Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Whose Side Are You On?

The Supreme Court has heard all the arguments and will now be making a decision on the Defense of Marriage Act. A nation waits, holding it's breath. Convinced the decision will either uphold the foundation of beliefs this nation was founded on...or that they will continue to discriminate against a minority. There are very few "in betweens" when it comes to this issue. It seems instead, there are two polar opposites...either the majority of Christians or the loudest ones on one side screaming "homosexuality is an abomination" and "defend the Biblical definition of marriage" and those on the other side screaming "you believe in an imaginary God, therefore your argument is invalid"

Here is the reality of the situation, there needs to fact, must be, reconciliation. And like it or not, Christians need to take the first steps toward middle ground. Does that mean you have to give up your beliefs? Absolutely not. What it does mean is you have to change how you go about sharing them with everyone else. It means that you have to understand that affirming someone's value and holding on to your faith are not mutually exclusive. It means that you have to put down your defenses, step down off your political soap box, and build relationships with people you don't agree with-like homosexuals. You'll be amazed at how it will change your life and your view point. I know I was.

Jesus told us that the world will know we are His disciples by the way we love. I have to tell you that I have a number of friends who are homosexual who have known no love from Christians. Statistics tell us that 47% of homeless youth are LGBT and the majority of them are homeless because they were rejected by their family after "coming out". (Side note: if 90% of runaways or homeless youth are trafficked within 72 hours...what's the outcome for this 47%?). And the sad truth is Christians have a history of this kind of behavior...from slavery to civil rights...our track record isn't great. We are known more for what we are against than what we are for...and more for our conservative political views than our love. Again, I am not saying change your beliefs. I am saying that we follow the Jesus who touched a leper, befriended a prostitute and helped a condemned adulteress out of the dirt. He did that before they changed their life style. Their life was changed by the way He treated if they mattered, as if they had value, as if they were worth loving.

I'd remark on Jesus comment "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" but I think that would distract from the point.

Here's another thought...With studies showing there is a minimal difference between Christians and non  Christians when it comes to addiction to pornography, premarital sex, adultery and divorce perhaps our arguments for the biblical view of marriage are shaky. These statistics show that there are a lot of issues within the church and those sitting in it that we need to be addressing and walking along side those who need our help. It's time to stop our political posturing and help defend those marriages which are clearly under attack from the enemy, human frailty and a culture that constantly pushes wrongful views of sex into our faces.

If we are going to make same sex marriage illegal on the basis of marriage in the Bible...shouldn't adultery be illegal as well? That would cause some politicians to shake wouldn't it?

Everyone thought the Messiah would be a political leader, making war and restoring the glory of the Israelite nation. Instead He humbled himself, loved people, and changed the world. Maybe following His example would be a good idea. This post isn't supposed to be about my view of same sex marriage. I am not choosing sides for or against here. I am choosing to follow Jesus. To love everyone I come in contact with or at least try. I'm not here to judge but to model the behavior of one I call Savior. I might get it wrong. I'm an imperfect person loved and redeemed by a perfect God. And I'd rather get it wrong on the side of love than on the side of judgment. I hope I'm never the one on the corner praying "God, thank you that I am not the sinner this man is" but rather the one on my face crying out "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner"

I welcome your thoughts but please be respectful. Any hateful, rude or obnoxious comments will be deleted immediately.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Justice Conference

So here's a few of my thoughts on the Justice Conference:

1) When it was good, it was very VERY good. And when it wasn' was just "meh"
I get the impression the conference is still in development and from the looks of it, they are really finding their character. I think the biggest problem I had was that it sometimes felt like a sale. And here's the thing...if I've bought a ticket to the Justice Conference, traveled all that way to get here, and have positioned myself in a seat with attentive don't have to sale me justice. It's already a priority in my life. I expected a lot more information about issues and action points. I expected deeper. When we got it, the energy in the room visibly increased. But overall, my attention wandered quite a bit  during several speakers just because it was information I'd heard so much.

2) I loved the way the conference integrated art into the experience-with the film festival and spoken word...I would definitely keep that. I would also create service opportunities in the host city so that the day before or the day the conference begins, we could put justice into practice! The NCVS does this and it was one of the best conference experiences ever.

3) The organizers for JC should probably check the sound quality in their venues before hand. After the first couple of musicians, I stayed outside for most of the performances because the sound was so bad. And exhibitors should be more prepared with action that attendees can take...again, if they've come, they already have buy in and are looking to do something.

Eugene Cho was of course a favorite. Gary Haugen was good and I appreciated the way he broke down the amount of time staff spend on each case/project. I don't know why I was so surprised at the amazing job Shane Claiborne did but he blew me out of the water and remains a conference favorite for me. Sheryl WuDunn's stories all came from Half The Sky so I'll admit to losing focus several times during her presentation. But the absolute favorite moment of the entire conference for me was the round table with Lisa Sharon Harper, Dr John Perkins (why oh why wasn't he a main speaker!? I could've listened to him for hours!), Lynn Hybels and Stephan Bauman. That was the reason I had bought a ticket and driven from Newnan, GA to Philadelphia, PA! The topics they covered, opinions they shared, solutions they was inspiring! My only regret is it didn't last longer! Some of my favorite "gems" come from that particular presentation.

By the way, you can hear all the main speakers here:

Take aways:
I think that I had four main take aways from the conference and I really appreciate them.
1) Pursuing Justice is a long process. It's messy. It's a marathon not a sprint. And it's worth it. But we need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.
2) Justice can become an idol. And we can be more concerned with justice than the people we are trying to help. We must always bear in mind that those suffering from injustice are people with dignity and value and we must treat them with dignity and as people of value. Look into the eyes of humanity, they are not a project or "non-profit machine"
3) Don't assume you know what someone needs. What you think they need might be low on their list of priorities. I especially appreciated Eugene Cho's story of asking what a particular village needed already envisioning the new school they would help build...when all the village felt they needed was help paying the teachers their $40 per year salary.
4) We must be experts on our issue. We must be informed. We can't just like a page on Facebook and think we know what we are focusing on...we must be responsible in our story telling.

Favorite Quotes:
"Shut up. Read. Pray. Be connected to the vine. The pursuit of God fuels the pursuit of justice. Not the other way around" -Eugene Cho

"Ours is a world where a twelve year old needs a defender" -Gary Haugen

On prayer "Justice is God's work and we should be talking to him about it" -Gary Haugen

"Standing together, we are strong" Cyprien Nkiriyumwami

"The more we see of God, the less we want to throw stones at people" -Shane Claiborne

"The key to fighting poverty is affirming dignity of the poor." -Dr John Perkins

"We have never fully achieved the message of the Liberty Bell, but we must keep trying." -Dr John Perkins

"Befriend an immigrant family. Eat a little starch!" -Stephan Bauman

Next year's conference is in Los Angeles! Find out more info at

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

I had a friend. His name was Ricky. At one point in his life, Ricky lived with a girl. They talked about getting married. She had three daughters. For whatever reason, it didn't work out. Ricky moved out of the house and on with his life. For a little bit at least. And then, one day not long after moving out, without warning...Ricky found himself under investigation. And in jail. One of the daughters had accused Ricky of molesting her. Ricky spent a month in jail. The small town newspaper made big news of it, putting the story and his picture on the front page. He lost his job. His family was thrown into chaos. And I was in shock. I knew this guy. Knew his Mom, his brother, his brother's girlfriend! But little girls don't lie about this sort of they? Do they?

Actually, they do. The investigators kept talking to the little girl and details got confusing and the story started unraveling and around the time she also told about seeing Ricky "touch" her special needs sister, the investigators were suspicious. It all fell apart to reveal that the ex-girlfriend had coached the girl and convinced her that Ricky was a bad man and that she needed to tell the story so he went to jail forever for hurting mommy. The police department considered filing charges against the woman, but in the end, did not. Partly because Ricky asked them not to. He loved the three girls and their Mom was the only one they had to take care of them. He couldn't stand the thought of them in foster care.

He was released from jail. His family welcomed him back with open arms as did most of his friends. Not so the majority of the town. They had seen his face. They had seen the story. It was front page news. He must have been guilty. They certainly hadn't seen anything in the paper telling them he had been found innocent.

Seven months after being released from jail, Ricky moved away from his family and friends to escape the stigma thrown upon him by lies, manipulation and irresponsible media.

In 2006 three students from Duke University are accused of rape. Scandal erupts. I watch the stories and think "how sick and twisted" "how dare they" and "their money better not get them out of it". The boys, who play on Duke's lacrosse team, are charged, arrested and go to trial. The coach of the Lacrosse team is forced to resign, the rest of the season is cancelled for the team, and the case causes a media sensation. Accusations that this is actually a hate crime are hurled. The boys, their families and even students from the school with little to no connection to the case are threatened.

The case falls apart. The boys are found not guilty. The district attorney resigns after it's revealed how rushed and shoddy his case was. The accuser is later is found guilty of child abuse and is awaiting trial for the stabbing death of her boyfriend. And I feel like an idiot.

The presumption of innocence is considered a basic human right. The idea that we are "innocent until proven guilty" is a foundation of the American legal system and noted in the 5th, 6th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. Why? Because the forefathers had witnessed the tyranny of a country that could jail you for no reason, hold you in prison for any length of time and convict you without due process. 

Don't get me wrong when I say this. I want molesters, rapists, traffickers and "johns" to go to jail. When I read statistics about unreported rapes, rapists not being convicted, johns who buy girls for sexual purposes and get nothing more than a slap on the wrist, I get more than furious. I steam over the fact that "what were you wearing?" is a common question a rape victim is expected to answer. I want men who violate women in any shape, fashion or form to receive justice. There are some stories that make me want to dispense the justice myself. However, I never want this justice to come without a fair trial. Due process. And that means he must be proven guilty. It does not mean that he must be proven innocent. That's the way it works. It is certainly the way I want it to work if I'm accused of a crime. It's the way you'd want to be treated as well.

Furthermore, the media must be held responsible. If they are going to report on a case, they must be unbiased and report in an objective way. An accusation does not mean front page news and-if it does-an acquittal (or a dropped case) should get the same attention. Someone's life should not be ruined because he/she was accused of doing something. I don't care if innocent men sale less papers than guilty ones.

A few weeks ago a local paper published a story of a guy with charges against him. The story, including a picture of him, was on the front page. I thought about Ricky. I thought about this guy's wife and family. I thought about how wrong it is that they actually printed his address in the article. I realized the paper was already assuming he was guilty. And, since they wrote it that way, most people will read it and assume the same. I'll bet you anything if he's not, they'll never put that on the front page. What will it be like for him walking into work? To church? At dinner with his wife? A family outing with his in-laws? Will he and his wife have to move away to avoid the assumptions? What will it do to his marriage? What if he has kids? Can you imagine what going to school would be like?

You're thinking if he's guilty, he deserves it. But what if he isn't? What does he deserve then? Right now, the one thing he does deserve is to be innocent until proven otherwise.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Getting What You Ask For...

We've talked about my "celebrity crushes" before. And we all know I'm odd. So this post shouldn't surprise you.

I may or may not have prayed to meet Gary Haugen during the Justice Conference.

Okay. I did. I did pray I would meet Gary Haugen during the conference.

Gary Haugen, President (and CEO) of International Justice Mission. Writer of "Just Courage" (and several other books but Just Courage changed my life so...).

This man, this organization do amazing work. I'm more than a fan.

And my coworker Jason King, coworker and guy I all around like and admire, earned my everlasting ire and jealousy when he got to meet him at Passion 2013 and I didn't.

Gary Haugen was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to the conference. I'd never gotten to hear him speak in person and knew it was going to be amazing. And, just as an added bonus, thought it would be great to meet him. So I prayed a silly prayer.

The night of the conference, I had gotten in late. I was texting a friend of mine at the conference while walking into the motel. I was trying to find out who all was speaking that night. I was exhausted and frankly considering skipping it. But what if I missed Gary Haugen??? I actually texted my friend "If I miss GH, I'm going to be ticked" while standing in line at our motel waiting to register. And then I looked up (side note: look up from your phone on a regular basis so you don't miss anything!)...and there, standing right in front of me at the counter, was Gary Haugen. I went totally fan girl. I got flushed, may have gasped, grasped my children by the arm and "whispered" (who am I whisper?) 'There's Gary Haugen!' I texted my friend "GH is standing right in front of me!!!!!!" And then, tried to consider what to say to him as I introduced myself...I had nothing. Well, that's not true. Lot's of gushing. Lots of "OH MY GOD YOU ARE GARY HAUGEN" but I kind of assumed he was aware of who he was. Some "JUST COURAGE IS SUCH AN AWESOME BOOK! IT CHANGED MY LIFE!" It almost drove me to tears. I couldn't think of a single intelligent conversation starter. Two days before I'd had lunch and intelligent conversation with Katherine Chon...and now I was a blithering idiot.

I couldn't do it. Admittedly, if he'd been alone, I might have stepped forward goofy grin and outreached palm. But he was engaged in what appeared to be a serious conversation with two men and somehow interrupting that conversation to star gaze and humiliate myself with obtrusive gushing didn't seem appropriate. So he walked away, never noticing me.

The young man behind the counter noticed me and asked "Who was that guy? He's got VIP written all over him but I've never heard of him" I opened my mouth and then closed it, checked my attitude and explained who the man headed up to his room was and the impact he had on people like me and the issue of social justice. Because I'd checked my attitude before speaking (as in, I didn't say "OH MUH GAWD, HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHO HE IS???), we had a great conversation. And the guys spent the next three days scoping out the place trying to see if he could spot Mr. Haugen and arrange for me to meet him.

Here's my point(s):
1) It's okay to pray silly prayers. And sometimes God will give it to you just to remind you He knows the desires of your heart. Sometimes He might give them to you just to show you it wasn't quite as important as you thought it was.

2) God's answers don't always look like we expect. And we need to be okay with that.

3) Letting go of something you want because it's the right thing to the right thing to do. Believe it or not, there are more important things than the things you want.

One day I'll meet Gary Haugen. Or not. One day Jen Hatmaker and I will be best buds. Or not. But God knows me, loves me, sees me. And that is enough.

Road Trip!!!

 Bree, Trey and I love to plan road trips. Our dream vacation is a road trip that takes us to the Grand Canyon (where we are in such good shape, we hike down and back up) and then home again, never going through the same state twice.

We still haven't done that. But we did plan a road trip we got to take! It was a great time and showed the kids that plans can happen! That's two vacations in a row that we've planned and taken! We're on a roll! (Last year was Universal Studios)

This trip started in Tennessee. Our first stop was Dayton and two and a half days at Bryan College. I'd been asked to attend a conference as speaker and representative of Wellspring Living.

While we were there, we got to know some fantastic students, including these three: Amanda, Rose and Maddie. They are members of SSTOP (Students Stopping the Trafficking of Persons) and more than that they are amazing young women destined to change the world. While on campus I was super impressed with Bryan College's commitment to teaching the issue as well as motivating students to do something about it. The conference was titled "Freedom Matters" and focused on domestic trafficking. I got to speak to a class and then a luncheon. I lost count of the conversations with students and faculty. Bree and Trey had a great time as well. Everyone was amazingly welcoming!

No big deal but Katherine Chon (co founder of Polaris Project) was one of the speakers and I got to have lunch with her! I managed not to embarrass myself!

We moved on from Dayton to Nashville and got to see this girl! Jessica is a friend of mine and former coworker at Wellspring Living. She moved to Nashville several months ago and the office hasn't been quite the same without her!
I was a bit disappointed by our visit to Nashville just because lack of time and research meant we didn't get to enjoy a lot of the city. But, the one place we knew we had to visit...

We made our way from Nashville to Columbus, Ohio (our stop for the night enroute to Philadelphia) and hit a spot of wintry weather! Total respect for the salt trucks!!!

Cincinnati skyline...

So I have this resolution for 2013 to visit three states I've never been to before...however, I'm not sure West Virginia should be counted since we drove through and only stopped once for gas. Maybe that should be an opinion poll!
Pennsylvania...specifically Philadelphia and the Justice Conference was the goal.
The Pennsylvania Turn Pike toll is ridiculously expensive but I decided to look at it less as a toll...and more as the price of admission. Some of the prettiest countryside ever!

The Justice Conference gets it's on blog...
 The Sunday after the conference, the kids and I explored Philadelphia. After everything I'd heard at the Bryan conference and then the Justice Conference, seeing the Liberty Bell and thinking through all it represents, I got really emotional. There's been a lot going on the past few months but this trip concreted for me not only my passion but my mission...or my part of THE mission.

A day in Washington DC was the last stop before the 14 hour drive home (in the rain). I'd briefly visited DC before as a teenager but this was the first time I ever got to explore. I've always suspected I would love it...I was right. We spent about five hours on the mall, visited the Holocaust Museum, and the Capital. We're planning a return trip to see everything we didn't have time for (including the Smithsonian)

The Martin Luther King memorial is amazing. Again, after spending so much time discussing, hearing about and being immersed in the topic of social justice, freedom, etc this was an amazing moment for me. Luckily my kids love me and either understand or overlook my emotional lapses (lol)

The Lincoln Memorial. I was once told or read that the sculptor very deliberately portrayed two very different sides to Lincoln...the relaxed, laid back Lincoln on the right (stage left theatre friends) and the determined-and fatigued-side on the left. I looked at his clenched hand, his leg positioned as if to get up and I thought "The fight, Mr President, is now ours"

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Got Called...Part 3

Okay, okay...I never intended for this to become a trilogy. But Embree was there and kind of demanded it (in a completely non brat like kind of way)...And I can't resist.

If you haven't read "I Got Called..." Parts 1&2 you might be confused but they aren't necessary. However, if you feel like your life isn't complete: Part One and Part Two.

And now, we present

I Got Called "Nice Lady" in Wal-Mart
So here is the scenario. It's about 10:30 at night. I haven't eaten all day...well, I mean, I ate two Samoa cookies but I really don't think I need to confess that...right? Bree and I have just left rehearsal and we need to pick up groceries for dinner. I decide to go to Wal Mart because I'd returned some things and now I have a gift card (because I can't keep up with receipts apparently).

So we are in Wal Mart and we have just planned the perfect meal. Meatloaf, mac and cheese, corn and biscuits (canned because it is way too late to make real ones!). We are so hungry we are practically salivating. I's kind of a desperate and perhaps a bit pathetic. But we're having our usual Battles fun as well.

We get to the self check out and we total everything up...and we're exactly twenty-five cents short.

Our perfect meal is ruined. I've got to put something back.

Only, without any actual thought, I look at the couple standing at the register in front of us and ask if they have a quarter. Normally I would never do this. First of all, its kind of pitiful to ask strangers for money so you can afford can biscuits. Secondly,'s just pitiful.

The guy feels in his pocket and instead of saying no, turns to the guy in front of him and says "Hey, do you have twenty five cents this nice lady can have?" And the guy-who is talking on his cell phone the entire time-reaches in his pocket and hands the first guy two dimes and a nickel and the first guy hands it to me. It does occur to me to be embarrassed at this point so I start to apologize but both guys and the girl with the first guy are all like "Don't worry about it" and they are so nice and seem genuinely pleased to have helped someone.

And we have our biscuits.

So, here's a few take aways.
1) I have to tell you that both the first guy and the second guy do not look like altruistic do gooder kind of people. The first guy would be the type that many of us would instinctively lock our doors if he walked toward our car. The second guy looked like the type that flip people off in traffic. This is another one of those "don't judge by the cover" lessons. I mean, I wasn't afraid of either of them but if you'd put them in a line up and asked me which of the two men would most likely be generous to me that day, I wouldn't have said them. And I-for the most part-and pretty open minded. I mean, I know a wide variety of people and have known some good hearted red necks and scumbags alike. Don't just automatically discount people because of their age, sense of fashion, or overall look. Give everyone a chance to be someone special, to do something good, to make someone's day.

2) Ask for help. We all love to be independent and "I got this" but it's okay to be vulnerable and let others help you.

3) Random acts of kindness go a long way. I cannot even tell you how that made my day. The generous and sweet way that was handled. He could have said "this lady" or "them" or anything but he called me "nice" I thought how Eugene Cho told the story of trying to identify with the homeless so he sat outside a store for three days with a hat for change. He collected a fair amount of change but not once did someone look him in the eyes. We have to give people their humanity no matter how much change we give or don't give them.

And in case you are wondering...the meal was delicious.

Slacktivism (the art of doing nothing and feeling good about it)

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Great Commission. As Christians, we know it...we've probably memorized it in small group or VBS. Some of us live it out and others claim to not "be called" but the reality is we are all called to it to one degree or other. We are all called to make Christ known. We are called to proclaim freedom to the oppressed, to take care of widows and orphans, to show the love of Christ to the world.

I'm not saying that everyone give up their jobs and go into missions or that everyone must devote 24/7 to the cause of social justice but I am saying that everyone has to do something. And something requires action...Christ says we are to teach so that people know to obey...not just so they know. The knowledge compels-demands-action. 

We live in an unprecedented time of knowledge and I'm afraid that somehow we feel that just by knowing something, we have fulfilled our obligation or responsibility. Relevant magazine recently wrote an article on "slacktivism" (a combination of the word "slack" or "slacker" and "activism"). I highly suggested it as a read and you can find it here:

The idea is that by knowing something and using social media to "like" a page or read an article or that by retweeting a tweet or link from a local non-profit, we have somehow done our part.

Don't get me wrong, knowledge is incredibly powerful and social media is a huge part in that. I use it, my friends and favorite organizations use it. It's fantastic! But if that is all we do, it's only part of it. The Bible tells us that if we tell a hungry person "I'll pray for you" but don't give them food, we have not done as we ought. The same goes for passive aggressive activism. If you "like" Not For Sale on Facebook and then do nothing to change your buying habits, what have you accomplished? Have you made a difference in the lives of the estimated 27 million slaves in the world today? No. My daughter tells me there is a meme of a hungry child holding an empty bowl and the caption reads "Don't worry, I liked your page on Facebook" This is disturbing but an unconscious attitude so many have these days. 

I realize the issues are huge and the tasks are daunting. The reality is the impact you make is most likely going to be a small one. But it is an impact. And if everyone made a small impact the change would be amazing to see. Remember the story about the star fish? Two guys walking on the beach, one guy stopping to throw starfish back into the ocean...the one guy tells the other guy not to bother because he can't help them all and the guy replies as he throws another starfish back into the water "helped that one" Imagine what happens if the entire community goes out there and throws one, two or three starfish back into the water! The more people making an effort, the more that can be done...even if it is a small effort!

So here are three small ways to save a starfish. I'd encourage you to start with at least one of them. And make a commitment with three of your friends, your small group, your book club to do something at least once a month to put knowledge and love into action for the greater good.

1) Project Live Love
Project Live Love exists to influence culture by showing love. They have quarterly service projects as well as a project called "Three Oh We Go" where they pass out blankets to the homeless any time the temperature goes below freezing. I challenge you to participate in one of the service projects or even do a blanket drive for them.

2) Polaris Project and International Justice Mission both have e-blasts you can sign up for to receive important information and action alerts when important legislation is being discussed in Congress. Sign up for one and the next time they ask you to contact your Representative or Senator, do it! (Make sure you are signed up to vote before doing so.) The reason the Violence Against Women's Act passed with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act as an amendment last week was because of the number of voters who let their elected officials know it was an important issue to them. You have a voice, use it.

3) Be aware of what you buy. A deal is a deal and we all need to save money. But what if that item is so cheap because the cost of labor was so little? A great way to know what the supply chain for an item looks like is the "Free 2 Work" app. Download it. Use it. Find more info and the app at

There are so many other things you can do...and feel free to share them if you have ideas. I'd also love to hear stories of things you and your friends do or have done.

Knowledge is power. So learn more. And don't trust everything you read on social media. Do your research and listen to people with opposing view points. Then use that knowledge to affect good and change.We can accomplish much...but not by being slacktivists.