The Empathy Deficit in the White Church {guest post}

By Katie Carper | Instagram: @katecarper

Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Rekia Boyd. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. Mya Hall. Stephon Clark. Botham Shem Jean. Aiyena Stanley-Jones. EJ Bradford. Jemel Roberson. Charleena Lyles.

Black bodies. Seemingly disposable. Their humanity buried far below the fair treatment of white bodies who survive their police encounters.

White boys and men load lethal weapons, enter churches and synagogues and schools, and walk out with blood on their hands. But it’s not their blood. And they still walk.

These gross injustices and tragic losses speak to the ongoing fear, mistrust, and disregard for non-white bodies and the preservation of white bodies in America. Each story is a painful example of the racial bias and systemic racism that both built and plagues this country.

Some days I wonder if I’m reading satire. Teenage me would ask, “Is this for real?”

In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”

If these words have merit, death seems imminent some days for American humanity. We’ll choke on the white *Christian* moderate response that says, “Be bothered by racial injustice but not too bothered. Don’t speak up or you might offend or taint your reputation. Play it safe. Don’t get too political.”

There are many who continue to travel the history of our country, slavery, police brutality, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and peaceful protests wearing only white shoes. Historical facts on racism and white supremacy are distorted, covered, or ignored by many white conservative evangelicals. As a follower of The Way trying to navigate our country’s racial landscape, I am deeply troubled by the white *Christian* silence, skepticism, and defense over the loss of Black and Brown lives.

Many of us in the white *Christian* culture have an empathy-deficit in matters of racial justice. We’ll pay thousands of dollars to cross the ocean for 10 days with our church groups and take selfies with poor black kids who don’t speak English. We’ll sponsor brown kids all over the globe in the name of generosity. We’ll devote our Sunday morning platforms to hear white voices share of their cross-cultural trips to serve people of color. We’ll host African children’s choirs in our places of worship and call that ‘diversity Sunday.’ And then we’ll pat our white shoulders for doing all that good work.

But include people of color in our white spaces and build friendships? Elevate the voices of our black and brown brothers and sisters in our places of worship and work? Admit, repent of, and humbly address our own personal bias and white privilege? Be informed, challenged, and educated by people of color? Publicly denounce systemic racism and join local efforts in racial reconciliation?

Nah. Too personal. Too uncomfortable. Too risky.

In the wake of Charlottesville, I observed silence from local white pulpits.

Toward peaceful protesters against police brutality, I heard national outrage from many white conservative evangelicals.

With racist remarks and policies from prominent politicians, I continue to hear excuses and enthusiastic applause from many white conservative *Christians.*

What do our black and brown brothers and sisters think when their white brothers and sisters, who claim faith in the same Jesus, respond ways that seem devoid of empathy?

I liken this empathy deficit to how we feel about our favorite pair of shoes. We like our shoes. They’re comfortable, well-worn, and conformed to the shape of our feet. Stepping into the shoes of another feels awkward, maybe even painful, and often forces us to adjust our gait.

White people need to consciously choose to identify with people of color by wearing their shoes. Yes, it’ll be uncomfortable. Yes, it’ll be awkward. Yes, it’ll be painful.

We’ll be asked to explore our deeply held beliefs, stereotypes, bias, and sin. We’ll need to confess that we’ve been complicit–that we who are white have actually been the benefactors of a system designed to serve us and ensure our success. We’ll need to repent of our silence as the oppressed have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of a country that favors white bodies. We’ll need to sit in the pain of another. We’ll need to rethink how we relate to those who differ from us. And we’ll need to roll up our sleeves and get to work challenging systemic racism that is rooted in our churches, schools, communities, and government.

People of color are exhausted from years of racial injustices, both the major events and the daily microaggressions. Those of us in the white majority don’t get to determine the validity of their pain or experiences. Our minority friends have spoken. Our responsibility is to confess, repent, collectively grieve, and commit to listen and learn from the voices we’ve silenced for far too long.

If we, who claim the name of the non-white Jesus, want to walk in His way of truth, righteousness, justice, and peace, we must be willing to remove our own shoes and step into the shoes of another.  

If you are a white person seeking to follow the way of Christ, here are 3 steps you can take to move toward empathy:

  1. Explore the racial dynamics in your own life. Grab a journal and pen and begin to answer these questions: What assumptions have you made about people of color? What stereotypes have you believed about racial minorities? What experiences, conversations, and education might have shaped your perspective? When was the last time you, as a white person, were in the minority? How might your experiences in America differ from those who are black or brown? Do you bristle when racism is addressed? This first step is not meant to shame but to help you process your own journey in a way that allows for honest reflection, humility, and confession.

2. Educate yourself on the history of race and racism in America. Read books and articles by authors of color and listen to podcasts that address racism. Watch movies, online videos, and documentaries that offer visual stories from people of color in America. Education allows you to get acquainted with a broad range of lived experiences for racial minorities. If you’re overwhelmed, unsure of where to begin, I encourage you to start here.

3. Pray about how to get involved specifically. Ask God for direction as you determine where to use your gifts to practice empathy in your community. What would it look like for you to walk in the shoes of another right where you are? For local involvement, I highly recommend Be the Bridge, an organization founded and led by the fearless Latasha Morrison. This online community provides practical tools to help educate, equip, and guide you in how to bring the Gospel to life through the work of racial reconciliation in your community. You can learn more at beabridgebuilder.com.

About Katie:

I like strong coffee, good books, and belly laughs. I’m a recovering people-pleaser with a strong sense of justice and a deep desire to remind others that they belong. I married a good man and we parent 4 kiddos, one with an extra chromosome. Most days, our house is wonderfully L.O.U.D. I write about social justice, parenthood, Down syndrome, and adoption. You can find me at www.katiecarper.com
Instagram @katecarper.

If you are a writer interested in submitting your work to Scraping Raisins, take a look at the themes below, check out the writing guidelines, and send me a submission!

Sign up for my monthly(ish) newsletter here and I’ll send you a list of hospitality resources for uncertain hosts!

Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash

Places to Publish (for Writers of Faith)

I compiled another list! Surprise, surprise. (Perhaps a procrastination technique to not actually write. . . ?) There are millions of online journals, but sometimes it’s hard to know which ones are worth your time. I’ve published at some of these places listed below, but the rest come by recommendation from writing friends. Can people of faith publish in secular journals? Of course–and I hope you do! But for those of you looking for a niche, I hope this list nudges you to submit your work to the world.

Most do not pay, but maybe I’ll share in a future post about why publishing for free is still valuable for new writers. Please let me know if there are some sites you would recommend that fit the flavor of this list and I’ll consider adding them. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter for more helpful information like you see here. (I don’t always curate lists, I write sometimes, too.)

You’ll notice the list runs the gamut “side”-wise, so read each publication before submitting to ensure that it’s a good fit for you! These links will take you to their submissions pages. Happy writing and publishing. May your rejections be few and your acceptances be many.

These Accept Previously Unpublished Pieces:

($ indicates they pay in some cases.)

By Faith (Presbyterian PCA magazine)

Catalyst

Christ and Pop Culture ($)

The Christian Century ($)

Christian Courier ($)

Daily Paradigm Shift (DailyPS)

Desiring God

Ethics Daily

Evangelicals for Social Action

Evangelicals for Social Action

Everything Mom

Faithit ($)

Fathom Mag

Good Letters (blog of Image Journal)

GrowthTrac

(In)Courage

Kindred Mom

The Other Journal 

The Mudroom

Scraping Raisins –me;-)

SheLoves Magazine

Sojourners ($)  

Red Letter Christians

Red Tent Living

Relief Journal blog

Ruminate Blog

Start Marriage Right

Think Christian ($)

The Well (Intervarsity)

These Accept Previously Published Work:

Barren Magazine

For Every Mom

Her View from Home ($)

MOPS

The Perennial Gen

RELEVANT

Accept Pitches/Queries:

Christianity Today (And CT Women) ($)

For Every Mom ($–only for previously unpublished work)

*This list may be updated periodically

Sign up for my monthly(ish) newsletter here and I’ll send you a list of hospitality resources for uncertain hosts!

Places to Publish for Christian Writers and Writers of Faith. The links on this post will take you to the submissions pages for each of these sites. #getpublished #submitwriting #writingsubmissions #placestopublish #blogs #onlinejournals #onlinemagazines #collaborativeblogs

Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

The Art of Following {guest post}

By Jessica Kumar | Instagram: @invisibleindia

I’ve never been much of a follower. I’ve always spent a significant amount of time in leadership or pursuing leadership. From a young age, people listened to my ideas and often went along with what I said.

In elementary school, I was pegged a leader of the playground. In high school, class president; in college, a resident assistant (leader in the dorm); in my career, a manager. My whole identity was built on being a leader.

In the Western world and all over the world, leadership is pursued, rewarded and compensated. Everyone is taught to build a following, pursue leadership opportunities and be an influencer.

However, in many cultures in the world, there is a high value in being a follower. People find their identity based on whom they follow rather than whom they lead.

I live in India, and there are beautiful things to learn here about following. You see many who are totally devoted to their guru and who will unquestionably do anything they ask or command.  In my community in India many of the women I know seek conformity and submission as success. Leadership is not a main measurement of worth or value.

Here in India, traditional women have roles:

  • follow your husband
  • follow your guru
  • follow your dharma (religion/duty/role in life)

I have learned a lot from being in a community like this. And in 2017 and 2018, I set a goal for myself-

My main goal was to stop leading, and become a follower. 

At this point in my life, I don’t have the expectations of a high pressure career and I have allowed myself to let go of the internalized success measurements that I used to gauge myself against. My identity in the community comes from who I follow and my roles of whom I serve.

“She is HIS wife.”

“She is HIS mother.”

“She is a follower of THAT guru.”

In this, brings an invisibility of self which is normal in Indian society, but begrudged in our Western world. And in this invisibility, I found freedom.

Learning to be a follower can produce beautiful things in our lives, including the freedom to admit that we don’t know everything, aren’t in control, and don’t have to “fix” things around us.

Even outside the Eastern world, the leadership model is being deconstructed. Leaders who are organic in reciprocal relationships are the ones who we want to follow. Effective leaders are the ones who expel their energies and share what they know, but also absorb knowledge and energy from those whom they come into contact with.

In essence, leaders who know how to follow are the ones others want to follow.

About Jessica:

A global nomad from birth, Jessica Kumar currently lives in India where she and her family are involved in economic development work and small business. She and her husband run a podcast, “Invisible India,” where they talk about scrappy travel, interview interesting people and explore the interactions between East and West through the lens of a cross cultural, interracial couple. Find Invisible India on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher as well as on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. She also writes articles related to cross cultural life at www.globalnomadism.com. Follower Jessica on Twitter @JessicaKumar_ (note the underscore.)

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Rockin’ New Books (by Female Authors) to Read in 2019

Did you know books with traditional publishers almost always release on Tuesdays? You’re welcome for that random bit of trivia you can use to wow strangers at your next party. Until I entered this publishing gig, I had no idea. According to this article, the main three reasons may be “ease of distribution, a level playing field for booksellers and a better shot at the bestseller list.” Who knew?

I’m marking my Tuesdays for the following books coming out in 2019. Be sure you do the same (and offer up some book/writer-love by sharing this post and pre-ordering a few of these amazing new titles!).

January

True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created by Michelle DeRusha (Baker Books)

The Bright Life: 40 Invitations to Reclaim Your Energy for the Full Life by Jen Wise (Zondervan)

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (Hachette)

Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg (Zondervan)

Hermanas: Deepening Our Humanity and Growing Our Influence by Natalia Kohn Rivera, Noemi Vega Quinones, Kristy Garza Robinson (IVP)

February

Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul by Courtney Ellis (Hendrikson Publishers, Inc.)

The Waiting Room: 60 Meditations for Finding Peace and Hope in a Health Crisis by Elizabeth Turnage

The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament by Aubrey Sampson (NavPress)

The Color of Life: A Journey Toward Love and Racial Justice by Cara Meredith (Zondervan)

Becoming Coztōtōtl poems by Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros (Flower Song Books)

And Social Justice for All: Empowering Families, Churches and Schools to Make a Difference in God’s World by Lisa Van Engen (Kregel Publications)

March

Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor (HarperOne)

Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort Beauty, and Peace by Christie Purifoy (Zondervan)

A Brave Face: Two Cultures, Two Families, and the Iraqi Girl Who Bound them Together by Barbara Marlowe, Teeba Furat Marlowe and Jennifer Keirn (Thomas Nelson)

April

Loving My Actual Neighbor: 7 Practices to Treasure the People Right in Front of You by Alexandra Kuykendall (Baker Books)

Brave Souls: Experiencing the Audacious Power of Empathy by Belinda Bauman (IVP)

Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack by Alia Joy (Baker Books)

The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions by Emily P. Freeman (Revell)

May

The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible and the Journey to Belong by Karen Gonzalez (Herald Press)

We Will Feast: Rethinking Dinner, Worship and the Kingdom of God by Kendall Vanderslice (May/Eerdmans)

July

Open Hands, Willing Heart: Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God by Vivian Mabuni (WaterBrook)

August

All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in His Messy, Abundant World by Catherine McNiel (NavPress)

Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness by Leslie Verner (Herald Press) [shameless plug 😉 ]

October

Separated by the Border: A Birth Mother, a Foster Mother & a Migrant Child’s 3000-Mile Journey by Gena Thomas (IVP)

November

Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace by Gina Butz (Discovery House)


The Following Are Still Waiting for Their Lovely Covers:

Latch, poems by Jen Stewart Fueston (March/River Glass Books)

When You Love a Prodigal: 90 Days of Grace for the Wilderness, by Judy Douglass (September/Bethany House)

A Prayer for Orion by Kate James (October)

Be the Bridge: Moving Toward Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison (October/WaterBrook)

Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison, by Richella Parham (October/IVP)

Stronger Than Death, how Annalena Tonelli defied terror and tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa by Rachel Pieh Jones (October/Plough Publishing House)

Lucinda Seacrest McDowell (November)

Deconstructed Do-Gooder: A Memoir About Finding Mercy the Hard Way by Brittany Winn Lee (November/Wipf and Stock)


And a Few Children’s Books:

Gracefull: Growing a Heart that Cares for Our Neighbors by Dorena Williamson (Feb/B & H Kids)

The Backwards Easter Egg Hunt by Meadow Rue Merrill (March)

The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Brittany Winn Lee (Beaming Books)

*This post will be updated periodically

Please share this post to spread the word on these fabulous new books!

***

Sign up for the (occasional) Mid-month Digest and the (loosely) “end of the month” Secret Newsletter for Scraping Raisins Here:

Follow me on Instagram @scrapingraisins–I frequently give away books and products I love! 


New books to read (by female authors) in 2019. #newbooks #2019books #christianauthors #creativenonfiction #nonfiction #bookstoread #bookrecommendations

**This post includes Amazon affiliate links

Jobless at Christmas {guest post}

By Stephanie Thompson | Twitter

I don’t like surprises.

Actually, let me clarify-I like surprising other people, but unexpected interruptions in the rhythms of my life make me uncomfortable.

I’m the one who likes to sit in the front seat of the rollercoaster so I can anticipate what’s coming next. Chalk it up to birth order, personality, life experiences … I like to have a sense of what lies ahead.

I’ve been learning to trust God more in this area. But, as you know, you don’t recognize progress until you encounter circumstances that test it.

Several years ago, my husband found out he was going to lose his job. Right before Christmas.

How do you prepare for that kind of news? We prayed, talked, and waited. And just as he thought, it happened.

My mind had not forgotten the prophetic nudge I had received randomly at a stoplight a year earlier. The Target sign advertising seasonal hiring had drawn my eyes and, for some reason, it resonated with me. As the light turned to green, the thought was packed into the back of my mind and I proceeded down the road and onto my day.

Until a year later, when we faced with my husband’s job loss. Questions loomed. Working at Target would entail nights at work and sleep during the day. How does one do that with a two year old? What about getting my older kids off to school? Would I have to work on Christmas?

God spoke into our lives in a way we had hoped but could not have imagined.

My husband’s company did not have a current space for him to work, so they gave him the opportunity to work from home until January, which was something he had always longed to do. I did end up working on Christmas, but the blessings in that season of waiting came packaged in ways I never anticipated.

Scriptural narratives consistently bear witness to a God of surprises. The packaging of the Messiah was no exception.

Of course, the Jews were well familiar with the prophecies including:

Isaiah 9 :6-7: For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.

The anticipation of his arrival was passed down through generations. Hope wove through the retelling of how God’s hand guided, intervened and never abandoned them. The Torah spoke of the repeated acts of redemption on behalf of the Israelites. And now, as a fractured people, the promise of permanent restoration appeared to be close to reality.

But how do you reconcile all that was hoped for in a Messiah with the reality that he arrived as an infant? Not a seemingly powerful king. Not a savvy political figure. Not even an adult.

God spoke into their lives in a way they had hoped, but could not have imagined.

Yet, truthfully, what had been pictured was not what transpired … at least not from a human perspective. Since fear and despair can quickly clutch us as we wait, how can we let hope and joy liberate us in the midst?

We remember the narratives which speak of God’s character throughout history. We, like, the Israelites, cling to the ancient truths which speak to present circumstances.

“and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.” Romans 15:12

God speaks into our lives in ways we hope, but cannot imagine-even when our blessings look differently than expected.

About Stephanie:


Stephanie is an ordained pastor, speaker, writer and mental health advocate. She writes about sensing the voice of God and encountering the Holy Spirit in the midst of our everyday routines. In addition, the themes of parenting and mental illness find themselves woven into some of her posts. She is a member of the Redbud Writers’ Guild, and her pieces have appeared at Altarwork, Amity Coalition, Her View From Home, The Mighty, and The Mudroom blog. Stephanie lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three teens. She blogs at stephaniejthompson.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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There’s Something About Mary {guest post}

By Nichole Woo | Website

I’ve read her ancient script a million times. If I’m really honest, what’s to admire? She was everyday, unaccomplished – conventional at best. She had her brief blip on the radar in Bethlehem. But, a few sentences later, she slips silently back into history. Mary never made waves or rocked boats; her passively-soluble life dissolved into the wider world. Hers was a story of submission: Compliant and well-behaved – the kind lived by women that seldom make history, or bumper stickers.

She’s the converse of the story I crave.

I long for stories of a louder, bolder, more meaningful existence – the kind bequeathed me as a 21st century woman. I ache for extraordinary; like that other Mary whose captivated imaginations for hundreds of years. We often see her slipping in and out of pop culture, and once again into the box office this season.

This Queen of Scots was anything but ordinary. Her life reads like an epic novel rather than a historical footnote. She was striking, accomplished – unconventional. In her 44 short years, Mary traversed the political-religious land mines around her, achieving the titles of Queen Consort of France, Queen of Scotts, and mother to the future king of England. There were scandals, a handful of husbands, murders, implications, imprisonments and escapes. There were plenty of missteps, but those just thickened the plot. Her life and legacy are legendary.

Extraordinary.

It calls to me in my own story – even more so at Christmas, when my soul searches for exceptional. I want the unrivaled light display outside (I almost lost an eye this year) and the stunning tree inside (to the back with the hand-made “ornaments”!). I want my kids to look cute, not constipated, in our Christmas picture. I want to get and give the perfection oozing out of every holiday ad I’ve seen since October. I don’t want my Christmas narrative to disappoint, like a Chia-Pet afterthought, unwrapped on Christmas morning. I’m graduating from “mundane Mary,” to shiny, Lexus-with-the-gigantic-red-bow-Mary-extraordinary.

A Tale of Two Marys

Digging deeper into the lives of these leading ladies and juxtaposing them unearthed truths that made we think again. True, both are part of royalty, yet each pursues drastically different treasure.

  • One sought adulation, the other risked humiliation. (Matthew 1:18-19)
  • One played for power, the other became a bondservant. (Luke 1:38)
  • One exalted herself, the other her Lord. (The Magnificant, Luke 1:46-56)
  • Queen Mary championed her “divine” right to rule, the other, a Divine Ruler. (Luke 1:45)
  • Both had a cousin, named Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth I of England was vulnerable, without an heir. So, Mary betrayed her, plotting to take her throne. Elizabeth of Judah, too, was childless and advanced in years. Upon experiencing a miraculous pregnancy of her own, she joyfully proclaimed her cousin mother of the King. (Luke 1:41-44)
  • Queen Mary, too, had a son. But James abandoned her, the goal of kingship in his crosshairs (eventually becoming James I or England). Amidst the chaos of crucifixion, from the agony the cross, Jesus sought his mother’s protection through His disciple, John. She would not be abandoned, though He was. He was crucified “King of the Jews,” but rose and reigns the King of Kings.

(Extra)Ordinary Mary

The Queen treasured a life of earthly power. In the end, she lost both to the blocks. The Virgin treasured the unfolding of Someone else’s power. (Luke 2:19)

A blip on history’s radar: “Ordinary Mary,” yet seen through the centuries as God’s “favored one,” counted by all generations since as blessed. Her humility and belief bore a Legacy greater than any other, her flesh cradling the Word who became flesh, the Savior-King. Two Marys: One made her mark on history, the other on eternity.

In our quest for extraordinary (especially in this season), may we find it not in “what,” but in Who.

About Nichole:

Despite a deep desire to belong, Nichole Woo often finds life nudging her to the margins. She’s been the only girl on the team, the only public speaking teacher afraid of public speaking, the only Caucasian in the extended family photo, and the only mom who lets her kids drink Fanta. She calls the Rockies home, often pretending to be a Colorado native in spite of her flatland origins. Visit her blog at www.walkthenarrows.com.

Sign up for the (occasional) Mid-month Digest and the (loosely) “end of the month” Secret Newsletter for Scraping Raisins Here:

Follow me on Instagram @scrapingraisins–I frequently give away books and products I love! 

Announcing the themes for next year! Visit here for submissions guidelines!

St. Ignatius, Mary & the Great Advent “Yes” {guest post}

By Kimberly Baldwin

While in grad school I spent some time in India with fellow students. After dinner one night, our host led us through some of the city’s streets until we ended up in Dharavi, which I would later learn was one of the largest slums in Asia, covering more than five acres in the heart of the city and home to as many as100,000 people. Dharavi was like nothing I had ever seen or experienced. We walked single file down the narrow alleys, the streets of Dharavi, following our guide closely, minding his instruction to keep close.

It was getting dark and it was a busy time of night. There were people everywhere. It felt as though I was pushing my way through a crowded train car. Our guide told us to avoid stepping in the water. With no proper waste system, the water running down the walkways was sewage. There were slabs of meat hanging from open windows. There were tiny shops. There was corrugated metal, cardboard and wood, all pieced together to build homes and businesses, a community. I was overwhelmed in every sense of the word. How do they all fit? How do they not get sick?  How do children not get lost? When we finally emerged from the narrow alleys of Dharavi we were led up five flights of stairs to the roof of a neighboring building and told to look down.

Below was Dharavi, the community we had just walked through. All I could see were rooftops pieced together, the alleyways not visible from the view above. Then looked up and out. The rooftops kept going. Dharavi kept going. It was bigger than I could have ever imagined. We had only covered a block. There was so much more. Stretching out before me were the lives of thousands of people … women, men and children living and breathing, working and cleaning, preparing food for their families, bathing their babies, caring for those who were sick. Suffering and celebrating. Laughing and crying. Dying and being born.

In Ignatian Spirituality, St. Ignatius of Loyola invites us to contemplate the incarnation in two parts. In the first part we are asked to imagine what the Trinity sees when looking out upon the earth before making the decision to enter into it in human form.  

For me, when I pray this first part of the contemplation I always see Dharavi.

I see the expanse of metal rooftops going on for miles, seemingly without end, and it astounds me every time that somehow God sees all of this and is, at the same time, still acutely aware of the individual moaning and exultation of each person. We don’t just get lost in the mix and that to me is astonishing. God can both see the broad view of the whole world (the rooftops of Dharavi view) and at the same time can see, feel, and hear the inner workings of each and every single person … all 7.5 billion of us. God sees all of this and then decides to enter into it, right into the middle of all our pain and all of our mess.

But first, Mary had to say yes.

For the second part of the contemplation on the incarnation, Ignatius invites us to imagine what that moment must have been like for Mary. However we might describe what Mary’s life was like in her time and day, it’s safe to assume it wasn’t easy. She most assuredly had dirt under her fingernails on the regular. But when presented with what must have seemed a crazy proposition, she said yes, and in doing so, made a very clear statement about her life’s orientation. Advent invites us to orient our lives just the same.

This is what Advent boils down to for me.

Advent … a time of hopeful anticipation, a time of inviting God in, a time of recognizing where we need God, and a time of re-orienting our lifetowards that which matters most.

My family and friends know that I love Christmas. I love all the cheesy romanticmovies. I love the lights and the photo cards that come in the mail. I treasure buying presents for the people I love. But I don’t think I could love Christmas the way I do without Advent.

Advent is when I am reminded that, just as Mary had to say yes, I too have to say yes. Not a one time yes but an ongoing, day-by-day and year-by-year yes. I have to make a decision about the direction I want my life to be heading. I have to open myself up to the God who wants to make a home in me. Advent gives us time to decide (maybe for the first time or maybe again), towards what or whom is our life oriented. 

Then we might see more clearly the incarnation. We might more joyously participate in the lights, and music and gifts of Christmas because Advent will have prepared us well.

The seemingly secular Christmas hype won’t concern us because instead it will serve as a reminder that the Trinity looked at the world and upon seeing the destruction and the suffering, responded out of compassion and mercy, deciding to incarnate God’s very self into the world in order to heal it. But that’s not all (as if that wasn’t enough). Advent reminds us that God gazes at each one of us in the very same way, with compassion and mercy, wanting to heal us, wanting to re-orient our lives. We just have to make the space. We just have to say yes.

About Kim:

As a wife and mom to four young children, Kim Baldwin is happiest when spending time with family and friends, enjoying the gorgeous Arizona sunshine, watching a little HGTV and volunteering with organizations doing good in the world. Professionally, she spends her days working with awesome undergrads in the Next Generation Service Corps at Arizona State University who are committed to creating change. This is where her passions lie and where her heart is most drawn. Kim looks forward to connecting with you as you too discover and share how you have been called to love and to impact change as you carve out estuary moments in your everyday life. Read more from her at http://www.ignatianmama.com.

***

For December, the theme on the blog is “The Other Side of Advent.” Let me know if you’re still interested in guest posting (I’m usually willing to extend deadlines)! Check submission guidelines here.

Sign up for the (occasional) Mid-month Digest and the (loosely) “end of the month” Secret Newsletter for Scraping Raisins Here:

Follow me on Instagram @scrapingraisins–I frequently give away books and products I love! 

Eight Nativity Myths: How the West Gets It Wrong

My children tore into the Christmas boxes yesterday, leaving books, toys, ornaments, lights and wrapping paper strewn about the living room. They arranged the Fischer Price toy manger in bizarre configurations and started in on their own versions of the Christmas story. A week ago for movie night, we watched the kids’ movie, The Star (complete with Oprah, Tyler Perry and Kelly Clarkson as voice actors) on Netflix and I wondered how much of the plot to critique with my children, age six and under.

Should I tell them there wasn’t a man in armor sent to kill Mary and Joseph—or a talking donkey? Or that Jesus wasn’t born in a barn? Should I point out that while the characters in the film looked more Middle Eastern than most adaptations of the nativity (apart from the blue-eyed Mary), their speech and mannerisms were decidedly “Western”? Was it even worth pushing against a story that has morphed into a romanticized version unlike what actually happened two thousand years ago …?

Living overseas and studying culture in graduate school taught me that I often view the world through Western lenses, forming incorrect assumptions as I read the Bible. Yes, the Reformation brought the freedom to study the Bible on our own, but with that comes the mighty weight of responsibility to research the culture behind the text. We can’t just take the Bible at face value and expect to get it right.

As I researched for my book about hospitality from a cross-cultural perspective this past year, I racked up late fines for a book I checked out of the library three times (and finally bought this week). Kenneth E. Bailey spent forty years living and teaching New Testament in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus. The book, called Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes peels away the lenses we’ve used to read the nativity story, confronting our assumptions with truths about Eastern culture.

He says the misinterpretations of the nativity began when an anonymous Christian wrote a “novel” two hundred years after the birth of Jesus. It’s the first fictional account suggesting that Jesus’ birth occurred the very night Mary and Joseph entered Bethlehem. Bailey describes it as “full of imaginative details.” Along with this fictional account, we’ve managed to invent plenty of myths on our own. Here are some I hope to eventually debunk for my children (and myself) as we lug out our Christmas paraphernalia year after year:

Myth 1: No Room at the Inn

Our nativity stories usually involve a dejected Joseph and Mary finally bedding down in the straw of a barn because there was no room for them in the inn. But Bailey writes that “if Luke expected his readers to think Joseph was turned away from an ‘inn’ he would have used the word pandocheion, which clearly meant a commercial inn. But in Luke 2:7 it is katalyma that is crowded …literally, a katalyma is simply ‘a place to stay’… if at the end of Luke’s Gospel, the word katalyma means a guest room attached to a private home (22:11), why would it not have the same meaning near the beginning of this Gospel?”(32, 33)

Bailey points out that most Middle Eastern homes for the past 3,000 years were made of two rooms—one a guest room, and one for the family and their animals. Joseph had likely already arranged to stay at the home of a friend (he knew Mary would be giving birth around then, so of course he would plan ahead–perhaps he’s not as inept as we imagine …). Rather than a story of rejection, the birth of Jesus was, in fact, one of grand  hospitality—a family gave up their own room to make space for the holy family.

As proof that Jesus wasn’t born in squalor, Bailey points out that in the spirit of Middle Eastern hospitality, the shepherds would have whisked Mary away to their homes had their accommodations been unacceptable for a baby. As it was, they left them there, deeming the lodging fit for royalty, and raced off to spread the incredible news.

Myth 2:  Feminine Angels

 

For whatever reason, this misinterpretation of the Christmas story really irks me. In the Bible, angels were feared. They were warriors who inspired trepidation and trembling, not cuddling and cooling. Perpetuating the myth of an anemic angel lowers the bar on God’s unnerving power. Every single angel in the Bible is described as male, and most immediately say, “Fear not”—because they were terrifying.

Myth 3: White Jesus

 

Last year, I rounded up all the toys and pictures of baby Jesus I could find in my home. Most of them revealed a Caucasian, white-looking Jesus. While every culture has depictions of a Jesus who looks like they do, it’s still important to acknowledge that Jesus was born in the Middle East, therefore he most likely had brown skin, brown eyes and dark hair.

Why does this matter? In an article for Christianity Today, author and speaker Christena Cleveland writes, “Not only is white Jesus inaccurate, he also can inhibit our ability to honor the image of God in people who aren’t white.” (While you’re at it, you should follow her on Instagram because her posts lately have been amazing.) Deifying whiteness deadens the broad brush of a God who pigmented all skin and called it “good.”

Images matter. The more we surround ourselves with images of a white Jesus, the more we begin to believe that he was white. (That said, it is very difficult to find nativity sets with a brown Jesus–the Fischer price one we have has only one brown-skinned figure–the shepherd. But I have a few options at the end of this post.)

Myth 4: The Timeline

In our carved wooden nativity set, shepherds, donkeys, wise men and sheep crowd around baby Jesus. Most people know about this myth, but Richards and O’Brien in Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes note that, “When the wise men arrived, they went to a house where the toddler Jesus and his parents were living (Mt. 2:11)” (144). The visitation of the wise men occurred years after the birth of Christ, not on the night of his birth. While it’s not wrong to compress the Christmas story for the sake of a play or pageant, it still bears acknowledging that events have been tampered with in our retelling.

Myth 5: The Omission of Infanticide

Image from The Advent Book.

This isn’t so much of a misconception as an omission in the story we tell our wee ones. I’m not suggesting we go into this as we light our Advent wreathes and eat cookies as a family, but like so many of our Bible stories, I think we’re in danger of desensitizing ourselves and our little ones to violence when we gloss over murder, rape, genocide, torture, and abuse in our common Sunday School Bible stories. Amazon offers a startling disclaimer for the children’s Adventure Bible: “As with any full Bible, in the context of Scripture there is frank mention of drunkenness, nudity, and sex that parents may not expect to see in a children’s edition.”

As adults, we grow so used to the familiar tales that we forget to be shocked, horrified or to even to acknowledge the sickening violence. The story of the birth of Jesus is no different, as Herod slaughtered innocent children in his rage at the coming king. Bailey says “there appears to be a conspiracy of silence which refuses to notice the massacre. Why then does Matthew include it?” (58) He suggests that “if the Gospel can flourish in a world that produces the slaughter of the innocents and the cross, the Gospel can flourish anywhere” (59). Perhaps as adults we need to meditate on the violence and allow ourselves to absorb the horror as a way of recognizing God’s presence in suffering.

Myth 6: Mary Was an Unwed Mother

Most Americans read “betrothed” and incorrectly assume it means the same thing as “engaged.” In reality, under Jewish law, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem as fully married couple who had not yet consummated their marriage. The Middle Eastern view of betrothal bears little resemblance to our conception of engagement in the West.

Myth 7: Mary and Joseph Were All Alone

My Chinese students could never understand why I wanted to be alone–because they never were. In fact, most non-Western cultures are collectivist and can’t understand the individualism of those of us in the United States and parts of Europe. Our Saudi international student said even her 12 year old sister still slept in her parents’ room, an example that holds true in many Middle Eastern cultures. Why would Mary and Joseph have been any different?

As they were traveling back to Bethlehem to register, Bailey points out that most homes would have been available to Joseph, who was of the royal lineage of David. To reject someone of that heritage would bring shame and humiliation to the community. Mary, too, had relatives in the area and had just been visiting her cousin Elizabeth not far away in the “hill country of Judea.” Bethlehem was in the center of Judea. They were not friendless in Bethlehem.

The birth in the family room of a friend’s home would have been attended by other women and midwives as tradition dictated. Far from alone, Mary and Joseph would have been surrounded by more help than they needed. (My friend, Sarah Quezada, is sharing more about what she’s calling “the Advent caravan” the next three Sundays, you can sign up for that here.)

Myth 8: The Boot-Strapping Holy Family

In America at least, many of us love the Cinderella stories of the underdog rising to power. The United States lauds those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps, forge ahead without the blessing or need of others and make something of themselves. I wonder if this love of independence and individualism has seeped into our telling and retelling of our beloved nativity story. We love the idea that an unwed family left home and made something of themselves in spite of rejection. Not needing anyone else, they gave birth alone in a barn to the audience of only animals.

But what if we changed the narrative to reflect the culture in which it was written? A culture that valued hospitality, relationship, togetherness and family? How would this alter our tale?

***

Why does all this matter? The more I learn about other cultures, the more I realize how much of my own culture I project onto my personal reading of the Bible. Understanding the nuances of stories in the Bible from the perspective of the culture in which it was written fills in the gaps of our shallow, faulty understanding.

I know there are resources out there that offer a more accurate nativity story. In our family, we use the Advent book and the Jesus Storybook Bible to share the Christmas story with our little ones, though these also fall short.

The Jesus Storybook Bible has a brown-skinned Jesus.

The Jesus Storybook Bible also has a more accurate timeline.

The Advent Book is straight from the Bible, and we open a door each night leading up to Christmas.

I want my children to peel away the heroics and white-washed Bible stories to see the God behind the myths. Mostly, I want my kids to know the many dazzling facets of God they’re missing when they settle for a Western god made in their own image.

***

Resources:

The Story of Christmas (recommended by a friend of a friend)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olive Wood Miniature Nativity Set (we have this one–it’s small and not for play, but nice!)

 

 

Nativity Sets from Peru (this site looks awesome–they have sets from all around the world!) This mini one from Peru is $16.99.

African American Nativity for $54.99

 

Bark Cloth Nativity Set for $29.99

 

 

 

Painted Peg Doll Nativity Set for $40 (Looks more Middle Eastern, but still has a female angel…)

 

 

Diverse Peg Doll Nativity Set for $142 (more money if you order the Dr. Who character!!!…???)

 

 

***

For December, the theme on the blog is “The Other Side of Advent.” Let me know if you’re still interested in guest posting (I’m usually willing to extend deadlines)! Check submission guidelines here.

Sign up for the (occasional) Mid-month Digest and the (loosely) “end of the month” Secret Newsletter for Scraping Raisins Here:

Follow me on Instagram @scrapingraisins–I frequently give away books and products I love! 

I want my children to peel away the heroics and white-washed Bible stories to see the God behind the myths. #whitejesus #nativitymyth #nativitystory #advent #adventmyth #westernculture #easternculture

**This post includes Amazon affiliate links.

A Minimalist’s Guide to Slow Fashion {guest post}

By Claire Florine | Instagram: @claireflorinewrites

In our fast-paced society that is generally obsessed with instant-gratification, a new speed of fashion is taking root in the wardrobes of a wide variety of women. Some call it “slow fashion;” others “ethical shopping,” and can involve extensive brand research as well as the creation of the ever-so-popular yet elusive capsule wardrobe.

Being a recovering retail therapist and a “wannabe” minimalist, I have to admit that my curiosity was piqued at this also environmentally friendly and sustainable shopping trend. I have been trying to simplify all of my purchasing needs, but have had to really zero-in on clothing due to a mild obsession with it. Yes, I am a true lover of getting dressed, and yet I cannot help but to feel convicted by the heaps and heaps of clothing that I have cycled through, even just in this past year.

When I first began looking into the idea of slow fashion and ethical shopping, I did some research on the harm that cheap clothing and our consumption of it has done to the environment and to the lives of underpaid textile workers. This sickened me enough to look further. I came across some wonderful brands that are ethically made and pay their workers a fair price. This seemed like the jackpot. I could now select what I wanted to buy from these sellers, and feel good about my clothing choices as well as look like the “fashionista” I shamelessly want to aspire to.

Not so.

Because the truth is, in order to fully embrace ethical and sustainable shopping, I had to first change my “fast-fashion” mindset.

I came to this realization rather quickly. Because what you will notice about the best of these ethical brands is that they are a little pricy. And rightly so! They pay their workers well and use only the best, natural, and sustainable materials so that your clothes will not only look and feel amazing, but will last a long time. These clothes are not meant to be cycled through by fickle “fashionistas” who follow trends like twitter tweets. They are meant to be invested in by mature women who know their style, body type, and preferences, and have enough self-respect and earth-respect to take care of their clothing for the long haul.

I’ll admit that I had some serious changes to make, and I am still on this “slow fashion” journey. But over the past few years, I’ve learned a few good tools that have helped me become less wasteful, more mature, and yes, I still love the act of getting dressed each morning.

First, ethical shopping begins by looking into our own current wardrobe for what we “need.” If there are gaping holes in our closet collection (and let’s be honest, usually there aren’t), then we can figure out what’s most important to us: fair wages, natural materials, handmade, waste-free packaging … It’s hard to get all of these things in one, so we have to do our research and choose what most convicts our hearts. Invest in the brands that best encompass your convictions and purchase from them only what you absolutely need.

Okay, so say there really are gaping holes in your wardrobe. And say you want to curate a fairly modest capsule wardrobe by exclusively shopping ethically. How do you do this without breaking the bank? My simple answer: shop second hand.

This way, you opt out entirely from the production of more clothing, and you also save someone else’s rejects from being disposed of in an environmentally unfriendly fashion (pun intended). Vintage Etsy sellers work fine, but so does your local Goodwill or consignment store. In fact, bring your own bag to a thrift store and you’ll even be saving valuable paper and toxic plastic packaging that the expensive ethically made, hand-dyed linen dress would have been shipped in. Win. Win.

But most of all, get in the habit of shopping out of necessity, not boredom or trend following.

Begin with resourcefulness—gratitude is what I like to call it—and practice freeing yourself from the need to shop for more entirely. You can make what you have work well in many cases, especially if you take good care of the things you already own. No need to throw away all of your tops from Target just because they aren’t ABLE or Everlane—that would be adding to the “fast fashion” problem. But evaluate what you think are your fashion needs and check that they aren’t just desires: do you really need a fall dress for that wedding coming up, or can you throw on your black beaded cardigan and some floral-print leggings to enhance a dress that’s already hanging in your closet?

What I have found is that limitations can help you be creative and sustainable. Put on blinders if you have to: unfollow fashion Instagram accounts that tempt you to shop for more, avoid catalogues or clothing boards on Pinterest, and unsubscribe from newsletters from online stores.

My favorite practice that helped me tremendously in this area was to wear only 10 items of clothing for an entire month (underwear not included). This helped me evaluate my style as well as the versatility of my wardrobe. I came out on the other end far more content with my own closet and my desire to shop dialed down drastically.

However we decide to change our fast-fashion mindset, we must see this as the first step to take in embracing ethical shopping. Otherwise, we will simply cycle through more expensive, albeit sustainable, clothing in our ever-changing “capsule wardrobes,” which will end up in a landfill releasing toxins into the already polluted air. I think we can all agree, fashionista or not, that this is so not the point.

About Claire:

Claire Florine is a writer living on the Far Southside of Chicago. Wife to a visionary, mommy to two wee ones, and a lover a good cup of black coffee, she seeks to simply life by pursuing meaningful minimalism, gobs of gratitude, and contentment in all situations. Find her writing at www.thewannabeminimalist.com. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

***

For December, the theme on the blog is “The Other Side of Advent.” Let me know if you’re still interested in guest posting (I’m usually willing to extend deadlines)! Check submission guidelines here.

Sign up for the (occasional) Mid-month Digest and the (loosely) “end of the month” Secret Newsletter for Scraping Raisins Here:

Follow me on Instagram @scrapingraisins–I frequently give away books and products I love! 

Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

Ethical Gift Guide to Love People & Help Our Planet (2018 edition)

I feel like I need a business degree just to be a responsible consumer these days. Words like “ethical, fair trade, green, sustainable, direct-trade, certified B Corp, fast fashion, direct trade, and multi-level marketing” are just some vocabulary you may encounter as you google around for companies you can get behind before you trust them with your hard-earned money. 

I’m still learning, but here’s what I’ve discovered:

I’d rather buy something that may help a person in need than perpetuate a system thriving on the backs of underpaid workers in sweatshops.

During my research, I searched for ethical companies that may not be on your radar. The larger and more well-known ones are at the bottom of this post, because they are doing good work, too, but this year I wanted to showcase some smaller companies you may not know about. Almost every one of the companies on this list comes from a personal recommendation.

I chose ethical businesses that were affordable, had personal contact with the artisans, had a story and vision I loved, didn’t have cringe-worthy marketing perpetuating elitism or the white savior complex, and offered pretty products. All the specific gifts I picked are in the $50 or below range because that’s about what we can afford for gifts these days. 😉

I’m not receiving any compensation for sharing these, though several companies generously offered discount codes for Scraping Raisins readers, which you’ll find in bold. I’ve noticed many also offer discounts if you sign up for their mailing list.

The companies on this list are doing incredible work among disadvantaged people in the world. Read their stories, you’ll be amazed. You can feel better about spending your money at these companies this holiday season:

LOVELY

EMPOWERS: men and women coming out of the sex trafficking industry in Texas

SELLS: T-shirts, jewelry, prints, candles

From their site: “We visit strip clubs cross Texas, build relationships with club employees without strings attached, and connect them to community and spiritual resources. For those desiring to transition from the industry, we offer various programs to assist their journey. We also work with “Johns” who have been caught up in prostitution through our Stop Demand School. We stand against exploitation from materials to manufacturing while creating avenues of opportunity.” Their site is a little tricky, so click on the menu (three lines) and use the sidebar to view all their products. They have shirts with messages like: “The kingdom of God smells like cigarettes and perfume: Jesus Said Love.”

My pick for a guy would be this shirt for $30:

JusTea

EMPOWERS: people in the Nandi Hills community in Kenya

DISCOUNT: 20% off if you use the code “RAISINS20”

From the site: “This small specialty factory is processing orthodox teas that have never been seen before in the world market: Purple, Green, Oolong and Black artisanal teas. The factory is fully staffed, managed, and owned, by small-scale Kenyan tea farmers in Nandi Hills.”

My pick is this Sunkissed Rooibos tea for $13 (it’s also available on Amazon here):

Sparrow House Botanicals

EMPOWERS: survivors of human trafficking

DISCOUNT: $5 discount at checkout using the code “Take5”

From the site: “We provide a sustainable hourly wage, an opportunity to build a job history and a resume, as well as work making quality products the ladies can be proud of. We use organic, fair trade ingredients in the manufacturing of our products to ensure that they are the most natural and socially conscious that they can be. We want to make sure that as we seek to provide freedom for the women we employ, we will not be oppressing any others!” This orange mint gift set for $25 might make a great gift for a female teacher, or a mother, sister, friend, etc.:

Ziyada

EMPOWERS: women and men in India

SELLS: tablecloths, aprons, pillow covers, and more

DISCOUNT: Use the code “Scraping Raisins” for 10 percent off until Dec. 10th!

From their site: “Ziyada exists to provide meaningful employment in a safe, loving environment for people caught in the devastating cycle of extreme poverty in North India, and in the process, to bring you more quality and beauty through each good we create.” *Recommended by my friend living in India.

My pick–4 napkins and placemats for $32 (I’d need two sets…):

Barefoot Books

PROMOTES: green business practices and diverse books

From the site: “From sustainably sourced paper to vegetable-based ink, the materials that make up our books are ones that you can feel good about having in your classroom or home. Whether it’s donating Barefoot books to Marley Dias’ #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign or planting trees across the globe, the Barefoot family is taking action to make an impact every day.” My pick is The Barefoot Book of Children for $19.99, by Tessa Strickland and Kate DePalma:

The White Peacock

EMPOWERS: women in India

SELLS: handicrafts, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, bags

From the site: “The White Peacock is an outreach that helps Indian women work at home and support their family through creative designing, crafting and marketing handmade items. We have 60 working members who participate in weekly meetings of fellowship and chai. We exchange work at these meetings.” *Recommended by my friend living in India.

My pick (if I did yoga) would be this yoga bag for $14.99:

Sari Bari

EMPOWERS: survivors of trafficking in India

SELLS: bags, tablecloths, baby gifts, home décor

Sari Bari has offered Scraping Raisins readers a discount code of 25% of per customer until December 15th! Enter the code “RAISIN” at checkout!

From their site: “Each Sari Bari product is marked with the name of the woman who made it. Vintage saris arrive at our sewing center in Kolkata’s largest red light district. Freshly laundered saris are sorted into product types and grouped by color and design. Bag and blanket patterns are traced and cut, all by hand! Pattern pieces are hand sewn using the traditional Kantha stitch. *This company came highly recommended by my friend living in India. ” My pick for a friend with a new baby, this baby changing mat for $30:

Or these fun dinner napkins (set of 6) for $42:

 

Gobena Coffee

EMPOWERS: vulnerable and/or orphaned children

DISCOUNT: Use the code “go10” for 10% of all coffee and k-cups!

From the site: “100% of our profits go to enriching the lives of vulnerable and/or orphaned children. When you buy one bag of coffee $4 (our profit) goes to enrich the lives of vulnerable and orphaned children.”

The Gobena Coffee Club is their subscription coffee service and you get discounted coffee when you sign up for this option that includes free shipping! It would make an excellent gift for a coffee lover;-) My pick would be this Ethiopian coffee for $14.99:

The Grain of Rice Project

EMPOWERS: Kenyans living in the Kibera slum

SELLS: jewelry, accessories, housewares

DISCOUNT CODE: Enter”SR15″ for 15% off any online purchase!

From the site: “Grain of Rice Project is a non-profit ministry, which seeks to empower Kenyan people with the love of Christ by helping them become self-sufficient through employment, education, and skills training. Most of the artists and children we work with live in the Kibera slum, which is the largest slum in East Africa.” My pick would be this coffee cup sleeve for $8.:

Or this apron for $25:

SutiSana

EMPOWERS: Formerly prostituted women in El Alto, Bolivia

SELLS: apparel, leather bags, accessories

DISCOUNT: For 10% use the code “RAISINS” at check out. One use per customer. Valid until December 31st!

From their site: “SutiSana was founded by Word Made Flesh in 2010 to provide dignified employment and a new life for women attempting to leave prostitution in El Alto, Bolivia …Word Made Flesh coordinates sewing training for women to prepare them to work in SutiSana. When a woman joins SutiSana, she receives all the benefits, including health insurance. She and her children are supported through community, and she is given opportunities to continually grow – learning to design bags, work with new materials, and even coach other women as they leave prostitution.” My pick for $45 (for a guy):

Elegantees

EMPOWERS: women coming out of sex trafficking in Nepal

From their site: “We dream to expand from one sewing center to several to provide more jobs. The waiting list is between 300-500 women who desire to work for Elegantees …The designs are ethically made by women (and some men too) who are paid fair wages. Fabric is sustainable using organic cotton in new fabrics we dye. We also source from dead stock fabric for non-organic blends.” Ok, so even though I’m trying to buy only used clothing these days, my reasoning is mainly because of the fast fashion industry. I could maybe make an exception for this shirt for $54... if it was a gift;-)

Just Coffee Co-op

EMPOWERS: famers in South and Central America, Africa, and Southeast Asia

From their site: “Just Coffee is a certified B Corp. B Corp certification gives us a credible third party certification to ensure that our practices meet our mission and values– it vouches for us that we are a business that aims to be a force for good in the world. It looks at our commitment to environmental sustainability, being good partners to our suppliers, a good place to work for our employees, and a good neighbor our communities.” My pick is this coffee for $12:

Ciderpress Lane

EMPOWERS: those coming out of sex trafficking

SELLS: a cookbook, kitchenware

From their site: “What if, by sharing dinner together with our friends, we could fight the injustice? Seven people showed up to that first dinner and $300 was given to fight human trafficking. We didn’t know it at the time but the Freedom Dinners at Ciderpress Lane had begun. Now, that spark of an idea has turned into a full blown Fair Trade Shop that allows us to do what we love to fight what we hate. We are continuing to expand our online shop so you can buy the things that make Dinners at CiderPress Lane possible. From the cookbook that tells you exactly how to host a dinner in your own community to the very tables that we use in our orchard. Through the shop we are able to create local community workshops, host more dinners and give even more to Rescue:Freedom.”

My pick is this book for $28.99 (+$6 shipping):

Or this tray for $42:

Mighty Nest

PROMOTES: green living

From the site: “Mighty Nest is a unique Web site that provides you the ability to research, get advice and buy natural, organic and non-toxic products all in one place. All of the products we sell are free from known toxic ingredients such as: BPA, PVC, Phthalates, Lead, Melamine, Formaldehyde, Flame retardants, Parabens and more.”

My pick is this reusable snack bag/sandwich bag lunch set for $35.97:

Dignify

EMPOWERS: women in Bangladesh

SELLS: table runners, baby blankets, throw blankets, bedding

From the site: “We work exclusively on all of our textile products with Basha Boutique, HQ’d in the Mirpur district of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Basha is a generous, safe, kind- & whole-hearted business that employs vulnerable and at-risk women in dignified, sustainable work.”

My pick is this table runner for $48:

Meenal Patel Studio

PROMOTES: individual artisans

SELLS: art prints, cards, childrens’ books

I discovered Meenal’s work at an online popup shop and fell in love. She is a talented illustrator, children’s book author, designer and artist. You can check out her kick-starter for a children’s book called Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala here. This is my favorite  print from her etsy shop for $24:
And this one, also starting at $24 depending on which size you want:

PURPOSE Jewelry

EMPOWERS: women and girls escaping human trafficking

SELLS: jewelry, candles, ornaments

DISCOUNT: Use the code “PRRAISINS15” for 15% off until Dec. 9th!

PURPOSE is the social enterprise of International Sanctuary, and 100% of the proceeds go directly back to the non-profit. “The mission of International Sanctuary is to empower young women and girls escaping human trafficking to embrace their true identity and worth.” The current sanctuaries are in India, Uganda, Mexico, and California. Their 2020 vision is “to launch 10 sanctuaries around the world where girls and women rescued from slavery are empowered in the restoration of their mind, body, and soul.” (from their site) My pick is these shimmer hoop earrings for $26:

Women’s Bean Project

EMPOWERS: disadvantaged women in the Denver, CO, area

SELLS: dried soups, cornbread, brownies and other food

From the site: “We hire women who are chronically unemployed and we teach them to work by making nourishing products that we sell across the US through some of the country’s largest retailers. We offer a transitional job in dry food manufacturing designed to provide women immediate income, arrange support services to overcome barriers to employment, and teach the job readiness and life skills needed to get and keep a job. Through their work at the Bean Project, the women learn to stand tall, find their purpose and break the cycle of poverty. Because when you change a woman’s life, you change her family’s life.”

My pick is this old fashioned chili and cornbread gift bundle for $13:

 

Favorite Companies from My List Last Year:

Copper & Torch

PROMOTES: buying handmade items from small businesses

SELLS: jewelry, trays for display, home décor

This company is run by my sister-in-law out of Marietta, GA.”Her mission is to preserve beautiful specimens from lace, botanicals and papers in glass as an archive of the past in a clean, minimal and modern way using traditional stained glass processes.” (from her site) Love this photo frame for $48:

Divine Chocolate

EMPOWERS: Farmers in Ghana

From their site: “Divine Chocolate is co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. As owners, they get a share in the profits, a say in the company, and a voice in the global marketplace.” This is a 3.5 oz bar for $3.99. These would make great stocking stuffers!

Do Good Shop

EMPOWERS: A variety of artisans around the world

SELLS: jewelry, accessories, women’s clothing, and gifts for men

DISCOUNT: 20% off + free shipping with the code “DOGOODSHOP20”

From their site: “Do Good Shop runs like a business, but is actually a nonprofit organization. This means that not only does each purchase create jobs for vulnerable artisans, but also ALL of our net proceeds go directly back into supporting the artisans and their communities, and educating others about this great need.” I got this journal for Christmas last year and LOVE it (it’s $26):


My pick this year would be this eyeglass case for $20:

Green Toys

PROMOTES: Local manufacturing using recycled materials

This site has a wide range of toys for children. Though they are plastic, they are much sturdier than your typical plastic toy and they use recycled materials. From their site: “From our 100% recycled materials to our US-based manufacturing, we’re raising awareness about sustainability while delivering unquestionably safe products.” We have this tool set for $29.99 and really like it!

Imagine Goods

EMPOWERS: Trafficking survivors in Cambodia, disadvantaged in Haiti, and those coming out of homelessness in Pennsylvania

SELLS: clothing, men and women’s aprons, bags, and even dress shirts and neckties for men! (It is very difficult to find reasonably-priced, ethical clothing for men.)

DISCOUNT: 15% off with the code “scrapingraisins” until November 21st!

This site includes a ton of information about the artisans involved and each product has a symbol indicating who made it. From their site: “We are creating products that care for the human race—giving opportunity for individuals to care for their children, families, and health. . . so that a new generation has a fighting chance to break the cycle of poverty.” They also lead trips abroad for people to learn about poverty and the garment industry.  I bought some wristlets last year for my nieces and loved them. I still do:-) Here’s another one I like for $25:

Mercy House

EMPOWERS: Artisans in Africa and refugees in the U.S.

From the site: ” Founded in 2010, Mercy House started with a dream to help pregnant teen moms in Nairobi, Kenya. Today, Mercy House fully funds two maternity homes in Kenya. They are paid more than a fair wage and empowered by your purchase. The artisans who make the lovely items in our shop are some of the most oppressed and impoverished in the world, from Kenya to Ethiopia to refugees relocated to the United States.They also have a “charitable gift catalogue” where you can donate to practical needs of real women such as: “provide a mosquito net, food for one mom and child, an academic scholarship, fund literacy classes for women, provide a sewing machine, or rescue a pregnant girl.” This case for $22 that comes with colored pencils and a journal would be great for kids (or adults!) to bring when they’re on the go (like if they want to draw during church ..):

Papillon Marketplace

EMPOWERS: artistans from Haiti

SELLS: bags, jewelry, home décor, toys, T-shirts

DISCOUNT: Enter code “RAISINS” to get 15% off now through end of 2018! 

From the site: “Our mission is orphan prevention and we do that through job creation. Papillon is providing hope to Haitian Artisans with the dignity of a job, training, and the ability to create something new out of something discarded and seemingly unusable. We use metal, cardboard, aluminum, dirt, and paper to make jewelry and other beautiful things.” My pick is this Metal Art Tree Topper in brushed metal for $20:

Or this checkers travel set for $24 would be a great gift for a child!

Preemptive Love

EMPOWERS: Refugees in Iraq, Syria and the U.S.

SELLS: soap, candles, services/items for refugees

I met the CEO and founder of this organization three summers ago at a conference. This is an incredible organization, and this site is just one small part of what they are doing. In addition to soap and candles, you can buy chickens for a displaced family, medical treatment for a war survivor or water for families in conflict zones in Iraq. This is their mission: “We’re a coalition stretching across Iraq, Syria, the United States, and beyond, working together to unmake violence and create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” I gave some of these $10 soaps for stocking stuffers for my mom and nieces last year. My pick is this Sisterhood Soap for $45:

Re:New

EMPOWERS: Refugees in Chicago

SELLS: purses, wallets, bags and journals made from upcycled materials

From their site: “We engage, equip and employ refugee women in the Chicagoland area. It is our greatest desire to provide a space for refugee women to thrive as they rebuild their hopes and dreams in the United States.” My pick is this mini tote for $27.95:

Sak Saum

EMPOWERS: Exploited men and women in Cambodia

SELLS: accessories, apparel, bags, wallets

This company came highly recommended by a friend. From their site: “Located in Phnom Penh and the Saang District of Cambodia, Sak Saum is a ministry dedicated to the rescue, restoration, transformation and rehabilitation of vulnberable and exploited women and men.” My pick is this bag for $40 (but in slate):

Soap Hope

EMPOWERS: Women in poverty

“Each time you shop at soaphope.com, 100% of the profits – yes, every dollar – goes to empower women to lift their lives, families, and communities from extreme poverty. We select partners each year based on need and outcomes. In 2018, we are providing interest-free capital to Milaap, a microfinance institution in India focused on the rural poor, and we are currently finalizing other partners for loans that will be disbursed later this year.” My pick would be this deep lavender bath collection for $30.99:

Starfish Project

EMPOWERS: Women coming out of trafficking in Asia

SELLS: jewelry

This company provides shelter, counseling, employment and education to women coming out of trafficking in Asia. From their site: “We provide life-changing opportunities through our Holistic Care Programs and our social enterprise where women create beautiful jewelry and become managers, accountants, graphic designers, and photographers.” I like this necklace for $42.99:

Thistle Farms

EMPOWERS: Women survivors of trafficking and addiction in the U.S.

SELLS: lip balm, bath sets, non-toxic bug spray, lotions, soap

DISCOUNT: Enter the code “ScrapingRaisins” for 10% off until Dec. 31st!

This is their mission: “Thistle Farms’ mission is to HEAL, EMPOWER, AND EMPLOY women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.” They have some bath sets and smaller items for stocking stuffers that would make great gifts. Someone please buy me this bath soak set for Christmas…;-) This set is my pick for $25:

Other AMAZING Companies: 

These companies are partnering with many different artisans and/or fair trade businesses around the world.

Accompany

Equal Exchange

Global Girlfriend

Finders and Makers

The Flourish Market

Global Goods Partners

The Honest Consumer

Justly Market

Karama Collection

Krochet Kids

The Little Market

Noonday Collection

Serrv

Ten Thousand Villages

Trades of Hope

Support Indigenous Companies:

Kailin Curtice shared this fabulous thread on Twitter of gifts to support Indigenous people/organizations.

Please leave links to other ethical sites you love. There were so many more that I couldn’t include. And share this post to spread the word on these amazing companies!

Sign up for the (occasional) Mid-month Digest and the (loosely) “end of the month” Secret Newsletter for Scraping Raisins Here:

Follow me on Instagram @scrapingraisins–I frequently give away books and products I love! 

Ethical gift guide to love people and help our planet (2018 edition). Come here for your Christmas shopping to support ethical, fair trade, sustainable, and green companies. #ethicalcompany #ethicalgifts #ethicalconsumer #sustainable #fairtradegifts #Christmasgifts #giftlist #Christmasgiftlist #ethicalgiftlist

* Images from various shops

**Contains some Amazon affiliate links

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash