The Ultimate Upcycler

‘When you’re first abused, you’re filled with shame about what is happening to you. When it happens over a long period of time, you then begin to think it’s happening because of who you are…

When you’re abused, you shut down and think you’re used goods. You think God could never really do anything with your life. You can hear a thousand sermons on destiny and purpose and God having a plan for your life – plans for good and not for evil – but if you come at that with a shame-based nature, then deep down you can never believe God could use you. It has certainly been the fight of my life to get to the place of trusting God to redeem the broken pieces of my past for his glory.’

~ Christine Caine

This thing about it being ‘who you are’ is what gets missed. It’s what other people least seem to understand. Christine has put into words (and very succinctly) that which I have struggled with for much of my life. I’m not sure if I don’t still believe it, at least partially; I’ve come a long way on this journey! Do you know what the biggest miracle has been, as I see it? My dear husband. How did he see past the layers of shame and self-loathing to not only who I was, but also to who I could be? Every day he sees the best in me. How is this possible? God surely knew what He was doing when He gave us to one another. I am so very thankful.

On a slightly different note, I am very much into recycling, renewables, etc., having studied the Environment and climate change as part of my degree (currently on hold). I love the idea of upcycling. Upcycling is repurposing a previously used item so that it can be used again instead of undergoing recycling (which does add to greenhouse gases) or being thrown away. Upcycling is creative and fun. It’s thrifty and it benefits the environment. Upcycling is the ability to see potential in junk and turn it into something new and useful. Recently I have been turning cardboard boxes into storage boxes by carefully covering them with colourful duct tape (this makes them both more attractive and more durable). I now use these in the kitchen and in my wardrobe. Very useful.

What’s the connection between the quote from Christine Caine and the rest of it? It’s this: I do struggle still with the idea of being useless, unwanted and ‘used goods’. But maybe God’s good at upcycling. Maybe, in fact, He is the original Master Upcycler. I think that might just be so. Upcycling can take some time and effort. For a while the thing still looks a lot like junk, but eventually, eventually… there is the practical equivalent of a metamorphosis. A redemption, if you will.

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The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
    because God anointed me.
He sent me to… care for the needs of all who mourn… 
    [to] give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
    a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.

extract from Isaiah 61:1-3 (The Message)

********

Post script: please pray for our dear Prince. He’s still in a lot of pain and the doctors don’t know what’s wrong. He has a procedure under general anaesthetic booked for next week. Please pray this goes smoothly and we get some answers. Please also pray that Prince understands what is happening and is able to control his anxiety. It’s hard enough having autism without all this in addition.

Reblog: Leaflets Handed Out In Eastern Ukraine “Order” Jews To Register Or Be Deported – time for Christians to stand up

 

As Christians we must stand against persecution in all its forms. My husband and I support the charity Open Doors, which helps persecuted Christians worldwide. There are far more than you’d think 😦

 

Maybe today, on Good Friday, while we remember the persecution of Christ, we can also remember those who, whatever their creed or colour, still suffer persecution from fellow human beings. What a wretched race we are. God, help us; we are all your children.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

USA Today just reported that a group claiming to be the new temporary government over a portion of eastern Ukraine is ordering Jews to register with the government or face, property confiscation and deportation. In what sounds a lot like the fascist and communist practices leading up to World War 2, the group is targeting people merely for being Jewish.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

The organization’s leadership admitted that members handed out the leaflets. NPR later reported that the group is now claiming the leaflets are fraudulently claiming to come from them.

No one disputes, however, that the leaflets themselves are real.

Christians everywhere need to stand…

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Sample Letter

I wrote this post (click to open in a new tab) a little while ago about why Christians should be involved in politics, and what form being ‘involved’ in politics can take. Prompted by an email from Christian charity Tearfund, I emailed my local MP about the issue of climate change. I nearly didn’t do it, as my MP is proudly against a proposed wind farm (I don’t know the circumstances but I suspect it’s probably nimbyism). I prayed about it and this parable came to mind:

 

Then [Jesus] gave them an illustration to show that they must always pray and never lose heart.

“Once upon a time,” he said, “there was a magistrate in a town who had neither fear of God nor respect for his fellow-men. There was a widow in the town who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Please protect me from the man who is trying to ruin me.’ And for a long time he refused. But later he said to himself, ‘Although I don’t fear God and have no respect for men, yet this woman is such a nuisance that I shall give judgement in her favour, or else her continual visits will be the death of me!’”

Then the Lord said, “Notice how this dishonest magistrate behaved. Do you suppose God, patient as he is, will not see justice done for his chosen, who appeal to him day and night? I assure you he will not delay in seeing justice done. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find men on earth who believe in him?”

Luke 18:1-8 (JB Phillips)

First, I decided to pray for my MP, which is something that hadn’t occurred to me before. Second, I decided to be persistent in my letters, just like the widow. He can’t ignore me forever – and I have a feeling that my innate tendency to stubbornness persistence will prove useful.

MPs have websites where you can find their address and email address. Here is the email that I sent to my MP, which could be used as a sample letter or email:

 

Dear [insert name]

As a Christian I care deeply about the world’s poor, particularly those living in extreme poverty. I also care about the ‘green and pleasant land’ we call home. I am writing because I want to ask you to take action on climate change. Climate change will affect the poorest most. There will also be more frequent episodes of extreme weather events such as the snow experienced in 2010, the weeks of rain in 2012 and the recent devastating floods. All this will have an impact not just on the world’s poorest but on our own people and economy too.

It is not too late. If we take action now, the worst case scenario can be avoided. Please take the time to read the latest IPCC report summaries. This is probably the greatest political issue facing the world in our generation.

You can read the report here: http://1.usa.gov/1hR6qr1

Please also push for a strong manifesto commitment from your party to say what they will do to reduce our economy’s reliance on fossil fuels, particularly by increasing low carbon energy sources and driving energy efficiency, as the report says we need to. The UK is Europe’s windiest country. Wind, water and sun are much more secure ways of achieving reliable sources of energy for the British economy than buying coal and oil from Russia or Qatar.

I wish you a restful time off over the Easter recess. May I also take the opportunity to wish you Easter blessings and to let you know that our family is praying for you, as our MP.

Many thanks

[insert name and address]

The Un-paving Paradise Project: April 2014

‘A U.N. group of scientists said an immediate push is necessary to halt the worst effects of climate change. Its report showed that it is still possible to contain the worst effects of climate change, but governments must take extensive measures to reduce carbon emissions.’

From Time

There have been a plethora of news reports recently about the need for humanity to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions or the whole planet is ****** (insert expletive of your choice – this is one occasion where it’s warranted). In light of this, the Un-paving Paradise Project has taken on even more significance. I feel I should apologise for all those years of ignorance, but as one can’t apologise to the planet, unless you live in some sort of weird Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy parallel universe, perhaps it’s better to do something. It’s no use crying over spilt milk, so the saying goes, to which I would add so you’d better figure out how to clean up the mess.

 

In recent weeks I have taken on two new environmentally friendlier habits, prompted by blog posts on My Make Do and Mend Year and Eco Thrifty Living. I have also decided that, having experienced the spiritual discipline of Lent, after it ends next week I would like to continue the little discipline of fasting/abstaining, and I would like to do this alongside practical things to benefit the environment, my health and my family.

 

My most recent eco friendly habits (which are for April and May) are as follows:

It’s a thermos. That’s it.

1) When I want a cuppa, I fill the kettle with approx. 1.2 litres of water. I use roughly 200ml for my tea and put the rest in a 1 litre stainless steel thermos flask. If Frank also wants a hot drink, I boil a little more water and decant accordingly. Boiling the kettle for one cuppa five times over (which is what I would usually do) uses more energy than boiling 1.2 litres and essentially making four to five drinks, even if you only boil exactly the right amount for your drink. Thus the thermos method not only saves energy (electric kettles are big consumers of energy in the home) but also saves £££, especially if you add it all up over the course of a year.

For more information on how using a thermos can reduce your energy consumption, click here.

 

Cows produce methane. Methane is 22 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Rainforests are the best absorbers of carbon dioxide, but they’re being destroyed to make way for cattle grazing. Unfortunately the soil is not suited to grazing so within a couple of years the farmers are compelled to cut down more rainforest 😦 Rainforest is also destroyed in order to plant soya, which is used as animal feed worldwide. Eating less meat sounds like a good idea to me. And to Daisy. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of Daisy.

 

2) My second eco friendly habit is reducing my meat consumption. I have pledged via DoNation to eat meat only if I have not had it the day before. As an adult I have had the great pleasure of becoming lactose intolerant (which is far more common than you’d think – 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, but only 2% of Northern Europeans). Lactose intolerance means I don’t eat dairy because it makes me sick, so on the non-meat days I’m eating essentially a vegan diet, bar the odd free range egg. In reality, because I am trying to eat more healthily anyway, this is likely to mean me eating meat for around 15% of meals.

For more information on why eating less meat and dairy is better for the environment, click here.

 

 

Choices: Making a Difference

During the lead up to Easter known as Lent the ancient practice of fasting is observed. Fasting is designed to reorient our focus back to where it should be, away from the distractions (and sins) we so easily find ourselves falling into. Isaiah has some very interesting words on the nature of fasting that God desires:

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
    and oppress all your workers…

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
to let the oppressed go free,
to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Isaiah 58: 3,6,7 (NRSVA)

 

I want to focus here on the link between God’s ‘fasting’ and politics. Things can get pretty heated around election time. Who one votes for is almost on a par with whether one is a follower of Christ or not (or so certain people would have you believe). I personally am extremely wary of placing politics anywhere near on a par with Christ as I can see how easy it would be to fashion for myself something that becomes more important than Jesus himself, i.e. to make an ‘idol’ of politicians, political parties or political ideals. I also, personally speaking, prefer to keep my political inclinations to myself. I consider the right to a secret ballot just as important as democracy itself. Also worth noting is that this prized thing which we call democracy, and over which wars are fought and men, women and children have been killed, is not in any way ‘biblical’ (and ‘biblical’ is often a term used by those advocating ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ so I generally steer clear of the word). To get to the point: democracy as we know it, where every adult gets to vote, is very much a 20th century invention.

Having said that, I cannot see how Christianity or Christians can be disengaged from politics. Like it or not, Jesus himself was a political figure. The occupied Israel of 2000 years ago was a hotbed of political resentment and various groups all searching for a new leader who would set Israel free. At that time, Jesus was perceived as a political figure despite his basic refusal to engage with those who wanted to attach to him their own desires and ideals (no wonder he got up people’s noses, he point-blank refused to engage with them in the manner they wanted). Jesus can even be said to have been a political subversive, but his subversiveness – being the embodiment of God’s Upside Down Kingdom – was totally unlike anything anyone had ever imagined. Jesus was subversive even to the subversives! We can confidently state that Jesus was a political radical. Even his death was that which was reserved for dissidents.

So what does that mean for those of us who claim to be his followers? How does this manifest itself in the 21st century? Our world is dominated by politics and although we must not allow politics to become our ‘idol’, we can’t escape the fact that we still live in a world where people are hungry, lonely, suffering, poor – a world where 19,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes every day.

Every day.

God, help us.

How do we as Christians respond? Did Jesus have any words in this area? The answer is yes, quite a lot, actually. This is (in my opinion) his summary:

‘All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

“Then the king will say to those on his right ‘Come, you who have won my Father’s blessing! Take your inheritance—the kingdom reserved for you since the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was lonely and you made me welcome. I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you came and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to see me there.”

“Then the true men will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you lonely and make you welcome, or see you naked and clothe you, or see you ill or in prison and go to see you?’

“And the king will reply, ‘I assure you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers you did for me.’

Matthew 25:32-40 (JB Phillips)

 

What is interesting in the context of the 21st century is that all of these things are affected by, and shaped by, the decisions of those in power. Which leads us back to politics.

While I personally find it impossible to align myself with any particular political affiliation (because there will undoubtedly come a time when one’s faith or one’s conscience clashes with the party political line) I do believe that Christians should be actively involved in politics. You may be wondering how one does this without political affiliation. I am ‘politically active’ in that I am a member of several pressure groups involved in lobbying both the UK parliament and overseas governments on cross-party issues. In particular I support Avaaz, CAAT, 38 Degrees and Tearfund (Tearfund engages in both helping the poor and lobbying parliament on their behalf). I have just come across another group called Labour Behind the Label, which seeks to promote awareness of the conditions in which garment factory workers carry out their work. I have just written an email to my local Member of Parliament (MP) asking him to sign a motion calling for the companies involved in the Bangladesh garment factory disaster in 2013 to pay the compensation the victims are due. Several big brands, including Benetton and Matalan, have yet to pay a penny. You can read more here.

If you find you’re not in a position to actively do very much by way of caring for the hungry/homeless/lonely, etc. (see Matthew 25, as quoted above), because you have other commitments or find yourself, like me, feeling the effects of ill health, one way you can still be active is by signing petitions and communicating with your government representative (here in the UK it is my MP whom I write to). It doesn’t take more than a minute to read the details of a petition and add your name. It doesn’t take more than a quarter of an hour to write an email or letter to your MP. For me, it’s good to know I can do something.

Two_Roads_Diverge_in_a_Green_Park,_In_the_Middle_Stand_an_Obelisk_01

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

from The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

 

It ain’t half hot mum…

I was going to write a climate change blog post myself after yesterday’s IPCC report was released, but I was too angry. No good sounding preachy or self-righteous, is it? Also I have to admit that until just over a year ago I was just as ignorant and thought that environmentalists were a bit soft in the head or overreacting. Now I wonder why we are sleepwalking into catastrophe.

I am thinking of taking on the challenge of a ‘make do and mend year’.

 

 

My Make Do and Mend Year

Hot water.
Isn’t it awesome? And how lucky are we to have it on tap?
But it comes at a price. Both in terms of energy and cold hard cash.
So today for the Great Energy Race, I am looking at how can we use less of it, without feeling the chill…?

Hot Water Generation and Storage

  • Most hot water heating systems rely on some kind of tank to store the hot water in. Make sure yours is nice and cosy and has it’s very own coat to stop the heat leaking out

Doesn't that look cosy?! Doesn’t that look cosy?!

  • As well as insulating your tank, don’t forget the pipes!

    Hubby has been busy lining our pipes... Hubby has been busy lining our pipes…

  • I get a bit lost (bored) by the science right about now, but I think I am right in saying that using your immersion heater, is one of the most energy inefficient ways to heat…

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The Un-paving Paradise Project March 2014: Secrets of science: Hydraulic fracturing

Below is a very interesting and balanced explanation of fracking from The Amazing World of Science.

After having studied ‘Environment’ as part of my university degree, I now consider myself an environmentalist. Although when I first began my studies my main concern was eliminating extreme poverty (plus, to my shame, I thought environmentalists were all a bit airy-fairy), I soon recognised the vital role the Environment has to play in the life of every human being. However, unlike some other environmentalists, on balance I think the protests against fracking are a red herring. Those of us who are actively trying to promote more awareness of environmental issues, particularly climate change, would do better to concentrate on a more general message of reduced consumerism, less consumption of fossil fuels in all their guises, and to be challenging the West’s worship of the god of the ‘Economy’, which is so deeply ingrained in our culture (even among Christians) that we don’t even realise how much emphasis is put on the ‘Economy At All Costs’ policies of our governments. Don’t get me wrong, as the daughter of an Economics professor, I can hardly consider myself anti-capitalist. Rather, I would like to promote a balance between capitalism and responsibility –  for ourselves, for one another and for our planet. This is not sentimentalism at play, but a rational response to the existence of poverty in the 21st century, and to the threat of climate change.

 

If you’re interested, the following are a few examples of the kinds of questions I like to consider before making a purchase (any purchase) in an attempt to reduce my family’s greenhouse gas emissions:

 

  • Do I really need to buy that? e.g. I love the dress in the window of a local shop, but I really can’t justify the expense, or the unnecessary addition to my wardrobe.

 

  • How will it affect my life and the lives of my family if I don’t buy that? e.g. I will definitely buy a new pair of shoes for my daughter as the sole has detached from her shoe [there’s a sermon in that somewhere], but I would think twice about buying her a new dolly.

 

  • Can I make do using something I already have? e.g. I needed a ring-binder to put my Maths notes in, as I tend to write Maths by hand, so I reused an old work folder of Frank’s. I needed somewhere to store elastic bands, so I used a tin that a Christmas gift came in.

 

  • Can I make it myself instead of buying it? e.g. dishcloths – for which I bought crochet cotton made from recycled tee-shirts, I also intend to make a crocheted rag rug from old jeans and I use old clothes as rags for household cleaning which are stored in a DIY ‘rag hanger’ made from my daughter’s old tights with the feet cut off – this is a surprisingly successful way of storing cleaning rags!

 

  • If I definitely think I need it, can I buy it second-hand and thus not contribute to further use of fossil fuels (by buying new)? e.g. I found a second-hand coffee table for a fiver in a local charity shop and my next project will be a tablecloth made from ‘reclaimed’ fabric to hide the table’s flaws.

 

  • If I see no option but to buy new, can I reduce the number of miles it has travelled by choosing a local product? e.g. local honey, eggs, vegetables and meat, or even local wool.

 

  • If I see no option but to buy it new, can I buy in bulk and thus reduce the amount of packaging used (and hence less fossil fuel)? e.g. a 5kg bag of rice instead of the more usual 500g or 1kg – this also works out cheaper in the long run.

 

  • If I see no option but to buy it new, is it available made from recycled materials? e.g. stackable storage boxes made from plastic recycled in England are used to store all my craft supplies. 

 

  • If I see no option but to buy new, has it been ethically grown/reared? e.g. our towels, which were a wedding present, are made from undyed organic fair trade cotton. Also, we are lucky enough to have an award-winning pig farm which sells its free-range meat at the local farmers’ market.

 

  • If I see no option but to buy new, has my purchase come from a fairly traded source e.g. chocolate – my daughters’ primary school is holding an Easter raffle and has asked for donations of Easter eggs, so I went to the supermarket to look for fair trade chocolate Easter eggs. There were none, so I shall buy some fair trade chocolate and make chocolate roses using a mould instead.

 

I have gone way off topic from the original post about fracking (see below) but it is all interlinked. It is actually great fun seeing how we can change our consumer habits. It is liberating to exchange the manner of thought one once took for granted with a mind which questions. For me, this is also a spiritual questioning, and I find it both challenging and exciting. The ‘slimming down’ of the physical world is accompanied by a ‘slimming down’ of my faith – fewer distractions, more room for prayer.

 

The Un-paving Paradise Project March 2014: ‘Nuclear reactors and what happens when it all goes wrong’

That’s the thing that often gets missed about ‘science’ – it is seen as a separate thing from politics, ethics or people, even. But it isn’t. The USSR government officials at the time of the Chernobyl disaster didn’t tell local people what was going on until some time after. They ‘didn’t want to create panic’ so they exposed thousands of people to radiation poisoning instead.
The Met office’s chief scientist, Dame Julia Slingo, recently said that ‘all the evidence suggests that [the recent extreme weather events are] link[ed] to climate change.’ Not only have many areas in the UK been severely flooded week after week, but one only has to look across the Atlantic at the Americas to see that they too have experienced extreme weather. Given imminent climate change and the crises it could yet bring (this is just the beginning), nuclear power may be a better option than fossil fuels, but as both Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown, politics/economics/people are not entirely rational and to use nuclear power safely you need to be able to guarantee that it will be managed rationally (for want of a better word). This is why I always sigh at the idea that ‘Science’ will come up with something to save us all from the effects of climate change. It is unlikely. We have opened Pandora’s box and now we have to wait and see what happens. At an individual level there is so much that we in the West can do, however. In my country, the UK, 80% of carbon emissions are from households, not government, not businesses. We have to wake up to our culpability, not wait for the fairy godmother ‘government’ to wave its magic wand. It won’t and it can’t.

TWO THINGS – WORLDS APART YET THE SAME

1. In the wake of Saville…

There have been so many cases in the UK news lately about well-known people being investigated or charged with sexual offences. It all began in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal. Far be it from me to make any kind of judgement on any of the cases – I do not know any of the facts having deliberately avoided reading about them – yet I do have something very important to say. It is this: our justice system takes the stance of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and, although I cannot see how it could operate otherwise, we must not blind ourselves to the fact that either sexual predators are likely to never be prosecuted, or they may ‘walk free’ due to lack of evidence. This is what happened in my own case. Because of a catalogue of errors dating back 20 years, the Crown Prosecution Service was unable to proceed with a case against the one who destroyed my childhood through years of sexual abuse and terror. Sexual crimes take place behind closed doors. There are often no physical ‘scars’ left to prove what occurred. 

It is my belief that the way evidence is used and presented in cases of sexual crime makes our country a predator’s paradise. This has to change. One woman who had to go through the unspeakable horror of learning that one of her children inexplicably became a monster and terrorised his sibling – my mother – overheard a conversation a few weeks ago along the lines of “they [the alleged victims] must be making it up – I just can’t believe it”. My mother stepped in and said, “Do you want to hear the other side of the story?” and told them, quite simply and honestly, the tragedy that has shaped our family. They were truly shocked. Mum said their greatest shock was that it happened within a loving, middle-class family home.

Sexual predators are no respecters of class, of gender, or any other label. These predators are experts at manipulation and Oscar-worthy in their performance towards other adults.

Where does the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing hide but among the sheep?

Often only the victims know the truth and if we live in a culture which still, in the 21st century, naively says “I just can’t believe it…” then our culture will be, at least in part, responsible for countless more victims.

There are far more predators who walk free than are convicted.

 

2. Floods: when should we build the ark?

I read the other day that the recent extreme weather events, both in the UK and across the Atlantic, are ‘the trailer for Climate Change: The Movie’. This is a very good way to express it. Yet what has the response to the environment been, so far? A ridiculous, almost pointless, ‘tax’ on plastic bags; a few ‘they should have dredged the rivers’; an Avaaz petition trying to prevent climate change from occurring. Unfortunately, while I agree with what the Avaaz campaigners were trying to do (raise the issue of climate change as urgent), they are perhaps too optimistic: climate change cannot be prevented. It’s too late; it has already begun.

BUT if we all take responsibility for our actions we can slow the effects of climate change, so that the catastrophic results of a Global Mean Surface Temperature rise of several degrees Celsius (as opposed to a rise of one or two degrees) can be avoided. If we do not act, the ‘worst case scenario’ looks highly likely.

Individuals, you and I, can make an enormous difference.

We must stop treating the issue of climate change as a left-wing conspiracy. This has to be the ultimate in how to miss the point.

Climate change recognises no political boundaries; it can and will affect everyone, and the poorest will be worst affected UNLESS WE ACT NOW. TODAY.