Posts Tagged words

BE STILL AND KNOW – The Daily cUP

Posted by Jo Turner on  “Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”

                                         Rumi, Persian mystic and poet

As the Wednesday Daily Cup blogger, I usually start thinking about what I might write on Sundays. This often begins with phrases or words that are stuck in my brain: Scripture passages, adhesive phrases that I’ve heard and read, or just the lyrics of my life–thoughts to turn into words that will eventually pour out on a page.

Rev’d. Geoffrey, no stranger to the right use of words or a handsome turn-of-phrase, is incorporating a new practice in our Sunday morning worship. Silence. He has requested that we observe some significant silence after the sermon. Even though we have been doing this for a few weeks, I initially forgot last Sunday and was getting agitated at this quiet passing of several minutes with no words.

Maybe it’s different in other parts of the country, but here, time is money and influence; time is control. We’re told that words matter. How many of us get antsy when a conversation lags and we feel compelled to fill the vacuum with small talk?

Some years ago, I flunked my initial foray into sitting with others in silent contemplative prayer. True silence is the emptying of our internal chatter, verbalized or not, to create space, and that was a challenge. Even in bed on restless nights after 20 wordless minutes, my husband would suddenly say, “You’re thinking too loud!” Indeed I was.

It’s probably about getting older, but now I prefer the silence. We learn that what we are thinking, what we have to say, really is not so vital. Our words pale in comparison to just listening and resting in God’s presence. Sometimes the presence is more than enough; often, we gain awareness of God’s wisdom for us.

Annie Rosenbauer, contributor to Krista Tippett’s On Being: “Our silence creates space to listen. Our listening creates space to take notice. Our noticing creates space for amazement. It is our amazement that gives us the energy to create change, whether that be in ourselves, in other people, or in the world.” That sounds like a God plan to me.

Integrating silence into our worship, I am reminded of the power of communal silence. Together, as we quietly center in God’s word for us from the sermon, as we collectively quiet ourselves, we strengthen our relationships with God and with each other. That’s another wonderful layer of worship.

Lent is an ideal time to get re-acquainted with silence, creating listening space in church and in all the other aspects of our lives. This noisy season in our national life intensifies the need for stillness, and for being with the One who gives us life and hope.

Shhh. Do it right now.

“O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”                      Book of Common Prayer

COMMENTS

Tags: , , ,

Holy Stirrings – Rev. Stephanie McLeskey* – Mars Hill University

“Stop stirring.”

stephanie02 (1)It’s one of those phrases that takes me right back to childhood.  I hear it clearly in my mind, in my mother’s voice.  As a younger sister who was very interested in my older sister’s doings, and who wanted to be sure that my parents were adequately informed, stirring was one of my favorite pastimes.  I had quite the impressive streak of melodrama, and I took great childish pleasure in turning a relatively peaceful household into a bubbling mess.  Sometimes it worked.  More often I just got that look and a quick phrase: “Stop stirring.”  Stop stirring up trouble.  Stop stirring the pot.

Now, it often feels as though the bubbling mess is everywhere, and I so wish that there were some magical wand to wave that would bring about a more peaceful world.  I wish I could un-stir the pot.

The truth of the matter, though, is that sometimes things need to get stirred up so that we don’t forget they are there.  The desire to return to some mythical “good old days” is a desire to return to a time when issues of race, gender, sexuality, and nationality were locked down – when anyone who was different from the perceived and celebrated norm was supposed to settle quietly to the bottom of the pot.  This needed to be stirred.

So then, if the stirring is necessary, what is the responsibility of a Christian who is holding the spoon?  My belief is that our central responsibility here lies in taking our calling to partner with God in bringing about God’s kingdom very, very seriously.  I suggest four ways of checking ourselves in this, before we make a grab for the spoon:

  • When we get a chance with the spoon, do we handle it with integrity? Integrity is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but at its root it is about wholeness and unity: a person with integrity is who they say they are.  Their actions match their words.  Their character matches their claims.  We say we are followers of Christ, and that we want to become more like Christ.  Do our actions demonstrate this?  When we loosen the cords of our own self-righteousness (an affliction that touches most of us to some degree) and stand vulnerably before our God, can we still claim that we are doing our best to live and love like Jesus?  Can we still claim that the first guidance that we seek is that of the Spirit?
  • When the spotlight is on us, do we reflect the light of truth? When we write, when we speak, when we share Facebook posts and forward emails, do we check our words for truth?  Truth can be such a tricky concept in a world where we all see things and understand things differently, and where our own individual experiences shape our understanding of what is true.  However, we can take responsibility to check the facts of what we say and what we pass along, and we can take responsibility not to misrepresent or, worse, demonize those who see a situation or issue differently than we do.  We also, as Christians, can do our best to reflect the truth of God: the truth of God’s love for all the world, and the truth of God’s image stamped on all people.  When we have the opportunity to speak, write, or share, we can honor God by keeping those truths in mind.
  • Do our words demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit? I feel sometimes as though this should go without saying.  Perhaps it should.  But at least in my own life and my own interactions, I find that it is good and necessary to pause and ask myself these questions.  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul suggests that if we are working in the Spirit, then the fruit of that labor will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22, NRSV).  Are our words fruitful in that respect?  Do our words increase the good in the world?
  • When we stir, do we stir up grace? It may be that stirring is inevitable.  It may even be that stirring is part of our calling.  But when we stir the pot, are we stirring up trouble for the sake of trouble, or are we stirring up trouble alongside grace?  God is in the business of troubling the waters, and so, therefore, are we – but God’s troubling the waters is about bringing grace, healing, and wholeness.  When we stir it up, are we making the waters safe for people to wade in and find that grace?  Are we creating spaces for healing and reconciling, looking to a time when we will remember that we all are made in the image of God, that we all carry that stamp of sacredness, of holiness?  And when we (inevitably) make mistakes – when we do use hurtful or untruthful words, when we do lash out in quick, angry reactions, are we restoring grace by returning to the situation with humility, and by asking forgiveness from those we have harmed?

We are already blessed.  We are already grace-filled.  We are already beloved.  May we remember that about ourselves and others, and may our holy stirring glorify God.

*Stephanie McLeskey is the University Chaplain at Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina, where she has served for five years.  She is currently working on a DMin in Justice and Peacemaking at McAfee School of Theology.

Tags: , , ,

Be a Peacemaker

Our words are powerful. They have the power to become building blocks or wrecking balls. As the late Dr. Arthur Caliandro, pastor of Marble Collegiate Church, said. “You can never know that your words will be received the way you intended them to be.” We do not know what the other person has experienced.

As the long summer days heat up so does the political rhetoric. Inflammatory words can often spark unintended consequences. Our nation seems to be experiencing one horrific tragedy after another. It is time for us to step back, take a breath and realize that we are all in this together. Black lives matter. All lives matter equally. We need to approach each other with open hearts, open hands and an attitude of respect.

People of good will can turn this deplorable situation around. We can learn from our previous mistakes. Offer a kind word instead of a shrill voice. Offer an outstretched hand instead of a fist. Be a peacemaker.

Tags: , , ,

Words Are Never Just Words

Lighten up. They are only words. No, they are never only words. Since God spoke our universe into existence, words have been powerful. Words have destroyed families, wrecked friendships, killed relationships, and fractured churches. Words are the product of what is in your heart. You are what you speak.

Words are formed in our brains. They become the raw material of our thought processes. We become our words. The historic little book, As a Man Thiketh, makes this perfectly clear.

It is important to the welfare of our society that our words be uplifting, encouraging, strengthening, and positive.

Many people give Donald Trump a pass because he is running for office. This is where he should set the example. Statements such as: our country is run by losers, our negotiators are idiots, and she is the worst Secretary of State in American history, may win applause, but they are poison. They shed no light on the situation and are intended to inflict personal harm. Trump is not the first to use this tactic nor will he be the last.

Think about these words being used to portray your wife, husband, daughter or son. Would you still laugh or applaud? What if your daughter’s teacher sent a note home with the following message? “Dear parent, your daughter is an idiot.” Did I hear you applaud? I think not.

Words are never just words.

Tags: , , ,