Archive for category Say Something Nice

Lord Give Me Patience and Make It Snappy – Rev. Susan Sparks

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!

First — a word of concern for our brothers and sisters in the path of Hurricane Florence. Let us pray for their safety and wellbeing.

Now — let me share a message . . .

Our modern society can best be described in three words: fast, immediate, and instant! We speed walk, speed dial, and speed date. We disdain anything that takes extra time, including the US mail, which we affectionately call “snail mail” (an ironic nickname, given that 150 years ago, mail delivered by horseback was called “the pony express”).

We even speed pray. Recently, while waiting in an inordinately long line at the DMV, I mumbled through gritted teeth, “Lord, give me patience.” Almost without thinking, I then added, “And make it snappy!”

It’s hard to have patience in a sound bite world. That said, it is a virtue worth cultivating. We see this lesson over and over in scripture.

Consider Hebrews 12:1: “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”In short, life’s a marathon, so pace yourself.

Patience may be one of the best things we can do for our stamina and our health. Exhibit A: my Dad, Herb. A twentieth-century Buddha with a North Carolina accent, Herb was never in a hurry. Nothing ruffled him, and nothing phased him. His heart rate stayed the same through thick and thin (roughly seven beats per minute). Even though he lived on a diet of fried chicken, cream gravy, Frito scoops, and pecan pie, Herb made it to the ripe old age of 89. Why? Because he was patient. It’like the old saying goes, “It’s better to be patient than to become one.”

Patience also brings perspective. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Similar advice came from a partner in my old law firm. He used to say, “always wait twenty-four hours before firing off an angry response.” That suggestion has saved me from much unnecessary angst.

How many times have you fired off an email or a text in a knee-jerk reaction that you regretted, or spewed out words that you wish you could take back? With the buffer of time, you might have been able to see the issue or the person differently. In the end, what’s the downside of waiting to respond? If it’s that big of an issue, it’ll be there tomorrow.

The opportunity for growth is perhaps the most important gift we receive from practicing patience. The Bible says, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters . . . See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains” (James 5:7)Its too bad that we don’t treat others like farmers treat their crops, enabling their growth through patient tending.

Too often we get impatient with people—finishing their sentences, tuning out if they take too long to tell a story, or taking over their jobs if they don’t do the work quickly enough or in the way that we want.

The author Paulo Coelho tells the story of a man watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. The man decides to help the butterfly by cutting open the cocoon to free it. What he fails to realize is that the effort required to break free from the cocoon is nature’s way of strengthening the butterfly’s wings. By trying to accelerate the process, the man destroys the butterfly’s ability to fly.

Similarly, we can clip people’s wings through our own impatience. It takes time for things and people to strengthen and grow into their potential. We must have patienceto allow them that room.

This week, when you feel your patience waning, ask yourself: is this worth my health? In twenty-four hours, will my perspective change? Is this something or someone that needs extra time to develop fully?

Patience is a virtue worth cultivating. Try it. Just breathe. Take a beat before you respond. Be gentle with those you love. And if all else fails, then use this simple prayer to get you started: “Lord give me patience . . . and make it snappy!”

(This piece was featured as a nationally syndicated column for GateHouse Media. To read this and other columns,click here!)

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Churches, wake up and smell the coffee: communion with a cup of joe?

BRETT YOUNGER  |  AUGUST 28 Baptistnewsglobal.com

“Should we say something to her?”

“It’s not her fault. She didn’t grow up in church.”

The object of concern brought a cup of coffee into the sanctuary and set it down on the pew as if it was acceptable behavior. The troubled church members tried to let her know telepathically that coffee is not allowed in the sanctuary. How could she miss the invisible line beyond which a cup of joe is not permitted?

But how could the church not see that in a world that is asleep, coffee is no doze?

Coffee appears only two times in The Message Bible: “Never again will friends drop in for coffee” (Job 7:10) and “Wait table for me until I’ve finished my coffee” (Luke 17:8).  Imagine how many times “coffee” would be in the concordance if Jesus had thought to change water into cappuccinos at the wedding in Cana.

“Imagine how many times ‘coffee’ would be in the concordance if Jesus had thought to change water into cappuccinos at the wedding in Cana.” 

Opening the church to coffee drinkers has been a long, difficult struggle. Coffee dates back to the 15th century and the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. One legend is that the mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili was traveling in Ethiopia. He saw birds acting unusually lively, and upon trying the berries that the birds had been eating, experienced the same vitality. Coffee was soon part of religious practice in the Islamic world. The Sufis used the beverage to keep themselves alert during nighttime devotions and as a kind of spiritual intoxication when they chanted the name of God.

Because Muslims loved coffee, several Christian groups, including The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made a big brouhaha and banned coffee. Mormons still avoid this potion made with magic beans.

Churches need to wake up and smell the coffee. When I ask Siri to “find coffee” she lists four places within 800 feet of my house. Our neighborhood has more coffee shops than churches.

Coffee is the most important meal of the day for many. In the midst of the daily grind, coffee is invigorating. A yawn is a silent scream for coffee. Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation. Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven and tastes like hopes and dreams.

When we are holding a cup of coffee, the warmth radiates through our hands. The aroma drifts through the air. The cream goes into black coffee and magically changes it into good-to-the-last-drop caramel. This sensual experience helps our sleepy selves greet the day with gratitude. We reflect on what we now have the energy to achieve.

“We should take our coffee seriously and joyfully. We should fill our churches with sugar and cream, sweetness and light.”

Worship would be less lively without a cup of joy. We can tell a lot about a church from how they caffeinate worshippers. My parents’ Baptist church is Folgers. Unitarians drink fair trade coffee. Mennonites have Keurig committees that wash and recycle those little cups. Presbyterians fill their fellowship halls for the sacrament of coffee hour. Catholics serve decaf at midnight mass. Sharing coffee is a way of saying, “We love you a latte.”

Church should be a place for common ground and a home to hang your mug. “Bible study” is less enticing than “Coffee and Bible study.” Nominating committees should choose a church barista.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” is an offer of friendship. Coffee turns a counseling session into a conversation between friends. Saying “yes” to coffee at the end of a meal is a promise to hang around.

Here is a question that needs to percolate: would coffee be a better symbol for communion? Grape juice is dull. Wine puts you to sleep. Coffee refreshes, revives and stimulates. The Lord’s Table could be a coffee table. If we drank coffee at communion, we could get rid of those tiny shot glasses. Picture the communion cup holders on the backs of pews becoming real cup holders. Coffee would be a fine symbol for the enlivening of the Spirit that happens at the table.

We should take our coffee seriously and joyfully. We should fill our churches with sugar and cream, sweetness and light.

 

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pastoral leaders are called to love fiercely and speak truthfully – and to rest

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On the Pathway of Jesus, Can Life Be a Joy Ride? Dr. Molly Marshall

I remember summer evenings riding around my hometown of Muskogee, Oklahoma, in my older brother’s very old car. A ’39 Oldsmobile, complete with running boards, was an inheritance from our grandmother Marshall. Thankfully, our parents did not know how many times I rode on the outside of the car, precariously perched on those running boards. We careened around neighborhoods and various haunts visiting friends and seeing who else was out on the town. At 25 cents a gallon, why not drive that lumbering vehicle all over? Not surprising, we did not have a specific destination; it was improvisation at its best. Looking back, I can truly say it was a joyride.

The Center for Faith and Culture at Yale University recently convened about 150 persons from all over the world to talk about joy as an expression of faith and work.  Willie James Jennings, professor of systematic theology and Africana studies at Yale Divinity School, stressed that joy is a work, not a sentiment. It is a work of resistance against fear and death. He said he learned this from his ancestors who were sharecropping “people of the earth.” His family decided to “work hard at joy” as a way of renouncing despair, expressing their faith by “dancing just above the line of surviving.”

Other scholars shared their reflection on joy as virtue, as fruit of the spirit, as journey rather than destiny, as something one receives rather than achieves, although intent matters. We probed the question of whether joy can be isolated from suffering; it is far from giddy. Joy often has proximity to sorrow, and grace allows the two to co-exist. Hebrews describes the life of Jesus as having the telos of joy: “who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame . . .” (12:2b). Joy was the fruit of faithfulness, not the focus of his pursuit.

“Gratitude – even in the exigencies of life – becomes the fuel for joy.”

Gratitude – even in the exigencies of life – becomes the fuel for joy. When we stop focusing on our own performance and relinquish control, joy may surprise us.  Gratitude, like other virtues, is a habit acquired across time through intentional practices. Set in a transcendent narrative, giving thanks is a constructive way to find coordinates to navigate life toward the joy God grants each of us.

The work of joy is communal, as Jesus taught us. What he had learned from his Abba, he shared. His own life became the demonstration plot for how we are to live. His chief desire was for his joy to be in us “and that [our] joy may be complete” (John 15:11).  This would only happen through the thick ties of relationship. It is the Spirit who makes it possible to feel the depths of our human experience. The Spirit makes us present to one another and to ourselves.

A peloton is a pack of bicycle riders who make the journey together, similar to birds that fly in formation. They draft off one another while the leader takes the brunt of the wind.  The riders must be exquisitely attuned to one another as they ride closely together to conserve energy; they exchange places as needed, and all benefit from this communal enterprise. Human thriving occurs as we accompany one another toward our eschatological future.

“A joyful life opens up the human imagination to what God desires for the world.”

Joy is available in the good gifts of God’s creation and, as Mary Oliver writes, “joy is not made to be a crumb.” Rather it is a lavish gift that draws us toward our true home in God. Joy makes us more human and more holy, a “response to what should be, offering an alternative vision,” in the words of Pam Ebstyne King of Fuller Seminary. Not surprising, joy and justice are closely related.

When we genuinely pursue the common good with all the energy and vision we can summon, not only is a community transformed, but so are those who give themselves to the joyful work of justice. It is not only good for humanity, but God as well! As the beloved hymn For Everyone Born, A Place at the Table intones

and God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
yes, God will delight when we are creators
of justice, justice and joy!

A joyful life opens up the human imagination to what God desires for the world. No wonder it is a wellspring for human flourishing. Joy occurs as we seek to follow the pathway of Jesus, one who embraced the ultimate joy ride.

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