Cycling and walking solve a lot of problems

I’ve just given up my car, mainly due to the cost, and the fact I didn’t use the car that much. Most of the journeys I make can be made by bike or public transport. I’d been putting off selling it, as I’ve not been well, and also I do use it for church stuff. But when I worked out how much it costs me each month, I could pay for taxis and occasionally cars easily within the money I save.

There are many problems solved by this approach:

  • I save a lot of cash
  • I do more exercise
  • I’m more connected with my surroundings – I’m enjoying the outside more
  • I don’t have the road rage aggro or parking anxiety
  • I’m no longer expected to give lots of lifts, so I save time

The downside will be in the rainy spells – but I live in a dry part of the country, so it’s easier. Hills are also a problem. But so far, so good.

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New Year’s Resolutions for Christians

I’m a bit late with reposting some of the stuff I’ve written for Christian Today lately… so will try to put it up slowly over the next few weeks. Here are some suggestions for NY resolutions – what do you think? How are your resolutions going?

Obeying the Bible means living a radical, green life

It was great to see so many people out marching for Climate change around the world last weekend. It’s always good to see a community getting together for a common cause. But will it change anything? I doubt it. Governments already know that a significant minority of their populations are concerned about climate change. What will really change the situation is not going on marches, but changing the way we live.

And, encouragingly for Christians, this way of living is laid out pretty clearly in the Bible. In fact, even if you don’t believe in climate change, if you want to take the Bible seriously, you’ve to live a life that is in agreement with the greenest and most right-on environmental protesters.

Why? Well, anything that is producing carbon and going into the atmosphere, is related to consumption. It’s caused by money, or more to the point, it’s caused by some people having too much money and greed. It’s now the norm for our culture to be going off on foreign holidays via plane, even twice a year, having two cars, changing technology every few months, eating vegetables that were flown from the other side of the world. And what makes all this possible? Having too much cash, and then choosing to spend it on ourselves rather than on helping others. This is a lifestyle that we’re all caught up in in the West, and dealing with it is a lot harder than going on a march. Our societies need root and branch reform, and the Bible is the best place to start. I think this passage is key to the issue:

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 1 Tim 6:6-10

How true this Bible quote is. Greed, and the lust for entertainment, stuff, activity and fashion, has lulled us into this situation, where the world’s resources are scarce and we’re wasting them on consumer goods and leisure rather than investing them into people and the planet. We have a model in Jesus, who was so low-impact that he didn’t even have his own house (Luke 9:58). We’re told to be stewards of the Earth and all the living things in it (Gen 1:28). When we think of Matt 25 we normally remember that those who go to eternal punishment are those who have not helped the sick, the imprisoned and the hungry. But Rev 11:18 also points out that those who destroy the earth will be in this group. So if we’re God’s people, then we’ll be caring for people and caring for the Earth too.

Breaking our addiction to consumption, cars, boys toys and all the trappings of the modern world will take a long time. In the same way as an addiction to crack or alcohol, it takes Jesus to fill the hole that the addiction leaves and repair the damage. This in and of itself will direct our attention from entertainment and buying stuff, towards helping others and loving Creation, in all its beautiful variety. We’ll not be working every hour God gives us, but working fewer hours because we’ll need less money: truly we’ll be serving God and not filthy lucre (Matt 6:24). We’ll have more time for our friends and family, and serving our community, even putting on dinner parties for the lost and broken (Luke 14:13). We’ll be able to give away the money we do have to good causes.

I can hear the mini-me Richard Dawkins of the twitter world howling in outrage at what I’ve just said, thinking of the gas-guzzling SUVs and private jets of certain parts of the Christian community, especially in America. But it’s not our job to shout at them, it’s our job to lead by example. And perhaps we need to get the log out of our own eye, before we can help others get the speck out of theirs (Matt 7:3-5). We need more than shifting to a green tariff, reusing plastic bags and buying recycled paper, to get the almighty, rotten trunk out of our own eyes.

Living a life worthy of that 1 Tim passage, and to be content with just having enough food and clothing to survive, is radically different from our Western culture. But as the ancient monks and nuns discovered, it can leave more space for what’s really good, and what’s really God. After all, it’s His Earth, not ours.

Cheap cupboard nut roast

If you’ve got some nuts to use up, but no fresh food, and a food processor, this recipe is great. I made it up myself. No eggs, either!

300g mixed nuts
Tin tomatoes
1 small onion or large clove garlic, chopped
Big handful fresh herbs: basil, parsley (or heaped tsp dried)
1 can beans (red kidney, cannellini etc)
100g dried out wholemeal bread
1tsp mustard
Generous salt n pepper
Bit of oil

It’s really easy. Put the nuts and bread into the food processor and process until all are chunky. Then put everything else in, and blend until a paste that still has chunks of nuts etc. Oil a loaf tin, and put the paste in. Put in oven at about 180 c for approx. 50 mins – but keen an eye out and check whether burning. Check middle cooked, then tip out onto a serving plate.
I chill this and wrap up portions for the freezer – I can stick it into the microwave and use throughout winter. Enjoy!

Saving jam jars – what to do with them?

SAMSUNG

I’ve got a huge box of jam jars. Some of them are soaking in hot water at the moment, in preparation for making some lovely bramble and apple jam (some great free food in my area at the moment). I’ve been saving these jars for ages, and wondered if I’d ever get round to using them. I’d been hoping to make apple jam and chutney every year, when my apple trees produce their harvest, and did it for the first time last year. I gave them away as presents at Christmas, and ate my way through them too.

But there have been some other uses for the jam jars.

  • Sprouting seeds in them, a good way of making fresh food when you haven’t been to the shops for a while.
  • Chucking out old oil, rather than putting it down the sink.
  • Using them to hold water when painting.

So all in all, I’m glad I’ve kept these old jars hanging around, rather than putting them out for the recycling van.

Stuff. Addictions. Simplicity. Why live a simple life?

Shopaholic

Shopaholic (Photo credit: Monerda)

What do you worship? What can’t you live without? It might be your fast car, lipstick or your football team. It might be your new house, your carefully selected wardrobe or your TV. It might even be your partner or your job. I think that making a list of these things can really help us to learn spiritually.

If we look at Jesus, we see someone whose only priorities were loving people and his Father. He told us in Matthew 8:20 that he had ‘no place even to lay his head’. He was homeless, and without possessions. He was supported by some disciples, we learn in Luke, and he was blessed with other people’s perfumes and hospitality. But his life was one of pure simplicity: loving, teaching and serving.

If this is our model, we can question some of our attachments to things of this world. Are we actually addicted to our techology and our material possessions? An alcoholic can’t live without his drink – what’s the difference with being attached to other kinds of material objects? What would happen if everything went up in smoke – the computers, the DVDs, the clothes and the cars?

Perhaps material objects were meant only to serve us and help us in our life – but we’re in a situation where most of us are serving them instead. I love this which flies round social media now and then:

We were created to
Love people and use things
The world is in a mess because
We are loving things and using people

The less stuff we have and need, the more we can give to others: of money and time for example. The less time we spend buying and earning, the more time we can spend loving. Let’s follow the example of Jesus, and worship only the Father, and seek our treasure in heaven alone. God is the only thing worthy of worship, after all.

Making free fuel from scrap paper. No more shredding!

I’ve found a great way to beat the fuel crisis, plus avoid all that boring shredding of bank statements and so on.

Turn all that scrap paper into fuel!

SAMSUNG

I bought a paper compressor, to make logs with. You have to soak the paper in water, then put it in the compressor, and press down hard. You then have to leave it to dry for a few weeks – so you need space that is reasonably warm. I dried them in the conservatory. The results are on the right in the picture above (the other paper is for kindling)

It’s only just got cold enough to try it out, so I’ve been burning them along with normal paper as kindling and a few coals in my wood-burning stove. The paper logs last almost as long as a normal log.

They call themselves ‘briquette makers’ and all sorts of strange things, but if you google eco paper log maker, you’ll probably find it.  I got mine second-hand on ebay so it was cheap too.