Prepare the way… are you ready?

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Mark 1:1-8

We are challenged this week to think where to find Jesus. There may well be three opportunities we can think of…

  • In the past – 2,017 years, 11 months and 2 weeks ago (roughly)!! The image of the Son of God born in the humble surroundings of the manger and recreated in thousands of primary school nativity plays in the coming week.
  • In the future – when the Kingdom of Heaven is completed here on Earth. This is when the Kingdom of God is lived out in the world.
  • In the present – in the form of those in need in society and the most vulnerable who Jesus served in His life. We are challenged to find opportunities to bring light and hope to the world we live in and serve those most vulnerable, suffering or rejected.

Advent is a journey and time to get ready to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus. It is an opportunity to put our lives in order to do this. This is why this week we have the opportunity to think about reconciliation. In the sacrament of reconciliation we always have a path back to God by seeking forgiveness, the first step in recognising where we have gone wrong. We need to make peace with one another and with God if we are to truly open our hearts to Jesus this Christmas.

John the Baptist called people to turn away from sin and be prepared for the Lord. We can do this by choosing to turn away from the things that hold us back and looking to focus on how we can live our lives making a more positive contribution to the world that we live in.

A few questions for the week ahead…

  • Where are we proudest of the difference we are making? Hopefully part of this is in life at St Paul’s.
  • Which areas hold me back from making a positive contribution? Maybe when we are tired or don’t step back to take the long view.
  • What can I do to take the first steps back to God this Advent and Christmas?
  • Which of my relationships would benefit form reconciliation and healing? What would be the first move in making this happen?

One of the most heartening things as Christians is that God always offers fresh starts however tough things have got. We can all be reassured by this unconditional love and this truly can become the heart of our loving relationships – when we recognise this we can believe we are truly blessed.

God bless.

 

 

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Stay awake!

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Mark 13:33-37

We’re here once again – having avoided Christmas songs on the radio which seem to have been played for the last month (at least!) it is now time to throw ourselves into Advent and get ready. It is perhaps a well timed theme as at time at this time of year we are tired and busy, yet we are challenged to step back and put our lives in order. This in a very basic way is a chance to make peace with one another and with God.

We are challenged to get ready and prepare to meet Jesus in a new way, to be able to build the Kingdom of God in all we do. It is perhaps easy to think about how we get ready and prepare for Christmas and relive the nativity scenes we are so familiar with. It may be more challenging to think about how we get ourselves to be ready for when Jesus comes again or when we meet God face to face. Is our life in order for this ultimate moment?

In essence we need to be ready, to live our lives in the right way and keep a clear focus. This has a real resonance with us working in school. It is true to say that it would be challenging to doze off in the fast paced life of school but we need to really keep sharp. We can’t drop things for a moment without it having a real effect on our students, colleagues or even the basic foundations of what makes our school happy and safe. Whether it’s striving for happiness, teaching to our best or safeguarding all in our community, we know that if we lose focus then things start to go wrong.

So in the week ahead, and final weeks of this term, let us all stay sharp, stay focussed and stay awake to do our best in each of our roles at St Paul’s and ultimately build God’s Kingdom in small steps each day.

Reflections on staying awake:

  • When am I at my most drowsy / most easily distracted / most vulnerable to slipping up?
  • How do I guard against falling asleep at the wrong time / getting distracted / going the wrong way?
  • What might be about to happen in my life and how am I going to prepare for it?
  • How can I be prepared to be ready for Jesus to come into my life this Christmas and beyond?

Fit for a King

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Matthew 25:31-46

With all the excitement about an impending royal wedding  we may have forgotten that this weekend we have just celebrated the feast of Christ the King – we also celebrated National Youth Sunday.

We are challenged to think about how we might be judged when it comes to the moment we account for how we have lived our lives.

It is easy to think that we would know what to do when we had the opportunity to do the right thing when we met the King, to come face to face with Jesus. We would of course know what to do and how to give Him the respect that is due. We would want to be ready and treat Jesus in the right way. Jesus points out to those who are listening to Him that we only need to look around us to find opportunities to serve God in the right way.

We need to open our eyes and recognise that we can meet Him in any person who is in need, lonely, sick or imprisoned (physically or emotionally). We get the chance to live this out and serve God every day.

· Who are the people that hunger or thirst for something and how can I give it to them? In education we have a unique chance to do this.

· Who are the strangers and how might I welcome them? How can this be seen in society or even in our school community?

· Who are the naked, how have they been exposed and what can I do to help them retain their dignity?

· Who are the sick and what can I do to heal them? This might be someone who needs healing physcially or emotionally.

· Who are the imprisoned and what can I do to free them? We have a great opportunity to use education as a force for good and change.

In the week ahead let’s ensure we setup our lives to be “fit for a King” as we approach the start of advent – truly an opportunity to welcome Christ into our lives in a new way this year during the season of Christmas. No better time to get ready for the King to arrive!

Have a good week ahead.

God bless.

 

How will you let your talent shine?

 

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In the Gospel account this week we hear The Parable of the Talents… it tells of the servants who are given various allocations  of talents, a unit of currency at the time of Jesus, and challenged to “make the most of them”. Two of them went on to double their return whilst the final one simply buried his in the ground and handed it back. The first two were rewarded for their response whilst the final way who simply hid his away was chastised for wasting it.

What does this tell us?

  • At times we can be jealous of people who seem to have so much more than us… more money, a bigger house, a nicer car or maybe greater looks, popularity or prowess as a sportsperson or academic genius. It can feel like it’s easy for them or unfair in some way.
  • We are challenged in this parable to remember that God gives us all gifts and talents in special ways. The idea is not for us to store them up for the next series of BGT or X factor but to look to use them every day to do good, to do God’s work in some way.
  • We are called to make the most of what we’ve been blessed with and ultimately in education to help unearth the talents of all those around us. This is simply the most inspiring part of what we can do in school.

So in the week ahead let your talent shine and take the joy of helping build up others rather than comparing ourselves to one another. Maybe the challenge in education is to uncover each person’s gifts and talents and give them the confidence to shine out. If we can do this we can start to discover why God gave us the gifts we have and the real impact, with His blessing we can have.

I hope you have a really good week ahead.

 

 

God bless.

Respect and an invitation especially for you…

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Once again I have been compelled to offer a two for the price of one reflection as I failed to complete the one I had planned for last week…

The theme for the week was respect and I believe it has 3 stages and ways of living it out in our school community.

  1. Respect for yourself – it is a fundamental thing for us to be able to love and respect ourselves and place some self-worth in what we have to offer. Perhaps at times people can go to either extreme where people believe their own “hype” – a dangerous thing – or alternatively don’t have enough self-respect or worth. Perhaps in the modern world it is easy, especially for young people growing up, to feel the pressures to conform, act or look a certain way. In essence I believe the challenge is to be comfortable in our own skin and to be proud in who we are.
  2. Respect for others – if we can live our lives by showing respect to others I believe we will find that we will be intrinsically happier. We can find joy by building others up and not knocking them down, some of the happiest and most inspiring people I have met have lived selflessly by doing right by others each and every day.
  3. Respect for God – as Christians our respect for God underpins all of this. The example of Jesus lives out a true respect for Himself and all those He met, especially those on the margins of society. If we accept that God is the source of all love we can find ways each day to respect God and be grateful for all that we have in our lives – friends, family, food, housing or an education – perhaps the basic foundations of our lives that we take for granted.

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This week we are reflecting on the theme of invitation and there may be a seamless link to the week before… God loves, cherishes and respects all of us and has created us for a “definite service” and purpose. We are called to become the person that God has created us to be and one of life’s joys is discovering and exploring this every step of the way.

We are invited to;

  • Live life to the full
  • Love one another as God loves us
  • Be full of light, life and hope
  • Build people up and inspire them
  • Bring people closer to God
  • Lead with passion, integrity and faith

If we can do these things I am confident we will be happier, more fulfilled and have deeper relationships with one another and with God.

I feel blessed to lead and live in a community of faith at our school. The work we do has a deeper meaning in that we are not just ticking along, clocking in and out, but in fact doing something that has a far deeper meaning purpose…

As a Christian community we are challenged to simply build up the Kingdom of God in small ways each and every day. If we can do this we must be doing something right.

Have a great week and half term when it comes.

God bless.

A lesson in obedience by Amber the school dog…

_DSC2816-2.jpgMeet our school dog – Amber. I can confidently say that she has been a popular appointment and part of the St Paul’s family. In fact more people came to find out about her than anything else in the last year. In reality she has come a long way, now she is aged nearly 3 years old, having started at school at about 12 weeks…

When she first arrived it became really clear that it was us that were being trained and not really her at all. We were blessed by being introduced to the wonderful Michelle, from Essentially Paws, who was the trainer who taught us how to get things right and set her off in the right direction.

So what does Amber do? Well essentially she is there to make people happy and content. She listens to reading, goes to some classes with specific students, can help brighten up someone’s day or change the mood or atmosphere if things get too intense.

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In a simple way I have learnt to think about teaching (and parenting!) in a new way through this experience. To make sure Amber is successful there are two simple ingredients;

  1. Make things interesting and give opportunities to learn and praise
  2. Be consistent in expectations and routines

This ultimately is good for our human relationships too and can bring us a long way. It probably can lead to the loyalty, commitment and engagement we can see as the fruits of her training.

The reflection below is based on the thoughts of one of my best friends James which he shared in their school this week.

Matthew 21:28-32

 

The Gospel this week tells us about a man who asks his two sons to go to work and neither gives an ideal response. The first flatly refuses but then thinks better of it, the second says “yes” but doesn’t then follow it through. The point being that it’s better to come to your senses later and do the right thing rather than pretend that you’re onside when you really have no intention of complying.

Obedience in education is useful; it helps us to get things done efficiently and makes life a little easier. We are not however seeking to cultivate a generation blindly following instructions or authority. The young people in our care need to be able to question respectfully but only where they see genuine injustice, rather than when it just doesn’t suit them to follow the rules. They need to be able to take a stand at the right time.

Some rules tend to make more sense as one gets older but in the meantime good listening and discernment are skills that we need to develop in young people in order for them to understand why we are called to act in certain ways. Deepening our understanding leaves us less likely to agree to do something that we later realise we either can’t or won’t follow through on but more importantly it helps us to understand why being appropriately obedient is good for us.

As teachers and parents we tend to think that we know what’s best for them and that if they do as we say things will turn out well. To a far deeper extent, God really does know what’s best for us and if we are to be truly happy, we really do need to listen to and follow Him no matter how much we feel like being disobedient.

Listening to God through prayer is the best way to understand what we are being asked to do. It’s then up to us respond appropriately and once we do, the Kingdom will be well on the way to being built. Finding the time for this reflection is key too if we really try to hear the message.

Things to think about when obedience isn’t easy:

  • What am I being asked to do that I don’t really want to?
  • Why don’t I want to do as I’m asked or struggle to respond?
  • Why am I being asked? Have I really listened? Do I really understand what I’m being asked to do? Where does it fit in with the bigger picture and purpose of what we do together?
  • What would (insert name here e.g. Jesus, Saint Paul, the nicest person I know etc.) do?
  • What should I do when I face these challenges?

In essence we need to go back to Amber – if we want obedience we should ensure consistency and opportunities for learning and praise. We too need to build in routines and time to train and bring us closer to God, it is only then that we can listen to His plan for us.

Enjoy the week ahead.

God bless.

Forgiveness and humility

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Due to the pace of school life at the start of the school year I have only managed to write a short reflection on our themes each fortnight rather than once a week… I’m sorry I haven’t kept up with it so far – maybe a little ironic when reflecting on forgiveness.

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What stands out to me is that in reality all of us fall short at times… personally, in our jobs, in our relationships and also in our time for God. We can either give up on any area of these aspects or our lives or can dust ourselves down each day and seek to ask each other, and God, for forgiveness in the areas where we could have done better.

Equally we need to learn how to love and forgive one another. We sometimes see so many images of hatred, division and conflict. The images of conflict from the tragic events in Charlottesville really shocked and saddened me this summer. Perhaps it was the echoes which were more reminiscent of images buried deep in history of the 1960s or divisions of South Africa and apartheid.

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What was clear for the world to see was the level of hatred and the fact that there was a lack of leadership in the response. Through apathy we condone this division and hatred. We have a duty in leading, and educating, to challenge and engage people to live a life that builds unity not division.

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Nelson Mandela, a hero of mine, had every reason to hate and resent those who imprisoned him and robbed him of the best years of his life yet instead he made a choice to help it form him into the leader that he became of the “rainbow nation”.

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We can only meet hatred with love if we are to transform the world and we must have a belief in humanity to achieve this.

After the tragic events in Barcelona we saw how this can be lived out in the power of love and forgiveness. Even in the depths of a mourning family Javier Martinez found the humility and integrity to take the darkest time in grieving for the loss of his 3 year old son and transform it into a symbol of light and hope.

Ultimately this is the same message that Jesus gave. He led with humility and offered love and forgiveness in all He said and did in His life. If we can live this out in some small way each day we are truly making the world a better place, one small step at a time.

A few thoughts for the week ahead…

  • What can we do to ask for or offer forgiveness in our relationships with one another and with God?
  • How can we be liberated by offering forgiveness to others?
  • What can we do to act with humility and how can we be inspired by the example of Jesus?

I hope you all have a really good week and have the opportunity to love, live and forgive in whatever we face each day.

God bless.