All I Can Do Is Pray. (Is That All?)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, October 21, 2014

be grateful you have a glass

All I Can Do Is Pray. (Is That All?)

I was sitting in church on this gray October day. Quiet, almost sleepy afternoon. I went out into the larger office, passed by the administrator’s desk. My coffee had gotten cold, and I wanted to warm it up in the microwave oven. Lo and behold, I saw the shadow of a man through the blinds. I recognized him, and let him in.

He came into the hallway, and made a beeline for the pew against the wall. He had a hard luck story. (Of course.) I believed most of it. I have seen individuals similar to him and his partner. In poor health to begin with, continuing health problems, fired or let go from their jobs, long-term unemployed. What is a person to do? How can they get on their feet and start climbing when the bottom rung of the ladder is so high to begin with?

I was fortunate. There was a little money knocking around the church. (Unusual!) Plus, I gave him the last gift card from Subway. He really was grateful. More of the story came out after I sat with him in the sanctuary. Listening, actively. I asked a few, kind follow-up questions, just trying to get more information out of him. He was ready to talk, and how!

I’ve met people before who spilled the beans, told me all sorts of things. This man was very much after the same pattern. After listening for a while, and letting him know I actively heard him, I suggested closing in prayer before he left. Oh, boy! You should’ve seen his eyes light up! He was so grateful for the prayer. I had him read a few sentences out the prayer and resource section of the hymnal just before I closed, too.

I wish that I had had more money to give away this morning. But, alas, just about “all” I had to give away was a Subway coupon, and prayer. Prayer. What about that? How do you feel when someone has a real, deep need. Even a devastating need. What then?

I couldn’t help but think of the poor man in front of me, and his partner. And the verse for the month of October, too. Proverbs 19:17 – “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” God, this dear man is dearly loved by you.

Sometimes, people ignore or even look down on those who don’t even have two coins to rub together. Help me remember these sad facts. God, help this dear man and his partner—and all of their family, too. You are so amazing, keeping track of countless events, and people, and places to hide. Help me, God, just like You come alongside of anyone who needs You. Thank You, Lord.


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Listen Up! Being Helpful

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, April 9, 2014

BK one kind word

Listen Up! Being Helpful

Talk about a busy day! Running here, running there. I keep It’s a good thing I cancelled my appointment for a haircut this afternoon, because I am dog-tired. Packing things up at home. Running to work. Several meetings. Doing a couple of errands. Whew! At the end of the day, my feet hurt—and I wear sensible shoes.

But I honestly tried to be helpful and kind. I listened to several people today. I hope they felt my encouragement. I truly tried to show my support. One particular instance was where I needed to respond, too. I hope and pray that I communicated faithfully. As well as listen faithfully, too.

Sometimes it is helpful to just listen. But listen with intentionality. Actively listen, as I’ve been trained to do. I remember the first instance I had formal classes in this. It was in Stephen training, where I learned how to serve as a Stephen Minister. I very much enjoyed this service as a compassionate friend in Christ. I offered a listening ear to hear of someone’s spiritual, emotional and—sometimes—very real physical pain and suffering. Stephen training was excellent. My leaders and teachers communicated effectively, too. And, I felt truly supported and lifted up as I went through a difficult time in my own life, right in the middle of training. (Perhaps that was why God had me in that place at that time. Remind me to ask God about that when I see God, by and by.)

Listening is important for some people, too. I’m thinking especially of those individuals who are sometimes passed over. Ignored. Even criticized or snubbed. I try to listen to just about everyone. I really do. But God knows that I am busy from time to time. I recognize when I need to gently cut someone off. Of course, that was a bit easier when I served as a chaplain in the hospital. When the pager went off, people would well understand that I needed to go, and right away, too!

But, still. I try not to overlook people. I suspect that’s because I have felt overlooked, snubbed and ignored sometimes. Thank God that I can make time to be fully present with and for people. I can even go out of my way to show individuals that I truly care and am interested in them and their activities, their concerns, and especially their feelings.

God, thanks for always taking the time to listen to me, too. You’re never in a hurry, or stressed, or upset. You always concern Yourself with me. With my activities, and especially my feelings. Thanks for lowering my anxiety and distress, God, as well as being right by my side in the good times. You are awesome.


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Unexpected Service? Blows Me Away!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 23, 2014

begin where you are

Unexpected Service? Blows Me Away!

Another Sunday, another church service. Except, this is a new church for me. And a new position—leading worship, preaching, directing music. What a wonderful opportunity for me to be of service! I’ll need to learn all kinds of things, like names. Ministries. Preferences. And most important, I’ll need to listen. Keep my mouth shut and learn. And love. Serve, and love some more.

A big praise, because I had a great time this morning after the service, too.  Talking to all the people of the congregation, those who stayed afterwards for coffee hour, and those who needed to leave right away.  As I finished up in the church office some time after almost everyone had left (except the Korean congregation, whose service was in progress in the sanctuary), a couple knocked at the office door.

“Hello! Welcome to St. Luke’s Church,” I said. I smiled at the couple—my big, happy smile. Who is it, but a couple from the Middle East! The man spoke fairly good English. The woman could speak a little, but she wanted proper English lessons—ESL classes. They wondered whether St. Luke’s Church could point them to some place that offered ESL classes nearby. Apparently, they live only a couple of blocks from the church. When I said that I would find out more and get back to them tomorrow or by Tuesday, at the latest, they were so grateful! I am glad I would assist them, and point them in a positive direction.

I am going to call the town hall to begin with, tomorrow, and see what they might be able to tell me about ESL classes. I know I only live two suburbs over from this town, but it’s far enough so that I am not quite sure what resources are available here. I know, I’ll need to learn in a hurry! But that’s okay, since I know some helping professionals close to home. They ought to be able to give me some good tips and point me in the right direction, too. It’s an exciting prospect, to be sure!

When I was working at the hospital, I served not only as chaplain, but also as an additional pair of listening ears, as assistance in trying times or anxious times. And, on occasion, as advocate for patients and for their loved ones. This new situation is not widely different. Strikingly similar, in fact. I need to find out some information and then communicate the information to the couple. Different sort of information, but still communication. Still assisting people, no matter where it is.

God, when I asked You to show me where You might want me to serve at the beginning of January, I certainly never expected to be serving You here! In this place, in this way! God, help me serve you and serve others as best as I can. Please, God. And I know You’ll be with me, all the way. Thanks!


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Showing Love by Active Listening

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - "Swing Time"

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – “Swing Time”

Showing Love by Active Listening

I went to the gym again today. I didn’t have much time, but I started my workout anyhow. Gray, wet sloppy day outside, good day for staying inside. I happened to run into a workout friend while exercising. She and I fell into a conversation. Or rather, she talked more, and I listened. She had some genuine concerns, and I was happy to be of service. Service by listening—showing encouragement and support.

That’s one of the things I’ve been trained to do. Active listening—with an ear to hear primarily spiritual and emotional concerns, but also psychological and physical concerns, as well.  And sometimes, people just want to get things off their chests. I suspected this situation today was more like that. As a chaplain, I strive to listen to the best of my ability. In addition, I can try to be fully present with another person; this is a wonderful gift I can bring to them. People often rush here and there, in a hurry. Going too fast. No time to lose! But chaplaincy has a different orientation. Chaplaincy, by its very nature, takes its time. Slows down. Lowers anxiety and stress. Oh, yeah. Prays sometimes, too.

I have listened to individuals talk for some time. I mean, full range of emotions, from grief to anger to despair to joy. They earnestly share what is going on and where they are in their lives. And then—sometimes—their eyes connect with mine. “Thank you. Thanks for listening.” Then I might smile and say something like, “No problem,” or “I see how much that helped you,” or even “I hope that lightened your heart/spirit.” (depending on the religious orientation of my companion, of course)

Listening with an open mind and a non-judgmental spirit can be a challenge, though. I know I sometimes struggle with doing it! I know I can’t stay consistent. But I keep trying. Like the Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern song “Pick Yourself Up” from the Fred Astaire movie “Swing Time.” The lyrics I’m thinking of go like this: “I pick myself up, brush myself off, start all over again.”

Fred Astaire—actor in musical comedies of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, and one of the finest dancers in the 20th century in any genre —makes a fine example for me to follow. He always, always tried his hardest to excel at dancing. He kept trying, practicing, doing the steps or routines over and over and over again, until he made the most intricate or difficult steps look effortless.

God, is that what You want from me? Do You desire that I keep practicing active listening? Practice being fully present? Practice my craft, keep working at these chaplain’s skills again and again until they appear effortless?

(What about you? Where do you need to practice? How can you strive to listen to God?)

What a goal to shoot for! God willing, I’ll keep practicing.