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Christmas is coming! Take a deep breath… and relax

November 25, 2014
Advent calendar

Brace yourselves – Christmas is almost upon us, or at least that is what the shops have been telling us since Halloween. Surrounded by all the Christmas lights and jingles, it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype. But if we focus on Christmas too early, we are in danger of missing the powerful season of Advent – the time of preparation, both for the birth of Jesus, and His return. Darkness becoming light, both now and not yet.

The Real Advent CalendarAn advent calendar is a classic way of counting down to Christmas – opening each door in eager anticipation to see what is behind it (usually chocolate nowadays!). The Real Advent Calendar is a great option – Fairtrade chocolate, a charity donation, and, in case you’re at risk of forgetting what it is all really about, a booklet of the Christmas story.

However if you feel like you’re too old for one of these this year, there are a few on-line options to help you engage in a more real way with the season of Advent, before getting caught up in the festivities of a joyful Christmas:

A Rocha’s on-line advent calendar – check-out their page each and every day of Advent for life-altering tips and ideas for a greener Christmas and beyond.

Stewardship’s #AdventWonder – In the midst of the consumerist hum Stewardship are inviting you to stop and reflect on the Christmas season in a wholly different way, with their free Advent Wonder email series. Join us as we unwrap the alternative gifts of the season, and explore our own capacity for generosity at Christmas and beyond. Each Monday and Friday throughout December 2014 we’ll send you a new ‘gift’ to ponder and share. Create some space. Join us in a journey of Wonder. 

Resistance & Renewals Advent Challenge  – R&R shares reflections on how faith relates to transformation and social justice. Download their daily reflections for this season and be challenged and inspired. Christmas is so easily overtaken by busyness, spending and anxiety. These daily reflections will help you to take some time out each day leading up to Christmas to reflect on the person at the heart of the whole celebration. They are grouped in pairs; the ones on the left in blue focus on the destructive values to resist, and the ones on the right in green are those values which bring renewal to us and the world around us. Each day involves 4 steps: a time of silence, a Bible reading, a few sentences to aid reflection and some ideas for prayer. We hope it helps you grab a little bit of R&R this Advent.

The Bible Reading Fellowship’s Advent sampler  – BRF is offering a free daily Bible reading comment and reflection to help you explore the season. The sampler offers 28 daily readings drawn from across the five different series of Bible reading notes that BRF publishes. Our hope is that this sampler will help people to read the Bible regularly.


As noted above the season of Advent is a time of preparation. This inevitably includes practical preparations for Christmas. So as you start to plan, don’t forget about the following:

Buy Nothing Day imageNovember 29 is Buy Nothing Day – take at least this one day to lock up your wallets and purses, cut up your credit cards and dump the love of your life – shopping.

Rather more extreme, what about doing away with buying presents altogether, and instead make something special, or spend some quality time with your loved ones, rather than rushing up and down the high street desperately trying (and failing!) to find that special something?

Amazon-Free-holding-banner-4Could you boycott Amazon? I have done so for 2 years now and it’s really not that hard! Join Amazon Anonymous’ Amazon Free Challenge.

And when you do have to buy, be a conscious consumer and make it a gift that keeps on giving:

  • buy an alternative gift – does the person you are buying for really need another pair of socks or body lotion?? Twinning someone’s toilet is always a conversation starter!
  • ensure that the company you buy from treats its workers well and protects our environment – look out for the Fairtrade, Soil Association, FairTax and Leaping Bunny logos, amongst others.
  • buy from a charity, so that not only do you get a beautiful gift to give away, you know that you are supporting organisations who are doing amazing work alleviating global poverty and supporting those who can’t support themselves, through no fault of their own.

You will find lots of ideas and links here.

What about matching your spending on presents or food with a donation to charity? If you choose one of the charities involved in this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge, then your matched donation will itself be matched – so your chosen charity gets double! Matching funds will be released at 10am, Thursday 4th December then again at 10am, Friday 5th December and again at 10am, Saturday 6th December. Funds are limited and will run out quickly each day so donate as soon after 10am as possible to be in with a chance of having your donation doubled!

I wish you an inspiring Advent, full of wonder and awe, and pray that being a conscious consumer will lead to even more joy this Christmas!

Four Steps To Ethical Fashion

November 19, 2014


Ruth Valerio has a great blog and as part of that she is doing a series on ‘Green Living’ . Here is the latest blog on ethical fashion and doing good with clothes

Originally posted on Ruth Valerio:

ethical fashionThe other week I bumped into a friend of mine wearing a top I hadn’t seen before. ‘I like your top, is it new?’ I asked. ‘Oh yes’, she said laughingly, ‘it’s just one of those silly things. You know what it’s like: you’re a bit early meeting someone in town so you pop into the shops while you’re waiting and pick up something silly’.

Our conversation left me reflecting on the fashion industry, which, in the UK alone, is worth around £21 billion. Long gone are the days of Little House on the Prairie when Ma – if they could afford it – would make her annual trip into town to buy the calico to make her and her daughters’ new dresses for the year (one new dress each, of course), and when the daughters each got a new pair of hand-knitted gloves as their main Christmas present (seriously…

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Can you give 10 minutes a day for R&R’s Advent Challenge?

November 19, 2014


The Season of Advent is almost here. Could you take up Resistence and Renewals Challenge and pause, breathe, be and pray for 10 minutes every day during Advent?

Originally posted on Resistance & Renewal:

R&R Advent Challenge 2014.jpgAdvent is supposed to be a time of waiting and anticipation. A time to pause and prepare for the celebration of Christmas.

If I am honest, for me it is far more likely to be a time smothered with extra busyness, more spending and an anxiety about getting more things done.

To help people like me, I have put together R&R Advent Challenge 2014 which consists of 24 days worth of short readings and reflection.

The challenge is to make time every day between the 1st December and the Christmas Eve for 10 minutes of silence, reading, reflection and prayer.

Download a simple, two page sheet which contains 24 days of reflections which are all based on Jesus’ words and actions in the gospels. The reflections are grouped in pairs; the ones on the left in blue focus on the destructive values to resist, and the ones on the right in green are those values which…

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Brisbane: 6 out of 10

November 19, 2014


Great blog by Tearfund’s Melissa Lawson reflecting on last week’s G20 Summit

Originally posted on Tearfund's Policy Blog:

So the Brisbane G20 Summit is over.  It was a fascinating Summit to follow, with discussions on how to grow G20 economies by 2.1%, ebola, climate change (not Mr Abbott’s favourite topic, but with external pressure it was at least mentioned) and Mr Putin leaving the Summit early after frank conversations about the Ukraine.

I was following the Summit to see how G20 leaders responded to Tearfund’s Secret’s Out campaign, which called for action by G20 leaders on corruption – particularly in the extractives sector.  So what actually happened and what was agreed?

G20 Australia

  • The final G20 Communique was short and sweet.  From a corruption perspective, it included an endorsement of high-level principles on beneficial ownership (ie countries will gather data on who actually owns and controls companies), but G20 leaders failed to include a commitment to make this information available to the public.  So progress, but still…

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The Unfinished Millennium Jubilee

November 14, 2014


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (Charles Dickens in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ )

We are living in challenging and interesting times – A Paradox. On the one hand we have arguably never had it better and yet we also know that we are a more unequal society than at any other time in our history. We have huge wealth but we also see the reality of the rise of poverty and a sharp increase in the number of people needing to rely upon a food bank.

There is also a Paradox when it comes to overall development. Poverty has been significantly reduced globally, but we also face into the reality of how growth as is presently measured is fragile and arguably unsustainable in the long run, and we risk undoing all of the good progress, unless things change.

These are questions that Tearfund have been wrestling with in relation to it’s future approach to Advocacy work. They recently held some conversations to explore and test some ideas, and there are some great reflections and write up’s from some people who attended including, Duncan Green of Oxfam, Alex Evans of Global Dashboard (Who is a key person working on the future project and also by Emily Benson from the Green Economy Coalition.

The Paradox and challenge, but also the great opportunity this presents for the church to outwork it’s theology and it’s values is brilliantly articulated here in this fantastic reflection by Alex Evans on lessons from the Jubilee Debt Campaign, The challenges today and the theology of Jubilee.

One of the things that also emerged from the conversations was the importance of living out the values and living with stories of integrity, honesty and reality.

This is something that Breathe is really passionate about. We need to be the change we want to see in the world, and this requires honesty and humilty and humour as well as seeking to be intentional and make the changes in our lifestyles.

Personally I have been really challenged about what I am eating but also as well as what we reduce, how we can also be positive and be more open to being generous and to sharing.

We can as individuals, families, communities and churches seek to be proactive in being the change as well as praying, campaigning and calling on our leaders to create and implement policies that will bring a better future

Top Tips

Less is More. Meat is a good thing, but we simply need to eat it less, savouring it when we can but saving money and helping to save the planet, a real win win. Why not try going one day a week without meat or if you are feeling really ambitious why not try living below the line for a week!

Growing Veg is fun. Just look at this great example of a movement called Incredible Edible. If we have more connection to something, we value it more. If you don’t have access to an allotment, then what about growing in your garden? The Eat seasonably website is a great resource for wannabe growers!

Vegetarian Food is a lot more delicious and nutritious than we might think. Rice and dahl is simple and delicious and does not need meat. There are loads of great recipes out there.

Read someone’s experience of changing the way they eat by checking out Ruth Valerio’s blog. She writes brilliantly and also has lots of great recipes.

Love Food Hate Waste offer lots of great ideas and recipes as well.

The Great Invitation

November 3, 2014


We all love to receive an invitation, and Tearfund have a ‘great invitation‘ for you to consider responding to!

Tearfund have a vision of a just and sustainable world where people and communities flourish, within the planet’s boundaries. It’s a bold vision that means reducing poverty and looking after the planet can work hand in hand – in an economy that serves all people. They are set to launch a major new initiative on this theme in 2015. And as a forerunner to this they want to hear from you and resource your ideas through the great invitation project.

In the past year Tearfund’s Advocacy team have supported initiatives like Hope for the Future and Pray and fast for the climate . Now they want to throw the net wider.

Are you a budding social entrepreneur, communicator or mobiliser with a great idea to connect and inspire people to play a part in helping to create a more just and sustainable world? Are you an artist/performer and need some support to enable your creative work to find a new or wider audience?

Tearfund are not looking to be overly prescriptive but do want your idea to fit with the vision, to be sustainable, to be innovative, to inspire and mobilise others and to play a part in the movement in seeking a more just and sustainable world.

Key Info and Dates

Applications for the great invitation will close at 5pm on Friday 5 December.

Shortlisted applicants will hear back from Tearfund by Wednesday 17 December

Shortlisted applicants will then be invited to attend Tearfund’s Office for an event on Saturday 17 January to pitch their idea to a panel who will decide which ideas we will get behind and give our support to.

For more information and to apply please visit


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


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