Being Kind, Sharing Stories (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Different year, same week in July. Back again in western Pennsylvania. Yes, I’ve joined the delegates at the New Wilmington Mission Conference for another year. What an amazing experience. I’ve been wondering what will happen this week. How God will nudge me, or give a word to me. This year, too, there have been some amazing stories shared. Again. For example, tonight at evening meeting the conference honored everyone who had served in long-term (for two years or more) mission service. The stage was full, and the total of years was over 1000. Such service. Such devotion. Amazing.

 

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

(109th) NWMC theme verse from July 2014

(109th) 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

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

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

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Thursday, July 16, 2015

An exciting enterprise! A meaningful ministry! Those are two ways to describe the Magdalene community. Similar way to describe Thistle Farms! As I said in my blog post, an innovative women’s enterprise. Also a haven. Safe space. Place for healing and growth and nurture. Thank you, Rev. Becca Stevens, for having the vision to begin a place like the Magdalene community, and its companion ministry Thistle Farms! (You can read more about this wonderful place for women, below!)

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

God making a way

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

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

 

Be Of Service? Be a Part of Stopping Hunger! (Feature Friday!) #BestOf

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, July 6, 2015

Almost time to go to the mission conference again. Yes, my daughter and I will be going again this year. The service project (Stop Hunger Now) was so popular and so needful to so many people last year that the New Wilmington Mission Conference is going to do it again. Feeding people. Giving out a cup of cold water. Doing what Jesus would do. God willing, may I always be so willing.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, July 4, 2014

following Jesus

Be Of Service? Be a Part of Stopping Hunger! (Feature Friday!)

Stop Hunger Now! (This is a tremendous opportunity.) Imagine, being a part of stopping world hunger. Even if I can only do a little bit, only a tiny portion, I will still be doing something. This ministry opportunity is the selected service project for the New Wilmington Mission Conference (NWMC) in July.

Every summer for more than one hundred years, NWMC has sought to make youth aware of mission effort around the world. Yes, it’s a conference of the Presbyterian Church (USA), but it’s much more than just that. Held every July on the campus of Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA (and thus the name, NWMC), this week-long conference has morphed into a multi-generational conference, going beyond just intellectual knowledge. True, NWMC informs attendees about its Presbyterian/Reformed tradition of mission outreach worldwide, but the conference also promotes active service and witness for God—and much fun is had while promoting it, too!

I’ve attended for a number of years. My younger children remember NWMC with great fondness, and every year this conference has a selected service project. Everyone who attends—no matter what the age—is encouraged to participate in the project!

For several years now, the service project has concentrated on world hunger. More specifically, Stop Hunger Now! (That’s the name of the mission organization.) This organization has come up with an efficient, tasty way of packaging dry meals, to be shipped where most needed. Where hunger is currently devastating lives. A nutritious mix of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and flavoring mix can be packed by volunteer teams, and sent all over the world. And, for a cost of just $0.29 per meal, too!

In 2011, the packaging team at NWMC made more than 24,000 meals which were shipped to Kenya. In 2012, NWMC sent more than 37,100 meals to Liberia and Uganda. And in 2014? God willing, that number will be even higher. Everyone who attends the conference is encouraged to participate. To be the hands and feet of Christ, feeding the hungry.

The use of volunteers to package meals makes the cost of each meal even lower. Plus, the use of packaging teams from all over the nation increases awareness of global hunger; many people become even more aware of how scarce food is, in large parts of the world.

This is an opportunity to be doers of the word of God, and not just hearers, only—like James said in Chapter 1 of his letter. What a chance to provide food for hungry people. And, what a chance to be helpful. Be of service. And be kind.

@chaplaineliza

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Being of Service—Through Sandwiches! (Feature Friday!) #BestOf

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, June 28, 2015

Touching. Moving. Poignant. Whatever you call it, Brother Dano’s Sandwich Ministry is all that. And more. I wrote about this excellent food ministry a year ago. It still touches me as much, as I reread the post. And, all because a high school kid saw a need and decided to do something about it. Would that more people would be that proactive!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, June 27, 2014

loaves-and-fishes feed the hungry

Being of Service—Through Sandwiches! (Feature Friday!)

“Have you ever felt invisible before?” This hand-lettered statement on a plain piece of paper stuck out at me like a sharp thumbtack on the floor, pointy side up. The photo of this printed sign is one of the images on Brother Dano’s Sandwich Ministry website. Three years ago, Dano was a high school student in the north suburbs of Chicago. He realized that there were 100,000 homeless people in Chicago, just a matter of miles south of where he and his family lived. 17 percent of those people were—are teenagers. Just like Dano. These homeless people often feel as if they are invisible. Uncared for. Less than nobody.

Dano and his parents had an idea. Three years ago, they came to the Church Council at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Wilmette. They got permission to start a sandwich ministry, with some help from the church. They decided to pack dozens of lunches once a month at St. John’s, which were then brought to the Night Ministry in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. From there, the bag lunches were distributed.

For those who don’t know, the Night Ministry is an outreach to the night community in Chicago—a ministry reaching out to the hidden underside of society. The Night Ministry offers assistance to those suffering from homelessness and poverty, in a number of ways. Not only the food outreach, and also a Health Care Bus, a temporary shelter, and assistance for pregnant teens and young mothers.

But back to Brother Dano and his sandwiches. This ministry took off at St. John’s Church in Wilmette. People of all ages started to get involved. Not only on the day they made the sandwiches and packed the bag lunches, but also in donating food items and financial gifts. Bread, bananas, cookies. Plastic bags, deli meats and cheese. Even young children can help assemble parts of the lunch, and put cookies and bananas in plastic bags. This has become a service project for all ages.

Many people, both in the congregation and from outside the church, are now involved in this worthwhile service opportunity. The price for each lunch is only $1.00, and people are well fed for at least one meal in their day. Pastor Joe McInnis of St. John’s Lutheran Church says, “What began as a simple idea has become a beloved ministry of our whole church. And in July, Brother Dano’s Sandwich Ministry will reach a milestone. They will reach and pass 10,000 sandwiches—made by volunteers here over the past three years, and passed out at the Night Ministry.”

Dano is now away at college. This ministry has developed a life of its own. God bless the worthwhile efforts of so many, making such a simple yet tasty thing as bag lunches. And thank God for Dano, for thinking of the great idea in the first place.

(For further information, check out Brother Dano’s website: www.brotherdano.com )

@chaplaineliza

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

Being Kind with Birthday Cards (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Saturday, June 20, 2015

I enjoy sending cards. I truly do! Good thing I do, for it’s a part of my job that I find touching and meaningful. I pray for each person who receives a card I send. And—unlike the mountains of junk mail that get slipped in the typical mailbox on a regular basis, a handwritten card is a lovely change of pace.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, June 22, 2014

happy-birthday-sky-wallpaper

Being Kind with Birthday Cards

Each day brings new things into my life, that’s for sure.

Now that I am settling into my new position, I am acquainting myself with a whole new set of activities. New list of priorities. And getting to know a new congregation.

One way that I can come to know this group of new friends better is by sending them birthday cards. What a wonderful idea!

The office manager at the church had a list of birthdays of the members and friends of the congregation, already printed up. So, it’s a straight-forward activity. Except—I pray for each church member as I write and address the card. I hope and pray that they might have a wonderful birthday celebration, and that God might bless them and their family during the year ahead. I try to do that for each and every card I address and mail.

I just sent off two cards today. And, I needed to buy more cards already, too. That’s perfectly okay with me. I just love buying cards! I love receiving cards, and personal mail of any kind, too. I know that sending greeting cards might seem to be a habit of yesteryear for some, but almost everyone enjoys receiving mail.

I understand that people are grateful of the thought and care someone took for them, too. I know I appreciate being remembered with a card.

I know that several months ago, I wrote about my chaplain friend who has a card ministry. She sends all kinds of cards to all kinds of people. In my blog post, I also mentioned the Apostle Paul’s comment at the beginning of the letter to the Philippian church: “I thank God in all my remembrance of you.” (1:3) What a touching way to remember each other! Sending a card or a note with a few words or sentences of genuine interest, care and concern. What a way to be kind! My chaplain friend finds this ministry an opportunity to serve others and to connect with those near and far.

Paul’s words tell us how much Paul appreciated his friends and acquaintances in the city of Philippi, from a long distance away. How much more can we express our care and concern for others through cards and notes?

Noteworthy features are the words chosen to communicate, the picture(s) on the card, and the sentiment and attitude of the person sending the card. In other words, things to appeal to the ears, eyes and feelings of the recipient. Also important, the card or note helps the recipient know that you and I care. It doesn’t matter whether we are near or far, what an opportunity to be kind and tenderhearted.

God bless my new friends and fellow parishioners, and God be with each of them as they celebrate their birthdays!

Be Kind? To Seniors! All Day (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, June 14, 2015

I enjoy preaching! And, I miss the lovely seniors at the several retirement centers I would occasionally visit. As I read over this blog post from last June, I vividly remembered several seniors with whom I interacted. And, I choked up. Dear God, I pray for them, and for all of the residents at that center.

 A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BK kindness is a lifestyle

I preached at a retirement center today. Midweek service—Hymns and Devotions.

After being away from more of a chaplain’s role for a number of months, I felt really good as I revisited it. My pastoral care gifting certainly is being expressed when I do chaplainly things, that’s for sure! Plus, I can use the spiritual gifts of encouragement and helps in this retirement setting, too. That’s fulfilling (and filling!) for me, too.

Since I got there almost a half hour before the service was to start this afternoon, I took the opportunity to go into the chapel and greet the residents who were already gathered for the service. I went down the row of wheelchairs that were placed in the chapel, spending time with each person. A few had difficulties raising their heads. (What a sad thing, to always have to look at the floor because of difficulty with the neck and back!) Several of these extreme elderly showed significant signs of frailty, and a couple more had signs of dementia.

I was so pleased to see the organist! I have known her since I served at this retirement center as a chaplain intern. (Ten years ago!) The organist is also a resident. Such a sweet, lovely person. I especially enjoyed the hymn arrangement she played just before the service began. An arrangement of “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” I made special mention of the prelude. I also said this hymn reminds us that God created everything, indoors and out, and especially the creatures, the animals big and small.

After opening the service with prayer and thanksgiving, the organist and I led the congregation in two hymns. And then, the scripture lesson. Ah! I chose the Acts 2 passage from Sunday, three days ago. The passage for the day of Pentecost! And then, I talked about a Power shortage. (Especially with our Lord Jesus gone!) I moved into talk of the Holy Spirit, and reminded people that Peter said these words at the end of our passage today. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!”

I certainly did my best to be animated and engaging when I preached and led worship this afternoon. I received some nice compliments from the residents and others who attended the service today. I do this as a labor of love, it’s true. In addition, I am so glad that my voice was clear and sounded good to the majority of these dear seniors in the chapel.

God, what a blessing to be able to serve these dear folks. I need to remember this wonderful feeling! God, thank You for the many blessings you provided for all of these residents, all through the years. What a witness to Your love, grace, mercy and power. Amen, God!

@chaplaineliza

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Serve? Be Kind? Bless the Animals, Too! (BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, June 7, 2015

I enjoy animals so much! I enjoyed the Blessing of the Animals that happened twelve months ago, too. It’s part of my church’s outreach to the community. People love their animals, and I really want to show God’s love to everyone in our community—both people and their animals.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, June 7, 2014

blessing-of-animals

Serve? Be Kind? Bless the Animals, Too!

Clear blue skies, gorgeous weather, perfect temperature. Lovely morning! What a great day to be alive! (This is me, thinking.)

What could I find today to help people? How might I be able to serve, today?

Good thing that I had a church event planned for this morning, then. Yes, the Blessing of the Animals happened this morning. And sure enough, I had the joy of meeting 16 dogs and their families outside. They all came to the church parking lot for their animals to be blessed. I talked with the families, petted and blessed the dogs, and had a wonderful morning. I had prepared for cats, too, because I know a few people like to take their cats out on leashes. Perhaps in cat carriers, as well. But we did not have any cats this time. Oh, well. Maybe next time!

My son and his good friend came to help me with the animals. As I put it to the guys, I appreciated animal wranglers. I did have several dogs in the parking lot at one time, on a few occasions this morning. The guys really helped me out, and did their best to manage every dog! They acted as able-bodied assistants, and moral support as well.

I love animals, especially dogs. They offer companionship, warmth, and especially love. And as far as engaging their human families? They can connect with them in a fundamental way, and provide a great deal of mutual enjoyment and satisfaction.

Tomorrow is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. I’ve been reflecting on the Church, and how the ideal picture of that community of believers is a lot like the relationship between animals and their human families. The Church also provides companionship, warmth, and especially love. And as far as engaging their fellow believers? They all connect in a fundamental way. Or, at least, that’s the ideal picture of believers coming together.

What about my son and his friend, acting as assistants? The analogy can be extended. The leader of the Church (or, the group of believers) needs assistants or helpers. These helpers direct and manage the activities of the individuals, or perhaps small groups. And, the helpers provide support and aid to the leader (or leaders), too.

All in all, my son, his good friend, and I had a wonderful time this morning with the animals and their human families. I blessed and prayed for a number of dogs! I also had an awesome opportunity to show the community that our church is active and cares about the people who live right next door. And on the next block. And down the street. That kind of opportunity is amazing.

I wonder what kind of opportunity for service will happen tomorrow? God willing, I’ll be ready!

@chaplaineliza

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)