Guest Speaker at French Huguenot Church

I spoke at the French Huguenot Church here in Charleston last Sunday morning. My friend Vickie Guerry introduced me, and my friends Revs. Phil Bryant and Tom Guerry were in charge. It was a service to honor my friend, Arla Holroyd’s, life. It was a beautiful service.

To hear the speech go to the church’s sermon page and listen to the program labeled “February 11, 2018 – Guest Pastor – Sermon”.

Tom Guerry and Mitch Carnell at French Huguenot Church

Tags: ,

Finally a Clear Voice – Rev. Amy Butler

Amy Butler, senior minister, The Riverside Church, New York City

See my rant below. I’m tired, tired of waiting for the world to change. Pastors and faith leaders, no more waiting. Who will attend and who will help me host the next God and Guns training at The Riverside Church in the City of New York?

Since 2016 I have reached out to several people and places in areas where talking about gun violence is less culturally accepted offering to bring in preachers, to transport part or all of the conference, or to come myself to teach a class. Nothing has come of these efforts. This morning I am sick and tired of it all.

If we faith leaders and people of faith won’t commit ourselves to speaking up, why are we even wasting our time in the church? Are we too scared to say that killing each other is in violation of God’s hopes for the world? What is wrong with us?

I’m not going to sit around waiting anymore. I’d like to host a God and Guns training again at The Riverside Church in the City of New York.

In reference to a Donald Trump tweeted prayer: I am done with this meaningless bullshit. To call any of this prayer is an offense to God. Prayers have relevance when they result in meaningful action. Please, spare us the fake concern, especially on this solemn and holy day.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

 

Tags: , ,

The Shiny Side Up from Rev. Susan Sparks – Laughter

“God is silent.   Now if only man would shut up.”    -Woody Allen
Hi y’all, welcome to the Shiny Side Up! A journal of infectious inspiration that will lift you up, make you smile and leave you stronger!

I am a spiritual seeker and a Leo. As such, I prefer chatty, outgoing deities. I want a God that wants to talk about the same things I do, i.e. me; a God that tells me when I wake up each morning that I look gorgeous; a God that says, “I love you” every five seconds and “You are so fabulous” every ten.

I didn’t ask to be born in August. I didn’t even ask to be a Leo. But since someone or something chose to put me on this earth during that particular planetary grade, one would think that he, she or it would take the time to ensure that my royal Leo requirements were met. Unfortunately, the deity responsible was, I believe, a Scorpio: a private, quiet sign that hates lengthy conversations.

You don’t have to be a fiery lioness to feel the weight of holy silence. We’ve all had that moment when we look around expectantly for some divine response — any response — and there appears to be none. Why does God sometimes appear silent? And why do those times seem to be the ones we most need holy assistance?

One thing I have learned over the years about Scorpios is that while sometimes quiet, they are loyal beyond imagination. Often found in the background, they are nonetheless always there — a bit like Forrest Gump. In the movie, Forrest magically materializes out of the background in some of the major historical moments of the time. Oh, here is Forrest with President John F. Kennedy! Oh, here he is with Elvis Presley! Oh, look Forrest is standing beside John Lennon! You had to look closely to see him, but he was always there.

The ancient Celts apparently agreed with my assessment that God is a Scorpio. In Celtic spirituality, in order to find God, you had to look pretty hard. But if you looked in the right places, God was always there. One of those places was what the Celts deemed “thin places”; places where the boundary between human and holy was so thin, so transparent, you could almost break through. These were the spaces where secular and holy, earth and heaven, ordinary and sacred came together. As the theologian, Marcus Borg explained: “Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts, and we behold God.”

Thin places can take many forms. Some might be geographical, like the desert, where all things are stripped away and life is down to its bare essentials. Others might be found in music, poetry, literature or art. Another thin place we don’t often think of is laughter. Laughter is the ultimate act of letting go. It clears our hearts of insecurity, neediness and stale expectations. It opens it anew to the words or songs or silence we were meant to receive.

With laughter, our hearts are laid bare before God. And in this place where all is released, all becomes possible.

One other thing I have learned is that Leos never believe anything is their fault. That is why it has taken me years to realize that God is silent through no fault of God, but because of my own baggage — my own inability to hear. The Trappist monk Thomas Merton explained: “Life is this simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true. [And] if we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes.”

In the end, I still see myself as a Leo with a Scorpio creator. But through laughter, I’ve found a thin place where even Leos and Scorpios are compatible; a point where we let go and stop trying to make God into something; a place of repose where, resting in the mystery, we simply await God to reveal God’s self in God’s own time. No expectations. No disappointments. Just faith that what comes is holy and right and meant to be … Scorpio, Leo or whatever.

(This post is an excerpt from my book, “Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor.” Permission granted by SkyLight Paths Publishing.)

Tags: , , ,

Never Criticize;  Always Encourage

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Workman, said to me, “You are a polite young man.” One of our children’s directors at Northside Baptist Church said to me, “I am surprised at your behavior. I expected better from you.” Two very different statements about my behavior at about the same time. It is a vivid example of our ability to make choices about what side of ourselves we choose to share. We are in control of us.

Each of us has the power within for good or evil. We can choose to be truthful or to lie. We can choose to be kind or unkind. We can choose to be polite or rude. We can choose to build other people up or tear them down. Our words reveal what is in our hearts.

The temptation is to blame others when we show our more unattractive side. “The devil made me do it,” is an easy out. I was being attacked or I had to defend myself are often cited as reasons. for revealing our darker sides. In today’s toxic climate it is easy to fall into the victim role or to lash out. It takes determination to stay the course. That does not mean that we will get it right every time. There are no pills to take that will insure lifelong success. We can only try each time the opportunity to show our better side presents itself. The more we succeed increases our chances of success next time.

We are all works in progress. We are under construction. Finding the right words never becomes easy; however, it does become easier with practice. Words are powerful instruments for good or evil. “Loose lips sink ships.” “I no longer call you servants, but friends.” “We the people.” “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” “Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.” “You lie.” Once spoken words can never be recalled. They are out there forever.

Words are powerful. Use them wisely. We all have choices whether to be instruments of harmony or whether to be instruments of discord. Most of the people I know are desperately in need of words of encouragement. There is already enough negativity out there.  We are constantly being drowned in a sea of poison language. Resist the urge to strike back. Let it go. If possible, offer a positive word. Remember, “People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

Tags: , , ,