Monday, December 12, 2011

A Christmas Poem

The hustle and the bustle,
Packed shops playing perennial tunes,
Thousands of tiny fireflies
hanging in chains from the ceiling
And fake trees covered in garish glitter ribbons.
Stressed shoppers searching for that specific present
To guarentee a smile on their child's face;
An Xbox, that new phone, the right toy.
But something seems to be missing 
From the commercial pressure of winter,
From the -mass of busy consumers.
The one that we should really be focused on.
Does society forget about the Christ
In Christmas?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Knowing what I don't know, but being sure of what I do.

Recently I have discovered the wonders of podcasts. This is mainly due to the fact that I have to get a bus to work, meaning I usually have to leave the house an hour and a half before my shift start, and get home an hour after and that is a good day (the bus times are just rubbish, its only a 20 minute journey). One of my favourites is The Infinite Monkey Cage, a science/comedy podcast hosted by physicist Prof Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince. It is a show that prides itself on advancing the ideas of science, logical and rationalism. It seems obvious then, that there is often some negative comments about religion. But there was one comment that really threw me.

‘The commonest phrase scientist use is ‘I don’t know’…  I would be quite surprised if we said ‘I do know’, because then we wouldn’t be doing science, but its opposite, which is perhaps religion. Religion people do know, because it’s all written down in the Good Book’ and it’s got to be true’’ – Prof. Steve Jones on The Infinite Monkey Cage, What We Don’t Know’, 30 May 2011, about 13m20s in.
As soon as I heard this, I sat up in the bus seat and just wanted to answer back to Dr Jones, because he is sooooooo wrong, and obviously hasn’t had much contact with Christians.

I don’t think I have ever met a Christian who hasn’t had questions about Life, God and Everything. Everyone has those little questions (and some not so little ones) about their faith that they struggle with. I know I do, I have lots! In the same way that I don’t know everything about my girlfriend, but am learning more every day, they same is true about my relationship with God. It is this journey of discovery (both in my relationship with my girlfriend and my Lord) that brings me closer to them, and makes me love them more and more. And I am never going to know everything, there are always going to be things that boogle my mind. And I’m ok with that.

To say that Christians have all the answers because the Bible says so is a massive misunderstanding of the Bible. Thought the Bible, characters are struggling with the questions of who God is, what his plan is, and why things happen like they do. And the Bible doesn’t give all the answers. In some cases it plainly says ‘you don’t know!’ When talking about his second coming, Jesus states:
‘No one knows, however, when that day and hour will come—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son; the Father alone knows.’ – Matthew 24:36 (Good News).

At Church this morning we sang a song which summed up my thoughts on this. The first verse of the song says:

'I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wand'rers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
When Bethlehem's manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come
            (Will­iam Y. Full­er­ton, 1929 – to the tune Londonderry Air aka Danny Boy)

I don’t have all the answers, and I know I never will. But does that concern me? Nope. I know the fundamentals. I know that the Father God loves me, that Jesus Christ died for me, and that the Holy Spirit is guiding me in my life on earth. I know that through the Grace of God my sins are forgiven. And that is all I really need to know. I want to learn as much as I can, but of those few things I am sure.

So, Prof Jones, Christians don’t know everything, but we know what really matters.

PS, if you want to recommend any good podcasts let me know, comment/tweet/tell me in person

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I want a OS map, not a Sat-Nav

I’m at a bit of an uncertain time of life right now. I graduated in July and have been looking for a job since then. I have done some temporary work since July, but nothing permanent. My issue is that I don’t know what I want to do. I’ve never had a ‘dream job’, other than when I was little and when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to answer (totally straight faced) ‘I want to be a mole!’ (At the time, I was a massive fan of Animals of Farthing Wood).

I did my degree in International Politics, because it was what I was interested in, not because I saw it as a stepping stone towards a career. And Inter Pol isn’t a degree that has an obvious career to follow. So here I am, a 2:1 BScEcon graduate, waiting tables at Pizza Hut. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the job, the people are great, the hours fly, and there is a lot of free pizza! But it’s not where I want to be forever.

Not that long ago, John blogged about struggling with God’s call (see his post here). And that’s kind of how I am feeling at the moment. People often say that God has something special planned for me, but I wish I knew what it was. Most of you will know that I stood for Methodist Youth President, as I felt God nudging me towards it. I didn’t get it, and was surprised by how ok I was when I found out. I took it that it was called for a reason, and not getting it is part of a bigger picture that I can’t see. But what now?

When I was a in my mid-teens, while away on a Youth Alpha weekend, my youth worker had a vision of me. He saw a mine, and a row of people coming out of it covered in dust. Something like this I imagine.

But then he saw me, in the line of people. Except I was clean. Totally spotless.

At the time I jokingly said that I was obviously just a lazy miner. But that vision has never really made sense to me. And no-one has been able to give me a true meaning for it. I take that to mean that I’m not in the right place for it to make sense. I just wish I knew what it means, and where God wants me to be.

In his blog, John said:

‘Am I being too selfish? Probably. Am I looking at the bigger picture? Probably not.’

and that is how I’m feeling at the moment. I want the answers now! I want God to zoom out the picture of my life so that I can see where I’m going, what I should be doing and that it’ll all nice and tidy. I want a large scale OS map, not a step-by-step sat-nav. I want to see my destination, not just the next turning. But I know that isn’t usually how God works. He knows better than me. In Job, the Lord says, 

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
   Tell me, if you understand.” (Job 38 v 4 NIV)

He goes on to ask Job if it was he who held back the waters, who orders the morning, if he could unloose Orion’s belt. Job has to answer no. The point God is making is that he knows all, he has power over all, and we shouldn’t try and get to big for our boots. (I always read Job 38 with God saying it in a really sarcastic tone of voice... make God that bit more accessible for me.)

So as much as I want to know where God is leading me, and it frustrates me that I don’t, I know that God has a plan for me, to bring me joy and I just have to trust in him.

It’s tough, but since when was being a Christian easy?  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why I Want to be Youth President

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Matt, I’m 22 and I’m standing to be Methodist Youth President 2012/13. And I thought that today I would write about my reasons why I’m standing for the role. For a quick overview, you can see my ‘campaign’ video that was filmed last week.

Matt Collins candidate for Youth President 2012 from Methodist Children & Youth on Vimeo.
That ending makes me laugh! I was so tempted to pull a ‘Blue Steel’. (I’ll save Magnum for 3Generate!)

But 93 seconds wasn’t really enough time to say everything I wanted to. So here we go…

Firstly, I must explain my vision for the Methodist Church. In Matthew 16, Jesus says ‘I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.’ This means that we have been entrusted with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. We could lock ourselves in, and live safely in a Christian bubble, or we could throw open the gates and invite the world to come inside and know God better. Which do you think God wants?

I want to see the Church (not just Methodism) to be an ever more outward-looking movement. God’s message isn’t just for those who turn up at 10.30 every Sunday. We are literally preaching to the converted. The Message is more importantly for those who have never stepped inside a church; the drunks, the addicts, the homeless, everyone! Therefore, I want to see the Church, and all the young people who come into contact with it, to use their ‘keys’ to open the Kingdom for everyone, and to be doing God’s will. Some of the ways that this can be done is for the Methodist Church to continue in the work it does in terms of social justice, at home and abroad. This will help give people of all ages, locations, social standing, colour and creed to excel and use their God-given gifts to serve God and communities to the full.
So that is my vision… but why do I want to be the Youth President?

Well, simply because I care about the Church and Young People. The next few years are going to be very interesting for young people. The changes to Education funding is going to have a massive effect, with the end of EMA and £9,000 Uni fees, fewer people are going to have the opportunities that they want. And with rising youth unemployment, those not in education are struggling to find jobs, even if they did go to university (I’m in that stage at the moment). These are issues that the Methodist Church needs to look at, and I would love to be your voice to those who make the big decisions in the Church. And to be able to do this effectively, it’s vital that I meet as many of you as possible. I would be prepared to travel the length and breadth of the Britain, so that I can get a true understanding of what issues are important to you. I would also use the experience of the OPPs and other young people to get as wide a picture as possible. And when it comes to representing you on the hundreds of committees of the Methodist Church, I have plenty of experience. I’ve been a District Rep on ‘big’ Conference, served on two Church Councils and was President of Aberystwyth MethSoc. I also have a knack of asking the questions that others haven’t thought of, and am not afraid to voice opinions which go against the grain, if it is what I truly believe.

But also I want to help you, in your area, to be the changes that you want to see. One person can’t change everything (Jesus aside) but they can make a change in their area. And if every Methodist young person started trying to make little changes, the big changes will follow. So I want to challenge you to be the force for change where you are, and to challenge the Church to listen to young people at every level. That is what true participation is about!

So there we go, that’s me and why I want to be your Youth President. But it’s up to you to decide. If you aren’t yet signed up to come to 3Generate on the 4-6th November, you have until Midnight next Sunday (30th October) to book. All the details can be found at

I look forward to seeing you there!

Please could you pray for me and the other four fellow candidates as we go through this process, if they are anything like me they are very nervous! You can see the others' videos at

God Bless


P.S. you can find me on Twitter (@gingermethodist) or on Facebook (search ‘Matt Collins’).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Minimum Wage

Last night, Emily Hewson retweeted a link on Twitter to an article from the Telegraph entitled ‘Minimum wage harming job opportunities for young’ (which can be found here). The article states that the Low Pay Commission, an independent body established to advise the Government about the National Minimum Wage, believes that the Minimum Wage for young people should be lowered as it firms find employing young people too expensive.

This article baffled me no end, for two main reasons. Firstly, I have trouble understanding the logic here. As of a few days ago (when the National Minimum Wage rose), the Minimum Wage is £6.08 for 21+, £4.98 for 18-20s and £3.68 for 16 and 17 year olds. So it is cheaper to employ young people, isn’t it? Say a firm needs a low-level, grunt employee, how is the Minimum Wage making it too expensive to employ a young person over someone over 21? It is almost 40% cheaper to employ a young person. Ok, I can understand that there is the potential cost of taking on an ‘inexperienced’ young person and training them up. But, in a long term view, isn’t training people an investment in which everyone can benefit? And fresh blood can often bring new and innovative idea to a business.

Secondly, there is a discrimination issue. In 2006, The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations were brought in to force. These made it illegal for a business to discriminate against embloyees or potential employees due to their age (with some exceptions). This was updated in the Equality Act 2010. You probably remember that the focus of these when they came in was to do with how or when a business could force an older person to take retirement. But little was said about the lower end of the scale. I have always wondered how the three different Minimum Wages fit with age discrimination. If two people are doing the same job, the same hours, at the same capability, are paid the minimum wage, how is it fair that one could be being paid 40% more. If this was the case for people of different race or gender, there would be uproar! (I know there is a difference in pay between men and women, but as far as I know, it doesn’t occur for people doing the same job for the same company.) So why is it ok when it comes to young people?

This discrimination is already getting worse. The recent increase in the National Minimum Wage saw the 21+ wage increase by 2.5%, whereas the younger rates only increased 1% (in real terms this is a cut for both, as inflation was 4%, but that’s a different story). Should people doing the same job not be paid the same, no matter who they are? The Methodist Church is committed to pay all their employees the Living Wage, not the Minimum Wage, no matter what age they are. This should be the model for society, not the exception.

I’m not sure how to finish this blog, I don’t have the answers, or a way forward. I just hope that the suggestion of lowering youth Minimum Wage are ignored, should they come in the Low Pay Commission’s report that is due next year.

[EDIT] Since I wrote this, Emily has set up a directgov e-petition against cutting the Minimum wage. Please have a look and sign it but clicking here. Thank you

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Rant about GD Lettings

So, my blog is back to being a rant, and I apologise for that. But I am fed up with GD Lettings, the letting agent for the house I lived in at University.

Then I was at uni they seemed good. They were laid-back, never chased for the rent and were very understanding if you needed a little extra time. Yes, when it came to fixing problems they were a little slow. But they were always friendly and helpful.

However that view has now changed. I moved out of my house on 16th July, which I make to be 99 days from now (I worked that out while waiting for them to answer their phone). Three and a half months after handing in my keys, and I’m STILL waiting for my deposit. I have called them a number of times, emailed (which got no reply), and I know I’m not alone.

The first time I rang, 'Andy' (not his real name) told me that they were waiting for a new cheque book, which is understandable; they have lots of tenants, all wanting deposits at the same time. I was ok to wait for a few days. That was mid August.

Earlier in September, I was told that they had written my cheque and it was ‘somewhere’ in the office. 'Andy' said he would find it and send it on. Not so acceptable, but I wasn’t going to kick off a fuss an innocent mistake.

Today, after 40 minutes of ringing, getting either no answer or the engaged tone, I finally got through to a female voice. After explaining to her that I was still waiting, she said that 'Andy' was waiting to speak to the landlord about the water rates (which I had agreed to pay from my deposit), and would not write the cheque until that had happened. This is when the bells started ringing. I had obviously been lied to at some point. I made this clear to the voice on the phone (and apologised for taking it out on her). Surely the landlord could have had this conversation with the people handling his numerous properties sometime in the three and a half months since I left. You know, that quiet point in the year when most of their tenants are elsewhere. But no, that would be too easy.

So, left my number and asked them to ring me as soon as they have sorted it, but I think I’m going to play the annoyance card and ring them every day until it is sorted. But in the mean time, if you are ever looking to rent a house in Aberystwyth, avoid GD Lettings like the plague. I’m also going to contact the Guild of Students if I haven’t heard anything in the next week, and ask them to add GD to their ‘blacklist’. I’ll update this post with updates…

On a happier note, a few weeks ago at Wales Synod I was elected to go to Methodist Conference 2012, so in 9 months or so there will be more MethConf blog posts! I know you will all be counting down the days…

Monday, August 8, 2011

Struggling with a Parable

Yesterday a parable in the Bible really confused me. And I’d like to share it with you, and hopefully get your views on it, because maybe I’m just approaching it from the wrong direction.

The parable in question is the Parable of the Hidden Treasure.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” (Matthew ch 13 v 44, NLT)

Now I can understand that the message of this, as with the Parable of the Pearl which follows it, is that the Kingdom of Heaven is so amazing, so precious, that those who find it want to give up everything they have to possess it. And I totally believe this. My issue with this verse is the deceptiveness of the man in it. It seems widely accepted that the current owner of the field is oblivious to the treasure, or he would not have left it buried there. So the man who finds it (often viewed as a labourer) discovers this thing of great wealth. Surely the ‘right’ thing to do would have been to take it to the owner and hope that the owner would reward him. In a modern legal setting (as far as I understand), such a treasure would be the property of the landowner, no matter who found it. But the man doesn’t do that, he deliberately hides the treasure again, goes off and sells all his possessions, buys the field and takes possession of the treasure.

Imagine how you would feel if you were the landowner and one of your workers pulled a stunt like that on you. You would be gutted, but also probably very annoyed, I know I would be.

So how does this fit with the treasure being the Kingdom of Heaven? Are we supposed to ignore the law and the moral right in the process of gaining it? Are we supposed to cheat others to get it? Are we supposed to hoard it for ourselves, like the farmer who built more barns to hold his grain (Luke ch 12 v 14-21). Somehow I think not. I think God would want us to find his treasure and share it with all that we come across. Time and time again we are told that we are the salt and the light. We are to be the lamp on the stand so that God’s love can be seen by all, not hidden under a bowl (or underground). So how does the deceptiveness of the man fit with all the other teachings of the Bible?

I’m not sure how to finish this, as it is basically a question. So please let me know what you think. Comment on here, on Facebook, on Twitter (@gingermethodist). Let me know if you think I have misread it. I’d love to know you’re opinion.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The need for Rest (and why we aren't penguins

On Sunday my minister told us that if we learnt one thing in Church that day it is that we are not penguins. And he has a very good point! But he had a much deeper point than that, and I am going to try and present that now, with my own observations and twist on it. So here goes! (Side note, I spent three years at Uni wanting to finish an introduction to an essay with ‘So here goes’ but never did...)

The sermon started with a clip for the film March of the Penguins, talking about how in the winter penguins never get to rest, as they are constantly having to keep warm and look after their eggs. They never get to kick back, relax and just chill (sorry, too obvious a pun to leave out!). And it is in this way that we are unlike a penguin, or at least should be. Not only do we like, want and need rest, but God orders us to rest. The fourth commandment says:

‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day.’ (Exodus ch 20 v 8-11, NIV)

God sees the important of rest, for He himself rested. And as we are made in His image, then it makes sense that we too need rest. As my minister said, this doesn’t need to be taken to the extreme of the Pharisees who even outlawed spitting on the ground on the Sabbath as this could be seen as watering the ground or some Jewish groups who refuse to press a lift button on the Sabbath. And the rest needn’t be taken on a Sunday, as this is often the busiest day for some Christians by the very nature of their calling. But we should all set aside some time to do what penguins can’t; kick back, relax and chill.

The sermon went on to explore what we need to rest from. It’s not just the chance for a quick power-nap. We need to do what we can to remove any burden on us to properly rest, whether that burden be stress over money, personal lives, job security or worries over health or family or any of the other burdens that we have weighing us down. It is only when we remove this that we can truly rest. I’m not saying that it is easy; I have often been kept awake by various worries or stresses (weirdest of all is that I can never seem to sleep if I know I need to be up early because I’m worried I might over sleep!), and I don’t have a quick-fix solution. But the best person to turn to for help is God. Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew ch 11 v 28, NIV). There is a line from a worship song that says ‘Father, I place into your hands the things that trouble me… For I know I always can trust you’ (Father I Place Into Your Hands, Kingsway Thankyou Music, 1975), and this is what we are called to do, to place all our troubles, our stresses, our burdens and our worries into the hands of the Lord, for He is greater than all of any these and, when we are at our lowest, He will carry us through. And when Jesus took on the greatest burden, to be nailed to a piece of wood with the weight of all our sins on His shoulders, He removed the barrier that keeps us from God, and allows us to hand over our burdens.

My minster told a story of someone he knew who used to give talks to a Young Wives group in Liverpool and, whenever he started his sermons, the women would start nodding off. This worried him, so he thought about it, prayed about it and then it struck him that what he needed to do was to preach for longer! These women were carrying the weight of a young family on their shoulders, and this group was where they felt safe enough to relax, and God was giving them time to rest. So the sermons regularly lasted an hour, so that these young women could get rest before going back to the hustle and bustle of daily life.

So, I challenge you, and myself, to set aside a time to rest, to kick back, relax and chill with God. For it is what we are told to do. So find some time, turn off your computer, put your phone on silent, pray to God to relieve you of your burdens and spend some quality time doing nothing but relaxing in the safety and comfort of the Lord your Father. And this won’t be time wasted, as it should leave you refreshed, re-vitalised and raring to go.

Monday, July 11, 2011

About Uni Fees and Hypocrisy

Today’s BBC Wales news had an feature on the fact that 8 of the 10 Welsh universities would be charging the maximum £9000 fees for some, if not all, courses. No surprise there really. But what annoyed me in the film they showed, and in the general discussion of university fees, is the hypocrisy of people.

A popular argument for the higher fees is that of ‘why should “we” the taxpayer be paying for someone else to go to university, so that they can get a better job and earn more money?’ Aside from the necessity of a university education for many careers that benefit wider society (see my post from 15th November 2010 here) I have two retorts to that. One, better wages equals more income tax, therefore more money going to the Treasury. Secondly, the aforementioned hypocrisy. Prior to 1998, most students got a full grant for university, so it was totally free. This was paid for by the taxpayer. So, chances are anyone over the age of 31 who has a university degree got it for free. Then these people have the cheek to say that students a scrounging off the state now.

As I said at Methodist Conference, I believe that education is a right for all. If I was looking at a £21000 university course plus living costs I probably wouldn’t be able to go, as I couldn’t afford that kind of debt. I was lucky that by going to a welsh university and living in Wales meant that I only paid around £1200 a year. And I applaud the Welsh assembly for capping the amount welsh students pay at about £3600. But the traditional right-wing polices of limiting social mobility will bite. And it will not be a good thing for any of us.