Preparation

I’m writing this as I sit in the back of the car and my mum is driving down the motorway. I’ve had to use the satnav on my phone to get us to the motorway – calling out the directions from the back. We’ve been to visit my aunty in Stroud, which we do regularly, but they were doing roadworks so we had to go a different way to usual, thank goodness for phones to direct us through the winding roads of Gloucestershire!

When we used to go on holiday as children we would camp, before going to bed each night we would look at the millions of tourist pamphlets we’d picked up and have a family discussion about what we were going to do the next day, and inevitably there would be arguments! Once we’d decided, we’d play a game, me and my brother would go to bed, the next day we would go to the said place! For years I was convinced that my mum just knew every single road in the entirety of the UK, after all we always got to the place we had chosen. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised my parents stayed awake after we had gone to bed, and mum would look at the maps to work out where we going the next day. She prepared herself for the journey ahead, so that it would be easier.

This week we are thinking about preparing, preparing ourselves for the journey to the cross. Easter eggs were available on Boxing Day, but the real symbol of Easter, is the symbol of Christianity, it is the cross. I read recently that as Christians we celebrate Easter all year round, which we do by sharing communion, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and the eternal life for all that that brings. The problem with something being every day is that it becomes ordinary, and yet ordinary is not something you can call the Easter story. It is EXTRAordinary. It is an extraordinary event in itself, but it also has an extraordinary effect on our lives, or can do if we choose to let it.

Therefore it is important to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. People wouldn’t run a marathon without training for it, people wouldn’t sing at a concert within practising, whenever we do anything extraordinary we will prepare ourselves beforehand. Easter is no different. Our Christian walk is a journey, through the everyday journey we can sometimes get taken off track. Let’s think above it a gps system on a phone, if you take a wrong turn, or if there are roadworks, then it will recalibrate itself and get you back in track. It might take a bit longer, or not be as straightforward, but it will get you back on track. Let’s think of lent as our gps system, giving us a time to recalibrate and get back on track with our journey of faith.

I always used to associate Lent with a time of giving up chocolate, and therefore torture! That isn’t the purpose, the purpose of not using luxuries was to focus on God, to develop some of the essentials of a healthy and fruitful life with Christ. Therefore by the time you got to Easter, you were able to fully appreciate the enormity, the extraordinary event, of God becoming human, dying on a cross, and rising, so that we, may have forgiveness and eternal life.

So… that is what we are going to do… we are going to explore some key Christian disciplines over the following weeks, and it is my prayer that each one will help us to reflect on our own journey of faith. We are going to look at prayer, fasting, charity, confession, and rejoicing. Our thought for this week says

It’s a new week. God is doing a new thing. New doors. New breaks. New blessings; Prepare your mind; Enlarge your vision.

I hope you’re ready for this journey, it probably won’t be easy, after all they are called disciplines,but the best and most memorable journeys never are easy, Please share your experiences throughout. You can reply at the end of the blog or email Mrs Netherton at hnetherton@archbishops.kent.sch.uk

Challenge – think about those 5 disciplines of prayer, fasting, charity, confession and rejoicing, discuss what they mean to you now. Make a note, and see if that changes as we journey together.

Prayer – we thank you that we have opportunities to celebrate Easter everyday, but we pray that you help us to take this time in the lead up to Easter to recalibrate and get back in track with you. Give us the motivation to keep going, even when we find it difficult. Amen

Love: Jackie Pullinger

I love the summer, because when the summer comes I get the flip flops out! I love flip flops, I love not having to worry about socks, I have a variety of colours and will wear them every day. I always try to last until October half term but that doesn’t always happen. My mum is actually still wearing her flip flops now – but that’s a different story! I love the freedom my feet get, I have ridiculously big feet both in length but mostly in width, and it is quite difficult to find shoes that fit. I always feel like my feet aren’t meant for shoes, where they are constrained, they are meant for flip flops.

As much as I love my flip flops there is one problem that comes from wearing them. The state of my feet. I’m not just talking about suntan marks, although that is annoying. The skin of my feet becomes hard and dry, quite often cracks will appear and it can become quite painful. I have to moisturise my feet regularly. My feet may be free, less constrained in flip flops, but it comes at a cost. Throughout the summer my feet get harder and it isn’t so much of an issue, but then the next year we have to start again. What has this got to do with love?

Jackie Pullinger said:

“God wants us to have soft hearts and hard feet. The trouble with so many of us is that we have hard hearts and soft feet”

I’m pretty certain that Jackie Pullinger wasn’t talking about God wanting us all to wear flip flops – although I wouldn’t have an issue with that commandment. But she is talking about God wanting us to put love in to action. Going out there, doing the dirty work.

For many people they think that Christianity is about going to Church on a Sunday, handing over money in the collection, putting in an appearance, but I’m not sure we’re actually made to fit into a building.

Don’t get me wrong, Church is important, vital as part of the journey, but as much as I love going to church on a Sunday, and enjoy meeting with others with a similar faith, Church is so much more than that. Those weekly meetings, or assembly times at school are the equivalent of the shoe time of the year, a time to recover and restore ourselves, to then go out and do Christianity. The rest of our life should be the flip flop part of life, having the freedom to go to anywhere or to anyone, to show Gods love to them, in that context. It’s exciting, but it can also be painful. As I’ve so often said, Christianity isn’t met to be easy!

Jackie Pullinger wanted to be a missionary, she approached numerous organisations but got turned away by all of them. Eventually her pastor suggested that she got a boat as far away as she could possibly afford to go. She ended up in Hong Kong. She was teaching in a school in an area where there was a gang culture, and a large amount of drugs. Eventually she started to work with the drug addicts and started up st Stephens society. St Stephens society provides homes for drug addicts, to help them come off the drugs, but then to help them to ensure that they will not go back to the drugs, and to create a life for themselves.

Jackie Pullinger does this work because of her calling from God to do so, to show his love to those who don’t know it. Her heart was soft, although she was working in a school, she felt for those who were broken in society. Yes, she could pray for them, or give money to charity, but instead she chose to actually help them. This cannot have been easy, she didn’t know anyone in Hong Kong, there wouldn’t have been any government funding, she was working with people rejected by society. I imagine the most difficult part though, would have been listening to the stories of the people who she was helping, how had they got to that situation in the first place. She persevered, and her feet have become hard, that doesn’t mean that she’s immune to it, but just it has taken her toll on her. She cannot have helped but to have been affected by it. Her work continues today, those who she has helped have now gone to other parts of the world to share the message of Jesus Christ, and to share Gods love.

Jackie’s primary aim was to show Gods love, not to preach God’s love. A church has been developed in Hong Kong out of the work she has done, but the work she did was necessary first. People notice the actions, they don’t necessarily hear the words! Let’s go back to my mum and her flip flops, she has her own little theory for why she is still wearing flip flops now, it’s something to do with the fact that because her toes are not constrained her toes are moving more and therefore she’s actually got warmer feet than if she was wearing shoes. There are a lot of people now who know the reason my mum is wearing flip flops, because they ask her. She is standing out of the crowd by wearing flip flops when it’s freezing cold. People want to know why she is doing it. Unfortunately we live in a society where showing love, living in a loving way, can make you stand out from the crowd. Are you willing to do that? By standing out, people may well ask why we are choosing to do what we do, that’s when we can share the message.

Jackie went to Hong Kong but We have situations every day where We can show Gods love. Actions really do speak louder than words, but we have to be willing to step out of the comfort zone, and be willing to stand out in the crowd. Are you willing to wear flip flops when everyone else is wearing boots? (I would like to point out I’m not condoning the wearing of flip flops at school).

Challenge: is there an area of life in school, family or even the world that God has softened your heart for? How can you wear flip flops in that situation.

Prayer: Father God we thank you that have first loved us, so that we can go and love. We pray that you soften our hearts to see where we can show love to those that need it. We thank you that you got your feet dirty, but also that you washed the feet of your disciples. Give us the strength to wear flip flops when others are wearing boots. Amen.

Perseverance: Helen Keller


what is it that holds you back? What stops you from aiming high? What stops you from achieving your goals?I have to admit, that the answer for those questions for me, is ME! I can be my own worst enemy. If I get it into my head that I’m not going to be good at something, then I give up. I struggle to dream big, because I assume I’m not going to be able to do it.

This is probably the case with all of us if we’re honest. And yet… what are the stories that we love to hear the most? It’s the ones where people have achieved great things… inspire of difficulties that they have faced. We love those stories, the media know that we love them, and yet we probably all sit there thinking “well that’s great for them, but I could never do that”.

It’s hard work isn’t it? Why bother? Because deep down we know how much more we appreciate things when we put the effort in, when we’ve had to work hard to achieve something.

I remember, as a child, thinking how easy it must be to be a professional athlete, just turning up and running – simple. Yet we know that it isn’t that simple, they have to put so much effort in, they will have failed at times, and they will have had to sacrifice a lot in order to succeed. That’s why they often get so emotional when they succeed.

Perseverance… out of all the schools values I think this is the one I most admire, but the one that scares me the most. It’s probably going to result in the most heartbreak. With perseverance you have to have a goal, and be willing not to give up. Helen Keller is a great example of someone with perseverance, she wasn’t going to let the fact that she was deaf and blind stand in her way. As a child she used to get angry and frustrated, but people worked alongside her, to enable her to communicate. She said

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved”

It is very easy to read that and think – well my life is pretty easy, therefore I’m not going to build character. I know I often say to pupils ‘you don’t realise how lucky you have it’. But actually we will all come across trials and tribulations. They may not be as ‘big’ as being deaf and blind, but to us it will still be a trial. Perseverance isn’t about the size of the trial, it is about how you respond to it. Are you just going to give up as soon as it comes along, or are you going to embrace the challenge.

The problem with embracing the challenge is the possibility of failure. Perseverance means that when you fail you get back up and try again, and again and again. Perseverance is going to look different for each of us. After all, although we are all made in Gods image, we are all different. We all have different talents, different skills, different challenges. The question is… how will you respond to your challenge?

don’t think that you have to do it on your own. Helen Keller needed help and support, athletes need experts. Find someone who can help you out, and help you face the challenge head on. Also, pray, we are told that we do not have to do things in our own strength. The parable associated with this value is the widow who persevere and kept going to a judge, and Jesus said this is what we should be like with our prayer. Again, if I’m honest, this is a big challenge for me.

Challenge: is there something that you have been struggling with? Make that choice to persevere. Share the challenge with someone else, to see if they can help you, but also to ask them to pray for you.

Prayer: father God, we thank you that you do not leave us, even when we are struggling. We also thank you that you do not move obstacles out of our way, but help us to get over them. Help us to have the courage to face our challenges, and to seek help when we’re stuck. Amen.

Forgiveness: Corrie Ten Boom

5907584223_62deeb7a77_z Many pupils that I teach have a very similar idea about what the worst event in history was, and I imagine that is one that is shared by many of us… the holocaust. Afterall, it was because of the actions of Nazi Germany in world war II that we now have the universal declaration of human rights. If you had experienced any of those events, would you be able to forgive?

Forgiveness is a strange value… it is one that we can often take for granted… but it is also one that can be the hardest to live.

Corrie Ten Boom lived in Holland with her family during the 1940s, they were clockmakers and they were Christians. As a family they helped many Jews who were hiding from the Nazi’s, they would give them safety until they were able to move on to another safe house. She witnessed these people, hiding to protect themselves, not because of something they had done, but because of a belief system they held. Corrie and her family helped many Jews, but eventually they were arrested. Some, including Corrie, were taken to concentration camps. Corrie made it out alive, unfortunately many of the other members of her family didn’t.

Corrie had experienced more pain and suffering than many of us will ever know, and none of it seems to be able to be justified. She saw the suffering of the Jews, she experienced a concentration camp, she lost members of her family.

She had every right to be angry, and vengeful. And yet… she forgave!  She also helped many others to forgive, and led them to new life in Christ. When speaking about her situation she said

“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw then sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help to forgive him… Jesus I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness… And so I discovered that is not on our own forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself”

Corrie we angry, she was vengeful, but she knew that this was wrong. She knew that Jesus died for all, not just for some. She also knew that she needed to forgive, but didn’t have the strength to.

As a teacher I cannot expect pupils to do work, unless I have given them the skills and information to do so in the first place. Sometimes I will have to give more guidance than others, because the task is harder. This is exactly what Corrie is saying in this quote. When Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, he didn’t just give the command, go off, sit down, thinking “Excellent, I’ve told them what to do, I’ll just let them get on with it”. Jesus gave us Love as well.

Forgiveness isn’t just a one-off thing, it isn’t easy, it’s really difficult. BUT we don’t have to do it on our own. We have amazing examples of Jesus forgiving in the Bible, we also know that we have been forgiven. Corrie was able to forgive the atrocities that she experienced because she asked God for help. We can do the same.

Forgiveness isn’t saying that everything is OK. It is recognising that it has happened, but moving on. Giving the situation over to God, and not holding a grudge. After all, holding a grudge is hard work.

Is there something that you are holding on to? Something that someone has said or done? It may not be easy, but don’t let it take over your life. Give the situation over to God, and ask Him to help you forgive.

God gave us freedom, that means we will make mistakes. God also gave us forgiveness, through Jesus dying and rising. This doesn’t mean we have permission to make loads of mistakes, but it does mean we have the possibility to be forgiven when we do. If we can eb forgiven, why should we not forgive others?

Challenge: Think about one thing that you know you are holding on to. It doesn’t matter how small. And ask God to help you forgive.

Prayer: Thank you God that you have forgiven us, help us to remember that forgiveness, and help us to ask you when we need to forgive others. Amen

Service: Mother Teresa

83115959_fe00f583cd_z

A few weeks ago it was Christmas (do you remember or have you already forgotten?). Whether we agree or not, a focus for many people at Christmas is PRESENTS! This leads me to ask 2 questions What kind of present buyer are you?

This is rather smug but I do have to admit that I’m pretty good at buying presents – especially for people I know. I put a lot of thought and effort into it, thinking about what they enjoy, what’s going to be a bit different to other things they receive. Sometimes I focus on something that they need, other times what is going to make them smile. There have been a few times over the last few years where people have assumed that someone else has told me what to buy – because it is so perfect. For Christmas I was given a lot of toiletries, I thanked one of my friends who said she always gets something that is slightly luxurious and also that she would be happy to use herself. Often the presents which are the best are the ones which show thought and consideration. These are then the ones which are used and enjoyed the most.

My second question What kind of present opener are you? Last year we spent Christmas Day with friends who had a 3 year old daughter, she had loads of presents, and I mean LOADS. Our friends, her parents, decided that she was going to open them in stages, this meant that she could play with each of them, appreciate each of them, and not be too overwhelmed. I think Christmas presents were being opened for a couple of days.

A few years ago I was told off by my husband. I think it was on my birthday, because I literally just opened everything but didn’t really pay much attention to anything I’d been given. As the person who had bought me presents, he wanted to see my reaction and my appreciation.

The value we are looking at this week is service, so why on earth am I talking about presents?

There are two concepts that are key to a Christian understanding of the world. The sanctity of life and stewardship. These are often taught separately but are inherently linked.

The sanctity of life is the idea that all life is sacred, it is special, it is a gift from God. God didn’t have to make the world, but he did. God didn’t have to make humans, but he did. He didn’t have to make the world beautiful, but he did. He didn’t have to make humans unique, or give them free-will but he did. There are many arguments that suggest it is the beauty within the world, and within people that shows that there must be a greater, thoughtful, being behind it all.

If, as a Christian, we believe that life is a gift from God, that the world is a gift from God, then that is going to affect the way in which we respond to it. This is where stewardship comes in. Appreciating the gift we’ve been given and taking care of it, so that other people can benefit from it as well.

That’s  quite a humongous idea isn’t it? Thinking about our own life, and the entire world being a gift for us, and then for us to take care of it – WOW – it’s like being a toddler on Christmas Day.

But it doesn’t have to be daunting, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Like with my friends daughter it is far more beneficial to focus on one thing at time. The world is a big place, but we are just one tiny person. As that one tiny person we can make great amount of difference just where we are, and how we live our lives. This is service. It doesn’t have to be a huge act that everyone knows about, it is just about taking the gift we’ve been given, and using that to bless other people. The example of someone using service is Mother Teresa of Calcutta who has recently been made a saint. She said…

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.

She lived in an area where people were living on the streets, rejected by society because of illnesses that they had, often which were no fault of their own. Mother Teresa saw all life as a gift from God, not just her own. She didn’t make any grand gestures, she spent time with them, and make them feel that they were worth something again. She recognised what she had been given, and she wanted to give back. She became famous for this, and could easily have let that go to her head, to direct others in what to do, go global, start an organisation, rally the governments. She didn’t, instead she stayed on the streets of Calcutta, and people came to her and followed her example. We can all do that each day. Imagine the difference it would make if all of us did!

God has given us a pretty awesome gift of life. How are we, going to respond to this gift? Are we just going to shrug and say ‘ah that’s nice’? Are we going to think oh my goodness that is so overwhelming I couldn’t possibly do anything with that or to help that? Or are we going to see that gift in the everyday, and respond by recognising that gift in other people, and helping them to recognise that gift too?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the gift of life, and the gift of creation. We thank you that it so beautiful and intricate and amazing. We pray that we will appreciate that gift look after it and help others to recognise that gift as well. Amen

Challenge: Each day try to find the gift of life in the everyday, and share that gift with others

Faith: José Henriquez

9534944628_d7c0d842d0_z

Have you ever been in a situation which has felt completely helpless, where you can’t see how you are going to get out of that situation? How have you responded to that situation?

This term we are going to return to look at the school’s values, but we are going to specifically look at people who have demonstrated those values. This week, we will be considering faith.

On 10th August 2010 there were 33 miners doing their job in Chile when the mine collapsed on top of them. The miners were still alive, but they were trapped, they couldn’t get out, 700 metres underground and they only had enough food to last a few days. If you were in that  situation what would you do? How would you respond?

5718c576d9fcd_josehenriquez420

José Henriquez gathered that group of 33 together and he started to pray. This is what he says…

“That first day was catastrophic. It was terrible; very difficult for every one of us. First, we heard an explosion, and then rocks started falling. There was a cloud of dust that lasted for about three or four hours.
“We had no light; we had no water; we had nothing in those first few hours. We only had enough food for three days; there was a lot against us. But we organised ourselves and we began to pray.”

Was prayer your response to the question ‘what would you do if you were in that situation?’ Probably not. So why did José respond in that way? I imagine he felt there was nothing else that could be done, but he had faith that he could pray and that God would hear those prayers and respond to those prayers. He didn’t just pray on his own, he became the pastor for the group, and they prayed together.

After 69 days the rescue mission was completed and all 33 miners were rescued, none of whom had any long-lasting medical problems. There is no way that they could have known that they would survive that long but one man’s faith, gave faith and hope to the others.

What can we learn from Jose? We will often find ourselves in places where we think ‘this is impossible’ ‘there is no way out’ – it may be an actual physical trap, but it is more likely to be a task we are completing, a friendship issue, or feeling overwhelmed by everything going on. How do we respond? We can pray. Many would argue that prayer is pointless… so why do it? There have been many studies into the power of prayer for those who are ill. It has been found that those that pray are calmer in hospital, more ‘at peace’, they don’t necessarily get better miraculously but their time in hospital is less challenging.

Why is this? Whether they are praying on their own, or whether they ask others to pray for them, they are sharing the suffering that they are enduring. It is no longer something that they are going through in their own. José didn’t just go off to a corner of the mine and pray on his own, he encouraged the others to pray alongside him.

Prayer is an active way of demonstrating faith. Faith that we are not on our own, but that there is a greater being, watching over us, listening to us. José’s faith would have given a glimmer of hope to the others.

Sometimes a glimmer is all we need, after all the parable associated with this value is the parable of the mustard seed. The mustard seed being the smallest of all seeds, grows into an amazing tree able to hold up anything. In the mine José had that mustard seed of faith, eventually that was all that the 33 miners had, and it was that faith that kept them going.

But where does that faith come from? Romans 10:17 says “faith comes from hearing the message”. José probably knew the Bible reasonably well, had heard stories of God working in miraculous ways. I know when I’m in rubbish situations it is verses and experiences of God that I hold on to, even when I can’t see the way out at that time. The Binle is full of examples of people who lived by faith, and Hebrews 11 gives you a quick run down of a lot of them. By seeing these examples from the Bible, and hearing examples of José, it gives us the courage to respond in faith when we think we’re in trouble.  Luke 1:37 says “nothing is impossible with God” it doesn’t say everything is easy, just that everything is possible. Faith is tested, but that builds perseverance but that’s another value…

Prayer: father God, thank you for the faith of those before us, who we can learn from. May we know that no situation is impossible with you, and that when we think it is, we can have the strength to turn to you. Amen

Challenge: is there something you are struggling with at the moment? Can you hand it over to God? Is there someone you know is struggling? Can you offer to pray with them, for them, or find an example of someone who has gone through a similar situation to give them faith and a glimmer of hope.

King of Kings

11061716505_d0cd855dbc_zWhat would you do if the Queen suddenly turned up at your door? Would you invite her in? Would you kick stuff out of the way? Is your home suitable for the queen?

There has been a lot of outrage and discussion on social media over the weekend about Buckingham Palace, and the fact that it is going to be redecorated. I’m not going to get into the politics of that now, as I don’t want to offend anyone or cause upset. BUT… when we think of a King or Queen we probably automatically have an idea of the kind of place they will live in… A palace… A castle… Hundreds of rooms, filled with beautiful and historical artefacts. Afterall, they are in charge, they deserve to have the best.

As we continue to look at the idea of a King, and our King arriving in a few weeks time, we continue to question what kind of a King we are expecting.

Sunday 20th November was Christ the King Sunday, according to the liturgical calendar, so it felt only right this week to consider Jesus as the King of Kings. There is a story in Luke’s Gospel entitled ‘The Faith of the Centurion’. This is the story of a Roman Centurion, whose servant was sick and about to die. He had heard about Jesus, and sent servants to ask him to come.

A centurion was a Roman Leader, in charge of 100 soldiers. He knew what it was to be in charge, but even he, a leader, knew that he needed Jesus in this situation. He even said to Jesus “I am not worthy, but say the word and my servant will be healed”. Jesus wasn’t even within the same leadership, he was a Jew whilst the Centurion was a Roman, and still he went to him.

I think we all have a sense of self-importance at times, but actually the best leaders recognise they can’t do it on their own, but they need to seek help. This may be from others around them, it might be from God.

Our own Queen recognises that she cannot do her job alone, she says “In my first Christmas broadcast in 1952, I asked the people of the Commonwealth and Empire to pray for me as I prepared to dedicate myself to their service at my Coronation. I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness”. Jesus is the King of Kings and yet…

The thought for the week is a line from a song, and it says “King of Kings, Majesty, God of Heaven, living in me”. In a few weeks time we will be celebrating Jesus’ birth. God, becoming human, being born in a stable, living amongst ordinary people. Then… when he dies for us, and is risen, he returns to heaven, but God sends the spirit to live in us.

This God, who is King of Kings, who world leaders bow down to, is living in us. At the beginning I asked you what you would do if the Queen turned up to your house. The thing is God is living in each and everyone of us. Not with us, but in us, our bodies are a temple. When you put it like that it is quite daunting and makes me stop and think.

When people look at me do they think that God is within me?

Prayer: Thank you God that you chose to come and live amongst us, and that you continue to do so. Thank you for those world leaders who do recognise you, and walk hand in hand with you whilst they rule. We pray that we may recognise your reign in us, and reflect that to the world around us?

Challenge: How can you show that Christ is living in you? How can you welcome Christ as King?