past five decades. He shows how God is reflected in the people we meet every day: a butcher, a bookstore owner, a short-order cook. 

And, I would add, a special doctor named Jon. I’m sure thousands of people have caught a glimpse of God’s love by bumping into Jon sometime in their lives. I know my mom did. And so did I.

 

Playing Games with Chip and Randy

My friend Chip, the Chipmunk

 

Chip, the chipmunk, and I have been playing a game lately. It’s a combination of “Hide & Seek” and “Cops & Robbers.”  I’m undoubtedly dating myself, but my brother and I used to play both games with our cousins when we were kids. We chased each other and hid all over the farm – in the house, the barn, the sheds, and outside.

Caught nibbling on a green cherry tomato behind St. Francis’ back.

The way Chip and I play the game is that he’s the robber and I’m the cop. He tries to steal a cherry tomato and I try to bring him to justice by snapping a photo as proof of his crime. As soon as he sees me approaching he finds a hiding place, either by darting into a hole in the corner of the raised bed if he’s close to that corner, or he scurries out of the bed and into the downspout.

I play a similar game with Randy Rabbit who likes to steal the leaves off the green bean plants.  Apparently, he thinks they’re quite tasty. Unfortunately, Randy is a better thief than I am cop. I don’t think I’ll get any green beans from the raised bed this year.  At least I’m getting some cherry tomatoes. My six cherry tomato plants are yielding enough tomatoes to share with Chip. My three rows of bean skeletons just have a few blossoms.

Chip peeking out of the downspout.

Playing these games with the chipmunks and rabbits that live at Whispering Winds has prompted me to think about who really is the “owner” of these vegetables. Who is most entitled to the beans and tomatoes? Should Chip and Randy really have first dibs on the produce? Or, should I?

Believe it or not, I think the Bible addresses this issue quite directly. In Matthew 6:26, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”  That sounds like God intends for the wildlife to be entitled to whatever they eat. But then he says, “Are you not of more value than they?” So maybe I should have first dibs on the vegetables, and Chip and Randy should be content with the leftovers. God has given me a bigger brain. I should be able to outsmart Chip and Randy.  I guess I’ll keep trying, but I’ll remember to share. I’m sure God loves Chip and Randy, too, and wouldn’t want them to go hungry.

Fortunately, neither of them eats zinnias. Jesus also talked about flowers in the same conversation recorded in Matthew 6. He said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” [Matthew 6:28]

I think the main point of this whole passage is summarized in verse 34, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” But I think Jesus is also telling us that God cares about the plants and animals of the world, too.

My summary of this whole passage:  Don’t worry. Trust God. And share.

“Consider the Zinnias…”