Month: January 2017

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

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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

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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?

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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.