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abagbreakEvery two weeks on Wednesday I meet with two sections (afternoon and evening) of a book study group. We have come to be known among ourselves as NOW (No Ordinary Women) after the title of our first great read, No Ordinary Time, by Jan Phillips. These gatherings have become an oasis of camaraderie and spiritual deepening for all of us, I believe, and yesterday was no exception. Almost at the end of Fully Awake and Truly Alive: Spiritual Practices to Nurture Your Soul by Rev. Jane E. Vennard, we considered the practices of Hospitality and Service. The beauty of this book is found in its practicality. One does not need to go looking to do something extraordinary but rather to look into everyday choices and activities familiar to us for our on-going spiritual growth. Some of the suggestions are simply a matter of attitudinal shifts.

Such was the last suggestion in the section called “hidden services,” a concept that Rev. Vennard takes from Richard Foster, author of the wonderful book, Celebration of Discipline. Foster speaks of the goodness that comes when we serve others without being noticed. “These are not acts done in secret,” he says, “but rather are ways of relating to other people that slip by their awareness. However, the results of these acts of service impact both the individual and the community in which they take place.”

Rev. Vennard’s illustrations of such practices were all quite apt but none more than the last entry. “A final hidden service is quite paradoxical,” she writes. “It is the practice of willing to be served. Service cannot happen if there is no recipient, yet we are often reluctant to accept the help being offered…Your grocery bag splits in the parking lot and someone comes to help. “Thank you,” you say. “I can take care of it myself.”

Agreeing that this kind of refusal is ingrained in most of us, we agreed to consider occasionally setting aside our fiercely independent nature and offering to others this most uncomfortable (for us) opportunity to serve. What about you?