Where I am of Service on Christmas Eve

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas-Candles-and holly

Where I am of Service on Christmas Eve

I planned a Christmas Eve service for tonight. A candle-lighting service. A service where we sang Christmas carols, read from the Bible, and—lit candles.

I know how special a Christmas Eve service is, for many people. Accordingly, I made a particular effort to do my very best planning for this service. I was at my friend’s Christmas open house a week and a half ago. Her son was home from college. He is a baritone, a music major (vocal performance emphasis). I had the brain storm to ask him to sing some special music for this Christmas Eve service. Of course, he said! (His mother assured me he would be there. And, he was!)

I prepared a short message. More of a meditation than a sermon. I laid it out, in clear fashion. I mean, why Jesus was born in Bethlehem. I tried to make it straight-forward.

Here’s the situation. I’ll state it in plain words. Humanity was in a mess. (Still is, without God.) I mean, people going this way and that, doing what they want, not acting or thinking in a way that is pleasing to God, or living the way God wants them to live. Like the prophet said in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned, every one, to his own way.”

But God didn’t want humanity to be left out in the cold, or separated from God for eternity. There was no way for me or for you to get back to God, on our own. We were separated by sin. What could we do? Left all by ourselves, we were in a terrible situation, a horrible mess!

But, God.

God loved us. God wanted to reach out. To bring us back to God. But, not in a mean or angry way! Not in a fearful way, either. Instead, God wanted to reach down to earth in love. And how better to communicate to earth than to become one of the frail human beings God intended to reach? Yes, that same God wanted to reach to earth—reach to each of us, to all of us, in love. With love. Through love.

That was an important point I wanted to get across this evening, when I preached. After church, one of the people who attended the service told me that they had never quite understood why Jesus became a baby—until tonight.

God, I have a feeling I know at least one reason why You wanted me to say what I did tonight. Thank God for the leading and prompting I had as I prepared the service and my message. And thank God for the Baby born in Bethlehem.

@chaplaineliza

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(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

Who, Me? Serve?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, November 12, 2014

SERVE as each receives a gift, serve 1 Peter 4  10

Who, Me? Serve?

I’ve been doing this being-kind-thing pretty much daily now for more than ten months. This is the eleventh month, can you believe it? And still, in the morning, I occasionally wake up with the barely-formed intention, “Who, me? Serve? You’ve got to be kidding . . . “

And yet, I find myself in similar positions on a regular basis. I mean, helping positions. Ways of being kind. Situations where I naturally fall into ways to be of service. I mean, using my gifts. I am going to help officiate at a funeral service this weekend. And, I am using not only the gifts and graces I have been given and have developed in the past years, but I am also playing the piano. And, I am so, so happy to have been asked.

Here’s the verse I chose for November – 1 Peter 4:10 “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”

I haven’t been playing the piano very much lately. I mean, in the past few months. I just haven’t been, that’s all. So, I really appreciate the relatives of the dear senior who died to ask whether I might be able to play. As well as officiate. Actually, co-officiate. My good friend and fellow pastor will be preaching, but I will be doing just about everything else.

Let me come back to playing the piano. I’ve been doing that for decades. Literally. Piano playing was one gift I had that was obvious to everyone, even as a teenager. I became one of the accompanists for the mixed chorus at my high school. I accompanied off and on, into my twenties. And then, I started to flex my leadership muscle in different ways. Branching out, not only playing the piano, but also leading songs. And music, generally. And teaching Sunday school.

My gifts and graces (just as Peter said, above) have been appreciated by so many. It’s wonderful to think of how many bible studies, Sunday school classes, small congregations, and other kinds of groups have benefitted from my service, over the years.

This coming weekend, my fellow pastor and I will lead in worship and witness to the Resurrection. Oh, and I had better practice a bit more on the piano. I want to do an especially excellent job. The dear senior well deserves the best of everything at the funeral service. God willing, I will be able to serve in this special way.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind and Encouraging? Sweet. Bittersweet.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, October 30, 2014

autumn road

Being Kind and Encouraging? Sweet. Bittersweet.

I wear several hats most days. A very important hat I wear is that of Mom. I’ve been a Mom for quite some time. My older two daughters have been out of the house for some years. I have a third daughter who is away at college. And then there is my son—a senior in high school. So, yes. I have been a Mom for a long time. Secondly, there is Wife. I try to be a good companion, friend and helpmate to my husband. That’s another hat. The third hat concerns my work—it’s called Pastor. I earnestly try to serve the congregation as well as I can. Praying for them, teaching bible studies, preparing services and sermons, and especially through pastoral care. That’s a third hat, an important hat I wear. Most days.

Except, today. My husband had a dental appointment this morning, and didn’t go to work. Yes, I did go in to work for a few hours, but I took the opportunity to come home a little early this afternoon. And, my son was here at home. All three of us, here in the living room. Talking earnestly, engaging in serious conversation. Earlier, my son made another brief video and put it up on Facebook. He proudly showed it off to his father and to me, and we all discussed it. Then, branched off into related topics.

Our lively, three-way conversation didn’t last too long, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Afterwards, upon reflection, I thought about my youngest son. I did my very best to be encouraging and tried to show my interest in what he was doing. He was so animated and excited about his latest video. Moreover, he and his father always get involved in such interesting conversations. As I looked at them talking together, I couldn’t help but think that soon my son is going to graduate from high school. Soon, he’ll be out of the house, too. Soon, my third daughter is going to graduate from college. And then—get launched into her own activities.

Gracious, if I am not careful, I’m going to get weepy. Maudlin. Even, down in the dumps. Depressed. It’s a good thing I wear several different hats. I’ll just need to get used to hanging up the Mom hat most of the time. But that doesn’t mean I need to stop being an encouragement and being kind to my children. God, please go with them, wherever they go.

Yes, I am so glad my children are grown, or are growing up. Yes, I am so proud of them, that they are so accomplished in so many different ways. And, yes, I will miss having children around the house. Sweet. And bittersweet.

@chaplaineliza

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Work with My Whole Heart? Maybe, Yes!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, April 3, 2014

 

Work with My Whole Heart? Maybe, Yes!

Today I took a closer look at the verse for this new month in my blog, another in the series of verses from the Bible that talk about service and work. From Colossians, verse 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

This is an important verse for me to consider, especially since I am just starting a new job. A new ministry. Sure, I need to be aware of the people I work for! However, I kind-of, sort-of get the hint from this verse that I need to have my priorities straight. I need to do my work for God, first and foremost. If I consider God before anything (and anyone) else, I suspect I will have a minimum of difficulties.

I relish having a varied position! Different kinds of things to do for work. I enjoy it, and am energized by it. I know that a certain kind of person prefers to have a set number of things to do each day or each week, and is comfortable within those set parameters. While I can work under those limited conditions, I find I appreciate the freedom of more options. Like this week, for instance. Just the past three days.

Not only did I familiarize myself with the church office, but I researched, wrote and preached a sermon, made the order of worship and led the Lenten midweek service, assisted Pastor Gordon at the midweek bible study, chose and practiced some service music for Sunday worship, did a good deal of praying for members and friends of the church, and had a number of extended conversations with some individuals—in terms of pastoral care and church activities.

Wow! What a way to be of service!

It’s true that God has given me a spirit of conscientiousness. Yes. Guilty as charged. So, I really try to do my very best—except now I don’t beat myself up for it if I do happen to miss the mark. It was at least twenty years ago; I used to do that. Beat myself up, that is. I would get really guilty, and feel badly, and my poor self-image would pound me even further into the ground. But gradually, God has helped me become more comfortable in my own skin. After a number of years of working on myself (and my Self), getting further training in seminary and several internships, and more than a dozen years of intentional therapy, it’s changed. I mean, I’ve changed. I pray, for the better!

With God’s help, I’m part of God’s team. I am able to step up to the plate (to use a baseball analogy). God’s the Manager in this ballgame. And I need to remember: even if I strike out two out of three times, a .333 batting average is pretty good! I don’t need to hit one out of the park all the time. Not even most of the time. Thanks for that assurance, God!

baseball - color sketch, 2005

baseball – color sketch, 2005

@chaplaineliza
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