Month: February 2017

Prayer

What is your favourite way of communicating with someone? I have a feeling this is going to be where I show my age… is it phoning, texting, emailing, whatsapping, snap chatting, on face book, maybe some other new fangled way of communicating? Maybe you just like to talk to people face to face?

Communication is essential, it is a necessary part of any relationship, it always has been. But now communication is so easy. We can communicate with people over the other side of the world by the simple press of a button. We don’t have to be able to understand morse code or smoke signals, we can just phone them or text them… simple. Again… showing my age… as great as this is, it has almost made us lose the art of communication. I don’t know many people who actually take the time to phone each other now because you can just send a text, an email, where you won’t get caught up in a conversation. I also do t know many people, other than my aunty, who handwrite letters anymore – I do enjoy receiving a handwritten letter. But there is almost no need, because we publicise our lives so freely and daily that we don’t need to tell anyone what we’re up to anymore. Even though we know so much about everyone, there is still something so special about spending time with a close friend and going through what’s going on in each of your lives. Actually spending time with each other.

So… communication… so easy, completely necessary, but sometimes not used to its fullest potential.

Tuesday is shrove Tuesday, Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of lent. We are starting to look at a variety of disciplines to help us prepare for the celebration of Easter, and we are starting with Prayer.

Prayer can seem like quite a scary word, and it will conjure up different ideas for different people. I always find it quite amusing in September when the new pupils join us, and when we say a prayer at the end of assembly they put their hands together, and at the end will chorus AaaaaaaaaaMen. What do you associate with prayer? Is it daunting/boring/silence? Shockingly, as with so many things, we make it considerably more complicated than it needs to be.

Prayer is simply communication, communication with God. As with communicating with our fellow humans we will each have different ways to communicate with God. I will try to give some ideas of how we might pray let’s, but I’m going to start off by talking about why it is important. I would also like to preempt this by stating I am no expert at this, and I am very much still on this journey myself.

The fantastic thing about prayer is that it is a two way conversation. It isn’t just us saying a load of words to God, it is God speaking to us as well. We may not always like what He has to say, but it is a conversation.

You could argue, and many people have argued, “If God is All-knowing then why do we need to tell Him what’s going on?” It’s a good question. Let’s think about it in terms of social media, I know what is happening in a lot of people’s lives because of what I see on social media sites, similarly a lot of people know what is going on in my life. There is a mutual liking and commenting on various posts and sometimes there may even be a full blown social media conversation but… there are some friends and family who know the full extent of what is going, and are able to give me more advice, love, support, and celebration, because I sit down and chat with them. We take the time.

What has this got to do with prayer? God may be seeing what’s going on in our lives, and similarly we may see what he is doing in ours and others, we may like it, love it, react to it but… we’re going to get so much more from that relationship if we spend the time in a conversation with Him. That’s a choice we each need to make, we need to choose to enter that conversation, to enter that relationship.

The conversation has to be real, which may mean being angry or upset. That’s absolutely fine. All the best relationships are the ones which last through the jigs and the lows. In fact more people struggle with praying when things are good, after all there’s no need to pray then is there?

At Easter we celebrate Jesus dying and rising to life, that means that we now have full access to God, we don’t have to go through any special rituals, or be prayed for by someone else. We can talk to God at any point about anything. Letting God know what’s going on, asking God to help get through a tough day, asking God to speak to us, thanking God for what He is doing and has done for us.

Prayer can be scary, but it can also be phenomenally powerful. We can’t know what God can can do in our lives, if we don’t invite him to be a part of it, whether good or bad.

There are lots of different ways of praying including the Lord’s Prayer, and ACTS – which stands for Adoration (recognising who God is) Confession (saying sorry) Thanksgiving (thanking God for all the good things in yours and others lives) Supplication (asking God for things)! But our thought for the week is from Max Lucado who says

Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference

It doesn’t matter how you pray, it just matters that you do. Talk to God. See what He can do and see what He wants to say.

Don’t forget to keep us posted of how your journey to Easter is going.

Prayer: father God thank you that we have access to you, and that you want to be in conversation with us. Help us to want to be in conversation with you. Amen

Challenge: each day thank God for something that has happened in your life.

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.