Political Talk: Temper Your Words, Open Your Heart – www.ethicsdaily.com

Political Talk: Temper Your Words, Open Your Heart

Mitch Carnell
Friday, October 7, 2016 6:53 am
Section: EthicsDaily.com’s Latest Articles

President Obama struck the right note when speaking about the police shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“We need to temper our words and open our hearts,” he said following the mid-July killing of three officers.

Words are powerful. They have the power to build up or tear down, calm people down or stir them up.

Arthur Caliandro, the late senior pastor at Marble Collegiate Church, once asserted, “You can never know that your words will be received the way you intended because you do not know what that person has gone through.”

Most people are able to hear hot political speech and let it roll off them, but a few internalize those words – and those words take over that person’s thoughts and actions.

Hate speech is dangerous. You do not know the listener’s state of mind.

The rhetoric in the current presidential campaign is already at a fever pitch with, I fear, much worse to come.

In today’s unsettled political climate, we all need to take a step back, take a deep breath and moderate our speech and behavior.

The president has shown exemplary restraint in responding to his critics. He has the right demeanor that is needed in these times. He has pleaded for calm and civil speech.

Some see this behavior as weakness, but, in reality, such restraint demands enormous strength. Self-control and self-restraint are hallmarks of a Christian communicator.

Parents should discuss these matters with their children and explain to them the power of words.

The wounds inflicted with sticks and stones will heal, but those inflicted with words may never heal and will continue to fester.

Harsh, unkind, hateful words spoken by those who are significant in a person’s life may have an impact that will scar that life forever.

There is a gigantic role for churches to play under these circumstances. They can promote small discussion groups and hold seminars. They can teach people how to conduct themselves in threatening situations.

Here is an opportunity for churches to become more relevant to modern life. Unfortunately, too many churches have elected to become part of the problem.

They use their powerful voices to arouse discontent and sow seeds of disharmony.

The Bible is filled with sound advice on how Christians are to respond to hostile or threatening behavior. People of good will can find solutions even in the face of overwhelming odds.

It is hard to listen to one another when so many of us are so far apart in our thinking, but we can do it. We must do it for the sake of our society.

We must continually ask ourselves: Do our words accurately reflect our claim to be Christian?

Christian civility must become more than a slogan. It must become the way we operate on a daily basis. As Christians, we must communicate in such a way as to reflect the teachings of Jesus.

Christian communication doesn’t mean surrendering our beliefs. It does require us to treat the other with the same respect we demand for ourselves no matter how much we disagree with his or her position.

In fact, the more deeply we disagree with another’s position, the more careful we need to be in fashioning our response.

There are times when the best response is to acknowledge that our disagreements are so profound that we simply agree to disagree and end the conversation.

Mitch Carnell is a consultant specializing in effective communication. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” He and his wife, Carol, are members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He blogs at MitchCarnell.comand ChristianCivility.com

Christian communication doesn’t mean surrendering our beliefs. It does require us to treat the other with the same respect we demand for ourselves no matter how much we disagree with his or her position.

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The Shiny Side Up – Rev. Susan Sparks

Hi y’all, welcome to the Shiny Side Up! This is the fifth week in our nine-part series on change:

The real you
Us versus the world
Shake it up
Too late? Never

Letting go
Earned respect.
A break. Take it

It’s a classic excuse: “it’s too late.”  It comes clothed in many versions: I’m too old, the opportunity has past, I’m just not up to it, I don’t want to learn something new, people would think I’m crazy, I’m scared.

We’ve all done it.

But here’s the truth of the matter: to refuse an opportunity saying “it’s too late” is a choice. You can chase your dreams at any age, at any time.  For example, F.X. Toole made his literary debut at 70 years old, his first novel being the basis for the movie Million Dollar Baby.

Many of us tend to think that we can’t change, saying things like “chasing this dream doesn’t make sense at my age,” or “I’ve already started down one road, I don’t want to have to start over again.”

No one said the path to your dream would be a straight line. Look at my road: trial lawyer to standup comedian and Baptist minister. In fact, one of the things I’ve learned as a performer and comedian is that the ending of your act is the most important part. Even if you bombed in the beginning of the set, if you give them your best material at the end, that’s what they will remember.

In life it’s the same thing. Even if you messed up in the beginning, or made choices you regret, or let opportunities pass you by, it’s not too late. If you give the world your best stuff at the end, that’s what they’ll remember.

Below you will find videos, my blog and a press piece that offer additional inspiration. Until next week when we talk about Letting go, keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down! –Susan

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The Making of a Pilgrimage – The Rev. Emily Griffin – The Daily Cup

 Sep 23, 2016 07:31 am

What makes something a pilgrimage and not just a trip? This is a question we’ll begin answering at our J2A Parent/Youth Meeting this Sunday as our 9th and 10th Graders start planning their pilgrimage to Iceland next summer. How might you go about an answer?

If it’s a pilgrimage, there’s a specific destination in mind. We may discover that what happens along the way is at least as important as what happens when we get there, but fundamentally – a pilgrimage is not aimless wandering. We know where we ultimately want to go, even if we don’t know yet what it will mean for us when we arrive.

We choose our destinations for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, as with Jerusalem or Lourdes or Canterbury, our faith traditions choose them for us. We go to places where generations of believers have gone before us and find strength in their witness. We go to experience our membership in the communion of saints on this side of eternity by walking where they walked and praying where they prayed.  Other times, as I’m suspecting is the case with our teens’ decision to go to Iceland, it’s less about walking well-worn paths and more about experiencing the wildness of God in nature instead.

That speaks to another aspect of pilgrimage. There’s usually an inner journey as well as an outer one. In the Christian tradition, we go on pilgrimage to come closer to God – as well as to others and our own deepest selves. We want to live closer to the Source of all truth and goodness and beauty, and pilgrimage is one way to do that. All of God may be everywhere, but the distance seems thinner in certain places. We train our spirits to sense God in these thin places so we have the awareness and tools to keep following when the paths are harder to trace.

In Sunday School, we tell our kids that a feast is not about how much we eat, but who we’re with and the spirit of thankfulness we bring to it. A pilgrimage is similar, in that our traveling companions matter a great deal – as does the spirit we bring. We bring a sense of expectation, that we’ll somehow find more than what we’re looking for, and a sense of gratitude – that anything we experience (even, and maybe especially, what feels like a detour) may be an occasion of God’s grace.

Psalm 84:5 (NIV) says: “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” The literal translation for the last part of this verse is “in whose heart are the highways.” There is spiritual value in taking our faith lives on the road sometimes. We can experience God here at home, certainly. But sometimes we need to leave home to see more clearly and trust more deeply in what is already here.

This is way too big a topic to cover in one post. I’m hoping this is just the beginning of a conversation.  I would love to hear back from you. What pilgrimages have meant the most to you, and why? Which highways are in your heart? What wisdom would you like to share with our young people as they set their hearts on pilgrimage?



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The Things that Make for Art – Rev. Emily Griffin – The Daily Cup

Aug 27, 2016 08:00 am

I am not an artist. Or so I’ve always told myself. I can’t draw a circle freehand.  When asked to draw my family, I can’t improve upon stick figures. I can barely cut in a straight line. Wherever the line is between artist and inept amateur, I know clearly on which side I fall.

Not long ago in a staff meeting, we were introducing ourselves to our new colleague, Justin. Someone mentioned Jim’s artistic abilities – the wonders he can work with paint or wood or metal. Before long, people started volunteering their artistic sides – the music they create, the ways they quietly contribute to the beauty to the world, the things they do inside or outside of work that make the world that much lovelier for their presence. Once again, I was awed at the company I find myself keeping these days.

At first, I felt at a loss. Does a certain facility with words count as art? I tell stories, sure, but they’re usually not ones I make up on my own. I retell the biblical stories we’ve been sharing with each other for millennia. Does that count as art? Besides, words are ephemeral – especially spoken ones. They float briefly, and God knows where they land. What tangible things do I make that contribute to the beauty of the world?

And then, I thought about cooking. No matter the quality the product or how long it lasts, there’s no doubt that I’ve created something tangible. I can see it. I can taste it. I try to use the best ingredients I can find and afford, and I’m grateful for every hand that makes my meal possible.  I work on improving my technique. Cooking is something I’ve grown to enjoy now that I’ve stopped comparing myself to anyone else. It’s an act done with gratitude and love, if not always skill. Could that count as art?

In an essay called “Christianity and the Survival of Creation,” Wendell Berry talks about what constitutes “art.” He defines art as “all the ways by which humans make the things they need.” He continues:

“If we understand that no artist – no maker – can work except by reworking the works of Creation, then we see that by our work we reveal what we think of the works of God. How we take our lives from this world, how we work, what work we do, how well we use the materials we use, and what we do with them after we have used them – all these are questions of the highest and gravest religious significance. In answering them, we practice – or do not practice – our religion.”

By that light, we are all artists of one form or another. The issue is how well we use the gifts we’ve been given. I might not be a visual artist; I might have to labor to sing on-key. But my status as an artist isn’t dependent on the gifts I don’t have – but on what I make with what I do have and the love and gratitude I bring to them. If we trust the raw material God gives us, and if we seek to make something of value to our fellow creatures and bring glory to God with our efforts, then we are contributing to the beauty of the world. We are making the world lovelier for our presence.

I never thought this prayer for church musicians and artists applied to me, but perhaps it somehow fits for all of us:

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 819)



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