40Acts2015: Catching up again!

Yesterday’s Act, and meditation was one that really captured my imagination – and shocked me. I suppose it shouldn’t have done so, really, as I did – on an intellectual level, at least – know that there are Christians the world over who are persecuted for their faith. But I suppose it was reading their stories, and pondering what I would do in such a situation, that really brought  home to me what these people were suffering and going through in order to worship and follow Christ.

Here is the prompt and the Acts:


It takes incredible bravery to stand up for what you believe in. Millions of Christians throughout the world face extreme persecution simply for following Jesus. Just because you’re here and they’re over there, doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. Your support and encouragement is vital. Today’s act is all about being generous in encouraging the persecuted church.

PRAY:If you’ve got five minutes, pray. It’s the most powerful weapon we’ve got in the middle of darkness. Pray for justice, peace and mercy for all those experiencing persecution because of their beliefs.

WRITE:Did you know you can write to a persecuted Christian? Here’s a great template to get you started. Alternatively, write to your local MP to make sure the issue is kept on the government’s agenda.

CAMPAIGN:Start a fundraising campaign for a charity that directly assists with persecuted Christians. Not sure who to choose? Take a look at this list.

As I said on a FB post – I can do words! I can do cards! Yesterday I was too busy to do this, although I did take time out to pray (despite not being convinced of the efficacy of a vague “please keep them safe” kind of prayer). However over the weekend I will be writing letters and making cards. Some of the stories on the Open Doors site are quite harrowing: here is just one.

Pastor Ibrahim Kithaka, Senior Pastor of the East Africa Pentecostal Church in Kenya, was murdered in October last year.

Ibrahim had gone out to sell some goats at the family farm and stopped off at a supermarket to bring some food home – but never arrived.

To begin with, the family weren’t worried, but as the evening wore on they and members of his church began a search for him that went on all night. They found his body the next day, dumped in a bush near Madamani trading centre in Vitegeni.

It is still not known who was responsible for his death, or why it happened.


“It is very difficult,” says Sarah, his widow. “Ibrahim lived to serve God and God’s people. That was his one passion. My husband was so loved around here… he, too, loved people. He educated the poor and helped so many others. He was paying school fees for eight needy students… He did this because he wanted them to succeed in life. He did not want anyone to be limited by poverty.”

Quite frankly, if my taking an hour or so to write some letters can bring comfort and hope to people who are hurting and afraid then that is an hour well spent. That’s Sunday afternon sorted!


EDIT: I’ve just spent a couple of hours (Sunday afternoon) writing several letters & making cards which can be sent to Christians who are living through difficult times. It was hardly a sacrifice for me, and I hope that the letters will encourage them.

DAY 32: Today’s Act is about bragging…but not about oneself…

We’re turning bragging on its head. This act is about blowing someone else’s trumpet and telling others how great they are. It’s the generous antidote to gossip and criticism – talking up someone’s good points and letting others know what you appreciate about them. Think about who adds a spark to your life just by being uniquely them. Got someone in mind? Great, now go shout to the world about them.

ACKNOWLEDGE:This one can be done in the simplest of ways and still have a huge impact. Declare their brilliance through a quick tweet, post a knockout photo of them in a (slightly) mushy instagram post, casually mention in conversation at work how brilliant another member of staff is. Simple but effective. #bestiebrag

UTILISE:Maybe they would be perfect for an upcoming position at work or in church. Maybe they’ve achieved something recently that deserves to be publicly declared. If you can think of even the smallest specific reason why bragging about this person could lead to greater things, then don’t hold that information back.

OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE:It’s easy to spot ten ways in which your bestie is brilliant, but what about the people you find it a little harder to gel with? What’s great about them? We can guarantee you can find something. Take time to really consider this, and then be as brave and bold as possible and let this person and those around them know.

I am lucky to have lots of dear friends…but I would like to brag about the “young” people in my life (in inverted commas as my niece, while still considerably younger than myself, may not, at 30, be considered a “young person”.)

I have 4 nieces and nephews on my side of the family. My brother’s two girls are wonderful! They are so generous with their time to my mum (known as M’Nan) and to others. Ruth, who is a teacher, has just become a mum and Rose works for a charity, having, in the past, volunteered to work in Rwanda with the YWCA, worked in Ghana building a school, and having been in Sudan. They are both wonderful, well rounded young women.


Rose, Ruth, Lydia, Mike (my brother), mum

My sister’s two boys are equally great – they are funny and charming. Kieran is a primary school teacher in Edinburgh and Conor works in the media. I don’t see them very often, but I am proud to be their Aunt.

On Mr FD’s side, the nephews and nieces are younger. The Canadian branch, Olivia and Matthew are still at school, enjoying life. Olivia is coming to the end of her school time and is looking at careers. Last time I heard she was considering catering – taking after her mum and uncle. Matthew is extremely sporty. Cal, who lives with his dad (Mr FD’s brother, the chef) and mum in the UK, is very musical, playing keyboards, drums and something else (something windy, I think, but I can’t remember. Sorry Cal!) He has done lots of interesting things, going on music camps and other such jollifications.

Then there are my godchildren. Ruth got married last year, and works as a graphic designer. She is a committed Christian, and works hard in her church. Simon is at University, studying history, and Joe is in the midst of the long process of becoming an architect. At the moment, he is taking some time out from his studies. He has worked in France on a project building an ecological house, and is now working in Columbia.


Joe. Building something in Columbia.

There are other splendid young people I know too – Hannah and Isaac, (Joe’s siblings), Max, Joe and Alyssia, Flynn and India (children of friends), Guy, (Simon’s brother) and Tim (Ruth’s brother). There are wonderful young people at church who are truly committed to doing God’s work…the list goes on.

Thinking about them now, I realise how blessed I am to know these vibrant, generous (sometimes troubled) young people. Thank you to their parents for their nurturing which has brought these people to where they are.

EDIT AGAIN: I posted this on Facebook and had some lovely replies from said nephews & nieces. Bless them!

40Acts2015: Tick list or sacrificial giving?

40Acts have rather gone by the wayside recently, as I have found them difficult to do – not necessarily because they are challenging, but because they aren’t terribly practical (in the sense of what we’re being asked to do). I hesitate a little over some acts, as I feel I am doing it because I’ve been told to, not because I want to…but then, if I don’t want to do it, shouldn’t I do it anyway because that’s part of the nature of sacrificial giving?

I think there is a tendency to almost see the Acts as a tick list., completed with a crow of delight if that was something I was going to do anyway! Tick. V.G. I don’t need to do anything else now cos I’ve done that! (whatever “that” was).

I want this to change how I see things, how I behave. It is something that should affect me way beyond Easter and the end of Lent. This is not 40 Acts and then it’s over, but 40 Acts+ another 40 + another…and another…on and on. And I’m not sure it’s quite got to that point with me yet.

The last few Acts have been difficult to fulfill…

SATURDAY: DAY 28: ROLL YOUR SLEEVES UP: Unbutton those cuffs and let’s get elbows-deep. This is all about practical generosity; the kind that gets things done – no fuss. It’s about seeing a need and working out how to provide a practical solution. It might need good planning and forethought, or it could just be a spur-of-the-moment thing.

This was about practical helping: I was a bit preoccupied by sermon writing/service planning, but when I popped out to the bakers and chemist I kept my eyes open for people needing help. Nobody appeared to be in need, but I did help Mr FD mending his bike, by holding pieces of chain together while he pinned them. Not really very earth shattering, it has to be said!


MONDAY: DAY 29: BLESS THE BOSS: Being the boss sounds quite glam, but the reality is that leadership can be pretty hard going if you’re trying to do it well. There are probably bosses/church leaders/authority figures in your life that have never failed to step up and be a blessing. Wouldn’t it be really good to give them a heavy dose of blessing back? Today is your day to take charge.

I am Auto-Entrepreneur – I am my own boss. Maybe I should be kind to myself today?! No, I don’t think that’s the point is it?!

There was a suggestion we might encourage our worship leaders and pastors. As I sent Rob a message a couple of weeks back, I felt another one might be going a bit OTT!! I suppose you could say I helped the Pastor by being available to take the service on Sunday – but that’s a bit “tick V.G.”  What I mean by this is thinking I don’t need to engage with the Act because I’ve already done it.  I’ve ticked it off the list. No, I should be finding another way to do something. I’m not sure what though!


TUESDAY: DAY 30: BE FIRST: There are probably very few scenarios where we ought to push for ‘first’. One is the Olympics. The other is volunteering. The thing is, if you wait for someone else to put their hand up before you, you miss the opportunity to make a generous difference. It might be a tiny ripple or a mighty wave of change. Today, be willing to put the hard work in when nobody else wants to. Be first to raise your hand.

I’m not much of a volunteer. Unless it’s something I like doing!! Being at home all day working sort of means that I don’t get much chance to volunteer for stuff. But I think this is one challenge that I need to keep under my hat for that day when someone asks for volunteers! Then God can just whisper shout in my ear “Oy! Remember Day 30!”

I have volunteered for some cleaning duties next Saturday, at the Church office. Argh. Me? Cleaning?! And palm cross making too. And singing at a concert I really don’t want to go to… So maybe I’m not doing quite so badly after all…!

(I have my ironing to do this afternoon…Somewhere there’s an unwelcome little voice suggesting I should also do Mr FD’s!)


I think with all of the last three Acts I need to bear them in mind for when the opportunity arises – because I’m sure it will, and it is then that I must seize the opportunity for sacrificial action – not because “it’s Day 30 and this is what I have to do” but because this is what God wants me to do.

It’s like my sermon on Sunday said:

I have to die to myself and what I want to do, and become what God wants me to become, and do what God wants me to do.


Pause In Lent

This is a bit of a cheat – it’s the sermon I preached this morning… I hope you find it interesting.

A Pause in Lent Floss

I’m sure we all make promises ~ to ourselves, to God, to other people. And I’m sure that we all have broken promises too. I know I have. I may have promised to do something for someone, and then genuinely forgotten to keep that promise; I may have promised to do something, knowing from the very beginning that I had no real intention of keeping that promise. When I was still teaching, children who had misbehaved were often required to write a letter of apology and the number of children who wrote “I promise not to …do whatever it was again”. They may have meant it at the time ~ but sadly, very few of them ever kept to that promise

But God never breaks his promises. He made promises to his people, and he will keep them.Some those promises had conditions attached.

 If the Israelites followed God, and obeyed his law, then they would know his guidance and his protection. But if they tried to go their own way, not keeping to his commandments and staying true to him, then they would suffer the consequences. This is the first covenant, the Old Covenant that God had with his people. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and made a covenant with them at Mount Sinai, the covenant that he made had conditions. As Moses said to the people after introducing them to the Ten Commandments “ Hear O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your Fathers, promised you.” Be careful to obey so that it may go well with you.

 But despite having made their promises to follow God, no doubt in all good faith, like the children in my class promising not to be naughty ever again, the people of Israel failed to keep their side of the bargain. And as God had promised, things did not go well for them.

And this is the situation that we’re in with Jeremiah. Once again, the people fail to follow God, and once again they are punished for their disobedience, finding themselves in bondage to the Babylonians. But despite the hopelessness that Jeremiah feels when he sees Israel on this course of action, he still believes that God will not abandon his People. And so Jeremiah makes the beautiful prophecy that we heard earlier. He speaks of a new promise that God will make: “It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers… for I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”.

This brings us onto the second kind of promise ~ the promise that has no conditions. It does not require us to jump through hoops, or to turn around twice, or do anything. The only “condition” is that the recipient of the promise believes the promise and acts on it.

 This is the new covenant, the new promise that Jeremiah looked forward to. Whatever happened God would not abandon his people; eventually he would restore them to himself. God will always be faithful. Jeremiah was looking forward to the time when no longer would people be punished for failing God, for he has promised to forgive wickedness, he has promised to remember their sins no more.

All the children of God need to do is accept this promise and it is fulfilled. This is the new covenant. This is the promise that God fulfilled in Jesus.

You may or may not know that Testament means Covenant, or Promise. In the Old Testament, we read about how Israel constantly failed to follow their Lord, and how, under the conditions of that promise made at Sinai, God punishes them for their disobedience. But in the New Testament, we read how the new promise, that prophesied by Jeremiah and other prophets, is fulfilled in Jesus.

But we should never forget that this new covenant was not made easily. We should never think that this cost nothing. In fact, for Jesus, it cost everything.

Today, the 5th Sunday in Lent, is sometimes known as “Passion Sunday”: it is the day when the Church moves from reflecting on Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness and the themes of penitence and repentance, to thinking about the sufferings of our Lord, and what he went through in order to bring about redemption for the whole world. What he went through to seal this new covenant made between God and his people.

In the early world, the striking of a covenant involved some kind of sacrifice, some kind of bloodletting. An animal would be sacrificed, and blood would be sprinkled; often the sacrificial beast would be cut in two and the two parties would pass between the parts of the divided carcass as a sign that this covenant would not be broken – or, that if it was, the consequences would be dire.

Inevitably this thought leads us to reflecting on what – or rather who – was sacrificed in order to form the covenant that we have with God.

The words that Father Rob repeats every Sunday as he raises the bread and wine tells us this: “This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”. And again, words that we ourselves sometimes say “Christ, our Passover is sacrificed for us”.

Yes, we know that after his death Christ was resurrected to glory – and while it is really important that we see his death through resurrection-tinted spectacles, I think it is also important that we do not forget the real cost of the sacrifice of Christ.

When I lived in the UK I was privileged to be part of a talented theatre group, and one year we performed Dennis Potter’s “Son of Man” an incredibly powerful play Within it Jesus is depicted as being tormented by self-doubt, repeatedly crying out “Is it me?” as he struggles with his own nature as God incarnate whilst being vulnerable to human frailty. In fact, when it was first broadcast, the play was deemed “blasphemous” for its portrayal of Jesus as a fearful human being. For me this was part of its power, but in reality the part that stands out most is the scene where Jesus is crucified: for a 10 night run I stood in the crowd and watched the crucifixion. Of course, it came nowhere close to the horror of the real event, but thanks to the amazing skill of the actor who played Jesus, I was able to envisage something of what Christ suffered so we could be a part of God’s new covenant with the world. Every night it came to me afresh what had been suffered for me, and I remember it still, because it is important to take on board the fact that Christ’s death on the cross was not a painless, sanitised slipping away that we might like to imagine. It was an agonising, bone crunching bloody business that lasted for three hours and caused even the son of God to believe – however fleetingly – that he had been abandoned and that this was all for nothing.

We must recognise that despite the comforting picture in Jeremiah of a world in which everyone accepts and lives out the law of God it was still necessary that there was a bloodletting to seal even this new covenant.

And what of our side of this covenant? Because a covenant was always made with a promise on both sides.

This is the part where we have to make our sacrifice also: we have to be willing to die. Not, thank Heavens, in the literal sense – although there are many Christians who have throughout the world and throughout the ages been called on to make that sacrifice – but we have to be willing to die to ourselves, to die to the world.

This is what Jesus was talking about in the Gospel passage, when he said: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

So what does it mean? I think that when he said these words, Jesus was both talking to himself, and to those who were seeking to follow him. We must realise that he was afraid – he admits as much with the words “my soul is troubled” – he knew that this was not to be a gentle death, it was going to be brutal, and so I think he was reminding himself that this sacrifice was necessary, in order to seal the promise between God and man, thus bringing the fruit of the new covenant. But he was also reminding his followers – both then in Judea, and now, here in Clermont Ferrand and across the world – that following him was not going to be easy. It would involve making ourselves vulnerable. As one commentator has written:

the point of faith in Jesus isn’t just faith, or comfort, or satisfying spiritual desires. No, the point of following Jesus is that we might be drawn more deeply into the kingdom of God through our love for, service to, and sacrifice on behalf of those around us. Jesus comes to demonstrate God’s strength through vulnerability, God’s power through what appears weak in the eyes of the world, and God’s justice through love, mercy and forgiveness. And he calls those who would follow him to the very same kind of life and love

We need to be ready to allow God access to our hearts, so that he can indeed “put his Law within us and write it on our hearts” Like a seed has to be spilt open in order for the new life within to flourish, so we need to allow God to break us open so that we truly begin to live the Life that he has planned for us, so that we can serve him in the way that he desires. Of course, this is always going to be a work in progress, but if we are open to him Christ can and will work a miracle in us, finally making us perfect and creating the people we are meant to be.

40Acts2015: Act N°27: Widen Your Circle


Your group, your clique, your club, your ‘gang’, your crowd. It’s great to have a core circle of friends, but it’s probably even better to open it up to include others. Who knows? You might end up with a Tinigua-speaking, acrobat artist with a special fondness for rich tea biscuits in your friendship group…!

Start here: Deliberately seek out those you’d normally avoid today and just start with a ‘Hello’. Say ‘Hi’ to someone new at the school gates, at the train station, at the water cooler or even on Twitter.

Feeling bolder: Got a social event coming up? Most people love going to see a movie, heading out for a meal or getting together for a party, so invite someone new and make it clear you’d really like them to come.

All Out There: You might know a few people that you just can’t be bothered with: you find them annoying/boring/too hyper/too quiet (insert your own gripe here). Someone once said those people are like sandpaper: they rub us up the wrong way but eventually smooth out all of our rough edges. Bring those people into your circle somehow today.

I read the last Action and I feel a bit scratchy and uncomfortable… When we arrived here I became acquainted with an English woman who had also recently moved into the area.She lived in a fairly remote house, about 20 minutes drive away, and didn’t drive. Or speak French.  She was very demanding, and I never felt we were friends, but rather that I was being used for lifts, for shopping, for company (she lived alone) While at the beginning I was okay with this, I did get to resent it, and when her daughter came out to live here with her, I was very, very happy to drop the woman like the proverbial hot brick. Now her daughter was here, I didn’t need to see her. So I didn’t.

Last summer she died, and her daughter is now living in the house, with her two daughters – but they are growing up and away at Lycée during the week. I have no real idea how much social life the daughter now has – I know she enjoys running with a mutual acquaintance, and has a job where she works shifts. Other than that…not much.

SO the weekend after next Mr FD is away with the cycle club. I’m busy on Saturday: I’ll be in Clermont,  making Palm crosses at church, organising the new church offices, maybe catching a VO film and then singing at an African Church’s celebratory service. However I will contact the daughter who I rarely speak to and see if she would like to meet up for a drink on Sunday or Monday. I’m not sure how easy it will be to make conversation, but I’ll make the effort.

This Act is quite difficult for me – I find it really hard to chat to strangers, and particularly in a language that I don’t speak too well. However, I do know the daughter a little – and she’s English! No language barriers there. No excuses, really, are there…?!


40Acts 2015: Act N°26: Bearhug (Do I have to?!)

Sometimes words just won’t do, and for those moments the hug was invented. It’s the most effective and simple way to say a truck load of things: “hello”, “I appreciate you”, “you’re loved”, “feel better”, or just “you’re comfy” to name a few. Say whatever you need to say with arms wide open today.

I’m not seeing anyone today: Send somebody a virtual hug. Let them know you are thinking of them. Put lots of XOXOs on the end just to make sure they 100 per cent get the message!

I’m not a huggy person: That’s cool. Instead of hugging here, there and everywhere, we challenge you to give out just one, very deliberate, bear hug to someone who will especially appreciate it.

I love a cuddle: What are you waiting for? You need no excuse: hug everyone – no exceptions. If you’re feeling particularly wild, you could even create a ‘Free hugs’ sign and wear it around town for the day.

Today’s Act is one that makes my skin crawl, I’m afraid – hugging people. Now, I don’t mind hugging people I know don’t mind being hugged. When I’m hugging them for a reason. But generally…Just hugging people? No, no, and thrice no.

And yet…and yet.. I understand that touch can be a very powerful healer in many ways. The meditation that went with today’s Action mentions this: She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.

I’m kind of relieved that I didn’t go anywhere today: I had a phone lesson to give and I had next Sunday’s sermon to wrestle with – thank goodness I’ve managed to get that into some semblance of coherency. For a while it was touch-and-go! So being confined to barracks, as it were, I didn’t need to hug anyone, as I didn’t meet anyone! Phew.

But that doesn’t let me off the hook completely. I could still manage the “green” action…and I know just the person. My friend Cathy is always sending me jaunty little Facebook messages (most of which I delete without looking at!). Recently she had a nasty scare when, due to a gas leak in her new flat she could have (as she put it) woken up dead. She probably needs a hug, albeit a virtual one. So I shall send her this:


And I’ll give Mr FD a big DormouseHug when he gets home from work. It’s not really in the 40 Acts spirit, but I’m afraid it’s as good as it gets.

40Acts2015: Act N° 25: Serve the Server

Not many inspirational thoughts today, I’m afraid.

People who serve us are everywhere – shop assistants, waiters, baristas, maintenance people – but what happens when we offer something back? This is about turning the tables in a nice way and being generous to those that usually put us first.

First Steps:Treat the person who serves you with dignity and courtesy. Make eye contact. Ask their name. Show genuine gratitude. Smile! Friendly customers can brighten up a day on the job.

Go Further:Strike up a conversation with your local park-keeper, ticket inspector, road sweeper, dinner lady, waiter or lollipop man. Tell them why you appreciate them. Be interested.

Out of your comfort zone: Leave an extravagant tip, tweet an encouragement about great service or write a complimentary letter to their Head Office/line manager. Want to get creative? Use Charlie’s blog as inspiration, and let your server choose your meal for you today.

I like to think I am (mostly!) polite to cashiers/waiters/servers etc. I do, if I receive it, praise exceptional service. I don’t leave tips though, except where service is not included.

I went shopping today, and chatted a little to the PO man, and my friend the pharmacist. I’m going to be working the rest of today though so won’t really have much chance to follow this one through. It’s something that needs to be bourne in mind for the future, I think, rather than a specific challenge for today. People, whoever they are, whatever job they do, should be treated with respect.


40Acts 2015: Catching up…!

Well, it’s been a busy few days and while I’ve mostly kept up with the 40 Acts I’ve not really kept up my blogging about them. But actually, I think that’s okay, because the aim is to act, not necessarily to blog!

I was well-and-truly nudged on Friday, and I gave the Carrefour voucher to somebody. I wish I’d taken time to chat to them more – or even to smile a bit more – but I was so concentrated on what I was saying that I sounded a bit grumpy I think!! Still, I hope he found it useful.

Slightly ironically I felt that I didn’t have time to think about the “time” challenge on Saturday…

22: Give It Time

Time is money – or is it more precious than that? Giving your time and talents to a cause or to someone because they need some help, moral support, company or just plain because can be priceless. Whether it’s a whole day or an hour, this act is about blessing others with the gift of your time.

High Five:Book five minutes into your daily schedule now and commit to give that time to someone who needs it. Perhaps your family, a friend, or even more time in prayer.

Half an hour:Got behind with 40acts? Take 30 minutes today and whizz back through some that you’ve missed. You’ll be surprised at how generous you can be in 1800 seconds

Donate a Day:What could you do for someone with a whole day? Could you book one day’s annual leave this year and spend it helping others?

We had friends coming for dinner on Sunday and the house needed cleaning plus food preparing…I was happy to do it and share the work with Mr FD. But in fact, my way of completing this challenge ended up being to “allow” Mr FD to go to Roanne with another friend to give advice on buying a new bike. That is to say, normally I would be grumbling and maundering that I was doing all the work and he should be helping me instead of gadding about in Roanne having lunch out and looking at bikes with friends.


BUT I DIDN’T! I simply got myself in the mindset that I was giving my time to these friends by cleaning & cooking and Mr FD was giving his time to other friends by looking at bikes…and that actually IT WAS FINE. And it was.

Goodness me. How good is that?! A – may – ZING!

The, on Sunday, we had a fabulous lunch and spent a good time getting to know my Rector and his wife a little better. It was a good time.

Yesterday, the action was to do with prayer and social media…


There’s a lot of noise on social media. And probably even more in the newspapers. Everyone’s got a story they want to air. Sometimes these snippets can be great things, but other times it’s a little more worrying. Dedicate some time to scroll through your newsfeed, in whatever form that takes, and pick out what’s shouting to be prayed for.

5 Minutes:Read your local newspaper, watch TV or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed. Pray for each item as it appears.

15 minutes:Use your journal to write down some prayer points for today or schedule three blocks of five minutes to pray for whatever you encounter either on social media or the news today.

An hour:You’ve got time to act! Yes, keep on praying through your social media feed, but take action too. Write letters of support, make donations to charities in need of help, answer friends’ cries for help and more!

As I’ve said previously I’m not a social media person, and I was working all day, but I have a longer lunch time now as my lunchtime course has finished. So I took 30 minutes to scroll through the contacts on my phone and to pray for those whose names leapt out at me…some I knew had particular needs,others I felt called to pray for something, and others were just “leaving-it-up-to-God” prayers.


I’m not sure I should admit it, as a Christian and a Lay leader but I am dubious about the efficacy of prayer. I’m never totally sure why we should pray…It seems to me that by praying for someone to be healed (for example) there is the unspoken assumption that they won’t be healed unless people pray for them. If God wasn’t going to heal them, and then I prayed and he changed his mind, well…that’s not saying much about God. And if he was going to heal them any way why do I bother to pray…?

If I pray “make me the channel of your healing…providing…etc” then yes, that’s different. I’m showing that I’m up for being  involved in the work. But just praying “for” someone? I do it, but I know that God knows I’m not convinced it does any good… I guess there’s something in it of the child going to a parent and asking for something, or maybe it’s just saying “Look, God, I feel helpless in the face of this situation…” but I’m still not sure.

Ah well. I’ll continue with my prayers which usually start “You know how I feel about this, but…” and I’ll wait to be amazed.

Today’s challenge is no such a good one for someone who is fasting today (only because I’m following the 5:2 method, not for any deep religious reasons!!) as it involves the temptation of chocklit!!


Mmm, chocolate. We think #ChocolateTuesdays – free chocolate given to all – should be an official thing. With that in mind, today’s act has one aim: chocolating. Yes, we’ve created a verb. It’s a simple, quick way to surprise someone. And for those that aren’t cacao-crazy? Well, choose a sweet treat of choice. Dentists all over the nation might not approve, but everyone else will be smiling …

Nibble the edges:Slip a bar of chocolate into someone’s bag with a note saying ‘#40acts’. Or leave a bar or two in your local library, on a park bench or on the train.

Get Your Teeth into it:Chocolate everyone in your department/road/toddler group – or wherever you happen to be going today.

The entire confection:Clear the confectionary aisles in your local supermarket and get out onto the streets, handing out free treats for all. Or you could do what some challengers did last year and announce free chocolate on your commute home!

I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses for NOT doing this Act today, but I have already done it!

Last Friday, I decided to make people smile not by doing something silly, but by giving out quotations about smiles…

For example: (except mine were in French!)

But then I thought people might think I was having a dig at them: “Hey Grumpy! Put a smile on your face!” So I left those cards in places to be found by chance. And instead I bought a pack of mini-Twix and a bag of mini-boxes-of-Smarties and wandered the shopping centre giving out boxes/biscuits.

Un petit cadeau! Parce que c’est vendredi!” I trilled as I thrust chocklit at people. Most were so taken aback that they were left speechlessly clutching confectionary as the Mad English Woman skipped off to her next victim. I have to say it wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined it was going to be. Most people did smile back, although they were a bit stunned, but I found the snatchy adolescents a bit difficult to feel charitable towards.

So I have already doled out chocklit. And while I like the idea of leaving a bar or two to be discovered in odd places, there is the lingering thought that I’m not sure I would eat a stray chocolate bar that I found lying around… But maybe I’m just being a bit of a Mardy Cow today and I just need to get on with it!

So…I’ll go and buy a couple of bars, and pop them in a few random letter boxes with a note, saying something like “Le chocolat – profitez en: c’est bon pour le moral!” (Chocolate: enjoy it: it’s good for the morale)

Sunday lunch.

Due to a large and slightly boozy Sunday lunch with my rector & his wife I’m afraid I’m not up to posting anything profound for A Pause in Lent, or after Act 22, which was to do with giving up your time for others.

We ate very well together, talked about lots of things and got to know each other a little better than we did before. A good way to spend Sunday afternoon, me thinks. Good food, good wine, good whisky – now I need a good snooze!!!

40Acts2015: Acts N°20 & 21

I was out of the house all day yesterday – in Clermont for an opthalmologist appointment and some shopping with a friend. I took a Carrefour voucher with me, expecting to see a baggar, but saw noone. I did keep my eyes open, thinking “Is it this person…or that person…” but I didn’t feel “the Nudge” so it’s still in my bag, waiting for me to be pushed in the back! I did wish I’d had a few more Ninja notes with me – I only had one, which I left in a public toilet! – so I will remember to carry a few with me wherever I go.

The challenge yesterday was:

Stranger Things Could Happen

As children we are always taught to be wary of strangers. But when does that change? Stranger Danger is real, but so are the opportunities that we miss when we block the world out. After all, friends were once strangers and you never know where life may lead after starting up that initial conversation.

I’m super-shy: Try stepping out of your comfort zone and speaking to one new person today. It might be someone new to a forum online, your supermarket cashier, a bus driver, or a colleague you haven’t spoken to before.

Feeling bolder: Make an effort to deepen the relationship you have with people you see every day but don’t really know: shopkeepers, bus drivers, postal staff, office cleaners. Ask their names, share a story or two, and take some time to find out a little bit more about them.

Going all-out: Make an effort to deepen the relationship you have with people you see every day but don’t really know: shopkeepers, bus drivers, postal staff, office cleaners. Ask their names, share a story or two, and take some time to find out a little bit more about them.


Although it would seem there was the perfect opportunity to speak to people in the waiting room at the opthalmologist, I was the first appointment of the day and there was noone else there except me!! I didn’t really speak to strangers during the day, although we did have a conversation with a shop assistant who was keen to practise her English…My friend is an inveterate chatter, so I saw “up close” how it is done! We learned that the shop assistant had lived in Ireland and Bristol for a while, and that she had worked in restaurants.

Other than that, I’m afraid I didn’t do too well with this – though I did chat to the guy in Ikea as well about a new drink he was giving samples of – non-alcoholic but made of hops. It had a coca-cola-ish taste. I didn’t buy any. However, on Tueday I did get a bit more up-close-and-personal than usual with the guy in the Post Office… does that count?!

Today’s challenge is perfect for the UK where silly things will be smiled on and taken with a pinch of salt, as it’s Red Nose Day.  However, here in France, it may not be so easy…

Act 21: Do Be Silly

Easy:Crack a joke. Cheese jokes are our favourite (they’re brie-lliant!). Send it by twitter/facebook/snapchat/email/text or the good old-fashioned telephone, and make a friend smile.

More Challenging:It’s Red Nose Day so go on – buy and wear a red nose. You’ll be donating to a good cause and looking ridiculous all at once! How long can you put up with one?

Feeling inspired? Go all out and either organise a fundraising event or host a last-minute Red Nose party. Invite your friends, neighbours and colleagues to a comedy-themed meal with mandatory red noses.

French sense of humour? I’m not sure I get it always, and as for jokes in another language…forget it! I do have to do a bit of getting-someone-to-crack-a-smile every Friday though, as I teach a young boy. On Friday he is tired after a week at school and the first 10 minutes of the lesson is always a bit pouty and flopping over the table…however if I can get him to smile it is a good start.

Hissing Sid is helping. He is a rubber snake that I have introduced into the lesson to help Valentin remember to add the “s” on the end of the 3rd person singular verbs

I hiss. You hiss. Sid hisses.

Link to a picture of Sid

– I’ve not put the picture in just in case there’s a snake phobic person reading!!!


Sid was so successful last week that I suspect “s” may have been missed out several times on purpose so that he would make an appearance! So I’m hoping that my Challenge today will be to make Valentin crack a smile.

I’ll also add a few jokes to today’s Ninja notes (if I can find some French jokes online that is!!)

But I have to say that doing something all-out silly, looking daft, or whatever just for the sake of it doesn’t float my boat. If I was in the UK I’d be happy to do it for Comic Relief, but I’m afraid I’m bottling out a bit here. Sorry, 40 Acts! This one isn’t really for me!!

40Acts2015: Act N°19: In Touch

I thought this would be an easy one – writing letters, postcards, whatever to people we haven’t been in contact with recently. Build a bridge, make the first step…pen out, cards at the ready, done-and-dusted.


Oh. Wait. No, it’s not that…

Today we’ve chosen two groups of people who could do with being remembered. Prisoners: isolated because of their own wrongdoing. Victims of domestic abuse: isolated because of someone else’s. Both groups need to know they aren’t forgotten, or lost. We’ve all been given grace, and today we’re extending that grace and friendship elsewhere.

Start small: If you can’t get a letter of encouragement to someone today, spend five minutes praying for them instead.

I’ve got an hour: Write a simple letter to a prisoner or a family in a refuge. Make it encouraging, positive and genuine.

I’ve got an hour and some money:Write a letter and then either commit to writing a letter each month or search for a domestic abuse charity or prison intervention programme and set up a monthly direct debit to support them.

Hmm. Not so easy then.

Thankfully, I have never been a victim of serious crime, nor of domestic abuse, and (as far as I know)  these things have not touched my family or friends either. But I have always been humbled when I read of those who have found it in their hearts to forgive the people who hurt them so terribly, whether through murder, rape, sexual abuse, theft or other crimes. I don’t know if I could ever do it, even with the grace of God behind me. There is a woman who was involved in something that hurt my family badly: I think I have forgiven her but it has taken a long time. Something that was as serious as a crime? Well, that would take  more strength than I have!


People have already commented on the FB page how difficult this challenge is: I would imagine if your lives have been touched by domestic abuse or serious crime then it becomes much more personal, and therefore much more difficult.

For me, the difficulty is just deciding what I can do. Just sending money seems a cop out, but volunteering is not a viable option. I know that, however keen I am now, I would not be able to keep up the commitment of writing a letter every month. Better, I feel, not to start than to start and peter out, disappointing someone who does not need more failure in their lives.

I think that a donation to either The Sycamore Tree, or to the Women’s Refuge that have been linked to – but maybe also some cards as well – would be the way to go…There doesn’t seem to be much in the local area, that isn’t fully state supported, so I’m not sure that is calling me. I don’t want to just “put it to one side” to be considered, because if I do that I suspect nothing will happen. I’m very good at conveniently forgetting awkward things!


And on another note I that a petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson to the BBC show “Top Gear”is gaining momentum online. Whatever I think about Mr Clarkson and his antics (suffice to say, I won’t be signing the petition!) I just wish that other online petitions for much worthier causes gained so much publicity!

Here’s one that you might find more to your taste…I meant to blog about it earlier in the week, but didn’t.


I signed the campaign: Stand #UpForSchool – part of the #UpForSchool petition, because I know that education changes lives. All over the world, children are missing out on the learning that would help protect them from poverty and give them the best chance of building the life they want for themselves.

Every name that is added builds momentum around the campaign and makes it more likely for us to make the right to a basic education a reality for every child globally.In 2015, we’ve got an opportunity to make sure that all children have the chance to get the education they need to thrive. If we succeed, we’ll soon live in a world where everyone can learn to read, write and master the skills most of us rely on every day.

Will you join me in making a message no government, politician or leader can ignore?