playground politics

Picture of Childrens Playground - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

A long time ago I upset our local MP by posting a bloggage that revealed how he had voted against a motion that highlighted the issue of the growth in demand for foodbanks. You can see it here if you want, and it led to a lengthy correspondence with him (he was still unhappy at the end of it). But it was an unusual occurrence because although I consider myself to be a political person and have strong opinions about many issues, I don’t tend to post them here. But it may be time to upset some more politicians…

And it’s because of playground politics.

I would like to think that those who enter politics do so in order to serve the country. I would like to think that those who enter politics do so particularly to care for those who are weakest and most vulnerable in our society. I would like to think that those who seek office do so in order to make a positive difference. And I am sure that if you asked any politician whether this is the case they would respond positively (or if not they would evade the question by answering a different one they would rather have been asked).

But increasingly to me it appears as if many politicians are acting in the interests of their party rather than the interests of the country, and some are even acting in the interests of their own political ambitions above even the interests of their party! How can that serve the interests of those who are most vulnerable and marginalised?

There are all sorts of allegations being made about lies and broken promises by each of our political parties and by the different sides of the EU referendum but the level of disingenuous rhetoric that I perceive is greater today than at any other time. One of the most obvious examples is the £350million for the NHS promised on the side of the notorious bus was an outright lie and nobody now is making that promise. It really bothers me that some of the leading Brexit politicians in this country are busy squirreling their wealth overseas while telling us that there’s nothing to worry about.

But what really bothers me is when politicians (in the UK and USA) label opposing views with a blanket phrase that allegedly discounts them immediately without engaging in the issues being raised. So in this country any criticism of the Brexit plans (or lack thereof) is labelled ‘Project Fear’ and by doing so the criticisms can be ignored in one fell swoop. In the USA criticisms are labelled ‘Fake News’ in the same way. And people believe this because they trust the politicians. If we let our politicians get away with this we may not be surprised if we eventually find that they have removed any sense of personal or corporate accountability for their actions.

It feels like the playground when a child’s taunt would receive responses like, “I’m rubber, you’re glue: whatever you say you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” Or the annoying constant retort, “I know you are, but what am I?”

So what can we do?

Write to your MP when there’s an issue that concerns you. You can send them an email through https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/ They are obliged to write back. And if the answer is unsatisfactory, write again. You can use the same process to write directly to the Prime Minister or any other politician (email addresses are firstname.surname.mp@parliament.uk).

Join campaigning groups.

Join with others who want to make a difference to their community in groups such as Citizens UK

Join with your local church who will (hopefully) be working to make a positive difference to some of those on the margins of our society.

And just maybe we can leave the playground and return to the nobler purpose of politics.

Be blessed, be a blessing

and the winner is…

So the headline news today is that in a well-hyped ceremony to give awards to people who have done their job well some of the people were announced as the winners of an award and then someone else realised it was a mistake and that some other people should have been given the award.

Meanwhile, in other news, three quarters of a million people are trapped in Western Mosul as Iraqi forces seek to expel the IS fighters; people are still dying every day as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe; people around the world (and in the UK) are being bought and sold as slaves; famine is beginning to stalk its prey in South Sudan; politicians are seeking to evade public scrutiny by declaring those who criticise as ‘fake news’ (it happened in the UK yesterday when our Home Secretary tried to defend the Government’s decision to stop taking any more unaccompanied refugee children under the ‘Dubs Amendment’)…
You get the idea.

I am not saying that it was surprising that at an awards ceremony as well-organised as the Oscars the wrong film should be announced as the winner of ‘best picture’. It’s difficult to imagine quite what went wrong, or how embarrassed people felt when the error was realised. But should this be the first headline on the news today? Is this the most important thing that has happened in our world?

I suspect that ‘envelopegate’ or whatever this gets dubbed will be forgotten soon enough, except perhaps by those who made the mistake – it may haunt them for a while, and maybe we should spare a thought for them. Their mistake was made public – broadcast across the world and then becoming headline news. Most of our mistakes are less well publicised (thank the Lord).

I try to remember to offer prayers when I hear of tragedies and crises whether they are global, national, local or personal. I know that lots of you do too. I know that lots of churches do. Will we pray as fervently for those caught up in ‘envelopegate’ as in the other issues I highlighted?

Can we get a bit of perspective back, please, and focus more on the more important things – matters of life and death?

Can we show some grace and compassion to all, please, recognising that everyone makes mistakes?

Can we get worked up enough about the important things in life to pray about them, and then to take action and be part of the answer to that prayer?

Be blessed, be a blessing

[expletive deleted]

Dear loyal Bloggist,

Thank you for bearing with me during my recent cold. I am sorry that the inspiration levels were low, but mucous and phlegm have that effect on me. But now my nose has stopped training for a marathon and my throat has decided that it’s perhaps alright to breathe and swallow without causing me pain.

Enough of the blatant attempt at drawing sympathy from you. On with the bloggerel.

On Sunday morning we will be celebrating an anniversary at our church. It is 25 years since Open Door began. You can find out more about Open Door on their website but in short is is a drop-in centre for anyone who would like to come and have a cuppa, perhaps wants someone to chat to or to listen to them, maybe needs some help or advice.

I have been helping out there once a week (Fridays) and have experienced laughter (it is banter-central), occasional sadness, great conversations and non-judgemental acceptance. I think Jesus loves it in there.

On my badge I am simply ‘Nick’ and designated as ‘Helper’. But the regulars know that I am one of the Ministers at the church. It’s often the cause of some hilarity to me when someone forgets one of the house rules and an expletive slips out when I am in earshot. The rest will pick up on it and tell the swearer off, while they offer deep and sincere apologies for swearing in my presence. It’s almost as if they think my head will explode if I hear rude words or that my ears are so sensitive that they will fall off if they hear such things. My usual reaction is to accept the apology but try to remind them that I am a normal human being.

I wonder how people spoke around Jesus. Were there Aramaic swear words that people used in his presence and then realised that they were in the presence of the Rabbi and apologised? If so, the gospel-writers have edited those bits out. Perhaps they thought we were too sensitive to cope with them. And if people did swear and curse in Jesus’ presence how did he react? Would he warn them against blasphemy? Would he tut and tell them off? Would he threaten them with lightning bolts from heaven if they did it again? Or would he accept them as they are and hope that they would experience God through him?

I’m not condoning swearing. It saddens me that some words have now become punctuation for some people while others only have one or two adjectives and adverbs to enrich their conversation. But I am reminded of the parable Jesus told of two brothers who were asked to help their father. One said ‘yes’ and did nothing while the other said ‘no’ and then changed his mind. What they did revealed their heart more than what they said.

Hmmm

Read Matthew 21:28-32 if you want a challenge, especially with Jesus’ punchline…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

One day an elderly pastor confides in his parishioners that he’s feeling a bit lonely and depressed. So one of the parishioners suggests to the pastor that he buy a pet. Thinking this a grand idea, the pastor hurries into town and after much deliberation, buys a parrot.

Unfortunately not five minutes after arriving home, the parrot starts hurling a string of expletives at the pastor.

After about an hour it gets to be too much, so the pastor walks up to the parrot, slaps him on the beak, and yells, “QUIT IT!” But this just makes the parrot madder and he starts swearing at the pastor in even more colourful language.

Finally the pastor has had it and says, “All right, that’s it. Grabbing a blanket, the pastor throws it over the parrot’s cage and screams, “Now, SHUT UP!” Well, this really irritates the parrot and he starts clawing and scratching at the bars of his cage. Finally the pastor removes the blanket. Immediately the parrot starts right in on the pastor again.

By this time, the pastor is so infuriated that he grabs the parrot by the throat and throws him into the freezer. Well, the parrot starts swearing and thrashing about so loudly that the pastor is considering killing the bird. Just as he’s thinking this, it gets very…very quiet.

At first the pastor just stares at the refrigerator, but then he starts to think that the parrot might be seriously injured. He becomes so worried that he runs over to the refrigerator and throws open the freezer door.

The parrot climbs out of the freezer, flaps the ice off his wings, and says, “Awfully sorry about the trouble I’ve caused you, rev. In the future, I’ll do my best to improve my vocabulary.”

The pastor is astounded. He can’t believe the sudden transformation that has come over the parrot. Finally the parrot turns to the pastor and says, “Um….by the way, what did the chicken do?”

time’s up!

Hello

The blog is back.

timeOf course you knew that because you had already seen a new blog entry was available and had clicked on it to get this far.

I had an email last week that surprised me. During my time working for the Baptist Union of Great Britain I clocked up a few BA Miles. Every so often I get an email from them telling me about the wonderful offers that they have which I can take advantage of. Every once in a long while I go on their website to see how far my BA Miles will take me. It seems to me that the ratio of BA Miles to actual miles travelled is poor – something like 10:1! Perhaps they should stop calling them ‘Miles’.

Anyway, the email that I got surprised me because it informed me that the accumulated BA Miles have an expiry date! I was completely unaware of this and wonder what it is that makes them expire. Do they go off? Do they diminish in effectiveness? Or do BA not want to bother with me if I have not used them for a couple of years?

I fear that some people experience church like that. They discover suddenly that church has an expiry date of which they were unaware. They have not been around for a while and instead of a gentle ‘we’ve missed you, how are you?’ approach I have heard of some churches that send a ‘warning’ letter that their membership will lapse if they do not come back. Seriously!

Approaching people who have drifted away is not easy. They may be embarrassed or even guilty because they have not been to church for a while. The church may be feeling embarrassed or even guilty because they have not been in touch sooner. So we end up with a Mexican stand-off where neither does anything because of embarrassment or guilt and it just gets worse.

To anyone who has not been to ‘their’ church for a while and feels awkward about going back I would say, “Go! Do it! Take your courage in both hands and turn up. There may be a little awkwardness for a moment but I reckon you will be welcomed with open arms.”

To churches that have people who have not been around for a while (including ours) I would say, “Go! Do it! Pick up the phone, drop around, send a card, make contact. There may be a little awkwardness for a moment but I reckon you will usually be welcomed with open arms.”

Be blessed. Be a blessing.


A well-worn five pound note and a similarly distressed twenty pound note arrived at the Bank of England to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation.

The twenty pound note reminisced about its travels all over the country. “I’ve had a pretty good life,” the twenty proclaimed. “Why I’ve been to Lands End and John O Groats, the finest restaurants in London, performances in the West End, and even ended up on a cruise to the Caribbean.” 

“Wow!” said the five pound note. “You’ve really had an exciting life!” 

“So tell me,” says the twenty, “where have you been throughout your lifetime?” 

The five pound note replies, “Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Anglican Church ….”

The twenty pound note interrupts, “What’s a church?”*

*Notes of all denominations are welcome in church!

a little less conversation?

I have just been listening to ‘A little less conversation’ by JXL. It’s a funky remix of the Elvis Presley song. You can see it and hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&v=BSkDQYe2FYw  It is featured in the film Bruce Almighty (among others).

The first four lines are:
A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation aint satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark

I think we could all agree with the sentiment. In different aspects of our lives we could do with spending time with less aggravation, less angst, less arguments and more getting on with what we have to do.

I can remember when working in office jobs there were times when I wanted to get on with the tasks I had to do and would feel the frustration of unsolicited phone calls or someone dropping by for a chat. There are times in church life when we may want to stop talking and discussing and just get on with things. There are times in our relationships when would rather we spent less time looking at options and deciding what is best and instead get on with what it is we have to do.

But that is not necessarily the best way ahead. It is not necessarily the Jesus way ahead. Somehow he seemed able to give time and energy to the interruptions. He was willing to be distracted from teaching his followers by crowds who wanted him to minister to them. He was willing to hear questions and arguments from those who criticised and opposed him. He even tolerated the stupid comments and daft ideas that his friends articulated in a vain attempt to demonstrate that he understood them.

Why was that?

Because he valued people. Above all else, people mattered most. It is easy for us (me especially) to forget that what I say and do has an impact (positive or negative) on those around me. It is easy to feel frustrated when people do not agree with us. It is possible to be annoyed at the demands that people place on our time. I have jokingly commented with fellow-ministers that church leadership would be easy if it were not for the people. But that is the exact opposite of Jesus’ approach. I am sorry if I have forgotten that or have acted as if I have. I will try not to be flippant about it either.

People come before programmes and projects in the Kingdom of God as well as in the dictionary!

So, sorry Elvis, I think you were wrong. (Please tell him if he is working in the fish and chip shop near you).

Revd William Woebegone has been leading his church for seven years and has been given sabbatical leave. He is curious as to what an American endures in everyday life. So he decides to go to the United States before he is too old to enjoy it. He hops on a plane bound for Nevada. As he is exiting the plane, someone in the airport runs up to him and exclaims, “ELVIS! OH MY GOD! IT’S ELVIS! I knew you weren’t dead, Elvis! How have you been?”

Revd Woebegone looks at her and says, “I don’t know what you mean. Can’t you see I’m not Elvis? I don’t look a thing like Elvis.”

The minister moves on to his cab waiting outside. He hops into the cab, and he’s a little upset so tells the cabby, “Take me to my hotel and step on it.”

The cabby turns and says, “Sure thing, Sir – OH MY GOD! IT’S ELVIS! I knew you weren’t dead! I’m your number one fan! It’s so great to SEE you again!”

“You’ve got it all wrong,” says the Minister. “I’m NOT Elvis! Now turn around and drive!” So the cabby speeds to the hotel.

Revd Woebegone gets his things and walks up to the hotel check-in counter.

“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! IT’S YOU! screams the hotel clerk. “YOU’RE BACK, ELVIS! I knew this day would happen. We saved everything just the way you like it! Free cheeseburgers, peanut butter and banana fried sandwiches, masseurs, complimentary tickets to any show you want to see and a full liquor bar! I’m so glad you’re back!”

Revd Woebegone sighs and looks hard at the hotel clerk and says, “Thank you… Thank you very much!”