31.12.07

the damage

So, another Christmas come and gone eh! We had a lovely time- lots of food, laughter and remote control helicopter flying. I hope you had a lovely one.
Just to add a negative spin on any Christmas cheer still bubbling around, think on these facts:
In the UK alone-
  • 19 million people shopped on Christmas Eve, spending £89 million an hour as the day's shopping bill reached £2.14 billion
  • £10 billion is the average amount borrowed across Britain at Christmas to foot the bill
  • Some 79 per cent of Brits will receive presents they do not like or want
  • Food wasted in the UK increases by a massive 80% during the Christmas period
and
  • 3 million tonnes of waste are dumped in the UK over Christmas
Eek, these are some ugly figures! The socio-economic and environmental consequences of the way we do Christmas are devastating! It is such a shame that we can live all year in relatively ethical ways and then we hit Christmas and our imagination/passion dries up completely. We talk about a more loving, just, peaceful Christmas but then still let that consumerist monster rip when crunch time comes. Glyn Harries has done an awesome poem over on his blog- 23rd Dec- that really portrays well our passion for goodness but our all consuming desire for plastic crap too.

So the challenge is- how do we do Christmas better in 2008? While it is all still in our minds. Feel free to share an idea. These are three inspiring things from this year:

This year my friend got hold of some recycled material and sewed stockings for all her friends, one friend wrapped all her pressies in junk mail and Tim brought home our Christmas tree from outside of a school at the end of the term. (He had to get out his pocket knife and just saw off 2 metres off the top as it was a whopper. Heehee.)

22.12.07

More Peace please

Peace on earth, a nice Christmas Card Greeting, typically with a dove and some holly scattered around the embossed words. Is it possible? Sometimes I despair with Bono when I hear him sing:

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on earth

To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on earth

Jesus in the song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on earth

Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history wont rhyme
So whats it worth...

Peace on Earth.

If we scan the earth at this moment in time, all is not peaceful. In fact, I heard yesterday that there has already been more wars this century then in the last. Yet we still bandy "peace on earth" slogans about. In this intense article Ron Snider blows all Christian Just War ideas out of the water and articulates why he thinks Christian pacifists can bring peace about. I love his vision of 10000 trained and praying Peace Makers entering conflict zones.

Anyway, rant, rant. I'm praying this Christmas for Peace on Earth, in the hearts and minds of victims and perpetrators, in our local spaces and across the globe. I'm praying that Ron's vision will get given legs, so that Bono's desperate lyrics become history.

Peace.

15.12.07

Nestle Kills Babies

was the title of a pamphlet put out in the seventies when knowledge about the aggressive marketing of baby formula milk by companies such as Nestle was forcing a decline in breast feeding, with an impact of upping the infant mortality rate by 3 times. The horrendous things is that these companies are still doing exactly the same thing, with even more dire results. A report from this year by Save the Children suggests that 3,800 babies die A DAY because they are bottle fed and not breast fed. There is a good Guardian article here, about the impact of this figure on the worlds goal to reduce infant mortality by half by 2015. Not gonna happen unless Nestle and co buck up.
I feel so blessed today. It is my last day of term at LSE, and I am just pulling my essays together. One is on the above topic- the impact of transnational corporations on child rights- and another is on gender equality. How amazing is it, that this is the stuff I am passionate about, and I get to do it?
In a lecture this morning we were reminded about a quote from one of LSE's founders, George Bernard Shaw. Its a goodie:
"Some see things as they are and ask "Why?" others dream things as they never were and ask "Why not?" "
It is too easy to be one of the first, but I pray we will be the dreamers.

9.12.07

there IS something wrong with it...

There are lots of words in bold today. That is a sure sign of an angry post. Please don't read on if you were wanting to feel happy and nice and burden free.

The Guardian today, in an article entitled "if I had a little money..." reported the new £35,000 cocktail available from nightclub Movida. Yep, that is the right amount of 0's. Yep, that is more than double the salary recieved by somone on the UK's minium wage. Yep that is enough to build a school, provide equipment and teachers for several villages for several years in a developing nation. My heart is thumping with rage. It is revolting that people have such a ludicrous amount of money that they could spend that much on one glass of alchohol.
The UK has been quite alright on poverty issues over the last decade, policy papers have been spewed out at a rate of knots and globally poverty is being taken quite seriously- in theory at least if not in practice- what with the MDG's being so high profile and all. But it is as if we are so poor focused that we have left the super wealthy to just go full steam ahead, as if it doesn't impact society at all, as if everyone has succumbed to a trickle down theory. Well, it doesn't trickle down and it does impact society! Evidence clearly shows that it is the gap that matters, not how poor the poor are or how rich the rich are even, but how wide the chasm between them is. The bigger the gap the great the consequences- education, health, crime, cohesion and inclusion all suffer when inequality is left to fester.
Share The Worlds Resources- put it well: "greater inequality fuels crime, corrodes democracy, divides our cities, prices people out of housing, skews the economy, is an engine of social apartheid, heightens ethnic tensions, is a barrier to opportunity and stifles social mobility"
It is not okay that the greedy (I don't even want to call them the rich any more. They are not rich in anything but greed) sit and pour life-saving resources down their fake tanned crystal glad necks while a third of this countrys children have limited access to health care, nutrition, clothing and shelter. It is not okay that the greedy earn money on interest while they sleep when 2 roads down a homeless woman can't sleep for fear of being knifed. It is not okay that in the world of the greedy money rushes down the drain like water when in the same world one child dies every 7 seconds because they do not have clean water.
I have no vision today, no solutions, just a mind filled with madness and a stomach full of rage. It is not okay and there is something wrong with it.

6.12.07

A little snuggle...

I am often heard, several times a month, expounding the benefits of hugging. 7 a day is the ticket, apparently, for maximum sense of well-being. So bring on the hug, friends and family come hither! That is, those of us who have people to hug... too many people literally go years without someone to touch them, let alone hug them. Therefore, I love to hug.
Unbenownst to me was this chap who, lonely, burdened with trouble and empathy for others who were feeling this way, pulled out a marker and a bit of cardboard and scrawled "Free Hugs." He says for a while the whole street ignored him but then someone "stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug." And there was he and thus began his Free Hugs Campaign.
(I know, I know, too many videos. A sure indicator of a laaazzy blogger. Wa, wa, waahhhh. But I love this one! So fabulous!)
On hugs for the lonely...Red Cross in Sweden have just launced their "Hugs for the Lonely" campaign, a pre- Christmas depression weapon. It sounds nice.. but the hugs cost! Yep, hard cash. Hmm... It sounds like the perfect "Social Enterprise" model... something I'm not completley convinced about (I think thats just my cyncial mind.) I could be convinced though. What are your thoughts on market based philanthropy?

4.12.07

Diamonds from Sierra Leone

So, a bit old, and a bit gangster, but Kanye Wests video about conflict diamonds is a pretty potent watch.

See, a part of me sayin' keep shinin',
How? when I know of the blood diamonds
Though it's thousands of miles away
Sierra Leone connect to what we go through today
Over here, its a drug trade, we die from drugs
Over there, they die from what we buy from drugs
The diamonds, the chains, the bracelets, the charmses
I thought my Jesus Piece was so harmless'til I seen a picture of a shorty armless
And here's the conflict
It's in a black person's soul to rock that gold
Spend ya whole life tryna get that iceOn a polo rugby it look so nice
How could somethin' so wrong make me feel so right, right?

3.12.07

Talk is cheap...

but will cost the earth if that is all that is done.
Potentially the next few days could be host to some of the most important conversations had regarding world poverty this year. For tomorrow begins the UN conference on Climate Change where world leaders are coming together in Bali to put legs on the Kyoto agreement. We all know that there has been a lot of talk re. the climate, but hopefully in the next two weeks we'll see some action. If so, we can begin to imagine a future where those in the developing world are able to live peacefully, work effectively and not (literally) die by the thousands because of the effects of climate change. For, for them, at the moment the prospects- and the present- is bleak indeed.
I say some of the most important conversations, because just as important as the leaders dialogue are the conversations held in the home about how to recycle more, consume less, cycle to work, just as important as the decision made in the staff meeting to go easy on the AC and printing, just as important as children being taught to appreciate home made gifts rather that plastic tack.
Presidents and Prime MInisters can make all the calls they want to hinder the coming climate catastrophe but unless a huge amount of the public make personal changes we are not going to get anywhere.
So for the UN conference I pray that God will give wisdom, courage and insight to the leaders their. That a space will be created their for all nations speakers to participate- not just the swanky 8. That the lobbying groups and parties will have a profound impact. And that this will be a momentous turn for the better in the globes history.
I also pray that at the same time "normal" people will be challenged to make change, will have the courage to make some hard calls, that we will all be made more passionate about the climate challenge before us, for the sake of Gods people in poverty and Gods beautiful earth.

30.11.07

World Aids Day 1st December

It is ravaging some of the worlds poorest nations and leaving millions vulnerable. Thank God for the amazing groups and organisations working hard to alleviate the suffering of those with HIV/AIDS. There are ways we can get involved- see here.
This video of Archbishop Rowan Williams has some challenges for the Church..."The body of Christ is HIV positive."

29.11.07

The Marinade is back

beginning this Saturday 1st December. An experiment in anticipation, a reclaiming of advent, 2 minutes each day to dwell on what it is to w a i t.

25.11.07

Not that I think John Howard is racist, ignorant and, well, just a little bit awful or anything

but I am soooo pleased Australia has voted him out. He has probably been the worst thing to happen to the marginalised of that big country for the last 11 years. Go on, on yer bike.
New Prime Minister, Mr Rudd has this to say; "I say to all of those who have voted for us today - I will be a prime minister for all Australians; a prime minister for Indigenous Australians; Australians who have been born here and Australians who have come here from afar and contributed to this country's great diversity. "
Beautiful words that Mr Howard wouldn't have considered uttering seeing as he has only shown contempt for immigrants, refugees and the indigenous of the country. And new PM's first act is to sign the Kyoto agreement. Whoop Whoop!
Hopefully we will begin to see a more just Australian society.

In honour of Buy Nothing Day 2007

from AsboJesus whose work continues to make me laugh, grit my teeth and think. (You should definately have a squizz)

20.11.07

Buy Nothing Day 23rd November 2007


I love the idea of Buy Nothing Day. It is next weekend and a fab opportunity to combat consumerism! You can participate by not participating (in the shopping that is) or by doing some Jamming.
It is a good motivation to start thinking more creatively about Christmas too- not only in our presents (we all know about goats and condoms for developing nations instead of tacky crap for greedy Westerners) but even in our wrapping and waste- we throw away, in the UK, 27,000 tonnes more over Christmas.
if you want more info on Buy Nothing Day events and ideas check out this link. There is a Give or Take day happening (a grand idea) where you bring stuff and take stuff all for freeeee. See Giveortake.org
And finally, have a peek at the pig:

27.10.07

let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London

I had very black snot today. Apparently thats an outcome of Londons underground tubular network and I have been spending a lot of time on that lately. I have been putting together a few Social Justice Tours of London for a group of Salvation Army officers over here in the UK for a while. It has been challenging, as it is really not an area that has been too comprehesively explored, but really exciting seeing the weave of social reform and action shine through this ancient city's history.
We will cover the obvious- Londons role in the slave trade- and the obscure- Maggie Blakes Cause and the impact of one passionate community activist bringing about access for the poverty stricken locals to the Thames. Some sites such as the Magna Carta and the founding of democracy are proper vintage ...others are modern social justice initiatives - visiting the Icount crew and hearing about their fight against climate change.

It has endeared London more to me, I have been captured by events and people that I imagine at the time were quite insignificant but have been an integral part of this citys fabric of change. Ah. To dwell on real places and real people that have bought about justice and freedom is a beautiful and inspiring thing!!! (I recommend it, if you have some spare time!!)

20.10.07

a lot of people.

On Wednesday 17th october 38.7 million people across 110 countries stood up against poverty and for the Millenium Development Goals as part of the S t a n d U p movement.
Fantastic.
(See more here.)

9.10.07

Black Gold



Stand up

3.10.07

empty boots

Bo Brekke, leader of the Salvation Army, was killed last week. His premature death will be felt intensely by his family and friends, and also from the global community. Brekke had a passion for those on the margins and this was reflected massively in his work from his establishing of the Salvation Army Fair Trade gift chain, Sally Ann, to his writing. If you have the time give his article, We are the Poor, a read.

Joe Mitty was the man who set up the first Oxfam Charity shop and who has played a critical role in fighting global poverty ever since has passed away at 88. Although his death was not such a shock, he too will leave holes in the fabric of the fight for justice. A few years ago Mitty was describing his inexperience for such a role but went on to say "But I had two words - Rage, and Passion. Rage because of the inequality and injustice in the world, and a Passion to do something about it.”

I admire and honour these two guys. I am praying for those who are mourning and also that people will stand up with their passion and rage and fill these two pairs of now empty boots.

Just a heads up...

that the international day for the eradication of poverty is on the 17th October. Get your White Band ready and your people mobilised to Stand Up and Speak out against poverty!
All in London are welcome to come along to the Rink, Oxford St, at 7pm for a reflection on global poverty and prayer for our global neighbours.

28.9.07

Sheep without a Shepherd


It's a David and Goliath story- peaceful monks vs armed and violent soldiers. It tugs at our heart and mind- it is the old appeal of the weak standing up to the strong and we want desperately for the weak to win. The courage of the protesters is astounding, doing the very thing that had 3000 people massacred not so long ago. Their bravery is magnetic, this week whenever I have walked past a newspaper stand I have found it impossible not to pause and scan the photos and the headlines.

But the protests should compel us for reasons deeper than this. What the protesters are asking for is profoundly right. What the protesters want is what Jesus wants. "How can you say this?!" some of you more conservative types might cry, "Hath the Lord speaketh in your ear?!" (Okay I know fundamentalists don't speak in King James language but it suited the moment)

Well, Jesus might as well have as it is written right there in the Bible- in both words and actions we can see that Jesus stands strongly for the ideals of equality, democracy and social justice and strongly opposed to political, emotional and religious oppression.


In Karl Barth's fantastic sermon on Jesus and and the social justice movement, where he basically states that Jesus and social democracy have the same purpose, he says "In answer to the question "Which commandment is first of them all?" Jesus named two "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "you shall love your neighbour as your self". From this awareness of the collective, solidary, communal, social God the rule of coresponding action follows of itself" "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them".

If I was a peaceful protester in Burma I would hope that people all around the world would stand in solidarity with me and that people, organisations who stand in Christs name would speak out against my oppressors.

The Salvation Army have been working in Burma for a while, with a lot of impact. This blog post (from the School of Prophets Blogand seems kind of prophetic seeing as it was written at the very beginning of these protests!) describes the hard and 'gutsy' work of the SA there. My old Boss Campbell Roberts does a talk based on Micah, that being a christian is a triangle of mercy, justice and personal spirituality, each being as criticial as the other. He argues that the Army is all about mercy and personal spirituality at a cost of social justice. In Burma for sure we are doing two of these things, but does the events of this week highlight the missing third?

If the International Salvation Army spoke out in support of the protesters would it be sacrificing this amazing mercy work going on? If it is supposed that that would happen are we then forsaking social justice for mercy? They are hard questions, but I beleive that even mercy can only happen to a certain extent within a socially just framework and soon, if we fail to support the cries of the people, that even the Armys acts of mercy will be made redundant.

What are your thoughts?
PS to sign the petition heading for the UN this week click here.

If any of you are wanting to join a protest there are a couple here: (Taken from the Stand with Burmese Protester Facebook group- Come and joing if you are a FBer!)
Londoners: Protest every day from 12-1 outside the Burmese Embassy. Joing a big march from Trafalger Square this Sunday from 11:30.

Kiwis: Protest at Aotea Square this Saturday: http://unityaotearoa.blogspot.com/2007/09/democracy-for-burma-now.html for more information

13.9.07

Roddick-ised

I spent yesterday celebrating with food and fun, my quarter of a century burpday. I recieved some awesome pressies- Tim got all of his gifts from the 2nd hand shop (he knows me well that one) and Jo and Steve got me a.... Greenhouse. I was so stoked all day that I didn't open eyes to the world around me, so read only this morning, would you beleive, that Anita Roddick has passed away.
I was rather shocked and a fair bit sad. Although the recent sell out to Loreal threatens to cast a shadow on her green and fair pioneering life, it musn't. This Guardian article talks about us all, to some extent, being "Roddick-ised", meaning, we have become more ethical consumers due to her efforts. Its a big call but I can't agree more. When The Body Shop was founded the term Fair Trade didn't even exist, let alone micro-enterprise, yet both were central philosophies of the endeavour. The Body Shop were the ones who first made me aware of animal cruelty and the environmental damage of plastic bags (a decade and a half before it dawned on Anya Hindmarch.)
So, here's to a life lived out of love for others, an adventure carved out of a dream for a sustainable and beautiful earth, a trail blazed in hope of a fairer and more peaceful world.

11.9.07

Kelly Slater isn't God of the waves

Todays Guardian has a rad story on the UK Christian Surfers- yep, kiwis there is swell here...
Christian Surfer in NZ is a massive movement and it is cool to see that it does awesome stuff here too- and getting coverage in the national paper. I like this bit- "Surfers tend to be a group who don't necessarily connect with a dusty old building like a church. But God is not about a building. He is about a community."

3.9.07

A beacon of hope


We went and saw the new Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square last week, which the man himself came to unveil. The bronze sculpture is full of passion- in contrast to most of the others around the square with their elegant stature. It was really moving standing in front of the imploring figure, arms open, face appealing and knowing what Mandela has acheived. At the unveling he said "Though this statue is of one man, it should in actual fact symbolise all of those who have resisted oppression, especially in my country." Good old Gordon Brown finished up the ceremony with some truth when he said “This statue is a beacon of hope. It sends around the world the most powerful of messages: that no injustice can last for ever, that suffering in the cause of freedom will never be in vain.”

21.8.07

Spanners

I think it was Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis who said if someone was to create a religion as opposite as possible to the thing Jesus set out to do it would look remarkably like the pop christianity most nations have got going on at the moment. It's scarily true. The words and antics of Jesus in the Bible mess with the Sundayish, soundbitey, rigid religion most people see in the Church.... (This is the latest from Jon Birches cartoon blog, Asbo Jesus, and I think he does a cool job getting these anomolies across!)

17.8.07

G R E E N B E L T

We are looking for a ride there, can you help us?!

16.8.07

bringing home the bacon and breaking up the bike

This week I started a new job at Oxfam GB co-ordinating their Outreach programme, part of the mobilising-youth-to-act-on-global-poverty strand of the organisation. I love it. It is, however, in Oxford. A 4 hour a day commute. I could knock it down to 3 hours with a bike, so yesterday we invested in a 30 year old green folder which is rather retrotastic and goes like the wind (or at least a breezey whisper.)
So don't ask me why at this very moment Tim is out the back taking it apart with his pocket knife and a teaspoon under the guise of "adding new inner tubes".

8.8.07

and more on that...

crazy, was just abroowsing and came across a rad article by Geoff Ryan on church and buildings too... on the rubicon.

brring brring

We were down in the gardens a couple of weeks ago hanging with my grandparents when one of their friends from church came along and told a story about the antics of his grandson that afternoon. All the family had been standing around in the driveway chatting when the little 7 year old lad came round the corner on his bike, ringing his bell and yelling on the top of his voice "Watch Out! Holy Spirit coming through!"
I Love It!
The wee chap has grasped something the rest of us just want to keep forgetting.
There are so many places to go with this, but I am going to delve quickly into bricks and mortar with Shane Clairborne....
"There is something precious about corporate worship, but corporate is whenever two or three of us gather with God. We must resist the ancient temptation to centralise worship, especially at the expense of justice for the poor. The human made temples will be split open, and no stone will be left on another, jesus says. Acts 17.24 reminds us that God "does not live in temples built by hands." The scriptures remind us that we are God's temples, that the spirit lives in us. And in a very special way, as Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, in the least of these we find Jesus in disguise. Perhaps we are just as likely to encounter God over the dinner table or in the slums or in the streets as in a giant auditorium."

27.7.07

Lost Identity

I don't know how it happened. I just forgot I was a blogger. Totally forgot till today. So thats why I havene blogged for a wee while. Really weird. In blogging theres definatley a period where things of the day are divided into "bloggable" and "notbloggable" but then that passes and you become more harmoniously comfortable with your blogging status. And then it seems that after that you one day wake up and are not a blogger as such any more. You simply forget you own a blog and should feed it. (Like what usually happens with my plants but hopefully not my future womb fruit.) And here I have arrived at this third stage.
So.... maybe this signifies my blogging end. Or maybe not the end just yet but more a.... retirement. A graceful meander towards the nursing home.

19.7.07

life through the little things

I am reading Miroslav Volf's "Free of charge"(not just because of his name or the fact that he doesn't give God a gender although both of those things are very cool.)
This is a rad bit. He has just been talking about Gods life flowing through us through "sacred" things (singing/praying/stufflikethat)....
"Notice what happens to the flow of God's life if we think of it as limited to such sacred events. It is streaming into us, but for the most part it is not flowing through us on to others.... It is as we serve our neighbours- our family, friends and acquaintances- that the damn holding the flow of gifts is lifted and the life of God continues its intended flow. Every word and every deed, every thought and every gesture, even the simplest act of paying attention can be a gift and therefore an echo of Gods life in us.
You sit on your couch, beer or soda in hand and junk food by your side watching t.v for hours- that's ordinary. You work around the clock not because you have to feed your family, but for no other reason than to park a better car in your garage than your neighbours have- thats ordinary. You get up from the couch to play with your kids or give your time and energy to help educate a prisoner or lend an ear to an elderley person- thats extraordinary. Why? Because you are giving. Every gift breaks the barrier between the sacred and the mundane and floods the mundane with the sacred. When a gift is given life becomes extraordinary because Gods own gift of giving flows through the giver."
Awesome eh.

17.7.07

a challenge from Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"Freedom and liberty lose out by default because good people are not vigilant"
from Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches. (1984)
it is sad that this is so true. That evil can continue because the caring and compassionate people are forgetful, distracted and lazy in the fight for justice.

agricultural update

only one tomato plant has died in the whole 2 weeks of owning them! what a wonderful success. 5 of the other plants all now have little bubbles of green nutrition ready to grow big and red any time soon.
I planted some lettuce seeds not realising that each seed became a whole lettuce so put a scattering of 20-40 seeds in each whole (you get millions in a packet) so now have a big trayful of HUNDREDS of lettuce sprouts which will all be ready to eat at the same time. Hmm. So again, let me know if you like salad ;)
We visited our family in Weymouth last week and had an awesome time looking at pirates graves and neolithic land bumps. My fabulous cousin sarah works in the quaintest bean and tea shop in the world (baskets piled high with lentils and strange stuff) and one day brought me home 4 aubergine plants and 3 pepper plants which made it back to London safe and sound. This veggie garden thing is well and truly gathering momentum. Hurray!

9.7.07

aviation hesitation

There has been some debate over here lately about the Live Earth Concerts - gigs to create awareness of climate change. You know, how does flying crowds of stars around the planet justify the awareness raised? etc etc. And fair enough too. I remember being rather disillusioned at the U2 concert standing before so many crates worth of equipment with Bono perched on top casting a vision of poverty eradication knowing full well the impact of his tour on climate change, and knowing full well that climate change hits the words poor the hardest and the first.
I thought it so sucked. And then I jumped on a plane across the world with several short hauls imbetween!
It is like, we are prepared to do the easy (sorting through our rubbish) and even the fasionable (the Anna Hindmarch bag, the bike with a basket (man, I want one))but not the things that are really hard.

Video from Plane Stupid a group and site worth checking out.

4.7.07

dreaming of freedom

Wonderful news! British journalist Alan Johnson set free after 114 days of captivity! "I am immensely grateful. It's just the most fantastic thing to be free."

Now, I don't mean to highjack the good news. A positive headline is such a rare thing. But, perhaps just because of the emotional intensity of the situation, his freedom is so starkly highlighting to me the millions in unjust captivity around the world. People who have such a faint, faint, hardly there faint glimmer of hope for freedom.

600,000 women slaves trafficked around the globe
1.2 million child slaves trafficked around the globe
12.3 million men, women and children currently in forced labour around the globe
23 million men, women and children in forced labour AND other forms of enslavement around the globe

Alan Johnson said this morning, "I literally dreamt many times of being free, and always woke up back in that room. And now it really is over, and it really is indescribably good."

God for those who dream of freedom around the world, make it a reality. And I pray WE will be prepared to work for the freedom of others. Some ideas are here but I am sure there is SO much more we can do to bring freedom for the those in captivity.

2.7.07

Greeenfingers

Last year I tried to grow two plants. It wasn't too great a success (see post I Kill Things)However I am giving it another crack and can proudly say I have owned 5 wonderful herbs for over 4 days now and they are all still alive.
I also ordered 5 tomato plants from ebay which when they turned up were a bit too tiny to expect anything on my plate any time soon (like 2 cm tall, I was gutted) so I asked Tim to pick me up a couple of bigger ones from the garden centre yesterday. He bought home another 6. So, er, now I have 11 tomato plants. (Give me a ring if you are making a salad in a month or so...)
And I just put some garlic in some soil to see what happens.
I have plans for an adventurous roof top garden with all sorts of edible delights and I have been dreaming about beds of potatos and stawberries and juicy carrots and designing greenhouses from recycled materials. I was greatly encouraged in my scheme when I wandered past a flash block of flats down the road the other day that had 5 ginourmous posh pots outside with nothing in that came to belong to my tomato plants (I asked a builder.)
So, I will let you know from time to time how the second furrow into botanics goes, and of course, do let me know a hot tip if you have one as I don't want to kill things this time.

6 wonderful little things in posh pot from down the road

29.6.07

Number 10

Well, Gordon Brown is officially in. A refreshing perspective on the UK's new leader is offered here by Jim Wallis, renowned politically involved evangelical. (Props to the Illuminate Blog for highlighting it.) Wallis replaces the common description of "dour" with "passionate" and believes Brown could be the man needed to help in the fight for global economic justice.
It's easy to swing from skeptical to excited and I don't think we have enough to go on to have our hopes fly to high, but it is a relief that there is one very on to it person out there who has faith in Mr Brown, eh?!!
Here is a bit of a Gordon speech, quoted in Jims article:
Because we all want to address the roots of injustice, I can tell you today that we will strengthen and enhance the work of the department of international development and align aid, debt relief and trade policies to wage an unremitting battle against the poverty, illiteracy, disease and environmental degradation that it has fallen to our generation to eradicate.
That is a ripper promise, and lets pray he's not just talk.

27.6.07

To drink or not to drink

Bummer, that last question of that last post was meant to stir debate between the Starbucks Moccachino lovers and the staunch "Starbucks still sucks completly because such a tiny percentage of their coffee is Fair Trade and they take away from organic community life" crowd (thats me.)
I think our family has decided that we will have one Starbucks coffee in order to celebrate and encourage them in this step towards justice, but then after that continue to boycott them on the premise that they can do a whole lot more (or maybe just shouldn't exist!) Hehe.
More on Coffee and Injustice: Last year Blackgold was released in NZ. It is an awesome film and I implored every kiwi to see it! Well, it has finally been released here in the UK. It is not just about fair trade but about the whole coffee industry so interests a wide variety of people. See here for screenings.

26.6.07

Campaigning does work!

Do you remember last year me ranting and raving about Starbucks screwing over Ethiopia? Well, Starbucks have finally come to the party, here's the official blurb: "Starbucks and Ethiopia have finally signed a licensing agreement securing Ethiopia's ownership over its speciality coffee names Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe. This comes after about 8 months of campaigning, more than 96,000 people across the globe calling on Starbucks - through emails, faxes, phone calls, postcards, and in-store visits - to honour their committment to Ethiopian farmers." Awesome eh? Justice bought about through the humble actions of passionate individuals and the brave voice of organisations like the Salvation Army.
So do we start drinking Starbucks?!

25.6.07

bit late but never mind...

World Refugee Week has just finished! This time last year when I was blogging about refugee week I was just begining my journey of friendship with a wonderful refugee family from Myanmar who I helped settle into New Zealand life. It was such a privilege to become part of their life and I them and was so hard to say bye when we left Aotearoa. Since then they have had a gorgeus new addition to the family, little Daniel, and have just got a car and a license and their English is improving everyday. Praise the Lord.
I have just been reading about refugees here in the UK - there are 2 and half thousand unaccompanied refugee children in London alone, and an estimated 200 asylum seekers arriving every week through my local bus station. It is heart breaking to imagine how hard it is for them, and even sadder to think of the unwelcoming response they recieve from locals- "They sponge of the government"- that is common here in UK and NZ.
If you don't already, I encourage you to make a place in your life for the refugees and migrants in your neighbourhood. (Maybe you want to explore doing this through volunteering with an organisation. This is what I and a few friends have done. One fabulous friend told me last week that she went to visit her family and they had broken down a massive branch from their neighbours tree and it was stuck in their fire place and protruded out across the whole lounge- trying to keep warm in the frosty kiwi winter!! Anyway, if you are interested in that, kiwis check out RMS and those in UK check out Refugee Council)
So, anyway will finish this post with some of the one and only Dave Dobbyns poetry from the song "Welcome Home" which proved to be a powerful statement in New Zealand at a time when a few people were being very vocal about the influx of people from outside the borders....
tonight I am feeling for you
under the state of a strange land
you have sacrificed much to be here
‘there but for grace…’ as I offer my hand
welcome home, i bid you welcome, i bid you welcome
welcome home from the bottom of my heart
out here on the edge
the empire is fading by the day
and the world is so weary in war
maybe we’ll find that new way

so welcome home, see i made a space for you now
welcome home from the bottom of our hearts

there’s a woman with her hands trembling - haere mai
and she sings with a mountain’s memory - haere mai

there’s a cloud the full length of these isles
just playing chase with the sun
and it’s black and it’s white and it’s wild
all the colours are one

Salut again

Have been in France for 10 days with the whanau. Absolutley gorgeous, up in the Alps, swimming and croissants everyday: wonderful! I read a host of books while over there, mostly fantastical novels (ooh espionage is thrilling) with a couple of serious ones thrown in to help keep my mind anchored to reality. One of which was Irrestible Revolution by Shane Clairborne of the Simple Way. It was wicked eh, especially the second half. A bundle of great stories and quotes to articulate the thoughts of an increasing bunch of people. Thoughts about Jesus, church, love, political and social involvement. There are Christians in America who beleive that following Jesus involves activism other than outside abortion clinics, hurray for that. Well worth a read. Ask Steve if you can borrow his and Jo's copy. Or if you see it on someones bookshelf do try and pinch it.
I should maybe quote a bit but I think I am a bit lazy at the moment and anyway I feel a blogging spree coming on so some excerpts might fuel that a bit.

12.6.07

little kites and death (!)

I love kites. Up in the Lakes we wiled time away by soaring, diving and spinning Steves stunt kite. One time I climbed up a hill and watched the others play in the stormy weather. The little kite dashing about seemed like a rip or a tear in the fabric of the landscape- a dash of daring red. A kite up there high in the sky can be a picture for heaps of stuff I guess, but I love the thought that it is like the triumph over death that is ours because of Jesus. Who would think that a frail whisp of silk could dance about on the hinges of a massive weather diaster? Surely the wind would conquer it. But however mad the wind is the kite can always soar (if you have good kiting skills that is, otherwise you just get in a tangle.) Good for us that we don't have to have death fighting skills- that the victory over death is already won. Thank God, eh.

7.6.07

Winnifred Read

Early on Tuesday morning my Grandma passed away. Winnifred Read was one of the most beautiful, graceful, strong, prayerful, funny and vibrant people I knew (know?) As I was going to bed that night thinking of a world without my Grandma Nelson Mandella's words from the momentous occasion when he became president of South Africa were tripping through my mind-
The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement. A bit out of context I know but I couldn't shake the phrase. For that was Grandmas life- a glorious achievement in light, life and love. Grandma was a walking extravagance in loving God and loving others. I miss her like mad already and I know my Grandad, Dad and Aunty will be missing her even more, as well as the thousands others she has shone upon all around the world. It is that tangle of feelings- sadness and shock and peace and happiness that we know absolutley that right now she is hanging with her Creator and all the other Saints. The Salvation Army has a curious phrase for dieing - "promoted to glory". It is used so often that I forget it's meaning, but there is no better phrase for people like Grandma. I thank God for my beautiful Grandma and her new residence.

5.6.07

G8 stuff

So on Wednesday the worlds most powerful people are meeting up to do some serious talking. Although this exlusive rich Group of 8 shouldn't be ruling the world the fact is is that they pretty much do and can make decisions that impact millions for better or worse. So, if you are someone who talks to God how about talking to God about these talks?
Micah Challenge have a calender of prayers for the days surrounding these events.
If you want to keep a tab as things unfold in Germany, Oxfam are doing a live from the g8 blog special.
Let us believe that God can bring more than aid and debt relief; true freedom and empowerment for the developing nations. Would God do it through the G8? Shivers, who knows, but at least we can pray that they won't get in the way eh...

4.6.07

Until justice rolls like a river...

Yesterday we joined 10,000 others on the banks of the Thames in order to encourage Mister Blair to hold the G8 to their promises. (7 years ago the Millenium Development Goals were set- with the promise to have the accomplished by 2015. We are halfway there and the goals are no where near on track.)
(Here are some more photos of the day.)
It was a beautiful sunny day with all sorts of antics going on- pants to poverty stripped off to do a human sculpture on Parliament Sq, Micah Challenge held a cool prayer service-and it was rad to see so many (and such a variety) of people mobilised.
At the Micah Challenge service they showed this awesome video-
and although it is too late to come to the June 2nd Rally, it isn't too late to do the other actions. It takes 3 easy seconds to email your MP and the German chancellor.
On some of the signs it was written "We will not be satisfied untill justice rolls like a river." Amen to that one alright...

1.6.07

Concrete Hope

I am not just blogging slack....We have been away for the last week camping in the fabulous lake district with my bro-in-law and sister -very delicious, and then I have had Oxfam campaigning training in Birmingham of all place, which has been lots of laughs with a fantastic crowd.
While we were waiting for our train last night we were grazing a Brummy bookstore and I flicked through Rebbecca Solnits "Hope in the Dark: the untold story of people power" and liked this:
"Hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say it because hope is an ax you can break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door..."
I think God clearly paints a a concrete hope in a world where those in slavery are free, where people without shelter have homes, where hungry people have food, where grief is turned to gladness. And in opposition to the doubt that cripples us, hope makes us spring to our feet- mobilised!
If you are in London and hope is shoving you out the door allow your feet to carry you to the banks of the river thames tommorrow, where thousands will be gathered to tell Tony to take a message of hope in promises to the G8. See the click of the week on the right there for more info.

25.5.07

world peace

My delicious little nephew Hudson has a bib that says "Give Peas a chance". It's awesome. I love peas, particuarly if they have Hellmans mayonaise on them. Anyway, I think about peace a lot at the moment. Here are some random thoughts.
My main point of reference for peace is that inner sense of "it's all good", it is not a tangible thing.
That sort of inner peace is one of those things that you don't think much about until it is not there.
For millions of people in the world, peace or the lack of it, is a very tangible, loud, visual, solid thing. People in Iraq, Darfur, and a hundred other places ripped apart by conflict that don't make it to the headlines, I suspect would have peace as one of their highest hopes yet it constantly eludes them.
My dad did a series on the Beatitudes in Luke and one of his points in the "Blessed are the peace makers" bit was that it is "peacemakers" not "peaceful" or "peacelovers" but creators of peace.
An ancient Nun I used to visit last year said that global peace starts with peace in your own personal life. I don't know what i think about that. What do you think about that?
At the Parihaka peace festival (a big secular music weekend in NZ) on the wall where all the timetable was pinned up someone had scrawled a yellow post-it note saying "Jesus: Prince of Peace" and for the first time that name for God stunned me.
I think peace might be the consequence of social justice. Or are they both ends in them self?
One day I would like to own a battered old army helmet and I will plant a beautiful tree in it as a statment.

18.5.07

routine violence

“I see a man of around 50, coming back from his work in the City of London.It’s a soft summer’s evening, so there’s no need to put the car in the garage.
He can hear the sound of his children’s voices coming from the garden, and he feels an acute sense of wellbeing as he walks around the side of the house, only pausing to smell the exquisite scent of the white roses he planted last year. Earlier that day, the man, a senior accountant at one of Britain’s leading oil corporations, had presented the final spreadsheets in the report which determined that a coastal area the size of Scotland in southern Nigeria would soon be developed. He cannot connect this fragrant evening in leafy north London with his work earlier that day. He cannot, or perhaps will not allow himself to, connect his life in London with the lives of those in Nigeria about to be devastated by his tapping at a keyboard.
Who was the senior accountant who looked at the spreadsheets for this project?
Who at the merchant bank dealt with the finance capital?
Who authorised the project to go ahead?
Who decided that they wouldn’t negotiate with the Ogoni villagers?
Who telephoned the Nigerian Government to ask for the mobile police force to be sent?
How are we to show the violence of a spreadsheet?
How are we to show the violence of a set of minutes?
How are we to show the violence of an idea?"
From the performance of Killing Us Softly
I like this... although it is intended to speak specifically to Oil and bureaucracy etc, I think it also portrays the power of an individual to impact the world for good or bad (in extremes, sometimes) as well as highlighting the potential violence of some very mundane, everyday procedures (Buying that latte from Starbucks from example!)

Come on and celebrate clap clap

So New Zealand has just finished a succesful Fair Trade Fortnight, hurrah. AND... drumroll... the Auckland council has decided to make Auckland a Fair Trade city, on track for being NZ's first. Yahoo!(You may remember our chinwags with the mayor from last year on this mission)

15.5.07

sharing the love...

We needed a cheer up meal tonight so googled our local Wagamama and found this 2 for 1 offer. Can't really go wrong with that bargain.

14.5.07

the great black spill


You may have been reading in the paper in the last few days about the Niger Delta; local militants have been reaking havoc (kidnappings, bombs) on the oil companies in protest of the corruption and oppression they have bought to the people of the Niger.
Since I read this article a month ago in the Observer about the Niger Delta, oil, corruption and poverty I have been captured and have spent hours reading about oils role in politics and poverty. It is a horrific picture. I went along to a conference last week called Oil and Politics, a bunch of papers presented by proffessors, covering a whole range of issues, some were a bit abstract but most held stories and stats of devestating injustice...
A snapshot:
*Poor countries who are rich in oil are more likely to experience corruption, war, dictorial governance and wide spread poverty. (This is called the Resource Curse)
* the resource curse is best exemplified by Nigeria who have been exploiting oil for half a century and have Africas largest oil resource yet still 88% of people live on less than $1 a day and there is 1 doctor for every 150,000 people, with figures like these growing more dire every year.
*During the 90's resourse driven conflict killed more than 5 million people and displaced 11-15 million people in their own countries.
*Literacy and life expectancy at birth has increased more for non-oil economies than oil economies.
*1% of the revenue from the global oil industry would be enough to meet the water millenium development goal
This Christian aid report explores a lot of the major issues around poverty, human rights and oil. It is worth the long read! It also has recomendations at the end which I really feel we (the public, the church, the salvation army) should grab hold of.

11.5.07

whatsa goon on

We have been in England for coming up to 2 months now. Tim has been busy supply teaching and applying for jobs... Meanwhile I have been um.. sort of er... Doing Stuff. I am in a bit of a space where I am sussing out where I want to be heading... the sphere of social justice without a doubt but whether local ( policy/ inclusion etc) or global (development and global politics) I just can't pin it. Last year I had the freedom in both my roles to have my thumb in both plums. (Did I make that phrase up)
So while I figure this out I am basically spending my time on Facebook and Blogger. Just kidding (for the most part). I have also been doing some art for a couple of ventures, been a committed Aunty to Hudson Taylor, attended any radical event I can (today and tommorrow it is an Oil and Politics Conference), been a long lost friend to my London pals, and next Tuesday I am joing Oxfam in their London office as their Campaigns Outreach Coordinator 2 days a week. I am real amped about this- the campaigns at the moment include stuff like Climate Change, Arms Control, Debt, education for all amongst others, and it is basically growing awareness of the subjects, empowering current campaigners and inspiring the public to action. Yeha, can't wait.
So, thats the haps, if you were curious and all that!

9.5.07

A weekend in Southport

We have just spent the weekend at a Salvation Army conference, Roots. It began 13 years ago in the wopwops of Wales, so I was 11 years old at the first one. I can really only remember two things- the pink denim shorts I wore constantly and one time walking past a big tinted window, curiously pressing my face up to it to see what lay behind and then being well embarrassed when I realised I was peering into the Adult main session from the window just above the stage. Eek. In hindsight I suspect the shame was unnecesary seeing as they were probably far too busy with the Holy Spirit to notice little freckle face up there. (This was the momentous meeting of The Salvation Army and the Toronto Blessing.)I loved that weekend, for the first time in my life God was close and exciting.
From its umble charismatic beginnings Roots has quickly burgeoned into an institution in itself, with people attending in their thousands.
This was my first one for six years and Tim and I were on the Engage Team in the Youth Venue. Our thing was to hang out in the campsite and outside the venue, trying to connect with the young people that for whatever reason weren't into the meetings. Our mission was to make sure that every young person that came along to Roots, whether they got involved or not, went home with a corner of an idea about how much God loves them. We chatted our socks off, played vortex, cracked jokes and drank bucket loads of tea and it could be up there with one of the best conferences I have been to in 13 years!
Lifelong friend and ministry tool of the Roots Engage Team.

1.5.07

Be encouraged oh creative tissue inside all of you

Peter Sellars says Artists should be at the centre of society keeping alive a utopian vision, because society will not improve if the people envisioning a better society are politicians.
So I am thinking of the artists- or simply those that have let the creative bit of them out- who have been faithful to a picture of a better world...
Top three I am celebrating in no particular order are....
Hannah More
C.S Lewis
Isaiah

They are all writing types. Sorry about that. Please add your own and make it a more diverse crowd. Definately some musicians need to make it on the list.

26.4.07

Who is they...


The Observer has run an expose on child slaves found sewing sequins on clothes for 2 British fashion shops.(Read it if you want to get mad.)It has been rad coming to London and knowing that so many shops are part of the Ethical Trading Initiative. But this article just highlighted to me the fact that ETI or no ETI, when you pay 2 quid for a new top (Hellooo primark) somebody somewhere is going to be ripped off, (aren't they?) and it is probably not going to be ME or YOU but a little kid in some dark back room in a stinky alleyway.
Amos of the Old Testament says "They trample on the heads of the poor as upon dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed." Who is they in the story of the sequin slaves?

a poppy for anzac

Today is Anzac day. We only realised when we passed the New Zealand memorial and our eyes caught the red, red poppies so we didn't make it to a dawn serivce. Husband Tim has done a fab Anzac post on his new blog (fourth attempt at being a blogger)

(This is part of the really beautiful iron southern cross memorial, more pictures are here...)

23.4.07

Turn the Telly Off Week begineth today...

"The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely." T.S. Eliot
"Each hour spent viewing television is associated with less social trust and less group membership." Robert Putman
"Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object." Author Unknown
"Throw away your television, Make a break big intermission, Recreate your super vision now" Red Hot Chilli Peppers
"Television! Teacher, mother, secret lover." Homer Simpson, The Simpsons (hehe. this one just made me laugh)
So, I don't want to sound like George Bush but I really have some animousity towards the telly. It sucks that our children watch on average 30 hours a week and it's pretty clear it's having a devestating effect on community life. I'm with the chili peppers.
T.V Turn Off week- 23rd- 29th April

20.4.07

the smallest campaigner

He was 4 weeks young
At a rally hundreds strong
As we yelled for trade justice
And riled against the wrong
Of a world weighted one way
Bringing riches to the rich
While the rich are busy
(infatuation)
With their robbery/ sales pitch.
The EU just aren’t happy
With their bulging pockets
Greedy hands
They would rather reap –
(uninhibitedly)
Africas desolate lands.
He was four weeks young
As he joined in the throng
Sleepily baptised in the
Justice Song.

(We went to the trade justice protest yesterday- You can see what the rally was about here. - and we took little hudson. He did have to leave early though cos his nappy leaked and wee ran down his leg.)

18.4.07

"How do you spell that word 'slave free'?"

If your taste for fair trade chocolate has cooled or has not yet been sparked, allow Tony Chocolonely to inspire you. This Dutch man had himself seriously sued for being a chocolate criminal -part of the modern day slavery cycle.



Tony's site is short and sweet, especially check the "Factory Facts" for his story: www.chocolonely.com

14.4.07

A sponge stick for Jesus

So, the other day I was pondering on the idea of Jesus followers being "in the world but not of it" (this chap goes into it well) and had a vision.
It was an image of a trifle, lots of cream and custardy goodness.
But it was especially the little sponges in the jelly that got my attention. See, before these sponges go into the trifle they are hard crunchy sticks. But after marinating in the trifles rum and gelatine they become melt in the mouth morsels. The sponge sticks expand through the bottom of the trifle and form a delish solid base to this parochial dessert.

Whadya reckon? A picture of what it is to be living and meaningful in the world -only really becoming what we are meant to be when we engage with the 'rum and gelatine'- but with our substance, our values and identity, staying the same...
No? Yeah? Too weird? Too yummy? Anyone else have any new pictures of old concepts?

12.4.07

Einstein made my day....

"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk?"
If anyone else is hounded by chaos and lives life in its creative wake, allow the words from this genius's mouth to be balm for the grazes inflicted by methodic managers and systematic spouses and, when required, a rebuff to their scorn.

9.4.07

Happy Easter!

We sung this old Salvation Army hymn at the church service today (lyrics just there in the red.) I dug it. . . I dug it because for me the fact that Jesus dying and coming back to life means "the end of mortal days", floats my boat. Do you ever sometimes wake up and think 'sheesh, life is like a shrivelled up raisin' ? (I do.) I love it that Jesus offers a way out of meaninglessness... mere mortality... simple survival... This verse is a reminder that Jesus opens the door to a life deeper and more colourful than we can imagine, a life where darkness is defeated, and where love oozes over us (and hopefully) out of us.
Happy Easter. I really pray you know the peace and freedom of the living Christ as your friend.

7.4.07

A Good Friday triplet...

James K. Baxter from Autumn Testament
King Jesus, after a day or a week of bitching
I come back always to your bread and salt,

Because no other man, no other God,
Suffered our pains with us minute by minute

And asked us to die with him.

Colin Mccahons Imprisonment and Reprieve

Nikos Kazantzakis from The Last Temptation of Christ

Jesus uttered a triumphant cry: "It is accomplished!" and it was as though he had said: "Everything has begun!"

30.3.07

The pursuit of happiness and the glimmer of hope

We saw Pursuit of Happyness this week. It's a good movie (best waiting till it comes out on DVD though) about a not well off guy, Chris, who gets a few bad breaks and gets stuck on a downward spiral. It portrays really, really well the trap of poverty, you get a poignant insight into the hopelessness of what it is like to very poor. (Not student poor, which I think alot of us may have experienced: "Man, I can't even afford to go to the cinema!")
But, of course, it's all very Hollywood because at the end, due to a splash of luck, the dude's dream comes true and he gets rich. This is all really fantastic and I couldn't help but shed a tear at this wondrous thing. I also couldn't help but think about the googles of people stuck in the povetry rift who weren't ever, ever gonna get the good cards dealt to Chris. (But, you know, the stories of normal people just dont give veiwers that warm glow when they leave the building.)

Last night we went to Artists Corner at Number 10. Number 10 is a Salvation Army thing at the back of Oxford Street, a small centre for the local homeless people. It is beautiful, like fully unassuming and authentic. We have had a few chances to hang out since we got here, and last night too, was really fantastic. People read poems they had written, sang songs and even did some live painting. Deep well springs of talent. Alot of the expressions of art were about their experiences of being homeless and almost all moved from a point of despair to a point of hope.

So, anyway, to tie this babling on all together...
Chris's story (although apparently inspired by a true one) ends pretty unrealistically. Things are so bad for Chris predominantly because he has absolutley no friends, no one to turn to. But then, magic, he comes upon a gold mine. (But still has no friends.)
On the other hand, last night I was filled with the sense that the glimmer of light for alot of Number 10's homeless friends, wasn't the prospect of a pot of gold but the people at Number 10, inspiring them, encouraging them but most of all being there, always there to turn to.
Shivers. So in conclusion. Hopefully this isn't too naive...
If us Jesus Followers really saw ourselves as salt and sprinkled ourselves around neighbourhoods, the total despair for people that was Chris's wouldn't be so bad, as we would be his friends to turn too. And, clearly, hope and happiness isn't found in the miraculous stockbroking job or the lottery win, but in solid friendship that everyone should have accesss to.

28.3.07

Gullible?? How 'bout we say trusting...

So... yesterday we got scammed.
We were walking down the road when this lovely Italian chap called us over to his flash wagon and after a fair few minutes of friendly chat, me showing off all my Italian, Tim being his wonderful warm self and the stranger charming us utterly and completley, he explained that he fancied giving us a gift of some expensive Italian leather coats. (?!) Neither of us are the Giorgio Armani types, but, hardly wanting to reject our new friend's offering, we accepted the designer bag, albeit in a bemused kind of a way. After a few moments, Mr Mario got on to the fact that he just needed a bit of cash for petrol. Sweet as, no worries; we gave him a crispy note. He wanted another. After some squirming, we, er, gave him another. He wanted just the one more. We explained that, um actually, we were unemployed and clearly not loaded and HELLO YOU'RE DRIVING A BMW. Except the capitals didn't quite make it from our minds to our mouth, and we pretty much emptied our wallet into his sweaty paws. Fifty. Freaking. Pounds. (Yup, thats $150 kiwi golds.)
The exact second he started up his Bimmer and drove off we realized that whatever had just happened we had just done a very stupid thing. Our hearts jumped into our mouths and our jaws dropped meaning that our hearts were bobbing all over the pavement right there outside South Kensington Tube Station and we stared at each other in disbelief. We were in shock; we gasped, we laughed, we yelled, we ran (away from the police in case they did us for handling stolen goods) and we finally made it home to open up the bag. 'Till this point I wasn't too traumatised, even if they were off the back of a lorry, we could always sell them on e-bay and make back the dosh, and perhaps an extra bob or two. But oh, no. It was worse. They were 100% polyester, made in China, worth about 70p each and the tool of a worldwide rip off.

Obviously, we are gutted as we feel very ridiculous. However, we are glad to be able to say we have learnt some lessons (Being jobless we have much time to philosophise.) Ok, drumroll....
*However spiritual and unmaterialist we may feel at times, the truth is we are inherently greedy and our minds get whirring at the thought of getting something for nothing.
*Even though we feel we got majorly ripped off, it is absolutley nothing in comparison to the story of millions of other people. Such as this Sri Lankan woman featured in this article who paid a wonderfully charming con artist $600 to take her into slave labour, thinking she was going to a well paid housekeeping job to support her daughter.
*There is a fine line between being good stewards and being tight, which sort of leads to the last one...
*It is always better to trust strangers, even at the risk of having your pockets dishonestly unburdened.
So, lets go with trusting, eh, rather than any other words that come to mind. I will admit that so far as an artistic representation goes, this probably does sum us up best...

26.3.07

"Where the spirit of God is there is freedom!"

Happy Freedom Day! I hope you have all enjoyed your celebration of the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade act! Bono says... "Freedom has a scent like the top of a new born babies head." I love that.
I smelt the newest baby head ever a couple of days ago, fresh out of my sister's womb, when Hudson was hatched. It has to be one of the happiest, sweetest and most energising smells ever! I love him!
I'm stoked to have the happiness, sweetness and energy that my own internal and external freedom brings. But I don't want to get lazy with that freedom, which it's so easy to do, eh.
Like Jesus I want to be about freedom for the 20 million captives around the world. Yup.
So, keep radical in your pursuit of freedom, justice and hope for all people, not just cos it smells good but because that stuff is the stuff of God's heart.

18.3.07

initiation complete

We have arrived in London, wahoo!
Joanna still has not had the little Tinker which was due a week and a half ago. But on our first morning here my two best pals, Amanda and Marina bought over their little babies for brunch donning "Haere Mai" (Welcome in Maori) tee's that my dad had made for all the tikes.

We are currently watching a 6 nations rugby game between Wales and England with my mum in the room which means Tim has survived his initiation into my whanau. She is Welsh and she goes mad and they are currently kicking Englands butt which means Tim is experiencing the full shebang. My first childhood memory is of my Uncle Howard breaking the sofa from a trimphant leap when we had all my mums side over for a Welsh match when I was two.
It is such a treat getting to spend each day with my beloved family and friends, wah.

(Walking through Hyde park.)

14.3.07

Frrrrreeeedooomm

Today we were in one of those posh gift shops that sells stinky candles and soaps and lots of breakables like sculptures of angels. We spotted a sign that cracked us up: "Unattended children will be sold as slaves". It was great cos after having a chuckle I was prompted to think about this whole human traffiking thing that has become quite a global campaign over the last year or so. (Don't you just love that serious part of your brain.)
Some of the stats are crazy:
*20 million people are held in bonded labour around the world
*profits from the trafficking of people are US $7 billion a year
*of the 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80 per cent are women and girls, and up to 50 per cent are minors.

A really important day for this modern slavery is coming up later in March- Freedom Day. It is a day for those around the globe to create awareness about this traffiking evil and to show solidarity for those kept in bondage and a renewed vision to see everyone experiencing freedom.
I love the concept of freedom. It is one of those words that is used so incessantly and has been for so long that it really should have lost some impact. But I just don't think it has. Everyone, to some degree, knows what it is like to be in chains. I also love it because it sums up, in one theme, all my spiritual and social passions! Jesus came to earth to see all of God's children set free and this liberation is to be experienced both inwardly and outwardly. Down with oppressive lack of hope, unjust economic structures and evil social problems!
Anyway, there are some really fantastic websites out there for you to get equipped to get on board the Freedom Day ship on March 25th.
Stop the Traffick has some ideas for taking the issue into your workplace/school etc.
Set All Free has some brilliant resources for churches to get involved, especially check out the pdf of worship ideas.
I like this prayer from there:

Gracious and liberating God
Lift us beyond the burdens of pain and guilt
Build our memories
into life-giving resolutions
Give us the vision of a new creation
Strengthen us to act
for justice and human dignity
And set all free.


Amen.

13.3.07

the art of underestimation

When my sister visited Niagara Falls with my parents before I was born she spontaneously burst into the old chorus "Deep and wide, deep and wide, there's a fountain flowing deep and wide (Hallelujah)"
Joanna, today I appreciated the riduculousness of you singing that particular thing.
The falls really are very big- ginourmously gargantuan actually. It actually made me giggle, you silly sausage. (Yes, yes, okay you were two.)
I couldn't help but peek over the rails and imagine sliding down the thunderous waters. Before we went I did some googling and found out about the 16 daredevils who attempted the vertical wet ride. There were some mad hatters in there- the first person was 63 year old Annie Taylor (I suspect a relative of my crazy brother in law, Steve) a school teacher who took her cat who both lived to tell the tale of the wooden barrel. There was also a chap in a steel barrel who didn't make it who took his turtle who did make it and then there was a guy a couple of years ago who tried it in a kayak. Hello?
When Tim saw me researching these people and their modes of transport he laughed nervously and then this morning checked the boot of the car for any stray barrels. But don't worry folks, the Niagara downhill stayed in my imagination. I was just having too much fun singing Deep and Wide in honour of my sister.

12.3.07

A vertible feast for my eye balls

Stratford, Ontario is a wonderful place. A quaint wee town where my Aunt and Uncle abide...
Today we visited the pinery, a reserve on the shores of a grand lake. The great mass of freshwater had completley frozen over, and in the process of doing so had created what I fondly have come to label "snoaves". They are mounds of snow and sand in the shape of waves in great banks 10 metres from the shore line. One of the most peculiar and spectacular things I ever did see.
We have more sights of today- and other Stratford ones including white squirrels - online. (And eventually other Canada and South America photos... what a palava)

614

So we have just spent a week at 614 Regent Park, a Salvation Army church based in Canadas oldest housing project. It is ghetto.
This small square of land houses about 15000 people of multitudes of ethnicities. The work of the 614 crew that live there seems to be one of the most authentic expressions of faith I have ever seen in my life. The relationships run deep and the commitment to revealing hope possibly even deeper.
It was a total inspiration to see the Army in the sort of place it was birthed to be, doing such uncomplicated Jesus like business.
"....They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." Isaiah 61:4

2.3.07

I heart San Francisco

What a charming town! Yesterday Andrew took us on a wee tour around the place... it was fab eating crab meat and sourdough bread on pier 39 (with Ben and Jerrys for pudding) and seeing some rad views. Intensely cold for our systems though, which have gotten fairly used to 30-40 degrees! In fact, I am crook today. It is great practice for in-the-minuses-Canada though. Had coffee in "Coffee for the people" on Haight St, which is so my favourite place. Organic and Fair Trade and fully using their space for inspiring action and raising awareness on issue. Love Love Love. Their sticker wall will be fuel for my blog for many months to come! Off to visit Salvation Army 614 Toronto tommorrow, which will be really great. Except we forgot to email the guy we are hoping to stay with, um, till this morning. So....
Anyway, San Fran, come on down:
The Bushman- a hilarious larrykin that hides behind his twigs and Boos daydreaming pedestrians!

28.2.07

Houston we have a photo... or two....

If you are interested or want visual evidence that we have been really having adventures and not just making them up while we sit and eat ice cream on the sofa.... here they art...
South America on our camera before it broke
Disposable Camera numero uno

27.2.07

corrupt fried chicken

Half way to San Francisco. We are awaiting our next flight, to LA. Due to a bit of a mix up with our flight from Chile to Lima we had to take the roadtrip option... 21 glorious hours on a bus. We were really pushing it fine as we had a flight out of Lima a couple of hours after our arrival there. They also were wanting to take a super long time getting our luggage out of the bus so we were begginning to freak out abit. Tim was obviously dissapointed that 5 weeks in South America had produced no dabbling in bribery and corruption and felt this was his moment, reaching into his pocket he was determined to bribe the bus driver to get our bags off first. (what a rascal) In the end some kind chap helped us and lost time was made up by our cantankerous and road ragey taxi driver who halved the 30 minute airport trip.
Anyway... here at the stop over in El Salvador a couple of vagabond cops were the cherry on the top of our Latin American adventure. In answer to our question about where everyone was getting these delicious looking boxes of fried chicken and chips from we were met with a mysterious whisper and some glances over their shoulders. With a backhanded $10 dollars on some gloomy steps Tims desire for the corruption experience was sated and 20 minutes later we sat enjoying our greasy goodness.
Anyway, boarding queues are calling and this plane really needs to be on time for us to catch our Greyhound down to see Tims bro, Andy, in San Fran. So adios, amigos from the Americas south of the US of A.

20.2.07

Carneval

All over South America over this last month Carneval has been being celebrated (originally a pagan celebration of meat, most famously manifested in Rio's elaborate street parade.) A major theme of it is water wars. Here in Cochabamba you literally can not walk for 5 minutes down the street without several water balloons whizzing past or occassionally meeting their target (its pretty refreshing in the heat, thanks.) On Saturday we joined in the fun, after buying 50 filled balloons for 5 B's we trawled the city streets and woe to any rascal with a water gun who surely felt our liquid wrath. (Well, Tim's. Most of us were just the subjects of hilarity with our totally lame throwing skills. Generally soaking only ourselves.)
This weekend is the climax of the festivities with 2 statutary days off, the only holiday many Bolivianos will get all year. But this year the celebration is having a stand off with disaster as the clouds decide to join the party, bringing the most rain for 40 years. Flooding and land slips are making several appearances all over Bolivia. As the heavens declare their own water war the president has declared the country to be in a state of national emergencey.
52687 families have been made homeless from the damage
73495 acres of crops have been wiped out
21 main roads impassable
35 dead, 6 dissapeared
1200 with dengue fever (risen from 20 in 5 days)
and the stats are climbing by the minute....

It's already in a pretty sorry state, old Bolivia, (it receives the 3rd most global aid) and you've got to wonder why this stuff has to happen to such a country. A bit of me says- "its just the self perpetuating cycle... if the politically situ wasn't so unstable then infrastructure could cope with natural disasters etc." But a big chunk of me simply wonders why nature (which ultimatley God could stop!) chooses to let loose so regularly on places that can't cope.

(A site I have found since being in South America is the Democracy Center, which has offices in Cochabamba and San Fran, whose aim is "building democracy from the ground up", they have some rad articles. They also have a super interesting blog that has some light reading on Carnival from Bolivian perspective.)