Tuesday, 23 December 2008

At the dawn of 2009, just what do the future years hold?

The picture is of Salisbury Cathedral and the path you see I walked many times when at the theological college in the Cathedral Close.

I learnt a lot there, especially from my fellow students but also from the cathedral building because while the work of construction started in 1220 AD the 404 ft (123M) tall tower, the part that it is most famous for, was not completed until 1380AD. The designers of the building were fully aware that they would never see the completed work, just as the designers of the great gardens knew they would never see the 200 year old Oaks they envisaged in their planting schemes.

So where is the forward planning of the 20/21st Century? What legacy has been left for those who will follow in our footsteps in 800 years time?

The family that you descended from were working for the good of their families, their children, their grandchildren and for you, yes for you when Salisbury Cathedral was being built. That last part may seem a bit mind-blowing, but let’s face facts; if you have children and are concerned for their future and your (possible) grandchildren then you are concerned for the offspring of your grandchildren as well. You, like the designers of Salisbury Cathedral may never see the result of you efforts, but you know that as sure as eggs are eggs, there will be a result and that little old you, yes you, can influence the future NOW.

So, what will your descendents inherit from our age? Will there time be one of crisis with no energy from fossil fuels? Will it be a time when finding enough food is an everyday problem? Will Climate Chaos have damaged beyond hope the ability of this amazing creation know as The Earth to survive much longer? Will our future descendents survive to see the year 2900? We cannot forecast with any real accuracy the year 2900, but there are some things that we can forecast with accuracy long before then, in fact for most of us we know what will happen to creation in our children’s lifetimes, let alone our grandchildren’s.

We know that the island nation that is Tuvalu will be no more due to raised sea levels. In Australia we know that at the present rate life in Sidney will be totally changed by the heating effect of Global warming. In the US we know that Lake Mead, the lake created by Hoover Dam that provides water for 22 million people in the Southwest of the US as well as 90 % of Las Vegas' water could dry up by 2021 as the rains fail to materialise. We know that in Alaska, Canada, and Russia the melting of the permafrost and the release of trapped methane will influence life in those regions and beyond. We know that glaciers are retreating all over the world, and will cause water shortages to those regions that rely on melt water, for example, in Chile glacier melt will cause water shortages at the southern end of South America.

OK, so we all know that the problems are massive and that governments are far happier working for short term gain rather than planning for the long term but don’t blame them, because but that is actually partly our fault. If you want to be re-elected then you don’t talk in terms of centauries, you talk in terms of months. That’s why money is given to firms that produce cars no one wants. That’s why money is given to the banks that failed us all in the first place, which is rather like asking the burglar to come back and change the locks after breaking in and robbing you. Let’s face facts, its short term gain that matters to so many, not short term pain.

So, have there been any successes? Have our ‘little’ voices out in ether of Bloggerland been heard amid the noise and chaos of 2008...? Oh yes they have... and how! Just look at these few examples...

In Europe, German Chancellor Merkel scaled back her demands for loopholes that would have resulted in millions of tonnes of C02 emissions and handouts to heavy industry. This was due to the actions of more than 200,000 Avaaz members including over ten thousand in Germany, who emailed and participated in actions in Brussels and Poznan.

World Vision, one of the world's leading relief and development agencies works on a global basis with over 100 million people in nearly 100 countries in the struggle against poverty, hunger and injustice and has changed the lives of so many for the better with small donations from many.

In Canada, largely to the efforts of ForestEthics and its allies, the Ontario government committed to protect 55 million acres (more than 20 million hectares) of the northern Boreal Forest—an area half the size of California, or six times the size of Belgium from industrial development.

In the UK thanks to supporters of Friends of The Earth the UK Parliament was pursuaded, after a 3 and a half year campaign, to pass a law that commits the Government to deep cuts in the UK's emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

Third World Microfinance charity Kiva, the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, has now been enabled to make thousands of loans every week directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world due to the kind generosity of thousands of small lenders.

Thanks to the support of supporters, Greenpeace managed to prevent pro-GMO countries from wrecking an important December 2008 EU environment ministers' meeting on Genetically Modified Organisms and food safety. Over 70,000 messages were sent to EU politicians, including over 3,000 sent directly in 48 hours to the UK and German ministers.

Over 350,000 people have contributed to the supply of over 824,000 mosquito nets costing $5, £3 each and have now saved 1.5 million lives from the scourge of Malaria in Africa.

And so it goes on, hard fought for and won success after hard fought for and won success... but what about the future for the environment? Well there are problems ahead because for some areas of God's creation the tipping point has already been reached. The future will however eventually become brighter as long as we never give up and carry on emailing, supporting, blogging, pursuading, putting our concerns in front of the decision makers and leading by example.

There is certainly a massive amount of work to be done regarding the problems and challenges humanity is facing in safeguarding creation for the generations as yet unborn. Like the designers and builders of Salisbury Cathedral we may never see the full result of our efforts, but after a lot of hard work and effort the problems will eventually be overcome because, in the words of President Elect Obama, “We are the ones we have been waiting for”.

Monday, 22 December 2008

May I wish everyone a very happy, healthy, peaceful and above all, loving Christmas...

Please excuse me because this is for me a total indulgence. The musical equivalent of chocolate or cheesecake, it's The Shepherd’s Farewell by Berlioz. It's not only my favorite carol but my favorite choral work of all time, I sang it often as a choir member and love it dearly.

Friday, 19 December 2008

A Christmas Thought

We live in a time when the focus of civilisation is on speed. Fast cars, fast trains, fast aircraft, and fast food. For many of us it would be hard to imagine a world without these things and yet, not long ago, none of these existed. This was bought home to me several years ago when we went for a walk on Christmas Day. There were no cars driving on our local roads, not even an aircraft passing overhead, in fact, there wasn’t any sound of machinery, and yet this is how the world was in the recent past.

The legacy of the past is its slowness, its peace, its patience, its care for others, its knowledge of the seasons of nature and of life, and it’s sharing in the sense of community.

The legacy of the present is the mobile phone, the car with its windows vibrating because it is fitted with a sound system that would be sufficient for a small concert hall, the reliance on a supermarket for a quick in and even quicker out once-a-week shop, 24 hour TV, the microwave, piped music everywhere, boil-in-the-bag food, ready meals and car alarms.

For many today life is but a non-stop treadmill and they are running ever faster on it yet getting nowhere whatsoever in a quest to achieve or maintain that certain something that for so very many has lost its meaning, that certain something being a ‘high standard of living’. This ‘high standard of living’ ignores the simple pursuits of life, gardening, cycling, maintaining and making friendships, sitting listening to music , cooking, and reading. Instead there is the instant garden of the garden centre, the car, the snatched email, background music while doing another task such as reading the never finished book and watching celebrity chefs on TV.

Then... once a year... there is Christmas.

For many this is the only time they are together as a family group, sitting around a table and eating together and often in the Bible shared meals are mentioned. I often think that theologians ignore the fact that must have been great fun to be with Jesus, anyone who can turn water into wine must have been a sure-fire hit at parties!

In the past for the vast majority the ceremonial centre of the house was the kitchen table. All the main events of the household were celebrated by communal meals there, births, deaths, birthdays; Easter, Christmas, and going away as well welcome home meals were shared and eaten there. The kitchen table, with the air around heady with the smell of cooking, turned into a place of discussion and debate, of experiences shared, of friendship shared and renewed and of warmth and comfort.

Often these meals were, by today’s standards, very simple and ‘unsophisticated’ affairs. Food would have been local, grown or reared in the area and stored extremely carefully. Wine from the other side of the world and fresh beans from Africa or strawberries from South America would not have been on the menu, nor would have been a huge joint of meat but the words of Proverbs 15:17 would have summed up the atmosphere perfectly. "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred".

I pray that your table may be weighed down with love this Christmas.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Less can mean more... and more can mean less

The picture on the left is of Sarah from Westlake Village, California. Her video of the time she spent in Nepal, the first time she had left the US, can be viewed here. It is more than well worth seeing.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The carol ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’... it sounds non-religious... but...

This carol has its origin as a teaching tool for young people at the time when Catholics were unable to practice their beliefs openly, and the following is what is behind the song.

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me”. The true love represents God and the “me” is the Christian who receives these gifts.

The “Partridge in the Pear tree” is Jesus who died on the tree (cross).

The “two turtle doves” are the Old and the New Testaments.

The “three French hens” were faith hope and love, the three gifts of the spirit that abides (1 Corinthians 13).

The “four calling birds” are the four Gospels.

The “five gold rings” are the first five books of The Bible that are known as the ‘Book of Moses’.

The “six geese a-laying” are the six days of creation.

The “seven swans a-swimming” are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 4: 10-11).

The “eight maids a-milking” are the eight beatitudes.

The “nine ladies dancing” are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

The “ten lords a-leaping” are the Ten Commandments.

The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven faithfull disciples.

The “twelve drummers drumming” are the twelve points of the Apostles Creed.

So the next time you hear this carol, you may well be the only one that really understands its meaning.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A letter received from Zimbabwe, please read it.

The following letter does not make pleasant seasonal reading, but for some it is reality. I have been asked to pass it on to as many as I can so please, please cut and paste it or put a link to this and so pass it on...

I reckon that these are the last days of TKM and ZPF. The darkest hour is always before dawn.

We are all terrified at what they are going to destroy next........I mean they are actually ploughing down brick and mortar houses and one family with twin boys of 10 had no chance of salvaging anything when 100 riot police came in with AK47's and bulldozers and demolished their beautiful house - 5 bedrooms and pine ceilings - because it was 'too close to the airport', so we are feeling extremely insecure right now.

You know - I am aware that this does not help you sleep at night, but if you do not know - how can you help? Even if you put us in your own mental ring of light and send your guardian angels to be with us - that is a help -but I feel so cut off from you all knowing I cannot tell you what's going on here simply because you will feel uncomfortable. There is no ways we can leave here so that is not an option.

I ask that you all pray for us in the way that you know how, and let me know that you are thinking of us and sending out positive vibes... that's all. You can't just be in denial and pretend/believe it's not going on.

To be frank with you, it's genocide in the making and if you do not believe me, read the Genocide Report by Amnesty International which says we are - IN level 7 - (level 8 is after it's happened and everyone is in denial).

If you don't want me to tell you these things-how bad it is-then it means you have not dealt with your own fear, but it does not help me to think you are turning your back on our situation. We need you, please, to get the news OUT that we are all in a fearfully dangerous situation here. Too many people turn their backs and say - oh well, that's what happens in Africa

This Government has GONE MAD and you need to help us publicize our plight---or how can we be rescued? It's a reality! The petrol queues are a reality, the pall of smoke all around our city is a reality, the thousands of homeless people sleeping outside in 0 Celsius with no food, water, shelter and bedding are a reality. Today a family approached me, brother of the gardener's wife with two small children. Their home was trashed and they will have to sleep outside. We already support 8 adult people and a child on this property, and electricity is going up next month by 250% as is water.

How can I take on another family of 4 - and yet how can I turn them away to sleep out in the open?

I am not asking you for money or a ticket out of here - I am asking you to FACE the fact that we are in deep and terrible danger and want you please to pass on our news and pictures. So PLEASE don't just press the delete button! Help best in the way that you know how.

Do face the reality of what is going on here and help us SEND OUT THE WORD... The more people who know about it, the more chance we have of the United Nations coming to our aid. Please don't ignore or deny what's happening. Some would like to be protected from the truth BUT then, if we are eliminated, how would you feel? 'If only we knew how bad it really was we could have helped in some way'.

[I know we chose to stay here and that some feel we deserve what's coming to us]

For now,--- we ourselves have food, shelter, a little fuel and a bit of money for the next meal - but what is going to happen next? Will they start on our houses?

All property is going to belong to the State now. I want to send out my Title Deeds to one of you because if they get a hold of those, I can't fight for my rights.

Censorship! ---- We no longer have SW radio [which told us everything that was happening] because the Government jammed it out of existence - we don't have any reporters, and no one is allowed to photograph. If we had reporters here, they would have an absolute field day. Even the pro-Government Herald has written that people are shocked, stunned, bewildered and blown mindless by the wanton destruction of many folks homes, which are supposed to be 'illegal' but for which a huge percentage actually do have licenses.

Please! - do have some compassion and HELP by sending out the articles and personal reports so that something can/may be done.

'I am one. I cannot do everything, --- but I can do something... And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.'

After reading the above my 'problems' don't seem to matter at all

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

A Prayer

May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths and indifferent relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
for those who face pain, hunger and war,
so that you may reach out your hands to comfort them.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.