Opening locked doors.

7am on a cold winter morning. Standing outside a closed front door in my running gear; a sinking feeling knowing the key is in the lock on the inside. I grab the emergency key I keep in a safe place. An arrow prayer. The doors opens which hadn’t happened in similar crises. Hallelujah!

Open Doors! Hope in seemingly impossible situations. Where it doesn’t seem possible brave people bring help to those who most need it around the world. Prayer and resources are key to making this happen.

And to you, dear reader, may God give you wisdom, resources and faith to deal with any closed doors in your own situation. I don’t know what you are facing but with Him nothing is impossible .

So, looking ahead into advent and thinking of activities and fund raising….Yesterday was National Giving Day. Missed it! …But, I literally only have a handful of calendars left. I have set myself the challenge of reading the 24 chapters of Luke’s Gospel over the 24 days of advent. But I started to think of other little advent challenges and this is over to you to see if it sparks any interest. Is anyone out there willing to sponsor any of the following:

*Any Christmas carol or song of your choice-I will post a link of a youtube clip of this.

*A Christmas cracker joke?!

On a more serious note any gifts you give this advent could help persecuted young people and children receive a present when they most need to be remembered. £22 would get a Bible to a persecuted believer; £26 gives one person trauma care; £70 helps Colombia Children’s Centre care for and educate the children of persecuted church leaders. Each gift unlocks a door to hope.

To find out more about Open Doors Christmas resources go to opendoorsuk.org/findingfamily

Thanks!

Advent…

Well, today is the start of Advent, a time of hope and preparation for what is to come. Even more important in this challenging year. I wonder what will be behind each window on my advent calendar (besides chocolate!) Exciting!

Having said the above about hope I have struggled to forgive myself for a careless mistake I made this afternoon; carelessness being something I am very prone to. Do you ever get frustrated with yourself? But nevertheless the star of Bethlehem shines in the east and calls wise people to seek the child who brings light in the darkness and is the King to come.

In all the contradictions of this year and with Christmas being so close a rose has bloomed in my garden. A strange in between time we are in…

It’s a bit like that with 60@60. Virtually all the calendars are gone but that’s the current main big activity nearly complete. I keep doing more recipes and looking for more bird species. I’ve now bought a bird table but no success yet. I am working away at 60 Random Acts of kindness too.

I am looking ahead to new activities I can do. Quite a few ideas… If you are stuck thinking of Christmas presents I may also put a few things out there where you can make a specific support a persecuted Christian for Christmas.

Looking ahead a 60’s quiz is in there as an option but is Christmas the right time or is the new year better? Any feedback on this or anything else you’d like to see me do?

Have a good few days and enjoy your advent calendar chocolate!

Bits and pieces..

I thought it was high time for an update on what’s been happening over the last few days. I spent much of my time over the weekend posting out calendars and cycling/driving around Southend delivering them. Some posted first class Saturday arrived Monday; others still haven’t reached their destinations! Apologies on behalf of the Post Office. But I am amazed-well over 80 have now been taken (book now if you want one!) and they are going as far as Australia and Ghana. It’s quite something when I look back at your support and God’s faithfulness to see how far this has come in such a short period of time. Thank you!

The calendars have taken up much of my time but I did manage to see a duck I’d not spotted on my travels. On the guitar I’m getting better at playing “brown eyed girl” and finger picking “Michael row the boat ashore”. Also tried three new recipes but I don’t think I will be invited on a cookery programme…

At the weekend I hit 30% of the £6000 target. That is nearly £2000 that wouldn’t have been available to feed hungry families; provide trauma care and help marginalised women and children. All now possible with your help. So thank you! The journey of 60@60 still has a long way to go yet however so please spread the word…

Today as I write is exactly a month to Christmas. It seems unreal! This year will be very different for many of us but for lots of persecuted Christians it brings different challenges. Like for Daniela in Colombia…

Cracked pots…

How do you cope with intense disappointment? When your own failure stares you in the face and emotionally you can’t cope with it? That’s the tension of having a perfectionist tendency but not being great with details.

The calendars arrived today. The quality and the printing are great and there are no typos. They are A4 as stated but I thought the picture would be A4 with a separate A4 calendar sheet. No. The picture is A5 and the calendar sheet A5, all on a side of A4. So disappointed as I really wanted them to look great. How did I misunderstand so badly? Maybe that’s my pride.

In these sort of situations I struggle in my faith and get into verbalising very negative self-talk which I then have to apologise to God about. Not good. But even worse if you don’t don’t get up, dust yourself off and ask God for grace to keep going and try to learn from mistakes. Amazingly though the calendars are selling…thank you.

Sometimes it is possible to put persecuted Christians on a pedestal. And there are many amazing examples. But some do compromise their faith under pressure or false promises only to come back to the Lord, like Iris and Muluken in Ethiopia. We are each jars of clay. Please remember those bowed down in desperate situations and those who feel they have failed. Thanks.

Something’s cooking..

Well, after a full day’s work I seem to have spent most of the evening in the kitchen, not that it was planned that way. As part of the 60 recipes challenge I decided to cook courgette and feta frappes along with a roast pepper and couscous side dish. It was actually very nice! Then I realised the double cream I had bought needed using up so for the first time in my life I have prepared home-made apple ice cream. It tastes nice before freezing so I hope it is after!

The guitar playing continues too-I’m on lesson 7 and trying to master the rhythm to “Brown eyed girl” and finger picking the G scale and “Michael row the boat ashore. Eric Clapton has nowt to worry about though!

None of these are new challenges but like Russian dolls, challenges within a challenge. The same is true for the calendar-just waiting for it’s arrival now-probably be sometime next week. Just under half are now accounted for so if you haven’t signed up for one now is the time to order yours! For those who didn’t see it on Facebook, here are a couple of (better quality) sample pages.

I cleared out the vegetable patch on Sunday-no, not one of my 60@60 but it did make me think in various ways. The purple sprouting broccoli had grown to a height of about 5 feet then blew over in the gales about 6 weeks ago. It kept growing lots of leaves but no broccoli. It may me think-I am actually fruitful in how I live or do I just bear lots of leaves? Am I actually fulfilling the purpose I am planted here for? Jesus told a story about a vineyard owner who gave the non-producing vines one last year to produce grapes before he ripped the vines out. A sobering thought. Many persecuted Christians are living in very hard contexts (soil) but so many impress me about how they live their lives to make a difference.

A bird in the book…

The end of another weekend. Yesterday we went again to Rainham Marshes and I was able to add lapwing, shoveler and widgeon (the latter two are pretty ducks-widgeon in the photo) to my list. Over 40 bird species now spotted. The reeds really swayed in the wind and rain!

About 30 calendars sold so far so still plenty of time to get one. An ideal Christmas present or something attractive for your own house. I hope to receive them from the printers in about 10 days..

Well, before I go and eat my avocado and tomato pappadele (another one of the 60 recipes) a quick reminder that today, 15th, is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. This is what 60@60 is about-standing alongside those who need it most. Thanks again for all your support-it means so much to me but more importantly, to them.

2021 Calendar..

Yes, I am pleased to announce the 2021 “Sunrises and Sunsets” calendar is now at the printer’s and should be with me in 10 days or so. It will be professional quality printing with card cover and heavy paper. Each page is A4 size with a picture and calendar for the month. I have ordered a 100 so having takers for them all is a bit of a faith exercise. Having said that I really hope that people will buy them. They really will look good on any wall. Countryfile calendar type of quality; the photos are quite nice too! Here’s a sneak preview-very poor phone pictures which look much darker than the real thing. Technical glitch-I can’t work out how to download the .pdf into wordpress. Ah well!

If you would like one or more please contact me. Minimum price would be £5 as they are not cheap to produce but if you can afford more that would be fantastic. I will pay the price of printing and postage so you can be generous to those who need it. It would be great if we could raise hundreds of pounds. Just let me know how many you want; your name and address and make a donation through my just giving page (if you can’t do that, it’s fine, cheques or similar are fine).

Finally, your giving does make a real difference to those for whom following Jesus is a daily challenge. Here’s one example (pre-covid)

Birds and recipes

Just a few outings after a lovely warm weekend. Got a few more photos yesterday and with advice have selected the ones that are going in the calendar.

Went across to Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve and got five more bird species. There were more but I just wasn’t quick enough to see them properly. So up in the mid 30’s now. The Brent Geese were very loud yesterday on East Beach.

Also pleased to say that I’m up to double figures on new recipes.

All these seem small things but as they say a long journey starts with a single step. So it’s a case of keeping at it, just like our persecuted family need to do. Thanks for your ongoing support.

Plan, Monitor, Manage

At University studying town planning one of the key mantras we were taught was the title of this blog. Basically, you can produce a Plan but unless you regularly monitor how it performs against key criteria you will never know if it’s met its objectives. The results of monitoring should show you where changes need making to keep you on track. Not that changing course is easy or even welcome, either in technical circles or with many things in our lifes..

5th November is bonfire night and also three months on from my birthday! So I am a quarter way through 60@60! Firstly I wanted to say thank you to all who have given, especially those who have done so anonymously and I can’t thank individually. THANKS! 😁😁 To date the amount raised stands at £1 220 which is fantastic. That is 20% of my £6 000 target. At this stage strict monitoring says I should be at £1 500 or 25%. So to use the Manage principle I have to take action to encourage more giving or reduce the target. As the needs are great I don’t want to do the latter so I need to think creatively, keep encouraging my faithful supporters to spread the word..and pray. It has to be His work; His way.

So, what about the activities? How are they going? Well, I am ahead of the curve on that one with 18 done so at 30% of target. Phew! So many good; challenging and rewarding things to look back on. And some pretty tough times too. Four activities ongoing-saw another bird species today. Sanderling on the shoreline…

I have added a couple of activities to the list like white water rafting which sounds a bit scary! Also I am going to get a 2021 calendar professionally produced. A straw poll on Facebook suggests Sunsets and sunrises but I could also do one of scenic views. Let me know what you think. There would be at least a fiver donation and of course I will be doing a minimum print run of 60! God the sky painter was really at work today so here are two views that could feature.

There are times when this 60@60 venture is exciting and so rewarding; others where it is draining and overwhelming. How do I keep it interesting; focused, not about me but my persecuted family. What to do next? How do I fit everything in? It is definitely a marathon not a sprint! Once again, though, thanks for your support-I need you; they need you. A Plan is never implemented by one individual but by a whole range of parties. And finally, a youtube reminder of why I’m doing this again and how blessed I am to be able to. I will go off now and enjoy the rest of my 60 and one quarter celebration…!

Training…

Well, this last week has been about all sorts of training and trying new things.

On the running I got over 60 miles for the month and over 660 for the year. So that’s another activity ticked off the list.

Today I went on the train down a branchline to Southminster and Burnham on Crouch. Just under 60 minutes from Southend Victoria. It was wild on the river but glad I was there just before the rain…And pleased to do it before lockdown. Even had a ladybird crawl up my arm-sadly doesn’t count in my ornithology figures.

I keep working on the various other activities. On the birds it’s amazing how many types of seagull look very similar! I’ve also bought a bird feeder but no success so far. The cooking is going well; three new recipes this week…

The latest lockdown is a challenge for us all. But for persecuted Christians it’s literally life or death when you can’t work. It’s great we can make a difference….