What a Souper Way to Be Kind! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 31, 2016

Yes, the Super Bowl will be here again in just a few days. That entertainment extravaganza with some football thrown in. (I kid, I kid.)

Seriously, The Super Bowl has become a Winter Event, even for people who do not ordinarily watch football. Except—it’s become much more than that, in several other, important areas. Including the area I highlight here, in last year’s post. My friend Pastor Ross recently left the Presbyterian church in Cuyahoga Falls and moved to a new church. (All the best at your new church, Fairgreen Presbyterian Church, in Toledo, Ross!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 31, 2014

souper bowl of caring 

What a Souper Way to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

The Super Bowl is almost upon us, here in the United States. This finale to the 2013-14 football season will bring people from across the country—and across the world—together to watch the extravaganza, the festivities, the commercials. Oh, yes. And the football game, too.

As I have a pastor friend at a church in Ohio. (I featured this church in Ohio two weeks ago, with Yarn Alive!) My friend, Ross, is a pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Ohio. One of the mission outreaches at their church is Souper Bowl of Caring. What, you might ask, is Souper Bowl of Caring? Good question! I’m glad you asked. Put simply, this effort uses “the energy of the Super Bowl to mobilize youth in a united national effort to care for people in their local communities who are hungry and those in need.” (from the Souper Bowl Mission Statement)

A brief history of this outreach, from the Souper Bowl of Caring website: “A simple prayer: “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat” is inspiring a youth-led movement to help hungry and hurting people around the world.

“This prayer, delivered by Brad Smith, then a seminary intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC, gave birth to an idea. Why not use Super Bowl weekend, a time when people come together for football and fun, to also unify the nation for a higher good: collecting dollars and canned food for the needy? Youth could collect donations at their schools and churches in soup pots, and then send every dollar DIRECTLY to a local charity of THEIR choice.”

This outreach effort started in 1990. Other churches joined the team, and by 1997 Souper Bowl of Caring reached $1 million and kept right on going. In 2004, the first NFL owners joined the Souper Bowl team. Also in 2004, First Lady Laura Bush kicked off the caring effort that year. In 2008, the national total for the food and funds drive topped $10 million.  And it’s still continuing to grow.

Whether in local congregations like the church in Cuyahoga Falls or Toledo, Ohio, or in city-wide efforts like in Houston, Austin or Dallas/Fort Worth, the Souper Bowl of Caring is a tremendous opportunity to be kind to people, where it counts—in the pocketbook. Pocketbook issues are a concern to people across the nation. With unemployment and under-employment so prevalent, and costs for basics such as heating going through the roof in this challenging winter, all the more reason to give something, if we can!

Pastor Ross said recently, “I hope you are able to make an extra run to the store just for this cause. We are blessed to be a blessing. The need is substantial, and UPC can help with your help.” What a wonderful way to bless those who have real needs. Whether with cans of soup or chili donated to local food pantries, or with cash donations to the charity of YOUR choice, please consider giving. What a way to join in. Join this caring team. For a Super—I mean, Souper Bowl, indeed.


(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2016: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Yarn Alive, Being Kind (Feature Friday!) #BestOf

Yarn Alive Being Kind (Feature Friday!) #BestOf

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 17, 2016

I have a great appreciation for seniors. When I heard about this way of being kind two years ago in January, I knew I had to find out more. So, I asked my friend Jill for more information. Thus, this post. Awesome way of being kind!

 halcyon yarn

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

Yarn Alive, Being Kind (Feature Friday!)

When disaster hits—anywhere in the world—the disaster is all over the news. Media coverage and live reports can be seen (or heard, or read) on most any media outlet.  Relief efforts are often launched. Good-hearted individuals and worthy relief organizations send donations. Wonderful efforts, one and all. What a loving, giving way to be kind!  But then another disaster happens. Another, and another. After a while, something called disaster fatigue can set in.

Specifically thinking about Japan and a disaster almost three years ago, in March 2011, a tsunami devastated large portions of coastal land and the communities on and near the coast. Many of those left homeless were elderly. For many months, huge numbers of these displaced people went to temporary housing. With little to do in the following months except consider all that was lost in the tsunami, large numbers of these elderly people became sad, even depressed.

Enter Teddy Sawka, a Christian missionary to Japan for several decades. She saw first-hand the ravages of depression in the displaced seniors living in her small community of Shichigahama, a sea-side village. Knitting is quite popular in Japan. Teddy thought that by keeping their hands and minds occupied, perhaps these seniors would find some purpose in their lives. She began Yarn Alive among the displaced seniors, who took to knitting and crocheting with great eagerness.

Missionary Teddy’s cousin is Jill France, member of Cuyahoga Falls United Presbyterian Church. Jill and Teddy keep in touch regularly. Teddy communicated to Jill that the seniors in the budding knitting group in Japan needed more yarn. Jill brought this need to the knitting group (prayer shawl-making group) at her church. In a number of weeks, the group had prepared six boxes holding knitting needles, crochet hooks and 40 pounds of yarn to send off to the seniors in Japan. This was the first of a number of ‘care packages’ sent.

Word spread in Japan. Other knitting groups—Yarn Alive groups—began to meet in other villages and towns in Japan. Meanwhile, word also spread among the media. Missionary Teddy was interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter in Japan, almost two years ago. Teddy gave the reporter her cousin Jill’s name and contact information. Soon Jill was interviewed, and several women in the Ohio church knitting group, also. After the article appeared in the Wall Street Journal in the first week of March 2012, calls and emails started pouring into the Presbyterian church office. And even more yarn, needles and hooks sent off to Japan.

Signs of such giving, gratitude and solidarity, in Jill’s own words: “The Lord works in such amazing ways.  It has been just so wonderful to hear from people that are eager to help and so full of love!  It has also opened my eyes to the bonds that women feel for other women around the world.  All enjoying the same gift of sitting together and knitting (or crocheting) and talking!  Doesn’t matter what language we speak, we are sisters!”

Jill, how right you are, my friend. Such a wonderful ministry. Such a marvelous way of being kind! May God continue to send all of us ways of being kind, on a regular basis.


(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Dogs Provide Kindness to Stressed Travelers (Feature Friday!) (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas is over, but the winter holidays are not. The weather outside my window in the Chicago suburbs is awful. Blowing, snowing, sleeting. Not the weather to travel, certainly. When I read this entry, I thought it was exactly what I ought to repost for today. God bless these wonderful service dogs, providing a little bit of refuge for stressed travelers. (God knows so many people need it.)


A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, December 26, 2014


Dogs Provide Kindness and Comfort to Stressed Travelers (Feature Friday!)

Today is Friday. The last Friday in December, and the last Friday in 2014. So, today is the last Feature Friday post in the blog A Year of Being Kind.

Have you ever felt stressed in an airport? Stress and anxiety can come from many different places, when a person is at the airport. Take that remembered stress from the airport, and multiply it thousands of times (from the thousands of people who feel stressed and anxious there on a regular basis.)

This week, I am featuring the awesome dogs from the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Ministries. A number of specially trained golden retrievers and their handlers came to O’Hare International Airport earlier this week, in the days running up to Christmas. Why, you may wonder? Because the dogs are used to providing comfort and care in anxiety-laden circumstances. In this particular case, the dogs greeted the stressed-out travelers. Spent time with them. Were warm and friendly, in that low-key manner that golden retrievers model so well.

“At Christmas, for a lot of people it’s a difficult holiday. It’s a stressful time for some travelers,” as Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, told The Huffington Post. “If you’ve ever [flown] out of those terminals, you know the need for stress relief.” Stress relief is what these dogs are great at.

And, people responded! Boy, did the teams get a response. The Lutheran Church Charities website posted: “Scores of children and people of all ages stopped to relieve the stress of travel by touching, petting, stroking and enjoying the LCC Comfort Dogs. It also allowed [LCC handlers] to answer questions from travelers as to why we are greeting them this holiday season.”

It didn’t matter whether people were delayed in transit, or their flight had been cancelled, or in the middle of lengthy international travel, the Comfort Dogs helped people de-stress and provided comfort—exactly what their name conveys.

God bless these awesome dogs and their handlers. What a tremendous ministry they offer, providing calm, gentle, loving care for many in these busy, stressful, anxious times.


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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)


Being Kind—at a Funeral Home (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year!” Except—when it isn’t. Reading over this post from last December, I am thinking of all of those who are feeling sad. Grieving. Feeling lonely. All the fears and anxieties and depressions and sadnesses, all getting in the way of the holiday holly-jolly. This is for anyone who is feeling that way, today. Or, in case you know someone who is not feeling happy and festive, today.


A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, December 18, 2014

winter road at night

Being Kind—at a Funeral Home

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—“ except when it’s not.

Yes, it’s just a week before the “big day.” Yes, I drove past a large shopping mall on the way home this afternoon (against my better judgment). I did not see a single empty parking place in the parking lot from my vantage point, driving by. Yes, the children at the preschool were excitedly talking about Christmas coming soon. “Is it tomorrow?” “Is it the next day?” And, I know the teachers patiently go through the calendar, counting the days until Christmas. “Next Thursday. We have a week until then.”

But it isn’t beginning to look much like Christmas for a good friend of mine, and their whole family. They have lost a dear, senior loved one earlier this week. This afternoon, and evening? The viewing. The wake. I went to the funeral home so I could be there for my friend.

So incongruous. Frenetic, anxiety-laden, rush-rush. Mad, frantic preparations for the holidays. (It doesn’t particularly matter whether the holidays people celebrate are Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, or Kwanzaa.) And then—to have a loved one die in the middle of all of that? As I said, so incongruous. It’s the holidays! There isn’t supposed to be any death, or sickness, or fighting, or negative emotions, or negativity of any kind. Not now.

But, life doesn’t work that way.

So, I took the sad opportunity to be kind to my friend. To offer my condolences on the passing of this sweet senior. To be with my friend for at least a little while.

I reflected, later on, that this is exactly why there is a Christmas. So we could have hope, in something much better and much greater than we could possibly imagine. Yes, it’s very sad to us, here. Yes, people are grieving, right now. And yes, people are rejoicing in new life, the life to come, with God.

I don’t want to say this too loudly, in case I step on the toes of someone who is grieving, sad and even angry right now. But—I look forward to a merry Christmas. Quietly, looking forward. Expectant. Quietly.


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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Be of Service to a Grateful Family (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Serving, helping, being kind. These actions come naturally to me. As I was reading through several entries from the beginning of December 2014, I came across this one. I thought of this dear family, and my kind and compassionate friend—the mother of this family. She is in another sad, distressing, continuing situation. I don’t do this much at all, but I will ask my readers for prayer today. Please pray for my dear friend Susan. Pray for her finances. Pray for her children. Pray for her and her family to have a happy, healthy and blessed holiday season. Most important, pray for the Lord to go before and protect her, to prepare the way and to make her paths straight. Hear all of our prayers, dear Lord. Amen!


A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, December 7, 2014

Zimbabwean nativity set

Zimbabwean nativity set

Be of Service to a Grateful Family

I’ve been talking about being kind this whole year. Yes, talking about it, and writing about other people being of service. And, giving some examples of me being helpful. Kind. Of service.

Yes, I could mention being of service in the morning worship service. Especially since it was a communion service. Pastor Gordon and I served communion to the congregation, and I believe they appreciated the whole service: from the Advent candle-lighting at the beginning of the service to the singing of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” for a closing hymn.

And, I was concerned about someone in our congregation. This senior was not in church this morning, so I called and double-checked. I am glad I did, because we were able to lift this senior up in prayer during the church service—a bad cold, which is now getting better. (More good ways of being of help!)

However, the highlight of my day was bringing a number of things to a grateful family. This family was some distance away, and it took a little while to get there. That did not matter to me, though. They were so appreciative! (That is the part I was concerned about!)

Yes, I can be kind. Be of service. Yes, I can buy some food or a few gifts or some items for some grateful individuals—or, for a family. This specific case was a bit different. A few of my friends and I all pooled our resources, and provided some things for this family. And, what was I doing there? I was the bearer of good tidings, and the one designated to bring the things.

I am reminded of my verse for December – Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Just think—God gave me the inclination, the impetus. And, God provided a nice vehicle so I could get there in safety and comfort.

Truly, providing much needed supplies and gifts for grateful people is certainly something God-honoring. And, it’s also something that our Lord Jesus commands in Matthew 25:34-40. What a way to be of service, and please God, at the same time.


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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Serving, at the Waning of the Year (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Serving? Being kind? Being helpful? Yes. I try to be all those things. As I reread this blog entry, I thought of the difficulty many families have—mourning over a holiday. In subsequent years, the death will oftentimes be inextricably mingled with the holiday celebration. And in this particular case, I hope and pray I was a decent minister to this small family. I did not even know them, but I responded in their time of need. God, wherever they are at this Thanksgiving time, comfort and encourage them.


A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Serving, at the Waning of the Year

autumn candles

As I sat in my office, I was surprised by a sudden telephone call. I was asked to officiate at a funeral service, with very short notice.

I was happy to be able to do it. To have the opportunity to do it. And, it also was another opportunity to be of service. To use my multifaceted training and abilities, and to come alongside of these dear people who mourn.

Just as 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” I not only have received the spiritual gifts of encouragement, mercy, pastor/teacher, and helps, I also have chaplain training, and Clinical Pastoral Care. I stepped up to the plate, and I offered what I could to the loved ones who mourned. I pray for them, and hope that God is with them in this special, tender, painful time.

Yes, I cried today. Not only did I observe a family in the midst of a memorable experience, I felt with them. I saw them grieve. And, I pray that I was able to be a comfort and a support for them.

I keep coming back to this, again and again. With the waning of the year. Just as I mentioned last week. Taking stock, as in Psalm 90:12. The psalmist calls us all to “number our days.” I thought of this dear person who died several days ago. Even though I didn’t mention this verse at the funeral, I thought of it, to myself. I considered both the end of the year as well as the end of a long life. Gathering in the harvest, taking an inventory, reckoning up the deeds done for God.

We are about to begin the circle of the liturgical year, again, with the beginning of Advent. Yes, I can prepare myself to say “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” Yet, I am not quite ready. Yes, I acted as a chaplain today, and used my pastoral care gifts and skills. Thank God I have them! But, Advent isn’t here, yet. I’m not quite there yet.

Soon. I am still at the point of numbering my days. Soon enough, I’ll be thankful. (Tomorrow, in fact.) And then, soon enough, the time of preparation, of Advent. But not yet. Soon.


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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Thinking About Gifts, and About Service (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, November 15, 2015

Stewardship. How can I be a steward of what I have? How can we be good stewards of what God has given to us? I’m not just thinking about money. Our treasure. I’m thinking about time and talents, too. What’s more, I’m thinking of thanks. Gratitude. God has given me a lot! I’m thinking about the time, talents and treasure God has abundantly blessed me with. God has blessed all of us, too. I am so grateful to God. Thank You, Lord.

Thinking About Gifts, and About Service

autumn road with leaves

Stewardship. Not a common word, for sure! Most people probably never even think of it. Or, at most, it might come to mind for certain folks at this time of the year. In connection with charitable giving.

Yes, that was how I used it, yesterday. In my sermon on being a good steward. Actually, I stretch the truth slightly. My sermon was not about stewardship. Instead, my focus was on taking stock, as in Psalm 90:12. The psalmist calls us all to “number our days.” So, I mentioned the end of the year, gathering in the harvest, taking an inventory. And with that as my springboard, I took a leap into my first stewardship sermon. Talking about being good stewards not only of our money, but also of our time, talents, health and relationships.

I prayed for my children today, as well as my friend’s children. (I am using the book The Power of a Praying Parent.) I prayed that each child might discover that unique gift or set of gifts that God has given to each of them. And again, I was reminded vividly of the verse for November: 1 Peter 4:10 “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”

Sure, it’s one thing, to ooh and aah over a child’s budding attempts at a gift. Like, for example, a painting brought home from school. Or playing an instrument at a youthful band recital. Or being instrumental in winning the contest at a junior high sporting event. Budding gifts like that are easier to receive, and easier to display. But what about those whose gifts are more hidden? Or people who are more shy, or even more bruised, as a result of things out of their control?

This is a prayer anyone can pray. We all need to follow God more nearly, more dearly. It is my responsibility to pray for small (and not so small) children. And young people. And middle-aged and older people.

I encourage everyone reading: pray for others. And don’t forget yourself! You are a trusted, gifted child of God, too. We all need to serve with whatever God has given to each of us. May it be so, God!


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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)