Saying “Can I Help?” (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, January 19, 2018

Among several other spiritual gifts, I have the spiritual “gift of helps” in abundance. That was one reason why I decided to do this project—A Year of Being Kind—in the year 2014. I really do enjoy helping people. When I think that the blog post below is right at the very beginning of the year, I get excited all over again. There is absolutely no reason why I cannot continue being kind to others right now, on a daily basis? Helping, being of service, being kind. We don’t have enough kindness in this country. Spread some kindness, if you can.

Saying “Can I Help?”

Posted on January 20, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, January 19, 2014

helping tree

Saying “Can I Help?”

The Chicago area had a snowfall last night. Feathery, light dusting of snow. Several inches worth of the white stuff. Enough to make older people think twice before venturing out to church. Me, I enjoyed getting outside! The church I attend has a number of senior members, so there were not as many in attendance this morning. Our church has a traditional, liturgical service, with typical elements such as vestments, hymns, and organ. Today, we celebrated the second Sunday after Epiphany. (I sang with the choir, as usual.) The sermon revolved around the followers of John becoming curious about Jesus. “Come and see!” Just as the curious followers of Jesus were invited to come and see, we are, too.

After church, pretty much every week, a couple or several people from the congregation volunteer to host coffee hour. With attendance down today, I happened by the church kitchen immediately after service. I saw the woman hosting coffee hour today just beginning to set out everything on the tables. (Most weeks, all the serving dishes and drinks are set out by that time.) Her husband was not there at the moment, to assist. I smiled at her and heard the words coming from my mouth: “Can I help?”

She was so appreciative, and enthusiastically said “Yes, thank you!” I stripped off my choir robe, shoved it onto a hanger, and hurried to the kitchen. I grabbed the water, and the plates of coffee cake and bowls of grapes, and trotted them out to the table. I saw to the eating-end of the table, and she poured coffee, tea, and water at the other. I had fun, and made myself generally helpful. I re-filled coffee carafes, fetched serving utensils, did whatever else needed doing. I helped her clear off the tables, wash the dishes and carafes, and clean the kitchen. The church grew quiet as it emptied out. She and I had a wonderful time getting to know each other better as we tidied up.

I’ve read in theological books (like chapter 9 in the modern classic by Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline) that serving others is a good choice if someone wants to increase in spiritual disciplines. When I intentionally set out to make this year my year of serving, of finding ways to be kind, I knew that this would entail a good deal of fetching, carrying, listening, and helping. Even if I hadn’t prayed for God to send me specific service opportunities, I would still be helpful. Some Christian elders and people of discernment have told me that I indeed have the spiritual gift of helps. I’ve noticed for years this is something that I enjoy. I knew this propensity would aid me in the practice of being kind.

As I drove home, I realized that those words “Can I help?” came from my mouth without thinking. Just automatic. I was of service, before I even knew it.  God, thank You for putting me in the right place at the right time. Would that service could always be so fulfilling and joy-filled!

@chaplaineliza

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Epiphany and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons   from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)


 

Being of Service, Ecumenically

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, November 26, 2014

autumn road with leaves

Being of Service, Ecumenically

I am pleased to say that I was of service today. In a big way. In an ecumenical way.

Let me go back to the beginning. A little recap. Remember back a few weeks, when I met with Father Dennis and with several other religious leaders from the different houses of worship in Morton Grove. Father Dennis asked me whether I’d preach a sermon for this Interfaith, Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service. Of course, I said!

I love to preach! Absolutely love it. And with such a great text to preach from? Psalm 100 is an absolutely marvelous resource. You had better believe that I took advantage of the sermon helps and commentaries I had at my disposal.

Originally, when I first started blocking out my sermon about a week and a half ago, I had intended to preach on Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” I truly wanted to come up with a good sermon on that verse. But—as I prayed and did more and more research on this verse, I had some kind of problem. Grrr. I got nothing.

Maddening! Oooo! Here I was, on Monday morning, and I just could not write this sermon for Wednesday evening. Using Psalm 100, verse 5, that is.

On Monday morning, I finally started considering whether I might be coming at the sermon the wrong way. I read the Scripture text over again, with an open, receptive mind. And Psalm 100, verse 3, jumped out at me. “It is He who made us, and we are His; we are God’s people, and the sheep of His pasture.” Wow!! Bam!!

And the sermon almost wrote itself. Seriously. We are “All Sheep of God’s Pasture.”

I very much enjoyed preaching it, too. I hope and I pray that I was able to take the Word of God and transform it into a message that would reach hearts, trigger thoughts, and give glory to God.

God, thanks for giving me ears to hear Your voice, and a heart to continue following after You. Thanks for allowing me to serve you on the 50th anniversary of the Interfaith Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service here in Morton Grove.

Thanks be to God for God’s marvelous gifts to each of us, every day. Let us make each day a Thanksgiving day, and each meal a time to give thanks to God, the Shepherd of us all.

@chaplaineliza

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Help, Encourage, Mention in Prayer!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, August 24, 2014

God relationship not just a Sunday event

Help, Encourage, Mention in Prayer!

Ever get mentioned by someone? In conversation, or even on the radio or television, or social media? I know how good it feels, especially when someone has good things to say about me!

That’s what I preached on, this morning. Mentioning people in prayer. The bible verses I referred to came from 1 Thessalonians 1, where the Apostle Paul gives his friends—the believers in Thessalonica—a greeting. Yes, it had all of the items in a typical greeting of a typical letter of the first century. But it also had more. An added something that made so much difference. A sincere compliment, or what some think of as a healthy dose of encouragement.

I do have the spiritual gift of encouragement. People have noticed that in me and my interactions, for a long time. It is something that just sort of happens. So when other people express encouragement, I zero in on it. And here, at the beginning of this letter to the Thessalonian church? Yup. I saw it like a flash. Paul said he always thanked God for all the believers in that city. Pretty strong language, for someone who had only been in the city for a couple of weeks! As I mentioned in my sermon, Paul and his friends developed close relationships very quickly.

That caused me to think. What about me, and my relationships with my fellow believers? Sure, I do try to be close to family, friends, to those in my congregation. But, many of my relationships just don’t have that type of immediacy, that kind of intimacy that I sometimes see in the New Testament church. I know there are many reasons for that, and only some are on my side of the street. Some are on other people’s sides of the street, and some just happen . . . those reasons are just a fact of life.

But I still feel sad and bad about many of my relationships. Sure, I could mention the fast pace of life today, and how so many people have so little time for anything else. Or, about how many people are working so hard that they have little time for anything else. Or, about how many people are unemployed, busy looking for work, and so discouraged that they have little time for anything else. (You get the picture.) And, I may say, these are all valid, legitimate reasons.

I could get discouraged, too, just contemplating this! But I have a better solution. I can just continue doing as I have intended to do, looking for a kind, helpful, encouraging thing to do each day this year. It doesn’t matter whether it’s little or big, whether it’s a private courtesy or a huge production. (Somehow, I don’t tend to do “huge productions.” But that’s just me.) Regardless, I think being on the lookout for a kind, or helpful, or encouraging thing to do each day pleases God. I pray so! And, I hope my sermon this morning was encouraging to those who listened. Please God, may it be so.

@chaplaineliza

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Being of Service, at a Midweek Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Showers of Stoles - photo - 7/07/12 The Chautauquan Daily

Showers of Stoles – photo – 7/07/12 The Chautauquan Daily

Being of Service, at a Midweek Service

I love to preach. (Have I mentioned that before? If I haven’t, I meant to.) I love every aspect of the preaching process. I usually preach from the Lectionary texts, the set Scripture passages for each Sunday. From handling the Scripture, praying over it to see where the Lord is leading, doing research and consulting commentaries and other books, to actually sitting down and writing the sermon. And then—the delivery. Ahh! That is the icing on top of a delectable cake! I won’t say it’s enjoyable or rewarding to write a sermon every single time, because it isn’t. But about 95 percent of the time, it is!

Today, I had the opportunity to preach at a midweek service for seniors. The service was in the chapel of the large Presbyterian Home in Evanston, where I’ve preached a number of times before. Plus, I served there as a chaplain intern when I was in seminary, more than ten years ago. I still preach at the Home on occasion when needed. So today, I was of service, leading a service.

Three things stand out in my mind. First, my sermon, on Psalm 103. I enjoyed writing it, and I think I delivered it well. One of my illustrations particularly struck me, moved me. I teared up while I was preaching (unusual for me), but I managed to make it through the last page of my manuscript. And, several people particularly mentioned how moving the sermon was. Praise God.

Second, I saw a dear senior (now a resident in his mid-nineties!) who I have known for almost twenty years. He and a relative of his came to the midweek service. I hadn’t seen him for at least a year and a half, perhaps two years. I so appreciated his presence at the service. He and I were dear friends, and he faithfully prayed for me some years ago while I was in seminary. But—he never had an opportunity to hear me preach—until today. Dear, dear man. I am so glad he felt well enough to attend the service.

The third thing? Something that also moves me deeply. And, causes me to reflect on the passage of time, and the changing of the seasons. The ending of one chapter, and the beginning of the next. The Director of Chaplaincy and my former supervisor is retiring at the end of this week, on August 1st. The Reverend Doctor Frank Baldwin will leave the Presbyterian Home after twenty years. He has touched so many lives, over the years. Whether residents, their loved ones, staff, other chaplains and ministers, or student chaplain interns (like me), Frank has done a marvelous job. As a chaplain, as an administrator, as a co-worker, as a mentor and advisor.

I look up to Frank and his quiet, efficient, never-hurried skills and gifts in administration, chaplaincy and preaching—combined! I know he will be sorely missed. His skilled hand of administration is almost always invisible behind the scenes. Yet, he firmly holds the reins of the pastoral care departments of the several sites of the Presbyterian Homes network. And, on top of all that, he never forgets a name. (Unbelievable memory!) Frank, I am so glad that I was able to preach well for you today. Here’s wishing you a fruitful retirement, a smooth transition, and enjoyable future with your wife, your family, and in further ministry–wherever God takes you. God bless you richly, now and always.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind, Keeping A Confidence

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, July 9, 2014

quiet--more you can hear

Being Kind, Keeping A Confidence

Just about everyone knows about gossips. People who can’t hold their tongues, and go blabbing to all and sundry. Gossip-py people can be tiresome. They can also cause a great deal of disruption. It all depends on how much they gossip, and what about. Oh, and what kind of rumors or half-truths they end up telling, too. But what about those people who purposely try not to spread mis-information?

I tried my best to be of service today, and listen to a dear acquaintance of mine. I used my active listening skills, and practiced several of the motivational interviewing skills I learned. (Valuable skills, indeed! Thanks to my substance abuse counseling instruction!) And most importantly—I found, yet again, how needed it is for me to come alongside of someone. Journey with them for a little, and try to listen with a less-anxious presence. With as little judgment in my heart as possible. And—to keep things as confidential as possible.

I know, this practice is so, so difficult! Yes. True. But that doesn’t make it any the less needed. Any the less appreciated. Yes, I did try, to the best of my ability. And, I hope I was an encouragement and a comfort to my acquaintance.

I also preached a sermon at a midweek service this afternoon. The sermon was based on Matthew 10:42 and I enjoyed both the sermon as well as the preaching of it. I received a great number of comments afterwards on the sermon, and almost every comment was positive. (I did like that. It stroked my ego.)

However, I am not sure which interaction I had today, which would make God more pleased. I know I encouraged and blessed people in their hearing and reading of the Bible passage, and their attendance at the midweek service. And, I hope I gave some encouragement and comfort to my acquaintance in the midst of the difficult, continuing situation I heard about today.

I could just take the easy way out. Say that God was pleased by both situations. And, use one of my favorite expressions: “both/and.”

Yes, I think God was pleased by both/and. I don’t think I serve and love an “either/or” kind of God. No, I’m glad God is both/and.

@chaplaineliza

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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