A Helper and Servant, in a Big Way—My Friend Jim (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, October 24, 2014

Heal me, O Lord

A Helper and Servant, in a Big Way—My Friend Jim (Feature Friday!)

Ebola crisis. When I say that, what happens inside? Do you get anxious? Afraid? Do you know much about Ebola? Do you know anyone who is actively working with the medical personnel concerned with Ebola, in areas affected by that particular disease? I do. My friend Jim—Dr. James Mcauley, medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—is stationed in Lusaka, Zambia, along with his wife and part of his family. (Jim and Amy’s younger son was in the same grade as my son—we all knew one another from church in Evanston.)

Jim has been stationed in Africa for three years. Formerly an infectious disease physician at Rush University Medical Center here in Chicago, he is now doing life-saving work managing and supervising medical personnel in a large swath of Africa. Here’s a snapshot of what his day-to-day work looks like, in his own words.

“Our team of 60+ has been working flat out trying to stop this epidemic here in Sierra Leone, and morale is always an issue. I visited four of our seven district teams in the last 48 hours – bringing supplies and listening. [I’m thinking of] two – discussing infection control with the nurse in charge – part of our roving team and have had a particularly rough road. They needed to stop a health worker training due to hostile local villagers who believe we have brought Ebola to their communities. Others have had to deal with the stress of having a cold or diarrhea and wonder if it might be Ebola. Although our teams avoid contact with Ebola patients, it is always a concern. I have lost a lot of sleep worrying about my team.”

One other important thing about Jim? He and I were in seminary at the same time. Yes, he attended seminary part-time while holding his position as infectious disease doctor—full-time. He and I were in the same Reformed Tradition class. We sat at the back of the room, and made joking and snarky comments to each other. (Yes, I was that kind of student.) He is now ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and has that qualification, too. So, when I read that he is concerned for his team, I know he and his wife Amy (also a physician—a pediatrician) are praying for the workers on the field.

More from Jim: “Saw first hand the Ebola Holding Units where people are isolated while diagnostic tests are done – about half end up positive and are moved to an Ebola Treatment Center, where half die. [I] visited two quarantined villages, and participated in several calls with the US. CDC staff do not enter Ebola Treatment Centers or any home where an Ebola patient might be housed. So we kept our distance…. I think the bags of Snickers I left with my teams held the Dementors at bay for another day…. Pray, resist the urge to call for US isolation, donate (CDC Foundation has been amazing), and consider volunteering to help our neighbors in Africa.”

Jim is reporting from the field, from where the disease is affecting countless people, every day. Not only the people who were infected, but also their families. Their friends. The people who lived next door, or down the street. And what about those who were afraid to attend school? To go to shops? To go to offices? All because of the fear and anxiety that comes from Ebola.

This is what Jim has to say about that: “I started to think – for such a contagious disease in such crowded impoverished settings, why don’t more people die? Why did ‘only’ half of the people who lived in the house I visited yesterday get sick? Why did ‘only’ 10% of the village die? So much we don’t yet understand. I am starting to think of ways to reach out to the faith based health worker groups – who better to stand in the gap and demonstrate to the world what it means to love God and love my neighbor. Wouldn’t it be great if in a few years when the world looks back on this epidemic they say, ‘Ah, but the people of God stood fast and demonstrated real love!’”

This is my hope and prayer, too, Jim. I pray that you and Amy will demonstrate God’s love in your actions, too. God’s blessings on your work and service. And, thanks for the permission to share your story!

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Of Service? Through Eavesdropping?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, October 23, 2014

BK be kind 1 Thess

Of Service? Through Eavesdropping?

Ever eavesdrop on a conversation while standing in line at the store? Yeah, me too.

That’s what happened today. Let me back up and give a little perspective. On the way home from an errand, I remembered we needed some milk. I don’t ordinarily stop at a nearby drug store, but it was later in the afternoon. The grocery store would be mobbed with people after work. I figured I would save time by going to the drug store. So what if I paid a little more.

Immediately ahead of me in line was an older African American woman. She and the cashier apparently were familiar with each other, because their conversation was genuine, fluid, and warm. The woman ahead of me started in the middle of things. I took it as some topic she had started previously, recently. Perhaps yesterday, or last weekend.

She was clearing out her elderly relative’s house after his death, and she found all kinds of coins. And paper money. Her relative had been an amateur collector for decades. Not only money from the 1900’s, but also a selection from the 1800’s, too. And, from what she was saying, I could tell she did not know the first thing about valuable, collectible coins or paper money. I couldn’t help it. I have some people in my family who collect things, and I have absorbed one important principle from them. Only deal with reputable dealers. Otherwise, disreputable people masquerading as dealers could very well fleece amateurs. Big time!

I was very apologetic, but I felt I simply had to interrupt. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but hear. It’s wonderful that you are finding some interesting coins! But I wanted to caution you. Some of my family members are amateur collectors, too, of different kinds of things.” Both the woman and the cashier were intrigued by what I said. I had their attention. I pleaded with her not to go to just any pawnshop or place that advertises “Will Pay For Gold.”

The cashier nodded, and the woman ahead of me seriously listened. For the life of me, I couldn’t bring the name of the big-time coin dealer downtown to my mind while they stood and waited. Good grief! I paused, and repeated that the woman ought to research dealers. (Grrr!! I still couldn’t remember!)

The woman ahead of me gathered her change and left. While I paid for the gallon of milk, the name of the dealer finally came to mind! . . . “Harlan Berk. That’s the name!” The cashier nodded again. “That lady is a regular. I don’t know her name, but I will let her know. I’m sure she’ll be in again, soon.” (For the record, I have never been to that—extremely reputable—coin dealer, in the Loop. I just happened to remember the unusual name.)

God willing, I hope, I pray that the woman will research the dealer she chooses. At least I warned her, and let her know that what she inherited from her elderly relative might very well be worth something!

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

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

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

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

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

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

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

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

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

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

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.