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,

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Habitize: How to build new habits

Is now the right time?

How many times during the COVID-19 crisis have you heard someone talk about working on their side hustles or using this time for self improvement? Or have you been told that Shakespeare wrote one of his plays while quarantined from the plague? No pressure.

I've told the staff at our church that they shouldn't think of this as "extra" time. They are working from home during a crisis, not just working from home. They aren't homeschooling schooling, they are collaborative (with teachers) schooling from home during a crisis. It's a lot to think about. It's stressful. And while you really want to read the Bible all the way through, the idea of tackling it seems overwhelming. Procrastination sets in in many areas of your life and I just want to tell you...that's okay.

Procrastination involves our brains making a calculation between now versus later. In our present culture, we are surrounded by more and more distractions. Our everyday environment pulls at our attention with an overload of temptations to quickly and easily shift our focus from one thing to another. Our brains have increasing difficulty in making the correct calculation between the tasks or projects which need to be accomplished now or later; and we delay or postpone completion.

So if you want to tackle something new during this time, here a few tricks to engage your brain to get over procrastinating...
  1. Break it down - break it down into smaller components. Read a really short book of the Bible. Then another. Then read just a few chapters of a larger book. Before you know it you have read a LOT!
  2. Repeat.
  3. Action - keep doing it every day. If you skip a day that is okay. I tend to go by a "two day" rule when forming new habits. I never go two days in a row without practicing my new habit. That gives me a few skip days here and there.
  4. Information - Get more information about the habit you are forming. If it is about reading the Bible, grab a good commentary. If you are trying to exercise daily, read a blog or watch a video about the exercise you are trying to do. I used to get information first and it took me forever to start new things. Now I start something and supplement the routine with information.
  5. Never give up! Okay you may get in a rut from time to time but get back to it when life allows.

If you want to remember these steps, they spell out BRAIN. But don't feel obligated to start something now. Start when you are ready. We are all trying to adjust right now. Do something small to grow closer to God (pray, read your Bible, do some Holy Mischief) but don't feel you have to write King Lear...that's already been done. Grow closer to God and He will mold you into the person He is calling you to be. 

-Until Everyone Hears

P.S. - When it comes to washing your hands frequency counts. To look at the science go here or here. And wash your hands!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Reclaiming the Priesthood of all Believers

In other words...we are all ministers.

Bible faith scripture prayer meaning purpose
We have an opportunity before us. An opportunity for growth. An opportunity to share our faith. An opportunity to be the church in ways that we haven't been before. 

But in order to do that we must give away our control. Control we probably never really had to begin with. Control that we kept within the confines of our buildings and our schedules. It's time to give control of ministry and faith development back to families.

And we've never been better equipped to do so.

The Means of Growth

Martin Luther wasn't the first person to call for reform within the church. Before the Reformation, Petr Chelčický, Johannes Hus, John Wycliffe and others all started movements of reform in their own circles. So what made Martin Luther's movement stick and spread? What made his calls for reformation sustainable longer than the others? 

As you may have heard before, timing is everything. Martin Luther's holy unrest began to stir in his soul during the time the printing press was beginning to be used more frequently as a means to communicate to larger numbers faster. Pro-Luther advocates printed propaganda to influence others and Luther printed a gift to the people: the Bible in their own language. And with that gift and the freedom from the religious structures of the day, the priesthood of all believers was born.

Bible technology communication faith prayer holy mischief

The Intersection of Faith, Technology, and Timing

We are at another crossroads. The COVID 19 shelter-in-place forced churches to increase their online presence for both the spiritual and physical health of their congregations. For some the technology wasn't new. They had been doing online worship in addition to in person worship. Others needed to increase their presence quickly. 

It seems that many have made the transition and are connecting to their members from a distance in authentic ways that honor God. But the longer this goes on, one more pivot needs to happen. We can provide online worship resources. We can provide Christian education videos, reading, and activities online. But information and resources don't make disciples. Disciples make disciples.

We've discovered (remembered?) that we don't need a building on Sunday morning to have worship. And we've created the habit for families to worship at home. Can we now create the practices for kids, family, and neighbors to be discipled at home? 

Reclaiming Old Habits

Worship doesn't happen because the church records it or streams it. Worship happens when people gather to praise God. While that may be happening on the stream, it is also happening in new ways in our homes. It's time to equip parents with the confidence they need to disciple their children, to share their stories of faith with their neighbors, and to discover ways to get into Holy Mischief (the mysterious disruption of God's love in action).

Parents can do more than play a video or do a craft with their child. They can make faith come alive in ways that church staff can't. They can personalize faith, model faith, and share faith that is specific to how their child learns and thrives. 

It's time to empower believers of all ages and stages of life to find where God is working around them and be the hands and feet of Jesus where they are. Just as the printing press gave the Bible back to the people, our current situation has the opportunity to give the ministry back to the people. 

I don't know exactly what that will look like but I know we need to start somewhere. These seven thesis are a place to start.

Seven Thesis in Reclaiming the Priesthood (because 99 is too many)

  1. Re-vision our time: Name that we have been slaves to our schedules and re-imagine the way that we spend our time to align with the things we say we value.
  2. Refine relationships: Recognize that we don't know our neighbors and family members as well as we should and build our relationships to be healthy and life affirming.
  3. Be healed: Find ways to nurture our holistic health by disciplines that feed our body, mind, and spirit. We need to address our mental health. Our high anxiety and depression rates. The root of the word "salvation" is a form of the word healing. A cure. A rescue.We need to remember that and seek healing for our whole self.
  4. Don't just study Christianity. Practice Christianity.
  5. Love. Abundantly. Find ways to love others that is radical, disruptive, and meaningful.
  6. Connect with God in deep and profound ways through ancient ways of prayer that have stood the test of time.
  7. Re-imagine community: A community of believers that is about people with a purpose and not about a building and programs.

I see my role as pastor transitioning into someone who helps people fight through the noise of the information, teaches spiritual disciplines so that faith is sustainable, and commissions people to be the ministers I know they can be. A lot is still uncertain but I'm excited for the possibilities.

I'm not saying that we won't ever be back in our building but we have an opportunity for a great anointing of the Holy Spirit in families everywhere.  And I. Can't. Wait.

Until Everyone Hears,
Dr. K.

P.S. - Want to get into Holy Mischief? Click on the #HolyMischief page.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The World Turned Upside Down

Upside Down


I've been singing Yorktown from the musical Hamilton ever since sheltering in place started. There is a specific line when they talk about the end of the American Revolution when "the world turned upside down." Revolutions do that. It doesn't matter if they are political, spiritual, or emotional and now.. biological/cultural.

The incarnation is one of biggest moments when I feel like the world turned upside down. God put skin on and moved into the neighborhood. Powerful. And it inspires us to rethink what is happening now in terms of what that means in building the Kingdom of God. I've been sharing the videos that my clergy group "Parts Unknown" put together to inspire others. Today, my video is being shared:


scripture prayer
The unknown is always a little bit scary and a little bit exciting. I do not believe that God caused this to happen. But I do believe that God will use this for good. Romans 8:28 says: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." God is calling us to do something more innovative than we've ever done. Are you ready for what's next? Do you trust enough to follow Him no matter what that may be?

If you're ready, let me know. And we will create Holy Mischief like the world has never seen before.

Until Everyone Hears,


Friday, May 1, 2020

5 Tips for Worshiping Online as a Family

5 Tips for Worshiping Online as a Family

faith worship spirituality
We've all made a pivot. We've adjusted our schedules, our working habits, our eating habits, and our worship habits. Our church went 100% online starting in March along with many others. This wasn't new for us but we've found ways to make it more meaningful for all age groups. 

Our KiDS Min shifted their programming to give parents the curriculum online. Previously we would send home God-time cards and email information to let the parents know what the kids were learning about so that they could reinforce the stories and lessons at home. Now it is all on them. I imagine its overwhelming. My kids are past this stage. I still talk to them about God but it's more of a conversation now than teachable moments.

Most of the families at our church are used to having parents and kids in separate parts of the building on Sunday morning. The conversation about the prudence of that is better left for another post or better yet a FaceTime dialogue. But the reality for us is that this is the first time families might be worshiping together on a regular basis even if for just part of the service. If you're not used to doing that, it's not easy - especially in certain ages and phases of development.

Our church recently posted an article about the 7 Tips for Engaging in Live-Stream Worship. You can read the article here. Its a great article if your kids are older or if you have no kids in the house. But for families with younger kids there are a things I think I would add to help you during this season.

  1. Find a way to watch on your TV. - This might seem obvious for some of you but I know some families where the person most likely to encourage the family to attend church is watching exclusively on his/her device and therefore the family is not watching together. If you've been doing that for several weeks, you've created a habit that excludes the rest of the family. Its confession time, I did this on Easter. Easter was the first time we did an entirely pre-produced worship service so I worshiped in my jammies with my ear buds in. Despite the engagement in the chat, it was lonely. The next time we did a pre-produced service I hooked my laptop up to the TV in the family room with an HDMI cable. Two other family members joined me inspired by their own free will. The others remained in bed. It was so much better. Watch as a family. It will magnify the message. They won't watch all of it with you but they will see you keeping your faith a priority and that is priceless.
  2. Talk about worship beforehand. - In the article about engaging in live-stream worship it talks about setting the right mood for worship by possibly lighting candles or something similar. If you've ever lit a candle with a toddler around, you know this isn't always wise. Instead, talk about what worship is (a way to praise God and experience God). Tell your kids what your favorite part of worship is. Talk about what you miss by not being there in person. Ask them what they like best about KiDS Min. Discover what you have in common and what is unique about each person in the family. You might discover something new about your own faith in the process.
  3. Pray. Pray during the service but pray as a family before you watch that God will be revealed in the experience. Pray afterwards that God will sustain each of you throughout the week. Take the spiritual leadership of your family that God has given you. You can do this! If you need some inspiration about how to pray, check out this post. It might not seem just right at first but your prayers are beautiful to God no matter what. Show your kids what it means to pray and to be authentic. You've been handed a gift here. Use it.
  4. Participate. I'll confess. I don't sing during online worship. Maybe a little but not in the same way I do during in person worship. Mostly I look at the faces of people I don't get to see as often anymore and I mourn that I didn't appreciate that time as much as I should.have. I also don't say The Lord's Prayer out loud. I say it in my head. So how do I participate? Do you really want to know? The same way I do watching sports or a movie at home: I talk to the TV. I am more of an AMEN corner worshiper at home than I am in person. It's been very freeing to say "YES!" or "I don't know about that." or "I'm with you!" I rarely do that in person. I'm regretting that now.
  5. Discuss. What did you learn? Where did you see God? What will you do differently? Talk about these from a grown up perspective and a kid perspective. They need to hear you wrestle with these questions so that when they wrestle with them in the next phase of their lives, they know it is part of growing their faith. Asking questions isn't a lack of faith; it is a deepening and clarifying of faith. Also be sure to model that you don't always have to have an answer. Many books of the Bible end with a question and not a statement. It's okay for you to do the same.

faith worship spirituality
These tips aren't meant to take the place of KiDS Ministry curriculum. That curriculum is written with each stage of development in mind and will engage their brains differently than watching other services with your child. You kid may not really engage at all during the worship service you are watching. They may distract you. They probably will take the most holy moment of the service to throw a tantrum to end all tantrums (until the next one). But your example will shape their faith and build the lens through which they make meaning of the world. You are the most important influence in their life. Don't let that intimidate you. Let that inspire you. You've got this. We're all cheering for you!


Until Everyone Hears,
Dr. K

P.S. - If you want to get into more Holy Mischief, be sure to subscribe by clicking the #HolyMischief tab!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Slow Down!

Reflections on the Unknown

Rev. Matt Nelson reflections on how the unknown can be disrupting. What happens when you peel back the layers of comfort in our lives? The story of the calling of Samuel offers some insight about how to become more aware of the voice of God. You can watch the full reflection here: 


Slowing Down

We are constantly on the go. And when we are forced to slow down we become anxious. Am I missing something? What happens next? We forget that the Psalmist tells us to be still and know that God is present. Sometimes the busyness gets in the way of our faith. Look at this time of sheltering in place as a gift. So many other things have been taken away but you now have the chance to spend time with God. You have a chance for your soul to catch up with your body. Take deep breaths. Walk with God. Have no other agenda than to just be with God. I promise it is worth it!.

-Until Everyone Hears

prayer trust spirituality


How to tell your story

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 an...