The Patches Make It Beautiful by Christopher Heuertz

Today’s post in the series Return to Our Senses in Lent is written by Christopher Heuertz. It is an excerpt from his latest book Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community.  I have just finished reading this book and loved it. Chris describes himself as a curator of unlikely friendships, an instigator for good, a champion of collaboration and a witness of hope. He fights for a renewal of contemplative activism.

Friday March 8th is International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum and I felt that this was a very important story to share in relation to that.

Sari Bari blanket in the making via

Sari Bari blanket in the making via

My favourite part of every Sari Bari blanket is the patches.

Sari Bari is a small business initiative that seeks to secure freedom and restoration in the red-light areas of Kolkata, India. It offers dignity-ascribing employment opportunities to women exploited by the commercial sex industry.

The name Sari Bari comes from two symbols. A sari, the traditional garment worn by Indian women, seen by some as oppressive, is an image of what can be reclaimed in a new way. In Bengali, the word bari means “house” or “home”. Sari Bari is a safe home where women who have been exploited in the sex trade can find their humanity restored and experience a new life in the making.

Women are trained to make beautiful quilted scarves, and purses and offered jobs in the Sari Bari community centers as a way out of prostitution. The products they sell are made from old, recycled saris, a symbol or restoration. Tossed-aside or thrown-away saris are recovered and cleaned. Something that appears used up, discarded, valueless is artfully transformed into something beautiful-even more, something valuable.

These products symbolize restoration. The process is a prophetic image of what the Sari Bari community is doing within the sex trade – allowing women who have been victimized and abused to recover their true identity….

Stitched onto every blanket, if you look hard enough, you’ll discover tiny patches cut our of the same material the sari quilt is made from. Some of the little patches are intricately sewn so that the pattern of the quilt lines up perfectly with the pattern on the patch. Other times, the patches stand out, a bold statement of colour that enhances the quilt’s design.

Generously added to some, sparingly to others, these little patches add a gorgeous layer of texture.

One day while with the women, sitting on the floor of one of the Sari Bari community centers, I was admiring their work and pointing out the patches, trying to communicate how beautiful I found them. Upendra, one of the English-speaking staff, overheard my fumbling attempt to get my ideas across and helped translate. He laughed our loud when he understood what I was trying to say.

He explained that each finished blanket is washed before being packaged. After they’ve been washed and dried, there’s a quality control check before they’re shipped. It turns out that the patches aren’t added to make the blankets more beautiful but to cover the flaws and tears on every quilt; they’re an inevitable part of recycling and restoring each sari blanket.

Even more ironic, the women hate having to go back and repair their work. The patches are time-consuming and tedious. Yet it’s the patches that make the quilts so beautiful and unique.

As is the case with us. In our own freedom , we still go about making mistakes, disappointing ourselves and others, living with guilt, shame, regret, or fear that the consequences of our worst moments will catch up to us. any of us have a hard time accepting the flawed parts of ourselves when we’re alone – a struggle that’s even more difficult when we’re in community.



Synchroblog – All About Eve

All about eve

Each month I am invited to contribute to a synchroblog with other Christian bloggers. This month’s topic – All About Eve which I posted on yesterday has stimulated a lot of discussion.


It’s Women’s History month and International Women’s Day is March 8. Women’s rights have been all over the news recently, from bills in Congress and state representative bodies to crass “jokes” by national broadcasters. The idea that women are or should be equal to men has become a polarizing topic of discussion on the national stage. So we thought Synchroblog might jump right in. Anything concerning women in general, women and the church, balancing women’s rights with religious freedoms, the differences between men and women … these are all good topics for blog posts.

There is one caveat, we are asking that the Synchroblog be a voice of moderation and temperance. You may have strong beliefs on this subject and that is good. Giving voice those beliefs in a spirit of cooperation and bridge-building is also good. We would like these posts to step in that direction.

Here are a couple of great examples of moderate writing on women’s issues to prime your writing …

–> An Apology From Limbaugh, But The Damage Is Done by Denny Burke –

–> And now…on the other side (critique of extreme complementarianism) by Roger E. Olsen

This topic idea brought to you by Wendy McCaig and Katherine Gunn (aka Jeannette Ailtes) … thank you for your help, ladies.

The link list is below …

Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
Christine Sine – 
It All Begins With Love
K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor

It All Begins with Love

It all begins with Love

It all begins with Love

When I was first asked to contribute to this synchroblog I must confess I was not particularly excited. Here we go again I thought bringing up all the same arguments as to why women are equal to men and what we need to do about it. And after forty years of struggling and arguing about that I am not sure how much I felt I had to add.

Then I came across Kenneth Bailey’s commentary on 1 Corinthians Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes.  and Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyesbooks that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to have their understanding of many theological issues turned upside down.  Suddenly I felt I was reading a new book one in which love and forgiveness not hate and repression were the halmarks of how we treated each other.

Bailey suggests that 1 Corinthians 13 and its focus on the royal command of love is the center of Paul’s beliefs on women and their participation in worship. I could not help but applaud as I read through his gentle commentary that suggested the admonition for women not to chat in church was because they belonged to an oral culture that did not train them how to focus on spoken sermons. It had nothing to do with their subservience.

God’s royal command – the practice of love – at the centre of all things I thought. If we focused on that in any context it would radically change the way we treated each other be we male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. All the rhetoric we can so easily get embroiled in fades into insignificance when we start with love no matter what we are talking about.

Sixteenth century mystic Madame Guyon called prayer “an exercise in love”. Or maybe it should be: “love is an exercise in prayer.” It is the forming of an intimate relationship between us and the loving heart of God. Perhaps the reason that women’s voices were silenced for so long is because it is the more feminine qualities of feeling, mysticism and the ability to develop personal relationships that are at the core of love and therefore at the core of our relationship to God. Discovering the heart of God’s love means breaking down the barriers that divide men and women, slave and free, Jew and Greek.  In our world today women need to be heard more than ever and so I have realized that it is not time to step out of this debate. I want my voice to be heard, not in argument and rhetoric but in love and forgiveness.  That is the only thing that will reveal to all humankind the heart of our God who is love.

Here are the links for the other contributions to this synchroblog:

Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
Christine Sine – 
It All Begins With Love
K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor

A Franciscan Prayer for International Women’s Day


I know that I am posting this a little late in the day, but I just came across this beautiful prayer written by Deborah Hirt, Intern at Franciscans International.

Lord, make me an instrument of peace:

Bless all women who daily strive to bring peace to their communities, their homes and their hearts. Give them strength to continue to turn swords into plowshares.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love:

We pray for all women who face prejudice, inequality and gender disparities. Help us seeand to face the discrimination against women inall the many forms it may take.

Where there is injury, pardon:

Comfort all women who suffer from the pain of war, violence, and abuse. Help them to become instruments of their own reconciliation and peace.

Where there is division, unity:

Forgive all women and men who let differences breed hate and discrimination. Let your example of valuing all of creation help us to see that we are equal partners in the stewardship of your world.

Where there is darkness, light; where there is untruth, truth:

Comfort all women who struggle in the darkness of abuse, poverty, and loneliness. May we stand with them in light to acknowledge their suffering and strive to remove the burdens of shame or embarrassment.

Where there is doubt, true faith:

We pray for all women who live in fear of their husbands, fathers, and forces that control their lives. Help them to be empowered to be their true selves through your everlasting love and faith.

Where there is despair, hope:

We pray for all women who live in the despair of poverty, violence, trafficking, slavery,and abuse. May the light of your love bring them hope.

Where there is sadness, new joy:

Help us to see the strength and goodness in all women and men.
Transform our hearts to celebrate the love and grace of all people.
And may we be blessed with the courage of St. Clare of Assisi to follow our own path of love for you and all sisters and brothers.

The Wonders Worked by Womanhood from Lucy Kellaway

A friend (male) sent me a copy of this article The Wonders Worked by Womanhood which was published on today & I thought that many of you might enjoy reading it too.

….  It shows that when it comes to the intelligence of a group, the presence of women lifts the results, even if the individuals are not particularly brainy. The study, by Anita Woolley and Thomas Malone and written up in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, shows that the more women there are in a group, the more intelligently it performs.  Read the entire article

The Causes of Our Times

I am getting ready to speak at the West Coast Healthcare Missions Conference this next week and have been updating some of my statistics and presentations.  As usual this kind of preparation challenges me again to look at the needs of our world and to grapple with how my life can make a difference in the lives of those that are marginalized by our society.

Part of my reading this week has been the Millennium Development Report 2009 It makes sobering reading as I realize how much those at the margins have been impacted by the financial crisis of the last year reversing some of the hard earned progress against poverty.  It is estimated that 55 million to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty than anticipated before the global economic crisis.

In 2000, world leaders in the UN established what are known as the  Millennial Development goals with the hope of freeing a major portion of humanity from extreme poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease by the year 2015. The goals are:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other disease

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

Read the entire 2009 report here

Another part of my reading came, believe it or not from the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  Why Women’s Rights are the Cause of Our Time. The challenges of this issue complements the concerns of the Millennial Development report because one of the major areas in which we have made little progress is in the health and wellbeing of women.

Every year, 536,000 women and girls still die as a result of complications during pregnancy, childbirth or the six weeks following delivery.  Girls are less likely to be in school than boys.  They are taken to health clinics less frequently, are more likely to be malnourished and often suffer the indignity of too many babies too soon which results in vesicovaginal fistula that further ostracize them.    The magnitude of the fistula problem worldwide is unknown but believed to be immense. In Nigeria alone, Harrison (1985) reported a vesicovaginal fistula rate of 350 cases per 100,000 deliveries at a university teaching hospital.

In some countries women still have no rights of citizenship or the ability to own property.  This makes them extremely vulnerable if their husbands or fathers die or abandon them.  It can also binds them to abusive and degrading relationships with no recourse to the processes of the law.

The education and empowerment of women continues to be a huge issue in our time and one which I believe Christians should be at the forefront of addressing.  Jesus treated women in radical life affirming ways that were revolutionary in his day and age.  He treated them with respect and as equals.  In a society that believed women were incapable of learning, he allowed them to sit at his feet and listen.  He raised a widow’s son from the dead so that she would not be forced into extreme poverty and possibly into prostitution, the only profession that from ancient times has been open to women who are vulnerable and alone.

According to the New York Times:,

the oppression of women worldwide is the human rights cause of our time.  And their liberation could help solve many of the world’s problems, from poverty to child mortality to terrorism…. “Women hold up half the sky,’ in the words of a Chinese saying, yet hat’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and its not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos.  Read the entire article here

As a Christian woman I feel huge responsibility to be a part of God’s solution to this overwhelming challenge.  It was part of the stimulus I needed to read the Bible through the eyes of women rather than men, to see the liberation that Christ brought and that we too are challenged to bring.  It is part of what continues to motivate me to speak out against injustice towards women, the sex trade, mass rapes that occur in war and the patriarchal ways that we interpret the Bible.  It is the main reason that I am still so sensitive to even the little ways that women are discriminated against in our society.

Let me finish with one of the scriptures that I find most compelling in this regard.

It is for freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then and do not let yourselves (or others) be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…. You my brothers and sisters were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself. (Galatians 5: 1, 13, 14.)

More On International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s day and Julie Clawson organized this wonderful synchroblog about reflections on women.  The entries are well worth a look and a read… particularly during this second week of Lent as we enter the brokenness of hunger  60 – 70% of those who live in poverty are women and girls and it is much harder for women to get out of poverty than it is for men because they have less economic opportunities and because in many parts of the world they still have no legal rights to own property or other assets.

Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on women who walked with God
Heather on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women’s work
Pam Hogeweide on teenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn’t hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Petersen on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake – Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women
Kate on Esther
Doreen Mannion on Deborah
Patrick Oden on Rahab
Scot McKnight on Junia

THe World’s Women Need Our Help

We have just posted the main articles for the MSA Seed Sampler which will be distributed tomorrow. Thought that you might find the lead article interesting

“‘The church’s challenge for the 20th century was the equality of women,’ proclaimed the speaker at a conference I attended recently. ‘Now that this battle has been won, we need to move on to new issues facing the church in the 21st century.’ I was stunned as I thought of my many women friends around the world who still struggle to find acceptance and feel valued within their society and their churches. This statement has revolved in my mind ever since. What have women gained in the last few decades, and as we look to the future what are they still seeking?” Read the entire article

Women of Purpose

On Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the World Concern Women of Purpose tea.  I was challenged deeply by the stories I heard of the plight of women in many parts of the world.  Women make up the largest group of oppressed people in the world, with laws and customs putting them at a distinct disadvantage. From the villages of Kenya to the slums of Bangladesh, desperately poor women and girls are vulnerable to starvation and illness, loan sharks and traffickers. Seeking to feed their families, they can be conned into promises of quick loans and well-paid factory or domestic work. Sometimes they even send their young girls off with strangers so they can benefit from these “opportunities” for a better life. But this is often a lie, and women and girls can be caught in a nightmare of exorbitant debt, blackmail, prostitution, and even slavery. Even when women and girls escape this fate, oppression and extreme poverty can crush their spirit and potential. When food, medicine and education are scarce, women and girls are the first to go without. Not surprisingly, females have the highest mortality and illiteracy rates in the world.

This has always been an issue that I am passionate about but hearing these stories rekindled my desire to be more deeply involved in reaching out.  Women of Purpose links Christian women in America with groups of women in Kenya, Bangladesh, Haiti and Bolivia, providing them with microloans and business training through World Concern. Women in sister groups benefit from your prayers and financial support – and the support of one another – as they learn how to run businesses based on the values of honesty, honor and integrity. Women of Purpose also provide scholarships for girls, in communities where only the boys are seen as worthy of the privilege.  Check it out

You might also like to check out the Viva Network and the Asha Awareness video on child trafficking that was shown at the tea,  It is one of the most compelling videos on this issue that I have seen

Sitting with Mary at Jesus Feet

The start of another week and my mind is whirring with the many things I would like to share – the beauty of Fall in Seattle, the horror of the fires in California, my struggles to keep my life balanced in the midst of a busy schedule all come to mind.  However uppermost are some further reflections on the place of women in Christianity.

jesus-raises-jairus-daughter-chinese.jpgAs I was thinking about my posts on this subject during the last week I was reminded of a discussion I had with Elaine Storkey, prominent English evangelical whose writings have helped me greatly to understand a biblical perspective on women.  One thing she pointed out that really impressed me is how deliberately the gospels balance Jesus interactions with men and women.  Jesus miracles always touched men and women alike, in fact there is often a deliberate reporting of similar miracles occurring to men and women – both men and women were raised from the dead, both men and women who had been marginalized (lepers and the woman with an issue of blood) are healed, and there are two accounts of Jesus followers acclaiming “You are the Christ”  We all know the man (Peter) but who is the woman?  I find that when I ask this question few can tell me – and maybe I will tell you next week if someone doesn’t guess
My favourite story that Elaine expounded on is that of Mary and Martha.  “We have it all wrong.” she said.  “This is not about busyness, this is about the liberation of women.  In a culture in which men prayed daily, ‘Thank God I was not born a woman.’ and in which it was believed that women were unable to understand theological truth, Jesus is telling the men (and Martha who is carrying out the accepted womanly duties) that it is OK for Mary to sit at his feet and learn in the same way that the men are.”  What a refreshing and wonderful insight that was for me.  Not only did I feel affirmed in my own role as a professional woman, I also felt an affirmation of my own desire to see women everywhere set free to worship God freely.

I have often shared this story when working with women in Africa and Asia who are struggling to be educated themselves or to educate their daughters and other young women.  The education of girls does more to improve the life conditions of poor families than almost any other form of intervention.  Yet of the 900 million non literate people in our world 65% are women due to lack of educational opportunities. And partly as a consequence of this 70% of the 1.3 billion who live in poverty are women.  How wonderful that there is a story in the Bible that even affirms the value of women and our work in this important area

He Qi - Mary & Martha