Archive for category Say Something Nice

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.

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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.

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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.

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Love, a Tiara and a Cupcake – Rev. Susan Sparks -www.goodfaithmedia.org

Susan Sparks has created a profound book of faith wrapped in humor with her latest publication, Love, a Tiara and a Cupcake.

Melding her many talents as a lawyer, stand-up comedian and preacher (she is pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City), Sparks has produced a work that truly feeds the soul while stimulating our sense of humor.

She weaves in a lot of her North Carolina upbringing to make it real.

Sparks finds spiritual nourishment in the TSA agents confiscating her pimento cheese and in her trips to Kmart. She encourages us to be as enthusiastic about our faith in Jesus as Elvis fans are about keeping “the King” alive.

Elvis fans are happy to talk about him and to connect with other fans. They proclaim that he is alive, although he has been gone for 40 years.

Her premise is, “When we were born, God crowned us with a radiant tiara – a holy stamp of approval, a sign of our belonging.” We should wear it proudly.

She contends that the person who has the most influence over our lives is the person we refuse to forgive. She quotes a recent fortune cookie message, “Anger after 30 seconds is ego.”

Anger can steal our joy quickly and cause us to say things that divide us even further. The Bible warns about not guarding our words, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

On a teaching trip to Las Vegas, she saw a sign that conveys the message, “Civility is in you. Pass it on.”

According to Sparks, worry can tarnish our tiara. She devotes three chapters to this topic and employs Jesus, Dr. Seuss and John Milton in her argument.

Worry has become a national pastime but worrying will not solve our problems. We only make progress when we bring our worries into the open and deal with them.

She quotes Milton, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.” Worry or believe – we can’t do both.

Sometimes, we need time to mature, which Sparks calls this the long way around, using Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt as an example.

There was a shorter way to the Promised Land, but the Israelites were not ready for the challenges they would encounter. So, God led them on a much longer journey to better prepare them.

To make it personal, suppose you found your dream job, but you didn’t have the skills you need to be successful in that job. So, you had to postpone that dream job until you acquire the skills you need.

It can be hard when we feel that we are not on the fast track. We worry about being passed over.

Yet, Sparks contends that it is not our timetable that matters. We can fight it, or we can trust the process, “Knowing that long way or not, God will eventually lead us home.”

In the chapter, “Do It Now,” she tackles one of our biggest problems: self-doubt.

We are always finding excuses for not fulfilling our dreams. It’s too late. I’m too old. People will laugh. I’ll do it later. I don’t have time.

For this last one, she adds, “You don’t. Do it now.”

We spend too much of our lives doing useless things like complaining. “We can spend our entire life complaining and then it’s gone,” she observes. “No one is saying that the path to your dreams will be a straight line. Look at my road: trial lawyer to standup comedian and Baptist minister.”

As I finished reading each chapter, it became my favorite.

This is no Pollyannaish book that pretends that faith is a magic bullet that will make all of our problems disappear. It does give us new ways of looking at our problems.

The author believes that God has given us everything we need to solve our own problems. Even in the miracles of Jesus, human participation is a necessary component.

The last two sentences in this marvelous book sum it up. “Each one of us has a divine potential. We just need to stretch our mind, body and soul toward its light and do what we were born to do: love.”

A member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, he is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.

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How “Lou Grant” Ignited My Spiritual Call to Journalism

by Mark Wingfield | May 4, 2021 | Feature-Opinion

As a 19-year-old, I experienced a spiritual calling to journalism. And it happened while watching TV.

No, I wasn’t called to ministry by a televangelist. My calling came through the voice of Ed Asner, who in December 1980 was playing the role of a newspaper editor on the hit show, “Lou Grant.”

This show was a sequel to the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” with Lou Grant having moved from managing a TV station to managing a city newspaper.

The details of what happened in the particular episode that spoke to me are lost to time, and that doesn’t really matter anyway. Because what I heard through the TV wasn’t actually the voice of Ed Asner, it was to me the voice of God.

In an instant, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that when I returned from Christmas break to my freshman year at Oklahoma Baptist University, I was to change my major from piano performance to journalism. Which is exactly what I did.

I understood in that moment – with extreme clarity – that the calling to Christian ministry I had experienced as a seventh-grader on a youth group mission trip was a calling to tell the truth with the power of words.

I understood that journalism was a path to offer a prophetic voice, to expose society’s wrongs and extol society’s virtues. I knew I could make a difference.

Looking back 40 years later, was this seeming word from the Lord correct? I believe wholeheartedly that it was, even if it was simplistic enough to break through my 19-year-old brain.

To borrow a line from Barbra Streisand: “Can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line? If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we?”

Time has indeed rewritten many lines, but I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat. The reason why is contained in the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day: “Information as a Public Good.”

For me, journalism is a way to do good.

When we tell the stories of the voiceless, we’re doing a public good. When we tell the stories of the oppressed, we’re doing a public good.

When we tell the stories of those who give themselves for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the community, we’re doing a public good.

In this spiritual enterprise, I’ve led a charmed life. The worst I’ve had to deal with is angry letters or emails and only the occasional threat of a lawsuit.

The same cannot be said for many others who have answered the call to be truth-tellers in a world that loves lies.

Last year, 50 journalists worldwide were killed for their work, according to Reporters Without Borders. And two-thirds of those were killed in countries officially “at peace,” not at war.

Lou Grant also had it easy back in 1980 because most Americans then trusted the reliability of professional journalists, even if they didn’t like what was reported. That was before narcissistic public figures poisoned the well of American trust in order to prop up their self-serving lies.

Imagine a world, though, where journalists are not present to tell the truth, not allowed to explain what’s really going on. That’s a world of totalitarian dictatorship.

What we know now, though, that Lou Grant couldn’t have known, is the power of journalism to find a way out of the darkness even when kings and potentates try their best to stop it. Even when journalists are murdered or slandered or sidelined to keep the truth out.

Today, we the know the power of citizen journalists, ordinary people who use cell phone video and social media to document police abuse, racism and Capitol riots. We know the power of ordinary people who value truth and share it widely, even if taking on the role of journalist causes them to lose family and friends.

We know – beyond the shadow of a doubt – that truth will out. And we know that we who are Christians are called to that kind of truth-telling, whether we’ve been to journalism school or not.

So, this week, in honor of World Press Freedom Day, will you join me in answering the call to do what old-time Baptist newspaper editor E.S. James declared as his motto: “Tell the truth and trust the people”?

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week for World Press Freedom Day (May 3). The previous article in the series is:

Free Press Steers Society in Right Direction | Marv Knox

Mark Wingfield headshot

Executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global and the author of Why Churches Need to Talk About Sexuality.

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