[un]conscious-stream[ing]

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

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EU Referendum; What now?

EU-referendum

Many people are asking “why?”

Some are asking “how?”

There seems to be a lot of anger, a lot of despair and most of all a huge amount of uncertainty.

It is quite probable that us – the general public can’t change the “#Leave” result of the referendum. That will come as a hammer-blow to some and will delight others in equal measure. Despite the news reports of a number of people wishing they could change their vote to remain because it was only a ‘protest vote’ or they ‘didn’t really know what they were doing’ or indeed they voted and then frantically googled what the EU actually was; the likeliest outcome is that over the next few years, Britain will have to negotiate its way ‘out’ of the EU.

So let’s deal with the best question of all… “What now?”

The answer to this sits very differently with different groups of people , so I’m going to make suggestions based on various categories.

For the #Brexit voters

Now is not the time to gloat. Lets face it, there are a lot of angry #Remainers, so rubbing their noses in it is not graceful or helpful and will just accelerate division and unpleasantness. The only way the UK can get through this is together, so please, try to be nice and look for what you can do to make sure the current economic plummet is short-lived and the short-term pain is just that – short-term.
Take some time to talk to those #Remainers and find ways to rebuild any fractured relationships, reassure them of just how you personally and we as a country can move on to better things.

For the #Remain voters

Don’t despair. That won’t help either. In fact, so far, it isn’t even necessarily going to happen, there’s a lot of negotiating to be done and you never know, Westminster might not act on the advisory result of the referendum, it isn’t legally binding!
However, if #Brexit does happen, despairing won’t help that either. You can’t change the result, what’s needed is vision, innovation, hard-work and positivity.
Engage with the #Leavers, you will find out that some voted pragmatically with really well thought-out reasoning, they aren’t all xenophobic, anti-immigration, wide-eyed fascists!

For the Jesus followers

It’s our job to bring God’s love and the grace and peace of Jesus Christ to the table and prove that Love Wins.
Whatever you were doing before that was advancing the Kingdom of God in this present world, keep on doing it. If you believe that God is in control of this earth, if you believe that he has any kind of plan at all, trust that He knows what He is doing.
Look for ways to discover the things that God is doing right now around you where you live and work and pray for guidance to see which of those God wants you involved with.
You are here to make the world a better place. Go and do it.
Maybe even join a group that will benefit your local community like common change.

For the prophesy junkies

Yes, it is possible you might be right.
Yes it is possible that certain ancient writings have predicted this.
Yes, you are likely to annoy and upset people and put them off having a relationship with God if you keep banging on about it at every opportunity.
Yes, have an answer if asked, but be gracious, be thoughtful, don’t use “the bible says” as a conversation starter. If you have to say it, bring it in gently, wait for an invitation rather than ramming your views like you’re making religious foie-gras.
Seriously, people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. So start by being practically helpful and walk in the footsteps of Christ, not as a proselytising manic street preacher.

For the atheists

Starting the conversation with “as an atheist” will immediately cause most people of faith to switch off their brains or fuse the part of their cerebrum that prevents them from exploding in rage, so maybe that isn’t a great way to begin, even if you end with “but you’re totally entitled to your view and I respect that”, because that won’t come across as sincere.
People of faith are just that because it gives them hope, no matter how ridiculous, reckless, deluded or fantastical you might find that. Plenty of faith people and faith communities can still have rational conversations and many of them are actively involved in things that are improving this world with really good motivation. Telling them their faith is stupid will not make you any more right, it will probably just make it harder to be their friend.
Having said that you are entitled to say “as an atheist” if a religious nut is trying to convert you, because that’s not how they should behave.
And lets face it you need to find a way to give people hope too, because in the wake of the decision to exit from the EU, there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of very scared people who feel hopeless.

For those that chose not to vote

You chose not to vote.
You have no right to complain if you don’t like it.
You can claim no credit for it if you do like it.
Zip it!
Lock it!
Put it in your pocket!

For everyone

Cometh the hour, cometh the man / woman / child / hero / heroine…
Don’t just sit there, do something!
This country, indeed, this world, isn’t going to get any better through inactivity.
#Brexit or not, everybody needs to be a person of action, everybody needs to be actively looking to find ways to make things better.

Let our mantra be “how can I make things better.”

Do it today, don’t wait for tomorrow.

Grace & Peace everyone.

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#YouAintNoMuslimBruv

youaintnomuslimbruv
London witnessed a spectacular show of non-fear and Britishness on Saturday. After a man was restrained following his knife attack on a number of tube travellers on the tube around about 7pm Saturday, a passer by shouted “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv”. See the full story.

Whilst this statement is undoubtedly true and all we need to do is to look around the web, social media etc. to discover the many Muslim people sharing the non-violent stance of the Muslim community and the verses from the Qur’an to back it up (The image above for example – https://twitter.com/CaptainWotsit/status/673453507903676417), there is another side to this.

I would say that any “christian” in support of the air strikes at all, or indeed war in general, be that France, Germany, US, UK, Russia, anyone should have the same label #YouAintNoChristianBruv.

I don’t want to pen too many words but the term Christian used in the bible seems to be used very few times and as a derogatory term. Early followers of Jesus called themselves followers of “the way” or disciples and it was non-followers that called them “Christians” – I believe to mean “mini Christ(s)” – spoken as a slur.

Jesus whole life was about the way of non-violence.

Jesus didn’t kill or attack people, he healed people and taught us to “turn the other cheek”.

Jesus lived a simple life and died as a martyr, he didn’t conquer the globe and return to a hero’s welcome.

Jesus didn’t raise an army, he died on a cross like a criminal.

Jesus won looking like he was losing.

Jesus teaches us the way of non-violence, even as he rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey – no less a kingly animal than a Stallion but one that represented a king coming in peace, not a display of military might.

If you aren’t walking in the footsteps of the Christ; #YouAintNoChristianBruv.

If you can’t display in the way you live and your idealism the same things that “the exact representation of the Father’s Glory” displayed; #YouAintNoChristianBruv.

I don’t pretend to have the answers to stopping IS. I don’t pretend to know the non-violent way to solve global conflict and the crisis in the Middle-East, but it’s time that ‘christians’ became ‘Christians’ and demonstrated the life, values and the way of Jesus in thought, attitude, approach and action or #YouAintNoChristianBruv.

Averting the Apocalypse

Image used without permission but Attributes to http://www.silverpetticoatreview.com/I am a staunch Dr Who fan.

Episode 13 in season 1 of the ‘re-boot’ with Christopher Ecclestone and Billie Piper contains a scene in which, Rose Tyler (Piper) breaks open the heart of the TARDIS in an attempt to save The Doctor (Ecclestone). Rose looks into the heart of the TARDIS and it changes her. There’s a pretty low-resolution 4 minute version of it here.

When she arrives and saves The Doctor, he asks: “What did you do?” and Rose replies: (watch it here)

“I looked into the TARDIS and the TARDIS looked into me”.

It transpires after that point that Rose has special abilities, she destroys the daleks, she is able to bring back to life Captain Jack Harkness who has just been exterminated.

Once Rose looked into the heart of the TARDIS, she was completely changed by what she saw. She could not un-see, she couldn’t let go of what she had seen and could not be unchanged from how it had changed her.

I would argue that this works as a lovely illustration of when we truly see the heart of God. When we look into God’s heart and see the depths of his love and the extent he has gone to display that love to us, we can’t help but be changed. And if we truly connect and really see the heart of God, we cannot unsee, we cannot be changed back, we can’t ever return to what we were before.

In an address to students at Harvard university in 2008, JK Rowling said:

“we do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside of ourselves.”

And in many ways, she is right because of the promise of Jesus in John 14:11-21

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

The root of this concept is stated in 1 John 4:9

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

This is the message of God through Jesus: Just as Rose was changed by viewing the heart of the TARDIS, we are changed when we see the heart of God and it changes us to be more like Him. He promises to live in us.

We can’t sit around inert, expecting God to step in and save us all from either our current situation or the problems we find ourselves surrounded by in this world.

Make no mistake: He Will.

One day, God Will complete the process of redeeming and restoring this planet, creating a place where everything is, once again, returned to a condition where all the earth continually sings His praises.

But while we wait for that inevitability, it is the job of believers to be the hands and the feet of God in this world.

It starts within our homes and our church family.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:35

It’s not radical, it’s not new, its not easy but it is vital and mandatory.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:12

When we look ‘into the heart of the TARDIS’, when we gaze into the heart of God and God gazes into our hearts, we become changed, we become the agents of Gods’ love, the vehicles of his power at work in the world and that love is good news to the people around us. It is a life that displays “the gospel”.

Think of the tangible benefit to us personally and our communities if we were to take on Jesus’ example and embrace the counter-cultural world of Matthew 25 – a life lived as if God is not coming to mend all our brokenness and it is our job to put in the leg-work.

I am a great fan of Mother Teresa of Calcutta who’s words speak into this approach to faith and life.

“You can do no great things in this life, only small things with great love”

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I believe that when God works in the world, he works through people. You and I are the people of God and we are the ones to push through the expectation of some supernatural intervention and demonstrate the ‘love beyond magic‘ that Kester Brewin talks about in his book.

It is only through love that we can achieve godliness. It is only through love that we can slowly, carefully redeem and restore this world. It is that same sacrificial love that we see demonstrated on the cross that gives us the example to do likewise.

Whoever loves God is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8:3

1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8

If anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever says that he lives in God must live as Jesus lived.

1 John 2:5-6

This is our call to arms as believers. We can revert the apocalypse, we provide the hope to the hopeless, we demonstrate the love of God and provide the care of God’s hands, we can be the support for others in the way we have been taught by God.

I realise that I am suggesting we live with the paradox of living as if God will not fully and finally step in whilst knowing full well that he will because that’s what he has promised us he will do. Sometimes we have to hold this tension.

Are you, like me, feeling sand, angry, disgusted, enraged, compassionate about the situation in Syria?

Now is your chance to step in. And don’t leave it at that, live your ability to demonstrate God’s love into every single apocalyptic moment or situation that you see.

But what hope is there if you are feeling hopeless? Are you someone who’s life is fractured and broken? Do you wake up and see an endless black hole of depression? Are you at the bottom of the pit without a ladder, struggling to make ends meet, desperate to find some way to put food on the table or clothes on the children.

Are you feeling like you are unable to pick up the weight of the responsibility that comes with being a follower of Jesus?

Firstly, rely on your church family. That’s really kind of the point: We connect to each other and to God through our shared brokenness, not through our personal victories, strengths and accomplishments or some supernatural magic. Our church family will be the arms that God will wrap around you. They will make sure that God’s promise to provide is not an empty one. They will be the people that will carry you close to their hearts until you can soar like an eagle again.

If you aren’t a believer, but feel like you want the world to stop so you can get off or facing any or all of the hopelessness and pain that I outlined above; go and search for a community of people that will provide the love and support that I’ve just suggested should be present in a church family.

Hopefully you will find it in a group of Jesus followers. You may find that it is displayed better in a smaller group / church, a house group or you may find that one of these new fangled ‘worship centres’ or ‘life churches’ can provide the love, care and support that shows the life of Jesus and the love of God.

Secondly, I have seen what happens after Revelation 20. After the metaphor that describes every struggle, every challenge, every war, conflict, oppression, famine and disaster, man-made or natural that has torn at our hearts and bodies in recorded history…

There is still hope.

God does step in to make all things new. So hold on to that hope, the hope for the hopeless, the salvation for the un-saveable, the great love for the unloved.

I heard a great voice, coming from the throne.

See, the home of God is with His people.
    He will live among them;
    They will be His people,
    And God Himself will be with them.

    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
    Death will be no more;
    Mourning no more, crying no more, pain no more,
    For the first things have gone away.

Revelation 21 v 3-4

Read the rest of Revelation 21

Building

My great friend Charles led the thoughts at church a couple of weeks ago and a mighty fine job he did of it (listen here).

The brief summary of his thoughts is as follows:

The Israelites knew how to build! They had a background in brick-creation and tent-making. These were skills that God used and enhanced for the building of the tabernacle. In the same way, our skills are transferable when building a place to worship God.
This is not a place made of stones, but of people, a place where we are both the builders and the building material. We are all important and all have something to give. Our uniqueness is not weakness and our weakness may be strength. When we choose to build with God, we build something that keeps growing and doesn’t decline. Finally, We must all “excel in the gifts that build up the church” 1 Cor 3:10-15

This got me thinking about an interview that I had recently read with Amy Williams – the British Skeleton Bobsled Gold medallist of 2010.
The salient point of the interview was this sentence.

“…every decision, every single day was, ‘will this help me win gold, yes or no?’ Is this ice cream going to help me? No, then don’t eat it. It was as brutal as that.”
Amy Williams

The laser-focus on that Gold medal was something that impressed me and stuck in my consciousness, so when Charles quoted from 1 Corinthians “excel in the gifts that build up the church”, Amy’s words came back to me.

Almost immediately, I merged the two things together in my head to come up with this mantra for our church lives.

“…every decision, every single day needs to be, ‘will this build up the church, yes or no?’ Is this {insert action / comment here} going to help? No, then don’t do it.”

Can we do that? As individuals? As a community?

I’m going to try, anyone else in for the journey?

It’s all about Rescue – Part 2

I have already discussed that though ‘The Exodus’- the account of the people of Israel (Jacob’s changed name) being rescued from Egypt by God may have been the first ‘corporate rescue event’, and the first genuine introduction of the hebrew people to the character of God, it is by no means the first rescue.

There is a rescue in the beginning of that story, before it even really begins.

Moses is rescued from Pharaoh’s cull of baby boys as his mother places him in a basket made of reeds and puts him in the river. He is rescued from this basket by Pharaoh’s daughter, who brings him up as her son.
Moses sees the anguish and suffering of his people and wants to rescue them, starting off by murdering an Egyptian slave-master to rescue a fellow hebrew. (see Exodus 2:11+12)

Rescue, rescue, rescue… You must be getting the picture by now.

But track back again to before the story of the Exodus and, having already looked briefly at Cain & Abel and Noah, the chronologically next most well-known rescue is probaly that of Abram (Later Abraham) & Lot (Genesis 12 and Genesis 18), both these men were being called away from places that were either wicked or would not do them any good long-term. Abram even negotiates more rescue from God in Genesis 18, a story that eventually culminates in the exodus of Lot from Soddom in Genesis 19. At least that’s what it seems like.

Have a closer look at that ‘rescue’ negotiated by Abram. The story unfolds with the back and forth bargaining from verse 22 to 33, and then, the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah is stayed for four people. That is less than half of Abram’s final bargaining point. Clearly, God is more forgiving and gracious than Abram, God rescues a whole city for four people. (Yes, the next two chapters are fairly unsavoury and eventually, only three of the people get away before the place is then destroyed.

God it seems is teaching Abram about rescue and about grace. We often view the story as Abram convincing God not to decimate a place, but Abram stops asking at a point before God stops rescuing.

We’re barely out of Exodus – the second book of the bible and we have come a cross a lot of rescue stories already!

Did I say “It’s all about rescue”? There is going to have to be a part 3, maybe more.

Divine Comedy?

Reading John 5, I was confused by the seeming incongruity of verse 14.

The context: Jesus has just healed a man who had been an ‘invalid’ for 38 years, told the man to ‘pick up his mat and walk’ and promptly vanished. The man is then reprimanded by the pharisees for carrying his mat on the sabbath, and a little while later, Jesus finds him at the temple and says to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

It is possible, and has been suggested by many that the man had gone on to the temple, set himself back up as a beggar (likely as not his previous ‘occupation’ whilst being an invalid) again, and Jesus is warning him not to deceive people when he is actually well.
As an explanation, that’s fair enough and perfectly plausible.

However, I wonder if actually, because we can’t hear the tone of voice, we are missing something in the way Jesus says that sentence “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” I wonder if, instead of threatening the man, rather than this being some kind of warning of divine punishment if the guy doesn’t stop sinning, perhaps, Jesus is having a little ‘private’ joke with the guy.

Is it possible that Jesus sidles up to the chap and says, with a big grin and a sparkle in his eye, (reading between the lines) “you know the pharisees, their inflexibility, their attention to the minute detail, their officious judgemental ruling that even carrying your mat on the sabbath is work and therefore a sin… well, make sure you don’t go on ‘sinning’ {wink} (doing things the pharisees disapprove of) or something worse might happen!”?

Could it be that Jesus is having a little dig at the pharisees and a little laugh with the healed man?

Jesus knew that in the cultural context of the day, people thought that God punished sin fairly immediately or at least that people’s disabilities or misfortunes were thought to be because of their sin. He also knew that God doesn’t work like that. Maybe, what seems to be a veiled threat of God’s imminent judgement, could be Jesus making light of how the man had been perceived by the pharisees.

And maybe after that, the man goes off and tells the pharisees it was Jesus who healed him because he knows it will not only wind them up but it will get them off his back for carrying his mat?

I don’t know, but I could just imagine Jesus having a bit of a lark with the man about the oppressive yoke that the pharisees were trying to lay on the poor guy.

I could well be wrong, but it doesn’t seem very Jesussy to make that sort of dark threat to the guy he has just healed, especially a threat that is hollow in as much as we know that God doesn’t generally punish people specifically for specific sins, but that sin brings it’s own punishment & carries it’s own consequences.

Jesus is all about forgiveness and the only people he condemns are those that think they have it all ‘right’ – i.e. mostly the pharisees and ‘teachers of the law’.

Would he really turn to threatening someone he had just taken the trouble to seek out and heal?

Busy

busy-character2I am trying to expunge the word ‘busy’ from my vocabulary.

I learned the other week from Steve Wiens that the Chinese pictograph for the word busy (at the top) is composed of two different characters: heart and killing.

Yet, when digging a bit deeper, I have discovered that this is not quite the case. Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature refutes the claim in a very precise etymological post.

However, his conclusions don’t detract very much from the idea that there is a drain on our hearts if we overload ourselves. Even if, as Prof. Mair suggests, the second character is strictly a phonophore, or phonetic indicator, not a character that attributes meaning to the word in question, it is clear that the ancient wisdom of the Chinese connects the concept of business directly to the heart.

With that in mind, I’m stopping saying I’m ‘busy’. I have plenty of work but I love every minute of it. I am involved in a partially hectic and occasionally frantic home-life, with the activities and general hubbub of three children, but all of it still feels life-giving, life-affirming, not heart-draining. I’m still contributing to various activities within our church (despite the sabbatical) yet none of these feel like a burden.

So no, I’m not busy. I’m active and occupied and sometimes don’t have all the time that I feel like I need to complete what I want to complete, but I’m not endangering my heart in any way and I’m going to stop saying the word, because I am, at the moment, incredibly happy and content with the way things are.

Which is probably when I ought to be careful not to get complacent or smug. It could be dangerous if I got trapped into thinking that either I was ‘busy’ or that I could just coast along.

I’m still working at living up to the words of 1 Timonthy 6:6

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.”

Mercy Seat

I was reading the story of the wilderness journey and the construction of the tabernacle and it made me think about the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.

Whilst initially, the construction of the gold-covered wooden box with cherubim either side might look like Israel’s version of an idol, this building directive is in stark contrast to the culture around them at the time, a culture of images / idols carved out of wood or cast from precious metals.

The difference that drew my attention was this:

Then make a mercy-seat from pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. Make two cherubim out of beaten gold. Make them at the two ends of the mercy-seat. Make one cherub on one end and one cherub on the other end. Make the top of the mercy-seat, with the cherubim at each end, of one piece. The wings of the cherubim should spread up over the mercy-seat. Their faces should be toward each other, and toward the mercy-seat. Put the mercy-seat on top of the box. Put the Law which I will give you into the box. I will meet with you there. Between the two cherubim which are upon the special box of the Law, I will speak to you about all the Laws I will give you for the people of Israel.

Exodus 25:17-22 (New Life Version)

God requested a seat to be made for him to come and meet with the representative of the people. (at this stage it was spoken to Moses but later on it would be the high priest).

God didn’t want anything to be made to represent Him, or something that could be worshipped in itself, he wanted somewhere to ‘sit’ while he talked with the people.

It’s fully in keeping with both the God who says ‘make no image‘ and also the God who comes to live in and with us, first through the person of Jesus (John 10:38 / John 14:10+11) and then for those that choose to have relationship with Christ, in and through us (John 14:20 / John 17:21).

The box is not the important bit, nor is the ‘mercy seat’, but the one who comes to sit on it and be with his people.

It reminded me of a ‘voice of the day’ from the ‘God’s Politics’ Sojourners web site.

The resurrection of Jesus was simply God’s unwillingness to take our ‘no’ for an answer. He raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that he himself has now established permanent, eternal residence here on earth. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick prisoner brothers with him.

Clarence Jordan

God came to be with the people of Israel as he sat on the ‘mercy seat’ (mercy being a good word worth looking up yourself), in amongst the grime and muck of a wilderness nomadic community.

God sent His only Son, who emptied himself (Philippians 2:7) of himself and filled himself up with his Father, into a world full of the grime and muck that came with roman occupation, torture, military dictatorship etc.

God promises to come to the earth again (Revelation 21), (not that he has ever left – “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” – Ephesians 4:6) not to whisk people away to somewhere else, but to live with them and be their God in and amongst them, initially at least – in and with the grime and muck of the 21st century, in all the mess that we have allowed our world and lives to get into.

That’s a pretty significant forward-looking symbol in just a wooden seat covered in gold!

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.

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