A Pause in Lent N°5: Judas

Joining in with Ang, and some other blogging friends, sharing thoughts on Lent. I have been sharing poems that have meant something to me, or just caught my eye. Today I offer you one, perhaps really meant for Good Friday, and beyond…

Judas

 Thirty pieces of silver

Was it worth that –

or more?

Would you have done it

for less?

Believing that you were part of the plan,

Believing perhaps that He had lost his nerve

And wouldn’t rise up

In all His glory to bring about

The New Jerusalem.

And how did you feel

when it all went

wrong?

When the beginning you thought would come about

appeared to be

the End?

Your whole world crumbled,

Broken shards of confidence

Of what you held so dear

Of what you thought you knew.

Were you so distraught

That the meaning of your life had gone

So that

to continue breathing

was not to continue living?

And when your anguish overcame you

And you chose to die,

Did you ever, for one

heart-stopping moment,

believe that ~

despite it all ~

the end was the beginning,

And the death was

the start of Life itself

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Acts N° 33 & 34 (2017): Forgive (2) & Flow

Hello dear Readers. I hope everyone is well. I am feeling rather full up, and not quite all-here, due to a long night’s consumption of beer and pork products. You can read about it over at Fat Dormouse

But I’m not here to complain about feeling full up; I’m here to write about 40 Acts. On with the show!

Act N° 33 :: FORGIVE (2)

This is about following through on forgiveness. Forgiveness is tough, but once you’ve made a decision, it’s significantly easier than dithering over the choice. With God’s grace it can happen, but the hurt might not always disappear overnight. By showing forgiveness in a practical way you help to heal the wounds.

  • If you are still getting to grips with yesterday’s act, spend today getting closer to forgiveness.
  • Finding a practical way to show forgiveness starts with sincerely putting the other person first. There are two ways to approach this: (1) think, yourself, of a way to show forgiveness; (2) ask the person you’re forgiving what might be a good start.
  • Give more than they deserve back. If you’ve forgiven someone, how do you actively demonstrate that with kindness?

As I said yesterday, this is more an act for me that challenges me on those little, everyday niggles of when I think Mr FD (or someone else, for that matter) hasn’t pulled their weight, or hasn’t done something that I think they should have done. It’s going to be an ongoing challenge, where God will have to work hard on me. I can forgive, but I do put a bit of a face on me, so that everyone knows I’m mightily pissed off, even though I’ve “forgiven” the person!

Anyway, as a bit of a nod in this direction, I changed all (but one) of the eight litter trays that we have around the house. It should have been Mr FD who did at least half of them, but I did them.

ACT N° 34 :: FLOW

‘Busy’ is overtaking ‘fine’ as the standard reply to ‘How are you?’ There aren’t enough hours in the day, you’re rushed off your feet, you haven’t the time. Most of us are guilty of making ourselves too busy. It’s possible that the most urgent thing on our agenda should be slowing down and focusing energy on the people and things that matter. So, spend today going with someone else’s flow.

  • If today is one of those days you’ve got no leeway on, earmark a future time for being flexible to others’ needs.
  • Have a quick catch-up with somebody. Phone a relative. Or take a colleague out for coffee. Take the opportunity to look around you as you go through your day, and see who you bump into that you could slow down for.
  • Make it happen. Whoever you’ve ‘been meaning’ to spend time with, today’s the day (or afternoon or evening).

I’d planned to do some work this morning, and then attack the courtyard this afternoon – partly because Mr FD has been saying for weeks that he’d do it, and has never got round to it. I thought that, if I started, I might “guilt” him into it. That’s not very 40 Acts, is it?! – The buddleia is growing and needs pruning (probably the wrong time of year, but buddleias never seem to mind; the bird stuff needs cleaning, changing, throwing away; the pots need changing, and refilling, and moving. Lots to do. Neither of us really like such things, but it’s always good when it’s finished.

ANYWAY, I read today’s prompts, and remembered that I’d been meaning to contact a German lady who got in touch via my blog when George disappeared. We’d sent each other a few emails, but that was it. I’d thought about suggesting we meet up, but somehow hazd never quite got round to it. So, on reading the Acts, I emailed Regina, saying I was free this weekend if she was. Within 5 minutes she’d phoned me and I’m going over there this afternoon. And, for a Brucie Bonus, there’s a kitten for me to feed!!!!

So, there you go! An Act that really isn’t much of a challenge really… The courtyard will be there tomorrow, so I can do it then. Thank you 40 Acts for getting me off my bum. I’m off to make some scones to take with me!

UPDATE: Just to teach me a lesson (!) when I attacked the courtyard on Sunday I was given a bad back after 20 minutes, so I couldn’t do very much to “guilt” Mr FD after all! I pruned the buddleia & that was about it! My afternoon with Regina and Keith was a delight, however, which was good. So thank you, 40 Acts for that.

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Act N° 32 (2017): Forgive Part 1

Hello everyone!

I am very happy today! Recently I found out I had to complete some paperwork for the French Government in order to register as Auto Entrepreneur. I hate paperwork, (even more so in a foreign language) and I got myself in a tizzy over it. A few weeks back, the Director of the language school with which I do contract work helped me sort out what I had to do, but I’d put off actually doing it. This week, I’ve known I had to do it today, and gradually, through the week, stress related IBS crept up on me.

But today, after only a tiny bit of procrastination, I sat down AND I COMPLETED IT!!!

It may not be all correct, but it’s done & sent off. So we shall see. Huge relief. I celebrated by having to go to the dentist!

So. On with today’s Act.

ACT 32 :: FORGIVE (part 1)

Bitterness will eat at you. And it can be properly hard to let grudges go. If you’re holding a grudge or a wound against someone who’s hurt you in the past, make this Easter the time you find a way to forgive them. God says he’ll give you strength to find compassion. In forgiveness, you not only set others free from a debt they owe you, but you also transform yourself – imagine what the world might look like if even half of us practiced forgiveness like this.

If you’re in a place where forgiveness is really hard, start by praying: ‘Lord, I want to want to forgive.’

Do what it says on the tin. And if you find yourself gritting your teeth, God’s grace will give you the strength to find compassion. Lean on him

I think I must be very lucky, really. I have really only had one time when I felt really let down by someone, and – although it took a long time to forgive, and even longer to “forget” (although I do still remember the occasion) – through 40 Acts a couple of years ago, I really do feel that I have finally “let go” of the hurt that s/he caused me. I think too that I have forgiven myself for the Stuff that was related to the event, and was the fallout from it too.

Otherwise, my life has been blessed with friends and family who are supportive and forgiving of me and my weaknesses. Other than that one thing, there have been no huge hurts that have caused me to struggle to forgive.

However…

Part of the meditation reads: But we can find it hard to forgive those with whom we have regular contact, partly simply because they are so close to us, and we know them well – foibles and all. We can cling to the ways they have let us down or acted unkindly, but when we do, the unforgiveness builds up like a wall between us. And our hearts form a hard crust, bit by bit, each time that we fail to forgive. 

It is these little things that I struggle with – tiny things which are nothing in themselves but which add up. Things that I feel Mr FD should have done, or didn’t do how I thought they should be done, or did when I thought he shouldn’t… I do find myself gritting my teeth, and muttering “Generous…be generous…” under my breath. I manage it – but not very open heartedly. And often, I don’t manage it without a snide comment slipping out.

That is where my struggle with forgiveness is. And it is an ongoing battle. I need to rely on God’s grace so much in these situations, and pray that he will hold my tongue for me.

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Chasing my tail: Acts N° 29,30, 31

Jasper (ICOT) is still young, and seems to enjoy chasing his tail.  He has so much excess energy it is exhausting just watching him. I’m not so keen on chasing my (metaphorical) tail – I know that in reality I have plenty of time to do everything I need to, it just doesn’t always seem like that. And, of course, the more I worry about not getting things done the less productive I become!

So, this is, I’m afraid, a rather quick summary of what I’ve been doing about the Challenges in the past few days. I’ll just link to the appropriate page for each one.

ACT 29 :: SIGN UP

This was about signing up to a charity, or telling others about a favourite. It prompted me to actually get off my bum to send the 40€ that I’d earned by making cards to Phone Credit for Refugees, which is my chosen charity to support at the moment. As I have already said, I want to find other ways to support this charity too – not sure what, at the moment.

ACT 30 :: STEP OUT

The focus of this act was sharing your faith, talking about Jesus to others. Well…I diodn’t exactly talk about my faith, but I left Ninja Bible Verses, and copies of the Father’s Love Letter (in French) around the lake where I go for a walk between lessons. On the return trip, I saw one lady carefully copying down the words on one of the cards I’d left on a bench. Later on, I saw someone pick up another of them. I pray that whoever finds, reads, takes home these words will find them touching their hearts in some way.

I also posted a favourite Bible verse on FB – the same as last year, I think, but one which is “my” verse:

and I wrote:

One of my go-to verses….As long as I hold God’s hand, he won’t let me fall. It may be hard, I may stumble, but he will be there, keeping me safe. Of course, this rather relies on me not slipping my hand from his – just as a parent can’t protect a child who has let go of their hand, so it is with God. Keep hanging on there, Alison!!

ACT 31 :: GULP

Giving when it’s comfortable is definitely an important part of our lives. But God didn’t call us to only give when it’s comfortable. Does our giving ever make us gulp or cause a sharp intake of breath?

And this echoes what I’ve been thinking…I love doing 40 Acts (until they get too challenging, that is!!) but I don’t really, ever, step very far outside my comfort zone. I do give that little bit extra, I do spend a tad more money (on chocolate, on cards, on postage, on cake…) but it’s only little sums, that I don’t really notice. Even the charity donations are carefully considered…and probably rather stingy in relation to what we do have.

I am preciously guarding my time too (see above, re chasing tails!) and doling the minutes out to God a few at a time…Well, if I go to the Good Friday service, I won’t go to the Bible Study group…I can’t volunteer because I only have the weekend to myself…I would read my Bible (who am I kidding?!) but I have to plan my lessons…

I am going to wait for that “gulp” moment, but I suspect it won’t be long in coming. And then I will have to decide where I am going. I fear I may turn away, but you never know; I may step up. In the meantime, I will look closer at the Stewardship Giving account, to see what that might be like.

But this is definitely a challenge that leaves me shifting uncomfortably in my seat and looking for somewhere to hide!

 

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Acts N° 27 & 28 (2017): 2:1 and FOOLISH

Oh my golly gosh! I’ve got behind (again!) blogging about 40 Acts – mostly because we had friends coming for a curry meal on Friday, which took up a lot of Thursday & Friday, plus work, plus cleaning, plus being asked (on Friday) to make 20 cards (for today). I spent all of Saturday holed up making Easter cards. Still, that’s 40€ to go to Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced Persons. Not that 40€ is much pay for 6 hours work, but hey-ho. If you charged for the time it took, then each of my cards would cost 9€ each, and I can’t see people paying that!!

If you want to see the cards I made they are over at Fat Dormouse

Anyway, I need to do a quick catch up with 40 Acts – although I’ve not really “done” the challenges, I’ve done a few other things instead…

Act N° 27 :: 2:1

We’ve come to expect bargains. And we love a ‘two for one’ or a ‘buy one get one free’. But how often do we use them as an opportunity to share with others? Better still, don’t wait for the bonus; buy extra anyway and make someone’s day.

Head to the supermarket, stock up on BOGOFs, and start handing them out to everyone you see: ‘Hey, I just got this for free and I don’t need it – want it?’ A bar of chocolate, a bottle of water, a newspaper, a concert ticket, gift vouchers for the cinema – take your pick.

Don’t wait for the offer; buy it yourself. Get the next person in line a coffee/sandwich/pint along with your order. Or, pay for a bus ticket for the person behind you.

Planning on grabbing tickets for something, or going out for a meal? Who could you invite along that would least expect it and you could foot the bill for? Invite someone out from the fringe of your social group, or prioritise spending time with someone close to you and treat them to the occasion. Or how about going all out and paying for someone else’s dinner secretly?

BOGOFs don’t exist in France. Youy might see BTGOF (buy two get one free) but more often you just get the price of the “free” one added onto your fidelity card, which isn’t so attractive. Anyway, I wasn’t going to have time to get to supermarkets today, as I was working/cleaning/cooking in preparation for friends coming for a meal.

But I did have time to pop into an early-opening florists to buy a pot of daffs for the receptionist at the company where I was teaching in the morning. She was a student and while I was teaching her she intimated that there was a problem with her younger grandson. These were to cheer her up a little. We also gave a bunch of carnations to Laurie after the meal chez nous – more practical than generous: we’d bought them off a friend who was selling them for charity, and Jasper (ICOT) tends to eat flowers so we thought it better for his health if we gave them away!

(don’t want to take the chance, hey, Jasper?!)

ACT N° 28:: FOOLISH

It’s April Fools’ Day and you’re fresh out of new ideas. Don’t skip the chance to get away with doing something outrageous: try putting a generous twist on April Fools’ and do something surprising that’s actually nice.

Lose your inhibitions and set out to make someone smile today.

Feeling braver? Devise a generous surprise or do the generous thing no-one expects.

Like the psalmist, throw caution to the wind, give to the needy in reckless abandon.

I suppose the mad thing I did was making 20 cards for Caireen – after all, she did say “only if you can manage it…” But I managed it. Just.

Otherwise, not a lot else went on.

Today it was “Buy a cake for the Rector and his wife”day (I bet you didn’t know that, did you?!) I bought them a rather yummy looking raspberry tart each.

I am humming and ha-ing about doing a video for 40 Acts. I can’t think of what to do or say. So I may not do it. I’ve not got any dramatic (or otherwise) stories to tell. I’ve just done small things which may have made a few people happier. But there’s nothing to tell, really…

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A Pause in Lent N° 4: Self Portrait

I am blogging for A Pause in Lent with Ang, at Tracing Rainbows.
This year I am sharing some poems that I have found on the Internet and which speak to me – particularly as I work through 40 Acts.
Self Portrait
by David Whyte
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong
or feel abandoned.
If you can know despair or see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living,
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequences
of
love
and the bitter,
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard in that fierce embrace,
even the gods speak of God.

Source: “Self Portrait” from

Fire in the Earth
by David Whyte. Washington:
Many Rivers Press, 1992

 

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Acts N° 25 & 26 (2017): Stuff & Grateful

Hello everyone. I hope things are going well for you in your corner of the world. We are a little bit sad/angry/confused/worried because of the final commencement of Britain leaving the EU (I hate the term “Brexit”, although it is a convenient short form). I have never believed it was the right thing for Britain, and I certainly don’t believe it will be beneficial for us as British citizens living in France, or for EU citizens living & working in Britain However, the process has been started and there’s not a lot I can do about it (although I have been signing various petitions.) This is not a political blog though, so if you disagree with me, that’s fine: disagree. But we don’t need to argue about it.

Let’s look at yesterday’s challenge: ACT N°25 :: STUFF

Hands up if you buy and hold on to things that you don’t use, when they could be just what someone else needs. Give your wardrobe, garage, or loft an overhaul.

Put a Post-it note in your wallet/purse that says ‘Do I really need this?’ If you don’t, put it down and put the money you were going to spend to better use (maybe in a future challenge).

If you’re buying something new, make the purchase more meaningful. What it’s going to replace? What are you going to do with the old item instead? Who could it be of use to?

Assess your stuff. What do you really need? What can you give away? Are there hoarding habits that need to be changed? You can use Freecycle/Gumtree/foodbanks/charity/buy-swap-share to move your things to people who might make better use of them.

And the meditation can be read over here

This challenge seemed to speak to many people, judging by the FB comments, and to me as well. I do have a tendency to buy Stuff I don’t need – especially clothes, and I had been considering buying a top that I’d seen and liked. But I don’t need another top. I have many, many tops. So I pushed that consideration out of my brain. I am generally quite good at resisting temptation to buy clothes, usually with the mantra “Top…hole in head” to remind myself I need a new top like I need a hole in the head, but then, sometimes, I crack, and buy it anyway. Well, today was the day I wasn’t going to buy the top!

We have way too many books (is that possible?!) so I wrapped three up in plastic, in case it rained, added a note, and took them to Roanne to leave on benches around the port, where lots of narrowboats/barges tie up. There are several Anglophone boats there, so I thought they would be found & enjoyed. I also popped in some English “Ninja notes”. I took some French “Ninja notes” as well, to leave around the Port. Here they are, ready to go:

I had a couple of pairs of trousers, all packaged up in a bag, ready to go to the white “Relais” charity bin too, but I’d never quite got round to it. So I rooted through the wardrobe, and found a pair of brand new, bought-on-impulse, didn’t fit me trousers that I’d been planning on selling (but not done anything about) plus a pullover and a long sleeved T-shirt, which I bagged up too, to take for the Relais bin.

Jasper (ICOT) checks the quality of the bag.

Sadly, I rather let the side down by then going to Noz, because my student had cancelled, but I’d forgotten, so I had 2 hours to kill, and I spent money. But in my defence it was mostly on cat food, beer and cereal which we needed (well, OK, we didn’t need the beer!) But also on some other groceries, some pretty notecards, which are going to be useful for today’s challenge, a few craft items and a folder for work. So while I didn’t buy things which were strictly necessary, they were things which will be useful!

However, I will try to consider my spending more carefully – I am not a real impulse buyer, but I do buy more things than I need, so while I don’t think I could manage a year (or even a month’s) spending ban, I will try to buy things more mindfully in future. Maybe adopt a “one in, one out” policy – if I buy an item for my wardrobe, I must donate one to a charity shop. That way I will be more sensible AND I won’t fill the wardrobe to bursting point!

ACT N°26: GRATEFUL

Taking people for granted. It’s an easy trap to fall into, even if we think we’re genuinely decent people. Gratitude takes effort. It takes remembering. It takes serious, considered, wonder-centered thankfulness.

Write down a number of people from your past who’ve supported and helped you. Commit to contacting each, to tell them ‘thank you’. P.S. Not all in one day!

Write a letter thanking someone. This might not be the easiest thing for a lot of us. If you’re not prone to cracking out the fountain pen and writing paper, you can write a well-composed Facebook message – and sometimes, a few well-chosen words can mean more than a page of prose.

How about thanking someone who doesn’t usually get thanked in person: your bus driver, the local postman, the colleague who always puts on a fresh pot of coffee or empties the dishwasher. Appreciating these people will add a whole ton of value to their day, and being thankful is a great way to begin your week.

And the meditation is here

I had started this well before Lent, with some beautiful postcards that I had been given, sending out two or three a week, but because of time, and getting involved in other 40 Acts, I have let this slip. With the notecards that I bought yesterday, plus other cards, I will take up my pen and write again at the weekend. I have had lovely emails back from people that I’ve written to, so I know that they are appreciated – it’s just getting round to it. Which is always my problem!

I will also take some biscuits to the Post Office (probably when I take the letters in to send!) to share with all the postal workers.

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