the end of the year and ‘the kings speech’

A couple of weeks ago,  i was struggling to know what to blog about, then life got crazy and now there’s heaps to share!!

I find myself having a week’s breather between the end of 6 months in Poatina and heading back home to England. The certificate IV course ended well, although there was a bit of mad scramble in the last week, with students and trainers alike doing all-nighters to get assignments and final assessments completed. The graduation service at the end of each 6 months is a special occasion in Poatina as the students have become an integral part of the community.

I had the special honour of giving the valedictory speech for the service. At times like the end of a year or a course its good to look back and celebrate the journey. To reflect on the ups and downs, twists and turns and attempt to name what God has done. It has been inspiring to watch the students face their ghosts from the past, push through their fears and defy their own deeply held beliefs about their inadequacies. Each one grew significantly in maturity, breaking old and making new habits of thought, speech and action as they processed values and new understandings. I was proud to see them stand, authentically themselves, with new found strength and depth. And all this from a certificate IV course in Christian Youth and Community Work!

But part of the job on Saturday was not only celebrate the past but to say good bye to it and, standing in the present, welcome the future. But that is a daunting task after such an intense period of growth and learning. Particularly when one area of growth is in the awareness that growth never stops and the biggest obstacles to moving forward we’ll face are our own selves. And personally as i look forward to 2012 i know this is true for me. I want to run the race that’s been set before me by my  God, but my past and my wrong choices never cease to hold me back, so what do i do? It was in light of this that i brought Hebrews 12:1-2 to my students in the valedictory address. Its only as i fix the eyes of my heart on Jesus, who loved me and gave himself for me, that i can run the race marked out for me.

At the start of the course i gave a devotion and shared the scene from ‘the Kings Speech’ in which the King of England is delivering his speech to the nation over the radio. For those who haven’t seen the movie, the King has a severe speech impediment and has been unable to speak clearly in public. To overcome this difficulty after much searching he finally finds a coach who will help him. In the end he comes to deliver this most important speech of his life in which he tells the country that they are at war, and the way he gets through is by keeping his eyes on his coach who is standing directly in front of him. I felt this picture was as relevant now as it was then; as we head into a new future, a new year, with new realities, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

You can watch the scene here:


Reaching Out

Most mornings this week I have struggled to get out of bed and meet the day; the thought of all the tasks and people who inevitably will demand my careful and attention has been a little overwhelming. There have been times when my carefully planned time has been fractured by interruptions which have, well, interrupted my plans!! I have felt frustrated and indignant that people have chosen this moment of this day to have a crisis to which I have to attend. I have born the brunt of another person’s anger and frustration – not really directed at me, I just happened to be there in the moment. I have seen others reeling from the impact of unexpected hostility. And so when the next morning comes, I really would rather stay in bed!!

This week I had the chance to journey through Henri Nouwen’s book, ‘Reaching Out’ with the certificate four students. The book is one of the most helpful books I have read; my copy is well worn, underlined and scribbled in through out! It’s Nouwen’s guide to Christian spirituality and forms the basis of my organisation’s youth work practice. I think Nouwen must have been on to something because each time I read it, I find it speaks to and challenges specific situations I am facing.

Nouwen talks about our spiritual journey as an ongoing vacillation between two polar opposites in three areas of our existence. One of these polar pairs is hostility and hospitality. We watched 15 minutes from the movie ‘the secret life of bees’ in which the main characters are taken in by a lady who expresses a profound level of hospitality not just to her new guests but to the rest of her family. The class and I were challenged and inspired by this character’s ability to be a solid presence – somehow you knew where you stood with her – and yet create space for others to be free around her.

This week I have had to face the part of me that would rather keep you at arms length (or avoid you entirely) and subtly control you so that I am not disturbed too much by your existence. Not only have I had to face it, but I have once again needed to learn to accept this part of who I am. I think it was Karl Jung who said that the pathway to completion is through the doorway of self acceptance. As I accept my own hostility and realize that Jesus knew it all along and so find grace in the shadow of the cross, I find I can welcome you with your pains and fears that sometimes make you appear hostile. I can welcome you by my own choosing; not in my own strength, but in the grace that I myself have received.