In Which I Did Sunday-type Things

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, May 18, 2014

BK be kind - color

In Which I Did Sunday-type Things

Today is the day the Lord has made! Yes, today was, indeed! Not only did God make today, but this particular Sunday was a beautiful day, on top of everything. Gorgeous! Even more than awesome!

I did Sunday-type things today. I tried to rack my brains and think of something particular, or something special I did today, but nothing popped into my head. Yet, I know I attended church. I greeted every person in the congregation. I prayed, gave the brief children’s message, prayed some more, and co-led the morning service. I talked with most people in coffee hour this morning, and joined in the optional, brief bible study the church had, after service.

As I said, I was puzzling over and over about exactly how I was of service today. (How did I serve, anyway?) And after thinking hard for most of the afternoon, I could not come up with any specific instances. (Of course, I thought of situations where people were kind to me—like, for instance, the man from the church who stayed several feet away from everyone because he was afraid of passing along a bad spring cold. (even a not-so-bad spring cold!)

Of course, I used my smile quite a bit today. (If anyone has seen my photo, you know I have a friendly, open smile. And it just sort-of-naturally happens! That’s one thing God has indeed blessed me with.) However, I didn’t go out of my way to do something special for someone else.

When my daughter and I were driving in the car recently, she happened to comment on my daily posts on this blog. She wondered out loud how effective it was for me to look for kind things to do each day. I mean, praying for God to send intentional acts of service into my life. “How ‘intentional’ is that, anyway?” she asked. Great question, I responded! I told her that I really and truly tried to have these acts of service come from the heart. Not out of obligation! No!

I tried my darnedest! Never that. I was earnest when I said that kind of attitude was self-defeating. That attitude would also negate any positive, genuine, loving expression of kindness I showed. She wrinkled her nose and looked at me sideways. (Maybe it was the position she was in, riding in the passenger’s seat next to me, but still . . . ) I affirmed the fact that these acts of kindness and service are getting more and more natural. (Easier?? Um, sometimes. Maybe once in a while.)

I think I am starting to really get the hang of this kindness thing! At least, I hope so. I pray so. God, how am I doing with this intentional act of service thing, anyhow? If you could , I pray that you will allow me to find out. That would be great, God! Affirmation and confirmation for me, and continued acts of service for everyone else!

Thanks, God!

@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

Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Walking with Friends," by Carolee Clark

“Walking with Friends,” by Carolee Clark

Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

Earlier today, I happened to stop on the stairs. I had an unexpected encounter with someone from another country, and I hope I was of service.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll give a little background, and set up the story. As is my habit during the week, I went to the gym to do some stretching and cardio exercise. I had finished a good workout, and started down to the women’s locker room. Halfway down the stairs, I saw a young woman holding an open pamphlet, obviously reading intently. She looked puzzled, and frowned at the piece of paper. I slowed down, since she caught my attention. She glanced up. We smiled at each other. And that’s all it took for her to engage me in conversation.

As it turned out, she held a pamphlet that listed information about GED classes. She trustingly started pouring out her story in accented but fairly good English. She wanted to take a GED course. And then, get her GED to be more prepared to get jobs here in the Chicago area. I encouraged her, and took a look at the pamphlet with her. “Yes,” I said. “The GED class you want is at the high school, on Tuesday night.” She told me about studying English in high school, in her country of origin in South America. Again I smiled and was encouraging. “You speak English really well for taking only a couple of years of classes. I wish I could speak another language as well.” She beamed and nodded her head in gratitude for my words. She was very hesitant about English grammar, it turned out. Plus, she also was enrolled in citizenship classes. I was quite supportive. “That’s great! I wish you the best in both of your classes. God’s blessings in this new year, too.” She smiled even more widely. She wanted to know my name. Elizabeth, I told her. She readily gave me her name. I think I made a new friend!

This is not an isolated incident. I guess I have that kind of appearance that makes me approachable. People come up to me on the street, or when I’m stopped at a stop light. They’ll roll down their window and tell me they’re lost. And, ask directions. Or when I’m standing in line at a grocery store they’ll engage me in conversation. Tell me about personal details of their lives. Believe me, it happens! (My family is endlessly amused, and say that I have that kind of face. Or chaplainly air. Or something.)

In preparation for this year of service, I’ve prayed specifically to be open and willing, each day. As subtext to my month’s service, for January, the verse I have chosen is Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” I think I was kind to this sweet young woman. She and I made a genuine connection. And—I pray that I was of service.

@chaplaineliza