Wise advice

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24 – 27

Back in South Australia, my wife and I continue to slowly (very slowly!) renovate and restore our old cottage. I cannot lie – it is a bit of a mess. The roof leaks, the masonry is falling down, the floors are uneven, the mice have well and truly found a comfortable winter home, the skirting boards are broken, you can put your hand through the rotted wooden back walls…and I could go on.
Our friends thought us to be crazy. They said: ‘Why didn’t you a buy a nice new
home in a housing development. You could have had beautiful carpets, lovely
appliances, 5 bedrooms and a pool!” Even the building inspector who compiled a
report for us rang me and said “Mate, I’ve looked at a couple of houses for you now, and I look at houses for a living, I reckon you have rocks in your head if you take this on”.

Our house is in a country town called Langhorne Creek which is situated on a flood plain. The surrounding grape vines survive on regular flooding. In a recent flood however, our house was one of the few houses in the town which was not flooded. Several new houses in the new development in town were inundated by water and severely damaged. All the while, our old ‘wreck’ was high, dry and undamaged.

What our house has is wisdom and firm foundations. It was built in the late 1800s by people who knew where the flood waters went. It was built by people who saw houses as needing to stand for centuries, and not just for the decades that it seems current houses are designed for. It has a proven ‘track record’ – it has stood firm against the world for over 120 years now.

God gave us some pretty helpful instructions as a people. Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be jealous, love other people…just to name a few. In my experience, I’ve found my suffering to be caused when I don’t follow the wise advice of God.
In our world today, listening to what God may have to say is seen a bit like my old house. From the outside, it looks old, rundown and irrelevant. When you open the door and have a look, we find how relevant and valuable God’s wisdom is to us today.

If you haven’t had a look before, I encourage you to pick up a Bible and see for
yourself. There is an abundance of solid advice!

May we be open to God’s wisdom and seek to build our house on his foundation.
Let us also not forget that God is with us, even when we ignore his advice, go our own way and find ourselves in rough situations.

Blessings
Tom

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More than words

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am
with you always, to the very end of the age.”

-Matthew 28:16-20

When asked what the worst part about being a principal is, I suspect many of my fellow principals would join me in saying, ‘The paperwork!’ I’m pretty sure the students know when I’ve got a large pile to work through as they’ll see an increase in my wandering around classes, seeing what students across the school are getting up to, desperately looking for a reason to not get back to that ever present pile! But try as I might, I cannot escape my duties as a Principal. There are less-than exciting parts of my job that need to be done in order for our school to run smoothly and for students to receive the blessings of a great education.

Being a disciple of Jesus, means to be one that follows his example. Some Christians make this concept far complicated than it needs to be. Put simply, Christians are people that follow Christ and seek to share his teachings with the world.

World affairs this week again highlight that Christ’s message of love, care and compassion to all nations, is one that is sorely needed. Christ’s command written above reminds us to not just be a people who talk about doing the right thing, but to show the world who we are by doing the right thing. My grandmother would often remind me ‘What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular’.

May our community seek to support the young people in our care, to be like Christ, and to seek to share his message of peace, love and mercy with everyone. For in doing so, they become disciples of our Lord. Just like paperwork, this job may not be present, but it needs to be done so that the world may become just a little better each day. This is often not the popular choice, but it is the right one.

Blessings

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Faith

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you…[stand] firm
in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

1 Peter 5:6-11

Our Business Manager, Chris McMillan, commenced a staff devotion this week with a wonderful question, “What do you have faith in?”
We place our faith in many things both knowingly and unknowingly. When we get in our cars and drive the kids to school or head off to work, we have faith that
our mechanic has ensured that the car is in safe working order. In Australia we have faith that when we go to the tap, stove or light switch, that water, gas and
electricity will flow to provide for our needs.

For Chris, he has faith in his beloved Collingwood while many encourage him to place his faith elsewhere, perhaps in a team of far greater prestige, such as the
Adelaide Crows perhaps…

We are often surrounded by those who encourage us in faith and discourage us in faith. Some encourage us to change the football team we support and others
encourage us to question our belief in the positive capacity of people. In my own past, despite what a misled teacher told my parents, they had faith that despite
being told I would struggle to learn to read and write, that I was indeed capable of doing so.

What do I have faith in? I have faith in a God who grants hope and new beginnings. I have faith in the capacity of young people to change our world’s attitude to our planet and seek to repair the damage already done. I have faith in the ability of all people, regardless of age, to learn new things.

Across the world, Christians are persecuted for their belief in a God who loves all and gives hope to all. Their suffering and refusal to lose the faith in our God, is an inspiration to all.

This week I was blown away by an exhibition of Year 8 artwork based on discarded milk bottles. You can see from the photo what beautiful work one our students did to take something considered ‘rubbish’, see past the encouragement to discard it, and turn it into a work of art. What a wonderful example to us all.

This student had faith in new beginnings. What a blessing to us all.

Blessings

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Plans

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I
am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
-John 14:1-5

As I reflected on this week’s verse, I got to thinking about how amazing it is to be able to plan. I’m not a Zoologist but I suspect that our ability to plan in the short, mid and long term is a skill that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. Plans are so commonplace. For instance, I plan to pick up some milk on the way home from school today and then I’ll make dinner. Plans give us a logical set of events that lead us to believe that if all goes well we will achieve an overall outcome.

Plans don’t always go well. Sometimes this is due to the plan not matching with the goal and sometimes this may be due to the plan being poorly executed. I like to think that watching my beloved Adelaide Crows lose pitifully to North Melbourne last weekend was an example of a plan being poorly executed. The Crows game plan led to several wins in a row and suddenly stopped working! What changed?

God has a plan clearly revealed in Jesus’ death. Christ’s resurrection forever restored the relationship between God and humanity. Fixing this relationship was
God’s plan from way back and it was a plan perfectly executed. The problem was that God’s people weren’t, and often still aren’t, completely on board with his plan.

In the reading above Thomas asks a direct question about the plan to clarify his understanding. Thomas was a man that wanted to follow the plan…he just wasn’t
quite sure what it was. So often we forget that God does have a plan for us all. It is a plan that calls us to care for each other in community, to provide for each other, to support and care for each other. Elsewhere in the Bible, God calls this ‘practice for the world to come’.

Christ’s life gives us a perfect model to follow revealed in great detail in the Bible. Among our setbacks, frustration and confusion, let us remember and seek God’s plan for our lives. I find it no accident that often the lowest points of our lives find us furthest from God’s plan.

Blessings

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Hope

“Jesus of Nazareth…was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

-Luke 24:19-21

We all have hopes don’t we? I had hoped to spend a few days of leave over the
holiday break catching up on my reading and enjoying some time with my lovely
wife.

In reality, I spent 4 days spreading 200m2 of mulch to avoid a possible local council fine for a house my wife and I are restoring in South Australia. When I realised that my few days of rest would be taken away from me, my wife can attest, I was little bit of a cranky bear.

I had hopes and they were crushed. I’m sure you’ve had a situation of far greater import when you had hoped events would go a certain way and they didn’t.

In our gospel reading for this week we hear the disciples of Jesus refrain “We had hoped that Jesus would redeem the people.” What they meant was that they were hoping that the Son of God would come to earth, overthrow the rulers of the day and restore God’s justice to the world. They had their hopes crushed.

What they got however was what was really needed. The relationship of humanity with God needed to be restored and that is what Jesus’ death achieved. The mission that he left behind is, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, is to go Father’s business which is, to ensure God’s ministry is carried out – the ministry of love, grace, forgiveness and service.

As it turned out, my 4 days of shovelling mulch turned out to be exactly what I needed. Many hours of simple physical work in God’s beautiful creation allowed a restoration of my soul beyond what I had hoped. Sometimes when our hopes are dashed, we receive a real hope that brings much greater joy. However, it is hard to feel that when you are in the midst of  disappointment, hurt and suffering.

In my role as principal it is core to my work to encourage our community at all times to remember that we are not our mistakes, errors and failures. Schools are in the business of learning and teaching lifelong learning. We believe that things can progress and improve. We believe there is always hope and seek to install this in our students.

As we go into another term, I leave you with a blessing from the Apostle Paul. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15.13

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Dirt

“As [Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth…he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing”.

-John 9:1,6,7

I’m a big fan of dirt.

As a child I loved nothing more than to have a big pile of freshly dug earth to build racing tracks for my Matchbox Cars. Like many of my generation, I lost more than my fair share of cars somewhere in the backyard when cars were buried in freak landslides, extreme crashes and through a little bit of boyish carelessness. I still mourn the loss of my Nigel Mansell replica F1 car – if anyone finds it, please let me know!

In a recent survey, it was seen that the second most popular thing that 10 year olds like doing is making mud pies. Who knew? I would have thought that it would have been surpassed by a game or device of some sort. It is nice to know that kids still like dirt.

In our Bible verse this week we see Jesus taking humble dirt and healing a man, in doing so, completely changing his life. Jesus gave this bloke some dirt and suddenly he had his life back. Often we think that we need to have a lot of material possessions before we can help others. “If only I had a spare room, I could give a home to someone who needs it”, “If only I earnt more money, I could give money to the poor and needy”, “If only a had a better job, I could give my children better things”.

Jesus shows us that the most important gifts in this world often don’t cost a thing. Playing in the dirt and enjoying God’s creation costs us nothing, neither does offering an encouraging word or hug to someone going through a rough time.

May God bless us this week as we seek to be open to helping others in seemingly small and low-cost ways.

Blessings

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God so loved the world

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

– John 3:16-17

I have had the privilege of meeting with many parents this week as part of our consultation for the creation of our new strategic plan. It has been lovely to hear of some of the things the school is excelling at – deep relationships, rich learning and great outcomes. In a survey of parents taken in early 2016, 100% of parents indicated that they felt the school really cared about their child. We are the only school that I am aware of that received this feedback in the survey. It made me a very proud principal indeed to hear from our current parents that this is still one of our strengths.

We have been talking too about some areas in which the College can grow and I’ve appreciated the honest and open feedback we’ve received. This feedback will be taken on board as we consult with students, parents and staff, in order to make Lakeside College the best College we can be. The educationalist Dylan Williams writes “If we create a culture where every student, staff member and parent believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what
we can achieve”. I echo his words.

Great student outcomes are built on honest, authentic, trusting and loving relationships between student, staff and parents. When we are together, the entire community reaps the benefits – particularly our students.

This week we have also been reflecting on Jesus’ famous phrase “For God so loved the world…” It is one of my favourites and carries a deep meaning. My Grade 5 Christian Studies class created their own paraphrase of the passage this week and this one is my favourite:

“God loves us. There isn’t anything that can change that. He does want us to get busy telling others that though.”

We are greatly blessed at Lakeside College – we have great students, families and staff. We don’t always get things right, but we don’t start to think that this means that God doesn’t love us or that we can’t improve. God’s love is a constant reminder that we are worthy, we are forgiven and we should keep trying.

As we go about our work, let us take on board the advice of one of our Year 5 students and “get busy telling others that they are loved.” A look at the news tells us that our world is in desperate need of this message.

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The Dux

This week I had the privilege of awarding  our College Dux Award for 2016.

What impressed me the most about our Dux was not her impressive ATAR, or her excellent results in German and English, or her grand plans for after she finishes study, it was the manner in which she went about her work in Year 12. She made it very clear
to our students when she spoke at Chapel this week – doing well comes from committing yourself and putting the hard work in.

She spoke about having a goal to do well and clearly scheduling her time to make sure that this happened. She spoke too of the setbacks that occur and how you should not allow those setbacks to get in the way of finishing what you set out to do. She is an example to us all.

A simple glance at the life of Jesus reminds us of the need for steadfast focus in times of trouble, sadness and worry. Among the tumultuous times of Roman oppression, religious persecution and the darker side of human nature, Jesus was a bright light to all, walking steadfastly towards his end goal – the salvation of humankind and restoration to broken relationships.

We all have hopes, dreams and ambitions. Some of great significance and some of small personal meaning. May we look towards our God, who wishes the very best for us and encourages us to use the gifts he has given for his glory and for the benefit of humanity across the globe for our example.

May God bless us all as we seek to do our best for his glory.

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Newness

As we look around the College and see shiny new shoes and school uniforms, new books and computers, new staff and students, even a new building being built, we look like a great College. But these material things in themselves do not make a great school. A school may look like great on the outside, but it is what happens inside the buildings that really makes a school.

Great schools are built on strong home and school partnerships where students are nurtured, supported and encouraged to excel in keeping with our community values and desires. Great schools see committed staff viewing their role as serving students. Not just to teach students the curriculum, but to engage them in developing skills outside of the classroom. Great schools see school staff committing to a student’s development academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. They place pastoral care and concern as a paramount importance. Great schools ensure that all students are known, valued and celebrated.

Great schools have students who know that the secret to success in learning and in life is the attitude we take. A student may have shiny shoes, but without a similarly shining attitude, learning may not take place. As my grandfather often reminded me ‘Tom, you will have many times when you cannot choose the path that must be taken, but you can choose the song you sing while walking it”. Great schools have students who are just as interested in their classmate’s success as they are in their own.

Lakeside College is indeed a great school and one that I am honoured to serve as Principal. As we commence a new year let us all be reminded that there is no more important work in our school community than the creation and maintenance of great
relationships between students, families, staff and the wider community.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all new students and families to the College. It is great to have you with us. I particularly acknowledge our new staff who have joined us. It was a great privilege to install our school leaders officially as one of my first duties as the Principal of Lakeside College. I congratulate them and wish them the very best as they commence their service to our community.Let us always recall that Christ walks with us each day as we strive to use our gifts to serve those around us in Pakenham and beyond. As we do so, let us recall the following encouragement from the Bible:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your
God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

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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