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!


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 .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons   from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)


Helping, Serving—and Enjoying Myself!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas decorations

Helping, Serving—and Enjoying Myself!

The first part of the day? Service.

I served in the church, led in worship, and read for the Sunday school program. We also said good-bye to Tim, the wonderful youth leader in our church. He has done a tremendous job teaching Sunday school and leading the children, since this winter. Now, he’s graduating and leaving Chicago. So, it was a bittersweet experience, coordinating that aspect of the service. However, I particularly wanted—to be of service. Worship service, that is.

Helping comes next.

After church, I thought of helping out my daughter, who needed shoes. She had her heart set on gym shoes. And, yes, we found some powder blue Converse gym shoes on sale! Even, in her size! That was kind to my budget, believe me. Although, I urged her to consider finding some nice flats, too. Pretty, comfortable, and versatile. (I absolutely insist on comfort in shoes. No sacrificing my feet for fashion, believe me!) Lo and behold, she was able to find some ballet flats with some extra fancy designs around the toes. So, another helpful thing accomplished. Scratched off of the list of things to do.

Next on the agenda, enjoying myself. (I like to do that, believe me!)

In amongst all of the busy-ness, hustle, bustle and everything else, I found the time to attend my friend’s open house. In a lovely, gracious, vintage building, my friend Sherryanne hosted a holiday party—along with her mother and her aunt. This has been a holiday custom in her family since before World War II. I was fortunate enough to attend, and to enjoy all of the delicious things on the table.

Oh, and I enjoyed the excellent company at the open house, too. I saw some people I haven’t seen for quite some time. Perhaps even for several years.

The holidays can be fun! And, hectic. And—did I mention fun?

I’ll have fond memories from this year, especially from the Christmas celebration I attended this afternoon. Good food, good conversation, good friends. Thank You, God!


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Be Helpful? Be Hospitable! (With Chili, Too.)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, December 13, 2014

people diverse fellowship in the church

Be Helpful? Be Hospitable! (With Chili, Too.)

I enjoy being helpful. Yes, that’s one of my spiritual gifts. That’s what this blog is all about! But, today I also had the opportunity to be hospitable, too.

I took the opportunity to host a holiday open house at the church this afternoon. It was a chance to have a little more relaxed time with people in the congregation, and for me to bring a few things to the church. Like cookies. And chili.

It’s funny. I’ve been using the same chili recipe every time (your basic chili, from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, minus the bay leaf). I did use three different kinds of beans—red kidney, black beans, and white Northern beans. But other than that, it always turns out just a little bit different. Not bad different, but just different different. I wonder why that is?

I suppose I could make that a metaphor for life. Or, more specifically, for the Christian life. The walk with God. I use the same basic recipe. I put in the same ingredients. And somehow, things change. Usually, just a little bit. But, my recipe—my day by day life—changes incrementally. Usually in very small ways, but it keeps on changing.

If I consider the verse for December, from Ephesians 2:10, I have the same basic ingredients in my Christian life; the same ingredients and same basic recipe for the human condition. Yet, I have the opportunity to do marvelous things. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Yes, I am God’s handiwork. Another translation says “God’s masterpiece.” God made these ingredients and put them together in the same basic recipe. And, I have the chance to take these God-given ingredients and put them together in a useful way. A tasty way. A winsome way.

It’s good to be hospitable, to offer what I have and what I am to the congregation. Yes, I prepared food. (I think most people enjoyed what I brought, too.) I also took the opportunity to play Christmas carols this evening, and everyone sang. It didn’t matter that we didn’t sound like a wonderful choir. No, that didn’t matter to us. Instead, we sang carols to the glory of God. (Also for our enjoyment!)

All in all, a good day. Thank You, God!


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In Which I Have Patience. And Am Kind.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, October 11, 2014

things you can't buy in stores

In Which I Have Patience. And Be Kind.

I like to people-watch. I enjoy it! When I sit in a coffee shop, browse at a book store, even walk outside, down a busy sidewalk. All prime places to people-watch. I know, through experience.

My husband and I went to a coffee place nearby, this afternoon. It was a mom-and-pop establishment, later on a Saturday afternoon. Quiet, not many patrons in the shop. An older couple, seated a little way from the cash register. A younger man on his laptop, at the counter facing the window. A knot of men speaking Italian, heads close together.

As the two of us approached the cash register to order, we both noticed the bag casually slung under the table. A clear Chicago Marathon bag sat at one of the men’s feet. Including the official entry form and number. Was he from Italy, I wondered? What was his story? Were any of the others running in the Marathon tomorrow? All this flashed through my head in a split second while I considered what to drink. Waited for the woman ahead of us to finish and pay.

It didn’t look hopeful. For a quick turnaround at the cash register, that is. The young person working the cash register apparently was a new hire. Not familiar with the register, not used to the menu, not that facile with the money. My husband and I were patient, slowly giving our order. (One simple coffee drink, one tea. No frills. Straightforward.) We gave it again. And again. And, one more time.

We decided to sit down. We did not have a time crunch, or anywhere particular to go or do at that time, so we pulled up chairs. (Next to the men speaking Italian, by the way.) We watched the proceedings, and made editorial comments. Not particularly snide ones, either. My husband surprised me by relating a story about his dry cleaners, and how something similar had happened there just this morning. They somehow misplaced my husband’s order. My husband patiently waited, standing quietly. Just standing, not upset, not distraught. He could see the lady behind the counter get a bit frazzled. However, the clean clothes were simply misplaced. All was well, at last.

But, that was at the dry cleaners. This afternoon at the coffee shop was another story. We waited. And waited some more. Finally, another young person brought my husband his tea, and then about two minutes later, my coffee. Out of habit, more to double check than anything else, I asked whether it was decaf. Crestfallen, the young person said, “No, it’s caffeinated,” and disappeared. I waited even longer. Finally. I got a coffee drink, decaffeinated, at last.

I wondered just now. Does God ever get impatient with me? God knows, I give God plenty of reason to get impatient and upset. Even disgruntled. Thank You, God, for not getting impatient and angry with me.


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Kind to Myself at a Silent Retreat

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, September 20, 2014

Be still, and know that I am God Ps 46-1

Kind to Myself at a Silent Retreat

I spent today in silence. At least, most of the day. In silence, reflection, prayer, and meditation.

At first, when I thought about participating in this retreat, I couldn’t justify spending a whole Saturday away. A whole Saturday when I intentionally separated myself from the busy, day-to-day, hustle and bustle. But the more I thought about it, the more I considered it to be something I needed to do. For myself, and for my spiritual health.

So, yes. I was kind to myself today. As the title of the day of prayer said, this was a Soul Care Day. A day to be gentle with the soul, and to reflect on scripture. The two reflections of the day touched me deeply. (Both on the Good Shepherd; the morning reflection on Psalm 23, and the afternoon reflection on John 10.) It was deeply moving to have a connection with God in such an intimate way. Another powerful thing that moved me as well was the additional material each participant received.

I found I appreciated the prompts that helped me join this silent retreat fully. Concerns (about myself, others close to me, my work), weariness (of body, mind or spirit), distractions (that occupy or nag at my mind or heart) and fears (“what ifs,” outcomes, expectations). I was encouraged to bring any or all of these things to conscious awareness, as they came to mind, and set them aside. So I might fully enter into the retreat.

A third thing that touched me deeply was a private prayer time I had with the retreat leaders. This was a kind and giving act they offered. A precious gift, and I welcomed it. Three people prayed with me. One I have only known and seen several times. The other two I have known for a long time. One woman has a number of children, with two the exact ages of my two youngest. She and I were in a mom’s bible study together for years, before I even went to seminary. (And the third? My spiritual director, and an amazing woman of faith.)

It was restful and helpful for me to step away. Step out of a leadership position at the church where I work, and rest in the hands of God. Walk with the Good Shepherd for a short time, and rest in the green pastures of God’s grace and love. Thank You, God, for this wonderful opportunity to rest in You.


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Helpfully Transporting a Daughter

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, August 23, 2014

Illustration of Hogwarts Castle  by Andette

Illustration of Hogwarts Castle
by Andette

Helpfully Transporting a Daughter

I almost wasn’t going to blog about this, but yesterday was the day. Move-in day. My daughter went away to college. And yes, my husband and I transported her to the campus, not so many miles away from our condo. Just far enough away for her to feel on her own, but near enough to be able to easily come back for a special event. Like on Monday, when she’ll be coming back home for a special Doctor Who event, shown that evening in “selected theaters.” And if you don’t know what or who Doctor Who is? Don’t ask. My daughter will simply give one of her signature eye rolls. Suggestion? Check out the article on Wikipedia. That should provide sufficient information.

My husband, daughter and I went to her dorm, moved in her stuff (with the assistance of two helpful, burly varsity athletes from the college), and wandered around the small campus. Went to the bookstore. Had a very nice, barbequed lunch. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. I don’t know whether it was because of an extra-special effort for new students on campus, or what, but my husband and I were impressed and pleased. Especially at the care taken for transfer students—which is what my daughter is.

I am reminded a bit about my daughter’s other “first day at school” experiences. Preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high school. From my observations, she (more or less) rolled with the experiences. It didn’t take her very long at all to become comfortable with her surroundings, and well accustomed to the school schedule, the campus procedures, the strange and unique ways of the particular student culture. It didn’t matter whether it was preschool, middle school, or high school. I suspect she will do something similar here, too.

God’s blessings on all the students at my daughter’s college. New students, transfer students, continuing students. Also, the faculty, administration and staff. I wish them all success and good experiences in the coming year.

We hope our daughter will be content, happy, and industrious. God, bless Rachel, too. Help her know that You love, encourage and bless her, each and every day. Thank You, Lord.


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For the Joy of Reading!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, May 6, 2014

children heart illustration

For the Joy of Reading!

I love to read! I love reading out loud, too. (With some books, I have been known to do voices for different characters.) I’ve been told I have an excellent way with the spoken word, as well.

At my new position, I have the great joy and opportunity to read to some young people each Tuesday. Today being Tuesday, today was reading day! I had two excellent books to read to the children. The same two I read last week, except I changed the order in which I read them—so, I read Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema to the four year olds this week, and read Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey to the kindergarten children.

I’ve been reading for almost fifty years In fact, I can vividly remember the moment when I started ‘decoding’ the letters. My mother was reading one of the Oz books to me, by L. Frank Baum. (We had several, in hardcover.) I was barely four years old—it was winter, and cold weather. I remember her reading the words at the bottom of one of the full-page illustrations, and running her finger along as she read each word. Wow! I had the grand feeling of huge puzzle pieces falling into place as she did that. I suddenly understood what reading was all about. I connected those sounds and those letters that my mom was tracing and the words she read . . . and everything fell into place. It was glorious magic!

And after that, it seemed like I never stopped reading.

I read a great deal of fantasy and fairy tales when I was in grade school, although I had fairly eclectic tastes. (I was the youngest child in my family, so we had all the books from my older brothers and sisters around the house. I was free to read whatever I chose.) I started writing my own stories and books when I was a teenager. And I kept right on writing fiction, through my twenties, into my thirties and forties—and took a break when I went to seminary. Or, instead, started to write serious papers and articles. And started to write sermons, too!

Sermons seem to be a great combination of several skill sets. A confluence, if you will, of several streams of interest. I’ve written here about my preaching before, and I’ll say again—I love it! There is something so satisfying, so deeply moving about handling the scriptures. Praying about what to say. Crafting the structure, the arc of the message. And then—the delivery. Excellent!

Reading picture books to children is also excellent, but in a different way. I get up close and personal. I can interact with the children. (I do interact with the congregation, too, except it’s different. Somehow.) I felt this wonderfulness today, as I read the picture books. And I connected with the children. Up close and personal. God, thank You for this awesome opportunity that You’ve given me—to read to children once more! Such an opportunity. So rewarding. Thank You, God.


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