July 15, 2010

Thursday, Jul 15 2010 5:38 PM

I’m a real newbie at Facebook, but have to admit that I absolutely love the experience.  I’ve received postings from so many people that I haven’t seen or heard from for years.  In fact, many have even begun their emails by asking, “Are you the Sheri Benvenuti who…?”  Since I’m the only Sheri Benvenuti that I’ve ever heard of in the entire world, my answer 100% of the time has been, “Yes, that would be me.”  In addition, many folks have asked where I am, and what I’m doing now.  So allow me to give you an update.

After having been at Vanguard University for 12 years, I resigned my position as Associate Professor of Social Ethics and the Director of the Center for Women’s Studies in January 2009.  For those of you who know how much I love Vanguard and teaching, you can imagine how painful leaving Vanguard was for me. 

My leaving Vanguard was precipitated by a months’ long flare-up of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  As you may know, RA is a virus that affects the immune system causing cells to mistakenly eat away bone, tendons and muscle.  While there is no cure for RA, there are medications that can halt the progression of the disease and give relief from the horrible pain it causes.  Because of my bout with cancer a few years ago, however, I can’t take any of the great new drugs for RA and the one drug I was able to take was just not working.  So, by January of 2009, I was in horrible pain, could hardly walk because of the damage to my knees and ankles, and was running low grade fevers most of the time.  I simply couldn’t function well enough to work any longer.

As the days of agony started to pile up, I began to hear the Lord say to me just three words:  “Write the book.”  Well, great!  Here I was pleading with God for healing, wanting to hear, “Rise up and walk,” and instead all I heard was, “Write the book.”  

You see, this was not the first time I had heard the Lord speak those three words, but this time he had my total attention.  20 years ago I taught a Bible study comparing the Psalms of David with many of the circumstances of his life.  In this study we got to learn from David’s life-events as portrayed in 1st and 2nd Samuel, and also received incredible insight into how David dealt with these life experiences with his God.  So, for example, we looked at David’s son, Absalom, attempted to take over David’s throne in Jerusalem.  We then went to Psalm 3, written when David was fleeing from Absalom’s army to get insight into how David actually dealt with the internal pain this circumstance caused. 

It wasn’t long before the folks attending the Bible study were pressing me to create a book from the studies.  At the time, however, I was working as a full-time Associate Pastor in a church and was attempting to work through my Ph.D. program at USC.  Let’s just say my plate was full and running over.  Every once in a while though, I would run into someone who had been in the study and they would always ask if I had written the book yet.

Well, twenty years have gone by since the Bible study, and last year I heard God speak to my heart once again, “Write the book.”  

So, I wrote the book.  As you can see, it’s entitled When Life Happens.  I’ve written the book very much in the style I use when I preach and teach, so you won’t find much academic speak; this is something everyone can read and understand.  At the same time, however, I have worked very hard to give the reader the meat of the Word.  My prayer is that the book will be a great encouragement to people who are struggling with their own life situations.  For example, the chapter in the book entitled, “When I Forget Who I Am,” deals with self-identity.  In this chapter the question is asked, “Are we allowing the negative voices in our past to guide who we are, or are we living in accordance with who God says we are?”  As you will read, living up to God’s view of us changes everything! 

Well, you want to know something amazing?  A year and a half and two knee replacements later, being obedient to God’s still small voice to write the book has had its reward.  While I am not completely healed of RA (yet!), I feel better today than I have for years!  In fact, I’m ready to get back to preaching and teaching again, and am presently waiting for God to open all the right doors.

I’m so grateful that during the process I have once again been reminded how important obedience to God really is.

My dear son in the Lord, Carlos, told me this story not too long ago.

One night, Carlos’ friend, Ryan, dropped by his house to spend some time with him.  These two guys hadn’t seen each other for quite awhile. Ryan and his family had been in Africa for a couple of years doing ministry in an orphanage and were home for a short furlough.  So, the reunion was both long and sweet.  As the sun set and the hours started to go by, Carlos noticed that his pajama-clad 3-year-old daughter, Chloe, was standing quietly by his side, listening with all ears to Ryan’s stories about his experiences in Africa.

“You and your family should come to Africa for a few weeks, Carlos,” Ryan said.  “We could have a great time of ministry together.”  Ryan then turned to Carlos’ daughter and said, “Wouldn’t you like to come to Africa, Chloe?  You could play with all of the African children and help us tell them about Jesus.  You would probably see some elephants and monkeys and giraffes, too.”

While Ryan and Carlos continued to talk, they didn’t notice that Chloe had left the room.  But in a few minutes, Carlos looked to his right and noticed his daughter standing beside him…fully clothed with her backpack on her back!

“Chloe,” Carlos exclaimed.  “What in the world are you doing with your clothes and your backpack on?”

Chloe looked at her Dad and said, “I’m ready to go to Africa.”

Chloe didn’t wait twenty years to be obedient; she didn’t even wait twenty minutes.  So what have I really learned through the process?  All I can say is, “O.K., Heavenly Father.  I’ve written the book and now I’m ready to go to Africa.”

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