Saturday, May 30, 2020
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
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.
- Start in our homes. Love our-self. Love our families.
- Love our neighbors. Those physically next to us. Who are they? Why are they in this town? What are their dreams? Fears? Needs?
- 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
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...
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
In other words...we are all ministers.
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.
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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don't just study Christianity. Practice Christianity.
- Love. Abundantly. Find ways to love others that is radical, disruptive, and meaningful.
- Connect with God in deep and profound ways through ancient ways of prayer that have stood the test of time.
- 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,
P.S. - Want to get into Holy Mischief? Click on the #HolyMischief page.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
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:
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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,
P.S. - If you want to get into more Holy Mischief, be sure to subscribe by clicking the #HolyMischief tab!
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
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 DownWe 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
Sunday, April 26, 2020
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
The Mystery of God
"To hear that some things are a mystery was both simultaneously infuriating but also incredibly liberating!"
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!
P.S. - For more inspiration and Holy Mischief, be sure to subscribe on the Holy Mischief tab!
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Servant EvangelismWhen 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.
Now 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.
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
|Rev. Dr. Shannon E. Karafanda|
Monday, April 13, 2020
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- Rinse and repeat.
-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.
How Racism is Built Into Our Structures I thought I could spot racism when I saw it. I've seen the hurt inflicted upon a friend when the...
A Spiritual Perspective on the Materialism of Christmas Don't Yuck My Yum This has become a very popular phrase among my circle of f...
In other words...we are all ministers. We have an opportunity before us. An opportunity for growth. An opportunity to share our faith. ...