Monday, November 25, 2013

People are more important than change

During one of my runs last week, I passed by one my favorite views of downtown Atlanta, and I stopped to snap a quick picture.

Atlanta skyline through the haze and Fall leaves
As I approach this view on each run, I look forward to seeing the beauty in every season.

Seeing the city skyline and fall trees brought to mind a training that John and I attended last weekend. The training was called Dignity Serves, and it teaches you how to give and receive with dignity, especially in the context of the inner-city.

Throughout the remainder of my run, I meditated on one of the key principles of Dignity Serves: People are more important than change.

We often long for change: "When are the leaves going to change color?" or "When is she ever going to change?" or "When will changes start happening in our city?"

Yet at the same time, we are so resistant to it. We like the comfortable. We live in the status quo. We often don't change until it's too uncomfortable not to.

What do these opposing views mean for my life? What do they mean for yours?

As a resident of Atlanta, it's tempting to give up on change with so many systemic problems that cloud progress. But usually when we give up on change, we give up on people too.

This can also be true for family members. Is loving them more important to you than seeing them change? This doesn't mean that love doesn't call people to change. But you must remember that you are not the one responsible for their change.

And what about for yourself? Just as it's tempting to give up on others changing or on the inner-city being renewed, we can lean toward self-contempt when personal change is slow. Instead, we must remember what our identity is in and who brings the change.

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand... I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you." 1 Chronicles 29

When our primary focus is on the One Who Blesses, we are free to give and receive love. He is the one who will bring the change - in ourselves, in others, and in the city.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Where's Waldo? And adventures in getting lost


For Halloween this year, John dressed up as Waldo (as in the character from the Where's Waldo? books). He originally needed the costume for a "fun bunch" committee that he's a part of at work, so we repurposed it for a Halloween celebration that we attended. When we arrived, our friends Anna and Brant were also dressed as Waldo!

The costume was a hit among the adults but a lot of the younger children had never heard of Waldo!

The celebration that we attended was at four of our friends houses who all live in a row in our neighborhood. Every year they go all out for Halloween, and this year they made a haunted house in an empty lot between two of the houses. One neighbor counted that over 700 people came! It was a big hit complete with scary music, a fog machine, zombies jumping out, and someone with a chain saw. This short video clip doesn't really do it justice but you can get the idea:

I was outside of the haunted house passing out candy to the kids who were too small or scared to go through... since I think I would have been scared myself!

Corn Maze

In other fall festivities news, John and I attended another Fall Festival/corn maze this year. Although nothing can compare to the pig race that we saw at last year's festival, we had a great time.

This year's corn maze was huge and we were in a time crunch to finish before it got dark. At one point we thought we'd found out way out only to realize that we'd somehow made our way back to the entrance. Towards the end, we found a sign with a map so we cheated a little bit and made it out in time. It's always fun getting lost in a corn maze and has become an annual tradition for us!

Another tradition is shooting something out of a cannon. Last year's was corn, and this year we shot apples. John was much better than I was!

Fall Leaves

Lastly, we enjoyed a weekend in North Carolina at the height of the leaves changing colors. Throughout our three days, the leaves got more and more vibrant. We went on a chilly hike, which rewarded us with amazing views of the fall foliage!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gathering Hope: A poem

I wrote this poem as a response to our church's call for poets/musicians/artists to create a piece that reflects our four themes for this ministry year: Deepening, Gathering, Sending, and Resting. On Sunday, I was invited to read my poem at both of our services. I haven't read many of my poems aloud and so I was a little nervous, but I appreciated the opportunity to speak these words from my heart and hopefully encourage others in their journey.

I wrote this piece as a reflection of how oftentimes we put our hope in temporal things, whether work, relationships, or in other ways that we define our identity. Yet when we step back, what we put our hope in seems as meaningless as wishing on birthday candles or blowing a fallen eyelash from your fingertip. Though these temporal things are often good, they shouldn't be our ultimate. Gathering in community instead points to a greater hope, one that will not disappoint.

Me as a little girl

Gathering Hope
Stephanie Shackelford

How do you capture the smoke
from a blown out candle,

or grasp an eyelash floating to the ground -

wishes rising up and drifting down?

With one puff, a sigh of hope, 

we breathe dreams into dead air,

whether dripping wax or fallen hair.

Because empty hopes cannot satisfy empty souls, 

You require no smoke offering and already know 

when one hair falls and another one grows.

There is hope unending;

just look around,

where people gather it is found.

The hollow sound of our brokenness, 

the laughter or the sorrow,

rings with Your redemption,
freely given, not bartered or borrowed.

And we share in the glory 

of Your perfect story;
our hope in an ending already written,
and our joy in a plot to be revealed.

We gather together on this journey 

to grow into characters unworthy,

but desiring to live out Your story.

That is a hope we cannot capture

and a joy we cannot grasp

except through faith 

in a love that will last.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

Maybe you've uttered those words yourself on a road trip, or maybe it's an internal mantra beating as you move along day-by-day.

As someone who likes to set goals and dream big, I want a map and to know when I can expect to "arrive." I want a response to, "Am I almost there?" Perhaps this tendency lies behind BeEmbraced and my chosen coaching profession. We oftentimes impart the strongest support for others in the areas that resonate deepest within us.

Because I want to learn how to be embraced by the journey as I help others along this path too.
"And, like the child who stops asking questions because suddenly the journey itself has become so interesting, we find there's so much to see that we won't worry so much about the 'when.'" -N.T. Wright
Yet, how do we live into this description?

Part of not worrying about the "when" hinges on not worrying about the winning or losing. It's about showing up and appreciating that what is in front of us today is meaningful in the present and is enough for us to be a positive influence.

I just finished Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly (which I highly recommend!), and she sums this up about our culture of never enough:

"...For many of us, our first waking thought of the day is 'I didn't get enough sleep.' The next one is 'I don't have enough time.' ...Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we're already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something... The opposite of 'never enough' isn't abundance or 'more than enough.' The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what I call Wholeheartedness."

At the core of Wholeheartedness is vulnerability and worthiness: "facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough."

If we truly showed up everyday believing that we are enough, would we worry so much about the "when?" If we were excited about our daily opportunity to dare greatly, wouldn't the journey be a daily destination in and of itself?

Since Brene Brown spells this idea out in such a compelling way, let me share her words:

"Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It's about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It's even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there's a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I am standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen."

Let's have the courage to show up, even when we don't know the "when." Maybe nothing grandly significant will come of daring greatly today but maybe one moment of courageous risk will put you on a journey you couldn't have imagined. A journey where you forget to ask, "Am I there yet?"