Being of Service, at a Midweek Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Showers of Stoles - photo - 7/07/12 The Chautauquan Daily

Showers of Stoles – photo – 7/07/12 The Chautauquan Daily

Being of Service, at a Midweek Service

I love to preach. (Have I mentioned that before? If I haven’t, I meant to.) I love every aspect of the preaching process. I usually preach from the Lectionary texts, the set Scripture passages for each Sunday. From handling the Scripture, praying over it to see where the Lord is leading, doing research and consulting commentaries and other books, to actually sitting down and writing the sermon. And then—the delivery. Ahh! That is the icing on top of a delectable cake! I won’t say it’s enjoyable or rewarding to write a sermon every single time, because it isn’t. But about 95 percent of the time, it is!

Today, I had the opportunity to preach at a midweek service for seniors. The service was in the chapel of the large Presbyterian Home in Evanston, where I’ve preached a number of times before. Plus, I served there as a chaplain intern when I was in seminary, more than ten years ago. I still preach at the Home on occasion when needed. So today, I was of service, leading a service.

Three things stand out in my mind. First, my sermon, on Psalm 103. I enjoyed writing it, and I think I delivered it well. One of my illustrations particularly struck me, moved me. I teared up while I was preaching (unusual for me), but I managed to make it through the last page of my manuscript. And, several people particularly mentioned how moving the sermon was. Praise God.

Second, I saw a dear senior (now a resident in his mid-nineties!) who I have known for almost twenty years. He and a relative of his came to the midweek service. I hadn’t seen him for at least a year and a half, perhaps two years. I so appreciated his presence at the service. He and I were dear friends, and he faithfully prayed for me some years ago while I was in seminary. But—he never had an opportunity to hear me preach—until today. Dear, dear man. I am so glad he felt well enough to attend the service.

The third thing? Something that also moves me deeply. And, causes me to reflect on the passage of time, and the changing of the seasons. The ending of one chapter, and the beginning of the next. The Director of Chaplaincy and my former supervisor is retiring at the end of this week, on August 1st. The Reverend Doctor Frank Baldwin will leave the Presbyterian Home after twenty years. He has touched so many lives, over the years. Whether residents, their loved ones, staff, other chaplains and ministers, or student chaplain interns (like me), Frank has done a marvelous job. As a chaplain, as an administrator, as a co-worker, as a mentor and advisor.

I look up to Frank and his quiet, efficient, never-hurried skills and gifts in administration, chaplaincy and preaching—combined! I know he will be sorely missed. His skilled hand of administration is almost always invisible behind the scenes. Yet, he firmly holds the reins of the pastoral care departments of the several sites of the Presbyterian Homes network. And, on top of all that, he never forgets a name. (Unbelievable memory!) Frank, I am so glad that I was able to preach well for you today. Here’s wishing you a fruitful retirement, a smooth transition, and enjoyable future with your wife, your family, and in further ministry–wherever God takes you. God bless you richly, now and always.

@chaplaineliza

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In Which I Am of Service, with Groceries

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, July 29, 2014

small things with great love

In Which I Am of Service, with Groceries

At work today, I discussed mission with several people. More specifically, the mission of our church, and how the church allocates mission funds. Several weeks ago, the church council member overseeing the mission budget instructed me to find out more about two areas of mission and outreach, if I could. (Especially since I went to a mission conference last week.) Both areas are wonderful causes and outreaches, and I tried to find out what I could.

Yes, I now have some further information. The New Wilmington Mission Conference is a fantastic place to start, if a church wants more information about outreaches. However, I couldn’t help but think about our own backyard, our own township. There are people who are hungry, families in financial difficulty, and unemployed heads of households right in the town where the church is located, as well as the larger community. I spoke to these friends about boosting our support for the local food pantry, and my suggestion was favorably received. I’ll repeat the suggestion next week, at the church council meeting.

I left work later in the afternoon. After doing several errands and seeing a few friends, I stopped by a grocery store. On the south side of town, where I don’t usually shop any longer. I saw a middle-aged man with dreadlocks and a lovely smile sitting outside the store enclosure, on several of those plastic milk crates. I smiled at him as I came up. I walked right to him, instead of passing him by, without even making eye contact.

The whisper of a feeling inside me suddenly came out. My mouth opened, and I asked him, “Would you like something? I don’t have too much to spare, but is there anything I could get for you?” He seemed a bit surprised, but came right back with, “Yes. Yes, there is. I would like a can of tuna, please.” Another friend of his was standing at his side. She asked him what he was planning to do with the tuna. He thought a moment, and then frowned. “Hmm. I’m out of mayonnaise now. But at least I have bread. I can eat that with the tuna.” I smiled again, and said I’d see what prices were, inside.

Lo and behold, tuna was on sale. Brand-name, too! And even the mayonnaise was on sale. I got a couple of bananas, as well. That was besides the milk, bananas, soup (on sale!) and potato salad I got for myself.

Outside, I gave the lovely man the grocery bag I had packed for him. He thanked me with a grateful hug, and blessed me. I wished him a blessed night and good sleep, as well. It wasn’t until I had arrived home from the store that I realized what this was. This was being kind. Being of service. Offering groceries to a man I knew—even though I’m just a little bit acquainted with him. He was so appreciative.

That made this whole mission outreach thing come to mind, too. I may not be super-wealthy, but I do have a little extra. God, thanks for urging me to get the few groceries for this man. I earnestly pray for him, and for all of those who love and care for him. And, thanks for the wonderful idea to get him groceries, too.

@chaplaineliza

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Be Kind? Encourage and Comfort!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, July 28, 2014

sun behind clouds over water

Be Kind? Encourage and Comfort!

I was pastoral today. How, you ask? I paid two pastoral visits to two seniors.

Both visits were much appreciated. Both visits involved active listening, a less-anxious presence, and being receptive to whatever came up. One visit was fairly short. The other was much longer. And, both dear people told me straight up that they were grateful and thankful I visited.

How simple a thing it is to go to a care center or to a person’s home, and visit with them for a bit. (Or even, for a little longer.) I know I can follow the many suggestions written in the Bible in a myriad of ways, but visiting sick friends is a sure fire way. Let’s take another look at my verse for July, James 1:22. “Be doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” Visiting those who are sick and homebound is definitely in the ballpark of doing what our Lord Jesus did. If I use my gifts and skills of encouragement, comfort and a less-anxious presence, I am doing the Word. Just like the apostle James urged us to do! This is a loving and encouraging thing for most people to do, too.

But because of my job—my profession—I find myself in care centers and hospitals much more often than I would like. Plus, I have been trained specifically to minister to people in these settings. Because I find myself in these stressful and even traumatic situations, managing my own emotions is of paramount importance, too.

As I think back on my two visits today, I consider being open and receptive to whatever came up an important part of my being present with them. Of course, nothing really out of the ordinary happened at either visit today. But, you never know. In my years as a chaplain, a number of unexpected, or even occasionally, shocking things happened. I have been present quite a number of times as someone has slowly stopped breathing, and their heart has stopped pumping. Usually, I joined family members and loved ones. But some of the time, I was the only one able or available to stay and be with people as they died. So they would not be alone.

But it doesn’t have to be so traumatic. I’ve been in hospital and rehab center rooms along with small children. (Often unpredictable! And sometimes, amusing! Kids say the darnedest things.) A few times, I can remember occasions when a patient would have almost everyone rolling on the floor, they would have such a way with them. Telling jokes, cracking wise. And, I remember when people were very much afraid. Terrified. That’s both patients as well as their loved ones. I would do my very best to remain less-anxious. Not display my difficulty or dis-ease. (Or is it un-ease?)

God, thank You for these two dear seniors. I pray for them and their families, and all who love them and care for them. In Your mercy, Lord, hear my prayer.

@chaplaineliza

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Making Connections? With Sincerity!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, July 27, 2014

blessed are the peacemakers Matt5-9

Making Connections? With Sincerity!

Some folks have the ability—the knack—of making instant connections. I won’t claim to be that skilled at connection-making, but I must admit . . . I do do that. It sort of just happens. I’ve spoken about this before in this space. My husband and children poke fun at me on occasion, and I don’t know why connection happens so suddenly. So meaningfully, sometimes. It just does.

The first time today a connection occurred was at a big-box store. My college-age daughter and I had chosen a bunch of items, over almost an hour. I even tried on a pair of shorts (on sale!), and they actually fit me. We also picked up several things for my daughter to take to college in less than a month. Lo and behold, when we came to the register, I did not have my credit card with me. Boy, was I red in the face! The cashier was so wonderful about it! She reassured me that she would set aside all of our things until we returned.

My daughter and I schlepped all the way home, picked up the necessary card, and went all the way back to the big box store. Yes! The cashier was still at the same register. I promptly went and bought everything I had originally placed in my basket, an hour before. I could tell that the cashier and I had made a connection, as brief as the communication was between us. I was sincere in my apology, and told her several times how kind it was for her to keep the contents of our cart by her cash register. She stopped—actually stopped—in ringing up our things. She told us, “Of course I would do that.” I could feel the sincerity radiating from her, as well as friendly concern.

Only a few minutes’ interaction, yet truly honest and sincere. Wonderful!

The second time a connection happened to me was in the evening. I went to a coffee place to get some beverage. The server who got the beverage for me was a lovely young woman. On top of that, she had stunning dark make up on her eyes. (Not too much, just to emphasize her eyes.) I complimented her on the make up, and made a comment about how attractive make up like that looked on dark-complected women. I also noticed her earrings—large, simple crosses. I happened to mention them, too. She seemed a bit taken aback at first. Yet she thanked me in not-too-much time, and responded willingly enough.

She related about certain well-meaning customers. When hearing that her ancestors came from the Middle East, certain people ware surprised to hear that she is a Christian. Her whole family attends church, too. I tried to encourage and support her, and I believe she was grateful for my words. So grateful! I also told her about a Presbyterian church not far from here, and how I had attended the church some years ago. Many of its members and friends were and are Christians from the Middle East—Iraq, Iran, other countries.

I mentioned how sad (beyond belief!) I was at all of the reports and brief articles I have been reading. Christians from the Middle East becoming refugees. Horror and absolute fear, on the run for their lives. She immediately said she purposely did not think about them, with a look that told me so much. Troubled, anxious, fearful. Moreover, she didn’t want to be overwhelmed. But the two of us? We drew on that deep something. And somehow, connection happened. Praise God.

I pray for both of these women, for them and their families. Please, God, hear my prayers.

@chaplaineliza

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Feeling Sad—but Helping Anyway!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, July 26, 2014

striped cat

Feeling Sad—but Helping Anyway!

Today was my niece Josie’s wedding day, in Tacoma, Washington. (I’ve already seen a photo from the occasion. Lovely! She looked so happy. As all brides ought to.) The wedding took place outside in a beautiful park. Many of my family members attended the wedding, including my two older daughters. But, alas, I was not able to attend. (For a number of reasons, not least of which was that I really needed to go to the two conferences I attended last weekend.)

I felt badly that I was unable to go to Washington, and regretfully told my niece so about a month ago. I did send my best wishes, good thoughts and prayers with my oldest daughter. Plus, I’ll be sending a card next week. A little extra wedding good-wishing, after the fact.

However, this circumstance frees me up to take care of my daughter’s cat. My oldest daughter and her roommate have an apartment not far from where I live. I can easily run over there and pop in on the cat. Give her food and water. A friendly, sometimes attentive cat! While I sat at the dining room table with my laptop, the cat jumped onto my lap a number of times. Rubbed her head and shoulders against my hands and arms, and was insistent about being petted. Accordingly, I petted her willingly enough.

This cat likes people! That is, usually. She does have her moods, and sometimes goes off to hide or to be on her own. But even so soon after my daughter left (early yesterday morning), the cat came running to see me as soon as I came in the back door. Eager to be with company, desiring attention and praise.

Reminds me a little bit of . . . me. Me as I used to be, as a teenager. I wanted attention. I craved praise and admiration. (Strokes, perhaps?) When I was a teenager, and afterwards for a number of years, I had a sad case of low self-esteem. Due to a number of factors, I would strive for attention, help out at school, church, neighbors’ homes, and also my own home. Also, I would go after praise and strokes from others. I seldom heard these compliments at home, so I listened hard whenever anyone sent a compliment my way. I valued them, so very much!

Now, of course, I have gained greatly in self-esteem. Plus, I have a faithful prayer team that lifts me up in supportive prayer on a regular basis. I regularly encourage and support younger and more tentative people. (But enough about me.)

Yesterday and today, I gladly went to take care of my daughter’s cat! I know the cat was very pleased to see me. Moreover, I am pleased to help my daughter, and to be of service when and where I can. Plus, I got to pet a friendly cat! A win-win-win situation.

@chaplaineliza

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Helping, with Horses! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, July 25, 2014

mama horse and foal

Helping, with Horses! (Feature Friday!)

Ever see horses up close? Ever want to help kids? How about combining the two, at a welcoming place where horses help kids?

My friends, Kathleen and Roger Harris, are executive directors for Jeremiah’s Crossing, a nonprofit therapeutic horseback-riding ranch. This ranch is located in Babcock, in central Wisconsin. The nonprofit’s purpose is to help horses help children—and adults—who have diagnosed physical, mental, cognitive, and academic special needs. The best part? There is no cost for the therapy to the children or the adults.

The overall cost of caring for children and adults with special needs can be significant. The staff and those associated with Jeremiah’s Crossing do not wish to add to the financial burden of those families with members and loved ones who have special needs or disabilities. That is why “God’s ranch” provides Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) and lessons, for both children and adults, at no cost to the participants.

Kathleen and Roger Harris were married in 1995, and their children made a blended family from the beginning. They started the ranch in 2006. But even before that, they were gradually being led in the direction of helping kids, through a variety of activities. New Wilmington Mission Conference played a leading role in the Harris’s discernment and progress towards opening Jeremiah’s Crossing. The equine therapy part became more clear as God led them, too. Now, the ranch is a warm, welcoming place to everyone in families with disabled or differently-abled members.

The equine therapy is beneficial (to the persons with a diagnosed disability) in so many ways. First, the therapy gives people a positive nurturing activity that urges them to get into a regularly-scheduled routine. (to work on a regular basis with the trainer in their own therapy sessions, and in the training.) Second, horseback-riding allows for regular exercise and strengthening of their muscles. A bonus here is the assistance the riding provides for the balance center in the inner ear. And, God uses the horses in their riders’ lives in a variety of ways, including creating a friendship between the disabled person and the horse. This helps model relationship-building for the disabled people (especially the children).

The lessons are led by a PATH International Certified Instructor. The number of volunteer team members who accompany the individual riders depends on the needs and abilities of the various riders. The lesson content varies! The instructor plans each lesson on an individual basis, and volunteer side walkers come alongside of the rider and encourage appropriate posture as best suits the individual. Proper grooming, outfitting and care for the horses is modeled, as well. Everyone joins together in facilitating a positive, therapeutic experience for every individual who rides and cares for the horses.

As Kathleen Harris says, God has provided a beautiful place in Jeremiah’s Crossing as part of God’s plan to heal children and their families. Healing happens in a variety of ways—“God’s ranch” is one place where horses truly help to heal—physically, emotionally, mentally, as well as spiritually. Thank God!

(For more information, check out their website at http://www.jeremiahscrossing.org )

@chaplaineliza

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Off the Hamster Wheel, Into Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, July 24, 2014

KIND one persons act of kindness

Off the Hamster Wheel, Into Service

Ever have someone say something that really hit home? (Upon reflection, this has been happening to me a lot, lately . . . )

I was talking with a couple of friends and acquaintances earlier, and one of them said something particularly striking. Striking to me, anyway. My friend made mention of personal shortcomings, and commented that service to others very much helped in lessening these shortcomings.

That comment did indeed resonate with me! Oftentimes, I find that I am all caught up in my own head. Me, me, me. After all, I’m the most important person in the room! (Aren’t I? That’s me, the extrovert with an inferiority complex talking.)

Service was one of the biggest reasons I started this blog, A Year of Being Kind. I gave it a subtitle, too: 365 Days of Service. My friend’s comment started the wheels turning in my own brain. I can be so preoccupied with “self” (that’s myself, thank you very much) that I feel like I’m going round and round in my own head. Like a hamster on a hamster wheel. Round and round and round. However, when I get involved in serving others, in being kind and helpful, I realize I get off of the hamster wheel. For at least a little while.

Accordingly, I did just that today. I went out of my way to give someone a telephone call, in another state. It’s been about two months since I saw him. This was a call to find out how my acquaintance was doing, and to generally check in. My acquaintance was so pleased to hear from me! It was good to hear from him. And, ask for some prayer praises and prayer requests, too. I also tried to pass along some encouragement. I hope I was successful.

I know I hit a home run with my pointers I gave, as far as a ministry suggestion. I gave my acquaintance the web address of a helpful website I use on a regular basis. He had never heard of it, and it’s one of my go-to sites for sermon preparation. I’m not sure, but I suspect that resource might be a really significant thing for him. I just have that feeling.

So, yeah. I got out of my own head today. And, I helped others and put myself out to serve. Encourage and be kind. What an opportunity to get off the hamster wheel! Thanks for the leading, God. Glad to be of service today. I wonder how You will use me to be kind, tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

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