Kindness, Pointed Inward. Service, Pointed Out.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, July 22, 2014

silhouette crucifix and stars

Kindness, Pointed Inward. Service, Pointed Out.

I spent the first half of the day in Pennsylvania, at the mission conference I’ve attended for a number of years. While there (even for so short a time), I had a number of significant experiences, conversations, and “divine appointments.” However, one of the most significant parts of today happened at one of the sessions. The first speaker of the morning (Russell Smith) spoke on several things this morning, but one piece of his session impressed itself upon my heart with particular depth.

Russ used two Scripture references to illustrate this point. His first (which he will expand tomorrow—when I won’t be there . . . <sob!>) was from Psalm 139. Each of us is created an individual. God made each of us, and designed us while we were inside of our mother’s bodies. God knew every facet of each one of us. And, God created each of us the way we are for a reason. (That’s the A-part of what Russ said.) The second Scripture verse Russ referred to was Ephesians 2:10. Each of us—each individual—is God’s masterpiece. We will not become a masterpiece at some future point in time, but God created us already, in Christ Jesus. God designed each individual for God’s purposes, and God created good works for us to do—so each of us has a job (or work, or things to do) prepared for us beforehand.

Yes, I knew all this already. But have you ever known something already, even known it by heart, or from the time you were very small, or have been through it a hundred times before . . . and all of a sudden, it’s presented to you once again. Strangely enough, this time, the same-old, same-old words come across in a profound way!

That’s what happened to me. These words knocked my socks off. Moreover, I had the distinct feeling these words, this teaching, was for me. Not for anyone else, today. I can clutch it tight to my chest, like a small child holds a beloved, treasured stuffed animal in its arms.

Later in the morning, I had the unexpected opportunity to turn outward. To be of service. To listen to a grandparent tell about their grandchild who is seriously ill. A continuing difficulty. I happened to be in the right place at the right time. What an awesome thing that I was there, to listen, with my less-anxious presence. I could tell this grandparent was concerned about the grandchild, so far away. And—I have been trained for just such an eventuality.

This second happening was intended for someone else. God provided a sympathetic ear and an understanding heart. (At least, I hope I was sympathetic and understanding!)

I thank God for new opportunities to serve. To be kind. And especially, for when people are kind to me.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind, Sharing Stories

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, July 21, 2014

NWMC theme verse from July 2014

NWMC theme verse
from July 2014

Being Kind, Sharing Stories

Such a plethora of stories today! Bits and pieces from all over. All kinds of fantastic ideas, and new thoughts, and different methods. My mind is running on overdrive, just from all of the excellent input. New Wilmington Mission Conference is truly a unique gathering.

Some people I know, others are new. Some of these stories are continuations from last summer or several summers before. Other parts are stunning. Or heart-breaking. Or chilling. I shake my head in amazement, or dread, or sheer joy.

And, I have been sharing some of my story, as well. The good parts as well as the not-so-good parts. I want to be honest and open with many of these dear people. That’s the kind of place this conference is. That’s the nature of the continuing relationship I have built up over more than fifteen years of being here in this place, at this conference.

It’s good to be here and to see friends again. Friends I have deep relationships with, but friends I only see once a year, for just a handful of days (if that).

I pray for this gathering. I ask God to richly bless the marvelous works that come out of this conference. (And, have come out of this place, for over one hundred years.) Some of these young, old, and middle-aged people are first-timers, and others have come back again and again for thirty, forty, even fifty years.

Just amazing. God, bless the people who come to this place. Bless those who were unable to be here, for whatever reason. And God—bless Your work in the world, wherever Your people gather.

@chaplaineliza

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Come and See—See Where I Can Help

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, July 20, 2014

SERVE because Christ served

Come and See—See Where I Can Help

Another day, another conference. Just before noon today, I went from the National Assembly of the Federation of Christian Minstries to the New Wilmington Mission Conference. A mission conference of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I’ve attended NWMC for a number of years—always before with at least one of my children in tow. Not this year. But, it’s great to see what is going on in outreach and misson, all around the world.

I especially wanted to see the mission fair on Sunday afternoon, where many different mission and outreach agencies (local, regional and international) come to share their message. Their story. Come and see. Come and see what these different outreaches are doing. How they are touching lives. What a difference they are making. Come and see.

Then, in evening meeting at the outdoor auditorium, I heard the call again. Come and see. The speaker for the evening (Rev. John McCall) gave an excellent message with some heart-touching illustrations from his time in Taiwan. As he repeated, come and see.

I take this to mean, “Come and see where I can serve. Where I can help. Where I can be kind.”

I may not be able to go to another area of the country, or overseas, to serve any time soon. But I can certainly go to where people are hurting, or lonely, or anxious. I can carry the good news of God to people in need. Or, to someone who is homebound and lonely. Or, to those who are anxious, and in need of prayer. In need of someone to come alongside of them, to journey with them. If I come and see where the needs are, then I can go out and serve. Help. Be kind.

As my friend Stuart mentioned to me over dinner tonight, he and several others from his church helped some refugees from the Middle East move into an apartment recently. He saw where the needs were, and he responded. He helped. He was kind to a family he didn’t even know. And this family has opened their hearts and their doors to my friend and the other couple from their church. The family from the Middle East considers these Americans to be part of their extended family now. Because my friend saw this family’s need for some used furniture and kitchen supplies, and helped them move into an apartment, this refugee family is now so grateful and thankful. They feel welcomed and encouraged. Such a small thing, and yet how needed.

Come and see where the needs are? Go and serve.

@chaplaineliza

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How to Be Helpful by “Sacred Cow Tipping” (and Other Matters)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, July 19, 2014

God draw near to God clouds Jas 4-8

How to Be Helpful by “Sacred Cow Tipping” (and Other Matters)

In case any of my regular readers isn’t aware, I am at a conference: the 2014 National Assembly of the Federation of Christian Ministries. Wonderful presentations! (Really and truly. That isn’t me just saying that to earn brownie points with the association.)

Even though every presentation has been worthwhile, two sessions this afternoon were especially fantastic! Both sessions were infused by the same off-beat, dead-pan sense of humor. Both featured the same presenter: Rabbi Laura Baum (you might know her either from her online congregation, www.ourjewishcommunity.org, or from her Twitter handle, @Rabbi). I’ll talk about the second first. (If you know what I mean.)

Her second presentation was on the use of social media in building community. Since the conference I’m attending features a large group of Christian ministers in many alternative ministries, I suspect the conference organizers wished to give 21st century communication options and opportunities to the attendees. Rabbi Baum certainly delivered! She gave a genial tour of several types of commonly-used social media, and pointed out handy tips for using this media effectively. Since I am currently working with my church’s office manager to get our church’s Facebook page up and running, this is precisely what I need at this point in time! (Thank you, thank you, Rabbi Laura!) Oh, our Facebook page—in its infancy still—is St. Luke’s Evangelical Covenant Church—in Morton Grove, Illinois, a suburb north and west of Chicago.

Another totally awesome presentation (also featuring Rabbi Laura) was “Sacred Cow Tipping.” As she explained, she had formerly called this type of session “Smashing Idols,” but she found the idea of tipping over ‘sacred cows’ to be more evocative. (And humorous.) This was not your typical large-group session at a conference, where we passively sit and listen. No, each table was asked to interact with each other on a number of questions. Here, the presenter suggested that we in the audience think of something serious—a ‘sacred cow’ each individual might really want to smash—and communicate that to others in the group. This process not only was freeing for me, personally, but I could sense the same freedom and excitement coming from many other attendees in the audience, at tables close to me!

Rabbi Laura spoke at length about the whole concept of destroying a ‘sacred cow.’ Admittedly, a valued-by-many, precious-to-some, tenaciously-held white elephant of an idol. (How about that for a mixed metaphor! Mine, I must admit.) Although, as some gardeners know very well, certain types of bushes and plants need to be drastically pruned and cut back in order for them to remain healthy, and to flower and grow back in a glorious manner. Just so, certain practices or specific institutions in the church need to be prayerfully considered, cut back, or pruned—even cut down to the roots.

I still don’t know quite what I am going to do with this idea of ‘sacred cow tipping.’ But, it resonated deeply within. I’m going to pray about it. Meditate on it. And then, see how God leads! Whatever and wherever it is, it will be exciting! Thanks again, Rabbi Laura.

@chaplaineliza

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A Social Enterprise? A Helping Hand! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, July 18, 2014

God is doing a new thing

A Social Enterprise? A Helping Hand! (Feature Friday!)

The computer has made my world expand. And at the same time, get small. Almost like a small town. I’m thinking of several new-ish friends of mine, blogging friends and email friends. Friends I have never met, nor are very likely to. But, friends indeed, drawn together by similar interests and orientations, not to mention similar senses of humor.

One of my blogging friends is Matt Marino, an Episcopal priest in Arizona. (His always-excellent, and sometimes-snarky, blog is http://thegospelside.com/ ) He and I exchanged several comments recently, and he gave me information on an innovative women’s enterprise in the Nashville area. Oh, and it’s a mission, too! Started in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest on Vanderbilt University’s campus.

Thistle Farms now incorporates a thriving business enterprise. I quote from the website: “By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. Purchases of Thistle Farms products directly benefit the women by whom they were made.” But that is just one of the end outcomes of Thistle Farms. The supportive women’s community is much, much more than just a bath and body product production facility.

This supportive community is also known as the Magdalene program, a residential program for women who have known abuse, prostitution and trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse, and life on the streets. Some come to the program from prison or from the streets, but all have in common the fact that they are survivors. Overcomers. One of the distinctive things about this two-year program is that they give the women housing, food, medical and dental treatment, counseling and therapy, further education, and job training. All this, without charge to the residents. (And without receiving government funding.)

Operating on 24 principles that were developed from St. Benedict’s Rule, the Magdalene community strives to live ”gracefully in community with each other.” This simple, practical guide to living aids everyone in the community—residents, staff and volunteers alike—to live cooperatively, building up each other and sharing in work to help the community grow. Be nurtured. Become so much more.

After new residents become acclimated to the Magdalene community for several months, they then start to look for work, return to school, and have the option of entering their home-grown job training program at the bath and body product facility, Thistle Farms. There they have the opportunity to learn worthwhile job skills in every facet of production, manufacturing, marketing and sales. The women learn responsibility and cooperation, which are the foundation for everything else. All worthwhile skills for life management, as well as opportunities to gain healing experiences. These experiences build up and nurture themselves and each other.

Magdalene staff, volunteers, residents and graduates “stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from abuse, trafficking, addiction, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that continues to buy and sell women,” as the website says. God’s richest blessings on this innovative, caring, nurturing community that seeks to give value to each woman they assist. (For further information, see http://www.thistlefarms.org/ )

@chaplaineliza

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Got Concerns? Be of Service!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, July 17, 2014

Peace John 14-27

Got Concerns? Be of Service!

Yesterday evening, I heard a dear acquaintance of mine was in the hospital. I needed to take care of some necessary personal stuff this morning (including getting a check-up on my tooth extraction, which I found is healing nicely!). Later in the morning, I tried to track down my friend, making several telephone calls. I was successful! I met with my friend this afternoon. We had a nice (and brief) visit; I do hope everything will be going well at the rehab center from now on.

Sure, I had concerns! Of course I was wondering what was happening! Yes. Not only for my friend, but also for myself (and my tooth). And, those were only two of the things I did. But even though I did some necessary business today, I still was able to check on my friend. I did not allow my concerns to paralyze me and cause me unnecessary distress or anxiety. I was able to deal with these several concerns, using my less-anxious presence. (Thank you, chaplain training!)

I remember a situation some years ago, when I only had my first two daughters. The older had just finished kindergarten. My younger one was three. Our family attended a church for the first time. Then, coffee hour time! (Cookie hour, my children called it.) The girls were running around in the church basement with the other Sunday school children. Wouldn’t you know that my oldest took a flying leap off the stage. (She was very athletic.) She landed on her feet, no problem. But she had too much momentum. She continued in a forward direction, and crash-landed on her face and hands. Crying ensued. Plus—she chipped her brand-new top front teeth.

I was only a few dozen feet away, so I came to her side. The pastor’s wife was a registered nurse, so she wasn’t far behind me. She checked out my daughter, who—other than being a bit surprised by her accidental meeting with the floor—was quite all right. The pastor’s wife remarked to me afterwards she was surprised that my daughter’s crying subsided so quickly. She looked at me more closely, and made a discerning statement. She said my calm, quiet demeanor in such a traumatic situation really helped my daughter to calm and quiet herself. I was amazed at her words. (And I still remember them, about twenty-five years later.)

Amazing, prescient words. And look at me now! God has led me through seminary, into chaplain training and service. Now, into pastoral ministry. Thank God I can be there for people like my friend at the rehab center, today. And, thank God I have been trained to use my natural less-anxious presence effectively, in a number of situations. God, how are You going to lead me to serve tomorrow? I suspect it will be interesting, whatever it is.

@chaplaineliza

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A Season to Be Kind. A Season to Be of Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, July 16, 2014

BK power of touch, smile, chance to be kind

A Season to Be Kind. A Season to Be of Service

“To everything–turn, turn, turn!/There is a season–turn, turn, turn!” The Byrds’ song echoes in my mind today as I consider things in my life. My personal life, my professional life. Yes, things are shifting and changing, even as I sit here and type on my computer.

People are sick. People go into the hospital. People have operations. People get well. People go to school. People graduate. People get jobs. People lose jobs. People retire. People get pregnant. People have babies. People die.

Yes, I realize these things, intellectually. Even experientially, on occasion. But these happenings are occurring with more and more regularity. Or not ‘regularity,’ per se, but I see increased occurrences. In that case, I wonder why I’m particularly noticing the changing of the ‘seasons’ of life?

A good thing for me to do would be for me to focus on one thing at a time. Not get bombarded by lots of things, all at once. That’s a prudent idea for anyone who is going through a number of shifts and changes in their lives. (Even good or positive changes!) God, help me to take life one thing at a time. One day at a time. Even—one hour at a time, sometimes.

Anyone else feel overwhelmed from time to time? (I know I do!) Well, meditation techniques and mindfulness practices come in very usefully, here. If I can keep my head and keep up a less-anxious presence, then I have a decent chance to keep an even keel, emotionally and psychologically. It is then that I have the opportunity to be of worthwhile service, to act in a kind and caring manner.

Yes, I have been trained to be of service in a health care center setting. Sometimes this setting can be really trying, even traumatic. But I have been praised by my supervisors for my less-anxious presence. Thank God, I do know how to act and (often) how far to go to keep things in a positive, healthy direction. Even when tragedy strikes, as it has recently. A senior I have known for the past several years has died. I did my part in letting people know, just a little while ago.

And, that’s only the beginning of the stuff that’s going on. Personally as well as professionally. God, please give me the words to say to bring comfort and concern to me, and for my people, as well. And help me minister to the loved ones and those who mourn his passing.

@chaplaineliza

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