Archive for category Say Something Nice

“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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Pillars of Say Something Nice Sunday

From the First Baptist Church of Charleston – August 31, 1791

We will be careful to conduct ourselves with uprightness and integrity, and in a peaceful and friendly manner, toward mankind in general, and toward Christians of all descriptions, in particular.

Unity in the Body of Christ – South Carolina Baptist Convention – 2007

Whereas Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”; and

Whereas we are reminded in Holy Scripture not to bear a grudge and to love one another (Leviticus 19:180; and

Whereas, Civility in public discourse (spoken and printed) appears to be declining among those of us who claim Jesus Christ as our savior; and

Whereas, in recognition of the negative effects that such behavior has on our wittiness; therefore, be it

Resolved, That we, the messengers of the South Carolina Baptist Convention meeting in Florence, South Carolina on November 13-14 2007, do proclaim our intent to foster a climate of Christian communication that brings honor to our Lord through encouragement and love, and be it finally

Resolved, that we encourage and support activities or programs that will help establish a positive dialogue, between Christians and with non-Christians that honors Christ.

The Catholic Diocese of Charleston – Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston – May 19, 2010

“Say Something Nice Sunday is a wonderful way to express our common love for each other as Christians. Our words should be used to express love not hatred. What better way can we express this belief than to celebrate a day devoted to healing with our words? I heartily endorse the mission of Say Something Nice Sunday and urge all Christians to participate. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, St. Paul tells us that the greatest virtue is love. What better way is there for Christians to express this virtue than to participate in Say Something Nice Sunday?

Cardinal Dolan of New York – March 29, 2011

“Say Something Nice Sunday certainly seems like a great idea to me. How wonderful it would be if all churches and their members decided to say something positive about other Christians and Christian groups at least one Sunday per year in recognition of our common belief in Christ.”

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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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How a Seminary Professor Became “My Doktormutter” By Mark Medley *

Editor’s note: This article was written prior to Molly T. Marshall’s resignation announcement. Its publication was delayed, along with the “Brother Molly” podcast about Marshall’s life and ministry, due to the announcement. The author has given EthicsDaily.com permission to publish the article in its original format. “Brother Molly” is scheduled for release on May 12.

In the fall 1988 semester at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I took Molly T. Marshall’s *Systematic Theology 1 course.

Prior to enrolling in her class, I was well aware of Dr. Marshall’s reputation as a popular, brilliant and dynamic theology professor. That course, and Dr. Marshall, altered the trajectory of my ministerial vocation.

A love of theology ignited (and continues to burn). A doorway was opened to explore the possibility of serving the church as a teaching theologian.

And my hanging around after class, or stopping by her faculty office, to ask questions were the beginning of a relationship that led to Dr. Marshall becoming my “Doktormutter.”

That relationship bloomed into friendship as a fellow scholar and theologian, a trusted mentor and counselor, and a sister in Christ.

If you have ever heard Molly preach or lecture, you quickly know that she uses “big words.” She does so not to impress. Rather, those “big words” invite the listener to journey deeper into faith.

Those “big words,” for me, were her invitation into the great cathedral of theology.

Let me tell you some of what I learned (and continue to learn) from Molly in the beautiful, transcendent space of this cathedral.

First, theology is attending to God.

In the classroom or in a rocking chair in Molly’s faculty office, I quickly discerned that theology is a sharing in the mystery of God’s triune life.

Theology happens as the Holy Spirit works within us the mystery of God’s word made flesh as we bear before divinity our joy, gratitude, lament and protest.

As a human practice, theology arises as we, in community with other disciples, seek the meaning of life, especially the suffering of life, against the divine landscape of God’s creative and redemptive purposes.

Second, I learned that Christian theology and faith are eucharistic.

Molly once said in a lecture that Baptists suffer from eucharistic famine. I have been wrestling with that piercing insight my entire academic career.

Not only have I considered the effects of such malnourishment, but I have also imagined the meaning of eucharistic abundance.

I learned from Molly that God is a eucharistic God: God is thanksgiving; God is self-giving; God is known in taking, blessing, breaking and sharing Jesus’ food; God is abundance; God is communion.

Stanley Hauerwas is right when he says, “Gratitude turns out to be not only a central virtue but a strong claim, indeed even a metaphysical claim, about the way things are.”

So, secondly, I learned to rethink everything from the reality of the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

Third, I learned that theology is doxology.

With regularity, Molly began class with song. Good theology should and must be sung she always reminded her students. In this way, she taught that worship shapes theology and theology shapes worship.

As we pray and proclaim, sing and be silent, confess and profess, eat at Jesus’ table and baptize in the Triune name, we are immersed in the language of faith. Filled, soaked and saturated with the story of God, we press and write theology upon our hearts, minds, imaginations and bodies.

Fourth, I learned to discern who is absent from the prominent places in a cathedral.

Molly modeled and taught me that women’s exclusion from the ambo, the pulpit and the communion table diminishes and demeans the gospel’s radical vision of belonging envisioned by the Christ and conjured by the wild, liberating Spirit of God.

Such gender exclusion in ecclesial leadership personally and spiritually injures women, as well as, wounds the body of Christ.

In Molly’s Feminist Theology course, I truly began to learn how to be an ally with women in the advocacy for women’s leadership in the church.

The church rightfully images the triune God when women are readers of Scripture, proclaimers of the good news, officiants offering Jesus’ food to the people of God gathered at his table of hospitality, and senior ministers prophetically and pastorally leading the people of God.

Lastly, I learned how to be a teaching theologian.

In her faculty office in Norton Hall, Molly had two rocking chairs.

As a student, if you arrived at her office and Molly really wanted to have conversation, you took a seat in the rocking chair in front of her desk. Coming around her desk, she sat in the other rocking chair.

In that holy space, Molly would question, probe and push your theological reflection; she would challenge your suppositions; she would ask you to clarify your thought. Other times, she may guide a reflective conversation on vocational discernment.

In those moments, Molly exercised, in maximal ways, her gifts as professor, teacher, pastor and counselor.

In those rocking chairs in her office, Molly modeled a professor concerned with the intellectual, spiritual, personal and vocational flourishing of students.

My students at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky would say that I too like “big words.” I take that as a co
How a Seminary Professor Became

*Mark Medley is professor of theology at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in Georgetown and Louisville. He teaches courses in theology, ethics, Baptist heritage, and Christianity and culture. He is theologian-in-residence at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Lexington, Kentucky. Mark and his wife, Maria, live in Georgetown, Kentucky, and have one son.

*Dr. Molly Marshall is a friend of mine. She was a favorite of those attending The Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston. Mitch

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