Being of Service, at a Midweek Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Showers of Stoles - photo - 7/07/12 The Chautauquan Daily

Showers of Stoles – photo – 7/07/12 The Chautauquan Daily

Being of Service, at a Midweek Service

I love to preach. (Have I mentioned that before? If I haven’t, I meant to.) I love every aspect of the preaching process. I usually preach from the Lectionary texts, the set Scripture passages for each Sunday. From handling the Scripture, praying over it to see where the Lord is leading, doing research and consulting commentaries and other books, to actually sitting down and writing the sermon. And then—the delivery. Ahh! That is the icing on top of a delectable cake! I won’t say it’s enjoyable or rewarding to write a sermon every single time, because it isn’t. But about 95 percent of the time, it is!

Today, I had the opportunity to preach at a midweek service for seniors. The service was in the chapel of the large Presbyterian Home in Evanston, where I’ve preached a number of times before. Plus, I served there as a chaplain intern when I was in seminary, more than ten years ago. I still preach at the Home on occasion when needed. So today, I was of service, leading a service.

Three things stand out in my mind. First, my sermon, on Psalm 103. I enjoyed writing it, and I think I delivered it well. One of my illustrations particularly struck me, moved me. I teared up while I was preaching (unusual for me), but I managed to make it through the last page of my manuscript. And, several people particularly mentioned how moving the sermon was. Praise God.

Second, I saw a dear senior (now a resident in his mid-nineties!) who I have known for almost twenty years. He and a relative of his came to the midweek service. I hadn’t seen him for at least a year and a half, perhaps two years. I so appreciated his presence at the service. He and I were dear friends, and he faithfully prayed for me some years ago while I was in seminary. But—he never had an opportunity to hear me preach—until today. Dear, dear man. I am so glad he felt well enough to attend the service.

The third thing? Something that also moves me deeply. And, causes me to reflect on the passage of time, and the changing of the seasons. The ending of one chapter, and the beginning of the next. The Director of Chaplaincy and my former supervisor is retiring at the end of this week, on August 1st. The Reverend Doctor Frank Baldwin will leave the Presbyterian Home after twenty years. He has touched so many lives, over the years. Whether residents, their loved ones, staff, other chaplains and ministers, or student chaplain interns (like me), Frank has done a marvelous job. As a chaplain, as an administrator, as a co-worker, as a mentor and advisor.

I look up to Frank and his quiet, efficient, never-hurried skills and gifts in administration, chaplaincy and preaching—combined! I know he will be sorely missed. His skilled hand of administration is almost always invisible behind the scenes. Yet, he firmly holds the reins of the pastoral care departments of the several sites of the Presbyterian Homes network. And, on top of all that, he never forgets a name. (Unbelievable memory!) Frank, I am so glad that I was able to preach well for you today. Here’s wishing you a fruitful retirement, a smooth transition, and enjoyable future with your wife, your family, and in further ministry–wherever God takes you. God bless you richly, now and always.


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

A Helping Hand, at Good News Partners (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, July 11, 2014


A Helping Hand, at Good News Partners

I remembered something today. Something I haven’t thought of for a number of months. I remembered offering some piano lessons to several children, at reduced cost. These were not my usual piano students. No, these were children who lived at the Jonquil Hotel, a single-room residency building that is part of Good News Partners, a ministry that tries to make God’s love and caring tangible in the lives of those they serve. Good News Partners is located in the North of Howard section of the Rogers Park neighborhood, in Chicago just a few blocks from Lake Michigan. The other housing options of GNP make up a unique housing continuum, with a shelter, rental housing, and cooperative housing.

I traveled only a few miles, and crossed the border into Chicago. I transitioned into a neighborhood where I made sure to lock the car doors and be certain that nothing of value was visible from the exterior of the car. Just in case. Right near the Howard Street El station.

The families I worked with, for a brief time, were in transition from homelessness (or the verge of homelessness). The Jonquil Hotel was—and is—a caring, nurturing residence to build community and confidence among the individuals and families living there. The piano lessons only lasted a few months. I wish I had been able to assist some young people in learning to play the piano. But, I realize the tenuous situation many of the families are in. I understand—a little—what it is like for them to have fear, anxiety and worry as near constant companions. I can relate, because my former husband and I were in a similar situation when my oldest two children were small, before they entered school. No firm or continuous employment for either of us, for many, many months. But that’s a topic for another post.

I offered the children what I could—piano lessons. And, I was a kind, friendly face and voice that came once a week. Yes, I assisted with piano instruction. However, I also encouraged the children in other ways. I would always ask what they were learning in school. I tried to engage them in conversation about things they might be interested in. I used my friendly smile and my less-anxious presence (so valuable in the health care setting!) here, too. I never asked, but I do hope it made a difference in the lives of these children and their parents. God willing, it did.

This situation several years ago with Good News Partners came to mind because I’ve met another family recently. Not as dire a situation, but I was asked whether I could teach piano, again. Of course I can. And, I will. I hope and pray I can be useful in this situation. I hope and pray that God goes before me in helping this dear family, too.


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

Helping, While Saying Good-bye!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, June 1, 2014

God makes a way

Helping, While Saying Good-bye!

It is difficult to say good-bye. Transition is a constant, and a necessary part of life. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

My friend and colleague, Pastor Gordon, preached and celebrated his last service at the church where I am working. Today. He is moving into another specialized ministry with his denomination, where he can use both his ministerial credentials as well as his real estate broker’s license. It sounds quite exciting, and I wish him the very best!

But—that leaves me as the solo interim pastor. Exciting! Gasp! Yes! I can certainly preach, and do pastoral care for the congregation; facilitate and teach bible studies, and lead in worship, singing and prayer in the service each week. I’ve been doing each of these things for years, one or two at a time. However, this is the next step. A new position, where I need to do all of these things at once, plus church administration. As I said before, exciting! And daunting . . .

Gordon has been a wonderful colleague. Experienced, positive, savvy, almost a cross between a sage, an encourager, and a cheerleader. During the past few months, he has coached me in how to serve this congregation fully, and I have appreciated his every suggestion. (I also have thanked him so much for his cautions and corrections! And believe me, I need them. On a regular basis.)

A few days ago, as we sat in the pastor’s office and had one of our last meetings together, Gordon mentioned he felt like Elijah, passing on his ministry to Elisha. (Gosh, if Gordon is casting himself as Elijah, I guess that makes me the other guy—I mean, Elisha.) I laughed, and I was only half-joking when I made the quick come-back, “Well, I sure hope you give me a double portion of your skill in administration, and especially with people!” (Maybe I was more than half-serious, now I come to consider it.)

I have Gordon’s blessing, as well as his dedication in front of the congregation at the end of the service today. He dedicated me for my work at the church and with the congregation, and he also dedicated the president of the congregation, too. I so appreciate his prayers and good wishes. “As long as she is needed,” were Gordon’s words. They will stick in my mind, that is for sure.

So, how did I help Gordon? For the past few months, I was the best colleague that I could be! I know I work well in tandem with people, and especially as a second fiddle. But now, with Gordon’s encouragement and help, I’m moving into the first fiddle position. Wow! I think I am ready. (Gordon says I am! And I respect his knowledge and understanding of human nature very much.) So, I am ready to take up the mantle. Gordon (and his ministry) is a hard act to follow! But, God willing, I can go forward. Lead this congregation. With God’s help, and with the prayers and encouragement of this flock, and my dear friends and prayer partners.

God, thanks for sticking close, right by my side. You and I make a great team, too!


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