The sight of stars…

2018 has been a year of creative stretch for this particular fool. I’ve found myself increasingly invited to write and perform pieces of spoken word and poetry and, for someone who has never quite understood the realms of the poetic, it has been a good discipline to develop. In 2019 I think I’d like to explore the rules of poetry more, so look out for a collection of sonnets by the end of the year! In the meantime, here’s something I wrote for a few Christmas events this week.

Vincent Van Gogh said, “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” We live in volatile, uncertain times, but there is mystery deeper than the certainties we cling to. Angels, prophecies, dreams, stars all speak of truth that is complex. As ever, if you’d like to use it publicly, I’m happy for you to do so in its entirety and with credit to me as the writer, Fiona Stewart (the Creative Fool). Wishing you all a very peaceful, joyful, love-filled Christmas.

The Sight of The Stars Always Makes Me Dream

Stables and sheep are easy to grasp

Tangible

Solid

Objects held fast by gravity strong

And history told

Of that place far away,

That story of old.

 

Like donkeys and inns with straw-covered mangers

where babies are laid in the presence of strangers

There’s a sense of the right

A shout of the known

The coming of light in this hay-lined throne.

It all makes sense

And so we embrace

This space

This moment when

rhythm and rhyme

Break step

And eternity slides into time.

 

But

Of angels and starlight

Prophecies

Dreams

We fear to rush in

Lest we travel beyond where everything seems

Logical

Sensible

Explicable

Right

 

Yet

 

In a moment apart

Gazing up

Heart undistracted

Away from the clamour and unending noise

Comes mysterious whisper to feel and rejoice

For the sight of the stars always makes me dream

Dream of further and deeper

Of something beyond

Of wise men and prophets

In star-gazing bond

Of hope that won’t stop at what’s known.

 

For knowledge transcendent

Is deeper than doubt

And hope that goes further

Demands that we shout

He is here

He has come.

 

The sight of the stars always makes me dream

Of something beyond

Of his presence unseen

Where logic and certainty

Both find their place

within the Eternal

Full of truth, full of grace.

 

And the sight of the stars is a glimpse of the more

A tear in the canopy, half-opened door

A beacon of hope in the darkness around

A whisper so tender that a way can be found.

 

And stables, and shepherds

Donkeys and inns

Have their place in this story of God breaking in

To the dirt, to the desperate, sad and the bleak

And the lost and the troubled, the humble and meek

But the sight of the stars

And the prophecies spoken

The stories of angels

Are mysterious tokens

Of promise and hope and a Saviour alive.

 

And the sight of the stars is a glimpse of the more

A tear in the canopy, half-opened door

A beacon of hope in the darkness around

A whisper so tender that a way can be found

 

And

 

In a moment apart

Gazing up

Heart undistracted

Away from the clamour and unending noise

Comes mysterious whisper to feel and rejoice.

 

© Foolproof Creative Arts 2018

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Single-minded: A letter to the church

My friend Hannah Montgomery invited me to write something for her blog back in 2017. I’ve had a few requests from people who wanted to re-read it or share it with others, so I’m reposting it here. So, it’s not new, but it’s also still worth a read I think! I’ve had thoughts about writing a follow-up post in response to some comments and having had further thoughts, so keep your eyes peeled for that in the next few weeks!

Life Goals: Single-minded

Dear church family

First of all, I want to thank you for asking me to write to you about this issue. 

It’s funny, isn’t it, how we refer to the “issue” of singleness? We don’t talk about the “issue” of marriage. I suppose, without really meaning to, we file singleness under one of those topics that we find a bit troubling, and are all quite glad we don’t have to deal with in our own lives. 

Unless we do have to deal with it in our own lives.

In any case, I’d like ask the question with a different meaning. “What is the issue of singleness?” What does this state of being in which all of us will find ourselves at some point in our lives, offer to the body of Christ? What is its fruit? And how can those of us who are not currently single behave towards those of us who are in ways that are helpful and inclusive rather than damaging and exclusive?

Let me give you a bit of background to my situation so that you can weigh my words carefully against scripture and ignore what is unhelpfully written out of my own experience. I am in my 40s. I am heterosexual. I am female. I have never been married or been in a serious long-term relationship, although I have had my heart broken a number of times when relationships have not gone the distance. I have never experienced any sense that not being in a relationship is somehow a gift given to me by God. I guess I just haven’t met the right guy. 

If there is a right guy. There’s a topic for another discussion.

So, having no sense that my single status is something God has specifically chosen for me, I have an interesting relationship with its reality. At times I have felt lonely, bitter, hurt, frustrated, left out, self-doubting, insecure, unloved. At other times I have been glad of my freedom, my independence and my capacity to empathise with those who are single, gay, bisexual, divorced, widowed etc. I have amazing relationships with friends and my family, and my relationship with Jesus, on my best days, is unconditional and unclouded by divided loyalties. 

In any circumstance, we have a choice about how to respond. And I have found that when I choose thankfulness, contentment and joy, often they make their way from the outside in, and become my experience rather than just my posture. And when I choose to focus on Jesus rather than my circumstances, life is much better. But it’s a choice I make every day. 

So, I thought I’d make some lists…hope they help you, they’ve helped me already. Some of them are for the single people, and some of them for the non-single, but all of them might help all of us.

Here are some myths we need to stop telling ourselves:

Life will start properly when you meet the right man/woman. That’s nonsense, but it’s amazing how easily we buy into that lie. I let it hinder me for a number of years before I realised that I had to seek God for the here and now, and trust him for tomorrow. It freed me to pursue God wholeheartedly and take some risks for Him. 

Singleness is second best – something has gone wrong in the cosmos for me to be on my own. Maybe it has, but my life is not God’s second best life for me. I’m not living Plan B.

Nuclear family is God’s norm and you can only be truly fulfilled when you’re married with children (er…so, was Jesus normal? He was the most normal a human being can be!). We know that, but we often subtly reinforce in our church structures – all age services where the emphasis is really on the families, the metaphor of oikos being lazily applied to one or two nuclear families etc.

Sex is essential to a fulfilled life – that’s a message that absorb from our culture where sex is everywhere and sexual satisfaction is the ultimate goal (it’s not, but it does sell a lot of stuff to lonely people). And I’m sure it’s great – it’s a gift from God after all, so it would be good. 

I can’t talk about this stuff because I’ll sound needy or vulnerable. We’re all needy and vulnerable – let’s help each other (see below re culture of grace and trust).

It gets easier as you get older. It really doesn’t! If anything, unless you watch out, you start feeling more out of kilter with your peer group. We need to find ways to honour and include older single people (and the separated, the divorced, the bereaved).

Here’s a list of the top dangers I need to notice and avoid:

Envy

It’s always easy to look at how life is for other people and assume that their lawn is much greener. For me, this can be about having a very romantic notion of how fantastic married life is, or about very basic things like the fact that a two-income household costs about the same but has double the income that mine does. I’m not saying that these generalisations are true, I’m saying that they are the assumptions of an envious heart. 

Loneliness 

I actually like living alone. I am very extrovert, but I like that I can choose to close the door and have time on my own to recharge. But, I don’t like the fact that there’s not one person that I am every truly ‘at home’ with. And I harbour a deep-seated longing to be the treasured other in someone else’s life. Loneliness is different from aloneness, and its positive side is that it pushes you towards God. Its negative side is that it pushes you towards…

Self-pity

If I’ve had a bad day, or I’m feeling as though the world doesn’t understand me, my default response is towards self-pity and blame of others. And when I feel a bit sorry for myself, there’s noone to call me out or to agree that I’m right to feel aggrieved. So, like anyone caught in that circle of self-pity and bitterness, it’s easy to find comfort in unhelpful places, usually in unhealthy patterns of eating, drinking and watching, and those things always lead me to a place of bitterness and regret.

Self-reliance

A number of times in my life people have told me how much they admire my independent spirit or my practicality. I don’t really want to be remembered as the woman who was so fiercely independent that she let her heart become untrusting and brittle, nor do I want people to thing the fact that I can change a tyre or a lightbulb without batting an eyelash is a personal life goal…Sometimes you’ve just got to get on with life, otherwise you’d be sitting in the dark or in a car that won’t go anywhere. I love that my life has enabled me to travel and study and move for work, but I suppose it’s important to remember that the grass isn’t always as green as it looks over on the independent side of the fence either. I can choose to rely on others, but sometimes that’s hard. 

Lack of accountability 

Footloose and fancy-free. It’s not always a good state of being, and in our highly individualised culture, the church can offer a community that is full of grace but also challenge, and that is a good thing for those of us who could easily be drawn towards selfish habits and uncommitted relationships. But accountability works both ways, and it only works in a culture of trust and grace. 

Here’s a list of things that really help me as a single person within the church:

Invite me over with people of my own age. Often I have found that I’ve been invited to events with other single people, many of them students or people in their 20s. I love mixing with people of all ages (that’s one of the things that makes church so counter-cultural and magnificent) but sometimes it’s nice to hang out with people who get your cultural references and understand your pressures. And the students would probably prefer not to have that slightly weird middle-aged person getting down with the kidz.  It’s hard work for everyone.

Think about inviting me along with you to events we’re all going to. One of the times I find singleness hardest is when I have to turn up at a church or social event on my own (and the Plus One isn’t the answer!) There is a couple in Central who once told me that if we ever all going to something I should always feel able to call up and arrange for us to go together. It’s not a big thing – it’s a huge thing –  and I love that we had that conversation. It’s as simple as keeping an eye out for anyone who is one their own and making them feel welcome in our friendship groups. Come to think of it, that’s not about singleness, it’s about being Christ-like.

Affirm me when I want to take some time off or tell you I’m not available. Often it’s tempting to assume that single people have more time on their hands. Sometimes that’s true, and I stand in awe of my married friends who juggle work, family and church responsibilities, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes that’s my fault for filling my life with activity in order to alleviate my loneliness, but sometimes it’s because I give into the demands of other people and there’s nobody there to help me guard my yes with a thousand nos. Encourage me to rest well.

Remember I’m just a girl the same as any other.  We’ve got a funny attitude to sexuality within the church. We feel uncomfortable about it and disguise our discomfort under a veil of pseudo-holiness. Single people are sexual beings too. I’m not going to get into a big thing about gender and sex here, but suffice to say that, in my humble opinion, femininity and  masculinity are not just about attracting a mate. So I don’t mind it when people tell me I’m looking good, and I’d rather not just give up, let the hairs grow on my chin and start wearing polo shirts (not that there’s anything wrong with polo shirts – that’s a choice). If I’m wearing lipstick it’s probably not because I’m looking for a boyfriend, I just like wearing lipstick. Treat me like an adult with dignity. 

Hold me accountable. Ask me about my prayer life, my physical life, my emotional life – we are whole beings, and one thing affects the other. When my relationships are healthy, I’m exercising, eating and resting well and I’m feeling my brain with good things that’s generally a sign that I’m doing OK. If I’m not, it would be good to ask me how I’m doing. I’ll ask you too, if you like. 

Here are a few questions for those of us who are single to ponder:

Is this what God wants for me? Should I stop looking around for a partner? Should I be more intentional about looking for a partner? 

Do I have to make a choice between following after God whole-heartedly and having a relationship?

What do I do about my human need to find intimacy? Physical? Emotional? Spiritual? Sexual?  How do I stay open to intimacy with God and others when I don’t have it with that one other person?

Where are the companions I’m walking alongside? What might God have for me to do that I  couldn’t do if I was married?

What safeguards am I prepared to put in place to stop me growing a shell of self-reliance and competency around my life? Do I need to repent of some of this? Do I need to get some prayer ministry? 

Who can I call when I lock myself out? That’s a real question. Am I prepared to trust someone else with my house keys? And who has offered to take them?

And finally

Well, that was all a bit of a rant, wasn’t it? But you did ask…and people often don’t. Thanks for that.

A Fellow Human Being (who happens to be single) x

Deal or no deal, accept or reject

With the country waiting to see what would emerge from the Brexit talks, everyone is hoping that good decisions will be made in the next few hours. That made me start wondering about how we make the right choice when crunch time comes. Here’s the resulting thought. Listen again on BBC Sounds at around 7.20am or read the transcript below:

Good morning. 

Tea or coffee? Take the bus or take the car? Deal or no deal? Accept or reject? 

According to a cursory search of the internet, human beings make around 35 000 decisions every day. Obviously, not all choices carry the weight of those being discussed by parliamentarians at present, but there’s an argument that small decisions shape who we become, and equip us for the really big moments.   

‘Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you,’ wrote leadership guru John C Maxwell, and, while the likes of Barack Obama and Bill Gates opt to eliminate ‘decision fatigue’, by only ever wearing the same outfit, our character is formed in the everyday choices that we make and the manner in which we make them.

There’s a verse from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah that talks about the importance of strengthening ourselves for when hard decisions have to be made. 

If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?

If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?     

We all know the importance of diet and training in building physical strength, but I wonder how much thought we give to building our emotional resilience and spiritual wisdom as we make our 35 000 daily decisions.

Qualities like perseverance, patience and an ability to negotiate well with those who hold an opposing view don’t magically appear when we’re faced with life altering circumstances. Rather, they are grown over time, the fruit of choosing to live selflessly. The theologian Eugene Peterson who died recently, quotes the verse from Jeremiah when talking about the long walk of obedience as a follower of Christ. If we want to live bold, decisive lives, says Peterson, we need to cultivate habits of wisdom and reflection. There’s merit in preparing ourselves in our daily choices, so when the moment comes wisdom and reflection will guide our big decisions.

Whales, penguins and diving deep

There’s an irony about the fact that on the day I talked about depth and moments of stillness, I was too busy to post a link to my Thought for the Day. So busy, in fact, that the Thought has now disappeared into the depths of the radio ocean, never to be heard again. However, if you’d like to take a moment read about whales and penguins, and reflect on the need for depth, the text is below:

Good morning.

Like many of us, I’ve been fascinated and concerned by the progress of the beluga whale spotted this week in the River Thames. There is something deeply unsettling about watching this enormous white mammal surfacing and diving into the choppy estuary waters. It’s incongruous. It doesn’t belong there. 

A few years ago, while at drama school, I spent more hours than I care to remember at Edinburgh Zoo watching the penguins in order to replicate their movement and sounds as part of a movement class. Like the beluga whale, penguins are fascinating to observe. Ungainly, clumsy and with no sense of personal space they lumber around on the ground until the moment when they dive elegantly into the water. There they swim speedily and efficiently, before popping onto dry land in a vertical movement. Clumsy and out of place on the surface, but elegant and transcendent when in their natural habitat, and allowed to do what they were designed to do. 

Taking a moment to observe a whale out of place or penguin skidding around a rock can perhaps bring a moment of clarity for human beings in the middle of life’s busyness. Each of us is uniquely made, with personality, ability and purpose, but so many of us spend our time and energy on activity that is not purposeful. 

Watching the beluga in the Thames reminded me of a children’s poem about whales  that I love by broadcaster, Stewart Henderson. It describes the surface of the water as being full of oil slicks and ships, and goes on to say:

We don’t tarry long there, we breach then we dive
deep to the depths, where our souls are alive

It’s a poem about whales, but that’s just on a surface reading. We all need to find depth in our life, moments to dive down into stillness, away from the clutter. Whether that moment comes from observing a moment in nature, listening to piece of music or reading a psalm or even a poem about a whale, it’s worth plumbing the depths every now and again lest we end up out of place, splashing around in the busyness, stress and noise.

If you’d like to read the whole of Stewart Henderson’s lovely poem When You’re A Whale from his book, Who Left Grandad at the Chip Shop? you can buy it here:

The teenagers we deserve

When I arrived at the BBC this morning there were other, much cooler, vehicles parked outside. Once I’d negotiated the flightpath to the building, I was talking about teenagers, self-harm and confidence. You can listen again here at 1:22:10 or read the Thought below (and you can go and look at the Spitfires and Harriers at Pacific Quay until 2 September).

J.B.Priestley once said that ‘Like its politicians and its war, society has the teenagers it deserves.’ As someone who works with dramatic teenagers, this seems a rather dismissive comment. Not all teenagers are the same, and not all teenagers are a nuisance. Many are creative, caring and concerned about the environment, politics and injustice. Many of the teenagers I know hold beliefs that challenge my cynical middle-age opinions.

But, as is frequently revealed in surveys, lots of young people also struggle with emotional pain and mental illness. A report issued yesterday revealed that of 11000 children surveyed in the UK, 22% of girls and 9% of boys admit to self-harming. If Priestley is right, then what does this tell us about our society? How did we arrive at the place where, for a large number of young people, the only outlet for emotional pain is to inflict physical harm on their own bodies? And what do we need to change about society as proof that these are not acceptable statistics?

From an early age children are encouraged to be whoever they want to be. At the same time we criticise their risk-taking behaviour, we allow them wander alone into an online world of comparison, and we let them down by failing to provide the stability they crave. Teenagers aren’t actually any different from the rest of us. They need community, purpose and encouragement. They need to know that they are loved. 

Psalm 139 reminds us that God takes a high view of humanity. The writer states:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

How many of us, old or young, would be prepared to say confidently that we are fearfully and wonderfully made? I’m not naive enough to think that self-harm will be eradicated by hugging a hoodie, but I’m sure that instilling confidence and a sense of being valued in the next generation is an important part of giving them the best possible chance of proving that they are fearful and wonderful beings. 

Back to School

I was in Lockerbie Academy today leading some training in communication with their staff team. Alongside the serious work of thinking about our content, framing and delivery,  we also laughed a lot,  and I had the opportunity to encourage them that the work they are engaged in has lasting significance and value in the lives of the young people they encounter.

It’s in the same spirit that I wrote and performed a short poem/prayer at church yesterday. At this time of year, as we launch into a new season of school, work and routine tasks, it can be tempting to forget the purpose behind it all. God is building a kingdom or hope, and all of us get to play air part in that. Perhaps this poem will help and encourage you as the summer ends.

It’s back to school
And back to work
Pick up the everyday routine
Of new shoes and old paths
Schoolbags and packed lunches, laptops and half-forgotten logins
Early morning rush
And creeping evening darkness

No more the lazy days of choosing what to do
Of sunny faces, ice cream
And long summer sunsets
And time to be, just be
Autumn looms and life charges in
With drizzle and darkness, central heating and soup
The creep of winter and fear of what lies ahead
The resumption of responsibility
Pulled from the longing to linger

It’s back to school
And time to learn anew
The value of fresh encounter with you
Of knowing you in the minute by minute
Of enjoying your pleasure in the everyday
Of knowing our purpose and your presence
With us, in the dishes, and the pencil case and the early morning run

It’s time to sigh with thankfulness for summer well spent
To apply ourselves again to what you ask
To commit in the routine to know your
‘well done’ whispered over us
To know your
‘I am with you’
In the hard times and the joy
To dwell in your peace
In the darkness and the unknown

It’s back to school
It’s back to you
It’s kingdom come
And serving you wherever you may lead us next
And may your kingdom come in our hearts
In our homes
In our studies
In our work
In our families
In our calling
May your kingdom come and may your will be done
In us
In the everyday
Today and everyday

Twice blessed

Breezy reflections on Thought for the Day this morning on a gun amnesty, the quality of mercy and God’s choice to forget our transgressions.

As ever, you can listen again here at 01:23:09, or read the text below.

If you’ve got an old gun kicking about, then now is the time to do something about it. Police Scotland’s two week amnesty means that any unlicensed firearms and ammunition can be surrendered without prosecution. Although firearms offences are at a low level, the aim of the exercise is to remove the potential for guns to fall into the hands of those who might use them in the pursuit of criminal activity.  

The word ‘amnesty’ is an interesting one. Many of think about the work of Amnesty International, an organisation that has campaigned for justice for individuals for almost 60 years, but the root of the word has more to do with mercy and pardon than justice. An amnesty is an intentional choice to forget, a decision to release another from an obligation in order to win peace. It takes courage and a willingness to lay aside our desire for victory but, as Shakespeare wrote, mercy bestows blessing on those who receive it and those who give it. 

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
(The Merchant of Venice IV, 1)

The act of forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian message, and in the psalms we find verses that describe the mercy of God in his amnesty towards human selfishness. 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103:12)

Acts of amnesty, or mercy, bring freedom and fresh beginnings for nations and individuals. Scotland has a low gun crime rate at present, and bold initiatives such as the Violence Reduction Unit have seen a decrease in knife crime over the past decade, but we all carry anger and grudges in our hearts. Perhaps an amnesty on words, rivalry and hatred would also set us free and bring some peace to our lives.

Something that will convince the world

Today’s thought for the day centred around the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and encouraged us to think beyond the here and now. As ever, you can listen again here at 01:22:58 or read the script below. On a side note it was also good to meet Dr Deborah McNeill from the Glasgow Science Festival who was enthusiastic about all the events happening across the city in the next fortnight. You can check out these events by clicking the link above.

Good morning.

The artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born 150 years ago today. There are numerous opportunities to rediscover his work in Glasgow over the summer, and the new V & A museum in Dundee will include a full restoration of his Oak Room tearoom when it opens later this year. Even if you have never visited one of Mackintosh’s buildings, you will undoubtedly be familiar with his designs from a tea-towel, mug or coaster.

Like many visionary artists, Mackintosh was not always acclaimed in his lifetime, and his work did not receive the same degree of interest at home as it did in Europe. Now, however, he is regarded as one of Scotland’s greatest creative influences. What he would make of the tea-towels is debatable.

In a lecture given in 1902, Mackintosh stated:

Art is the Flower. Life is the Green Leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing, something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious, more beautiful – more lasting than life itself.

Legacy is something we recognise in hindsight. The green leaf of life is often misunderstood until the flower blossoms much later, and the task of the artist in convincing the world of what could be, can feel fruitless during his or her lifetime. 

Whether or not we are artistic, the idea of striving to leave something beautiful behind is an appealing one, but in the day to day reality of existence, we seldom live with such high-minded purpose. 

The apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in Philippi to choose not to grumble or argue, but to shine like stars in the sky. Whatever job we do, whatever struggles we face, however dark the world appears today, perhaps we need to encourage one another to keep going, shining like stars and convincing the world that there are things more precious, more beautiful and more lasting than life itself.

Who Am I/TransFormed

I was invited to contribute a spoken word piece at the Catalyst conference at Newton Mearns Baptist Church today.  We were discussing the theology of and pastoral response to issues of gender. As I drove to the conference, a heated discussion was taking place on the Today programme, and I was struck by how quickly our views on this issue become polarised. Binary, if you will. Surely it’s more interesting to turn the question around and answer it a different way…

Here’s the piece I wrote. It draws on Romans 12 and asks the question, Who Am I? I’m happy for it to be used or quoted, so long as it’s used as written, or that chunks are used in their entirety. As ever, all views are my own, and questions are provoked rather than answers given.

Who am I?

One or

Other

Loved or

Lover

Male or

Female 

Gay or

Straight

He or

She

Transitioning

Positioning myself against the crowd

To whisper aloud, ‘Who am I?’

Bi 

Binary

Non-binary

Trans 

Formed

Transformed

…wait

Who am I?

Loved or lover

Good or bad

Designed, refined, broken, mended

Knit together, formed, intended for…what?

To live forgiven 

Driven 

To seek and save

as you have done

A living sacrifice

Wriggling, refusing, stubborn, confusing

Sacrifice of a life laid down

To say that you alone are holy 

but I am wholly yours 

Offered to you in worship

To do as you would please

Conformed not to this world and all its talk of ‘me’s’

For who I am

in you, I AM, is 

An offering

Holy and pleasing to you

Transformed 

Made new

In mind and heart and soul and body

Bound to you

And to your will – good, pleasing and perfect will 

Tested and approved

Heart aligned and spirit moved

To seek and save the lost.

So, who am I

To scorn and hate

To miss the point

Fall out of joint

Through lack of love

And sense of place,

To win the race

But miss the face

Of God that weeps and keeps and waits?

Who am I but yours alone

And so I fall before that throne

And say I offer who I am 

To be transformed

Reformed

Re-assigned

Aligned with your purpose.

For who I am is found in you.

And one or

Other

Loved or

Lover

Male or

Female 

Gay or

Straight

He or

She

Transitioning

Positioning themselves against the crowd

To whisper aloud, ‘Who am I?’

Can be transformed within the One Who Is.

(c) Fiona Stewart/Foolproof Creative Arts 2018

On taxes, nose hair and love

Intergenerational strife is not new, and while social policy change is important, Jesus models a different way of being. Life as a follower of the One who is described as the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end, is radically counter-cultural, as illustrated in John 13. Thought for the Day this morning followed the release of the New Generational Contract proposed this week by The Resolution Society.  As ever, you can listen again here by scrolling forward to 01:23:00 or simply read it below. Thanks are due to my good friend, Ali Laing, whose quote is used (and exaggerated somewhat!):

Good morning.

I was in a meeting yesterday with a friend who has just had a significant birthday.  “I’ve never been more interested about my hair cuts than I am now I’ve turned 40,” was his main complaint, “And don’t get me started on my nose hair.”

Each generation has its own troubles.

A report released this week by the Resolution Society proposes reforms to help young adults facing stagnant wage levels and the housing crisis. Meanwhile, older people in our society are dealing with care bills, NHS waiting lists and social isolation and the Gen X’ers in the middle are time-poor and emotionally and financially stretched by their responsibilities.

Each generation has its own troubles

Proposals for the ‘New Generational Contract’ include giving a one-off payment to help get under-25s on the housing ladder, introducing a new property tax to target more affluent homeowners and taxing earnings for those over state pension age. Of course, social policy should always be open to review, but there’s perhaps a deeper issue at work here.

Human beings exist as part of families and communities. And families and communities help one another out. Tax and tax reform is part of how society makes decisions, but there is also a deep societal need to reconnect old and young, to create community where there is none, to share our resources and learn to love our neighbour a bit better. Across the generations we need to work together.

During the meal known as The Last Supper Jesus reminded his disciples that following him meant living radically:

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

Tax breaks are practical to redress any economic imbalance, but practical love for other people will also bring radical change to a world that can be a lonely and anxious place for people of any age.