Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Starving for Wisdom

The saying is true, "We are drowning in in formation while starving for wisdom." While I have a much easier time getting access to information these days, I use all of that time saved having to sort through what is helpful.

I love to learn but I know I could learn more if I went to the right sources. Here's my guide to sorting through information to get to wisdom


  1. Set social media time limits. Since I do most of this on my phone, its easy to set a limit. It has helped me from getting lost in the click bait abyss for too long.
  2. Have a small but diverse set of trusted resources. For me this includes Harvard Business Review, Dan Reiland's blog, National Geographic magazine, and books recommended to me at conferences that I trust (I get them on audible so that I'm not wasting shelf space or commute time.)
  3. Spend time thinking. These ideas need to marinate. They need time to grow into something else useful for my work. Or maybe just for my enjoyment. But thinking time allows new ideas to settle into my soul. It is truly priceless.
  4. Read the Bible and pray. Often my thinking time morphs into prayer time. At this phase I start to see connections between my faith and the world. This is when wisdom can thrive because it doesn't come from me. It comes from God. That's what true wisdom is. It's divine. And it can't happen by reading Facebook postings alone. There is a process and I'm thankful for those who have shared it with me.
Until Everyone Hears,


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Thunderstruck

5:15 am is an excruciatingly early time to be working out. Yet it seems that with the stage of life I'm in right now, that's the best time for me.

I'm typically a morning person but I really don't like to talk much before 6:00 am and a cup of coffee. But there's one person in the cycle class I've been going to who is perfectly fine talking a lot and loudly. It's been grating on my nerves.

Until today.

Today as the third song started she yelled out, "That's an end song! You can't do end songs this early!" The song? "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC.



She's right.  Definitely an end song.

Every show has and end song. A song where the main character has had a life revelation. They sing their heart out and the entire cast joins in with a large dance number to bring everyone to their feet.

But what would happen if we started everything with an end song? Not just keeping the end in mind but actually started at the finale? Where would we go next?

Isn't that what God did through Jesus? Aren't our lives centered around starting with the resurrection? If not shouldn't they be?

Chatty Cathy had a brilliant point. God did too.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, July 29, 2019

Saturday Nights with Jesus

Where would Jesus be on a Saturday night in Atlanta and why?

I was asked this recently by one of my holy mischief making friends. It's really made me think.

Of course there are some immediate, obvious answers like a homeless shelter or a place of worship. Logically he should be in a synagogue on Saturday night but we only have one story of him in a synagogue and that didn't end well for him. Even if that's where he was, where would he go next? What would be on his agenda after dark?

Most of the stories of the life of Jesus are about him telling stories, doing miracles, or having encounters with people on the fringe of society. 

Which leads me to think Jesus would probably be in a waiting room at Grady hospital on a Saturday night. I doubt he would heal everyone because not everyone wants to be healed. I doubt he'd tell stories to the entire room because not everyone wants to be connected. But I do think that he would most likely encounter someone who when in the presence of God himself, would be transformed to make the world better. 

Option B would be Music Midtown but that's topic for another post.

Until Everyone Hears,

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Innovation Process

I spent the day at an innovation workshop for churches. We had speakers who walked us through the innovation process, design thinking, and prototyping. One of the speakers is a good friend of mine who distilled the innovation process down to five steps:

  1. Preparation - having diverse perspectives at the table
  2. Divergence - generating an obscene number of ideas
  3. Incubation - let the ideas sit in your brain
  4. Convergence - edit the options based on your "why" and your values
  5. Execution - just do it
Something about this was bothering me as I came home from the workshop. I wasn't sure why until I thought about the intersection of innovation and church. The nagging question for me was what role does the Holy Spirit play in this? Do we invoke the Holy Spirit during preparation and then listen? Do we do that at each phase? Do we trust that God has gifted us with the mental capacity to do this so the process done with faithful people should work?

While I think the answers to these questions are "lots" and "yes," I noticed something when I reviewed my notes.... This is the same process I go through in crafting a sermon. Sharing the Word of God with others is innovative because it connects the intersection of God and humans. It connects two things that are meant to go together but due to our brokenness don't always go together. 

If we truly surrender to God, He disrupts our life. God's work in us is always innovative because God is making us new each day. And we were created to be innovative because we are created in God's image. 

Maybe that was too much thinking to be reminded how important innovation is. But I think its helpful to remember that with God we can do something that is more innovative than we can do on our own. 

May you seek God in your own process of making this world a better place.

Until Everyone Hears,

Friday, July 26, 2019

Summer is almost over

Parents of school aged kids have a love hate relationship with summer. We love sleeping in a bit. We love spending time with our kids - especially when we make memories at the ... (beach, Disney, mountains etc). We LOVE not having homework pressure!

But we hate having to find childcare options that are within budget and enriching for our kids. Or for those who stay at home, having to find ways to entertain or manage their boredom in productive ways.

Summer is almost over. One more week before school starts. And I'm a bit sad. I've enjoyed this pace. I've enjoyed the memory making. I almost don't want it to end.

Life is precious. Time is invaluable. Take a deep breath and soak in each moment. We are never promised the next one. God gifts us with moments. Make them eternal in your heart.

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It's all gonna be okay


Ministry is a calling of great joy. I am blessed to be able to fulfill my calling in a way that allows me to make a career out of it. Those called in other countries aren't always so lucky. While ministry fills my soul and connects me to God, there have been some really heartbreaking parts of the job as well.

You might think that walking with people through death, divorce, or illness would be the worst part but in many of those cases I've considered it an honor to do life with others in the hard times.

The worst parts were when I had death or painful circumstances that I needed to process yet I still needed to be an inspiring pastor during that time. The first was when a colleague, Allan, died one week before we were to launch a church together. He had become a very close friend and his loss in my life was felt personally as well as professionally. During that time I felt myself enter into an emotional and mental state that was unfamiliar. I soon realized that this was depression. I got the help I needed and in time I was healed. In that process my friendships grew stronger. My faith deepened. And I became a better pastor. I don't wish anyone to have to deal with death unexpectedly but I'm able to look back at that time and see God at work.

The second painful circumstance is more recent. This year our church had our lead pastor suspended and later he surrendered his credentials under charges. We had an interim pastor for a few months and got a new lead pastor this June. There wasn't a context for processing this type of scenario. I had a lot of emotions through this and the congregation had a lot of emotions and they didn't always match up. There was a lot of what felt like ambiguity from our conference (mostly due to the confidential and sensitive nature of the situation). Most of the time during those four months, I was fine. I was able to lead the best way I knew how and I developed relationships with some members that I'll treasure forever.

But the day our new lead pastor started, I experienced something that truly surprised me. On one hand I was excited and relieved to be starting a new chapter. But on his first Sunday I began to feel lethargic and had to talk myself into every move that I made. All I kept thinking in my head was, "Here we go again." It felt very similar to the time after Allan died - and that hurt. This lead pastor was my sixth in four years. One was due to a retirement. One was due to my moving. Another was due to a conference move. And then the current scenario. It hit me that day that I'd had an overload of change and I needed time to let my body catch up. I sat down that afternoon to rest and felt my old "friend" depression just behind my eyes. I wasn't depressed. I just knew I was close to it. And I was scared.

I immediately put together a plan (its what I do) to exercise, sleep well, eat right, and stop drinking. It worked and I no longer feel the pull into darkness that was there that day.

But here's where God is good. On that Sunday when I thought I might slip back into something dark and lonely, I got a text message.  It was from Allan's daughter, Hannah. The Christmas before Allan died, he gave me a Georgia Tech decorative bowl as a present. The kind you put fruit in on your kitchen counter or fill with something great at parties. I used it off and on for years and thought of him each time. Last year Hannah graduated from Georgia Tech. She was Ms. Georgia Tech her senior year and the Ramblin Wreck driver as well (only the 4th female to do so). I asked her to come by my office after she graduated and before she left for her job in Seattle. You can probably guess I gave her the bowl. Allan would've been SO proud of her and I felt like it was definitely more important that she have it to remember him even in a part of her life where he couldn't be present.

That particular Sunday she sent me a simple text. A picture of the bowl with food for a small gathering she was about to have. It meant the world to me. A few hours later I got a text from Allan's other daughter, Abby. Abby is currently pursuing her calling in graduate school in DC. Allan would love to have some of the conversations with her that I've had over the past few years. Her passion for God is truly remarkable. She texted saying that she would be in town that week and wanted to have lunch.

God sends reminders of good news in funny ways. Who knew that two simple text messages would be the reminder I needed to know that its all gonna be okay.

No matter what we go through in life, it truly will be okay. There's nothing too big for God. Its really hard to trust this when we are going through trying times but if we look really hard we might just find reminders that we can push through it. And when it finally is okay, may we be a reminder to others to hold strong.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Reaching the Next Gen (again and again...)

2/3 of my children went with me to watch the new Lion King movie yesterday. It was incredible. I had all the "Circle of Life" and "remember who you are" goosebumps and some bonus laughter due to some creative, additional dialogue here and there.

I'm not from The Lion King Disney generation. Nor am I from the Snow White/Cinderella generation. I'm stuck in the middle like most GenXers. I remember seeing Snow White in the movie theater during a re-release year. And I did see The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King in the movie theater - but I was the young adult who didn't want to lose her childhood and still believed that fairies were real.

My kids are from the Cars and Frozen Disney generations. Those are the soundtracks, play sets, and Halloween costumes we enjoyed during their pre-k and elementary school years. Of course I played all of the Disney (old and new) classic songs for them but I'm not sure they claimed them as "their" Disney songs.

This new Lion King movie reached a new generation. My daughter kept asking me what was going to happen next and my son couldn't tell me the differences between the two movies (other than animation). It was the same movie. The same message. The same songs. But with new technology, new actors, and bit of rewritten dialogue.

Instead of trying to reach a new generation in a new way, Disney leveraged the connection of an older generation to bring their kids to a movie redone just for them.

Why aren't we doing this in our churches? For so long we've either been reaching an older generation with their traditional songs and liturgy OR we've been targeting a different generation with a new set of songs and style. Perhaps instead of trying to do what the newest generation wants to do, we find ways to leverage the good things from the past and repackage them in ways that parents will want to bring their children to so that they can worship...together.

I know some churches that are doing this and honestly it is a different scenario when you don't have Disney's marketing budget but there is something to learn here. Families can have great experiences together. Can the church be one of those experiences?

Until Everyone Hears,



Saturday, July 20, 2019

The hats that tell a story

A few days ago I had BLTs with some amazing people (they were amazing before the BLTs but the BLTs really solidified their amazingness). While I was there I learned more about their past, their family, and their relationship with God.

It was truly an honor to be invited into their home and into their story. Stories are powerful. They show us the events that help shape a persons thoughts, feelings, and decisions.

Once lunch and story time was over, they did a bit of show and tell. I was invited into other rooms of their house to see some treasured items. I saw family pictures, retirement gifts, and appreciation presents. But what I found most fascinating were the hats. They had a few different hats displayed that told a story without any words. And for just a moment, I was transported to the past and saw these two beautiful people before they were molded by the hats they wore.

I don't wear many literal hats but I wonder what metaphorical hats someone will see years from now that will show the world who I was. Whatever the object, I hope it is one that shows my heart. Not for what it is but for what God is shaping it into.

May our hats always tell a story worthy of the good news of Jesus.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Miracles

I visited one of our Sunday School teachers last week. He teaches our class with the most life wisdom. His first wife passed away several years ago and he went through a painful second marriage. He kept praying for God to grant him whatever he needed to make that second marriage work. When the he finally divorced, he wasn't sure he could go through dating and marriage another time. But then he met his current wife, and as he says, "God sent him a miracle."

I'm not sure that I ever thought of people being miracles but I guess its true. There have been people in my life who have kept me sane (ish). Kept me laughing. Kept me seeking God. I truly believe that people can be the "hands and feet of Jesus." And if they are, surely they are miracles.

He left me with these parting words, "If you look for miracles you'll find they are quite rare. But if you look for God you'll find miracles in abundance."

I believe he's right.

Until Everyone Hears,


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Being Under the Radar

I live fairly close to the Atlanta Airport and therefore have many people in my town that work in the airline industry. I once ate breakfast with an air traffic controller who was able to track the tooth fairy for his daughter on the radar at work. 



We often use the term "flying under the radar" to refer to doing something but not wanting to get noticed for it. The expression could be used by someone with great humility or about someone getting into not so holy mischief. Or for introverts who don't want attention.

I was recently asked if I would lead in a situation that has caused a lot of tension, harm, and polarization in my denomination. While I eventually said I'd be willing I was anxious to be so open about my viewpoints and beliefs regarding this given that I've got great friends and co-workers who disagree with me on this. I got angry at God and asked the question that is futile to ask - "Why?".  I asked God why does this has to be so divisive? Why can't I just stay under the radar and do ministry?

I got an answer. It didn't fully answered the question but it shut me up. At least for a bit. God's reply was this, "Shannon, doing ministry is NEVER under the radar. The work I've called you to do will always cause you to be seen by others."

So here I am. On the radar. I may not be perfectly on course but I'm asking for direction. I'm listening. And I pray that I can always obey the One who guides me.

Until Everyone Hears,

Dr. K

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Splinters

My daughter got a splinter yesterday. Usually splinters are boring but irritating. She got a splinter doing aerial yoga. Far from boring (and I'm slightly confused since she should've been in the air). This one was very painful. It was bigger than normal and did a bit of bruising on the bottom of her foot. This morning she woke up and was still favoring the other foot and insisting she use crutches. I sympathized but I also knew at this point most of her pain was mental.

I recently received a spiritual splinter (or maybe I was the spiritual splinter). It was painful. Still is. I've been praying for courage and strength but all I can feel is the memory of the hurt. Memories are often more painful than external physical pain. I asked a friend to pray for me and she told me this: "You already have within you the courage and strength needed for the journey because you heard the call of God and said, Here I am, Lord, I have heard your people cry."

Sometimes I forget that others hurt more than I do. And even if they hurt because of a memory, it doesn't make it any less real. As I try my best to focus on compassion to others who cry, I know that God will be healing my splinters.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

3 Steps to Wholeness (a strange and incomplete list)

Some people say that Disney is the happiest place on earth and while I really do love the magic that happens there, I also LOVE to see the pages of Harry Potter come alive at Universal Studios. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. Being able to walk through the castle, the bank, and platform 9 3/4 while drinking Butter Beer makes me happy.

But happiness is not the same as wholeness. Wholeness is what happens when my soul sings. Wholeness is a way of being regardless of my emotions. Wholeness sees me through dark times and magnifies happy times.

I am made whole by the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no magic that allows me to be made whole. But there are things that I can do to remember that I'm made whole. The following is a short but not complete list:

1) Turn on the light: in other words pray. Ask God what He wants to show you. You may be surprised at the answer."Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) "I am the way, the truth, and the light." (Jesus in John 14:6

2) Let go of the past: that doesn't mean forget it but instead surrender to the present moment and focus on where you're going. "It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be." (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) 'For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”' (Romans 8:15)

3) Remember that you have been made worthy. We aren't worthy to receive God's love but God's love makes us worthy to do the work He's calling us to do. "Every human life is worth the same. And worth saving." (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows") "To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith" (2 Thess 1:11)

One of the reasons I enjoyed the Harry Potter books is that I saw threads of the gospel in them. They made me happy because I remembered my wholeness in Jesus. And that in itself is beyond measure.

Until Everyone Hears,

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 tri...