Rain Washes Me Clean—to Be Kind and Quiet

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, June 24, 2014

purple flowers

Rain Washes Me Clean—to Be Kind and Quiet

Some days are quiet days. Days to sit and think. Days I would prefer to be by myself. Days like today.

Upon reflection, I didn’t do anything super-awesome today. Sure, I came to work. Did some worship planning and sermon preparation. Made some telephone calls, got the final bible study ready for tomorrow. Talked with a couple of people briefly, and made pleasant conversation. But, I didn’t have any significant, in depth interaction today.

True, I try to find an opportunity to be kind each day. On second thought, perhaps the pleasant, low-key conversations were God’s way of showing me that I can be kind and loving in a quiet way. (I don’t need to do something significant every day. Even though, I admit it would give me a big ego-boost if I could.)

All right, God. Perhaps that’s what You wanted me to do today. Show my care, kindness and love to others—quietly. I can see how this way of being kind was also a way to display the verse for June, too: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 )

I do strive to be honest, open and willing in all of my affairs. I also try to let that light God has placed within me to shine before others, as much as I can. Another way to think about that light is the shining example of Jesus Christ. I know I fall short, but I can keep striving to live up to His example. After all, it’s continued progress, not perfection. God is pleased with me when I try my honest best, even if I do stumble and fall sometimes.

Stumble and fall? That’s the way I feel in conversation sometimes. I stumble over my words at times, and trip up on choosing the proper words or phrases to communicate what I mean. Of course, I had a stroke that attacked my language center when I was a teenager. Robbed me of the regular ability to finish sentences for several years, and it still gives me occasional difficulty. I’m still frustrated—even decades later—when I occasionally lose my words and feel awkward about my speaking ability.

Upon reflection, it’s a good thing that I have downtime, sometimes. That means that I can rest up, and not need to verbally communicate. Maybe it’s a good thing after all that I had a low-key day. A humid day that morphed into a hard thunder shower. Yes, I had to run out to the car in a downpour when I left to drive home.

God, thanks for the rain, to cool off the hot, humid weather. And thanks for the rain, to wash me clean. Wake me up. Get me ready to work for You. Thanks again!


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Breakfast, Friendship, Encouragement!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, April 26, 2014

friends who ask about you and then really listen

Breakfast, Friendship, Encouragement!

I took the opportunity to have breakfast with a group of friends this morning. You know the usual drill: eating, laughter, friendly conversation together. There were a group of us at the restaurant this morning, but I focused especially on one friend. We talked in depth, and had excellent communication! And I think I was open, encouraging, and helpful.

As I reflected on that personal conversation this morning, I honestly tried to be kind. I know it comes with the territory. Yes, I’ve been a chaplain for the past number of years. And yes, now I am an interim pastor. So, I “ought” to be kind, tenderhearted, encouraging. All of that.

I can feel the special training come to the fore, but I don’t think it’s forced. Not at all.

I do try to come alongside of others. I do use the ministry of presence I learned in seminary. But today I also reflected on where I came from, in my childhood and adolescence. I was a chubby child, and turned into a chunky teen. Talk about an awkward child! I didn’t have the opportunity to learn much about the social niceties when I was growing up, for a lot of reasons. So, I was behind most other folks in my social skills when I reached my late teens and early twenties.

Ever feel like you’re on the outside, looking in? That was me. Figuratively, I was outside on the sidewalk with my nose pressed to the glass. Looking inside, at all the cool kids. Yup, that was me. So by the time I started seminary at forty, I was still trying to play catch up. Seminary was a charm school of sorts, as were my internships. My learning curve was rapid! Pastoral care and active listening were two skills I immediately found useful.  I also continued to develop the practice of general courtesy and caring, with some amount of success.

So—here I was, at breakfast today. All of this background information was subtext, as I had interactions across the restaurant table. And lo and behold, I found myself being encouraging, of service. Kind. Actively listening. Not because I had to, but because it was natural for me to be that way. I am continuing to try to do daily acts of intentional service. And not surprisingly, I suspect my loving, caring actions are right on the money. Bingo.

My good friend and I had a wonderful time, talking in depth, making a true, real connection. This is not a new thing for me, but I felt it in a special way today. Have you ever felt God being pleased with you? I mean, in a genial and affirming way? That’s what I felt earlier today after I talked with my friend.

Just so, I try to be honest, open and willing in my thoughts and actions. Kind, helpful, encouraging. I hope I was encouraging to my friend—to all of my friends—today. God willing, I pray so.


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Being Encouraging, Being Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, January 25, 2014

encourage someone today

Being Encouraging, Being Kind

I ran into a younger friend of mine earlier today, and we had a few minutes of friendly conversation together. I genuinely engaged with my friend. We talked, shared, laughed.  I think I was encouraging and helpful. I did not come right out and ask, but from the unspoken communication that passed between us, I think I was.

Being intentionally kind and tender-hearted every day is a tall order. I’ve tried to be that way for a number of years. Yes, it’s been my job, my profession as a chaplain and caregiver. I try to come alongside of others and use the ministry of presence I learned in seminary. Pastoral care and active listening also are useful in my job.  I’ve tried to refine the practice of general courtesy and caring too, with some amount of success.

As I said, I engaged with my friend today and practiced being kind. The Apostle Paul talks about the outgrowth of Christian love at the end of Ephesians 4, specifically outlining several actions that display the love of Christ. Just like when I act in a kind manner to seniors on a regular basis, or help out the neighbors in my building, or try to be open and tender-hearted to strangers who ask me for directions.  As I’m sincerely endeavoring to do daily acts of intentional service, I think my loving, caring actions are right on the money. Bingo.

It’s not that I feel puffed up and self-righteous. (“I’m so holy! I’m displaying so much more of a Christ-like attitude than those other people over there!”) That’s not it. But I felt myself reaching out today in a kind, friendly, God-honoring way today. Since it’s usually part and parcel of my job, I’ve done it before, intentionally. So, this is not a new thing for me, but I felt it in a special way today. Have you ever felt God being pleased with you? I mean, in a genial and affirming way? That’s what I felt earlier today after I talked with my friend.

I recall when I had a similar feeling from God, a number of years ago before I started seminary. I was at the sink, washing the dishes. I prayed as I washed. I had something specific that troubled me. I concentrated on it as I washed and rinsed. The solution for my difficulty gradually was revealed to me as I stood in prayer. Afterwards, I vividly remember God being both amused and pleased with me. Not because I was praying in an “appropriate” manner, or getting all of my spiritual ducks in a row. No, I think it was because I was being honest, open and willing in my communication. God saw and honored my sincerity and openness in prayer. That message came through to me, loud and clear.

Just so, I try to be intentionally kind each day. It doesn’t matter whether I’m at work, at home, with friends, or with strangers. I try to be honest, open and willing in both thoughts and actions. I hope I was encouraging to my friend today. God willing, I pray so.


Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

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

"Walking with Friends," by Carolee Clark

“Walking with Friends,” by Carolee Clark

Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

Earlier today, I happened to stop on the stairs. I had an unexpected encounter with someone from another country, and I hope I was of service.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll give a little background, and set up the story. As is my habit during the week, I went to the gym to do some stretching and cardio exercise. I had finished a good workout, and started down to the women’s locker room. Halfway down the stairs, I saw a young woman holding an open pamphlet, obviously reading intently. She looked puzzled, and frowned at the piece of paper. I slowed down, since she caught my attention. She glanced up. We smiled at each other. And that’s all it took for her to engage me in conversation.

As it turned out, she held a pamphlet that listed information about GED classes. She trustingly started pouring out her story in accented but fairly good English. She wanted to take a GED course. And then, get her GED to be more prepared to get jobs here in the Chicago area. I encouraged her, and took a look at the pamphlet with her. “Yes,” I said. “The GED class you want is at the high school, on Tuesday night.” She told me about studying English in high school, in her country of origin in South America. Again I smiled and was encouraging. “You speak English really well for taking only a couple of years of classes. I wish I could speak another language as well.” She beamed and nodded her head in gratitude for my words. She was very hesitant about English grammar, it turned out. Plus, she also was enrolled in citizenship classes. I was quite supportive. “That’s great! I wish you the best in both of your classes. God’s blessings in this new year, too.” She smiled even more widely. She wanted to know my name. Elizabeth, I told her. She readily gave me her name. I think I made a new friend!

This is not an isolated incident. I guess I have that kind of appearance that makes me approachable. People come up to me on the street, or when I’m stopped at a stop light. They’ll roll down their window and tell me they’re lost. And, ask directions. Or when I’m standing in line at a grocery store they’ll engage me in conversation. Tell me about personal details of their lives. Believe me, it happens! (My family is endlessly amused, and say that I have that kind of face. Or chaplainly air. Or something.)

In preparation for this year of service, I’ve prayed specifically to be open and willing, each day. As subtext to my month’s service, for January, the verse I have chosen is Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” I think I was kind to this sweet young woman. She and I made a genuine connection. And—I pray that I was of service.