Archive for April, 2015

smithyThis week I had the opportunity to meet John Smith, the first president of the God’s Squad Motorcycle Club. We first met John about 25 years’ ago when he stayed with us at our home in Derby, so it was great to catch up with him.  At that stage John had been leading God’s Squad for about 15 years, providing a Christian presence among outlaw biker groups.

Smithy is described in his profile as an author, a social anthropologist, a business speaker, a teacher and lecturer, a biker, a defender of the poor and marginalised, a lover of blues music, a gifted evangelist, an elder of the radical discipleship movement, and a prominent social commentator. He has shared the stage with former President Jimmy Carter and has addressed the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Despite battling cancer for about 15 years, John hasn’t stopped travelling, speaking and writing. In fact he has recently published a new book, Beyond the Myth of Self Esteem. In this book he uncovers common myths about self-esteem and explores their effects on individuals and society. He talks about the way in which the search for good self esteem and happiness has led to a cult of perfectionism.

I used to say, ‘I don’t want to talk to anyone who has not suffered because they usually have nothing to say.’ That may be overstating the case, but my experience has been that those who have encountered disappointment and tasted failure are the wiser for the experience if they rise above despair and confront their situation appropriately.

He went on to say:

If we invest our lives in creating a bubble of perfection to avoid pain, then we are heading for disillusionment. Sometimes feeling ‘bad’ or uncomfortable is the appropriate response to our circumstances; our challenge is to learn to deal with these feelings in healthy and authentic ways.

Smith argues that the western approach to self esteem has led to us thinking that the purpose of life is to find ourselves, but that there is actually something more: the search for meaning and purpose beyond ourselves. In fact, he says, the increasing focus on self has led to the diminution of the person. Smith’s many years of working with outlaw biker gangs and the poor and marginalised in many parts of the world, has led him to being convinced that self-surrender to God, not the search for self-esteem, is the ultimate means by which we find ourselves.

He concludes by saying that if anyone is motivated to explore the spiritual dimension they should include an examination of the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.

As one who long ago surrendered himself to God as revealed in Jesus, I can say that this has been the wisest, most fruitful and most fulfilling decision of my life. I have found where I truly belong. I agree with Augustine of Hippo, who some 1600 years ago summed up relationship with God in this way: “You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 10.05.44 amWhat influences our purchase of fashion garments? Other than how it looks, the price and the size is there anything else that will help us in making a decision. There are probably few of us who think about where our clothes have been made, the amount the manufacturer’s have been paid, or a whole range of ethical issues with the production of our clothes.
For me, the whole process of buying clothes is hard enough without having to think about the ethics of what I’m buying, but if I’m serious about following Jesus’ instructions to love my neighbour I need to think about those people who are facing incredible hardship in order to give me the privilege of going into a fancy shop to buy nice clothes … and I now have some information to help me influence the big companies that provide my clothes.
It’s been two years since the fatal factory collapse in Bangladesh, that saw the death of 1,100 factory workers. After that event Baptist World Aid produced the 2013 Australian Fashion Report to help consumers, retailers, investors and governments to know more about the people producing our clothes and how they are treated.
This week the follow-up to that report, the 2015 Australian Fashion Report was released by Baptist World Aid. You can take a look at the full report HERE. It includes an additional 18 companies representing over 91 brands and there have been some significant improvements.
Of the companies researched in our last publication, a remarkable two thirds have improved their labour rights management systems, 100% now have codes of conduct (up from 85%) and the number of companies that actively engaged with the research process has increased from 54% to 94%. Some companies that have made significant improvements include Kmart, which has released a complete list of its direct suppliers, a huge step towards transparency; The Cotton On Group, which has taken big steps forward to identify suppliers deeper in their supply chain; and H&M, Zara, Country Road and the Sussan Group which have demonstrated that they have made efforts towards paying better wages for workers overseas.
The Fairtrade companies once again are a stand out, with all their brands receiving A grades. Etiko still retains top honours, having traced its entire supply chain and taken action to ensure workers at the inputs and final stage of manufacturing levels of the supply chain are being paid a living wage. Etiko’s performance is only matched by the newcomer, Audrey Blue, who shares Etiko’s supply chain. The Cotton On Group takes honours for being the highest rated, non-Fairtrade Australian retailer, while H&M and Inditex, the two biggest fashion retailers in the world, are amongst the best rated international brands, receiving A-
grades while also taking action to ensure workers at the final stage of production are being paid above the minimum wage. Only Hanesbrands received a higher grade, an A, but has yet to demonstrate any action on improving worker wages.
But the news isn’t all good. The report tell us:

While there are promising signs for the fashion industry, the problems remain significant. Overall the industry is still categorised by poverty level wages. A mere 12% of companies could demonstrate any action towards paying wages above the legal minimum, and even then, only for part of their supply chain. Furthermore, 91% of companies still don’t know where all their cotton comes from, and 75% don’t know the source of all their fabrics and inputs. If companies don’t know how and where their products are made, then there’s no way for them to ensure that their workers are protected.

Sadly, many of the worst overall performers were iconic Australian fashion brands such as the Just Group (owner of Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Dotti, Peter Alexander and Portmans), fast retail brands like Ally, Valley Girl, Temt and Industrie, and low cost suppliers like Lowes and Best & Less. These companies have all received D or F grades. We could find little evidence that any of these fashion retailers were doing much, if anything, to protect workers overseas. Many of them had little or no publicly available information and/or didn’t respond to any of our requests to engage with the research process.
Take a look at the report and consider the consequences. Congratulations to Gershon Nimbalker and the team at Baptist World Australia who have put this report together to help us make decisions that will help the less fortunate.
Yuri Gagarin - Wikipedia.

Yuri Gagarin – Wikipedia.

Today, April 12, is known as Russian Cosmonaut’s Day because on April 12, 1961, Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space aboard Vostok 1. It took another 8 years until 20 July 1969 when the first human being landed on the moon.

One of my favourite songs when I was learning to play the ukulele as a child included the lyrics, if I can recall them correctly, “if man should ever reach the moon he’ll ruin everything up there as he has done down here”.

That dates me doesn’t it?

Fortunately, all those years later we haven’t messed up the moon yet, but we’re still doing a pretty good job at messing up the earth.

This morning at church I showed the picture that was released by the Hubble telescope earlier this year of the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s an amazing picture that helps to give an idea of the vastness of the universe.

As we looked at the picture of the Andromeda Galaxy I read the words of Psalm 8:

Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

It’s Easter Sunday

Posted: April 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

Thought this video was worth a link for Easter Sunday.