Being of Service? Reflecting on Mary.

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

The Visitation - Mary and Elizabeth meet - Luke 1:39-45

Being of Service? Reflecting on Mary.

Imagine a teenaged, unwed mother. In a conquered territory, under enemy occupation. Not only did she have the baby Jesus in less than optimum circumstances, in terms of hygiene and medical needs, but she was also far from her home as well.

This is what I taught about today, in the midweek bible study, specifically Luke 1:39-45. First, I spoke of Mary, talking with the angel Gabriel. Saying “yes” to the angel. Saying “yes” to God. Then, conceiving through the power of the Holy Spirit. And going to see her older cousin Elizabeth some weeks later.

How strange to our ears, today! What a wild story for us to swallow! Imagine the people of Mary’s day, imagine how improbable—how implausible the story must have seemed to them.

What has God done for you in your life, lately? Or, in the life of one of your family or friends? Has God done something improbable, or implausible? Do you think God can do something out of the ordinary? How big is your God? (How big is my God? Good question.)

Back to Mary. Mary must have lived simply. She was not wealthy, especially after the big reveal—the announcement that she was pregnant before marriage. She and Joseph must not have had too much money, even though Joseph was related by family to King David and his family line.

This is certainly counter-intuitive. Not wealthy? The baby Jesus, not born in a fancy house or palace? Strange, but true. This certainly goes against the health-wealth-and-happiness gospel preached by some television/celebrity preachers of today.

If we do say “yes” to God, our lives will be changed, without a doubt. God may ask us to go to different places, or do different things. Be uprooted, even homeless. Mary and Joseph were both far away from familiar people, places and things. They were travelers, like many people in the town of Bethlehem at that time. They both said “yes” to God.

Quite a challenge for me today. For us, in the bible study. God knows, I try to be faithful in teaching a bible study regularly, on Wednesdays and Sundays. And God willing, I pray that God may use the ideas and words I use to communicate to many hearts. Thanks for the help, God.

@chaplaineliza

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How Shall I Serve? Good Question.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, November 3, 2014

no borders to prayer

How Shall I Serve? Good Question.

Another month, another bible verse for me to think about. This is a verse that I can sink my teeth into, for sure. I usually don’t think much about 1 Peter. (And even less about 2 Peter, truth to tell.) I much prefer to dwell on the Gospels. Or think about Philippians, or Romans. And there are a number of psalms I really enjoy, not to mention certain passages in Isaiah, or Jeremiah.

But, random places in the Bible? Just open it at random, and stick your finger down. Find a verse, in a book not usually read. Actually, I did read through the Bible a number of times, some years ago. I really appreciated the depth and breadth of it, too.

This particular verse I’ve chosen for November is one that concentrates on being of service. I have branched out a bit, during this Year of Being Kind, into being helpful and being of service, too. My focus is primarily on what I might be able to do for others. Whether I might be able to make others feel good through kindness, that is true. But also trying to serve others. Here’s 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.”

In the past few months at the church where I work, I have concentrated on prayer. Not only preaching and teaching on prayer, but actively doing prayer, too. Over the weekend, I talked with someone over social media. Through our mutual conversation, I felt the stirrings of an urging from God. As I considered the idea some more, I remembered an excellent series of books on prayer I have. (Stormie Omartian. Great, earnest stuff on prayer.) So—the outcome of my inner stirrings is this: I have decided to pray my way through November (and going two days into December). The book I’ve chosen has thirty chapters. Thirty days. I will lift up some significant people in prayer, each day.

This is not the first time I have done something of the sort. No, I did have a prayer partner for almost six years, while I went through seminary and for about two years afterwards. My wonderful prayer partner and I used to pray for each other, as well as each others’ families, once a week. However, my friend in prayer moved a distance away. We continued to pray for some months. But then, I got more and more busy, as did she. Now, I miss those times of prayer, and my dear friend in prayer, too.

Let’s fast forward to this weekend. Just yesterday. My friend knows I will earnestly try to do this. Each day for thirty days, I’ll pray for several dear people. God willing, I will try to be faithful, and loving, and caring. Help me, God! Thanks!

@chaplaineliza

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Helping through Reflection and Planning

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, September 22, 2014

HAPPY make your soul happy

Helping through Reflection and Planning

Thank you. Thanks to all of you who faithfully follow this blog. Or even, occasionally follow this blog. I appreciate your presence, your comments, and your prayers and good thoughts. I may not have outwardly said anything up to this point (at least, out loud or in print), but I sincerely do thank you for your reading.

For those of you following at home, you may have noticed that I went on a silent retreat on Saturday. A Soul Care Day, a day set aside for spiritual reflection, direction and spiritual formation. This day of silent prayer was rich for me! I received so much from it. I not only received spiritual nurture and recharging, personally, but I also received some good thoughts and leadings about several situations that are on my mind. So—all to the good!

Now, what about the reflection-and-planning part? Where does that come in?

I needed to put the final touches to planning the Sunday worship service today, and everything fell into place. (Excellent!) I also put in some time to planning World Communion Sunday, October 5th. I enjoy crafting a worship service, and finding complementary parts of the service, as well as appropriate hymnody and special music. Now, I just have to write the sermon for Sunday . . .

The notes and reflections which I wrote down on Saturday are a treasure trove for me, upon reflection. I am grateful and appreciative that I was able to take the time to attend this Soul Care Day. I realize only now that the insights I received are like layers of an onion—and that I have substantial work to do to mine the information and get further insights. More will be revealed to me, I’m sure. More, over time. That’s what I need for right now.

Upon reflection, I feel like the Little Engine that Could. (I think I can, I think I can!) Chugging right along, steadily, my calendar is never boring!

@chaplaineliza

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Helping Through Spade Work

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, September 16, 2014

LOVE tell someone you love them

Helping Through Spade Work

When I used to help my mom with her garden in the backyard, I’d do all kinds of things. Mow and rake the grass, weed the garden, dig dandelions from the grass. Oh, and I’d do spade work. First thing, before anything else at the beginning of May, I’d dig up the two areas where she’d customarily plant her vegetables. On one side, usually she would plant beans and peppers. Next to the small sidewalk that went out to the back gate. On the far side of the yard by the neighbor’s garage (in a nice, sunny south exposure!), she would plant a number of tomato plants, usually two different varieties.

I remember doing the spade work, preparing the ground before I even thought of getting the plants. Mom would come out to watch what I was doing, and usually we would end up talking about the plants she was planning on putting in the garden, and which stores she would get them from. She wasn’t able to physically do heavy work any more. (I came alongside of her to do something she enjoyed so much. I was being kind!) She would always remind me about carefully digging up the soil and then breaking apart the larger clumps of dirt with a rake. I needed to make sure the soil was well-prepared before we planted.

That’s very much what I’ve been doing, last week and this week. Preparing the ground for a special Sunday coming up. World Communion Sunday. I want to make certain that everything is ready. I want this communion celebration to be special. Memorable. I know this is God’s house, and what we do here is worship of God. Our celebration each Sunday is for an audience of one—God! Naturally, I want it to be the best it can be. But I also want it to be meaningful and special to the congregation.

Thus, the extra spade work in preparing for the first Sunday in October. Making sure things are set, and special music is ready to go. (I still have to do more on that end.) At least the theme for the service and my sermon are already coming together. My good friend Bob, a retired minister, will be coming to assist me with the service. (It will be great to see Bob and his wife Gayle again!)

I hope I am doing good work in faithfully caring for this garden. The garden called St. Luke’s Church. I strive to be faithful, to preach, visit parishioners at the hospital and at home, teach bible studies, and provide pastoral care as best I can. I try my best to love the congregation, too. An older minister friend of mine said that was the most important thing—let the congregation know I love them.

Sprinkling a garden with love and caring? That always helps. God will provide the increase, too.

@chaplaineliza

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Conversation with God

matterofprayer blog post for Friday, August 15, 2014

PRAY God can hear you

Conversation with God

Got prayer?

Levity aside, do you pray? Once in a while, or sometimes, or even daily? I saw a recent survey of “average Americans” that said over 50 percent pray several times a week. As a woman of faith who strives to stay in regular contact with God myself, my initial thought was, “That’s great!”

But—my second thought came quickly on the heels of the first one. Did the people asking questions in that survey define “prayer?” And, how do each of the individuals answering the questions define “prayer?” I can’t answer either of those questions. However, I can tell you how I answer that question.

To me, prayer is often “a conversation with God.” Sure enough, when I pray, I do have conversations with God. Sometimes, I wish they could be conversations like I have with my friends, my family, those I care for and love. Wait a moment—God is all that to me, and more. God knows my deepest thoughts, the dearest desires of my heart. When I’m anxious or afraid, frustrated or downright angry. God can go with me, wherever I go. (“Whither thou goest, there also will I go,” to quote from a poetic, older version of the first chapter in the book of Ruth.)

But sometimes—sometimes God seems distant, even hiding. It’s as if I’m all alone. No one cares. No one is there for me, not even my husband, family, or friends. Not even God. Those are the dark times. The sad times. The times of depression, even despair. Yes, I have gone through times like that. When things are more positive and moving in a good direction, I often don’t want to think back to those dark, dismal times. Those bleak, even heartbreaking situations where I felt like I was in the bottom of a slimy pit with no way out.

Yet—I have come out of those situations. With the help of family, friends, colleagues. With the help of faithful praying companions. And I do have conversations with God. I do not start the conversation. Instead, I pick up the thread of the conversation, midstream. God spoke first. The beginning of my prayer “is in response to who God has been for us, or what God has done, or is making known to us, or causing us to feel.” (“The Word is Very Near You,” p.19, Fr. Martin Smith)

Yes, this is a redefinition of prayer. Yes, God does woo me “back from isolation into belonging and from anxiety into life-giving awareness.” (p. 18, Smith) As 1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love, because God first loved us.” Just so, we communicate with God—converse with God, because God communicated and conversed with us, first.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for not demanding prayer. Instead, You graciously give prayer to us. It’s a gift! Thank You so much for this wonderful experience, and an opportunity to talk intimately with You, the God who created the heavens and the earth. It’s just You and me, God, Up close and personal. Intimate. Awesome. Thank You.

@chaplaineliza

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

Praying for Others? You’ve Got It!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, July 1, 2014

God Faith God is already there

Praying for Others? You’ve Got It!

What about today, when I found some reasons to be a faithful member of Christ’s body? In confessions made, or precaution ministry? What about when someone has a birthday? What then?

I went to the YMCA earlier today, to work out and exercise. Wouldn’t you know that a kind, generous someone who works at the Y is celebrating a birthday? Yes! That is so positive an event. Great idea!

Some sweet older person had even gone out of her way to purchase a card. The card was lovely, and many people had signed already. Great job in being kind and encouraging, too.

I wished this person a very happy birthday. Of course I did! And, I also signed the card.

This staff member was very much touched and appreciative of my prayers. Hey, I pray most every day, at least when I’m putting others first, in the forefront of the day. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today. And that was what I prayed for, wished for. Praying God’s blessings, protection, and care come upon this loved one of God’s.

Such a small thing. Except—not in this staff member’s eyes. Praise God! Something simple, that anyone can do. Yet, something profound, too. Any time that a person agrees to provide intercession in prayer? Pray for someone’s encouragement, and to reach out in prayer? Priceless, as the television commercial and the ad agency tell us.

Yes, God bless this Y staff member. And family. Send every good blessing and every worthwhile thing their way, too! Amen, dear God.

@chaplaineliza

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A Year of Being Kind—Halfway Point

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, June 30, 2014

begin where you are

A Year of Being Kind—Halfway Point

It’s a prudent idea to take stock, at times. Evaluate. Look back. Not that I’m always prudent, but I try to be. Six months have gone by since I started this blog. Each day in the past months I have been faithful to this effort of actively looking for ways of being kind. Opportunities for service. And faithful to recording my efforts, too.

Originally, I planned each month to focus on a different aspect of service. In January, I wanted to concentrate on being kind. (As long as my blog is titled “A Year of Being Kind,” I wanted to start the year like that.) I’ve been told a number of times that I often act in a naturally kind and tenderhearted manner. When the idea for this blog concept came to me in December, I felt that it was a natural thing for me!

Looking back, I haven’t focused as much on the Bible verses that I chose for each month this year. True, it was a great idea, in the concept stage. That is, choosing a specific verse as a background for each month of service in 2014. I initially thought about using my choice of verse as subtext to my month’s service, as well as for my month’s blogs. It just didn’t always happen that way. Not that I am incredibly disappointed or downhearted about how my blog has developed, organically. No! It just worked out differently that I had originally thought. That’s all.

I’ve discovered that I can do something as simple as smile my friendly smile. Share the gift of my smile with another human being. And sometimes, that’s enough. A simple, friendly expression can do wonders for someone else. I know.

I can do elaborate, complex things for others, too. Things that require a good deal of planning. Individuals have come to me immediately afterwards, or days, or even months afterwards, and told me how much my service has meant to them.

Today, a telephone call was my way of being kind, directly. I think the person I talked to appreciated my friendly, cheerful voice on the other end of the line. Thank God that I can offer that gift to others.

With God’s help, I have chosen this Year of Being Kind to be a year of opportunity for me. I know I have shared with you that I asked God-as-I-understand-God for opportunities to help others and be of service. I also want to be gifted with opportunities for me. For my personal growth and development, too. The opportunities keep right on happening, for sure.

Yes, it is a continuing journey. A daunting, exciting, up-and-down journey. Now that six months have passed, I have some idea what lies ahead. More months of service! Will you continue with me?

@chaplaineliza

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