THE BLESSING OF MINISTRY

I think one of the many blessings we, as Christians, have is the gift of ministry that Jesus so beautifully personified in His life on earth. Have you noticed how He was always reaching the lost, the lowly, the infirmed? He had compassion on them and wanted to heal and help them. Shouldn’t we follow His example?

Do you find joy or happiness when you are ministering to others? You have probably heard me say before that I really am happiest when I am helping others.

I think it is really neat to see how our ministry can have a ripple effect and bless others and maybe even inspire others to do more along the way.

It is such a blessing to be able to minister or look at some different things that you do as ministering to others.

What are some types of “ministry” that you do?

–Do you work at a soup kitchen?
–Do you help serve food at a bereavement ministry?
–Do you read books for little children at the library?
–Do you send cards to the lonely or sick?
–Do you sponsor a child in another country to help them get an education?
–Do you sincerely and faithfully pray for particular people you know that are sick or in need of special prayer?
–Do you volunteer bringing food to the shut-ins?
–Do you give money to people in need?
–Do you pay for someone’s coffee anonymously?
–Do you visit the widow you know?
–Do you help some little ones and their teacher at school?
–Do you make pies for your Bible Study prayer partners?

There are really so many different “things” that can be considered ministry. I think maybe it has to do with your mindset and what you do with it. If you’re doing it to give honor and glory to God and because of what He has done in your life, I think it qualifies as “ministry.”

5th Ave between 37/38

Photo credit by Ed Yourdon under Creative Common License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I never really thought about the different “ministries” I’ve done through the years until now, but I’ll share them in the hopes it might inspire you or help you reflect on some different things you’ve done in your life.

When I was a teen, I enjoyed volunteering at the local hospital. It was then that I started to learn the joy of helping others. Meeting people who couldn’t do things for themselves because of either physical disabilities or being sick enabled me to help others and opened up a whole new world for me.

I remember helping my grandmother and great aunt as a teen as well. My great aunt’s eyes failed as she aged so I even got to be her “eyes” with taking care of paperwork and her finances for her.

As a young adult, I recall helping at our youth group because of some older friends we had made who encouraged us to help out. Speaking in front of a crowd or group of people is definitely out of my comfort zone, as I tend to be a more “behind the scenes” helper. I enjoyed helping in the little ways at youth group retreats and different functions.

There was a time when a coworker, at work I ended up befriending, and his friend started a Teen Gospel Mission. We would have several talks about the Lord and faith. They needed help remodeling a building to use and help with little details along the way. It was a blessed time of fellowship, laughs and trying to help minister to teens.

And, how could I forget trying to teach the little kids religion classes? Trying is the key word! My teaching days quickly ended after the year one girl wanted to be removed from my class. There were several rambunctious boys in the class that year. Needless to say, I guess God knew I would not make a good teacher..the profession I thought I was going to go into.

When my kids ranged in age from 9 to 1 1/2 years old, I felt a calling to do some type of family ministry because of a sermon at church. I knew the youth group at our church had worked at a soup kitchen as part of a fasting and sleeping in a cardboard box for a night to experience the feeling of homelessness, so I contacted that church. Thankfully, there was a couple that so graciously accepted our whole family as helpers. That was 12 1/2 years ago, and we are still blessed to help out once a month there. Many times, my little one would be asleep on my shoulder as we helped prepare and serve the food to the people. I find myself praying for the people as we’re serving them, asking God to meet their needs and provide for them. Some day, I know I should do something outside my comfort zone, and sit down and talk with one of them.

Sanctuary Stage

Photo credit by bighornplateau1 under Creative Common License (CC BY 2.0)

This past Christmas, I was blessed to be asked to help go Christmas caroling with some people from our Bible Study. It really showed me the ripple effect that ministry can have.

There was this one lady, Kelley, who was talking with a Deacon from our church who shared a person, Marian, who needed some prayer. Kelley prayed for Marian, a widow, who is in a nursing home. Kelley felt the Lord inspiring her to go meet this stranger, something definitely outside her comfort zone. Kelley has been visiting Marian almost every week from that day on. At Christmas time, Kelley got the idea Marian would be blessed by Christmas Carols. So, Kelley poked around to find someone willing to play the guitar (aka my husband) and gathered some singers. (aka me among those.)

It was a very touching experience. Marian’s son and three out of four grandchildren were there. I often find myself praying as I’m doing these “ministries.” It was so touching to see Marian’s son tear up as we were singing and to see how nicely his teen children were joining right in with the singing. It was so beautiful to see Marian join in singing and raising her hands in praise to the Lord, despite her pain and frail condition, as well as missing her husband. We happened to originally go to the wrong floor, but it was neat that I saw another friend’s father-in-law that was there. I really wanted us to go sing to him but we were on a time crunch because at the last minute we decided to take the troops to another shut in on the way home to sing to them. It just happened that Kelley had also been praying for this gentleman (Greg Pedroza, who I wrote on in another blog), so she finally got to meet him and his wife. While there, Greg had the idea to call another man in a nursing home, so we got to minister to him as well. One small thing can have such a big ripple effect.

As I volunteer at a school a few hours a week, I enjoy helping the teacher and then interacting with the kids and helping them do things. They are such a joy to watch…to reflect on their innocence and love they share with you. This year the kids are so friendly and will come give you a hug and grab your hand to walk somewhere. It is a blessing to pray for them and to think about their future as I’m there too.

In our Bible study, we are suppose to do a ministry outside our comfort zone and then share that experience with our group. Going to a jail would definitely be outside my comfort zone so I was kind of disappointed to learn that you have to be approved and go through lots of things to really be able to go into a jail nowadays.

It was neat to see how in one person’s life, God used his two children to confirm that he should go visit and deliver a poinsettia that had been at church to a lady in a nursing home, who turned out to be none other than Marian! So, it is amazing to see how one simple act, say praying for someone, can lead to changing and affecting so many other lives.

I encourage you to continually think and seek ways to minister to others. Your life will definitely be blessed in unexpected ways, as well as blessing other people.

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” –Matthew 25:40

A GIFT TO GIVE

Most of the time, New Yorkers look after their elderly citizens

Photo credit by Ed Yourdon under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A smile will do so much

   to brighten someone’s day.

And a hug will make such

   a warm difference in today.

You might send a card

   that says just what you feel.

And the receiver won’t find it hard

   to make the feeling lasting and real.

If you listen for awhile,

   you’ll show someone you care.

When you see that smile,

   you’ll know the problem’s easier to bear.

So let’s begin today

 and reach out in God’s love,

To brighten someone else’s day

   with graces from above.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
–1 John 4:7

origin_11287853165

Photo credit by BK under Creative Common License (CC BY-2.0)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  –Galatians 6:3

A TIME OF GRACE

Can you think of a time in your life when despite a rough, stressful season you could still see God working and helping you through it all? Maybe you would consider it a time of grace in your life?

In the last year and a half there have been three times where relatives have been in the hospital for extended times, as well as relatives being in the ER for various reasons. I’ve come to know my way around the hospital pretty well. Being there also brings back memories since it is the same hospital where I used to be a candy-striper/volunteer for many years back in the day! That was certainly a highlight in my life where I got to meet many people and help others.

Times when loved ones are in the hospital and there are so many unknowns of what is going to happen are tough. It is definitely an opportunity to pray for the person individually and to ask others to join you in prayer for your loved one.

During times like this, it can also be stressful to be there to support the person yet be there for your immediate family. But, they can also be times of experiencing God’s grace and love. This was definitely what I experienced this past April and May.

My father in law was in the hospital for a total of 32 days followed by 7 days in a local rehab place. He ended up having two abdominal surgeries within 9 days.

10251963_10203455751895201_2946314585609796534_n

The first surgery seemed to go really well, and he was even up and walking the same day! But, as time went on, things weren’t progressing as expected internally, so they did the second surgery.

The second surgery did not go so well. The doctors were really only able to open him up, and shortly after, just stitched him up, because he started bleeding too much. The doctors were unable to see well enough to do anything. That was pretty devastating to think they couldn’t fix him anymore, and we were unsure where that would leave him.

We really thought we were going to lose my father-in-law this time because they couldn’t do the second surgery and because his mind was not functioning properly after that surgery. He was “seeing” things that weren’t there….like mashed potatoes hanging from the ceiling! He was not too coherent and couldn’t remember too much. He even thought he was on a boat! We really thought his mind was not going to be “normal” again. This went on for many days.

Thankfully, he gradually came back around to the guy we knew. It was really hard to see him struggle so much, lose his strength and especially his mind for so long. But, somehow he bounced back slowly. He was so weak that he had to go to rehab for a week to regain some strength. We were truly blessed that there was a local place that had an opening for him. Finally, he was ready to try returning to home with the help of a walker.

My in-laws have a total of seven kids, three of which are local, one about 1 1/2 hrs away and three in Massachusetts. It is always so remarkable to see all through the years that all the families get along well and support each other, especially in being there for their parents to aid them in whatever way they can.

With the local families around, it seemed people were always there to support my in laws and try to help pass the long days in the hospital. It seemed someone was always there visiting my father-in-law, trying to fill his time and eventually to try to get his mind working again. We would bring trivia questions to help stimulate his mind, ask him crossword puzzles, since he couldn’t even write at the time, and the likes.

1782487_10203846572910113_2662544195680553966_o

Celebrating Mother’s Day 2014 at the Rehab Courtyard.

Things were slow going when he was finally able to come home, and we still wondered if he would return to a normal lifestyle, but we are so thankful that he was pretty much back to normal after a good three months. It has really amazed us all to see how far he came. Family members took up the mowing and house duties that he was not able to do.

For me, this time of grace seems magnified because I was able to share it with a friend as well. It was really one of those God-incidents that at the same time my father-in-law was in the hospital, I ended up finding out a friend’s mother, who I had never met, was in the same hospital. A little prompting inside me had me go visit her mom’s room once I found out. Quite the opposite from our situation that had lots of local people to support them, this friend was really the only one there for her mother. Her one sister lives out of town. So I really felt compelled to visit my friend most every time when I would visit my father-in-law. Being there to listen to my friend and share in her journey and show I cared really blessed me. It was kind of a special bond that strengthened our friendship. It was also a joy to meet her mother who was a very special, sweet lady. I felt blessed to have met her even for such a short time. Every time I would visit, she too, would ask about how my father in law was. Despite her condition, she cared about someone she never even met.

When my friend’s mother went to a nursing home for a few days before reentering the hospital a second time, it just didn’t feel the same not being able to visit her. It was hard to see my friend’s mom’s health decline before our eyes and at the beginning of May she ended up dying. But, I feel my life was enriched and graced through knowing her for such a short time. Meeting my friend’s sister was also a blessing and it seemed like we’d known each other forever. It was my privilege to attend the funeral for this family and try to show my love and support for what they were going through. The same day of the funeral, I was suppose to go out of town to attend a conference, but I knew I wanted to share in the funeral instead. I truly was so blessed through being there and the luncheon after with the family.

origin_5498365889 (1)

Photo credit by DRAMOS19 under Creative Common License (CC BY 2.0)

It was special to see how my friend was there all the time for her mother….to see that special bond between a mother and her daughter. I know it was hard for my friend to leave her family and three children home so much during her mom’s hospitalization, but she did what she had to do at the time…be there for her mother. I know their Easter was not quite the same this year, but my friend was sharing in her mother’s journey at the time.

I am so thankful for this time of grace that accompanied the sharing of the hard struggles of seeing people suffer. Trying to be there to support one another and help in whatever small way are such blessings in our lives, and God is always there to provide what we need.

Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. –Hebrews 4:16

LOVING MEMORIES

The Lord places special people in our path–whether it be members of our family, close friends or merely acquaintances.  I truly think some lessons can be learned from each one of our lives–every person is unique and has something to offer. 

It is always hard when we lose a loved one or even a dear friend to death, even if we know the person was a Christian. Their absence leaves a big void in our lives. I think it is always harder on us not being able to be in their presence anymore while on this earth or being able to share life as we know it with them.  But, I think it is important to keep their spirit alive in our hearts through our loving memories of them.   

Maybe you, too, can identify with some of the following thoughts, and reflect on some special people in your life who have gone before you, as I reflect on two special people in my life–my Grandma Palmiter and great aunt, Aunt Hazel.

P1070508 (2)

Great Aunt Hazel & Grandma Palmiter

I am filled with joy and happiness in knowing that they are spending eternity in heaven with God our Father and Jesus.  I have comfort in this fact since they proclaimed Jesus Christ as their Lord while on this earth, and their life also confirmed this.

Knowing that they are no longer suffering and in pain is a blessing and a prayer now answered.  I look forward to the day when their bodies will be transformed into the likeness and image of God.

The hardest part of losing them is the pain and loneliness that is a part of the lives of those of us who are left behind.  The memories of past years together are such a treasure that is indeed hard to measure.  I will always hold close to my heart the memories of all the Sunday dinners, games and outings, as well as listening to the music played to Jesus on the organ.

The most important memories to me are the ones of the way they lived their life which we can all benefit from.

–Faith in Jesus is most important–He is always with us and will help us.

–Whatever happens in life, we need to make the best of it without complaining.

–Our lives can be made happier in knowing that we helped someone–no matter how small the need may be.  Jesus would do the same.

–By truly listening to someone–whether an acquaintance or even a stranger–you can help ease their burdens.

–Having a good laugh every day is healthy!

P1070516 (2)

Grandma Palmiter

I thank the Lord for both of them and the inspiration their lives are to me.  They certainly helped me grow closer to the Lord and to become a better person!

P1070514 (2)

Great Aunt Hazel

The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. –Proverbs 10:7