Sunday, October 28, 2012

Let's Hear It For The Boys

By Kimba Langas

October is a big month for women.  I always love seeing vibrant ribbons of pink everywhere from high rises to football players.  But did you know that October 11th was the first United Nations’ “International Day of the Girl Child?”  This month also marked the release of a PBS documentary based on a book called “Half The Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn, which powerfully illustrates the need for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide.  As someone who works to create better futures for women rescued out of sex trafficking, I have been enormously influenced and impacted by the book and film.  The title is based on the Chinese proverb that “women hold up half the sky.”

Half The Sky punched me in the gut when I first read it.  I was absolutely enraged to learn that women in many parts of the world are (still in 2012!) considered property, have no voice and no rights at all.  Like they’re sub-human or something.  My mother taught me from a very young age that women are equal to men.  That God had created Eve to work alongside Adam, not underneath.  I had an expectation that I should have every opportunity that the men in my generation had—and I never settled for less because of that.   

When it comes to creating equality for women on a global scale, there are many amazing women I admire who are spearheading these efforts—and a few great men, too.  But until all men learn to value, respect and protect the women around them, our progress and influence will be limited.  And we will continue to hear horror stories like the one of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai—a girl shot in the head by the Taliban simply for attending school.

Recently at a women’s Bible study, we got into a conversation about the influence the men in our life had on us through the years—both good and bad. One of our ladies had brought along her sweet little newborn boy.  And as I looked at him, and the amazing women gathered around me (most of whom also have sons), I suddenly burst into tears.  Because it hit me:  as mothers of sons we have an enormous responsibility—and opportunity—to help change the world for the better for women.

I’m the biggest influence in my son’s life right now, because I spend the most time with him.  The messages I send to him are important and will have an effect for generations to come, on men and women alike.  I’m realizing that being a boy doesn’t mean my husband has the sole responsibility to teach him about women.  What is our relationship modeling for him?  Are we showing him that women have as much value as men?  Am I teaching him to honor and elevate women?  Am I teaching him to stand up for women?  To cherish them? 

I can’t change entire cultures and their attitudes towards women.  And I’m often overwhelmed at the impossibility of it all.  But I trust that God equips us with what we need to partner with him in restoring the world—even if it’s only in our own little corner of the world.

And I know one thing I CAN do.  I can raise MY son to be a real man who will appreciate women as equal and valued partners.  That’s a start. 

Because, after all, men hold up half the sky, too.

Kimba Langas is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Free the Girls, a nonprofit that solicits used bras and provides them as “seed capital” for victims of trafficking in Mozamibique to sell as a means of gaining financial independence. Read more at and in the attached FullFill interview ( FriendOMine issue). 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Inside Story

By Carol Kuykendall

In the springtime of my sophomore year in high school, all my cool friends decided to try out for cheerleader. So of course I wanted to be a cheerleader. To fit in. Besides, my mother always promised me: “You can do anything your want to do, be anything you want to be, if you just try hard enough.”

Oh did I try! Practicing hard and long before joining my friends for the official tryouts in front of the whole school. Then they voted on who they liked best. And I began the agonizing wait for the results.

I was sitting in last period algebra when I heard the muffled sound of the PA coming on and the school principal cheerfully announcing, “I have the results of the cheerleading election!” And he proceeded to slowly read the names, one by one, of all my cool friends…but not my name.  My face felt hot and my stomach hurt as I wondered how I would get out of that room and down the long main hallway, past all my friends’ lockers and out to the parking lot. And begin to adjust to the reality that – no matter how hard I tried – I couldn’t be everything I wanted to be.

Yet, slowly, over the next few weeks, I experienced a growing desire to do something different than my cheerleader friends, so I joined the staff of the school newspaper where eventually I became editor, a choice that I know today, began to shape the life-long passion I have for words and stories.

“What’s your story?” can be an intimidating question that really means, “What are some life-defining moments that have shaped you into who you are today?”

Your answer forms your “back stories,” gleaned from memories about those experiences that make you YOU.

Yet we reflect on these past experiences with our present day faith and understanding of God’s presence and purposes. That doesn’t change our memory of the experience but it can change our perspective. Today I have a grateful response to that painful public but pivotal loss in high school. This change in perspective is our Inside Story. 

Our stories are made up of three main elements: character, conflict and change. Obviously, the character in a personal story is you. The conflict is absolutely necessary to “story” and the more compelling the conflict, the more compelling the story. Our conflicts are compelling when they touch vulnerable universal felt needs within all of us. Loss is universal. Loss was my conflict. If I had won that cheerleading election, I would have had no conflict. No opportunity for change. Therefore no story.

Our courage to be vulnerable and tell stories about our brokenness, painful mistakes and woundedness makes us useful in God’s hands because the change that emerges from such experiences is the most powerful evidence of God’s miraculous presence in our lives.
In the Old Testament and before Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, God’s miracles were dramatic and external. But since the Holy Spirit has come to indwell us as believers, God’s most dramatic miracles are internal – changes within us. Changes in our perspective or attitude or character that gives us the ability to extend grace, forgiveness or gratitude. Fruit of the spirit changes within us. Those are the changes that create the stories that give God credit.

 They are our Inside Stories that often take courage to know and tell.

Carol Kuykendall is an author and speaker and columnists for Momsense Magazine. She is co-founder of “Stories” a ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, Colorado.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Unexpected Influence

By Kelli Trujillo

When I was making arrangements for what I feared would be a boring, uncomfortable evening, I had no idea it would end up being one of the most influential nights in my life. Betty and Willis had invited my husband and me—married for just a few years—over for a double-date. Betty and Willis were in their eighties and married for a bazillion years.

It was a night involving bowls of snacks offered to us repeatedly, watching a (rather corny) Christian piano concert on VHS, and finishing things off with a hymn sing-along accompanied by Willis on the accordion. But it was also a night of miraculous mentorship—influence on our lives and our marriage that we didn’t expect. The powerful impact of watching a long-married love in action gave us a new vision for our own love. The life-shaping influence of a woman whose passion for God was fervent, whose identity was centered and confident, and whose sense of vocation burned bright, even in the twilight years of her life,  emboldened and strengthened my own faith and sense of calling.

That’s how influence happens sometimes, isn’t it? It’s not always from great speakers or organized discipleship programs or weekend retreats. Sometimes it’s in the moments that sneak up on us—those times when we open up and receive from another the gift of presence, of listening, of example.

I want to be a Betty. Not because I’ve got it all figured out, but because I know that we taste the goodness of God when another looks us in the eye, asks about our lives and draws our attention to the Holy Spirit’s presence in our ordinary, sometimes messy existence.

I had a Betty-like moment the other day when a friend who was a decade younger than me asked me to “mentor” her. My initial reaction was to baulk at this suggestion. I thought of her as a peer, so being asked to “mentor” her just made me feel . . . OLD! And the label “mentor” seemed to imply that I’m supposed to be some expert at life who can share all my wisdom.

But then I thought about Betty and the gift she gave by welcoming me into a life that was still journeying, was yet flawed (you should have seen her rolling her eyes in exasperation at Willis!), but was nonetheless willing to invite me in.

So I made a deal with my younger, hipper friend. I will be an unofficial mentor in her life. However, she absolutely cannot use the M-word for me, I joked, because it’s loaded with implications (like I’m old or I’ve got it all figured out). But we will meet often, share each other’s lives and receive grace from the Spirit who is always present with us.

I can’t wait to have a heavenly hymn-sing with Betty and Willis again someday, complete with accordion and loads of caramel corn. But in the mean time I’ll aim to keep living the lesson Betty taught me: Sometimes the most powerful influence can happen in the most ordinary, unexpected ways.

Who has been a Betty in your life? To whom will you offer the gift of your imperfect, journeying, blessed presence?

Kelli B. Trujillo is an author and editor in Indianapolis. Her latest project is the Flourishing Faith devotional series for women (see You can join Kelli in conversation at