Giving away lipstick: 10 ways to give away dignity and courage

feb09-lipstickA friend and I were sitting in a coffee shop yesterday. He is someone I learn from nearly every time we are together. We have completely different upbringings and our pasts could not be more different. I love spending time with him.

As we were chatting yesterday I asked a question which prompted him to send me an article. The article chronicled the story of a Horror Camp where people were dying daily. Shortly after the discovery of yet another death a box arrived from the British Red Cross, in it was found tubes and tubes of red lipstick. Many were baffled by the gift, but it was this gift that brought dignity to those encamped in this horrid experience. (it is a short story, I encourage you to take the time to read it)

I immediately was struck by the thought of lipstick brining dignity. I then remembered a time where I brought bouquets of flowers to women who made their home on the street and how it was important because every woman wants to feel beautiful lovely and seen and when you give a woman flowers that is what you are telling her without words.

The needs of this world are great. Every day greets us with more hatred, pain, death, useless violence, poverty and darkness. I want to be a person who brings light. A person who steps out of the comfort of home and acts. A person who brings dignity and gives courage to all she meets. A person who gives away flowers and lipstick.

I don’t always know the best ways to do bring dignity and courage away but here are a couple of thoughts:

1. Smile at people. A smile acknowledges a person exists and says that you are glad they do. It’s inexpensive but the pay off is great.

2. When a person wears a name tag, refer to him or her by name. Be the first to ask the question at the cash register. Be warm and engaging, treating each person as though they are a friend in the making.

3. Leave early when driving somewhere. When you’re not pressed for time other drivers don’t seem to be so annoying. Be kind, let other drivers in. Assume that those in a hurry or seemingly rude have something hard going on in life and instead of internally flipping them off, take a moment to pray that God would meet them in their need, in their rush and in their pain and intervene.

4. Pray that God would give you a friend who lives a story that you may have prejudices against. It’s amazing what happens when our life crosses paths and friendships are created with those who against whom we hold prejudice. (Here is a great story about just that.)

5. Know someone who struggles financially? Buy them a gift that is not practical. Give them something that says you are worth more than just making it. It could be something as little as flowers or as big as a night in hotel.

6. When you see a person holding a sign asking for money, roll down your window and start a conversation. Acknowledge, smile at and warmly invite the person to conversation that speaks to their personhood.

7. Buy products that give dignity to their workers.

8. Be kind, assume good things, and be generous with your attitudes and beliefs.

9. Tip really well. Tip extravagantly. Over thank and encourage any who serve you. (Simply because we are paying someone for a service doesn’t mean that they have to be perfect. They too may be having a bad day or have just had hard customers. Maybe a relative is going through a difficult time? We don’t know. So instead of complaining and not tipping, tip extra and look your server in the eye and say something like, “I hope your day gets better.”

10. Be a good neighbor, to all of your neighbors. Be a good neighbor to your local businesses, postal workers, lawn care and landscaping workers, the neighbor who hides and the neighbor who knows everyone. Be the kind of neighbor you want.

You and I may not be able to alleviate the worlds darkness on our own, but if we each bring our light and give away light and dignity and courage… the darkness sure dissipates quickly.

How have you seen dignity given away? How have you been given courage? I’d love to learn from you too.

Shared Space: The Sold Project

solddesktop800x600I’m starting something new, Shared Space.  One day a week I am going to give my blog space to share about a person, cause, book or project. I am so excited to introduce you to friends I love, issues I care about, ideas with which I resonate, and projects that I believe in.

Rachel and I sat down for a glass of wine and started swapping stories. She and I had met at an event earlier that year and had wanted to connect since. As she shared her story and the story of her work with a small group of us I was immediately drawn to her heart for others and passion for justice.  She and a friend found and run an NGO called The Sold Project, based in Thailand. Their work is astounding.

Below is a bit of their story in their own words:

How it all Began

In the summer of 2007, a group of 20-somethings journeyed through Thailand with a common mission: to expose the plight of children trapped by prostitution. Previous research brought forth a host of statistics and facts, which demanded further investigation; they needed faces, names, stories, and most of all… answers.

In February 2008 The SOLD Project Rough Cut was screened to friends and family and many people began asking what they could do to help. In response to this question we created the non-profit, The SOLD Project, giving every day Americans an effective way to respond to the situation: prevention.

A second trip in June 2008 completed the footage necessary to create the documentary “The SOLD Project: Thailand” a collection of short films that expose the truth behind child prostitution in Thailand and the hope that exists in prevention.

The film was then screened in 25 different cities in America through The SOLD Project Tour, and countless other cities as individuals purchased the film and hosted screenings in their homes, schools and faith communities.

Who We Are

We are people passionate about preventing child prostitution: our goal is that no child ever be exposed to a life of exploitation. The SOLD Project Scholarship Fund was founded in May 2008 when we learned that many children drop out of school due to poverty and end up in situations of exploitation. We began offering educational scholarships to children at risk of exploitation: partnering up a student with a sponsor [you!].

A year later our scholarship program grew into the more holistic, The FREEDOM Project. The FREEDOM Project is made up of 1) Scholarships 2) Mentorship for every child that is sponsored 3) A resource center for the community and 4) Human Trafficking Awareness Programs at the school starting in every 6-grade classroom to teach the children about the realities of human trafficking and prostitution.

The Sold Project’s Mission is to prevent child prostitution through culturally relevant programs for vulnerable children and to share their stories to empower creative, compassionate people to act.

Rachel and I have connected as women who are passionate, women who are creative, women who love the way of Jesus, women who have a desire to see justice and love given to all. Our friendship has grown as we’ve listened, cried, celebrated and experienced life. Take some time to read their story, check out their work and pray for those at risk and those who are now trapped in the horrific underground world of sex slavery.

Also, take some time to pray for Rachel and her work. You can follow her on Twitter at @raegoble Or Take a moment right now to leave a comment of encouragement or prayers for their work! Let’s share some heart space with Rachel and the life changing work of The Sold Project!

Today I’m irritated because of my gender

women-leadersToday I have been irritated. Almost all day. For me, that in and of itself is enough to drive me crazy as I usually have a somewhat cheery disposition. But today is just not meeting my standards or expectations.

Some days are just like that. I guess today is that for me.

What got me off of the good ship lolly-pop and onto the train of irritation is a bit confounding. I mean six months ago, I wouldn’t have even noticed that which is currently under my skin like ringworm. I was happily naive, but now… well… my eyes are being opened.

I do not fit. I am single and 38. I am female and am gifted for leadership. To dream and scheme with other like minded folk, I usually am the only woman at the table. To have a co-hort in all the dreaming and implementing for  Kingdom good, has been a challenge to say the least. At least for the past few years. It was not until a year and a half ago that I’d ever experienced being on the outs because of my gender. In my previous contexts, I almost got annoyed with how much attention I was paid and how carefully people sought to include me, because of my gender. Now I’m in a context where I’m not a natural part of a circle of dreamers who think to include women.

I feel a bit odd even writing this as fear being labeled a woman’s libber or someone who just isn’t getting her way. Someone who is blaming difficult circumstance on her gender so she can point a finger at someone else. Isn’t that how it always goes? Women who want to be in leadership, should be content doing women’s ministry, working with children or dreaming with other women and those who want something more and are caught in a place of discomfort or exclusion are discontented women who are by their very nature complainers.

I am neither a complainer nor am I discontented by nature. But I am living in a place where I feel as though I must say something about the lack of inclusion to be heard or seen. This irritates me, mostly because it stirs inconvenient emotions and propels me to action that is uncomfortable. I now notice how regularly women are excluded, categorized or dismissed. I have to speak.

Today, I must bring these emotions and irritants to Jesus and ask him to show me what to do with them. I must first seek His wisdom before I react. I must weigh circumstances, words, perspectives and assumptions.  I must face the fact that I am tired of feeling different. I am tired of the reality that my femininity might actually keep me from being invited to the table, from having a voice that is heard, from having the freedom to use my gift mix, from being included in discussions because socially I don’t hang with the guys.

I know that there are women all over the world who desire to be heard. I know at the same time that there are women who have not felt the tension or exclusion of their sisters. I know that this subject creates discomfort. I know that there will be those who read these words and immediately dismiss me. I know that these words may bring tears to some for they too can identify  with this reality.

As I type I feel my irritation being turned toward compassion for those who have suffered greatly for circumstances out their control. We do not always choose our circumstances, but we can always, always choose our response to those circumstances. So tonight I choose hope and belief in a Savior who hears my voice, knows my frame, and prepares a table for me every day.


Coffee and loving people

fair-trade-certifiedI care about people. I actually really really love them, all of them. This can, at times, get me into trouble, or at least make life a tad inconvenient. Today I have been doing some research on buying fair trade products for an event I’ll be helping with later next month. When fair trade became a word more commonly known, I thought it was a left wing, hippy conspiracy that was just tricking people to spend more for the products they love. I didn’t understand what the driving was behind fair trade. I wasn’t informed and at the time, social justice was not something evangelicals cared about. Social justice was for those who didn’t care about the gospel and only wanted to do good and make life comfortable in the here and now. My assumption was that those who cared about social justice did not care about eternity and did not care about gospel. Boy, was I wrong!

Several years ago I was part of a team of people who were writing curriculum on a Kingdom response to Social Justice issues. I was given a module focusing on the idea of a Kingdom and our buying practices. At first I thought to myself, “why was I asked to help with this? I don’t know anything about why it matters what we buy?” I began my research and the more I studied, the more I understood why this topic ended up with me. My buying practices matter, because I love people. My buying practices matter, because of the gospel.

Working on this particular writing project was a part of my conversion. I grew belief in a new area. I understood a deeper reality of the gospel. The gospel, the whole gospel cares about whole people. The gospel sets people free, in eternity now and in eternity to come.  The gospel binds up the broken hearted. The gospel makes beauty from ashes. The gospel does not wish one well and walk away.  The gospel saves. The gospel loves. Buying fair trade matters because of the gospel. Caring about the fair treatment of people matters because of the gospel. Choosing to steward my money, matters, beyond frugality, because of the gospel.

So, today, as I was researching chocolate, coffee, tea and wine I was finding myself growing impatient with the process and wondered if I could justify spending more for products that I could easily buy for much less. Then, I was reminded of the gospel. I was reminded that as one who stewards that which I’ve been given, by a King who loves people, I can not only justify the extra, but it is just for me to do so.

Sometimes, loving people is costly in unexpected ways.

How have you experienced love at the cost of someone else?

Check out Trade As One and Westrock Coffee for great finds on fair trade products.


The forgotten art of the table

I have a friend who dreams of a table. It is long and could fit many around it. She dreams of the conversations and moments that could take place around it’s edges and the memories it could hold as it sits awaiting people to come and sit and be.

In Scripture the table is always a metaphor for blessing. We experience God setting a table before us in the presence of our enemies in Psalm 23. And Jesus washes the disciples feet as they recline at the table. So many great conversations and moments take place around a table. Who knew a slab of wood and four legs could be the conduit for so much beauty.

I love to host dinner parties. I see amazing things take place when people break bread together. A friend of mine was once angry with me as I was so frustrated with my inability to do more and invite more people over to the house. She said sternly, “you can’t save the world around your kitchen table!” I told her then and when we speak of that moment she agrees with me now, that most definitely the world can be transformed around a dinner table. It is a sacred place. A place where magic happens, stories are told and lives are transformed.

If I had to summarize much of the beauty of the last year, I’d have to say it was found at the table. I’ve sat with strangers and friends old and new as we’ve exchanged stories and lives at the table.

The table is a very human place to find ourselves. It is a place of common ground and common experience and in a world where common experience is too often had virtually, the table, for me has become even more sacred. It has become a place where human meets human as we share in a very human act to eat. We break bread, share wine and speak of life around the table. We pause to notice story and to tell it. The air is filled with the emotion of humanity and it is powerful.

As many have forgotten their kitchen and dining room tables to sit around the family room with the TV on, we once again short change one another. We dehumanize one another as though we are saying, subtly though it be, that our stories are not worth hearing or sharing.

If you’ve covered your table, if you don’t have one, if you’ve not used it or it’s become a place for laundry, mail and other items, go clean it off and invite over 5 friends and change the world! Their stories await being told!!!

There was no one at her funeral: In memory of Mercedes

I live downtown and as a result I’ve been able to get to know several of the people who live there. A few months back I became friends with a family of sorts who lived on the sidewalk, on the corner of 15th and Island. We shared meals, lives, books and discussed difficulties, dreams, hopes and stories of the past. It was there I met Mercedes.

She was a rough woman. She didn’t make wise choices. She often made mistakes. She was often found with the wrong crowd and she was quite disenfranchised. Her life didn’t tell the story of comfort, purity and blessing. Instead her life told the story of difficulty, loss, suffering, pain, escape through drugs, and sex. I don’t know that her life knew much of joy, love, peace and freedom. I longed for her to know Jesus and to experience the life saving redemption he has to offer.

Sunday I found out the news that her body had been found in a local park.  Her life had been brutally taken from her. There was not a word spoken by the media of the events that had taken place. I found out a few days after the fact from a mutual friend. Her family isn’t going to host a funeral or memorial and her life will pass away from this earth without much evidence of her having been here.

The news of her life being stripped from her in such an awful way is tragic and really hard to swallow. A loss of life worth more than a million tears, and I’ve cried them. Those who took time to know her name have cried them. Those who called her “family” on the streets have cried them.

The thing that I just can’t get past is the fact that her life has ended without the recognition of her life existing. How does one leave the earth without being noticed? How does one loose their life in such a brutal fashion without a family to grieve, get angry and seek justice.

Justice comes from being seen, loved and remembered. Over 50 homeless people have been murdered this year in San Diego. I’ve not heard one of their stories on the news. People are starving in North Korea and I don’t hear about their stories. Millions of girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation and the stories of their lives in many American cities are rarely told.

Mercedes needed someone to love her while she was here. Mercedes now needs someone to remember her life, tell her story and seek justice. Her story speaks for all of those we don’t remember. Her death is a reminder that every life is worth a million tears, love, justice and mercy. I pray you’ll cry for Mercedes and that you’ll pass on her story and the stories of others who have been forgotten. Let’s start of movement of love, expressed in seeing, remembering, and giving of ourselves.

Please share a story of a people group, person or issue that you care about to help us remember today. I think Mercedes would be happy with her life inspiring others to love well and remember the forgotten