It is easy in the modern world to think that everyone has simply “got it easy” compared to us. They may look like they find it easier to…
have lots of friends
have a great family
enjoy their job
be happy and fulfilled
But in the simplest sense of course this is an illusion. It is actually about much more than this. We have to learn, and maybe as parents and teachers, teach resilience. It can give us the fire to overcome the challenges that life will pose us with.
On a very simple level we can look at the image of Jesus to help us to do this.
We can truly learn something profound from the story of Christ. This week in the Gospels we mark Jesus’ baptism, the start of His public life and mission. In essence we already recognise that He is destined to die for us and rise again. On this journey He would face real suffering and challenge and yet He stuck with it and lifted Himself up again. Even on his final journey to crucifixion Jesus fell and Simon was pulled from the crowd to share the burden of the cross with Him.
A few questions we can take from this;
How can we try and build resilience in our lives?
What will we hold on to most when things are tough?
How we can reach out to others when they have fallen?
What can we do as parents and teachers to help young people be resilient?
What can we do to look out for those who may feel overwhelmed in some way?
If we can do some of these things the sunshine will burst through the clouds, the rain will clear and we will have a clear view ahead of us. In a small way this is what we are called to do as Christians, as disciples, as humans – simply to walk alongside one another and lift each other up.
Sometimes you just meet people who are great to be around. Someone who you want to spend more time with. They are magnetic and attractive in some way and make you feel confident and good about yourself. They “radiate” positivity, light and hope. In our heart of hearts this sounds like how we would all love to hear someone describe us.
In contrast you can at times come across people who are never content, happy or really fulfilled. They are never happier than when they get an opportunity to offload on someone else and share their woes and troubles. They may be the person you see and hope they don’t spot you or you have to try really hard to engage with or be nice to. At times there’s a risk that they simply suck the life out of people and the positivity around them.
In essence we are challenged in to ask the question “How do we share our energy?” For me this is deeper than just our relationships but actually asks us to think about where our energy, love, gifts and talents actually come from.
We are challenged as Christians to see God in one another and equally to be a reflection of God in some way as we celebrate a new year and the Feast of the Epiphany.
A few thoughts and questions for the week ahead…
What can you do to bring light, warmth, hope and faith to the people you meet today?
How can we look to inspire, engage and allow everyone to reflect God in some way, especially in education?
What can we do to catch ourselves in times we feel like we are dragging others down and in fact ask for support if we are struggling with anything rather than live our lives with a negative mindset (or heart-set!)?
So finally we ask God to bless and inspire us in 2019 to radiate faith, hope and love not just in the grand moments but in the simple day to day interactions with one another.
Have a happy, successful and fulfilling year ahead.
This week we have started the advent journey and it is easy to be swept away by the tinsel, trees and preparations for Christmas itself. I believe that Advent is a really important journey, sometimes busy and challenging, which gets us ready to open our hearts to one another and God. So what can you do this year to make a difference?
Many people know all about growth-mindset – the sense that we should be resilient and see that our ability and intelligence can grow from what we learn and even from our mistakes. We are all willing, as parents and teachers, to praise our children for their efforts, commitment and hard work. What could be different when we start to think about developing a growth heart-set?
At the moment there seems plenty that people can disagree on, whether it be their view on Brexit or projections for what life holds in the future for all of us. I always believe that there is always more, in our humanity, that unites us than divides us but we need to approach life with an open mind and open heart.
The challenge is for us is to think about how we can live this out in Advent this year. In the most basic way Christians believe that God is the source of love and this is everlasting and unconditional. This can inspire and challenge us to act in a loving way in any way we can.
A few questions to consider.
What can you do to try to respond in the most loving way even when things are tough?
What would it mean to have a growth heart-set for you this year?
On the advent journey or over the Christmas period what would it look like to give the gift of love to those around you?
I hope and pray that all of you have a peaceful, prayerful and happy Advent journey and that all of us can simply open our hearts to one another and God’s plan for all of us.
In the current Gospel readings we are challenged to think about how we will be ready for Jesus to come into the world.
In the Gospel account Jesus says “In those days after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven.” It as an apocalyptic scene where we are challenged to think of the end of the world and judgement. Later in the same reading Jesus talks of the fig tree and recognising when it flowers that summer is near… perhaps a gentler image!
It makes me think about a few things…
What can we do to read the signs of the times and recognise when things change in our lives?
What does it mean for us to judged or accountable at the end of our lives or the end of time?
How can we live our lives in a way that we are ready to meet God face to face?
What can we do to be ready to welcome Jesus into our lives in a fresh and new way during our advent journey?
Ultimately this is part of what I believe we are doing… we can easily be lured into the Christmas hustle and bustle or our old routines with watching the latest festive advert – even if it came out before December has even begun! We are challenged to think in a far deeper to spot how we can prepare to welcome Jesus in a real and present way into our lives.
If we can do this the journey of advent will be a real gift to us and help us grow in our love and understanding of each other and God – perhaps the greatest gift I could imagine…
Over the last two weeks we have been reflecting on the feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ) and a focus on the theme of division. In the Gospel account we hear of how Jesus was accused of having an “unclean spirit in him”. At the time of Jesus’ life there was a belief that physical suffering was due to sin or wrong-doing and often in the healing miracles of Jesus we hear about him saying “your sins have been forgiven”. But what does this mean today?
Jesus challenges us to show healing in our relationships and with God. We are called to help people become “whole again”. It may recognise that we have spiritual, physical and psychological needs and aspects to our personality, happiness and welfare. This is most highlighted to me when we think of the importance of us understanding and supporting those who face issues of mental illness, mental health and well-being.
On another level we sometimes face division in the world and feel overwhelmed by it but in reality we may need to look closer to home. We can find opportunities to heal our relationships personally and professionally even when it is challenging to do so. Taking the first step to mend a broken relationship is challenging but worth the risk and that first step.
If we are to be “one body” as a school, or Christian community, we need to invest time in ensuring we find ways to be people of faith. Living out faith in a meaningful way makes sense of Jesus’ challenge for us to live out faith in action.
So let us this week make a renewed promise to do this and accept the challenge to be the “body of Christ” in the world today and also create faith, justice and peace. A few questions worth considering…
How can we offer love and forgiveness to those around us?
What can we do to build unity and understanding in our relationships?
How can we put Jesus at the centre of our lives and community?
I hope in the week ahead you get the opportunity to bring Christ back to the centre of our lives and also feel whole again.
Last week the theme of the week was “fruitfulness” in which we were challenged to remember to bind ourselves to our faith and do good work – ironically I didn’t manage to write a reflection so wasn’t very fruitful in that department so will try and incorporate the reflections this week instead.
Sometimes we may feel it is really challenging to love as a friend, parent, husband or wife. It is not the media image of “Valentines love” or a goodnight scene from the Waltons in family life but actually rolling our sleeves up and getting our hands dirty. Loving is most challenging when we have to do difficult things, when we have to forgive or do really difficult things.
The message in the Gospel this week is really simple – “Love one another as I have loved you”. Jesus teaches and shows us what this really means in His words and his actions. You can see this in His teaching, healing and ultimately His sacrifice for us on the cross.
What can we do to live this out?
Show patience, love and forgiveness to those we meet.
Never give up on someone who needs your love and support.
Look for good in those around us rather than pointing out faults.
Try and be an example of love in the world in our personal lives or professionally
So in the week ahead when we are challenged by something or given an opportunity simply look to love someone as God loves us – if we can do this imagine how much better and “fruitful” life can be.
Last week we started the journey towards Easter in the season of Lent. It seems like just yesterday we were taking down the Christmas decorations and yet we now have to get ready for getting ready for Easter. It is an opportunity to do three key things;
Fasting – an opportunity to put others first and give up some of the luxuries in our lives. This may give us a chance to recognise how truly “blessed” we are by the basic things we have in our lives – food on our plates and a roof over our heads.
Almsgiving – making a sacrifice to give something to those less fortunate than we are. This could be close to our homes or supporting international charities.
Prayer – finding time to invest in our relationship with God. At times it is challenging to find time to pray or even finding the space to just stop and listen to God’s call and message for us.
A practical way to do this is to commit to 40 Acts.
This is a brilliant way to find practical ways to live our lives to benefit others, taking the challenge to live with generosity towards others. By doing these simple acts I believe not only do we “live more simply” but also will become happier and more fulfilled ourselves.
If we can live in happiness and harmony with others we are truly becoming God’s presence in the world. This is how we can become more Christ-like and bring life and hope into the world.
Last week we were in the USA and later in New York as we heard about the tragic loss of young lives in Florida. We also heard today of a young student locally who was tragically killed in an car accident on a railway track. In these times of darkness, globally or in our own lives, we need to seek out God in some way. People can feel abandoned and without faith – yet when we walk alongside people we can help to carry their cross with them and truly become disciples.
So this Lent – let us live generously with faith, hope and love. Will you take the journey?