Saturday 29 June 2013

I don't believe in Bible verses

Earlier this week, Martin and I came across this in our morning reading:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I know these words as part of a popular hymn/song: one that I have always taken as affirming that things will generally go well for me because of God's love for me.  And yet look at where they show up: in the middle of one of Jeremiahs' laments following the destruction of Jerusalem.

Located there, those words are so very powerful.  Jeremiah is trusting in God's steadfast love, mercy and faithfulness in the midst of destruction.

That song I know so well certainly contains Bible verses but, by taking them in isolation, it makes them sound as if they say something ever so much safer than the original.

I've come across so many examples like this in recent years and they all make me a bit angry.  I no longer believe in Bible verses.  You can find verses that say more or less anything.  The truth of the Bible is contained in bigger chunks: paragraphs, chapters, books.  Verses are just too small.

Sewing gifts

From time to time I like to share photos of gifts I have made - like these booties I made for Martin's cousin's new baby.

However, there are other gifts I make that I don't tend to photograph.  Here are some of those that I've been working on recently.

blanket stitching to stabilise fraying edge of an old towel

stitching together snapped vinyl strips on my belt
As I sew these things, I feel good about the gift I am giving to the people of Bangladesh: the gift of fertile farmland, of fresh drinking water, of children living to a healthy adulthood.

I'm sure I started mending things due to my natural frugality and aversion to waste.  However, as I've learned about climate change I've come to realise that buying new stuff requires lots of energy and hence the burning of a lot of fossil fuels.

This past year, I was shocked to realise that our carbon footprint was significantly up on the previous audit year, even though it was down in most categories.  The difference: we'd bought a similar amount of household goods as in previous years, but had tended to buy new rather than second hand.  Since then, mending and buying second hand has taken on a new impetus.  It's such a simple way to give other people a better chance in life and I'm grateful to have the skills, time and resources to be able to do it.

Tuesday 18 June 2013


I've been enjoying watching this fellow in recent days as he flits about in our quince tree.  He seems to be there most times I'm in the kitchen.  He (or she) moves fast, though, so this was the best photo I could get!

New glasses

My old ones snapped in two about 10 days ago, and I received the new ones yesterday.  It's quite a different look, but I think I like it :-)  Also, we had absolutely fantastic service from Specsavers New Lynn: no hard sell, prompt service and they really put themselves out to accomodate me and my slightly unusual glasses requirements!  Highly recommended.

Saturday 15 June 2013


This week I listened to an Ideas programme from Radio New Zealand National on Euthanasia.  The same arguments for euthanasia that I have heard elsewhere came up in the programme: it gives people control over their lives, and people should have a way out if they don't want to be a burden on their families.  As a Christian, I wish to reject both those arguments: control of our lives (including their ending) belongs to God, and independence is not a virtue.

However Dr. Rodney Syme, the last speaker to be interviewed, made an intriguing point that was quite new to me.  He is pro-euthanasia and has dealt with many patients who have wished to end their own lives.  In his experience it is only the middle class and well-educated who want euthanasia - the poor don't seem to ask for it and he doesn't know why.  I wonder if it is because control and independence are luxuries of the middle class?  The poor have never been allowed to feel that they are in control of their lives, and they need to be interdependent in order to survive, so illness can't take from them things they never had anyway...

Dr Sinead Donnelly, who spoke from the anti-euthanasia perspective, also made a point that made me think.  She talked about exploring with patients what makes their lives unbearable and working in her practice as a palliative care doctor to relieve the causes of their suffering so that they no longer want to die.  It reminded me of my perspective on abortion: we need to create a world where people are able to carry their pregnancies to term, not just prevent them from ending them.  What do we, as a society, need to do so that those with incurable illnesses feel able to go on with their lives?

As something of an aside, I was startled to realise that, were I to have a different attitude to my CFS, I would qualify for euthanasia under the legislation currently in the private members bill ballot in New Zealand.  You have to be over the age of 18, have an untreatable (rather than simply terminal) condition and consider your suffering to be unbearable.  Many people with CFS in New Zealand appear to meet that latter condition, too, even if I do not.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Educating donors

I thought I'd share my response to this post by Vinoth Ramachandra in Sri Lanka.

Hi Vinoth,

You raise good points but, like Carol, I've been wondering what I - a rich westerner - can do with them.  Here are two thoughts:

1. Handled appropriately, child sponsorship itself can be an excellent way to educate donors.  I'm currently reading a Psychology for a Better World by Niki Hare (available as a free download from the author's page here).  The book looks at what psychological research can tell us about how to go about effecting social change.  One point she makes is that people are more likely to respond generously to the plight of one person in need than to the plight of many people in need. Child sponsorship makes use of that psychological trait by giving a potential donor a single person to respond to.

Once the potential donor has responded in that way, the agency providing sponsored children is in a position to further educate them about development needs and where they can help.  However, without the 'hook' of sponsorship, the agency would have been unlikely to be able to provide such education: child sponsorship gives them the entree into the life of the donor and can provide an educational opportunity.

I don't know about other Western countries, but the two main Christian agencies in New Zealand that provide child sponsorship (TEAR Fund and World Vision) both give donors the opportunity to support many other development and emergency relief projects and actively educate donors about them.  For myself, as a young adult at a music festival I was moved to sponsor a child through one of these agencies.  Over time, I came to understand more about development and have supported a variety of other projects instead.

2. The advantages of directly supporting indigenous development initiatives are obvious but, in practise, it's very difficult to do.  I agree with Carol that it's difficult to find such initiatives - I suspect that the majority would, indeed, be impossible to find as it's not trivial for people with little access to resources to have a web presence.

However, in two cases I have come across indigenous initiatives that I have been keen to support.  In the case of one (BEN Namibia - which provides bicycle ambulances etc. in Namibia) this wasn't too difficult: through their website I was able to make a credit card donation and could have set up monthly donations etc. just as I could for a New Zealand charity.  In the other case (Al Nayzak - an organisation which provides extension education to gifted kids in Palestine) I needed to make an international bank transfer directly to their account.  I was unable to do this at first as my NZ bank appeared to have no links to their Palestinian bank and, in the end, I had to transfer money into their Israeli account from which I gathered they would - with difficulty - be able to transfer the money to Palestine.

My ability to support both of these indigenous charities depended on them:
- having a web presence
- being able to communicate with me in English
- having access to the international banking system

This doesn't seem ideal!

I suspect that a better way for people such as myself to support indigenous initiatives is for NGOs in our own countries to take up a brokerage role.  They can identify reputable charities overseas, bring them to our attention and then handle for us the communication and money transfer aspects.  In New Zealand, TEAR Fund has taken on this role, and it sounds from Carol like TEAR Australia and Christian Aid do something similar.

Thanks again for your thought-provoking post.

--Heather :-)