Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Reflection on Feeding the Five Thousand (Mark 6.30-46)

We were exploring this passage during a recent quiet day and I just want to blog about some of the ideas and thoughts that came up.
We were asked to bring something that represents a part of the passage that spoke to us, I wasn't the only person to bring a cuddly sheep. Jesus has compassion on the people because they are like sheep without a shepherd. How many people in modern life are like sheep without a shepherd, searching for the right way, bombarded by messages on all sides claiming to have the right way to perfection and success if you only follow this diet, use this miracle product or follow these seven simple steps to perfect life, which you can only find out if you pay lots of money! There is a darker side to, young people being seduced by radicalists into thinking that only their way of death and destruction is the right way.
Jesus had compassion on the people because they were without a shepherd, as Christians we are called to be compassionate shepherds to the people we meet along the way, to try and show them that there is a different and better path to follow.
The disciples ask Jesus to send the people away, but Jesus tells the disciples to sort the problem out. The disciples response is that they can't, they don't have the material resources to buy food for all these people. The disciples are in a sense looking outward, they see the solution to their problem, money and food, being something they have to get from elsewhere. Jesus tells them to look at what they have, he then uses what they have to bring about the solution. How often do we look for solutions externally, if only I had this skill or those materials, then I could sort out this problem. If we dig deep into our selves we may find that we have strength and skills that we didn't realise.
These events in Mark's gospel take place shortly after Jesus and the disciples have learnt of the beheading of John the Baptist. They are grief stricken, exhausted, at the end of their tether and still more is being demanded of them. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the disciples were arguing and snapping at each other and then Jesus has put another seemingly impossible demand on them. How often in life do we feel as if we are reaching breaking point, more demands being put on us at work, coming home to the demands of family needs, wanting to spend time with friends but feeling like we don't have the energy, but then ending up in a catch 22 by feeling guilty when we say no to something. At the end of the reading Jesus finally succeeds in what he wanted to do at the start, getting away to a quiet place on his own. We all need to recognise that we are human, not superhuman, we can not always do everything, be the perfect person and solve everyone else's problems.
We put pressure on ourselves to be the perfect person portrayed by media that we think we should be. Sometimes, we need to stop, pause and realise that the only person we need to be is the one God wants us to be, the authentically real me, which may well be messy, not perfect and not able to solve all the worlds problems.

from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Budget: Good or Bad?

So, today we had the first budget of the new government, having seen lots of dire predictions as to what the budget would say, I thought I'ed take a look at the main points and see how many I judge bad or good.

Pay and tax:
The surprise annoucement of a raise in the minimum wage to 7.20, next year and to 9.00 over the next five years is good for myself and other low paid workers. The increase in the tax free allowance also means that I will get to keep more of the increase in pay. However, Whilst, it is good for me personnaly, I do have some concerns. I work mainly for the NHS, I suspect there are a lot of NHS staff that will get a pay raise from this. How much of the vert welcome extra money pledged to the NHS will get swallowed up in paying the new pay rates?
A hike in the national minimum wage could also be an issue for small businesses or other organasitions that employ people but don't have a lot of spare cash e.g.museums, churches and charities. The cut in corperation tax might help some businesses, but there may also be price raises of goods and services.

Inheriterance tax is something that I hope won't affect me for a while yet and to be honest I don't think I will be over the limit, so not something I need to worry about. However in general I think the threshold increase is good.

Welfare and Pensions
Child benefit to be limited to the first two children, have mixed views about this. I don't want to see children living in poverty without food to eat etc. At the risk of sounding like an old women I also think that there can be a tendency to feel that children need to be given more things as a right than I had as a child, I suspect that there were times when I was a child when we might be classed as living in poverty. I remember one year getting one present from santa and having chicken for christmas dinner.   At the same time, having children is  a choice. I must admit not being maternally minded, deciding not to have children is an easy choice for me, it won't be for everyone. There is a part of me that feels I shouldn't pay for other peoples lifestyle choice.
Tax credit cuts, my understanding is that these are paid to people in work, so hopefully some of the cut will be made up by the new minimum wage and tax thresehold. It may also mean people can work more. In the past I have worked with collegues who were single parents and I reemember one saying she wanted to work more and set her child a good example but the tax credit system meant that she was better of only working 16 hrs a week. 
I know people on benefits can struggle at the momment, a small rise in benefit would be good. The less nice side of me is muttering that my husband hasn't had a pay rise for several years and the only reason I've had one is due to changing jobs. Glad to see that disability benefits aren't included.
Housing benefit, I don't agree with the cuts to housing benefit for young people. It is not always possinle for people to keep living at home, in thier early twenties people may already have jobs in differen locations, be married and have children of their own. They may also be other reasons such as breakdowns in relationships between parents and children that make living togther impossible. 
The other part of housing benefit  I am in agreement with and have been saying for years that people should not have the right to subsididsed housing for life, regardlesss of changes in circmstances. My husband and I do not qualify for housing bemefit ye someone who is earning more than both of us togther can still get subsidised housing on the basis that they did need it at some point in the past. My only caveat is that I would have liked to see the money raised by it ringfenced for re investement back in social housing.
Those who are disabled but able to work currently get more than the normal job seekers allowance.  The chancellor is cutting this. I would rather have seen a more nuaced approach. Some people with disabilites may well need to spend more money in order to do everyday tasks, some may need very little support. Rather than a blanket cut I would rather see a needs based assesment  with extra funding decided on the needs of the individual.
Finaly, the benefit cap,  in principal this is something I agree with, I am not sure how good a figure £20,000 is, but it is more than a lot of jobs I've seen advertised.

So, overall I think the budget is good for those working and on low and middle incomes. It will hopefully encourage people into work and help people get of benefits and out of poverty. However I am concerned about the effects of some of the benefit cuts, especialy to the under 25's.

from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness