Being a Chaplain, and Being Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, April 14, 2014

PRAY God can hear you

Being a Chaplain, and Being Kind

You never know when stuff will happen, or opportunities present themselves. In the midst of major cleaning and getting things ready for the carpet guys to come to our place tomorrow, I was really busy with sorting, packing, and schlepping stuff downstairs to the basement.

While I was involved in all this commotion, I talked with two recent acquaintances today, too. One told me of several hospitalizations that happened to the other, within the last few months. About the surgeries on the extremity, and pus coming out repeatedly. Pretty scary stuff!

It all involved a cut on a lower extremity, the cut getting infected, and what happened after that. Yucky, scary, creepy chain of events. The infection just wouldn’t go away, even after repeated hospitalizations and heavy-duty antibiotics. The three of us talked a little about these super-bacteria, resistant to even the most powerful drugs and—specifically—antibiotics. The infectious disease doctors are starting to warn the public about these super-bugs, even.

I haven’t been in a hospital or care center for a number of weeks now. (Even though my Twitter handle and my name I go by on wordpress.com are both @chaplaineliza.) However, these two acquaintances didn’t seem to notice. Or care.

They spoke to me at length and opened up about several things. But one thing stuck in my mind—the hospitalization. So much so, I felt the urge to pray for this dear one, and I acted on it. I followed God’s leading.

As I have done many times in the past, I asked my acquaintance if I could pray, and if it would weird either of them out. They both laughed, and said of course I could. My second follow-up question was “Would you like me to pray with you right now, or would you like me to do it in the afternoon tomorrow?” Right now was fine.

We stood there and prayed. Holding hands. I was conscious that this practice was unusual for my acquaintance, so I hurried my prayer along. (I don’t think God minded. In fact, I suspect God totally understood.) As I closed my prayer “in the healing, powerful name of Jesus,” I felt a gentle peace, a right-ness. Somehow, this dear acquaintance and I were in the right place, at the proper time. Or something like that. I am not sure quite what God had in mind when I prayed, but I have the strong sensation that God was pleased. Not pleased about the repeated operations and the other creepy things that happened, but about the two of us getting together and praying. Coming before our God and calling out our hurts, our victories, our fears.

Thank God that I am not calling out into some dull lifeless blog. No, You have promised to be with me, all the way. And your have promised to be with my acquaintance, too. Great job, God!

@chaplaineliza

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Filling Hungry Stomachs? Being Kind! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog –Friday, March 21, 2014

help local food pantries

Filling Hungry Stomachs? Being Kind!

This month of March has five Saturdays. That means St. Peter’s UCC Church in Skokie is getting ready to prepare and serve a hot dinner for the Community Kitchen at A Just Harvest! Yes, every month with a fifth Saturday is St. Peter’s turn to serve. The pastor, Rev . Richard Lanford, along with the food coordinator Sue Bailey and the volunteer/server coordinator Beth Lanford, facilitate the ministry at the church to fill hungry stomachs in Chicago.

This partnership with A Just Harvest has been active for 30 years. Years ago, the congregation at St. Peter’s Church supplied a hot meal for the Kitchen once a month. Now, they still serve, but not as often. Every fifth Saturday. And what is served to these hungry people? A hot meal, including bread, cookies and something nourishing to drink. Recently, it’s been sloppy joes. Ground beef mixed with onions, celery, pepper, sweet relish, and a whole host of different spices. (Makes me hungry just thinking about it!)

But, just what is “A Just Harvest,” anyway?

This ministry gives people an additional resource against hunger. It’s located in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Formerly known as Good News Community Kitchen, A Just Harvest was founded by the Good News Community Church in Chicago and First Congregational Church of Wilmette. These two congregations began serving a weekly meal – each contributing food and volunteers. By 1991, A Just Harvest was serving dinner seven nights a week. They are partners with more than 35 religious congregations and community organizations.

A Just Harvest makes certain that—on most any night—as many as 200 people (mostly from the city of Chicago, but also from the Chicagoland area) are fed and get enough to eat. The most the volunteers have served on a particular night is 229! But those numbers don’t tell the full story. A Just Harvest is there, in Rogers Park, for people from all walks of life. Many and varied reasons exist for people to suddenly become homeless. This ministry is here for anyone from any walk of life. People can be confronted by choices: the choice between paying the rent, or putting food on the table. Or, paying for necessary medication, and getting enough to eat.

This ministry is also involved in various other kinds of good works. They provide things that homeless people or people who have lost their jobs really need! What about workers, who don’t make quite enough to carry them through until the next paycheck? (The ones whose jobs don’t pay enough to cover basic needs?) Plus, providing for children who are either in poverty, or almost to that poverty line, displays God’s provision and encouragement.

St. Peter’s congregation members and friends serve dinner, true. But they do a whole lot more, just by faithfully showing up. Thank God for faithful congregations like St. Peter’s! And, God bless A Just Harvest, their staff and clients, And may God bless the many good, kind gifts the ministry receives every day.

@chaplaineliza

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Showing Love? Self-Care, Of Course!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, February 17, 2014

winter_glow_-_etsy

Showing Love? Self-Care, Of Course!

The last few days have been tough. Really challenging for me, in several ways, including what I suspect is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Makes me hardly feel like slogging through the day, right now. In addition, what do I think of the continuing wintry weather today and the snow coming down almost all day? It’s the cherry on top of an ice cream (or, if you prefer, an icy) confection. Or perhaps, the icing on top of an ice cream cake, with extra snowy sprinkles.

I met with my marvelous therapist this afternoon. (And yes, our conversation was private and personal, and I’m not sharing it with anyone in a public forum like this. Sorry about that.) What I would like to focus on is the self-care aspect of seeing my therapist. As soon as I walk into his home office, I feel myself begin to unwind and become less tense. Today was no different. Today, he and I together dug up some interesting and potentially valuable insights into my life and experience.  And yes, I felt cared for at the end of my session, both by my therapist as well as by me. Self-care.

I started thinking about possible verses in the Bible that might refer to self-care. Lo and behold, I found several! One that really hit home today was Matthew 11:28, where Jesus says “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Check, and check. I do feel weary and burdened. And, I also feel like hibernating and not coming out until spring. When I feel this way, acts of service to others are not the first thing that leaps to the forefront of my mind. Gosh, it’s a good thing I have that invitation from God to come into God’s presence every day.

But my day of self-care wasn’t over. After the session with my therapist, I went to the YMCA. For the past two months, I have started to go to a gentle yoga and stretching class. (That’s what it’s called—Gentle Yoga and Stretching. Not quite euphonious, but certainly descriptive.)  A major difficulty was the weather. Because of the blowing snow and the snarled traffic on the streets, not too many people came to the yoga class. But I was there! And, so was the teacher, and a handful of other students. The simple and straight-forward yoga poses we were urged to try made me feel alive and invigorated. And the teacher’s calm, soothing voice made me feel welcome and comfortable.

As I finished changing in the locker room and left the Y, I was much more centered and content. And just imagine, I am invited to access that same contentment and peace that I felt at the end of yoga. I can feel the same welcome that I did just be coming into the home office of my therapist. Self-care! And You’ll help me with that, too, God.

Dear God, thanks for the reminder that I need to slow down each day, and perhaps even stop outright. And try a little self-care, too.

@chaplaineliza

Being Kind Through Forgiveness

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

forgive others

Being Kind Through Forgiveness

Have you ever suddenly realized something serious? I mean, deep down significant? Yup. That happened to me today.

This afternoon I talked with someone I sincerely respect and appreciate. I was going on and on (as I sometimes tend to do when excited and/or emotional), and my friend pointed out something significant. She summarized what I had said and then lifted up the pertinent point. I mean, the thing practically bit me on the nose, it was so obvious. I needed to forgive, badly. I couldn’t hold on to that resentment any longer.

Awestruck, I sat there for a moment or two, and then I thanked my friend. Newly resurfaced, the thing was bobbing around at the top of my mind. Not that I was gnawing on it regularly, but something caused the thing to resurface last week after a long time of not thinking about it. I vividly had the realization that resentment was curdling inside of me like extremely sour milk. (Eww!!) Again suddenly, I realized I had been holding that awful, nasty feeling inside of me for many, many months. I had to let it go.

For this blog, the verse I have been focusing on for the month of January is Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” I’ve spoken a lot about being kind and tenderhearted to one another already. But I haven’t said anything about the second half of this verse. Until now. I need to forgive others. I mean, I really need to forgive, because God has forgiven me. I can think of three distinct times (there are more, of course) in the Gospels where Jesus specifically deals with forgiveness. (The three times I have in mind are two parables and in the Lord’s Prayer). Yes, Lord. You’ve got me. Right between the eyes. Guilty as charged.

I received abundant, loving forgiveness from God for my many faults and flaws, for sins of commission and omission. Therefore, I need to freely turn around and forgive. Any personal, practical outworking of God’s forgiveness in my life will be realized as I actively forgive others. Yes, Lord. Intellectually, I know this truth. I even have experienced it, on any number of occasions. However, this half-forgotten thing in my life was secretly curdling on some inner, recessed pantry shelf. On my insides, deep within. Pulling it out of my memory last week was just the beginning. When I discussed it today with my friend, I received some relief. Going further and acknowledging it to God will bring me further peace of mind. Taking that additional step of asking forgiveness of God and releasing that horrid resentment will bring me serenity. Then and only then, will I experience serenity and peace first with God (most important), with others, and (also significant) with myself.

I suppose today I was kind to myself. Not that I have completely forgiven the situation. No, but I’ve taken several steps towards forgiveness. I’ve started; I am halfway there. <deep sigh> Thanks, God.

@chaplaineliza