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Fishing

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore [of the lake while the disciples were fishing], but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish…When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread…Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

From John 21

 

I’m pretty good at a few things in this life, but my dad can attest to the fact that I’m a terrible fisherman.

During my early years my father would take time away from his work to sit by a river with a fishing rod in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. If grandma had been baking recently, there would be a mouthful of fruit cake in the mix too.

I always disliked fishing but for some reason I would forget this between fishing trips. I jumped out of the car, enthusiastically bait the hook, throw a line in and wait.

Patience continues to be a bit of a struggle for me, as it was then, for I would not last long waiting. My recollection seems to suggest that I would patiently wait for hours before giving up but I suspect it was closer to minutes. I would start endlessly throwing out my line and reeling it back in quickly. My dad would shake his head in amusement as I inevitably gave up and went walking instead.

As I think of the disciples in the story, I wonder how they felt when a strange bloke yelled out to them to change the way they were fishing. After all, these disciples knew how to fish, and seriously, what difference would it make to throw a net on the right side of the boat instead of the left?

A great deal it seems from the story for a great deal of fish turned up. It seems that in addition to being the Son of God, Jesus knew a bit about fishing too.

When was the last time you found yourself in situation where you had been toiling away at something only for someone to come along and quickly show you how to complete the task far more quickly, efficiently and easily? If this hasn’t happened to you recently I suggest you grab a young person, have them watch you work with an electronic device, and then watch as they mercilessly show you a simple way to do something you’ve been doing wrong for years!

The thing about God is that he knows that we are prone to go about things the hard way. By nature we try to do things alone, not want help, and desire to work harder rather than smarter.

When we are caught out trying to do things without God’s help the good news is that Jesus invites us to breakfast too. He doesn’t have condemnation for us or even get frustrated. He is happy to help and happy to enjoy the fruits of success with us too.

As we move towards a new year may we not forget that our value is not in how perfect we are or how quickly we can get something done. Our value comes from a God who created us unique, with various strengths and weaknesses, and loves walking alongside us as we try to do our best in this often confusing and frustrating world.

As our year draws to a close and you read my final principal’s note, allow me to wish you and your family a safe and blessed Christmas.

Tom

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Achieve

What does it mean to ‘achieve’? When you think of ‘achievements’ in your life, or the lives of others, what comes to mind? When someone tells you ‘your child is achieving well’ what does that communicate to you?

I was blessed to have parents who supported me thorugh my primary school years and I also had the pleasure of having a wonderful teacher named Mrs Tonkin. Mrs Tonkin helped me across the curriculum and through her teaching and care it was seen that I was just as capable as my peers.

Mrs Tonkin ran into my mother at the shops in Adelaide not that long ago and upon being told that I was now a principal she said to my mother. “Tell Tom I’m very proud of him, but I’m not surprised that he has achieved well in his life. Also, tell him to keep working on his handwriting because I suspect it may still be poor.” To Mrs Tonkin’s credit, my handwriting does still need work…

Mrs Tonkin taught me to achieve. She did not accept any excuses for not meeting my personal best. She didn’t believe that I ‘was behind’ or ‘not capable’ – she saw a child that was on a learning journey. She taught me how to be a good learner and as a result, I achieved well at school and university.

We can make a mistake and believe that a child that always gets an ‘A’ is achieving well while a child getting a ‘D’ is not. It may very well be that the child receiving an ‘A’ is giving less than their best and should be getting even higher marks and that child getting a ‘D’ may have got an ‘F’ earlier in the year and has worked diligently to get that ‘D’. That ‘D’ may actually be the greater achievement.

I have friends who have given up high paying jobs in banks where they were seen to ‘be achieving’ to volunteer years of their lives to help disadvantaged communities set up small businesses. Their peers don’t see their current work as ‘an achievement’.

When I was working as a professional singer, my parents were ridiculed by others who asked ‘When will Tom get a proper job?’, and refused to acknowledge that I was consistently working with the best groups in the country. In the eyes of my parents, I had some great professional ‘achievements’ to my name.

At Lakeside College, we believe ‘an achievement’ is when we meet goals that stretch us and require us to give 100% of our effort. While students may have differing goals, the compulsory expectation is that all students will commit, work hard and strive to develop all their abilities.

What brings me pride as the principal is seeing students, staff and parents set high expectations for themselves and exceeding them. That is a great joy and encourages me to do the same in my role.

Why achieve? Simply because God gave us the ability to use our talents to give him glory through seeking to be our best. In doing so, our lives may be lived in a manner that helps others.

A high achieving teacher helps others to learn. A high achieving builder builds safe homes for families. A high achieving father or mother provides a nurturing environment for his children. The list goes on.

God wants us to be our best so that we can bring out the best in others.

May the God who brought us into existence and gifted us with many talents, lift us to great achievements as a community.

Blessings

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To the class of 2016

What follows is my address given at the Sunshine Christian School Graduation Service in December of 2016. This was my last address to the Sunshine Christian School community.

Parents of Grade 6 students, I share something in common with you tonight. I’m sure you feel like it was only yesterday that your child started Prep. Tonight I feel like it was only yesterday that I gave my first principal’s address at our graduation service. The time has gone so quickly!

I would like to acknowledge the parents of this school. For the support you give your own child and the children of others through volunteering. Whether it was leading a craft group, helping with garden club, hearing students read, covering books, making costumes,  helping with events and excursions, helping with PMP, assisting at morning teas, prep transition days, mother day and father’s day stall  – your work has had a wonderful impact on our community and I thank you for this service. I thank you to for your ongoing and unwavering commitment to the ministry of our school. Your personal support for me over the years has been greatly appreciated.

In addition to farewelling our Grade 6 class, we say goodbye to other families as they moving out of the region. To the families leaving us this year, we wish you God’s richest blessings as you settle into new homes and schools. Thank you for blessing us with your time in our community.

I thank the community of St Matthew’s Lutheran church for their ongoing support of this ministry. The commitment of St Matthew’s to prayer and practical support only grows.

I thank the school council for their tireless efforts in governing the school and for their exemplary support and encouragement for me as the school’s principal. I will continue to pray for you as you lead our school to ‘live as children of light – loving God, loving others and loving learning’

I wish to acknowledge our regional director and the entire staff of the LEVNT regional office for their ongoing support both of me and the school. The regional office has always gone above and beyond to support our little school and their tireless work plays a large role in our ongoing success as a community.

Tonight many have said such lovely things about me, but allow me a last word in this matter. The staff of Sunshine have made me look good. A principal can only lead where the people will follow and the staff of Sunshine have supported me and our ministry with unfailing commitment and hard work. The good results we see in our children are testament to the work of this community – not just the leadership of the bloke at the top. I count it the greatest honour to have had the privilege to serve alongside you and will look on with great fondness as you continue to serve the community of Sunshine.

The equation for a great Christian school is simple. God plus great staff plus great families equals great kids. That is what makes our school great.

Many parents have asked me if I am looking forward to leaving the community and starting work at Lakeside College. The honest answer is ‘No’. I follow God’s calling willingly, but do so knowing that I leave a very special school. I have never experienced a community where there is such love and support between students, parents and staff. I will miss the school and the community a great deal.

Enough about the grown ups…And so, the time comes for the Principal to offer a few words of advice to the young men and women of the Grade 6 class.

Grade 6, one of the things I have enjoyed most about serving as your principal is how forgiving you have been to me. I haven’t always got it right. I’ve had grumpy days. I’ve forgotten to mark your work. I’ve snuck a diet coke and chocolate in the class and devoured them while you weren’t looking. You’ve all seen how terrible my handwriting is. I know you’ve had your bad days too. We’ve sat in my office talking about mistakes and needed improvement of attitude!

A long time ago there was a bloke called Abraham. He lived in a city and was living an average life. Out of nowhere, God told him to leave his city and family, head out into the desert and create a new community in a new land. The Bible tells us that Abraham made a lot of mistakes. He didn’t always trust God. He made poor decisions. He didn’t listen. He didn’t always care for his family and friends. But despite this, through Abraham the entire world was blessed. He is known as the Father of nations.

Likewise, your principal hasn’t always made the correct decisions, I have been far from perfect, but God has continued to bless our community greatly. A lot of people have said a lot of nice things about me tonight but always remember that the good you see in me in the Lord working. What I do, what we do, should always be for his purposes and his glory.

Mistakes are not the end of you, they are the beginning. What makes the character of a man or woman is what happens after the mistakes. Grade 6 you will make mistakes and have rough times – but don’t that be the end of the story. Be ready to learn from your mistakes, seek forgiveness when needed and get back to important work you have been given.

Have great courage. There is a large world out there that needs people who care deeply about others. Go where God needs his people to work. Do not choose a path that is easy and brings reward for you only, seek always to place the needs of others above your own. Do God’s work, not your own. Follow his calling regardless of where it may lead.

Do not chose a job that pays the best, chose a job that allows you to best use your unique skills to help others. Remember that our country needs good cleaners as much as it needs good doctors, good plumbers as much as good engineers.

God will trust you with great work that will benefit this world so keep your ears open to his call.

May the creator God, who was with in the beginning, has walked with you at school, and now goes with you to High School, remind you frequently of his grace, mercy and deep love. May you be like Abraham, may the world be blessed through you.

 

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Term 4 Week 8

What follows is my last reflection as principal of Sunshine Christian School…

‘In the last days…the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob… He will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths….Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come…let us walk in the light of the Lord.’
– Isaiah 2:1-5

Wow…the end of the year is upon us and Christmas is at hand! We have lit the first candle of Advent and we are looking forward to celebrating the birth of our Saviour. We’ve also got our present purchasing under control, have our celebratory meals organized and are feeling very much on top of the month that is to come…right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to welcome the birth of Jesus. My office is a mess, my home needs a good clean, my to do list grows ever longer and as a result, I’m not feeling very merry, peaceful or joyful. I’m feeling rather cranky and tired to be honest!

Reflecting on our reading from Isaiah this week, I can see such refreshing, wonderful imagery and richness of thought. The church can easily get caught in the trap of not giving much time to the Old Testament and it is a big mistake to do so. What a lovely vision – all the people of the Lord streaming to worship God in peace.

I exhort us all to turn our eyes at this time to see the mountain of the Lord which is a constant presence in our lives. For some of us there may be clouds of frustration, for others mists of uncertainty or perhaps we are so busy looking at the ground that we forget to look up at all.

Regardless, Jesus is a constant and immovable force for peace, comfort and joy in our lives. As we move into the ‘silly season’ of Christmas, receiving encouragement from every angle to take our eyes off celebrating the birth of our savior, let us steadfastly keep to our course. Let us walk in the light of God and proclaim his love, mercy and compassion this Christmas.

Blessings, Tom

 

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Term 3 Week 10

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people… that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Greetings from Vietnam!

When you read this newsletter, you will find me attending the Asia Lutheran Education Association conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. I am attending this conference as a representative of all Lutheran schools in Australia. As I shared with our students earlier in the year, our school is one of more than 80 Lutheran schools in Australia and one of thousands of Lutheran schools across the world.

I am enjoying the sights and sounds of Vietnam – the homeland of many of our families at Sunshine. It has been great meeting people involved with Lutheran schools in Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and many other places.

These gatherings remind me of the purpose of Lutheran schools – to proclaim God’s love to the world through the provision of quality education to all who seek it. In this mission we are joined by many brothers and sisters across the world in other Christian schools.

In our reading from this week, the apostle Paul urges us to proclaim God’s truth. How do we do this? Paul encourages us to pray for each other and to live lives that are full of peace. At this gathering of Lutheran schools it has been a great blessing to gather as the people of God, united by his Son Christ, to pray for our schools and our world.

There is so much power in prayer. Not through our own strength, but through what God does through prayer. Being in communion with God, and talking with him in prayer, helps us to live at peace with the world and be open to the things He would have us do.

As we enjoy a brief respite from the rigours of school, may we take time to connect with God and seek to live with the peace Christ left us.

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2016 ACEL Conference

A twitter report on the recent Australian College of Educational Leaders conference – click here

 

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I’m back!

Hi folks. I’ve been meaning to get back into my blog for some time now…I didn’t realise that over 6 months has passed since I last posted.

For those who follow my principal’s reflections, I’ve posted the last 6 months worth and will try to get back into the habit of uploading them right away.

I’ve also got a couple of blog posts coming from a conference I attended in Singapore.

Stay tuned!

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Term 2 Week 6

Wisdom

“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?…I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep…I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in humankind.” Proverbs 8:1-31 (selected)

This week finds me with more than 80 other principals of Lutheran schools across the country undertaking a national conference in Cairns. The conference theme this year is ‘Keep the fire burning’ – a theme that I’ve reflected on in relation to our Bible passage this week.

For some principals, it is worrying to leave their school for a week. Some feel that the place will fall over or perhaps that they are so important the school will simply cease to exist. Visions of students and staff playing up abound! Let’s not be too hard on principals. I recently spoke with a mum who was having a weekend away and leaving her children with dad. She too was worried about what would happen without her around.

Wisdom’s call to us is to have rest. To take time from the everyday troubles in order to be restored and renewed – to feed the fire that sits inside us. We so quickly take the majesty of God’s creation for granted. We take our health and safety for granted. We take our family and friends for granted. Wisdom calls us to be thankful and remember where these gifts come from.

Like mums and dads, principals make a lot of decisions. When we make decisions while we are busy and non-stop, often the decisions are poor. They are not always the wisest choice. As our 5/6 students reminded me in Christian Studies class last week, perhaps the first thing we should do when we are thinking about something is stop and seek God’s wisdom.

This week I pray that we all may seek rest, seek God’s wisdom and rejoice in his creation. May this ‘keep the fire burning’ and equip us to love God and his people.

Blessings, Tom

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To the class of 2015

What follows is my address given at the Sunshine Christian School Graduation Service on Thursday 10th December 2015.

What a year it has been. So much has happened. So much has been taught. And let’s be honest, so much has probably been forgotten too!

To the parents of our graduating grade 6 class, I’m sure it feels like only yesterday you saw your child walk through our front gate for the first time. To our parents that brought their children to us in Prep at the start of the year, your child is only 6 years away from this evening. The advice I’m sure the parents of our graduating class would give you is this: “cherish these days for they will not last forever.”

This is the third time I have stood before our community at our graduation service and I thank God for the privilege and honour of serving this community. I thank the staff, parents, council and students for their continued support. A successful school is built on the strong relationship between students, parents and staff. We are indeed blessed by the richness of the relationships in our community.

I would like to particularly acknowledge the parents who volunteered with us this year. Whether it was leading a craft group, helping with garden club, hearing students read, covering books, making costumes, helping with events and excursions, assisting at morning teas, prep transition days, mother day and father’s day stall – your work has had a wonderful impact on our community and I thank you for this service. The school will hold be a special event for our volunteer parents early next year to acknowledge their service. Can we please acknowledge our parent volunteers with applause.

The school has experienced yet another successful year. Camps to Weekaway and Ballarat were wonderful. Music has been learnt and our walls have groaned from wonderful art. We have run and jumped our way through PE. We have read book after book. We have done sum after sum. We have programmed Bee-Bots. We have all experienced success and explored our God given gifts. There have been successes for all of us.

Tonight is a joyous occasion but also one that brings a small measure of sadness. In addition to farewelling out Grade 6 class, we say goodbye to other families as they moving out of the region. To the families leaving us this year, we wish you God’s richest blessings as you settle into new homes and schools. Thank you for blessing us with your time in our community.

And so, the time comes for the Principal to offer a few words of advice to the young men and women of the Grade 6 class.

On my desk, underneath a pile of paperwork, next to the Lego models, next to the ‘Mr Happy’ coffee cup and behind the book I’m currently reading, you will find a poem written by William Henley titled ‘Invictus’. Some of the parents here may know this poem quite well through being forced to study it at High School perhaps.

I will not read the entire poem, but will offer two verses:

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Grade 6, you are old enough to know now that life is not always a pleasant road. The marks you have received this year have come not from sitting around but from diligent, and hard work. The relationships you have with your fellow classmates, I know full well, came with their fair share of arguments, hurtful statements and needed forgiveness.

The poem I read reminds me of one of Mrs Klammer’s favourite things – the ocean. I too have a great love for the ocean and for the skies too. Humankind seems to have the land under our control but try as we might, the power of the wind and the waves cannot be controlled by human hands. The ocean is a constant reminder that God is indeed sovereign and in control.

The poem finishes with the line, “I am the captain of my ship, the master of my soul. “

The temptation of young people is to believe that they alone have the power to control the destiny of their life. I speak from experience – I too was young once. Perhaps some of you know already that you may be the captain of your ship, but the ocean you sail on and the wind that rages, are beyond your control.

We all sail a ship on God’s ocean, blown by a wind of God’s making. He was the one who crafted your ship – a ship that contains the special gifts and talents that you have. Your ship is like no other on the ocean because God made you unique, special and precious.

As you leave our little community, don’t go sailing alone. Sail in the knowledge that your friends, family and God, sail with you and will support you.

As our reading from Philippians reminds us “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Isaiah tells us today “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defence he has become my salvation.”

Be the captain of your ship. Have great courage. There is a large world out there that needs people who care deeply about others. Go where God needs his people to work. Do not choose a path that is easy and brings reward for you only. Seek always to place the needs of others above your own.

Remember always that God is your strength and he will be faithful to you through the storms of life. The land, the skies and the ocean are his.

May the creator God, who was with in the beginning, has walked with you at school, and now goes with you to High School, remind you frequently of his grace, mercy and deep love.

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Christmas is coming

‘Now may our God and Father himself and our
Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the
Lord make you increase and abound in love for
one another and for all, just as we abound in love
for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in
holiness that you may be blameless before our
God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus
with all his saints.’ – Thessalonians 3:11-13

This Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season. In worship this week the students considered the question, “How do we know Christmas is coming?” They explored the many different things which bring our attention to Christmas – the Christmas decorations in the stores, Christmas cards in the mail, Santa Claus appearances in shopping centres and Christmas parties at night. For our students, knowing that there are only a few days of the school year left means that Christmas isn’t far away.

With distractions all around us, it is easy for the profound nature of Christmas to be lost on us. After all, we celebrate the birth of Christ every year, and we know that on December 26th we have only 364 days until we do it all again! In this context we can miss the richness of this event.

We need to remember that the Jewish people had been waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah to be born. They had suffered through famine, slavery, oppression and grief as they waited for their Saviour to appear. We are told that upon hearing that the Messiah was to be born, the great ruler Herod was ‘greatly disturbed’! Herod knew that this Messiah would be a threat to his leadership.

The problem for the Jewish people was that Jesus was not the Messiah they were
expecting. They were expecting an all-powerful, all-conquering Messiah who would put everything right for the nation of Israel. Herod too, was expecting the same and had his armies ready to stop anyone challenging his authority.

But Jesus was not what everyone was expecting. He was a child born into simple
circumstances, whose healing ministry grew from humble beginnings on earth to ultimately healing the relationship between humanity and God. He taught us not to pick up a sword but to seek peace; to love each other, and to forgive others readily. He taught us that in God’s world everyone has meaning, from the smallest child to the most powerful ruler.

So as we commence the Christmas season and are encouraged to believe that the event is all about presents, parties and being busy, may God grant us the wisdom to stop and reflect. May we do as the writer of Thessalonians prays: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for the Lord.”

As my grandmother taught me, “When you take the Christ out of Christmas you aren’t left with much at all.”

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