Compliments—How Kind! (Thank You!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, September 17, 2014

GRATEFUL always something to be grateful for

Compliments—How Kind! (Thank You!)

Today was Wednesday, as usual. I mean, usual midweek bible study. I enjoy teaching! I love the bible study group that gathers each week in the choir room at church. And, I am so glad I found the bible study on the names and titles of Jesus (an older study, published by NavPress).

I missed meeting for regular bible studies midweek, in July and August. Of course I understood why the group did not continue meeting over the really hot months of the summer. Certainly! But, there was something missing from my week. Some connection, some personal interaction. Sure, I continued to call people, and do hospital and home visitation, but it wasn’t the same. Not like getting together and sharing like we do on Wednesdays. (And Sundays, too! I don’t want to forget about the wonderful sermon discussion bible study after church service. Such great insights there, as well!)

But this post is specifically about what happened today.

As we went around the table to check in with people and see what was happening, we came to the next person. This lovely senior began to sincerely compliment me. I had served her family at a critical time recently, and she wanted to thank me and tell me how much she appreciated me. Publicly. I was so grateful—and surprised and pleased, too. I told her of my gratitude and expressed my thanks to her.

Several more people had their turns, then. We heard several more prayer requests, had a few more laughs, and—came to another earnest senior. This lady also praised me—for my teaching and group facilitation, this time. (I know I enjoy teaching, but—wow!) She sincerely complimented me, thanked me, and expressed her appreciation for my clarity in communication. (Again—wow!)

You could have knocked me over with a feather. Of course, I thanked her and accepted the compliment, too. I was—and still am—so moved by both of their grateful expressions. So wonderful! I am still hugging these very kind words to my heart, believe me. Such good words of approval encourage me and build me up, you can count on that.

Long ago, I remember reading in an article (I believe it was in Psychology Today) that compliments create positive energy. I am used to giving compliments. In fact, I love to see the good aspects of people, and mention that to them. I am less used to receiving compliments.

I sincerely hope I was gracious in receiving the kind, generous compliments today! Sure, they created positive, loving energy, all around the table. Such a wonderful gift for the whole bible study today, too. God willing, I hope this good feeling and positive energy lasts for a good long time. (Thank You again, God!)


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Making Connections? With Sincerity!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, July 27, 2014

blessed are the peacemakers Matt5-9

Making Connections? With Sincerity!

Some folks have the ability—the knack—of making instant connections. I won’t claim to be that skilled at connection-making, but I must admit . . . I do do that. It sort of just happens. I’ve spoken about this before in this space. My husband and children poke fun at me on occasion, and I don’t know why connection happens so suddenly. So meaningfully, sometimes. It just does.

The first time today a connection occurred was at a big-box store. My college-age daughter and I had chosen a bunch of items, over almost an hour. I even tried on a pair of shorts (on sale!), and they actually fit me. We also picked up several things for my daughter to take to college in less than a month. Lo and behold, when we came to the register, I did not have my credit card with me. Boy, was I red in the face! The cashier was so wonderful about it! She reassured me that she would set aside all of our things until we returned.

My daughter and I schlepped all the way home, picked up the necessary card, and went all the way back to the big box store. Yes! The cashier was still at the same register. I promptly went and bought everything I had originally placed in my basket, an hour before. I could tell that the cashier and I had made a connection, as brief as the communication was between us. I was sincere in my apology, and told her several times how kind it was for her to keep the contents of our cart by her cash register. She stopped—actually stopped—in ringing up our things. She told us, “Of course I would do that.” I could feel the sincerity radiating from her, as well as friendly concern.

Only a few minutes’ interaction, yet truly honest and sincere. Wonderful!

The second time a connection happened to me was in the evening. I went to a coffee place to get some beverage. The server who got the beverage for me was a lovely young woman. On top of that, she had stunning dark make up on her eyes. (Not too much, just to emphasize her eyes.) I complimented her on the make up, and made a comment about how attractive make up like that looked on dark-complected women. I also noticed her earrings—large, simple crosses. I happened to mention them, too. She seemed a bit taken aback at first. Yet she thanked me in not-too-much time, and responded willingly enough.

She related about certain well-meaning customers. When hearing that her ancestors came from the Middle East, certain people ware surprised to hear that she is a Christian. Her whole family attends church, too. I tried to encourage and support her, and I believe she was grateful for my words. So grateful! I also told her about a Presbyterian church not far from here, and how I had attended the church some years ago. Many of its members and friends were and are Christians from the Middle East—Iraq, Iran, other countries.

I mentioned how sad (beyond belief!) I was at all of the reports and brief articles I have been reading. Christians from the Middle East becoming refugees. Horror and absolute fear, on the run for their lives. She immediately said she purposely did not think about them, with a look that told me so much. Troubled, anxious, fearful. Moreover, she didn’t want to be overwhelmed. But the two of us? We drew on that deep something. And somehow, connection happened. Praise God.

I pray for both of these women, for them and their families. Please, God, hear my prayers.


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Social Media? Or a Kind Conversation?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God what God knows about you

Social Media? Or a Kind Conversation?

Have you noticed? People pay so much attention to social media today. Smart phones, computer laptops and tablets. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Reddit and Tumblr. So many choices! So many ways to further fragment individuals and their communication. Even when I see several people sitting in close proximity to each other, chances are that they will be staring down at some electronic device, focused on that, instead of focusing on each other—sitting at the same table, or even on the same bench.

Call me old-fashioned, but I actually enjoy the art of conversation. I may not be the best at this dying art, but I do enjoy talking with people. In a small group or tete a tete. Intimate, joy-filled, heartwarming, sometimes even heartwrenching. But all the same, there is nothing quite like it.

I have been trained as a chaplain. I’ve done several extended internships as a chaplain intern, and served as student pastor for one year. I was employed as a part-time director of pastoral care, and then on call chaplain at a hospital in Chicago for almost seven years. And this was all in the past eleven years. Extensive, specific training. A great deal of spiritual, psychological and emotional understanding of people in highly volatile, fearful, or extended situations. Challenging, anxious experiences. Lack of hope, grief, trauma, end of life concerns. Yes, I’ve seen a lot.

Looking back on it all, I can see how many of these formative experiences have prepared me for what I’m doing and where I find myself, right now. God is awesome—how God fits this all together never ceases to amaze me.

Take this evening, for example. I happened to meet an acquaintance of mine. (I don’t think he knows about my new job.) He and I fell into conversation, and he started talking about how he used to be all caught up in the church, and went through years of parochial schooling. Then, he stopped church attendance some years ago. Now, he has recently started to consider God, and spirituality from a whole different perspective. In turn, I told him a little about my experience with God and spirituality. I encouraged him to continue to explore this! (And, no, I did not bash him over the head with the fact that I am a professional, in the “church business.”)

I looked on this friendly conversation as part of my being kind. Helpful. Making positive suggestions. And perhaps, when we meet again next time, my acquaintance might remember my kind words and ask me about my perspective—my experience, strength and hope. Please God, help me be ready to be kind, and to be of service!


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Breakfast, Friendship, Encouragement!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, April 26, 2014

friends who ask about you and then really listen

Breakfast, Friendship, Encouragement!

I took the opportunity to have breakfast with a group of friends this morning. You know the usual drill: eating, laughter, friendly conversation together. There were a group of us at the restaurant this morning, but I focused especially on one friend. We talked in depth, and had excellent communication! And I think I was open, encouraging, and helpful.

As I reflected on that personal conversation this morning, I honestly tried to be kind. I know it comes with the territory. Yes, I’ve been a chaplain for the past number of years. And yes, now I am an interim pastor. So, I “ought” to be kind, tenderhearted, encouraging. All of that.

I can feel the special training come to the fore, but I don’t think it’s forced. Not at all.

I do try to come alongside of others. I do use the ministry of presence I learned in seminary. But today I also reflected on where I came from, in my childhood and adolescence. I was a chubby child, and turned into a chunky teen. Talk about an awkward child! I didn’t have the opportunity to learn much about the social niceties when I was growing up, for a lot of reasons. So, I was behind most other folks in my social skills when I reached my late teens and early twenties.

Ever feel like you’re on the outside, looking in? That was me. Figuratively, I was outside on the sidewalk with my nose pressed to the glass. Looking inside, at all the cool kids. Yup, that was me. So by the time I started seminary at forty, I was still trying to play catch up. Seminary was a charm school of sorts, as were my internships. My learning curve was rapid! Pastoral care and active listening were two skills I immediately found useful.  I also continued to develop the practice of general courtesy and caring, with some amount of success.

So—here I was, at breakfast today. All of this background information was subtext, as I had interactions across the restaurant table. And lo and behold, I found myself being encouraging, of service. Kind. Actively listening. Not because I had to, but because it was natural for me to be that way. I am continuing to try to do daily acts of intentional service. And not surprisingly, I suspect my loving, caring actions are right on the money. Bingo.

My good friend and I had a wonderful time, talking in depth, making a true, real connection. This is not a new thing for me, but I felt it in a special way today. Have you ever felt God being pleased with you? I mean, in a genial and affirming way? That’s what I felt earlier today after I talked with my friend.

Just so, I try to be honest, open and willing in my thoughts and actions. Kind, helpful, encouraging. I hope I was encouraging to my friend—to all of my friends—today. God willing, I pray so.


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Unexpected Service? Blows Me Away!

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

begin where you are

Unexpected Service? Blows Me Away!

Another Sunday, another church service. Except, this is a new church for me. And a new position—leading worship, preaching, directing music. What a wonderful opportunity for me to be of service! I’ll need to learn all kinds of things, like names. Ministries. Preferences. And most important, I’ll need to listen. Keep my mouth shut and learn. And love. Serve, and love some more.

A big praise, because I had a great time this morning after the service, too.  Talking to all the people of the congregation, those who stayed afterwards for coffee hour, and those who needed to leave right away.  As I finished up in the church office some time after almost everyone had left (except the Korean congregation, whose service was in progress in the sanctuary), a couple knocked at the office door.

“Hello! Welcome to St. Luke’s Church,” I said. I smiled at the couple—my big, happy smile. Who is it, but a couple from the Middle East! The man spoke fairly good English. The woman could speak a little, but she wanted proper English lessons—ESL classes. They wondered whether St. Luke’s Church could point them to some place that offered ESL classes nearby. Apparently, they live only a couple of blocks from the church. When I said that I would find out more and get back to them tomorrow or by Tuesday, at the latest, they were so grateful! I am glad I would assist them, and point them in a positive direction.

I am going to call the town hall to begin with, tomorrow, and see what they might be able to tell me about ESL classes. I know I only live two suburbs over from this town, but it’s far enough so that I am not quite sure what resources are available here. I know, I’ll need to learn in a hurry! But that’s okay, since I know some helping professionals close to home. They ought to be able to give me some good tips and point me in the right direction, too. It’s an exciting prospect, to be sure!

When I was working at the hospital, I served not only as chaplain, but also as an additional pair of listening ears, as assistance in trying times or anxious times. And, on occasion, as advocate for patients and for their loved ones. This new situation is not widely different. Strikingly similar, in fact. I need to find out some information and then communicate the information to the couple. Different sort of information, but still communication. Still assisting people, no matter where it is.

God, when I asked You to show me where You might want me to serve at the beginning of January, I certainly never expected to be serving You here! In this place, in this way! God, help me serve you and serve others as best as I can. Please, God. And I know You’ll be with me, all the way. Thanks!


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Being There For Someone–Or Two Someones

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, January 27, 2014

BK Eph 4-32

Being There For Someone—Or Two Someones

I went to the grocery store recently. Just ran in to grab a couple of things before going home for the night. Lo and behold, I happened to run into a couple I’ve known for years, but haven’t seen for some time. It was wonderful to see them! We had a joy-filled meeting, right there in the dairy aisle. We all hugged, and we picked up right where we had left off, several years ago.

Isn’t it amazing how that can happen, with certain friends? You don’t see each other for many months, or even years, and then you meet again—unexpectedly, in a grocery store, for instance—and it’s just as if the last time we met was only a few days ago. We started up an unfinished conversation just as if we had only been briefly interrupted. (I’m smiling as I write, because it’s so marvelous! Good, good friends.)

One half of the couple recently started a new job, and I rejoiced with him. “That’s wonderful,” I said. “Congratulations!” Right off the bat, we began to talk in depth, not simply superficial stuff at all. (That’s one thing I love about my friend. We can both dive into the serious stuff when we need to, and find ourselves on the same wave length.)

I know the verse I’m lifting up for this month is Ephesians 4:32. Looking back at the conversation my friend and I had, we both exemplified being kind and tenderhearted to each other. There was a great deal of give and take, both of us listened to each other sincerely. We didn’t waste time, but got down to honest, open communication.

Funny thing, communication. Words are powerful. Words can be hurtful and destructive. (As both my friend and I can attest.) But words can also praise, build up, encourage, comfort, and soothe. This passage from the end of Ephesians 4 has a list of both negative as well as positive suggestions for action. Sure, the list of the things we are not supposed to emulate is clear, but so is the positive list. Communication can rank high on the positive list, and seems to be a common thread. We are encouraged to exhibit these positive characteristics in our words, deeds and lives. Communicating in a way that is pleasing to God is a marvelous start.

My friend and I certainly were supportive to each other when we met by chance. Or was it by chance? God’s providence, perhaps? I suspect God had a hand in our meeting, because I believe we all received encouragement from each other. Isn’t that the way that God often works? Even when God’s hand might be mostly hidden from view?

As verse 32 tells us, we can build up each other. Whether we’re friends, family or simply strangers, it’s the loving, encouraging thing to do. Be kind and tenderhearted.