Ep. 08: Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin | Author

Shannan Martin, author of The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You and Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted, is a speaker and writer who found her voice in the country and her story in the city.

She and her jail-chaplain husband, Cory, have four funny children who came to them across oceans and rivers. They live as grateful neighbors in Goshen, Indiana.

Shannan and I chat about her transition from country to city living, loving your neighbor through giving them a ride, injustice, living like Jesus, ministering at the county jail, and her book The Ministry of Ordinary Places. 4:57 “My job is to be a neighbor and my side hustle is to write some of it down.” 5:17 Shannan begins sharing her story and how her family shifted from country life to city life. 7:56 “At some point along the line we started to kind of take a step back and realize, number one, now that we had everything that we thought we wanted what do we do with the fact that we still feel there is something missing? What could possibly be missing? At the point where you get everything you wanted you have to reconcile with that rumbling in your stomach, that says, ‘This isn’t all there is, guys.’…Another step beyond that was realizing that what we thought was the good Christian life…we were really living the American dream with a side of Jesus.” 8:46 “When we really believed we were getting it wrong, to start to understand that we were really missing a lot of the gospel. We were missing this call to live as a neighbor.  We were missing the gift of being near the poor and being near the oppressed and the overlooked.  And we had to honestly face the fact that we didn’t know the poor.” 9:27 “The heart of God cares deeply about people who we might see as being different than us.” 11:35 “We began to understand that God’s more for us was going to look like less.” 13:01 “Part of our life now, in our neighborhood and with our friends who we spend most of our time with, is coming to this understanding that we really do, I think, all sort of want the same things. You know, as much as it’s easy to look at what makes us different, as I think that’s a good and beautiful and important thing to do. You know, for one thing, I am a white woman raising zero white kids, so I am not in that [space of] ‘I don’t see color. We’re colorblind.’ I think that’s bogus. I think, man, we’re missing out if we want to say that we don’t see/notice skin color. I want to notice the things that make us different. I want to celebrate them.  However,  I think I lived so much of my life with this idea of wanting to surround myself with people who were like me…because it was more comfortable.  I think it is important to move outside of those boxes that we put ourselves and other people in.  But even as we do that, we kind of come full circle and sit with people, who on paper we may have nothing in common with, but as you build that real friendship and that real relationship you realize…we all want to be loved.  We want to be trusted.  We want to be valuable. We want to have something to offer. We want to be generous. We want to know the people around us and we want to be known.” 15:02  “Theres that tension between difference and familiarity. Of course, we are drawn to what’s familiar, but I think so many of us have this thing in us that’s itching to experience some of the chaos of the gospel.” 16:46 “I think neighbor is part of our spiritual DNA.” 17:38 “I want to dig into the gospels and read about what Jesus did with His earthly life.  I want to see how He lived. I want to pay attention to what He did. And I want to see His life as my roadmap.” [Conversation about Jesus ministry on earth] “We see the middle years as just getting us from point A to point B….While He was here, He preached to us….Before He died and rose again to give us salvation,…He showed us a whole lot about what it means to live meaningfully in the place where we’ve been put.” 19:34 “I had this idea that if I was to sit and talk with somebody who did not share my faith that was kind of dangerous. It was okay with me to share my faith with them and that is what I was supposed to do, but I should not sit and listen to their perspective for very long, because I might be sucked into the dark side….I ended up sitting down with a lot of different people [when we moved to a new community] who viewed life in any number of ways  very differently than I did. And what I realized was that helped me clarify my own faith, it helped me push against some of the things that I had never forced myself to really inspect or investigate, things that I had taken for granted. My faith was sustained through that and it grew and was strengthened…” 22:23 We begin discussing being “woke” to racism and Shannan’s son, Robert. “That’s where that peacemaking spirit comes alive within us…not peace keeping, but peacemaking, which requires work and requires us to get kinda bossy, it requires us to get a little loud about certain things, in ways that might upset the people around us and that’s okay, because MY SON is worth it.” 33:31 The now infamous Cinnamon Roll Recipe 35:10 “I’m not here changing the world. I’m just giving a lot of rides.” “That is what many of my neighbors need [a car ride].  They don’t need me to try to fix them, because they don’t need fixed. And they don’t need me to fix their lives, because I can’t. A lot of the stuff they’re facing is stuff that is going to have to be God’ work and we trust that it will be. I can not fix addiction.  I can not fix generational poverty.  I can not fix oppression. I can not fix a lot of the things my neighbor’s struggle with, but I can give a ride.” “If we can start to believe that a bowl of soup or a ride to work matters….If we can really believe that making one person’s life better makes the world better, because it does.  Making the world better for that one person, makes the world better.” “Be available for inconveniences.” 39:10 “If we are Christ followers our calling and our ministry is to live as people who love and are loved by our neighbors.” 41:26 We begin discussing her husband’s job as jail Chaplin and how Shannan partners with him. 46:10 “Christians love to talk about how Jesus promises us an abundant life, but we tend to think of that as GOOD, like money and peace and comfort and faith and all these things that are good things.  I’ve started to see that abundance means everything. It doesn’t just mean the good things. It means ALL of the things, some of which are going to break our hearts, but thats where we know that suffering helps us to endure, and endurance builds our character, and character does give us hope. I mean, we’ve got to have all of that in place in our lives.  That is what the abundant life is.” 49:46 We discuss the current launch of The Ministry of Ordinary Places and her future. “God is vibrantly alive in their midst and they can choose to join Him there.” “Quite literally, stand outside their front door and look 360 degrees around them, like what is right in front of me that I can be paying attention to. It might take time.  Neighboring and ministering in our ordinary places is slow work and we can allow ourselves to cast away this idea that we’ve gotta go drum up business for the Lord….I don’t need to drum up business.  I just need to be attentive to my place.” 52:06 We talk about tattoo removal for inmates and how she is volunteering. “There are people, and I honestly would have been one of these people at a certain point in my life who would say, ‘That is not our problem. You got the tattoo. You live with the tattoo.  We’re not spending time and money on this. I mean, I would have been that girl. I would have been that woman saying those things. And to begin to constantly seek to see the people around us through the light of God’s compassion and love is just a gift. It is a gift to me. That’s how I want people to assume the best of me. I don’t want to be pushed into the corner of my worst moments, because I’ve got some pretty ugly moments too.” 1:00:01 We’re all made in the image of God.  We all have goodness in us. And we’re all sort of the worst.  We’re all the good and all the bad.  We don’t have to look at the world in this dichotomy of I’m good, you’re bad. We get to live in kinship with the people around us. We get to give and receive from them. We get to love them and be loved by the people around us no matter what they look like. That is where we will encounter Jesus.”
Shannan’s Book recs:
The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper
Church Forsaken by Jonathan Brooks
Beyond Color Blind by Sarah Shin
Rethinking Incarceration by Dominique Gilliard
Shalom Sistas by Osheta Moore
Raise Your Voice by Kathy Khang
Amber’s Book recs.
Waking Up White by Debby Irving
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Becoming Mrs. Burton by Susan Burton
Generous Justice by Tim Keller
Beyond Racial Gridlock by George Yancey
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