View from Buena Vista. PC: KSB

Three uplifting lessons from 2018

It was at a prayer vigil around the turn of year that I received my words for 2018: delight and grace. Around me echoed free-form, one voice prayer and worship, church members both walking in large circles with their eyes closed as they spoke with God in Swahili and slumped against the wall as they struggled to stay awake. I decided to express myself and not worry what people might think, so I joined in. Thus came the words delight and then grace, and on a later day, “Look up.”

DELIGHT

These kids brought me so much joy. This pool day was especially fun. Photo belongs to KSB.

These kids brought me so much joy. This pool day was especially fun. Photo belongs to KSB.

In 2018, I remembered those words regularly. I took delight in the little things, like pine cones, which I found so beautiful. Spaghetti, too, and dancing in the kitchen while cooking, often brought me delight. And of course, I delighted to spend time with my friends, the kids.

Delight finds beauty in things, and for me those were often simple things. But more than a smile, delight is a deep kind of joy, a desire-being-fulfilled kind of joy, an I-want-to-be-with-you-always-because-you-make-me-smile kind of thing. Sometimes it’s a moment; sometimes it’s a relationship, as with the kids; and always it is excited and joyful.

Delight also comes with the freedom to express yourself, because why does it matter what others might think? More likely, they’ll find your joy infectious, and even if not, your joy can continue.

GRACE

The beautiful Sault family in our house. Photo belongs to KSB.

The beautiful Sault family in our house. Photo belongs to KSB.

Grace is another word for “gift,” which, side note, is the meaning of my Swahili name, Neema Zawadi (translated Grace Gift; my friends in Goma, DRC, named me a few years back). I found everything to be a gift this year. Honestly, the year started out rough and held many unexpected challenges, some frightening, some difficult to bear, some enduring still. But the year did improve greatly over time.

Some of the gifts I was blessed with were the Sault family and their home, where I lived for the second part of the year. I was blessed with the gift of dear friends as well, for which I am extremely grateful.

Grace also travels with forgiveness. This is something I am working on as I realize new people I need to forgive as well as the grace I need to have for myself.

LOOK UP

My friend Ed, whom I had the pleasure of visiting when some friends flew me out to my college town. He knows the value of this lesson as well. Photo belongs to him and me (KSB).

My friend Ed, whom I had the pleasure of visiting when some friends flew me out to my college town. He knows the value of this lesson as well. Photo belongs to him and me (KSB).

Finally, God often reminded me to “look up” this year. Most often this was a message of hope and confidence.

It translates to something along these lines: “Look up, for I am the lifter of your head. You don’t have to make yourself small or hide because of shame or embarrassment. (Remember, grace.) You are significant, and people want to see you thriving. Be confident and lift your head. Look up.”

I especially took these things to heart as a woman growing in my faith and learning about expressing myself with confidence.

Be confident and lift your head.

 

I do not yet have any distinct words or phrases for next year. Usually I discover a theme as it happens, like God’s faithfulness that was so evident during my senior year of high school, though it has always existed and continues to impress me today, or “abundance,” which described my first time in Goma and the riches, beloved-ness, and fullness from that experience, though I did not put the word to it until I was about to leave the Congo. But I am glad that God blessed me with the words in advance to guide me, focus me, teach me this past year.

All I know so far is that 2019 will contain challenges and suffering but that God will be with me through it. I’m not claiming any false blessings of a million dollars or some new car. He hasn’t promised me these things, and I won’t claim a false Facebook prophecy that declares them to anyone who finds it appealing.

Yet I can take courage in God’s constant presence through the Holy Spirit and in the knowledge that despite any troubles, no matter how severe or long lasting, Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Praise God for His Holy Spirit!

Have a blessed new year.

Advertisements
Snow in Colorado, PC: Brian Lindell

Do They Know It’s Christmastime?

Every December, people around the US finally allow themselves to listen to Christmas music, joining the few of us who believes in the extension of the beautiful season. Yet with the introduction of this wondrous genre to public radios comes the airing of one particularly degrading song.

Do They Know It’s Christmastime,” a well-meaning song written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and sung by a variety of British artists in 1984 under the name BANDAID, redone several times by contemporary musicians on behalf of different causes, plays consistently on every variety Christmas station. While originally meant to address a famine in Ethiopia, it gives no further thought to the lives or beliefs of Ethiopians.

The song does not consider that maybe this country where Orthodox Christianity has existed for thousands of years, before the Anglophone world had heard the good news, does indeed know and celebrate Christmas. They follow this calendar and celebrate it on 07 January.

Perhaps if Geldof and Ure had taken time to speak with Ethiopians or the other Africans the song “covers” and ask the question in the song’s title, they could have written a better song that did not degrade so many humans while intending to help.

The original lyrics read,

…But say a prayer, pray for the other ones
At Christmas time, it’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom
Well, tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you

Well, that’s grim. “Dread and fear,” “doom.” Thanks for highlighting the growing African economies in nations such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Libya, and Rwanda. Thanks for praising the countries that had gotten on their feet after colonists like Britain itself finally gave them independence a mere two decades before the release of this song. Thanks for giving a shout out to the music industries that were beginning to take hold in places like Kenya. Thanks so much.

And “thank God it’s them instead of you”? That strikes me as heartless. But let’s continue.

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

You’re literally lumping what is now 55 different countries into one and saying the geography and situations are all the same. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have a lot of jungle, for example. And lakes. A massive river. An ocean port. Farms and corn and fruit trees. And mountains – with snow (though that’s the only place you’ll find it in DRC, which sits on the equator).

Also, why is snow a necessary indication of the holiday? Christmas originated as a celebration of King Jesus being born in what is now the West Bank, Palestine. Though snow plays a role in many Anglo-phonic songs about the holiday and indeed in my own life as someone originally from northeastern USA, it was not originally part of the picture.

Moreover, “they” do know it’s Christmastime. In Congo, a 95% Christian country, we don’t celebrate in the same commercialized way the US or probably Great Britain does. It is more minimal, in that we don’t tend to give gifts and don’t propagate the Santa story. But we do expect the holiday to come every December. We have our own Christmas songs that church choirs do. We go to church on the holiday to celebrate and hold all-night prayer vigils. So to answer the question once more, yes, “they” know it is Christmas.

In 1984, the songwriters were addressing the Ethiopian drought but then sweeping the rest of the continent under the mat of their ill-spoken words. You can’t do that. There’s too much diversity on the continent and even within the countries that compose it. And to only show the “dread” and “doom” of a place or places is not a healthy way to call people to your cause because it denies the humanity and life within those places.

Not to worry, though. Maybe this was just written…and sung by over 40 artists initially…and redone four times, most recently in 2014… simply because everyone was too cold and grumpy. Check out a solution for this below and consider some better ways to communicate your cause here. Finally, petition your local radio to stop playing versions of the BANDAID song and others like it. Peace.