Keeping Quiet, Being Kind (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, January 25, 2018

Looking back at my daily blog from 2014, I see a great many things that are really heartwarming. I reread blogs of instances where I was kind, where I helped, and where I was of service. As I mentioned, this is kind of natural for me. (God has gifted me with the spiritual gifts of mercy and helps, and so I almost automatically reach out when I see the need.) But…what about when I realize it’s better to keep quiet about being of service? What if a kind word or a helping hand is better shared behind closed doors? Sometimes, this way is the best way.

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Keeping Quiet, Being Kind

Posted on January 23, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, January 22, 2014

keep it simple

Keeping Quiet, Being Kind

I know I’ve been trying to blog each day in 2014. As I’ve said before, I’m highlighting an intentional act of service every day. A wonderful opportunity to show different ways of being kind, to find ways of being of service to others!  Many spiritual and religious traditions raise up the practice of service, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and the Recovery program.

But what about things done in secret? Acts of kindness or service that the doer doesn’t want anyone to know about? I personally know a couple of people who try to do kind things for others on a regular basis, and go out of their way to keep it hush-hush. Richard Foster’s excellent book Celebration of Discipline deals with this aspect of service. Chapter Nine talks about the service of hiddenness. Serving in this way can be a needed test of one’s devotion. As Foster says, “[it is] a rebuke to the flesh and can deal a fatal blow to pride.”

Instead of getting all puffed up and walking around with a big head (“My goodness, look at me! Look at all the acts of service I’ve piled up—I mean, I’ve done for God!”), I can readily see the benefits of service done in secret. I have done any number of acts of service that I haven’t spoken (or blogged) about. First, perhaps because I knew the person I did the service for would not appreciate me blogging about them. Second, because I did not want to openly broadcast the act of service, and otherwise shine a spotlight on what ordinarily would be a quiet act of kindness or compassion.

Foster tells his readers that acts of hidden service not only affect the person serving, but others, as well. “Hidden, anonymous ministries affect even people who know nothing or them. They sense a deeper love and compassion among people though they cannot account for the feeling.” (p. 134) I can attest to this. On numerous occasions when I’ve been involved in ministry to others, doing acts of kindness or service, I have sensed a sweetness, a freshness about the place. It’s as if the positive energy or God’s blessing (or whatever anyone decides to call it) permeates the atmosphere. I can’t explain it, I can’t quantify it. But I have experienced it. The difference being kind makes.

I do have a certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling, and I know how important acts of service are to those in recovery. A common saying in recovery goes, “You can’t keep it unless you give it away.” And again, on page 77 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the chapter Into Action talks about the recovering person’s attempts to be of “service to God and the people around us.” This concept is a foundation of the recovery program. Being of service to others is not only helpful, but essential to maintaining a healthy balance and spiritual walk with God and with others.

So, yes. I did do several acts of service today. And I am going to choose to keep quiet about them.

@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!)

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Remodel a Room in My Spiritual House? (#BestOf)

 (the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Remodeling? Yes, this is where I was at, last year. What a mess! But now, almost a year later, it was so worth it! Looking at our modest (all right—small, it’s true) bathroom, I know the headaches were just for a little while. The facelift, the fresh tile, the new paint? All go a long way towards making me feel more comfortable in our modest condo. Lord, is that what You want me to feel like in my spiritual house, too?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 30, 2014

bathroom painting - Oleg Kujala (Lichtenstein exhibition)

bathroom painting – Oleg Kujala
(Lichtenstein exhibition)

 

Remodel a Room in My Spiritual House?

A week from tomorrow. That’s the deadline for the day the contractor is coming to do work on the bathroom. On top of that, a handyman friend of mine is going to paint our living room later this week. One problem: we have A LOT of books. And I mean A LOT. I promised we would box them all up and move them down to the basement so the four bookshelves in our living room would be easy to move. As a result, our place is topsy-turvy right now.

Is topsy-turvy an analogy for my life, or what? My life seems to be off-kilter.

I just left a job last week. I just started a job two weeks before. My house is a jumble. I am excited at the prospect of things coming up. I’m not quite sure what they are, but they are still exciting.

Because almost every facet of my life is turned upside down right now, I am falling back on the trusty old one-day-at-a-time thing. That wonderful way of life tells me not to worry about tomorrow, not to concern myself with yesterday. Only consider today. It sure simplifies a lot. At first, today I paid attention to the morning service. I handled my responsibilities, and everything went well. I enjoyed meeting people at church and talking with them, praying with them. It was great! I didn’t overthink anything, or worry too much.

I think Jesus would be proud of me. That’s the way to follow Matthew 6:34—only concern myself with one day at a time.

This afternoon, after boxing up some more books and staging them in the living room, my daughter and I went to the big box do-it-yourself store to buy some tile and grout for our bathroom. Yes, it was inexpensive tile, with a nice, stylish accent tile around, under the top border. Understated, and attractive. Best of all, the price was great. Came back home, boxed up more books. Today’s activities? All accomplished. Good enough.

While packing and going through our books, my husband and I are sorting, too. Separating, and choosing books to give away. I brought another big bunch to the resale store today. I still see piles of stuff when I look around my apartment, but I realize most of the piles are staged to go various places. I am giving away a lot of books. And, we are in the process of making our condo a more comfortable place to live.

God, do You have something for me to learn from this exercise? Is my life in need of a spiritual overhaul?

Do I have a “bathroom” inside where the old, tired tile needs to be pulled off the wall, and fresh, new tile gets put up? I already know You are my Contractor. You get to say where things in my life need attention, and when I ought to work on things. I hesitate to ask You where and when work needs to be done next, because You will let me know! All right, already. I will. Show me what needs work. And help me have the persistence and gumption to stick to it. One day at a time. Thanks, God!

@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!)

Remodel a Room in My Spiritual House?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 30, 2014

bathroom painting - by Oleg Kujala  (Lichtenstein exhibition)

bathroom painting – by Oleg Kujala
(Lichtenstein exhibition)

Remodel a Room in My Spiritual House?

A week from tomorrow. That’s the deadline for the day the contractor is coming to do work on the bathroom. On top of that, a handyman friend of mine is going to paint our living room later this week. One problem: we have A LOT of books. And I mean A LOT. I promised we would box them all up and move them down to the basement so the four bookshelves in our living room would be easy to move. As a result, our place is topsy-turvy right now.

Is topsy-turvy an analogy for my life, or what? My life seems to be off-kilter. I just left a job last week. I just started a job two weeks before. My house is a jumble. I am excited at the prospect of things coming up. I’m not quite sure what they are, but they are still exciting.

Because almost every facet of my life is turned upside down right now, I am falling back on the trusty old one-day-at-a-time thing. That wonderful way of life tells me not to worry about tomorrow, not to concern myself with yesterday. Only consider today. It sure simplifies a lot. At first, today I paid attention to the morning service. I handled my responsibilities, and everything went well. I enjoyed meeting people at church and talking with them, praying with them. It was great! I didn’t overthink anything, or worry too much. I think Jesus would be proud of me. That’s the way to follow Matthew 6:34—only concern myself with one day at a time.

This afternoon, after boxing up some more books and staging them in the living room, my daughter and I went to the big box do-it-yourself store to buy some tile and grout for our bathroom. Yes, it was inexpensive tile, with a nice, stylish accent tile around, under the top border. Understated, and attractive. Best of all, the price was great. Came back home, boxed up more books. Today’s activities? All accomplished. Good enough.

While packing and going through our books, my husband and I are sorting, too. Separating, and choosing books to give away. I brought another big bunch to the resale store today. I still see piles of stuff when I look around my apartment, but I realize most of the piles are staged to go various places. I am giving away a lot of books. And, we are in the process of making our condo a more comfortable place to live.

God, do You have something for me to learn from this exercise? Is my life in need of a spiritual overhaul? Do I have a “bathroom” inside where the old, tired tile needs to be pulled off the wall, and fresh, new tile gets put up? I already know You are my Contractor. You get to say where things in my life need attention, and when I ought to work on things. I hesitate to ask You where and when work needs to be done next, because You will let me know! All right, already. I will. Show me what needs work. And help me have the persistence and gumption to stick to it. One day at a time. Thanks, God!

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

How Can I Be Kind? Be Present for Others!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday morning - Monmouth College Fall retreat, 2005 - Painting Prayers

Saturday morning – Monmouth College Fall retreat, 2005 – Painting Prayers

How Can I Be Kind? Be Present for Others!

My family took a trip today to Michigan and back. Not particularly a nice day for travel, but we had a luncheon appointment planned for this particular day. We went to a fine restaurant in a small town in Michigan and met two older relatives for lunch. Comfortable eating place, wonderful view, excellent company. I think I can safely speak for us all if I say a fine time was had by all of us.

One of the relatives has done a good bit of (lay) work for the church, for a number of decades. I had the opportunity to seriously listen to him and glean some wisdom from him and his vast experience. What an opportunity! I was very glad I could do that. I could see that he felt good, sharing his expertise. And I? I was listening with both ears open—and pen in hand—taking down all the information I could.

On the way back to Chicago this afternoon, I reflected upon the serious discussion the two of us had over the coffee cups, after lunch. Since I’ve worked as a chaplain for most of the past ten years, I could say that I am also a professional-listener. I listen to people with several aural filters: first, spiritual. Since I often act as a chaplain, I have a primary focus on people’s spiritual orientation (and I don’t mean “religious!” but instead, spiritual, internal focus). Second, emotional. I am naturally intuitive and a feeling/perceptive person, so I can actively listen to individuals and their feeling/emotional orientation.

So, I used my active listening skills at lunch today. (It was automatic—they just sort-of switched on. I found myself in the middle of this significant conversation, and I felt my internal, active listening just being there. Fully operational.) Meanwhile, something was going on under the surface inside of my head while I was cogitating on this conversation. I also reflected on something I recently heard at a gathering of friends. A new acquaintance was speaking. She said quite a number of excellent things. However, what was the most significant thing I thought she said? The most important thing she could do for people besides showing up for them was being fully present with them. I truly appreciated that, and took that thought home with me. The zinger for me? I somehow connected the two trains of thought.

I guess I could say that I was fully present with my older relative today. I listened attentively to him after lunch, with appreciation for his wisdom and expertise. I guess I could also say I took the opportunity to be kind today. Actually, the act of service was a two-way gift this afternoon—both for my relative and for me. I think it is just superb how God sovereignly acts in disparate situations and ties them together in my mind—like at lunch today, and in my remembrance of this recent conversation. Awesome job, God! Thanks so much!

@chaplaineliza

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

How to Serve . . . with Enthusiasm?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, March 6, 2014

BK no act of kindness is wasted

How to Serve . . . with Enthusiasm?

As I’ve said before, it’s a wonderful opportunity to find acts of service to others! Many spiritual and religious traditions raise up the practice of service, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and the Recovery program. Following the lead of these time-tested spiritual paths, I’m trying to find an intentional service opportunity every day, and then blog about these acts of service on a daily basis.

Intellectually, I agree with 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.” But operationally, HOW do I do that? What does it look like?

My daughter and son have caught me out. They have noticed times when I try too hard, and put on my pleasant people-face and my smooth public-voice. Deep down, I don’t want to be “fake-y” or to put on a false face when I perform acts of service. However—I  know I sometimes do try to fake it. “Fake it until you make it,” as one common Recovery saying goes. I think this Recovery saying had situations similar to this in mind. People working on recovery from an addiction are advised to get involved in regular service to others, but service is sometimes the last thing recovering addicts or alcoholics want to do. Thus, “fake it until you make it.”

All the same, I am purposely trying not to try too hard. Humility in service is a challenging thing to pray for (and even more challenging to actually attain). I thought long and hard before I started this year-long adventure of service, because I do not want anyone to think I am trying to earn brownie points with God. Instead, these acts of service are a grateful, loving response to God. According to Ephesians 2:10, God has set out acts of service for me to do, already. After some talking (with several spiritual elders) and some hesitant praying, I finally figured I had better get to work and make myself available for some loving service opportunities.

So, what was my act of service today, you may ask? Several! I did a few needful things around the house for a friend of mine today. Plus, I was kind and I smiled at two clerks at a store. And, I sincerely listened while another friend told me of continuing difficulty with the landlord. None of these service opportunities were huge, but I think they were appreciated.

Whatever way you slice it, I think those acts of service all count. They were all loving, intentional acts, and I even was pleased to get a response to each one. I don’t always get a response! But this time, I did. And it felt good to me to help others. To be kind, and to serve others. The way that God (as I understand God) intends for me to do. Thanks for this task—I mean, this opportunity to serve others.

@chaplaineliza

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

Showing Love by Active Listening

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

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - "Swing Time"

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – “Swing Time”

Showing Love by Active Listening

I went to the gym again today. I didn’t have much time, but I started my workout anyhow. Gray, wet sloppy day outside, good day for staying inside. I happened to run into a workout friend while exercising. She and I fell into a conversation. Or rather, she talked more, and I listened. She had some genuine concerns, and I was happy to be of service. Service by listening—showing encouragement and support.

That’s one of the things I’ve been trained to do. Active listening—with an ear to hear primarily spiritual and emotional concerns, but also psychological and physical concerns, as well.  And sometimes, people just want to get things off their chests. I suspected this situation today was more like that. As a chaplain, I strive to listen to the best of my ability. In addition, I can try to be fully present with another person; this is a wonderful gift I can bring to them. People often rush here and there, in a hurry. Going too fast. No time to lose! But chaplaincy has a different orientation. Chaplaincy, by its very nature, takes its time. Slows down. Lowers anxiety and stress. Oh, yeah. Prays sometimes, too.

I have listened to individuals talk for some time. I mean, full range of emotions, from grief to anger to despair to joy. They earnestly share what is going on and where they are in their lives. And then—sometimes—their eyes connect with mine. “Thank you. Thanks for listening.” Then I might smile and say something like, “No problem,” or “I see how much that helped you,” or even “I hope that lightened your heart/spirit.” (depending on the religious orientation of my companion, of course)

Listening with an open mind and a non-judgmental spirit can be a challenge, though. I know I sometimes struggle with doing it! I know I can’t stay consistent. But I keep trying. Like the Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern song “Pick Yourself Up” from the Fred Astaire movie “Swing Time.” The lyrics I’m thinking of go like this: “I pick myself up, brush myself off, start all over again.”

Fred Astaire—actor in musical comedies of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, and one of the finest dancers in the 20th century in any genre —makes a fine example for me to follow. He always, always tried his hardest to excel at dancing. He kept trying, practicing, doing the steps or routines over and over and over again, until he made the most intricate or difficult steps look effortless.

God, is that what You want from me? Do You desire that I keep practicing active listening? Practice being fully present? Practice my craft, keep working at these chaplain’s skills again and again until they appear effortless?

(What about you? Where do you need to practice? How can you strive to listen to God?)

What a goal to shoot for! God willing, I’ll keep practicing.

@chaplaineliza