Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Inventive Hopsitality

I think most people have a favourite version of the Bible. When you’re doing your devotions, reading through scripture in church, or just browsing through the Bible in your down time, there’s probably a preferred version you keep handy for these moments. For myself, I’m a big fan of the New Living Translation. I find it easy to read, understand, and more verses ‘stick out’ to me when I’m browsing.

Lately, however, I’ve been intrigued by ‘The Message’ version of the Bible. It’s simplicity, while still getting across the point of what scripture is saying, makes it easy to read and relate to. It almost feels like I am reading a novel—easily captivating while leaving me eager to read more.

The most recent devotion I'm working through is by She Reads Truth and the topic is Prayer. Each day you are provided with scripture to discover, supplemented with a few paragraphs to read to really drive home the significance of the passages. The day laid out before me a few days ago had a simple verse with the following information to supplement; memorize the verse you’re about to read. 

The verses picked were Romans 12:11-13:



I’m sure we’ve all had those moments; you’re reading through a section of the Bible (or really any book in general) and BAM! Out of seemingly nowhere a phrase, sentence or passage just stands out to you. You can’t help yourself, you just need to read it again and again, then think about it, and then read it in another version for added impact and education.

“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. 
Always be eager to practice hospitality” 
Romans 12:13 NLT

I found both versions of Romans 12:13 to be educational, impactful and inspiring. I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept of inventive hospitality. Something about recreating our original conceptions of hospitality to have a greater impact on those around us is striking and consuming—it’s like the high-hope anticipation of a pretty new diamond, hiding in the box before being presented-- excitedly waiting to be brought to life by someone willing to wear it and showcase the love that gave the ring purpose. The diamond had a purpose, it's destiny awaits it, but the love behind it makes it all the more amazing and captivating. 

I wanted to examine my ideas of hospitality and how we can reinvent our actions when trying to live out such a word full of meaning.

When I think of hospitality I generally think of my time waitressing—a brief 6-month transitional period where I learned a lot about what I didn’t like doing, and I learned to rely on God to get through a day. Waitressing was all about serving the customer to the absolute best of your ability. No matter what you had to be attentive, friendly, considerate, do everything right, apologize profusely if anything did go wrong (even if it wasn’t your fault, and even if it was something as simple as it being a busy time and the food taking longer than what the customer deemed acceptable for their meal), and be all this and more that to every single person you are interacting with for your entire shift. Insert exhausted emoji here.

With this slightly skewed perspective on hospitality from a job I didn’t love, I felt the need to look up an actual definition of hospitality:

The quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

There are generic ways we live out the definition of hospitality with those around us. Generally speaking, we will be polite with those around us, smile, ask pleasant questions and listen to a response to make 'small talk'. Maybe you take your kindness one step further and let someone else go ahead of you in line at a coffee shop. Maybe you buy a round of drinks when meeting new friends. You’re being warm and friendly, being generous and kind.  
You’re doing all the right things. 
You are the walking definition of hospitality.

But we don't want to just act out the description in a dictionary, we are called to redesign the definition. The Bible instructs us to envision new and inventive ways to showcase this hospitality above the social norms of society. As Christians, we should be living out hospitality so over-the-top that when people find out we are interacting with strangers, they are completely blown away!

How do you normally treat strangers warmly? If it is normally with a smile why not say ‘hello’? It’s small and it’s simple, but more importantly, it’s unexpected. That’s what being inventive is all about! How are you friendly to strangers? Opening a door for someone, letting someone go before you in line, the same 'warm' smile on the street as you pass by? Step it up just one notch—hold the door open and say something like ‘hope you have a wonderful day!’


Generosity is probably the ideal I am most excited about. Being generous isn’t just about money, although that is often the most common representation. A friend recently asked me to create a cake for her very last minute. Normally I say no to last-minute inquiries, but this time, after thinking about what I had been learning, I said yes! I was generous with my time and resources and she was so thankful! Generosity comes in many forms. Time is something we will never get back so, realistically, this is probably our most precious resource. Giving our time to someone is probably the most inventive way to exhibit this God-breathed perspective of hospitality!

I'd like to challenge you to go above and beyond in your interactions with those around you this week-- take a few moments to asses your approach to hospitality and come up with new and unexpected ways to show your warmth, friendliness and generosity. It will be life changing for you and those you are interacting with. I'd say trust me, but really, trust the Bible-- God knows best and he's going to guide you!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

#FoodPorn

I remember when I first started using hashtags…

I was very unfamiliar with how they worked and thought the idea of putting a random “#” in front of a word or phrase was just plain silly. 
#Blessed 
#Car
#Cookie
#LifeGoals
Like, really? Why is this a thing? 
To showcase my dislike (and complete ignorance) I would put long, ridiculous hashtags on EVERYTHING! A favourite of mine was #RealLifeHungerGames in which friends and I would discuss topics and how they relate back to one of our favourite book series. This hashtag was used during text conversations, gmail chat sessions when we should have been working, lengthy emails, and, of course, real life conversations (because who doesn’t let a few “hashtag, basic white girl” or “hashtag, P-T-L” phrases slip out of their mouth every now and then).

As hashtags became more popular (and as I figured out their real purpose and began to understand their significance) I became intrigued with the hashtags people were choosing to use. I found myself both using hashtags when posting photos of my baking adventures on Instagram, and searching hashtags as I would browse social media. Since I was frequently looking up baking related hashtags it was inevitable I would stumble across the raunchy and distasteful #FoodPorn.



#FoodPorn, the second highest search
related to food.
Why, internet?!
This does not make sense! Why are glamorous and enticing images of food being categorized as equal to an industry that ruins the lives of everyone it touches? Is it some kind of metaphor—like the detrimental state of your health after over indulging in sweets (or too much cheesy goodness, or too much carb-filled deliciousness) will actually ruin you and make you suffer? Is it attempting to illustrate how our gluttonous lifestyle can seem ok at first, but then breaks you down the way porn wrecks everyone it collides with? Those are the only connections that actually make sense in my head, but we all know the real reason the general public has chosen to associate #FoodPorn with delicious looking items— It’s not as a warning but as encouragement of the ecstasy which comes from experiencing something almost too good to be true, something you know you shouldn’t.

There are many reasons this hashtag bothers me. One of the biggest reasons is the connection between pornography and human trafficking. The below video really nudged me forward into creating this post. Please watch it-- trust me, it’s worth it.




In my research on how the porn and human trafficking industries are connected, one of the most disgusting quotes I came across is as follows:

"Amateurs come across better on screen. Our customers feel that. Especially by women you can see it. They still feel strong pain." - Carlo Scalisi, Owner of 21 Sexury Video

They still feel strong pain. Why is this ok? Why is this something the general public is ok with watching while ignoring the deeper issues involved in the production of the film?

While researching, the below facts and quotes about the porn industry really stood out to me. Reading these insights, while thinking back to how we associate hashtags like #FoodPorn to mean something amazing, really makes me question the validity and general social acceptance of the hashtag-- and why more people aren't outraged at how porn in it's delusional definition has become so common place.
  1. 88% of scenes in porn films contain acts of physical aggression, and 49% of scenes contain verbal aggression.
  2. A 2005 study claimed that pornographers were travelling to poorer countries where they could use and exploit women and children with fewer risks. Budapest, Hungary was cited as Europe’s capital for the production of porn films because, as one pornography executive put it, Eastern European actors ‘cost less and do more’.
  3. “The Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children both recognize that pornography is an element that adds to the serious problem of sex trafficking. Many traffickers are found with filming equipment and cameras to create and sell pornography”
  4. "[Performers] usually ‘consent’ to the acts only in the degraded and demented sense of the word (common also to the law of rape) in which a person who despairs at stopping what is happening, sees no escape,… is often trying to avoid being beaten or killed, is always economically desperate, acquiesces in being sexually abused for payment, even if, in most instances, it is payment to someone else.”
I’d share more of these horrific tidbits with you, but just reading the quotes from those formerly involved in the pornography industry, and the plain facts my mind doesn't want to accept as true, make my stomach turn and my heart ache. Just watching the documentary "Hot Girls Wanted" on Netflix showcases how demented the pornography industry is-- how those involved feel they don't have control over the situations, how many have been taken advantage of in their past leading them to choose this lifestyle, and how degrading it is to the women involved. Pile on top of that the insane situations or 'fantasies' these people are 'acting' out for the viewers-- I just can't handle it. 

While the above information is great to share to educate how pornography negatively affects the individuals involved, those trafficked into the situations, and those who choose to view porn, why has there been no research done on the connection between the various forms of ‘porn’ society has become numbed to viewing on social media (#FoodPorn #HousePorn, #CarPorn, etc)? I’ve attempted to research the connection, knowing it would present a great viewpoint for this post, and the only information I can find is how #FoodPorn can lead you to make bad choices regarding your own dietary needs… Surprised? Me neither.

One of the most unsettling things about all this is seeing peers in the anti-human trafficking space use the hashtag. What message does this send about our commitment to seeing exploitation come to an end? It’s definitely not a good one.

I’d like you to take a bit of time and read through some of the sources and resources available at the end of this post. Educate yourself on what is really happening in the porn industry and know that any reference society can get away with only encourages the pornography industry to continue what they are doing—exploiting individuals for the viewing pleasure of those whose lives will subsequently be ravaged. It’s an endless cycle and we don’t need things like #FoodPorn to become so common place that porn itself, without a pre-cursor word, becomes accepted until it’s too late—the moment the downward-spiral entangles friends, family and those closest to you.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sources and resources:
Hot GirlsWanted—Documentary available on Netflix
XXX Church

**Note, as a blog, this is purely my opinion and a presentation of facts. I understand that as pornography becomes more main stream in our culture, my views can be considered 'old school' or 'close minded'. I know magazines and websites promote pornography as a way to have a healthy and happy sex-life, I know pornography is promoted in innocent ways, but the facts I've been presented with portray the realistic, behind-the-scenes portion of the industry many people either don't know or choose to ignore. Let us not turn a blind eye to real issues affecting the people around us.
  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Making BIG Decisions

Styling of macarons by Ashley Nicole, macarons
(all except one flavour) baked by me :)
Making decisions can be tough.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the decision of where to eat, or the decision to move to another country, some things can be so hard to decide.

Generally, if I’m having a difficult time making a decision, it’s probably because I’m genuinely indifferent about what the result of the decision will be. I think part of the indifference comes from surrounding myself with people I am close with. If I were with friends I am becoming acquainted with, I would perhaps have more of a say in things—show my likes and dislikes more so we get to know each other’s preferences. However, more often than not, I’m with good people where decisions aren’t going to get crazy and I’ll be fine with any outcome. Welcome to adulthood.

While this indifference is definitely a good thing, and bestows upon me the title of being ‘easy going’ or ‘super chill’, it still has its downside moments. People can think you are someone who can’t make decisions, who doesn’t care about anything, or someone who is a pushover—especially if you’re with people you don’t know very well. Until those fleeting moments arrive where my voice in a matter needs to be heard, this girl is in chill mode.

Recently, my general indifference was met with a challenge—the necessity of making the biggest, most hard, decision I’ve ever had to make.

Upon moving back to Manitoba I had to seek out employment. While my radio past was eager to welcome me back with wide-open arms, I wanted to continue my baking adventures. I began my professional baking career in Hamilton and I was dead set on continuing. This brought it’s own challenges, the main one being that Winkler, Manitoba isn’t really a hot spot for gorgeously hand-crafted baked goods. Contrary to suggestions from friends to open my own bakery, I wanted to get a job within an already established producer of edible delights—there is so much I want to learn from many talented people before I head out into the baking world completely on my very own. If anything, my back up would be to do a bit of baking on the side and get a job somewhere fun—like Bulk Barn. Oh what I would make with that discount to ease the financial aspect of seeing my creativity come alive.

So, Winnipeg it was. Before our move back I began the job hunt. With perfect timing, my final class in school was Communications where we worked on resumes, cover letters and portfolios. After sending away emails with my elegantly presented information on why various businesses should hire me (even though none of them had posting saying they were actually looking for new employees) I was met with a few conversations of possibilities and, eventually, I was down to two offers—both labeled “an offer you can’t refuse”.

Well, I had to refuse one.
I had to accept one.
It was literally the hardest decision.

Some Strawberries and Cream Macarons!
Has this happened to you? You’re offered with two amazing things and you have to pick just one? It’s not an easy decision. Any sort of indifference you once had to things suddenly is gone and every moment is spent debating the two options and trying to make an educated decision.

I did everything I was supposed to do when faced with a potentially life (and career)-changing decision: I thought about it, prayed about it, confided in close friends about the options available to seek out wisdom, made pro and con lists, made lists of goals and where I see myself in the future with points on which would best help me reach them. Seriously, I did it all, and yet, when it came down to the crunch, I let my heart guide me. Despite what others saw as an amazing opportunity and the obvious offer to not refuse, I had to do it. Sometimes the opportunity to learn and be a supporting actor in a journey is better than being the lead—even if other people believe in you, and even knowing God is always there to help you along whatever path you decide.

Whenever I was thinking of which opportunity to take on, in my head an image would consistently come to mind and I knew I couldn’t ignore it… my heart was set on one place as my #1. When your heart is set, even when an opportunity seems too good to pass up, you need to follow your heart. Finances, jet-setting, and creative control aside, the opportunity to learn and grow with individuals who put out work you have admired for years is something no temporary workshop or experimenting on someone else’s dime can compete with.

It’s been over a month now and I am consistently happy with my decision. While it was hard, and while it seems kind of crazy to those who knew the opportunities I was faced with, I know it was the right decision. God puts dreams and passions in your heart for a reason. When my wonderful husband and I first decided to move back to Winkler, I recall my first thoughts being, since we would be living in Winkler, I would want to work in Winnipeg at Jenna Rae Cakes and start taking blogging more seriously.

Well, welcome to my life.
Having a gut reaction from the beginning can make a huge difference in how you approach any big decision making process. Even if you do all the right things, your heart can still have the ultimate say—even if it’s in more of an ‘I told you so’ kind of way. In moments like these I praise God for always having my best interest in mind, and for allowing me to feel His nudge in what I do. Without Him, I may have allowed worldly logic to win out and I wouldn’t be where I am today. And today, I’m right where I should be.



Saturday, March 7, 2015

Slactivism

Slactivism.
Well, there’s a word you don’t hear every day.
Maybe it’s a word you’ve never heard before.
If you’re actively part of any movement for seeing justice win out, you may have a bad taste in your mouth after reading the word. Regardless, it’s time to have a chat about what it is, the good vs the bad, and how to drop the ‘sl’ from slactivist and become what the world needs more of—passionate activists.

I didn’t know what slactivism was until I did a stint with Not For Sale. It was one of those generic buzzwords (along with ‘innovation’ and phrases like ‘out of the weeds’) which came up in numerous conversations—more so in my realm as I was working with the grass roots initiatives of NFS. While it was thrown around from time to time without real explanation, it was easy to piece together what it meant—an easy representation of caring about something without really having to do anything at all.

Here is an official definition of slactivism from the Oxford dictionary:
Actions performed via the internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement. Eg: signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.
Now, here’s a hilarious definition of slactivism, with a great example from Urban Dictionary:
The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem. Eg: signing an email petition to stop rampant crime is slacktivism. Want to really make your community safer? Get off your ass and start a neighborhood watch!

As we can see, especially from the Urban Dictionary example, slactivism isn’t really viewed highly. It comes across as what it sounds like; you’re being a slacker. You sort of care about an issue, but not enough to do something that requires more work than the minimal required to show you care.

Let’s cut to the chase…
The reason I am choosing to speak on this topic is that recently, many people (myself included), put a red X on our hand to show we are standing in solidarity with, and hoping to bring awareness to, the over 27 million individuals in slavery today. There are more people in slavery today than at any other point in history… and today we have documents to say slavery has been abolished! To be especially clear, I am not speaking badly about the End It Movement. I took part in this campaign. I put a red X on my hand, took a photograph, and posted it to Instagram to spread awareness. But, like with most campaigns, awareness amazing but it is not enough. A conversation must begin and actions must be taken. It’s time we take awareness to the next level.

From my Instagram
@LoveInspiresChange
On February 27th my Instagram feed was flooded with individuals making a stand, putting that red X on their hand for a flashy photograph that shows they care. And while posting the picture to social media isn’t inherently bad, it’s what happens after which provokes questions as to why people do it in the first place. Have you ever, after posting a flashy statement or picture to social media, done anything to actively pursue being involved in trying to end slavery? Have you researched where your clothes come from? Have you looked to see if the chocolate you purchased is from a company who uses child and forced labour in their supply chains? Have you donated any money to an organization fighting sex trafficking or started reading the many books available on the topic? Have you prayed for the captives to be set free and for God to reveal to you what you should do next to help? For every like your Instagram photo received, you should have been doing something real to help end injustice.

So, what’s good about Slactivism? I think a campaign created with enough simplicity for the average individual to put in minimal effort while still being part of a movement is wonderful. Slactivism means the average Joe and Jane can engage with an awareness campaign, and feel like part of a larger group of individuals rallying together with one common goal, and that's pretty great. Imagine if every single person who has ever Tweeted about a cause, Instagramed an image of themselves supporting an organization with the use of a hashtag, or shared a pre-fabricated status on Facebook, influenced someone else to do the same. We would have a wildfire of awareness spreading, and the seeds of education being scattered across the world. We would suddenly see awareness soar about so many justice issues—enough issues that each individual could find what spoke to them so loudly they would want to become involved! Well, that’s the hope, after all—that awareness being raised inspires activists.

In this sense we can see how slactivism can have an impact. Awareness is a great first step to really seeing justice win out.

Since we’ve highlighted the positive, it’s important for us to take a look at why slactivism isn’t ideal. It’s almost self-explanatory—slactivism does not mean someone will actually start making a difference. Just because I posted a picture on Instagram, doesn’t mean I actually have to do anything else. Life can go on as normal. The ego boost from the ‘likes’ and the perception of being someone who ‘cares’ my Instagram followers see, could easily be enough to make me pursue nothing more than the selfish interest of posting the picture. No conversations actually sparked, no education shared, no further moments where I reflect on what it means to really try to end slavery. Let’s be honest, and this may come across pretty harsh, what do you think those currently caught up in sex trafficking think about you putting an X on your hand and posting a photo on Instagram? Will they see help from that one single thing you did? This is where slactivism finds it problem. It’s awareness, not effective action to end the injustice.

Pin this graphic, share it on Facebook, Twitter and
Instagram and share how to make a difference!
So what do we do now? We have all taken part in slactivism, and many of us have probably already been an activist for something we are passionate about without even realizing it. How can we ensure we are living life as an activist, not a slactivist, in how we approach new issues being brought to our attention?
Awareness is Step 1.
Education is Step 2.
Activism is Step 3.

Slactivism goes hand in hand with Step 1, Awareness. But it’s a three-step process that is designed to continue once you make it to Step 1. You have to move through Steps 2 and 3 to see a real change and impact the world.

This is why I want to challenge you, the average Joe and Jane out there who commonly take part in the basics of slactivism we can all easily become involved in, to take away the ‘sl’ and pursue the next steps to becoming an activist.

- What is the most recent campaign you mentioned on social media? This is your "Step 1: Awareness"
For myself, it was how that ridiculous #TheDress hashtag and ‘controversy’ took over the world. To change this from something meaningless to meaningful, The Salvation Army in South Africa has made a campaign addressing violence against women. They took a woman covered in bruises and cuts and put her in the gold and white version of the dress with the tag line ‘why is it so hard to see black and blue?’.

- Research! Find out statistics about the cause and how it pertains to you (geographical location, statistics specific to your area, etc). This is your "Step 2: Education"

From here, if you find yourself passionate about the cause, it's time to move forward!
- Get involved! Take part in a campaign, donate money, sign up to volunteer, do whatever it takes to ensure you are becoming involved in ending the injustice! This is your "Step 3: Activism"


I’m not picking on awareness campaigns—if people didn't became aware of what was happening around the world, they wouldn't have the incredible opportunity to become educated and stand up to injustice! I want to bring light to how awareness is not enough. Following through is imperative to seeing justice win out. Don’t be a slactivist—do something! You can, and you will, be amazed at how big of an impact you can have on seeing injustice come to an end.