Thinking About Gifts, and About Service

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

autumn landscape with water, credit Music for Deep Meditation

Thinking About Gifts, and About Service

Stewardship. Not a common word, for sure! Most people probably never even think of it. Or, at most, it might come to mind for certain folks at this time of the year. In connection with charitable giving.

Yes, that was how I used it, yesterday. In my sermon on being a good steward. Actually, I stretch the truth slightly. My sermon was not about stewardship. Instead, my focus was on taking stock, as in Psalm 90:12. The psalmist calls us all to “number our days.” So, I mentioned the end of the year, gathering in the harvest, taking an inventory. And with that as my springboard, I took a leap into my first stewardship sermon. Talking about being good stewards not only of our money, but also of our time, talents, health and relationships.

I prayed for my children today, as well as my friend’s children. (I am using the book The Power of a Praying Parent.) I prayed that each child might discover that unique gift or set of gifts that God has given to each of them. And again, I was reminded vividly of the verse for November: 1 Peter 4:10 “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”

Sure, it’s one thing, to ooh and aah over a child’s budding attempts at a gift. Like, for example, a painting brought home from school. Or playing an instrument at a youthful band recital. Or being instrumental in winning the contest at a junior high sporting event. Budding gifts like that are easier to receive, and easier to display. But what about those whose gifts are more hidden? Or people who are more shy, or even more bruised, as a result of things out of their control?

This is a prayer anyone can pray. We all need to follow God more nearly, more dearly. It is my responsibility to pray for small (and not so small) children. And young people. And middle-aged and older people.

I encourage everyone reading: pray for others. And don’t forget yourself! You are a trusted, gifted child of God, too. We all need to serve with whatever God has given to each of us. May it be so, God!


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In Which I Am a Pianist and a Chaplain

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, April 17, 2014

LOVE let all you do 1 Cor 16

In Which I Am a Pianist and a Chaplain

Today was a busy day! Since it was Maundy Thursday, I had a good deal to take care of today. And tonight. After dashing to church to make certain the bulletin and order of worship for Good Friday’s worship service was all set, I dashed—again—over to the senior residence to play for the health care Maundy Thursday services. I do love being of service to the dear elderly people. Whether infirm, or cognitively impaired, or both, I consider this an important part of my ministry.

The dramatic reading in the brief services today took the place of a sermon. Given the material covered from the book of Luke, the reading certainly provided a great deal of interest. And raw emotion. Spiritual impact, too. I heard the reading given three separate times, and each time different things stood out for me.

Yes, I was of service. And yes, I did play a number of pieces and arrangements of hymns and gospel songs. I felt useful and needed. I guess being of service regularly would help that. The useful and needed parts, I mean. Then, lunch with several chaplains. That’s always a pleasant opportunity that I have: having a meal at the retirement center where I sometimes play the piano. Such a great place to continue relationships, too.

But, wait! That’s not all! I continued to be of service with a good friend this afternoon. I listened, and served as an (unofficial) chaplain. Really, my active listening skills came to the forefront. I didn’t even have to “turn them on,” because the skills just sort of turned on, by themselves. I heard about the continuing challenges and difficulties in my good friend’s life. I think I made a difference, just being there. Just listening and trying to understand.

I guess both situations are places where I tried to journey a little way with others. In the first case, I played the piano and journeyed with these dear seniors as they experienced an important worship service today—Maundy Thursday communion service. And then, my friend this afternoon. I really tried to understand a little more and provide what encouragement I could. In other words, I tried to journey with my friend for a little while. As my mentor Claude-Marie Barbour has said many, many times, journeying with someone is the most important part of being with them in a pastoral or spiritual way.

Just thinking of her is a reminder for me to pray for my mentor and friend Claude-Marie. I do wish her well! And I will call her after Easter to give her my best Easter greetings, too! Except—we need to get through Good Friday, first. Going through the valley of the shadow, journeying with Jesus as He walked that lonesome road through Gethsemane and beyond.


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In Which I Try to Serve—With Enthusiasm?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, March 12, 2014

BK always be kind

In Which I Try to Serve—With Enthusiasm?

Another day, another act of service. That’s what I have been praying for God to send me, each day. Day by day. One day at a time.

Today I considered the verse I’ve chosen for March, which comes from Ephesians 6:7. “Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women.” One problem—what if I don’t feel like being enthusiastic? Case in point: there was wintry weather again here in Chicago today. A continuation of the winter that just won’t quit. Both the yucky weather and yet another dismal, depressing day are wearing on me and my attitude. In fact, generally wearing on me, period.

But that yucky, dismal way isn’t the way I need to act. At least, not if I want to be faithful to the way I’ve been praying this past number of weeks.

All right, God. I give. I get the sense that You want me to pull out a commentary and check out Ephesians 6. Lo and behold, this particular passage concerns the different household relationships: men, women, children, and . . . slaves. (I realize this highly-charged word brings up all kinds of things, many different thoughts in people’s minds! I know. Hopefully, I will talk about this aspect in a later post this month. Remind me.)  Several other translations translate that word “doulos” as servant. Okay, I know I am the servant of Christ. I got that. I know I am supposed to do the will of God from my heart.  Grrr! Being a good and faithful servant is particularly hard sometimes! I just wanted to let You know that.

After thinking these kinds of thoughts, I got my head oriented towards service. I did have an easier time looking for opportunities to serve, then.  Among other things, I did an errand for a friend who doesn’t get out too much. I am occasionally asked to pick up things at the store, or go and fetch something else. Never any thing huge, but I’m happy to do it. (I would even be content if I did have to fetch and carry something big!) My friend was really pleased with what I was able to find, and I felt satisfied that my friend was overjoyed.

So, after the fact, I am glad that I went out of my way to provide a service to my friend today. Acts of intentional service almost sound like they are something clinical and antiseptic, or perhaps some do-gooder act. But, no! That’s not the way God has been working in my life—at least, not that I can tell. I have another friend (a kind pastor) who keeps reminding his congregation to look for where God is already working and get on board there. I think I have my marching orders. Enough to keep me busy for quite a while, anyhow.

I thank God for kind people like my friend. Or rather, both my kind friends! God bless them richly.


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