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


Sunday, April 26, 2020

We don't know where we are going

following the holy spirit through prayer

Where Our Prayers Lead Us

A church member and Bible study leader, Fred Panhorst, told me the following story...

"While obtaining my graduate degree at Indiana Wesleyan University I was required to take a graduate course in economics. Something I would never do voluntarily. I remember the professor giving a description of an economist. He said an economist was someone standing on the caboose of a train, observing the tracks as the train passed over them, the scenery as it went by and then saying where the train was going and when it would arrive. I think that is where we are today with the coronavirus. We know where we have been and what went by, but we have no idea as to where we are going or when we will get there. I think that is how Moses and the Israelites felt. They didn’t know where the promised land really was or when they would get there. In The Torah A Modern Commentary edited by W.G. Plaut, he says “The route of the Exodus is chosen by God, not by Moses…” We have not chosen this path and lack the understanding to fathom God’s intentions. I think, that like Moses and the Israelites, we should follow the Holy Spirit and where our prayers lead us."


As I read the story of Exodus, I begin to understand that where we are going leads to a wilderness. We may have many years until we get to the next that God has in store for us, but if we follow God's lead we will arrive at the Promised Land. May we have the courage to follow the Holy Spirit from what we know, through the wilderness, to the promised land.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Parts Unknown: it's a mystery!

The Mystery of God

"To hear that some things are a mystery was both simultaneously infuriating but also incredibly liberating!"


prayer and comfort in the mystery of faith
There are some things in life that are mysteries. Some things have no evidence or proof but that doesn't mean they don't exist or that we can't know more about them. Corrie Ten Boom said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." That is what we are going through right now. Are you able to trust God?

I'm in a clergy cohort that meets regularly for adventure and to discover new ways to be in ministry in the world. Over the next eight weeks, I will be sharing our thoughts on what comforts us right now. In this video, my friend Rev. Julie Schendel talks about uncertainty and how it can actually be liberating. I hope you find it as comforting as I did.


I love you and I'm praying for you!

-Shannon

P.S. - For more inspiration and Holy Mischief, be sure to subscribe on the Holy Mischief tab!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Holy Mischief Movement

Servant Evangelism

When I'm asked what I do, I tell people I am a renegade Executive Pastor and a professional Holy Mischief maker. The next question is the same almost every time, "Oooo Holy Mischief...what is that? I want to do that!" Those two words which sit in tension with one another spark a sense of mystery and excitement that leave people wanting more.

The truth is that "Holy Mischief" is something that God has been nudging me towards for 14 years. In 2006 I was appointed to assist my good friend Rev. Allan Todd with starting a new church. One of the core values that he wanted to instill in the DNA of this church was service or servant evangelism. His vision was to do AOK projects ,or Acts Of Kindness projects, regularly to let people know that they are loved. Allan had a special way of making life fun and he made people feel like they mattered.

Allan passed away one week before the church launched. I was in shock for quite some time. I missed my friend and I wanted to make sure that I could embody this special sauce of life that made people feel like they mattered through acts of kindness. After wrestling with this for years I finally accepted that God was calling me to move beyond this idea for myself but for others as well. God also wasn't calling me to start a new program. God was calling me to something more. God was calling me to start a movement.

Watching the Spirit at work:

I had no idea what that would look like or how to get started but with the help of Rev. Blair Zant, a lot of sticky notes, a whiteboard, and a lot of prayer, we mapped out the start of what Holy Mischief could look like. The next step was to get others involved. I had a group of people at Peachtree City UMC who were on-board from the start but I wanted to connect others as well. I immediately turned to my ACE clergy group named Parts Unknown. We are a cohort of 8 clergy exploring new ways to do the work of the church. They seemed to be the perfect fit to launch Holy Mischief. I also reached out to the Fresh Expressions Bible study started by one of Peachtree City UMC's members that meets in a Crossfit gym. Everyone was excited to hear more.

Discovering your life purpose through holy mischiefNow that I had who was going to be involved I needed to pitch what we were doing. I really wanted to tell each of them to "simply do good things." In my head this is simple but a friend of mind told me I should never say the words "simple" or "do good" or "acts of kindness" regarding Holy Mischief again. When I asked her why she said, "because this isn't simple. If it were simple, everyone would be doing it. There have been other kindness movements before but yours has unique components that others don't."

I took her advice to heart and started writing about all of the acts of Holy Mischief that Jesus did. Where did Jesus disrupt the pattern and share his love with others? And what could each of us do to model that in our own context? When I was done I had 40 different stories and 40 different challenges and we were ready to launch the Holy Mischief Lenten Challenge.  We started a Facebook group and hosted two different pop up events to get people involved. The Facebook group grew each week and we ended up with people from other states, countries, and denominations. People began doing the challenges and sharing how they encountered God in each challenge. It was exciting to watch as more and more people got involved.

Acts of kindness


Then the coronavirus caused us to shelter in place. Some of the challenges were no longer possible to do as written. It seemed like for a day or two that the Lenten Challenge was on permanent hold. But then something amazing happened, the movement began to organically grow. I've been told that crisis magnifies kindness and I can say its true because I saw it in real time. After we started sheltering in place, I started to see people posting stories with the hashtag #HolyMischief, where they shopped for their elderly neighbor or did a "parade" for a graduating senior once school was cancelled for the year. I saw people sewing masks for healthcare workers or having dinner catered for the local hospitals. People stopped doing challenges because they had a list in front of them, they started creating their own challenges and being the church in innovative ways.

I'm an extrovert and I HATE staying home for this long but I'd do it again if a) it keeps others healthy and b) I could see the Holy Spirit move like that again. Its truly been beautiful to see and my prayer is that it continue for a long long time.

Praying for what's next...

What's next for Holy Mischief? I'm praying about it. I don't want it to become a program but rather a way of life for others. I could see more pop up events (either in person or virtual), retreats, and new challenges. In any case I can't wait to see what's next and where God is working.

If you'd like to get involved in Holy Mischief, subscribe to Shannon's notifications at http://eepurl.com/gWXSRP and join the Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/holymischiefmakers

acts of kindness
Rev. Dr. Shannon E. Karafanda

Monday, April 13, 2020

Authentic Activation

How do I know what counts?

Authentic Activation is the most complex part of Holy Mischief. Deciding what to do , when to do it, and with whom can be a stumbling block for many people. The truth is that no one is counting. If you have the nudge from the Holy Spirit telling you that God might have been present in your connection with another person, then it probably was Holy Mischief. If you’ve prayed about this first then perhaps God has given you the answers already, but God doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you just need to be attentive in your every day life to be open for times of possible connection with others. 

I recently interviewed Janis from my church. She listened to the Holy Spirit and was convicted to do an act of Holy Mischief at a time when she wasn't even thinking about it. You can watch her tell the story here:



Did you hear what Janis' daughter Marcy said? Sometimes we feel guilty about doing Holy Mischief because it makes us feel good too and we if we feel good about it we question if it counts. There's a lot of science behind Holy Mischief. A phenomenon known as "volunteers high" can happen when we do acts of kindness in the world. But when we do them with Authentic Activation, we can transform the world because they are covered in prayer with the power of the Holy Spirit.

You may have seen these steps before but I believe they are important to review. These are the steps to making your act of Holy Mischief authentic and ready to be acted upon. While this system has its faults, these steps empower you  to authentically activate God’s love in the world:

Steps to Authentic Activation:

    praying about acts of kindness
  1. Pray - You aren’t doing this just to check a box but because of your relationship with God. If you need inspiration on how to pray, check out one of my favorite articles from Crosswalk.com or my article on Prayer Basics.
  2. Truly set your intention to love your neighbor. When you do that you open yourself up to see where God is working in the world.
  3. Pay attention. There are people in need all around us but each person’s need looks very different. Sometimes people need to eat. Sometimes they need to know that another person sees them So for one person you might buy them a cup of coffee or breakfast sandwich because you’re not sure when they’ll get their next meal. For another person you might buy them a cup of coffee or a breakfast sandwich because you see them and it doesn’t matter what they’ve done or who they are… but they matter. Both people do.
  4. Don’t throw away your shot. If you get the nagging feeling that you missed an opportunity, you probably did. But don’t dwell on your lack of follow through. Instead reflect on why you missed it. What were the clues that this person was someone who needed Holy Mischief? How can you be more aware next time?
  5. Reflect. Where did you see God in your Holy Mischief encounter? We often forget to reflect. If Reflecting allows us to be attentive to how the Holy Spirit was working through this so that we will be more aware the next time an opportunity is before us.
  6. Rinse and repeat.
Happy Holy Mischief Making!

-Rev. Dr. Shannon E. Karafanda

P.S. - Your challenge for this week: pray for God to let you know who needs to hear from you this week and write them a letter the old fashioned way - with pen and paper.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Overcoming Anxiety Through Holy Mischief

These are anxious times

We are stuck at home. The economy is unstable. The job market is uncertain. The country is polarized. The world needs healing.

All of this uncertainty can lead to anxiety. On a personal note, chronic anxiety is best treated with  medical care and/or counseling first. I have dealt with anxiety with all of the above.  But there are other holistic practices that also help with overcoming chronic or occasional anxiety in addition to medical care and counseling.

Based on diagnostic interview data from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R), past year an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year and an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

One way to lessen our stress level and live healthier lives is through acts of Holy Mischief.

holy mischief logoWhat is Holy Mischief

Holy Mischief is the mysterious disruption of God’s love in action. This disruption leaves us curious about how to experience more of the excitement that happens when God shows up in simple acts of kindness.

Imagine a world where kindness is the norm. Where we truly loved our neighbor. A world where love is the default.

Imagine a movement that is not so much about a place or a program, but about people and a purpose.

Imagine a movement where faith was not dictated by a calendar.

Imagine a movement where people engaged in fun acts of kindness that also renewed their heart and minds.

This is what happens when we engage in #HolyMischief

Benefits of Holy Mischief

While Holy Mischief is a bit more than altruism, the physiological and mental benefits of altruism can make us healthier now and help us to live longer. An article on WebMD states, Two large studies found that older adults who volunteered reaped benefits in their health and well-being. Those who volunteered were living longer than non-volunteers. Another large study found a 44% reduction in early death among those who volunteered a lot -- a greater effect than exercising four times a week.

Doing selfless good deeds for others moves us towards a phenomenon known as "helpers high." While the exact physiological changes are unknown, a few small studies point to lowered stress response and improved immunity (higher levels of protective antibodies) when one is feeling empathy and love.


How do I get started?

There is no right way or wrong way to participate in Holy Mischief. I have a method that I feel makes the most impact and enables the impact to multiply and last longer. This four step process starts with prayer.

Prayer

how to pray
Prayer is our time with God. The words can be out loud, in your head, a thought of gratitude, a cry for help etc. In fact John Wesley says this, "God will do nothing but in answer to prayer. Whether we think of, or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him. Proceed with much prayer, and your way will be made plain." (“The works of the rev. John Wesley”, p.383)

 Prayer is a part of who we are. Prayer is our communication with God and because of that intimacy (whether it is with a group of people or an individual), each encounter is unique and precious. We may not always be attentive of our connection with God but that doesn't mean it isn't there.

For more on how to pray, go to my previous post here: Prayer Basics.



Authentic Activation

This is the most complex part of Holy Mischief. Deciding what to do , when to do it, and with whom can be a stumbling block for many people. If you’ve prayed about this first then perhaps God has given you the answers already, but God doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you just need to be attentive in your every day life to be open for times of possible connection with others. While this system has its faults, here are some steps to help you not only be authentic but to activate God’s love in the world:

    overcoming anxiety
  1. Pray - (if you haven't already) You aren’t doing this just to check a box but because of your relationship with God.
  2. Truly set your intention to love your neighbor. When you do that you open yourself up to see where God is working in the world.
  3. Pay attention. There are people in need all around us but each person’s need looks very different. Sometimes people need to eat. Sometimes they need to know that another person sees them So for one person you might buy them a cup of coffee or breakfast sandwich because you’re not sure when they’ll get their next meal. For another person you might buy them a cup of coffee or a breakfast sandwich because you see them and it doesn’t matter what they’ve done or who they are… but they matter. Both people do.
  4. Don’t throw away your shot. If you get the nagging feeling that you missed an opportunity, you probably did. But don’t dwell on your lack of follow through. Instead reflect on why you missed it. What were the clues that this person was someone who needed Holy Mischief? How can you be more aware next time?
  5. Reflect. Where did you see God in your Holy Mischief encounter?
  6. Rinse and repeat.


Share the story. 

storytellingDon’t share the story to focus on what you did. Share the story to show what God did so that someone else will be inspired.

“Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that to go on living I have to tell stories, that stories are the one sure way I know to touch the heart and change the world.”— Dorothy Allison

You matter. Your story matters. It matters because other people matter too. When you share your story of self discovery with them, you give them permission to begin the process of finding their purpose too. Write down the names of people you need to share your story with and make appointments with them. They will be grateful you did and sharing your story will help you refine your purpose.


Habitize

creating habits“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”― Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

In other words, rinse and repeat.






I hope that you always spend time looking for ways to spread Holy Mischief in the world. When you do, share the story with me!

Until Everyone Hears,

Want to get into more Holy Mischief? Sign up for notifications of the latest posts, Holy Mischief events, and Holy Mischief SWAG here: http://eepurl.com/gWXSRP

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