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….

Reflections…

Autumn is well and truly here with the clocks going back and dark evenings. A walk in the woods yesterday made me think not only of the beauty of creation but also of the burning bush. You’re going about your normal daily business then bang, the totally unexpected happens and you are at key turning point in your life. God spoke to Moses but he wasn’t initially too thrilled by the assignment; he didn’t feel up to it. Often that’s how we feel at key decision points. With every opportunity comes a challenge.

For many in the middle east and other countries, God breaks into their lifes in unexpected ways, such as Dreams and Visions. Following Jesus offers transforming hope but also real costs, such as rejection by family and community; beatings or loss of employment. What a choice! Our gifts and prayers can really help those making this choice to stand strong, like the young North African in the clip below.

With respect to 60@60 I continue to work on ongoing challenges. I’m now past halfway on spotting 60 birds-Brent Geese and a White Egret on East Beach today. I’m learning lots. Into the recipes and guitar practice too. Working towards running 60 miles this month I realised looking at strava (a running app) that I had already run 615 miles this calendar year. That’s only 80 miles short of from here to John O Groats or Newcastle and return! But most running days it’s 3 miles with 7 at weekends. But it made me think that it’s the little things done regularly that have a big cumulative impact. That’s true in so many things. Any money you donate to 60@60 may not feel large but joined together with others can make a big difference in helping those who need our support.

Unlearning..

One of the challenges of attending the guitar class has been unlearning habits I have picked up over decades. My left hand has been in the wrong position for properly placing my fingers. My right arm in the wrong position for picking. My strumming rhythm hasn’t correctly followed the cadence of the music. It’s hard and I still do it wrong at times! But I have a teacher who is teaching me to unlearn bad habits, go back to basics and move ahead. There is still good stuff from the past but a lot of discipline is needed to not do what I have always done but start afresh.

I was reminded of watching a video on China recently. Facial recognition technology is being used by the authorities to monitor and control everything in society, including in church. To check if under 18’s attend (not allowed); to see what is said meets what the party approves. The church is having in some ways to “unlearn” how things have been done and think how best to move forward, adapting an unchanging gospel to a changing context. It is very challenging and sometimes dangerous too.

Finally, a song from 1990’s called “Growing Young” by Rich Mullins. How do we grow young-surely we grow older? To grow young we have to unlearn some of the things that have shaped our lives. To be humble enough to recognise we need to change in some areas. Maybe we need to accept in some ways we are all prodigals…

LBJ’s, Green and Black and going step by step..

Persistence and perseverance. Hard! Some things come easy and others have to be worked at. In fact, most worthwhile things require effort. And I have to push myself quite a bit this week.

I have been trying to extend the distance I can run in 60 minutes. Yesterday I got it back up to 7.5 miles. This is just about the best I’ve done in the last year…will struggle to get much faster..

I undid all the good work of calories lost on the run by eating 60 pieces of Green and Blacks chocolate (in 30 minutes) this afternoon. Over 1000 calories! It proved you can have too much of a good thing….I really didn’t feel good afterwards 🙁 It showed me that an excess of anything isn’t good. Most temptation looks good at the start until you actually get into it…

On the longer term projects I have now identified 19 species of birds. There are still another 41 to go! But it’s amazing how many birds there are that are quite hard to tell apart-especially little brow jobs (lbj’s) like a sparrow and a dunnock. I think I need to buy some binoculars and get expert advice..

Guitar training continues-working away on scales and changing chords.

I tried cooking zingy avocado pasta tonight. Quite nice. Will keep trying new recipes. 59 to go…

Thanks for your continued support and interest. It makes a huge difference. There are times when keeping focus is a challenge and hard work. But so many Christians around the world face a much worse situation-how to keep going against seemingly impossible odds, where hope doesn’t seem to exist. Hearing the heart breaking stories of those caught up in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict brought this home to me this weekend…let’s remember those in similar situations around the world.

New challenges..

Well, there has not been a lot dramatic to report (though 14 items done and 5 ongoing) but thought I would give you an update on the latest thoughts and progress.

I met a colleague from work last week and she gave me a few more ideas. Thanks Amanda! I had actually bought a book on birds while on Lindisfarne so now to identify 60 species! It will be a challenge-I get my crows, ravens and rooks mixed up as it is!

Today I finally got round to using the crockpot that has sat unused for many months. It tasted much better than the picture may suggest though I suspect an invite to Masterchef is a way off! The challenge is wider though-60 recipes in the year. Any suggestions for easy cooking accepted!

The total is now up to £940 so another 60-£60-needed to get up to the first £1000. That would be a milestone. Thanks again to all who have donated so far.

Nigeria has many lockdown restrictions and like many places in the world this has created opportunities for increased persecution. But Open Doors partners make a real difference in helping those who suffer. Your support helps this life-changing work happen…

Beaches…

I was out doing one of my normal runs this morning (yes, there will be at least 60 runs over the year). It was a lovely sunrise at East Beach and across the Thames Estuary and a chance to take a photo. Jo has suggested to me that I collect 60 of my best photos at the end of the year. So, if there are any you particularly like, let me know.

East Beach can look lovely at sunrise. But there are even more beautiful beaches in countries like the Maldives. Yet the Maldives are number 14 on the World Watch list for the countries with the worst persecution. Sandwiched between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Any Maldivean who converts loses their citizenship. Sometimes a beautiful beach can hide something more sinister…