Wednesday, 31 July 2013


The dandelion seed ball, nature’s inspired reminder to take the updraft and fly.
It unfolds full of potential and even if considered a weed it is not deterred.
No name calling can change its true identity.
It can be pulled up and discarded by gardeners who hope it will not contaminate the cultivated flower bed but it laughs and explodes.
The wild refusing to be tamed.
Picked by children with excitement of counting the time, blowing seeds into their future.
Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains He said, what about a seed with a sail, created to catch the wind and fly.
So many of them from one previous seed, the magnificence of potential for life to continue.
Hidden from sight, the spark of eternity, hidden yet known.
Hope, there is always a way for life to burst forth in glorious sunshine as the petals declare.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What is 'fair'

Is it possible to have one set of principles that sets out what is ‘fair’ in a society which is full of individuals with different beliefs in what the word means?
A little pre-amble on the words we use….
Fairness seems an easier word to use than ’justice’. People will declare they have been treated fairly or unfairly and it is not really something that can be upgraded to a justice issue. There’s also a danger of saying an issue, which is really a personal preference, is a ‘justice issue’. It can diminish something that really is a justice issue, such as false imprisonment.  The use of the word ‘justice’ means it is more important, more life changing and likely to rally folk to the cause. It is a word to be used only in certain contexts and avoided in others, particularly if you want to down grade an issue that really is a justice one and convince people it is just about fairness. It is as if the heads will turn if someone is being treated unjustly but if it’s only unfair they can sort it out for themselves. It may be that justice is something where mutual agreement is more likely as it is easier to define, and therefore simpler for folk to rally together to make a difference.

Individuals want to be treated fairly but it is more complex, it is also about how other people are treated that needs to be seen as fair to the rest of us.
The word ‘fairness’ has come up recently in the context of changes to the Welfare State. It has been stated that changes are needed because we want to live in a ‘fair’ society and this is highlighted specifically where people who don’t work all day shouldn’t have a better standard of living than those who do work all day. It is deemed unfair and needs to be ‘fixed’ back to what some people consider as ‘fair’.
The deserving and undeserving poor used to be the wording for those who required assistance by the state. So depending on whether you were considered by the authorities to be deserving or undeserving you would be sent to the workhouse, alms house or prison. We don’t use those phrases now, we use fair and unfair. I think because we don’t want to use the word ‘poor’! If we accept people are poor we might feel an obligation or even, dare I say, compassion to help them, characteristics on which the welfare state was created….so we avoid the word poor and certainly not justice….
Today it goes something like this: - it is fair for the state to look after the disabled, the elderly (in the past the alms houses would look after them), or those out of work for short periods because their employer ran into difficulties because of the economic climate(off to the work house for them) and it is unfair on us hardworking tax payers for the state to look after anybody else and we consider them lazy or guilty of taking the system for a ride (prison for them). In reality that covers everyone else on state benefits - the long term unemployed because they live in a region where employment opportunities are non-existent, or were made redundant and now find it impossible to get a job due to their age, single parents, people with mental health issues, people who are unemployable due to being failed by parents, education and the system generally. So the argument/propaganda shouts-  it is unfair to the rest of ‘us’ for ‘them’ to sit about all day, doing nothing and having their rent paid and an income that they can ‘comfortably’ live on. They have cars, iPhones and Sky TV, they’re in the pub and have holidays, spare bedrooms and spare income. It is their choice to live on benefits and they should get a job or move to smaller properties.
It is impossible to prove this is true for the vast majority of people who are on benefits. The benefits people receive are set out to be minimal, they are carefully calculated to give people a very low standard of living, somewhere slightly above the bread line. The reality for most; it is not their choice to be on benefits, there are no jobs available for them and there are no smaller houses for them to move into. The reality is for the majority of people on benefits life has been extremely difficult, traumatic or opportunities were never available to them. Jobs have been lost, unexpected pregnancies happen, sickness leads to long-term inability to return to the career path, divorce….life happens and when people are in poverty it is highly unlikely it is their choice to be there. What is unfair is for society to not look after people who are poor, especially when the reason they are poor is because they have been failed by that society in the first place! What is fair is to help those who are worse off than us.
My thought is this, perhaps if we used language such as; ‘poor’, ‘living in poverty’ and ‘oppression of the poor’ which is a justice issue, we may find there is compassion enough for us to stop blaming people for a broken system and find ways to actually help them.


When I was kid back in the 1970s (yep I’m THAT old) Christians would often wear a little yellow badge with a smiley face on it and the words “Jesus Loves You”, it probably started with the Jesus People or some other slightly ‘whacky’ bunch, probably in America, but pretty soon everyone was wearing them, even your parents or the local pastor.  These days teenagers and others old enough to know better wear wrist-bands with W.W.J.D on them instead; they’re easier to hide up your sleeve especially if you’re also wearing about five others wrist bands showing your opposition to bullying, your support for breast cancer awareness, A.I.D.S research or your enthusiasm for real ale! 

In case you’ve been off-planet for the last few years I shall explain that W.W.J.D stands for ‘What would Jesus do?’  Superficially it seems like a good thought; especially for a hormone ravaged Christian teenager who’s just noticed the allure of alcohol, the opposite sex, recreational drug use or all of the above. However once again I think we’re missing something.  We’re focussing on the wrong issue; we’re focusing (as ‘law’ always does) on the sin or the behaviour.  We’re hoping this magic wristband will suddenly become a powerful talisman and start glowing or get hot or tight on the wrist as danger approaches and the teenager will suddenly remember their Youth Leader’s words from the previous Sunday as he spoke on the perils of teenage pregnancy, drunkenness and memory impairment due to excessive marijuana use.  The sin-management program will kick in and they’ll remain sweet and innocent and good.  Nothing wrong with that you may say, and to some extent I agree with you, as a parent of two teenagers (and one grown-up) I hope they don’t use drugs, get pregnant before the time is right or end up drunk on someone’s floor/road/hospital bed. 

However sin-management isn’t the answer, knowing what you SHOULDN’T do rarely stops anyone from doing something tempting, attractive or naughty!  Our behaviour flows out of our identity and not out of a set of rules, rules are excellent for showing what you have done wrong but not great at stopping you doing it in the first place.  An identity that is affirmed as a beloved son or daughter, a precious unique identity that causes delight and pleasure in the eye of the beholder is worth its weight in diamond-encrusted gold.  Knowing who you are will prevent many bad choices as the bad choices are often about seeking something we feel we lack; if we feel we need acceptance, friendship, ‘love’, beauty etc. we can end up looking for these things in the social vices that promise to provide them.

The W.W.J.D concept is focussing again on what we do, our actions, the external, our performance; have we prayed, have we read our Bibles, have we fasted, have we won our school/town/nation for Jesus?  They’re a guilt-trip in rubber!  Our heavenly Father is far more concerned with who we are, and who we are has been determined by Jesus’ death and resurrection and not by us!  We can rest in the identity He gives us as a free gift; we are co-heirs with Christ of all the blessing and promises of God, filled with living water bubbling up from within, we are the righteousness of God in Christ, welcomed into the wonderful dance the trinity has been enjoying since before the foundation of the world when God already knew us and marvelled at the beauty of his own handiwork.

And so we come back to the little yellow badges with ‘Jesus Loves You’ on them.  Maybe they’re a bit cheesy, maybe they’re a bit old-fashioned but maybe we should bring them back and wear them instead of our wrist-bands, as then we’ll be wearing something that tells each other a truth that affirms our identity over and over again instead of something that asks a question that sin-management programs can’t really answer.

Monday, 15 July 2013

What's in a name

My name is Marguerite which means pearl. Pretty nice thought and during my life I suppose I’ve been encouraged about being precious and unique. I like to think the parable by Jesus of the pearl of great price is talking about me and knowing that he paid the ultimate price for me. There’s also something encouraging on those days where I just feel irritated that I symbolically started off as a grain of sand placed inside an oyster and over a period of time, through some irritation, I will turn into a pearl. Remembering teaching about iron sharpening iron and quotes about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…..we’re all a work in progress after all. We’re all on a journey of becoming more like Jesus, we start off as a total mess and after lots of hard and painful work by God via the Holy Spirit, with our submission and humility, we’ll be changed into something more acceptable to God. A work going on underneath the covering of the blood of Jesus, a sinner under a cloak of protection from the wrath of God. The final completion of the job at Judgement, after a shameful experience of my life being played on the big screen for everyone to see, being held to account for where I failed in the improvement plan, why had I given the Holy Spirit such a difficult job in turning me into Jesus????
I don’t think like that anymore, thank God!
I do believe I am unique, precious and of value. I don’t believe I started off a mess or am still a mess or that over time the Holy Spirit is working hard on turning me into Jesus under the covering of his blood.
As a starting point; if God wanted lots of mini Jesus’ he would have made me a boy….My creator wants me, the Marguerite he had in mind before I was even born. I don’t believe he wants to shape us all into identical models of the perfect Christian, I think he wants us to know our true identity as he created us, with our own personalities, our own unique selves made in His image.
When I used to think I was  ‘a mess’, I didn’t look far enough back. I only thought about my life before I was 17, thinking the improvement plan began once I believed God was interested in my life, from the time I heard God’s commitment to care for me. I became aware as the years went by that he was caring for me and providing for me long before I was 17 but I still did not really understand how God viewed me back then. I needed to grasp something of God’s original thought towards me and his eternal thoughts towards me, thoughts that didn’t change as my behaviour became more rebellious. He has always wanted the best for me and more importantly he has always, and will always, love me.
I am still a work in progress though. My starting point is not from mess to perfect, it is from perfect in his sight to knowing I’m perfect in his sight. The journey continues ….knowing the destination is not going to be a shameful experience as all my mess has already been taken away by Jesus 2,000 years ago. I just need to remember to push the reset button every so often and delete all the information that would tell me a different story. To continue to walk with the Spirit who reveals the truth that will renew my mind, removing the lies that tell me I’m ‘less than’. To go back to the beginning to see my story the way God sees my story, to believe what he believes about me. I am a pearl of great price.
A final thought, there is a daisy called Marguerite and people have been known to pull daisy’s apart to check who loves them….he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not. Today is a good day to know he loves me, he loves me and there is no petal in the universe with ‘he loves me not’ written on it.