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.