Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ministry. Kind of a chic thing among latter day Catholics. I do not know, being a Convert Come Lately, exactly how it rose from the galleries, this fashionable topic of ministry but I wonder if it started to come into vogue after so many deeply spiritual people walked away from their religious vows and looked to find life among us plebians. maybe?

At any rate, it's quite a topic. Minstry to the homeless, ministry to the poor, ministry to the disenfranchised. You have your ministry, you is set! Your ministry is the ecclesiastical equivalent of that 3 bedroom cabin with new dock on Lake Coeur d'Alene. Everybody wants one. Or at least wants to talk about where they'd get one and how they'd go there.

That's not to say I haven't noticed real, true ministry in my life; I am blessed by people who quietly exercise a particular devotion of sorts that might not ever be featured at the parish on a lenten program, but hold a ministry nevertheless. These people touch my heart and humble me; they do no marketing, they solicit no funds, they do not trumpet the plight of their attentions. But they tend to their attentions nevertheless, with quiet devotion and care. They lift spirits and spark hope, one heart at a time, and quietly keep moving, always on the look out for wallflowers and stragglers.

My friend Robbie, she of the Halloween card, comes first to my mind. Robbie has sent me a birthday card every year since I have known her--about 15 of them now. This may not seem like a significant thing, but it is. I know that Robbie will always be a loving presence in my life and will be an unconditional, non-judgmental wellspring of friendship. She ministers to me with love and cards. She sends my daughter birthday cards; the Pup loves it. She sends my homesick son handmade Halloween cards; it's the thing in his week that boosts him to the weekend, into the arms of his friends. Robbie sends hundreds and hundreds of cards a year. She sends anniversary cards, Mother's Day cards, cards here and there. Nothing too fancy or gratuitous; tight, simple, one or two lines of encouragement and light. That's Robbie. So many people have said to me "I got a card from Robbie; it was so nice!" This girl lives her life, walks her talk and does what she can. And doesn't verbalize it to death. She ministers to all that she knows on ordinary yet tricky days that can be laden with emotional sandtraps.

When I think about people walking their talk, I think of my friends Tim and Sam. Recently, I was advocating for a two-time convicted felon that I have come to know in the last year. He is having trouble finding a job, critical for his on-going reentry into the community and for his successful rehabilitation. Tim and Sam own and operate a famous restaurant here in The 'Kan and so I turned to them with my guy's plight: nobody wants to hire a convicted felon. Tim offered to interview him for a dishwashing position, saying that he would give him the same chance as anybody. He quickly followed up with the assertion that he would not grant special status; that any employee must follow the mandates of all employees: be reliable, work hard and bring your best. He says that he has hired many convicted felons over the years and that some have worked out, some have not. But says he, you gotta give 'em a chance. What an incredibly touching ministry this man and his wife have, a deeply beautiful faith and spirit with which they wraps themselves and their life. You won't find them on a list of area's Top 10 Philanthropists but how could you count their contribution as anything less than all conference? All American?

My friend Sherrie hires felons, too. Her business silk screens t-shirts and her niche among felons is the work-release program. If they can find a job, they can live in a work release facility, a far cry from a prison, and thus are jumpstarted into community reentry. Sherrie works closely with the prison and with parole officers, spending many extra hours, but not receiving any additional compensation. She provides employment for people for whom employment might be the critical redeeming factor in their sad lives. Sherrie's employees are regulars at AA and rehab. She runs a tight ship; noone gets a free pass there, either. But she gives those who need it a chance, a real chance--without judgment, without discount. The irony is you will never see Sherrie's company on a list of the area's top employers. The chamber of commerce has yet to honor her as an outstanding employer for her contributions to the people of the area. And that's just fine with Sherrie. She doesn't need that; she does need to know that she tried and that her efforts mattered in at least one life. This is a ministry.

And so I look to my friends with love and adoration for all that they are and have been to so many. They live each day as an opportunity; love all, serve all. It's real. They do it. There is beauty, there is love all around me. I live deep in the grace and light of my friends.

The 'Kan EWA


toadman said...

You've been thinking about philanthropy. Why's that, I wonder?

They sound like nice people. I'd go to their resturaunt if you'd email me the name of it...

good morning jbelle...

treespotter said...

i'm envious.

the psycho therapist said...

I love your writing style. I feel your deep presence in the words.

You are a giant among humans, my Schmeebsie--a compassionate, dedicated Mother to all who seek help (and those that don't but you decide they need it anyway, lol) and I am grateful to count you among my friends.

My wish for you this day? That you receive the "Mothering" you so graciously extend to others. I want it to be your turn. Yours.


Shelley said...

Jbelle -- I don't comment here often but I regularly read your blog and am often deeply moved, especially by posts like these. I feel blessed by the opportunity to get a peek into your rich and full life -- rich not just in your obvious success at what you do, but even more in the abundant loving family connections, friendships, and experiences you share with others. Your friends that you wrote about here are shining examples of people who reach out to the world from a place of humility and purity of intent. People who "live full out." They are inspirational to me -- as are you! Keep sharing... keep shining.

raymond pert said...

Churches find it more and more difficult to find priests or to afford a sufficient staff of clergy. An emphasis over the last many years has arisen emphasizing lay ministries. Being a lay preacher and lay adult education "instructor" in our Episcopal Church, and, I should add, having seen a tremendous surge in lay involvement in ministries, I see the value of this emphasis. I think it's of particular importance in the Roman Catholic church. Protestant Reformers gave special emphasis to "the priesthood of all believers". This has been a tough move for the Roman Catholic church. But, it's happening.

I'm writing as if I didn't understand your point about all the ministies happening that may or may not be church related and that are done out of a sense of service that is unconsciously ministry, not consciously calling it so.

It all works. As the youth say today: "It's all good."

What a fine meditation you've written here.

Raymond Rigby

jb3ll3 said...

hi there, Toad. I bet you've been there. Across from the park. dear, dear, DEAR people.

jb3ll3 said...

Randolph, It's true. You have a huge capacity to make a difference. What matters?

jb3ll3 said...

Wendo, You are generous and beautiful. We all agree.

jb3ll3 said...

Shelly, it's so nice to hear from you. I agree, I have these quietly amazing people in my life and I don't, hardly ever, understand why. Just that beauty is all around me. xoxo loved to see you!

jb3ll3 said...

Raymond Rigby, I appreciate the follow up and observations about my Church. Change moves slow enough that you have to keep your eye on it. We have another practicing Episco-North Idaho-palian here although when he does speak up, it's usually in French. As he teaches too, you have sooo much in common. I think you were at the same schools at the same time, too. Post high school.