Reciprocal Kindness and Blessing Happen!

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Saturday, February 21, 2015

I try to be a blessing to others. I hope and pray to serve in God’s name, every day. Here in this post, I receive a blessing! Such a big blessing, believe me. It warms my heart, just remembering it. See what I mean.

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

blessing much more

Reciprocal Kindness and Blessing Happen!

Another week, another Sunday. Another service. But this week was a bit different. I played the piano again for two senior residences. My loving, willing act of service today involved playing music for the seniors. Yes, I was acting as music leader for the services. But it was more than that—God did a wonderful job of divine coordination with a number of people, and especially with the special music I had chosen. It’s so awesome to watch God show up! God was all over today’s two services.

The scripture passage for this morning was from the gospel of John, chapter 7. It featured Jesus, at the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. He made the revolutionary statement “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (vv. 37-38)

Earlier in the week, I was asked by Chaplain Sarah to play special music before the sermon. I didn’t have an opportunity to get back to her with the title of the music I had prepared. This wasn’t a huge deal, I knew. The service would continue without the music title. I mentioned to Chaplain Sarah before the first service of the morning that I would be playing “I’ve Got Peace like a River.” She paused while getting ready for the beginning of the service and looked at me. “That will be perfect with the scripture and sermon today.”  And it was! I did my best on the arrangement of the spiritual, and Chaplain Sarah had an opportunity to tie in the sermon with the lyrics: ”I’ve got peace like a river,” “I’ve got joy like a fountain” and “I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.” As believers, we do have the peace, joy and love of Christ flowing as living waters from within each of us. Truly, my choice of music was a God-incidence, as my good friend Pastor Joe says.

But that’s not all. Yes, I did play the piano. And it was good to be not only useful with the gifts I have been given, but joyful to be a blessing to the seniors as I played service music for the assembled worshippers. The icing on my cake today came from one dear senior at the second service (at the second retirement home of the morning).

After I had finished a selection of older hymns and gospel songs for the postlude, the common room was almost empty. Just a few older people were left to go back to their rooms (actually, to go back for lunch). This particular dear, aged senior came up to Chaplain Sarah, about a dozen feet from me at the piano. She thanked both of us in her decided manner, taking great care to pronounce each word in her precise way. And then—she blessed us. Blessed us for our ministry. Blessed us both for leading the service. Blessed us with good health and all happiness. We both sincerely thanked her, and we continued to clear the room.

I needed to leave, but I thanked this senior again as I went out, past the elevator. This was not an occurrence that I would brush off lightly. I will hold this dear woman’s blessings close to my heart. Thank You, God. Thank You for the opportunity to be of service. And thank You for unexpected blessings.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

Being Kind, with an Assist from a Football Game

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, November 9, 2014

BK life is short-be kind

Being Kind, with an Assist from a Football Game

This was a busy day for me. Every Sunday is full. No Sabbath rest for me, no sir! I need to find another way to take a Sabbath. But more about that in another post.

After Sunday service, a piano lesson, and a brief stop at a store, I went to visit a family at a care center. I had the opportunity to talk at length with two family members. One, in particular. A pro football game played in the background while we talked. One, or the other, or both of us would check out the game while we were in serious conversation. It was a good time. I think I might even say it was a relaxed time.

As the fourth quarter ticked down, the game heated up. The family member asked me whether I enjoyed football. Sure, I said! Except I hadn’t watched much pro football for over ten years. Probably even twenty. College ball, yes. But not pro ball. However—the game drew us both in. As I said, I had no loyalty to either team playing. But, I enjoyed a hard-fought contest! That it certainly was. Good game. Well played, by most everyone concerned, too.

Yes, I bonded with the family member before I started to really pay attention to the game. We had some deep conversation, and talked about serious matters. I very much appreciated our talk and the time we had together. However—the time where the football game took center stage? That was a different time of bonding. I did enjoy watching that game in company with both family members.

After the game, I had a time just talking with their loved one in the care center. I prayed, too. That time was special to me.

As people journey on this path through life, sometimes there are bumps. Sometimes smooth—steady as she goes. But always interesting. Always something going on, no matter how big, no matter how insignificant.

May God bless this dear family. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

 

@chaplaineliza

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Looking Ahead, Serving with Enthusiasm!

A Year of Being Kind blog –Sunday, March 16, 2014

THANK thank you God

Looking Ahead, Serving with Enthusiasm!

What a difference a day makes! Or, a few days, in this case. Today, I started serving in an interim position at a church in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove. My arrival there was providential, to say the least. (I am sure I will say more about it, in the days ahead.) I am looking forward to a wonderful time of service.

One of my new responsibilities at the church is serving as interim music director. (They have a lovely digital piano!) I enjoyed playing the piano for the congregation this morning. I have been doing that on a periodic basis for two retirement centers in Chicago, about once a month. I’m sad to leave that part-time ministry, but happy and excited to move into a new, more varied one. Yes, I did active service today, by leading music, playing the piano, and praying in the church. I tried to be a blessing to the congregation.

Later today, I reconsidered the verse I’ve chosen for March, for this blog. It comes from Ephesians 6:7. “Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women.”  When I consider my new position, I am energized! Excited! May I say—enthusiastic? I think, yes.

I talked with one of my wonderful relatives this afternoon, who rejoiced with me over my new position. She has worked in corporate business for several decades. (She is wise in the ways of business and savvy in interpersonal communication, from a fast-paced, cut-to-the-chase orientation. So useful, and so appreciated!)  She often gives excellent advice. Today was no different. Her thoughtful, to-the-point words struck home with me. She said, “Whenever I go into a new management situation, I always tell myself that I will try to actively like all the members of my management team. Working together is always easier and smoother when we like each other.”

Wow, God. Such an excellent piece of advice! I can see how important this is. If I like, respect and, in a Christian context, pray for people I work with, work will always go more easily and smoothly. I knew this piece of advice said in a little different kind of way. I remember one of my seminary professors telling us to pray for the congregation, and invite the congregation to pray for us, as church leaders. Regular prayer helps me like them, and even love them. Which is what God commands, by the way. (And it’s really difficult to actively dislike someone I’m regularly praying for, besides.)

This is going to be a busy week. I have a conference to attend for several days (for my certificate for Alcohol and Drug Counseling, or CADC). And since it’s Lent, I need to prepare a brief service for Wednesday night, on top of everything else. Busy, busy! But God, I know You will be right there next to me. Thanks for this new adventure! And thanks for the assurance that “whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.”

@chaplaineliza

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Render Service, Express Love

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 9, 2014

LOVE love God love people

Render Service, Express Love

I enjoy preaching—in fact, I love it! I have for more than ten years. But how did I start preaching to begin with? I’ll need to go back to spring of 2003, when I was chosen to be one of the chaplain interns at a large senior residence (with full continuum of care) in the suburbs north of Chicago. The director of chaplaincy was very pleased to have me as an intern starting that fall, but he cautioned me. I would need to take a course in preaching, that summer, if possible. Why, you ask? Because the chaplain interns had regular preaching responsibilities in the weekly Sunday morning health care services as well as the weekly Wednesday afternoon Hymns and Devotions. I preached over forty sermons in those thirteen months I served as a chaplain intern. (!!)

In retrospect, it really was no surprise that I found I loved preaching. I enjoyed poring over the Scripture passage, praying for inspiration on what direction the sermon ought to take, carefully crafting the message like the wordsmith that I am. And then, the delivery? That’s awesome, too! When I lead in worship, I use many of the gifts and graces God has given me. (More, if I prepare the bulletin, plan the order of worship, and play either piano or organ.) And, I get a strong sense that God is deeply pleased with me and my service.

I served again, today. I was asked to preach and lead worship at two retirement homes in Chicago. I feel a real tenderness and affection for these dear seniors. I’ve been preaching at both places about once a month for approximately two years now. Seeing these dear people on a fairly regular basis cements the warm, loving feelings in my heart. Yes, there is some change of residents, and some people who are doing rehab or are at the residences for only a period of time. But by and large, many of them continue to attend the Sunday morning services each week.

Today, as I spoke to one lovely senior after the service, she told me she had been praying for me. (I was so touched! Imagine!) For several months, she had been praying for God to find an extra-good place for me to serve and minister. I teared up a bit and thanked her with overflowing gratitude in my heart. As we stood side by side, she said, “I love you,” and leaned her head towards mine. My response? “Oh, I love you, too!” I leaned my head towards her, too. We stood next to each other, gently being with each other for a few long seconds.

Intellectually, I know that my ministry touches hearts and minds. But today was extra-special. Yes, my sermon was good. (I had great material to work with—the raising of Lazarus!) This touching exchange with this extra-dear senior will stay with me, for a long time. God, I am amazed at how wonderful ministry to Your people truly is. Thank You for the opportunity and the calling to minister.

@chaplaineliza

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Showing Love with a Smile

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, February 25, 2014

smiley ball

Showing Love with a Smile

I was intentionally kind to a few people today! Including two workers at the YMCA this morning, several acquaintances, and two strangers. However, those incidences of being kind are not sticking in my mind as much as a situation two days ago. I already wrote about something that happened at the end of the morning, when I played the piano for two services at two different retirement homes. But the situation I’ll feature in today’s post? Just will not get out of my head. So, I’ll talk about it in this space.

At the first retirement center, I arrived some minutes early for the service. In plenty of time to play several familiar hymns for a prelude.  After checking with Chaplain Sarah, the preacher and service leader for the morning, I went to the piano to put down my music and prepare the hymnals. One of the dear seniors—with a walker—slowly entered the chapel. As she shuffled in, I could see one of the center’s employees gently directing the senior to the one of the empty, waiting chairs. The employee gave her some friendly encouragement, trying to cut through the veil of encroaching dementia.

While standing by the piano, I watched, fascinated. The dear senior paused by the second row of chairs from the front, as if considering sitting down. No, she didn’t sit. Instead, she continued, up towards the piano. I was drawn forward to her, almost as if by a magnet. “Hello!” I said, with a big smile. “It’s good to see you this morning.” I reached forward, stroking her arm in a gentle way. I lessened my smile a little, but still kept it on my face.

This dear senior raised her head and looked up at me—something I hadn’t seen her do for some time. (I know her a little, since I come to this center about once a month.) Her eyes met mine. She gestured toward the piano with one elbow, keeping both hands on her walker. “I play,” she said. Her glance fell on the piano, a lovely, older baby grand, a warm medium brown. Glowing in the daylight coming in from outside. “Really?” I responded. “So do I. I’m going to play for you, if you sit down. Here—“ I gently turned her around, rubbing her shoulder in an encouraging way. I led her back to the second row of chairs. She went along, quite willingly. Several other staff members and residents watched as I oriented her to her seat.  Then, I returned to the piano. Started to play. The service for the morning started.

I did a workmanlike job on the service music Sunday morning. I truly enjoy playing for the seniors. But there was something about the interaction in front of the piano that especially touched my heart. It seemed that everyone watched what happened, like the two of us were on stage. I cannot even describe what it was about it that was so moving. But—whatever it was—God was in it. I felt the presence of God in a special way. I don’t know what anyone else’s opinion or reaction to this interaction was, but I know mine. Touching in a deep, meaningful way. Thanks, God. I wonder what You will send my way tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

Reciprocal Kindness and Blessing Happens!

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

blessing much more

Reciprocal Kindness and Blessing Happens!

Another week, another Sunday. Another service. But this week was a bit different. I played the piano again for two senior residences. My loving, willing act of service today involved playing music for the seniors. Yes, I was acting as music leader for the services. But it was more than that—God did a wonderful job of divine coordination with a number of people, and especially with the special music I had chosen. It’s so awesome to watch God show up! God was all over today’s two services.

The scripture passage for this morning was from the gospel of John, chapter 7. It featured Jesus, at the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. He made the revolutionary statement “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (vv. 37-38)

Earlier in the week, I was asked by Chaplain Sarah to play special music before the sermon. I didn’t have an opportunity to get back to her with the title of the music I had prepared. This wasn’t a huge deal, I knew. The service would continue without the music title. I mentioned to Chaplain Sarah before the first service of the morning that I would be playing “I’ve Got Peace like a River.” She paused while getting ready for the beginning of the service and looked at me. “That will be perfect with the scripture and sermon today.”  And it was! I did my best on the arrangement of the spiritual, and Chaplain Sarah had an opportunity to tie in the sermon with the lyrics: ”I’ve got peace like a river,” “I’ve got joy like a fountain” and “I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.” As believers, we do have the peace, joy and love of Christ flowing as living waters from within each of us. Truly, my choice of music was a God-incidence, as my friend Pastor Joe says.

But that’s not all. Yes, I did play the piano. And it was good to be not only useful with the gifts I have been given, but joyful to be a blessing to the seniors as I played service music for the assembled worshippers. The icing on my cake today came from one dear senior at the second service (at the second retirement home of the morning). After I had finished a selection of older hymns and gospel songs for the postlude, the common room was almost empty. Just a few older people were left to go back to their rooms (actually, to go back for lunch). This particular dear, aged senior came up to Chaplain Sarah, about a dozen feet from me at the piano. She thanked both of us in her decided manner, taking great care to pronounce each word in her precise way. And then—she blessed us. Blessed us for our ministry. Blessed us both for leading the service. Blessed us with good health and all happiness. We both sincerely thanked her, and we continued to clear the room.

I needed to leave, but I thanked this senior again as I went out, past the elevator. This was not an occurrence that I would brush off lightly. I will hold this dear woman’s blessings close to my heart. Thank You, God. Thank You for the opportunity to be of service. And thank You for unexpected blessings.

@chaplaineliza

Of Sermons and Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, January 12, 2014

Worship - New Row Presbyterian Church

Worship – New Row Presbyterian Church

Of Sermons and Service

I was of service today. A friend of mine, Chaplain Sarah, asked me to help out. So, I did.

Let me back up, and give a little background. Chaplain Sarah went out of town for several days. A little vacation at holiday time. One of her relatives needed additional assistance, so she took a few extra days off from work to help out. Sarah knew she had Sunday services today to lead, and did not want to unnecessarily be concerned about preaching. She contacted me last weekend. She asked whether I could play the piano as well as prepare a sermon to preach at the two retirement homes where she’s a chaplain. Of course, I said!

That’s one of the things I have found I can do. (on a fairly regular basis!) I can be a pinch-hitter, to use a baseball analogy. I can willingly step up to the plate and go to bat for those who have emergency needs. I’ve noticed that’s one of my gifts—not that it’s listed in the ‘official’ listings of the spiritual gifts, but still.

As last week progressed, I knew I had to prepare a sermon on John 2:1-11, the wedding at Cana. I prayed about it, and had an outline and a general idea of what I wanted to say to the two little congregations. But I had the darnedest time just sitting down. Writing. Or, not writing, as the case may be. One thing came up after another. Friday passed and went. Saturday—anxiety time, except for the fact that the message was straight-forward and solid, and I basically knew what I was going to say. And I still couldn’t write. Correction. I finally could, but it was like pulling teeth.

I did finish the sermon by the time I got to bed last night. I was having so much difficulty that I was starting to think there was something spiritual I was up against. Something not of God, something that did not want me to be at the two services this morning. As I took off my hard contact lenses at the bathroom sink, the second lens popped out of my hand. I’m particularly near-sighted, so I was only able to hear the ‘click’ of the lens as it bounced on the sink—and then, nothing. No second ‘click’ as the lens bounced on the tile floor. Arrgh! Where did it go? In the water? On the rug? Not in the waste basket? I ended up looking for that lens for over an hour. Going over every inch of that bathroom, even to the other side of the room, five or six feet away. No lens.

So, I have lost my contact lens. Lost. No idea where it might have gone. Thankfully, I was able to call my optometrist and leave a message. I wore my glasses, except that the prescription is over twenty years old. I hurried to the services. My husband was kind enough to drive me in the car, since my eyes were adjusting to the foreign glasses. (I really don’t wear them much at all.) And, I played the piano and preached at both services. Chaplain Sarah did everything else. She did a great job! It was a team effort, and I was heartily glad I could help out. Oh, the sermon? It did the job, I think. Jesus changed a whole lot of water into a whole lot of wine. Superior wine, too! He provides for us abundantly. Extravagantly. I’m grateful to Jesus for blessing me abundantly, each day. I have a suspicion He can take care of me, too.

@chaplaineliza

Of Piano Playing and Being Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, January 5, 2014

piano lady

Of Piano Playing and Being Kind

I received a call last night. A pianist was unable to show up for two worship services this morning. I was asked whether I would be able to substitute at the last minute. Of course! I said. I’ve been at both of these retirement homes in Chicago a number of times, just not under these last-minute-circumstances.

Sometimes I preach and lead worship, more recently I’ve also played the piano, and a few times I’ve played both roles. So when I walked into the chapel at the first home, I knew all of the dear seniors present. I spoke to a few on my way to the piano. Because of snow and ice on the roads (as well as on my car), I came just two or three minutes before the service was to start. I played through two hymns as a prelude. After the service, I played a number of hymns as a postlude. Familiar hymns. Since I’ve been preaching, leading worship and playing for services at retirement homes over the past number of years, I know which hymns are more likely to elicit sighs and nods of recognition, and even seniors singing the words along with my playing. Thus it was with my postlude. One dear senior (mid-eighties? late eighties?) still has a very nice-sounding voice, and a marvelous memory for the words of many, many hymns.  As I played, I smiled as I listened to one, two, then three seniors singing the words of the hymns.

After almost ten minutes of playing the postlude, I rose from the piano bench to get ready to leave. I noticed that fully half of the seniors gathered there for the service had remained. They were listening to me, playing the piano. I stopped for a moment, realizing why they were still there. It was then that I heard the thanks. Sincere thank yous and gratitude coming from several of these dear seniors.

I quickly slogged several miles through the snow to the second retirement home, where this worship service was repeated. Again, the piano playing. The hymn singing was not quite as strong, but equally heartfelt. And after the worship, I again played a number of hymns for the postlude.

I wonder if this piano playing was the most important thing I’ve done all week, in God’s eyes? And afterwards, to have several of these dear seniors say ‘thank you’ with such sincerity and gratitude? I know many in this youth-oriented (even youth-worshipping) culture do not put much stock in their seniors. Many thoughtless or uncaring people today consider them to be not-as-important. Even forgettable.  The descriptive word to reference them is no longer ‘elders’ but ‘seniors.’ This telling change in vocabulary begins to show the shift in thinking.

Thank God that I was available and able to play the piano at a moment’s notice. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had this revelation. What a way for me to be kind and tenderhearted, as Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus. Please, God, show me how to be kind and tenderhearted tomorrow, too.

@chaplaineliza