Render Service, Express Love (#BestOf #ayearofbeingkind)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, March 9, 2015

Talk about a heartfelt post! Touching, poignant. All kinds of “feels” all over. (To quote my college-age daughter.) I loved revisiting this post. It truly describes how I feel about preaching, and handling the Word of God. In addition, like icing on top of an oh-so-meaningful cake, there is the extra vignette about the dear, dear senior who so faithfully prayed for me.

This post from 2014 is especially significant for me because of my upcoming commissioning next Sunday, on March 15th. A culmination of many years and much heartfelt hard work, earnest prayer and overcoming of challenges. All the way around, a blessed reminder. Travel with me back one year, to the second Sunday of March 2014.

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

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!)

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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!)

I Need a Little Help from My Friends—with a Vacuum Cleaner?

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, February 11, 2015

As I said in this Best Of post, I enjoy helping out. I do have the spiritual gifts of helps. (Yes, it’s true.) Reading through this post, I see I did a kind thing here. You could do something kind, too!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, February 10, 2014

vintage doll vacuum cleaner

vintage doll vacuum cleaner

 

I Need a Little Help from My Friends—with a Vacuum Cleaner?

I took the opportunity to be kind today, in several ways. But the one that stuck in my mind was being kind by vacuuming. One problem—but I’ll get to that, later.

Let me back up. I often have the chance to do things for senior citizens. Lots of different things, like shopping, errands, doing the dishes, vacuuming. I’ve said before that I have the gift of helps. I’ve noticed this gift from a very early age. I liked doing things for people, and often doing things for older people. At church, in the neighborhood, even on the bus or in a store. I would often happen upon older people who have dropped their keys, or their glove, or their shopping list, so I picked it up for them. Or, I pass by a senior citizen in a mall parking lot who was trying to load their bags into their car. I helped out there, too.

I know I’ve talked in this blog before about an older friend of mine who works for a large senior citizen facility here in this suburb. She told me a few years ago, “You ought to have ‘Good with seniors’ printed on your forehead. Because, you are!” I must admit, yes. Yes, I am. It’s true.

This led me to reflect, how would the Bible tell me to act toward seniors? As I reflected further, I realized that there are several specific verses that I can think of, telling me how to behave in an appropriate manner with elders. One I’ll mention is Leviticus 19:32, which tells its readers to stand up before (or, honor) “the gray head” ( i.e., seniors). Biblically speaking, older people are supposed to be respected and cared for. (This led me to think of the seniors who are sadly warehoused in today’s society. But that’s a subject for another blog post.)

So, I took this opportunity to be kind to a senior today. I vacuumed. Except, I had a bit of a problem. I had never used this particular vacuum cleaner before. At first, I thought there was some idiosyncracy with the vacuum. However, I opened it up and checked the bag on the inside. Yup. It was full. Rats! I wasn’t sure where the extra bags were kept. What to do? I really wanted to take care of this chore, and the vacuum cleaner simply wasn’t working properly.

The next thing I knew, a new acquaintance of mine helped me out. Together, we were able to find the bag, struggled to get the bag replaced in the upright cleaner (tricky fit!), and I finished up the task. Much better now! Without that help, without the teamwork, I would have had a lot of difficulty finishing the vacuuming. It seems like a little thing, but it stuck in my head. I was grateful! And, I said thank you.

It’s good to be working together, helping each other out. I do need a little help from my friends and acquaintances, I must admit. I ask for help more often, now. I’m not too proud. At least, most of the time.

@chaplaineliza

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

Place-Holding, Being Kind

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 15, 2015

I enjoy popcorn, on occasion. This blog post features popcorn—and a whole lot more.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, January 14, 2014

shoppingcart2

Place-Holding, Being Kind

The grocery store. I don’t generally go to the store during the day. Usually, my shopping trips involve evenings or weekends. But not today. My daughter called and asked for several things we could use in the kitchen, and I went on my way home from work, mid-afternoon.

What a difference a few hours makes! The daytime clientele inhabiting the nearby grocery store had marked differences. I saw a lot of moms doing shopping for the week (or, at least a number of days). The most notable group I noticed were senior citizens. As opposed to the moms of families. I felt a bit like a sociology grad student, out doing field research. Yes, I watched the moms as they pushed the well-laden carts. I could relate to them, and I knew what they were doing. Having often done it myself.  But the seniors, they were especially fascinating to me.

I’ve been told that I am especially good at working with seniors. A chaplain friend of mine who works at a large senior retirement center said to me a few years ago, “You ought to have ‘Good with seniors’ tattooed on your forehead.” This does not only go for my work. I genuinely like older people. They have complex and fascinating stories to relate. It’s satisfying for me to come alongside of seniors, listen to them, journey for a little way with them, try to alleviate their problems or needs, or rejoice and praise God with them. Whatever it is that fills the bill.

This particular afternoon as I shopped, I observed the seniors as they chose things at the store. I only had about twelve things in my basket, so I made a beeline for the 15 items or less lane. (The moms with large carts-full were taking up many of the other check-out aisles.) A senior stood directly ahead of me, also waiting his turn. Stooped and elderly, he still determined to get his own shopping done. His items already sat on the conveyer belt. Just a few feet from me, a store employee was assisting him as he tried to read the small print on a coupon. “It’s right over there. See? Just around the corner.” She pointed two aisles away.

I could see the senior deliberate. I could almost hear his thoughts. He decided to go for it. He left the ten or so items on the belt, and went over to get the popcorn. I had a sudden image of him at night, after dinner. Popping that corn and watching television or cable or movies, on DVD or TiVo. I found myself smiling. He had a bit of difficulty finding the specific popcorn, for the store employee went to help him. Just two dozen feet away. Just a number of seconds. I waited patiently in line, saving his place.

Another senior, a disgruntled one this time, came up behind me. He narrowed his eyes and looked over the seemingly-abandoned items on the belt. He looked at me. I smiled at him, and then turned my eyes to the first senior, still fetching his last item. The popcorn. The disgruntled one glanced over at the belt of items, and then back two aisles over. His face wrinkled up in a decided frown. He muttered to himself and stalked away to another check-out aisle. It was only a few more seconds before the popcorn-senior returned to his place in line.

He never knew about that little drama with the disgruntled man. And I never told him. But I saved his place for him. I stood back at a respectful distance, and that man got his popcorn. Bought it. Brought it home. I wonder if he’s popping it tonight, after dinner? I hope he enjoys it. And I was of service today. I think God was pleased. It’s as simple as that.

@chaplaineliza

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

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 5, 2015

On this snowy, frigid evening in January, this post from a year ago strikes a familiar chord.

 

A Year of Being Kind blog – originally published Monday, January 6, 2014

photo by Sergei Kvitko

(photo by Sergei Kvitko)

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

It was cold in the Chicago area today. Frigid. I mean, exposed skin would freeze if uncovered for more than a few minutes. I understand that we broke a temperature record with -15 degrees. We won’t even talk about the wind chill, with wind gusts anywhere from 20 to 30 miles per hour.

I needed to be out and about today, going to and from work. Despite the extreme temperature, it was a beautiful day! Crisp, clear air. Blue sky. Since I had a functioning vehicle and wasn’t walking, I enjoyed the trip.

During the course of the day, I met someone who needed to get out of their garage. Thank heaven their suburb was on top of things and had already sent snow plows down the alleys. One wrinkle: in sending out the plow to clear the alleyway, the snow subsequently was piled in a heap against the garages. An anxious senior was involved, and I had the time and the ability. They had the snow shovel. So, I was happy to shovel out the apron of their garage and allow them access to the alleyway.

Another case of “who is my neighbor?” I didn’t live anywhere near this senior, not like my friend with the snow blower whose story I related several days ago. However, I felt compassion for this dear senior. Of course I shoveled the snow.

I try to keep myself in fair physical condition. I consider this part of my spiritual service to God, to keep up my physical self, to stretch and exercise regularly. I try to go to the gym three times a week and do what I can. Cardio-vascular, a little strength training, and (most important!) stretching both before and after. When I don’t go to the gym for a few days, my body starts to let me know through aches and pains.

This is a roundabout way for me to mention exactly why I felt so free to just pick up the shovel and go at it. I feel blessed that I am in decent physical shape, and I don’t want to lose that ability any time soon.

But what about people who are less-abled? Like several of my friends and acquaintances, who have lost some or most of the physical range of motion and ability they were born with? They are growing more and more dependent on others to do things for them. This dependence can be a source of griping and grumbling, or of gratitude and thankfulness. I see any number of reactions and responses to offers of service, on a regular basis.

However, I can let those I serve (or offer to serve) respond as they will. God has not made me an arbiter of people’s thoughts and actions. Instead, God has encouraged me to serve. And this year, my hope, my intention is to find some kind of service each day. Not to judge people on whether they have gratitude for the service, or whether they thank me. Service is what God has called me to do.

I wonder what will show up tomorrow? God willing, I’ll find out.

@chaplaineliza

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

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

Being Kind, on an Anniversary!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, August 13, 2014

LOVE 1 Cor 13-7

Being Kind, on an Anniversary!

Today is my anniversary. Or, to be completely correct, today is my wedding anniversary. (My husband’s, too.) I remember the day of our wedding. A downright hot day in Chicago. The church wasn’t air-conditioned. Neither was my sister’s Victorian-era house, which was several doors down from the church. At least the wedding was at eleven o’clock in the morning, so it hadn’t gotten too hot yet. A small, modest affair. Just what my husband and I wanted.

But that was twenty years ago. Fast forward to today. Back to the workaday world. The earlier part of the day was filled with regular work-stuff. I mean, telephone calls made, emails sent, the fall schedule firmed up. I checked two fliers/bulletin inserts from last year and updated them with proper information and new dates. (Important!)

I also made a visit to a care center to visit a senior. Good visit! All the way around. I enjoy these visits where people are feeling pretty perky. (I mean, generally. Of course, the visit was to a care center, so people are not feeling their best. But, still.) Visiting people who are getting healthy and going to leave the hospital or care center soon is certainly much more heartening than visiting in an ICU or emergency department.

I realize, as a chaplain, I had a responsibility to do my best to come alongside of people in serious or traumatic health care situations. But I have shifted my care. Shifted my priorities. I am not working with people who are so seriously ill. I don’t deal with their loved ones on a regular basis, trying to come alongside of them as they reframe the patients’ life situations. Instead, my work is now a local parish. A small, intimate congregation.

But after I finished at the care center today, I ran several errands and ended up at the grocery store. I decided to buy my husband a small cake for our anniversary. As long as he is very fond of yellow cake with chocolate icing, I knew the store nearby would be sure to have one. And, sure enough. They even had a one-layer cake available, so I didn’t have to get a big two-layer cake. (too much!)

My husband was happy to see the cake. Plus, my son (senior in high school) and his two friends were even more pleased to see it, and to eat some, too. (The chocolate icing was superb, as well!) So, I fed some hungry stomachs today. Another way of thinking about it is, I was kind to four hungry guys.

Good memories. Good cake. All in all, a good anniversary.

@chaplaineliza

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Kindness to a Senior

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, August 11, 2014

micah 6-8 framed

Kindness to a Senior

I don’t often go into department stores. It’s not that I don’t like shopping. (I do!) But, I try to find what I need and can use at resale shops (first) and outlets (second). And, I am sincerely trying to reduce what our family purchases. We live in a small condominium, and it’s filled with stuff as it is. We do not need more stuff. (My husband heartily agrees.)

As I posted yesterday, my daughter and I went to a mall we do not ordinarily go to. We also went to a bona fide department store to purchase some things to take to college. As we came down the escalator from the second floor to the first, I saw a frail-looking senior sitting in a small, fold-up wheelchair. She was about twelve feet from the bottom of the escalator, near the corner of the jewelry counter.

I am still thinking about her, today. My conversation with her stuck in my mind, and I keep playing our brief interaction over and over. So, I thought I would blog about it today.

My daughter and I rode down the escalator, my daughter about two or three escalator steps ahead of me. I saw the senior from a distance, as I descended. She caught my eye. Sitting still, waiting patiently, while everyone else in my eyesight seemed to be busy—moving, doing, going, bustling around. I initially approached her because her thin knit shawl was all bunched up, lying in the crooks of her elbows. The position of the shawl looked uncomfortable. Plus, there was no one accompanying her. At least, not anywhere nearby.

I slowed my steps as I stepped off the escalator and turned her way. Yes, an aged senior, for sure. But one who was quick on the uptake. “Good afternoon, “ I said, stooping slightly. (That way, I could look at her face more directly, instead of towering over her.) “I saw your shawl. Are you comfortable with it where it is, right now? Or could I help you rearrange it?”

“Oh, aren’t you sweet. No, my shawl is fine where it is.” We exchanged smiles. She panned the area, as best she could. Her head was pitched slightly forward, and even in the wheelchair, her shoulders were stooped. “Are you looking for someone?” I asked. She transferred her gaze to me, trying to look up, in my face. “I don’t see my family. They’ve gone, I suppose.” She sounded a bit wistful, but still patiently waiting. “Oh.” I smiled again. My daughter was fast disappearing, down the aisle of the store. I quickly sent a glance at her, and then looked back at the senior.

“Bye,” the elderly woman said. She raised her hand, and almost smiled at me. I gave her one of my bright, friendly smiles in return, and wished her well. I hurried, and caught up with my daughter, who rolled her eyes at me for stopping to talk with the elderly woman in the wheelchair.

As I continue to reflect on this brief meeting, I can’t help but think of Micah 6:8, my verse for the month of August. The questions that come to my mind are: how can I live justly? To whom do I show mercy? How may I walk lovingly with my God? God willing, my interaction with this dear senior provided an example of how to fulfill this verse. Please God, help me live in this just, merciful, loving way.

@chaplaineliza

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