28 June 2010

Lifelong learning - Music

Today was a great opportunity for me to continue the lifelong learning process that's important for teachers in the 21st century. A friend just happened to ask a colleague if there was anything she could do to help with an Orff-Schulwerk workshop being run at her school this week. The response was that providing some bodies to boost numbers would be helpful, and so I was volunteered. When we arrived I was asked to join the Level 2 course, even though I've never done anything like this before, since that was where their numbers were low. There were workshops on Technique, Movement, Recorder, Orchestration, Pedagogy, and Vocalisation, and while I struggled with some of the terminology and prior knowledge, I was actually able to actively participate in most of the activities, and I learned so much that I'd love to be able to do the whole course. Maybe next time I'm in Australia I'll be able to do that, meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow and learning some more. Praise God for this opportunity to learn more that will enable me to serve Him better as I return to Cambodia.

27 June 2010

Contemplating Church

During my time in Australia I've attended four worship services at three different churches (all Baptist). The split in my "home" church has caused me to do some thinking about "church", and why we have churches and why we have "services". Today I'm going to attempt to express some of those thoughts. I know that not everyone will agree with my thoughts, and that's fine. Feel free to comment.

For me, one of the important reasons for having churches & meeting together is expressed well in Hebrews 10:24-25 which says this:

24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)

Meeting together has a key purpose in encouraging one another to serve our Lord effectively. So to me, church is not really about evangelism and reaching out to unbelievers, but about strengthening and encouraging believers so we can go out and reach unbelievers that we come into contact in the rest of our lives. Part of that encouraging involves helping me to focus on the One reason for our coming together, the One who called us to be His children and His witnesses, and worshipping Him. I guess from this comment you could assume that I see church as being for those who believe, and that we should be using places other than church to reach out to non-believers. I don't say that non-believers shouldn't come to church, but rather that, when they come, it should be with an understanding that church is about God, not them, and so they may not feel comfortable at first. Sometimes churches will have special services which are designed to reach out to non-believers, but I don't believe this should be the primary focus of regular Sunday services. As I've worked in a Christian school, where not all the students are Christians, it has been valuable to realise that it's not Bible classes or devotions or chapel service that make these students want to know Jesus, but it's the people who show them God's love in real and practical ways as they live their daily lives. Sure, Bible class & devotions and chapel are important, but they have to be in the context of love.

At times I am responsible for leading others in worship services. This is a task that I usually enjoy, but not one I undertake lightly. As I plan worship experiences, I am conscious that it is not me that matters, it is God, and that my responsibility is to help others worship Him, and to encourage them in their walk with Him. At all times, God should be at the centre of our worship, so He can receive what He alone is worthy of, and so that He can minister to the people participating in the service.

One of the joys of leading worship is that I get to choose songs, and in choosing songs I'm conscious that there are many different types of music used in churches, and that different types of songs are helpful for different people. I thank God that I grew up knowing and loving many of the hymns that have been used in worship over the centuries, and so I don't find it hard to include these in services. I've also seen a wide variety of new music come into churches, and at times I think it's funny that the "Scripture In Song" music books that were "new" when I was growing up are now considered old fashioned! It's also interesting to hear some of the "old" hymns being put to new tunes, which tells me that the words of those hymns are just as relevant for today's worshippers as they were when they were written. God has given us a wealth of music with which to worship Him, and it saddens me when people say we shouldn't sing songs just because they were written before such and such a date. As a worship leader, I pray that God will help me to choose songs which are relevant to God's message for those participating in worship on that occasion.

Well, I've contemplated some "touchy" subjects here, and I know that not everyone who reads this will agree with what I've said, but I hope that God will use my thoughts to help others clarify their own thoughts, and to remember that, after all, it's not about "me", it's about our great and wonderful God who is worthy of all our worship, and whose love is so great that we just can't keep it to ourselves!

To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the lifegate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory, great things he hath done!

14 June 2010

A little encouragement can make a big difference

I just realised that it's over a week since I posted, but it's been a quiet one. Well, relatively speaking. One of the tasks I wanted to do this trip was to put together all (or most anyway) of the notes and cards I've received from students, and parents, and even colleagues over my first 3 1/2 years of teaching. I am pleased to say that I have actually completed this task! Hooray! I also had some end of year "memory" sheets from each of my classes, and while I'd put the first class together, with photos of the students, I still had 2 years to do, and some cover pages to put together. Yep, that task is also off the things to do list.

Over those 3 1/2 years I've received a number of notes and e-mails from parents thanking me for the input I've had into their children's lives. God's timing has often been apparent when I've received a note from a parent or a student when I've been going through a tough time. Usually there's been no way of the writer knowing what was going on in my life, but their encouragement has come at a time when I really needed encouragement. So, if you are a parent reading this, and you are seeing growth in your child's life, and you know that a teacher has helped with this, drop the teacher a note! A little bit of encouragement can go a long way. Actually, as I think about this, don't limit yourself to teachers. Is there someone in your life who has done something that has helped or encouraged you? Is there someone who gave you a smile when life was tough? Is there someone you appreciate just because of who they are? Drop them a note. Send an e-mail. Even send a text message to their mobile phone. It's amazing how a few words of encouragement can brighten an ordinary or even bleak day!

Apart from that, I also managed a trip to the Coffs Harbour Jetty for a fish'n'chips lunch and walk with Mum, and some more shopping. On Saturday my sister & her husband arrived for a visit since I wasn't going to be able to make the trip to Muswellbrook this time. It was good to see them again, and catch up. On Sunday morning we all enjoyed worship at Boambee Community Baptist Church, and then I headed back to Mum's to pack for the trip to Toowoomba. Having a car for the trip meant that I could bring some of the things Mum has passed on to me since Dad died up to put into storage with the rest of my belongings, helping to give Mum back a little of the storage space I'd been slowly taking over in the spare room.

I enjoyed the drive up to Toowoomba, although it took a little longer than I expected. I know I drove a little more slowly than I might have in the past, particularly with the threat of double demerit points if pulled over by the police for anything.

Today I remembered that I had no present for the 5 year old whose birthday party I had been invited to attend, so I went to my local Christian bookstore, which just happened to be open, and spent way too much time there, but found some great resources (as well as a great book & card for the 5 year old). Leaving that event, I decided to call in on some friends from my home church who I have missed a lot while in Cambodia. I ended up being there for about 5 hours, but it was a great time to catch up. There has been a lot happen in both their lives and mine over the last 3 1/2 years, and while we keep in touch, there's something about spending time with friends that Skype & e-mails & Facebook just can't compete with. Thanks D & A.

07 June 2010

Enjoying Cooler Weather

One of the great things about working to the Northern Hemisphere school year is that I get to enjoy some cooler weather on my trips down under. My "summer" holidays become "winter get aways" if I head down to Australia. This trip so far has been cool but not cold, although I was cold last night and went hunting for an extra quilt in the middle of the night. Between that and the electric blanket I warmed up and enjoyed a lovely long sleep snuggled under the covers.

Backing up a few days, I left Cambodia on Wednesday after a hot, sweaty day, during which I managed to get my house somewhat more organised than it had been, so the person who will be staying there part of the time won't have too much trouble finding space to work and relax. On arrival in Bangkok I found eventually found the person who was to meet me, and was transported to my hotel. All was quiet. The next morning I was back to the airport ready for the journey to Australia. I was somewhat put out by the very intrusive security inspection just prior to boarding the plane. We'd already been through the main security check, but just before we entered the gate lounge they did another inspection and this time they actually open all our bags and go through all our stuff by hand. I don't mind security, but that was over the top. Eventually we got on the plane, and I managed to end up with 4 seats to spread out across for the trip to Sydney which made up a little for the security check. It's always a little challenging when they feed you breakfast and then promptly turn all the cabin lights out! Fortunately I had plenty to do, and with the plane only about half full, it was easy enough to wander the aisles occasionally, and get drinks or snacks, as well as enjoying the onboard entertainment. On arriving in Sydney we had to go through yet another security check and then had about 30 minutes before reboarding the plane for Brisbane. This time I had two seats to myself, a window & and aisle, so I was able to enjoy the lights as we came in to land at Brisbane airport.

When our flight arrived in Brisbane our luggage was quickly unloaded, and there was no queue at all for immigration and customs. As I had a wooden cyclo and some snacks among my luggage I knew that I'd have to go through a customs inspection. As I started unpacking I also realised that among my momentos from students were several hand-made cards. Fortunately only one of these contained enough plant material that it was kept, and my wooden cyclo was no problem. I was quickly on my way again, and trying to work out where I had to meet the car parking people. With a little assistance I quickly connected with them, and was able to collect the car that had been left for me. The fun began as I tried to work out where the car key was hiding. Eventually I discovered it, hiding inside the remote control. Hooray. Load it up and venture onto the roads. It was good to make my first trip at 11pm when there was little traffic on the roads. Brisbane roads had undergone some changes while I've been away, but thanks to some tips from the car parking people I was soon able to find my way onto familiar roads. Then came the tunnels! Which road did I want? I was fairly sure I didn't want the Clem Jones Tunnel (because that's a toll road and my Australian cash was at the bottom of my carryon bag), but knew I had to take the Brisbane city bypass. Fortunately I'm fairly good at following my nose, and I found my way relatively easily to the familiar territory of Milton Road then onto the Western Freeway and Centenary Highway. Hooray! Now I know where I'm going. When I arrived safely at my friends' home, I was greeted enthusiastically by their dog Sari, who never seems to forget me, no matter how long it might be between visits. Don't get me wrong, my friends greeted me too! It's always good to come "home".

I enjoyed snuggling under a "doona" that evening, and enjoyed a long sleep. The next day I enjoyed a venture into one of the regional shopping centres, where many years ago I had my first job. It has changed so much since then, but I was able to get my local health insurance reactivated, and get an Australian sim card for my phone, as well as make at one of the essential purchases on my Aussie shopping list of things I can't buy in Cambodia or Thailand. That evening I enjoyed steak and veggies for dinner, something of rarity in Cambodia, followed by stewed apple & custard! Yummy. Thanks Leanne!

The next day, after after another delightful sleep, I ventured back on the roads, heading south for Coffs Harbour. As I headed across town, I was faced with the choice of a toll road, or exploring a little to avoid the toll road, so I opted to avoid the toll road, and managed to find my way to Beadesert Road and the Mt Lindsay Highway without paying tolls and without getting lost! I then enjoyed driving through the Australian bush as I headed inland to the Summerland Way. The inland route takes a little longer, but has lots less traffic on it, and having not driven for almost 2 years, I enjoyed the lower stress of less traffic. I arrived safely in Coffs Harbour just after 6pm, having driven in the dark for the last hour. I hadn't expected that, having forgotten that cooler weather also means shorter days, but it wasn't a problem.

Sunday morning I rose in time to walk down to Boambee Community Baptist Church, where Mum was on projecter duty, and enjoyed the time of worship and fellowship. I was delighted to see the faces of a young couple whom I knew in Toowoomba flash up on the screen, announcing the safe arrival of their second child. It was good to catch up with the husband, and meet their elder child. It was also good to be welcomed at a church which has faithfully prayed for me during my time in Cambodia. After lunch we took advantage of Sunday shopping and I made more purchases on the essential items list.

Today I enjoyed another sleep in, then after a quick breakfast managed to find my way into town. I do love shopping where the prices are fixed and you don't get hassled every second step to buy something. It's fun too, just looking at the variety of things available and thinking how I don't really need all those things to be happy. Tomorrow I'm going to have to start tacking the mountain of paperwork that I've been procrastinating on - superannuation, rates, bank statements, and all that sort of fun stuff. Then I can have fun sorting the various notes I've received from children and parents over my three and a half years at Logos, and putting them in an album to enjoy in my old age!

I love holidays!