My Friend Kelly

Posted by on Tuesday, Apr 19, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

I met Kelly at a leaders meeting at church. She stood out because she was tall, elegant, and well dressed. I was intrigued by her so I asked, “What do you do for a living?” She responded, “I drag the bags.”  (I was clueless about what that meant. For those of you who don’t know, it means she is a fundraiser.) Currently she fundraises for an organization called New Friends New Life. It’s a nonprofit committed to helping women get out of the sex industry. The statistics on sex trafficking are unsettling. I’ve heard them before, but I can’t get my head around them. And my heart aches, literally – when I hear the shocking statistics or a woman’s heartbreaking story. It’s just not right. I recently attended  their big Wings Luncheon fundraiser. The room was packed with women and men committed to saying “NOT OUR CHILDREN. NOT OUR CITY.” They wanted to be clear that our girls are NOT for sale! The statement has been posted on the internet and plastered around our city. I’ve heard it before, but each time I see it again my heart screams for justice. They said it at the luncheon, and I wanted to literally scream it out loud as a charge for us to kick some butt. I didn’t. After all, it was a fancy luncheon, and I didn’t want to embarrass my friend. Amal Clooney spoke about her work for the voiceless in the world. I appreciated that the focus remained on her work which is far more interesting than her marriage to George or the latest gossip from Hollywood. Nevertheless, this post isn’t about Amal; it’s about my friend Kelly. I’ve known Kelly for about ten years, and I have such respect for her work. For years she dragged the bags for the largest women’s abuse shelter in Dallas, and now she fundraises to help women get out of the sex industry. Her work, although very rewarding, also can take a toll on the soul. Hearing the shattered stories of women and girls over and over does something to a person. You are not left unmarked by the darkness. In her spare time she helped launch and develop the foundations of my ministry, The Marcella Project. She was our first chair, and I am grateful for her leadership, insight, and skills. This year during Kelly’s biggest fundraising event, she has moved her sister, Traci, into her home. Traci and Kelly are what I call “twins” even though they aren’t. They are twins in the sense that they are highly intuitive and extremely connected  to each other, like twins tend to be.  You can be sure if one of them moves to the...

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A Way to Raise Awareness

Posted by on Monday, Mar 30, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

This year we hosted our third annual Gender Justice Film Festival at Times Ten Cellars. I’m grateful to men like Rob and Kert (owners of Times Ten) and Evan (producer of It’s a Girl) and Jessica (from the Genesis Shelter) for providing us space and place to speak of what’s happening to women and girls locally and around the globe.    ...

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Disoriented: Noodlings From The UN

Posted by on Wednesday, Mar 25, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

Probably most informative and encouraging at the UN Commission on the Status of Women was the session on “Religious Fundamentalism Gender Equality & Development.” A panel of speakers addressed the rise of fundamentalism within all major faiths. (Christian, Islam, Buddhist, and Judaism). “Fundamentalism, they argued, rises out of deprivation (and disorientation).” Fundamentalism provides very certain answers, very clear (and rigid) roles and laws (dress codes enforce this). When it is “full blown” it dehumanizes (excludes) those who don’t follow the rules and roles. When you exclude certain people from humanity they become expendable (as evidenced with ISIS and Boko Haram). I’m thankful I live in American at a time in history where American Fundamentalism isn’t “full blown.” But the seminar did make me question those churches I know who have such rigid rules, dress codes and role distinctions. I wondered if those churches were a reaction to a time of disorientation from the women’s movement, science, the industrial revolution etc. I’ve read several of Dr. Michael Kimmel’s books on men and masculinity. (Dr. Kimmel is considered one of the leading researchers on the subject). Kimmel states the women’s movement left men disoriented because women took on characteristics that had traditionally been defined as male qualities. Men haven’t known how to redefine themselves – yet. This maybe an indicator as to why male driven churches like Mars Hill (under the leadership of Mark Driscoll) drew such crowds. The panelists gave suggestions on how to break the chokehold of fundamentalism. One was to support those within the local community who are progressive in their thoughts and actions. Another was to offer theological conversations where people can become informed and make informed decisions about a particular theological issue. The example given was “divorce” within Islamic fundamentalists. The idea was to dialogue about how the Koran addressed the issue and share different Imam’s interpretations of such passages. The dialogue is a way to provide the people with different opinions and allow them to come to their own conclusions. My heart leaped. WE DO THAT! I wanted to scream. We have salons for this very reason. It was so encouraging to be in such a big place with important people tackling a large issues and knowing in the middle of all that big – Jesus works in the small....

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Blessed Alliance: Noodlings From The UN

Posted by on Monday, Mar 23, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

I spent four days in a place I didn’t belong – the UN Commission on the Status of Women. (CSW59). It’s a two-week event where dignitaries, politicians and international organizations, men and women of every color and language, from around the world gather at the UN to discuss gender justice. My contribution? I listened and learned. Several years back Steve was invited to the White House for a discussion on “faith based initiatives.” At the door – as he was leaving I reminded him, “You have so much to bring to the table.” Later he called and calmly stated, “I got nothing. The people walking these halls are brilliant. I’m here to listen and learn.” That’s how I feel while I’m at the this annual gathering at the United Nations headquarters in New york. I just listen and learn, if I could only find the place where they are speaking. The UN is a sprawling complex that’s not well labeled and with few workers to advise lost souls like me. When I finally find my room, well – sometimes it’s already full. Most of the time I squeeze in and sit crisscross applesauce on the floor (in my long black skirt!) A male Albanian official spoke on government policies promoting gender justice such as social welfare checks given to mothers only. It seems when men received the checks they spent the money on booze or gambling, women spent it on clothes and food. “So the checks need to follow the women.” The question was raised that this might put women in jeopardy (in Albania 1 out of 2 women experience domestic violence in their life time.) His response, “We have found the opposite. Men have more respect for women with money and power.” He and others continued to stress the need for us to “worry less about strategy and instead focus on implementation at the village level.” What happens at the UN is only as good as it’s trickle down effect in the local community. And there I was – in the middle of the big REALLY BIG – and sweet Jesus was talking to me, through an Albanian, about the small things. The Marcella Project may be unknown by most but there it was -in bright neon letters in my head- our work of ennobling women. I believe our work is all about change, of hearts, minds, thinking, tradition, at the village level, practical change. An Indian woman shared how her village campaigned young boys in order to raise awareness about the tradition of child brides. Once the boys were aware of the bondage it placed on young girls they began to argue with their parents about selling...

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We Are More Than A Vagina & Womb

Posted by on Saturday, Mar 21, 2015 in Blog | 3 comments

We like wine and cheese and meaningful conversation in our home. So we host “wine and cheese” gatherings on a regular basic. Here is how they work: A blind copy email is sent to a long list of people with a list of dates. People respond to a date they would like to come. No one knows who else is on the list. They show up at the door with a bottle of wine and a wonderful cheese. Each person sits around our table, never with the person they came with, and a meaningful conversation ensues spurred on by questions my husband has worked through for the night. This year our invites include a book to read prior to coming. A few weeks ago eleven of us gathered to drink wine eat cheese and discuss the book, The Underground Girls of Kabul. It takes place in Afghanistan, a place where boys are preferred over girls. In a male preferred society – a baby boy brings celebration and honor – a baby girl brings shame and burden. A woman’s value lies in her ability to marry and provide a son. To put it more bluntly her value is in her vagina (purity) and her womb (male heir). One of the women at our table was a doctor, the one they call in when a newborn baby is blue – not breathing – going to die. Her job is to make them “yelp,” she said. “I’m good at what I do,” she said. “I can’t imagine feeling shame over hearing the yelp of a baby girl.” Girls are often kept inside away from activities that might expose them to men or boys and therefore bring an appearance of impurity. Adolescent girls can’t be around boys. Period. Purity is crucial. After marriage it’s crucial she bare a son. It’s assumed her body decides the gender, if no son is provided she’s shamed. The husband is shamed as well. Without a son he is less likely to find a job or get a promotion and more likely to be harassed by the community. A son is everything. In a way I hurt for the Afghan men. They live in a country where there’s deep poverty and little employment or advancement. How emasculating to not be able to work or provide. Deprivation is everywhere. Honor and dishonor are tenuous. At any moment what little honor there is can be snatched away. In many ways the honor of a man is totally dependent on another – his wife. If she is pure … if she provides a son … I wonder if deprivation leads to domination over what few things one can control. It might...

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