God Made Each of Us Special (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, October 20, 2017

I happened on this older blog post. I was so struck by several things in it that I couldn’t help reposting it as a #BestOf post. Yes, we are all incredibly special to God. Each one of us, no matter who, no matter what. No matter the ability, no matter how differently-abled each person is. Even if someone has a hurtful self-blaming internal monologue in their head, it does not matter to God. Each of us is, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made.

 

God Made Each of Us Special (Feature Friday!)

Posted on September 20, 2014 by chaplaineliza

fearfully wonderfully made Psa 139

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, September 19, 2014

God Made Each of Us Special (Feature Friday!)

Ever have a line from a song play over and over in your head, almost like it was on an endless loop? Yeah. That happened to me the other day. It usually bothers me a lot, but not necessarily this time. The particular line was from the gospel song “Something Special” written by Bill and Gloria Gaither. “God made you something special/You’re the only one of your kind.” It’s hard to get mad at a song if it has lyrics like that.

What triggered it was a blog post I saw earlier this week from a blogging friend of mine from New Zealand, Barry Pearman. In his blog Turning The Page on September 16th, he talked about how God had each one of us in mind when God created us. Formed us inside of our mothers, and crafted each part of us. Barry says, “Often I think about . . . the fact that God knows every one of us on a deeply intimate level. We are not a commodity product, a resource to managed, a number on a spreadsheet. You as an individual are of incredible value to God.”

Wow. I’ll say it again—wow! How many people today do not think they are valuable? Do not think they matter? And, do not think God cares about them? I would say that many people are in this sad, lonely situation. Barry mentioned the “internal bully” that tries to interfere and intimidate people into accepting their negative, internal self-monologue. Oh, do I connect with that!

Barry’s inspirational blog has the uplifting theme of assisting people with mental health. “Your own or others,” as the synopsis says. Plus, near the top of the blog—in the right side margin—Barry is featuring a post called “6 Keys to Helping Someone Who is Suicidal.” In this month of September, where mental health, suicide prevention and the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) are highlighted in so many places, I also wanted to lift up Barry, his wonderful work, and his positive, nurturing blog post featuring Jeremiah 1:5 and Luke 12:6-7.

I remember the prophet Jeremiah, and the good and gracious words God spoke to him in Chapter 1: “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.” So, we come back to the idea that each of us—every one of us—is special. Valued. Yes, Jeremiah had problems in life, but he knew that God was walking right beside him.

It doesn’t matter whether you or I walk beside each other on the path each day, or journey alongside of someone who is hurting—mentally as well as physically or spiritually. We can still help each other to carry burdens. My verse for September is applicable, too: Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Yes, I want to come alongside of people. Yes, we can ease each other’s burdens. And yes, I want to communicate God’s love, encouragement and support.

– See more at Barry’s blog: http://turningthepage.info/mind/#sthash.rORNc5Dx.dpuf

@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 meditation journey through Pentecost and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

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

Being Kind—at a Funeral Home (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year!” Except—when it isn’t. Reading over this post from last December, I am thinking of all of those who are feeling sad. Grieving. Feeling lonely. All the fears and anxieties and depressions and sadnesses, all getting in the way of the holiday holly-jolly. This is for anyone who is feeling that way, today. Or, in case you know someone who is not feeling happy and festive, today.

 

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, December 18, 2014

winter road at night

Being Kind—at a Funeral Home

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—“ except when it’s not.

Yes, it’s just a week before the “big day.” Yes, I drove past a large shopping mall on the way home this afternoon (against my better judgment). I did not see a single empty parking place in the parking lot from my vantage point, driving by. Yes, the children at the preschool were excitedly talking about Christmas coming soon. “Is it tomorrow?” “Is it the next day?” And, I know the teachers patiently go through the calendar, counting the days until Christmas. “Next Thursday. We have a week until then.”

But it isn’t beginning to look much like Christmas for a good friend of mine, and their whole family. They have lost a dear, senior loved one earlier this week. This afternoon, and evening? The viewing. The wake. I went to the funeral home so I could be there for my friend.

So incongruous. Frenetic, anxiety-laden, rush-rush. Mad, frantic preparations for the holidays. (It doesn’t particularly matter whether the holidays people celebrate are Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, or Kwanzaa.) And then—to have a loved one die in the middle of all of that? As I said, so incongruous. It’s the holidays! There isn’t supposed to be any death, or sickness, or fighting, or negative emotions, or negativity of any kind. Not now.

But, life doesn’t work that way.

So, I took the sad opportunity to be kind to my friend. To offer my condolences on the passing of this sweet senior. To be with my friend for at least a little while.

I reflected, later on, that this is exactly why there is a Christmas. So we could have hope, in something much better and much greater than we could possibly imagine. Yes, it’s very sad to us, here. Yes, people are grieving, right now. And yes, people are rejoicing in new life, the life to come, with God.

I don’t want to say this too loudly, in case I step on the toes of someone who is grieving, sad and even angry right now. But—I look forward to a merry Christmas. Quietly, looking forward. Expectant. Quietly.

@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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)


When I’m Reminded to Give It Away (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Another day of service, another opportunity to be kind. I can be kind in all sorts of situations, including the library. Take a read, and find out how.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, May 19, 2014

dancing dancing

When I’m Reminded to Give It Away

Giving it away—doing things joyfully, for others. Being kind, caring and helpful, to others—that’s what I am trying to do!

However, I have a problem. It’s ME. I carry myself around each day, between my ears. I concentrate on myself, I am self-centered, and even selfish, from time to time. (Well, maybe even more often than that.) Some days—nights, too—it gets a bit old. Or unbearable. I feel badly, as I realize it yet again.

Wait a minute. Isn’t this my Year of Being Kind? Whatever happened to 365 Days of Service?

Oh, I almost forgot. My negative, self-centered state of mind is part and parcel of the human condition. Looking out for number one! That’s me. I freely admit it. (Don’t we all think—and sometimes act—like this, from time to time?) That kind of negative, selfish state of mind is part of the reason why I wanted to try to look for intentional acts of service to do each day. If I think about doing things for another person, I have the opportunity to get off the hamster wheel of self-importance. Serving others gets me out of my own head. Not that this is a sure-fire way to get off the merry-go-round of endless quid pro quo, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. But being kind certainly goes a long way towards eradicating that kind of negativity.

I heard an acquaintance of mine talking about this very thing, earlier today. Being kind, with no strings attached. Why is that so difficult? Oh, yeah. The negative, self-centered thing. (Some might even call it ‘sin.’) Whatever it’s called, if I practice getting out of myself, being kind becomes easier. And easier.

This afternoon, I went to the library and asked the children’s librarian for help in choosing some recent picture books. I’m getting ready to read to the preschoolers tomorrow. (Tuesday is reading day!) So, I was gearing up to be kind. To be of service. She was so helpful, knowing which books were recently released. And, I really enjoyed going through some possible books and deciding which ones would be good to read. (I love children’s books with innovative illustrations and engaging stories!)

So—an enjoyable afternoon? Talking with a librarian-lady who obviously loved her subject material? And, choosing books that I hope will be amusing and engaging for the children? All wonderful things. And the best part is that I didn’t get caught up inside my own head and my mental hamster wheel once. Not one single time! All in all, I think this was a good day for being kind.

Thanks for the good ideas, God!

@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 Be Kind, While Standing in Line

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, December 20, 2014

when someone is nasty

How to Be Kind, While Standing in Line

I stood in line two times today. And I mean, in serious lines.

First, at the post office. I mailed a Christmas present to one of my relatives in another city. I stood in line outside the post office as I waited for the door to open, first thing this morning. And then (because I was not the first one in line outside), I waited longer inside.

However, mostly because it was in our small, local post office, people were generally very nice. Nice to the postal worker behind the counter—who is a long-time worker at our post office, and a super nice guy. Also, nice to each other—and comfortable talking with one another, even though people weren’t acquainted before waiting in line together.

So, yes. I did end up waiting a total of twenty minutes at the post office. The time I spent there was pleasant and genial. Altogether, a nice experience.

I also waited in line at the bank. I had some banking business to transact this morning, and it was helpful for me to interact with a teller. However—there was only one teller inside at the window. Moreover, she not only had to wait on people in line, she also needed to handle the customers outside, in the drive-up lane. It was between 11:30 and noon, on the Saturday morning before Christmas.

Whoever came up with that for an employee allocation plan? Finally—another employee came over to the teller windows and started helping the bank customers. But that was after I had been in line some twenty minutes.

I could tell that the fellow people waiting in line at the bank were getting short-tempered. The atmosphere was completely different from that at the post office. Not pleasant. Not genial.

I decided to start talking. In my friendly way (similar to the way I interacted at the post office earlier today), I made several general comments to the people around me. Talking about how busy it was outside, and how long the lines must be at the post offices on the Saturday before Christmas. The two people behind me warmed to the subject. We talked for a bit. Just before I went up to see the teller, I looked back in line. Eleven people behind me.

Good grief. I ended up waiting in a stark, somber bank line for more than thirty minutes. Here’s hoping those behind me had a better experience after I left.

So often, people decide to react in either a positive or a negative way. The line at the post office was a positive experience. I hope I made the lengthy wait at the bank a little more bearable for a few people. Using my chaplainly, pastoral care skills, I think I did. God willing.

@chaplaineliza

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

Being Kind—at a Funeral Home

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, December 18, 2014

winter pathway

Being Kind—at a Funeral Home

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—“ except when it’s not.

Yes, it’s just a week before the “big day.” Yes, I drove past a large shopping mall on the way home this afternoon (against my better judgment). I did not see a single empty parking place in the parking lot from my vantage point, driving by. Yes, the children at the preschool were excitedly talking about Christmas coming soon. “Is it tomorrow?” “Is it the next day?” And, I know the teachers patiently go through the calendar, counting the days until Christmas. “Next Thursday. We have a week until then.”

But it isn’t beginning to look much like Christmas for a good friend of mine, and their whole family. They have lost a dear, senior loved one earlier this week. This afternoon, and evening? The viewing. The wake. I went to the funeral home so I could be there for my friend.

So incongruous. Frenetic, anxiety-laden, rush-rush. Mad, frantic preparations for the holidays. (It doesn’t particularly matter whether the holidays people celebrate are Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, or Kwanzaa.) And then—to have a loved one die in the middle of all of that? As I said, so incongruous. It’s the holidays! There isn’t supposed to be any death, or sickness, or fighting, or negative emotions, or negativity of any kind. Not now.

But, life doesn’t work that way.

So, I took the sad opportunity to be kind to my friend. To offer my condolences on the passing of this sweet senior. To be with my friend for at least a little while.

I reflected, later on, that this is exactly why there is a Christmas. So we could have hope, in something much better and much greater than we could possibly imagine. Yes, it’s very sad to us, here. Yes, people are grieving, right now. And yes, people are rejoicing in new life, the life to come, with God.

I don’t want to say this too loudly, in case I step on the toes of someone who is grieving, sad and even angry right now. But—I look forward to a merry Christmas. Quietly, looking forward. Expectant. Quietly.

@chaplaineliza

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In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

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

Blue Christmas tree

In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult for many people, for many reasons. I did a good deal of planning today. Preparing the order of service for a very special, alternative Christmas service next Monday night.

I don’t know whether you might have heard of a “Blue Christmas” service. Perhaps by another name? The Longest Night service? A service held either on or close to the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time.

The custom of holding Blue Christmas services has been growing over the past ten years. The name refers to the loneliness, sadness and grieving people sometimes experience during the holiday season. Many people consider the holidays to be such a “happy, joyous time.” However, holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

This will be a subdued Blue Christmas service, on Monday, Dec. 22 with quiet music, reflective readings, a brief time for silent contemplation, community candle-lighting, and a reflection from me (as one of the service leaders). My good friend Chaplain Sarah is going to co-lead this service with me. (Thank you so much, Sarah!)

I know very well that there have been years when I have dreaded the holidays. When this whole season of the year was just a time to be endured, a time to grieve, a time to hold on by my fingernails. Yes, I have anxious, fearful, recurring memories of those holiday seasons. (And, yes. There were more than one holiday season when I felt this way.)

So, I want to offer this Blue Christmas service as an opportunity for those among us who are having a difficult time. Or, who have recently been through something negative and traumatic. Or, who are especially feeling the loss of someone dear at this time of the year. This is a time and place—a space where people can gather together in a refuge from the festivities and “jollity” of the season. And, a place where such sad, anxious, negative, grieving feelings can be brought out into the open. God willing, validated, and expressed.

“The most wonderful time of the year?” For some people? No, not really. Sorry. Maybe next year.

(This Blue Christmas service will be held at St. Luke’s Christian Community Church on Monday, Dec. 22 at 7:00 pm. The church is located at 9233 Shermer in Morton Grove, Illinois, and is fully handicapped accessible. Just in case this information is helpful to anyone. God’s gentle blessings at this sometimes-difficult time of the year.)

@chaplaineliza

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Get Ready, Set—to Be of Service!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, December 10, 2014

winter road

Get Ready, Set—to Be of Service!

I’m getting ready. Yes, I am getting ready for a bunch of things in these next few days. Getting ready for the little Sunday school program at our church on Sunday, getting ready for the open house I’ll be hosting this weekend, getting ready for the upcoming Advent and Christmas Eve services. Even getting ready for my own, personal family Christmas celebration here at home. (Although, that is taking less of a priority right now.) Just several more in the list of things that need to be done, or checked off, or marked as completed. Little by little, I am accomplishing a good deal.

All this getting ready is exciting, enervating, and a little bit nerve-wracking. A lot of thinking work, and some writing and preparation, and some contacting people by telephone and email. Yes, it’s important. And to add to the mix, I am still the church pastor. I need to check on the shut-ins, and see how they are doing, just as I usually do. Yes, their families usually check on them during the holidays, too. But I would very much like to see whether I might be able to stop by each home, during Advent.

One service that is especially on my heart this time of year is the Blue Christmas service. What is a Blue Christmas service, you ask? I’m glad you asked!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult to many people, for many reasons. That’s why St. Luke’s Christian Community Church is offering a Blue Christmas service on Monday, Dec. 22—an alternative Christmas service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time. Holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

I am just finalizing the features of this special service, and I would like to ask for prayer and good, positive thoughts to be sent to St. Luke’s Church, and to those leading the quiet, reflective Blue Christmas service that evening.

I hope, I pray that all of our services are welcoming to those who attend. God willing, may it be so!

@chaplaineliza

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When I’m Reminded to Give It Away

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, May 19, 2014

dancing dancing

When I’m Reminded to Give It Away

Giving it away—doing things joyfully, for others. Being kind, caring and helpful, to others—that’s what I am trying to do!

However, I have a problem. It’s ME. I carry myself around each day, between my ears. I concentrate on myself, I am self-centered, and even selfish, from time to time. (Well, maybe even more often than that.) Some days—nights, too—it gets a bit old. Or unbearable. I feel badly, as I realize it yet again.

Wait a minute. Isn’t this my Year of Being Kind? Whatever happened to 365 Days of Service?

Oh, I almost forgot. My negative, self-centered state of mind is part and parcel of the human condition. Looking out for number one! That’s me. I freely admit it. (Don’t we all think—and sometimes act—like this, from time to time?) That kind of negative, selfish state of mind is part of the reason why I wanted to try to look for intentional acts of service to do each day. If I think about doing things for another person, I have the opportunity to get off the hamster wheel of self-importance. Serving others gets me out of my own head. Not that this is a sure-fire way to get off the merry-go-round of endless quid pro quo, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. But being kind certainly goes a long way towards eradicating that kind of negativity.

I heard an acquaintance of mine talking about this very thing, earlier today. Being kind, with no strings attached. Why is that so difficult? Oh, yeah. The negative, self-centered thing. (Some might even call it ‘sin.’) Whatever it’s called, if I practice getting out of myself, being kind becomes easier. And easier.

This afternoon, I went to the library and asked the children’s librarian for help in choosing some recent picture books. I’m getting ready to read to the preschoolers tomorrow. (Tuesday is reading day!) So, I was gearing up to be kind! To be of service. She was so helpful, knowing which books were recently released. And, I really enjoyed going through some possible books and deciding which ones would be good to read. (I love children’s books with innovative illustrations and engaging stories!)

So—an enjoyable afternoon? Talking with a librarian-lady who obviously loved her subject material? And, choosing books that I hope will be amusing and engaging for the children? All wonderful things! And the best part is that I didn’t get caught up inside my own head and my mental hamster wheel once. Not one single time! All in all, I think this was a good day for being kind.

Thanks for the good ideas, God!

@chaplaineliza

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

Teaching—No, Showing How to Be Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 13, 2014

sending love

Teaching—No, Showing How to Be Kind

De-cluttering is almost always a good idea. I can do with some de-cluttering around here. As I sit in my cluttered living room, I look around and sigh. Yes, I ought to give things away, to Salvation Army thrift stores, or just plain toss some stuff. The same with the other rooms in my house. I won’t even think of the storage space.

What brings this to mind? A few days ago, I was helping a friend of mine go through some of his things. Mostly, he wanted to go through some papers and files. Sorting, to throw away, re-file, or shred. However, he also wanted to de-clutter his place. Get rid of some items, take them to the thrift store. He and I had an enjoyable afternoon. As he went through things, he told me some fascinating stories. We laughed, cleaned, and talked some more. And his apartment was less full of stuff, at the end of the afternoon.

This reminds me of my life (not just my apartment, either!). My spiritual and emotional life need to be de-cluttered from time to time, too. I get the feeling that God likes order. Just looking at creation and how much natural structure, order and reasonability are in this world, this seems to be an inescapable conclusion.

So, my apartment needs de-cluttering. Yes, and I can get rid of one thing every day. That way, at the end of a month, I will have disposed of thirty things. Taken them out of my living space, as well as out of my life. But what about my mind? My mental space? Certainly, that space needs some attention, too. My mind can be cluttered up with worry, frustration, fear, even despair or hatred. These negative emotions can weigh me down. Or, they can distract me from the serious, or useful, or delightful thoughts that otherwise would naturally occur in my mind.

But I want to go back to my friend. One of the things he wanted to give away was a yoga mat. I admired it. (The mat is very well made!) However, I didn’t expect the next words out of his mouth—he told me to take the mat and bring it to my son. My son is a junior in high school. When I came home from my friend’s place, I showed my teenager the mat. His eyes got really big, because apparently I brought home a high quality, super-special  yoga mat.

Yes, my son was very grateful. Problem: he wanted me to bring the message to my friend. But independently, both my husband and I urged my son to write a brief thank-you note. My son (and my daughters, too, for that matter) see me writing notes, sending snail mail, communicating with real notecards and greeting cards. (“When you care enough to send the very best.”)  My son actually agreed to send a notecard I had in a file drawer, with a personalized message. Talk about teaching by example? Yes, in both my case and my husband’s, too. What a kind thing to do. No matter when or where.

@chaplaineliza

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