Smile – Speak – Respect

According to the CDC I am no longer a senior citizen. I am an elder. Likewise I am no longer a father I am a parent. The CDC should know that I am proud of being Suzanne’s and Michael’s father. The CDC is correct in emphasizing how we talk to and about each other. A critical article about this report was reprinted from by The Week Magazine in its September 10/September17, 2021 issue. The article by Tiana Lowe is wrong headed.

In his sermon at the French Huguenot Church in Charleston on September 5, 2021, The Rev. Phil Bryant emphasized the power of words. “Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words can challenge. Words can direct what we do. In all the ways we interact with one another, our words are the most powerful. Words can kill.”

In support of the last statement, Bryant quotes Chaplain David Sparks at Dover Air Force Base, who has comforted so many families over the past 20 years, because a family member has sacrificed her or his life after the 9/11 attack. “I am aware — this is very spiritual — I am aware that there are — there have been multiple times when I did not have the preparation for a particular moment when words came up out of me that were not my own. And I said them. And once in a while, it was — for the first time — I heard it the first time when it came around in my own ear. And where in the world did that come from? And those are very holy moments for me.”

Every report states that our culture has become meaner, Part of the blame for this regression is rooted in how we talk to and about each other. Because I disagree with you does not mean that I hate you or think that you are a lesser person. It simply means that you and I see an issue differently. I love my sister and she would walk through hot coals barefoot for me, but we have different ideas about politics, church music and biscuits.  We grew up together with the same parents, but we look at the world differently.

I do not know why we have grown meaner as a culture; however, I do know how to lessen the impact of the meanness. Smile at the people you meet. Say something nice to each person. Treat each person you meet with respect. That’s it. Try it for yourself.

  1. Smile at each person you meet.
  2. Say something nice to each person you meet.
  3. Show respect for each person you meet.

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How Simple Acts Can Counter Meanness

by Mitch Carnell | Aug 30, 2021 | Feature-, Opinion

“Hurry up,” an agitated man in the cafeteria checkout line kept mumbling.
My friend Bob, a very gentle soul, turned to him and said, “Take it easy. You’ll live longer.”
I thought they were friends and that this was friendly banter. Instead, the man followed him into the parking lot and wanted to fight.
“Why have we become so mean?” I wondered.
This topic is discussed frequently in the mainstream media and on social media. Numerous reasons are put forward.
Take your pick on the causes: the pandemic, wearing a mask, isolation, loss of paychecks, loss of identity, loss of control, conspiracy theories, the list could go on.
I readily admit that I do not know precisely what is contributing to this mean behavior; however, I do know how to lessen the severity of the problem and return us to our more genial demeanor.
The solution is simple, and everyone can participate.
Smile at people and speak to them in a friendly manner. If you are not ready to practice both, then just smile at those you meet.
My late wife suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She no longer could speak, but her smile was enough to carry me through the darkest day.
Yes, I missed her cheerful words, but her smile lit my world. It drove the dark clouds away and put me in a much better place.
Try it. You have nothing to lose. A smile has wonderful powers. It can drive the blues away and sweeten the sourest disposition.
When you are ready, take the next step. Add a simple greeting. “Hello. I’m glad to see you,” or “How have you been?” or, “Hi, my name is…”
When I was the CEO of a non-profit agency, the president of the board of directors endeared himself to everyone. He never made you fumble for his name. “Hello, I’m John Smith,” he greeted you with an outstretched hand and a smile.
In many Christian churches, the service includes passing the peace. Other congregations practice extending the right hand of fellowship.
Both practices are rooted in Scripture. Both convey a message of peace and welcome. A handshake carries the same message.
The Say Something Nice Day (June 1) and Say Something Nice Sunday (the first Sunday in June) movements share the same motives to break down barriers and create a friendlier environment.
I like to speak to everyone I encounter. My children, when they became teenagers, were embarrassed by my behavior. They chastised me, “Daddy, do you know that person? Then, why did you speak to them?”
My answer, “Why not? Why not acknowledge another human being?”
Every person we meet is struggling with something. We do not know the anguish of the people we pass.
Some are suffering from deep wounds or are enduring hurts from long ago. Some have just lost a job or a spouse.
The simple action of a smile or greeting can change their day. As my mother often said, “Son, be nice.”
It is within our power to change things one interaction at a time. We can behave in such a way that others want to be around us.
No sermon is required. Our behavior is sermon enough.
We may not always know the right words to say or be in the mood to speak to others. If this is the case, just smile.
There may be a few who will ignore or ridicule you but smile anyway.

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It’s Not a Good Trade

When I was a young boy, we traveled more than a 100 miles in an un-air-conditioned car in the South Carolina summer heat to visit my widowed grandmother. Instead of the expected words of welcome she said, “Be quiet. ‘The Guiding Light,’ is on.” She traded time with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren for an imaginary family.

My daughter from out-of-state is here this week to celebrate her birthday. We will celebrate at dinner with her brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. We postponed the celebration a day so that her nephew could be present. I am grateful for this opportunity to be together. Who is missing? Her mother, who is with her ancestors, but very much in our hearts.

The moral of this story. Don’t squander the time you have with family and friends by being on your cell phone or scrolling through Facebook. The incident with my grandmother occurred decades ago. I remember it as though it happened this morning. We may think that we have all the time in the world. We don’t. We have this moment. It will not come again.

I am not being morbid. I am offering a simple statement of fact. Do not swap what you have for an episode of, ‘The Guiding Light.’

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Stepping Towards 51, Looking Back Over 50 – Mitch Randall

Today is my birthday. I turned 51 years old.

When I hit half-a-century last year during the pandemic, I told my wife that I was looking forward to middle-age. She raised a brow and responded, “Not sure how long you’re planning on living, but you passed middle-age a decade ago.” Thanks, dear.

Now that I have one foot squarely pointed towards the second 50 years of my life, I’m looking forward to what lies ahead. However, before I step into this new and exciting period of my life, I want to take a moment of indulgence to reflect on the first 50 years.

Recently, I stopped by the Indian Hospital in Claremore, Oklahoma, where I was born. My mom and dad were 20 and 19, respectively, when they had me; just kids trying to make it through life. Over the course of our childhood and adolescence, my younger brother and I were shaped by their dogged determination, impeccable integrity and compassionate spirits. We are who we are today because of them.

While always taking my “big-brother” role seriously, I never realized how much I needed my younger brother until I was an adult. The “big brother” is always supposed to keep an eye out for the “little brother,” but no one ever told me about the valuable lessons “little brothers” teach their older siblings. My brother is an absolute inspiration. He teaches art in public schools, raised two amazing daughters as a single dad, fostered three babies with his wonderful second wife and now has two young and beautiful boys.

During the pandemic, I lost my grandfather (Herbert Sheffield) from complications due to COVID-19. Each of my grandparents had a significant part in mentoring me over the years. Okema connected me to my Muscogee Creek culture. Les instilled the value of education. Carlene demonstrated the importance of sacrifice. Herbert reminded me about the importance of humility while always striving to make certain the next generation has it better.

Growing up Southern Baptist, I must admit the significance that faith held in my life. While I certainly disagree with much of the SBC’s doctrine and politics today, their passion for teaching the Scriptures and applying them to life has influenced me. Today, I am serious about the Scriptures and how they guide my faith – not necessarily in spite of my SBC upbringing, but because of it.

While baseball was constant in my life, that cold October morning in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in 1992 after college baseball workouts changed my life forever.  On that fall morning — looking across a kaleidoscope of colorful trees while drinking coffee — I heard the calling of God upon my life.

Attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Boo Helflin shook my understanding of faith by opening the entirety of the Scriptures to me as never before. From that day forward, I was on a journey of serious discovery that began to shape my life almost immediately.

I met my wife at church. Seriously, I did. A church in Coppell, Texas, called me as their new pastor while I was still in seminary and very much single, dedicated to the Lord and all. However, once I met Missy on that first Spring Sunday and a donkey brayed during my sermon, I was smitten.

Because of the strangeness and complexities of a single pastor dating a parishioner, we decided to marry soon after we declared our love for each other. Twenty-five years later, we’re happily married and thrilled to be watching two sons begin their careers.

Our life together has not always been filled with rainbows and unicorns – ministry and life, you know – but it has been filled with adventure, surprises and wonderful memories we will always cherish.

You’re supposed to be an example for your kids, right? Then, why did no one tell me that your kids would become examples for you?

I hope Missy and I have been good instructors for our boys, but more than anything they have shown us a better way for the future.

Their commitment to community and passion for social justice offers us a glimpse into a future where individuals live outside their own self-interests to embrace a common good for all people. We’re so proud of their accomplishments and the adults they are becoming.

The church can be filled with the most wonderful moments in a pastor’s life, but the church can also be the source of great pain and heartache.

Relationships forged within the stained-glass walls of congregational life can be soul-filling. These are the saints that forever shape your life. However, there are times when congregants turn on you in attempts to put you in your place or exert authority over you. During those times, the church likes to remind you that she is still filled with sinners – the pastor being chief among them.

With nearly three decades of walking alongside the church, I love her more now than ever before.

When I stepped beyond the walls of the church to enter a new phase of ministry, I was both scared and excited. After 20 years of pastoral ministry, I had grown comfortable with preaching, teaching, ministering and leading a congregation. Being the executive director of an ethics organization sounded a bit out of my league.

In my eyes, I was still the little Indian boy born at the Indian hospital who grew up on the eastside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The notion that a group of Christians wanted me to lead a national organization was far beyond my expectations. However, it was exactly what I needed.

Being the executive director of and now CEO of Good Faith Media has been a life-altering experience. The greatest perk of my job is getting to meet so many inspiring and fascinating people of faith engaged in transformative work.

From racial justice advocates to LGBTQ allies, the world is filled with passionate people rolling up their sleeves to make this world a better place. And many of them are not abandoning their faith to accomplish these goals but embracing their faith as a catalyst for global change.

In the Christian tradition, we are certainly seeing more and more people practicing an inclusive gospel to bring about transformative communities. It is a sheer pleasure to tell their stories.

All in all, the first 50 years of living on this rock have been extremely rewarding.

Sure, I’ve lived through some strange and heartbreaking times: Watergate, Iran hostage situation, Iran-Contra affair, Challenger and Columbia explosions, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, multiple mass shootings, the Great Recession, racial injustices, a U.S. president using force on U.S citizens peacefully demonstrating, an attack on the U.S. Capitol by U.S citizens, and a continued global pandemic wreaking sickness and death across the globe.

However, even within all of these dreadful moments, the light of the gospel has never been extinguished.

Yes, there were times when it flickered and almost went out for me. But as soon as those moments thought they had won the day, a flicker of the gospel would always emerge. Either through a comforting word or creative idea, hope resides in the hearts of people who come together to find solutions.

While I very much enjoyed and appreciated my first 50 years, I’m looking forward to another 50, hopefully.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds, for the emerging generations are filled with a desire and passion to instill common-sense change. Therefore, I wake today to put my feet on the floor, ready to step into a future filled with light and hope.

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