Archive for category Christian Civility

365 Days of Grief and Love by Vickie Guerry

Tom Guerry and Mitch Carnell at French Huguenot ChurchTom Guerry was a close friend. He was one of the three ministers who took part in marrying Carol and me. He was a vital part of the Monday Lunch Bunch until he could not be. Vickie, Tom’s wife, is a very good friend. We worked together for more than 20 years. I have known, Ben, their son since before he was born.

All this to tell you that I am not impartial. These are my friends, but that did not keep me from telling everyone that Vickie has written an honest, helpful book. This is my review on www.amazon.com. The picture is of Tom and me at the French Huguenot Church.

A Friend for the Journey

My wonderful wife has been gone almost three years now and yet I find Vickie Guerry’s book to be honest, painful and helpful. So many writers are timid about laying out the truth of a senseless journey that no one should have to travel. Guerry chronicles each of the first 365 days of the grief she experienced at losing her husband. You can feel her anguish rise from the pages, but you also feel the deep love that these two shared.  Although writing the book is her way of coping with her loss, she does it in such a way that is helpful. There are no solutions here, but with this book you have a friend who walks the journey with you.

 

A Kind Word

Back in 2006 when Mayor Keith Summey signed the first proclamation for Say Something Nice Day in North Charleston, I had no inkling that this simple idea would one day circle the globe. We were not the first to proclaim the virtues and benefits of just saying a kind word. The Hebrew prophet prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” Centuries later the Apostle Paul said, “Be ye kind one to another.”

As rage is on the uptick in our society, it would be good to remind ourselves to just be kind. Say a kind word to the next person you meet and the next and the next.

It is a simple idea. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult. The easiest and most appreciated words are “Please“” and “Thank you.”

As I was walking to Baggage Claim in the Charleston Airport after a flight from Nashville, a stranger only a few years younger than I took notice of my resting for a moment and offered assistance. A man and his wife from Ridgeville rescued my bag from the carousel. When I thanked them, the man said, “This is Charleston.” What a wonderful reputation for a city to have. Simple acts of kindness leave a lasting impression.

My son and daughter-in-law met me and we drove to Chick-fil-a to pick up a sandwich on the way home. Although it was late, we were met by a cheerful, smiling server.

To my surprise and joy, I have read web post from around the world about Say Something Nice Day These make me hopeful. A recent Gallop Poll found that 47% of Americans believe that our morals are in decline.

I think we can change that for the better. When you are wondering how to respond in a particular situation, just say something nice, encouraging, uplifting, and helpful. You may not see the results, but your kindness will be remembered.

Tags: , , ,

Simple Rules for Better Communication – www.day1.org

 Tuesday June 01, 2021

As we begin to gather again and assemble in larger groups, “Say Something Nice Sunday” comes in time to remind us of some simple rules of engagement. We will be so happy to see each other again. The fifth-tenth annual event takes place on June 6th.

Stop talking. Give others a chance. This is difficult because there is so much we want to share. We have been separated for so long. Smile thus breaking the ice. Smiling is a universal language. Speak to people. You may need to introduce yourself. In many cases we will still be wearing our masks. Don’t assume the other person knows who you are. I learned this valuable lesson from the president of the board of the agency I headed. He always introduced himself. He did not assume that others would recognize him or remember his name.

Listen attentively. Because we are not talking does not mean that we are listening. Active listening demands personal discipline. Don’t spend your time thinking about what you will say next. Larry King, the television personality, was such a good interviewer because he listened to what his guest said and then responded to what had been said. Jesus said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 11:15 (NIV)

Don’t interrupt. Interrupting is an act of aggression. It says that what I have to say is more important than what you have to say.

Delay judgment. Jumping to conclusions always poses the danger of arriving at the wrong conclusion. Crow never taste good.

Sincerely compliment others. Find something nice to say. Stay away from talking about physical attributes.

Consider the opinions of others. They might have something new or unique to contribute.

Be sensitive to the feelings of others. They may not take what you say the way that you intended. Remember Murphy’s Law. If it is possible for someone to misunderstand, she or he will.

Be approachable. Be aware of your body language. Uncross everything. Face the other person. Maintain eye contact.

Speak the truth, but speak the truth with love. It is not necessary to share everything you know. Don’t gossip. Dr. Arthur Caliandro, the late pastor of Marble Collegiate Church, said, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be. The other person needs it more than you know.”

Stop talking. We return to the first key because it is so important. I learned a new acronym that applies to this key point from Rev. Susan Sparks – WAIT. Why am I talking? We never learn anything while we are talking.

There is so much in Scripture that helps us in our communication with others. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” St. Paul added, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (NIV) In other words don’t stir up controversy.

We as Christians have a great message to share. Effective communication depends on our attitude toward others. If we show respect for others even though we may have great differences our efforts will most often be rewarded with good results. We want others to be happy to see us and not to moan when they see us coming. Our reputation so often precedes us. We want that reputation to be one that generates positive expectations.

……

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC. He is the author of, Our Father: Discovering Family. He blogs at www.mitchcarnell.com.

Tags: , , ,

The critical importance of listening evaluatively – The Christian Citizen

Rev. John Zehring

May 27, 2021

When I taught public speaking at a university as an adjunct professor, each student was required to deliver different types of speeches. They started with informational speeches, moved to special occasion speeches, and then were required to deliver a persuasive speech.

As an experiment, I made the students an offer (they had to connect with me beforehand to prearrange for this plot): I would increase their grade by one level if they delivered a persuasive speech so compelling that no classmate detected that the position for which they advocated was the opposite of what they personally believed. For example, a student who held that nuclear power plants are poisonous and should be replaced with alternative energy production would attempt to convince her listeners that we should loosen regulation and increase the number of nuclear energy plants. A number took up the challenge, and many succeeded at persuading their listeners into accepting the position opposite of their real belief. This raised another challenge for listeners: how do we know what to believe? How do we learn to listen evaluatively?

Consider the information wars of the past few years and how critically important it is for you and me to grow in our ability to listen evaluatively. The past four years seem to have sprung forth with fountains of misinformation, bent truths, lies, and a distortion of the facts. Some would say the former President of the United States himself generated lies and half-truths whenever his lips moved, along with his ever-changing press secretaries, his lawyers, senators like Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Ron Johnson, representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene, governors like Ron DeSantis, and, of course, Fox News. Others would impugn the credibility of President Biden, Vice President Harris, senators like Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, representatives like Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and, of course, The Rachel Maddow Show. Who to believe?

Thinking evaluatively applies as well to our faith and religious leaders. Go to church on one side of the street and you’ll learn that the Pope will not allow priests to bless same-sex unions, because those unions are “illicit,” and hear those proclaiming the opinion that God “cannot bless sin.” Walk across the street to worship at a church with a rainbow flag flying proudly to welcome all – no exceptions – to be a guest at the Lord’s table. The pastor themself might be lesbian or gay. One theology views Jesus standing at the door with arms folded – including some, excluding others. The other views Jesus standing at an open door with arms outstretched and palms up, offering an extravagant welcome to all. All. No exceptions. Who to believe?

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that “The function of education… is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” You and I are needed, perhaps more than any time in our memory, to become advocates for, champions of, teachers of, and practitioners of critical thinking and evaluative listening.

The essence of critical thinking centers not on answering questions but on questioning answers:  probing, analyzing, and evaluating. Thinking critically is not the same thing as criticism. It means not simply accepting information at face value in a non-evaluating way. It means questioning the source’s motives, agenda, purpose, slant, or bias. Listening evaluatively acknowledges that we all have a bias – you, me, and even the writers of the gospels and the epistles. It asks what does the speaker or writer have to gain from you accepting their data? Whose interest do they have at heart?

Critical thinking means considering other sources. If you go sailing and see a water tank, you might guess where you are. If you see both a tank and a steeple, you can triangulate and know your location with precision. Thinking evaluatively encourages you to check a second or third source to help you take your bearings with greater accuracy.

How do we know who to believe? Whether a student in a public speaking class, a worshipper wondering about the message from the pulpit, a potential customer weighing a sales pitch, or a citizen considering the truthfulness of a politician speaking on your favored news channel, how can you listen evaluatively and critically to weigh the evidence? With an explosion of information sources bombarding us with data, it becomes indispensable for thinking people to listen evaluatively and to think critically.

Listening evaluatively is the mark of a thinking mind. After the wars of disinformation which we experienced in the past half decade, we must rethink how we listen and how we think. I crave evaluative listening skills for my grandchildren, for my neighbors and friends, for all who sit in the pews, for all who vote, and for all who watch, read, or listen to the news. But I cannot wish it for another until I engage in it myself. So, may I practice what I preach, and may all of us desire to grow in our skills as people who think critically and listen evaluatively.

Critical thinking means holding a healthy skepticism about surveys, polls, and statistics, realizing how data can be manipulated or taken out of context. For example, you can observe a man with one foot in the oven, the other in the refrigerator and assume that statistically he is comfortable. A survey or poll could be found to support almost any position.

Critical thinking looks for evidence. The Scottish philosopher David Hume noted that “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.” Critical thinking is ready to change its mind if the evidence changes.

Critical thinking does not rest upon what it is told. Galileo was excommunicated for challenging the Church’s view that the sun, planets and stars revolved around the earth, but he was correct and they were not.

Critical thinking, like a detective, looks for what is not said or is not there. In one of Sherlock Holmes’ greatest cases – Silver Blaze – he solved the case when he realized that the silence he observed was the clue to the mystery, for it was the dog that didn’t bark in the night that gave it away. Ask about the data you receive “What is not being said?” What is your newscaster, preacher, sales rep, politician, or advice-giving friend not saying?

Critical thinking receives anecdotes with a grain of salt. Two or three of your friends may have had a bad experience with a restaurant, but that does not make it conclusive that it is a bad restaurant. Two or three dozen of your friends on Facebook may share an opinion, but that is not necessarily an accurate representative of the population. Critical thinking refrains from making judgments about what “people are saying” or “everyone is talking about…”

Listening evaluatively tests its questions with other people, in conversation and dialogue, and welcomes corrections, suggestions, and constructive criticism. It is open to learning, growing, and changing its mind. Marcus Aurelius wrote in his Meditations, “If any man is able to convince me and show me that what I think or do is not right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth, by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance.”

The word “why” is the most powerful tool in critical thinking’s mental toolbox – not to confront, challenge, or dissuade, but out of curiosity, to know more, to understand basic assumptions, to put in context,       and to evaluate data and analyze its credibility. Weigh information with the questions asked by every reporter: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Listening evaluatively does not jump to conclusions without first allowing a fair hearing of the data. It does not prematurely reject a speaker’s ideas because of assumptions or prejudices about the speaker. It also filters out the sizzle as it zeroes in on the steak – preventing the mind from being swayed by the charismatic twinkle in the eye, humor, or a winsome personality.

Listening evaluatively is the mark of a thinking mind. After the wars of disinformation which we experienced in the past half decade, we must rethink how we listen and how we think. I crave evaluative listening skills for my grandchildren, for my neighbors and friends, for all who sit in the pews, for all who vote, and for all who watch, read, or listen to the news. But I cannot wish it for another until I engage in it myself. So, may I practice what I preach, and may all of us desire to grow in our skills as people who think critically and listen evaluatively.

The Rev. John Zehring has served United Church of Christ congregations for 22 years as a pastor in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. He is the author of more than 30 books and e-books. His most recent book from Judson Press is “Get Your Church Ready to Grow: A Guide to Building Attendance and Participation.

Tags: , , ,