Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

It is ridiculous for a person like me to write about the racial divide in our country. Part of me says be quiet white woman who lives in white Boise, Idaho and has no point of reference for what is happening in Ferguson. But there exists that other part of me who woke up this morning and read the news and read comment after comment on Twitter from people who are living the fear and pain of this racial divide that is real in our country.

What spilled onto my prayer journal afterwards were these words:

How can I be a helper of change in this? There is so much history and blame. I am so removed from it and yet it hurts. I pray humility in us all. We will never care enough about the pain of others until we let humility live in us, because it is only in humility that we get outside ourselves and let go of our self focus long enough to see the pain of another. And especially to see the pain of another who looks different than us.

That is all I have. Just a very real desire to see each person as God sees them. Could we all do that? Could we all just look at each other and see each person as loved, as worth dying for. Because that person you’re spewing hate towards - Jesus died for him. Jesus died for her.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

When Christmas is About Other People

Winter came early to Boise, and we have taken great advantage of the eight inches of snow blanketing our world! Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and yesterday, sledding with seven children from the weekly small group Bible study we have in our home. Success is seven children sledding and no injuries! I had to scramble to outfit the kids in outdoor gear, sending the kids outside in oversized snow pants, boots and gloves belonging to various members of our family. 

I’ve spent the last week at Target and Costco, trying to find gloves, hats, boots, coats, and snow pants so these kids can be warm as they walk to school. Some of them walk almost a mile to school each day (one way) and in the last week Boise has broken three long held low temperature records. So in case you were wondering. It’s cold!

Our little church here in Boise is home to about thirty Congolese refugees and is growing almost weekly as more friends arrive from Africa. We love the diversity our friends bring and were thrilled when this summer they started their own weekly Kinyarwanda language church service.

For the last several years our church has raised money to share Christmas with families in our community who need a little help. We call this endeavor Christmas Star, and it is a lot of fun. We provide grocery store and department store gift cards as well as gifts of toys and clothing and have a lot of fun wrapping and delivering it all.

This year we have more friends than ever to share with and we’d love your help!

If you would like to donate to the Christmas Star, please write a check payable to Oasis SDA Church and write on the check “Christmas Star”. You can mail the check to me at Shawna Benedict, P.O. Box 9741, Boise, Idaho 83707 or to the church directly at 501 North Curtis Road, Boise, Idaho 83706. All donations are tax deductible.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Things that Make Me Want to Scream

A scene from one of my favorite movies reminds me of myself. In the film French Kiss, Meg Ryan is trying to get the concierge at a posh hotel in Paris to assist her. He is playing straight into the French snob stereotype by ignoring her and treating her like American riffraff. In frustration she leans over the silver bell sitting on the counter and repeatedly hits it while she grits out, “Makes me want to scream!” Not surprisingly, the concierge quickly becomes more attentive.

Sometimes I feel exactly this screamingly frustrated with myself.

In January 2014 I set a reading goal for myself of 48 books. Four books a month. It seemed attainable and, indeed, it looks like I’ll reach my goal. I read a lot of books about spiritual growth. A lot of God books. Yet I noticed something in this year of reading. So often it feels like I’m reading and highlighting and agreeing or not agreeing with an author not so much because I want to grow in my spiritual life, not so much because I want to know God more fully, but because I want to prove someone else wrong. I want to be able to say (or at least think behind your back), “See! I’m doing it right and you’re not. So there!” It was when I realized this yucky fact about myself that the French Kiss scene popped into my head. I wanted to scream in frustration at myself and my sad need to be right.

Beth Moore writes, “Humility is the truest sign of intimacy with God.” I realized I was in desperate need of humility, so I began to daily and repeatedly ask God to fill me with humility. I don’t want to read and study simply to know a lot. I want to be gentle in my knowledge and when I share, I want it to be done only ever in kindness and not out of pride or an attitude of, "I know better because I read those 48 books this year. . that you didn’t!"

The know it all life is a path I walked for too long. I love to read but coupled with my insecurity over not having a college degree, means I have (had) a pretty annoying desire to prove how smart I am.

In his book, The Truest Thing About You, Dave Lomas writes, “Slowly, achingly slowly, I was learning to understand that I am deeply loved by God, and because of Jesus, God is well pleased with me. . . Every other identity I create for myself is an illusion.”

And so I began to let go of the fake me. I loosened the grip I had on my identity of being the “well-read” one, and began to see myself as deeply loved by God. First. Before anything else. Before anything I do (or read) - good or bad - I am deeply loved by God. There is no need for me to be right or well-read or know more than you. God just loves me. Period. The end.

Lomas writes, “There is a fundamental difference between who we are and what we do” but, “We believe that we are what we do.” That has been me most of my life, but no more. I am living into and believing God loves me before I become worth loving. But hear me when I say, “THIS ISN”T EASY.” Letting go of the try hard life is - well - hard. Living more than forty years earning the right to be loved doesn’t fall away overnight. It’s a bumper car journey at best. But it is still best.

I’m so grateful for books and a love of reading. I never want that to change. I just want my purpose, my end goal to be different. I want to read and learn and grow and share and be always becoming the truest me. The Shawna God sees.

"Knowing who God says we are and following Jesus into this new way of being human will change everything about our lives." Jonathan Martin Prototype.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thoughts on Life from a Three Year Old

Sometimes I think I should write a blog dedicated to the hilarious and profound sayings of my three year old friend, Simbi. It would be a big hit.

I just returned from two weeks away so maybe she’s been saving her words for me, but she was especially memorable last week.

Here are a few gems:

After waking from a nap she sat up and said, “I’m done sleeping.” In case I wasn’t sure. I mean perhaps I looked confused.

We talked about her Uncle Chris having a birthday last week and she said, “I want to go to his house and find his cake.” Pretty sure she was afraid someone was eating cake without her.

When I told her my son Caleb would be flying home from Portland where he lives she responded with, “I will be so happy to him.”

While she was singing, “The Books of the Bible,” (which not surprisingly is a song intended to teach children the names of all sixty-six books of the Bible), I mistakenly joined her. She stopped abruptly and shared these not so gentle words with me, “I don’t need help.” Well then.

I thought once my children were grown, travel would become easier, that I wouldn't miss home so much but that was an illusion. Now I just have more people to miss, and I am grateful.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sleepless in Lisbon

my love in travel and life
I have sleep issues. Unlike my husband, I cannot fall asleep one nano second after climbing into bed, while a siren blares on the street outside and dogs bark outside our window. No. I must be in the perfect “sleep” position, pillows in strategic locations, my mind at rest and filled with peaceful thoughts. If I start planning the next day’s schedule, bye-bye sleep.

Now throw in a different continent, different time zone, strange bed (same pillow because I’m not stupid and that thing goes everywhere with me), an outrageously loud elevator banging and clanging right outside our door and an amazing Airbnb apartment with floor to ceiling windows on two sides and a city that never sleeps, where apparently the lights literally never go out. Where is the darkness? It is night and night is dark! This is me in Lisbon, Portugal. Sleepless for two nights. On night two I found sleep at 4:30 AM. This does not make me an appreciative traveler. It makes me cranky. It makes me think Lisbon (a beautiful city) is stupid. It makes me think the people here (who are polite and helpful) are mean and rude for speaking Portuguese. Why can’t they speak words I know?! The only Portuguese I’ve learned are “good day” and “thank you,” and everything else comes out of my mouth in French, which makes me feel stupid because it’s not even good French! The other day I said, “merci” to a woman followed immediately by “sorry” and that didn’t feel awkward at all. . . 

Travel is like life on steroids. Your eyes see things in HD. Noises are different and louder. People are closer and there are more of them (okay that’s actually true in Europe). It’s harder to hide feelings when you’re exhausted and fears have a way of jumping to the surface.

Don’t get me wrong. I love travel and new cities and seeing how other people on the planet live. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at a toilet in a strange country wondering, "How in the world do I flush this thing?" That’s why we travel, right? To experience different plumbing? Okay, maybe not.

Finally, though on night three in Lisbon, I slept EIGHT hours. Eight hours of sleep is heavenly. Eight hours of sleep makes me happy. It makes my husband happy and not scared to spend the day with me. Eight hours of sleep helps me appreciate the view from our ninth floor apartment.

a room with a (fabulous) view
Sometimes I let ridiculous things steal my joy. I let small things distract me from the world around me. I forget that once this day is gone, I don’t get these experiences back. This happens at home too. It’s not just a travel thing. I wonder how awesome each day could be if I didn’t get sidetracked by what I think isn’t fun or good.

On sleepless night one in Lisbon as I lay in bed I was frustrated and then mad and then afraid and then very, very lonely because insomnia, wherever you experience it, is a lonely business. I prayed and repeated my “insomnia mantra” which is a Bible verse I have tweaked for myself. It goes like this, “The Lord is my refuge in sleep.” (Shawna’s revised version). I said this over and over and still was filled with anxiety.

The next night I didn’t find sleep until 4:30 a.m. but fear didn’t fill me. I lay sleepless, but not afraid. I let peace find me. I didn’t get mad at myself or beat myself up about my inability to sleep. I’m pretty hard on myself. I don’t often give myself a break for messing up, and I don’t forgive myself easily. 
books in any language captivate me

Last week Kevin and I attended the Storyline Conference in Chicago (three days of awesomeness), where I heard Glennon Doyle Melton speak. She was amazing. I think we should be best friends. I immediately downloaded her book Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life on my Kindle. I read her book in two days and here is my big takeaway. Accept grace. Forgive ME. Accept grace for ME. Forgive ME. I’m not good at this. I want to be. I think God wants me to forgive myself easily, to accept grace for myself as a natural thing. I know that’s what he does. He forgives every time I ask. Every time I mess up, there he is saying, “Shawna you are forgiven. I love you as much now as I did on that day when you were filled with such a deep depression you didn’t want to wake up anymore. I love you as much today as I did on the days you spoke hurtful words to your children.”

I am not all the way there yet but I will be, because God is bigger than my mess. His grace is bigger than my unforgiveness. I’m living into a day where I truly believe God thinks I’m just as amazing on my bad days as he does on my good days. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. I hear the ending is awesome.