Can We Encourage Others—Can We Pray? (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Thursday, March 1, 2018

Saturday, March 3rd is the World Day of Prayer. I am presenting on prayer to a local denominational Christian conference here in a nearby suburb of Chicago, presenting to the Ecumenical Kerala Churches. I am excited about this possibility to lead and teach about prayer! I’ve been interested in and active in prayer for a number of years. I hope I am always helpful and encouraging, whether it’s one-on-one (as in this post), or teaching a group of people. Lord, truly!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 2, 2014

pray - hands and blocks

Can We Encourage Others—Can We Pray?

As I brushed off the car this morning, I groaned. Internally, I mean. Will this snow and wintry weather ever stop? I drove to church down the half-deserted streets. Despite my grumbling about the cold and the snow, I grudgingly had to admit that the glistening white coating of snow did help. It helped the trees and grass to shine as the sun peeped through the clouds. Such a sight helped raise my spirits, too.

True, I did dash into church late. Late for choir practice, due to a minor waffle iron malfunction this morning. My son had a friend sleep over. I made waffles in a hurry before I left, but the first waffle stuck in the (older) waffle iron. I couldn’t very well run off and leave the waffle iron full of half-burnt pieces of waffle, so I did scrape and clean it off. (sigh)

I enjoy singing in choir! I like singing, period. Especially singing in parts. The morning service went well, too. I really worshiped, most of the time. (It’s a challenge to keep my mind on worship at all times, to tell the truth. I suspect most people would acknowledge that. At least, part of the time.) Since this is the first Sunday of the month, our church celebrated Communion. That was good, too.

Benediction said, church service over, congregation dismissed, sanctuary cleared. I went downstairs with the other parishioners to the memorial room (under the sanctuary). But—another worshiper caught me before I entered the large room. “Do you have a minute?” Sure, I nodded. “How do I get a prayer request in the prayer chain?” was the follow-up question.

Instantly, my chaplain antennae started to vibrate. “You came to the right place. I keep track of the requests and email out the weekly prayer list.” All of which are true. But I still had this intense feeling that something was going on with my fellow church member.  The two of us stepped into a little out-of-the-way area, and I asked for more information about the prayer request. It turned out, there were two requests. I wrote down both of the requests on a scrap of paper I had in my pocket. I used active listening. I pitched my voice to be soft and gentle. And—I used my less-anxious presence to help my fellow church member feel more calm and relieved.

After I wrote down specifics on the person we were praying for, I continued to listen closely to what the fellow parishioner was saying. I was moved to relate a couple of my views and spiritual insights concerning suffering, pain and death. And afterwards, we both teared up, and almost cried. I felt that my presence was appreciated! Not only by my fellow church member, but by many at worship today. But specifically, the situation regarding the prayer request after service? That’s my act of kindness today.  I am so glad I was at the right place, at the right time. Or—perhaps I was in the place God intended me to be today.  Regardless, I wonder what God will send my way tomorrow?


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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Lent and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!) (also published at .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons   from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)


Be Kind = Show Love = Love Neighbor (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, February 19, 2018

I just got back from the gym at the YMCA. Yes, I still try to go to the gym diligently. Reading this blog post from February 2014 again, I am reminded that being kind is such a helpful, useful thing. And often, it’s simple to be kind. Just to be thoughtful, too, helps ease the social interaction between strangers and acquaintances. As I look at society today, we need kindness more than ever. Please, consider being kind.

BK one kind word b-w

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Be Kind = Show Love = Love Neighbor

This morning, I went to the gym at the YMCA. I had a good workout! So, I needed a shower afterwards, in the locker room. (I was going to work later in the morning.) The shower area is bright and shiny, with a number of shower spots. Sometimes there are just one or two people in there, but other times it’s like Grand Central Station—wall to wall ladies! They often chat while they wait for showers, when it’s so crowded.

I took a quick shower, and there were only two other women in the shower area. By the time I finished up—maybe two and a half, three minutes—the number doubled. A swimmer was turning on the last shower when I said I had just finished. Her eyes brightened. That last shower head was really rotten, she said. She thanked me sincerely! She and I exchanged smiles and several comments as I grabbed my towel. She mentioned again—with a smile—how kind I was to let her have a good shower spot.

Being kind? That’s what I am trying to do every day, with intention. Except, this time, my kind act just happened. I offered my shower spot to another person, just as a matter of course.

I thought about what this swimmer said. I know she said it in a half-kidding manner. But I could see she was half-serious, at the same time. Her comment kept coming to my mind. I was kind to my neighbor, to someone else in the locker room. I’ve mentioned a small book of short selections before, written by Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame). Here’s a pertinent quote from Mister Rogers:

“The more I think about it, the more I wonder if God and neighbor are somehow One. ‘Loving God, Loving neighbor’—the same thing?”

Mister Rogers raises a deeper question. Additional, going further. Somehow more fundamental. What a loving and caring way to go through life. Yes, intellectually, I know I am supposed to love God. As the greatest commandment of Jesus states, Love God, and the second is like it—love neighbor. (I think Mr. Rogers was referring to this twin set of commands of Jesus in the quote above.)  And as Mr. Rogers wonders, aren’t the two commands two sides of the same coin? Yes, loving God is the greatest command. Certainly, there is nothing greater. But Jesus gives “loving neighbor” almost equal billing! (Take a look at Mark 12:28-34 if you want to get a direct take on Jesus and His words.)

What a tall order! Living like this, treating each individual in this way? God, I’m not sure I can live up to all this. That may be just the point. I can’t. God can. Ask God for help. Then, go forward with my hand in God’s, living life the way God means me to. And God can help you, too! Just ask.


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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Lent and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!) (also published at .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons   from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)



A Helpful Errand (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Saturday, January 7, 2018

Looking back on the beginnings of #ayearofbeingkind in 2014, I am amazed at how simple it was for me to find ways to be kind, be helpful and to be of service on a daily basis. Of course, having the spiritual gifts of helps, mercy and encouragement help. I still need to stay on the lookout for opportunities God places in my path, each day. God, help me to keep my eyes (and heart) open, each day.

A Helpful Errand (#BestOf)

Posted on January 8, 2014 by chaplaineliza

lego medical center

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Helpful Errand

When I started this blog, I had few expectations. (On purpose!) I tried—and continue to try—to have few expectations. With 365 days of service, I want God to bring along things that will sometimes take me by surprise. Get me enthused. Even make me uncomfortable. I know it’s putting myself out on a limb, but I have earnestly prayed to have that happen. The frigid, wintry weather has certainly been interesting the past few days, and I have had no problem finding ways to be of service.

I helped a younger person go to and from a medical outpatient procedure today, and hung around for a few hours after returning to their home. (Because of HIPAA and related issues, I am hesitant to say much more about specifics—even though I am not working in any official capacity for this younger person, still. Good, ingrained habits need to be maintained.) This procedure was something I had known about for several weeks. I just didn’t expect the weather to be so uncooperative. However, with the car warmed up and our destination not far away, the trip to and fro was fairly easy. Straight-forward. And the young person is now resting comfortably.

This whole process of running to and from a medical procedure (or a doctor’s or dentist’s office) put me in mind of previous times I did much the same thing. I have the spiritual gift of helping (you can read more about helps at this website: ), among other gifts. So, I naturally gravitate towards doing helpful, encouraging things for people. Like taking my elderly aunt to the doctor or dentist, or fetching prescription medication for my older mom. I consider such errands to be opportunities to be kind to relatives. More importantly, being with my relatives (or friends, or acquaintances) gives me a chance to be in relationship with them.

Some years ago, I often had my small children with me when I traveled around Chicago on these kinds of errands. Such a wonderful opportunity for my children to connect with their older relatives! Now, my children are adults, or nearly. They still occasionally talk about or remember times when we went to Grandma’s house, or Auntie’s apartment. I am glad I gave them the gift of being with their senior relatives. And to think, all this came from me being willing to drive my car and go on errands. Taking my aunt to a regular medical exam, or picking up something from the pharmacy.

Being kind and tenderhearted benefits me too. (See Ephesians 4:32, for further information.) I was not only providing a service, I also was kind and tenderhearted, as the Apostle Paul directs. Plus, I was doing service pleasing to God. That’s been important to me for a long time. Still is, often. I try to be obedient to God, clearing the way for a close vertical relationship with God. And that paves the way for a clear, close relationship to other people, on a horizontal plane.

It all works, somehow. Thanks, God! Help me find some way to serve You tomorrow, too.


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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Epiphany and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

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

Baking Cookies—to Be Kind! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, December 11, 2017

Yes, my kitchen has again been transformed into a cookie factory. (Or, so my husband says.) I love making cookies. And, I give them away to friends and family every year. As people grow older, and as their diets become more specific—and sometimes gluten-free or lactose-intolerant or other forms of cautions—I need to be more careful and considerate. However, people still enjoy my cookies, made from scratch. Just like my mom made them.

Baking Cookies—to Be Kind! (#BestOf)

cookies variety

Posted on December 13, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, December 12, 2014

Baking Cookies—to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

It’s that time of year again.

My husband said just the other day, “It’s that time of year when our kitchen has been transformed into a cookie factory. In keeping with tradition, I have volunteered to serve as quality control, sampling each batch. It’s a thankless job, I tell ya.” (I told him he does a very good job of it, too.)

I have made Christmas cookies for years, to give away as presents. Just like my mom.

My mother, Dolores, was a champion at baking. (Cooking, too. But I’m not going to talk about that right now.) Sadly, she died more than ten years ago, but I still remember her superb Christmas cookies. As much as my husband talks about my Christmas cookie baking, I was a mere beginner compared to my mother. Her cookies were amazing.

She used to deliver them to her friends, co-workers, and to our neighbors. She would give them as presents, and bring them to our relatives at holiday times. They always appreciated them. (And, thought the cookies were delicious, too.)

My mother was so creative, in so many ways. I’d like to remember her creativity—in baking Christmas cookies. Butterballs, chocolate raspberry sandwiches, thimble cookies, and, of course, cocoa drops. She made other cookies, other years, but those were always in the mix, as long as I can remember. Sweet memories—in several ways.

Sure, my mother definitely had a mind of her own. Sure, my mother was loving and giving. And sure—my mother gave away a lot of cookies.

It’s good to remember. Remember my mom, and remember her wonderful Christmas cookies. Remember how loving and giving she was.


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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Advent and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

(also published at .   @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, Friday, November 17, 2017

In the waning of the year, I get introspective. Not only about the harvest, but also the closing down of nature’s bounty. November, with its blustery weather blowing leaves from trees, and the cold snaps and freezes causing the ground to harden, is a challenging month to like. (Unless you are one of my daughters, who has a birthday in November. Today, in fact.) As I re-read this blog post, I saw several other things to be thankful for. See whether you might agree.

Thinking About Gifts, and About Service (#BestOf)

winter sunrise Evanston lakefront January 2015 - credit Joe Agnew

Posted on November 18, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, November 17, 2014

Thinking About Gifts, and About Service

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 blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Pentecost and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

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

Being Kind with Singing Valentines (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, February 12, 2017

This is one of my favorite, poignant, heart-tugging posts from three years ago. Read it, and see if you agree.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 14, 2014

bouquet of valentine roses

Being Kind with Singing Valentines  (Feature Friday!)

This Valentine’s Day story happened about ten years ago.  Not to me, but to my husband Kevin, instead.

My husband was part of a barbershop chorus here in the Chicago suburbs then. Not a large chorus, but a very earnest one. The chorus was part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, historically named the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Sadly, his chorus disbanded a few years ago due to aging membership.

But, enough background. On to the important stuff—the story.

Singing valentines were one of the signature fundraisers for my husband’s chorus. They would advertise for several weeks before Valentine’s Day. Requests would come in, and a Singing Valentine barbershop quartet would travel to the specified place, dressed to the nines in their concert attire (sparkling white shirt, spiffy red vest, black tuxedo pants, even with black garters on the sleeves). The quartet would sing two songs (such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”). One of the quartet would present the valentine recipient with a single red rose. Very romantic, and out of the ordinary, too.

My husband Kevin—the baritone for the quartet—went out with the rest of the guys to deliver several Singing Valentines. All of the quartet knew the drill for Singing Valentines. It didn’t matter whether they were going into a workplace, a restaurant, a home or apartment. They would go in, introduce themselves, sing two numbers, present the rose, and excuse themselves as quietly and quickly as possible. After all, they had more valentines to present.

However, this next Singing Valentine was different.

An older mother wanted her adult son to receive a Singing Valentine. Not the usual sweetheart or husband or wife, but it was the next on the list. The four guys drove in a single car from place to place. They had the address of this son, on Ridge in Chicago. Just south of Devon. They were unfamiliar with the facility. Misericordia, it was called. The quartet came into the facility and discovered it was a home for people with moderate to profound developmental disabilities. They announced themselves to the front desk. The facility was ready for them, and ushered the quartet into a large common room.

To the quartet’s surprise, the staff had painstakingly assembled between thirty-five to forty residents in the large room—residents in specialized wheelchairs, several sitting awkwardly, one even lying face down on a wheeled cot. This was definitely not the typical Singing Valentine. As Kevin recounted the story, the quartet went into a quick huddle. No snappy valentine delivery this time. Instead, the quartet did their two numbers plus an additional set of songs. They gave an impromptu mini-concert for the assembled crowd. (It was a crowd, too! About three dozen residents plus a number of staff.) At the end, the son was presented with a rose, and the quartet quietly excused themselves. On to the next Singing Valentine.

Kevin recollected, “We went into the thing with a very business-like attitude. But, we were shocked into the realization that there was something much more human at stake. I think we were all a little choked up by the whole episode.” The business of delivering Singing Valentines had transformed into something deeper. Something more meaningful, more intensely touching.

What an opportunity to be kind. What a way to show love. Happy Valentine’s Day, in deed.


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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Epiphany and beyond, into Lent. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

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


A Souper Way to Be Kind (#BestOf)

A Souper Way to Be Kind (#BestOf)



A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 2, 2017

Earlier today, I was reminded of the Super Bowl coming up in a few days. I passed the big screens of televisions at the gym this afternoon, and saw the promos for the big game. I like football, but for some reason, my thoughts came right to this blog post. The reasons behind this blog post are so worthwhile. I hope and pray that all houses of worship that are participating in this Souper Bowl of Caring receive a great deal of donations. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers!

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

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 pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Cuyahoga Falls. 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.un

Whether in local congregations like the church in Cuyahoga Falls, 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.


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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Epiphany and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

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