This is not just tat…

…it’s M&S tat.

I’m not joining in with no-plastic July, although I am starting to try to introduce small changes into our shopping habits, such as reusing plastic bags for fruit & veg, or using other plastic bags (like bread bags) or – when I remember them! – using muslin bags. But when I do have plastic I try to

1) recognise that it’s necessary

2) try to reuse in some way. (Though it was depressing when I asked the café to remove the straw from my drink – and they did. And put it straight in the bin! I hadn’t realised they would give me a straw (in a glass of iced water) so I didn’t think to say “No straw, thank you”)

When I read Ang’s blog post about Marks & Spencer introducing a promotion called “Little Shop”, I was more than a bit ticked off. Ang’s post explains it better than I can.

So I went onto their website, and after trying to find a comment form (they don’t make it very easy!) I finally found where I could email them. So I did:

Dear M&S
I would like to join in the chorus of voices that condemn your promotion “Little Shop…” In the midst of No-plastic July (when it is proving difficult to find things that don’t involve plastic in its packaging!) you start a promotion that introduces yet more unwanted and unnecessary plastic into the environment!

It doesn’t matter if this is proving to be a popular poromotion in-store – at some point, these plastic items will be thrown away. You say that they can be returned to be recycled – that’s something, but, realistically, how many people will bother to do this? When children have finished playing with these bits of plastic, they will – for the most part – just get dumped into landfill.

It doesn’t matter that those toys that are returned will get recycled into benches – it’s still plastic. Plastic that doesn’t decompose for hundreds of years. The plastic bench will, eventually, get thrown away, and won’t decompose…Just because it’s recycled plastic doesn’t mean that it magically decomposes when finished with!
This is an UNNECESSARY promotion – it does nothing (despite your claims) that those parents who care about such things can’t do already. It won’t encourage other parents to teach their children about sustainibility; it will just teach children to want more unnecessary tat.

I fear that, despite your claims about sustainibility and care for the environment, you are just doing your bit to add to the problem of the human race using and discarding our natural resources as if they were never-ending. I, for one, will not be buying from M&S until this horrid, unnecessary promotion is finished. And even then, I will be reconsidering whether M&S values are my values, and whether I wish to continue supporting your company.

They needn’t know that, as I live in France, I don’t shop in M&S very often anyway, and won’t be buying anything there before the promotion is finished! But even oif I did live in the UK, I would be thinking hard about supporting them.

How do you feel about this promotion? If you think it’s a poor idea I encourage you to contact M&S head office. When I get a reply I’ll update this post.

 

UPDATE: I received an email from M&S yesterday (Tuesday). Disappointingly bland, it must be said:

Hi Alison

I’m sorry to hear you are disappointed with the way we are branching the Little Shop Promotion. I appreciate you bringing this to our attention, thank you for letting us know.

We want as many of our customers as possible to collect all 25 Little Shop collectables and we’ll be running additional promotions and events to help them along the way. For example, we’re hosting over 70 swap events at our M&S Cafés across the country for customers who have duplicates or certain collectables missing.

At M&S, we’re committed to reducing our use of plastic packaging and reusing or recycling any we do use. Our Little Shop collectables have all been designed to last and we’ve worked hard to ensure around a quarter of them are made from FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified card where possible. We’ve also ensured all single-use packaging is made from paper instead of plastic.

Little Shop is a free promotion for every £20 spent on food and drink in our stores. It’s designed to create excitement for families during the summer and helps children to learn a little bit more about food and where it comes from. However, there is no obligation for customers to collect Little Shop or take their redeemed collectable if they don’t wish to do so.

We really do monitor any feedback we receive very closely with the aim of improving, so thank you for sharing this with us.

Kind Regards

A. C.

Retail Customer Services

Quite frankly this response does not answer my questions, but what I dislike more is that it was so obviously a cut-and-paste job, with the first part (shown in italics) in a completely different font to the rest of the email! I don’t want to have more promotional bumpf thrown at me about swaps and so on. I don’t believe their promise that they moniotor all feedback, and I don’t like the construction of the first sentence. “to branch” is not a verb, and so M&S can’t be branching the promotion. Grrr.

 

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40ACTS2019 :: 38 :: Behind bars

PROMPT: Behind bars for good reason or not, people in prison are often locked out of experiencing basic human kindnesses – the simple joys of community life. Today, offer generosity to people who might feel locked out from ever receiving it, and who might never be able to pay it back: prisoners, young offenders, young people in pupil referral units, and so on.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Write a letter to a prisoner. Tell them you wanted to get in touch just to say that someone was thinking of them.

Amber: Send a gift to a prisoner, or help prisoners send a gift to their children.

Red: Visit a prisoner.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.’  (Hebrews 13:3 NIV)

I am not “dissing” the good people at 40 Acts here. I admire what they do, and really appreciate their commitment and their hard work. It cannot be easy to come up with 120 different acts, which have varying degrees of difficulty and commitment, and cost.

BUT…

I followed the link given on the email (but not the “blog” post on the 40 Acts page) to the Prison Fellowship website, thinking that I would be able to fulfil the Green option, by writing a letter to a prisoner. Just add it to the long list of other letters waiting to be written!!

But there isn’t an option there to write a letter: instead the organisation wants letter writers to commit to sending a monthly letter to a prisoner. I already know, from my aforementioned list, that I can’t commit to this; it’s a lot more than a “green” option! I could donate money – but we’ve already discussed this, haven’t we?! – so I’m left with a feeling of not-sure-what-I-can-do.

I’ve emailed Prison Fellowship with the following message:

I’m following 40 Acts, who have provided a link to your page. One of the “acts” is to write a letter to a prisoner. I see from the information here that you require (in my opinion quite rightly) a commitment to writing regularly. I can’t give this commitment; I know I would be unable to keep it up. Is there the option of writing a “one-off” letter, or is this not part of your work?

and I await a response. If the “one-off” option exists I will gladly take it. If it doesn’t, well…I’m less sure what I can do.

 

….PAWS FOR THOUGHT….

 

Aha! I know we have already had an Act focussing on writing to support persecuted Christians around the world, which I did, writing cards and short letters to several people in Cuba, but there are also Christians imprisoned for their faith. Inaddition, there are Prisoners of Conscience too. I explored the Amnesty International site, and they have a targeted letter writing campaign in November, but there may well be the option of writing to prisoners on a one-off basis there. More thought needed there.

I have also found a site called “Prisoner Alert – this site has details of many Christians who are imprisoned for their faith, and gives the opportunity to send letters.The letters all appear to be created using provided formulae (“Choose up to 12 phrases from the following list”) which means that the prisoner will receive the letter in his/her mother tongue.  Having constructed the letter, you then print it out with the address, so that you can then send it to the correct place. This makes it an easy “green”option, requiring only a little time commitment – and, of course, the postage costs!

Maybe it’s not quite what 40 Acts were thinking of, but it certainly fulfills the brief! I have no lessons this morning, so I’m going to print off three or four letters, add them to a card, and take them to the Post Office before I go to work this afternoon. If I get a positive reply from Prison Fellowship I will also write a letter to a prisoner in the UK.

 

40ACTS2019 :: 35, 36 :: I-Spy, Compassion…& Notre Dame

Firstly, I feel I need to say something about the tragedy in Paris. Not, thank goodness, a tragedy involving loss of life – although reports are that one firefighter has been seriously injured – but rather the tragedy of the fire blazing through Notre Dame last night

Suggestions are that the start of the fire might be linked to the restoration work going on – rather ironic, one can’t help feeling. I wonder what exactly : a faulty extension lead, a spark from a welder’s tool, a cigarette butt from a sneaky cigarette smoked behind a gargoyle… I ask myself if there is one workman (or many) who is thinking “Could it have been me that started it…?”

But the building is still standing – although the spire has collapsed – and Macron is pledging that it will be rebuilt. I hope that it is still structurally sound, and that at least some of the many treasures within have been saved. It looks as though the stained glass windows have mostly survived – the Rose window seemed to be still intact when shown on the news.

It is a tragedy, yes, but it could have been so much worse…

ACT 35: I-SPY

PROMPT: By now you’ve probably caught on – a startling amount of living generously is simply noticing people. We often only realise people are lonely when they actually tell us. But there are plenty of lonely people who never say a word. Today, put those people-watching skills to good use.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Watch for lonely people this week. At church, look for those at the sidelines. At work, look for those who eat lunch alone.

Amber: Make a point of connecting with someone you know, but have avoided spending time with because they’re a bit socially awkward.

Red: Strike up a chat with someone you don’t know – at the bus stop or café maybe – who looks a little sad.

When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’” (Luke 13:12 NIV)

 

For reasons I don’t need to go into 40 Acts was off the table yesterday. And possibly today too… I’m not sure how engaged I’m going to be able to be this last week, due to personal circumstances.

But I will try and bear it in mind for future reference AND I’m not excusing myself from acts of generosity, however small. (I did the washing up at work – over 20 cups & mugs needed washing!!)  It’s just that I might not be able to manage the big ones that 40 Acts is ramping up to.

 

ACT 36: COMPASSION

PROMPT: The word ‘compassion’ simply means coming alongside suffering – co-suffering with someone. That can sound a bit daunting, but when you think about it, what a gift to be able to offer someone your presence and the feeling that you’re with them.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Think of areas where you’ve suffered in the past, and find a way to share time with someone who’s suffering similarly today.

When I first opened this act on my email, I’m sure there were 3 options of Acts…Now there’s only one. How bizarre.

I suppose this is another time I use my “wiggle room” card, the one that says “I’ve already done this” or “I’m doing this”. We’re already supporting someone through the loss of her husband. Due to her dependency problems, it’s a bit of a hard slog, and there are times when, quite frankly, I could do without it. But there you go.

But there is also the Challenge (that I was sure was there earlier!) which is to commit to pray for those who are suffering – my boss has just lost her mother, my friend has lost her husband, other friends going through cancer treatment…I will continue to hold these people, and others, in the living, loving light that is God.

 

 

40ACTS2019 :: 33 :: BIG DEAL

I’m working from home today – preparing next week’s lessons, and catching up on admin. It’s good to have this day with only one lesson, as it gives me a chance to breathe. Mind you, I had a lesson cancelled yesterday, so I was kicking my heels at the office from 1.00 through to 5.00. I guess I should have gone for a walk to clear my head, but instead I sat around rather aimlessly. I should use these moments better I think.

And so to today’s Act:

33: BIG DEAL

PROMPT: You’ve seen the videos: fights over bargains in shopping centres, Black Friday riots, Christmas brawls over best-sellers. Deals don’t always bring out the best in humanity. So, flip that instinct. Today, buy every deal that you reasonably can, and then give it to whoever you can. Make your bargains work for someone else.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: See some food marked at 50% off? Buy two – one to give away.

Amber: Find a deal on your favourite food, drink, or clothes brand. Give it away to someone you think might love it.

Red: Bulk-buy a necessity – toilet paper, cereal, underwear – and give it all away to a charity who can give it those in need.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8 NIV)

 

Sigh. Today’s Act is another Spending Money Act…although, to be fair, it does say “buy every deal that you reasonably can,” we are still being asked to spend more money. I guess it’s really hard for the lovely people at 40 Acts to come up with40  Challenges that don’t involve money, and we are able to think for ourselves and come up with our own ideas, but my monetary generosity is definitely starting to wear out!

But as I read the reflection again, there’s less emphasis on monetary outlay: A door held open is a sample of welcome and a sense of belonging. An unexpected gift is a hint of loving grace. A coupon towards some chocolate demonstrates that celebration and a well-deserved treat is within our reach and our budget – for which we can be grateful! Offering glimpses and tasters might seem insignificant, but what a difference a deal can make. Let’s reach out today, connecting the people around us to the goodness of God.

It’s talking more about how our small offerings of generosity can make a difference – whether they are monetary or not. That makes me feel better. Those little actions that I’ve been trying to do through Lent – and beyond – they are “tasters”. If I can get a chance to say why I’m doing them (as I did in the Post Office!) then that’s opening the door to God’s generosity a little wider for someone. A Ninja Note that makes someone feel a little stronger, or more loved, is a word from God. A touch or a word spoken to a person without a home, an offering of a sandwich, can show that we believe this person has dignity and is worthy of respect. Each small thing can actually make a big difference, and who knows? They could start a butterfly effect to a tsunami of kindness and generosity across this world.

So no, I’m not spending money today. But I will make some cookies to take to the family of the student (5 year old Raphaelle) I teach today, and give them a card with the 40 Acts sticker on. It’s a small act of generosity, of love, as I give up a little of my time, and a little of my baking stash, to give pleasure to someone else.

No, I didn’t eat it! They’re all for you!

And the other thing I will do is try to be more regular in my buying-and-giving to the Food Bank collection in church. An extra tin or two of something on the weekly shopping is perfectly manageable finance-wise, and will make a difference each month to those in need.

40ACTS2019 :: 31 :: Better Threads

Hello everyone! Yesterday was a busy day, even though my last two students cancelled. One was a late cancellation, with no explanation, so I ought to charge them 50% of the lesson cost – it’s written on my bill! – but it didn’t really inconvenience me, and they’re good customers…So I might just let them off with a warning! The other was Valentin, who was recently in a car accident. The poor lad was quite seriously hurt, and now has a body brace to wear, which restricts his movement, and, of course, is struggling with the after shock and ongoing pain from the accident. He’s been too tired for his lesson the last three weeks – I’m not heartless enough to charge for these missed lessons! When I got home I cooked dinner (usually Mr FD on “Chicken Wednesday” but he had a job to do for M across the road, and I was home early enough) and then we watched the episode of “Line of Duty” that we had missed. Oh, that’s such a good series!! If you don’t watch it I recommend trying to find all the series on the i-player, or whatever.

Today I have a later start than usual on Thursday – so I’ve prepped dinner (Mr FD is doing the shopping) and now have time to write today’s 40 Acts blog post. I still have to track Pomme down to give her the pill – she has secreted herself somewhere and is keeping quiet. Sneaky cat…

But Pomme’s doing it right!

32: BETTER THREADS

PROMPT: Picture this: you’re looking at a cheap-as-chips shirt, wondering what on earth happened to make it that cheap, and before you know it, you’ve gone and bought it. It happens to most of us. But today, we’re getting thoughtful about our threads. What’s the history behind our clothes? And what makes ethical clothing generous?

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Make up a list of places you’re happy to shop for clothes, and places to avoid that aren’t ethically sound.

Amber: Do an inventory on your clothes. Sort through them and see how many are ethically dodgy. Take anything you don’t need to a charity shop.

Red: When you need something new, buy ethically instead, and get a new habit started.

“Be under obligation to no one – the only obligation you have is to love one another…” (Romans 13:8 GNT)

This is an Act that has come up in various guises in the last couple of years, I think – and it’s important. It’s not just clothes that we in the developed world want to see sold cheaply: food, clothes, anything really – we want it cheap and we close our eyes to the real cost to both other people AND to the environment.

I love a bit of Primark, me – I try to go into the shop when I’m in Liverpool. Mostly for tops, but I can sometimes strike lucky with trousers…And each time I go in there’s a niggling thought: who is paying (and how are they paying?!) so I can have such cheap clothes? And then I see a stripey top and that thought flies out of the window!

When we lived in the UK I was happy to shop in charity shops for clothes – and I still explore them (in addition to Primark !) – when I go back. But here in France they are much fewer – and a lot less clean! The only time I’ve ventured into one the musty smell really put me off browsing. The other problem is that any French clothes shops don’t seem to believe in “big ladies” – anything over size 14 is labelled “Big Sizes” and is spectacularly uninspiring, and if you need a 31″ inside leg (what’s that in cm?!) for trousers you can forget it! So if I find something nice and affordable that fits, I’ll snap it up without thinking about much else!!

However, these are all excuses. There ARE mail order shops, with a good choice of sizes and styles, which are ethical and deliver to France…But they are expensive. Yes, good quality but I will look at the price and think “I’m not paying that for a top!” But then, really, I need to consider: Do I need a top?  I tend to buy clothes on a whim – I see it, I like it, I can afford it, so I buy it. I don’t need it. Which is why I have a plethora of stripey tops!

So perhaps I need a different challenge – or I need to look more closely at the Red Challenge: WHEN you need something new… I need to think more closely about what I need, and not what I want. If I don’t buy that stripey top will I feel the loss? Probably not. I have at least 5 more similar ones in my wardrobe! So before buying something new, I will consider if it is needed…and where it comes from. And then where I’m going to buy it from.

And for anyone who’s interested, these are two mail order firms I’ve used who claim to be environmentally and ethically sound:

Nomads

Gudrun Sjoden

(and if they’d like to send me anything to try and review I’d be very happy to do so!!!) (😊) No, really…

 

And those are two garments that definitely should NOT have been bought!!

40ACTS2019 :: 31 :: Hope for the Homeless

Just a quick post today, but I’m trying to write a daily post when I can; I have less time today because I need to go to the vet’s before I leave for work, as Pomme is running out of her pills again. We do have a tendency to leave it till the last moment to get replacements.

Thank you for all your encouragement and comments; they are, as always, very much appreciated.

31: HOPE FOR THE HOMELESS

PROMPT: How do we handle our hearts with those who are homeless? If we live in cities or towns, it can become all too easy to blank out the same faces we see day after day. And the question nags at us: surely there’s more we can give than 50p here and there? Today, we’re looking into the more that’s possible.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Give to a local or national homeless charity.

Amber: Contact a homeless shelter and ask what they need. Then meet it.

Red: Invite a homeless person to your church, or to a local soup kitchen. Go along with them. If they need a lift, offer to give them one.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:14–18 NIV)

It is a fairly hard-hitting reflection, I think, pushing us to really involve our churches in a mission to help the homeless. But my church is struggling to meet its own needs and commitments. With a small congregation – some of whom are near the breadline themselves – we “do our bit” both individually and collectively. I don’t feel I could ask them to take on more. So it’s down to me.

I know that the Red option is beyond me. Full stop. Point blank.

I also know that – as I have said previously – I’m coming to the end of my resources for sacrificial giving for meeting needs in large amounts. So I think the Amber is out.

So that leaves me with Green. Can I use my “Wiggle Room” card again? I did give money to a homeless guy/ beggar on Saturday – does that count?! Certainly the writer of the reflection seems to want us to give to charities, rather than individuals, but…

I think I’m going to be gentle to myself today. To fulfil this Act I will simply continue with what I’ve done before: when I see someone begging outside a supermarket (which I quite often do) I will ask them what they would like me to buy for them, and buy it. Plus a little bit extra. I’ve done this before, and when I’ve handed over the carrier bag the person asked, unbelieving, “All this? For me?” Which was a much nicer reply than the guy who sorted through the bag, saying “I don’t want this…or this…or this…” and then walked away leaving me with a pile of rejected groceries! I needed to try very hard to have a generous response to that!

 

40ACTS2019 :: Where’s my tail? I need to chase it!! (26-30)

 

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…

PC4R

 

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!

 

30: YIKES!

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!

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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”.