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!)

@chaplaineliza

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In Which I Can Encourage Others

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, August 30, 2014

God faith and hope 1 Peter

In Which I Can Encourage Others

It sure feels good to be encouraged!

I fielded some telephone calls today—and a few were significant, for several reasons. Plus—I think I was able to help and encourage others as I responded to them.

One call, in particular, made me a little less anxious. Caused me to breathe a little more easily. And, I tried to encourage the person on the other end of the line, too. I think the call was mutually beneficial. That always makes me feel great!

There was some aftermath from the memorial service yesterday, too. Today, I strove to encourage people I met who attended the service with me yesterday afternoon. Yes, memorial services are almost always sad, and yes, I know many people who are coming to terms with their grief, their loss, their sadness and sorrow. It’s not only a gift to be able to encourage and comfort individuals who were (and are) affected, but it’s also a gift to give groups of people an opportunity to come together and support each other.

This goes for any one of a number of situations or experiences. Whether I’m speaking to a group of people, a few others in conversation, or one on one. It also makes me think of something very natural for me when I was working as a chaplain. My wonderful mentor in pastoral care told me it was so important to journey with hurting, troubled people. Claude-Marie was superb at doing exactly this, and I always felt so listened-to, so understood when I spent some time with her. Well—that’s what I strive to do for others. Now, in the past, and into the future as well.

Just as much as I honestly, earnestly tried to be an encouragement to others today, I was encouraged, too. A friend of mine sent me an email, and he said such encouraging, kind and affirming things to me in that letter, I told him that I wanted to print out that specific email and carry it around with me. That way, I would be able to pull out his email when I felt down, discouraged and blue.

God, thanks for friends who help me to feel better, feel good, or just plain feel positive about myself, my situation, and my relationships. I hope that I will continue to be able to encourage others, give them a hand, or say a kind word to them. After all, that is what A Year of Being Kind is all about: 365 Days of Service.

@chaplaineliza

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Help, Encourage, Mention in Prayer!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, August 24, 2014

God relationship not just a Sunday event

Help, Encourage, Mention in Prayer!

Ever get mentioned by someone? In conversation, or even on the radio or television, or social media? I know how good it feels, especially when someone has good things to say about me!

That’s what I preached on, this morning. Mentioning people in prayer. The bible verses I referred to came from 1 Thessalonians 1, where the Apostle Paul gives his friends—the believers in Thessalonica—a greeting. Yes, it had all of the items in a typical greeting of a typical letter of the first century. But it also had more. An added something that made so much difference. A sincere compliment, or what some think of as a healthy dose of encouragement.

I do have the spiritual gift of encouragement. People have noticed that in me and my interactions, for a long time. It is something that just sort of happens. So when other people express encouragement, I zero in on it. And here, at the beginning of this letter to the Thessalonian church? Yup. I saw it like a flash. Paul said he always thanked God for all the believers in that city. Pretty strong language, for someone who had only been in the city for a couple of weeks! As I mentioned in my sermon, Paul and his friends developed close relationships very quickly.

That caused me to think. What about me, and my relationships with my fellow believers? Sure, I do try to be close to family, friends, to those in my congregation. But, many of my relationships just don’t have that type of immediacy, that kind of intimacy that I sometimes see in the New Testament church. I know there are many reasons for that, and only some are on my side of the street. Some are on other people’s sides of the street, and some just happen . . . those reasons are just a fact of life.

But I still feel sad and bad about many of my relationships. Sure, I could mention the fast pace of life today, and how so many people have so little time for anything else. Or, about how many people are working so hard that they have little time for anything else. Or, about how many people are unemployed, busy looking for work, and so discouraged that they have little time for anything else. (You get the picture.) And, I may say, these are all valid, legitimate reasons.

I could get discouraged, too, just contemplating this! But I have a better solution. I can just continue doing as I have intended to do, looking for a kind, helpful, encouraging thing to do each day this year. It doesn’t matter whether it’s little or big, whether it’s a private courtesy or a huge production. (Somehow, I don’t tend to do “huge productions.” But that’s just me.) Regardless, I think being on the lookout for a kind, or helpful, or encouraging thing to do each day pleases God. I pray so! And, I hope my sermon this morning was encouraging to those who listened. Please God, may it be so.

@chaplaineliza

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Helping One Another in Friendship and Prayer

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, August 2, 2014

PRAY God's help a prayer away

Helping One Another in Friendship and Prayer

A lovely day! Perfectly gorgeous, with blue sky and temperature right around 80 degrees. Almost perfect summer’s day. Just what an August day ought to be. Errands and some computer work filled up a good part of the day.

I did some self-care today, too. I went to a yoga class this morning, and spent an hour and a half working hard. Stretching, bending, holding poses. A ton of work, too. Many of the people in the yoga class are much more accomplished, even eager to get down to some advanced poses. But my teacher? Wonderful, welcoming, kind. (All things I admire.) Yes, there is encouragement to strive to do our best, to even try to reach a little further, or to get a little more out of the stretch or bend. She presents the class in just the way I prefer it. One of my children has done yoga in high school, and tells me of certain teachers who are much more dictatorial. Not mine! I am very glad.

However, I didn’t spend this whole day concentrating just on me. I particularly want to mention a friend I ran into over coffee. (Actually, there was a little group of us, but I connected with one person in particular, today.)

As we talked, I found my friend and I had a similar concern. A prayer request. It was almost funny (ironic?) how closely our two prayer requests matched. Tracked with each other. Almost as if God meant for us to talk with each other today. Of course, I don’t put such things past God. Piece of cake for the Almighty! God can certainly manage such a minor, even miniscule thing like bringing two people together to encourage and support each other.

Similar to when I was at the conference two weeks ago. There were over seven hundred people at the campus in the Pennsylvania small town. Wouldn’t you know that I happened to run into several people? It almost seemed as if these meetings were by chance. But after a few of the “by chance” meetings, I finally figured out that God must be up to something. (Just like God may well have done—orchestrating “by chance” meetings and coordinating impromptu conversations.)

In the same way, I suspect God’s hand at work in the situation later today, too. What a marvelous thing, to have such a loving, kind, gracious God. And, I continue to pray about this continuing situation (actually, in both of these continuing situations=my friend’s and mine). God, thanks for listening to us when we pray. And meditate. And everything in between.

@chaplaineliza

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Of Service? With Patients—and Patience

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, July 31, 2014

FAITH help me trust God

Of Service? With Patients—and Patience

This blog is called “A Year of Being Kind: 365 Days of Service.” Now, after seven months of striving for God’s presence with me in what I do and say (not to mention what I think!), I am starting to truly feel God with me, as a general rule. It is particularly wonderful when I ask the question “how can I be of service today?” automatically now. Just pops right out of my mouth. Happened twice today. Stunning way to live for and serve our God.

What about this afternoon? I made a number of telephone calls, and a pastoral visit to a health facility. I prayed beforehand, and I hope I was an encouragement to those I contacted.

God surprises me, too, with God-incidences. I responded to an email today, and I think I used encouraging and supportive words. I tried to convey a real spirit of helping and service. God had another email ready for me this evening. I opened that second email, and, wow! A continuing healthcare situation I’ve been praying about for many, many months? I opened that email and looked at the contents—and was moved to tears. I can tell you that God is able. God can work in hospital rooms as well as people’s hearts.

God gives patience. Sometimes when I really need it, God sends it. In the case of this continuing situation, it is pretty serious. But, God is right smack in the middle of it. Yes, I am acquainted with the whole family, from another state. Yes, there was and still is a ton of email support. My friends with the situation have awesome prayer and comfort coming their way on a continuing basis. Every day, someone is praying for that family. And tonight, when my friend sent another of the regular email updates of the ups and downs of the continuing health condition, I was sincerely moved. Choked up.

Yes, people perform some extraordinary acts of courage, persistence, and patience. Like my friends. And I can be of assistance, too. I can continue to pray. I can send cards. And, God willing, God will keep me on track. Ready to ask “where can I help today?” Plus, ready to answer, respond or give praise to God? That, too.

God, please continue to open my heart to this long-distance heathcare situation. Thanks for the number of hopeful and positive months of communication! May they continue.

@chaplaineliza

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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.

@chaplaineliza

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Feeling Sad—but Helping Anyway!

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

striped cat

Feeling Sad—but Helping Anyway!

Today was my niece Josie’s wedding day, in Tacoma, Washington. (I’ve already seen a photo from the occasion. Lovely! She looked so happy. As all brides ought to.) The wedding took place outside in a beautiful park. Many of my family members attended the wedding, including my two older daughters. But, alas, I was not able to attend. (For a number of reasons, not least of which was that I really needed to go to the two conferences I attended last weekend.)

I felt badly that I was unable to go to Washington, and regretfully told my niece so about a month ago. I did send my best wishes, good thoughts and prayers with my oldest daughter. Plus, I’ll be sending a card next week. A little extra wedding good-wishing, after the fact.

However, this circumstance frees me up to take care of my daughter’s cat. My oldest daughter and her roommate have an apartment not far from where I live. I can easily run over there and pop in on the cat. Give her food and water. A friendly, sometimes attentive cat! While I sat at the dining room table with my laptop, the cat jumped onto my lap a number of times. Rubbed her head and shoulders against my hands and arms, and was insistent about being petted. Accordingly, I petted her willingly enough.

This cat likes people! That is, usually. She does have her moods, and sometimes goes off to hide or to be on her own. But even so soon after my daughter left (early yesterday morning), the cat came running to see me as soon as I came in the back door. Eager to be with company, desiring attention and praise.

Reminds me a little bit of . . . me. Me as I used to be, as a teenager. I wanted attention. I craved praise and admiration. (Strokes, perhaps?) When I was a teenager, and afterwards for a number of years, I had a sad case of low self-esteem. Due to a number of factors, I would strive for attention, help out at school, church, neighbors’ homes, and also my own home. Also, I would go after praise and strokes from others. I seldom heard these compliments at home, so I listened hard whenever anyone sent a compliment my way. I valued them, so very much!

Now, of course, I have gained greatly in self-esteem. Plus, I have a faithful prayer team that lifts me up in supportive prayer on a regular basis. I regularly encourage and support younger and more tentative people. (But enough about me.)

Yesterday and today, I gladly went to take care of my daughter’s cat! I know the cat was very pleased to see me. Moreover, I am pleased to help my daughter, and to be of service when and where I can. Plus, I got to pet a friendly cat! A win-win-win situation.

@chaplaineliza

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Helping, with Horses! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, July 25, 2014

mama horse and foal

Helping, with Horses! (Feature Friday!)

Ever see horses up close? Ever want to help kids? How about combining the two, at a welcoming place where horses help kids?

My friends, Kathleen and Roger Harris, are executive directors for Jeremiah’s Crossing, a nonprofit therapeutic horseback-riding ranch. This ranch is located in Babcock, in central Wisconsin. The nonprofit’s purpose is to help horses help children—and adults—who have diagnosed physical, mental, cognitive, and academic special needs. The best part? There is no cost for the therapy to the children or the adults.

The overall cost of caring for children and adults with special needs can be significant. The staff and those associated with Jeremiah’s Crossing do not wish to add to the financial burden of those families with members and loved ones who have special needs or disabilities. That is why “God’s ranch” provides Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) and lessons, for both children and adults, at no cost to the participants.

Kathleen and Roger Harris were married in 1995, and their children made a blended family from the beginning. They started the ranch in 2006. But even before that, they were gradually being led in the direction of helping kids, through a variety of activities. New Wilmington Mission Conference played a leading role in the Harris’s discernment and progress towards opening Jeremiah’s Crossing. The equine therapy part became more clear as God led them, too. Now, the ranch is a warm, welcoming place to everyone in families with disabled or differently-abled members.

The equine therapy is beneficial (to the persons with a diagnosed disability) in so many ways. First, the therapy gives people a positive nurturing activity that urges them to get into a regularly-scheduled routine. (to work on a regular basis with the trainer in their own therapy sessions, and in the training.) Second, horseback-riding allows for regular exercise and strengthening of their muscles. A bonus here is the assistance the riding provides for the balance center in the inner ear. And, God uses the horses in their riders’ lives in a variety of ways, including creating a friendship between the disabled person and the horse. This helps model relationship-building for the disabled people (especially the children).

The lessons are led by a PATH International Certified Instructor. The number of volunteer team members who accompany the individual riders depends on the needs and abilities of the various riders. The lesson content varies! The instructor plans each lesson on an individual basis, and volunteer side walkers come alongside of the rider and encourage appropriate posture as best suits the individual. Proper grooming, outfitting and care for the horses is modeled, as well. Everyone joins together in facilitating a positive, therapeutic experience for every individual who rides and cares for the horses.

As Kathleen Harris says, God has provided a beautiful place in Jeremiah’s Crossing as part of God’s plan to heal children and their families. Healing happens in a variety of ways—“God’s ranch” is one place where horses truly help to heal—physically, emotionally, mentally, as well as spiritually. Thank God!

(For more information, check out their website at http://www.jeremiahscrossing.org )

@chaplaineliza

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Off the Hamster Wheel, Into Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, July 24, 2014

KIND one persons act of kindness

Off the Hamster Wheel, Into Service

Ever have someone say something that really hit home? (Upon reflection, this has been happening to me a lot, lately . . . )

I was talking with a couple of friends and acquaintances earlier, and one of them said something particularly striking. Striking to me, anyway. My friend made mention of personal shortcomings, and commented that service to others very much helped in lessening these shortcomings.

That comment did indeed resonate with me! Oftentimes, I find that I am all caught up in my own head. Me, me, me. After all, I’m the most important person in the room! (Aren’t I? That’s me, the extrovert with an inferiority complex talking.)

Service was one of the biggest reasons I started this blog, A Year of Being Kind. I gave it a subtitle, too: 365 Days of Service. My friend’s comment started the wheels turning in my own brain. I can be so preoccupied with “self” (that’s myself, thank you very much) that I feel like I’m going round and round in my own head. Like a hamster on a hamster wheel. Round and round and round. However, when I get involved in serving others, in being kind and helpful, I realize I get off of the hamster wheel. For at least a little while.

Accordingly, I did just that today. I went out of my way to give someone a telephone call, in another state. It’s been about two months since I saw him. This was a call to find out how my acquaintance was doing, and to generally check in. My acquaintance was so pleased to hear from me! It was good to hear from him. And, ask for some prayer praises and prayer requests, too. I also tried to pass along some encouragement. I hope I was successful.

I know I hit a home run with my pointers I gave, as far as a ministry suggestion. I gave my acquaintance the web address of a helpful website I use on a regular basis. He had never heard of it, and it’s one of my go-to sites for sermon preparation. I’m not sure, but I suspect that resource might be a really significant thing for him. I just have that feeling.

So, yeah. I got out of my own head today. And, I helped others and put myself out to serve. Encourage and be kind. What an opportunity to get off the hamster wheel! Thanks for the leading, God. Glad to be of service today. I wonder how You will use me to be kind, tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

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Shiny, New Asphalt! Does It Help? Or Hide?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, July 10, 2014

honesty word cloud

Shiny, New Asphalt! Does It Help? Or Hide?

Brand, new parking lot! The paving company stripped the church lot at my workplace several days ago, and then resurfaced it with new paving material. Shiny, new black asphalt! And, new yellow striping, to boot!

As I gazed out onto the shiny expanse today, I wondered. Does this new surface help matters? Or does it hide them?

Let’s take hiding, first. A cover of asphalt can make it difficult to get to the bottom of things. If anyone has anything to hide, a double layer of asphalt is a pretty good way to hide whatever people want hidden. Spiritually, I mean. Or, emotionally.

If someone is hesitant to express themselves, or just plain afraid to communicate, a shiny new exterior can do wonders! Covering up their real, painful, authentic selves, and pretending to be happy-happy. Or pretty-pretty. Instead of letting people know what is truly going on inside. Or at home. Or at work. Or emotionally. Or, what kind of anguish or fear or despair is happening to a loved one. Whether close kept secrets are yours or a loved one’s, they still can be painful—especially to you and to your loved ones.

What about helping? How can asphalt help? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is safety concerns. The old, broken-down blacktop in the parking lot was beginning to be a hazard, especially for those who had some difficulty walking. It doesn’t matter why, or how old people were, because broken asphalt can be treacherous for people to navigate, even if they are able-bodied and sure-footed. And what about when the weather was tricky? Wet and slick? Or icy? The broken, uneven pavement was doubly a cause of concern.

Now that we have an even, smooth surface to walk on in the parking lot, I feel a lot better. That’s on behalf of church members and friends. I earnestly want everyone to be as comfortable as possible coming to St. Luke’s Church. And if a parking lot in good repair helps in that effort? Wonderful!

So—providing a smooth, even path for people? Let’s go a little further. Get into a smooth, emotional path for people? Provide a positive atmosphere for friends and members? Encourage openness and honesty in communication? These are traits I truly want to welcome and encourage. I would like to model these traits, to the very best of my ability. Will I succeed, all the time? No, I am afraid not. (Even though I try very hard!) However, I will continue to try my darnedest. I tried my best to be honest and open today. To be kind, and helpful to several people! God willing, I can try my darnedest tomorrow, too!

@chaplaineliza

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