Helping Out—A Pinch Hitter? (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Baseball season is with us again. I feel badly because I don’t watch the game like I used to. There is a Big Ten university not far from my house, and my husband and I have seriously considered watching them play baseball. Almost like watching a minor league game! But, not yet. Still, I love the game. I can relate so well to baseball analogies when discussing life. I sometimes do feel like a pinch hitter! See what you think as you read this post.

(. . . “for it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out/at the old ball game!”)

 

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, April 7, 2014

baseball players -  metal art from Mexico

baseball players –
metal art from Mexico

 

Helping Out—A Pinch Hitter?

It’s April again, and baseball season is again with us. I haven’t been to a major league game for several years, but I really enjoy a good game of baseball. (Of course, the team I’ve rooted for, ever since I was a girl, is the Chicago Cubs. But that’s a whole different matter. No joking comments, please.)

From time to time, I seem to be placed in a position where I need to step in at the last minute. You know, where I might need to speak, or teach, or facilitate, or drive, or – you name it. I’ve probably done it. I have training in several areas. A few years ago, I even thought of myself as a jack of all trades. (Or would that be a jill of all trades? Good question. But I digress.)

Another way to think of this kind of position is that of a pinch hitter. Sure, from time to time I have stepped up to the plate and competently taken a swing. I try to do my best, whatever I do! My conscientiousness helps a good deal here, too. I could tell you about some tricky situations, and a few times that ended up being tragic. But instead, I’m going to focus on today. I stepped up to the plate here at home, and helped out the contractor to the best of my ability. On the phone, walking all over the building, doing an errand. And then some. (Here I thought that getting a new vanity, sink and wall tile was just a simple, straightforward job. Little did I know . . . )

And later, I talked with a friend. He and I were going to meet tomorrow morning before a meeting. But not now! Not with his dripping nose and scratchy throat! So, I can certainly substitute for him and do a competent job facilitating the group.

God, I get the feeling that You’re trying to show me something with this blog post. You don’t need to worry about being a pinch hitter. You’re a superstar. You could blow everyone away with Your batting, fielding, throwing and pitching talent! But what about me? How do I fit in?

I know You love me, God. Thanks a lot! (I really mean that, very, very much. Despite my humorous, sometimes offhand way of communicating.) But what if You want me to keep on helping out? Doing what I can. Stepping up to the plate when I need to, filling the need when necessary. Maybe this is another way of You showing Your love for me—by giving me opportunities to serve You, in any one of a number of ways.

I wonder what You’ll send my way tomorrow? I bet it will be interesting, whatever it is! Thanks ahead of time for helping me handle it, too.

@chaplaineliza

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(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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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

Get Ready, Set—to Be of Service!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, December 10, 2014

winter road

Get Ready, Set—to Be of Service!

I’m getting ready. Yes, I am getting ready for a bunch of things in these next few days. Getting ready for the little Sunday school program at our church on Sunday, getting ready for the open house I’ll be hosting this weekend, getting ready for the upcoming Advent and Christmas Eve services. Even getting ready for my own, personal family Christmas celebration here at home. (Although, that is taking less of a priority right now.) Just several more in the list of things that need to be done, or checked off, or marked as completed. Little by little, I am accomplishing a good deal.

All this getting ready is exciting, enervating, and a little bit nerve-wracking. A lot of thinking work, and some writing and preparation, and some contacting people by telephone and email. Yes, it’s important. And to add to the mix, I am still the church pastor. I need to check on the shut-ins, and see how they are doing, just as I usually do. Yes, their families usually check on them during the holidays, too. But I would very much like to see whether I might be able to stop by each home, during Advent.

One service that is especially on my heart this time of year is the Blue Christmas service. What is a Blue Christmas service, you ask? I’m glad you asked!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult to many people, for many reasons. That’s why St. Luke’s Christian Community Church is offering a Blue Christmas service on Monday, Dec. 22—an alternative Christmas service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time. Holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

I am just finalizing the features of this special service, and I would like to ask for prayer and good, positive thoughts to be sent to St. Luke’s Church, and to those leading the quiet, reflective Blue Christmas service that evening.

I hope, I pray that all of our services are welcoming to those who attend. God willing, may it be so!

@chaplaineliza

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Helpful? At a Thrift Store

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, November 20, 2014

christmas shadow puppets

Helpful? At a Thrift Store

I shop thrift stores. I don’t know if I ought to be proud of that, or ashamed, or what. But it’s something I do. And, I get some great deals! Especially on shirts, sweaters, blouses, jackets and coats. Oh, and pants for my children, too. (Not for my pants, though. My shape is difficult to fit, and I must try on pair after pair of prospective pants. So, I need to buy my pants retail. Not resale. But that’s off topic.)

Today, I had a specific mission. I wanted certain things. First, a piece of translucent white material. I figured I could get a used bedsheet, and that would do. However, I went one better. I found a lovely, thin white tablecloth. (!!) And then I needed a second piece of material, in a darker shade. I found some black cotton, unhemmed. It seemed as if someone had just had it cut from a bolt in a fabric store, and never used it. I wanted both of these for a simple shadow puppet theater. The top half white, illuminated from behind by one or two light bulbs. The bottom half dark, to mask the people manipulating the shadow puppets. (From behind the fabric on the frame.)

I was able to get both of these pieces of fabric inexpensively! I will ask our wonderful trustee and his son whether they might be able to make a simple wooden frame so the Sunday School children can practice for the Christmas program in December. I think it will be a simple, yet effective way of telling the Christmas narrative from the Gospel of Luke.

Of course, this is not my first pageant. Or play. Or musical. Or puppet show. It’s been a few years, but I am no novice. Years ago I did a number of these, at several different churches. For a number of years, too. My, I haven’t brought up extensive memories of those Christmas pageants and musicals and puppet shows for quite some time, either.

When the church needs me, I do my best to respond. To help. To serve. I haven’t been active with young people—junior high—for several years. And elementary school age? Even longer before that! Yet, I want to do my best. And, I’ll try to encourage the children to learn about the birth of Jesus, in Bethlehem.

I know we haven’t gotten to Advent, yet. We aren’t even at Thanksgiving! But, soon. Soon. Advent is coming. I can look forward to that, God. I know Advent is a time of preparation. Be with me and with the Sunday School children as we pray and prepare for Your coming.  (Help me prepare the shadow puppet stage, too!)

@chaplaineliza

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Who, Me? Serve?

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

SERVE as each receives a gift, serve 1 Peter 4  10

Who, Me? Serve?

I’ve been doing this being-kind-thing pretty much daily now for more than ten months. This is the eleventh month, can you believe it? And still, in the morning, I occasionally wake up with the barely-formed intention, “Who, me? Serve? You’ve got to be kidding . . . “

And yet, I find myself in similar positions on a regular basis. I mean, helping positions. Ways of being kind. Situations where I naturally fall into ways to be of service. I mean, using my gifts. I am going to help officiate at a funeral service this weekend. And, I am using not only the gifts and graces I have been given and have developed in the past years, but I am also playing the piano. And, I am so, so happy to have been asked.

Here’s the verse I chose 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.”

I haven’t been playing the piano very much lately. I mean, in the past few months. I just haven’t been, that’s all. So, I really appreciate the relatives of the dear senior who died to ask whether I might be able to play. As well as officiate. Actually, co-officiate. My good friend and fellow pastor will be preaching, but I will be doing just about everything else.

Let me come back to playing the piano. I’ve been doing that for decades. Literally. Piano playing was one gift I had that was obvious to everyone, even as a teenager. I became one of the accompanists for the mixed chorus at my high school. I accompanied off and on, into my twenties. And then, I started to flex my leadership muscle in different ways. Branching out, not only playing the piano, but also leading songs. And music, generally. And teaching Sunday school.

My gifts and graces (just as Peter said, above) have been appreciated by so many. It’s wonderful to think of how many bible studies, Sunday school classes, small congregations, and other kinds of groups have benefitted from my service, over the years.

This coming weekend, my fellow pastor and I will lead in worship and witness to the Resurrection. Oh, and I had better practice a bit more on the piano. I want to do an especially excellent job. The dear senior well deserves the best of everything at the funeral service. God willing, I will be able to serve in this special way.

@chaplaineliza

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How to Pray? How to Serve.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, November 5, 2014

pink roses, again

How to Pray? How to Serve.

Today, this was my week to pray. I mean, for an intercessory prayer group I am part of. Each Wednesday, in round robin fashion, a member of the group offers prayers for the rest. By email. I know that there are more than fifteen members. I know that I have only met two others (and one is the administrator for the prayer group). But there is a cohesiveness in prayer. A fellowship and kinship that comes from gathering in prayer together.

Today, I had the opportunity to gather prayer requests (and praises!) from a friendly group that meets together each Wednesday morning. I had the privilege to pray for those who were at the group meeting, and those others we were missing. God, this is awesome. And, a privilege. And, exciting to be able to lift up many prayer requests and cries for God to act. For God to do or not to do, to speak or not to speak. God knows.

I get prayer requests from the most different sort of amalgamation of prayer email. And telephone calls. And people stopping by. Some prayer requests come from relatives or friends, concerned about their loved one. Near or far, that doesn’t matter to God. God will hear, God will encourage and support you.

I ask the dear Lord to help me to be welcoming. And honest, and caring. God, help me to be prepared with all the unknown events of the day ahead. And God, we pray for the sick, the shut-ins, for those who are far away. And, especially for those who do not know You. Thanks for loving me, too.

@chaplaineliza

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Come and See—See Where I Can Help

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, July 20, 2014

SERVE because Christ served

Come and See—See Where I Can Help

Another day, another conference. Just before noon today, I went from the National Assembly of the Federation of Christian Minstries to the New Wilmington Mission Conference. A mission conference of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I’ve attended NWMC for a number of years—always before with at least one of my children in tow. Not this year. But, it’s great to see what is going on in outreach and misson, all around the world.

I especially wanted to see the mission fair on Sunday afternoon, where many different mission and outreach agencies (local, regional and international) come to share their message. Their story. Come and see. Come and see what these different outreaches are doing. How they are touching lives. What a difference they are making. Come and see.

Then, in evening meeting at the outdoor auditorium, I heard the call again. Come and see. The speaker for the evening (Rev. John McCall) gave an excellent message with some heart-touching illustrations from his time in Taiwan. As he repeated, come and see.

I take this to mean, “Come and see where I can serve. Where I can help. Where I can be kind.”

I may not be able to go to another area of the country, or overseas, to serve any time soon. But I can certainly go to where people are hurting, or lonely, or anxious. I can carry the good news of God to people in need. Or, to someone who is homebound and lonely. Or, to those who are anxious, and in need of prayer. In need of someone to come alongside of them, to journey with them. If I come and see where the needs are, then I can go out and serve. Help. Be kind.

As my friend Stuart mentioned to me over dinner tonight, he and several others from his church helped some refugees from the Middle East move into an apartment recently. He saw where the needs were, and he responded. He helped. He was kind to a family he didn’t even know. And this family has opened their hearts and their doors to my friend and the other couple from their church. The family from the Middle East considers these Americans to be part of their extended family now. Because my friend saw this family’s need for some used furniture and kitchen supplies, and helped them move into an apartment, this refugee family is now so grateful and thankful. They feel welcomed and encouraged. Such a small thing, and yet how needed.

Come and see where the needs are? Go and serve.

@chaplaineliza

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