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Your Words Have Power in Everyday Life to Explode or to Heal

www.ethicsdaily.com – By Mitch CarnellJune 23, 2020

The triple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the heightened racial unrest and the economic meltdown have converged to make the words we use more impactful than we sometimes realize.

Our words have the power to calm an explosive situation so reason may take hold, or our words can explode the situation beyond repair.

“I understand. I’m sorry. I apologize. I love you. You are the light of the world.”

These are all just words, but would we want to live our life without them?

Many of us live with other words. “You‘re not good enough. You will never amount to anything. You don’t belong here. You are not one of us. You are not welcome here.”

“You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re too short. You’re too tall. You’re poor. You’re too old. You’re too young.”

These also are just words, but none of us wants to live with them. Unfortunately, too many of us do.

Unless we have been on the receiving end of those words, we have no understanding of how hurtful they are or how long they fester inside of our nervous system.

Words are powerful. They work their way into our nervous system and become part of who we are.

Unfortunately, negative words seem to have more staying power, especially if someone important to us, such as an authority figure like a parent, teacher or clergyperson, speaks them.

In some families, negative words are the only words some children hear. Negative words are used for threats or punishment.

During my teaching career, several of my outstanding African American male graduate students confided in me. “We were made fun of in high school and undergraduate school for getting good grades. Friends said we were being too white.”

Norman Vincent Peale, the famous positive thinker preacher, had it right. He said, “Don’t walk away from negative people. Run.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Jessie Jackson said, “You are somebody.”

Jesus said it best, “You are the light of the world.”

These also are just words. They are important words.

For them to become important to us, we must internalize them. We must believe them. We must believe we are unique. We must believe we are worthy.

Tearing other people down has become a sport. It is reinforced over and over in television programs.

Bullying is a major problem on social media. Because it is anonymous, there is no penalty for the bully. Yet, such vitriol has produced countless accounts of lives being lost or damaged.

We hear it constantly in our political campaigns. It has become commonplace to savage the opponent rather than to counter her or his ideas.

There is a better way.

In an October 2008 campaign rally, the late U.S. Sen. John McCain set a high standard when he responded to a woman who called Barack Obama an Arab.

“No ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

This incident is considered by many to be one of the late senator’s highest moments.

Changing what we say to and about other people is hard work. Ensuring we are informed enough to form our perspectives about issues and people based on facts rather than rumors, falsehoods and conspiracy theories is even harder. It takes a conscious effort and it cannot be done overnight.

We might need to post notes to ourselves to remind us to think before we speak.

We may need to arm ourselves with lists of positive words and phrases or with Bible verses to show us how to make those changes.

Take it one person at a time. Remember, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 46:6).

Hardest of all, we may need to change the company we keep. Some people delight in pulling others down. Their influence is so toxic we may need to walk away.

The challenge comes from those who ridicule our efforts. “Saying something nice is so superficial. You’re just saying that. What do you really think? Come on now. Get off of your high horse.”

We are bombarded with so much ugliness in our world today neither you nor I can control; however, what we can control is our own behavior.

You and I can covet not to add our voices to the mix. We can agree to take control of what we say and to say only those things that build people up and that contribute to the well-being of everyone concerned.

Discipleship

Mitch Carnell

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston

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“Miracle on 31st Street’ – Review – www.ethicsdaily.com

By Mitch CarnellJune 9, 2020 –

If you want to experience joy and feel as though you have been wrapped in a warm blanket of love, then read Susan Sparks’ new book, “Miracle on 31st Street.”

It is a small book of 26 devotionals that will lift your spirits. Sparks spreads out the message of Jesus in a simple but profound manner.

The devotionals are grouped under four headings – Hope, Peace, Love and Joy – plus reflections for Christmas Day and The Day after Christmas.

Quick response, or QR, codes included inside allow readers to obtain a workbook and an Advent calendar.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Sparks knew she wanted to be a preacher by age 7. However, all of her role models in her Southern Baptists circles told her that women could not be pastors.

She then became a lawyer and a standup comedian. After 10 years of being a lawyer, she decided she could deny her calling no longer.

So, Sparks enrolled at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where her calling was honored, and later became lead pastor at historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.

The title of the book comes from the location of the church, which is only three blocks from 34th Street, the location of the famous Christmas movie, “Miracle on 34th Street.”

The book grew out of a series of sermons she preached at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York State.

Sparks takes full advantage of her Southern roots in how she slides the gospel into her wonderful stories. She is a storyteller and a very good one, finding a way to assure us of God’s profound love for each of us in every entry.

In the devotional, “It Is Enough,” she recounts making a cheese grit soufflé and offers a good example of how she uses humor to teach us a biblical truth. “The recipe of life is enough. We are enough.”

In the same devotional she says, “If someone in your life doesn’t call you beloved, it’s their failing, not yours.”

Just to make certain we get the point, she adds, “We are beloved because of who we are. We are children of God.”

The most inspiring story comes in the devotional, “Changing the World with a Five-Dollar Bill.”

Each church member was given a five-dollar bill with the sole instruction to use it to lift someone’s day. The stories that came back from that experience teaches us a lesson on how to do much with little.

Sparks is at her best in the devotional, “Christmas Day.” She quotes a Russian store clerk just after he helps an elderly woman, “If we don’t help each other, who are we?”

You can easily read all the devotionals in one sitting, but I urge you to take your time and savor each one. You will also enjoy giving this book of love and hope to friends.

Mitch Carnell

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.

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COVID-19 Makes It Crucial to Be More Thoughtful with Your Words

This tongue-in-cheek question reveals the perils of constant contact with the same person or persons. Before COVID-19, the complaint was that I do not have enough time for my family.

The pandemic has brought extra urgency for “Say Something Nice Day” on June 1, and “Say Something Nice Sunday” on June 7.

We need to be extra considerate with those with whom we share the same space.

Little annoyances we would hardly notice when rushing about following our daily pursuits get more annoying when we are spending day and night with the same people for weeks.

We need to be more careful with our words. Words are powerful. Words can bring hurt or healing.

During this unwanted pause in our lives, we need to take care that our words are comforting and healing. We do not want to contribute to further anxiety or stress.

Remember that noise, especially loud noise, increases tension. Loud voices sound angry. We want to avoid both.

Conspiracy theories raise anxiety levels, so be sure to review carefully all of the information you are sharing. People are already on edge about their jobs, their investments and their future employment.

This is a time for contemplation about what our future looks like. We know it will not be the same. There is no going back to yesterday and so much feels out of our control.

Yet, we always have the power to choose our words with care. Say kind things to those around you. Don’t pick a fight out of boredom. It is easy to do. This situation is no one’s fault.

We will get through this and will be better because we will have developed new skills, found new ways of doing things and experienced new ways to worship.

However, we must continue to believe in one another and keep the common good in mind.

Speak words of encouragement; speak them with sincerity and speak them often. We will overcome. You will be amazed at how helpful kind words can be when someone who cares speaks them.

No one is urging you to be insincere or dishonest. We are all being urged to be our best selves. These days are tough, but we have been through hard times before. We are stronger than any situation.

One day at a time might give way to one hour at a time or even one minute at a time.

Somewhere I read that we can tell ourselves, “I’ve got this moment. I don’t know about the next one, but I’ve got this one.” We are resilient.

Scripture tells us over and over, “Fear not.” Arthur Caliandro, the late pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, was fond of saying, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be because the other person needs it more than you know.”

Our situation calls for us to be kinder. Our words are so important.

The pandemic has shown us once more that we are dependent on one another. The air we breathe connects us.

Let’s vow not to poison our air with hateful speech. Once ugly words are spoken, they cannot be recalled or erased. They are out there doing harm forever.

Why do we have “Say Something Nice Day” and “Say Something Nice Sunday”? We have them because we need them now more than ever.

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The Joy of Reading Aloud Together

When most adults think of reading aloud, they most often think of reading to young children which I highly recommend. It is the best way to create a lifelong adventure with books and to insure a great vocabulary. It also strengthens the bond between reader and child.

Reading aloud to each other as adults provides great enjoyment as well and provides a time of togetherness. I first discovered the beauty of oral reading as a student in Sara Lowrey’s interpretative reading classes at Furman University. Before that reading aloud in the elementary grades was more painful than rewarding. Many years later I had the great privilege of working with the readers of Christ Our King Catholic Church to help them improve in the oral reading of scripture. . Don’t misunderstand. You don’t need any training to enjoy reading aloud to each other. It’s just plain fun.

As Carol, my wife, inched into moderate Alzheimer’s disease, we began a routine of her reading aloud to me every day. Over the course of a year or so we went through a ton of books. Some were serious and many were humorous. She loved to laugh. We discovered some unfamiliar writers and revisited favorite ones. Slowly her understanding of what she was reading slipped away. Even so we kept our routine for as long as we could. She was a wonderful reader and this was one more effort on my part to keep her beautiful voice alive. We both enjoyed the time together. Carol could read anything and make even dull books sound interesting. Years earlier Liz, my first wife and mother of our children, read selections from The Wall Street Journal to me. She loved the writing in that publication and had several articles already earmarked for when I got home. It was an almost every night ritual. We had many great discussions about those articles. Liz loved words and their subtle nuances. It doesn’t really matter what you read as long as you both enjoy the experience. Being together is the best part.

If you are looking for something different to do and you have a partner who has seen all the reruns on television twice, try reading aloud to each other. Take turns selecting the books or magazine articles. Discuss what you have read. The memory of your togetherness will last.

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