Thursday, July 30, 2020

Re-imagined Creativity


Innovation in Faith

Everything we used to de is being reimagined. How we do meetings. How we grocery shop. How we do school. And how we create, perform, and view art.

I recently came across this gem. I’ve always loved dance and how movement expresses ideas that words cannot. 




I truly believe that the most creative and innovative ideas will be our legacy after the pandemic is over. Which leaves me with a stirring question: how can our practice of faith be reimagined during these times? What can help our faith be deeper and reach wider than we had imagined previously? God created us in His image which means we are created to create. To be creative.

God isn’t done with us yet. No matter how many times we mess things up. The possibilities energize me. And I hope they give you hope for what lies ahead.

Until Everyone hears,












Thursday, July 23, 2020

Finding Your Life Purpose

Ikigai

There is a Japanese concept known at Ikigai which means “reason for being.” The French call this “raison d’etre” or the reason or meaning for someone’s existence. 

There’s not a strong Christian equivalent. We talk about God’s will for our lives. But that’s not laying out a plan. God’s will for us is to be made perfect in love. And while there is a method to do that..it doesn’t always speak to the question of purpose. Or vocation. Purpose and vocation can overlap but they aren’t always the same thing.

Achieving Flow

I believe that our purpose can shift and is fluid over time. For many years the scripture in Esther has stuck with me... “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.””
‭‭Esther‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NRSV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/2016/est.4.14.nrsv 

I would be working and achieve that sense of flow and think “perhaps I was created for such a time as this.” And perhaps I was, but I’ve been at that place more than once. I honestly think that our purpose is less about what we do and more about who we follow. Following God narrows down what I do but it also expands what I do eternally. It gives me a framework for life and it allows me to be who God created me to be in each season instead of doing one thing in perpetuity. 

My Ikigai is to follow God and reflect God in my profession, mission, vocation, and passion. The world needs me to follow God and I love it. That is my reason for being. That is my purpose. And I believe it is yours too.

Until Everyone Hears,

P.S. - I have a workbook about discovering your life purpose. It starts with prayer and walks you through discerning your next steps. If you’re interested, sign up for my emails here: http://eepurl.com/gWXSRP and I’ll send you a copy within a week. You’ll also immediately get some Holy Mischief challenges. If you’re already a part of my email list and want the workbook, just shoot me an email and I’ll send it on!














Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Power of Movements

Degas said he liked to paint dancers in order to render movement. Movements are powerful. They take us to new places or help us reimagine old ones. I hope you get the chance to dance in transformational movements. And if you can’t, I hope you can create some.




Saturday, July 18, 2020

What does love look like?

prayer, faith, love

Love is pervading.

Some things are obvious in life. People will argue over politics. The government will want their taxes. Death is immanent. Ice cream in the summer.

Love is pervading. For those who have loved and loved deeply we cannot image this world without it. But what does it look like? If we know it when we see it, then do we know what to do in order to express it? Do the same expressions work in all situations?


When we see love in action, we tell ourselves a story. We see the actors in the narrative and project emotions within them. We "see" a feeling and we blind ourselves to the struggle within them up to this point. 

Love isn't easy. It always costs something. Love makes us vulnerable. If I express my love for you, I risk rejection. I cross a boundary I can't return from. If I don't express my love for you, I risk losing my connection with you. I risk creating a chasm over the boundary that makes any future express of love harder to manifest.

Boundaries are important. They give us structure and order. They give us a sense of safety. But boundaries are imagined and they can and should be re-imagined when we think about what love looks like.

Love makes us vulnerable but love also makes us strong. Love stretches us across boundaries and chasms and it moves us. It moves us to new understandings, new possibilities, and new transformations that make the world better.

Keep defining what love looks like by what you do. It's risky but its worth it.

Until Everyone Hears,


Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Trickster

There is a character in most folklore known as the trickster. The Trickster at first seems to be a bad character. Who really wants to be tricked? But the trickster is an essential part of storytelling. Necessary to move the hero along. To shake the hero into defining the ending of the journey through a transformative thought or action.

There are several tricksters in the Biblical narratives. David and Jacob are the first to come to mind. We often define them as Biblical heroes but the truth is they rewrote history. The redefined what a leader should be. 

In David’s case, instead of great strength the hero needed a great heart. Not a perfect one but one after God’s heart. Instead of being the first born heir, Jacob was cunning and used his wits. 

We often vilify the trickster. Blaming him or her for changing the narrative. But sometimes the narrative needs to be rewritten in order to move the story along.

You may not want to be identified as the trickster in your circles but we should appreciate how they can imagine the world differently and keep the narrative moving.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, June 25, 2020

How to tell your story

faith, storytelling
Once upon a time...

Everyone has a story. Some people know how to tell it. Others don’t. Sometimes the story gets spun in a new direction and takes on a life of its own. That’s what makes stories so powerful. They live. And they can breathe new life into a person. 

They can inspire action. Make us laugh. Make us cry. They are powerful. Something happens in our brains when we read or hear a story. We start to truly connect with the storyteller. 

A good story has the following components:
  • Once upon a time - the way things were
  • Then suddenly - something disrupted life as it was
  • Wisdom - someone or something made you see life in a new way
  • Happily ever after - there is a new way of living
For me that third step, Wisdom, is where Holy Mischief fits in. It disrupts your (or some one else's) everyday pattern so that you both see life in a new way. It is transforming love. And that is a great "happily ever after."

Until Everyone Hears,

(for more Holy Mischief subscribe to my updates!)

Monday, June 22, 2020

How to be authentic

 The Facebook avatars creep me out. They look somewhat like the person but are just similar enough to all the other ones that something about them isn’t authentic. This is where you are thinking, “Of Course they aren’t authentic...they are avatars!” Their purpose is to be a likeness but not an image.

That’s where authenticity comes in. We are created in the image of God. Not in the likeness of God. The image of God reflects how we look and how we act. We reflect who God is when we speak and act in love and truth. The likeness of God looks real but has no depth. It sounds like love but doesn’t feel like love. 

The difference between likeness and image is authenticity. How can we be more authentic? Here are three steps I’ve found helpful:

1) Intentional
2) Flexible - be ready for God to change you
3) It’s not about you. It’s about how others see you.

Sometimes we do things for our faith because we think we are supposed to do them like some form of Holy checklist. But often God moves in ways we could never predict and we need to be ready. Ready to be the person that God has called and created us to be. And no one else.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Praying for the Boldness of God

Is this what you pray for?

Prayer, spirituality, faith
In the book of Acts, the disciples pray for boldness. And the Holy Spirit gives it to them. They don’t pray for courage. They don’t pray for strength. They pray for boldness.
When I think of being bold, I think of audacity. Frankness. Clarity with courage. Something that stands out. 

When we put something in BOLD we want believe those words to be more meaningful than others. We want them to stand out and to be set apart from other words on the page.

When the disciples prayed for boldness, they asked to stand out and be set apart. Even if doing so cost them their lives. Or their relationships. Boldness is costly. It takes up space. It requires more ink.

Discipleship should be costly. It should take up more room in our lives. It should require more of us.

And while it does, it also doesn’t. It requires surrender. Which should be the easiest thing to do. 

Surrendering


prayer surrender
Banning Mills Free Fall
There’s an adventure at Banning Mills that is a 100 foot free fall. Physically it is the easiest adventure they have. You just have to walk off the edge. The cables do the rest. But mentally it is the hardest. You have to trust the cables to slow your descent and stop you from hitting the ground. I couldn’t do it. 

Our minds fool us at times. We think we have surrendered but we keep coming back to the same way of thinking over and over and over. Surrender isn’t a one time act. It’s a practice. And in order to be bold,  in order to stand out... I have to surrender every day. I have to give God those things of the world that I hold onto even though I know I shouldn’t. Surrender is hard. But its also simple. If it were easy, everyone would do it. The disciples were right to pray for boldness. They knew they couldn’t do this on their own. They needed the Holy Spirit to help them let go and to stand out. 

May all your days be bold and may God fill you with the Holy Spirit as you surrender everything within you.

Until Everyone Hears,

Shannon

P.S. - If you'd like my weekly emails with interesting facts and blog updates, subscribe here.

Friday, June 5, 2020

What's going on? Four lessons from having honest conversations about race.

Warning: I’m talking about race. 

It may make you tense or bring up emotions. Also know (if you didn’t already) I’m white. I don’t understand everything I should. I will make mistakes. But I’m listening. I’m learning. Please have grace with me.

faith prayer justice race

Over the past week after the murder of George Floyd, I've done a lot of seeking. I wanted to show my blank friends I care and have a greater understanding of the pain they are going through. I wanted to be part of the solution but I just wasn’t sure what that meant.


After many prayers, texts, and phone calls I distinctly heard God calling me to listen. And I have been. I recorded three of those listening conversations via Zoom. You can watch them here.


Each conversation (the recorded ones and the non-recorded ones) was distinct in and of itself but there were some commonalities that I want to share with you:


  1. My black friends are hurt. This came out more in personal conversation than the interviews. I can’t say that I fully understand their hurt because I’ve not walked in their shoes but I will attempt to describe my sense of this hurt as best as I can for the benefit of white readers.  What I sense is a combination of grief, anger, and isolation. There is grief that the dream they and others once envisioned has been set back. There is anger at the injustice. And there is a sense of isolation in a country with the ideal of all people being created equal. These feelings don’t mean that there isn’t the possibility of hope or reconciliation. It doesn’t mean that non-black friends have not reached out to them. But there is pain in feeling that they are not valued. In my quest to find out what I can do, I felt this pain and realized that I should’ve done more before George Floyd died.
  2. Instead of looking for answers, we need to make sure we are asking the right question. For Rev. Dr. Theo Turman the right question is “What does love look like for you?” For Dr. Walter Fluker the right question is “What’s going on?” For Rev. Karen Webster-Parks the right question is “How can you uniquely offer hope?” If you ask the right questions from a good number of people you will find a path to ways you can respond.
  3. There is no “one size fits all” answer. When it comes to race, everyone is on a spectrum of bias. Some people are so extreme it is easy to define them as racist. Some people seem very open and inclusive but if you were to dig deeper you could see how they have not challenged the cultural norms that favor one race over others. The existence of this spectrum means we need a multi layered approach to seeking justice and reconciliation between blacks and whites in this country.
  4. This is a marathon. It takes time. And training. I need to keep listening. I need to keep learning. One day we will cross a finish line but until then we need to grow stronger and keep moving forward.


I cannot do justice to the issue of justice in one post. But I pray that my attempt will lead to a greater understanding. 


Until Everyone Hears,

-Shannon


P.S. - My denomination is issuing a statement soon. If you are a clergy person in the NGUMC, please be on the look out for it. There are also several organized peaceful gatherings going on. Search "where is the protest in (your metro area) on Twitter if that is your thing. Also it is an election year. Ask the local candidates how they are advocating for change. Call or text your black friends. Listen to them.


"Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality 

Talk to me so you can see

Oh, what’s going on

What’s going on

Yeah, what’s going on

Ah, what’s going on"


-Marvin Gaye

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Systemic Racism

How Racism is Built Into Our Structures

justice faith prayer

I thought I could spot racism when I saw it. I've seen the hurt inflicted upon a friend when they hear a racial slur. I've seen hatred. I've even seen brutality. But that doesn't mean I can always spot racism.

My dad was a member at a church in the North Georgia area that had an historic sanctuary. It predated the civil war and had some maintenance that needed to be done on the flooring where the congregation sat. It seemed like over time the floor started to buckle and would need some repair. Upon further inspection the contractor who was going to do the work asked about the columns in the center of the church. At first look, they seemed decorative but after a bit of history was uncovered, they found out that those columns used to be part of a dividing wall inside the sanctuary. White people could sit in front of the wall. Slaves were to sit behind the wall. After the Civil War when the freed slaves wanted to worship, the church gave them some property to build their own church around the corner. Having no purpose for the wall anymore, they took it down to open up seating but kept the columns because they looked pretty. Over time as the church structure settled, the columns caused the floor and ceiling to shift so that the church was in danger of crumbling off its foundation. No one saw it.

This is a tangible example of system racism. The structures that were put in place to divide us run deep. They leave a mark. And sometimes we aren't even aware of the damage they do. Fixing it takes time. It can be costly. But not fixing it will cause us to slip off our foundations. 

Love your neighbor. All neighbors. Speak up when you see injustice. Have conversations about how we can do better. Every person has sacred worth. Let's build a world that shows this is true.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, May 25, 2020

Pentecost Re-imagined

spirituality faith prayer purpose

How we normally think of Pentecost

Pentecost in the Christian church is the celebration of the Holy Spirit descending on all who were gathered for the Jewish festival. We often call it the birthday of the church and we celebrate it each year as a by remembering the power we have that God gave us to fulfill tour mission.

But what happens when we can’t gather? How do we celebrate a gathering when we can't be together. Since social distancing began we have re-imagined how we do church. Isn’t online worship a work of the Spirit to be able to bring God’s Word to people in ways they can understand?

Looking back and forward

Before Christians began celebrating Pentecost, Jews celebrated Pentecost as the Feast of Weeks. One of three pilgrimage festivals of the Bible. It was the anniversary of the day the Torah was given to Moses. 

The Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to have a power they couldn’t image. A power to do the things Jesus said they could do.  It was exponential.

Pentecost 2020 can enable us to fulfill the commandments of God in similar ways. Here are a few to start us out.

  1. Start in our homes. Love our-self. Love our families.
  2. Love our neighbors. Those physically next to us. Who are they? Why are they in this town? What are their dreams? Fears? Needs?
  3. Love to the ends of the earth. 
Points 1 and 2 have always been possible for us but we now have had the time to see how important they are. We’ve slowed down a bit. Taken stock of our family situation. And either rejoiced or mourned. We may need healing. We may have healed. But we now know where we are.

The ends of the earth have been possible for some time too but now the ends of the earth are also finding us. 

Another term for the Festival of Weeks is Shavuot. It is the counting of weeks or days. The Jewish people literally count the days until they got the Torah after being freed. 

We’ve been freed and we count the days until we can gather a family of God. Until then we count our days with our family and neighbors. And by counting them we make them count.

Go and love the people next to you. And make sure that your digital presence is loving as well. 

Until Everyone Hears,

Re-imagined Creativity

Innovation in Faith Everything we used to de is being reimagined . How we do meetings. How we grocery shop. How we do school. And how we cre...