40 Acts: 20: Always Talk to strangers & 21: Pray

From yesterday’s daily prompt:

Today your challenge is to turn an old adage on its head. Don’t ignore strangers, make a point of talking to them. Just a simple smile, a comment about the weather and a ‘how are you doing today?’ can open up a really interesting conversation. To be honest, I was busy working yesterday, so I didn’t pick up the reminder until I was home…I suppose I talked to strangers when I started my new course of lessons with two new students, but that’s all! I think this is another challenge to bear in mind for the future.

 

From today’s daily prompt:

Prayer is generous because when we speak to God on another person’s behalf, he hears us.
It’s also generous because when you offer to pray for someone, it instantly shows them that you care about their well-being and their circumstances.

Offer to pray for someone today – either a friend or, if you’re feeling brave, a stranger. It doesn’t need to be elaborate: a simple, thoughtful prayer is a powerful thing

So, I posted on the group page of “Ladies  In France Together”, a FaceBook group I belong to:

Hi Ladies!
I’m taking part in something called 40Acts, which you can read about over here (http://www.40acts.org.uk/the-challenge/) The premise being that, instead of giving something up for Lent, participants take part in “doing something generous for Lent” – completing 40 “acts”. Today’s act is entitled “Pray” and we are invited to ask people if they would like us to pray for them, for people, for situations…
So, I am asking you, a group who is so supportive of others, if any of you would like me to pray for you, for those you know or love…
I can’t promise that your prayer will be answered in the way you expect, or hope for, but I do believe that somehow, and in some way, God will listen & answer our prayers…You can either send me a message privately, or leave a comment following this. I promise that I will pray for anyone who asks.

So far, three likes, but no requests….We’ll see what the day brings!

 

I’m not a great pray-er, and struggle with the concept of intercessionary prayer, but, in faith, I’m taking part in this Challenge for today.

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40 Acts: I certainly didn’t hold back!

I tink I went overboard with this challenge – it really appealed to me…As a blogger, author, teacher, actor I know that words are powerful and I wanted to share words today…so I did! Boy, so I did!!

In my post about my reaction, I said “Right! I’m off to prepare some cards & letters before I start lesson planning for the day!” Lesson planning?! That went by the board! I spent an hour-and-a-half writing 12 postcards and 6 cards with a mixture of encouraging phrases and Bible verses in French

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I collected four books – all in English – to leave somewhere: two novels that I enjoyed, a Gospel of Mark, and a book called “God’s Little Devotional Book on Prayer”

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I wrote a little note to go in each one

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and popped them in plastic bags with a note saying: “This is an English book – if you would like it, please take it”

Then I was off, down to Roanne to do a bit of stealth note-leaving!!! I decided to go to the underground car park of the Carrefour Market, and to leave the postcards under car windscreen wipers…so I skulked a little until there was noone around and then left them under random wipers

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I also left a few in the public toilets

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by the sinks

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behind the door.

I left the cards in various shopping trolleys – the envelopes had messages such as “Oui, c’est pour toi!” (Yes, it’s for you”) written on them. I also popped one on a pot plant by the lift, and one in the lift itself!

Then I went down to Le Port, and left three of the books on various benches (I’d already left one on a café table in the shopping centre)

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I REALLY enjoyed this challenge, and will definitely be carrying this on from time to time! I don’t know how the religious messages/books will be received, but I wrote messages that I felt were “right” for this Act. BRILLIANT!!!

40 Acts: 19: Don’t hold back the wonderful

From the daily prompt

Act 19 – don’t hold back the wonderful

Our words can have a wonderful power for good. Leave a note of encouragement in a random place for someone to find.
Alternatively, you could leave your favourite book – a Bible or a book of psalms, perhaps – in a public space with a note explaining that it’s a gift for whoever picks it up.
You could even write #40acts on the envelope or inside the book cover if you like.

 

I love the idea of this Act – really! The idea of sending or leaving notes of encouragement to be found by strangers is thrilling!

Coincidentally, I have, waiting to be posted, four envelopes of little gifts to send to people I know , either through blogging, or from a face-to-face meeting. One of these I’m sending anonymously, to thank the blogger for her wonderful generous giving of herself to other people. But leaving little notes – bring it on!

 

So, I plan to leave an English book on a bench near Le Port, in Roanne, where many English speaking people moor their narrow boats, plus some cards with encouraging French words in them. I’ll have to go to town a little earlier than I’d planned today, but what a great reason to go. Right! I’m off to prepare some cards & letters before I start lesson planning for the day!

 

I’ll be back sometime tomorrow (or Friday!) with some photos. What fun!!!

40Acts: 16: Bake it, make it, take it + A Pause in Lent

From yesterday’s daily prompt:

Most people love cake. And if they don’t love cake, they’ll probably still appreciate the trouble you’ve taken to make something. Use the simple recipes we are providing on the Facebook page today and bake some cupcakes.

 

Here the best laid plans of mice went awry…I did bake a delicious cake, & I have shared it with a friend, but it wasn’t really much of a challenge/act of anything other than greed as I had a large slice too!!! I planned to make biscuits to take into work but that didn’t happen either – I was too busy batch cooking chicken provencale, lamb tagine and bean-and-vegetable stew to go in the freezer, as well as cooking lunch for said cake-eating friend, who was on her own today. But, no worries. Sometimes Stuff Happens, but I hope that on Tuesday I may find time to bake some biscuits to either take into work, or to take up to a very busy friend. I will do the Act 16, but just not on the day.

This isn’t a pic of my cake, but it loks pretty similar. Here is the recipe. It was very easy to make.

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To be honest, I haven’t got anything terribly thought provoking to say…just the thought that, while I have enjoyed doing 40 Acts, I still haven’t really stepped very far outside my comfort zone. People have been offering cupcakes to complete strangers, and giving anonymous gifts, and helping people they don’t know…I’ve been shying away from that, with the excuse “But I can’t do it in French!!!” (to be said in horrified tones)

God wants us to trust him, to follow where He leads, to be willing to leave the green pastures and still waters that are so attractive because they are safe, and follow him into the valley of shadows…because it is only when we are truly challenged and feel completely uncomfortable that we learn to fully trust him.

As Father Rob, rector at church wrote in the newsletter this week:

So many of the transforming moments in both the Old and New Testaments occur when the comfortable safety of stable and respectable life is either lost or set aside.  The character in a biblical story about transformation is more
than likely to be a wanderer, a prisoner, an expatriate, a social outcast or a solitary seeker.

You might not seek such a life for yourself.  If it is thrust upon you, however, take heart.  Unaccustomed times and places are putty in God’s hand

40 Acts: Guest Post: Lend With Care

Yesterday’s 40 Acts was to be an ambassador for a cause you feel strongly about. I admitted my failings over on this post here. But I knew I had a blogging friend, Keith, who feels strongly about a charity called “Lend With Care”, so I asked him to write a Guest Post about his support for this charity. He describes himself as Retired IT guy and a lover of birds of prey. I look after web sites, I proofread, and I am an occasional photographer, writer and blogger”. Blog sites are http://channing.info and http://keithedgar.channing.info in addition to http://weeklypic.hawk-conservancy.org/, which displays other people’s photographs.

I must say, Lend With Care certainly interests me, and I’ve spoken to Mr D about it. When we’re slightly better off – he has just got a new job: regular, full time, gainful employment!!! We’ll have some spare cash!!! 🙂 – in a couple of months, we will think seriously about supporting this charity. Here, Keith explains why he already does:

I spent a couple of years during the early 1980s living and working in Africa, specifically in Nigeria in the west and Tanzania in the east. I recently saw a comment from one of my on-line friends, who told of his decision to become involved in a micro-financing initiative with Care International. I looked at the web site (lendwithcare.org) and immediately found that I could make a difference to a family in Africa – shades of bicycle fundi. If you ask me really nicely, I shall go into what that means and, more particularly, what it means to me, at a later date.

When in Nigeria, I was often overwhelmed by the number of beggars in the streets. Clearly, I couldn’t help all of them. Were I to give one cent to each of a hundred beggars, it would have had no impact, but if I gave a Naira to one man, it would have enabled him to buy a meal. That would have made a difference, and that is part of the reason I support Lendwithcare.

For a small investment, which will be repaid, provided the business doesn’t fail, we can contribute to the success of a small entrepreneur in Africa (or Asia, or South America) and help that person to lift a family out of poverty. When the loan is repaid, it can immediately be applied to another applicant. This arrangement appeals to me on two levels:

  1. This is not buying a man a fish, this is not even teaching a man to fish; this is lending a man the money to buy fishing tackle – he already knows how to fish, and
  2. We know whom it is helping.

When you sign up with Lendwithcare, you have access to a list of people who need funding. Behind each individual or group is a story, explaining what the person or group is aiming to do, how much cash they need to do it, and what the prospective outcome is. That makes it personal, and that’s good.

Loan amounts start at only £15. You will be told when the loan you are helping to provide is fully funded and there will be a repayment schedule. Repayments will be made to your account with Lendwithcare, from where you can use it to make another loan, donate it to Lendwithcare to help with their running costs, or transfer it back to your own bank.

We are, so far, helping three people: two men in Togo, one of whom wishes to grow his small vehicle spares business, the other needs to repair his truck so he can get back to work and provide for his family; and a lady in Ecuador, who wishes to expand her small grocery store to include a restaurant. When those three repay, that money can be re-circulated back to three new entrepreneurs – it just keeps on working.

Although we applaud, and support, other charities, none gives us quite the personal involvement that this one does. It goes beyond “your money will help people like Jim”, and says “your money will help Jim”. I commend it to anyone who will listen.

 

This is Marina Zavala, from Ecuador who despite losing her legs in her fight against polio, looks after her four children and runs her business raising and selling livestock – now thanks to a loan from lendwithcare.

I hope Keith’s post might inspire you, dear readers and followers to think about supporting this very worthwhile charity.

40Acts: 15: Stand Up, Stand Out

From the daily prompt:

What causes make your heart race? Which injustice makes you angry? Today’s the day to be an ambassador for a charity or a cause you love. Your mission is to let someone else know about that charity; whether you do that face-to-face or online is up to you. Stand up for something today, and use your voice for good.

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8

Oh dear. I rather hang my head in shame here. The above verse is one that I trot out when someone asks me what my faith means to me, together with what I used to think of Jesus’, and every other Christian who followed him, “Mission Statement:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18,19)

I think that this should be the work of Christians everywhere, but I’m afraid that all too often I am happy, bimbling along in my own little life, and I fail to connect with the world beyond my limited horizons. I get easily upset, be it about cruelty to animals or to humans, when I watch news reports about humankind’s inhumanity and unfeeling-ness towards others – and yet I turn away and quickly forget what I have seen. My concern is shallow and means very little.

I used to be a member of Amnesty International, and I would write four or five letters a month to heads of state or other influential people, but when we moved here that petered out. And really, I have done very little, and certainly nothing that has caused me anything more than a minor inconvenience, to stand up for what I believe in, to support others in pain, to set the oppressed free or to act justly. I buy Fair Trade coffee. Whoop-de-whoop.

What causes my heart to race? Which injustice makes me angry? Maybe because there is just too much injustice and oppression in the world I no longer allow myself to be stirred into anger and action because I feel useless…or maybe it is just because I am lazy, and comfortable and set in my ways.

I’ve even copped out on this challenge a little, by contacting a Follower to ask if he wants to write a Guest Post about a charity he supports. He’s not replied yet, but I will post if he does. It is an interesting sounding charity, and I think that I will get involved, but I’m not burning for passion about it (not yet, anyway!)

I currently support two other charities though, which I will tell you about.

1. Spanish Stray Cats is a tiny charity, run by English and Spanish people, rescuing and homing stray cats in the Cadiz area of Spain. They pay for transport to the UK, Holland and continental Europe if people wish to adopt a cat who has been rescued, sometimes from horrific circumstances. One story is of an area where the feral cats live, and local hunters will take their dogs there and let them loose among the cats for a bit of “sport”…one cat was rescued with terrible injuries caused by dog bites. At the moment I knit wobbly blankets for the shelter and try to send a bit of money too.

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This is Nadia who was terribly burned. SSC have paid for her vet’s bills. You can read more here

I know that many people think that animals don’t deserve help as much as humans; that the injustice and oppression meted out to people is more deserving of our concern, yet animals are as much a part of God’s creation as mankind, and they cannot defend themselves against humans’ cruelty. In my opinion, to hurt an animal for sport, for fun, is as horrific as torturing or killing another person because they are a different religion or colour…

2. Diannah School of English For the past two years I have gone to the UK over the summer to work at a summer school (and this year I’m going as well). I teach English to children from fairly (or very) wealthy families from all over the world. I go to earn money for me. One of the teachers goes to earn money to support the school that she set up, teaches in and pays for in Senegal – the Diannah School of English. The children and adults of the area can go for English lessons free of charge, I think, and for something to eat.

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Last year, at Lines Summer School, some of the students and I sold popcorn at the disco to raise money for Hawa’s schoolchildren to have a breakfast/ snack before their schooling. Throughout this year I have been collecting some money, and a few resources to give to Hawa when I see her in the summer…maybe you could think of donating to help these youngsters improve their English and their education so that they have the possibility of a brighter future.

3. Lend With Care Hopefully I’ll have a Guest post to tell you about this one, in the near future.

If nothing else, perhaps you could go to the two Facebook sites I linked to and “like” their pages. I don’t know much about how FB and “liking” works, but I think it is a Good Thing if people like you.

I think I am drawn to charities than either support people, and help them to help themselves (Hawa’s school or Lend with Care, for example) or to animal charities (especially cats!) but…really, I should learn to allow myself to get angry, to become concerned, because it is only through being concerned that I will be able to shake off my sloth and get off my arse and DO SOMETHING!

40Acts:13 Go Local & 14: Ssh!

13: Go Local.

From yesterday’s Daily Prompt:

Get down to your local shops today if you can. Those local businesses are a community hub and they’re brilliant places to meet people, strike up conversations and support home-grown trade. Perhaps you could choose an independent coffee shop over a chain, or use your local greengrocers rather than a supermarket this week.

I do my food shopping on a Friday, having planned the week ahead’s menus in advance. I go to 2 supermarkets (usually), a budget one (which is Leader Price at the moment) and another, for the other items. The second is usually Carrefour. It suits me to work like this, and Leader Price  certainly has lower prices than the Big Supermarkets. But of course, local shops are missing out on my custom. We’ve already had a butcher, a baker and a greengrocer close in the village, as well as the (over priced) electrical goods shop, and I can only imagine that this trend may continue. There are several empty shop fronts too, which have been empty for years.

Because I work away from home all Wednesday, I didn’t pick up the prompt until this morning – very timely as it is the local market on Thursday…so I made up my shopping list for the week, and headed out to buy what I could in the market. The prices were higher and I did balk at paying 3€ / kg for red peppers, when they’re cheaper elsewhere…so I compromised. I bought a few veggies that I knew were comparable prices & I went to the local butcher. The meat was more expensive than I would normally pay – but the chickens are free range (and big pieces too) so I’ll bite the bullet on that front. So this prompt has helped me to decide to be a bit more organised with my shopping list and to buy my meat from a local shop, rather than from the supermarkets.

A picture of our local market

14: Sssh!

From today’s Daily Prompt:

Leave an anonymous gift for someone! Remember act #9, when we encouraged you to listen to someone and make a note of something they needed? Well, today’s the day to meet that need as best as you can – anonymously. Don’t let them know that you’ve done it. You could use the contents of your generosity jar if you need to.

Well, my Act 9 didn’t really produce any needs – I just pledged to try to listen more carefully in future – and, in fact, did just that when Mr D was explaining the wonders of HTML5 to me…So I’m still humming and ha-ing over today’s Act. I think that I may cop out a bit, and just send a donation to Sport Relief. And, to be honest, I was going to do this anyway, as I have been admiring of what Alex Jones from The One Show is doing to raise money…

Here she is, talking about her challenge:

An amazing challenge…especially if you have never climbed before!!

Maybe not the Challenge for me that it could have been – but still a valuable act to do! And perhaps I will find someone to send an anonymous gift to as well!