So Simple—Sincere Words. Being Kind.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, December 29, 2014

THANKFUL always something to be thankful for

So Simple—Sincere Words. Being Kind.

Ever have someone say (or write) something that truly moved you? I mean, moved you so deeply? Yes. That happened to me, today.

As I woke up this morning and started my daily routine, one of the first thoughts that came to mind was, “Only a few days until the new year. Only a few more days of blogging for 2014.”

After doing several routine things, I went on the computer. Checked email, social media. Including Facebook. I checked out this blog, as I usually do, to see how many views it received overnight. And, I checked the other daily postings, on Facebook.

Lo and behold, one of my blogging friends—Joan—commented on the latest of the posts on my wall. Her comment was under A Year of Being Kind’s post: . I was quite happy and touched that Joan’s comment was there, and she and I had an exchange over the next few minutes. I thought it was a worthwhile exchange, too.

But—it didn’t stop there. No, I kept those kind, generous words close. Similar to Mary and the striking words of the shepherds and angels, once more I thought about the words of my blogging friend. Her comment, below yesterday’s post? “Lovely. I will miss a Year of Being Kind.”

Initially, I considered it to be just something nice, almost sentimental—for a friend to say. But, the words kept rolling around and around in my head. So kind! The comment touched my heart, warmly and deeply. And, that comment came to mind—repeatedly recurred. Again and again, today.

Thank you, Joan. Your words mean so much more to me than you can ever know. Talk about “being kind.” What a way to “be kind.” Or, even better, “be thoughtful” or “be sincere.”

And, I thank God that people are touched by the words I write, and by what skill or gift I may have. Thank God, indeed.

(I almost forgot! Joan’s blog is to be found at celticjlp.wordpress.com – Unorthodox & Unhinged: Tales of a Manic Christian)

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind—Telling People Stuff

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, April 6, 2014

be a blessing be a friend

Being Kind—Telling People Stuff

Tomorrow is the day. The day the contractor comes and starts deconstructing our bathroom. Well, not really down to the studs in the walls, but he will pull down the old, tired tile. I’m excited!

I found a medicine cabinet today. Finally! I have been looking for two weeks, and was really dissatisfied about ninety percent of the ones I saw. Scratch that—about two thirds of the ones I saw were absolutely unsuitable for our bathroom because of A) the size of the cabinet. Most of those left I couldn’t use because of B) the color of the trim. At last, I found one that would A) fit the space and B) had a usable silver edging. Success!

But that wasn’t the most fulfilling part of today. (Not that there weren’t several, other, fulfilling parts. There were!) No, one of the most enjoyable parts for me was a conversation I fell into, when I was in the do-it-yourself store. In the bathroom section while I was waiting for an associate to help me, a couple with a young toddler came pushing a cart down the aisle. They were looking for some bathroom fixtures.

The wife had a sincere question, and asked her husband. She stood, arms crossed, finger on her chin, frowning at the vanity in question.
Since I have been researching and looking at vanities and fixtures for the past two weeks myself, I knew the answer to her question. I excused myself for overhearing her. I gave them a quick, cordial response. Including the answer. They were both so pleased! And, they thanked me. The husband followed up with several other questions, and we had a brief, entertaining conversation. (I also admired their toddler. Adorable!)

If I hadn’t been searching for (and learning about) bathroom fixtures recently, I wouldn’t have known about the answer to this woman’s question. Sure, I suspect she and her husband could have waited for the store clerk to come along, but then we never would have fallen into such a pleasant conversation.

This is another instance of my being helpful. Not intentionally helpful, I don’t think. I mean, I did not go over the possibilities step-by-step in my brain ahead of time. But my intuition was urging me to go up to this woman. So, I did. As this urge, this feeling happened, I reacted. And went, and opened my mouth. Now sometimes, I just end up putting my foot in my mouth! Not this time, though.

God, I think this was altruistic action. Kindness in motion. And I think You were pleased because I’m trying to put my kindness to work. I took the opportunity to tell people stuff. And I had a great conversation with them, too. I could have totally missed this chance. I’m glad I didn’t turn away, and I’m glad I listened to my intuition. Or, was it Your Holy Spirit giving me a nudge? I wonder.

@chaplaineliza
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How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 21, 2014

feeding the community

How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry  (Feature Friday!)

Unemployment. Food stamps cut. Lack of jobs. (Sounds more and more like the daily newspaper or news website, doesn’t it?) Some people in some places already do something about it—like at the Soddy-Daisy Food Bank. The Food Bank has its beginnings in 1989. A group of people from Daisy United Methodist Church and Soddy United Methodist Church (from Soddy-Daisy, a small town about a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee) joined together. They started the Food Bank to feed about a dozen families.

From these humble beginnings, the Food Bank’s outreach and ministry to hungry families and individuals has grown; during 2013, 370 families per month received food. Six churches are now involved—including United Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic churches. The Soddy-Daisy Food Bank is now an ecumenical ministry for the larger community. Open twice a week on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings, the Food Bank offers foods from the major food groups (including produce!) and on Mondays the regular services of a certified nutritionist associated with the University of Tennessee.

This feature wants to focus specifically on Daisy United Methodist Church and its pastor, C. Don Jones. He considers getting involved with the local community around his church to be an important part of his larger ministry. He leads by example and encourages his church members and friends to get involved, as well. Pastor Don has had a strong commitment to the Food Bank for years, working there on a regular basis. He’s one of eighty volunteers who serve 70% of the people in northern Hamilton County, Tennessee that the USDA describes as “Food Insecure.” Every distribution day begins with prayer for the clients and the workers. About 400 orders go out each month with an estimated 1600 people being fed.

But let Pastor Don speak for himself:

September 26, 2013: “Today at the food bank we served 37 families and jump started two vehicles. One family asked me (I was wearing my Daisy UMC “ask me” shirt) if we could help with their electric bill. I told her we could. Someone told the family, ‘we say bad things about him, but he’s a pretty decent guy.’” [about which Pastor Don received additional humorous ribbing on his Facebook page.]

October 31, 2013: “Today I am thankful for the ability to help at the Food Bank and to not need its services.”

November 7, 2013: “November 1st. Food Stamps are cut to pay for bailouts of financial sector, unnecessary wars, and new subsidies to the insurance industry. This week Soddy Daisy Food Bank serves 131 families. Eight were turned away today for lack of food. Hopefully they will have something Monday. Folks, this is wrong!”

February 6, 2014: “Food Bank day. I recall the words of Dom Helder Caldera. ‘When I give food to the poor I am called a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food I am called a communist.’ His point was simple. No one wants to think about the issue.”

Few people want to think about the Food Bank (indeed, any food pantry!) until they need its services. Perhaps that’s a prudent reason to consider giving to a food pantry or related ministry near you? Give because we can. Give because people have needs. And most important, give because giving from a sincere and loving heart can be giving to the glory of God.

@chaplaineliza

Hush Up!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, January 8, 2014

runner wall decal

Hush Up!

Rhetorical question: am I doing an act of service if I keep my mouth closed?

Let me back up, and give some context to my question. After I dropped my son off at the high school in town, I went to the gym at the YMCA, as often is my practice. I really like using the track on the floor above the main gym most days. Today was no different. I quickly changed in the locker room and went upstairs, through the cardio and weight room through to the large gym. I had totally forgotten that this was Wednesday. (I usually don’t go to the gym on Wednesdays, for a variety of reasons. But I did today.)

As I warmed up and stretched, and started my workout on the track, I noticed some people coming in to the main gym. Oh, no! Today is Zumba day. Don’t get me wrong—I sometimes watch the people doing Zumba to the energetic, pounding music, and it’s wonderful cardio-vascular exercise. It’s the music that sometimes gets on my nerves. Today was particularly annoying. The first song that was played as I power-walked and jogged around the track had four chords. A four-chord progression, played over and over and over and . . . you get the idea. Repetitive, mind-numbing. It almost made me want to scream. It went on for seven minutes. (Yes, I watched the clock as I circled the track.)

I’m a classically-trained musician. Piano is my primary instrument, and composition was my emphasis for my undergraduate degree in music. I usually can “turn off my ears” and ignore or just not pay attention to poorly composed or performed music. But not today. As I went around the track for a good part of those seven minutes, I felt like giving someone a piece of my mind. Grrr! But I didn’t. It came to me (I suspect God brought this thought to me) that by complaining and kvetching to whatever unlucky YMCA staff member was on duty this morning, I really wouldn’t accomplish much of anything. The Y staff member would probably cluck his or her tongue, nod understandably and say, “There, there.” Or words to that effect. I know. I’ve worked in customer service, and that’s what I would have done in a similar situation.

Instead, I had another thought—also inspired by God, I think. This morning was an opportunity for me to practice forbearance and patience. Two fruits of the Spirit that are not as readily apparent in my character as they ought to be. I kept my mouth shut. I did not blow up or gripe to any Y staff or to the Zumba leader. People have a perfect right to listen to whatever kind of music that they like.

What about a positive act of service? Later, I saw another Y staff member wearing a really pretty sweater today. I smiled at her and gave her a sincere compliment on the sweater. She blossomed, telling me that her daughter had given her the sweater for Christmas, and she’d be sure to tell the daughter.

I think both were acts of service. I was proud of myself. And I think God was amused.

@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