Is Understanding a Two-Way Street?

It’s often said that “understanding” is a two-way street. I certainly agree that if we all tried to understand one another, the world would be a better place. Since we all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and personalities, increasing our level of understanding could put an end to much of the strife and arguing we see on a daily basis.


However, what I’ve come to find is that this assertion ends up being the demise of many relationships. How many times have you heard the following?

“He doesn’t understand me.”

“No one understands me.”

“They just don’t understand.”

Understanding is a two-way street in a perfect world, but our world is far from perfect.

Oftentimes we expect others to make the first move in order for us to, in turn, make any effort at all.

“If she would have been nice to me, I would have been nice to her.”

“If he listens to me, then I’ll listen to him.”

“If they treat me right, then I’ll treat them right.”

And so when one party doesn’t live up to a standard or expectation, the whole thing falls apart. This mentality isn’t biblical at all. And it’s not helping bring peace to our society, which is often plagued by racial, social, and political tension.

Believers are called to a higher standard.

It’s up to you and it’s up to me, individually, to step out in love, compassion, kindness, and understanding—regardless of what the other person or group does.

Romans 12:18 says, “…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

And of course there is the famous Golden Rule, which should guide our heart and all our actions:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Matthew 7:12).

I have found that a few amazing things happen when I really try to understand someone else’s point of view by asking questions and listening:

1.) When a person senses my motives are genuine, it makes them feel good to be heard and know someone is trying to understand. Their guard comes down a bit.

2.) They share and are able to be honest about their feelings, experiences, and opinions with me.

3.) Suddenly, I begin to change. My preconceived notions become challenged. Where I was previously oblivious or ignorant, a light comes on. I begin to understand their point of view. I may not always agree but am usually at least able to understand where he or she is coming from. Now we have common ground. And common ground is where love and compassion can be cultivated.


This does not happen in every single situation or conversation I find myself in. Sometimes, it seems a person has no interest in understanding where I’m coming. Or I explain my thoughts and ideas to the best of my ability and still get misunderstood. And that’s okay.

I realized recently that no one understood, Jesus.

He said strange things, and He behaved in ways that were contrary to cultural and religious norms. His own disciples didn’t understand Him half the time and often asked Him to explain Himself.

“The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:34).

But Jesus didn’t ask to be understood first. He was doing the Father’s will. He crossed the bridge over to us—despite our lack of understanding and despite our shortcomings. He kept on reaching out to others in love, compassion, grace, and truth. God became man so that He could understand our pain first hand. So that He could overcome sin and show us the way.

And guess what! No one returned the favor of understanding…to the degree that they rejected Him and hung Him on a cross.

He knew that of course. And He died anyway, because He loves us. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Let us follow our Lord’s example by attempting to understand other’s points of view and their experiences. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes is called compassion. It’s one of the highest forms of love. And it’s literally what Christ did when He became man to save us from ourselves.

Originally posted on

The Missing Voice in the Human Rights Battle: A Case for Innocence

A few months ago, I read an article in New York Magazine about an African American transgender woman whose face graced Clairol hair dye boxes for many years. Tracey “Africa” Norman was also a model for Vogue, Essence, and Avon. Hardly anyone knew she was in fact born a male. For many years she concealed this truth.

Tracy Africa Norman

The NY Mag article was a long, in-depth, and well-written one that gave readers an inside look into Norman’s incredible life and career. It opened with the line,

“Tracey ‘Africa’ Norman always knew that the question wasn’t if she’d be found out, but how long she could go undetected.”

I couldn’t imagine having to live life this way. Being born biologically male and feeling as though I was a woman. Living as a woman, and then having to hide this from everyone, in fear of my truth being detected one day. Especially in an industry where the norm is to undress and dress in front of fellow models, fashion designers, and photographers. I empathized with Norman and grieved for the great turmoil she must have felt her entire existence.

As expected, the comments section at the end of the article was filled with praise:

“Amazing!” “Inspiring!” “Wonderful!” “Thank you for your candor and bravery!”

One person mentioned other comments from “bigots and racists” but NY Mag moderators must have deleted those because I could not find any.

What no one talked about, however, was a heartbreaking admission halfway through the article:

Her first sexual experience was at age 5, when she was molested by a teenage boy who lived down the street. “I didn’t mind,” says Norman. “I went back a few times. I was very young. I didn’t know any better.” What bothered her more was finding out that a friend of the boy’s was hiding in the closet, watching. “I got mad because I thought it was personal,” she says. “That’s when I first got my experience of being called a f**.” But the insult didn’t exactly register with her. “In my head I was straight and I only liked men.” And in her head, she was a woman.

Let’s read that again, in case you skipped over it like everyone else seemed to: Her first sexual experience was at the age of five, when she was molested by a teenage boy who lived down the street.

Innocence lost. At the tender age of five.

I felt a pang in my heart. This hurt and sadness quickly turned into shock and disbelief that no one was talking about this. It was mentioned and the article moved right along, as did everyone else who read it.

I wanted to scream.

Nearly six months after I first saw the article on NY Mag’s website in December 2015, I haven’t forgotten about Norman. While others marveled about her amazing career, beauty, and the overcoming the odds as a black transgender woman, what I couldn’t get over was a child who had been taken advantage of and abused.

Let me be clear. My thesis today is not surmising what makes a person transgender. I opened with Norman’s story because her disclosure of abuse—and the lack of reaction to it by readers—demonstrates how we as a society have become completely calloused regarding the sanctity of a child’s innocence.

Why am I taking this so personally?

For one, my son is seven years old. He knows absolutely ZERO about anything sexual. We don’t do sleepovers. We are diligent about protecting him from the onslaught of sexual images and messages on the TV, movies, commercials, magazines, and billboards. We don’t just consume whatever the movie and marketing industries throw our way. Just a few days ago, we were driving down an industrial street and I spotted a huge billboard for a strip club about a quarter of a mile in the distance—displaying a scantily clan woman (to put it the least descriptive way I know how).

I turned to the backseat and said to my boy, “Son, close your eyes! Don’t open them until I tell you.”

He complied and said, “Why, Mommy? Why?”

“Trust Mommy and I,” my husband chimed in from the driver’s seat.

After we passed by the strip club, a half hour discussion ensued. “There was something that was not good for our eyes and our soul,” I said. When he pressed further, I explained, “There was a picture of a woman who needed her privacy, honey.”  We talked about, as we have many times before, images and things that are not good for our mind and spirit, and how Mommy and Daddy’s job is to protect and teach him to make good decisions about these things as he gets older.

I don’t have time in this post to explain how and why we do this, but if you are interested here and here are terrific articles that expound a little more on the subject.

If you would like to criticize me for being overprotective, you can talk to me when we live in a world where boys/men don’t rape and hurt girls/women. Until then, I will continue working hard to raise a son who honors, respects, and protects women—an uphill battle in this confused, hypersexualized culture.

Going back to Norman’s admission of being molested in the article, I thought about how I would feel about this being my own son, who was five just two short years ago. My son was even more innocent than he is now. It would rip my heart to shreds! I would feel this way about this happening to ANY child.

What Happened to My Mother…

I think a major reason why I’m passionate about the loss of innocence is because I remember vividly the day my mother told me she had been physically and sexually abused by her own father from ages 10 to 15. We were parked in front of a therapist’s office, waiting to go in and have a group session with her (it’s the only one I recall) and she shared this sad news with my older sister and me. I must have been eight or nine at the time. We were out of our seat belts, still in the car, standing behind the driver’s seat where she sat. We wrapped around arms around our mother’s neck and sobbed.

I did not fully understand the extent of the abuse at that young age, though she explained more to me as I became an adult. I just know I felt a huge sense of loss and sadness that something so terrible had happened to my mom. Especially when she was only a couple of years older than I was at the time—and at the hands of someone who was supposed to take care of and protect her.


[Photo by Kiran Foster on Flickr]

My maternal grandmother passed away in her 40’s when my mom was just a child, leaving my mom’s biological father to raise eight children, one of whom had special needs. So my mom’s father, who had already been physically abusive, moved down the line from her oldest sister and finally to her with unimaginable sexual abuse.

Even now, with children of my own, I look at what my mom went through with new eyes—and deeper sorrow.

I imagine her as young girl who just lost her mother, and how horrific it must have been for her to be raped by her father. And to be silent from ages 10-15 until one of her sisters finally told someone at school what was happening to them, and their father was finally arrested and put in prison.

I wish I could go back in time and rescue her—or at least to send a message to her teachers, her friends, that something was not right in her home and that they should check it out. But I can’t. It’s an awful feeling to have. But thankfully, God is bigger than sin, crime, and tragedy. Despite everything that happened to her, my mom believed God was always watching over her, protecting her from death. And since this happened to her, my mom was fiercely protective of my sister’s and me when we were growing up. She is strong. She doesn’t put up with anything. She was a single mom and had boyfriends throughout the years, but we always knew that we most important to her. She told us no man was ever allowed to lay a hand on us. We always knew if that anyone had ever hurt us, we could tell her. She would believe us. And she would fight for us. We knew because she told us. Often.

My mother always made sure we knew we had a voice. Thank God for this! Sadly, a devastating number of children are not so fortunate.

Secrets of the Voiceless…

Somehow in this debate about transgender bathrooms, with President Obama issuing “guidelines” for all public schools nationwide to follow—or risk losing federal funding—the voice of children has been lost. The voice of adults who suffered trauma and sexual abuse as children—like the women in this video—has been ignored.


[Photo by Wassim Loumi on Flickr]

In the New York Magazine article, Norman said he “didn’t mind” being molested at age five, but that he “didn’t know any better.” So I infer from this that he didn’t tell anyone at the time. The secret was kept safe. He remained silent.

Then at age six, Norman’s father—who had tried to make him less effeminate by getting him boxing gloves and hitting him on the side of the head—left the home.

How can we ever know the devastating consequences of innocence violated and innocence lost?

Isn’t the innocence of a child something sacred?

Could it be that we, as adults—in all our cynicism, corruption, and tendency to sexualize everything—have forgotten this altogether?

I believe most people agree that children should be protected, and yet the actions of our culture betray this belief. Many think it’s funny when a movie shows a child swearing like a grownup in a Martin Scorsese film. We don’t bat an eye when children’s fashion is aimed at sexualizing young girls more and more. Through television, movies, even cartoons and video games, and easily accessible pornography on the internet, children are being exposed to sexually explicit content at an earlier and earlier age. What’s worse, children are being abused at a younger age. (I have stumbled across several articles over the years that made me want to vomit and wish that I had never read them in the first place.)

We pride ourselves in being so “evolved” as a society, but we still haven’t found a way to protect children from abuse. We make sex education a priority in school, but we don’t educate children in school about what inappropriate touch is and what to do if someone abuses them. We’re so quick to say that is a parent’s job, but we have crossed the line so many times in the school system. It’s a double standard. It doesn’t make sense. Why not make sure that every child knows he or she is valuable, important, has a voice, and shouldn’t be abused or exploited?

Instead, heartbreaking statistics remain unchanged due to our ignorance and inaction:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

We ignore the approximate 600,000 victims of sex trafficking in the United States alone. People who are literally someone else’s slaves. Who have no basic human rights at all. But we’ve skipped them and moved on to free people’s rights of sexual and gender expression.

Inclusion Over Safety?

So how do all these frustrations and thoughts I have been struggling with relate to the transgender bathroom debate?  I acknowledge that transgender individuals are not the threat. They have probably been using the bathroom for the sex with which they identify for as long as public restrooms have existed. Some say this has only become a problem because people tried to legislate this issue. It has now become the policy of businesses like Target and our national public education system—as President Obama just a few days ago issued a decree for all public schools nationwide to allow students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.


[Photo by Sylvar on Flickr]

“Citing Title IX, the letter [signed by officials from the Departments of Justice and Education] says the school should not require a medical diagnosis, nor should they demand documentation reflecting the student’s gender identity before taking steps to protect transgender students – ‘even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections.’”

Why is this kind of bonkers?

For one, when my mom remarried when I was nine years old, I began writing my stepdad’s last name as my name on all my schoolwork. He was my dad. Plain and simple. I was now a “Villegas.” Or, so I thought. One day my teacher asked me why I was writing a different last name on my papers. She was aware my mom had gotten married, and asked if my stepdad had legally adopted me and if my name had been legally changed. The answers to those questions was “no,” so I had to go back to writing my legal last name on my schoolwork. As a fourth grader, I couldn’t change my last name without going through the proper channels, but if I was a fourth grader today and wanted to change my gender, I could do so without any medical diagnosis or documentation. Amazing.

Second and more important, a policy is being enforced with ZERO way to weed out those who are disingenuous and those who mean harm. We are opening a door with no way to PROTECT children. Many of whom are growing up in broken homes, in sometimes horrific circumstances…many of whom have been sexualized or exposed to pornography at a young age… many of whom have been abused…many of whom may be in the foster care system…many of whom may have been rescued from violent or war-torn countries through international adoption—who are surrounded by confusing circumstances in a culture that refuses to protect them or draw a line in sand.

The letter from the Obama Administration’s Departments of Justice and Education stated,

“As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex,” the letter says.

Whether transgender individuals having to use a bathroom opposite of the sex he or she may identify with constitutes discrimination—and the constitutional role and boundaries of the executive branch of our government—is a whole other topic for another day.

What’s important to discuss today is that this issue has been vastly oversimplified and framed as “inclusion” and “human rights.” Opponents are just “uncomfortable,” or worse, characterized as bigots and haters.

Many of us have LGBT friends or family members and we love them. We don’t want them to feel excluded. We would not want to feel excluded if we were in their position. But what many fail to see is that however simple something might seem, there are always deeper issues and ramifications.

So we have to ask ourselves these questions:

Does the need for inclusion trump the need for safety? 

Is an inclusion policy worthwhile if it opens the door for perpetrators to harm women and children? 

Is inclusion worthwhile if no guarantees can be made to protect our most vulnerable members of society?

Here are three examples in TorontoChicago, and Seattle where this new course has already taken a disturbing turn. People say it’s never been a problem before, but we’ve never had this mandate before either.

We don’t live in a utopia where everyone follows the rules and does what’s right.

Jared from Subway is a horrific case in point where a consumption of child pornography gave way to a desire to exploit and violate children not just in front of a computer screen, but in person. It’s terrible but it’s true.

Bad guys find loopholes and vulnerable places to target victims, and I think we may have just kicked the door open for them.

What We Can Learn from the LGBT Movement

What if child rights and abuse victim advocates had been as strategic at coming out into the light, mobilizing, and advancing their cause in politics and media as the LGBT movement has been in the last 30-40 years?

How different would the world be today?

How different would we look at the bathroom/locker room/privacy issue of our time?

Instead, secrets are kept to allow abusers to continue to abuse. As Norman said, children “don’t know any better.” So they become manipulated, taken advantage of, confused. Secrets are kept to hide the victim’s shame with each passing year.

They walk around like you and me—all the while carrying an awful secret. A secret the adults in their life often fail to discover until it is too late, as in the case of Norman and my mother. A secret that parents and the school system fail to help guard against through education about improper touch and what to do if victimized.  So these victims become silent sufferers—save for the small percentage who find their voice to pursue prosecution and fight for the rights of other victims.

Oh, and children don’t vote, so it seems few lawmakers are concerned about enforcing laws to protect them.

Yet look at what the first sentence of the Preamble to our Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…”

ALL members of the human family have inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights—including those who struggle with their gender identity and including women and children. We have to find a solution to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. And as it stands, this open door bathroom policy fails to do that.

Maybe it’s time for survivors of child abuse and their advocates to rise up. To come out into the light. To somehow garner the courage to stand up and speak out. To let their voices be heard, so that lawmakers and the rest of us begin to take their rights into consideration.

***Here are two great resources on how to talk to your child about sexual abuse, how to protect them, and how to respond if abuse has occurred:

Five Steps to Protecting Children for Abuse

Body Safety Rules for Children

If I Could Say Anything to Ronda Rousey after Her Interview with Ellen

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 9.54.03 PM

Ronda Rousey, sometimes in life we need the Truth to combat the lies. I watched the clip of your interview today on the Ellen show about your UFC loss to Holly Holm, and I was  moved by your vulnerability. I wished I could tell you some things that stood out in my mind and heart, so I decided to write them down:

You asked, “Who am I anymore if I’m not this?” You are loved by God—the creator of the heavens and the earth, who is mighty to save.

You are more than a UFC fighter, a “winner,” or Travis Browne’s girlfriend or future mother of his children (as you referenced in the interview with Ellen).  You are treasured by God and that is the best, highest identity one could ever dream to have.

After your loss to Holly Holm, you said to yourself, “I am nothing” and contemplated suicide. But your worth to God was the cost of His one and only Son.

You said, “No one gives a s*** about me anymore.” But your approval should not come from man, but from the One who made you, loves you, and wants to redeem you.

You wondered, “What is my purpose any more?” No, it is not just to show people what it looks like to dust yourself off, win another fight, score more endorsements, hold a title, and make more money. To believe that is not to dream BIG enough. Because that soul of yours, which dwells within your chiseled body, was made for so much MORE. It was made for a connection and an intimate relationship with the one true God through His beautiful Son Jesus. Who loves you and gave Himself up for you. Who died for your sins that you could be saved.

So that you would become a victor, not only of physical fights that are inconsequential in the grand scheme of eternity, but also a victor in the spiritual realm. That if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved, and you will be given the crown of Life that no one can take away from you.

God bless you.

You are loved.

(First published on my website

10 reasons why Adele might actually be a sorceress

Today while driving to a holiday gathering with my family, Adele’s “Hello” came on the radio. I said to my husband, “Quick, change it so this song isn’t stuck in my head for the next eight days.” Two somber piano notes later, Adele utters her first, “Hello,” and my husband says, “Too late.” He laughs at me and we proceed to listen to the entire song.

Once the ballad was over and we were released from the four minutes of sadness that gripped our souls, I had an epiphany. Adele just might be a magical sorceress.

She might be a witch, people.

There’s no other logical explanation for the way she has us all under her spell. Here are 10 reasons why I have come to this conclusion:

1. Her spooky beautiful eyes. I mean look at them. Wait, don’t. If you do, you will be under her spell faster than you can say, “Medusa.”


2. Her sharp witchy nails – Seriously, who files their nails into sharp points unless you need them to pluck out eye of newt for the magic potion in your black cauldron?

Adele nails 2

3. That otherworldly voice. She must have struck a deal with you-know-who in order to have a voice that amazing. Just sayin.

Adele singing

4. Her influence over emotions. Those gloomy lyrics immediately send you into a depressed reflective state, reminiscing about past loves and mistakes. One minute you’re washing the dishes; the next minute you’re in a heap on the floor, sobbing into a wad of tissues.


[I can’t even. Photo by erizof on Flickr]

5. She loves to wear black. Like Maleficent, Elphaba, Yzma, and the Evil Queen, Adele knows her best color is powerful, slimming, and totally vintage. (I ain’t mad at ya, Adele! I’m all about the black-and-white combo, à la Cruella Deville and Beetlejuice.)


[Ohhh that Yzma!]

6. Her control of the weather. While we were driving and “Hello” came on, it literally started raining. Hubby said, “Look, Adele’s lyrics are so sad, she made it rain!”


[Actual photo I took when it began to rain.]

7. Her charm. When she speaks in interviews and when she laughs with that adorable burst of laughter you want to be her best friend. Admit it, when she was on Jimmy Fallon last month you tried to plot a way for you and Adele to casually cross paths so you could eventually become BFF.

adele and jimmy

[Photo by Douglas Gorenstein/NBC]

8. She puts a spell on people from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a middle-aged Asian man who owns a dry cleaning business (like my husband’s good friend — true story) or a twenty-something with too many breakups under her belt, Adele’s music will enchant you—and there’s nothing you can do about it.

9. She makes you shell out money you don’t have. Like a Ursula the sea witch charging naïve Ariel way too high a price, Adele will cause you to spend your child’s college tuition on a ticket in the nosebleed section of her concert…or at least drop the cost of several Starbucks lattes on her album.


[Photo by Jessica on Flickr]

10. Hello? Need I even mention how her music pierces your heart? Anyone in earshot of her siren song is instantly captivated and put in a trance-like state of deep reflection and regret. Her haunting lyrics get stuck in your head for months.

In summary, if Adele had a house made out of candy in the forest, and you knew full well that entering that home would most likely end in your demise, you wouldn’t even care. You would wander into that house anyway gobble up her treacherous array of melancholy treats. So run in the opposite direction before it’s too late. As for me, I’m going to turn on her album now and have a good cry.

Why Do I Care More about Paris than Beirut and Nigeria?

It was November 13 and I had just gotten off the phone with my mom to wish her a happy birthday. We talked about our trip to Paris next year and how much we were looking forward to it. My mother is a hard working payroll specialist and hasn’t gotten to travel a whole lot in her lifetime. Paris has been on Mom’s “bucket list” for as long as she could remember, and she finally decided she was going to go. Naturally, my sister and I decided to tag along.😉

The Eiffel Tower, Paris

[Photo: public domain.]

An hour later, I received a call from a friend who told me to turn on the news. I don’t have cable, so while I fumbled to pull up on my Smart Phone, she told me what happened in Paris. Suicide bombers. Several locations. At least a hundred people dead.

(Eerily, this echoed how I found out about the September 11th attacks. I was getting ready to leave my apartment for class at SDSU when a friend called me and said, “You need to turn on the news…NOW.”)

I was stunned by what my friend was saying, and what I was reading, about Paris.

I wondered, How could this happen? How could people be filled with so much hatred? These poor victims and their families. I hope they catch the terrorist group behind this and take them down!

My heart was so grieved that people went about their day — attending a concert or enjoying a meal with loved ones — and had no idea their lives would end or change forever.

I scrolled through my social media feed, and no one had posted anything yet. It had only been a couple of hours, but no one was talking about this tragedy yet. So I posted “PRAY FOR PARIS” on my Facebook page. I prayed throughout the day and in the days to come for this beautiful city and its people.

The next day, floods of people had changed their Facebook profile pictures to be overlaid with France’s flag.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 2.21.43 PM

[Photo: – Mark Zuckerberg.]

Encouraged by the outpouring of love and solidarity, I almost changed my profile photo too, until I heard about what happened in Beirut (it’s in Lebanon…don’t feel bad if you didn’t know; I didn’t either) about three days late.

Two suicide bombers killed 43 people the day before the Paris attack. Interestingly, Beirut used to be called “the Paris of the Middle East” after its independence and before its civil war.


[Beirut: From above it looks like any other beautiful vacation destination. Photo by Akaash Maharaj on]

Someone told me these attacks are par for the course in the Middle East. That they happen so often that they just don’t make the news any more. And we’ve just accepted this??

One journalist argued that it’s okay if if we care more about the Paris attacks than the Beirut bombings.

I’m sorry. No.

Today I found out about two girls, ages 11 and 18, who blew themselves up in two different marketplaces in Nigeria during peak trading hours. It was most likely coordinated by the terrorist group Boko Haram. This happened two days ago.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 2.30.27 PM

A friend told me a “Pray for Nigeria” hashtag was circulating. Haven’t seen it.

Let me be real transparent with you for a minute. In light of all these terrible events in recent days, I’m tempted to care more about the Paris tragedy than these other tragedies…and I have to ask myself, Why? Is it because France is so similar to the U.S. it its freedom and way of life, and I can therefore relate to its people better? Do I love Paris because of what Paris offers me (i.e. vacation destination, beautiful sights, sounds, foods, experiences, luxury)?

Shouldn’t I love Beirut and Nigeria and Syria just the same, even though I have no plans to visit? Even though these countries seemingly have nothing to offer me?

Yes, as many have pointed out, we love France because she is one of our oldest allies. We should love France! But isn’t greater love caring for someone who can do nothing for you in return? As Coach John Wooden once said, “You can’t live a perfect day unless you do something for someone else who will never be able to repay you.” Or better yet, as Jesus said:

When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14

Of course I love and care about ALL people. All tragedy is tragedy. And I think it’s okay to point out a discrepancy in news and social media coverage from one incident versus another. Each involve the senseless killings of our fellow man. Each involves actual mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends who are hurt or grieving.

All people matter, no matter what their country has to offer us.

Here are some great ideas on how you can make a difference in light of these tragedies around the world:

Donate to the French Red Cross.

Support agencies that help the Syrian refugees like Samaritan’s Purse and Save the Children.

Help women and girls rescued in Nigeria through several different organizations.


The 1 Thing Missing from the First 5 App

I love me some Lysa Terkeurst. She is a terrific writer with a heart for women of faith. I love the encouraging emails that come from Proverbs 31 Ministries, which she founded. I have one of her books. I have listened to her on a couple of online summits and videos and came away greatly inspired.

I so admire what she’s doing and the media platform she has built that is impacting so many women in America. Her most recent endeavor is called the First 5 App. I am just one of 500,000 people who have downloaded the app in just a few months. (That’s an awesome thing to celebrate!) I find myself blessed by it every morning.


In case you are not familiar with the First 5 App, you download it to your phone and set an alarm for the time that you wake up in the morning. Then it basically hijacks your phone—as soon as you wake up to that alarm, the app opens up with the short daily devotional on display. There is a beautiful image with an inspiring quote at the top. And you can share that quote on social media.

It’s a brilliant idea and perfect for me, as I was becoming frustrated with myself for letting my emails or Facebook or Twitter or become the first thing I would look at in the morning. And as Lysa says, the first things you set your mind on in the morning often set the tone for the rest of your day.

But I noticed there is one thing missing from the First 5 App.

Each time I read a devotional, I scroll down to see the author and read their short bio or afterthoughts. And I never see anyone who looks like me. Someone with, um… how do I say this? …A little extra melanin in their skin.

So I went to the First 5 website to see who all the contributors of the devotionals might be. There are five beautiful, wonderful, godly women besides Lysa who have written the daily devotionals. And they are all Caucasian.  So are the women on the team for her personal brand.

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[Photo: Lysa Terkeust website.]

Why is this a problem? What’s the big deal?

First let me say that I really hesitated to share my heart on this matter for fear of coming off as envious or critical. That’s not my heart at all. Lysa’s ministries are encouraging so many women, myself included, and I praise God for that! I know that Lysa loves ALL women and people of color. She adopted two teenage boys from Liberia, and I love how she took two years off contributing to Proverbs 31 so she could concentrate on her growing family.

So with that established, I wanted to share as lovingly as possible, why it matters that when I scroll down after reading a First 5 devotional I’d like to see someone who is brown like me—Latina, African American, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern. Anything. Any other culture.


Lysa has a huge platform with millions of followers. I know she has spent years pouring into Proverbs 31 Ministries out of a heart for encouraging women through God’s Word.

Her tagline is “Leading Women in the Adventure of Faith.” Since I presume that means all women, she has positioned herself as a leading figure or authority in women’s ministry.

If a ministry is to be diverse, it starts from the top—as the pastor of my church, Dudley Rutherford, has said many times. He has a huge heart for diversity and leads one of the most racially diverse churches in America.

Granted, we live in Los Angeles, which is melting pot of cultures. But Pastor Dudley asserts that it doesn’t matter where a church or ministry is planted. If the pastor of that church truly wants the church to be diverse, it will be.

But one has to be intentional.

Pastor Dudley admits that from the moment someone steps onto the parking lot of Shepherd Church, he wants people to see other people who look like them—at every level of leadership. From the ushers and greeters, to the entire worship team, to the board of elders, to the men and women who preach on stage. He wants every race represented.

I have never been to North Carolina, where Proverbs 31 Ministries is located, so I’ve never gotten to see the racial demographic there. But it seems unlikely that there is not one woman of color living in North Carolina with a gift of writing and a Christlike perspective that can be invited to contribute to either the leadership team of Proverbs 31 or the First 5 App.

…it seems unlikely that there is not one woman of color living in North Carolina with a gift of writing and a Christlike perspective that can be invited to contribute to either the leadership team of Proverbs 31 or the First 5 App.


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I can tell you from firsthand experience that it is such a blessing to have friends of many different races and ethnicity. To learn from them. To understand where they are coming from. To appreciate the beauty and perspective they offer.


It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been in these shoes, but there’s just a feeling of welcoming that comes over a person when they go into a place (either in person or online) and they see someone like them. Our entire world is diverse, so our ministries should be as well. More important, Heaven is going to be rich in diversity! My pastor always points out Revelation 7:9, which says,

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”

Oh how glorious that day will be! This shows me that God appreciates diversity. After all, He is the Creator of such beauty and variety.

Yes, we are all united in Christ. He breaks down all barriers as evidenced by His compassionate treatment of the Samaritan woman (John 4) and so many others. Yes, we are all one in Christ, as Paul asserted in Galatians 3:28. But I’m just saying there’s an undeniable feeling of welcoming, acceptance, and relatability that comes when you know someone has been where you were or has had similar cultural or socioeconomic experiences as you have.


A Proverbs 31 woman can be any race or ethnicity. I believe strongly that we should be encouraging ALL women to join Christian leadership—to share their perspective and gifts with others. Sometimes when I look at the most prominent women in ministry (i.e. Christian authors and speakers) and I see that so many of them are Caucasian, it makes me wonder if there is room for someone like me at the table. I also wonder if other young women feel the same way?


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Then the Holy Spirit reassures me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in Christ! God has made me with a unique background and has given me gifts to offer women to bless and encourage them. I hope if you are reading this today, you know that you are too! The Lord will bring your experience, race, cultural heritage, and point of view together to help others when you pray and ask Him to lead.

There is so much good we can get from the First 5 App. I’ve recommended it to friends and on social media. And like I said, I’m blessed by it every day. But if I could provide feedback, like one would be able to with any product, I would share this: If there was ever to be a 2.0 version of the app, please think of the women with a little extra melanin in their skin. You never know whom you might encourage to be a leader of tomorrow.


UPDATE: I sent my blog to the email address that First 5 provides for help, and received this response on 10.26.2015:

Thanks so much, Angie!
I have passed along your words to our team. While we do have members of the Proverbs 31 staff and speaking and writing teams who are African American, we do not have any who regularly contribute to First 5. This was not intentional, but was based on those who had a desire to write for the First 5 app. We are certainly open to expanding our writing team in the future.

Christians in the Gun Fight: 5 thoughts on our Constitutional rights vs. Biblical calling

Is it possible for a person to be pulled in more directions politically than as a mixed race Christian woman living in a left leaning state?

I’m supposed to be Democrat because I’m a woman. I’m supposed to be a Republican because I’m a Christian. Wait, no, I’m supposed to be a Democrat because I’m a minority. But I should be a Republican because I have an entrepreneurial spirit and believe in the American Dream. I should be a Democrat because Republicans only care about the rich. No, I should be an independent because both of the major political parties are all about power and long-steeped ideologies that are proven not to work. I shouldn’t be an independent because it would split the vote and ensure the victory of one of the main parties.

Sometimes it is all so very confusing, and I feel like I don’t belong at all.

And then I’m reminded that I don’t.

Ultimately, I don’t belong here in this world with its confusion and its mixed messages and its wayward culture, because, as believers:

…our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Philippians 2:20

Christians stand in that awkward position of dual citizenship. We are living here on earth, but really we belong to God in Heaven. I guess it’s probably more accurate to say that we are citizens of heaven visiting this world with an earthly passport. Our main allegiance is to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s why I find it so odd whenever I see some (not all) American Christians defending the Second Amendment—the right to bear arms—so vocally and tenaciously. Should we involve ourselves in the fight for guns at all?


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Please hear me. I LOVE our country and I LOVE our Constitution. I’m so thankful for the wisdom written into the supreme document of our land by our founding fathers. I’m NOT against the Second Amendment. I understand that it was established in order to ensure the security of free State and to protect its citizens against tyranny.

But sometimes I think some Christians cherish the Constitution of the United States of America more than we might cherish the Holy Word of God, the Bible. Sometimes we prioritize our rights as citizens of this amazing country over our calling as believers in Christ. I get it, because I struggle with that too! If my family was threatened, I truly cannot say whether or not I wouldn’t go into full “Mama Bear” mode on somebody.

However, when I go back to the Scriptures to ultimately guide me in this never ending debate about gun control, I’m confronted with Jesus and who He was and what He taught, and I’ve come to five conclusions:

1. JESUS SAID “FOLLOW ME” – Almost a dozen times in the New Testament, Jesus tells people He just met, “Follow Me.” Where was He going? It wasn’t to the gun show, folks. He was going to sacrifice His life for all of mankind. The Synoptic Gospels tell us Jesus predicted His death three times.

In Mark 8:32 we read, “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

He said in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” So where does Jesus want those who believe in Him to follow Him? We are to follow the example He set when He was here on earth, which includes following Him to the death.

2. HE ALSO SAID, “DON’T BE AFRAID” – I think part of our motivation for bearing arms is to protect our possessions, our life, and the lives of our family. We are afraid of losing what is important to us. But we find these words of Jesus in all four Gospels: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”


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Jesus also told us not to fear. He said in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Frankly, I have a hard time imagining Jesus saying, “Yes, My children, get your guns and take out anyone who threatens you. Get the bad guys before they get you!”

3. JESUS CALLED US HIS SHEEP – The Bible references sheep 200 times, and lambs almost the same amount. In John 10:11, Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd and that we are His sheep who hear His voice. In John 21:15-17 He instructs Peter to “Feed My sheep.”

I don’t know guys, if Jesus wanted us to spend our time at the shooting range learning how to take someone out with one shot or procuring a gun collection, I feel like He would have chosen a different animal to describe His children and followers. Something feisty and fierce like a badger, snake, or lion. But as it stands, He alone is a lion—the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). He is our defender and our protector (Psalm 18). Do we believe this, or do we need to take matters into our own hands?


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4. JESUS BROUGHT HEALING, NOT HARM – During His ministry on earth, Jesus preached the truth, fed the hungry, and healed the sick. The Bible is clear that when He returns He will put His enemies under His feet (Mark 12:36; 1 Corinthians 15:25), but during His time on earth He was the ultimate pacifist.

When He was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane,

…one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword’” (Matthew 26:51-52). Luke described the scene this way: “When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.”

Jesus was attacked and arrested when He had done nothing wrong, and what did He do? He healed someone in the angry mob that falsely accused Him. Take a look at what He does next…

5. JESUS LAID DOWN HIS RIGHTS – Jesus did not go out guns blazing, so to speak, even though He had every right to do so. In the aforementioned passage in Matthew 26:53-54, He said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Jesus is most likely referring to the prophet’s words in Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”


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For our sake, Jesus Christ laid down His rights. Paul makes this critical point in Philippians 2:5-8:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

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As believers living in the United States, we are incredibly blessed to live in a country with many freedoms, and I wish not to take these freedoms away. I pass no judgment upon responsible individuals who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights. But in pondering these issues and sharing my heart with fellow Christians, I am simply asking us to consider the example set before us by our precious and peaceful Savior. May we follow Him in word and deed, and may we always remember that we are not of this world (John 17:16).

What are your thoughts on this topic? Let me know in the comments section below.