Saying “Hello,” Being Kind! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, May 31, 2015

Another year older, another year flown by. I think about my children, and remember. I think about the little ones in preschool, and get nostalgic. Another school year comes to a close. The promise of summer vacation lies ahead. Have fun, little ones! Be happy, my children, now not so little.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, May 29, 2014

Saying “Hello,” Being Kind!

Suffer the Children - von Uhde, 1884

Suffer the Children – von Uhde, 1884

I love small children. I loved it when my children were small, and I could take them to the park, the beach, the playground. We would have such adventures! The smallest things captured their interest, and became the topics of deep discussion. Like a busy little ant nest next to the sidewalk. I remember one of my preschool-age daughters squatting down and examining it so closely, and for so long! We talked about that ant nest for some time afterwards.

Another time, I remember two of my children (I think one in kindergarten, the other in preschool) as they laughed and splashed in the outside shower, at the beach house near our condo. Simple pleasures. They spent a good long time having fun in the open air shower! I was relaxed and unhurried, and I enjoyed watching them having a great time.

Now my children are grown. (And almost grown—with my youngest at seventeen.) New ages, new adventures, new challenges.

But I still enjoy small children. I have the opportunity to see preschool aged children almost every day. At my work, the building houses a preschool that provides daycare, preschool and kindergarten for several dozen children each day. So, I get to see the children in the halls. In the bathroom. Outside in the playground. All around the church.

“Pastor Elizabeth! There’s Pastor Elizabeth!” And sometimes one or two of the braver ones ask me, “What do you do here?” and “Where do you stay when you’re here?” I laugh and tell them I am working here at church. “But this is our school!” I nod and say, “Yes, and my office is right around the corner, too!” I get happy “hellos!” and random hugs around the knees. And I say “hello!” right back!

I’m reminded of what Jesus said to His disciples and other followers in the Gospel of Matthew—He said that the little children had an open invitation to come to Him! There were some adults who wanted to keep them (and their mothers) away from Jesus—such an important Rabbi couldn’t be bothered with children, after all!

Jesus corrected the adults’ fallacy, and went ahead and welcomed small children. Then—Jesus laid hands on the children and blessed them. How awesome is that?

I want to follow Jesus’ example, whenever I can. Imagine, welcoming children, being friends with them, and encouraging and caring for them. And—their responses are so honest, loving and genuine! God willing, I’ll be able to continue to say “Hello!” for a long time. What a chance to be kind, loving, and caring. Thanks, God, for this awesome opportunity!

@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!)

How to Pray? How to Serve.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, November 5, 2014

pink roses, again

How to Pray? How to Serve.

Today, this was my week to pray. I mean, for an intercessory prayer group I am part of. Each Wednesday, in round robin fashion, a member of the group offers prayers for the rest. By email. I know that there are more than fifteen members. I know that I have only met two others (and one is the administrator for the prayer group). But there is a cohesiveness in prayer. A fellowship and kinship that comes from gathering in prayer together.

Today, I had the opportunity to gather prayer requests (and praises!) from a friendly group that meets together each Wednesday morning. I had the privilege to pray for those who were at the group meeting, and those others we were missing. God, this is awesome. And, a privilege. And, exciting to be able to lift up many prayer requests and cries for God to act. For God to do or not to do, to speak or not to speak. God knows.

I get prayer requests from the most different sort of amalgamation of prayer email. And telephone calls. And people stopping by. Some prayer requests come from relatives or friends, concerned about their loved one. Near or far, that doesn’t matter to God. God will hear, God will encourage and support you.

I ask the dear Lord to help me to be welcoming. And honest, and caring. God, help me to be prepared with all the unknown events of the day ahead. And God, we pray for the sick, the shut-ins, for those who are far away. And, especially for those who do not know You. Thanks for loving me, too.

@chaplaineliza

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A Perfect Day—to Help Out

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Autumn--my very favorite color." -- Belle Oliver

“Autumn–my very favorite color.” — Belle Oliver

A Perfect Day—to Help Out

Today was the perfect day. Beautiful, sun-dappled October afternoon. Warm weather—perfect for shirtsleeves. Indian summer was the phrase that came to mind. Couldn’t imagine anything better.

My youngest daughter was in Chicago for the day, working at the restaurant where my oldest daughter is manager. At the last minute, my oldest daughter needed an extra pair of hands at the restaurant. Good thing her sister was available! Moreover, the reason I went into Chicago this afternoon.

Full disclosure: my husband does not particularly care to go into the city on the weekend. For years, he’s worked downtown during the week, so he prefers to be anywhere but the city when it’s his time off. Except, it was a particularly gorgeous afternoon, one of the very last until next spring—November being right around the corner. I wanted to know whether he’d be willing to come with me to pick up our daughter when she was done at the restaurant. Sure, he said.

Neither of us expected to see children trick-or-treating all up and down the street. Participating businesses had signs in their windows, stating that they welcomed trick-or-treaters. Mid-afternoon, temperate weather, sidewalks mobbed with people of all ages dressed in costume. Sure, mostly children, but also twenty-somethings, parents, even older people. As my husband and I walked to the restaurant, I commented on several adorable or remarkable costumes. My husband and I saw lots of princesses, some superheroes, spacemen, dragons, lions, pirates, and black cats.

I wonder whether some people wear their costumes on other days of the year. A few even all the time. Not necessarily fancy-dress costumes, but still in masquerade. Still putting on a part, not being real or genuine. Sure, some of it is protective, or amusing, defensive, or even unconscious. I thought these deep thoughts afterwards, not this afternoon. At the time, I was too busy enjoying the sights and sounds of the passing parade of people. As I think back on the afternoon, other than remembering the gorgeous weather, I wonder whether I might wear a costume sometimes. Just pretend. Whether I am less than genuine and real sometimes. If I am honest, I must admit that I do wear masks, I do wear a false face or costume sometimes. I hope it is less than I used to. God willing, I can try to do is to be honest and genuine, one day at a time.

This afternoon, my husband and I successfully retrieved our daughter, made our way back to the car, and wended our way home. My husband even encouraged me to take the long way, which pleased me. And, my daughter was overjoyed that she didn’t have to take the El all the way home. Altogether, a lovely, out-of-the-ordinary fall outing. And, an extraordinarily pleasant way of being helpful.

@chaplaineliza

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Making Connections? With Sincerity!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, July 27, 2014

blessed are the peacemakers Matt5-9

Making Connections? With Sincerity!

Some folks have the ability—the knack—of making instant connections. I won’t claim to be that skilled at connection-making, but I must admit . . . I do do that. It sort of just happens. I’ve spoken about this before in this space. My husband and children poke fun at me on occasion, and I don’t know why connection happens so suddenly. So meaningfully, sometimes. It just does.

The first time today a connection occurred was at a big-box store. My college-age daughter and I had chosen a bunch of items, over almost an hour. I even tried on a pair of shorts (on sale!), and they actually fit me. We also picked up several things for my daughter to take to college in less than a month. Lo and behold, when we came to the register, I did not have my credit card with me. Boy, was I red in the face! The cashier was so wonderful about it! She reassured me that she would set aside all of our things until we returned.

My daughter and I schlepped all the way home, picked up the necessary card, and went all the way back to the big box store. Yes! The cashier was still at the same register. I promptly went and bought everything I had originally placed in my basket, an hour before. I could tell that the cashier and I had made a connection, as brief as the communication was between us. I was sincere in my apology, and told her several times how kind it was for her to keep the contents of our cart by her cash register. She stopped—actually stopped—in ringing up our things. She told us, “Of course I would do that.” I could feel the sincerity radiating from her, as well as friendly concern.

Only a few minutes’ interaction, yet truly honest and sincere. Wonderful!

The second time a connection happened to me was in the evening. I went to a coffee place to get some beverage. The server who got the beverage for me was a lovely young woman. On top of that, she had stunning dark make up on her eyes. (Not too much, just to emphasize her eyes.) I complimented her on the make up, and made a comment about how attractive make up like that looked on dark-complected women. I also noticed her earrings—large, simple crosses. I happened to mention them, too. She seemed a bit taken aback at first. Yet she thanked me in not-too-much time, and responded willingly enough.

She related about certain well-meaning customers. When hearing that her ancestors came from the Middle East, certain people ware surprised to hear that she is a Christian. Her whole family attends church, too. I tried to encourage and support her, and I believe she was grateful for my words. So grateful! I also told her about a Presbyterian church not far from here, and how I had attended the church some years ago. Many of its members and friends were and are Christians from the Middle East—Iraq, Iran, other countries.

I mentioned how sad (beyond belief!) I was at all of the reports and brief articles I have been reading. Christians from the Middle East becoming refugees. Horror and absolute fear, on the run for their lives. She immediately said she purposely did not think about them, with a look that told me so much. Troubled, anxious, fearful. Moreover, she didn’t want to be overwhelmed. But the two of us? We drew on that deep something. And somehow, connection happened. Praise God.

I pray for both of these women, for them and their families. Please, God, hear my prayers.

@chaplaineliza

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Rain Washes Me Clean—to Be Kind and Quiet

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, June 24, 2014

purple flowers

Rain Washes Me Clean—to Be Kind and Quiet

Some days are quiet days. Days to sit and think. Days I would prefer to be by myself. Days like today.

Upon reflection, I didn’t do anything super-awesome today. Sure, I came to work. Did some worship planning and sermon preparation. Made some telephone calls, got the final bible study ready for tomorrow. Talked with a couple of people briefly, and made pleasant conversation. But, I didn’t have any significant, in depth interaction today.

True, I try to find an opportunity to be kind each day. On second thought, perhaps the pleasant, low-key conversations were God’s way of showing me that I can be kind and loving in a quiet way. (I don’t need to do something significant every day. Even though, I admit it would give me a big ego-boost if I could.)

All right, God. Perhaps that’s what You wanted me to do today. Show my care, kindness and love to others—quietly. I can see how this way of being kind was also a way to display the verse for June, too: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 )

I do strive to be honest, open and willing in all of my affairs. I also try to let that light God has placed within me to shine before others, as much as I can. Another way to think about that light is the shining example of Jesus Christ. I know I fall short, but I can keep striving to live up to His example. After all, it’s continued progress, not perfection. God is pleased with me when I try my honest best, even if I do stumble and fall sometimes.

Stumble and fall? That’s the way I feel in conversation sometimes. I stumble over my words at times, and trip up on choosing the proper words or phrases to communicate what I mean. Of course, I had a stroke that attacked my language center when I was a teenager. Robbed me of the regular ability to finish sentences for several years, and it still gives me occasional difficulty. I’m still frustrated—even decades later—when I occasionally lose my words and feel awkward about my speaking ability.

Upon reflection, it’s a good thing that I have downtime, sometimes. That means that I can rest up, and not need to verbally communicate. Maybe it’s a good thing after all that I had a low-key day. A humid day that morphed into a hard thunder shower. Yes, I had to run out to the car in a downpour when I left to drive home.

God, thanks for the rain, to cool off the hot, humid weather. And thanks for the rain, to wash me clean. Wake me up. Get me ready to work for You. Thanks again!

@chaplaineliza

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Saying “Hello,” Being Kind!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, May 29, 2014

Suffer the children Fritz von Uhde, 1884

Suffer the children
Fritz von Uhde, 1884

Saying “Hello,” Being Kind!

I love small children. I loved it when my children were small, and I could take them to the park, the beach, the playground. We would have such adventures! The smallest things captured their interest, and became the topics of deep discussion. Like a busy little ant nest next to the sidewalk. I remember one of my preschool-age daughters squatting down and examining it so closely, and for so long! We talked about that ant nest for some time afterwards. And another time, I remember two of my children (one in kindergarten I think, the other in preschool) as they laughed and splashed in the outside shower, at the beach house near our condo. Simple pleasures. They spent a good long time having fun in the open air shower! I was relaxed and unhurried, and I enjoyed watching them having a great time.

Now my children are grown. (And almost grown—with my youngest at seventeen.) New ages, new adventures, new challenges. But I still enjoy small children. I have the opportunity to see preschool aged children almost every day. At my work, the building houses a preschool that provides daycare, preschool and kindergarten for several dozen children each day. So, I get to see the children in the halls. In the bathroom. Outside in the playground. All around the church.

“Pastor Elizabeth! There’s Pastor Elizabeth!” And sometimes one or two of the braver ones ask me, “What do you do here?” and “Where do you stay when you’re here?” I laugh and tell them I am working here at church. “But this is our school!” I nod and say, “Yes, and my office is right around the corner, too!” I get happy “hellos!” and random hugs around the knees. And I say “hello!” right back!

I’m reminded of what Jesus said to His disciples and other followers in the Gospel of Matthew—He said that the little children had an open invitation to come to Him! There were some adults who wanted to keep them (and their mothers) away from Jesus—such an important Rabbi couldn’t be bothered with children, after all! But Jesus corrected the adults’ fallacy, and went ahead and welcomed small children. And then—Jesus laid hands on the children and blessed them. How awesome is that?

I want to follow Jesus’ example, whenever I can. Imagine, welcoming children, being friends with them, and encouraging and caring for them. And—their responses are so honest, loving and genuine! God willing, I’ll be able to continue to say “Hello!” for a long time. What a chance to be kind, loving, and caring. Thanks, God, for this awesome opportunity!

@chaplaineliza

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Breakfast, Friendship, Encouragement!

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

friends who ask about you and then really listen

Breakfast, Friendship, Encouragement!

I took the opportunity to have breakfast with a group of friends this morning. You know the usual drill: eating, laughter, friendly conversation together. There were a group of us at the restaurant this morning, but I focused especially on one friend. We talked in depth, and had excellent communication! And I think I was open, encouraging, and helpful.

As I reflected on that personal conversation this morning, I honestly tried to be kind. I know it comes with the territory. Yes, I’ve been a chaplain for the past number of years. And yes, now I am an interim pastor. So, I “ought” to be kind, tenderhearted, encouraging. All of that.

I can feel the special training come to the fore, but I don’t think it’s forced. Not at all.

I do try to come alongside of others. I do use the ministry of presence I learned in seminary. But today I also reflected on where I came from, in my childhood and adolescence. I was a chubby child, and turned into a chunky teen. Talk about an awkward child! I didn’t have the opportunity to learn much about the social niceties when I was growing up, for a lot of reasons. So, I was behind most other folks in my social skills when I reached my late teens and early twenties.

Ever feel like you’re on the outside, looking in? That was me. Figuratively, I was outside on the sidewalk with my nose pressed to the glass. Looking inside, at all the cool kids. Yup, that was me. So by the time I started seminary at forty, I was still trying to play catch up. Seminary was a charm school of sorts, as were my internships. My learning curve was rapid! Pastoral care and active listening were two skills I immediately found useful.  I also continued to develop the practice of general courtesy and caring, with some amount of success.

So—here I was, at breakfast today. All of this background information was subtext, as I had interactions across the restaurant table. And lo and behold, I found myself being encouraging, of service. Kind. Actively listening. Not because I had to, but because it was natural for me to be that way. I am continuing to try to do daily acts of intentional service. And not surprisingly, I suspect my loving, caring actions are right on the money. Bingo.

My good friend and I had a wonderful time, talking in depth, making a true, real connection. This is not a new thing for me, but I felt it in a special way today. Have you ever felt God being pleased with you? I mean, in a genial and affirming way? That’s what I felt earlier today after I talked with my friend.

Just so, I try to be honest, open and willing in my thoughts and actions. Kind, helpful, encouraging. I hope I was encouraging to my friend—to all of my friends—today. God willing, I pray so.

@chaplaineliza

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Being There For Someone–Or Two Someones

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, January 27, 2014

BK Eph 4-32

Being There For Someone—Or Two Someones

I went to the grocery store recently. Just ran in to grab a couple of things before going home for the night. Lo and behold, I happened to run into a couple I’ve known for years, but haven’t seen for some time. It was wonderful to see them! We had a joy-filled meeting, right there in the dairy aisle. We all hugged, and we picked up right where we had left off, several years ago.

Isn’t it amazing how that can happen, with certain friends? You don’t see each other for many months, or even years, and then you meet again—unexpectedly, in a grocery store, for instance—and it’s just as if the last time we met was only a few days ago. We started up an unfinished conversation just as if we had only been briefly interrupted. (I’m smiling as I write, because it’s so marvelous! Good, good friends.)

One half of the couple recently started a new job, and I rejoiced with him. “That’s wonderful,” I said. “Congratulations!” Right off the bat, we began to talk in depth, not simply superficial stuff at all. (That’s one thing I love about my friend. We can both dive into the serious stuff when we need to, and find ourselves on the same wave length.)

I know the verse I’m lifting up for this month is Ephesians 4:32. Looking back at the conversation my friend and I had, we both exemplified being kind and tenderhearted to each other. There was a great deal of give and take, both of us listened to each other sincerely. We didn’t waste time, but got down to honest, open communication.

Funny thing, communication. Words are powerful. Words can be hurtful and destructive. (As both my friend and I can attest.) But words can also praise, build up, encourage, comfort, and soothe. This passage from the end of Ephesians 4 has a list of both negative as well as positive suggestions for action. Sure, the list of the things we are not supposed to emulate is clear, but so is the positive list. Communication can rank high on the positive list, and seems to be a common thread. We are encouraged to exhibit these positive characteristics in our words, deeds and lives. Communicating in a way that is pleasing to God is a marvelous start.

My friend and I certainly were supportive to each other when we met by chance. Or was it by chance? God’s providence, perhaps? I suspect God had a hand in our meeting, because I believe we all received encouragement from each other. Isn’t that the way that God often works? Even when God’s hand might be mostly hidden from view?

As verse 32 tells us, we can build up each other. Whether we’re friends, family or simply strangers, it’s the loving, encouraging thing to do. Be kind and tenderhearted.

@chaplaineliza

Being Encouraging, Being Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, January 25, 2014

encourage someone today

Being Encouraging, Being Kind

I ran into a younger friend of mine earlier today, and we had a few minutes of friendly conversation together. I genuinely engaged with my friend. We talked, shared, laughed.  I think I was encouraging and helpful. I did not come right out and ask, but from the unspoken communication that passed between us, I think I was.

Being intentionally kind and tender-hearted every day is a tall order. I’ve tried to be that way for a number of years. Yes, it’s been my job, my profession as a chaplain and caregiver. I try to come alongside of others and use the ministry of presence I learned in seminary. Pastoral care and active listening also are useful in my job.  I’ve tried to refine the practice of general courtesy and caring too, with some amount of success.

As I said, I engaged with my friend today and practiced being kind. The Apostle Paul talks about the outgrowth of Christian love at the end of Ephesians 4, specifically outlining several actions that display the love of Christ. Just like when I act in a kind manner to seniors on a regular basis, or help out the neighbors in my building, or try to be open and tender-hearted to strangers who ask me for directions.  As I’m sincerely endeavoring to do daily acts of intentional service, I think my loving, caring actions are right on the money. Bingo.

It’s not that I feel puffed up and self-righteous. (“I’m so holy! I’m displaying so much more of a Christ-like attitude than those other people over there!”) That’s not it. But I felt myself reaching out today in a kind, friendly, God-honoring way today. Since it’s usually part and parcel of my job, I’ve done it before, intentionally. So, this is not a new thing for me, but I felt it in a special way today. Have you ever felt God being pleased with you? I mean, in a genial and affirming way? That’s what I felt earlier today after I talked with my friend.

I recall when I had a similar feeling from God, a number of years ago before I started seminary. I was at the sink, washing the dishes. I prayed as I washed. I had something specific that troubled me. I concentrated on it as I washed and rinsed. The solution for my difficulty gradually was revealed to me as I stood in prayer. Afterwards, I vividly remember God being both amused and pleased with me. Not because I was praying in an “appropriate” manner, or getting all of my spiritual ducks in a row. No, I think it was because I was being honest, open and willing in my communication. God saw and honored my sincerity and openness in prayer. That message came through to me, loud and clear.

Just so, I try to be intentionally kind each day. It doesn’t matter whether I’m at work, at home, with friends, or with strangers. I try to be honest, open and willing in both thoughts and actions. I hope I was encouraging to my friend today. God willing, I pray so.

@chaplaineliza

Another Snowy Day

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 2, 2014

a boy's best friend

Today was another snowy day. Slow driving, drifting snow. Treacherous walking, blowing snow. A good day to be of service! So many worthwhile opportunities, I saw potential ways of service all over the place. I rose to the occasion. Ran an errand for someone else. Cleaned someone else’s kitchen. Several times, people expressed their gratitude to me. Said ‘thank you’ to me. And, that felt good.

I’m not doing this for the strokes. (At least, not primarily for the strokes . . . but that is a consideration. Let’s be honest, now.) I want to see how making intentional service a daily part of my life will have an effect on me. Will it change me? (I think, yes.) If so, how will it change me? What kinds of service am I drawn toward, or repelled from? What about those I serve—what are some varying attitudes towards being served?

I return to the verse I’ve chosen for the month of January. Ephesians 4:32 begins “Be kind to one another . . . .” Service is a great way for me to get out of myself, and being kind is certainly one way to be of service. One of the attitudes I wanted to flee from is the attitude of self-centeredness, or of bondage to self. When I concentrate on myself to the exclusion of everyone else, that is selfishness to the extreme. God is not pleased with me, and neither are other people. And truth be told, I am ultimately not pleased with myself, either. So, being kind is a positive step outside of my self, or a step outside of my self-centeredness.

As I’ve said before, I do have the gift of being helpful—on occasion. It comes naturally to me. Usually. I especially want to focus on being kind to others. Surprise, surprise! I find I take the focus off myself. And, I put the focus on God and on other people, which is so beneficial to me and my continued journey with God.

This blog will incorporate my thoughts on my intentional service, but it may morph into something more. In fact, I hope so! Here’s an example. As a part of the launch of this blog, I sent out a message/email to a number of my friends and acquaintances yesterday.  I included this quote:  “If you have a great way of serving, please drop me a line and tell me about it. I’d like to list some tried-and-true ways to serve others on my blog site, too. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.” In this twenty-four hour period, the response has been amazingly gratifying, and quick!  A dozen ideas of how to serve others, and that’s just the beginning!

My heart was so warmed by this generous response that I decided today to have a weekly focus on one featured way of doing or being of service. I want to make Friday my focus day. (“Feature Friday,” anyone?) Stay tuned for ways to serve that have particularly touched my heart.

@chaplaineliza

(P.S. I don’t know who took this photo, but I thought it was an awesome expression of being kind!)