Hello, everyone! I’vefinally got a bit of time to sit down and do a catch-up post on 40 Acts. That’s only because my usual Wednesday morning student got back late last night from her holidays and cancelled her lesson this morning! Still, it gives me time to go and do the grocery shopping, so that Mr FD doesn’t have to do it after his first “real” day at work. (Huzzah!!) He’s been training, but (providing they like the presentation he’s giving today) he starts the “proper” job tomorrow.
If you’re wondering why I gave a sermon – I’m aware some newer readers don’t know my back story – I’m a Licensed Lay Minister with the Anglican Church. Licensed back in 1996 (Good grief, that long ago!!) in the Diocese of Oxford, I was given permission to transfer my “license to preach” to the Episcopal Church, when I started worshipping with them in Clermont Ferrand. Our rector recently left to take up a new position in Rome (and seems to be enjoying it – he has full permission to go full-out smells-and-bells, which wasn’t really suitable in Christ Church, so he’s very contented!!) and so, being left without a priest at the moment, I have been given dispensation to administer the reserved sacrament to the congregation. It is a real honour and privilege…but it does mean I’m taking more services than I’m used to!! You’ll be getting another one of my sermons the weekend after next!
Anyway. On with 40 Acts…
PROMPT: Think of the sorts of people we only notice when things go wrong: the waste collectors after two weeks of rubbish piling up, the sound team when a church service goes wrong, the handyman uncle when a car disaster hits. Do we notice them at any other time? It might just take a thank you, or a gift card. This is an easy and really noticeable way to make a difference to someone.
ACTS: Green: Drop a small card to a hidden hero, just to let them know they’re noticed.
Amber: Show up with a cup of coffee or a fizzy drink as they work.
Red: Figure out a creative fix that would make their job easier. What small solution would help them out?
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up.” (Romans 15:1–2 NIV)
The focus of the reflection is on post deliverers – it seemed a bit odd to me to particularly focus on them, but I’m learning from Helen, over at Looking Beyond to look beyond (hah!) the initial “act” to see the meaning behind it: what is the driving force, the essence of the challenge. She writes thoughtfully and meaningfully about her “hidden heroes”
But, actually, for me, this act is about our Post Office workers…It seems that every year for 40 Acts there is one act that entails me taking a box of biscuits into the local La Poste for the people who work there. It’s the place where all the posties start their local deliveries from, so it seems appropriate to deliver my biscuits there to say “thank you” to them all.
I may also buy another box of biscuits and take them to the Caserne des Pompiers – the firemen are volunteers, and deal with fires, accidents, health problems and other things too. At Christmas they “sell” their calendars: basically you give them as much money as you wish to, in return for a calendar. It’s basically a donation, as you give much more than the calendar is worth. So, we dutifully bought their calendar at Christmas (if anyone would like a copy of the St Just pompiers calendar let me know in the comments. First come, first to have it sent to them.), which is a way they raise funds for their party on St Barbara’s day (she being the patron saint of fire fighters.) But I think a box of biscuits might be a nice way to thank them for their work. I’ll add them to the shopping list.
Maybe not quite the prayer the 40 Acts team were thinking of!
PROMPT: An invite to be generous hides behind every door in your neighbourhood. The first step is to go and find it. Today, we’re prayer walking around our community, choosing to focus on those nearest us. Walk, think about who’s behind each door, and pray. Lay some groundwork for extraordinary moments of kindness. (Sorry, but: // grumpy English teacher hat on: that should read “An invitation to be generous…”: to invite is the verb; invitation is the noun. //Grumpy English teacher hat off! )
ACTS: Green: Prayer walk. If you’ve not done this before, it’s as simple as just walking, slowly, around your neighbourhood, noticing what’s around you, and praying: for peace, for problems in the community, for community relationships. If you’re feeling bold, pop a card through a neighbour’s door to let them know you’re praying for them.
Amber: Print out one of our lamppost signs, asking what people in your neighbourhood need prayer for, and stick it up locally. Check back to see what people have taken and use it to guide your prayers over the next few weeks.
Red: After you prayer walk, draw up a ‘generosity map’ of ideas: a map of your neighbourhood, with notes pinned on specifying where and how you can be generous.
The word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our eyes…”
(John 1:14 MSG)
I was teaching in the morning, but I knew that in the afternoon I had to walk from the Language School where I work into the centre of Clermont for an Opthalmologist appointment. So I thought this would be an easy-ish act to do: walk through the city, pray for those I felt called to pray for and maybe drop off a few Ninja Notes on the way… Not exactly my “neighbourhood” but that would be fine. Hands dusted off, job done.
…Yes, well, someone called God had other ideas…
On my walk, I paused to look at what was on at the cinema, together with two or three others. As I perused the posters a young woman approached.
“Can you help me?” she said. Everyone looked away, and shuffled in the opposite direction, muttering. I was about to say “No, sorry…” when I thought of what 40 Acts is about. What does the prompt say today? “extraordinary moments of kindness.”
“Yes,” I said, with a smile, “What do you need?”
She explained that she needed baby milk and nappies for her baby, so as we walked to the nearest supermarket, she talked about her life. She was Serbian, came to France 3 years ago, but her husband had walked out on her, leaving her with a baby and pregnant; she was living in Vichy (some 40 km from Clermont) with a friend. When we got to the supermarket I bought a few things for her…
…afterwards I took the opportunity to explain about 40 Acts, and what I was doing. “God sent you to me,” I said. I’m sorry though that when she asked me for money for the bus home, I “blanked ” that bit out of the conversation and carried on talking about something else…I do feel a bit guilty about that, but I don’t have a bottomless purse, even if God has a bottomless heart!! I do worry a little that it was a scam, but – in the end – I have to tell myself that, if it was indeed some kind of swindle, I told her about God, and maybe planted a seed. And if it wasn’t, then she and her child were fed and nappified. No good deed is ever wasted, so they say. I hope that’s the case.
PROMPT: Crumbs on the counter. Grime in the mugs. Someone else’s dishes in the office sink for days. What an opportunity for day-to-day, ongoing generosity – dull, grey acts of kindness that don’t get you any ‘points’. Make no mistake, taking responsibility for someone else’s mundane problems is generosity that makes a difference.
ACTS: Green: Clean the office sink (or staffroom sink, or church sink).
Amber: Take responsibility for an undone chore where you live, at church, or at the workplace.
Red: Take responsibility for an undone chore for the entire month.
I’ve mentioned this before – for “Joyful, Joyful” (Act 7) I wrote about a Rend Collective song : I try to sing this to myself when doing something I don’t enjoy and feel like getting grumpy about, especially if I feel it’s something Mr FD should be doing – it does help!! And actually, I think this might be the best way for me to complete this Act. It’s not a “Today Only” task…it’s a Continuing Act : to do Stuff, even though I think Mr FD should do it, or even if I don’t want to do it, but to try to do it with that cheerful heart. Reminding myself that the joy of the Lord is my strength, wherever I am, and whatever I am doing. It’s not going to be easy, but…
Maybe I’m cheating by combining two Acts in One (BOGOF?!) but it’s definitely a continuing one. We do, generally, share the housework pretty evenly; I read somewhere that if both partners think they do the lion’s share of the housework then it’s probably divided equally! I think that’s the place we’re in!
But I should give Mr FD a round of applause because he almost always cleans the cat trays (and we have 9 of them!) During my treatment I was expressly forbidden to clean them, because of the risk of infection with an immune system shot to pieces, and I have never re-taken up the reins. So I shouldn’t complain about other things! But maybe my response to this challenge is to play my part in the cat tray cleaning…