Act N°11 (2017): Talent

Good morning everyone! I have had a lesson cancelled this morning, so I have a little more time to blog about today’s Challenge (though I do still need to plan the one lesson I do have today)

So, here’s the prompt: Many of us are hiding talents up our sleeves, out of fear, vulnerability, or just not knowing how to use them. It’s a massive shame and a missed opportunity. So treat today as a second chance, and bring your lamp out from under that bushel.

And here are the Acts:

Think back to day one of 40acts. Search the list for any particular gifts or talents that you jotted down. Bring them to the front of your mind. Stick them on a Post-it note and leave them somewhere you’ll notice early in the morning; then actively look for places to cultivate your gift.

Many of us start developing our talents, but never make full use of them. What gift do you have that could be used to serve others, but needs honing? Do you need some help from others to get it off the ground? Do you need to practise or research? Take the steps you need to own your talent and tell someone about it.

If you’re already doing a solid job of looking after your gifts, could you pass them on? Could you offer your talents as a regular commitment to someone – or teach them and equip them to do the same? >

And you can read the full meditation over here

I seem to remember finding this similar Challenge difficult last time – not so much because I don’t know what my talents are (though I’m not totally convinced by them!) but rather because I’m not sure how God can use them.

But my experiences last Autumn/Winter has shown me a way. Regular readers will know that last October I was at the Convention of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe, and I made a few Christmas cards to sell, to support the amazing charity Phone Credit for Refugees & Displaced People.  As a result of these, the Bishop of the Convocation asked me to design & make his 200 Christmas Cards for that year

Which I did. And I raised 400€ for the charity.

One of my talents is zentangle inspired art. I love it, and have done many pictures for friends. I made bookmarks for people at a conference, and created various cards and such like.

So, I am going to spend next weekend (Mr FD is away so there’ll be no-one to tut if I spend all day up in my study!!) creating some bookmarks, cards and pictures to sell to raise more money for this charity. Hopefully the good folk at Christ Church will back me up by buying these things, as after all, it’s no good making them if you can’t sell them!

If anyone reading this would like a picture/bookmark/card in exchange for a donation to the charity, please let me know. Here are some examples of what I have created (click on the image to see it bigger)

 

Posted in 40Acts, Creating, zentangles | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Pause in Lent N°2: Lenten Poem

I am taking part in “Pause for Lent” with Angela, over at Tracing Rainbows  and some other bloggers too. If you go to Ang’s blog, you will find a link to the other blogs taking part.

This year I am posting some poetry that I find, relatingto Lent, to our faith walk, to our lives as Christians. Last week it was Robert Herrick’s “To Keep A True Lent”; this week I bring a more modern poem by Ann Weems

“Lent,” she writes, “is a time to let the power of our faith story take hold of us”. Isn’t that a wonderful line? It is something that I am afraid I don’t do – Perhaps I am fearful of what God will ask me to do, but if I let go of my fear and let the power of my faith story take hold then God can do wonders through us…My faith story – not yours, not anyone else’s but my faith story: acknowledging what God has already done in me, but also welcoming what he is to do. Recognising where I have held back, but also what wonders have taken place when I have just flung myself into God’s arms like a small child trusting in the strength of her father.

Lenten Poem by Ann Weems

Lent is a time to take time to let the power
of our faith story take hold of us,
a time to let the events get up
and walk around in us,
a time to intensify our living unto Christ,
a time to hover over the thoughts of our hearts,
a time to place our feet in the streets of
Jerusalem or to walk along the sea and
listen to his Word,
a time to touch his robe
and feel the healing surge through us,
a time to ponder and a time to wonder….
Lent is a time to allow
a fresh new taste of God!
Perhaps we’re afraid to have time to think,
for thoughts come unbidden.
Perhaps we’re afraid to face our future
knowing our past.
Give us courage, O God,
to hear your Word
and to read our living into it.
Give us the trust to know we’re forgiven
and give us the faith
to take up our lives and walk.

Posted in God, Pause in Lent/Advent | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Act N°9 (2017): Lean & N°10: Shared Spaces

Hello dear Readers. Once more, thank you for your comments, both here and on FB posts. I hope that people who are following 40 Acts are finding it inspiring and helpful, as well as challenging!

As an update, I have sent a letter of support to la Grande Mosquée de Roanne (the big Mosque in Roanne?!) as part of Act 7 “Undivided”. I hope my French is okay – when I put the text into Google Translate it seemed to say what I wanted to say, so hopefully it will be accepted in the spirit in which it was sent.

Messieurs, Mesdames – mes frères et mes sœurs

J’écris à vous pour exprimer que, malgré que je sois Chrétienne, je me considère comme votre sœur. Nous sommes tous « enfants de la Livre » Je sais qu’Islam est une religion de la paix et de la charité, et je veux dire merci pour tous que vous faites pour les gens dans le besoin.

Je voudrais dire que j’ai honte que plusieurs gens qui dire qu’ils croire en Jésus Christ sont Islamophobe et raciste, et qu’ils sèment la peur et la haine. Il me semble qu’ici en France, et autour du monde, il y a une atmosphère du désespoir et la peur. Les gens sont méfiant, l’un de l’autre, et nous devenons seul, et isolés.

Je n’ai pas les solutions (bien sûr !) mais je voudrais commencer d’être la solution ; je crois que c’est à nous tous de commencer avec les petits choses, et, pas-à-pas, nous pouvons changer le monde.

Actuellement je participe dans un mouvement qui s’appelle « 40 Acts » ; le principe est que, pendant les 40 journées de Carême, avant la Pâques, on fait des actions de générosité et de l’amour. Donc, j’étends la main d’amitié aux tous à votre mosquée, et j’espère que vous seriez vraiment bénissez dans vos prières.

Je m’excuse si j’ai fait des bêtises. Je suis anglaise, et vraiment je n’ai pas l’intention de vous moquer ou faire un affront à vous. C’est simplement de vous souhaite les bénisses de Dieu.

I sent it with one of our church postcards as well.

Another update – not so positive this time! I’m rather ashamed to admit that on the very day when we had been reminded to think about what we are saying, I ended up screeching at Mr FD. 😿

We were trying to get Jasper the cat to bed – because he is a very “lively” cat (that’s a veiled comment if ever I saw one!) we put him into my study for the night. That way the other cats get an undisturbed night. At first Jasper was happy to trot to the room, as he got fed, but he’s becoming slightly less willing (once he’s there he’s fine, but he doesn’t go quite so easily) We’d tried to lure him up with bowls of food, but he kept running away. Finally I had hold of him, but he was twisting and turning; I grabbed his scruff to calm him down, but at that moment, he sank his razor sharp teeth into me.

“Grab the scruff of his neck”, Mr FD helpfully suggested.

In quite some pain, and in very unpleasant tones, I told Mr FD exactly what I thought of his helpful suggestion, using a tone and words that no Good Girl should use. He replied in kind, and there was some door slamming. I did apologise soon after, and Jasper got put away, but it wasn’t very edifying on the very day that I was supposed to be carefully considering my words. Hey ho.

So onto yesterday’s Act: This too ended up being a bit of a Fail

ACT N°9: LEAN

The prompt reads: No one likes to admit to needing help but we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t need a helping hand from time-to-time. Whether our struggles are big or small, having someone to lean on can make all the difference. So, today, you’re looking out to be someone’s leaning post.

The Challenges were:

Go through your day as you would normally. But look out for someone going through a moment’s trouble: offer to carry a heavy bag, unpack shopping, finish off chores.

Who do you know who would appreciate a hand this evening? Show you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with them by promising an hour or two of your time.

Know someone who’s flagging and needs some real ‘get stuck in’ kind of help? Put your shoulder to the proverbial wheel and do what it takes to give them a break/a hand/a day off. Or schedule a time this week, and let them know you’ll be there to help them.

You can read the full meditation over here

****

As an ordinary work day, I thought I would just keep my eyes open for opportunities to help – escorting old ladies across roads, doing some chores, helping rabbits carry other rabbits, that sort of thing. But nothing. TBH, I felt fairly scuzzy, as I have a rather horrid head cold at the moment, so maybe I wasn’t being very aware, but I saw no opportinities to wade in to help.

I did share my tuiles though – it was the last lesson with a group, and Nadine brought in a box of tuiles (recipe here, should you wish to make them!)

We ate a fair few, but she gave me the rest (about 12) to take home. I was going on to another lesson at the language school where I work, so decided to share them with the other teachers, rather than gorge them myself! I think they were a welcome pick-me-up on a Friday afternoon!

I offered to help an old lady with her bags today, but she refused.

Still, I know that, sometime, I will see a need, or be asked to help, and that’s when this is going to come back to me. This is all about changing attitudes for a lifetime, not just helping rabbits on one day!

ACT N° 10: SHARED SPACES

The prompt today reads: God gave us the earth to cultivate for community. And in many places, we’ve done a solid job of it: parks, town centres, playgrounds. But whether it’s graffiti, litter, or just misuse, people often muck them up. The thing is though, if it’s true that Jesus will get glory from all things, then our actions to clean and fix up our community spaces can be profound. So today, take ownership of the shared spaces around you.

And the Challenges are:

Go for a walk and take in your area’s shared community spaces. Go with the planning bit of your mind switched on. What do you see to clear up, or to benefit the community? Share the idea with your church or home group.

Litter-pick. Either on your own, or grab a group of friends. You can mix this up: scrubbing graffiti and guerrilla gardening (if you’ve a green thumb) are options. Chat with your neighbours, your home group, the school-run/coffee mums, the guys on the rugby team, and see who you can gather together to help you out.

Do today’s green task. Then see if you can get permission from your council to do something with a disused space, or a neglected area. Could you create a community allotment, or spruce up an area to put an event on, like a pop-up coffee stall? Cleaning up a known messy area for an event is a good way to grab people’s attention.

You can read the full meditation over here

****

Actually this is quite a tricky one – in our small village, the local council is really good at keeping the flower borders, and most areas in good condition. There is a couple of men who “entretenir” (service?) the village spaces, and there isn’t a lot of litter. Even dog poo isn’t much of a problem – all of which is lovely.

So, I will simply remember this as another act, and, when I see litter – either here in the village, or when I’m out in Clermont or Roanne – actually pick it up. I suppose it could be quite useful to keep some small plastic bags in my handbag so that they are handy for picking up scuzzy stuff. I’ll try and remember to pick some extra compostable ones from the supermarket on Monday.

In lieu of the Challenge I have donated to today’s “crowdfunding” page, which is A Rocha UK which is a charity committed to conservation, and whowant to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God’s earth. The particular focus is to sponsor places for  children to attend A Rocha’s After-school eco club, where they learn about God’s creation and how to care for it.

So there we are. Up-to-date with the Challenges (sort of) with some successes and some Epic Fails.

Posted in 40Acts, God, Me:Dormouse | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Act N°8 (2017): Pause

I really need to be getting on with things – especially things I promised myself I would do for 40 Acts! – but bleugh. Today I can’t get myself going! I spent this morning doing teaching stuff – writing reports, preparing tomorrow’s lessons etc – but this afternoon I’ve just kindof wound down and can’t get going! I sit at my desk reading blogs and eating wine gums. Not the best way of Getting Things Done! I’m also getting “blog envy” from these people who are writing fascinating blogs about their fascinating lives in France, and scattering beautiful photos throughout their esoteric writings. Sigh.

Never mind. My focus at the moment isn’t that perfect Francophile’s life in the midst of a charming village de charactère where we meet typical, beret-bearing old chaps, who quaff red wine and regale us with tales of yesteryear. (Which is a good job, as I don’t know any of them!) My focus is 40 Acts, carried out as best I can in this small French town, where most people are busy going about their every-day life. As am I.

So, on we go…

ACT N° 8: PAUSE:

The prompt reads: It’s easy to let cutting words slip out. But the barbs can sting and the effects of our words can stay with other people a lot longer than we expect. The best way to stem the flow of put-downs is to replace them with life-giving words. These words also resonate, sometimes for entire lifetimes.

The challenges are:

GREEN:Begin your day with a decision to catch your words before blurting them out. Just five minutes of intentional decision-making can set you up for a day of generous, kind communication. 

AMBER: Think about those closest to you – the ones you’re prone to get shirty with when you’re stressed/tired/hungry. When was the last time you said something harsh to them. What was it? Are there particular words or phrases that you use repeatedly? Write them down if you can, so that you catch them before you’re tempted to use them.  

RED: Ask a friend to evaluate your speaking voice. They could use these questions with you: am I too blunt? Too sharp? Slow to listen and quick to respond? Take their answers and see if you can turn them into action points – remember this is about taking on a whole new posture, not just methods to fix a few words.

You can read the full meditation over here.

 

****

This is an interesting one – it’s not just a “now” act; it’s not a do-it-once-&-feel-good-about-yourself challenge. This one requires thought. It requires consideration. It requires commitment. Even the Green act – the one that’s supposed to be easy (easier?) – is a challenge. *

I think (think! Not sure!) that since last year’s 40 Acts I have become less critical. I try to couch my requests to Mr FD in kinder tones (although, I suspect, he might tell you that I’m not always successful!) I try not to say some of the things that spring to my lips, because, when all’s said and done, they wouldn’t achieve much, and they might cause more conflict.

It reminds me of the words from an excellent song by Divine Comedy:

Sticks and stones may break my body but words can tear me apart.
So be careful what you tell me, spare a thought for my heart.

Broken bones fuse together, bruises never last for long,
But once they’re said words stay spoken
And hearts stay broken from that moment on.

But I need to go further than not saying sharp words and think about how words can build a person up as well. I am also trying to say Thank You more – if Mr FD has made dinner, or cleaned the cat trays when it’s really my turn. Things like that which need appreciating. It’s when efforts are acknowledged that a person begins to feel validated.

* Incidentally, I have been wondering why I have been finding the Acts more challenging this year, and I think this is the reason. I think that this year, we are being asked more to think about things and to make a commitment. It’s not just something quick, and fun, and bof! It’s done! But more and more, the challenges are long term commitments. I was happier when it was something I could tick off. I think I might be better with the children’s 40 Acts – they seem to be having much more fun! They don’t have to think – they just do!!

 

Posted in 40Acts, God | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Act N°6(2017): Listen & Act N°7: Undivided

Yesterday I was away from a computer all day, so didn’t really have time to blog about the Act. To be honest, it was a difficult one to get my head round…I think it might be one of those Acts which I have to “hold on to” and remember as time goes on.

ACT N°6: LISTEN: The prompt read: Propped up against a wall, one hand holding a sandwich, one hand holding a phone, one ear on a friend updating us on their day, one on the football scores. Sound familiar? We’re hearing, but not always listening. And listening can be the simplest way to relieve the burdens of others. Today, make a point of giving someone the profound gift of your availability and vulnerability.

The Acts were:

GREEN: Make a conscious effort to remove any distractions when someone’s talking to you on the phone (long phone calls are a prime opportunity to tune out – let’s be honest), and really try to focus.

AMBER: Think about someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Or someone who you talked with yesterday, but only gave half your attention to. Fix that today.

RED: Make this a habit. Work on the skill of listening well – really put in the hours – and then give it away as a gift, so that others get an opportunity to tell their stories. Consider accessing good-quality training to give you the right tools to be an effective listener.

and you can read the full meditation over here

****

I think the Green act is actually quite a difficult one – particularly in my conversations with ML FD. I fear that last year I wrote a similar thing, and I probably didn’t keep up with the “resolution” to listen in a more engaged way to him then either! (Yes, indeed – last year I wrote: But, I will try to connect more when Mr FD is talking to me in future, instead of just grunting non-commitedly, and I will also try to take on board the useful pointers given here on the Stewardship blog.

And so I continue to learn!

Perhaps I will also try to make the effort to go to see our neighbours across the square. I haven’t really spoken to them for a while. Tomorrow would be a good opportunity as I’m not working.

ACT N°7: UNDIVIDED:

The prompt read: When was the last time you spent time with someone of a different culture, religion, social background or age group to you? The UK is a mix of cultures and income brackets, but sometimes the divisions can feel stronger than the connections – communities bumping into each other but never really joining together. Break those barriers down today and cross a social divide.

The Acts are:

GREEN: What’s the cultural mix where you live? There might be a large Bangladeshi community in your neighbourhood, or a big Spanish group in your church. Could you read up online and learn a few quick greeting words to use when you meet them? Start with ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ – winners in any conversation.

AMBER: Look out for someone whose social background or culture or religion is different from yours – a neighbour, a parent at the school gates, your local shopkeeper. Spend longer in conversation with them today. Learn a few things about them that you didn’t know: about their kids, their dreams, where they’ve travelled in the world.

RED: How can you learn more about and come alongside those from different backgrounds in your community? Send a message of encouragement or thanks to other faith or culture groups in your area – a letter, an email, or face-to-face. Try a different style of church to your own – Anglican if you’re Evangelical, Greek Orthodox if you’re Baptist, that kind of thing. Start breaking down divisions today.

You can read the full meditation over here

*****

“What’s the cultural mix where you live”? Er – mostly French! We’re the outsiders here!! I certainly could make more of an effort to mix…I have a tendency to generally visit our English-speaking friends more than our French speaking ones, though mayber that’s because of the etiquette side…I’m not sure about just “dropping in” on French friends (but see above for tomorrow’s plan)

But I think I will search out the addresses of some Mosques in this area (I imaine the nearest would be Roanne) and send an encouraging inter-faith message….Though I’m not quite sure (a) what I’ll say (b) if I will be up to translating it! Any suggestions (especially on (a)) ?!

Both of these Acts – plus the one before – have been challenging me more than I remember from last year. Challenging because I can’t see quite how to fulfill them, maybe, but also because I find I don’t want to do them. Am I getting 40 Acts fatigue? (A bit worrying at Act N°7! There’s 33 to go!) Maybe it’s just that these just aren’t focussing on things I like doing – or rather, are focussing on things I don’t like doing, such as speaking to strangers, or speaking French!

Anyway – I need to go. Packed lunch to make and then a full day of lessons. See you tomorrow!

Oh, and thanks Michelle for keeping me accountable! I will mull over what you suggested.

Posted in 40Acts, God | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Act N°5: Captive

Good morning to you all. Thank you for coming to read this blog post – written in a bit of a hurry, just because I am not home/near a computer for most of today. Tomorrow is the same, I think, although it rathyer depends how the middle of the day pans out.

ANYWAY

Today’s prompt reads: Prisoners do wrong, right? Why should they deserve our giving, our attention, our kindness? Prisoners are easy to forget about when it comes to generosity, and we don’t seem to mind that much. And yet Jesus flips that notion on the head, with His command to love our neighbours and, more specifically, to love captives. Our giving can have huge ramifications here. Just one area? In the UK, one child in 15 will experience a parent being imprisoned, with the implications felt for years after.

And the challenges are:

GREEN: For good reasons, you can’t just walk up to a prison with a big bag of doughnuts. As a quick start today, check out www.prisonhope.org.uk and get clued up on Prison Hope. Sign up for weekly ‘Pray with Us’ prayer emails through 2017.

AMBER: Connect with a national organisation like Prison Fellowship, and join their Angel Tree project to help prisoners keep in touch with their children. Or, you could make a regular commitment to write to someone in prison through Letter Link. Find out more at www.prisonfellowship.org.uk

RED: Take a look at The Welcome Directory (www.welcomedirectory.org.uk) to find out what you can do to make your church a welcoming and supportive place for people coming out of prison. There’s lots of evidence that being part of an intentional community helps people who don’t want to offend again. Maybe your church can become part of that welcome and support and build good links with your local prison.

You can read the meditation over here

It is inevitable that some of the Acts are going to resonate and appeal to different people more than others; it is true that some will seem more relevant, or easier, or something that we want to do.

Which is good. And normal.

But of course, the flip side is that there are going to be Acts that don’t appeal, that you can’t quite see how you can fulfil them, maybe you don’t even want to fulfil them. And this is one of those for me.

It’s not that I disagree with the meditation, the prompts, the sentiment behind it, the words of Jesus. It’s just that this hasn’t ever seemed to be what God has asked me to do.

Prisons and prisoners have never really impinged on my conciousness that much – except when I was involved with Amnesty International, which I stopped when we moved to France. There were a couple of times when the C.U. at college went to a couple of services at the chapel in Winchester Prison…at which I felt extremely uncomfortable. Oh, and once I went into Milton Keynes prison to do my one-woman “ThoughtWaves” show – Yes, OK, so I have been slightly more involved than I first thought!

But today’s Acts? Yes, I’m outside my comfort zone here – and I’m not even sure why. Perhaps I’m worried that this might call on me to make a long term commitment that (as per my list in Act 1) I’m rather unwilling to make? This is an Act I want to sweep under the carpet and pretend I wasn’t asked to do…I suppose the easiest is the Green Act, which calls on us to pray. Ah, yes, but (whisper it softly) my prayer life is so haphazard that even that seems a bit tricky! I also have to admit that this seems like a bit of a cop-out as well…I don’t want to do anything else, so I will pray and pretend that counts, when really I’m doing it because I don’t want to do anything else.

But I think that’s what I’m going to do.

So here’s the deal. I will print out the prayer resorces from the Prison Hope & Prison Fellowship sites. I will set my phone alarm to an appropriate time. For the next month, at least, I will take 5 minutes to pray for prisoners, & those who work with them. And tomorrow there will be another Act that fills me with joy!

 

Posted in 40Acts | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Pause in Lent 1

I’m joining in with Angela, over at Tracing Rainbows for A Pause in Lent

I know I’m also blogging about 40 Acts, but I wanted to try to join in with PiL as well. I thought that this year I would find some poems and post those. This one spoke to me – the language is a tad archaic, and I’m not sure I understand it all, but, I share it with you…

a-pause-in-lent-flossTo Keep a True Lent

Is this a Fast, to keep
the larder leane?
and cleane
from fat of Veales and Sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
of Flesh, yet still
to fill
the platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an houre
or rag’d go,
or show
a down cast look, and sour?

No: ‘tis a fast, to dole
thy sheaf of wheat
and meat
unto the hungry soule.

It is to fast from strife,
from old debate
and hate:
to circumcise thy life.

To shew a heart grief-rent;
to starve thy sin,
not Bin
and that’s to keep thy Lent.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I like this very much, as it reminds us that – although many people do choose to give something up for Lent – this is not the aim. It is not a time to renounce one thing, but make up for it in another (How many times did I announce I’d given up biscuits for Lent, only to gorge on cake or chocolate instead?!) Nor is the purpose of Lent to look miserable.

In the first three verses, Herrick asks us the question: Is this what Lent is about?  – and then turns the question on its head. He reminds us that Lent is not about keeping the larder empty – but rather we give generously of what we have to those in need. We are to fast not from meat or fish,; but rather from raking up old arguments, strife and hatred. And not to starve the body, but rather to be repentant and “starve” the sin that is in our hearts.

40 Acts is about fasting from hate, it’s about giving to the hungry and those in need, it’s about showing we understand that it is our sin, and greed, and lack-of-love that keeps us from a right relationship with God. We give up our sin, and give in to Christ.

Posted in 40Acts, Pause in Lent/Advent | Tagged | 2 Comments