Posts Tagged relationships

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Rev. Susan Sparks

(This piece was featured as a sermon at the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church as well as a nationally syndicated column.)

Thanks to a back injury last week, I spent an inordinate amount of time stretched out on my living room floor. If you’ve ever hurt your back, you know how this goes. At first, it’s not so bad. You have quiet time to read and catch up on your work. Then you move to what I like to call the trashy stage, when you’ve finished your work, and you start binging on things like “The View,” “Dr. Phil” and tacky Hollywood magazines. (By the way, did you hear that Brad and Jen are back together?)

Eventually, the time comes when even Hollywood gossip is not enough. That’s when it gets ugly, because then you have nothing to do but lie there surveying the nooks and crannies of your house that you wouldn’t ordinarily see.

My line of sight was directly under my couch. Much to my embarrassment, I saw, hiding in the shadows, a collection of coins and pens, one sock, several dust balls the size of a ferret, an old Verizon bill, and a small yellow cube, which turned out to be a wayward cheese appetizer from a cocktail party we gave back in December.

I had no idea all that mess was under there. I guess I’d never looked.

In retrospect, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to look at your house — even your life — with a view from the floor. It may not reveal the carefully crafted image that you prefer or want others to see, but it can show you the raw truth of how life really is.

If you took an honest look at your life with a view from the floor, what would you see? What things have you brushed aside or hidden away?

Maybe it is as simple as the stuff in your inbox that you keep shifting to the bottom because you don’t want to deal with it. Or perhaps it is a deeper issue such as conflicts in a relationship you don’t want to face, a financial problem you are trying to hide, or an addiction, illness or other aspects of yourself from which you’re running.

Our tendency to brush aside or hide away things holds true on a larger scale too. Every day in our “global house,” we sweep issues under the couch because no one wants to face the view from the floor. Consider the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (that no one wants to acknowledge), global warming (that no one wants to claim) or the deep-seated racism and discrimination in our country (that no one wants to admit, let alone take responsibility for).

There is a sad irony in of all this because like a wayward cheese appetizer, if left hidden, these things can easily degenerate and get messy. These are the things that need light, not shadows. These are the things that need to be brought out in the open, not swept under the couch. These are the things that need a housekeeper who cares.

Fortunately, we have one: God. The Psalmist tell us that God knows all about what lurks under our emotional couches: “O Lord you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely” (Psalms 139).

God sees with piercing clarity those troubled areas in our hearts, in our families, and in our world and still loves us unconditionally: “Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast” (Psalms 139). If God is willing to look upon these hidden places with love, acceptance, even forgiveness, why shouldn’t we?

Last week, we lost Aretha Franklin, one of the world’s great creative artists. Of all her songs, my favorite was “Respect.” Aretha was right on so many levels — life really does come down to those seven letters: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We should respect our gift of life enough to claim who we are, deep down, in our hidden nooks and crannies. We should respect the lives of others enough to acknowledge their pain and suffering. We should respect our world enough to shine a light on injustice so that all can see.

What things in your life are hidden away that need to be seen?
What painful issues have been ignored that need to be discussed?
What parts of yourself do you need to “R-E-S-P-E-C-T?” enough to bring out into the light and heal?

Whatever it is, it’s OK. God already knows about it. And miraculously, we’re still unconditionally loved.

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Fifty-Two Keys for Living, Loving and Working

Set goals

What are your priorities for your life, your relationships, your work, your spiritual development? Give each of these areas of your life serious thought. Develop meaningful goals for every part of your life. Write them down or they are just wishful thinking. Post them where you can read them every morning and every night. Review and revise as life changes.  Develop action steps that move you forward. At the end of every day, ask yourself this question and answer it honestly. What have I done today that moves me toward my goals?  Setting meaningful, relevant goals is a vital aspect of self-leadership. You are not depending on a supervisor or someone else to impose them. You are in charge of you. Setting your own goals gives you a major boost on your journey.

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Fifty – Two Keys for Living, Loving and Working

Cultivate and Nourish Relationships

Strong and varied relationships are essential for continued well being. Meet new people. Nurture the relationships that you already have. Renew old friendships. Long term friendships are the secret to well being especially as we mature. In order to make a friend you first have to be a friend. Put yourself in a position to meet new friends. Join a church, a social club, a dinner group, a book club, a bridge club or a dance club. You will not meet new friends in your den watching television. Volunteer with the United Way or some other worthy organization. Mingle. Research shows that people who have enduring relationships not only live longer but live happier lives.

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Fifty-two Keys for Living, Loving and Working

The Centrality of Faith

Faith is the foundation of all relationships, with God, with our self, and with others. We establish and develop relationships through faith. We decide whether or not we want to establish or maintain a relationship based on a mutual understanding that states, I believe that this will be good for each of us. We also decide whether or not to enter into a faith relationship with God and at what level. According to the Holy Bible only a minute measure of faith is required – our faith only needs to be as great as a mustard seed which is the smallest seed known. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We must also have some measure of faith toward ourselves. This requires that we know who we are and what we are about – not an easy task. Establishing relationships demonstrates a basic faith that there is a tomorrow – a reason to live, love and hope.

 

 

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