Showing posts with label child. Show all posts
Showing posts with label child. Show all posts

29 April 2013

Men, women and children

Prompted as I wrote a reply to a blog post, I felt I needed to write at greater length on some principles of leading and following. Men, women and children all have a place in leading us in following Jesus. But is it men, women or children who do the best job of leading?

The simplicity of a young child
Felicity Dale, writing recently about women as leaders, asks, 'What is God about to do?' (It takes both men and women, Simply Church).

As I began to write a reply to her post, I felt the Holy Spirit leading me along a track I'd not considered before.

I'd had hints of this from time to time over the years but I hadn't put it all together in my mind.

Here's my response to Felicity's post.

If we define kingdom as the realm in which the King is obeyed, then wherever men, women and children are following Jesus - that is the kingdom.

But let's remember the children in all this. Believing children have some wonderful advantages over us adult believers. Everybody agrees that men can lead, a growing number agree that women can lead too, but who has considered that children can lead? Sometimes they do so in the most natural and unselfconscious way. And sometimes, as men and women, we just need to swallow our pride and follow them!

What is Father about to do?

I have a strong hunch that he is beginning to show us that all should lead and all should follow. What I mean by that is that we don't need to recognise particular people as leaders and others as followers. Instead we will be recognising leaders in the moment. Who is leading right now? Who is leading by their words, by their actions, by their love, by their compassion, by their joy, by their wisdom, by their humility? If Christ is revealing himself through a particular person right now, follow that person!

I'd like to develop this a little more.

Leaders - What do we mean when we think of leaders and leadership? A leader is clearly a person who leads, someone who goes in front. Leadership extends the idea to suggest someone whose role is to lead, someone who is skilled at leading and is expected to lead often, even always.

But I'd like to ask the question, 'Which way is a person facing when they lead?' There are three possibilities.

Looking forwards - Someone who is looking forwards is looking away from the people who are following. Such a person is looking at Jesus and following him. If I follow such a person I will also be following Jesus. Jesus goes where he chooses to go, the person who is looking towards him follows where he goes. I follow the follower so I go where the follower goes - so I go where Jesus goes. This is good, this is safe, this is what someone who leads should always do.

Looking sideways - I think we often do this. Such people are not looking at Jesus but nor are they looking at those who follow them. They're going off at a tangent. Follow them at your peril!

Looking backwards - Is this what we sometimes mean when we talk about leaders and leadership? Is the focus on the listeners and followers, not on Jesus?

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not talking here about someone speaking to a group of people. You can do that with your eyes firmly focussed on the King. I'm talking about someone who is focussed on the listeners and followers, someone who cares more about being followed than about following Jesus.

Another name for people who do this is 'false shepherd' (or 'bad shepherd'). These people want to feed on the sheep rather than lead the sheep to good pasture. Jesus shows us what a good shepherd is like. He is the Good Shepherd. He told Peter, 'Do you love me? Feed my sheep'.

Perhaps most of us, most of the time, look in all three directions. We gaze partly at Jesus, we glance away to the side, and we look to see who's following us.

Men, women and children - Remember, we're talking about believers here. So now ask yourself, can a man play the part of any of these three kinds of human leader? Yes, he can.

Can a woman play any of these parts? Yes, she can.

Can a child play any of these three parts? Well, perhaps. But in my experience believing children tend to look forward towards Jesus. Young children, in particular, tend to be much too naive to look sideways or backwards. So what does that tell you about the right kind of person to follow?

Jesus wasn't kidding when he told us that unless we come like little children we won't even see the kingdom of heaven.

Questions:

  • Do you know people who lead looking forwards, sideways or backwards?
  • Would you trust a child to lead you?
  • Depending on your answer to the previous question, why? or why not?

See also:


09 November 2012

Child support

Our future as a nation depends on the well-being of our children. They will be the leaders, politicians and educators of the next generation. Where children are not getting the support they need it's essential that the government steps in to help.

Roman sculpture of children playingChildren are precious. They are, in a very real sense, our future. How the next generation is supported, educated and encouraged will have more effect on the future of a nation than almost anything else.

Today's children are tomorrow's policy makers, employers and employees, teachers, police etc. They will shape the societies of the next generation.

To a considerable degree, therefore, the future also depends on today's parents and educators. But underlying all of this is the means by which our children's practical needs are met. In an ideal world this would be through the love and care of two parents in a stable and safe home environment with an adequate income. But we don't live in an ideal world.

What happens when marriages break down or a child is born to a single mother? Single fathers are less common, but death of a Mum or marriage breakdown can lead to situations where single dads face the same issues as single mums. One of these issues, perhaps the simplest to fix, is adequate income. It's usually difficult for a single parent to sustain full-time work. When children are small it may be all but impossible, when they are older the situation may ease to merely very difficult.

In this post we're going to focus on the role of the Child Support Agency (CSA) in securing an income where a marriage has failed. Earlier today my wife and I were chatting with a friend who is a single Mum. It turns out that this month there is a difficulty, the father's bank account has failed to fund the monthly payment to the CSA and they, in turn, are unable to pay our friend until the problem is resolved. Meanwhile there are bills to pay, not least for food. (Of course we and/or other friends will help out, but that is not the point.)

This is a very common situation. Sometimes the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months and  the children suffer. It's not the CSA's fault as far as I can see. They are following the rules and guidelines under which they were formed by the British government in 1993.

The way it works is that the CSA acts as a clearing-house or go-between for funds. The CSA will typically rule on the level of monthly funding that is appropriate. They can either take the money direct from a salaried income and pay it to the partner caring for the child, or they can agree to take a monthly payment from a bank account and pay that to the caring partner.

So far, so good. However, when the payment to the CSA fails for any reason, no payment is made to the caring partner and the children suffer.

It seems to me that the rules of operation need to be changed. The CSA should have a legal obligation to provide the agreed level of support to the caring partner (technically, the person/parent with care) and would become responsible for collecting funding from the funding partner (technically, the non-resident parent). In this case the children would be properly supported whether or not the funding partner paid up. In cases of non-payment it would be up to the CSA to pursue recompense, if necessary through the courts.

This would improve security for caring partners and children and make it far harder for individuals to avoid their obligations.

I urge the British government to examine the issue and modify the legislation if necessary. As a nation we cannot afford for any of our children to suffer like this during their formative years. The future of the country will one day be in their hands.

Legislation is no replacement for love and provision by willing parents living in harmony. But where this fails the children deserve much better from us.

Questions:

  • Are you a single parent? If so, do you feel the CSA is doing a good job?
  • If you could change one thing about the CSA, what would it be?
  • If you're a single parent, how important is the support you get from friends and family?
  • Do you know any single parents? What informal opportunities have you found to support them?

See also:

24 October 2011

Brampton - A place of safety

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

We were reminded about places of safety. What are they? do I need one? How do I find one? How can I be sure I'll be safe there?

The sun in the sky
Right at the start we had a reminder that 'where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there with them' (Matthew 18:19-20). As I shared those words, Sean was prompted to explain that he'd seen a picture in his mind, two young children were running into the ark.

This in turn prompted me to mention three words that seemed relevant - ark (obviously), but also temple and mountain. If he's in one of those places we need to run there ourselves because he himself is our place of safety.

And if he's with two or three gathered together - that is the right place to be.

I was reminded of an old song -  'The Celebration Song'
In the presence of Your people
I will praise Your name
For alone You are holy
Enthroned in the praises of Israel

Let us celebrate Your goodness
And Your steadfast love
May Your name be exalted
Here on earth and in heaven above
And then I saw small, oval photos of people. They were just head and shoulders portraits but they were from different generations. Some were sepia prints, others were black and white, others were in colour. The whole thing seemed like a genealogy. We didn't understand the meaning.

We thought again about Sean's picture of little children entering the ark and remembered that Yahshua said. 'Let the little children come to me' (Matthew 19:13-15), and also, 'Unless you come like a little child you won't even see the Kingdom of Heaven' (Luke 18:17). We prayed that Father would make us as straightforward as little children.

By searching a little we found that the Mishnah says, of the cities of refuge, that if the High Priest dies the refugees would not be punished for their crimes and would be free to leave. This seems especially significant in the light of Christ's death.

Sean remembered how Jesus also said, 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more will your Father give to you the Holy Spirit? (Luke 11:9-13)' Sean saw himself as very small in the King's city. And Father said, 'Even your small is much too big'. We are so small and he is so big and powerful; this helps our faith as even our largest problems are small and easy for him. His desire is the very best for us and he encourages us to believe.

I saw a picture of a man struggling to pull a very heavy handcart up a steep hill. He was out of breath, sweating heavily, and working extremely hard for very little progress. But Father just reached in and turned the horizon slightly so that it became a gently downhill slope. Now the man only needed to guide and control the cart, not provide the power to move it. What had seemed almost impossibly hard now seemed effortless.

Sean said that we need to see things with Father's perspective, not our own. We need to believe that he wants good for us and not harm.

And finally he told us, 'If you look down you will just see the dust. But if you look up you'll see my sun in the sky and feel the warmth on your face.

< 10th October 2011 | Index | 29th October 2011 >

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