Serving—with Holy Spirit Power! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, June 4, 2017

Serving—with Holy Spirit Power! (#BestOf)

Today was Pentecost at my church. Yes, I preached about the coming of the Holy Spirit. I spoke of the mighty acts of God breaking into the lives of all believers. This #BestOf post marks the day the Holy Spirit was poured out. I don’t want the Holy Spirit to remain sequestered to only one day a year. No! Our Advocate helped the followers of Jesus to turn the world inside and upside down. Read it again, and praise God!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, June 8, 2014

Acts 2 Pentecost-El-Greco-cropped

Serving—with Holy Spirit Power!

So there I was—at an evening meeting several years ago in a public building. Out of nowhere, the lights flickered. Went out! And stayed out. Immediately, everyone inside the building filed out. As a safety precaution, of course.

But—what happened? Was it a brown-out? Did something happen to a transformer attached to the electrical supply in the neighborhood? Everyone wanted the power supply to get back on line!

I narrated the story of Pentecost this morning, in church. I told about Jesus ascending to heaven, and then—what? Nothing! Not a thing, for days. But at last, when the band of beleaguered believers was all gathered together in one place, Pentecost happened! The Holy Spirit came with mighty power! The disciples became courageous overnight. And the Holy Spirit turned the disciples inside out and upside down. Life—as they knew it before—was never the same again.

As I preached this morning, I honestly felt like I was serving the congregation in a deep, meaningful, wonderful manner. Opening the Word of God. I’ve felt that in the past, and it is such an awesome, stunning feeling to have. Almost like Isaiah falling on his face before God Almighty in the Temple (in Isaiah 6). However, today had a different feel to it. This morning, it was almost like I was uncovering something rich, something precious. Something of immense value! And then, turning to the friends out in the pews. Showing them the treasure of immense value! Offering them the opportunity to come along on this tremendous journey.

What about you? How has your journey through life been going? This small congregation has had its ups and downs, but I felt that this particular message from Acts 2 was just exactly what I ought to preach to this congregation. I hope and pray that any time people consider this chapter in Acts that they also consider the tremendous opportunity that God is holding out to all of outs. Just like a treasure, a rich and beautiful thing.

I want to serve. I have been praying for opportunities to help, whatever way I can. In this case, I will try my darnedest to get out the Good News. And if I can serve, be helpful, and be kind along the way? All fantastic ways to follow God. And God’s Good News!

@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 Lent and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

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

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A Souper Way to Be Kind (#BestOf)

A Souper Way to Be Kind (#BestOf)

 

souper-bowl-logo

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 2, 2017

Earlier today, I was reminded of the Super Bowl coming up in a few days. I passed the big screens of televisions at the gym this afternoon, and saw the promos for the big game. I like football, but for some reason, my thoughts came right to this blog post. The reasons behind this blog post are so worthwhile. I hope and pray that all houses of worship that are participating in this Souper Bowl of Caring receive a great deal of donations. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 31, 2014

What a Souper Way to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

The Super Bowl is almost upon us, here in the United States. This finale to the 2013-14 football season will bring people from across the country—and across the world—together to watch the extravaganza, the festivities, the commercials. Oh, yes. And the football game, too.

As I have a pastor friend at a church in Ohio. (I featured this church in Ohio two weeks ago, with Yarn Alive!) My friend, Ross, is pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Cuyahoga Falls. One of the mission outreaches at their church is Souper Bowl of Caring. What, you might ask, is Souper Bowl of Caring? Good question! I’m glad you asked. Put simply, this effort uses “the energy of the Super Bowl to mobilize youth in a united national effort to care for people in their local communities who are hungry and those in need.” (from the Souper Bowl Mission Statement)

A brief history of this outreach, from the Souper Bowl of Caring website: “A simple prayer: “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat” is inspiring a youth-led movement to help hungry and hurting people around the world.

“This prayer, delivered by Brad Smith, then a seminary intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC, gave birth to an idea. Why not use Super Bowl weekend, a time when people come together for football and fun, to also unify the nation for a higher good: collecting dollars and canned food for the needy? Youth could collect donations at their schools and churches in soup pots, and then send every dollar DIRECTLY to a local charity of THEIR choice.”

This outreach effort started in 1990. Other churches joined the team, and by 1997 Souper Bowl of Caring reached $1 million and kept right on going. In 2004, the first NFL owners joined the Souper Bowl team. Also in 2004, First Lady Laura Bush kicked off the caring effort that year. In 2008, the national total for the food and funds drive topped $10 million.  And it’s still continuing to grow.un

Whether in local congregations like the church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, or in city-wide efforts like in Houston, Austin or Dallas/Fort Worth, the Souper Bowl of Caring is a tremendous opportunity to be kind to people, where it counts—in the pocketbook. Pocketbook issues are a concern to people across the nation. With unemployment and under-employment so prevalent, and costs for basics such as heating going through the roof in this challenging winter, all the more reason to give something, if we can!

Pastor Ross said recently, “I hope you are able to make an extra run to the store just for this cause. We are blessed to be a blessing. The need is substantial, and UPC can help with your help.” What a wonderful way to bless those who have real needs. Whether with cans of soup or chili donated to local food pantries, or with cash donations to the charity of YOUR choice, please consider giving. What a way to join in. Join this caring team. For a Super—I mean, Souper Bowl, indeed.

@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 Epiphany and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

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

Serve? Be Kind? Bless the Animals, Too! (BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, June 7, 2015

I enjoy animals so much! I enjoyed the Blessing of the Animals that happened twelve months ago, too. It’s part of my church’s outreach to the community. People love their animals, and I really want to show God’s love to everyone in our community—both people and their animals.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, June 7, 2014

blessing-of-animals

Serve? Be Kind? Bless the Animals, Too!

Clear blue skies, gorgeous weather, perfect temperature. Lovely morning! What a great day to be alive! (This is me, thinking.)

What could I find today to help people? How might I be able to serve, today?

Good thing that I had a church event planned for this morning, then. Yes, the Blessing of the Animals happened this morning. And sure enough, I had the joy of meeting 16 dogs and their families outside. They all came to the church parking lot for their animals to be blessed. I talked with the families, petted and blessed the dogs, and had a wonderful morning. I had prepared for cats, too, because I know a few people like to take their cats out on leashes. Perhaps in cat carriers, as well. But we did not have any cats this time. Oh, well. Maybe next time!

My son and his good friend came to help me with the animals. As I put it to the guys, I appreciated animal wranglers. I did have several dogs in the parking lot at one time, on a few occasions this morning. The guys really helped me out, and did their best to manage every dog! They acted as able-bodied assistants, and moral support as well.

I love animals, especially dogs. They offer companionship, warmth, and especially love. And as far as engaging their human families? They can connect with them in a fundamental way, and provide a great deal of mutual enjoyment and satisfaction.

Tomorrow is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. I’ve been reflecting on the Church, and how the ideal picture of that community of believers is a lot like the relationship between animals and their human families. The Church also provides companionship, warmth, and especially love. And as far as engaging their fellow believers? They all connect in a fundamental way. Or, at least, that’s the ideal picture of believers coming together.

What about my son and his friend, acting as assistants? The analogy can be extended. The leader of the Church (or, the group of believers) needs assistants or helpers. These helpers direct and manage the activities of the individuals, or perhaps small groups. And, the helpers provide support and aid to the leader (or leaders), too.

All in all, my son, his good friend, and I had a wonderful time this morning with the animals and their human families. I blessed and prayed for a number of dogs! I also had an awesome opportunity to show the community that our church is active and cares about the people who live right next door. And on the next block. And down the street. That kind of opportunity is amazing.

I wonder what kind of opportunity for service will happen tomorrow? God willing, I’ll be ready!

@chaplaineliza

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)
 

 

(#BestOf) Helping, Serving—One Woman at a Time (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reading through this Feature Friday post from a year ago, I am reminded again of how important this is—helping one woman at a time. Providing a refuge, a support, a place of encouragement for women in need, discouraged and hopeless. Sarah’s Circle is one of those wonderful places of encouragement and assistance. Read more, please!

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

heart balloons

Helping, Serving—One Woman at a Time (Feature Friday!)

Imagine being afraid. Downright terrified. Needing a safe place to stay. On top of that, being homeless. No place to go. Nowhere to sleep. Nothing to eat. On top of everything, you’re a woman. Got that? All of those things, rolled up into a tight ball of frantic fear and anxiety.

What to do? How to cope?

There is a place to go. There is a solution.

In the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, Sarah’s Circle provides a refuge for women. They may be homeless, or in need of a safe place to go, or both. Sarah’s Circle provides assistance in terms of housing, case management, referrals, and other necessities of life. In other words, this organization provides hope for women who have just about run out of hope.

A friend of mine, James, is the business manager for Sarah’s Circle. I talked with him recently. He told me this organization “is a place where any woman can come and find support no matter what their situation is.” James is quite enthusiastic about the services and other resources these caring folks provide. Their day program is open to anyone. That means—anyone. Regardless of the reasons for homelessness and loss of family, employment, living space, dignity—women can come to Sarah’s Circle and find help and hope for themselves.

In addition, this non-profit organization also supports twenty-two units of permanent housing. (This is in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.) Sarah’s Circle is an oasis in the challenging, sometimes fearsome desert that is the city of Chicago. This group helps vulnerable women through difficult times, as they rebuild their dignity, stability—their very lives.

Women have gender-specific reasons for difficulties in their lives, which include many types of trauma.

Not only can homelessness be a result of poverty and domestic violence, but Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder frequently occurs. As a result, trauma can contribute to mental illness and substance abuse.

Sarah’s Circle reports: “Approximately 56% of women who are homeless have been sexually assaulted; this is more than three times the rate for homeless men and for women in the general population. Research shows a strong correlation between frequency and seriousness of past victimization and diagnosis of mental illness as well as reported drug and alcohol problems. Women are more than twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. “

Sarah’s Circle is not a religious organization, but many people of various faith expressions work or volunteer at this organization. As I reflect upon service to the poor and homeless, giving a cup of cold water to those in need, I can’t help but be reminded of the verse I’ve chosen for the month of April. Colossians 3:23 tells us “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.”

May I be given the willingness to go and do likewise. Please, God, may it be so.

@chaplaineliza

For more information about Sarah’s Circle in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, check out their website: http://www.sarahs-circle.org/

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Showing Love to All God’s Children (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Saturday, February 28, 2015

Talk about “do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” To my mind, no one exemplifies this principle more than my friend John. John Mroczka has recently retired from his many years of work at the YMCA, yet he is still going strong. Still doing lots of things for others. God bless you, John! What a wonderful blessing you are (and have been), in so many people’s lives!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 28, 2014

 

Men sitting on a park bench (mixed media) - credit Getty Museum

Men sitting on a park bench (mixed media) credit Getty Museum

Showing Love to All God’s Children (Feature Friday!)

I love the town where I live! Such an eclectic group of people. Such a diverse bunch of individuals. A little bit of everything—snooty, artsy, down-and-out, parents, families, empty-nesters, students, immigrants, salt of the earth. Just about all kinds are represented here.

Some of these various kinds of people cross paths at the large YMCA near downtown. Yes, many people are active members of the Y and use the pool, gym, weight room, activity classes, and its other services on a regular basis. However, about one hundred and twenty men (give or take—the number varies) live in the attached single-room residence. I love that the YMCA also serves as a place where guys can get a leg up, and have a safe, warm place to live at a reasonable monthly price. However, some of these men are living on the edge of not-quite-enough. Some are on government assistance because of health reasons. Some have lost their jobs and are on the downhill slide into extreme poverty. Some have other issues.

Whatever the individual difficulty, by and large, the lives of many men who live in the residence at the YMCA are not cushy, posh and comfortable. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s where John’s Cupboard fits in. John’s Cupboard is a service of the YMCA specifically to benefit the men who live in the residence. With all the government belt-tightening, corporate cost-cutting, and lessening of social services, many of the guys in this building have real, material needs. The Cupboard provides canned chicken and tuna, Ramen noodles, canned soup and crackers. Those are its staples. Plus, additional food is provided through donations. Another important part of the Cupboard are the toiletries provided by the Y, ordered from American Hotel. These are handy since they come in small, individual-sized packages. Soap, shampoo, disposable razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes. All greatly appreciated.

Enter John Mroczka—men’s residence director at the Y. (Also the John of “John’s Cupboard.”) John has done a great number of jobs at the facility over the years, and will retire this summer with twenty-nine years of service at the Y. But how did John start the Cupboard? At first, it was some spare cans of food kept on a shelf in his office. The Cupboard has since enlarged in both number of items offered and in size. John hopes to enlarge what the Cupboard provides to new socks, too. Socks are always appreciated!

For years, John has given a Christmas present of two pairs of socks and a coffee mug to each and every resident at the YMCA. He adds, “A few other employees and I solicit Y board members for additional things, gift cards for the residents.” John has the gifts of helps, discernment and service in abundance. He certainly shows it, too!

His kindness and compassion—tempered with a savvy eye and sharp nose for scams—make him uniquely qualified to do exactly what he’s been doing for years. Which is serving others, for the benefit of these men and their families, as well as for the glory of God as he understands God. Thanks for all you do, John! May God’s richest blessings rest on you, too.

@chaplaineliza

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

I Need a Little Help from My Friends—with a Vacuum Cleaner?

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, February 11, 2015

As I said in this Best Of post, I enjoy helping out. I do have the spiritual gifts of helps. (Yes, it’s true.) Reading through this post, I see I did a kind thing here. You could do something kind, too!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, February 10, 2014

vintage doll vacuum cleaner

vintage doll vacuum cleaner

 

I Need a Little Help from My Friends—with a Vacuum Cleaner?

I took the opportunity to be kind today, in several ways. But the one that stuck in my mind was being kind by vacuuming. One problem—but I’ll get to that, later.

Let me back up. I often have the chance to do things for senior citizens. Lots of different things, like shopping, errands, doing the dishes, vacuuming. I’ve said before that I have the gift of helps. I’ve noticed this gift from a very early age. I liked doing things for people, and often doing things for older people. At church, in the neighborhood, even on the bus or in a store. I would often happen upon older people who have dropped their keys, or their glove, or their shopping list, so I picked it up for them. Or, I pass by a senior citizen in a mall parking lot who was trying to load their bags into their car. I helped out there, too.

I know I’ve talked in this blog before about an older friend of mine who works for a large senior citizen facility here in this suburb. She told me a few years ago, “You ought to have ‘Good with seniors’ printed on your forehead. Because, you are!” I must admit, yes. Yes, I am. It’s true.

This led me to reflect, how would the Bible tell me to act toward seniors? As I reflected further, I realized that there are several specific verses that I can think of, telling me how to behave in an appropriate manner with elders. One I’ll mention is Leviticus 19:32, which tells its readers to stand up before (or, honor) “the gray head” ( i.e., seniors). Biblically speaking, older people are supposed to be respected and cared for. (This led me to think of the seniors who are sadly warehoused in today’s society. But that’s a subject for another blog post.)

So, I took this opportunity to be kind to a senior today. I vacuumed. Except, I had a bit of a problem. I had never used this particular vacuum cleaner before. At first, I thought there was some idiosyncracy with the vacuum. However, I opened it up and checked the bag on the inside. Yup. It was full. Rats! I wasn’t sure where the extra bags were kept. What to do? I really wanted to take care of this chore, and the vacuum cleaner simply wasn’t working properly.

The next thing I knew, a new acquaintance of mine helped me out. Together, we were able to find the bag, struggled to get the bag replaced in the upright cleaner (tricky fit!), and I finished up the task. Much better now! Without that help, without the teamwork, I would have had a lot of difficulty finishing the vacuuming. It seems like a little thing, but it stuck in my head. I was grateful! And, I said thank you.

It’s good to be working together, helping each other out. I do need a little help from my friends and acquaintances, I must admit. I ask for help more often, now. I’m not too proud. At least, most of the time.

@chaplaineliza

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

Snow Blowing, Being Kind (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 2, 2015

This was my first Feature Friday post in January 2014. Even though there’s no snow (yet) in the Chicago area right now, the spirit of this post still is true.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 3, 2014

chairs shoveled parking place

Snow Blowing, Being Kind (Feature Friday!)

Another day of snow. Another day of service opportunities!

A friend of mine, David, who lives here in Chicago told me about a wintry situation that sometimes happens to him. I’ll let him explain in his own words.

“Owning a snow-blower opens up a whole new sense of “neighbor,” as in “Who is my neighbor?” As I’m out trolling the snow-blower up and down the sidewalks on my city block, where would I stop removing the snow from the pavement? What is the logical or “natural” boundary or stopping point? At what property line do I draw the line and turn back toward my “own” sidewalk? My next-door neighbors on each side are close and friendly people, friends even, so there’s no question that I’m going to go ahead and clear their sidewalks . . .  and now they pretty much expect that, if I’m out there clearing sidewalks, I’ll also plow out their driveways to the street. OK. We’ve all got our various senses of necessity and contingent emergency.”

Wow. How far down the block does my friend go with his snow blower? Who IS his neighbor? (For that matter, who is ours?) So, there is also a guy with another snow blower across the street. Could this blowing of snow turn into a competition? “Hmm. The guy across the street cleared off three more houses’ walks of snow. He’s winning! He’s more virtuous (loving/giving/helping) than I am!” I can just see how worry, griping, fear, resentment, frustration, anger, and even more negative emotions start roiling around inside, stifling good, loving, nurturing, helpful feelings.

We might know physically handicapped people who either have great difficulty or just can’t possibly clear their walks. Or folks who are in the hospital, or on vacation, or working two jobs and are rarely at home. Is God nudging me—or you—to blow off the snow from their walks? And what about people who do not “deserve” to have the snow cleared from their walks and driveways? (Who gets to decide that, anyway?) People who are snooty, or slobs, or just plain mean. Does that give me the right to ignore them when a service opportunity comes my way? Who IS my neighbor, anyway?

It goes without saying that any of these, ALL of these are my neighbors. If I get a creeping resentment or niggling gripe in my heart, I don’t think that negative emotion comes from God. Instead, it pleases God to see me being kind. (It pleases God to see my friend being kind, too.)

Yes, using a snow blower is a wonderful way of being kind. We are blessed to have such mechanical appliances and tools like snow blowers (and snow plows too, when that’s applicable!). We are so blessed to be a blessing to others. To be kind and tenderhearted. Thank God that I am given opportunities like that. I don’t want to be like the lawyer in Luke 10, who grudgingly acknowledged the Samaritan as being kind and showing mercy. Instead, I want to strive to be like the gracious, giving Samaritan. God willing!

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

@chaplaineliza