Entering Worship Undistracted

Entering Worship Undistracted

Life seems to be filled with a constant stream of distractions.

When I work, there is typically people coming into my office to talk, mounting tasks that need to be addressed, administrative tasks that require attention, and, yes, music that is playing in the background. That is just the things going on inside my office. There are other distractions that are my mind, such as our family, Noah’s needs, Abbi’s health with the pregnancy, and many other things.

All of these things are necessary concerns, but they can take my focus away from the things that need my energies, especially when it comes to growing in faith and loving God.

What about you? Do you ever feel distracted when it comes to your faith with God? Even more, do you ever feel distracted when it comes to give our full attention to worship?

Psalm 100:4a. says, “Enter his praise with thanksgiving: go into his courts with his praise.” (NLT) We are to be people who respond to our love of God with acts of adoration for all that God has done in our lives.

Can we do that if our hearts are distracted from the presence of God? Continue reading “Entering Worship Undistracted”

The World Turned Upside Down

The World Turned Upside Down

I had waited four years to see it.

For four years, I tried everything that I could to convince people – especially Abbi – that I needed to go to New York to see this one show. That didn’t work. When it left New York and started a nationwide tour, I began to calculate Christmas gifts and possible vacations for the family. That still didn’t work.

It wasn’t until the week before we moved here that I, finally, was able to sit in an auditorium and watch the one show I had been dying to see. That show was Hamilton. I loved it, and if it wasn’t for the cramped seating, I would have danced in the aisle the entire show. The show is right up my ally: hip hop music to American history. You can’t go wrong!

One of my favorite songs from the musical describes the events surrounding the victory at Yorktown. With the musical’s focus on history and catchy lyrics, it told how the Americans secured the victory and, ultimately, the war on the shores of the James River in the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia. It did so with a refrain that was sung in the background to describe what took place: the world turned upside down.

The world turned upside down! I love that refrain. I love how it speaks to history. I love how it speaks to the moment of the unexpected becoming reality. I love how it gives us, even, a way to consider what happens when the kingdom of God breaks into the world. Continue reading “The World Turned Upside Down”

Almost Doesn’t Count

Almost Doesn’t Count

One of the things I love about Fridays is catching up on some of my favorite television shows on the DVR. Abbi and I don’t often agree on shows. I am more of a documentary, drama, or slapstick comedy person, while she is more of the sci-fi, British TV, and Food Network variety. So, when I can get to the DVR it is time to play catch up, especially since one of my favorite shows is ending this season.

That is “The Good Place.” Have you ever seen that show? I find it hilarious. The show centers around a group of people who were put in the “bad place” that was disguised as the “good place.” The characters figure this out, but work together to “prove” that they actually either deserved to be in the “good place” or could do enough to earn a spot.

Getting into the “good place,” according to the show, was based on earning enough points on earth to merit the selection. Help a person cross the street … three points. Show up for work and not get distracted by the Internet … five points. Take care of someone in need … 20 points. You could also lose points for bad behavior. It was all random, but the basic idea was that you could accumulate enough points on earth to gain access to the “good place,” which was synonymous with heaven.

We snicker at the show’s premise, but I wonder how easy it is for us to live that way in our lives and faith journey. Are we trying to earn enough points to get into heaven? Read our Bible … three points. Give some money to the church … 10 points. Pay attention to the sermon and not get distracted by lunch … 50 points. Even though we boldly proclaim how Christ is the source of our salvation, how easy is it for us to think that if we do enough good, we can earn our spot in heaven? Perhaps even more, do we keep score in order to prove to others and ourselves that we are better than someone else? Continue reading “Almost Doesn’t Count”

Moments of Small Grace

Moments of Small Grace

Yesterday, I experienced a glory sighting as it relates to our use of technology.

We had another visit to the doctor to check on the progress of our baby, which we are affectionately calling “Little Fry” until it is born. Doctors offices, even when I’m not the one being evaluated, are always a stressful encounter for me. This time, though, was something quite different. It was a holy moment.

We got to see our baby.

The first ultrasound was a rough experience and we didn’t get much of a view of our child. This time, though, we were able to see its movement, activity, and its gigantic head! Yes, all babies have a big head … but this thing was huge!

It was awesome to see and experience. Continue reading “Moments of Small Grace”

Never Give Up

Never Give Up

I remember my ordination day like it was yesterday. It took place at the Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the holiest Holiday Inn and convention center in operation.

Several members of my family, friends, and church members were there with us either in person in Bowling Green or watching online. I truly believe that ordination is not the blessing of God upon one person to lead the church forward, but a time to celebrate how God brings a community together to raise up one pastor. Abbi was with me on the stage, Noah was with our family in the congregation, and I was surrounded by pastors who had mentored me and Bishop Fairley. I am still humbled by that moment, being Bishop Fairley’s first ordained elder, and hearing the words as he placed his hand on my head, “Shannon, take thou the authority.”

It was a holy moment. It was also one that almost didn’t happen. You see, just a year before I almost walked away from the church and my calling. Continue reading “Never Give Up”

Seeking Deeper Discipleship

Seeking Deeper Discipleship

I teach two Bible studies each week. It is really the same Bible study that is just offered at different times, so more people can engage the Scriptures and our understanding of faith. Teaching is not something I thought I would enjoy when I entered ministry, but it has become one of my favorite things that I do each week.

What I love about Bible study with other members of the church is that I get to gather with different groups of people to talk about faith, life, and contemplate upon what does it mean to the love the Lord and live for God. I love that part of the life of faith!

One of my ministry principles when it comes to teaching is that we should not be afraid to wrestle with difficult and hard things about faith and life. I believe this leads us to a deeper faith, and discipleship, because it moves us from just accepting something at face value and to, truly, engage what it is that we believe about God, humanity, and the life of faith.

What is involved in not being afraid to deal with difficult and hard things about life and faith? Continue reading “Seeking Deeper Discipleship”

Doing the Unexpected

Doing the Unexpected

So, February was an interesting month.

Maybe it wasn’t for you, but it certainly was for me. It started with a trip to the Holy Land where I led 20 others to experience the sites that are holy and sacred to our faith. A few days after touching down, I visited to doctor to figure out why I passed out in Newark after clearing customs. A few days later, I was here in Huntington to meet with members of our Staff Parish Relations Team for the first time and to begin to dream about what this season of life would look like for you, for our church, and our family. After that, I went to St. Louis.

I didn’t go to catch a glimpse at Busch Stadium or to eat good barbecue at Sugarfire. I did, however, do both of those things. I was there for General Conference.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of General Conference, let me give you a quick synopsis. It is the lone body that can speak on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church. The appointed body gathers to pray, worship, and discern where God is leading us over the next four years. The work of that body and its deliberative process is what comprises our Book of Discipline, which is our covenant between God and one another for how we seek to live out our faith and organize ourselves. Continue reading “Doing the Unexpected”