Tag Archives: Inspiration

Term 2 Week 2

The Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:11-15

How often do we run in the opposite direction to where we should run? I know I do far too often!

Last week we saw our students compete in Inter-school Cross Country for the first time, and we are immensely proud of the achievement and attitude of the students involved. As I attended this event and saw hundreds of students running, it was not uncommon to see students run the wrong way and go off-course.

It is a good image for us to remember. Jesus calls us to his path – a path that encourages us to do God’s work in the manner in which He calls. Sadly, we are often too busy running our own race, trying to meet our own goals, or following fellow sheep who are lost themselves. We run off the path and find ourselves off-course in the ‘race’ of life.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd – one who never runs from us or fails to direct us. This makes it clear that Jesus cares for us not out of duty or for personal gain. He gives his life out of love for the people in his flock, something which we do well to recall.

May we seek to be continually guided by God’s direction as demonstrated through the life of Christ. When we get off-course, let us seek God’s grace and get back into seeking to do our best each day to love God and his people a little more.

May we be constantly aware of God’s peace as we share the Good News with our brothers and sisters.

Blessings, Tom

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Sabbath – Wayne Muller

I finally got around to reading this amazing book – a must read for leaders, those who seek the spiritual, the busy people…let’s go with everyone!

A “successful” life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their  limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them when they are hurt and afraid, and need our company; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us; war on our communities, because we are fearfully
protecting what we have, and do not feel safe enough to be kind and generous, we cannot take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings and give thanks.

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When the Mass begins in a cathedral, the space is transformed the instant the first prayer is offered. The space is not different, but the time has been transformed. When monks enter an ashram or monastery and sit in silence, only when the bell is rung does the meditation begin. The space may be the same, but the time is consecrated by the mindfulness that arises in the striking of the bell. When Muslims are called to prayer five times each day, all work ceases, and all the ancient words, spoken aloud for centuries, rise like fragrance to the skies. Just so, during Sabbath the Jews, by keeping sacred rest, could maintain their spiritual ground wherever they were, even in protracted exile from their own country. It was not Israel that kept the Sabbath, it is said, but the Sabbath kept Israel.
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If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder. God says: Please, don’t. It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you. If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath. So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest. This is not a lifestyle suggestion, but a commandment—as important as not stealing, not murdering, or not lying. Remember to play and bless and make love and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.

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All Jesus’ teaching seems to hinge on this singular truth concerning the nature of life: It is all right. Do not worry about tomorrow. I have come that you might have life abundantly. Be not afraid. Over and over, in parable, story and example, he insists that regardless how it goes for us, we are cared for, we are safe, we are all right. There is a light of the world, a kingdom of heaven inside us that will bear us up, regardless of our sorrow, fear, or loss. Do not wait to enjoy the harvest of your life; you are already blessed. The kingdom of God is already here. It is within you and among you.

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Our reluctance to rest—our belief that our joy and delight may somehow steal from the poor, or add to the sorrows of those who suffer—is a dangerous and corrosive myth, because it creates the illusion that service to others is a painful and dreary thing. Jesus says there will always be opportunities to be kind and generous. Just as there is a time for everything under heaven, so is there a time for nourishment and joy, especially among those who would serve.

But we must ask this question: What if we are not going anywhere? What if we are simply living and growing within an ever-deepening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children? What if our life, roughhewn from the stuff of creation, orbits around a God who never ceases to create new beginnings? What if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear—and all the while we work, pray, and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth? What if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? What if all the way to heaven is
heaven? Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground.
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When we move too fast we shield ourselves from the actual experience of suffering; we see only its outward manifestations and appearances. In our frantic craving for relief, we try to make the appearance of suffering go away. But we risk eradicating the symptoms without ever understanding the disease.

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According to Henri Nouwen, Jesus’ three temptations were these:
To be useful. To be important. And to be powerful. Useful, important, and powerful—are not these the attributes that still tempt every one of us who seek to do good in the world?

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The word humility, like the word human, comes from ‘humus’, or ‘earth’. We are most human when we do no great things. We are not so important; we are simply dust and spirit—at best, loving midwives, participants in a process much larger than we. If we are quiet and listen and feel how things move., perhaps we will be wise enough to put our hands on what waits to be born and bless it with kindness and care. But in the end, we are granted the tremendous blessing of knowing that we do very little at all by ourselves.

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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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Creative schools – Ken Robinson

This one is a must read for educators…and politicians making educational decisions too!

 

“If you design a system to do something specific, don’t be surprised if it does it. If you run an education system based on standardization and conformity that suppresses individuality, imagination, and creativity, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does.

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The students who feel alienated by current systems of standardization and testing may walk out the door, and it’s left to them and others to pay the price in unemployment benefits and other social programs. These problems are not accidental by-products of standardized education; they are a structural feature of these systems. They were designed to process people according to particular conceptions of talent and economic need and were bound to produce winners and losers in just those terms. And they do. Many of these “externalities” could be avoided if education genuinely gave all students the same opportunities to explore their real capabilities and create their best lives.

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Education is really improved only when we understand that it too is a living system and that people thrive in certain conditions and not in others. The four principles of organic farming translate directly to the sorts of education we urgently need to cukivate. Paraphrased for education they might be:

  • Health. Organic education promotes the development and wellbeing of the whole student, intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.
  • Ecology. Organic education recognizes the vital interdependence of all of these aspects of development, within each student and the community as a whole.
  • Fairness. Organic education cultivates the individual talents and
    potential of all students, whatever their circumstances, and respects the roles and responsibilities of those who work with them.
  • Care. Organic education creates optimum conditions for students.

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A few years ago I bought a new car. It took a long time. Once I’d decided on the model, I was offered an endless series of choices to customize it to my personal tastes and needs: colour, fabrics, sound systems, number of doors, engine size and so on. It was like filling out a tax return. I asked the salesman how many versions of this car there actually were. He didn’t know but guessed that mine would be unique, just like all the others he’d sold. In contrast, I got my first car when I was twenty-three. Back then, there was only one question: “Do you want it or not?”

Nowadays, we take for granted that we can personalize just about anything, from the apps on our smart phones, to the clothes we wear, to our pages on Facebook. The same is true of health care. As technology and the understanding of biology continue to develop, the medicines you take will become ever more tailored to your individual body type. This process of personalization seems to be everywhere, but it has yet to take root in education. This is ironic, because it is in education that personalization is most urgently needed. So what does that mean? It means:

  • Recognizing that intelligence is diverse and multifaceted
  • Enabling students to pursue their particular interests strengths
  • Adapting the schedule to the different rates at which students learn
  • Assessing students in ways that support their personal progress and achievement

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Great teachers are the heart of great schools. In their various roles, they fulfil three essential purposes for students:

  • Inspiration: They inspire their students with their own passion for their disciplines and to achieve at their highest levels within them.
  • Confidence: They help their students to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to become confident, independent learners who can continue to develop their understanding and expertise.
  • Creativity: They enable their students to experiment, inquire, ask questions, and develop the skills and disposition of original thinking.

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In planning the school curriculum, I much prefer the idea of disciplines. A discipline is a mixture of theory and practice. Mathematics, for example, is a combination of methods and processes and of proposition knowledge. The student is not only learning about mathematics, but also how to do mathematics. The same is true of disciplines that involve physical skills and the control of materials and tools, including music, art, design, engineering, technology, theatre, dance, and the rest.

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Andreas Schleicher is director for education and skills and special adviser on education policy to the secretary-general at the OECD. “The world economy no longer pays you for what you know; Google knows everything,” he told me. “The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know. If you want to learn if someone can think scientifically or translate a real-world problem into a mathematical context, those things are harder to assess, but they’re also more important in today’s world. We see a rapid decline in the demand for routine cognitive skills in our world and the kinds of things that are easy to test and easy to teach are also the kinds of things that are easy to digitize, automate, and outsource.”

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conditions for growth

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The principal – Michael Fullan

While I have been devouring books for my Goodreads challenge of reading a book every fortnight, I haven’t been able to catch up my notes. Here are a few choice insights from Michael Fullan’s book “The Principal”. More book related inspirations shortly.

On effective principals

“The more effective principals were those who defined their role as facilitators of teacher success rather than instructional leaders. They provided teachers with the resources they needed to build social capital—time, space, and staffing—to make the informal and formal connections possible.”

On accountability

“Capacity building is to accountability what finance is to accounting. Finance is about how people organize and invest their assets; if you have only) accounting, you are merely keeping careful records while you go out of business! In the same way, there is more to accountability) than measuring results; you need also to develop peoples capacity achieve the results. Extreme pressure without capacity results in dysfunctional behaviour.”

Top 5 principal actions leading to results

1. Establishing goals and expectations
2. Resourcing strategically
3. Ensuring quality teaching
4. Leading teacher learning and development
5. Ensuring an orderly and safe environment

The ‘right and wrong of change’

Fullan - change

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Jesus does it again

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

John 6:5-7

I imagine it wasn’t easy being a disciple – the constant crowds, the threat of being caught by authorities, low pay and Jesus constantly challenging them to be better (Just to mention a few of the frustrations!). In last week’s reading Jesus was attempting to escape the crowds but “When he saw them he had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” In this week’s reading Jesus sees a people hungry and instructs his disciples to feed them. The reaction of the disciple Philip is not very promising at all.

Immediately Philip begins thinking about himself and the personal cost of doing as Jesus asks. Not to mention demonstrating a tendency to open his mouth before thinking! The reality of the Christian life is that Jesus calls us to listen closely to his teachings and to act regardless of the personal cost. As Philip shows us in this reading, even those close to Jesus get it wrong sometimes. As the gospel later shows us, the disciples get it wrong time and time again.

How often are we moved by the spirit to take action but ignore this call, act too quickly and mess it up or open our mouths and start telling God how he has it wrong? I often think that Jesus had a smile on his face when he asks Philip “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Jesus likely knew that Philip would react like he did and then provide Jesus with a moment in which he could teach the disciples (as well as all of the people of God) about God’s power and overwhelming generosity.

As we go about our lives we must always be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and be ready to react not with thinking “this is impossible” but thinking with great excitement “what is God going to do to enable this to happen?”
May all of us in the Sunshine Christian School community walk in the generosity demonstrated to us by Christ Jesus.

Blessings

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Ballarat

“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.

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

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