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.

 

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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…

 

40ACTS2019::5::BLESS THE BOSS

PROMPT: Today, we’re turning our generosity loose on bosses, managers, pastors and head teachers. Our culture doesn’t always bless upwards. But generosity goes all ways. We often only think to focus our generosity on those in dire straits, but when we bless upwards, we discover something that changes us, too.

LINK: HERE

ACTS:

Green: Thank the boss. Take a moment to start the work day letting them know they’re appreciated by those around them (specifically you).

Amber: Leave them a nice note – and talk to one of their friends and see what kind of gift card you could slip in there too.

Red: Take them out for a meal, bake them a cake, or give them a voucher for a meal.

***

We have new bosses in the language school where I work. My old boss was great: he had started the business himself and it was his “baby”; it had a real family feel about it, and although he had to make me redundant at one point, he obviously felt bad about doing so! He re-employed me on a contract basis as soon as possible afterwards. He trusted us teachers to get on with what we were good at, with minimal interference. But towards his retirement, he seemed to lose some interest, and things started to get dropped…Last year, the business was bought by a young, dynamic couple, ambitious and with money to spend… They have introduced new methods of teaching, want to use technology more, and are in the process of creating and setting up a new online learning platform. It’s a bit scary for me, as a bit of a Luddite! I would have been happy pootling on for another 7 or so years to my retirement as I had been doing under the last director. Still, onward and upward!

Today I’m working from home, so I won’t be going in to the office; tomorrow I will probably be popping in to do some preparation for the week ahead – so what can I do? I think I’ll prepare a card for Melissa and Tomas, our new directors, just to say Thank You…but I would like to do a bit more for my Head of English, who seems to be becoming more frazzled, as she is asked to do more and more. There’s nothing I can do to take the workload off her shoulders, but I can at least let her know that she is appreciated! So I will go from my lessons to the office via a supermarket and maybe buy a plant or some chocolates to give to her, together with another card.

I won’t be providing the Kitteh as well though!

UPDATE ON THE LAST CHALLENGE: Not much to say, really… I’m going to start saving up my 5€ which will probably go to PC4R or Lend With Care – but may be used for other items if necessary. My Church group enjoyed this one, posting I really like this Act 4!….. reminds me of a Lent activity we did in Canada back when our children were growing up….place a container at the dinner table and everyone put the day’s change or another amount in the container at dinnertime , to then give at the close of Lent and  This reminds me of many years ago when good friends told us of their ‘Lord’s Pot’, which was money put aside for when someone needed something or e.g. some hospitality was needed but when money is tight. Arguably, it’s not quite in the spirit of sacrifice – but it has served us (and more importantly I hope – others) well over the years.

This LOL cats doesn’t really fit, but I really enjoyed it!

 

Sobering thoughts

Every day I go to Tracing Rainbows, Ang’s blog, where she posts faithfully on a daily basis. She blogs about all number of topics – crafting, recycling, her family, her faith – there is always something interesting to read.

Today she writes about family – the importance of family, the joy of seeing the Thai boys, who were rescued from the cave, reunited with their families, the pain of seeing children separated from their parents by the Trump administration. Ang explains this is why she joined the protests against Donald Trump’s visit to the UK. I don’t usually comment, but today I did.

I wrote supporting her attendance at the anti-Trump protests, and said that I see Trump’s administration as evil – I find the man distasteful, his attitudes are to be decried, he appears to be racist, xenophobic, mysogynistic, a liar, and unintelligent. His government, and others like it, seem to be fuelling the far right, fascist parts of our society, giving them permission to air their fear mongering, hate filled policies and beliefs.

This chilling piece – it is long, but it is worth reading – was written by Fintan O’Toole, published in the Irish Times on July 8th

“To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.
One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities.

Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about forty percent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your forty percent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too.

And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.
But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery.

Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

People have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group.

It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages. I wonder how it will go down with Rupert Murdoch.

To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”.

And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

And the results are quite satisfactory. There is good news on two fronts. First, Rupert Murdoch is happy with it – his Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness: making animal noises at the mention of a Down syndrome child, describing crying children as actors. They went the whole swinish hog: even the brown babies are liars. Those sobs of anguish are typical of the manipulative behaviour of the strangers coming to infest us – should we not fear a race whose very infants can be so devious?

Second, the hardcore fans loved it: Fifty-eight percent of Republicans are in favour of this brutality. Trump’s overall approval ratings are up to 42.5 per cent.
This is greatly encouraging for the pre-fascist agenda. The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable.

So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality. They are, like Macbeth, “yet but young in deed”. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow.”

Let us protect our freedom with all our democratic power, and continue to be brave with everything we must face.

 

Leaving aside the problem that the use of “men” in this quotation might bring up (let’s assume that the author was talking about humankind) this is so true.

And yet…

I feel helpless. In the midst of what is going on in the world, the hate, the lies, the rise of fascism – and dear God, could what happened before happen again? Is that what we are being cajoled into supporting?! – what can I do, here in my house in the middle of France?

I suppose I can do the small things for now – supporting charities that promote love and support the homeless (PC4R), fighting where I can for justice (Amnesty International) and speaking out against even the tiniest bit of opinion that talks about refugees and migrants as “vermin” or “undeserving” Not letting it pass “because I don’t know how to say it in French”.

Leaving aside the problem that the use of “man” in this quotation might bring up (let’s assume AGAIN that the author was talking about humankind) this too is true. Every person on this earth has a part to play and we cannot, we must not, separate ourselves from the suffering of others. As Christians, as Muslims, as Jews, as atheists, as those who aren’t sure, we should be fully involved, fully implicated, fully engaged in alleviating the pain and anguish that others are experiencing.We shouldn’t see them as “other people”, or “different to us” – they are part of this earth as much as we are, and are as fully deserving of our respect and our support as our neighbour, our friends or our family.

It’s just that I don’t really know what I can do…

Bits and bobs and 40 Acts (21 & 22)

Hello dear ones – thank you so much for your supportive and encouraging comments on my last post. They really helped me, and I appreciate the fact that you all took time to post a commernt. If you haven’t seen the comments from other people, I encourage you to go back & read them: they might help you too.

 

Yesterday I went for a short walk – a walk I’d probably do in 10 minutes took me about twice that time, and I felt quite breathless by the end of it. I will do the same today, straight after I’ve finished this post. I’m still sleeping more than normal – usually 10 – 11 hours a night, especially if I’ve taken an iboprofene. The “front door” is causing me some discomfort/pain when I lie on my side, I think because it’s getting squished up and pressed into the flesh, but that’s the side I feel most comfortable to sleep on. If I sleep on my back I get backache; if I sleep on my right side, my arthritic hip hurts! The iboprofene makes everything more comfortable, so I sleep better, but I don’t feel happy taking one every night!

Tonight we’re going to a birthday party – a 120th birthday party. But not for a very old person, but two 60 year olds! Of course, being French, it starts at 8 pm and is likely to go on until Lord-knows-when in the morning. It’s not considered a party in France if you’re not still awake when the cock crows! Thankfully, I have my illness as a perfect excuse to slip away at about 11.00 pm. “We would love to stay, but I’m afraid…” Mind you, the last big birthday party we went to they had only just served the main course at 11.00 pm, so we may not get the full meal!

Even though birthday cards aren’t really a French tradition, I have, of course, made one:

  

I hope they like it.

I don’t want to be too late to bed either, as I hope to make it to church tomorrow as well. A friend from church came over on Thursday, bringing me three hats she’d knitted for me – so, together with a lovely one that Michelle knitted, I am all set. Except my hair is showing no sign of falling out yet! I’ve got an appointment at a coiffeuse/wig shop on Tuesday too, but at the moment everything seems to be anchored to my scalp! Which might be a good thing aesthetically, but it makes me worry that the chemotherapy isn’t doing its job, as it should be killing off all the fast-growing cells, which include hair follicles and cancer cells. Oh well, I can always check up with the doctor on Thursday before my next session.

Onto 40 Acts:

ACT 21:: ACTION: Three weeks in – we’re halfway there! By now, generosity is probably sinking a little deeper into our lives. It’s a great time to put action behind our words. Think of moments when you’ve read or heard about something generous and thought, ‘That’s a nice idea,’ but never get around to doing it. Now’s the time. Only one act for today: What act have you put off over the last few weeks? What sounded like a good idea at the time, but you never got around to doing? Put it at the top of today’s to-do list.

Well, for me, the main act really is donating to Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced Persons

This is a fantastic but tiny charity, started by one man, James. The website says: James came up with the idea while volunteering at the refugee camp in Calais known as The Jungle.  After talking regularly to people within the camp he realised that phone credit was a lifeline for many – and something he could help with from his home in Norfolk!

In the beginning, the process was very simple. James created a Facebook group, and added all his friends and some of the refugees he had met while volunteering. His goal was to have his close contacts provide phone credit to the handful of refugees he had come to know so well.

The group grew and grew, with his FB friends adding more friends, and they added more. Now over 64,000 members chip in when they can, donating £5, or more, to give credit to those who are desperate to contact their families left behind, or to contact aid agencies. This phone credit has saved the lives of vulnerable people, especially minors and women, so often targeted in camps.

Every Friday there is the Friday Conga, where everyone who can comments and donates (if possible), doing something important with FB algorithms that helps the group. I can’t always donate, I often forget to comment. But I’m going to make a concerted effort to start doing so. My Act 21 is to start saving 2€ coins, and when I have 10€ to make a donation. Can you afford to give a one-off donation to PC4R? This tells you how:

 

ACT 22: VALUED:: Today, a guaranteed way of making a difference. Talk up a service staff member. It’s such an easy chance to make a difference in someone’s day – but ask any service staff member, and you’ll hear how rarely it happens. Don’t let fear of insincerity put you off. A simple ‘You’re amazing, thank you for that!’ goes a long way when it’s well meant.  

I actually completed the Green task a couple of days ago, contacting the restaurant where we’d eaten on Saturday to compliment the waiter who had been very attentive to us. I certainly used to do this in the UK:  if I had received good service from a shop assistant I’d go to Customer Services, and say “I will complain if I receive bad service…” The face would fall “So equally I want to compliment good service…” The face would smile, and I would explain who had been helpful etc.

Sadly, France is not exactly the epitome of good customer service, with requests for help being met more often than not with a surly shrug. But I can still smile, and be polite and say Thank You to everyone who helps me, whether they do it with a smile or a shrug.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! Thank you for reading!!