Job Satisfaction

Recent research at Bath University has discovered that vicars, next to medical secretaries, head the list for job satisfaction. Although an Anglican vicar only earns £15,000 per annum (house and car thrown in) they expect nothing more and are content with their lot. The report found that 72% of clergy were “very satisfied” with their work and complained less about long hours than fire officers, prison officers and pharmacists. It went on further to say that the clergy’s level of satisfaction is “abnormally high.”

“For clergy, low material wants and expectations go with the job and entrance into the clergy is conditional upon accepting them.”  Professor Michael Rose, who compiled the report said “clergy may feel morally obliged to understate any material dissatisfaction.”  So, there we have it, a group of men who warm to poverty, positively rejoice at having a low income.

Kept humble by material deprivation has been a concept for generations, it being unthinkable that vicars can have wealth, or a high salary. The thought is that if the money paid is too high then the wrong type of person will be attracted into the ministry. Only the intelligent menial-minded types need apply!

The unspoken fact is that the wife of the local vicar usually has to work, thus doubling their income. It seems that this is an acceptable arrangement, but how much more convenient if the minister could attend to his duty untroubled by the need for his wife to be out at work, thus reducing his effectiveness in visitation and counselling.

When I was the bishop of the Metropolitan Region I discovered ministers with congregations of 40 desperately trying to make ends meet, and having to send their wives out to work, so they could live.   My immediate reaction was – “why not go out to work yourself, Paul was a tent maker?” With only 40 and little demand for visitation or counselling (only about 4 would be absent each week) they could easily take on a job and run the church – after all, it’s only the size of an unusually large house group.

My theory did of course caused ripples and in certain places hostility! I was disturbing the status quo.  But, back to job satisfaction. I still wonder why it is that ministers are so satisfied with their job. They work unreasonable hours – from before sun up to well past sunset, possibly seven days a week.

They are at the beck and call of many people, and have to jump quickly in emergencies – and they come repeatedly.  They scratch to find new food for their sheep weekly, and watch, as they grow fatter and fatter, yet very rarely ever see them wander from the fold to speak to a goat.

I could go on, but I don’t want to raise the ire of my readers, because they may think I’m slinging shot at them, and I’m not, for I’m privileged to be in a church like HICC. Over the years there have been several men (from my denomination) who wanted to become my assistant – they felt they would have GREAT job satisfaction working for and with me.

I must admit I’m content and happy and have great job satisfaction; HICC for all its foibles is a grand place to be. It is of course the call of God, for without that and His anointing no man could either stand the pace or suffer the stress. Constant demands from frail humanity strike at our peace level as we identity with their troubles and pains. Switching off at times is difficult. Some problems are beyond human comprehension and only God can help.

But, with God’s call comes grace more than sufficient for the day, the time or the destiny.  When God appoints he makes provision for the undertaking by becoming the underneath of support. In privation he is our supply, in weakness our strength, in trouble our peace and in our labour the accompanying oxen in the yoke of harmony.

If anyone can say they have job satisfaction they are blest beyond measure, and I think humbly of all those people in dead-end jobs with little or no appeal, and they suffer this daily.  How sad and unrewarding that must be.  They are in a cul-de-sac and cannot move out of it, because of age, little training and or lack of opportunity.  It makes me shout ‘hallelujah’ for His goodness for putting me into the ministry, which must be the most blessed occupation in the universe.

It also makes me strive to make our Sunday services the best they can be, because for many this is the highlight of their week. Why shouldn’t they be lifted beyond the mundane and enjoy something special and thrilling; it will lift the gloom of Monday till Friday. Let’s hit high this morning – for others?

Grossness

“Candy is a term derived from the Arabic qandi, meaning a sugar confection. In the USA it is a general term for sweets of all kinds; in Britain it is used in a more restricted range of meanings, notably to indicate sweetmeats coated or glazed with sugar.”[1]   The peoples of antiquity made sweetmeats of honey before they had sugar. The Chinese, Indians and the people of the Middle East, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used to coat fruits, flowers, seeds and stems of plants to preserve them for use as an ingredient of confectionery, and they are still made in those countries today. Fruit and nuts were often prepared with honey.

Confectionery and preserves featured in the most sumptuous of Athenian banquets, and were an embellishment to Roman feasts at the time of the Satyricon; but it appears that afterwards, due to barbarian innovations, Europe forgot them for a while, except at certain wealthy courts where Eastern products were eaten. However, at the height of The Middle Ages sweetmeats reappeared on the tables of the wealthy. In fact, the confectionery of the time began as a marriage of spices and sugar, and was intended to have a therapeutic, or at least preventative function, to digestive troubles due to the excessive intake of food, which was neither very fresh nor very well balanced. Guests were in the habit of carrying these sweetmeats to their rooms to be taken at night. They were contained in little comfit-boxes or “drageoirs.”

In The Middle Ages physicians learned how to mask the bad taste of their medicines with sweetness, a practice still widespread. Boiled sugar plums were known in seventeenth-century England and soon were to appear in the American colonies where maple-syrup candy was popular in the North and sesame seed confections were just as tempting in the South. In New Amsterdam one could enjoy “marchpane,” or “marzipan,” which is a very old decorative candy made from almonds ground into a sweet paste. While the British called such confections, “sweetmeats,” Americans call them “candy.

A significant moment occurred in 1851 at the Great Exhibition where “French-style” candies with rich cream centres were first displayed; but it was the discovery of milk chocolate in Switzerland in 1875 that made the American candy bar such a phenomenon of the late nineteenth century. Early chocolate was bittersweet chocolate. Milk chocolate was introduced by Henry Nestle, a maker of evaporated milk and Daniel Peter, a chocolate maker. They got together and invented Milk Chocolate; the type most liked by people today.  Candy is today a 23 billion dollar industry in the United States.

A few years ago at the biggest gathering of candy manufacturers in Chicago, they discussed whether dark chocolate and liquorice would make a comeback, but on the trade floor of the All Candy Expo, the talk was of the “vomit-flavoured jelly bean, cheddar cheese-flavoured larvae and toy dogs that poop candy.” It seems that gross is now nice. There is also a line of Stinkers bubble gum. Each piece comes attached to a smelly character, such as Anti-Deodorant Rod, Rat breath and

Garbage Boy! The company’s pride and joy is a carton of crunchy larvae, made with real baby worms from California that have been freeze dried and coated with flavours like cheddar cheese and Mexican spice. They also have even worse products!

I just wonder where innocence, gentleness and loveliness have gone. Historians tell us that civilisations decline and fall, and there is abundant evidence of this decay infiltrating society at all levels. They especially target children who are susceptible to the media and their inherent greed.

The church provides teaching for one hour a week for children to help combat the persistent and nightmarish bombardment of them through advertisements on TV. You would think that parents would be only too pleased for this facility, but we have found from experience that many will attend only once a month because they come with parents, and one hour in 672 is hardly a caring attitude for their offspring. They need a counterproductive culture and environment that stands against the world system, rejecting its standards and its challenge to decency. Where else will they get such teaching?   My hope and prayer is at home, but many parents are too busy to get involved – HICC is there to help, please don’t spurn it. The history of mankind is that gross can only get grosser!

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[1] —Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press: Oxford] 1999     (p. 129)

Sliding back!

There is a difference between having a formal and a living creed. In the one we mentally acquiesce to a theory – based on study and revelation, and in the other we actually transfer its teaching into action. In other words, we do what we say we believe.  We live in the words we speak and become “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22-23). We only believe what we actually do!

Backsliding is sliding away from known truth we once lived in. All Christians can go astray like the sheep or be lost like a coin, and can move so far away from God that, like the prodigal son, they become cold of heart. Once we fail to walk in known truth we are on a precarious path downwards away from God. It is not only holding a formal creed but also living in the living creed. Most formal creeds state that “where two or three are gathered together there He is in the midst.” Many Christians agree, but don’t meet together, especially in prayer meetings, because they either don’t want to meet God, or they don’t really believe it!

This leads me to a time in Patricia’s life where she fell away from God, and the circumstances in which she found herself led to that situation. The cause of this backsliding was due to a visit from a leading Anglican Minister with a healing ministry who turned up at my house with his entourage whilst I was at work, and praying for her pronounced her healed. It was not his normal custom to visit people in their homes, but he responded to a request from the wife of the principal of Birmingham Bible Institute who knew us well, and such was the passion of the request, he felt constrained to do it; in other words, it was right in God’s will so to do. However, within a few days Patricia was admitted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where she had a trachi inserted because her breathing had deteriorated rapidly. She retained it for many years.

This was the last straw in her sad physical decline, she already had a gastrostomy tube through which she could feed herself. She was often wheelchair bound, and now a breathing tube. Life was becoming worse by the year. She stopped reading the Bible and praying and turned away from God. She could not cope with it any more, her faith was rocked to its foundations. I being a minister couldn’t explain it, so I guarded and loved her to bits. That’s all I could do. One day after many months in this state she was in the kitchen of our home, and I was at work. She suddenly turned because she felt someone was with her in the room, and she realised it was God, He said “I’ll never leave you or forsake you.”  A few weeks after that it happened again as she dusted the hallway. She just sat on the bottom step, and spoke “I suppose you’d better come in again, you’re certainly not going to leave me alone “and with that she regained her faith, passion and love for God.

That night as we were in bed I noticed her Bible again on her bedside table and when I remarked on it she told me what had happened, I wept and I weep now in my memory of that crisis of faith. I had purposefully refrained from remonstrating with her as her pastor, on her failure to pursue God, for not praying and reading her Bible, but simply committed her to God and loved her back into life. I was patient with her impatience – I believed for her lack of faith. I could do no more, she was in God’s good hands, and they drop nothing!

There is no knowing the depth to which she sank, only God knows. She was abandoned at the age of three, had six homes by the time she was eleven, and found God as her father at thirteen, here was someone she could trust at last. When she had her trachi, he had, in her estimation also deserted her. What would you say? I think of Joseph who went from a pit to Potiphar’s house and then to prison with declining prospects, but in one day he was delivered; so was Patricia. As she grew older she could look back on the unfortunate episode and she learnt that God never lets go and dogs our footsteps through life. “What can separate us from the love of God” nothing, for it is vested in Christ Jesus and we are engraved on the palms of His hands.

 

 

Song of Solomon

About three weeks ago I wrote an article called Building Philosophy, and mentioned my trip to the Toronto Airport church in 1994. What I didn’t say then I say now, and you may find it interesting. The night of our first visit we were staying in the Constellation Hotel near the church, and got to sleep about midnight. I was suddenly awoken at three-thirty in the morning by God. There was no doubt it was God; my mind was fresh and I was totally awake, and I was being spoken to. Patricia was sound asleep. He said “Speak to your wife in the language of the Song of Solomon.” And that was all. How strange, I thought. Why on earth would I do that at this time of night? And as I mused, it suddenly came to me like a bolt of lightning. I had joked about that book the Sunday before I came to Toronto, and said “It is only read nowadays by schoolboys behind the toilet block, making fun of it.”

But that wasn’t all, I watched my wife go down into death three times with respiratory arrest, and come out again, and was told that she would die by the time she was 50 – she was then 58 and on borrowed time. Because of the impending demise I switched off emotionally so I wouldn’t be hurt when the crisis came. I still loved her and cared for her in the best way possible; my whole energy was for her demands and needs. My love did not fail but it was confined to duty, bottling up my emotions to be safe from hurt. To speak to her in the words of the Song of Solomon, one of the greatest love songs of all time, was, if not impossible, then extremely difficult. My full emotions would be activated and what would happen if after pouring out my soul in these words, she failed physically and died? It had been difficult for her to travel to Canada, and that had been a risk.

I wrestled with it the remainder of the night, and in the morning decided I must do what God commanded. So I made her a cup of tea and gave her medication so the muscles would work, and waited for them to activate. About 30 minutes later I sat on the side of the bed with both of her hands in mine and looking full into her face began to quote Song of Solomon to her – making her the sole object of those words. At first she was amused, and then confused, and then enthralled. By this time I had tears running down my face and she became misty-eyed. I leaned forward and just embraced her gently, and we sat there while time slipped by, loving and being loved. The hidden gulf had been bridged. If God decided to take her home, that was his affair; I knew I could make it on my own. I had faced my giant and had slain him. God knew the perfect remedy. I obeyed, He was in control, and she became smothered in love. From that time till she died in January, she knew that unhesitatingly. In fact she told one of the doctors who visited our home in her final few weeks that I was too fussy over her. Better that than not at all.

I mentioned my encounter to Marc Dupont, the associate pastor of the church, who had become my friend, and explained what had transpired, and he felt that I should give a testimony that day in the evening service. At first I thought it was too personal and it might be throwing pearls before swine, but after prayer thought that it was probably right to do it, so did.

The next morning I was besieged with both young and old couples who came to me who had been so moved by my testimony that they had gone back to their temporary accommodation and put things right in their marriages. It was clear that they hadn’t slept much, but shining with joy – almost like newlyweds! Perhaps it was God’s plan after all to speak to many couples that week in the church. Who knows? He has his ways of doing things. All he looks for is co-operation from ordinary folk submissive to his will and purposes. I was in the right place at the right time, with the right home circumstance to engender guilt, encourage forgiveness and manifest a positive response to genuine love. To sweep away artificial barriers and bring freedom in relationship, safety in openness, and the elimination of fear in honesty. If we are open to God’s word in our lives it’s amazing what he can do. I have no doubt that there are some who will read this and put their marriages right.