Helping? Being There for My Friend!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, October 26, 2014

Centering-Prayer-hands holding candle

Helping? Being There for My Friend!

I have a friend who lives in a neighboring state. We recently had dinner when she was in Chicago for some business. We have gotten in the habit of having lively conversations over social media. It is so enjoyable! And I hope it’s mutually beneficial, as well.

My friend told me recently about a long, difficult day she had at work. On top of that, the situation at her home was not particularly peaceful. After the stressful day at work, of course she was anxious and frustrated. (I’ve been there, too—I know!) She gave me a play-by-play on her irritating home situation. And I commiserated. Good grief! I know how families can be sometimes.

I had a sudden thought. I asked my friend whether she wanted me to give her a brief meditation. (Great for relaxation and stress relief!) She said, “Sure!” Accordingly, I started.

Sit in a comfortable, straight-backed chair. Like a kitchen or dining room chair. (Not a stuffed armchair—too soft and squishy.) Both feet flat on the floor, and comfortably underneath you. Take three deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Place your hands comfortably on your lap–fold them or let them just rest there. Lift your shoulders up to your ears, hold them there–1-2-3-4—and relax. Turn your head slowly from side to side. Again. Lift your shoulders again. Hold–1-2-3-4—and relax. Again, three deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Now you’re ready to come to God with a one-word or phrase prayer. Help. Thanks. Wow. I’m tired. I love you. Even, frustrated, or angry! Whatever you’ve got, that’s okay. However you feel, God knows about it. And God has dealt with lots worse! God and you together can do wonderful things.

Remember, this is supposed to be a short relaxation/prayer time! Only five minutes (*grin*). Now you’ve expressed feelings or prayer to God, let your arms fall to the sides. Wiggle them gently. Do gentle shoulder circles, forward and back. Now one last time, lift your shoulders—1-2-3-4—and drop. Three more deep breaths, in, out. In. Out. In. Out. Your breath should be more relaxed. Your blood pressure should be lower. Now you can re-engage with the family or with your co-workers, and be in a better place. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. In every way.

Afterwards, I asked her whether this meditation helped her to relax and get a better frame of reference. Her answer: Yes! “Physically, it helped me calm down and slow down. The rest of it helped me center my thoughts, and give my anxiety to God. God is much better at dealing with it than I am.”

And tears are okay, too. God has given us emotions on purpose. We are supposed to show the full range of emotions. A reminder–if you and I stuffed our emotions and feelings–stuffed crying and anger and frustration–the hidden, subterranean emotions could get really twisted and ugly.

Thanks, God! Thanks for my chaplainship training, and thanks especially for my friend.


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Of Service Through Anxiety and Sadness

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, October 15, 2014

THANKFUL for day to live, love, be grateful

Of Service Through Anxiety and Sadness

A wet, rainy October day. Sad. Anxious. Depressing. Especially when I needed to make an emergency trip to the dentist. (At least that turned out all right.) Afterwards, I spent the morning taking it slowly, easily. Letting my mouth recuperate from the dental work.

But what about other people who spent today in less than comfortable places? Like individuals who have lost a job and can’t find another one? What about them? What about their families? How are they making ends meet, financially? What about the desperate, long-term anxiety that comes with unemployment—especially being without a job for a long, long time?

What about people who are caregivers? Who faithfully stay by their loved ones, feeding, cleaning, doing heavy lifting. Sometimes these dear ones have the most thankless jobs, but still show up every day. Still continue to care for their loved family member, spouse or significant other. I know, I have seen the care, love, and comfort displayed by faithful people stepping up and loving, caring and being an encouragement.

And individuals who are terribly sick, in the hospital or an extended care center? It doesn’t where these dear ones are located. Serious sickness happens. Sadness and anxiety afflict countless numbers of people, every single day, affecting patients as well as the loved ones. (I have some familiarity with this, from my time as a chaplain.)

When I visited one of these dear ones today in an extended care center, I tried to be as encouraging and supportive as possible. I prayed; this dear senior prayed for me, too. I cried because I was so emotionally shaken.

God be with the dear one I visited today. Thanks to you for any prayers you can offer for this dear person. And, thanks for prayer for me, too. I need it, since I am regularly dealing with emotions, feelings, relationships. All difficult, challenging, filled with anxiety and sadness. I know God is with me, in this rainy, sad October day. Thanks for good thoughts too, and may God’s blessings surround all of us–even through sadness, depression and anxiety.


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Being of Service? Being Chaplainly. Quietly.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, September 11, 2014

Being of Service? Being Chaplainly. Quietly.


quiet--more you can hear

I enjoy being a pastor. I really do! I enjoy teaching bible studies, writing the orders of worship, contact with numerous people throughout the month (both on Sundays and the rest of the week), and all aspects of preaching.

However, I very much enjoy pastoral care. Being a chaplain. Coming alongside of people and journeying with them, for a time. Trying to ease their difficulties and challenges, as best as I can. (After all, I chose “@chaplaineliza” for my Twitter handle. That’s all.)

I paid two pastoral care visits today. Chaplain visits, if you like. One in person, and the other over the telephone. Yes, in this case, they were both to seniors, and both people said they appreciated the visits very much. But chaplain visits do not necessarily need to be to seniors. Just to people in need, regardless of age, as well as their loved ones, too, sometimes. To individuals who are hurting and would like someone to journey alongside of them.

Some of the people I see for pastoral care visits are so sweet and kind! Everyone else talks about them, and tells stories about them. I can hear the love, caring and support in all the other voices, and that makes me so very happy. The positive emotions and feelings are somehow amplified by their common expression. And by having those positive emotions and feelings bouncing around so much and so often? I have a sneaking feeling that the sick person is greatly benefited by so much love, caring and support.

(There are more and more research studies being done now, regarding the spiritual and emotional nature of being a patient in a hospital. I would not be surprised if some research team had already figured out some kind of test or survey using a Likert scale, finding some hard and fast measurement of the facts and figures surrounding emotions, feelings, and spirituality. I no longer have a job where I’m searching out those kinds of studies. But I digress—a little bit.)

Being a chaplain isn’t usually a showy, fancy-pants kind of job. Pastoral care is not particularly glamorous or flamboyant. Matter of fact, it is often an overlooked, quiet kind of helping. Participating on the caring team. “Oh, yes. There’s the chaplain, too. Over there.” That’s okay. I don’t want to be up front all the time. Or, even most of the time. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of coming alongside of people—in a quiet way. Especially, in a loving, caring, supportive and encouraging way.

Yes, I am quite proud of my usefulness in serving as a chaplain, or using pastoral care. Whichever you like—being chaplainly. In a quiet way.


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Be Kind? Encourage and Comfort!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, July 28, 2014

sun behind clouds over water

Be Kind? Encourage and Comfort!

I was pastoral today. How, you ask? I paid two pastoral visits to two seniors.

Both visits were much appreciated. Both visits involved active listening, a less-anxious presence, and being receptive to whatever came up. One visit was fairly short. The other was much longer. And, both dear people told me straight up that they were grateful and thankful I visited.

How simple a thing it is to go to a care center or to a person’s home, and visit with them for a bit. (Or even, for a little longer.) I know I can follow the many suggestions written in the Bible in a myriad of ways, but visiting sick friends is a sure fire way. Let’s take another look at my verse for July, James 1:22. “Be doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” Visiting those who are sick and homebound is definitely in the ballpark of doing what our Lord Jesus did. If I use my gifts and skills of encouragement, comfort and a less-anxious presence, I am doing the Word. Just like the apostle James urged us to do! This is a loving and encouraging thing for most people to do, too.

But because of my job—my profession—I find myself in care centers and hospitals much more often than I would like. Plus, I have been trained specifically to minister to people in these settings. Because I find myself in these stressful and even traumatic situations, managing my own emotions is of paramount importance, too.

As I think back on my two visits today, I consider being open and receptive to whatever came up an important part of my being present with them. Of course, nothing really out of the ordinary happened at either visit today. But, you never know. In my years as a chaplain, a number of unexpected, or even occasionally, shocking things happened. I have been present quite a number of times as someone has slowly stopped breathing, and their heart has stopped pumping. Usually, I joined family members and loved ones. But some of the time, I was the only one able or available to stay and be with people as they died. So they would not be alone.

But it doesn’t have to be so traumatic. I’ve been in hospital and rehab center rooms along with small children. (Often unpredictable! And sometimes, amusing! Kids say the darnedest things.) A few times, I can remember occasions when a patient would have almost everyone rolling on the floor, they would have such a way with them. Telling jokes, cracking wise. And, I remember when people were very much afraid. Terrified. That’s both patients as well as their loved ones. I would do my very best to remain less-anxious. Not display my difficulty or dis-ease. (Or is it un-ease?)

God, thank You for these two dear seniors. I pray for them and their families, and all who love them and care for them. In Your mercy, Lord, hear my prayer.


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Opening Up, Confiding, and—That’s It.

A Year of Being Kind blog –Sunday, June 15, 2014

SERVE love serve Gal 5-13

Opening Up, Confiding, and—That’s It.

Ever have someone open up to you? And, tell you some stuff that is either really private, or particularly personal? Or really important?

From time to time, that happens to me. Sometimes, out of the clear blue sky. I can be minding my own business, standing in line at the grocery store, and someone will turn to me. That person will tell me intimate details of their lives, their emotions, their resentment or disgruntlement or surprise. Or pleasure or pride or caring.

Tonight was no exception. Tonight, after going to a coffee place to meet some friends, I decided to swing by a large, cut-rate department store that had a sizable food component. I needed to pick up a few things before I went home. I got almost everything I needed. (When I got home, I realized I had forgotten two things I’d intended to get. Aw, shucks! I did not have two items I particularly wanted . . . but that is fodder for another blog post.)

As I got in the check out line, I patiently waited my turn. (I particularly don’t like those self-check out lanes, since by using them the stores eliminate checkers and cashiers. Cashiers actually want lunch breaks, bathroom breaks, and they can get sick. Even want time off. Imagine! The nerve of those silly human beings!)

When I came up to the young cashier, I could tell she was frazzled. Even though she still greeted me, I could see she was distracted. So, I tried to be especially friendly and kind. I started—humorously—asking whether the computerized check out system was working properly. (I had heard that it was not, yesterday. And this computer snafu was nationwide!)

The cashier and I had a laugh about it. She immediately engaged with me, telling me the all-kind-of troubles she had and has with the computer. And the difficulties she has with her nose-in-the-air, fancy pants family. I listened, nodding my head and making encouraging words and noises.

And then—as suddenly as the cashier had begun? She stopped.

I’m used to people unburdening themselves to me by now. I was just amused that this young lady started and stopped so quickly. Like turning a faucet on and off. But was I kind? Helpful? Did I try to be of service? I think so, God. In fact, I know so. Thanks for putting me in the place of service tonight.


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Teaching—No, Showing How to Be Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 13, 2014

sending love

Teaching—No, Showing How to Be Kind

De-cluttering is almost always a good idea. I can do with some de-cluttering around here. As I sit in my cluttered living room, I look around and sigh. Yes, I ought to give things away, to Salvation Army thrift stores, or just plain toss some stuff. The same with the other rooms in my house. I won’t even think of the storage space.

What brings this to mind? A few days ago, I was helping a friend of mine go through some of his things. Mostly, he wanted to go through some papers and files. Sorting, to throw away, re-file, or shred. However, he also wanted to de-clutter his place. Get rid of some items, take them to the thrift store. He and I had an enjoyable afternoon. As he went through things, he told me some fascinating stories. We laughed, cleaned, and talked some more. And his apartment was less full of stuff, at the end of the afternoon.

This reminds me of my life (not just my apartment, either!). My spiritual and emotional life need to be de-cluttered from time to time, too. I get the feeling that God likes order. Just looking at creation and how much natural structure, order and reasonability are in this world, this seems to be an inescapable conclusion.

So, my apartment needs de-cluttering. Yes, and I can get rid of one thing every day. That way, at the end of a month, I will have disposed of thirty things. Taken them out of my living space, as well as out of my life. But what about my mind? My mental space? Certainly, that space needs some attention, too. My mind can be cluttered up with worry, frustration, fear, even despair or hatred. These negative emotions can weigh me down. Or, they can distract me from the serious, or useful, or delightful thoughts that otherwise would naturally occur in my mind.

But I want to go back to my friend. One of the things he wanted to give away was a yoga mat. I admired it. (The mat is very well made!) However, I didn’t expect the next words out of his mouth—he told me to take the mat and bring it to my son. My son is a junior in high school. When I came home from my friend’s place, I showed my teenager the mat. His eyes got really big, because apparently I brought home a high quality, super-special  yoga mat.

Yes, my son was very grateful. Problem: he wanted me to bring the message to my friend. But independently, both my husband and I urged my son to write a brief thank-you note. My son (and my daughters, too, for that matter) see me writing notes, sending snail mail, communicating with real notecards and greeting cards. (“When you care enough to send the very best.”)  My son actually agreed to send a notecard I had in a file drawer, with a personalized message. Talk about teaching by example? Yes, in both my case and my husband’s, too. What a kind thing to do. No matter when or where.