In the beginning.
You may not know what #HolyMischief is yet but you want to do it right? Or you want to know more. Or you want to hear the story.
My story of Holy Mischief started in 2000 when I first met Allan Todd. We had an instant friendship and I knew I would really like to work with him one day. In 2005 I got the chance.
Allan was starting a new church and wanted me on the team. The one thing that sucked me in was servant evangelism. He wanted to do random acts of kindness (A.O.K. projects) in our community just to let people know that they are loved. No expectation in return.
Give you a bottle of water on a hot day. Why? Because you are loved.
Let us buy your gas! Why? Because you are loved.
Have some flowers for your home. Why? Because you are loved.
Let’s go paint some rooms for a woman who has adopted 20 kids with special needs. Why? Because she’s loved.
This is what I wanted for the world. Love.
C.S. Lewis once said that friendship is when one person looks at another and says, “Me too! I thought I was the only one!”
Allan, and the founding members of the church, had a passion to love other people and at times it seemed like we were the only ones.
Tragically Allan passed away one week before our first public worship service. We were crushed. We grieved. We mourned and we found healing by continuing to do the AOK projects.
Eventually I was reappointed to another church but the idea of acts of kindness never left me.
And it seems that others noticed it too.
One day a colleague from another church called and said he was getting a group of “Holy Mischief Makers” together and my name had come up. What that group is called has differed depending on who you ask. I swear Scott called us “Holy Mischief makers”. He said called us “mission trouble makers”. Others said we definitely are trouble makers. No matter what words he or others actually used, the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to me, “Shannon, you are called to a life of Holy Mischief.”
Since I thought that I’d already accepted my call I was a bit confused. What this something new? Was I supposed to change jobs? What specifically does it mean to live mischievously AND holy?
I had both of those down. Separately. How do I do the two together? The thought intrigued me. Actually it fascinated me. I didn’t just feel called to it. I wanted more than anything to make Holy Mischief a way of life. A disruption of the gospel in a world of apathy. The divine disruption of God’s grace. Making the ordinary sacramental. That. I wanted all that.
Who knows why words are so powerful? Those two words on their own are interesting enough. But the combo incites a rush of adrenaline that called me to action.
These questions led me to do some soul searching to define what Holy Mischief really is and to actually be doing what I think it is.
It’s hard to define a concept or a process that looks different each time you do it. I knew the basic components: God, faith, other people, a little bit of riskiness, a bunch of joy or compassion or wonder or all of those things.
I knew it was disruptive. If I give my neighbor a pie every Friday, that is thoughtful but she’s grown to accept it. If I never bake but bring her a pie out of the blue just because I was thinking of her and praying for her, that could be Holy Mischief.
I’d like to say I sat down and mapped out the process like a good Methodist and former systems analyst, but I didn’t. Instead, every time I saw what I think counted, I named it.
Delivering cards to the nursing home from children? #HolyMischief
Buying books for a teacher’s classroom wish list and having them delivered anonymously? #HolyMischief
Taking your kid out of school to spend quality time with them? #HolyMischief
Putting sticky notes ALL over a friends car with inspiring messages on them? #HolyMischief
Buying the coffee/breakfast/meal for the person behind you in the drive through line? #HolyMischief
Hugging someone longer than normal. #HolyMischief
When I started looking for what it was, it became obvious to me. It happens every day in ordinary ways all around us. God reaches down and nudges us to go and show some love to someone else. And we do. And the impact is transformative.
I sat with this idea for a few years - doing Holy Mischief here and there. Finally coming up with a definition: disrupting the world with love. God’s love is radical yet straightforward. It is both simple and complex at the same time. It is overwhelming at times and a still small voice in other times. It is not something easily named or counted but that’s okay. We are the only ones trying to name and count it. The biggest a-ha moment in defining Holy Mischief is that in doing it, you define it. It is a verb and not a noun or an adjective. When asking “if this counts” I realized...God isn’t counting, He is smiling.
Now that I knew what it was, I needed to figure out what to do with it. I’m embarrassed to say that the biggest thing I could think of originally was SWAG. So I got t-shirts and buttons made. I told people they could only get one if they earned it (you’ve gotta protect the brand). And so a few dozen of my friends and colleagues had SWAG. And they did some really nice things for others.
And yet the idea still nudged me: do more.
That and a few blog posts was where I stayed for a hot minute until I had an evaluation with one of my supervisors. She asked what was next for me. I told her I always felt called to do new things but that I wasn’t called to start a new church. Then she said words that I’ll never forget: “You could start a movement.”
Sounds like a cult.
Is it really?
I’m a United Methodist. My denomination started as a movement from a group of people at Oxford who practiced their faith differently.
Is it really that weird?
Yes. Yes it is.
But it was time to own my weirdness. It was time to take the next steps. It was time to expand. The Spirit was moving and I was about to start a movement.
One does not merely start a movement on their own. It takes a launch team. People who buy into the idea of the mission. People who also like to sticky note cars (or doors or windows).
So I called in reinforcements. I told my colleague Blair Zant what I was up to and without hesitation she showed up at my office with sticky notes and poster board. We headed to a room with a white board and mapped out a plan.
When we were done we knew what the first steps looked like. Who was on the team. What future steps would be. It was gonna be BIG. Books, podcasts, TED talks...all the things.
I got to work putting together a Holy Mischief devotional for Lent that included a daily challenge. At the same time I started a Facebook group where people could post what they were doing and seek inspiration for each other. I also ordered some cool SWAG because...SWAG! So with t-shirts, pop sockets, and sticky notes on their way the only thing left to do was to wait for the challenges to start and see what happens.
I had a launch party with some key Holy Mischief makers on Fat Tuesday. Each person got a box that had some of the items needed to complete the Lenten Challenges. We met at a local restaurant and ordered pancakes: a Fat Tuesday tradition. Towards the end of the meal we asked our server to come over and we serenaded her with “Living on a Prayer.”
We were off to a good start. Then we got to March 2020.
I know a Pandemic wasn’t in anyone’s plans. But surprisingly it made Holy Mischief that much easier. It seems that when our natural daily connections are taken away, people will look for other ways to connect.
In the absence of face to face connection, Holy Mischief provides a spiritual connection that is transformative. Intentionally making people feel like they matter allows them to realize that they can be the person God has created and called them to be.
You wouldn’t think we would need that affirmation from a human. You would think that having a sense from God that we matter would be enough. But it isn’t. We live and do life in community. We need the affirmation of other people. And that affirmation is what Holy Mischief is all about.
As humans we desire a mind, body, and spirit connection to feel whole. Holy Mischief stands in the proverbial in between. Like the thread that brings us all together in this experience we call life. Each act is the threshold that leads to connection between two or more people and thus embodies the presence of God. It’s not a state we can stay in permanently but it can be a way of life lived and re-lived by the stories we tell.
When the Pandemic lockdown started, I was quickly able to adapt all of our challenges to be ones that required little contact. But then something amazing started to happen. Participants in the challenge started coming up with acts of Holy Mischief on their own and sharing those stories in the Facebook group. That in turn inspired others and soon we had a cascading revolution of kindness all stemming from the original challenge and the need to remind people that they matter and in turn reminding ourselves that we matter too.
Everyday people posted stories of making meals for neighbors, sending cards to someone in a nursing home, making calls to shut ins, and so much more. When the Lenten Challenge was over, Holy Mischief was not. The Facebook group grew to 1000 people from 5 countries. It did indeed seem that I had started some sort of movement. Now I just had to figure out again...what was next.
I asked God, “What’s next?” And waited for an answer. While what I wanted was a concrete plan of branding, marketing, and strategic growth, the answer I got was, “Listen.” Sometimes God is vague like that, wanting us to marinate the idea and then mold it into something new and innovative.
So I started listening. I started with 40 days of prayer. Listening to God who just kept telling me to listen. I listened to a book on being a better listener. Then I started listening for Holy Mischief stories. And they were everywhere. During that process I rediscovered the joy of acts of kindness, the wisdom of connection, and the contagiousness of altruism. It was healing for me. And I hope it is for you too.
Galatians 6:9 "So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. "