Friday, May 28, 2010

Meeting Drew Brees and self-importance

Earlier this week I had dinner with a big group at a favorite New Orleans spot in honor of a friend who is going to Peru for the summer. My sweet friend Vinita is in school for public health and has to go to Peru to complete a research project there. We were all having a good time eating and being merry when Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints superbowl-winning quarterback walked in the door. Because of where I was sitting I spotted him first and struggled to point him out to the rest of the table without causing a scene. He was very nice and even took a picture with Vinita as she told him it was her "last night in America" (see above, also see the picture of me and Vinita, who failed to look at the camera because she was looking at Drew Brees...haha). After we all collected ourselves from the shock off being in the same room with the Drew Brees, all 10 of us got our phones out and sat in silence texting, tweeting, and facebooking so all of our friends and families would know that we were in the presence of greatness. Drew Brees pointed to our table, his friends looked over at us, and then they all had a good chuckle laughing at us.

It was then that I began to think that our little group was a bit ridiculous. Sure it's exciting to meet a superbowl winner, but why were we all staring at our phones rather than staring at Drew Brees? This morning I got up and checked my email and facebook accounts. Then I decided to make french toast. That took me about 20 minutes. After making breakfast I sat down to eat and once again got out my computer to check my email and facebook again. As I admit my addiction to checking email, I think about my generations love of the iPhone, and their incessant need to have whatever designer cellphone they have at their side. What's the big deal about this technology?Simply put, it makes people feel important. It makes us feel needed. It makes us feel that we are a supply in demand.

I suppose that's how all technology has been. I imagine that the first chariot riders thought they were so important that they shouldn't have to actually ride a horse themselves to get from one place to another. The first watch wearers had such precious schedules that they couldn't waste a minute. The first home computer owners were so important they needed expensive technology that they had at work at home too. Now we are tweeting, facebooking and emailing because we are so important that everyone needs to know what we're doing/we need to know what everyone else is doing so we can be cool/witty/fun/relevant. I am convinced, that new technology is addicting because it gives people this false sense of self-worth. Any traditionally dorky person can suddenly be the coolest and trendiest person around with the help of the newest great thing.

Everyone wants to feel important. Everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to be cool, creative, and artsy. Everyone wants to have the ipod with the most gigs, the gps with the coolest accent (have you guys heard the caveman voice on those things?) and the Everyone wants to have a blog—oh, wait a second ...

Everyone wants to feel important. But I refuse to accept this phenomenon at face value. I think this goes much deeper to an incarnate need we have as humans to feel valued and loved.

While the search for self-worth can be extremely destructive when sought through artificial means, this search is an essential part of our emotional development. We are designed by God to seek acceptance and love from Him. But we always seem to search in all the wrong places.

However, I have to believe that this feeling of love and acceptance can sneak up on us. What I mean is, often when we put others above ourselves, or start to really depend on the Father for our needs, we start to realize that our worth in Christ, and we weren't even looking for it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I just started doing a Beth Moore study with some of the women at my church. In this weeks lesson Moore writes about satisfaction. She says: "A crucial part of fleshing out our liberation in Christ means allowing Him to fill our empty places. Satisfaction in Christ can be a reality. I know from experience, and I want everyone to know how complete He can make us feel. I'm not talking about a life full of activities. I'm talking about a soul full of Jesus."

Ain't that the truth. What a constant battle it is to resist the temptation to fill our lives with activites to keep us busy, and distracted from the empty feeling we all seem to have in our hearts. I am tired of my life of activites. Don't get me wrong, for the most part I like my life. I spend my days looking for jobs, doing work for the church, spending time with friends, reading, and sending out resumes. All of that's fine, but sometimes, in my quiet moments when things have slowed down, I realize that I lack a contentment that I think the Holy Spirit is supposed to bring. The reason I know it's not there, is becuase, sometimes it is there. I wish I could explain it better. I guess all I really mean to say is that I am realizing that as much as I want to get a job and make friends here and start building my life here now that I've moved back-- What I really want is a soul full of Jesus.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Knowing the Father

2 Peter 1:3-4 "By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires."

When I was little girl, I wanted to know that everything would turn out right. I had to stay up to watch the end of movie or read the end of a book, because I couldn't handle not seeing things get resolved. I still want things to turn out right, that will never end.

Now I wonder more and more what turning out right really means. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the passage above. It says that "God has given us everything we need for living a godly life." I worry a lot about doing things the right way. I'm always overthinking things because I want to make the right decision. I want to choose the right career, the right friends, the right path, the right boyfriend, the right kind of fun to have, the right kind of shampoo to use, the right kind of sandwich to have for lunch... I think I'm starting to realize that maybe the right thing is to simply live a Godly life. After all, the reason I want to do all those things right really boils down to 2 fears: I'm afraid other's won't like me if I do the wrong thing and I'm afraid God won't love me if I make a wrong move. The problem, once again, is my pride. I love to pretend like I am in total control when really, I have to learn to trust God. Wait, I WANT to learn to trust God.

The best part of the 2 Peter passage is the begining of the second sentance. We received everything we need for a Godly life simply by comoing to know him. How simple can it get? All this time I've been spending all this time feeling anxious and putting pressure on myself (and others) to do the "right" things, when really I should have been focusing on knowing the Father. Knowing him is what unlocks his promises. Knowing him is what shows me what's the "right" thing. Knowing him, more specifically knowing his love for me, teaches me to be satisfied by him alone. Everything I need is found right in my relationship with Him. Not rules and regulations. Friendship. So this week, as I have been searching for a job, I have also been searching for the Father, and trying to learn something about him that I didn't know before. The funny thing is, what I've found is that loves me more than I’ll ever really comprehend.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Could you help send a kid to camp?

Dear Friends,

Ten years ago, the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ answered the call to serve the children of Mid-City New Orleans through Kid-City, a program providing after school tutoring to neighborhood elementary school students. In 2002 Kid-City added a reading intensive tutoring program as well as a summer art and drama camp. The summer art and drama camp allowed Kid City to keep in contact with the children and families we were already serving during the summer months as well as reach out to others in the community. Most importantly it allowed our students who struggled in school to shine in drama, art, and sports.

Though Kid-City was left with destroyed computers, ruined our classroom space, and no school supplies after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they still managed to have a shorter camp for both returning and new students the summer after the storm Last summer, camp served over 45 children from the Mid-City and Hollygrove neighborhoods in New Orleans, representing a 35% increase from before the storm.
Participants are not charged any fees for camp attendance. For the great majority of our students, this is one of the only opportunities throughout the summer to engage in structured educational activities. Without this camp, most of our students would look to the streets of New Orleans for summertime supervision and entertainment. Kid-City camp not only offers a safe alternative, but also exposes each child to the love that their Heavenly Father has for them.

In Exodus 5, the Pharaoh becomes angry that Moses and Aaron have asked to take the Israelites away from their work. In his anger he tells the Hebrew slaves that they are required to make the same number of bricks, but that they will no longer receive straw to make them with. Many of our students face the challenge to make bricks without straw in their own lives-- tough situations that just seem to get tougher. We asked our students to think about the toughest situation they deal with—perhaps it is learning difficulties at school, being shy and afraid of new things, moving around after the storm, missing a parent they don’t get to see much, or a health issue like asthma. Below you can see pictures of bricks painted some of our campers. As you can see, they deal with issues many of us will never face.

In the past, our camp has been funded by grant proposals as well as the Carrollton Avenue Church. This year, due to the tumultuous economy, our grants have been unable to offer funding to us. We don’t want to cut the number of children we serve, and we would still like to offer the best camp possible. The cost for one camper to attend camp for three weeks is $200. Would you be willing to help send one child to camp? Perhaps your Bunco group, Sunday school class, Officemates, extended family or roommates could get together to support one child. If you can’t support financially at this time, we would ask that you pray that our ministry would continue to shine light in the dark places of New Orleans. If you are interested supporting a camper, I will gladly send you a picture of the camper you are supporting, along with a brief biography of how they came to Kid-City and how they would be benefit by attending this camp. Please don’t hesitate to email me at Thanks for taking the time to read this note and please consider passing this information on to others who might be in a position to help.
Love you all!

Checks can be made out to Mid-City Ministries or the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ (Kid-City Camp in the memo line). The address of the church is listed below.

Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ
Attn: MidCity Ministries
4536 South Carrollton Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70119

Monday, May 17, 2010

Graduation by numbers

The picture to the left was a secret this week on postsecret. While, the secret was not mine, it may as well have been. I graduated 10 days ago with my masters degree. In those 10 days I: shook 7 hands as I walked 10 paces across the graduation stage (without tripping!); packed 6 years into 39 boxes onto a 17 foot Penske truck; drove 800 miles; said about 1,000 goodbyes; cried about 1,000,000 tears; applied for 13 jobs; and read 0 pages (well newspapers, magazines, and the Bible don't count).

While I feel kind of overwhelmed about the transition I am currently in (I just finished my Exit Loan counseling that tells me what happens if I don't pay my student loans back.. YIKES!), a woman at church on Sunday reminded me of something important. She was asking me about applying and all that kind of stuff, I was telling her all of my strategies for looking for jobs and going on and on about everything I could do to try to find something. At the end of our conversation she said something to the effect of "Well, I'm sure you already are, but don't forget to pray about it. God will send you a job."

A year ago I spent my summer telling 45 kids about Moses. I taught them about how God makes a way for us, that He has plans for us, that He cares about our suffering, and that He sends us friends to help us complete the jobs he's laid out for us. The thing is, I am absolutely certain that its all true. I wish I could explain it better, but I know that God does care about those kids, and when things are unfair He is concerned about their suffering. I am sure that he has given them a job to do- that they probably think is crazy. I know that he will send them their Aaron to help them along, and I know he will make a way for them when it seems like there isn't a way- just like he parted the waters of the Red Sea.

That said, I am also sure that God has been preparing me for something. The past 5 years I have been grown and stretched in ways I never would have expected. So I'm sure that my dear sister was right, God will send me a job. In some ways, he already has. Anyways, with the exception of missing my Abilene friends, my life mostly excellent and God is taking care of me, and I am so thankful for that.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where's the good in goodbye?

I hate saying goodbye. I can't stop crying. I keep doing that thing where you cry really hard, then you stop, then you start again because you just can't help it. It's so embarassing, and my face kind of looks like a punching bag. I am certain that in just a little while I will be saying a lot of hellos that feel really good, but it that thought doesn't make me feel any less sad. I can't even finish this post because I'm too busy blubbering. Ugh. I. Hate. This.

I really should quit complaining though. The Lord has blessed me with wonderful friends here, without whom I would not be the woman I am today. The fact that I'm so sad really bears witness to the rich life I lead. But I still can't stop crying.

Henri Nouwen once said something to the effect of "Much of prayer if greif." Tonight I'm counting on that, and repeating this to myself: May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.- Phil 4:7

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spiritual mentors (part 2)

These are my friends Kirk and Jenny. Kirk is the preaching minister at my home church in New Orleans and Jenny is his sweet wife. Kirk started working with our church several years before the storm when we were looking for a new minister. Kirk wasn't interested in the position at the time as his kids were in H.S. and he didn't want to move them, but he would periodically come and preach adn take care of preacher-ish things at the church. We finally hired someone who was there for about a year before the hurricane. That family was unable to return to Carrollton after the storm, and Kirk and his wife Jenny made the decision to move to New Orleans after their youngest son graduated. For quite a while Kirk drove back and forth between Abilene and New Orleans (which is quite a trip) to make the transition, until finally, his son graduated and he and his wife were able to move to New Orleans! Kirk and Jenny didn't buy a big house in the suburbs, they bought a smaller (but infintiely more fun) house in the heart of the city. Once in New Orleans they embraced the culture in a way I have never seen another one of Carrollton's minister do. They went to Jazz fest and Mardi Gras, they walked the Cresent City classic, they listened to jazz, they ate crawfish and shrimp and even buy their oysters by the sack. Even more importantly, they embraced the Carrollton family as thier own right away.

I could go on and on about how thier life has been such a testimony to me, however, I want to tell you about my relationship with them specifically. Like I said above, Kirk and Jenny were living in Abilene in the months after the storm and were of great support to me. I always knew that I could go to thier house if I needed something. My mom was particularly nervous about telling me about the loss of our family pet after the storm so she called Jenny, who came to the dorm that night to tell me about it in person. After they moved to New Orleans, Kirk and Jenny had a series of extreme challenges in thier family. However, they were and are faithful to the end. In light of everything that's happened to them, and to their Carrollton family they always find a reason to be full of joy. And they have served to guide me in times of struggle or when I just didn't know what to do or how to handle what was in front of me. Kirk especially, as I worked at the church with him, has served to help me learn some of the hard lessons one has to learn when becoming an adult. Throughout my many blunders working with him, he never gets angry or makes me feel stupid for my misguided ways, but he always tells it exactly like it is. :-)

In short, Kirk and Jenny are the greatest example I know of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. Thanks for you love and encouragement!

Spiritual mentors (part 1)

My friend Vann blogged a few months ago about spiritual mentors. He pointed out that there are people in our lives who see more in us than we see in ourselves. These people often help us learn things that turn out to be pretty critical points for us to become the person God has intended for us to be. I have been incredibly blessed with lots of spiritual mentors over the years. Personally, I think it's because I need more guidance than most... At any rate, I've been meaning to blog about these mentors, in part out of my need to reflect and in part to encourage you to think about and thank your own spiritual mentors or find one if you don't have one.

To start, I only thought it fitting to tell you all about my friend Vann. He and I really got to know each other after the Hurricane when the Southern Hills Church in Abilene began partnering with the Carrollton Ave. Church in New Orleans. Since then, he has been a constant source of support for me. I have had the privilege of leading some mission trips where Vann served as a mentor and support, and then 2 years ago we began meeting with some other campus ministry leaders for what we now call "family time."

Over the past 5 years Vann has shown me what it means to be gracious to others without compromising your stance on biblical truths. He doesn't back down on what he thinks is right, but he treats everyone with decency and respect--even when he thinks they're wrong. In my time being his friend, I feel that he has cultivated a gentleness in me that was not there before I was friends with him because he is always finding ways to encourage others. Vann teaches me that it's ok to think outside the box. He knows that questions are more important than answers. But, the best thing that has come out of my friendship with Vann, is that he saw a leader in me when I didn't see one in myself. And by the grace of God, somehow people in Abilene now know and love their brothers and sisters at Carrollton Avenue because Vann empowered me to share what was in my heart. I still don't know how that happened, but I am certain that if I didn't know Vann I wouldn't have been able to share my love for New Orleans in the same capacity.

Thanks Vann for helping me be more like Jesus!

Monday, May 10, 2010

You can call me Master Shannon...

On Saturday I graduated. It was wonderful. My lovely parents came into town for the event, and to help me move all of my stuff back to Louisiana. My parents had a great time, mostly because they just love ACU. They never went to school here, but I guess they're pretty pleased with my college and graduate school experience.

On Sunday, several of my friends came over to help me and my dad load the truck. My friend Brent, who is apparently very, very strong and can carry not one but 2 boxes of textbooks at a time (but would NEVER brag about it... haha), asked me if I knew everything in all of my books. As it turns out, the answer is an astounding NO. Which is why I have to lug all those books around with me back to Louisiana.

But his question got me thinking about what I really learned in the past 2 years of graduate school. So here it is, what I learned in graduate school:

1. I know a lot, but I have to be confident in that fact to make any difference to anyone. No one wants to see a therapist who second guesses themselves all the time. So when I feel myself starting to question my abilities, I have to remind myself of all that I've accomplished in the past two years. Whenever you learn something, learn it well enough to know that you know it for sure, without question.

2. I don't and can't know everything, but I have to be non-defensive enough to admit it and ask for help or refer the client out. When there's something you don't know, you can go find out, ask for help, or lie about it. The first two require more work and less pride, but in the end you'll have done the right thing.

3. Everyone has a story worth hearing. We don't often take the time to listen, but when you do you'll learn what compassion is. Pain makes people do all kinds of weird things. I had one client who told me about cheating on his wife then using their whole savings buying drugs. He said that he could tell that I would never do anything like that. I told him "That's what you did with your pain, I do something different with mine." And that's the truth.

4. 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if serving the Lord, not men.' Col 3:17 I have admitted many times on this blog my struggle comparing myself to others. So initially, in graduate school I was constantly trying to distinguish myself as "smarter" than everyone else. However, as learned lesson number 2 on this list, I learned that if I was going to accomplish anything in life I needed more motivation than that. There will always be someone prettier, better, smarter and faster than I. But when I started focusing on working harder instead of being smarter, my life improved greatly.

5. Graduate school is an excellent time to learn and embrace your own neuroses. For example, I make lists like you wouldn't believe, because there is something oddly satisfying about crossing things off a list. Also, I am introverted. After a long day at school with lots of complainer students and crying clients I have to have 15 minutes alone, which I usually spend washing dishes.

6. Learn people's names. Everyone is impressed when you remember their name. Everyone is put off when you don't remember it. Find some way to learn people's names, and then call them by their name.

7. I need the church. During graduate school it would have been so easy to be so focused on myself and my work and forget about the rest of the universe. But the church keeps me grounded. Being involved in ministry helps me remember what God has done for me and what my place in the kingdom is and I like that. I think that's why God gave us the church in the first place.

8. I choose my attitude. So when I have a bad one, there's no one to blame but myself.

9. Life goes on. Sometimes things will happen and it seems so horrible, like the world will stop turning or something. But it never does, even when it feels like it should. Sometimes, I have to remind my clients of that. Sometimes, I have to remind myself off that.

10. At the end of the day, all I really want to do is help people. I know that sounds cheesy, but truly, that's all I want. Earlier this semester I had an amazing moment where God totally revealed this desire of my heart to me in a crazy tearfully convicted way. When I find myself stressed about how much work I have to do or the uncertainty of my future, I cling to this reality. I imagine I will all of my days. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of the things that seem so obvious.