Sunday, 24 December 2017

Access

I was carrying my recycling down to the room of bins in my block of flats (and there was quite a lot due to some recent pre-Christmas festivities), when I came to this:

This is the combination lock used to guard the recycling bin area against teenagers and others who may have previously sheltered there. It requires me to know the code to prove that I am a legitimate user of the room.

It then struck me how many times in my daily life that I require some form of proof of who I am to gain access to something. The first time I check my phone, it requires either my thumb print or a six digit number to be given for me to use it. As I step onto the bus, I need my orange key card which lights the nice machine in a green colour and the bus driver knows I have already paid for this journey. When I get to school, there are codes to enter both the gates and the front door. Once at work, I need a password to access my computer then my school e-mail, home e-mail, my Twinkl account and Class Dojo (those last two may be lost on non-teachers, apologies). Lots of different words and codes to remember! On returning from work, I need my fob to gain access to my flats and the key again to open my front door.

I have also been struck in a fresh wonder at the Christmas story and what it represents. An all-powerful, loving God in the form of a tiny, vulnerable baby. But why? Well he had a purpose. His life was under threat from the moment He was born, but only when it was time did he surrender fully to this destiny. And in doing so he created access for all mankind to a relationship with an amazing, loving, all-powerful, gracious God! When I come to pray or worship Him, I don't need a thumb print, a code or password. I can just speak! He knows my voice! In fact He knows what I will say or ask before I do, yet He loves us speaking to Him! There is no ritual I have to go through to be 'good enough' for Him. If it relied on me, everything is hopeless. Thankfully, it depends on a victory secured 2000 years ago!

That's what makes Christianity so unique. In no other religion or belief does God come down to experience how hard life can be, totally understanding what life is like for us, but also making a way for us to have access to Him and to his kingdom forever! I mess up every single day of my life, and yet all mess-ups past, present and future were dealt with on the cross where this baby who had grown into a man, eventually surrendered to man’s schemes. In so doing, at that central point of history, he defeated death, and now I am viewed as fully righteous by God. Far from making me want to ‘get away’ with lots of stuff, it motivates me to want to be more like Him!

Romans 8 says:

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 
 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord

This world needs secure codes and passwords to protect us and prevent us from going where we shouldn't or taking what is not ours. But Christmas means that I have full unrestricted access to the most amazing and life-changing relationship you could ever know! I urge you to find out more!

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, 28 July 2017

Perspective.

Yesterday was another really enjoyable day. I welcomed a lovely man who came to survey my flat for a valuation (I'm buying a bigger share, not moving!). This was followed by a pleasant lunchtime swim at my local 15m pool, just 5 minutes walk away - such a blessing to have it nearby. After this, I relived my childhood by getting out my SNES (still the best console ever), and in the evening I went to Nando's with friends from church. We won the quiz a few weeks back and so had £100 to burn, which we did between 6 of us!

It is funny how God can speak to you at the most unexpected time. Yesterday it was lying flat on my back in the water doing armless backstroke to strengthen my legs. The pool was restored two or three years ago after storm damage and they have a glass ceiling. As I focused intently above me, making sure I didn't stray into the path of an adjacent swimmer, I noticed what a beautiful day it was becoming (after an indifferent start). I noticed the blue skies and wispy white clouds floating along. Then I noticed that of the windows in the roof needed a clean, and also there were several 'ornithological indiscretions' (as my Dad would say, most people say 'bird poo'). What a shame I thought, and immediately my focus was on those, not the blue sky. Well at least my focus was on how they had ruined the blue sky view I had previously enjoyed.

God spoke in that moment, (despite my ears being submerged in the water). He said 'Be wary of focusing always on the negative and forgetting the beauty that you see as well.' We live in such an entitled and unappreciative age. I see it more and more, and it is infecting our children too. The more we have, the less we appreciate it, and as soon as something is slightly faulty or not right, we can too often complain, blind to the blessings that sit alongside it.

My train is late,for example. But instead I should be thankful there is more than one train a day, (as is the case in some countries). My favourite program isn't on because of major sport event coverage. I could go on...

If we focus on the positive and being appreciative, it will make us more happy and joyful too. And that leads to strength, for 'The joy of the Lord is my strength'. (Nehemiah 8 v 10). I am sure this will be tested in the days ahead, but I am going into such tests more armed than I was.

Swimming doesn't just have physical benefits.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Day One

Today has been a testament to the power of collaboration. Somehow, with two people, a job gets done so much more quickly than with one. I mean that it seems to take less than half the time it would have done alone. Maybe working together adds motivation. Anyway, Dad came round and helped me clean my flat. My back is still quite painful, and end of term tiredness has flared it up, so he did all the hoovering (I mean properly hoovering) and a little floor washing. I cleaned the kitchen thoroughly and tidied up.

We walked into town and as a partial thank you, I bought him lunch in Pret; always a joy. As well as productive, it was great chatting to Dad, making jokes, having a laugh and putting the world to rights. We used to do this often on Saturday mornings after the church prayer meeting, but since that moved to Sunday and I moved sites, we haven't so often. In town I bought a phone case, two books and a kettle. I have taken almost 9,000 steps so should be on course for my 13th consecutive day of 10,000+ steps.

Joshua chapter 1: Be strong and courageous. I love how God makes promises to 'be with you wherever you go' and to 'give you the land I promised.'

A lot of faith, trust and sticking to God's commandments are required, but he speaks the promises beforehand to assure Joshua. He has the promise spoken, but he still needs to step out and make it happen himself. I want to pray for many breakthroughs this holiday. Things God has promised to me, and I want to step into them now. I am ready. Exciting times ahead!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

School's out for summer.

This morning, a colleague and I both blared music out of our classrooms at 7.30am, because we can and it is the last day of school! 'One Day More' from Les Mis and the afformentioned Alice Cooper hit featured heavily.

So here I am. The day I have longed to arrive for weeks finally does arrive and then the inevitable 'oh' moment and you feel a little lost. I have felt that a little tonight.

It won't last long. My flat is a pit and a nice man is coming to value it on Thursday lunchtime, so tomorrow is clean, hoover, scrub, tidy and shove stuff under the bed time!

I want to use these holidays productively. I want to write more. This blog is filled with promises to write more often, and this time I will.

One thing I want to do is read more, and that includes getting stuck into my Bible. I have decided to go through the book of Joshua as well as trying to learn a few passages elsewhere too.

I may post my thoughts on what I find, and also general amusing things that happen in my holiday too.

Must go to bed now and play some Catan on my iPad, because.... I have no alarm to wake me up tomorrow!!!!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

...slogan ad nauseam...

 Sneering at the arts is only the start.
"Taking back control" by shouting, but not listening.
 Railways private, thieving and incompetent,
"Ordinary working people" with "Zero" job security.
 Nuclear revolution that betrays our planet's future
 Going deeper into rocks to frack us to oblivion.

 Austerity has ballooned the national debt. An
 NHS on its knees, soon we will all pay the price.
 Doubled homelessness and food banks used like never before.

 Slowly police and firefighters disappear.  Ministers
 Treating human beings as problems, not people.
 A "Hard Brexit" not even the 52% voted for.
"Bring back fox hunting!" (because that's humane!)
 Lies, broken promises and unrealistic targets.
 Education cuts - bring your own pencils on Monday, kids!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

An ode to the end of term... (with apologies to Tim Minchin)

When I break up
I will have time enough to read all of the
books I want and watch the DVDs you get to
watch when you're broken up.

And when I break up
I will be strong enough to carry all
the piles of books you need to check
and mark with care while you're broken up.

And when I break up
I can eat junk every day
watching football games and I
can go to bed late every night!

And I will wake up
when the sun comes up and I
will
go for walks until my legs are dead
And I won't care 'cause I'll be broken up!

When I break up!
When I break up, when I break up
(When I break up)
I will be back at school to organise
the classroom and put up displays for next term’s learning journey of fun.    
And when I break up, when I break up
(When I break up)
I will be able now to see the friends that
always get forsaken during term
time when I’m not broken up!

And when I break up
(When I break up)
I will think hard every day.
And I'll play around with seating plans
that friends don't think are fun.

And I will go out
and silently I’ll fume
at all the wrong grammar I see in shops
but won’t complain 'cause I'll be broken up!
When I break up!


When I break up I will be free enough
to visit the pub and not have to look at
my watch worrying about when I’ll get up.
(When I break up)

Monday, 4 July 2016

Striking out

I love where I work. It is a simply incredible school with brilliant children, amazing colleagues and a wonderfully supportive management. In under three weeks time, I am moving to pastures new, which is very exciting but, after seven and a half happy years, will be tinged with sadness. I am keen to make the most of my time left, and the days that remain will soon be in single figures.

Despite this, I am not going in to school tomorrow. I am going to stand with my colleagues and stand up against what I believe is a deeply flawed way of governing education in this country.

The headlines say “Pay and Conditions”. We aren’t allowed to strike on any other terms.

For me, it has very little to do with pay. It has a lot to do with conditions.

The condition of some teachers, left at their wits end by a baffling series of over-complicated hoops to jump through, needless work to complete, that takes them away from their class for long periods, robbing their class of a qualified, enthusiastic and passionate practitioner.

The condition of our curriculum, stuffed full of antiquated, 1950s grammar school objectives, full of ‘knowledge’ and ‘facts’, but limited in skills and free thinking. An over-crammed Maths and English syllabus leaving less room for Art, Music and Drama. A pub quiz history curriculum full of dates, but lacking in evaluative critique of sources and deep discussion of reasons.

The condition of the English language, where grammar has to have ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers, when in fact there are several ways to express things. It is a beautiful and diverse language, full of creativity. It can’t be summarised by a tick or a cross. Where ‘good reading’ is how fast you read, not how much you understand or infer from a text. Where ‘good writing’ need not be imaginative, interesting or thought-provoking, so long as it is punctuated correctly, spelt perfectly and every letter is joined to the next one in the ‘right’ way.

The condition of schools who may be struggling for all kinds of reasons, forced into privatisation, where men in suits dictate their every move, with very little evidence this improves things. Where qualified teacher status is a preference, not a requirement and pay is no longer secure.

And most importantly, the condition of our children. Those amazingly creative, imaginative and hard-working young lives that we have the privilege of working with every day. Children as young as seven (7!) having sleepless nights about how many ‘fronted adverbials’ they used the previous day. As they grow older, the stakes increase, as does the stress and worry for them and all who care for them. Children being labelled as ‘failing’ all to make a political point.



A ‘minister’ is meant to serve. To listen carefully to those who they lead or are above. I see very little evidence of that. No doubt tomorrow will be arrogantly shrugged off as ‘whinging’ or worse criticised for ‘damaging children’s education’. They consistently refuse to listen to reason. Not standing up now is the same as saying ‘I am happy with how things are.’

For me, it isn’t really about pay. I am paid well, although I worry what the future holds in that regard. But yes, it is definitely all about conditions.