God, Grant Me the Serenity . . . to Be Kind (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, May 1, 2017

Today’s weather was rainy in both the afternoon and evening, which followed a very rainy, gray and chilly weekend. I found I needed some serenity today. It’s difficult for me to be cheery and bright when the weather outside has been so gray and dismal for a number of days in a row. (*sigh!*) I wanted to pass this along. Perhaps someone out there needs some peace and serenity, too.

God, Grant Me the Serenity . . . to Be Kind

Posted on May 1, 2014 by chaplaineliza

serenity prayer coin

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, April 30, 2014

God, Grant Me the Serenity . . . to Be Kind

I did a number of various kinds of things today. Practiced the keyboard for Sunday service. Handled some administrative matters in the office. Led an adult bible study. Wrote some of the encyclopedia article I’ve been working on. Went to two meetings later in the day. Bought my daughter a dress (she’s going to a special symposium as an invited guest tomorrow). Met with a good friend after dinner.

Not to mention all the other stuff that’s going on in my life. Any one of these things is a worthy topic for being of service. But I’d like to focus on the topic of serenity. And how much I need some in my life.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the original Serenity Prayer. It was more than twice as long as the prayer commonly known by so many today. The short version is also repeated in recovery groups all over the country—even all over the world, today. But the shorter prayer is one that I have memorized. And one I say to myself, from time to time. Even more often than that, on occasion.

The thing about this Serenity Prayer is that it urges me to accept people, places and things, as they are. If I have a degree of acceptance in my life, I am more likely to be open and willing to help others. To serve and to be kind. I also find I that much more likely to have joy and gratitude in my heart.

Since there is so much going on in and around my life, currently, I honestly feel the need for serenity. Peace. I would prefer a little quiet, which is more than I usually get around my house. (Thanks to my two teenagers!) I know what many people will say—in just a few years, there will be more than enough quiet, when my two younger children follow my two older ones. When I have an empty nest.

But I am not there, yet. I still need the Serenity Prayer. I am familiar with the idea of acceptance. Accepting the fact that there are many things (even most things?) in my life which I cannot change. Have absolutely no control over. And, I need to be okay with that. Today, despite feeling as if I did not control much in my personal and work life, I was still able to help others. I still made several people smile, even laugh. I still led a bible study. (the Road to Emmaus! Great material!) And, I especially had a wonderful time with my friend—we talked about all kinds of things. Just like we always do.

I’ll close with the Serenity Prayer, because any time is a good time for serenity. God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Eastertide and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons   from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

In Which I Ride the El (evated Train)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, February 6, 2015

As I reread this post, I vividly remembered the situation. I was back there, in the El car. I pray for both of these men, even today.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, February 8, 2014

 

Under The El Tracks  Painting by J Loren Reedy

Under The El Tracks
Painting by J Loren Reedy

 

In Which I Ride the El (evated Train)

I rode the Elevated train (or, the El) downtown, amidst the big flakes of thickly falling snow. Since the ride downtown lasted approximately one hour, I had my trusty reading material. (I’m currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. But I digress.)

About twenty minutes into the ride through Chicago, a young man in an older jacket, stocking cap, hoodie and sweat pants came walking slowly through the El car. He gave a practiced little speech about how he was broke and hungry, and he needed money. I looked up. I usually am leery of people who ask for money. In fact, this guy looked and sounded like a typical panhandler—practiced, and too pat. I checked him out, looked him up and down. Since I have some experience working with people in a drug and alcohol rehab, I suspected he was mildly high or intoxicated. (For my money, I’d bet high.)

He stood there after he finished his spiel, gazing from person to person. Most of the passengers completely ignored him. I sat there for a moment, and then dug into my bag. I pulled out a wrapped chocolate biscotti. Held it out to him. He took it, and looked at it with a big question on his face. “It’s a cookie,” I said. “A chocolate cookie. I really like them.” The information I gave him slowly registered, and he said thanks. Then ducked out of the train car through the connecting door.

I continued to read my book, traveled to the Loop, went to a restaurant to meet my sister, and had a wonderful lunch. After a pleasant afternoon, I traveled back on the El. Got on a very crowded train car, and was fortunate enough to find a seat. After about ten minutes, similar story. A young man in layers of clothes and a stuffed backpack got on the El. He stood in a group of people near the door. He seemed a bit nervous, but got up some gumption and started to speak.

This time, I could tell the man was desperate. He told a story of job loss last fall, and then homelessness. He had been sleeping on the El train for a number of weeks, by his own account. He had just gotten out of the hospital and offered to show discharge papers to anyone who wanted to verify his story. He said his leg was getting better after being infected and inflamed, and that he needed some antibiotics. $18.60, he said they would cost. He showed everyone on the train his calf. (Yes, the calf did look puffy and inflamed. I know what that looks like, from my years in the hospital.) Again, no one moved or looked at the young man. I could see the desperation on his face. Even despair. His eyes filled with tears.

I waited almost a minute. I hardly ever do this—again. (I usually do not have the money to spare, to tell the truth.) But, I gave him some money. And I said, “God bless you,” as I gave it to him. I held his hand for a moment. He and I made eye contact. Held it. His voice broke. “Thank you. Thank you, and God bless you.” I could hear the gratitude in his voice. Then he got off the train at the next stop. I waved and smiled as he got off the train car. He nodded at me and then ducked his head as he made his way through the mass of people clambering in or out of the car.

Two people. Two situations. Honestly, I do not usually give things to panhandlers. But today, I did. I wasn’t even thinking or making a conscious decision—the compassionate gifts just happened.

A friend of mine is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, reporter Maudlyne Ihejirika. She had an article published the other day that featured three people who had lost their jobs many months ago. (In case anyone is interested: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/25404540-418/still-jobless-little-hope-of-long-term-benefits.html) Just like the second man on the El. Perhaps I was empathizing with his situation. Perhaps I was recalling my friend’s article. Whatever the reason, I acted in a loving and giving manner. Just like in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

God, thank You for the loving, caring nudges. Thank You for the opportunity to be of service to these two men, these members of God’s family.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 5, 2015

On this snowy, frigid evening in January, this post from a year ago strikes a familiar chord.

 

A Year of Being Kind blog – originally published 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.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

“You’ve Got Mail!” — Kindness through Email

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, August 18, 2014

BK life is short-be kind

“You’ve Got Mail!” — Kindness through Email

Ever think of two people, and have a sneaking suspicion that the two of them would get along well together? I mean, more than a strong hunch?

Last week, I wrote about St. Viator’s High School. I also made a new acquaintance in Father Corey. (Can I call him a new friend? I hesitate, since I have a great deal of respect for him and I don’t want to impose. But, maybe, I do have a new friend. I could ask, next time he and I exchange email.)

When we talked last week, Fr. Corey told me about the Children of Abraham Coalition. This interfaith group has a worthy, worthwhile goal and cause. Let me quote from their mission statement: “Our mission is to educate others about the Abrahamic traditions, to be ambassadors for interfaith dialogue and to continue to learn about and build relationships between our religions as we work to fill the world with Salaam, Shalom, Peace.”

The Children of Abraham Coalition (COAC) has about four large events in the course of a year. In September, they are going to be getting together to commemorate the tragedy of 9/11 in a dinner at St. Viator’s High School in Arlington Heights. As Fr. Corey told me more and more about the COAC, I knew like a shot that my good friend Dan (the Reverend Dan McNerney, Presbyterian Church/USA minister) would be all over this like a cheap suit on a used car salesman.

So, I sent Dan a great, gratitude-filled email. (I mean, I communicated with him through email.) Dan is quite active in social media, and I sent him a new note, with the contact info about the Coalition. Dan is also active on his own, concerning Christian and Muslim relations. He regularly instructs interfaith groups face to face, as well as on social media. I told Fr. Corey about him!

After a bit of an email exchange with Fr. Corey, I made sure that Dan was in contact. I told him what a wonderful place St. Viator’s High School was. And, I made sure that Dan had Fr. Corey’s contact information. I hope that these two men truly connect. That was my prayer in the first place.

Dear God, bless the work of the Coalition. (For further information, check out www.coacoalition.org )

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Be Prepared! Oh, and Be Kind, Too!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, May 20, 2014

you have a great smile

Be Prepared! Oh, and Be Kind, Too!

Today was a day to get things done. Two meetings accomplished, some computer work done, a bible study prepared, and some telephone calls made. Oh, and since it was Tuesday, I read to the preschoolers, too!

I noticed, too, that today was also a day of preparation. Preparing the bulletin for next Sunday’s service. Preparing the bible study for tomorrow, when I’ll have the opportunity to lead and facilitate the midweek bible study group. Both of my meetings were in preparation for various phases of ministry around the church. And two of my telephone calls were setting up other things around the church—other ways of preparing to be helpful in ministry.

I am getting into the swing of things around here. It seems that I am becoming more comfortable with the general day-to-day activities. However, I do not want to get too comfortable. If I do, then God tends to step in and gently (or sometimes not-so-gently!) shake things up. Occasionally, I’ve noticed that God will tend to shake me up. That’s okay, because the last thing in the world that I want to do is to get complacent! But still, it is disconcerting to get shaken up, even by God.

I have been praying regularly that God send me opportunities to be of service. I am aware that my sometimes-prayer to God is being answered, day by day. Sometimes in common, everyday kinds of ways (like when I smile at someone, and they thank me sincerely for my friendly smile!), and on occasion, in significant ways (like when I report on Feature Fridays, about the innovative and particular kinds of ministries to the hungry, the poor, the abused, the depressed ones in our world).

God keeps sending these opportunities to me. I keep fielding them, and keep on trying to be faithful. That’s it. I honestly try to be faithful to what God has for me to do. I know there are organizations in this world that try to do something, or try to be kind, or try to be of service. That’s wonderful! I encourage each one to find something that is meaningful to them, and do it with all their might! Or, perhaps some might want to find some outreach that is fulfilling and kind, and get fully behind it!

This search for acts of service, this Year of Being Kind is giving me far greater dividends than I ever expected. Even down to the personal gratitude, caring and appreciation that comes from getting out of myself and giving to others.

So, on top of everything else, was this a day of introspection? Yes. And, I pray it was a day of service to others. (And to myself.) God, I wonder what you’ll send my way tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

God, Grant Me the Serenity . . . to Be Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, April 30, 2014

to-do list for today

God, Grant Me the Serenity . . . to Be Kind

I did a number of various kinds of things today. Practiced the keyboard for Sunday service. Handled some administrative matters in the office. Led an adult bible study. Wrote some of the encyclopedia article I’ve been working on. Went to two meetings later in the day. Bought my daughter a dress (she’s going to a special symposium as an invited guest tomorrow). Met with a good friend after dinner.

Not to mention all the other stuff that’s going on in my life. Any one of these things is a worthy topic for being of service. But I’d like to focus on the topic of serenity. And how much I need some in my life.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the original Serenity Prayer. It was more than twice as long as the prayer commonly known by so many today. The short version is also repeated in recovery groups all over the country—even all over the world, today. But the shorter prayer is one that I have memorized. And one I say to myself, from time to time. Even more often than that, on occasion.

The thing about this Serenity Prayer is that it urges me to accept people, places and things, as they are. If I have a degree of acceptance in my life, I am more likely to be open and willing to help others. To serve and to be kind. I also find I that much more likely to have joy and gratitude in my heart.

Since there is so much going on in and around my life, currently, I honestly feel the need for serenity. Peace. I would prefer a little quiet, which is more than I usually get around my house. (Thanks to my two teenagers!) I know what many people will say—in just a few years, there will be more than enough quiet, when my two younger children follow my two older ones. When I have an empty nest.

But I am not there, yet. I still need the Serenity Prayer. I am familiar with the idea of acceptance. Accepting the fact that there are many things (even most things?) in my life which I cannot change. Have absolutely no control over. And, I need to be okay with that. Today, despite feeling as if I did not control much in my personal and work life, I was still able to help others. I still made several people smile, even laugh. I still led a bible study. (the Road to Emmaus! Great material!) And, I especially had a wonderful time with my friend—we talked about all kinds of things. Just like we always do.

I’ll close with the Serenity Prayer, because any time is a good time for serenity. God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Showing Love? Listen! Encourage!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, February 16, 2014

LOVE we love 1 John

Showing Love? Listen! Encourage!

I met someone new today. Nothing out of the ordinary. What I did and how I acted after I met her was.

Today was the typical weekend day, not terribly busy, but with enough to do to keep me occupied. Church, errands, going with my daughter to a store.  I happened to meet two other women (one I knew), and a third came up to us a minute or two later. So there we were. The woman I hadn’t met before had just begun a detailed explanation of a difficulty she had. It was an intricate problem, and the three of us stood there, listening. Fascinated.

I could see how my new friend got animated, just by sharing her difficulty. Puzzling, and problematic, too. The other three women (me and my two friends) encouraged her. We were a receptive audience, nodding and letting her know we followed the many-layered story.  She apologized several times for bending our ears, but we reassured her that it was all right.

As I listened, I felt myself accessing my chaplainly skills. Something reminded me of situations with people in a chaplain situation. I knew I wasn’t in that particular, official role for that woman, but I could feel my active listening skills coming into play. I knew the ministry of presence was surrounding us, too. I could sense those spiritual tools right there inside me—ready, set, go!

I’m reminded of a passage of Scripture, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” I saw the principle expressed in this verse shown by example today. As the four of us stood there, listening and talking, we had in common the consolation of God. Even as my new friend was afflicted by a serious, intricate, ongoing difficulty, all of us were able to share the consolation with which God has consoled each of us.

As my new friend finished relating her difficult story, I stepped closer to her. She took a deep breath and smiled at me with some relief. “I hadn’t realized how much I was holding inside.” She felt so much lighter after unburdening herself. I returned her smile and told her I was coordinator for an intercessory prayer ministry at my church. I asked whether we might pray for her, but she was hesitant to accept prayer—at first. I assured her that the prayer ministry would be happy to pray for her for four weeks, for her encouragement and comfort. That struck a chord. She nodded with gratitude, and thanked me. Then she apologized again, but had to leave. Her whole air and attitude seemed lighter as we said good bye.

I said only a few words to my new friend, but I listened, and encouraged her.  And, we all shared in God’s consolation. Thank God we can be there, for one another. I’m thankful God is there for me, too.

@chaplaineliza