[un]conscious-stream[ing]

Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Monthly Archives: January 2013

Our Street

We live on the best street in the world!!!

It may not be the prettiest, though it is pretty at times.
It is definitely not the most expensive or most salubrious, but its still the best street in the world.

And that’s because of the people.

Our neighbours are just fabulous.

The people that live around us were there to support us and provide a shoulder to lean on as we tried to pull things back together in the aftermath our burglary.

There’s nothing that our neighbours didn’t offer in the way of help, resources and comfort to get us back on our feet, they are kind and considerate, they are generous and friendly.

And that’s why we live on the best street in the world.

In many ways, our street acts as our church as much as our church does. It provides community in the way we support each other. There is love between us as neighbours in friendship and in the display of patience, kindness, unselfishness, no envy or boastfulness, no rudeness or pride.

It reminds me of a song by the band faithless “God is a DJ“, the relevant lines being:

This is my church
This is where I heal my hurt
It’s a natural grace
Of watching young life shape
It’s in minor keys
Solutions and remedies
Enemies becoming friends
When bitterness ends
This is my church

It’s a great tune and a great fit for our street. Have a listen (spotify install needed).

In general, the whole community in Old Trafford is great, full of incredible and fantastic people, but we feel that our street has got that little something extra special.

Deserving vs Entitled

I know this person.

They are, for want of a better phrase, quite incredible. They have an oxbridge degree, probably a Masters unless I’m much mistaken. They do that triathlon thing (shudders at the thought). They are intelligent, thoughtful, humble to the point of self-effacing, even self-critical, they are well spoken, kind, present themselves well and are thoroughly in the ‘good looking’ camp. The sun shines out of their smile and they write. I don’t mean just they write stuff, but they craft words in an incisive, creative, original, thought-provoking, non-selfimportant or self-indulgent or obsequious, quite excellent really, kind of way.

In fact, I know two of them. Both have that wordsmith quality, the ‘let me read the next bit because I want to imbibe more of those carefully sculpted sentences’.

Both of these lovely people, despite their delightful way with language, have struggled to land decent jobs or indeed hold on to jobs they have had (for various and disparate reasons). Now this second person, probably due to a more ‘devil-may-care’ attitude to the whole situation and scenario might have gone about things slightly differently if they were really serious about getting a job, but the end result is that they applied for over 400 jobs with no positive outcome. (see http://curriculumvitiate.wordpress.com [you will have to excuse the expletives if you are offended by them, just ignore them, it’s not your place to judge just because of a few f-bombs or other profanity]). Now you have hopefully calmed down and wiped the tears of laughter from your eyes; I know this chap, he is absolutely diamond to the core, borderline complete genius, unconventional but brilliant and great fun to be with. It might be clear to you why a job was not forthcoming but he is now gainfully employed in something that is satisfying, enjoyable and fulfilling to him (I think).

But back to my other dear friend. They have put considerable effort not just into their education, but also into job hunting, attending interviews, submitting their written material to agents etc. but to no avail. Their approach was more conventional, less confrontational you might say than the fellow you have (hopefully) just read from. Indeed, you might think and I have on many occasions… “Why on earth has nobody snapped up this gem of a person to employ them?”
It seems odd and has, I know, been disheartening, that, not content to collect Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), they have sought work and sought it pretty hard.

If you ask me, if anyone deserves a job, this person does. In fact, if you have a job going, let me know and I will request a CV to be sent to you!

It all seems a little unfair.

I also met someone else recently.

This person seems to have a different approach to their situation. They seem to be completely content without employment. They claim their JSA and numerous other benefits and every two weeks look forward to what they call ‘pay-day’. (I believe that in some sections of society, this is the term used for dole / benefit payments.) But seriously… ‘pay-day’, makes me want to ask “what are you being ‘paid’ for when you do no work?”
I’m not judging [ok, maybe I am a bit but I am trying not to], don’t get me wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be any desire to look for a job, even less actively go out to secure one. The posture is one of entitlement; “I am owed” by someone or something I’m not sure, I don’t want to elaborate and give specific examples but there are plenty.

And so we observe the awkward paradox.

Two incredibly gifted people, highly intelligent, university graduates struggle to get work, though they desperately want to be working.
One other person slipping into the trap of thinking that they are owed or entitled to the rest of society (via government hand-outs) supporting them not working.

Deserving people finding it impossible to land jobs.
Passive, inactive person content, maybe even feeling justified or having a right to ‘free money’.

It seems a little unbalanced and perhaps to our mind, unfair.

On the one hand, our ‘entitled’ example falling foul of the concept in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Yet perhaps ending up in the situation highlighted in a famous Russian political joke, “the authorities pretend they are paying wages, workers pretend they are working.” Motivation is diminished where benefits are so easily claimed.

Yet on the other hand, the two, eager to be employed, diligently putting in the leg work seem to have the experience that flies in the face of Proverbs 6:10-12 “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” They worked hard for no reward or recompense!

You were expecting a neat answer, a solution, a tidy ending with all loose ends tied up.

I’m sorry to disappoint, sometimes we have to hold things with open hands to allow the paradoxes and inconsistencies of life to exist without resolving everything to our ordered way.

Maybe someone has an answer. Until they share it with me, I’m just going to be praying for my friends, that the hard work will pay off and they will be rewarded with the right job, and my acquaintances, that they might learn the value of earning a living as opposed to accepting an existence.

Lance Armstrong

This is being written on the eve of the airing of the Oprah show where it is suspected that Lance Armstrong, once seven-times Tour de France winner (stripped of his titles by USADA) will confess to doping throughout large portions of his career.

As I was listening to BBC Radio 5Live tonight, I heard two presenters discussing whether it would be better for Lance to be interviewed by a “terrier like Paxman” or by someone who is more like a friend or confidant. They came to the conclusion that someone gentle who could talk with Mr Armstrong as one friend talks to another, encouraging him
to open up and be more candid would make it more likely that we would “see the real Armstrong”.

That immediately got me thinking.

And my mind jumped to Peter Rollins and a talk he did at Mars Hill Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The core of what Peter was saying was that the ‘real us’ is not the ‘us’ we see behind closed doors or on the couch with a friend, it is not the stylised and sanitised self projection of who we want people to thing we are that we out up on Facebook, but the ‘real us’ is the sum of the ‘totality of our existence’.

Meaning that to look at the whole picture of a person is to see the truth about their material reality. Peter used the idea that behind closed doors, Hitler may well have been a ‘really nice guy’, when he was playing the piano and people were drinking tea and having dinner with the polite house painter. But the material reality of Hitler – the totality of his existence, the big, whole picture was that he sanctioned and ordered the ethnic and elitist ‘cleansing’ of Germany and the killing of over six million Jews.

Which led me to the thought that, if Lance does admit to the doping allegations, then no matter who interviews him, we have already seen the ‘real Armstrong’. The ‘real Armstrong’ is in the totality of his material reality, not in the soft, contrite and repentant man that we might see on a tv screen attempting to win back the favour of the public.

If the allegations are true, the ‘real Armstrong’ has already revealed his hand and shown his true colours: someone who is ruthless, prepared to systematically cheat his way to the top of a sport, push others out, lie repeatedly about it, bully his way through to rule the peloton and bully a number of journalists on the way as he churned out untruth after obfuscated distraction over and over again (I’ve heard many of the interviews over the years). Someone who has to be in control and on top and will stop at nothing to get there.

I’m afraid that no amount of tears or contrition can change the ‘real Armstrong’ that we have already seen.

That doesn’t mean there is no room for forgiveness, redemption, healing and change, and yes, the Livestrong foundation has done some great things, but we are going to need to see a whole, long, complete change of Armstrong’s material reality to be convinced that he is someone different to who he has already shown himself to be, should the allegations be true.

Which brings us back to me and to you! What material reality do we live in? Do we constantly live the ironic gesture

  • saying we are against child labour but still buying products made in sweatshops
  • bemoaning global warming whilst cruising along the motorway at 80mph in our gas guzzling SUV
  • ranting about evil multinationals while we sip our Starbucks cappuccino or shop in Tesco because it’s convenient
  • whatever other example you want to choose

I accept most of us live in a certain amount of paradox and hypocrisy, it’s hard to live any other way in our culture, but, especially for those of us who are claiming to follow Jesus, does the totality of our material reality genuinely reflect that claim as a way of life or are we fooling ourselves and just going through the motions and saying we believe something without actually putting it into practice?

Nobody can answer that question for me but me and nobody but you can answer it for you. Maybe observing what has happened to someone who was once a hero to many might just be the mirror we needed to look in to help ‘clean up’ our own act?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:22-25

Burgled

Just in case you missed the news… We were burgled on Saturday night, some time between when it went dark and 21:00 ish when we got home.

The kitchen window was smashed. The burglar came in to the dining room to take our 3 laptops that were stacked neatly on our dining table, snatched a pillowcase from our bed to stash them in and made off out of the back door.

barely anything else was disturbed, nothing else was taken because we don’t own anything else of any value except the cars.

Before I continue, I’m mildly annoyed at the frustration of having to write this post on a 4 1/2 year old iPhone 3G using wordpress for iOS, but I am also aware of the incredibly fortunate position I am in:

  • I have an iOS device to use
  • None of us were injured or anything like that
  • We are so comparatively fabulously wealthy that we had 3 laptops in the first place
  • We are insured (another benefit of comparative wealth)

With that said, I am more frustrated at the hassle than anything else. Yes, I worked hard and saved up for a few years to buy the most recent Mac in September. Yes, I had just spent a few hours set up my 9-year old ‘retiring’ Mac for the use of my children – for school work and general safe surfing etc. I can live with that.
I’m disappointed that my most recent backup may not be recent enough to include some of the best most-recent pictures of little (arguable depending on you perspective) Harry.
It’s annoying that it may take up to 8 to 10 weeks to get the windows sorted as they are specialist widows that we originally sourced from the US (yep, another identifier of incredible comparative wealth).
I’m hoping that we don’t get any bumps in the insurance claim process, I’ve heard about people having insurers wriggle to try to get out of paying!

But all that aside, I’ve learned yet again that even in the least comfortable and most unpleasant of circumstances, there is always a spiritual lesson or two.

1.

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19+20

It is another reminder for us not to get too attached to stuff. It’s just stuff, stuff is replaceable, people and relationships are way more important than stuff.
When we replace our technology, this is what I need to hold on to, to make sure I use I as a tool, and not be a slave to it.

2.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We still have so much, we are so fortunate / well blessed (however you want to view it) we are all unharmed and healthy among many other first-world benefits!

3.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Philippians 4:11

We have enough, more than enough and we are refusing to either live in fear or pine for something we don’t have or that has been taken.

4.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Mattthew 5:16

The way we respond to the things that happen to us shows what kind of people we are. If we are God’s people, we need to display that and not repay evil with evil, we need to be exercising forgiveness and a desire for redemption, not vengeance and retribution.

I figure perhaps this is one of our best opportunities to witness to others and demonstrate who Christ is and how he has impacted our lives.

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