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.

@chaplaineliza

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(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 on the Winter Solstice

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2014 photo credit - Kevin Jones

Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2014
photo credit – Kevin Jones

Being Kind on the Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year, for those of you who are not familiar with this terminology. Yes, it is also Sunday. I led a worship service at my church this morning. Yet, I also walked through a sleeping garden today. The Chicago Botanic Gardens.

The Winter Solstice is the time of the shortest day, the time of the longest night. Starting tomorrow, the days will grow longer once more and the dark will wane. But today, tonight is the time of the most dark.

This morning at church was the fourth Sunday of Advent. We lit four Advent candles on the Advent wreath this morning. The lighting of candles, the return of the light is a prominent feature of the Christmas festival. The kindling of light is a similar feature in many other midwinter festivals—Hanukkah, for example. Sankta Lucia, and the Yule Log, to mention two more.

At the Botanic Garden at this time of the year, the lights are prominently displayed in many parts of the central gardens. Since this past weekend had a few temperate days, lots of people were visiting. Walking the paths, through the greenhouses, and viewing the special display. Oh, and the lights. Over 750,000 strings of lights decorate the outside areas. Mostly white lights, but also mixed with some red and green, with a few golden accents.

My husband, daughter and I walked through the garden, as I said, later in the afternoon. We sat on a bench for some little while, looking across the lagoon. And as dusk approached in the muted light of the overcast afternoon, the strings of colored lights shone more brightly.

When I see the quiet panorama of the winter Garden, I think of nature sleeping. I see the effects of the decreasing light. Because of my line of work, from time to time I have people telling me of their sadness, sometimes depression, at this holiday time of the year. Sometimes, it is beneficial to sit and be quiet at this time—if we can find the time. Certain people set aside the time around the Solstice as a time of quiet and reflection. (Just a suggestion.)

I try to meditate and pray on a regular basis. At the Winter Solstice, at the waning of the year, I can take advantage of this quiet, peaceful time. I can use this time not only for reflection, but also to let go. To release sad things, mad things, bad things. To lighten up and get rid of resentments and other baggage I’m holding onto. That way, I’m not only being kind to others, I am ultimately being kind to myself.

And, God willing, I can spread some of the light. The light that God brings into the world.

Winter Solstice at dusk, Dec. 21, 2014 photo credit - Kevin Jones

Winter Solstice at dusk, Dec. 21, 2014
photo credit – Kevin Jones

@chaplaineliza

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Get Ready, Set—to Be of Service!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, December 10, 2014

winter road

Get Ready, Set—to Be of Service!

I’m getting ready. Yes, I am getting ready for a bunch of things in these next few days. Getting ready for the little Sunday school program at our church on Sunday, getting ready for the open house I’ll be hosting this weekend, getting ready for the upcoming Advent and Christmas Eve services. Even getting ready for my own, personal family Christmas celebration here at home. (Although, that is taking less of a priority right now.) Just several more in the list of things that need to be done, or checked off, or marked as completed. Little by little, I am accomplishing a good deal.

All this getting ready is exciting, enervating, and a little bit nerve-wracking. A lot of thinking work, and some writing and preparation, and some contacting people by telephone and email. Yes, it’s important. And to add to the mix, I am still the church pastor. I need to check on the shut-ins, and see how they are doing, just as I usually do. Yes, their families usually check on them during the holidays, too. But I would very much like to see whether I might be able to stop by each home, during Advent.

One service that is especially on my heart this time of year is the Blue Christmas service. What is a Blue Christmas service, you ask? I’m glad you asked!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult to many people, for many reasons. That’s why St. Luke’s Christian Community Church is offering a Blue Christmas service on Monday, Dec. 22—an alternative Christmas service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time. Holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

I am just finalizing the features of this special service, and I would like to ask for prayer and good, positive thoughts to be sent to St. Luke’s Church, and to those leading the quiet, reflective Blue Christmas service that evening.

I hope, I pray that all of our services are welcoming to those who attend. God willing, may it be so!

@chaplaineliza

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Beginnings, and a Time to Be of Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent one picture

Beginnings, and a Time to Be of Service

Yes, here we are at the end of November, the waning of the calendar year. Yet—here we are at the beginning of the liturgical year—the beginning of Advent.

I led the worship service today, highlighting the first Sunday of Advent. A Sunday of waiting. A Sunday when we look forward to Jesus returning for the second time. It is also traditionally a Sunday of hope.

Sure, when some people think of Advent, they want to get through it quickly! Let’s get to Christmas, already! Enough with this waiting, this time of preparation. Race ahead to the baby Jesus, being born in Bethlehem. Yet—our Scripture passages for the first Sunday in Advent do not tell us about that baby Jesus, and a warm, fluffy Christmas card picture. Instead, we are focusing on the hard stuff. On the fact that Jesus is coming again in power. On the sin, and unworthiness, and the fact that God takes us dirty, sinful, unclean people and cleans us up.

At our church today, we had a guest preacher, a student from one of the local bible colleges. Noah preached a sermon on one of the readings for the day, from Isaiah 64:1-9. He did a fine job at explaining the text. I built the whole service around that Scripture passage, lifting up various parts of the passage in the different hymns and prayers, besides the reading of the sermon text.

So, that was how I was of service today. In formatting the worship experience today, I hope I tied it together with a biblical bow—I kept ringing the changes of Isaiah 64, in different ways.

I earnestly tried to make a cohesive structure for our congregation. And, I was glad Noah helped me to lead in worship today. All in all, I did the best I could. Or to paraphrase the words of the prophet, from Isaiah 55:11, I provided a space for the Word of God to go forth. God, bless Your word. I pray that it accomplishes that for which You sent it forth. Amen!

@chaplaineliza

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Helping and Being Helped

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, November 29, 2014

SERVE find yourself in service to others

Helping and Being Helped

I helped out today. I got things ready at my church this afternoon, in preparation for the first Sunday of Advent, tomorrow. Changing of the colors—as the altar cloth, pulpit, and lectern hanging changed from green to purple. I prepared the advent wreath, too. It is so great to be in charge of my own services.

And, I bought several Christmas presents at two small stores in my suburb. (Yes, I support Small Store Saturday!) I am so glad the weather today was so beautiful. The smaller stores were crowded with a steady stream of shoppers, too.

Plus, I was helped this morning by my wonderful yoga class. I love getting regular exercise, and yoga is my current BFF. Truly, I do not know how I managed to go on from week to week without yoga. Such a multi-faceted way of exercise, stretching and general well-being.

So, two significant ways where I chose to help out. Another basic, foundational way where I allowed myself to be helped involved yoga.

Give and take, ebb and flow. You meet with me, and I’ll try to provide for what you are passionate about.

As I said, tomorrow is the beginning of the liturgical season of Advent. A time of waiting. A time of preparation, God be willing. Help me as I watch for signs of You and Your comingI Amen!

@chaplaineliza

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Serving, at the Waning of the Year

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

autumn candles

Serving, at the Waning of the Year

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.

@chaplaineliza

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Helpful? At a Thrift Store

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, November 20, 2014

christmas shadow puppets

Helpful? At a Thrift Store

I shop thrift stores. I don’t know if I ought to be proud of that, or ashamed, or what. But it’s something I do. And, I get some great deals! Especially on shirts, sweaters, blouses, jackets and coats. Oh, and pants for my children, too. (Not for my pants, though. My shape is difficult to fit, and I must try on pair after pair of prospective pants. So, I need to buy my pants retail. Not resale. But that’s off topic.)

Today, I had a specific mission. I wanted certain things. First, a piece of translucent white material. I figured I could get a used bedsheet, and that would do. However, I went one better. I found a lovely, thin white tablecloth. (!!) And then I needed a second piece of material, in a darker shade. I found some black cotton, unhemmed. It seemed as if someone had just had it cut from a bolt in a fabric store, and never used it. I wanted both of these for a simple shadow puppet theater. The top half white, illuminated from behind by one or two light bulbs. The bottom half dark, to mask the people manipulating the shadow puppets. (From behind the fabric on the frame.)

I was able to get both of these pieces of fabric inexpensively! I will ask our wonderful trustee and his son whether they might be able to make a simple wooden frame so the Sunday School children can practice for the Christmas program in December. I think it will be a simple, yet effective way of telling the Christmas narrative from the Gospel of Luke.

Of course, this is not my first pageant. Or play. Or musical. Or puppet show. It’s been a few years, but I am no novice. Years ago I did a number of these, at several different churches. For a number of years, too. My, I haven’t brought up extensive memories of those Christmas pageants and musicals and puppet shows for quite some time, either.

When the church needs me, I do my best to respond. To help. To serve. I haven’t been active with young people—junior high—for several years. And elementary school age? Even longer before that! Yet, I want to do my best. And, I’ll try to encourage the children to learn about the birth of Jesus, in Bethlehem.

I know we haven’t gotten to Advent, yet. We aren’t even at Thanksgiving! But, soon. Soon. Advent is coming. I can look forward to that, God. I know Advent is a time of preparation. Be with me and with the Sunday School children as we pray and prepare for Your coming.  (Help me prepare the shadow puppet stage, too!)

@chaplaineliza

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