Serving By Choosing Books

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, April 23, 2014

kidsbookopener

Serving By Choosing Books

For those of you who don’t know, I have four children. My youngest child just turned seventeen years old today. So, I can still remember those days of diapers and bottles, teething and banged-up knees. It’s just those days are getting further and further away. But I still remember, and as I revisit those days, I find I still enjoy being with small children. Happy for me, since there is a preschool onsite at my new job.

Yes, I am a mom. This was the way I used to describe myself. Up until a dozen years ago, that was the primary activity or purpose I used to associate with me. In fact, on occasion, when I’d go to parties or get-togethers at my older sister’s fancy house, her friends and acquaintances would sometimes ask me, “And what do you do?” Truthfully enough, I would be somewhat embarrassed. My answer would usually be, “My sister—and my older siblings? They have advanced degrees. I have children.” I’d say this in a humorous tone, and the people who asked me would often laugh.

But not any more. A dozen years ago, I started a master’s degree program, and three years later I received a master’s in divinity degree. Since then, I have had exciting and interesting experiences in the church, in hospitals and care centers, and at inpatient detox units and rehab centers.

However—I am still a mom. I still love my children very much, even though God has led me through a variety of challenging experiences. Now, in my current position as interim co-pastor, I find I have the opportunity to interact with preschoolers and kindergarten children each week. I read to two of the rooms of children yesterday. I was surprised to see that there were not too many books for the children to read. Of course, I tried to choose the very best of what was there. And I enjoyed being with the children, a great deal! That was the most important thing, of course.

This evening, I took the opportunity to go to a local library in the next town. They have a lovely used book area, where the Friends of the Library sell gently used books for only a small amount of money. This way, the library gets some badly needed money, people get really nice books, and the cost is really quite economical.

I went to the children’s section of the book area. I haven’t looked extensively at children’s picture books for some years. Such colorful, interesting books! I chose eleven (only fifty cents apiece!), and I’ll be more than happy to present them to the preschool director tomorrow, when I go to the church to work. I suspect the children—and the teachers—will be very pleased to have a fresh supply of books.

Yay, God! Thanks for the good idea, to go to such a place and get books. I’m so excited! I can hardly wait to see the faces of the boys and girls. It’s so wonderful to be able to bring a happy surprise with me.

@chaplaineliza

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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