Monday, September 24, 2007

Head + Heart

The unfortunate nature of the human race is that we are terribly adverse at communication. I'd say most of the time I'm struggling to be heard--partly because I feel ignored or partly because I just can't express what I mean and feel. Thinking simultaneously with your heart and your head, and then trying to present all that in an honest and honoring way, is really tricky.

God is a God of order and of peace, not of confusion. So when I get so horribly confused and frustrated about the disorder of human communication, I have to remember that it's truly not God's plan. My default actions run in this order: fix, fight, flight. If I can't make everything better, I'll really fight to be heard. And if none of that works, I bail. I retreat physically or emotionally. While all of these responses are sometimes necessary and appropriate, it's not the pattern I want to follow every time I have something to express.

Peace, affirmation, and confidence should be the cornerstone of my approach to communication. If all that crumbles, then so be it, but at least I'm starting out with good intentions. Building each other up, creating spaces where it's safe to be who we are, and really listening to one another are so important.

As I strive to be more in touch with my own heart, I see my communication patterns becoming more complex in all areas of my life. A meeting with my dissertation adviser, a phone call from my parents, a comment from a pastor, a conflict with my partner... all somehow elicit really huge and emotional responses from me. So much so that I don't know what to do with it.

It would be easier if I just sought to live up to the stereotype that women are too emotional to deal with things and to irrational to be rational. But that's not me... I'm horribly rational and horribly emotional. So I can analyze (or over-analyze) every situation and then let my heart overflow about it. It's just trying to integrate my head and my heart in a way that doesn't completely overwhelm me that seems impossible. I'll get there, I just don't know when.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not for Sale

Sunday I attended a presentation entitled The Concert to End Slavery, an awareness raising event by the Not For Sale Campaign. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt like I had a concrete opportunity to be effectively involved in the fight against modern slavery.

If you are thinking to yourself, "I thought slavery ended after the American Civil War," you're not alone. As a historian and teacher, I even believed slavery to be extinct. I knew workers were exploited and assumed some women were forced into prostitution, but never entertained the thought that slavery might be an actual evil still confronting the world today.

About four years ago, a high school student in my church told me about an article she read about the millions of slaves still captive. I took in the information, reasoned it away (she must have misunderstood, the article must be talking in metaphors, etc.), and moved on with my life. Then slowly I became confronted with the realities of sex slavery, human trafficking, child soldiers, forced labor, and other forms of human captivity. And here's the worst part: it's going on in the U.S. In mass quantities. In massage parlors and private homes and karaoke bars and all sorts of places. I could probably point to five places on my street.

I got more information. And I got more overwhelmed.

Any guesses how many people are slaves today? 27 million. That's 3.5 million MORE people than live in the state of Texas. It's mind-boggling. Nearly 80 percent of these slaves are women and children. What do we do with those kinds of statistics?

We use our skills. We funnel our despair into action. We pray for opportunities. It's been four years for me, trying to make sense of it, trying to find a way to help. It all converged on Sunday night. I met two students who want to help and a couple already doing work to identify trafficking rings and sites. I'm in a small group that just spent the whole summer discussing topics of social justice and the Bible's call to action and compassion. I work in an activist-oriented academic office at a major university and serve as an officer for a student organization that could become anything we want it to be. I'm good at research, organizing and motivating people, and disseminating information. I'm well-versed in my responsibilities as a Christian to be a part of the liberating work of Christ (with divine help), in feminist theory, in historical activism, and in the importance of boundaries when you're involved in social justice.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to ask me in 2 months how it's all going. In 6 months, in a year, in 5 years. By then I could be on my way to a country where trafficking is a major industry or I could be teaching students how to get involved in global abolitionism. Or I could have forgotten about this moment, when it all seemed so important and so necessary and so doable.

I always thought that if I knew about slavery in the early U.S. or knew about the Holocaust, I would oppose it and do what I could to end it. So here I am, fearfully aware of genocide and slavery, and I'm ready to be an abolitionist. I'm going to start small, I'm going to pace myself. But I'm ready.

And God does not call the equipped... God equips those He calls.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives..."
(Isaiah 61:1)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Thanks to the always-free Miller Outdoor Theater, college night at Robertson Stadium, and season tickets at the Wortham Theater, I saw the Dominic Walsh company, the Dynamo, and the Houston Ballet this weekend for the low, low price of $22.50. One of the many reasons I love Houston: it has so much to offer and if pursued creatively, it's totally affordable to do cool things.

I love modern dance for a lot of reasons, primarily because it's out of the box. Half the time I'm scratching my head trying to figure out what it's trying to say, but it's always intriguing. Dance should say something. It should be happy and sad and political and emotional.

Speaking of political and emotional, this was my first time at a live MLS game, and it was a blast. Soccer is a lot more suspenseful than most sports, in my opinion. And although my boyfriend spent half the time explaining the game to me (I didn't actually realize they switched goals after the break), I think I mostly understand it. Just like people often don't see the athleticism in dance, they often fail to see the artistry in sports. Most of the fans may have cared about the score, but I kept noticing the "choreography" of the footwork and collisions and jumps.

And you just have to love classical ballet. If you don't love it, I'm sorry. It's so beautiful and refined and makes you want to be a dancer when you grow up, no matter how old you are. At least go see the Nutcracker this Christmas, people.