COVID-19 Makes It Crucial to Be More Thoughtful with Your Words

This tongue-in-cheek question reveals the perils of constant contact with the same person or persons. Before COVID-19, the complaint was that I do not have enough time for my family.

The pandemic has brought extra urgency for “Say Something Nice Day” on June 1, and “Say Something Nice Sunday” on June 7.

We need to be extra considerate with those with whom we share the same space.

Little annoyances we would hardly notice when rushing about following our daily pursuits get more annoying when we are spending day and night with the same people for weeks.

We need to be more careful with our words. Words are powerful. Words can bring hurt or healing.

During this unwanted pause in our lives, we need to take care that our words are comforting and healing. We do not want to contribute to further anxiety or stress.

Remember that noise, especially loud noise, increases tension. Loud voices sound angry. We want to avoid both.

Conspiracy theories raise anxiety levels, so be sure to review carefully all of the information you are sharing. People are already on edge about their jobs, their investments and their future employment.

This is a time for contemplation about what our future looks like. We know it will not be the same. There is no going back to yesterday and so much feels out of our control.

Yet, we always have the power to choose our words with care. Say kind things to those around you. Don’t pick a fight out of boredom. It is easy to do. This situation is no one’s fault.

We will get through this and will be better because we will have developed new skills, found new ways of doing things and experienced new ways to worship.

However, we must continue to believe in one another and keep the common good in mind.

Speak words of encouragement; speak them with sincerity and speak them often. We will overcome. You will be amazed at how helpful kind words can be when someone who cares speaks them.

No one is urging you to be insincere or dishonest. We are all being urged to be our best selves. These days are tough, but we have been through hard times before. We are stronger than any situation.

One day at a time might give way to one hour at a time or even one minute at a time.

Somewhere I read that we can tell ourselves, “I’ve got this moment. I don’t know about the next one, but I’ve got this one.” We are resilient.

Scripture tells us over and over, “Fear not.” Arthur Caliandro, the late pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, was fond of saying, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be because the other person needs it more than you know.”

Our situation calls for us to be kinder. Our words are so important.

The pandemic has shown us once more that we are dependent on one another. The air we breathe connects us.

Let’s vow not to poison our air with hateful speech. Once ugly words are spoken, they cannot be recalled or erased. They are out there doing harm forever.

Why do we have “Say Something Nice Day” and “Say Something Nice Sunday”? We have them because we need them now more than ever.

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The Joy of Reading Aloud Together

When most adults think of reading aloud, they most often think of reading to young children which I highly recommend. It is the best way to create a lifelong adventure with books and to insure a great vocabulary. It also strengthens the bond between reader and child.

Reading aloud to each other as adults provides great enjoyment as well and provides a time of togetherness. I first discovered the beauty of oral reading as a student in Sara Lowrey’s interpretative reading classes at Furman University. Before that reading aloud in the elementary grades was more painful than rewarding. Many years later I had the great privilege of working with the readers of Christ Our King Catholic Church to help them improve in the oral reading of scripture. . Don’t misunderstand. You don’t need any training to enjoy reading aloud to each other. It’s just plain fun.

As Carol, my wife, inched into moderate Alzheimer’s disease, we began a routine of her reading aloud to me every day. Over the course of a year or so we went through a ton of books. Some were serious and many were humorous. She loved to laugh. We discovered some unfamiliar writers and revisited favorite ones. Slowly her understanding of what she was reading slipped away. Even so we kept our routine for as long as we could. She was a wonderful reader and this was one more effort on my part to keep her beautiful voice alive. We both enjoyed the time together. Carol could read anything and make even dull books sound interesting. Years earlier Liz, my first wife and mother of our children, read selections from The Wall Street Journal to me. She loved the writing in that publication and had several articles already earmarked for when I got home. It was an almost every night ritual. We had many great discussions about those articles. Liz loved words and their subtle nuances. It doesn’t really matter what you read as long as you both enjoy the experience. Being together is the best part.

If you are looking for something different to do and you have a partner who has seen all the reruns on television twice, try reading aloud to each other. Take turns selecting the books or magazine articles. Discuss what you have read. The memory of your togetherness will last.

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Movie Review – Michelle Obama ‘Becoming’

If you have never been discriminated against, passed over through no fault of your own or felt the subtle sting of rejection, you have no way of understanding the pain that such behaviors inflict.

In watching the movie, “Becoming,” a Netflix documentary focused on Michelle Obama’s book tour, it is painful to feel some of the unfair criticism she received.

During the time before the election and her time as first lady, she was criticized for everything from her gestures to her hairstyle, her sleeve length to the words she used.

Both she and President Barack Obama were painted with the same brush as their former pastor, as being anti-American. Although they conducted themselves with grace and charm, their every move received the maximum scrutiny.

While rather slow moving and in need of some sharper editing, it nevertheless presents an accurate portrayal of an accomplished woman being judged unfairly at every turn.

The counselor at Michelle Obama’s high school told her she was not Yale material even though she was an outstanding student. That stung and it has stayed with her until now. Likely, it will continue to plague her.

Near the end of the movie, she reveals how much she was upset by the failure of the black community to turn out to vote in the mid-term elections. She said it felt like a slap in the face.

She takes these things very seriously.

According to a December 2019 Gallup poll, Michelle Obama is the most influential woman in the world for the second year in a row. She was also the most admired woman in a July 2019 YouGov survey.

This is outstanding when you consider her “competition.”

It is gratifying to see an audience composed of black and white people together standing and cheering a black woman.

Michelle Obama’s philosophy of hope and love shines through when she is on screen.

There are still the detractors. Those diehards who think that Barack Obama’s election was the result of some kind of plot to undermine American democracy or those who feel he is a Muslim plant. There are those who feel the couple still hates America.

The movie seems to be intended for supporters like me and likely will have no effect on the naysayers, except perhaps to inflame them.

Thankfully, the majority of Americans see the Obamas for what they are – decent hard-working American patriots.

The movie itself needs focus. I wanted more of the book tour and less of walking through hallways.

I wanted less chitchat and more emphasis on the advice she was giving young people, as well as additional focus on her interaction with the public on the tour. She is at her best when interacting with individuals.

Her advice to “look each person in the eye, don’t look over them or around them” is right on target. She has mastered those skills.

Her book, “Becoming,” is an excellent portrayal of an accomplished woman in her own right discovering her own voice and finding her place in the process.

Unfortunately, for me, the movie falls short of reaching that same high mark.

MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements and brief language.

Director: Nadia Hallgren.

Cast: Michelle Obama; Barack Obama; Phoebe Robinson.

The documentary’s website is here.

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How a Seminary Professor Became “My Doktormutter” By Mark Medley *

Editor’s note: This article was written prior to Molly T. Marshall’s resignation announcement. Its publication was delayed, along with the “Brother Molly” podcast about Marshall’s life and ministry, due to the announcement. The author has given EthicsDaily.com permission to publish the article in its original format. “Brother Molly” is scheduled for release on May 12.

In the fall 1988 semester at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I took Molly T. Marshall’s *Systematic Theology 1 course.

Prior to enrolling in her class, I was well aware of Dr. Marshall’s reputation as a popular, brilliant and dynamic theology professor. That course, and Dr. Marshall, altered the trajectory of my ministerial vocation.

A love of theology ignited (and continues to burn). A doorway was opened to explore the possibility of serving the church as a teaching theologian.

And my hanging around after class, or stopping by her faculty office, to ask questions were the beginning of a relationship that led to Dr. Marshall becoming my “Doktormutter.”

That relationship bloomed into friendship as a fellow scholar and theologian, a trusted mentor and counselor, and a sister in Christ.

If you have ever heard Molly preach or lecture, you quickly know that she uses “big words.” She does so not to impress. Rather, those “big words” invite the listener to journey deeper into faith.

Those “big words,” for me, were her invitation into the great cathedral of theology.

Let me tell you some of what I learned (and continue to learn) from Molly in the beautiful, transcendent space of this cathedral.

First, theology is attending to God.

In the classroom or in a rocking chair in Molly’s faculty office, I quickly discerned that theology is a sharing in the mystery of God’s triune life.

Theology happens as the Holy Spirit works within us the mystery of God’s word made flesh as we bear before divinity our joy, gratitude, lament and protest.

As a human practice, theology arises as we, in community with other disciples, seek the meaning of life, especially the suffering of life, against the divine landscape of God’s creative and redemptive purposes.

Second, I learned that Christian theology and faith are eucharistic.

Molly once said in a lecture that Baptists suffer from eucharistic famine. I have been wrestling with that piercing insight my entire academic career.

Not only have I considered the effects of such malnourishment, but I have also imagined the meaning of eucharistic abundance.

I learned from Molly that God is a eucharistic God: God is thanksgiving; God is self-giving; God is known in taking, blessing, breaking and sharing Jesus’ food; God is abundance; God is communion.

Stanley Hauerwas is right when he says, “Gratitude turns out to be not only a central virtue but a strong claim, indeed even a metaphysical claim, about the way things are.”

So, secondly, I learned to rethink everything from the reality of the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

Third, I learned that theology is doxology.

With regularity, Molly began class with song. Good theology should and must be sung she always reminded her students. In this way, she taught that worship shapes theology and theology shapes worship.

As we pray and proclaim, sing and be silent, confess and profess, eat at Jesus’ table and baptize in the Triune name, we are immersed in the language of faith. Filled, soaked and saturated with the story of God, we press and write theology upon our hearts, minds, imaginations and bodies.

Fourth, I learned to discern who is absent from the prominent places in a cathedral.

Molly modeled and taught me that women’s exclusion from the ambo, the pulpit and the communion table diminishes and demeans the gospel’s radical vision of belonging envisioned by the Christ and conjured by the wild, liberating Spirit of God.

Such gender exclusion in ecclesial leadership personally and spiritually injures women, as well as, wounds the body of Christ.

In Molly’s Feminist Theology course, I truly began to learn how to be an ally with women in the advocacy for women’s leadership in the church.

The church rightfully images the triune God when women are readers of Scripture, proclaimers of the good news, officiants offering Jesus’ food to the people of God gathered at his table of hospitality, and senior ministers prophetically and pastorally leading the people of God.

Lastly, I learned how to be a teaching theologian.

In her faculty office in Norton Hall, Molly had two rocking chairs.

As a student, if you arrived at her office and Molly really wanted to have conversation, you took a seat in the rocking chair in front of her desk. Coming around her desk, she sat in the other rocking chair.

In that holy space, Molly would question, probe and push your theological reflection; she would challenge your suppositions; she would ask you to clarify your thought. Other times, she may guide a reflective conversation on vocational discernment.

In those moments, Molly exercised, in maximal ways, her gifts as professor, teacher, pastor and counselor.

In those rocking chairs in her office, Molly modeled a professor concerned with the intellectual, spiritual, personal and vocational flourishing of students.

My students at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky would say that I too like “big words.” I take that as a co
How a Seminary Professor Became

*Mark Medley is professor of theology at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in Georgetown and Louisville. He teaches courses in theology, ethics, Baptist heritage, and Christianity and culture. He is theologian-in-residence at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Lexington, Kentucky. Mark and his wife, Maria, live in Georgetown, Kentucky, and have one son.

*Dr. Molly Marshall is a friend of mine. She was a favorite of those attending The Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston. Mitch

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