Reciprocal Kindness and Blessing Happens!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, February 23, 2014

blessing much more

Reciprocal Kindness and Blessing Happens!

Another week, another Sunday. Another service. But this week was a bit different. I played the piano again for two senior residences. My loving, willing act of service today involved playing music for the seniors. Yes, I was acting as music leader for the services. But it was more than that—God did a wonderful job of divine coordination with a number of people, and especially with the special music I had chosen. It’s so awesome to watch God show up! God was all over today’s two services.

The scripture passage for this morning was from the gospel of John, chapter 7. It featured Jesus, at the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. He made the revolutionary statement “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (vv. 37-38)

Earlier in the week, I was asked by Chaplain Sarah to play special music before the sermon. I didn’t have an opportunity to get back to her with the title of the music I had prepared. This wasn’t a huge deal, I knew. The service would continue without the music title. I mentioned to Chaplain Sarah before the first service of the morning that I would be playing “I’ve Got Peace like a River.” She paused while getting ready for the beginning of the service and looked at me. “That will be perfect with the scripture and sermon today.”  And it was! I did my best on the arrangement of the spiritual, and Chaplain Sarah had an opportunity to tie in the sermon with the lyrics: ”I’ve got peace like a river,” “I’ve got joy like a fountain” and “I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.” As believers, we do have the peace, joy and love of Christ flowing as living waters from within each of us. Truly, my choice of music was a God-incidence, as my friend Pastor Joe says.

But that’s not all. Yes, I did play the piano. And it was good to be not only useful with the gifts I have been given, but joyful to be a blessing to the seniors as I played service music for the assembled worshippers. The icing on my cake today came from one dear senior at the second service (at the second retirement home of the morning). After I had finished a selection of older hymns and gospel songs for the postlude, the common room was almost empty. Just a few older people were left to go back to their rooms (actually, to go back for lunch). This particular dear, aged senior came up to Chaplain Sarah, about a dozen feet from me at the piano. She thanked both of us in her decided manner, taking great care to pronounce each word in her precise way. And then—she blessed us. Blessed us for our ministry. Blessed us both for leading the service. Blessed us with good health and all happiness. We both sincerely thanked her, and we continued to clear the room.

I needed to leave, but I thanked this senior again as I went out, past the elevator. This was not an occurrence that I would brush off lightly. I will hold this dear woman’s blessings close to my heart. Thank You, God. Thank You for the opportunity to be of service. And thank You for unexpected blessings.


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

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 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.

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.


Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, January 6, 2014

photo by Sergei Kvitko

photo by Sergei Kvitko

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

It was cold in the Chicago area today. Frigid. I mean, exposed skin would freeze if uncovered for more than a few minutes. I understand that we broke a temperature record with -15 degrees. We won’t even talk about the wind chill, with wind gusts anywhere from 20 to 30 miles per hour.

I needed to be out and about today, going to and from work. Despite the extreme temperature, it was a beautiful day! Crisp, clear air. Blue sky. Since I had a functioning vehicle and wasn’t walking, I enjoyed the trip.

During the course of the day, I met someone who needed to get out of their garage. Thank heaven their suburb was on top of things and had already sent snow plows down the alleys. One wrinkle: in sending out the plow to clear the alleyway, the snow subsequently was piled in a heap against the garages. An anxious senior was involved, and I had the time and the ability. They had the snow shovel. So, I was happy to shovel out the apron of their garage and allow them access to the alleyway.

Another case of “who is my neighbor?” I didn’t live anywhere near this senior, not like my friend with the snow blower whose story I related several days ago. However, I felt compassion for this dear senior. Of course I shoveled the snow.

I try to keep myself in fair physical condition. I consider this part of my spiritual service to God, to keep up my physical self, to stretch and exercise regularly. I try to go to the gym three times a week and do what I can. Cardio-vascular, a little strength training, and (most important!) stretching both before and after. When I don’t go to the gym for a few days, my body starts to let me know through aches and pains.

This is a roundabout way for me to mention exactly why I felt so free to just pick up the shovel and go at it. I feel blessed that I am in decent physical shape, and I don’t want to lose that ability any time soon.

But what about people who are less-abled? Like several of my friends and acquaintances, who have lost some or most of the physical range of motion and ability they were born with? They are growing more and more dependent on others to do things for them. This dependence can be a source of griping and grumbling, or of gratitude and thankfulness. I see any number of reactions and responses to offers of service, on a regular basis.  However, I can let those I serve (or offer to serve) respond as they will. God has not made me an arbiter of people’s thoughts and actions. Instead, God has encouraged me to serve. And this year, my hope, my intention is to find some kind of service each day. Not to judge people on whether they have gratitude for the service, or whether they thank me. Service is what God has called me to do.

I wonder what will show up tomorrow? God willing, I’ll find out.