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The week after Good Money Week – it’s never too late to make your money work for good

October 28, 2014

Good Money WeekLast week was Good Money Week – an opportunity to ensure those you trust with your money are looking after it well and using it in ways that benefit society and protect the environment. Did you do anything about it last week? If not, it’s not too late to make some changes!

I read an article in the Church Times during Good Money Week. I was struck by a quote from Mr Newbegin, a founder member of the Ethical Investment Association. He admitted that he once believed it did not matter “how you invested your money, so long as you maximised the return – it was what you did with the proceeds that mattered”. His perspective changed as his Christian faith matured, however. “I realised that that was a cop-out, and that where we invest is actually very important”.

BankEven if you don’t feel rich, it is highly likely that you have a bank account, possibly even one with a little bit of cash in it (it’s not quite the end of the month yet!). Do you know what your bank is doing with your money? It’s not just sitting there, waiting for you to buy that next cup of coffee or pair of trousers. Your bank is investing it – but in what? You might be shocked and horrified at some of the things that high street banks are supporting with your money. You might be doing your bit at home to reduce your carbon footprint, but your bank might be using your money to support dirty coal power stations. Or you might ensure you support fair labour conditions by buying Fair Trade, but your bank may be investing your money in businesses that rely on child labour and sweat shops.

PensionsWhat about your pension? If you have children, does it make sense that your pension, as your provision for you and your children’s future, is being invested in high carbon industries, which are contributing to the ruination of our world for future generations? Even if your pension is provided by the company you work for, you might have some say in how your contributions are invested.

SharesDo you hold any shares directly? As a shareholder you are a part-owner of that company. That should come with some responsibility. Is it enough that you simply invest for regular dividends and an increase in your wealth? As you are benefiting from the actions of that company, should you being making sure they are not pursuing activities that you would not support, and therefore don’t want to profit from? You can read more about the importance of taking responsibility as a part-owner of the company you hold shares in here.

InsuranceAnd what about insurance? You might think of insurance as just being a necessary evil and look for the cheapest available policy. But do you stop to think where your insurance premiums are being held? Like banks, insurance companies assume that not everyone will make a claim at the same time, therefore your money is being invested by these companies. There is a high probability that your premiums are being invested in companies contributing to climate change or selling armaments. What about choosing an insurance company that makes your premiums work for good?

Money makes the world go roundWe all know the saying “‘Money makes the world go round”. This is our opportunity to make sure the world goes round the right way. There are some great resources on the Good Money Week web-site exploring how our money can be a force for good, considering sectors such as health, education and energy.

As Christians, the concept of stewardship should be familiar. We are called to be good stewards of our money, in whatever form it takes (cash, bank account, pension, shares, ISAs). Imagine what a difference we could make if we took this seriously – if we used our money, through both our spending and our saving, to further God’s Kingdom of justice, love and mercy. We pray regularly, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – through making good money choices we can help to answer this prayer and bring God’s Kingdom nearer.

So what can you do? Good Money Week have designed a great cartoon illustrating the Life of a Fiver, showing the choices we can make. We are not powerless, we can ensure that our money is being used for our good, and the good of others and the world. You can find more resources and guidance to help you make positive choices with the money you have been blessed with here.

Why not take the opportunity now, and in the future, to take control of your money and do something good with it!

Will AidAs a postscript, if you’re thinking about looking after your money into the future, have you written a will? Thanks to Will Aid, every November, a good solicitor will write your will and ask only for a donation to charity. If writing your will is something you always mean to do but never get around to, take this opportunity to get it done, and support 1 of 9 great charities as a bonus!

This post has been adapted from one previously published on

Seeking justice in the mundane

October 23, 2014


“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker”- Helen Keller

This post first appeared on Tearfund’s Rhythms site 

What is it that you dream of? What is it that inspires and motivates you to be a change maker in today’s world? Do you ever feel that if you want to make a difference you have got to live big, dream big and set big goals in order to live a full life?

We may rightly be thinking big, dreaming big dreams and wanting to be significant change makers. This is a great thing but perhaps not always what is required of us.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously — take God seriously. Micah 6:8

I would like to think that I am living an extraordinary life. The world screams out for us to live that way; live life to the Max! The reality is that most of the time I am not. Although I have big dreams and things that inspire me and fire me up, a lot of life is often quite normal and mundane. Now I’m not advocating a dull and dreary life, oh no, life is an adventure and is to be lived with hope and fullness but a lot of the things that fill life are often fairly normal. And that is ok. How we shop, travel, what we eat, how we use our time, what we read etc, It all matters, it’s all a part of our life and how we seek to live justly.

How can we seek to do justice in the everyday and the mundane?

Seeking to do Justice in the everyday should not mean compromising our values It should not mean that we forgo creativity. It should not mean we are worthy but dull. It definitely should not mean that we set lower goals. All of this would surely limit a creative, loving, adventurous God who desires transformation of individuals and the world that He created and He loves.

However, as Helen Keller said, Its the everyday pushes of honest, just, merciful, humble people in the midst of the mundane that collectively can also make a change. These pushes could be things like buying fairly traded products, taking a campaign action, holding open a door and taking the time to listen to someone who is in need. It may even be as simple as pausing for a moment each day to be thankful for what we do have rather than pining for what we don’t.

It’s great and really important to think and dream big. But it’s also great to act in the small and everyday ways. Doing Justice is a normal, everyday, whole of life thing.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Romans 12:1 (MSG)

When its put like that it shows that every day, whole life discipleship is an adventure that we can embrace. Are you up for the journey?

To help do this, I’m excited that there are things like Rhythms and also great initiatives that can help us and inspire us. Watch out for a blog in a couple of weeks about a new project I am involved with through my work at Tearfund, which we are calling ‘The great invitation’ which we launch on 3rd November.

Book review: This changes everything, by Naomi Klein

October 23, 2014
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Good review of Naomi Klien’s latest book ‘This changes everything': Capitalism vs the Climate
Review by Jeremy Williams

Originally posted on Make Wealth History:

this changes everythingAfter her previous books on consumerism and disaster capitalism, the transformative ‘this’ of Naomi Klein’s latest book is climate change. It will change everything, either by changing the planet, or by us changing society and the economy in radical ways.

There are no get out of jail free cards, Klein argues – no new dawn of green capitalism, no enlightened billionaires, and no miracle technologies. These hopes are all rooted in the idea that if can tweak a few things here and there, we can carry on as usual. The science suggests something else: that we have very little time, and no option but radical emissions cuts. And that puts us on a collision course with the fossil-fuel driven growth economy. Hence the book’s subtitle, ‘Capitalism vs the climate’.

We’ve known about climate change for long enough to have done something about it. The reason we haven’t is pretty simple…

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#inequality: Walking humbly in satin plimsolls

October 16, 2014

Today is Blog Action Day 2014. Its aim is to unite the world’s bloggers by posting about the same issue, on the same day, in order to raise awareness and trigger a positive global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all.

This year’s theme is inequality, a topic which is close to Breathe Network’s heart. Read our blog post below to get you thinking and join in the conversation on Blog Action Day’s live stream, Facebook and Twitter. 

#BAD2014,#Bad14 #BlogAction14, #inequality @BreatheNetwork @blogactionday12


These two envelopes arrived in the post on the same day:


On the one hand, Tearfund is asking me to help Agnes leave despair behind her. On the other, Boden is reminding me that they give 365 days of peace of mind. I open the letter and flick through the catalogue.

Agnes’ soundbite in the letter is: ‘Last year I had malaria four times. The last time I thought I would die.’ The soundbite from Boden model, Simone is: ‘What do I want to return as in my next life? A bird.’

I can’t help but feel that Agnes’ despair wouldn’t be fixed by the purchase of a ‘Calypso Vest’ which promises to ‘make you feel like you’re on holiday long before the duty free cosmetic counter beckons.’ It seems that the Omulala Women’s Group – where encouragement and hope are flourishing – is creating a forum for something a bit more deeply transformative than that.

But as I flick through pictures of ‘endlessly versatile soft cotton cardigans in life-affirming colours’, nor can I help but wonder if model Adoara, who celebrates the end of winter by buying ten swimsuits for the summer, isn’t missing out on something.

A gift today of £60 can pay for three women to attend a five-day training workshop, equipping them with business skills that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.

£60 would also pay for a Silver Riviera Notch Neck Tunic that will rush to my aid when I have a sudden attack of the wardrobe wobbles.

A donation today can empower women like Agnes with the tools, knowledge and confidence they need to leave poverty behind them – one step at a time.

Decisions, decisions, says Boden.

What Matters Most?

October 10, 2014


This question ‘What matters most?‘ is an incredibly subjective one and any answer given is also very likely to be shaped by the context in which the question is asked. Many of us play multiple roles, and if you are like me your answer might well be different in the contexts of work, where we volunteer or our homes. The question is also vital when it comes to the ‘bigger picture’ in terms of what ultimately matters, what are our key/core values and how we can step away from the compelling nature of the ‘urgent’ to get to the heart of what is really ‘important’ (In some cases the Urgent and Important are linked)

For me, I am very thankful for the work that I get to do, It matters to me a lot, but I am also deeply thankful for my family and they also matter to me a lot. Being able to deeply value my family and also my work and do both well, together, matters to me a great deal.

My problem if I am really honest, Is that more often than not I get it wrong. I don’t really fully awaken in the moment to what really matters. Distraction, over committing, apathy, not saying no, cynicism, getting bogged down, losing perspective, making poor decisions, all can crowd in and make me really lose site of what really matters most.

I’m a big admirer of the writer, retreat leader and public communicator Brian Draper. I have been fortunate enough to go on several of his brilliantly lead retreats, take part in his Advent and Lent email series and also read his books. I can highly recommend all of these. Time and resources well used in my humble opinion.

Anyway, the reason I mention Brian, is that he is about to bring out a new book entitled ‘What Matters Most‘ following on from his last work in print which was also aptly titled ‘Less is More‘ . These works seem really vital for us in an age that prizes activity and being busy as highly regarded. I’m looking forward to reading and engaging with Brian’s forthcoming book. But I’m really keen to ensure that I don’t just pick it up, read it and move on. I am keen, hungry and inspired to ensure that the book’s words and approach sink deeply into my soul and way of being, that enable me to really stop, focus, centre and commit to the life long journey of exploring and seeking to live out what really matters most.

In his book ‘Sabbath as resistence’ Walter Brueggemann talks about the significance of Sabbath as follows

Sabbath represents a radical disengagement from the producer-consumer rat race of the empire. The community welcomes members of any race or nation, any gender or social condition, so long as that person is defined by justice, mercy and compassion and not competition, achievement, production or acquisition. There is no mention of purity, only work stoppage with a neighbourly pause for humanness. 

It matters that we are resourceful, productive and good stewards of the resources, time and gifts that are given to us. We all rightly have the projects, work and initiatives that we have been ‘called’ to or inspired to work on. For that, there can be no doubt. But it is also vital that we take the time alongside that to rest, to be refreshed, to commune not compete, listen not talk and value being what it fully means to be human. Let’s Breathe a little more, for on the Sabbath, Less really is more.

* I’m sure that Breathe will be writing a review of the book in due course. Please do also consider checking out what Brian has to offer in terms of retreats and resources to help us focus more on what matters most



Book review: Simple Living in History

October 10, 2014
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Simple Living: Yesterday, Today and Into the future – A review by Jeremy Williams of ‘Simple Living in History’ – Pioneers of the Deep Future

Originally posted on Make Wealth History:

simple-living-in-historySimple living, paring back our lives to focus on the things that matter most, is not a new idea. All through history people have advocated simpler living – for happiness, for virtue, for God, or for the earth. It’s always been there in our wisdom traditions. It may be more important now than it has ever been.

That’s because in the past, simple living was a matter of wisdom and a lifestyle choice. Today it may be a matter of survival. As the climate changes and resource stocks deplete, we are being forced to re-consider our assumptions about development, and the stories we tell ourselves about the good life. Simpler ways of living may be inevitable in the not too distant future, and the more deliberate we can be about it the better.

That doesn’t mean we need to return to some mythical pre-industrial golden age. As editors Samuel Alexander…

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Yesterday, today and forever

October 4, 2014
Image of St Francis

Breathe was asked to share some of our motivation and inspiration with a Third Order Franciscan gathering in South-East London today (on the Feast Day of St Francis, for those who follow such things!). So the Franciscans now know a bit about us, but what do we know about them? Who was St Francis, who are the Third Order Franciscans and what relevance do they have to us as members of Breathe?

St Francis lived over 800 years ago. He was a rich young man whose life was turned around by an encounter with God, after which he was moved to live in extreme poverty, even giving up the clothes he was wearing at one time! He is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment. You can read a bit more about St Francis and his choice of living simply here.

franciscan funnyFortunately, unlike this picture, it is possible to be inspired by St Francis without donning a habit! The Third Order of the Society of St Francis are vowed to a lifelong commitment to Christ and bearing witness to the Gospel life in their homes and workplaces. To do this they commit to a Rule of Life – a framework for living. Today, we shared with them Breathe’s Promise of Life which is our “rule”.

The Third Order has three aims, all of which will resonate with us in the Breathe Network:

  1. To spread the knowledge and love of Christ

They believe that it is the commission of the church to make the gospel known to all by bearing witness to Christ through word and example in our daily lives. They remember St Francis’ injunction to “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words”.

  1. To promote the way of love and unity with all creation

The Order sets out, in the name of Christ, to break down barriers between people and to seek equality for all. They are pledged to fight against the ignorance, pride and prejudice that breed injustice of partiality of any kind. They try to live in the spirit of St Francis’ prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

  1. To live joyfully a life of simplicity and humble service

They commit to living simply and to sharing with others. They aim to stay free from attachment to wealth, keeping themselves constantly aware of the poverty in the world and its claim on us. It is not a call to absolute poverty, but to a life lived in a spirit of generosity.

It is this third aim that most closely links to Breathe’s specific purpose – a life of “Less stuff, more life”. To illustrate this, at the gathering today, we showed the Conspiracy of Freedom videos, which inspired us to think about how we could make changes in our daily lives in response to the themes of Life, Home, Children and Enough.

An extract from the Franciscan booklet Chasing the Wild Goose, or a Wild Goose Chase can help us to explore in greater depth the themes of simplicity and poverty. It may challenge us to embrace a deeper understanding of why we should be aiming for less stuff, more life (i.e. poverty), which is so totally counter-cultural, but runs through the heart of the Gospel:

  1. Poverty may be seen as reverence for the integrity of creation.
  2. Poverty is the refusal to exploit or manage the natural world without reference to the needs of other people and to our responsibility as stewards of God.
  3. Poverty recognises the beauty, the sanctity and the goodness of things, as all are creatures of God.
  4. Poverty seeks not to be excessively attached to our possessions, but to use them for God’s glory, for the welfare of people and the universe itself.
  5. Poverty in clothing, transport, holidays, relationships and houses, needs to be characterised by simplicity.
  6. Poverty avoids dominating or exercising undue power over people’s lives, remembering the words of Jesus: ‘But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant’ Luke 22:26 NLT
  7. Poverty strives for that simplicity which is the fruit of humility.
  8. Poverty seeks to be free from all attachment to wealth and material gain by being aware of the poverty of the world and its claim on our stewardship.

St Francis was known as “God’s fool” due to his extreme way of life. Do you sometimes feel foolish as you try to live a life that challenges the all-consuming consumer dream? Do your friends or colleagues ridicule you for the choices you are making? Take heart from this verse:

The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer foolishness to those hell-bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.                             1 Corinthians 1:18-19 The Message

I don’t know about you, but I find it inspiring and encouraging to know that we stand on the shoulders of giants – Franciscans have been striving to live simply for over 800 years! When I’m feeling disheartened about the state of the world, it is reassuring to know that – yesterday, today and forever – others are also wrestling with the challenges of living a counter-cultural Gospel life. And together, with prayer and commitment, we will make a difference!


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