Monday, August 16, 2010

The Civility Solution (Book)

A good read and a nice resource in helping us in everyday situations stay civil.

What is rudeness?
Simply put, people are rude when they are stressed, unhappy and rushed. With the depressed economy, many are experiencing all three at any given time. Incivility and rudeness is a symptom of a bad state of mind. (Forni, p 16)
In dealing with rudeness...
  1. Don’t personalize rude behavior. It’s unlikely to be about you, even though it’s directed at you.
  2. Be aware that rude behavior comes from various sources (sleep deprivation, depression, stress, illness, insecurity, etc.).
  3. Respond with calmness rather than behavior that escalates rude behavior.
  4. “An eye for an eye” is a poor approach; don’t turn another’s insecurity into your own.
  5. Self-righteous behavior only reflects poorly on you; don’t use the opportunity to demean another.
  6. Try to address the underlying cause of the behavior. (“I can see you are very stressed. Maybe I could help if you tell me what’s bothering you.”)
  7. When necessary, set limits tactfully and assertively, not aggressively.
  8. If the conversation remains irrational, know when to quit.
  9. Don’t assume rudeness is a permanent part of someone’s personality. It is a pattern of rudeness (not one mishap) that determines character.
  10. In the end, always let empathy — the ability to read others accurately — be your guide in understanding rudeness, knowing how to respond to a rude individual and knowing when to leave the scene. (from Psychologist Arthur Ciramicoli)
A Final Thought: Someone was rude to you, you were hurt, but you responded in a temperate, assertive, and overall effective way. Maybe the other person proffered an apology. What now? Forgiving is next. By granting forgiveness, you come to terms with what happened, obtain closure, and thus find yourself better equipped to go on with your life. Forgiving (which, like gratitude, is a form of acceptance) has a healing effect not only on you but also on the person who hurt you and in the process hurt him- or herself. It creates an eleventh-hour bond that can keep your relationship alive. Apologies and forgiveness are the lifesavers of relationships. They are two splendid examples of smart ways of treating others well. Use them unsparingly as you go through the wonderful and difficult experience in relating and connecting in what we call life. (Forni, p. 160)
And one more thought...

Relationships are the foundation of humanity. We deserve our nourishment from them, and thrive through them. Every human being wants to relate to other human beings; it is an essential part of who we are as individuals and as a species. And the way in which we relate to others determines how happy we are, how long we live, and the choices we make. Through our relationships we discover our place in the world and our reason for being here. — Christopher Hansard


Friday, August 13, 2010

Remembering Jon Daniels

Jonathan Myrick Daniels (March 20, 1939 – August 20, 1965) was an Episcopal seminarian, killed for his work in the American civil rights movement. His death helped galvanize support for the civil rights movement within the Episcopal church. He is regarded as a martyr in the Episcopal church. (from wikipedia) proudly presents Here Am I, Send Me: The Story of Jonathan Daniels. This award-winning production from the Episcopal Media Center will be available Saturday, August 14th in an exclusive streaming event only from Episcopal Online. They will release this hour long program to anyone, for free, streaming right from their website.

Learn more about Jonathan Myrick Daniels here and the readings associated with his day of commemoration here. The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama will also be holding a pilgrimage to remember Daniels and others who gave their lives during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and the mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one: who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (Collect from Holy Women, Holy Men)

(Thanks to Rose of Sharon & Episcopal Cafe)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leaders of faith community condemn protest at mosque

I signed on to this letter to the editor (CT Post):
As people of faith, and community leaders of churches, synagogues and mosques, we were horrified to learn of the anti-Muslim protest on Friday outside the Masjid An-Noor mosque in Bridgeport. We are deeply troubled by those who would seek to incite fear and hatred toward our Muslim brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends. The group responsible, "Operation Save America," demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding for the teachings of Islam, and does not represent people of faith in our communities. They reveal a lack of tolerance for pluralism and diversity in the practice of faith, as well as the legitimacy of differing faith-based teachings and beliefs on the social issues that they highlight in their protests. We stand together as one in our affirmation of diverse communities of faith co-existing and building bridges of dialogue and understanding.

Our communities have been building bridges for decades, and current opportunities for interfaith dialogue and co-operation include the Tent of Abraham interfaith dialogue program, the bridge-building ministry of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, and the Connecticut Sponsoring Committee -- a faith-based community organizing project for social change.

We wish our Muslim friends a blessed Ramadan, and commit ourselves to continuing to strengthen the bonds of understanding between us.
You can read about the protest here.

My Summer Reading

God is Not One by Stephen Prothero is a wonderful introduction into various world religions but it also explores areas often forgotten (like the mystical areas of each, such as sufism, Kabbalah, Christian mystics, etc.) and reminds us that each of our religions are distinctive that there are things that overlap but it is at our peril that we see all our religions as one.

It was an enjoyable read and I encourage you to read this book!

In Prothero's own words:
I hope people consider seeing both the good and bad of religions and the similarities and differences. Religion is tremendously important and horribly misunderstood.

We keep racing to pretend that all religions are the same — both among multiculturalists who want to say they’re all good, and atheists who say they’re all bad. That doesn’t help us understand the world we live in.
Heaven by Lisa Miller was an interesting exploration of heaven.

Looking at heaven historically and through the eyes of different religions, it gives us a fascinating insight into our struggles and hope with heaven.

Miller writes:
Resurrection may be unbelievable, but belief in a traditional heaven requires it. I think often of Jon D. Levenson, a Jewish scholar at Harvard Divinity School who hopes to bring the idea of resurrection back to mainstream Judaism, where it has been lost in practice for generations. I visited him one cold November afternoon because, as a literal-minded skeptic, I wanted him to explain to me how it works. How does God put bodies—burned in fire or pulverized in war—back together again? Levenson looked at me, eyes twinkling, and said, "It's no use to ask, 'If I had a lab at MIT, how would I try to resurrect a body?' The belief in resurrection is more radical. It's a supernatural event. It's a special act of grace or of kindness on God's part." For my part, I don't buy it. I do, however, leave the door open a crack for radical acts of grace and kindness—and for humbling ourselves before all that we don't understand.
I may not agree with all that she said, but it does get me thinking about heaven and preaching on it more! It is worth a look.

My next book: The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude by P.M. Forni

A Morning Prayer

If I can do some good today;
If I can serve along life's way,
If I can something helpful say,
Lord, show me how.

If I can right a human wrong,
If I can help to make one strong,
If I can cheer with smile or song,
Lord, show me how!

If I can aid one in distress,
If I can make a burden less,
If I can spread more happiness,
Lord, show me how.


(A prayer written by Grenville Kleiser)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

8 Rules for a Civil Life

As we choose to be civil in our lives, here are 8 rules to help us:
  1. Slow down and be present in your life.
  2. Listen to the voice of empathy.
  3. Keep a positive attitude.
  4. Respect others and grant them plenty of validation.
  5. Disagree graciously and refrain from arguing.
  6. Get to know the people around you.
  7. Pay attention to the small things.
  8. Ask, don’t tell.
From P. M. Forni's book, The Civility Solution, p. 29.

15 rules of Civility

The following 15 rules of civility are taken from Stephen Carter’s Civility (1998).

  1. Our duty to be civil toward others does not depend on whether we like them or not.
  2. Civility requires that we sacrifice for strangers, not just for people we happen to know.
  3. Civility has two parts: generosity, even when it is costly, and trust, even when there is risk.
  4. Civility creates not merely a negative duty not to do harm, but an affirmative duty to do good.
  5. Civility requires a commitment to live a common moral life, so we should try to follow the norms of the community if the norms are not actually immoral.
  6. We must come into the presence of our fellow human beings with a sense of awe and gratitude.
  7. Civility assumes that we will disagree; it requires us not to mask our differences but to resolve them respectfully.
  8. Civility requires that we listen to others with knowledge of the possibility that they are right and we are wrong.
  9. Civility requires that we express ourselves in ways that demonstrate our respect for others.
  10. Civility requires resistance to the dominance of social life by the values of the marketplace. Thus, the basic principles of civility—generosity and trust—should apply as fully in the market and in politics as in every other human activity.
  11. Civility allows criticism of others, and sometimes even requires it, but the criticism should always be civil.
  12. Civility discourages the use of legislation rather than conversation to settle disputes, except as a last, carefully considered resort.
  13. Teaching civility, by word and example, is an obligation of the family. The state must not interfere with the family’s effort to create a coherent moral universe for its children.
  14. Civility values diversity, disagreement, and the possibility of resistance, and therefore the state must not use education to try to standardize our children.
  15. Religions do their greatest service to civility when they preach not only love of neighbor but resistance to wrong.

Praying for Peace

You are invited to participate in A Million Minutes for Peace. People of different faiths from all over the world will stop at noon and pray for peace for one minute - each in their own way on September 21st - the U.N. International Day of Peace.

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Desmond Tutu

Eleven Ways to Act in Peace

1. Believe peace is possible. There is great power in thought.

2. Meditate or pray for peace. Reinforce your beliefs with prayer or meditation.

3. Greet every situation with an open heart. Embrace life as a wonderful adventure to nurture and grow. Walk with peace in your heart.

4. Speak kind words. Tell those you love how much they mean to you. Find occasions to give compliments. And when you encounter negative words or actions, let them challenge you to rise above and respond with kindness.

5. See things through the eyes of others. Live with compassion. Imagine the experiences of others and it is likely you will gain insight into how to treat people more lovingly.

6. Respect all those you come into contact with. Celebrate the beauty in all of our differences. Pray for your enemies so they are no longer enemies. Love all of humanity.

7. Practice Forgiveness. Forgive people for their faults and shortcomings and learn to forgive yourself as well.

8. Lead by example. Show others how to be peaceful by living a peaceful life.

9. Share the wealth that is yours. Each of us has something to give. Look inside and find what you have to share.

10. Pay it forward. Commit random acts of kindness whenever you can.

11. Live the "Golden Rule." Just about every religion has its own way of expressing the Golden Rule, "Do Unto Others...." Can you imagine if everyone did this?

Learn more here.

Broken behavior: Going to church with a challenging child

Taking her son with special needs to Sunday services taught Heather Moffitt how to be broken in church. by Heather Moffitt

August 3, 2010 | I am the daughter of a pastor. Among many other things, this means that I know how to behave myself in church. A deacon from one of my father’s early pastorates might add that I didn’t always know how to act right in church -- and tell the story of when he snatched me from crawling under the pews during a service and sternly warned me to sit still. From experience, I discovered (as did the rest of the congregation) that dispensing an entire bottle of air freshener did not in fact make the church smell like a field of lavender. Apart from these missteps, however, I took great pride in the compliments people gave my mother about my stellar behavior.

When I became a mother, I didn’t expect my children automatically to exhibit angelic behavior in church. But I did expect them to learn how to comport themselves. I wanted them to worship with the people of God and learn the Bible stories that had shaped me. They would discover which deacons kept peppermints and butterscotch candies for the children. They would learn that they were a valuable part of the congregation.

Reality doesn’t always conform to expectation. We joined a new church when my son was 14 months old. Just weeks later, he began to exhibit debilitating behavioral challenges. His outbursts were often violent and usually unpredictable, making it difficult to take him anywhere, much less church. I spent most of the time in our new members Sunday school class pacing the halls with him.

In the years that followed, he was diagnosed with an alphabet soup of conditions: ADHD, ODD, ASD and more.

Read the whole article here.

Congregations Gone Wild

Congregations Gone Wild By G. JEFFREY MacDONALD (NY Times - 8/8/10)

THE American clergy is suffering from burnout several new studies show. And part of the problem, as researchers have observed, is that pastors work too much. Many of them need vacations, it’s true. But there’s a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve: congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.

The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.

As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.

The trend toward consumer-driven religion has been gaining momentum for half a century. Consider that in 1955 only 15 percent of Americans said they no longer adhered to the faith of their childhood, according to a Gallup poll. By 2008, 44 percent had switched their religious affiliation at least once, or dropped it altogether, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found. Americans now sample, dabble and move on when a religious leader fails to satisfy for any reason.

Read the whole NY Times Op-Ed piece here.

At the Offertory (from last week)

Offertory Joke: For once there was a man who died and went to heaven. He was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter who led him down the golden streets. They past mansions after beautiful mansions until they came to the end of the street where they stopped in front of a shack. The man asked St. Peter why he got a hut when there were so many wonderful mansions he could live in. St. Peter replied, "I did the best with the money you sent us."

Offertory Invitation: Let us not store up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for ourselves treasures in heaven (from Matthew 6) For each of us must give as we have made up our mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (from 2 Corinthians 9)

August 8 (Proper 14) Sermon

Be prepared. It’s the Boy Scout motto.
"Be prepared for what?" someone once asked Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, "Why, for any old thing." He said.
The training in scouting prepares the scouts for what is to come in their lives, not just emergencies and such. As the BSA website puts it,
“Be prepared for life - to live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best. That's what the Scout motto means.”
Getting ready for life is also true for anyone expecting a child, there are always the preparations for the arrival of that new life, the child: getting the room ready, clothes, toys. I think of all the books Ellen and I read on parenting to be ready. We live in a society that wants to be always ready. Right? We have our cell phones, ready for that important call, or to use when we need it. We feel like we always need to be connected, or maybe its out of fear that we want to be ready.

And yet, when we stand alert for too long, what happens? We lose that attentiveness. Think of the color code system set up for our country by Homeland Security. What’s the color? (Yellow – elevated threat level) Its been on that color for a while, are we really standing vigilant? Have we really prepared?
“Be dressed for action,” Jesus said. “Have your lamps lit, be like those waiting for their master to return.”
So is Jesus asking us to be on the lookout, always ready? Is the heavenly code system on yellow alert or should it be red, he’s coming any day now (reminds me of a t-shirt a friend had, it said, “Jesus is coming. Look busy.”) Or is Jesus’ emphasis on discipleship that we hear about in today’s gospel helping us see that attentiveness in a different light from our culture today?

Think of the beginning of our reading today, when Jesus said,
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It is God, who in pleasure gives us the Kingdom. But to understand that, to know it in our bones and soul, Jesus tells us to let go of our possessions, to give alms, to focus on that treasure that God gives us. And with that in mind, then we see Jesus not asking us to be hyper-vigilante like our society with our cell phones always on. But to be aware and ready for this abundant kingdom has been given to us, and its up to us to share it and live it in our daily lives.

11 year old Olivia Bouler knows every species of bird near her grandparents’ cottage on the Alabama coast. The fifth-grader, appreciates their beauty and elegance and has developed a real talent for illustrating them. So when she saw the pictures of the birds drenched with oil, Olivia was devastated. “I couldn’t stand it… It wasn’t fair for them. They didn’t do anything.”

Olivia was determined to do something. She wrote a letter to the National Audubon Society: “I’m a decent drawer and I was wondering if I could sell some bird paintings and give the profits to your organization.” Olivia’s sketch of a cardinal accompanied the letter. The Audubon Society was so moved by the young girl’s talent and determination that they began offering her watercolors and prints on their website. To date, Olivia’s drawings have raised over $130,000.

The Audubon Society is using the money for animal rescue and to establish a new bird habitat in the Gulf. This summer, Olivia is working to turn out some 500 illustrations for sale. A fifth-grader with a paintbrush and a big heart is one of the few signs of hope amid the toxic sludge destroying the wildlife and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. [People Magazine, July 5, 2010;]
Olivia in her own way was ready and alert, because she understood the abundance she had been given and to see the need of those birds, she wanted to sell her drawings and give alms so they would benefit. Is this not what Jesus asks of each of us? To respond to the Gospel in an attentive way to what’s happening around us and to give?
Several years ago a young man in his early 20s was dying of AIDS in a hospital in Atlanta. He had no connection with any church, but friends called a local church and asked the minister to come. The minister came, but would not go into the room; he stood out in the hall, shouted a prayer and blessing into the room of the dying young man, and quickly left.

But another young minister, just out of seminary, heard what had happened and rushed to the hospital, hoping the man was still alive. She got to the hospital, went into the room, and pulled up a chair by the bed. The man was gasping. The minister lifted his head and cradled it in her arm. She sang. She quoted Scripture. She prayed. And he died.

Later, a friend said to the young minister, “Weren’t you scared? He had AIDS!” “Of course I was scared,” she said. “Well then, why did you do it?” And the young minister said, “I just imagined if Jesus had gotten the call, what would he do. I had to go.” [From Craddock Stories by Fred Craddock.]
The compassion of that young minister is the mark of the faithful disciple. We all are called to prepare for the Master’s return by creating his kingdom of mercy and peace through our acts of kindness, generosity and mercy in our world today.

Today, Cheryl & Patrick have brought Sarah into our midst, to be named before God and be baptized. Today, she will begin her journey of faith. A faith that will rest in the abundance of God’s kingdom, a kingdom that God wants us to have and to share.

So let us begin as her parish family to show Sarah what discipleship is all about, by faith filled action in our lives and in our community. For its not about being on the lookout, looking busy, but instead being attentive to the ways that can we share the abundance that God has given to each of us. Amen.