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.

Forgiveness?

“My frau is a Jezebel. She fornicated with Samuel Beachy before we got hitched, then killed their unborn boppli…” He scowled.

“I see.” Jonathan scratched his beard, “So she has not asked for forgiveness?”

“She has.”

“Yet you choose not to forgive?”

“How can a person forgive something like that, Jonathan?” Christian’s voice rose. “If it were your frau, would you forgive her?”

“It would be difficult but, ja, I would. We must follow Christ’s example. Do you think it was easy for Him to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross?”

“Nay, but I am not Christ. He was perfect.”

“Perfect, ja, but a man, like us. It wasn’t any easier for Him.”

~ from An Unforgivable Secret by J.E.B. Spredemann

 

Forgiveness, where the debtor is truly sorry, is not optional. It’s different when the debtor is defiantly in denial of what they have done (or when they pretend to be sorry but do the same destructive things over and over), but even then, by choosing to hang onto anger and bitterness and resentment – all aspects of unforgiveness – in the end I hurt myself more. I choose to let go, by grace, because I don’t want to live that way (doesn’t mean I accept those who abused me with open arms, just that it no longer eats away at me). 7650ebd7154a4c7aa67bc7fc201bf1cb

Recently I have been thinking of the time when, as a 12-year-old, I decided to no longer eat meat. I was at the time a victim of ongoing sexual, physical and emotional abuse that remained hidden from everyone else. The abuser said that if I told anyone he would kill my parents. He also made sure I believed that other people saw me as a liar. I wasn’t so sure about that last one, and became scrupulous about telling the absolute truth. But the threat to my parents was what held me. That and the inability to put into words the Unspeakable.

I looked at the chunk of beef in the burger I was eating one sunny afternoon as my best friend and I walked round the local summer fête, two little girls in matching dresses. I thought of the cow that had once been, before it became my lunch. I thought of the care shown to the creature as it was born and raised, and I thought of the ultimate betrayal that occurred in the act of slaughter. I empathised with the cow. Its life was a lie. I couldn’t eat meat after that.

A decade later I was in an abusive marriage, slowly becoming cut off from my friends and family and pregnant with my first child. I had almost let go of the hope that life could be anything other than awful, and I began eating meat again. Saving the lives of cows and pigs didn’t seem worth the effort. It made no difference what I did in any aspect of my life. Over the next decade I gradually came to the conclusion that my needs did not matter. My hopes, my dreams were carefully locked away. It was a lot less painful not to have any. Besides, I did not matter. But I still knew that my children mattered.

I am not sure why these things seem intrinsically linked in my head, but I do know that unforgiveness eats away at you from the inside. Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. It’s not a reason to lay oneself open to more abuse. Forgiveness occurs when I align my will with that of God, letting go of the things that come between us. Jesus taught me that life with Him turns everything upside down and inside out – and that includes suffering. How I love following this radical Saviour! I am so thankful for the chance to belong to the God of Great Love.

I pray that if you, dear reader, are struggling with forgiveness, or struggling to let go of bitterness, you are able to put your hand in His, and learn to walk Jesus’ way. There’s no other life worth living. He will always carry your burdens. He will never let you go.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to ask for specific prayer, please do comment below. Even if you don’t need some prayer, I love to read what people have to say and I am so thankful when folk take the time to comment.

 

 

 

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.