No presents for 8 year old this Christmas

This young man is an example to us all.  As reported in the Birmingham Mail, 8 year old Ethan Edwards leads the way in living a life that confronts consumerism with a care and love for those less fortunate.  The lad only went and persuaded all his relatives to give to Birmingham Central Foodbank instead of getting presents himself!

Ethan Edwards has asked all his family to give donations of food for Birmingham Central Foodbank

Why does it take a child to remind us that this is an option, that we don’t need presents at Christmas at all?  It really is great to choose to give a thoughtful gift to a loved one but what percentage of gifts were given freely?  I suspect many presents were bought as a result of the cultural compulsion that, at the very least, we need to buy one present for every significant family member otherwise we’re not doing Christmas properly.

When the John Lewis ad came out there was much gushing for the skill and artistry that went into it .  However, all the advert did was add to the tidal wave of consumerism that washes away all but the most stubborn of selfless Christmas spirit.  I’m glad that young Ethan manages to resist what we all tell him about Christmas and shows that there is a different path to choose.

I’m as guilty as the next and need to make decisions this Christmas to make sure next Christmas puts others before the urge to buy buy buy.




Cultural Perspectives: Middle East on UK

The first guest blog in the Cultural Perspectives series is by a lady originally from the Middle East but now living in Britain:

For a person like me, who became a Christian from another religion and hated religiosity, it was difficult to find the right church that doesn’t make people run away!

I personally like Charismatic churches which are alive and where you can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the atmosphere.  Also you can see the action of the Holy Spirit and the lives of people changed.  Also, the way of worshiping God is so important for me and a prayerful atmosphere.  Good preaching and teaching are important too.  When I lived in Germany I went to some churches that were Charismatic and I loved to be in that atmosphere.

However, the first time I visited a church in the UK I didn’t have any idea about churches here.  I chose the church because it was near my home, so I went there and found the people were really friendly and kind.  I only attended that church for couple of months because it was not what I had expected.

I tried to find out about other churches and how they differed so I attended some others but none of them were what I was used to.  I spoke to a lady who was from that first church and she kindly helped me and didn’t get upset about my decision to leave their church.

She sent me to the church that I am now a member of.  The first time you experience something is very important for someone, and the first time I went to the new church there was a lady who was so friendly and accepting.  She came to me and started to speak to me.  She touched my heart and I felt like I was at home!

I think it was God’s plan for me to find this church which now is my home and family!  Before that day I was so desperate and was thinking I couldn’t settle in the UK because church for me is like my home and it’s sooo important for me to be in the right one.  I am glad and thankful for being a member of this church and they bless me a lot.  Their kindness and mercy touch my heart, in fact they are good examples of Christians who I can learn from them.

Because I was a Muslim before, I had lots of fear that maybe God would leave me or get angry with me but by attending church in the UK I’ve learnt even more about our God and his mercy than before.  I feel free now from all of those lies which religion and society in my home country taught me!

Also, I went to some christian conferences which built me up and I’ve learnt a lot about being a community in Christianity.  I am still learning and love this adventurous life which Jesus gave me.  Every day living with him is like a gift and I love to find out what’s waiting for me in it.  Sometimes I can’t wait or be patient to find out his plan for my life but I trust in him so I know anything that happened to me was for a reason and I let him work on me to become that shape which he wants me to be!

Cultural Perspectives: New Guest Series

Tomorrow will see the first in a series of guest posts on this blog.  The series is called Cultural Perspectives and will be written by Christians who are living, or have lived, away from their native country.  The posts will observe, encourage and challenge the expressions and experiences of Christianity in the country where the writer has lived as a foreigner.

It is my belief that we all live blinkered existences and this is no different for Christians, in fact the conviction of our beliefs can sometimes make us even more oblivious to the cultural waters we swim in.  The point of the series is to explore some of the different cultural nuances that we take for granted in churches and Christian communities.

The writers are from a diverse background of nationality and Christian experience.  It will be interesting to see how the series turns out and fascinating to see what can be learnt from the different pieces.  Please do join in with comments and observations of your own.  It would be great to stimulate some open and edifying discussion around culture in the church.

To follow the series as it progresses simply click ‘Guest’ in the category index on the right hand column, or click on ‘cultural perspectives’ once it appears in the tag cloud.

Adverts I Despise – #1

I was happily listening to the radio this evening when Monarch Airlines told me that when I choose my skiing holiday for this winter I should book it through them.  Hang on…when I choose my skiing holiday?  Who said I was going on a skiing holiday this year?  Or have ever been on a skiing holiday?  Or have ever felt a lack of fulfillment for never having gone skiing in my life?

Oh, I apologise Monarch, I see what you are doing – you’re playing a trick on my mind by sending a message to my brain that if I hadn’t already started planning a skiing holiday then I must be abnormal and culturally deviant, and that I better get planning one straight away otherwise I will miss out on some life fulfilling experience and therefore become less of a complete human being….

USA holds UNESCO hostage

OK, so UNESCO is all about promoting peace and justice through countries working together to protect and celebrate culture, science and education.  Right?

So why, why, why, why, why is the United States employing bully-boy tactics and removing one fifth of UNESCO’s budget as a reprisal for UNESCO accepting Palestine as a member?  Palestine is a member of FIFA but you don’t see the United States boycotting the World Cup!

If the United States really cares about what UNESCO is all about – education, science and culture – then they wouldn’t turn it into a massive political game for spoilt children.  I honestly think this decision by America to try and hold the world hostage is deplorable.  Their decision will effect the development of education for children, the progress of science for preventing diseases and the loss of protection for some of the world heritage sites.

And worse than the United States is the cowardice of the United Kingdom.  We abstained in the vote to accept Palestine! It seems our conscience wouldn’t let us vote ‘no’ but we were to scared of the good old United States and Israel to vote ‘yes’!

Sorry for the rant I just think this is horrific.

The Riots

It’s time for the nation to unite.  We’re on the brink of anarchy because of the actions of the minority.  We need to stand together to stop this.  I don’t know what we can do but I do know we need to be united.  Politicians, please don’t bicker or go for easy shots.

Part of me wants the army to take the streets – and maybe that would be the solution for now.  But it would be more powerful for the peaceful masses to take to the streets?  I do belief that peace will overcome violence.  Is there anything we can do to stop this for tomorrow night?

And then once the emergency is over, what are the consequences?  What should be done to those who have been caught?  Will it do any good to throw the book at them?  Probably not long term.  Our communities need serious restoration and reconciliation.  We need to pray for wisdom for our community leaders and our politicians to sort this mess out and to work out what needs to be done in the future.

This is bad bad stuff that’s going, we have got to use it as a catalyst to transform this country.  The perpetrators are out of order and need to face justice but they’re the victims too.  These kids are the victims of decades of policy that has alienated them from the police, schools, politicians and worst of all their parents.  We are one messed up society and for too long we have been blinded by our superiority complex.  We have looked around haughtily at other countries – called them animals for the atrocities they have committed.  Are we any better?

God help us.


Narnia obsession and entertainment culture

Anya is obsessed with Narnia.  Whilst there are definitely much worse things to be obsessed with I think it might be going a bit too far – every spare moment goes into listening, watching, reading, theologically reflecting or drawing Narnia or asking questions about it.

I was a bit worried because every time she goes to her bedroom she switches on the audio book.  Even if it’s just to get dressed, brush her hair and put some shoes on – she’ll be listening to Narnia at the same time.  When I challenged her she said it was because she was bored and I realised, just like me, she has become a victim of our entertainment culture.  That is, we cannot bare to have even a few moments with something to entertain us or something to do.

Anya is uncomfortable in her room with silence so it is filled with Narnia.  I am uncomfortable with nothing going on so will turn on the TV, check my emails/facebook, listen to the radio, read a book.  I know that none of these things are bad but much more often I’d like to take advantage of a bit of peace and stillness.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Mark 1:35