Sunday, February 27, 2011

Love One Another

By Lisa Littlewood

Several months ago I arrived at church, pulled out my program and read the name of that week’s speaker with the words “Missionary to Africa” written next to his name.
I won’t lie, part of me wanted to get up and walk out. I know, I’m a Christian; I’m not supposed to admit that.

Do you ever feel that way? Like you know you should be able to listen to a sermon about the needs of the world, but you’re not sure you can. That the ever present needs of your own family and life seem so pressing that you’re not sure you want an added measure of guilt. Guilt that part of your responsibility as a Christian might be to tread through the woods of a remote jungle and preach the gospel.

Thankfully, that pastor cut me a little slack. His message was something I was not expecting and it was something that changed the way I view my life as a ‘missionary’—how I view my responsibility to reach out to others.

In summary he said, “I’m not going to tell you that you need to go to Africa, or another foreign country to preach the gospel. Not everyone is called to do that. I’m going to tell you that God has placed us each on this planet with a particular sphere of influence, with eyes to see the world in front of us. Who is in front of your eyes? Your neighbors, the inner city poor, a colleague at work, a member of your own family?”

Hmmm. That hit home. Literally.

We had recently moved to a new neighborhood: a neighborhood in which not one person had stopped by to say “hello” or drop off a plant or a plate of cookies. At first I felt jilted, then God started to change my heart.

What was going on in their homes? In their lives?

My heart was moved.

Not to hop on a flight to Africa, but to find a way to reach out to my neighbors; to be a light in their lives, to love them in some way.

“A new command I give you,” Jesus says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35).”

As I thought about this verse I realized that people don’t often understand God’s love through our words (though that can happen), it is often our actions, our “love” that catches their attention.

Recently, I put my excuses (a messy house and busy toddlers) on pause and my thoughts into action. I invited two families new to the neighborhood, a single mom (and widow) from across the street, and another family we had become friends with, over for dessert. It was a wonderful evening and I feel as if we made the first move towards connection with them.

More importantly, I feel as if I finally made the first step towards reaching those God has placed in front of my eyes, within my sphere, and I’m praying that God keeps my eyes and heart open towards those He wants me to love.

Lisa Littlewood is the busy mother of two pre-school age children who loves to run, write and read. Her active pursuits to blend her God-given passions (namely writing and encouraging other women) into her messy mothering days inspire many of her blog entries at

Sunday, February 20, 2011

(Un)Twisted Sisters

By Halee Gray Scott

Most of us have memories of them. Those girls on the playground, in high school, in our sorority house and even in our workplace, who were bent on making life miserable for anyone not included in the elite “clique.” They teased, bullied and alienated. These are the girls now epitomized in a slew of Hollywood teen films such as the “Mean Girls,” but it’s a relational dynamic that strings it way through human history all the way back to Rachel and Leah: the harsh reality of female rivalry.

In politics, business and our personal lives, both men and women are guilty of merciless competition, envy and catty criticism. We don’t need to look any further than ESPN or E! to know that competition and envy abound in relationships regardless of gender, but in relationships between females, it takes on a new form because of the scarceness of opportunities for women and even the scarceness of “good” men.

Often times envy is spurred on by fear: fear of rejection, of alienation, of anonymity, of a perceived purposeless of one’s life because ‘someone else’ did it first.

Unfortunately, these expectations and fears can cause women, even more so than men, to have twisted relationships in which we are constantly comparing or criticizing one another.

As Kelly Valen, author of Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships, stated in an interview regarding an incident of alienation and abandonment by her sorority sisters, “Although the incident obviously involved both men and women, it was that lingering hurt that I had from women and that betrayal … we have expectations of support from women.”

Yet, in 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14, the apostle Paul calls Christians to rise above these contentions and set an example for those outside the faith.

In this passage, Paul exhorts us to “untwist” our relationships by encouraging one another, building up one another, helping one another, and seeking the good for each other. Matthew Henry comments, “We should not only be careful about our own comfort and welfare, but promote the comfort and welfare of others also. He was a Cain who said, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ We must bear one another’s burdens, so as to fulfill the law of Christ.”
I’m learning that to truly “untwist” our relationships, we must be willing, as Christian women leaders, to stretch ourselves and let go of both our judgments and perceptions about other women—as well as our fears about our own perceived shortcomings—by acknowledging and supporting the giftedness of other Christian women, our fellow sisters.

Halee Gray Scott, PhD, is an author, scholar and researcher who focuses on spiritual formation and leadership development for women leaders. She can quote Shakespeare by heart or give an hour-long discourse on the French Enlightenment, but she cannot make Ellie, her two-year-old daughter, eat or sleep on everyone else’s schedule. She writes on Christian women and leadership at

Monday, February 14, 2011

World Bicycle Relief

by Jennifer Grant

The night before Kathy and I flew to Zambia, our friend James joined us for a farewell dinner. We ate Thai take-out, channeled Karen Blixen, (“I had a farm in Africa…”) and sporadically sung snippets of “Eye of the Tiger,” of all things.

Kathy and I were punchy. We are both mothers of four and had spent hours during the previous weeks carefully arranging schedules, carpools, and uncountable details.

Despite being in the company of two of my best friends, I was elsewhere for much of the evening. Crumpled to-do lists still swam in my mind, making it nearly impossible for me to be truly present; I wasn’t truly present.

That soon changed. Over the next two weeks, my sense of my place in the world, as well as my perspective about how to address global poverty, were recalibrated. And I would never see bicycles the same way again.

Do you remember your first bike? I loved mine. It was Popsicle-pink with a flowered “banana” seat and monkey handlebars. I coasted down what we call “hills” here in my flat Midwestern town, felt the gravel shoot up from the path as I sped home from school, and went “no handed” for a few precious seconds, my arms raised into the air.

In Zambia – as in other resource-poor places around the world – bicycles are more than a happy diversion. They save lives and help to draw whole communities up out of poverty. Zambia is one of the poorest countries on earth. One in seven adults lives with HIV; life expectancy is 39 years – a birthday my friend and I had already celebrated.

The incidence of gender-based violence is high. When girls walk long distances to school, too often they are victims of rape. There is a traditional belief in Zambia that when an HIV-positive man has sexual intercourse with a virgin, the virus leaves his body. This tragic myth increases the pervasiveness of rape and HIV in the country.

World Bicycle Relief partners with World Vision and others to provide students and HIV caregivers with bicycles. More than 23,000 caregivers have received bicycles and the goal of WBR’s Bicycle Education Empowerment Program (BEEP) is to provide 50,000 students with bikes designed specifically for the Zambian landscape. In 2010, nearly 6,000 bicycles were distributed to students.

Recognizing the special dangers girls face as they walk to school, Zambian girls receive 70% of the bikes from WBR. A recent WBR report notes that when girls own bicycles, school attendance improves greatly – the statistic jumps from 66% to 89%.

For adults, bicycles save time and increase carrying capacity, allowing people to transport crops and dairy products to market while they are fresh.

Now, sometimes, nearly a year after my trip to Zambia, I am elsewhere again. Not crunched in a flurry of to-do lists, but lost in my imagination. I see those bumpy, dirt roads. I hear women singing. I see the expanse of blue, sky and trees as far as I can see. And I remember seeing a girl, her white blouse and plaid skirt almost a blur, riding home from school on a hot afternoon.
Journalist Jennifer Grant’s memoir “Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter” will be published in summer 2011 by Thomas Nelson publishers. Find her online at

To learn more about World Bicycle Relief’s efforts in Zambia, visit

Sunday, February 6, 2011


By Carla Foote

I live in a reasonably safe neighborhood in an urban area. I am watchful when I get in my car in dark or isolated spots. I try not to walk by myself after dark. I keep the doors on my home locked, especially if I am home alone. I am careful but not fearful.

But I also travel, read widely and have friends around the world, so I know that safety is at times elusive and that my own safety is not guaranteed.

While I can take some steps for my own safety, as my children have grown into adults, their decisions sometimes stretch me and cause me concern for their safety. And at the same time, their stretches make me realize that I intentionally raised them to care about the world and have a broad view of their part in God’s work in the world. I never intended for them to sit in a fortress and express their Christian faith to the walls.

So when my daughter recently shared her intention to work on the US/Mexico border with deportees, I found myself hiding behind the safety flag and mentioning that I didn’t want to read about her in a headline – a story that might include kidnapping, drug lords and violence.

Selfishly, I cared more about her safety than those people she felt called to serve. People who are dumped on the border are not particularly safe as they are left to fend for themselves with limited resources. Those caught in the border tangle include women and children.

I also reflect back on my own mother and remember her asking about the safety of a mission trip I intended to take to Central America in the 1980’s. I blithely assured her it was safe, when in reality, what ability did I have to guarantee safety?

We try to guard our safety by being careful. What an interesting word – careful – full of care. Watchful, attentive, not being stupid. But an excess of care can lead to fear. Fearful. Frozen in the fortress. Unable to answer the call because of fear of the risks.

Perhaps a FullFill™ woman isn’t too careful or fearful, but full of passion for what God has called her to do and who God has called her to be. Passion takes us to a dimension of living freely where God has called us, beyond safety, care and fears and into a whole-hearted way of living.
Rather than sitting in fear and praying for safety and carefulness, I am challenged to affirm my daughter’s passion and pray for wisdom. I also extend my prayers to be open to continued stretching and passion in my own life and to not settle for a season of safety.

Carla Foote is the Sr. Director of Community and Resources for MOPS International. She was the editor of FullFill from 2007-2009 and continues in an advisory role. Along with encouraging her children in their endeavors, she enjoys gardening and writes about faith and flowers at