Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Final Post... at least for now

I love this blog. It has been an invaluable resource for me to sort out my thoughts on varioius issues over the course of my young adult development. But, I need something different. So, just for now I'm putting a period on this very long run on sentance of a blog.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


A few months ago I was out with a guy and he jokingly accused me of being a "boring Christian." We were out at a restaurant and I wasn't drinking. We had also just finished talking about my church attendance 3x/week, how many bible classes I took in college and the fact that I don't kiss boys unless it's serious. I quickly tried to defend myself (failing miserably of course), saying something to the effect of "Hey, now! I'm edgy... Remember that time I played a swear word in our Words With Friends game?"

The time we were out before that, said boy and I talked about our friends from college and what they were doing now. I went to a Christian school in Texas and he did his graduate work at a seminary in Georgia. I have good friends who are missionaries in Russia and another who is making plans to move to China and he has friends who are missionaries in Kenya, Uganda and Thailand. I told him how most of my friends had this adventurous missional pattern. My college friends spent their summers traveling the globe to preach the Gospel. They taught English in Japan, they translated the Bible in Papua New Guinea, they worked with orphans in China, they built sustainable irrigation systems in Zambia, and put on summer camps for teens in Germany. While they were out globetrotting, I was always finding a way to come home to New Orleans. His friends have somewhat similar stories. I went on to tell him how completely content I am with living and serving in New Orleans. I also told him that I sometimes felt jealous of my adventurous friends, and that I was worried that I hadn't explored "God's calling" for my life enough because I seem to lack that adventure bug everyone else seems to have gotten. And that's when he said something quite profound. He said "I see what you're saying and Shannon, but isn't the real call to do something radical? Radical discipleship doesn't always mean adventure tourism. I've barely scratched the surface with you, but I'd say you're a pretty radical chick." I of course laughed and retorted "Why? Cause I played a swear in Words With Friends?" He quickly corrected me and said "No silly. Cause you do your best to make time for God and the things that are important to Him." Then he threw pieces of bread at me. Apparently, dates are always good times to throw food at the girl you like. Its unfortunate that the boy turned out to be a creep on date number 3. The first 2 outings were so promising... but I digress.

In 1 Thess 4 is says that our ambition should be to live a quiet life. I don't always appreciate that sentiment. Sometimes I find myself searching for spiritually glamorous tasks. I'm not sure how exactly to describe it, but it seems that Satan is always trying to sell me a lie (and I'm usually buying it...) that satisfaction is just around the corner. If I only had that job, or a boyfriend, or more money, or if the bible study I lead was just a little more successful, or if I just convinced one more person to be baptized, or if I just went to share the Gospel in an exotic place, etc. etc. then I would finally feel fulfilled.

And then I look at the life of Jesus, a man who's example of humility sets the stage for how I should live. I don't need an impressively spiritual facebook status to follow Jesus. Discipleship is sometimes exhilarating, refreshing and new. But it's also often ugly, messy and painful. Sometimes faithful service leads us to mundane obedience. I don't think my globetrotting friends were doing anything wrong by any means. I admire their passion to serve in a unique way, I'm just realizing that in my search for meaning, answering God's call doesn't have to be something big and exciting. Sometimes, doing something radical means finding a way to live a quiet life.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For such a time as this....

This summer, I had the great privilege to co-direct summer camp at my church again. This year, we focused on the story of Esther. You probably recall the story. In a nutshell, Esther, a poor Jewish girl is chosen to be a queen in a fairytale whirlwind. When one of the king's officials threatens to kill all the Jews, she risks her life to save her people.

At the climax of the story Esther is afraid to do what she knows she must and her cousin Mordecai gives her a word of confidence to inspire her to do the unthinkable.

Mordecai sent this message back to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were put in this position for such a time as this?”

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I perish, I perish.” So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Esther 4:13-17

Who knows if perhaps you were put in position for such a time as this? I've spent a lot of time this summer wondering what my life would be like if I took Mordecai's question to heart. There are so many times I have resigned my efforts, feeling powerless to change a situation. So many times when I can't see what I uniquely have because all I see is what I uniquely lack. There are moments when I swear I can almost feel cousin Mordecai tapping on my shoulder ready to give me a pep talk.

Lately, I find myself praying for courage to embrace every teachable moment.What I mean is, there are moments where if I rose to the challenge set before me I would learn something about myself, God, or the world around me, but instead I act like a turtle and hide inside my shell. So I'm working on it. Have the hard conversation. Tell the people you love why you love them. Always apologize if you did something wrong, but don't ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining. Though your voice may be small, don't ever stop singing. Speak up for what's just, even when it means going against what others say and do. Do what you know is right, even when it is the more difficult option.

Maybe you know what I mean. Maybe you don't. Either way, consider this:Perhaps you have come to this place, to this moment, to these people, to this challenge, for just such a time as this. Maybe you have been given this money, this talent, this vision for just such a time as this. Perhaps you have been given these skills and experiences, these privileges and deprivations, so that just at this very moment you could do what no one else could do, you could be what no one else could be. God made you just as you are because he wanted someone just like you. Maybe all this happened and you came to be here for just such a time as this.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

TED talks, poverty, and doing what's right

So.... here's another nerdy confession. I spend an embarrassing amount of time each week watching TED talks. In case you're not as nerdy as I am, TED is a nonprofit dedicated to ideas worth spreading. They started in the 80s with a focus on Technology, Entertainment and Design. Now their scope is incredibly broad and they hold several conferences each year. These conferences are generally based on a theme TEDGlobal, TEDWomen, etc. and consist of today's innovative thinkers sharing their unique ideas. Each speakers talk is recorded and then podcasted on TED's website.

I watch TED talks anytime I have a spare 15 minutes. I often envy the creativity and brilliance of TED presenter. However, what I envy the most is their passion. They genuinely overflow with love and excitement about their field of interest. There are a few TED talks that I find myself watching over and over again. This one from Jessica Jackley is one of them. Jessica is a young woman who has transformed what millions of people around the world think about the poor and has revolutionized the way people give to charity by making micro-finance accessible to the masses through her website kiva.org. Her passion for the poor is infectious. I gaurantee you that the video is worth 17 minutes of your time, and that it will leaving you feeling inspired and empower. The questions is... What will you do?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The single Christian

Aside from this one random guy I met who was thinking about becoming a Catholic priest, and a certain professor in Abilene who wore all black... I don't think I've ever actually met a single Christian who was not interested in finding a mate. Let me point out, that I am NOT talking about being single as an inevitable state before getting married, but trying to pretend as if your lack of a dating relationship is some sort of spiritual discipline on your part. Being not-yet-married is not the same as making a conscious decision to forsake the possibility of love and marriage in order to pursue the Lord's work wholeheartedly.

More than five years ago, as a bright-eyed, career-focused college student, I decided to pursue singleness for a year. My decision was not well thought-out; on the heels of a breakup... more like a string of ridiculous boys, and after a major natural disaster destroyed my life as I knew it, I decided to drop out of the dating-and-romance race for a while. I mean it really hadn't been going so well anyways, so why not quit while I was behind...

As I came to depend more on prayer, Scripture and meditation to exert control over my life, I not only persevered through my new single life, but found it to be a profound learning experience. I realized how much I had bought into lies about men. The world around me would have me believe that they were juvenile, chauvinistic, or stupid and that to be married to them was to mother them or whip them into some sort of submission, or to forget that I ever had an opinion about anything in order to submit to their male authority. All of this, of course, is complete crap. Some men can be juvenile and chauvinistic. Others can be kind and generous. Some can be manipulative and greedy. Others can be wise and strong. Really, there is no eternal flaw that all men have, nor is there some magic formula for successful marriage. People are who they are, and every couple has to figure out how to make their own healthy partnership. Furthermore, I found that during this time I made some wonderful male friends. I know it sounds a little crazy, but I feel pretty strongly that these friends in many ways taught me what a good guy really looks like up close. So much of the time what I thought was good, wasn't really all that good after all. I also I found I had much more time to devote to my journey with the Lord because I wasn't obsessing over some guy. Now I'll be honest... my peers were often boy crazy and pushing me to think/talk/gossip about guys, but I tried to surround myself with women who didn't define themselves by their relationship status.

Now, not quite six years down the road, I haven't had a serious dating relationship (even though my initial plan was for a year) and I love my life. My journey had been a profound experience of trusting God to provide exactly what I need in His time. I would like to get married and have a family, I think I always have.

So, why am I blogging about singleness?

"I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord" (I Corinthians 7: 32-35).

In most Christian circles, finding a Christian husband seems to be one of the marks of being a woman of great faith. But Paul explains that following God with reckless abandon requires people to leave behind all earthly attachments that distract them from the Lord's affairs.

This passage cut me right to the heart. I do want to offer my whole life to my God's service. I long for my heart to be aligned with His. In many ways, while I have been single I have focused a great deal of my time and energy on ministry opportunities in ways my married (and even dating) counterparts simply can't. While I still definitely want to be married and have a family, I can see how in my own life I've been able to dedicate my life to God's service, and how that would look much different if I were married.

In the last few years that I have been single, I have been shocked to hear some of the assumptions people make about single Christian women. No, I don't feel like God owes me a husband and I don't feel disappointed that one has not appeared yet. No, my father wasn't absent or abusive or bad to my mother. He is a good Christian man who has been a faithful, loving husband and father for more than 30 years. And no, I am not angry at men, hiding from men, gay or sexually confused.

Yet I do understand why so many folks need to "explain" my choice. Our culture, both the larger culture and our Western, protestant, church culture, has no place for single women. There are no official channels for women who wish to dedicate their lives to the Lord's service. My faith tradition in particular is weak in this area as the only way to advance in formal service to the church as a woman is to become an elder or deacon's wife. Truth be told, I don't believe that most people consciously thinks I am damaged goods. But I do suspect, based on the concerned looks and pitiful glances of church folk and family members, many of my brothers and sisters think I am settling for a lesser version of God's will, a sadder, lonelier life than what God intended for me while in fact, I feel nothing less than blessed.

Although I love my life, I admit that, in fits of girlishness, I have indulged in imagining what my perfect match would be like. I have moments of doubt or frustration, and there are times when the lies of the Evil One creep in and make me feel that I am not good enough. But each day I'm coming to learn that the choice I'm faced with is not really choosing to pursue marriage or pursue singleness. The only choice I have to make is to pursue Jesus. In this life, I choose Jesus and gladly follow His lead wherever we may go. I believe that whatever I give up will be restored to me in ways I cannot possibly fathom. God is my protector and provider. I trust Him (well... I'm trying to at least) and I refuse to let a little thing like my relationship status steal the peace in my heart even for a minute.

I'm just saying... :-)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Poetry and Prose

I recently started writing poetry. It's weird. I don't really see myself as a creative person. But I sing and I paint, and now I write. I'm just not particularly good at any of them. And I don't really like for people to know about it either. Maybe that's becuase I feel like I'm not good at it, or maybe it's becuase I want to have it all for myself. But as I sat down to write about some of my thoughts as of lately, I kept thinking about this poem I wrote. Lately, it seems as if I have been on a journey to learn to love my little ordinary life. So here's whats been on my heart:

Ordinary life

I've had my share of obligatory loss
and dreams I know won't come true.
But I'm done with drawing lines to cross.
It's time to make life good, not just make do.
It's time to quit whining and just pursue
My plain and simple, ordinary life.

I used to rail against my compromises.
I wished for fairy tales and white lace.
But happiness arrives in new disguises:
A Mardi Gras glitter shoe, getting to say grace.
A walk in the rain, that silly smile on your face.
My plain and simple, ordinary life.

I'm just not made for happily ever after.
It seems the woman I've turned out to be
Is not the leading lady but the laughter.
But I have learned to find the poetry
In what my hands touch and my eyes see.
My plain and simple, ordinary life.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So I've been reading Leviticus...

Don't even ask me why. It's one of those things I just can't explain. I guess I got inspired after my 6 week stint teaching Children's church (Moses, Joshua, Caleb and Jericho...). Whatever the reason, the other day I ran across something that is actually amazing (an I thought some sections of the Bible were put in there just to help me sleep on a restless night...).

Leviticus 10:10 "You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common."

The Lord says this to Aaron after telling him that if he gets drunk before going to Tabernacle then he will surely die. Suddenly, the book of Leviticus began to come into perspective. The Israelites were God's holy people. Holy. Set apart. Different. Not common. And yet they are just people who do common things sometimes and God has to remind them of who they are. The law of Moses always seemed silly and restrictive to me, but now I feel a little... jealous.

Don't get me wrong, I love eating bacon and not having to be exiled to a tent with all the other menstruating women when my monthly visitor comes. But sometimes I wish there were more clear cut rules to sort out the holy from the common in my life. My generation loves community but hates going to church. We love tolerance but hate being judgmental. I feel like I live a life that is so ordinary, and I'm not so sure I know what it's supposed to look like to be holy. Set apart. Different. Not ordinary. So I am a little jealous of the Israelites and their God who spoke directly to them and sent them signs and told them exactly what they needed to do.

So tonight I'm praying for God to reveal himself to my little, ordinary self. I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing that when he does, I'll realize I'm not so ordinary after all...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dreaming of what can be...

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Martin Luther King inspired Americans by sharing his dreams for what could be. Since I was in high school I have had a personal tradition of taking a few minutes to do some dreaming of my own. I am well aware that this post makes me seem young, naive and idealistic. And, well, I am. And you know what? I'm not even embarrassed to admit it anymore. So, I have a dream that one day...

- Racial groups would be accurately represented across occupations and socioeconomic distinctions. Ex. African Americans make up about 14% of the U.S population but only about 6% of U.S. attorneys are black.

- Men and women would stop hating on each other. It's high time we start giving each other the respect we deserve and stop with the blame, insults, and accusations.

- That every child in the U.S. would learn how to read by the time they finish the 2nd grade. Research has shown that if a child does not learn by then they are more likely to have below average test scores, not finish high school, and maybe even never learn to read at all.

- There would be peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

- People all over the U.S. would have access to health care. I'm not sure how that happens or what the economic implications are of that. But I do know that everyone ought to be able to get preventative medical care, regardless of how much money they have.

- Girls everywhere would feel valued by the church. This may seem random, but if you know me you know that my heart breaks when i think about the way the church has gotten it wrong when it comes to gender relations. But I think that one day it can be different, it can be better.

I hope you took some time to dream today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Sometimes life is heart breaking. Last week I was heart broken over a manipulative boy. Saturday I was heart broken when the Saints lost the playoff game. Sunday I was heartbroken when I broke my favorite coffee mug. Then Monday morning I went to work and found out that 2 of my students were involved in a terrible car accident. These girls are Dean's list students. They have sunny dispositions. They are good girls. They go to church. They volunteer. They love thier families. And now they are laying in hospital beds with broken bones, swollen brains, and internal bleeding all because a police officer chased a criminal into a residential neighborhood without calling for backup to block off the street. The worst part is there was a 3rd girl in the car (thier high school classmate who attends another university in louisiana) who didn't make it out alive. Yesterday I went to the hospital to see the girls and to offer my support to their families and to my other students who were close to them. As I hugged my crying students and listened to the family desperate for some hope, once again I felt heart broken. It's funny how things happen and they change your perspective. Saturday's game is a distant memory and, for once in my life, I am not obsessing over a boy who didn't treat me right.

This week I also got to spend time with my sweet friends Sam and Aaron who just had a sweet baby boy. This is a happy season for them where everything thier sweet son does is a new discovery of cuteness. Every little thing, from pooping to burping to eating to sleeping to yawning.... suddenly becomes precious. I loved spending time with them and sharing in their new joys (and challenges of course...) in being new parents.

It seems that this week was a lesson on Romans 12:15. All week it seems like I have been going back and forth between bursting and broken hearts. On student comes into my office telling me how exciting thier holiday was and the next student I see tells me of how no one bought her a present and she got kicked out of the house on Christmas day. But we are blessed to have people in our lives at different times for different reasons. Living life with Jesus means rejoicing with those who rejoice, and mourning with those who mourn. It's been a bit of a roller coaster. Such is life. Tonight I'm just thanking God for he giving me strength when I'm falling apart, courage to face the things I'm afraid of, hope that tomorrow can be different, and his everlasting love that helps me remember that I'm never alone.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Backwards and Forwards

2010 was a full year.I graduated from my Master's program. I got the stomach flu. I spoke about my research at a national conference. I found a little peace. I owned up to my fear of being alone. I got a job as an instructor for first year students (where I teach them how to make it through thier first year). I redefined Lent. I left my amazing Abilene friends/mentors to move back to my beloved New Orleans. I met Drew Brees and Barack Obama. I gave thanks.

"Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your ways to him and trust him, and he shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37: 4-5

This year I learned to understand this verse in a very different way. I used to think that it meant that if you loved God enough he would give you what you want. I mean, saying that outloud makes me a little embarassed, but something else I'm learning is that if you can't be honest you can't be saved. After this year of ups and downs, uncertainties, joys, and heartbreaks, I think I was wrong about that verse all along. It's not about giving me what I want. When I really started taking the time to really make an effort to know the Father he began to show me what my heart really looked like. For the most part, I spend all kind of time people pleasing and comparing myself to otehrs. So I'm an expert at knowing what I'm supposed to want, what everyone else thinks I should want, what my family wants, what my friends want. But actually knowing what the desires of my heart are is a different story. For the first time I'm starting to try and sort this out. What I'm finding is that deep down what I really want is a lot different than what I thought. But that's ok.

Hope 2011 is full of light and love.