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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Economic injustice

I've found the theme for this past week more difficult to action. It is easier to give (or to reduce waste) than to make an impact on the big issues of economic injustice. However, I've re-established my connection with a couple of websites I used to visit - and discovered a new one. If you are interested here they are:
FairTrade NZ Easter NB This is the best for specifically NZ Easter products.

One particular focus I plan to have as Easter approaches is to look for FairTrade or other ethical brand Easter Eggs or similar chocolate goodies. I don't buy much of this sort of thing anyway but I will certainly see if any of the good brands are readily available in the supermarket. I was horrified to learn that some"trafficked" children are put to work as slave labour making such products. As one quote I read this week said:"Children love Easter eggs! Except those who are forced to make them.)"

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Being content, being satisfied

"Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation whether it is with full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13

You’d think it would be easy to be content when we have everything we need – and more. But as yesterday’s Living Lent reflection said: “The heart of over consumption is not being satisfied with what we have.” I was shocked at my own reaction a few months ago when a friend bought a “new” (second hand) car. I immediately thought “Oh what a good idea I could upgrade mine to a newer model too.” It took me a moment to see how I was caught by the insidious desire for the “newer, brighter, upgraded version”. With calmer reflection I “re-set my compass” and recognized that my current car is perfectly fine and there is no legitimate reason for change. (One day there might be, of course, and then the upgrade will be entirely appropriate.)

Being satisfied with what we have is easier said than done in the consumer culture that bombards us with messages like: “you deserve better”, “have it now and pay nothing till next year”, “sorry there are no parts for that model”, “it would be cheaper to buy a new one than have this one repaired”…

Some of this advertising lure I can easily recognize and dismiss but the reality of technological devices becoming obsolete is harder to negotiate. I use a computer and a smart phone every day for my work and for being available to connect with people. I really abhor the way companies deliberately (it seems to me) make products become obsolete after a few years so that there is not much choice about upgrading. But the word “choice” is interesting. Actually I do have choice. If I really need (or want) to upgrade I can. This requires true discernment so that whatever I choose I can be at peace with the choice. Being content (at peace) with whatever I have is challenging whether “whatever I have” is much or little.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Re-cycle, FreeCycle

I've previously mentioned FreeCycle (here) but today is a good day for a reminder. There are lots of ways to re-cycle but FreeCycle is one of my favourites. Click here for freecycle NZ.
It has local groups where you can offer things you no longer need or ask for things you may want or need yourself. I recently offered a defunct iPod speaker system and a local guy who is a technical kind of person was pleased to take it and see if he could get it working. Maybe he would then sell it - but if so, good for him. Much better than it gathering dust in our garage or even worse being put in the land-fill at our next inorganic collection.

Incidentally I also saw on Seven Sharp tonight a wonderful story about Kiwi Harvest a volunteer organisation that collects food that would otherwise go to waste and makes thousands of meals available to needy people. Look them up. It is inspiring what we ordinary people can do when we know the right channels and organisations to use or support.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Reducing and releasing

Interesting how things come together - today's Lent challenge is to take three things you no longer need to an Op Shop. (I'm not sure that it's a good thing to admit  that I have many more than three things easily at hand!)The strange thing is that this week I was loaned a book that I've seen advertised a lot recently: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
At first I was rather sceptical of this book. I'm not a hoarder and having moved house only 14 months ago I felt pretty good about all the sorting and Op Shop trips I'd done then. A second reason for my scepticism was that I had read some reviews of this book and its sequel  Spark Joy which made me laugh. But I repent of my laughter! The first book at least has some excellent ideas which go much deeper than simply an obsessive approach to tidying and throwing out. Kondo is essentially talking about a lifestyle of valuing what we have and passing on to others what we no longer need or want. Some of  her methods might feel a bit over the top but I'm reading the book with appreciation for a basic philosophy I can agree with and gratitude for some very helpful ideas.

So back to Lent... tomorrow I will be taking three bags of items to the Hospice Shop! I'm glad that what has been useful and given me joy will now be available to others at an affordable price - and that Hospice will benefit as well. How good is that!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Consumed by Consumption

Consumption is the theme for today's Living Lent.
One of the challenges is to have two days a week without buying anything. This is not at all hard for me (apart from resisting buying a cup of coffee!) But it has made me think about consumption in a wider perspective. Of course there is much more to consumption/consumerism than shopping.

consumption (noun)
1. the act of consuming as by use, decay or destruction
2. Pathology.
       Older Use. tuberculosis of the lungs.
       progressive wasting of the body.
          Synonyms: depletion, exploitation, utilization 

'Consumption' once meant
a death sentence
if you suffered from it.

Maybe it is no different now.
If I consume
more than my share
you die.

But wait
that is different!
I’m the one
“suffering from consumption”
you are the one who dies.

If I am healed
from my consumption
I trust and pray
that will lead
to you living more fully.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Empty and open...

Emptiness combined with openness
leaves room for all the light and shadow
of this new day

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Hmm I’ve been caught out re the fasting thing! One of today's challenges was to fast from one meal and use the time to pray. The accompanying scripture speaks of Jesus “being very hungry” after his time of temptation in the wilderness.

So I decided that I would fast from breakfast and extend the time I normally set aside for prayer in the morning.

What do I really know about being “very hungry”? Almost nothing. In my prayer and throughout the morning I kept thinking about hungry children and the agony for mothers who have nothing to offer them. My minimal pangs of hunger didn’t even begin to compare. Besides I knew that in my lunch hour I could eat as much as I wanted.

When 12.30 came I almost felt guilty about having lunch! I certainly ate no more than I normally would. And would you believe the one letter in my mail-box was a heartfelt thank you from an organization I support for giving hope to a family in Kenya. “When we first met Mercy [mother] the toll of malnutrition was showing in little Lewis – crying because of his hunger, a lack of energy, stunted growth. And the worry was plain to see in Mercy’s face.” 
Now Lewis is able to go to school and Mercy has been given help to grow a garden with nutritious vegetables to add to his porridge.

It has been a very meaningful day. It certainly made a difference to my “fasting” that I was specifically identifying with so many others who have no choice at all about living through many mealtimes without food.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Living Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday - the beginning of the season of Lent. For many years Lent didn't mean a great deal to me. Then it vaguely meant "giving something up for Lent" as a kind of token gesture of solidarity with the journey of Jesus to the Cross. In recent years it has become more meaningful, perhaps because of some thoughtful resources available. This year I have committed to two of those prompts for my reflection and action over the next six weeks. One is a weekly Lectio Divina on a passage of Scripture. The other is a TEAR FUND link called Living Lent which offers workable suggestions for solidarity with people in our world right now who are "bearing their cross" in so many ways. I plan to Post my Lent reflections and maybe you will join in the process yourself in some way that works for you.

Here is this week's scripture and my reflection on it:

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God. —Joel 2:12-13

"Rend your hearts and not your garments" I feel as though my heart is torn every day as I hear more of the trauma and tragedy of the growing tide of refugees. Such a helpless feeling. I recall hearing or reading "Let what breaks God's heart break your heart". In some small strange way I pray that my wrenching sadness for others may mysteriously raise the tide of love in this world.

I’m also pondering “return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning.” That suggests that “wholehearted” commitment to God means facing fully into the things that make me weep and mourn – whether in myself or in the world around me. The “fasting” bit is always tricky for me. I’ve never been any good at that “spiritual discipline”. But right now it occurs to me that if I am deeply grieving I don’t feel like eating or even going out for coffee! So maybe there is a connection between the depth of my grief and my ability to fast. Challenging thought.