Endings, Beginnings

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 

James 2:14-16 (NRSVA)

This was part of my bible reading for yesterday, 31st December 2018. It was particularly striking for me because it seems to be the summation of what God has been speaking into the lives of my family and I.

I’m beginning 2019 with Veganuary, for a combination of reasons. Going vegan is the single best action I can make for the environment. Countless studies have shown this. Here’s a recent one. I also wrote a blog post about climate change a few years back.

Climate change affects the poorest most, so addressing my contribution to this is something I can do that is concrete. I also don’t want to be party to the treatment of animals that takes place on farms and in abbatoirs. It’s violent whichever way you look at it and I can’t reconcile the compassion that I have learned through following Jesus with violence in whatever form. I also have health problems and veganism has been demonstrated time and again as the antidote to so many health problems that for someone like me, I can’t not do it.

We’re also developing a proper financial system for our family so that we can be more responsible and more accountable with our money. Not that we’re exactly irresponsible, but we’re not as mindful of all our assets as we could be. Our income has dropped rapidly in the past few years so it was necessary and long overdue. It’ll mean focusing on the important things.

So I prayed about what should be my phrase or word for 2019 and came up with this:

KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Seems obvious, but Complex PTSD can make things feel overwhelmingly complicated, so this is a real blessing just on its own. Be blessed, friends, in 2019. Lay down your life for Him so that He can pick it up. Shalom.

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.

ee2b843f4a35479ebc38b4adc592efc8.jpg

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.

All Aboard the Number Two

I just want to share this here as well as on my eco blog. Innit marvellous!

The Un-paving Paradise Project

What a brilliant idea. That’ll get the job done. I was thinking only the other day how human waste is an unused, ever-renewable resource***. We must be able to utilise it more. Ingenious!

*** I really, really must get out more.

View original post

The *^&$%#*£!!! Response to Climate Change

The passage below is from an email I received from campaign group Avaaz. As part of my degree I have studied climate change. I know this is something we continue to ignore at our peril. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Christians should be leading the way with our response to climate change. Reusing plastic bags and recycling a few tins is not enough (though it’s a good start). Read below to find out what you can do:

 

‘The last ice age happened in 6 months. 6 months for the planet to unleash an army of apartment-building-size ice blocks across Europe and the United States. It was a climate tipping point where the balance is knocked completely out of control and threatens the survival of everything — and three more tipping points exactly like it are on the verge of happening.

It’s our *^&$%#*£!!! climate moment according to a leading NASA scientist, and only a *^&$%#*£!!! massive coordinated day of action response, right now, can change the future we’re facing.

One agreement with common sense steps to end dirty energy can save us. That’s why the UN has called an urgent climate meeting in just over 100 days with all major world leaders — if we greet them on September 21st with the largest ever global climate mobilisation in history we can break through the walls of mega coal, oil, and business that prevent even the best politicians from doing what is right.

There’s no way to get around how big a task this is. But together, each small action will add up into a millions-strong movement that literally drowns out the opposition and gives our leaders the best reason to break free and build a hopeful, clean and green future. Click below to join in:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/join_to_change_everything/?bbGribb&v=41138 

“Tipping points” are feedback loops, where climate change feeds back on itself and causes rapidly accelerating, catastrophic consequences. Right now, methane gas that is 25 times worse for global warming than CO2 is frozen in our ice. But as the ice melts, the gas leaks, causing more melting and each melt loses us another layer of reflective ice shield that we rely on to keep the planet cool, more methane and less ice means more warming still, and everything starts to spin out of control. And that’s just one example… it’s why scientists are yelling from the rooftops that we have to act now.

We actually have the tools and the plan we need to make sure we don’t cross into a world where tipping points destroy us. And while it will take global cooperation on a bigger scale than ever before, our 36 million-strong movement already has the people power necessary to move leaders from every country to take the first steps. Just days ago, the United States and China announced serious new plans to curb their pollution — momentum is building ahead of next year’s critical Paris climate summit where a deal could be inked, and in just over 100 days we can take it up a notch further.

Taking to the streets in a record setting show of power and coordination is one of the most effective ways to create change — from the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa to civil rights in the US, it’s sometimes been the only way. This is our chance to bring that power to the most important issue of our time: survival and a thriving future for our families, and their families and the generations of people to come. Click below to be a part of it all:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/join_to_change_everything/?bbGribb&v=41138 ‘

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.

 

 

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…

View original post 540 more words

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.