And what of them…?

“A Day to Myself” by Clifford T Ward: I post this song every Remembrance Day – I love it as a song, but it is appropriate for this time as well.

It’s a beautiful, poignant song, but it’s important to me because it brings to mind the fact that, more and more, the fact that we do forget – or just not realise – what the young men and women who have died in conflicts to serve their country gave up.

And what of them, …Who died so far from home, No last farewell kiss…

We don’t really think of the individual: we are concerned with our busy lives, and even at this time, we scarecely pause to think of what was given up for us. Somebody posted this on Facebook:

A reminder to pause, to reflect, to remember… I’ll be joining the village memorial tomorrow at the War Memorial, here in France – because the young French men and women remembered thereon also fought bravely for our freedom. I’ll be wearing my poppy (slightly battered as the cats found it!) and giving thanks that there are those who gave up their lives to stop xenophobia, hate, fascism and injustice from taking over. I will also be grieving that these evils are once more becoming stronger in our world, and praying that it will not take another world war to stem the tide. What can I do? What is my battle to be fought?

DAY TO MYSELF
Clifford T Ward
 It’s all so different now
From just a few weeks ago
When April was about to smile on England
And I had to go

So here I am again
Far from where the blackbird sings
And lanes I love to walk along
Lost in my thoughts

And what of you my love
Though you’re so far away
Yet so close to me in all I do and see

And so on my day off
I could have chosen monuments
Historic chateaux, palaces
Or finding ways of improving my French

Instead I wandered out alone
Here where woods and fields abound
And in a quiet corner found the resting place
Of English soldiers killed in war

And what of them my love

Who died so far from home
No last farewell kiss
All that remains is this

It makes me so ashamed to feel alone
Whatever would they think of me
For I shall see my love again

It’s all so different now
From those few years ago
When April smiled so sweetly still
And they had to go

Complaining about plastic…

I didn’t hear back from M&S, after their anodyne answer (and my response to it!) Can anyone in the UK tell me if they know whether this promotion from M&S has been stopped/ has been successful? I would be interested to know.

On the subject of useless plastic, I bought a jar of instant coffee recently.

I took it off the shelf not really looking at it very closely. Until I got home: note the way the label goes right up to the top of the jar: it’s a plastic covering, which encases the entire jar in plastic. Encouraged by Kezzie, who is trying to persuade us all to think about our plastic use,  and taking on board her encouragement to think about the eight Rs for the environnment (one of her additions was: Research:  Not happy with something to do with waste?  Research a way to solve it! )

Well, I wrote to Carte Noir with the following:

Je m’excuse mon français, mais j’ai une question: en ces jours où nous essayons de réduire l’utilisation inutile de plastique POURQUOI Carte Noir Bio est-elle enveloppée dans une seule couche de plastique, qui ne peut pas être recyclée et est immédiatement jetée? C’est ironique que c’est bio café – essayer de consommer des choses qui sont bonnes pour notre santé tout en ajoutant à la montagne de plastique. Je suis desolé, mais je vais arreter d’acheter Carte Noir, jusqu’au vous arrêtez d’envelopper vos pots de café dans cet emballage en plastique inutile.

TR: I apologize for my French, but I have a question: in these days when we are trying to reduce the unnecessary use of plastic WHY is Carte Noir Bio  wrapped in a single layer of plastic, which cannot be recycled and is immediately discarded? It’s ironic that it’s organic coffee – trying to consume things that are good for our health while adding to the plastic mountain. I’m sorry, but I’m going to stop buying Carte Noir, until you stop wrapping your coffee pots in this useless plastic packaging.

I quickly received the stock answer:
C’est avec attention que nous prenons connaissance de votre message et nous vous remercions de votre intérêt pour la marque Carte Noire.
Nous prenons compte de votre insatisfaction et la  faisons  remontée auprès des services concernés.

TR: We have carefully read your message and we thank you for your interest in the Carte Noire brand. We will take your complaint to the relevant department.

Who knows what will happen. But at least I made a noise about it.

Is Carte Noir coffee in the UK wrapped in this single use plastic too? If so, could you write to the Customer Services dept to complain? It certainly doesn’t need to be wrapped up like this – it’s still got its foil seal at the top of the jar, so it isn’t to keep the coffee fresh!

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.

 

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 :: 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!

****

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”.

40ACTS2019 :: 13,14 :: Green & Leg Up

Hello! So here we are again, playing a little bit of catch up. Today I work from home, preparing for next week, and (as we’re coming to the end of the month) sorting out my bills. As we’re coming to the end of March I also have a nasty little form to fill in giving details of teaching through the year…It’s really complicated, and I hate doing it – partly because I forget each year what I need to do!! Hey ho, a day (and possibly more) of administrative tasks. Shudder!! There are also several household tasks requiring completion (Joyful, Joyful!!) so I have a day to look forward to.

But I start with the joy and challenge of my 40 Acts blog.

Yesterday’s Act was “The Green One”

PROMPT: It’s far from the token green day. As we act to protect our environment, we’re acting generously for those not even born yet, helping to create a world that can keep on giving and sustaining people, beyond the limit of our own lifetimes

LINK: HERE

ACTS:Green: Ever had an environmental charity stop you in the streets, only for you to breeze right past them? Look up their website. See what they actually do.

Amber: See how many times you can use one plastic bag this week. Once you’re done, pass it on to someone and ask if they want to continue the challenge!

Red: Go meat-free at least one day a week. Skipping meat and dairy is the single biggest way you can personally cut your environmental impact. (Vegans and vegetarians get an amber day!)

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 NKJV)

Well, of course I’m concerned for the environment. Isn’t everyone?! I do loads of things.

I pat myself on the back.

But actually, when I consider, I don’t do much, except lament “Oh, there’s so much plastic!” as I add more to our bin. Our biggest plastic users are the cats: they are fussy eaters and really only eat food that comes in pouches. Four cats = 8 pouches. We’ve tried tins, but the food just gets wasted, as they refuse to eat it. So I’m at a bit of an impasse there. I could write to Felix (the preferred brand. Other cat food brands are available) asking them to explore other ways of packaging whatever they put in pouches – be it aluminium, recyclable barquettes or into tins. But I’m sure I’ll get fobbed off with an anodyne reply. If I had a sewing machine I could make natty bags out of them…but I haven’t. So I can’t.

So…Well…I have bought little fabric bags to put loose veg in at the supermarket – but we’re not very good at using them (we forget to take them to the supermarket) So we could try to increase the use of these… We use Bags for Life, or fabric bags for the shopping, and I carry a reusable bag in my handbag, so the Amber option isn’t really suitable.

As we are on a budget we do tend to shop more at Lidl – the meat and cheese comes wrapped in plastic. As do a lot of the vegatables – but I’m not sure it’s feasible to start buying everything loose…it’s a monetary cost I don’t think we could stand – although I’m aware that the environmental cost needs to be thought about!!

I’ve already introduced “Fishy Monday” and “Vegetarian Tuesday” into our meal planning, as well as trying to have a reduced meat meal too. And while Mr FD is tolerant of these efforts he does have a habit of saying “That was OK, but it would have been nicer with some meat in it…”

Maybe Helen’s suggestion of reducing water consumption would be appropriate…I’m really a bit stumped here. For now, I may try investing in a few beeswax wrappings – someone on 40 Acts FB page said she makes them, which would reduce our (fairly minimal) use of clingfilm. Mr FD puts his sandwiches in plastic bags, which get washed and reused, but do eventually wear out. Perhaps I should get some sandwich wrapping pouches too. Any other ideas, anyone?

And then we get to today’s Challenge…

ACT 15

LEG UP

PROMPT: Real generosity leaps into action to bless others, even when it comes at a cost to us. Give away something that you could charge real money for. You may not think you’re particularly great with technology, but if your granny really needs to know how to use a computer, then you can do as good a job as any at showing her. Teach a beginner some guitar chords. Do bike maintenance for kids on your street. Share your skills, at a cost to yourself.

ACTS: Green: Look over your teachable skills. If you can, schedule a lesson with a newbie today.

Amber: If you usually charge for teaching a skill, today do it for free.

Red: Take on a new client or student, long-term, for free.

“Wealth and honour come from you… In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all… [W]ho am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given only what comes from your hand.”
(1 Chronicles 29:12–14

I am a teacher. It’s my job. Sorry, 40 Acts I’m not doing it for free today, or anyother day. Admittedly today I’ve only got one lesson, so it wouldn’t be too much hardship, but it’s too confusing to try to explain in French what I’m doing.

BUT

The 21€ that I earn today will not go in my pocket. Tonight I will give a 21€ donation to Phone Credit for Refugees on their Friday Conga. This is where people all over the world donate money, one after another, and post on the PC4R FB page, to encourage others to give. Maybe you could do the same? You need to become a member of the group, but it’s a great charity to support. And even if you can’t donate, by posting on the “Conga” you still help the charity (something to do with algorithms, I believe) So I am (sort of) sharing my skills…

ALSO

Regular readers know that I enjoy zentangling. New readers may have no idea what that is. Here is an example or two

 

(click on the pictures to see them in more detail)

I’m not fast, and I am forgetful, but if you’d like me to do you a zentangle picture, then leave a comment in the comment section, telling me what you’d like me to zentangle for you (I do mostly animals, but have also drawn a Beatles inspired zentangle, a knitting zentangle, several crosses, a tree, a Doctor Who tardis, and other things too.) I will try, eventually, to get round to it, but it may take some time…

Or, if you’d prefer a “Celtic” initial, I could do that:

Happy to share my skills. It’s a pleasure, but it does take time!

Is this what 40 Acts meant by “Leg Up”??

40ACTS2019:: 10,11,12 :: ANOTHER CATCH-UP!

Hello, everyone! I’vefinally got a bit of time to sit down and do a catch-up post on 40 Acts. That’s only because my usual Wednesday morning student got back late last night from her holidays and cancelled her lesson this morning! Still, it gives me time to go and do the grocery shopping, so that Mr FD doesn’t have to do it after his first “real” day at work. (Huzzah!!) He’s been training, but (providing they like the presentation he’s giving today) he starts the “proper” job tomorrow.

If you’re wondering why I gave a sermon – I’m aware some newer readers don’t know my back story – I’m a Licensed Lay Minister with the Anglican Church. Licensed back in 1996 (Good grief, that long ago!!) in the Diocese of Oxford, I was given permission to transfer my “license to preach” to the Episcopal Church, when I started worshipping with them in Clermont Ferrand. Our rector recently left to take up a new position in Rome (and seems to be enjoying it – he has full permission to go full-out smells-and-bells, which wasn’t really suitable in Christ Church, so he’s very contented!!) and so, being left without a priest at the moment, I have been given dispensation to administer the reserved sacrament to the congregation. It is a real honour and privilege…but it does mean I’m taking more services than I’m used to!! You’ll be getting another one of my sermons the weekend after next!

Anyway. On with 40 Acts…

ACT 11

HIDDEN HEROES

PROMPT: Think of the sorts of people we only notice when things go wrong: the waste collectors after two weeks of rubbish piling up, the sound team when a church service goes wrong, the handyman uncle when a car disaster hits. Do we notice them at any other time? It might just take a thank you, or a gift card. This is an easy and really noticeable way to make a difference to someone.

LINK: HERE

ACTS: Green: Drop a small card to a hidden hero, just to let them know they’re noticed.

Amber: Show up with a cup of coffee or a fizzy drink as they work.

Red: Figure out a creative fix that would make their job easier. What small solution would help them out?

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up.” (Romans 15:1–2 NIV)

The focus of the reflection is on post deliverers – it seemed a bit odd to me to particularly focus on them, but I’m learning from Helen, over at Looking Beyond to look beyond (hah!) the initial “act” to see the meaning behind it: what is the driving force, the essence of the challenge. She writes thoughtfully and meaningfully about her “hidden heroes”

But, actually, for me, this act is about our Post Office workers…It seems that every year for 40 Acts there is one act that entails me taking a box of biscuits into the local La Poste for the people who work there. It’s the place where all the posties start their local deliveries from, so it seems appropriate to deliver my biscuits there to say “thank you” to them all.

I may also buy another box of biscuits and take them to the Caserne des Pompiers – the firemen are volunteers, and deal with fires, accidents, health problems and other things too. At Christmas they “sell” their calendars: basically you give them as much money as you wish to, in return for a calendar. It’s basically a donation, as you give much more than the calendar is worth. So, we dutifully bought their calendar  at Christmas (if anyone would like a copy of the St Just pompiers calendar let me know in the comments. First come, first to have it sent to them.), which is a way they raise funds for their party on St Barbara’s day (she being the patron saint of fire fighters.) But I think a box of biscuits might be a nice way to thank them for their work. I’ll add them to the shopping list.

ACT 12

PRAYER CIRCLE

Maybe not quite the prayer the 40 Acts team were thinking of!

PROMPT: An invite to be generous hides behind every door in your neighbourhood. The first step is to go and find it. Today, we’re prayer walking around our community, choosing to focus on those nearest us. Walk, think about who’s behind each door, and pray. Lay some groundwork for extraordinary moments of kindness. (Sorry, but: // grumpy English teacher hat on:  that should read “An invitation to be generous…”: to invite is the verb; invitation is the noun. //Grumpy English teacher hat off! )

LINK: HERE

ACTS:  Green: Prayer walk. If you’ve not done this before, it’s as simple as just walking, slowly, around your neighbourhood, noticing what’s around you, and praying: for peace, for problems in the community, for community relationships. If you’re feeling bold, pop a card through a neighbour’s door to let them know you’re praying for them.

Amber: Print out one of our lamppost signs, asking what people in your neighbourhood need prayer for, and stick it up locally. Check back to see what people have taken and use it to guide your prayers over the next few weeks.

Red: After you prayer walk, draw up a ‘generosity map’ of ideas: a map of your neighbourhood, with notes pinned on specifying where and how you can be generous.

The word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our eyes…”
(John 1:14 MSG)

I was teaching in the morning, but I knew that in the afternoon I had to walk from the Language School where I work into the centre of Clermont for an Opthalmologist appointment. So I thought this would be an easy-ish act to do: walk through the city, pray for those I felt called to pray for and maybe drop off a few Ninja Notes on the way… Not exactly my “neighbourhood” but that would be fine. Hands dusted off, job done.

…Yes, well, someone called God had other ideas…

On my walk, I paused to look at what was on at the cinema, together with two or three others. As I perused the posters a young woman approached.

“Can you help me?” she said. Everyone looked away, and shuffled in the opposite direction, muttering. I was about to say “No, sorry…” when I thought of what 40 Acts is about. What does the prompt say today? “extraordinary moments of kindness.

“Yes,” I said, with a smile, “What do you need?”

She explained that she needed baby milk and nappies for her baby, so as we walked to the nearest supermarket, she talked about her life. She was Serbian, came to France 3 years ago, but her husband had walked out on her, leaving her with a baby and pregnant; she was living in Vichy (some 40 km from Clermont) with a friend. When we got to the supermarket I bought a few things for her…

…afterwards I took the opportunity to explain about 40 Acts, and what I was doing. “God sent you to me,” I said. I’m sorry though that when she asked me for money for the bus home, I “blanked ” that bit out of the conversation and carried on talking about something else…I do feel a bit guilty about that, but I don’t have a bottomless purse, even if God has a bottomless heart!! I do worry a little that it was a scam, but – in the end – I have to tell myself that, if it was indeed some kind of swindle, I told her about God, and maybe planted a seed. And if it wasn’t, then she and her child were fed and nappified. No good deed is ever wasted, so they say. I hope that’s the case.

ACT 13

NEEDS MUST

PROMPT: Crumbs on the counter. Grime in the mugs. Someone else’s dishes in the office sink for days. What an opportunity for day-to-day, ongoing generosity – dull, grey acts of kindness that don’t get you any ‘points’. Make no mistake, taking responsibility for someone else’s mundane problems is generosity that makes a difference.

LINK: HERE

ACTS:  Green: Clean the office sink (or staffroom sink, or church sink).

Amber: Take responsibility for an undone chore where you live, at church, or at the workplace.

Red: Take responsibility for an undone chore for the entire month.

I’ve mentioned this before – for “Joyful, Joyful” (Act 7) I wrote about a Rend Collective song : I try to sing this to myself when doing something I don’t enjoy and feel like getting grumpy about, especially if I feel it’s something Mr FD should be doing – it does help!! And actually, I think this might be the best way for me to complete this Act. It’s not a “Today Only” task…it’s a Continuing Act : to do Stuff, even though I think Mr FD should do it, or even if I don’t want to do it, but to try to do it with that cheerful heart. Reminding myself that the joy of the Lord is my strength, wherever I am, and whatever I am doing. It’s not going to be easy, but…

Maybe I’m cheating by combining two Acts in One (BOGOF?!) but it’s definitely a continuing one. We do, generally, share the housework pretty evenly;  I read somewhere that if both partners think they do the lion’s share of the housework then it’s probably divided equally! I think that’s the place we’re in!

But I should give Mr FD a round of applause because he almost always cleans the cat trays (and we have 9 of them!) During my treatment I was expressly forbidden to clean them, because of the risk of infection with an immune system shot to pieces, and I have never re-taken up the reins. So I shouldn’t complain about other things! But maybe my response to this challenge is to play my part in the cat tray cleaning…