Shaney Irene

On Faith, Life, and Being the Church

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New Space!

Hi Everyone! I’m excited to announce that I’ve moved over to! I’m really excited about the new site. I’ll be keeping this blog up for about a week so that everyone who reads this blog via email or RSS has a chance to change over to the new site. Be sure to head on over there, my friend Beka is posting on the church’s response to sexual abuse today.


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[Learning Grace] How to Be Supportive

My apologies for my silence. I took an unplanned break from blogging during Thanksgiving week (and a little after), spending some much-needed quality time with my family and my boyfriend, who was visiting from Chicago for Thanksgiving. 

 I’m really excited to jump back in and start the Learning Grace series again. We’ll be tackling a wide range of issues, including depression, eating disorders, same-sex attraction, and more. Perhaps what I’m most excited about is hearing from others. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, e-mail me at

I’ve never considered myself a particularly sensitive person.

I’m an ESTJ who loves efficiency–not exactly the personality type of someone you would consider sympathetic toward people. And most of the time, I’m not. I find it very easy to get frustrated with others.

So I find it ironic that God has placed many people in my life that I’ve had to slow down and listen to. In high school, I had a friend who confessed that she was cutting herself. In college, I had a roommate who had serious health issues. And these just scratch the surface of my experiences.

In each situation, I was totally clueless about how to best support these people. It was purely by the grace of God that I didn’t do or say anything insensitive and hurtful (at least, not enough to end any friendships!). I still feel clueless a lot of the time, but I’ve noticed a few things that seem to be pretty consistent whenever trying to be supportive.

So, to get the ball rolling on this series, here are five principles I think apply to being sensitive in any situation. Anything you would add?

1. Listen

Let them talk if they want to, but don’t force them to do so. If they want to, listen attentively. Don’t interrupt, except perhaps to ask clarifying questions. Don’t be on your phone texting someone else while they’re talking. Give them your undivided attention. Absorb what they’re saying. Don’t just hear them–really think about what they’re saying.

2. Don’t assume

Even if you’ve been through something similar, don’t assume you understand what they’re going through or what they’re feeling. Don’t try to explain their situation, or offer solutions. For example, if a roommate has an eating disorder, don’t assume it’s because she has a poor body image. If a friend is suffering with depression, don’t tell them they need to pray more. Unless you’re a professional counselor or a doctor, you most likely can’t offer them a solution, or even a diagnosis. And your attempts to help may actually do more harm than good.

3. Ask questions

Always be careful not to ask questions that are too personal and inappropriate, but do ask questions to try and understand what someone is going through. For example, “How does that make you feel?” or “How can I be supportive?” are good questions.

4. Stay with them

Let them cry on your shoulder. Listen when they need someone to listen. Invite them over for dinner, or out to coffee. Continue to involve them in your life and be a friend to them. Many people going through difficult times or struggling with difficult issues find that others abandon them when they open up. Be someone they can count on to stick around.

5. Seek help

If you or a friend is in any danger, get help. If you’re in high school or younger, tell your parents or a trusted adult, call a hotline, or call 911 if someone is in immediate danger. If you’re an adult, see a counselor, encourage your friend to see a counselor, or call a hotline for help (or 911 if someone is in immediate danger). There are some things that you should never try to handle on your own, such as suicide, self-injury, and eating disorders. While you can never force a friend to get help, you can encourage them to do so and seek support for yourself.

Below are some important hotline numbers to know:

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE

National Self-Injury Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 866-331-9474

National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453

National Eating Disorders Hotline: 847-831-3438

What would you add to this list? What do you think is important for people trying to be sensitive and supportive to others?

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Happy Birthday to Matthew, my Best Friend

Something wonderful happened on this day 22 years ago. If it hadn’t happened, my life would probably look very different right now.

22 years ago today, my wonderful boyfriend Matthew Swift was born.

My best friend Matthew Swift

Matthew is unlike anyone else I’ve ever met. When he was two, his dad brought home a Disney movie, and he stood–STOOD–through the entire movie, completely focused on what was happening on the screen.

That sense of focus has not left him. He can accomplish anything he puts his mind to. Combine that focus with his love for learning, and you get one extraordinary scholar. He graduated from Baylor summa cum laude, with honors. He is now at the University of Chicago law school on a scholarship.

But he’s not just smart. He’s also one of the kindest, most compassionate people I know. He doesn’t hesitate to go out of his way when someone needs his help, and he always does it without complaining.

He always pursues truth and honesty. When I’m struggling with questions about faith and life, I know that I can go to him and he will understand why I’m struggling, but also that he’ll challenge my thinking and ask me follow-up questions I may not have even thought of. I know that my questions will never get shut down with a cliche. He also pushes me to be completely honest in our relationship, even when the truth hurts.

One of the things I appreciate most about Matthew is his refusal to put anyone into a neat little box. He insists on getting to know people as individuals, past the labels and the stereotypes.

Matthew can write like nobody’s business. He has a way with words that makes his prose sound like poetry, his poetry sound like song, and his songs sound like pure beauty. Especially when he writes me love letters. 🙂 I considered giving y’all a glimpse, but the words are precious, and taking even one line out of context just won’t do it justice.

Possibly one of Matthew’s best characteristics is his relentless dedication to his relationship with God. Even when it’s hard, even when he doesn’t feel like it, he never stops pursuing the Lord. I can say with confidence that I have grown closer to the Lord as I have grown closer to Matthew.

There’s so much more I could say about Matthew. What I’ve told you here doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. I could write thousands of words and still have just barely started to tell you about how wonderful Matthew is.

Matthew is my best friend.

And I couldn’t have asked for anyone better.

Leave a comment to say happy birthday to Matthew!

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To Rachel Held Evans

Dear Rachel,

I discovered your blog around the time that I was starting to rethink a lot of my long-held assumptions about life and faith. I think I discovered you through Preston Yancey, though it could have been Jonathan Guenther. At the time that I found you, I didn’t think we would agree on much. I added you to my regular reading list, mostly because I wanted to know what someone that I disagreed with thought.

Little did I know what the future held.

As I’ve read your blog (and your books) over the past year or so, you have asked so many questions, confronted many difficult issues head-on, and done all of this with a sense of grace and love that turned my paradigms inside-out. For the first time I can remember, questions swimming around in my subconscious came to the surface, and I felt empowered to ask them and explore the answers. I found the courage to question beliefs that I thought unquestionable. And then something else happened I didn’t expect. I found God in the questions.

Of course, it wasn’t just you that brought me to that point. So many people played roles in bringing me to a place of humility and grace. But you were the catalyst for the questions I was asking.

I still disagree with you on a lot. But I’ve learned that love can cover a multitude of disagreements.

You and I don’t have much of a personal relationship. I can claim you as a follower on Twitter (and will confess that I was excited enough when you followed me that I texted my boyfriend about it), but other than a few short tweets, we don’t really know each other. But I can claim you as a sister in Christ, and I do so proudly. I know that you are cheering for me, just as I am cheering for you. I hope that someday we get the chance to connect on a more personal level, but even if we don’t, I am thankful to God for the role that you have played in my life.

It breaks my heart to see so many Christians immediately dismiss you and label you as “dangerous” or a “heretic.” I can’t help but wonder if they have spent any time actually listening to you and not just reacting to you. And I admit, this woman who has on more than one occasion been described as a “protective mother” type would like nothing more than to type up a post pointing out the multiple logical fallacies in some harsher reviews of your book, along with a good dose of lecturing on how Jesus said we would be known by our love, not by our doctrinal accuracy. But I know that it wouldn’t be helpful.

So instead, I pray. I pray that you would be encouraged in the midst of the criticism, and that God would bless you for the blessing you have been to others, including me. I pray that God would show all of us when to stand our ground, and when to allow room for disagreement. I pray that the church would become more unified. And I pray that more and more, God’s people would come to be known by their love.

So thank you, Rachel Held Evans. May God bless you, may He bless Team Dan and Rachel, and may He bless your ministry. I look forward to continuing the journey of faith with you as fellow bloggers and as sisters in Christ.

Eshet Chayil, Rachel. Woman of Valor.

Shaney Lee

This post is part of a synchroblog dedicated to Rachel Held Evans. Today is the release of her second book, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”  

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Silence and Prayer (or, Taking the Weekend Off)

The idea of be still and wait are common in the Bible.

Stillness and patience do not come easily to me. I react easily, and I tend to be opinionated and outspoken. On top of that, it’s election season. On top of that, one of my favorite bloggers released a controversial book. On top of that, I’ve been dealing with some negative reactions to my writing.

It’s been a lot to deal with.

I’ve never been good at practicing the spiritual disciplines of silence and meditation. Mostly because I’ve never tried. I’ve realized this week, though, that it’s very important to unplug, to take time to remove myself from the busyness of life, to take time to rest and rejuvenate. It’s important to regularly take time to remove distractions and just sit quietly with the Lord.

So, here’s two ways I’m going to put this into practice.

1. I’m removing myself from the internet from when I get off work today until I go back to work Tuesday morning.

No Facebook, no Twitter, no blogs. Just checking e-mail and (maybe) using Google if I need information. My boyfriend is coming in for the weekend from Chicago, so it works out well. As the internet has been getting increasingly hostile lately, I need a few days away, time to pray and to spend time with those I love.

Since I work for a web-based company, this will be strange. But I anticipate that it will be good and healthy.

2. I’m taking a weekend trip to a Monastery in November.

Specifically, I’m going to St. Scholastica Monastery in Boerne, TX, home of the Benedictine Sisters of Boerne.

St. Scholastica Monastery

I’m not sure exactly when I’m going, but I hope to go the weekend of November 17. My goals are to get away from technology, sit silently, write, read the Bible, and pray, hopefully coming back rejuvenated and better equipped to reflect the virtues of gentleness and patience in my everyday life.

I’m a little nervous, but mostly I’m excited. I honestly can’t remember the last time I fully unplugged. I can’t wait to see what God does as I practice the spiritual disciplines of stillness and silence.