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Bringing life

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you…You show me the path of life”

Psalm 16: 1,2,11

Hasn’t our weather been up and down of late? One day we encourage the students to put sunscreen on and the next we are sheltering inside classrooms to escape pelting rain. One of the things I enjoyed about living in Egypt was that for most of the year it was hot every day; the same temperature for weeks at a time. It was easy to manage because my body was used to it. I knew what to expect.

This time of year the school starts focusing more and more on next year. New students, new staff, new families, new programs. What should we expect? We also start thinking about the ‘old’ – our ‘old’ Grade 6 students will soon become ‘new’ Grade 7 students at their secondary school of choice. I suspect they too are wondering a great deal about what to expect.

None of us who have lived a few years have escaped the ups and downs of life, the good and bad times, the joys and the sorrows. The birth of children, and the death of family or friends. Finding jobs and losing jobs. Achieving many things but failing at some things too. Despite what some may have us think, no one this side of heaven knows what to expect on any given day.

I have often found that the times when I believe I have the clearest picture of how things will unfold are the times when I receive the greatest surprises. I often wish I could see the world with the wisdom of God and know what is to come. While we don’t know exactly what to do each day, we rest in the refuge of God who sees the grand things occurring both now and in the future. His plan for us is to follow his path of life as best as we can every day.

When discussing decision-making with a Jesuit Priest, he told me, “Making a decision is simple. You must ask yourself “Will this bring life to my God and my brothers and sisters? If yes, then proceed.” This is the constant question we must ask ourselves and encourage our young people to ask also – “Will this act bring life?”

God indeed shows us the path of life but we must be humble, listen carefully and take our refuge in his life-giving love. This is the path that we must walk.

May the path of life be clear to us all.

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God with us

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
…Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
Job 38:1-7

You may have noticed that I was back in hospital recently to have a minor operation. This fixed an issue uncovered from when I previously had surgery to mend my broken collarbone. I am hoping that after two operations in three months I can stay out of hospital for a while!

Faith in a living God is something that has sustained me through times of worry and fear. Even though we have a wonderful hospital system in this country, surgery is always something that comes with risk, and it worries even the bravest of school principals!

Faith reminds us that as brothers and sisters in Christ we don’t face troubles alone. We walk with people supporting us. This was made clear to me yet again these last two weeks as students, parents and staff have prayed for me and asked after my health.

When such things happen to us, the first question we like to ask is ‘Why?’ If ever there was a man that deserved an explanation from God, it was Job. Job was a man who once had everything – a good livelihood, good friends, good family and a good deal of money. But one day all this was taken from him. After a great deal of encouragement from his friends, Job finally cried out to God in frustration about what had happened to him. In today’s language, Job cries, ‘Why is it that bad things have happened to me when I am a good person?’ God’s reply is seen above – the wonderful phrase ‘Were you there when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand!’

The byproduct of a broken world is that we all experience pain. Bad things do happen to good people and life doesn’t always make sense. As Jesus reminds us, ‘[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ (Matthew 5:45)

Although we may not understand the ‘why’ of everything, we have a God who empowers us with the Spirit to face the troubles of each day. Through Christ we are called to his church, which is full of believers who help us along our way.

As a school community there are many among us who face trouble, worry and hardship. I exhort us all to open ourselves in order to hear God’s calling to minister to each other in our need.

May God bless us with his assurance, that through all, He is indeed Emmanuel – God with us.

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Servant Leadership – Robert Greenleaf

A few choice thoughts from Robert Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership”. Particular gems in bold.

“A mark of leaders, an attribute that puts them in a position to show the way for others, is that they are better than most at pointing the direction. As long as one is leading, one always has a goal. It may be a goal arrived at by group consensus, or the leader, acting on inspiration, may simply have said, “Let’s go this way.” But the leader always knows what it is and can articulate it for any who are unsure. By clearly stating and restating the goal the leader gives certainty to others who may have difficulty in achieving it for themselves.”

“Servants, by definition, are fully human. Servant-leaders are functionally superior because they are closer to the ground— they hear things, see things, know things, and their intuitive insight is exceptional. Because of this they are dependable and trusted. They know the meaning of that line from Shakespeare’s sonnet, “They that have power to hurt and will do none….?”

“Manipulation, as I see it, is one of the imperfections of an imperfect world. It is a social problem, but it is not first priority, and the reformer’s zeal will blunt its point by attacking it as primary. Mediocrity (including self-serving) in positions of influence is primary, and it cannot be dealt with by eliminating influence, as in the “leaderless society.” Mediocrity will still be there. Reducing mediocrity is a slow, difficult, person-by-person process in which the less able learn to identify and trust the more able who will diligently and honestly serve them. It is also a process in which able and honest, serving people prepare themselves to lead and accept the opportunity to lead when offered.”

“What I mean by a potential bearer of responsibility – a leader, if you want to use that term, – is not a vocational category, and it is quite independent of career choice. It may be latent in the potential lawyer, doctor, engineer, businessman scientist, or scholar in the classics. And it is not something to be taught in an academic way. It is a talent to be coached, using the campus as the laboratory for learning to bear responsibility well.”

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#VisibleLearning Symposium, Sydney

My twitter take home from the day!

 

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Well said George

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brighdy as possible before handing it on to future generations.

– from Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw 

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Halfway home

I’d considered the topic of my reflection this week a little while ago – many days before I had an accident on my bike which landed me in hospital. Ironically, I was little more than 3km from home when I came off my bike. Well more than ‘halfway home’, I was very nearly home!

I have been blessed this week by the support of our caring school community and the doctors and nurses that tended to my injuries. While my injuries were quite painful, compared to many sitting in beds near me, they were quite minor. It was a reminder of the need for us to count our blessings. As I took a look at the damage my helmet sustained, I am particularly thankful that I live in a country that values safety and forces bike riders to wear helmets.

As we journey through life we are blessed by many different companions. After I crashed, I was tended to by an off-duty nurse, and a good Samaritan picked up my bike and carefully returned it to me a few days later.

In our reading this week we see Jesus being asked to care for others right in the middle of being weary from a boat journey and already having a heavy load of work. Yet when Jesus is asked to help Jairus’ daughter, he does so. People would have forgiven Him for giving this task to someone else or for simply ‘being too busy’ to help. But this is not our God.

We worship a God who extends love and care in all circumstances, regardless of whether the trouble we find ourselves in is of our own making. It is indeed an inspirational love that we seek to follow.

As we live our lives ‘halfway home’ to our eternal resting place, let us demonstrate love and care for all. A love that allows us to put aside our own concerns and do what needs to be done for others in need.

I wish students, parents, staff and our entire community God’s richest blessings during the upcoming holiday break.

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Hope

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
To declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night…
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
At the works of your hands I sing for joy. – Psalm 92

Last week saw our 5/6 class journey to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. It was a wonderful camp and we give thanks for all involved with organising and running it.

At Sovereign Hill, the students had the opportunity to experience what life was like during the 1850s Gold Rush era – including attending school, dressing in period costume and undertaking mining and other trade tasks (even cleaning up manure!)

On the Thursday evening we watched a representation of the Eureka stockade. The students greatly enjoyed learning about history in such a real and tangible way. As I watched the students eagerly take in the unfolding events, I noted the involvement of the church in the person of Father Smyth.

The Eureka Stockade caused significant loss of life from both the protesting miners and the government police forces. In a time of great tension, Father Smyth did what he could to encourage both sides to seek peace. When violence broke out, he placed his life in danger to attend to the wounded and give comfort to the dying. Despite witnessing a terrible event, following the event he wrote “…better times I hope are dawning…May we have the good and just things that our people look for.”

It is not easy to look at the world with this type of hope, a hope that gives thanks to God in both good and bad times. In Australia our lives are generally comfortable; we are well fed, well housed and can freely express our faith and politics. The Eureka Stockade reminds us that it was not always this way in our country and it also calls us to remember those in our community who are not well fed or well housed. We also remember the myriad of nationalities that lost life at the Eureka Stockade in defence of justice and fairness for all.Picture1

At Sunshine Christian School, it is important for our community to share Father Smyth’s outlook on the world and to do as the Psalmist encourages us to do, “to declare God’s steadfast love in the morning, and his faithfulness by night”. As our students experienced firsthand, the early migrants to the Goldfields had little. Yet amongst their own problems, many put aside their own comfort in order to uphold the values of God. They suffered in order to protect the weak, to speak for truth, and they looked forward to a better time. Many diligently worshipped God in churches with dirt floors and flimsy cloth walls.

May the hopeful spirit of the early migrants of Australia inspire us to give thanks to our God at all times and work for justice and fairness.

Blessings, Tom

 

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Who has seen the wind?

Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling

The wind is passing thro’

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads

The wind is passing by.

– Christian Rossetti

The temperature certainly has dropped and we have had our first days of inside play due to the rain. While it is still technically Autumn, it is starting to feel very much like winter.

As I live close to the school, I love to take the 10 minute walk to school each morning. It gives me an opportunity to be outside and enjoy the forces of creation. On those rainy and windy days it does become a challenge to still choose to walk. However, often these days are the most rewarding. It is indeed a blessing to feel the wind and rain.

The Christian evangelist Billy Graham famously quoted the Rossetti poem above to discuss the work of God through the Spirit in our world. While we may not physically see God at work, his spirit is always working in our world. Just as we cannot see the wind itself and we can only see the effect of the wind on the world, so it is with God.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Lutheran school principals retreat, and had cause to pause and consider what God was doing in my life right now. I couldn’t tell much about the present, but looking back over the past years I could clearly see the path God had placed me on in order for me to be where I am now.

I can recall many times when I didn’t understand what was happening or why things occurred the way they did. I couldn’t see the spirit working at the time, but now I can see how hundreds of seemingly insignificant and unrelated events and decisions ended up guiding me to Sunshine.

Often the best we can do in the storms of life is to place our hope in the surety of God’s love. As the reading set down for this week tells us “…hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:24)

We may not know where the spirit is leading us or how rough the path ahead may be. While we may not feel or see God’s hand presently, hope tells us that behind all that we see there is indeed a loving God. It may not make much sense at the time, but the Spirit is indeed with us, helping us along our way.

So when the winds blow and the rains fall, may it remind us of the unseen hope we carry with us. Let it also call us to stand with, support and love our brothers and sisters who are caught in a storm and do not have this hope.

Blessings

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Prayer

As you may have noticed, I have not been at school this week. While students and staff have rest during the term break, school principals are often found at school during these times. They have to work hard to catch up with the administrative tasks that get pushed aside while important learning is taking place during the term. I am sure that the week has gone well and few have noticed my absence! I thank the staff for taking on additional responsibilities.

To be honest, most principals get a bit nervous when we take leave of our schools during term times. It is a temptation of our modern times for us all to believe that we are more significant, necessary and important than we really are. We are all indeed unique, needed and loved by our heavenly Father, but we must be careful not to start thinking that we have the power of God.

One of the readings for this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I think Paul had a good idea of what it was like to be the leader of a community and to be away from it—most of his letters are focused on encouraging communities that he is physically unable to be with at that time. When we look at these letters we soon notice one of the foci of his work—the importance of prayer.

He writes to the Ephesians:

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…

In a world as troubled as ours currently is—floods in Queensland, earthquakes in Nepal, war in Syria – we often feel powerless and unable to do anything for our brothers and sister in humanity spread across the world.

What prayer does is give us the power to express our love for people to God, and experience the comfort that comes from knowing that He is a God of hope who hears all prayers. Prayer is not an excuse to avoid providing for the practical needs of others, but is a comforting balm for our souls which provides us with the strength to go on despite the crushing sadness in the world.

So this week in my physical absence from the school I held the community up to God in my prayers. May we all put aside time to bring before God our brothers and sisters around the world who so desperately need hope.

Blessings

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The Good Shepherd

Last Friday, over 400 staff from primary and secondary Lutheran schools in the greater Melbourne and Geelong regions came together for a conference at Luther College.

Bishop John Henderson (head of the Lutheran Church of Australia) spoke about the mission and challenges facing Lutheran schools in providing Christ-centred education, and exploring what makes Lutheran education special. Bishop John spoke at length about the importance of schools not allowing themselves to fall away from the core of Christian education: providing a caring service to the community.

With increasing government requirements coming from many different areas, it is often difficult for schools to focus on the really important people – the students in our care. We can be so busy doing things FOR students that we don’t have time to be WITH students. I imagine the parents and carers in our school community would understand this struggle well. Wanting to spend time with your children, but having work, church and other commitments claiming your time, effort and focus.

This week Mrs Arena took the time to teach staff about interesting ways to engage students in Science, which she learnt while undertaking professional learning. You can see a photo of us hard at work below. It was a wonderful chance for the principal to remember the joy of learning and to experience the love of a caring teacher who wanted to help him learn; someone who was present to his needs.

As our reading for this week reminds us, Christ is our Good Shepherd and we are his sheep. We may stray from Him, leave the field, eat grass that will make us sick, and change the colour of our wool, but he will stay with us regardless. His presence does not leave us. He is never ‘too busy’ to meet with us.

May God’s presence inspire us to be present with our children and with all of our brothers and sisters in God’s world.

Blessings

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