A Holiday with A Cause

I love this time of year, Thanksgiving with a lot of great food, family and friends and the beginning of the Christmas season.  Maybe Black Friday is your thing or maybe Cyber Monday (both of which are now becoming weeks instead of days), whatever way you enjoy your holiday shopping I would love to share a few “slave-free” options.  With an estimated 20 million people enslaved globally today, it’s easy to say that human trafficking and modern day slavery are an epidemic hitting our society as a whole…and hitting us hard.  Many of our items that we purchase on a regular basis and especially during the holidays, such as clothing, coffee and chocolate are made with slave labor (including child labor).  These are precious people who are trafficked and/or exploited into harvesting materials and making these items for retail.  We can take a stand against slavery, do something about it and still buy our loved ones beautiful gifts.  When you are out shopping look for labels that read,”Fair Trade,” or you can also check out below just some of the websites that are out there.  There is no better time to start doing something for our fellow man than now.  Anne Frank once said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and happy shopping!

*Fair trade coffee and chocolate can be found at local grocery stores.

*Girl Set Free

*Thistle Farms

*Freeset USA

*iSanctuary/ Purpose Jewelry

MORE INFORMATION ON LABOR TRAFFICKING AND FORCED LABOR
https://polarisproject.org/labor-trafficking

 

Love is Hard.

We have all heard the phrase, “Love is a choice.” Sometimes that choice may feel easy, but lets face it there are many times when that choice feels hard. It feels easy when our children are smiling and obeying, but when the laundry and dishes are piled high, you are flat out exhausted and your children are throwing a fit because you didn’t cut the crust of their sandwich…it can get hard. It may feel easy to love when your spouse is being sweet and thoughtful, but when they are short with you, or say something thoughtless…it can get hard.

It’s not so much choosing to love, but choosing to respond in love that can be hard at times. I struggle with it, we all struggle with it. Recently, I saw this great picture of a scripture verse out of Romans 5:8. The scripture reads, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV) The image paraphrases the verse and says, “I loved you at your darkest.” Wow. In my darkest moment God loved and still loves me. He also calls us to love like that, except it is much harder for us to do. That is why we need His help.
As I write this, Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph,” is playing in my mind.

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive…

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul.

It isn’t hard to love the “lovely,” but what about the homeless man you see downtown that hasn’t bathed in a while? What about the woman who spits in your face when you tell her she is worth more than the $50 her pimp is getting for her? What about the person close to you who breaks your heart? I think about what Christ endured; the ridicule, the physical and emotional pain, the sting of death. And what for? Love. The cross wasn’t easy. Therefore love isn’t always easy. Yet, it is the most vital. It encourages, uplifts, frees, heals, restores, makes new and is desperately needed.

Remove the word “is” and you get…love hard (and with all you’ve got).

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A Chocolate Holiday

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It’s hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us!  In all of our celebrating we must not forget those who are often used in slave labor to make the products we will be purchasing to give to our loved ones or place on our dinner tables.  It feels and often is nearly impossible to find items that are made completely without slave labor.  Yet, we can start in one simple area…chocolate.

According to the World Cocoa Foundation we consume 3 million tons of cocoa beans annually…68% of which is sourced from Africa, 17% from Asia/Oceania and 15% from Americas (Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia).  Simply put, that’s a lot of chocolate sourced on the backs of children, men and women who are paid nearly nothing (if anything) and live in horrible conditions, they are modern day slaves for our sweet tooth.

So during this upcoming holiday season, let’s take a step in the right direction of ending human trafficking and slavery and purchase our chocolate from companies who are sustainably sourcing their cocoa beans, using transparency in their supply chains, working to empower and create positive change in the communities they are sourcing from.  Here are some companies that are doing just that:

Lindt Chocolates 
http://www.lindt-spruengli.com/sustainability/sustainably-sourced/

Divine Chocolate Co.
http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/

The Endangered Species
http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18

You can also do a search on “Slave Free Chocolate,” for more options and don’t forget coffee too!

#untilallarefree #endmoderndayslavery

What ideas do you have to help fight slavery this holiday?  What are your favorite fair trade products?  Share with us!

 

Justice is Inconvenient

Today was one of those busy days, lots of running around with errands and a grand finale of stopping at the grocery store for just a few items.  I found a parking spot quite quickly and made my way to the store entrance when I was approached by someone carrying a sign…I was about to be asked to boycott the store in an attempt to stand up for the rights of the employees.  Super inconvenient…I’m talking super-duper.  As I was walking back to my car to go 20 minutes out of my way to buy 2 items I heard this woman yelling at the young adults holding signs that she was already there to shop and wasn’t going out of her way.  This made me think and think hard about how we as a society cannot often be bothered to go out of our way to help someone (especially someone we do not know) or take a stand against injustice, which requires action, if it interferes with something we’d rather do.  Many times I have seen friends comment on Facebook how they get more likes for a post about a dinner they made than something about social justice issues.  I’ve had that happen to me as well, heck I have even scrolled past stuff I should probably take a second look at.  Is this a reflection of our society as a whole? Maybe.

People can’t be bothered to go to rallies, protest, etc. unless it directly affects them.  We must stop this.  We must begin to fight for others, stand up for what is right, reject apathy, and actually love one another.

We want a better world, but are we willing to do something about it?  We complain that we are being taken advantage of or that elected officials are not really representing the people, but their own selfish gain, but what do we do about it?  We see that there are millions of people enslaved in the world today, yet go about our lives giving no second thought to it.  Believe me, I certainly have my moments when I wrestle with doing something right simply because it is inconvenient, but if we don’t…then who will?  Fighting for what is right, for justice, for love is often inconvenient and often “out of our way,” but think about this…Jesus went out of His way to fight for us…I mean really out of His way.  He left heaven to come to earth, to lay His life down for the hearts of people who would be desperately thankful and those who would adamantly oppose Him.

If no one will go out of their own way to help another then the world becomes quite the lonely, desolate and depressing place…something God never intended.

Justice and love are always worth the fight. Always.

#fightforoneanother #justiceisinconvenient

Love doesn’t exploit.

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Characteristics of Love Series

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It ALWAYS protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7  (emphasis my own)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and with more people enslaved now than ever in history we can safely say that we have a monstrous problem on our hands.  Human beings are buying and selling each other; men, women and little children.  While I say the word “human beings” I recognize what drives this industry…evil, pure evil.

Women and children are forced to sell their bodies (actually someone is selling it for them), forced to have abortions, and are becoming drug addicts just to try to mentally, emotionally and spiritually escape their daily horror.  There have been times when I have looked at what seems like an unconquerable situation, where heartache reigns and evil triumphs.  Then, I remember what love is and who love is and my heart is renewed within me.  Isaiah 61 promises that Christ came to set the captives free and God isn’t a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19) and it also says that He has given us what we need to overcome.

We can have faith, we can have hope, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corin. 13:13) and love is the greatest thing we can give.  Remembering, that real love doesn’t exploit and it is the action of love that will bring an end to this atrocity.  Love will not buy sex, love will not sell another human being, love will rescue, love will heal, love will reach out and love will not exploit because it always protects.

Next time you see a picture in the news of a woman arrested for prostitution, don’t skip by the article, don’t skip by the picture.  Look at her, have compassion and pray for her (act in love).  Next time you hear about a prostitution ring (trafficking ring) being busted, don’t ignore it…thank God (the One who is love).

I also urge you to get involved, even if it’s only for January…do something because someone needs you…heck the world needs you.  Be the love someone needs because they matter.  Make a decision to protect…make a decision to love.

Characteristic of Love #6…love protects (it doesn’t exploit) 

Want to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do?

Contact Us

Sharedhope.org

Polarisproject.org

Exoduscry.com

Books about trafficking:

Renting Lacy by Linda Smith

Refuse to Do Nothing by Shayne Moore, Kimberly McOwen Yim

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores

Movies:
Nefarious, Merchant of Souls
Not My Life
Not For Sale
Born into Brothels
Half the Sky

Love is looooong.

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Characteristics of Love Series

The scripture passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 about the qualities and characteristics of love is probably one of the most quoted parts of the Bible, but may be the hardest to live out.  You know the one…”love is patient, love is kind, etc.”

The first part of (v.4) says, “Love is patient,” and while most versions say “patient,” some say, “Suffers long” or “long-suffering” such as the NKJV.  I don’t know about you, but at times being patient does seem like I am suffering long…so I can see why they are used interchangeably.

Dictionary.com defines long-suffering as:
adjective
1. enduring injury, trouble, or provocation (angers, irritation, instigation) long and patiently.

noun
2. long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation (angers, irritation, instigation)

Being patient sometimes means we suffer a little bit, never really anything too life-threatening or damaging to our self-worth.  I experienced a little long-suffering last night, but soon realized how it was for the benefit of another…and really wasn’t suffering compared to what someone else was going through.

A friend and I went out to eat to meet up and chat.  The restaurant we had chosen was closed and so we went down the road a ways and found another.  We sat down, ordered waters (as if you need to know that) and waited…and waited…and waited to order.  I was beginning to get a smidge perturbed that our waitress had not returned and was no where to be found.  The restaurant was not empty, but not super busy either.

It wasn’t until I realized that this woman was the only waitress (and bartender) for the whole restaurant and then I spotted her there behind the bar…crying.  “Ok, God, my food isn’t so important.”

All too often we do not see why we need to be better in the long-suffering department.  We don’t stop to think that our patience will positively affect another person.  To me long-suffering isn’t just about being patient, but caring about other people around us.  Not being door mats, but a little less self-centered.

It would have been easier to remain annoyed at that waitress and not be understanding.  It would have been easier to get up, leave and go to another restaurant instead of asking her if she was ok.  It would have been super easy to not leave a very good tip.  Yet, people need to know that someone cares, is patient and isn’t so self-centered in their moment of stress…that they are more important than burgers and sweet potato fries.

Remember, that love isn’t just “long in the tooth,” but it is also loooooong-suffering at times too.  It is also probably good to remember that God doesn’t command us to do something that He doesn’t do daily (love thy neighbor).  He is pretty patient and loving with us.

 Characteristic of love #3: it is looooong.

The Miley Epidemic

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I cannot help but reply to the flurry of words hurled into cyberspace and social media airwaves, if you will, about Miley Cyrus’ risqué performance at the MTV VMA Awards.  I want to shout…

“WHAT DO YOU EXPECT!?!”

We live in a culture where nearly everything is hyper-sexualized.  We allow our daughters to wear shorts that should be known as denim underwear and watch music videos on MTV that are extremely sexual in nature.  We have an ever-growing problem in the United States where our daughters are being lured into sexual exploitation, while the majority of Americans decide to ignore this epidemic of sex trafficking (exempting those who are actually ignorant of this issue).

We take our daughters to places like Victoria’s Secret for their underwear…why?  Our boys are plagued with images of half naked women nearly all their lives and we have millions addicted to pornography.  We have a thriving billion dollar strip club/ and pornography industry that is visited by Christians and non alike…

So please, do not let this heartbreaking performance of a moment pass you by.  Instead of posting nasty words about Miley (all the while ignoring the married man on the stage), do something about it.  What can you do?  Stop shopping at places where they forgot to sew on the rest of the material on that skirt or pair of shorts.  Stop buying into the lie that our kids “need to experience” things in life that they have no business “experiencing” until they are in the right situation and it is a good experience.  Stop watching porn, stop visiting strip clubs and for crying out loud gain a little compassion for those trapped in it.

Talk to your kids, give them some boundaries, let them know they are made in the image of God and their bodies have great value…and not for the lust of another.

During a recent outreach to exploited women, my heart was broken to hear in their voices and experiences the hypocrites they have encountered.  These women have been visited by the very same people shouting about this Miley situation…people of faith, people in prominent positions, the average parent, and so on.  When have we become a society that embraces the devaluing of another human being?  Why are we spouting jargon from one side of our mouths and acting another way in secret?  Should we be outraged?  Yes, but we should be outraged by all of it.  Our words and our actions have weight and the world is paying attention…and more importantly, so are our children.

Help Wanted

You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.  -William Wilberforce

Today, we have more laws against trafficking and slavery and yet as a global community we have more slaves now, than we have ever had in our history and because of that we can only fight it… as a community.

Saturday we came together as a community to fight an evil that we need each other to fight.  We came together to provide resources of life-saving information for victims of sex trafficking to hotels and places where victims are likely to turn up.  It was an outreach to help hotels and other locations become better equipped in the fight against trafficking.

Without fail there always seems to be someone who asks “is really this happening here?” This outreach was no different.  So while we were able to reach over 50 hotels, have an 82% success rate, and are believing for the rescue of girls, we still encounter one obstacle that as a community we must overcome.

It is not just ignorance of this issue altogether, but the ignorance that this is happening in our zip code, that helps to keep this injustice moving forward.  Traffickers count on our ignorance, heck should I be so bold as to say that in a roundabout way they are making money off of it.   Don’t get me wrong, demand is the greatest perpetuator of exploitation, but when the community begins to see what is happening in their sphere of influence and takes a united stand we will see more of a steady decline of injustice.  We can all do something and we should all refuse to do nothing.

Help Wanted: A Community of Freedom Fighters.

Unrestrained and often unrequited

Unrestrained Love.

To love someone unconditionally is something that changes your life.  I am not referring to a child or a family member.  To love unconditionally is to love without expecting anything in return and can be a challenge as a human being.  When we love we expect to be loved back.

While on an outreach yesterday, I had the privilege to experience unconditional love.  I was able to witness God’s furious, passionate love by reaching out to others.  Others who may have never experienced someone saying, ‘I love you’ or say that they are beautiful without expecting anything in return.  That is just like God though, He loves us no matter what, knowing full well that many will not love Him in return.  Jesus died on the cross for us knowing full well that many would not believe in His existence, let alone believe that He died because of a furious love.  It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of God’s unconditional, passionate love for people who do not even know Him.  To give them love and gifts without expecting anything in return was a perfect way to experience what it is like to love without limits, without restrictions, without hope of anything in return…true unconditional love.

Remember, Christ loves unconditionally…you and those who do not know Him.

We as human beings cannot love perfectly, but we can know and experience a perfect love, an unfailing and never ending love.  We can also, despite our imperfections, do a simple act of unconditional love (without expectations) for someone and watch the world change one heart at a time.  I know my heart is full, and I wasn’t even the recipient in this case.

**For those whom I may have offended by using God’s love and furious in the same sentence: according to dictionary.com furious also means unrestrained energy….

God is unrestrained love.