Well, I have had a wonderful, Spirit-filled weekend in Paris, which I’ll post about separately, but 40 Acts has rather got lost…The challenges are getting more challenging AND I’m feeling less engaged – this always happens, and I should be more prepared for it. But this feeling of ennui creeps up on me every year!
Still, let’s try and have a catch-up on what I have (or rather haven’t done!)
26: WITHOUT BORDERS
PROMPT: The crisis isn’t over. Refugees are still in drastic need of help. The good news is there are many ways that we can get involved. But first, we need to choose to love without borders.
REFLECTION: Link here
ACTS: Green: Look up the Welcome Churches website and send the link to your church leader.
Amber: Donate to a refugee charity or a local program that helps refugees find work in your area.
Red: Serve with a charity helping refugees. You can sign up to a volunteer trip online, or serve in other ways (like spreading the word at home).
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is 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 NIV)
This arrived on Thursday and I do have to say I glanced briefly at it, and then forgot about it. It’s not that I am not concerned about refugees but somehow this just slipped my mind.
Coming back to it, I don’t really know quite what I can do…I’m the Church Leader at the moment – and Welcome Churches isn’t really relevant in France. I know that serving with a charity isn’t for me in my state of health, so that leaves the Amber option. In the end, I have decided to take the easy option…I have already mentioned Phone Credit for Refugees, and their Friday Conga. I’m going to set myself a weekly reminder of this so I can at least comment on the Conga post on FB. I will also try to be more regular in my giving to this fabulous charity.
And here’s another link to their website in case you need it…
27: DISAPPEARING ACT
PROMPT: Today, take yourself out of the picture. Act generously for someone else without them noticing, and leave no mark that it was you. See what completely anonymous generosity does when you take yourself, your goals, and your self-image off the stage.
REFLECTION: Link here
ACTS: Green: Leave change taped to a car park meter or vending machine.
Amber: Give a generous gift to someone you work with or volunteer with. Leave it on their desk while they’re on lunch and no one’s watching.
Red: How easy is it to hide an elephant? Not very. Think of a large gift and try and deliver it undercover.
“Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1–4 NIV)
A friend who is following 40 Acts wrote that he was unwilling to do the Green act : Sorry, my practical side says taping money to a random parking meter is too… random. It might be picked up by a very rich person! Actually, this doesn’t worry me – even a rich person can find themselves without change and be grateful for the generosity of a stranger!
This was Friday’s act, and I was on my way to Paris. I have become a nervous solo traveller and I was too focussed on that to worry about 40 Acts and once I reached the Cathedral I was swept away in preparations and enjoyment, so this Act has been left unfulfilled. I am finding (as mentioned above) that as we go on, even the Green options become more challenging and costly and for those of us on a budget it means that sacrifices are being asked that maybe we feel are too much…I know that “God will provide” but he may not actually provide in all circumstances! A few years ago I put some 5€ notes in envelopes and left them in shopping trolleys with a note saying “Let me help pay for your shopping” – I wonder who found them! I trust that whoever it was, rich or poor, the generosity of that gesture meant that there were positive results.
I think I will – next time I go to a parking meter (which will be tomorrow) – leave some change taped to it. It is an easy “get out” option, I know, but I think it’s all I feel I can manage. I will need to prepare the note/envelope today. And take some sticky tape too! (I’ve just left myself a reminder: “Ninja Parking Meter” it reads!)
28: CLEAR THE DIARY
PROMPT: Wipe your schedule so that you can serve others. Take a break from your own to-do list, and let other people’s needs drive your day.
REFLECTION: Link here
ACTS: Green: Wipe your schedule for an hour to serve someone at home.
Amber: Wipe your schedule for part of the day: message someone and say, ‘I’m free between X and Y and I’m happy to help with anything you need to do.’
Red: Wipe your schedule for a whole day! Fill it entirely with others’ needs (one person or lots of people). See how much serving you can fit in!
“…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)
Not only is this the time when ennui sets in with 40 Acts, it’s also the time when I try to make some “wiggle room” for myself by looking back and finding a way to say “Oh, I’ve already done that…” Well, I’m playing my “Wiggle Room” card today!
On Friday (yesterday for this Act) it was the party to say “Goodbye” to Bishop Pierre, and “Bienvenue!” to Bishop Mark. There was a lot of preparation to be done – I had already volunteered, I must admit, but I felt I did my bit for this Challenge, preparing cheese based canapés for 300 people, when I could have been wandering in a leisurely manner, along the banks of the Seine! Then, as one of the “responsible people” for a table during the party itself, I tried to be there frequently enough to allow the others to be able to mingle. I took my responsibilities seriously, even though it went against my introverted personality type, and approached people gaily trilling “Would you like to try some delicious Auvergnate cheese?” And also, when I got trapped talking to a very lovely but overwhelming gentleman about church music (about which I know nothing!) I did NOT rush off!
There! I’ve played my Joker!
Although, when I was wandering through the streets of whatever-number-Arondissement-I-was-in, on my way back from dinner, I did walk past a beggar, then turn back and put a rather larger-than-usual amount of money in his cup. I think he was a bit surprised!
29: ANYTHING ELSE?
PROMPT: Today we’re looking at going that extra mile to change someone’s life. What can you do to lavish generosity on those who ask you for something? Matthew 5:40–42 tells us that if we’re asked for our shirt, we need to hand over our coat as well, and if we’re asked to go one mile, we should go two. Today’s challenge could change your life as well as someone else’s.
REFLECTION: Link here
ACTS: There’s only one action today. How far can your generosity go? Is there anything else you can do?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV)
The reflection is written by someone who felt led by God to donate a kidney – OK, I thought, what’s God going to ask you to do?
I’m afraid my generosity has gone nowhere today! Even when I felt prompted to do the washing up in the office before I went home I said “No. I’m knackered. I’m ill (got another cold, or sinusitis or something) I’m going home.” So I did. Go home, I mean, not do the washing up. But doing the washing up (or not doing it!) was hardly life changing!!
I’m being a bit unfair on myself though, as I do have the seed of an idea: When I was in hospital having my chemotherapy, everyone was lovely – the other patients, the nurses, the Espace Diane nurses (the support unit, a bit like MacMillan I think), the doctors, the beauty therapist that came round the unit to give hand massages etc. But the person who made most difference to me was Charlotte, another patient, not because she was so welcoming and friendly (although she was!) but because I could speak English with her. Although my French is good enough to manage in a hospital situation, and to understand what was going on, it is an effort when you’re ill to always speak in French! I needed someone – who understood what I was going through – to say in English “It’s OK. It may be shitty now, but you’ll get through it, one way or another”
So, I’m going to write to the Espace Diane to ask if I could leave some cards, with notes inside them, that they can give to English speaking patients. I would offer a contact number if they wanted to chat, or ask me questions – on the proviso that its understood I’m just someone who’s been through it, and not a doctor or trained counsellor or whatever! The hospital might say no, which I must respect, but I think that they will accept this. We shall see what happens!
PROMPT: That sharp intake of breath as you decide to do something truly generous, as you click donate, as the notes leave your hand. Maybe you’re getting used to that feeling this month. But what if that wasn’t just a one-off moment? What if it was an invitation into a sacrificial lifestyle? Today, take the hit. Gulp, and click donate – on a monthly direct debit or pledge that takes some real sacrificial giving.
REFLECTION: Link here
ACTS: Green: Renew an old giving pledge that you let go by the wayside.
Amber: Look at causes or people you already give to. Can you increase your giving by 1, 5 or 10%?
Red: Make a brand-new sacrificial gift.
“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations…” (2 Corinthians 8:2–5 NIV)
This reflection tells of someone being guided to give a large amount of money, that she felt she couldn’t afford. I’m interested to know if after she gave it, trusting that this was what God wanted, she found that she missed the money…If you give away a chunk of your budget then do your family suffer because of that? How did she feel? Or did God “provide”?
I have – once – had a Yikes moment and been led to give away more money than I felt we could afford (I don’t think I discussed it with Mr FD as I knew he wouldn’t agree! I just thought “I’ll try and absorb the loss ionto my own spending”!) I did find that while I had to make some personal (and very small!) sacrifices, I didn’t really miss the money as much as I thought I would…But it isn’t something I felt very comfortable doing!
I’ve upped my pledge to church a little this year, and I think that once Mr FD’s salary starts I will be able to give more regularly to the charities I support. I think I will also start a new pledge to Amnesty International, or maybe to Restos du Coeur… This one is a wait-and-see but I will admit that this won’t be very “sacrificial” giving. It will just be a bit-extra-now-we-can-afford-it. My generosity isn’t really stretching that far!
It seems a shame that as we head towards the week in which Jesus prepared to give everything, I feel like I’m becoming less generous ! I don’t know how to get over this obstacle, but as 40 Acts have upped the ante I seem to have decided that “enough is enough”.