Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Find What Speaks To You"

Have you seen the commercials on TV for for Pier 1 Imports? They are the cutest commercials where an individual is walking around the store and they hear something... It's generally a voice that is too cute for words and is saying something ridiculously relatable to the person who is doing the browsing. The individual sources the voice and it's an inanimate object that the person just has to take home now that they seem to have a wonderful bond. The tag line for the commercial is "Find what speaks to you."

These commercials are...
- Adorable
- Make me want to shop at Pier 1 Imports (I'm such a sucker for clever marketing)
- Speak to a greater truth in our lives

I find that when God has something important to say to us-- something important for us to learn-- He brings the lesson to us in forms of things that "speak to us". That could be a particular conversation with a friend, a quote you happen to read on Facebook or Pinterest, a picture you see, a movie you watch, or even a book you just happen to start to read at a bible study you randomly signed up for.

From the specific detail of the last sentence I'm sure you can see where my example is going to be coming from...

There's a church here in town that I don't attend. I've gone a few times with my husband and a few times on my own. We have friends that attend and are heavily involved. And while we don't attend regularly, we often go to their extra activities. Most commonly, we attend their bible studies.

A friend of mine who attends had posted a status on Facebook about how excited she was for the upcoming ladies study. I don't remember the post exactly but I can almost guarantee it said nothing about what the study was about, who the author of the book study was, or even what night of the week it was going to be. All it said was the title of the book which I had remembered hearing about before-- "Lioness Arising". While the description of the study was basically non-existent, she shared her excitement for what she was sure was going to be an awesome time of fellowship and learning with fellow ladies.
I needed to inquire more.
I found out the night of the week and signed up.
Done and done.
Easy as pie. (And I feel, as someone who likes to bake, I can use that analogy and stand behind it's truth.)

The Sunday before the study was going to begin I attended the service at the church. I got my book "Lioness Arising" by Lisa Bevere upon arriving and anxiously awaited the end of the service so I could start reading. When the service finished I headed straight for my wonderful husbands amazing coffee shop, sat down with a lovely cup of strawberry green tea (my usual) and started to read.

Let us pause for a moment and asses the "speaking to me" scenarios we have encountered thus far:
1- The Facebook Status. Really? It was so vague! But "something" spoke to me. I signed up literally within a day to be part of the study and would have signed up within minutes if it was a face to face conversation, not over a Facebook status where I had to wait for the next post to learn more information.

2- Anxiously awaiting the end of a Church service to read. Church is great. I love going to church-- meeting with other Christians, learning about God, reading his Word, worshipping Him. He is awesome! But I just knew there was going to be more learning, more of God speaking to me through the book, than at the service that Sunday.

As I was sitting at the modern concrete and re-claimed wood coffee shop, sipping green tea from the bright red mug that is the perfect inviting accent to the almost cold look of the modern decor and snow filled outdoors beaming in from the large windows, I couldn't help but get the shivers and feel the warmth of the surreal terrain when imagining the Lioness described in the book. The description is as follows;

"Radiant light was everywhere and appeared to come from everything. There was no mist or shadow, only glorious color. These saturated hues of living color were comprised of shades so concentrated that I am without earthly reference to name them. The pigments were layered and multi-dimensional. For some reason I best remember the tones of purple (but not quite our purple) and blue (yet unlike ours). There were no edges, sides, or upper border, yet the backdrop of color enwrapped what is showcased-- an elevated platform of flawless, cream-colored stone, and on this platform reclined a golden lioness."

As the imagery from the above passage lingered in my mind and senses, I continued to read through the first chapter and anticipated even more tangible passages in the second...

The second chapter starts with the quote;
"If ever there comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will a force such as the world has never know." -Matthew Arnold, nineteenth-century British poet and philosopher.

The wonder, honesty, bravery and pure power of that quote just gets me excited.

The second chapter spoke to the injustice of human trafficking. Can you imagine my excitement? Here I am, reading a book on how us women are to arise like a lioness to come together and be a force for Christ the world has never seen, and then they touch on a topic so relevant to me like human trafficking! This takes the whole "it speaks to me" to a new level.

It's amazing how God works. How he can take a simple Facebook status that requires but a simple response, to speak to us and lead us in the direction of more knowledge of Him and His wonderful plan for our lives. With every paragraph, every quote and every point this book makes I feel arising in me the attributes of a lioness-- Fierce, Fearless, Graceful, Stunning, Confident, Bold, Strong, Beautiful, and most of all, Awake.

Awake to the plans the Lord has for me, and awake to the potential we can reach when we stretch ourselves to be all He calls us to be.

My hope-- my challenge to you-- is that you fully commit to experiencing what God is using to speak to you that you might grow in His love for you, His knowledge He wants to impart to you, and the wonderful part you play in this life.

I will leave you with my words taken from the "Safari Guide" workbook, my latest Impressions on how I am feeling reading the book and adventuring with the safari guide!
"I feel this study is God speaking directly to me! That He is calling me to acknowledge it is time for me to really be all the characteristics of the lioness as my next step to a life committed to seeking justice for those who cannot speak for themselves. It's like my tool kit I'm putting together to be a fierce force of God! I LOVE IT!"

When has something really "spoke" to you? Where did it lead?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Challenge: Ethical Easter

"Hundreds of thousands of children labour in the West Coast of Africa to produce cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate. Specifically, over 40% of the global supply originates in the Ivory Coast, where the US Department of State reports that over 109,000 children work under the worst forms of child labour. Of these 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement. Children working in cocoa production labour long hours and are often required to use dangerous tools. They are frequently exposed to toxic pesticides in the fields that create health issues and are forced to walk long distances in extreme heat. Furthermore, because these children work long hours they are denied access to an education." -- From

I'd like to propose a challenge.
As with all challenges, this will not be the easiest thing you have ever done.
It will require thought, effort, will power and commitment.
It will require you to go beyond the social norm, break free of traditions you may have set in place, and step into a world where you not only care about your friends, family and taste buds, but care about the world, and the people in it, who contribute to the most consumed item this Easter... chocolate.

You may think the paragraph above is slightly dramatic-- I understand. How often is chocolate "the bad guy" to anyone except individuals watching their waistline and those who can't consume for health reasons? We so thoughtlessly consume chocolate with perhaps our only thoughts being
a) How many calories?
b) What is the price?

This Easter you will challenge that thinking.
You will make a stand for the rights of human beings around the globe in going above the cute packaging, the clever marketing, and adorable eggs & bunnies that overtake your senses in stores and will commit to purchasing ethically made chocolate and candy.

Perhaps you are thinking "Sweet! This will be easy!"
I applaud your optimism!

When walking through Walmart, Superstore, Shoppers Drugmart and other chain stores, you are provided with many chocolate options. Everything you could desire! Enjoy the gooey centres of the Chocolate Creme Eggs? You can have them-- and even enjoy the same gooey-ness in the form of a Caramilk Egg and even enjoy the bitter sweet dark chocolate in the same format. Do you prefer salty with your sweet? As consumers demand the sea salt & chocolate combo, companies respond and even seek to entice you with other options-- why not caramel with your chocolate and sea salt? Want to feel healthy eating your chocolate? How about a dark chocolate bar with fruit and nuts-- you can indulge your sweet tooth and while you'll still be indulging your figure, it won't be as bad as the milk chocolate, nugget and caramel king sized bar you could have picked up from right beside.

As you swim through an ocean of rich, milky, indulgences, do you see a Fair Trade option? And I mean a real fair trade option-- none of this Cadbury-providing-Dairymilk-as-their-ONLY-Fair-trade option? Do you see chocolate eggs in festive packing made by a company that is dedicated to caring about those that work to get the cocoa from the field to the production line? Chances are, in your average retail store in Canada, these particular items are not lining the shelves.

I've pretty much just dashed your dreams of going into Superstore or Walmart and purchasing everything you need for your Easter festivities and leaving with a clean conscious. I'm ok with the fact I just did that. I'm actually happy I did.

It's going to take time, effort, and research to find chocolate and candy options that care about those individuals making the treat first and profits second. You'll have to venture into stores you might not normally take a look in (Ten Thousand Villages or even some health food stores), you may have to do some pre-planning and order goodies online, and, as my hope is, you will realize how often we contribute to continuation and expansion of slavery around the world.

This brings us to the REAL challenge.

While the general idea behind the challenge is to have an Ethical Easter, I think the real challenge is accepting, acknowledging and allowing this challenge to resonate in your day-to-day life. Our day-to-day lives are tainted with slavery. Lately I have had the extreme privilege of seeing people all around me learn and take to heart this reality. I've been privileged to share some of my knowledge with them about slavery, human trafficking and the resources I find most valuable in being a conscious consumer. Lately one of the best feelings is where I'm having a conversation with someone, and they mention something to me about downloading the Free2Work App, or looking at the labels where their clothes are made and wondering about those who made them. These things bring great joy! I know seeds that have been planted are growing and soon enough these same people can be sharing this information with others. A movement is happening.

At Easter we reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is our example of how to live, how to love, how to be. He came to Earth and shattered what the world believed as right and both preached and led by example how forgiveness conquers revenge, how we are to pray for those that persecute us, and how Love truly conquers all. Jesus was the original abolitionist-- teaching us to help the oppressed, care for the poor, the sick, the needy, the widow, the orphan, and to set the captives free. If we, as Christians-- followers of Jesus-- cannot find it in ourselves to daily, in the choices we make, live a life of justice for those have been silenced, then how are we living a life following his example?

As we celebrate the ultimate sacrifice God made out of His amazing, incredible, immeasurable Love for us, let the choices of what we use to celebrate reflect the lessons of Jesus' life on Earth-- Love, Justice and Freedom for all.

Image from TreeHugger's 10 Fair Trade, Organic, and
Vegan Sources for Easter Chocolate.

Here are some resources for you to use when it comes to purchasing ethical chocolate and candy this Easter season!
Free2Work (Can you tell I have worked with Not For Sale? Only my top recommendation every time!)
World Vision's Good Chocolate Guide
Slave Free Chocolate Table by Stop Chocolate Slavery
TreeHugger's 10 Fair Trade, Organic, and Vegan Sources for Easter Chocolate

Will Fair Trade or Ethical chocolate be more expensive?
Yes, it will be. With good reason-- caring about everyone in the supply chain! From those farming to those working in the factories, the people in the supply chain are treated fairly. It's worth it to spend a little more to know that people are being treated right!

So the chocolate is more expensive which means I can't buy as much. What about the traditions of my friends/family/children/co-workers/neighbours/general human beings I am in contact with have? 
I understand that your family tradition is to hid a bazillion chocolate eggs all around the house and do a massive hunt on Easter Sunday. Traditions can be adjusted! Instead of hiding a bazillion eggs, hide clues that lead to a basket of treats! It's still a hunt and still awesome! Maybe you could splurge and hide a bazillion fair trade eggs!

How can I explain to my youth group/family/co-workers why they aren't receiving the generic chocolate they expect and love without making it seem like I am being a jerk?
No one wants to make someone feel bad. Explain to them that you have been learning about what happens with the production of chocolate and that you are using your purchasing power to make a difference. We've all been the person who had no idea this was happening. Take this opportunity to share with them the excitement you have about being a conscious consumer! Maybe you'll get them in on the movement! Even kids can find a connection. Does your kid love to go to school? Does your kid love to play sports, or dance, etc. Connecting the dots of "You get to do this but not all kids get to. Some kids have to work all day long." can make a huge impact!

How are you going to have an Ethical Easter?