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Restoring Eden, a US/Canadian based Christian environmental network, has come up with 10 Ways to Honor the Creator this Christmas.

They write: “‘Tis the season to remember the birth of our savior, and the weight of his love for us.  Yet the holidays can end up being a peak time for over-consumption, excessive waste, and frivolous spending instead of a time that honors our Creator.

Restoring Eden and Renewal have put together a list of 10 very simple things you can do this season to help focus our minds and hearts on God’s immense love and sacrifice for us.”

While some of the ten ideas are heavily biased towards a cold, Northern Hemisphere time-of-year, and while some of the links are for Americans only, they could be an inspiration for you and your family as you think about the meaning of Christmas.

What are some alternative, Australian – appropriate ideas?

Donate money: TEAR Australia, a Christian aid and development organisation has a Useful Gift Catalogue.

Make a gift: there’s not much time left before Christmas this year, but be inspired…turn off the telly tonight and get crafty!

Shop locally: at craft markets,such as Launceston’s Civic Homespun Market.

Shop ethically: support fair-trade, such as visiting an Oxfam shop (in person or online).

Do you have other ideas? Please share them with us!

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This is my song for the raspberries

It comes without a tune

But my song is a delicious one

Though they’re eaten all too soon.

 

This is a song about raspberries

They’re growing out the back

Safe in a net, hidden from birds

My perfect little snack.

 

I quite like this seedy song

You bitter sweet tang of berry

The tune on my tongue is a happy one

I wish it would last longer – very.

 

Baby face is covered

In tracks of goey fest

The delight in her eyes is a telling one…

Puts my sharing to the test.

 

I hope this song continues

For another week or two

I wish I had a magic trick

To extend this delightful coup.

 

But the berry season just has to end

Like this rhyming wit

I hope you’ll join me in a prayer

In thanks for this classic hit.

 

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I’ve been in a state of shock for the past few weeks. A state of disbelief.

When the water bill arrived, I had to look at the figures at least twice. Then, still doubtful, I walked out to the front yard to check the water meter.

The water company had got the reading correct. How could this be?

I’ve been having five-litre bucket-baths since July 14. Our water usage should have plummeted. And it hasn’t. So, since the bill arrived, I have been trying to figure out how our household’s water-use has changed, and why it hasn’t dropped despite my committment to using less water for personal hygiene. This is what I’ve come up with:

Less water:

Showers:

I’ve replaced my long showers with five-litre bucket-baths. In addition, my partner’s work moved to a new building with better facilities, and, because he rides to work, he is able to have a shower when he arrives at the office in the morning, instead of when he gets home at the end of the day.

Garden:

As it’s been a wet winter, we’ve not had to water our vegetable garden very often.

More water:

Bath:

Our little girl outgrew the baby bath and she has been washing in a few inches of water in our big bath two or three times a week.

Laundry:

Our child has also been responsible for a big increase in our washing.  She has been churning through cloth nappies, bibs, face washers and other clothes, the outcome of her eating “solid” food and turning into a pint-sized explorer.

Cleaning:

Now that baby is entering the toddler phase, our house needs cleaning far more than it used to (sigh). That means mopping the tiled areas, cleaning the bathroom and wiping down surfaces in the kitchen (and everywhere else in the house that little fingers can reach).

So despite my committment to having bucket-baths, I haven’t managed to reduce our water consumption. But does this mean I have failed?

I’d answer: no. I’ve learnt several valuable things from this challenge.

First, I’m taking it as a great demonstration of how quickly water usage can change, as well as an opportunity to better appreciate these changes. If I hadn’t undertaken this experiment, I wouldn’t have seen the impact of our extra water use (mostly caused by our baby). I hope that in the future I’ll be more aware of how our behaviour can have a big impact on our overall water use.

At the same time, I’ve become more conscious of a continually running tap, wherever it might be (kitchen, bathroom sink, etc).

Second, my perspective on showers has changed – I appreciate them far more than I used to. While I’ve gone back to having normal showers, I reckon that they’re shorter than what they had been. A few minutes under the flowing spout seems luxurious after bathing in a meagre five litres of water.

I used to tell myself that I needed to have a long shower for a variety of reasons, including:

… to wake up in the morning.”

“… to get clean.” (How clean do I really need to be? And am I going to be drastically cleaner after a 12-minute compared to a two-minute shower?)

… to soothe my soul after a long or hard day.”

And beyond these reasons, I’ve been good at telling myself that I deserve a long shower. It’s my little treat. Sure, water is precious, but this is just a little reward for “this” or for “that”. Never mind that what I “deserve” has steadily grown over the years, and never mind that I’m also good at giving myself other little rewards during the day (another cup of coffee, a second helping of cake…). This exercise has shown me how easily I can fool myself into indulging in luxuries, in putting myself on a pedestal, of setting up a little kingdom for myself within my home. It’s all too easy to make myself Queen “for a day”, which quickly becomes every day.

As a Christian who believes that every bit of of life belongs to God, and that I can worship God in every part of my life and living, there is another dimension to this issue of my water use.

I’ve realised that my primary relationship with water isn’t about me as a consumer. Matthew Farrelly in “A Covenant with the Earth” explains that God wants my place and role on earth to be characterised by humble service, which is described in a similar way to a priest’s service in the temple.

He explains: “We have been placed within creation to mediate God’s presence, embody God’s posture, and enact God’s purposes on the earth.” Said differently: I’m not supposed to possess water and value it for how I can use it; I’m called to offer it back to the Creator in worship. In his great book, “For the Beauty of the Earth” Steven Bouma-Prediger in explains that a big part of my worship is about me being thankful to God for creation, including water.

So, what could this worship and service response mean for me? From washing and cleaning, to work and play, all of these form part of my worship of God. Said differently, I can serve God in the humble example of Jesus in everything I do.

Farrelly writes:

…we ought not to regard any of our earthly labors as profane or secular, but as sacred service to God on behalf of the world.”

God cares about how I live in the world. From how I scrub our floors, to how I write this article.

As if Farrelly knows of my once private weakness, he goes on to ask a question that cuts to the core of my thoughts and behaviour about water, and succeeds in making me squirm:

What we do with creation [i.e. water] matters to God. Do we seek to work and shape it faithfully and beautifully in relationship with God and his purposes for the world, or, perversely, to satisfy our selfish desires?”

Do I shower for my own enjoyment, for my own selfish ends? Is it all about me? Or in humility and gratitude, can I be thankful for the clean, sparkling liquid that comes out of my tap, praise God for the opportunity to have a wash, and be more careful with it in response?

And in Australia, when I remember the scarcity of fresh water, (with the ABS reporting that “most of Australia is classified as semi-arid or arid”) I am even more thankful and humbled at this gift from God.

This is important, because God isn’t saving us out of the world. I hold onto the ancient words of the Prophets and the hope of Jesus who began the work of bringing in God’s Kingdom. In this I can believe with Farrelly that my care for water, as with everything else, can take place:

…at the foot of the Cross, where we grasp that the old is passing away, and that all things—people, creatures, and the land—are becoming new.”

This isn’t an easy or clear-cut story. Tomorrow morning when I go to have a wash, I’ll again face the choice between my own greed and selfishness, or taking another Way. While the immediate enjoyment of a self-indulgent shower could entice me to luxuriate, it’s my hope that in this and other ways I’ll choose to learn of the joy and peace that comes with worshipping God through my actions of savouring and saving these drops.

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We’ve recently been away for the weekend, and it wasn’t a difficult decision to relax my self-imposed bucket bath campaign for the duration. (See here for the background story.)

To turn on the tap and have hot water pouring out in abundance was simply divine.

A brief doubt flickered through my mind as I reminded myself that the house relied on tank water. My response: “Never mind, it’s been raining all weekend!”

So, I made the most of these showering opportunities. They were a stark contrast with the never-enough-water-left-to-wash-everything situation I’ve been facing these last few weeks with my bucket-bathing, especially when it’s a day to wash my hair as well. My feet have been sorely neglected, which is OK now, but wait for summer.

While we were away I also indulged in reading a historical romance novel – set in the time of Queen Elizabeth I (during the sixteenth century).

Reading this book made me wonder what Queens, Kings and other nobility would have done to wash. I can imagine that it was sitting in a hot tub with the luxury of a servant standing behind dousing you with pitchers of water.

Not too bad, especially when compared to what the peasants and lower classes did: perhaps one wash a year. Those who lived near rivers would have an outdoor wash when it was warm.

When looking at these two groups, it’s clear that those of us in modern developed countries have most in common with the nobility of old. Instead of a servant at our beck and call in bathroom matters, we’ve bent copper and aluminium to service our liquid needs.

At the turn of a handle we’ve got pure clean water, easily adjusted to the right temperature, pouring over us. And none of this pitcher at a time business – we’ve got our pouring water for as long as we like. It is lavish and decadent beyond what the poor and even nobility in the old days could have imagined.

While the upper classes of old would have had a pretty good bathing experience, can you imagine the expressions of wide-eyed wonder on their faces if they had seen a bathroom like yours or mine?

It’s a reminder to me about how much has changed in our world.  Today there are hundreds of millions of people living at a standard greater than the Kings and Queens of yesteryear, and there are billions more who aspire to. But the question is: how many Kings and Queens can our world sustain?

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Manna in Melbourne

Manna Gum – see here – is an independent not-for-profit Christian organisation based in Melbourne.

They are running a week-long intensive to help Christians explore Christ’s call for new ways of living.

When: September 26th to October 2nd (registration closes September 10th).

Where: Footscray and Cudgee

For more details see here:  MannaFlyer-rego

Who is Manna Gum?

Manna Gum is committed to engaging with Christian churches, organisations, small groups and individuals who want to explore new ways of living as Christians in the world today. Manna Gum is about encouraging ways of life which  put care of others, ourselves and creation at the centre, as we pray and seek for the coming of God’s kingdom.

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What are your favourite memories of your childhood?

Being indoors or out?

Being with adults or far from their watchful eyes?

This article in the Guardian discusses several studies which have considered the benefits and risks of kids playing outdoors.

The conclusion: kids are better kids, and our society is made better through them, if they’ve spent time outside.

For example,

[e]motional benefits include reduced aggression and increased happiness.”

For me, I loved making water-proof cubby houses, growing veggies in my own corner of the garden and bouncing up and down on bendy tree branches.

You?

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Have you been baptised?

My baptism was a gentle sprinkling over my forehead when I was a wee baby.

Jesus got a thorough dunking by John in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13-7, Mark 1:9-11).

As I think of these sacred moments, the song by Alison Krauss rings through my mind…

“O sinners, let’s go down, let’s go down, come on down, O sinners let’s go down, down in the river to pray.”

In our ancient Judeo-Christian history, water is a powerful theme.

Purity and cleansing. Baptism.

Some churches choose to use water instead of wine for Holy Communion/Eucharist.

Jesus and miracles involving water.

Jesus the living water (John 7:37-9).

Up until recently (as in last few hundred years). Most people didn’t have water at the turn of a handle in their bathroom or kitchen, or house for that matter. Water was a necessity of life and often difficult to acquire. Water, for quenching thirst, cooking, cleaning, keeping the animals, growing food..the list goes on.

What does water mean for us today? Sure, we still need water for drinking and so on. That hasn’t changed. But, it is readily available. Crystal clear, pouring in abundance out of our taps. No worries mate!

And yet, in this Guardian article “The River Jordan’s Shame“, Martin Palmer laments the degradation of these historically significant  – sacred to many – rivers. Rivers that have flowed through our Bible stories, flowed through the lands of our spiritual ancestors.

In the case of the Jordan River. It is a Jordan trickle. He writes, “I should have expected it. I had spent the previous two days meeting with Jordanian environmentalists and they had been telling me about their country’s massive water problems.”

Palmer optimistically discusses a growing movement to help bring environmental restoration to pilgrimage cities and rivers, driven by religious leaders and denominations.

He celebrates this move, saying, “[t]he combined power of religious and secular authorities can mean a clean-up programme inspired not just by economics but by a vision of nature as a gift of God for which we have a responsibility to care.”

Thanks to this dedicated and persistent bunch of people, let’s hope that one day soon there will be more water in the Jordan, and that a Sikh having a purifying wash in the Kali Bein, India, doesn’t catch salmonella.

Palmer points to other rivers and places, like the United States, where this movement is also occurring  but (I presume) without the need for the waterway to be a drawer of pilgrims. This is inspiring news. Yet, I wonder about our rivers.

The great Murray doesn’t feature in the Bible, explicitly. Does that mean we shouldn’t care for it?  What is driving a group of Catholics to care for the Hudson River in New York state?

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