Posts Tagged life

A Visit to Madison Avenue Baptist Church with Rev. Susan Sparks

Sunday January 12, my daughter, Suzanne, and I were fortunate to worship at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. My friend, Susan Sparks is the senior minister. We were greeted warmly by the greeter outside the door on the street. The church is located within the Roger Hotel, but with a separate entrance. Rev. Sparks came through the congregation greeting and welcoming visitors. The sanctuary is beautiful. Susan says that she and the congregation will join in the celebration of Say Something Nice Sunday on June 7.

We also met a group of women ministers from Ontario, Canada. They also committed to joining in the celebration of Say Something Nice Sunday.

The service was wonderful. The choir and the soloist were outstanding. The call to worship was, “Surly the Lord Is in This Place.” The sermon by Susan was not what I expected to hear, but was exactly what I needed to hear. Her sermon was based on passages from the Book of   Ecclesiastes. Her sermon in a nutshell, “Life is tough. Get over it and serve God anyway. What other choice do we have other than to go it alone?” Of course Susan had some great stories to bring her point home which she did in a very few minutes. She has the ability to make her point without chasing rabbits. According to the book’s writer, “There is nothing new under the sun. The sun comes up and the sun goes down.” I have had a hard time dealing with my wife, Carol’s, death. Her sermon helped put things in perspective. The closing hymn was one of my favorites, “We Shall Overcome.’

The congregation is up to its ears in social justice ministries, a coat drive currently. Susan writes a weekly excellent blog, “Shiny Side Up.” It was good to have been there. If you are in New York City on a Sunday go there. You are welcome no matter what your tradition or circumstances. Susan is the author of two books: Laugh Your Way to Grace and Preaching Punchlines. She is originally from North Carolina.

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The Shiny Side Up! Rev. Susan Sparks – “Life”

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you had a lovely holiday.

Recently, I saw an image on Pinterest that said “Life*” at the top, then underneath, in small print by the asterisk, it said: “Available for a limited time only, limit one per customer, subject to change without notice, provided ‘as is’ without any warranties, your mileage may vary.”

While this was meant as something to make people laugh, it actually packed a powerful message. Amazingly, we tend to believe that life comes with some type of warranty that promises things will always be easy, fun and painless. And when it’s not, we complain—incessantly.

We complain about the weather. “OMG, it’s so cold, when will it ever stop?” Then, two months later we carp: “OMG, it’s so hot and humid, when will it ever stop?”

We whine that the trains and buses are late. We moan that people are rude, the stock market hasn’t done well, or that the grocery store is out of our favorite item. Recently, I was at Whole Foods and I heard a woman complaining to the manager that they were out of her “soy milk substitute.” First of all, what is soy milk substitute? And second, why would anyone want it?

We waste so much time complaining about the superficial things that we miss precious seconds, hours, days, even years of our life. It’s like the Jewish prayer: “Days pass and years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.” We must be grateful in the good times and the bad, for, in the end, it’s still life.

Warnings like “life is short,” get greeted by eye rolls and shrugs. Yes, we’ve all heard this saying many times—which I think is part of the problem. I’m afraid we have heard it so much that we have become immune to it.

But there is urgency in those three short words. Things can change in the blink of an eye. We don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next. We don’t know if we will be given tomorrow—or even the rest of today. Just look at the headlines: random shootings, tornados that tear apart entire towns, soaring cancer statistics. Life – is – short.

It is also sacred. The Psalmists offered this wisdom: “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14). Life is the greatest, most sacred gift we have. Sure you may think other things are important, but if you didn’t wake up this morning, then what difference would it make?

Life is short. Life is sacred. And, because of that, it should be celebrated in the good times and the bad. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself: a long line at the DMV, the dentist chair or the chemo room, it’s still life and there is joy to be found in the simple taking of a breath.

The author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote, “People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

Find that light. Strive to be grateful in all circumstances. Use that gratitude to inspire and lift up others who are mired in difficulty.

We were never guaranteed that life would be easy, or fun, or painless. Yet, even in the pain, we can be grateful for the simple gift of being alive. And, if you find yourself struggling, use these few words as your mantra: “it’s still sacred, it’s still a gift, it’s still life.”

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All Saints’ Day Devotional – First Baptist Church ENews

by Mitch Carnell (Photo by Merv Gibson)

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.  (Revelations 7:9 (RSV)

These decaying and misaligned tombstones give wittiness to the saints who have gone before us. Their souls are at peace. As we celebrate their lives, we reflect on all the good that they accomplished and how their influence continues today.

All Saints’ Day was originated for this purpose by Pope Boniface IV in 609 AD on May 13. Pope Gregory, III changed the date to November 1 during the mid-eighth century. After the reformation Protestants retained the observance to honor those who died in the last year.

We draw courage and strength remembering those whose lives we celebrate. Many demonstrated tremendous faith while enduring great hardships. No one can know the inner struggles of another person’s life, but we can know with certainty that they are triumphant over death. As we light a candle in honor of each of these, we light it in recognition that the light of her or his life will never be extinguished.

Prayer:

Dear Holy Father, as we celebrate the lives of our loved ones who now abide with you, help us to lead our lives in such a way that we will illuminate the path that will lead others to you. Amen.

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Susan Sparks: An experiment conducted by the Washington Post.

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 heard a story recently about an experiment conducted by the Washington Post. On a cold January morning in 2007, a man posing as a street musician played for commuters in a Washington D.C. Metro Station. Over one thousand people passed by. Six people stopped momentarily. About twenty gave him money. In total, he collected $32. He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded.

Here’s the irony: the man playing was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most renowned violinists, playing a complex concerto on a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius.

In life, it is so easy to rush by our blessings. They are all around us — everyday — yet we miss them because we’re focused on our iPhones, our watches, or our to-do lists. We choose busyness over blessings. We would do well to remember the old saying: “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still just a rat in first place.”

This week when you are rushing about, make yourself stop for a moment and look around. Who do you see? What do you hear?  The odds are someone around you is playing beautiful music. The question is . . . will you notice?

Susan is a Baptist minister and the author of, Laugh Your Way to Grace.

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