Monday, 19 January 2009

Getting there!

Optimism is good for you says Sir David Tang and I have to agree. Being optimistic for no reason is stupid but we have a hope in a Creator God who takes care of us, he knows what we need and he has promised us life everlasting if we follow his ways. What more do we need to be optimistic? I can be quite negative about things around me but I am still optimistic that things will change and God's will will be done on earth and that keeps me going. I enjoyed reading the prophecy by Sue Mitchell from Martin Scott's blog although it acknowledges that this year is going to be tough because God is shaking things which need shaking and yet the prophecy resonates with hope. At the end of December I said that life felt like being on the boat in the storm like Paul but I really sensed that we should hold on for now and wait for God's appointed plan and this prophecy by Sue Mitchell seems to echo that. As regards the negativity that is a work in progress that we need to move on, we are trying to be realistic without it being negative. It is wrong to look at everything and be oblivious to what is not right but it is also wrong to look at everything and be oblivious to what is good. 

Gas and heating have increased and this is no thanks to the increase in sales tax here in Latvia, for utilities it is up from 5% to 10%. Sales tax for other goods have gone up from 18% to 21% so it is no wonder that the Latvians are not terribly happy either with the Latvian Government, the IMF or the Scandinavian banks and there was rioting in Riga Old Town. The Latvians have no desire to see the return of the chaos that ensued after the declaration of independence and many suffered. A recent report has shown how the rapid privatisation after communism fell had a devastating effect on some people and led to a rise in suicides. Many in the west think that it was just a good thing that Communism fell but the reality of suddenly being cast into the market economy without a safety net was appalling. It did show that those with good networks did better and this is where the church could be so effective at helping people to work together while things are tough- if only they could stop their in-fighting (Ok so that is negative but look at the opportunities available to help people work together). 

So with the increase in sales tax, and the cold weather where temperatures were down to -21C (-6F) it means that our heating bill came to 112 LVLs (£143 or $208) for this last month. It cannot be the increase in gas prices from the end of last year as our heating is from the burning of sawdust from the local sawmills. (By the way we are not affected at all by the Ukraine/Russia spat over gas as our gas does not come from that particular supply network). Our network for the communal heat supply is perhaps not well enough insulated as we noticed when one lot of snow started to melt and there seemed to be a pathway of rapidly melting snow which came down through the garden and under the apple trees and headed towards the apartment buildings at the point where our heating enters the building. The costs to insulate it I would suspect would be too much without some form of grant being available but it does emphasise the challenges faced by many Latvians. I said before that our previous bill of 88 LVLs was a heavy burden to bear for many, especially the retired. Can you imagine being left with perhaps 48LVLs for your food for this month? It is no wonder that you see many folks slowly counting out their money in the supermarkets and checking and re-checking prices. The burden is going to be heavy this year for others as well as Government staff face cuts of 15% whilst food increases by 3%, they were not particularly well paid beforehand, average public sector worker gets 409 LVLs (£628, $912) before cuts. Anyone surprised that the average Latvian is angry?

I forgot to mention last week that we saw angels in Madona and Jekabpils, unfortunately not the heavenly sort just silver cut outs but my prayer is that it is a sign that God's mighty messengers are at work in this land. I wasn't quite sure what they were for but it was a reassuring sight if a little unexpected.

KPMG gives their workers a choice 1 day a week off or a month at 30% now I am sure that many of them will be understandably worried about the prospect of a drop in wages, although many earn mega-bucks, many will also have a lot of outgoings but what a fantastic opportunity to get a better work life balance. It is hard when the pay is reduced but with determination it will be possible to wean ourselves off debt and live with less and find out it is quite good fun too. I think it is encouraging that the firm have chosen to take the route of everyone suffering a little rather than go for redundancies and apparently is better for staff morale in the long run. Some of the blogs I have been following have been choosing to live some alternative lifestyles such as Tri and Nancy at Timber Butte Homestead, Tri is a pastor at at a Vineyard church and also cares for the environment around him enough to try and live a more ecologically sound lifestyle. It is interesting reading their first attempts at hay making when we are thinking of bringing a piece of land into production. Fiona Neville also chronicles her attempts to live life differently and loving it, she also posts some lovely looking recipes which she has developed to make use of the reduced section of at her local supermarket. Her and her husband have set themselves the challenge of feeding themselves for less. Last year they set themselves the challenge of cutting 25% off their weekly shopping bill and actually achieved nearer 50% savings most of the time. It is amazing how creative you can get when you set yourself a challenge. 

Our kitchen is still not in as you can see from the pictures but at least now it is underway. I have to say it looks fantastic, very smart. Hopefully by tomorrow the units will all be installed and then all we have to do is tile over the rather glamourous spotted brown walls. We do, however, have a new door on the entry to our flats - hopefully will keep the cold out and the warmth in. Just I was writing that, it strikes me that it is significant for the beginning of the year. Maybe for us there is not just a door to go through but this will be a completely new door. Look forward to seeing how that pans out over this next year especially as our Jubilee year finishes at the end of February. Ian has got the possibility of a bit of consultancy work in March but that has to be okayed yet, but it does at least point towards God confirming that the Jubilee year is at an end and there is something in store.

I would like a bit of audience participation at this point. I would like to know what people think of Ice breakers and Team building exercises? Who likes them? Who hates them? When do they work and when don't they work? Please leave a message and the area you live in or where you come from, just so I can also find out if there are any cultural differences. If you could ask around where you live or work as well that would be fantastic. I am just curious!


Emma said...

Ha ha, the little lonely dot in Australia is me!!! Just to make you look more popular, even if i am writing this from the UK.

Joanna said...

Lol. Makes me wonder who the other lonely dots are. :oD

You didn't tell me whether you liked ice breakers though

Emma said...

Can't stand them as ice breakers, being thrown together to with a bunch of strangers and expected to play games or complete tasks- i think not! However ice breaker games with people you know are great fun.

Anonymous said...

I have mostly enjoyed ice-breakers that had a purpose other than just to break the ice - if they were in some other way connected with where the rest of the evening or programme was headed, I generally enjoyed them. c.S.

Joanna said...

Like Mother like daughter I guess Emma. Although I do agree with you C.S., icebreakers that serve a purpose are okay, at least you feel that your not wasting your time.

MErk said...

i hate ice breakers....but i hate playing games so i guess that doesnt count

Emma said...

like father like son, then!