Three words

There’s a statement I’ve been thinking about that contains three words that I don’t think we use enough, it’s not the phrase that most people think of, I bet your thinking it’s that phrase I love you.  No it’s not that one.  Speaking of that phrase I’ve noticed that most people will say love you and miss out the I, is that because they don’t really love the person they are speaking too or is it just laziness, it’s more likely the latter rather than the former in my view  and it depends on context I suppose.  Anyway those three little words aren’t the words I’m thinking of.

I’m thinking of a statement or phrase I should use more than I do, and I know why I don’t.  Anyway , here’s  examples of where it might be used, or more likely when I should use it. You ask yourself what your response would be to these questions.

Do you think the Conservatives will get in again at the next General Election?

What do you think of penal substitution?

Should milk or water be put in a cup of tea first when making it?

What most of us tend to do when answering a question is come up with a positive or negative opinion on these kind of questions, but there is a third option that many of us rarely use because we are expected to have an opinion on anything and everything yes you’ve guessed it I’m sure, the phrase I was referring to earlier was I DON’T KNOW.

How many times people have asked you something expecting an answer of some description from you and rather than saying I don’t know you come back with a yes or no, or some convoluted answer that’s meant to sound intelligent when in reality you simply have no answer, you  haven’t thought about the question long enough, not had the experience or never really thought the questions was necessary.  I certainly have been in that position.

We as human beings thirst for knowledge, knowledge means power and to a large extent gives us a sense of security.  None of us want to look stupid in front of our friends or family when we simply don’t have an answer or an opinion to something.  Our problem with our thirst for knowledge though is that it can lead to pride.  Ever come across someone who seems to have an opinion about everything, do they get on your nerves, it’s happened to me, mind you when I was in my early 20’s I could be just as bad.  I’m more careful now not to get into arguments where the need to be right all the time is the goal.  Because at the end of the day none of us know everything.  It’s freeing to sometimes say I don’t know, yes it’s disconcerting to others, leaves you with a sense of uncertainty but that’s ok.

Over the last few years I’ve learnt that it’s ok to not know everything, I’ve found it very liberating personally.  Does it really matter that I don’t have the answers or that people don’t look to me for an answer or be the answer.  The truth is that sometimes there is no right or wrong answer there is the unknown, we can’t possibly know everything about anything or anyone for that matter. So don’t be afraid of using that phrase no matter what others might think.

Regarding the questions I listed above the first question is speculative, the second question involves some theological knowledge and the third question I ask is it really that important whether the milk is put in before the water for a cuppa?

OK I suppose you want to know what my answer would be to the three questions I listed above.

Well, the answer to all 3 is I just don’t know.

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My intrest in politics

I’ve posted in the about me section of my blog of my interest in politics but only completed one post on the subject.  So I thought it would be a good idea to elaborate on the subject of my interest in politics and that of my approach to it, where it came from.

As a child my Dad and I would watch news and current affairs programmes on the tv and talk about what was being shown,  he wouldn’t sit there and start  educating as such it would go something like this some news item would come up and then he would just respond to something that was being reported and get irate with what he saw and I think I would then ask why, he would then inform me about his opinion related to the topic.  I also remember journeys out when I was older in the car going somewhere or other or when he took me on the seemingly long journey back to school conversations around current affairs, politics, history or religion would come up, as a teenager and adult these would become heated.  But I don’t want to go marching ahead here.

At both my primary and the first secondary school I attended we listened to a programme called in the news which explained news items in a way which children would understand and promote discussion.  I thought this was a great way to introduce children to politics, I used to watch Newsround as well with the other children but it wasn’t as good as in the news or watching programmes with my Dad.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s both extremes of the loss Labour 70’s and the super rich 80’s depending on your view of the situation.  I remember particularly the power cuts in the 70’s and  early 80’s of the Thatcher years, the strikes, the Falklands war, newsreaders who were rather serious and the interest in nuclear disarmament.  I didn’t have a particular view on these things at the time,  but knew of them.  The one thing I do remember during that particular period is my dad saying that under the torys the rich get richer and the poorer get poorer.  For some odd reason I always thought he was a tory, strange I would think that as that would not be the kind of comment a tory voter would make.  Maybe it was because we were the sort of family they would want to get their vote my Dad was the sort who believed in aspiration, he worked hard and climbed the career ladder, plus things  he said that led me think he was a tory.  However my mum and nan would talk about the politicians rather than the policies.

As I got into my teens I would still watch the news with the Berlin wall and communism apparently falling, during that time I started hearing people talking about the more left wing side of politics and that continued into my college years.  This was my favourite period.  When I was at college at the beginning of the 90’s I found myself with a group of friends who like my Dad were interested in the kind of things I was, we would sit at lunch times discussing American and European politics and some sharp disagreements would follow, however we were still great friends underneath the debates we were all feeling our way not just in our lives but in our concept of the world and the complex political arenas we were trying to navigate.  I found these conversations stimulating and at times memorable and they were happy memories.

I had various small stints in the public sector completing work experience or short term temporary contracts which gave me a small window of the work of local councils.  As a teenager I took GCSE Economics and both my BTECS were in Business and Finance, in these I came to understand  the government’s influence over the economy.  Interestingly having a faith impacted my political feelings, I would hear discussions that the torys would be the government Christians should want to have in power I suppose because of the security aspect and probably upholding Christian values at the time, equally I heard from the labour Christian left of upholding social justice and the poor etc.  Over the years I would meet spatterings of Lib Dem supporters or equivalent, which I learnt to understand more many years later.

During the mid  to late 90’s It was new labour and I was unemployed. I got involved with a local access group for disabled people which I thoroughly enjoyed.

In 2000, I got a job working for a media business during the years I worked at that company with people having strong political views,  my job involved research I got to find out what kind of things our Government at that time was spending its money on, I was always having to read politically related documents, publications and media, we were supposed to be apolitical which I believe we were, but we did have some trouble getting hold of various government departments to write for us some of it I believe was politically motivated unfortunately.  For instance we often had trouble getting hold of edit from Scotland, so the company had to open an office there, to raise our profile and credibility amongst certain Scottish Ministers.

Just before the torys came back into office the recession hit, which once the conservatives got in, started to have impact on the company I worked for.  Due to public sector cuts, private companies were concerned work would dry up for the them as a result.  The strange thing is much as both sides of the Government argue over spending both sides of the Government HAVE to spend money on public services, so there is always work for private companies.  Now you may think that I’m blaming the Conservatives for the eventual collapse of the company I worked for, but I found the joint impact of a decision by the government and the media to report it had a negative impact on the business I worked for, I think there had been some cuts just before the conservatives came into office, but more pronounced when the torys got back in again if I remember correctly .

So I ended up out of work again my own frustration of having a dual disability and being unemployed and listening to the radio got me interested in politics again, hence I set up a group for visually impaired people to have a voice politically, but it’s not a political organisation rather it’s just a network for information and support for that particular endeavour.

Throughout my life I’ve seen the way politics has weaved in and out of my life in various ways and means.  Although my Dad was the first to get me interested in politics the way he influenced me was more on my approach to politics rather than what he believed.  One thing he said that was helpful and I’ve always took it on board is look at both sides and you will get the truth somewhere in the middle, the more I’ve looked at politics and the things I hear the more that seems true, the extremes concern me, when I look at the extremes of politics its  either full of emotionalism or people who have irrational views that don’t have much grounding and don’t want to hear anything that’s not their point of view.  As one friend said recently the funny thing about extremes is that they change over time.  At one time one view was acceptable now would be considered extreme or vice versa.  My other approach is just to listen and seek to understand where someone comes from, even if their view is vastly different to mine .  To me different political parties have their strengths and weaknesses, this is where for example my contrary nature comes in, who do I really want in power, a government that wants to promote a strong economy where jobs are a plenty and a better standard of living or another that promises to take care of you when you are ill, or another which seeks a more consensual form of democracy.  Ultimately I’ve struggled to vote before because what I may want locally may not be what I want nationally or vice versa.

Ultimately I get tired of politics when words are often the measure of a politicians worth, not their actions, unfortunately that’s what they have to do to get the vote talk their way into a job, I suppose that’s a cynical view but there’s truth there, how can we really judge a politicians worth really, by their words or by their actions, as words can be deceptive but so can actions be misconstrued.  All I know is that I still enjoy listening to the debates on how to deal with difficult issues and vote on who will represent the things I care about the most locally, to watch how politicians respond to unexpected crisis.   To me a leader is only as good as their backbenchers as they have the word on the ground and have the best influence to make change.

To end my rather long post a quote that is valuable about any leader is this by John Maxwell

“People don’t want to know how much you know until they know how much you care”

I think that about sums up my politics.

Christianity and Disability

For some time now I’ve been thinking a great deal about this topic.  Just from different things that have happened.  I’ve wondered what is the best approach to talk about this subject or rather write about it.  I’ve come to the conclusion the best way to address it using the passage about Bartimaeus.

1 He cried out

Bartimaeus was on the side begging, but he heard a commotion, he asked what the noise was about and he was told it was Jesus, obviously knowing about who Jesus was, he cried out to him,  he cried out because he knew Jesus could help him.  The words he used was Son of David, have mercy on me.  Yes he was shouting to get Jesus attention because he wouldn’t have been able to find him easily.  But he could have cried out those words for another reason.  Particularly his reference to David.  Was he thinking about the story of Mephibosheth of which  he may have heard in the synagogue, this is recorded in 2 Samuel Ch 9.  David showed kindness to Mephibosheth even though it was his dead rivals sons relative.  Bartimaeus probably didn’t feel that he earned the right to sit at the masters table but asked for mercy anyway. Because he knew that David had shown kindness to someone with a disability.  David had shown kindness on the previous king’s relative by asking him to come to his palace and providing him a place to live and be seated at his table as if he was one of his own.  Mephibosheth was also given servants.  For this Mipobosheth had done nothing to deserve this kindness.  So Bartimaeus was appealing to the son of David’s kindness in the form of Jesus.

2 The people were stern with Bartimaeus

The people’s response to Bartimeaus cries were hostile and harsh telling him to shut up.  Why tell someone in need to shut up, why tell someone whose lived with debilitating condition for many years to shut up.  What is our response when disabled people complain or cry for help?  In fact thankfully in spite of the harshness of the people surrounding him he didn’t give up, he was single minded in his pursuit of Jesus, and had the courage to speak out all the more, telling someone to shut up can often lead to the opposite affect, nothing was going to deter Bartimaeus from receiving his sight not even the fear of man or peoples prejudice.

Before I go any further in this post with the different points of the story I need to say that from this point in the story by the two different accounts recorded in the Bible they diverge.  One accounts Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and  is called over by Jesus, in the other account, he tells those around him to bring Bartimaeus to him.  I’ve decided to go with the account recorded in Luke as I believe it better reflects Jesus character and actions and although I’m sure Bartimaeus threw away his cloak and , therefore throwing away his identity as a disabled person, I don’t believe because of his blindness he would have been able to make his way through a crowd of people to Jesus on his own, therefore I believe Luke’s account is more accurate.  Now I will proceed.

3  Jesus  stopped and commanded “Bring him to me”

Jesus stopped, why because he heard someone cry out to him.  Not just anyone, Jesus didn’t just ignore this man or his disability, in fact he stopped and listened, not only did he stop and listen he also responded. In fact he commanded those around him to bring Bartimaeus to him, he didn’t expect Bartimaeus to try and navigate to him on his own in the huge crowd pressing on him.  He honoured him, he knew his limitations and gave him dignity.

4 Jesus  asked him what he wanted

It may seem strange and it may seem obvious that this man wanted his sight back, but no.  Many disabled people sit in churches and the people assume if they need prayer its because they want prayer for the healing of their particular disability , or that’s the only prayer they need.  NO NO NO.  People with disabilities have the same needs as everyone else, provision, relationships, and emotional health.  so don’t assume when a disabled people come up for prayer its physical healing they want.  Jesus was showing the man respect, he may have already have known Bartimaeus needed physical healing but he needed to ascertain what he wanted at that particular time.  Jesus asked him in order to demonstrate the principle of not assuming you know what someone needs just because it’s obvious.  Also there is more to a disabled person than their disability and this I’m sure he wanted to demonstrate in his actions to the people around him these points that I’ve written here.

5 He responded to his request

Jesus did heal Bartimaeus.  But I want to point something out that may not be obvious. When did Bartimaeus get healed.  You might think it was when Jesus laid hands on him.  I believe it was far sooner than that.  I believe it started at the point where Jesus commanded those around him to bring him to him.  Once those people around Bartiemaeus responded to his command and  brought him to Jesus that’s the point where I believe healing began, because it was a demonstration of love, which I believe is a prerequisite for healing or at least the start.  As soon as Bartimaeus saw Jesus loving response and the immediate kindness from those around him he was able to throw away his identity as a disabled person and become someone with a disability.  Once he reached Jesus then Jesus did the rest.  Bartimaeus became a man who was blind but now could see.

So what does this passage teach us about disability and those of us who are Christians?

1 Listen to people with disabilities  when they cry out for help.

2 Don’t rebuke a disabled person asking for help.

3 Seek to understand what they want and not dismiss their issues and concerns as mere complaining.

4 Ask others to come and assist that individual but be willing to be the one to ultimately help that person if necessary.  Much of the time a disabled person just needs to be heard and understood and ultimately loved the same way as any able bodied person would.

5 Pray for them but ask what they want prayer for.

I may write more on this issue, because I know there are issues that have not yet been addressed. So don’t be surprised if I do another part to this in the future.  Please feel free to ask questions or comment. Thanks 🙂