Wishing everyone who reads, follows, likes & comments on my blog a blessed and happy Easter.

Alleluiah. Christ is Risen.

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluiah!

 

And because I am contractually obliged to (not really…) here is a Lol Cat

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Acts N° 39 & 40 (2017): TESTIMONY & DELIVERY

So we’re coming to the end of 40 Acts for this year – though of course, the generosity and love has to continue. It is vital that it continues as we look at the world around us with xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, inequality, oppression, hate, terrorism…Shit, this world seems like a terrible place.

But we have to remember that Easter brings the message that Christ has vanquished all of the hate and sin and death in the world. We are, I feel, experiencing the “death throes” of the reign of Evil, and it is something that has to be lived through, but we must live through it with heads held high, and arms open to all, in the steps of our Master. We mustn’t curl up into a foetal ball screaming at the world to go away (however much we might want to), but we must say “I am here, for all the hurting, broken, scared and hating people, just as God is here”

I have seen this quotation attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and Confucius. It doesn’t really matter who said it, as long as we all light our candle, and hold it high to draw others to the safety and refuge that is Christ.

So. The final two Acts.

ACT N° 39 :: TESTIMONY

People keep their stories to themselves. But sharing stories can be a powerful way to connect with people, motivate them, and rouse them to action in their own lives. You’re full of stories: many of them untold. Don’t keep them – your stories, your ‘testimonies’ – to yourself.

If you’ve never told your testimony, plan it out first. Try different lengths. For example: one that works like a trailer for the full movie. Or an extended version for that long conversation over a meal. Write them down, to focus your thoughts. But remember that listening is more important – your story is never more important than the person you’re telling it to. And make sure you don’t slip into Christianese.

If you have a testimony in mind, pray for an opportunity to tell it.

Keeping your stories to yourself? Take a leap. Talk to your church leadership about ways you can share them with others. Get in touch with groups who could use someone with the experiences you have. Experienced and lived through injustice? Charities could find your story invaluable.

I don’t really talk about my faith, unless asked. And that’s often in very vague terms, probably because I’m afraid of offending people. I certainly don’t think it’s my place to try to convert people to Christianity (sorry if you disagree.) If someone from another faith tried to convert me to their religion I would be slightly (or more than slightly) annoyed. Thus, I reason, if the boot was on the other foot, they might well feel the same. If asked I can explain what my beliefs are, and how they impact on my life, but that’s it. I certainly wouldn’t tell others that they are wrong in their beliefs, and I am right (which is, essentioally, what trying to convert someone is).

I also don’t believe that everyone who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to hell. So there goes the “urgency” to convert people. Sorry (again!) if you believe otherwise, but there you go.

But, if God gives me the occasion to talk about my faith in future, I will try to be braver and more dynamic.

ACT N° 40: DELIVERY

Prepare to celebrate. You’ve done it, but He did it first.

Spend five minutes reading Romans 12 today and be refreshed and re-inspired by the words.

Think back over the last seven weeks. What sacrifices have you made that could be repeated during this last day of 40acts in order to be generous to your neighbours?

What has your 40acts journey highlighted? Can you see patterns in the way you’ve used your time, talents and finances? What more could you do with them? Have you made temporary sacrifices in the last seven weeks that should become permanent?

Oh, great, I thought. Paul. With his convoluted sentences and tricksy theology. I really can’t face reading a chapter (a whole chapter?!) of Paul.

And I clicked reluctantly on Bible Gateway…and something led me to choose the translation from “The Message“…which made it clearer and actually, at one point, made me chuckle. I urge you to read it yourself.

The question Have you made temporary sacrifices in the last seven weeks that should become permanent? links with the line that made me chuckle:

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath…. don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Now, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, saying that Mr FD is one of my enemies, but the challenge that I have faced is that of forgiving him when he hasn’t done stuff I think he should have done, or doesn’t do it how I think it should be done, or does stuff that I think he shouldn’t have done…You get the picture. But when I do forgive him, I often do it with a mardy face, or a muttered something to myself… I think you see where I’m going with this one!

Finally, I leave you with the words that sum up what 40 Acts has been about:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

This world is full of hate and despair; we could, so easily, be dragged down to its level. We could, so easily,  “fit in without even thinking”. But – if we let him – God can bring the best out of us, he can make us what we were born to be: fully rounded human beings.

A line from a Jim Cotter prayer:

God’s glory is a human being fully alive

Let’s get out there and live for him.

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Good Friday

At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me your love
Through the judgment you received

And you’ve won my heart
And you’ve won my heart, now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down at the foot of the cross

At the foot of the cross
Where I am made complete
You have given me life
Through the death you bore for me

And you’ve won my heart
And you’ve won my heart, now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down at the foot of the cross

And you’ve won my heart
And you’ve won my heart, now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down

At the foot of the cross

Don Moen

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Act N°38 (2017): WASH DAY

I had a message from 40 Acts saying they weren’t going to use my video that Mr FD made of me in the final 40 Acts video. I was rather relieved, as I think I look and sound a bit weird (sadly, I suspect the the general opinion would be that it is just like me!) although Jasper (ICOT) makes a star appearance. Mr FD was miffed “After all that time I spent editing it…” he moaned. There was the vague promise that it may be shown later on in the year on the 40 Acts FB site...On verra.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to do much about today’s Act, TBH, as my back – although improving every day – isn’t really up to washing very much! I can just about manage to make a cup of coffee. I am teaching one lesson – I can drive there (I hope!) and then just sit down. It’s a bit of a way for 1 hour’s lesson, as it’s 45 minutes each way, but at least with this lady I get some travel expenses too.

So, today’s challenge is

ACT N° 38 :: WASH DAY

Today’s Maundy Thursday, the day when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. It was a simple act that said so much about service, humility, showing others their significance, and God’s kingdom. So today, prepare to wash some (literal or symbolic) feet.

  • Keep it simple: offer to do the washing up or wash the windows. Or, learn to do something around the house that you might not normally have done for someone else.
  • Offer to wash something a little more unusual – your neighbour’s car, their wheelie bin, their patio.
  • Wash something really dirty for someone else. The kids’ football boots might be caked with weeks’ worth of mud. The pavement in your street might need a jet wash. There could be some obscene graffiti on a wall in your area. Go and scrub it off.

If God prompts me to do some physical or metaphorical washing then I’ll do it. If my back allows! Otherwise, I’ll hold this one over until there’s washing up to be done (that I think Mr FD should do) and I will do it without complaint.

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Act N°37 (2017): CONTENT

Hey-ho. Another day where my back is ruling the roost… I have cancelled lessons again today. If it had been a drive-there-teach-there-drive-back day I think I could have managed, but on Wednesday it’s a drive-there-teach-there-drive-somewhere-else etc.etc.etc. day so I didn’t think it would be such a bright idea. Hoiking myself in and out of the car several times probably isn’t sensible. Today I can mostly sit without too much discomfort, although walking still requires a strange gait in order to avoid pain. Still, I am grateful for gradual improvements and the chance to blog every day about 40 Acts! Only three to go after this one…I will rather miss it, I think.

ACT N° 37 :: CONTENT

Contentment isn’t easy to achieve, for all of us. On bad days we feel like we’ve got nothing. On good days we feel like we have the world to share. Today’s challenge is a personal reflection: how can you be generous in every situation? Spend time looking to God to fulfill your needs or thank him for what you already have.

  • Thank God for five things you’re grateful for today, as a starting point.
  • Look at your lifestyle. What do you consume which alters how you look at your own life? Do you read lifestyle magazines; spend lots of time on social media? And, if you use social media to only put up the best pictures and moments of your life, why not show some imperfection today? Be real; be honest. It can inspire others to do the same.
  • If you really struggle to find contentment and find yourself looking in loads of different places for fulfilment, spend time with God working on that, today. Try to spend that time in quiet and stillness.  

The reflection is a paraphrase of Paul’s words, from Phillippians 4, and I love the fact that someone wrote on FB “I was reading this thinking what a smug holier-than-thou character today’s author is, then I realised it was Paul! Oops!” I know how they feel, as I have never really got on with Paul. I must admit that a book given to me by a friend once, long,long ago has helped a little: “Dear Paul” by Bridget Plass

Described thus, on Amazon: In this text Bridget Plass uses the fictional concept of a two-way correspondence between Paul and a group of contemporary men and women to explore the Apostle’s controversial teaching in a way that aims to be informative, factual and fun. The book allows Bridget to explore the real and deep issues she has encountered as a Christian speaker, against the biblical background of Acts and Paul’s letters to the early church. It is designed to minister to the needs of all those who have ever experienced self-doubt, or indeed have struggled with reconciling Paul’s theology to their own lives.
It has certainly helped me see Paul in a slightly different light!
Anyway, on with the Act…
It’s an interesting one, this. Although I like to think of myself as a positive person, with a sunny outlook on life, Mr FD would, I believe, beg to differ. He says I am a pessimist, rather like my mum, and I always imagine the darkest possible outcomes. Half-an-hour late home from cycling? Mr FD has been knocked over by a car…We can’t find a cat? They have escaped and been killed….Letter from the bank? We’re down to our last euro and the bank is closing our account… It is a bit like that, I know, and I think it has got worse as I get older.
I DO worry about things, probably unnecessarily  – witness the kerfuffle over the nasty bit of bureaucracy that I had to deal with: there was genuine weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, as well as IBS and near panic attacks. I have tried to do the “Hand it to God” routine, but it doesn’t help that much, as I keep snatching “it” back to worry about it some more! I don’t think I will ever be able to reduce this completely, and skip through life like Pollyanna, but perhaps it isn’t the greatness witness to the fact that God brings peace to our lives to be constantly worrying about stuff.
In regard to the Amber challenge, I don’t think I’m guilty of just posting the”good” things in my life on my blog. I don’t moan and groan too much, but nor do I pretend everything in the teapot is rosy. I’m perfectly willing (as you have seen) to admit that I frequently fail in my relationship with God. And with Mr FD.!
But, in the spirit of the Green Challenge I bring you Five things I am grateful for:

1) Mr FD. Who – despite driving me crazy at times, for various reasons – I love dearly, an,d can’t imagine beng without.

2) The cats who bring me much joy. And many scratches.

3) My job. Which is work I love – I am teaching, but without all the cr*p that went with mainstream education in the UK

4) The opportunity that we had to realise our dreams to live in France. It hasn’t been everything we hoped, in some ways, but in other ways it has surpassed expectations. Whatever Brexit means for us, I’m glad we havebeen able to do this.

5) My calling to be a Licensed Lay Minister – those who encouraged me to explore the call, those who taught me through the 3 year course, those who have supported me, and helped. The fact I can use my talents to God’s service in the church is a wonderful thing.

And a Brucie Bonus,

6) The true meaning of Easter. Eggs are good. But the death and resurrection of Christ, who conquered death (whatever that means…I don’t think our little finite minds can really grasp it!) are so much better than that!

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Act N°36 (2017): HABIT

Hello everyone! For the second day in a row I have cancelled lessons, because of my bad back. Very frustrating. It’s certainly improving – I can sit on (and get up from!) the toilet now (is that TMI?!) and I can walk almost upright. I’m becoming aware of other strains caused by not standing straight however, so have to try to get properly upright ASAP.

I’m sure that the main cause – apart from the fact I have crumbling discs – is that I don’t do enough exercise. With dodgy knees too I am limited, but I plan to try to walk more. Even if it’s just 30 minutes a day – this fits in nicely with the “Habit” theme from today’s Act as well! I hope that Mr FD will accompany me on some of these walks, plus Friend Cathy when she arrives. I know that I will need to make an effort to carve out a niche of time for them, but it has to be done.

ACT N° 36 :: HABIT

Breaking a habit is a challenge, but creating a positive one can be even harder. The theory says it takes 21 repeat goes at making a habit stick. What generous action could you start turning into a chain of repeats, today?

Just one option. Start today. What generous action from the last 35 days do you want to make a habit? Commit to putting this into practice regularly.

Like someone else mentioned on the FB page, letter writing is a habit I’d like to try to keep up. I started really well this Lent, but it fell by the wayside a little, but if I can find time each weekend to write & send one letter that would be good. I may use this afternoon to write a few more postcards/letters to send.

I have also enjoyed leaving what I call “Ninja Notes” – basically postcards, either from places I’ve been to, or blank ones I’ve decorated myself, with encouraging messages, or Bible verses

.

I will continue with these two Acts I think.

The other is Forgive.

Like I said, this is definitely an on-going challenge for me, but one that I need to work at, with God’s grace backing me all the way.

I have to say, it’s good to see this as one of the Challenges. As I remember saying last year, 40 Acts isn’t just for Lent, and it has never been just a “Tick. V.G.” list…It needs to be something that changes attitudes, and opinions, and actions. Chocolate Tuesday is great (especially if it continues every Tuesday) but it’s our whole outlook that needs to change.

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Act N° 35 (2017): AGAINST THE TIDE

Hello everyone. I’m “confined to barracks” today, having hurt my back yesterday. It’s getting better, thanks to strong painkillers, and very gentle yoga-ish positions, but I still didn’t think I was very capable of teaching today. I hope I’ll be back to driving capacity tomorrow, as I have three lessons. But if not, hey, I’ll just have to cancel those too. Not much to be done, really!

So, after last week’s Forgiveness challenges, I have been certainly challenged to bite my tongue over certain things but I think it’s going reasonably well. I haven’t made so many snidey comments, but I’m not sure I have complete control over the mardy facial expressions yet!

Today, the challenge is:

ACT N°35 :: AGAINST THE TIDE

Following the crowd is easy, but it’s not always a good thing. Especially when what’s popular excludes people, or isolates the already lonely. Swimming against the tide is the biggest challenge. But trying it – even just giving it a shot – can be life-changing.

  • Have a think. Are there any situations where we’re in danger of following the crowd? First stop is social media. Review last week’s posts. Are we ungenerous in how we talk about others on Facebook and Twitter? Resist joining in for the sake of it especially if it might take you to narcissistic or gossipy places.
  • Office gossip? Train delays making everyone grumpy with train staff? Collective moaning becoming a habit? Think about how you can turn against the tide. Or, something tougher: Who have you been pushing to the back of your mind during the 40acts challenges? Take the challenge to do good to that person today, even if you think they won’t appreciate it.
  • Challenge ungenerous behaviours that damage communities, our country, and the world. For example? Well, are we locked into a worldly pattern of consumption? Thinking about how our shopping choices affect the world? Generous in the things we like and share on social media?

(Just because it – kind of – fitted with “against the tide”…I imagine it’s photo shopped but it’s still quite clever!)

This is another of those challenges that may not be completely relevant today, but which will certainly be relevant at one time or another, I am sure. I am becoming more convinced that, as Christians, we need to support our brothers and sisters of other faiths, and of none. Not with any ulterior motives of bringing them to Christ, but just because. Because they are our brothers and sisters. Because no-one deserves to be treated with distain (even if we disagree with their politics/ stance on Brexit/ religion/ whatever )

So I support “Stop Funding Hate” & now sign their petitions and write to those companies that support the hate-mongering newspapers. Although this article from The Spectator, arguing against the SFH campaign is interesting reading; I can partly, at least, see their point of view, but I still think that it’s worth supporting SFH, even if that makes me a “nasty eliteist”.

And when (which isn’t often) I read hate-mongering comments on FB I try to challenge them.

It’s only a small thing, but every small thing helps somewhere along the line…

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