Unexpected Service? Blows Me Away!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 23, 2014

begin where you are

Unexpected Service? Blows Me Away!

Another Sunday, another church service. Except, this is a new church for me. And a new position—leading worship, preaching, directing music. What a wonderful opportunity for me to be of service! I’ll need to learn all kinds of things, like names. Ministries. Preferences. And most important, I’ll need to listen. Keep my mouth shut and learn. And love. Serve, and love some more.

A big praise, because I had a great time this morning after the service, too.  Talking to all the people of the congregation, those who stayed afterwards for coffee hour, and those who needed to leave right away.  As I finished up in the church office some time after almost everyone had left (except the Korean congregation, whose service was in progress in the sanctuary), a couple knocked at the office door.

“Hello! Welcome to St. Luke’s Church,” I said. I smiled at the couple—my big, happy smile. Who is it, but a couple from the Middle East! The man spoke fairly good English. The woman could speak a little, but she wanted proper English lessons—ESL classes. They wondered whether St. Luke’s Church could point them to some place that offered ESL classes nearby. Apparently, they live only a couple of blocks from the church. When I said that I would find out more and get back to them tomorrow or by Tuesday, at the latest, they were so grateful! I am glad I would assist them, and point them in a positive direction.

I am going to call the town hall to begin with, tomorrow, and see what they might be able to tell me about ESL classes. I know I only live two suburbs over from this town, but it’s far enough so that I am not quite sure what resources are available here. I know, I’ll need to learn in a hurry! But that’s okay, since I know some helping professionals close to home. They ought to be able to give me some good tips and point me in the right direction, too. It’s an exciting prospect, to be sure!

When I was working at the hospital, I served not only as chaplain, but also as an additional pair of listening ears, as assistance in trying times or anxious times. And, on occasion, as advocate for patients and for their loved ones. This new situation is not widely different. Strikingly similar, in fact. I need to find out some information and then communicate the information to the couple. Different sort of information, but still communication. Still assisting people, no matter where it is.

God, when I asked You to show me where You might want me to serve at the beginning of January, I certainly never expected to be serving You here! In this place, in this way! God, help me serve you and serve others as best as I can. Please, God. And I know You’ll be with me, all the way. Thanks!

@chaplaineliza

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

 

Being of Service, Being a Mom

A Year of Being Kind blog –Monday, March 17, 2014

Awesome photo of dad and son in capes (need more direct citation, please!)

Awesome photo of dad and son in capes (need more direct citation, please!)

Being of Service, Being a Mom

This morning started out to be the usual weekday morning. Wake up, pray, go to the computer (to look and see if I got anything REALLY important since the last time I looked), and then drive my son to the high school in good time for his first class. I did so, and he and I talked about the gymnastics practice after school. (team photo shoot today!)

Today was a little out of the ordinary, after that. I dialed the office (I currently work a part-time position), and informed them that I was giving my two weeks’ notice today.  I also sent a brief email, telling them the same thing—I now am employed as interim part-time co-pastor! Then I went to my other job. I enjoy my other job, I really do. However, I have lots of other training and schooling and internships in pastoral care and counseling, leading small groups and group facilitation, and a whole host of other things. Now, I get to put all of them to work!

But—not quite yet. I have several more days at my old job. As the morning continued, I received a call from my son. He told me—in a sad voice—that he was starting to get a migraine headache. He was going to try to stay for two more classes, but then would like me to pick him up at the nurses’ office. I told him of course! That is, as long as I could finish my four-hour shift.

Sure enough, one of the nurses at school called in a little over an hour. As I drove to the high school, I could feel my mom-hat slipping into place. My son waited for me as I pulled up, and I (naturally) asked him whether he had eaten, reminded him of some likely foods and beverages up in the kitchen, and urged him to lie down in a dark room when he got home. What can I say? I’m a mom.

After a couple of errands, I came back home. All of those things were on his list, and he said he had accomplished them. I ended up taking him back to the high school for practice AND the team photo shoot.  And then, off to the YMCA myself, to their gym and fitness equipment! Yay! (I suspect my son appreciated the ride, so he wouldn’t need to get killed.

My son’s a junior in high school, but he’s still “young” in significant ways.  That made me think about me. True, I sometimes push through disease and not-feeling-well. Sometimes a bit too much, too. God, help me to know when to work, but also when to stop. And God, I usually know when to offer my service to others. But sometimes, I put my foot in my mouth. It sure would be great if You could help out with a little guidance! You know, in those difficult-to-assess situations. God, thanks for helping me be of service. And thanks for helping me to be a mom. More effectively and lovingly, of course!

@chaplaineliza

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

Looking Ahead, Serving with Enthusiasm!

A Year of Being Kind blog –Sunday, March 16, 2014

THANK thank you God

Looking Ahead, Serving with Enthusiasm!

What a difference a day makes! Or, a few days, in this case. Today, I started serving in an interim position at a church in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove. My arrival there was providential, to say the least. (I am sure I will say more about it, in the days ahead.) I am looking forward to a wonderful time of service.

One of my new responsibilities at the church is serving as interim music director. (They have a lovely digital piano!) I enjoyed playing the piano for the congregation this morning. I have been doing that on a periodic basis for two retirement centers in Chicago, about once a month. I’m sad to leave that part-time ministry, but happy and excited to move into a new, more varied one. Yes, I did active service today, by leading music, playing the piano, and praying in the church. I tried to be a blessing to the congregation.

Later today, I reconsidered the verse I’ve chosen for March, for this blog. It comes from Ephesians 6:7. “Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women.”  When I consider my new position, I am energized! Excited! May I say—enthusiastic? I think, yes.

I talked with one of my wonderful relatives this afternoon, who rejoiced with me over my new position. She has worked in corporate business for several decades. (She is wise in the ways of business and savvy in interpersonal communication, from a fast-paced, cut-to-the-chase orientation. So useful, and so appreciated!)  She often gives excellent advice. Today was no different. Her thoughtful, to-the-point words struck home with me. She said, “Whenever I go into a new management situation, I always tell myself that I will try to actively like all the members of my management team. Working together is always easier and smoother when we like each other.”

Wow, God. Such an excellent piece of advice! I can see how important this is. If I like, respect and, in a Christian context, pray for people I work with, work will always go more easily and smoothly. I knew this piece of advice said in a little different kind of way. I remember one of my seminary professors telling us to pray for the congregation, and invite the congregation to pray for us, as church leaders. Regular prayer helps me like them, and even love them. Which is what God commands, by the way. (And it’s really difficult to actively dislike someone I’m regularly praying for, besides.)

This is going to be a busy week. I have a conference to attend for several days (for my certificate for Alcohol and Drug Counseling, or CADC). And since it’s Lent, I need to prepare a brief service for Wednesday night, on top of everything else. Busy, busy! But God, I know You will be right there next to me. Thanks for this new adventure! And thanks for the assurance that “whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.”

@chaplaineliza

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

Showing Love? Self-Care, Of Course!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, February 17, 2014

winter_glow_-_etsy

Showing Love? Self-Care, Of Course!

The last few days have been tough. Really challenging for me, in several ways, including what I suspect is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Makes me hardly feel like slogging through the day, right now. In addition, what do I think of the continuing wintry weather today and the snow coming down almost all day? It’s the cherry on top of an ice cream (or, if you prefer, an icy) confection. Or perhaps, the icing on top of an ice cream cake, with extra snowy sprinkles.

I met with my marvelous therapist this afternoon. (And yes, our conversation was private and personal, and I’m not sharing it with anyone in a public forum like this. Sorry about that.) What I would like to focus on is the self-care aspect of seeing my therapist. As soon as I walk into his home office, I feel myself begin to unwind and become less tense. Today was no different. Today, he and I together dug up some interesting and potentially valuable insights into my life and experience.  And yes, I felt cared for at the end of my session, both by my therapist as well as by me. Self-care.

I started thinking about possible verses in the Bible that might refer to self-care. Lo and behold, I found several! One that really hit home today was Matthew 11:28, where Jesus says “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Check, and check. I do feel weary and burdened. And, I also feel like hibernating and not coming out until spring. When I feel this way, acts of service to others are not the first thing that leaps to the forefront of my mind. Gosh, it’s a good thing I have that invitation from God to come into God’s presence every day.

But my day of self-care wasn’t over. After the session with my therapist, I went to the YMCA. For the past two months, I have started to go to a gentle yoga and stretching class. (That’s what it’s called—Gentle Yoga and Stretching. Not quite euphonious, but certainly descriptive.)  A major difficulty was the weather. Because of the blowing snow and the snarled traffic on the streets, not too many people came to the yoga class. But I was there! And, so was the teacher, and a handful of other students. The simple and straight-forward yoga poses we were urged to try made me feel alive and invigorated. And the teacher’s calm, soothing voice made me feel welcome and comfortable.

As I finished changing in the locker room and left the Y, I was much more centered and content. And just imagine, I am invited to access that same contentment and peace that I felt at the end of yoga. I can feel the same welcome that I did just be coming into the home office of my therapist. Self-care! And You’ll help me with that, too, God.

Dear God, thanks for the reminder that I need to slow down each day, and perhaps even stop outright. And try a little self-care, too.

@chaplaineliza

Yesterday—Vacuum Cleaner, Today—Washing Machine

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, February 11, 2014

washing machine image

Yesterday—Vacuum Cleaner,  Today—Washing Machine

Yesterday, I did not pray for an act of service to come my way today. At least, I didn’t intentionally pray. I am not sure whether the prayers I’ve been praying periodically had an effect. (I’m half-joking, but half-not.) However, several acts of service came my way today.

Yesterday, I wrote about using a vacuum cleaner to help out a senior, and the complications that arose. Today, I used a washing machine to help out a senior. Sure enough, some complications came up today, too.

This string of events reminded me of helping out Mrs. W when I was in high school. She was an awesome older lady. And I mean, older. As in, elderly. She was the mother of Mrs. S, one of the middle-aged church ladies at my Lutheran church in Chicago. But back to Mrs. W. She was essentially housebound, and lived in a beautiful, well-kept, older brick house. She used a wheelchair and walker to ambulate around her house, but she was one of the most lively, interesting people I remember from my childhood.

Some complications came up when I was helping Mrs. W out, too. I did some deep cleaning in her kitchen, and got thoroughly slimed by the filthy broiler pan under her oven. That was okay, because I cleaned up using some cleanser and dishwashing liquid on me AND on the pan. But it took some time to clean up the pan, and clean me up, too.

Today, the washing machine wasn’t working properly. Except, I didn’t know that before I loaded it and started filling the machine with water. Fortunately, I was able to manually hit individual cycles (quick rinse, and extra spin). Gingerly, I finished the load of laundry and transferred it to the dryer.  (The repairman is coming tomorrow, I think.)

What a life lesson! Sometimes, no matter how hard I try or what I do, things just don’t turn out the way they are “supposed to.” Yesterday, the vacuum cleaner just wouldn’t pick up some of the tiny bits of paper, crumbs and other small odds and ends. Today’s problem was more serious, but not the end of the world. I was still able to get the laundry done.

God, do You want me to learn something from today and yesterday?1)  Some life lesson, or pertinent piece of wisdom? 2)  I know, Don’t worry! Umm, no, another guess—don’t be afraid! Mm, I’m not sure. Or is it 3) one more time, You are always with me, no matter what!

Yeah, that’s it. I know the first two lessons are also true, but the third feels especially true today. God, You are with me, even though I have greasy sludge on my hands from a stove.  God, You are with me, though I fiddle and growl at a strange vacuum cleaner. And God, You are right by my side, even though I am dealing with a recalcitrant washing machine, refusing to operate the way it should.  I am reminded of a verse from 1 Peter 5:7. “Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.”

I think that ‘s what You wanted me to get from my adventures with household appliances. Thanks, God!

@chaplaineliza

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

A Year of Being Kind blog – 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

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