Rejoicing


As we approach the countdown to Easter we look at the final of our spiritual disciplines, this is one which doesn’t necessarily seem like a discipline, but also one which can be hard to do, or one which we fail to do the most, and that is… rejoicing
We live in a world where we are told about the bad things that happen all the time; a world which takes great joy in sharing mistakes that people have made; spreading other people’s misfortunes; a world where it is all too easy to complain about things that are happening but it seems more and more difficult to rejoice.

After the shocking events in Westminster this last week I was overwhelmed by the amazing responses of the people in London, around the world and in the media. The response to show that we will not be deterred or afraid; the love of those who helped; the unity of different religious leaders coming together. It would have been so easy to focus on this awful act being done in the name of a religion, but instead there was a rejoicing of the love being shown. In fact I am reliably informed that the highest trending twitter feed the following day was national puppy day.

When a major city is attacked we all come together, show our solidarity, show we are one people not many. Unfortunately, on a day to day basis this unity which does take place isn’t reported, but the differences and disagreements are. Why does this have to be the case?

This is why rejoicing is a spiritual discipline. And why it is so powerful. The only way to dispel evil is through love. Yes we can act in love, which is powerful, but we also need to rejoice in love. Easter is the most important of the Christian festivals, it was at Easter that Jesus defeated death, it was because of his resurrection that we all have the opportunity to have eternal life, and to be in relationship with God. Joseph Prince says

Whatever barren situation you are in, rejoice and tell God, “Father because of the sacrifice of your son, I am blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. You have already given me everything. So I am going to act like it is so and rejoice!

As I say so many times, if you choose to live a Christian life and follow Christ then that is most definitely not taking the easy option, and is likely to face difficulty. But throughout it all we must remember all the blessings we have been given and rejoice in those. They will give us the reminder we need of good in our lives, but will also be a witness to others. Maybe we can start a new trend of sharing only the good things we see, or focussing on them anyway? We have good reason to rejoice, so let’s do it!

Have a great Easter Break, celebrating the news the Jesus Christ is risen! 

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Charity

What are you passionate about? 

One thing I’ve always loved about The Archbishop’s school is the willingness to want to raise money for charity. The charity events that are most successful are the ones where pupils have chosen the charity because it means something to them. The passion that they have for the charity, the personal story that they are willing to share empassions everyone else. The individuals put more in to the organising and advertising and this pays off. 

Earlier in the year we were visited by Emily who came to speak to us about her charity Khushi feet which raises money to give education to children in India. She had visited India and was deeply affected by what she witnessed. She felt that she needed to act, to make a difference. 

She was passionate about these children having an education, this passion came across as she spoke to the school, and the CU have already decided that they want to raise money to support Khushi Feet. 

In case you hadn’t guessed the Spiritual discipline that we are considering this week is charity. 

Many of us may give money to charity but is that what we are talking about in terms of a spiritual discipline? I’m not sure. 

Aquinas describes it as the friendship of man for God… it extends not only to the love of God but also to love of neighbour. 

The way I read this is that if we love God and we experience the love of God then that will extend to how we act towards our neighbours. Just to clarify, our neighbour are our fellow humans. The love of God and for God will be our passion that we will then want to share. 

Charity doesn’t have to be giving money, it doesn’t have to involve a cake sale or a non-uniform day. But it does have to evolve out of love. 

Loretta Scott said

“We can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone”

We all have the capacity to show charity, it doesn’t have to be extravagant and elaborate but it will normally involve sacrifice on your part. Whether it is giving up money, or time, or practical help.

What are you passionate about?

Is there an issue on you heart that you, like Emily, think, I want to do something about? Think about that, focus on that, how can you show Gods love in that situation? How can you demonstrate Gods love? 

Prayer: father God we thank you that you first loved us that we may now love others. Help us to know what issues we can make a difference to and how we can sacrifice ourselves to help others Amen

Challenge: think about what you are passionate about and work out how you can show love in that situation. 

Fasting

I have two big questions to ask you.

1. How many pancakes did you manage to eat?

2. Have you given up anything for lent?

We continue on our journey to Easter considering different disciplines that aid our Christian journey of faith. This week we’re looking at fasting. This is possibly the word we associate most with lent, although I do seem to see more and more people taking up something during lent rather than giving up something.

I had 6 pancakes this year, 3 on Tuesday, and 3 on Wednesday – we still had lemon and it seemed a shame to waste it!

Why do we have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? The ingredients needed to make pancakes were considered to be luxurious, and lent was a time of fasting from those luxuries, and therefore the ingredients needed to be eaten. Whereas now people specifically go to the shop to buy things for making pancakes, which bizarrely defeats the whole point!

So… fasting. Why? Mike Bickle says

Fasting is a grace that significantly increases our receptivity to the Lord’s voice and His word

Grace suggests that it is a good thing… how can fasting, giving up something you enjoy, be a good thing?

If we are completely honest, when are the times that we turn to God the most? I may be wrong, but I imagine for a lot of us it is when we are struggling, when something is going wrong, when we need something. Why? Human nature! Why talk to God/listen to God when everything is hunkydory?

When thinking about Lent, and what to give up, it shouldn’t be something that you could easily live without. It should be a struggle. What happens when we struggle? Where do we draw our strength from? God!

Lent isn’t an instruction from God, we haven’t been ordered to give up chocolate. It is a choice that people make, in order to reconnect with God. The 40 days is in remembrance of Jesus, who went to the desert for 40 days after his Baptism and before his ministry began. It was difficult, he struggled, he faced temptation but… every single time he remembered words from the scripture and he turned to the Father for strength.

What I’ve found with God, is that I take a certain problem/issue to him and then he will often talk to me about something else! Lent may be a time when we are seeking God to help us through whatever we have given up, but all we are doing is opening up those channels of communication again.

Challenge: you may or may not have already given up something for lent, but what can you fast from this week? What luxury would you struggle without?

Prayer: father God we thank you that your lines of communication are always open. Help us to turn to you no matter what the situation we are in. We pray for al those who have set themselves a challenge in Lent and pray that it will strengthen their relationship with you. Amen

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.

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.