Of Service through Bible Study

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, October 22, 2014

flowers Isaiah 55-11

Of Service through Bible Study

Lots to do today! I had some email correspondence to go through this morning (at home), and then went to church to get ready for the bible study. A member of the board and I were talking, and before I knew it, it was after eleven. After the time bible study was to begin! So—the two of us dashed into the meeting room. I apologized up and down. But it seemed okay. Several people were practicing on special music for Sunday while they were waiting. I’m so glad I didn’t leave people just twiddling their thumbs!

I taught the next installment in the study. Good topic, although I felt the study wasn’t quite like the previous weeks. Somehow, not as insightful. However, I hope and pray that the church members who attended received a blessing from what we read today. I’ve always found it good to open the Bible and study more in depth, even when the questions were not as penetrating and thoughtful.

Contemplating on this makes me wonder: what does God think of us when we study the Bible? (Even when the questions don’t pack much of a punch . . .) I am leading the midweek study group through a series of studies on the titles and names of Jesus, found in the Gospels. Last week’s study was on Servant—we looked at Jesus in the Upper Room, and discussed Him washing His disciples’ feet. Excellent study, and wonderful discussion, too! But—not today. I tried to help the study along, but I wasn’t able to do as much.

I suspect God is pleased whenever believers gather to study the Bible. I know there are many places in the Scriptures where the study of the Word of God is praised and lifted up. I know many devout believers in God search the Scriptures regularly, and write commentaries and bible studies and other biblical and devotional literature. Moreover, they pray and meditate on God’s Word. And, I get to do this, too! I love to lead people in study. I relish teaching others about the Bible, letting them know more about the things I have studied diligently, over many years.

One verse does come to mind, regardless of whether I have an excellent study or not. As Isaiah 55:11 states, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Even so, God’s Word is living and active, not static. Readings from the Bible will always bear fruit. Regardless of whether the study has mediocre to poor questions, or whether the teacher is more or less dynamic. God has promised, and I believe in the truth of God’s promises.

So—I find I have the best team-teacher in the world—God. And, I can truly be of service when I teach about God: service to others, and service to God.

@chaplaineliza

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All I Can Do Is Pray. (Is That All?)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, October 21, 2014

be grateful you have a glass

All I Can Do Is Pray. (Is That All?)

I was sitting in church on this gray October day. Quiet, almost sleepy afternoon. I went out into the larger office, passed by the administrator’s desk. My coffee had gotten cold, and I wanted to warm it up in the microwave oven. Lo and behold, I saw the shadow of a man through the blinds. I recognized him, and let him in.

He came into the hallway, and made a beeline for the pew against the wall. He had a hard luck story. (Of course.) I believed most of it. I have seen individuals similar to him and his partner. In poor health to begin with, continuing health problems, fired or let go from their jobs, long-term unemployed. What is a person to do? How can they get on their feet and start climbing when the bottom rung of the ladder is so high to begin with?

I was fortunate. There was a little money knocking around the church. (Unusual!) Plus, I gave him the last gift card from Subway. He really was grateful. More of the story came out after I sat with him in the sanctuary. Listening, actively. I asked a few, kind follow-up questions, just trying to get more information out of him. He was ready to talk, and how!

I’ve met people before who spilled the beans, told me all sorts of things. This man was very much after the same pattern. After listening for a while, and letting him know I actively heard him, I suggested closing in prayer before he left. Oh, boy! You should’ve seen his eyes light up! He was so grateful for the prayer. I had him read a few sentences out the prayer and resource section of the hymnal just before I closed, too.

I wish that I had had more money to give away this morning. But, alas, just about “all” I had to give away was a Subway coupon, and prayer. Prayer. What about that? How do you feel when someone has a real, deep need. Even a devastating need. What then?

I couldn’t help but think of the poor man in front of me, and his partner. And the verse for the month of October, too. Proverbs 19:17 – “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” God, this dear man is dearly loved by you.

Sometimes, people ignore or even look down on those who don’t even have two coins to rub together. Help me remember these sad facts. God, help this dear man and his partner—and all of their family, too. You are so amazing, keeping track of countless events, and people, and places to hide. Help me, God, just like You come alongside of anyone who needs You. Thank You, Lord.

@chaplaineliza

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In Which I Have a Tickly Throat and Help a Daughter

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, October 20, 2014

autumn road

In Which I Have a Tickly Throat and Help a Daughter

Ever feel that tickly feeling in the back of your throat? The kind where you feel something sort of uncomfortable back there, but you can’t do much about it? That’s how I’ve been feeling for the past few days. October is here. Brightly colored leaves, cooler weather, the grass and greenery turning faded and brown. With all of that change in the growing things out of doors comes mold. The October gusts of wind spread that mold everywhere. Lucky me, I happen to be allergic to much of that mold. Thus—the tickly feeling in the back of my throat—post nasal drip. Also, itchy eyes and full sinuses. Those are things that I need to deal with, every October.

Don’t get me wrong. I love autumn. I really do! I love to walk in the woods or the Forest Preserves, and take a look at the beautiful panorama of nature. But—the mold count does impinge on my full enjoyment of this season of the year. Because of my allergies, I was moving slowly this morning. Sure, I went to work today, and I did get some things done. However, for the most part, I took it easy.

My youngest daughter is home for several days. It happens to be her fall break. She was kind enough to do several loads of laundry while I was at work. (Thanks, Rachel!) On Saturday, she and I talked about her college band. She happens to play the bass clarinet. (Very well, I might add. And, no, it’s not just pride in my daughter. I do know something about music.) She needs several new reeds for the bass clarinet mouthpiece. I said I would pick them up. It’s not like I was going miles out of the way or anything. However, the music store was an additional thing to do. Place to stop. And, I was not feeling that well, on top of things.

But once I got in the car, I found the wheels almost steered themselves to the Band and Instrument store. I asked for some mid-grade reeds of the appropriate hardness, and spent a few enjoyable minutes conversing with one of the workers at the shop. I was kind and friendly to him, too.

Moral of the story? well, not really. It’s just that I have the ability to be kind, friendly, and helpful. I can be of service, even when I don’t feel well. Even when I am rushed, frazzled, frustrated, or downright angry. That means I still have the chance, the opportunity to be kind, courteous, and helpful. Please, God, help me remember these kind, encouraging words and actions. I might be able to pass them along—even when I am not feeling bouncy, friendly and energetic. God willing.

@chaplaineliza

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Church Service, Serving Our Congregation

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, October 19, 2014

baptism_collage

Church Service, Serving Our Congregation

It’s another Sunday. It’s another day to gather together for worship. And, it’s a day to celebrate the sacrament of baptism. First baptism in several years at St. Luke’s Church!

Pastor Gordon and I led the worship service today, and it was an affirming, prayerful time. Excellent sermon, too. (Thanks, Gordon, for everything!) The baptismal font is situated in the back of the church, and after the sermon, Gordon and I stood next to it. I called the parents and baby forward, and the extended family and just about everyone in the congregation came and encircled the font. Such a warm and wonderful feeling! Such a special moment for everyone in the sanctuary, too.

I made the opening statement about baptism, being a sign and sacrament of God’s grace and mercy extended towards us. Gordon then addressed the parents, and told them of baptism signifying God’s promise not only to us, but also to the dear baby, baptized today. I had the privilege of praying over the water, thanking God for the repeated demonstrations of God’s grace and mercy throughout the Bible, using water. I also asked God to transform this water we used from a common use to a sacred, sacramental use. Then—Gordon baptized this dear little one in the name of the Triune God. Amen! He introduced her around to the whole congregation as a new member of God’s forever family.

I know there are differences in beliefs. Some people believe strongly—personally—in infant baptism, or in believer’s baptism, or in full immersion, or in sprinkling, or in something else I haven’t mentioned yet. I realize there are differences, and I try to honor those when I can. This way, the way I just described, is the way that is traditional at St. Luke’s Church. As pastor there, I strive to follow their practices as best as I am able. Even though I went to a bible college for my undergraduate degree which leaned heavily on the practice of believer’s baptism by immersion, I have since embraced the Reformed tradition as my personal understanding. (I’m trying not to get all theological on everyone, I really am.) Suffice it to say that I am open to different understandings and views of baptism.

I thought this service not only lifted up God and displayed God’s Word through Gordon’s sermon and the sacrament of baptism, I appreciated this extended family gathered here to celebrate their youngest member becoming part of God’s forever family. I take the vows of the baptismal service quite seriously. I will strive to do my part to raise this dear little one in the knowledge and nurture of God, and God’s grace and mercy. True, this kind of service is more official than what I usually seek out for these blog posts. That makes this pastoral service all the more special. God bless this little one, the baby’s family, and everyone in attendance today. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind—at the Dry Cleaners

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, October 18, 2014

BK-Be-Kind-To-One-Another - Eph 4-32

Being Kind—at the Dry Cleaners

It being Saturday morning today, my husband and I did Saturday morning-type things. Including sorting through clothing, deciding which to take to the dry cleaners today. He took his five work shirts, and I added my raincoat. I ought to add a parenthetical comment. I received this black raincoat from my sister Sue. She is a high-level salesperson in the New York City area, and she has to look sharp and dress professionally at all times for her job. She wore this coat for a number of months, but then she bought another one. Was I glad to get this gently-used item! Lovely, durable, classy-looking raincoat. Just the thing for a ministry professional.

My husband Kevin dropped me off at the YMCA (yoga class today!). He went on to the cleaners. He has started going to a different cleaners lately. It’s located in a newer building in a small strip mall, and the husband and wife who own the business keep the premises very clean. Kevin parked, gathered up the clothes, and went for the door with arms full. Another man reached the door at the same time, but his arms were empty. He kindly held the door open for my husband. Kevin reached the long counter several seconds before the other man, and Kevin laid the clothes down near the cash register.

The Korean woman behind the counter seemed to be a bit flustered. She looked from one customer to the other. My husband noticed, and asked her about it. She gestured to the other man, and seemed very apologetic. “He’s just coming to pick up.” The other man nodded. “Go right ahead,” Kevin said. The woman ran and grabbed some clothes on hangers for the customer, and the man left.

Now it was Kevin’s turn. The proprietor of the cleaners checked in the clothes my husband brought. He paid for them with two ten dollar bills. That really pleased the woman. “We need ten dollar bills. Thank you, thank you.” My husband had two more in his wallet, and asked whether she could use them. She was so excited! “Yes, thank you so much!” She gave him a twenty in exchange, and then looked at him with a serious face. “You are a very kind man. You were patient, and let the other customer go first. Then, you gave me extra ten dollars. You are very kind!”

This embarrassed my husband. He’s a journalist, and a senior editor. A no-nonsense sort of a guy, he doesn’t particularly see himself as “a very kind man.” (He freely admits that’s more his wife’s department.) However, he thanked the proprietor with sincerity. And then, related this account to me.

After hearing what had happened, I told Kevin that he had been very kind. This made him wonder. He does not particularly go out of his way to be kind and helpful. However—he reflected whether he might be able to act his way into kind, helpful thinking. I told him that a number of months of doing kind, helpful acts of service every day was certainly affecting my habitual way of thinking. He nodded, seriously considering what I had said.

God willing, we might all act our way into kind, helpful thinking.

@chaplaineliza

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Helping on World Food Day 2014 (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, October 17, 2014

bread for myself, for my neighbor

Helping on World Food Day 2014 (Feature Friday!)

Yesterday was World Food Day, Thursday, October 16, 2014, instituted by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This organization heightens public awareness of widespread hunger and world food problems. World Food Day also helps to build and strengthen solidarity and unity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Each day, millions around the world—from countless regions—go hungry. World Food Day strives to lessen that hunger.

I followed the links for #WorldFoodDay on Twitter. I came to http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/what-is-wfd : Amid many heart-rending statistics at this website, I found several that particularly hit home to me, as a woman and a mom. Here they are: “In a world of plenty, 805 million people, one in nine worldwide, live with chronic hunger. The costs of hunger and malnutrition fall heavily on the most vulnerable.

  • “60% of the hungry in the world are women.
  • Almost 5 million children under the age of 5 die of malnutrition-related causes every year.
  • 4 in 10 children in poor countries are malnourished, damaging their bodies and brains.”

These statistics are mind boggling to me. I cannot even take them in. However, I can try to do a little bit. I can strive to make a difference, when and where I can. For example, helping, and raising awareness about the excellent work Stop Hunger Now! is currently doing.

In both July and August, I wrote about the mission Stop Hunger Now! I told of one of their meal-packaging efforts at a mission conference I attended. This ministry opportunity was the 2014 service project for the New Wilmington Mission Conference (NWMC), informing and promoting active service and witness for God. A nutritious mix of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and flavoring mix is packed by volunteer teams for Stop Hunger Now!, and sent all over the world. For a cost of just $0.29 per meal, too! What a caring, effective way to feed the hungry, where hunger is currently devastating lives. Through this ministry, the volunteers also strive to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Stop Hunger Now! has the same goal as so many other organizations—UNICEF, World Vision, Tearfund, Lutheran World Relief, the Presbyterian Hunger Programme, Compassion International, and so many more—to work towards eliminating hunger in our world today. May God be with these many people and these many groups doing the work of God. Feeding the hungry. Giving food and drink—just as Jesus commanded in Matthew 26:35-36.

On her blog Godspace, Christine Sine has a beautiful prayer for World Food Day. It’s found at: http://godspace-msa.com/2014/10/15/its-world-food-day-prayers-and-resources/ (thanks, Christine!).

@chaplaineliza

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Of Service? Compliment-ary Service!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, October 16, 2014

Holy Spirit, descending dove

Of Service? Compliment-ary Service!

Spiritual gifts. All believers in God are supposed to have at least one. I have several. At least, several have been identified in me, by spiritual elders and people of faith I respect a great deal. Spiritual gifts shown in my actions, speech, and thought-life, anyway.

I know I’ve mentioned before how I have the gifts of encouragement and helping. Upon reflection at the end of the day, I realized I used encouragement several times during the day. Without even giving it a second thought. I gave compliments to several people. Sincere compliments, not just slathering it on. I really try my hardest to be real, sincere, and genuine, as much as possible. And, I appreciate it when people are the same way with me.

The small children who attend the preschool at my church are so refreshing. They could not be dishonest or disingenuous for the world. Small children have such sincerity and honesty, and say exactly what they think and mean. As I read to them this past Tuesday, I spoke in an encouraging manner. I read two books with superb illustrations to them, and several of the children got quite involved in the stories. They started to interact with me as I read, and I dealt with each comment (actually, interruption) in a kind, encouraging way. I didn’t want to halt the reading, since there were a group of children listening to the stories. But that didn’t stop me from being kind and sincere—briefly.

Sadly, with adults, it doesn’t work quite the same way. A few others may be insincere or wear false faces around me. They may even try to pull the wool over my eyes. True, I try to think the best of most people; that is one of my blind spots. Just because I strive to be rigorously honest doesn’t mean that everyone else acts (or thinks) in the same way. But, I still attempt to act as if that were the case. Just so, I often try to treat others as if they are acting and speaking (and thinking) in good faith. Sometimes I get burned. But, usually not. That won’t stop me from acting in this way, and treating others as if they all behave in a similar, genuine manner.

So, yeah. I gave several individuals sincere, honest compliments today. I know that I did the helpful, loving thing. Another day being kind, in A Year of Being Kind. I know that God was pleased, too.

@chaplaineliza

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