Commons furore continues

I have some sympathy for the MP's at the centre of the current row over their expenses. Many of us have joined a new organisation and received induction training about the process for reclaiming expenses. I wonder how many of us have chosen not to claim all that we were allowed to?

On the other hand, I find it incredible that expenses payments have been made to MP's for interest costs of housing loans (mortgages) that do not exist. I assume that these amounts, thousands of pounds, were reimbursed without sight of any receipts. Would you reimburse expenses in that way? So I wonder whether the system is more at fault than the individuals, and believe that it is right for the Speaker of the House of Commons to resign as he is accountable for this. Some of the claims appear to me to be theft, so shouldn't the police be taking a look at those?

There is clamour for an independent body to be responsible for reimbursing MP's expenses in the future. Yet how is it possible to set up an independent body that is not accountable to Parliament? Maybe Her Majesty should be getting more involved!

I note that leaders of the political parties want to oust those who have “broken the rules,” yet the rules themselves are unsound, and the MP's collectively are responsible for those rules. In this there are levels of penitence. As a start we have MP's who (in effect) apologise because they have been caught, then there are those who recognise that they should not break rules, but what about bigger moral concepts that people have betrayed trust, been dishonest, and that right and wrong are not all about obeying rules?

As founder of much of the culture that supposedly underpins our democracy, surely Jesus would turn in his grave (if he were still there), but at least as a society we do care when such abuses are brought into the light.

Finished Jamison CD’s

I've finished listening to the Finding Happiness CD set, and my previous summary seems to hold good. The end point is that seeking happiness by clinging to one of the Eight Deadly Thoughts is an unhealthy route, and we need to let go of them, or shed them. This resonates with my view that living life to the full is about getting rid of the things (such as sins and unhealed wounds) that get in the way of us being ourselves. One may imagine that this is a route to selfishness, but the true self we discover is one that is able to heed the needs of others because we no longer feel a need to be self-protective.

On the way Christopher seems to have a bit of a rant, even if it is a wise rant, about the way in which youth culture in western society behaves as if all that anyone needs is to have friends, and that if everyone has a good close friendship group then it does not matter what is happening in the world because everyone is OK. He says that this is insufficient, and that people need to relate to wider community, and wider values, such as the church.

He also observes, more obviously, that in today's society we seem to keen to be busy, and to see such busy-ness as a good thing. This is shown by the approval given to the reply “keeping busy” when someone asks how one is. Activity is not necessarily a good thing, and – to use Stephen Covey's analogy that I like – the activity of climbing a ladder has little value if the ladder is up against the wrong wall. This links back to Christopher's main theme: if we are seeking to find happiness it's no good just being busy, or chasing after today's idols, we need to choose a route that will take us to the goal we seek.

C3 Church

Last night was interesting, as it turned out to be my first experience of the fast-growing city churches founded by Australian Phil Pringle.

I attended an event in Bath that a friend and colleague had invited me to. It was a rare opportunity to listen to founder pastor Phil, and people had gathered from the UK and Europe and people who felt called to found new churches were commissioned during the worship.

I was impressed that the style of the service worked in attracting young people, and that Phil had a real vision for reaching Europe with the gospel in a way that works for the changing balance of people groups in the continent.

More info here

The economy is fine!

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said yesterday that the economy would take time to heal.

Surely, as a system, the economy is fine. It is reacting sensibly to some people who have done some unwise things. So the economy does not need healing, but some people may need healing, including those who have been victims of the greed of others.

Be audacious to beat the recession!

I’ve been impressed by a recent article in the magazine Engineering & Technology (5th May). It’s an extract by Steve Carter from his book “Road to Audacity.” He is a psychologist, fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, and makes three fascinating points about handling change, which seem to me to be a good framework and to apply more widely than just the present recession. Here’s my summary paraphrase.

Things never stay as they are, so we need to be as attached to the present as we would want to be to a building that is on fire! Leaders must not offer false comfort, but be honest about what is happening now. We need to be in fully in touch with reality, and this includes listening to our staff.

So where to jump to? We can’t stay where we are; motivating people to avoid something does not work; and anyway if we avoid reality things may get worse not get better! We need to have prominently in front of us in our mind that which we are seeking to build. Know what you want to become, and be passionate about it.

If the vision, the desired change, seems to be too distant, people feel not motivated but powerless. Therefore there needs to be a focus on small steps, that is realistic goals in areas that people can make an impact (compare Stephen Covey's “Circle of Influence”). People need to be clear about how they can contribute. So the leader’s task is to present the reality, the vision, and also the plan for this leg of the journey.

Text of article here

Steve's profile at Apter International here