Happy Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day to all you Mums out there. You do a great job, often in difficult circumstances. Thank you. I still find it strange over 5 years after my own Mother’s death not to be buying a card and some chocolates/flowers.

The horrendous killing of Sarah Everard has emphasised again the vulnerability of women here in the UK. In world cultures where women are commonly regarded as having less value than men the situation is even harder for Christian women, whether Mothers or not. They suffer both for their faith and their gender. The Open Doors See.change campaign seeks to make a real difference, drawing attention to the often hidden, frequently complex and deliberately violent nature of women’s suffering. The attached video is Amina’s story from Nigeria.

My “Live like a North Korean” food experiment is now in its second day and I’m already feeling tired and hungry on one meal of soup and bread daily. It’s funny how much of life fits into a rhythm based on mealtimes too! But my desire for a piece of cake or chocolate is nothing compared to what so many around the world are going through.

The slight upsides are more time and the opportunity to try new recipes-today was a new variation of broccoli πŸ₯¦ soup. For you cooks out there, you are not supposed to puree the florets hence the lumpiness. Have a good week!

Could you work on one meal a day…?

We take for granted here in the UK πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ that we will be able to eat 3 square meals a day, though I realise that for many turning to food banks has become the only way forward.

As you know I have been doing lots of foody type stuff for 60@60 and have now cooked my 40th recipe; Moroccan Squash and aubergine tagine. (see below)

For Lent I am doing some food related things related to the persecuted church. Part of this is to go back to basics. North Korea πŸ‡°πŸ‡΅ is the worst country in the world for persecution and is also desperately poor, especially outside the towns. The state of the economy and the need to support the military means that there frequently is insufficient food for all. Many live on one meal a day and are required to work extremely hard on top of this. For those in labour camps they are lucky to get some rice and thin soup each day and often have to catch snakes and rats to survive.

I plan from Saturday to eat like a North Korean for a week. So for me it will be a can of soup and some bread once a day. Nothing like what they go through but a big challenge for me as I like my food!

It will be good to symbolically stand with them. Open Doors helps to get food and medicine into North Korea to support those most in need. And when North Korean Christians get food they share it with others in need-the concept of “Holy rice”. It’s challenging for us to give from our wealth but they share gladly out of their poverty.

For Christians the Bible is like spiritual food. That is something North Koreans cry out for but to be caught having one lands you in jail or worse. Physical food and spiritual food-both hard to come by. This little video speaks of the many hidden bibles…

Who am I?

Over the last week I have gone from having a multicoloured beard; two variations of upper lip hair (the 60 hour moustache) and today I have for the first time in my life entirely shaved my head. It feels quite cold and exposed!

So, who am I? Which photo is really me? We can alter the externals but who are we really, underneath it all? As Neil Sedaka wrote in a song decades ago “Why can’t you see whats on the other side of me”? We each long to be really found, to be fully known but it’s a vulnerable place. I want to be like a stick of rock, with identity and integrity stamped through me so that what people see at work, at home, at church, wherever is the same wherever I am. That can be challenging! How about you?

I have always loved a quote which paraphrased says “I am afraid to show you who I am because you may not like who I am and that’s all I’ve got”. That’s powerful psychologically but for persecuted Christians who you are can be a matter of life of death. In countries like Afghanistan; Somalia and Libya πŸ‡±πŸ‡Ύ to say that being a Christian is integral to who I am is effectively a death sentence. For 22 year old Sozan in Syria πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡Ύ becoming a Christian meant men from her community coming to see her Father demanding her death for bringing shame to the area.

Monday is International Women’s Day and countless women in the world suffer both for their identity as female and again for identifying as Christian. Open Doors is seeking to stand with them. Will you? Please go to the See.change section of the Open Doors UK website for more details. And of course any donations to 60@60 go to this and other key work with vulnerable people.

The 60 hour moustache..

The coloured beard certainly got some attention and over 70 hits but sadly only two donations. Nevertheless what I did receive took me to the 60% mark of my target which is another 60 figure reached. Thank-you!

The 60 hour coloured beard that followed the 60 days of growing a beard is now followed by the 60 hour moustache. At the moment I feel like a refugee mexican baddie or an extra in a Jesse James movie. Or even like my Uncle in the 70’s! It will metamorphose into another style for Sundays blog though.

Other news on the activities front is that I have started booking accommodation for the final stage of the Pilgrims Way walk in mid May. Getting some of the places is a bit challenging but I’m making progress.

This week is International Women’s Week. Open Doors has been running a campaign called See.Change since last year. In countries where Christians suffer persecution, women suffer twice; first because of their gender and secondly because of their faith. They are often denied education, life chances and much more because they are women. As Christians they can be kidnapped, raped and rejected. If their husband leaves or is killed they often have no means to support their family. Please go to the Open Doors website or watch the OD Facebook Live interviews with a different MP every lunchtime this week to find out more. Definitely worth writing to your MP about-go to http://www.opendoorsuk.org for a template letter. Underneath is Peninah’s story from Kenya, a country where I once lived πŸ‡°πŸ‡ͺ

The 60 day beard..

It’s hard to believe that the 60 day beard has reached its target but it has. Uncut, untrimmed, just a little shaving around the bottom. It’s certainly been a bit quicker in the morning! Some folk even like it and it shows I can grow hair somewhere on my head!

The next escapade can be blamed solely on the Rev Duncan Keys who said he would sponsor me if I dyed it like a rainbow 🌈 So I spent quite a bit on hair dye and here is the result. Sadly the blue, indigo and violet all seemed to turn into a dark mass and the red, orange 🍊 and yellow decided to be pretty similar too. I’m sure you ladies would have made a much better job but I tried. Any sponsorship appreciated!

This will last a couple of days (it will be interesting to explain it to colleagues from 6 other authorities at a meeting tomorrow) then it will be the 60 hour moustache.

All this is for the 340 million who don’t have the same freedoms we do. Who might be imprisoned in their own homes. A multicoloured beard will make me stand out; their faith makes them stand out out for all the wrong reasons. I can wash this out (eventually); for them being a Christian is a dangerous and permanent label. Being different for them isn’t good. But our standing alongside them makes a difference. Thanks for supporting them and me πŸ™‚ πŸ˜ƒ There is a justgiving link on my webpage or type https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060 in Google.

The in-betweenies…

Some of you of a certain age may remember the comedy trio, The Goodies, singing a song with the above title. Or the phrase coined by Magnus Magnusson on “Mastermind”, “I’ve started so I’ll finish”. That’s where I am at currently with my 60@60 challenges-doing bits and pieces on a number of things but no concrete things to finally tick off. Do you ever feel in that “in-between” place? It would be great to tell you something exciting I’ve completed but I can’t. Not exciting for either blog writers or readers! But sometimes preparation is as important as completion (and essential to it).

A couple of random kindness acts and another recipe done. That’s all I can report. So, please stick with me! By Sunday evening I should be able to show you the rainbow 🌈 beard. And with some clarity on lockdown relaxation I can start booking for the final leg of Pilgrims Way, hopefully in May.

I loved the above bench near Dorking. Pilgrimage, or anything worthwhile, is about keeping going even when it’s not easy. And that resonates so much for persecuted Christians. For many, their decision to follow Christ has major ramifications. A civil servant in the Iranian Parliament was a house church leader but was recently betrayed by an informer. He was quickly sacked. Out of work it is now very hard for “R” to find a good job but He is trusting God in his “in-between” place. His faith comes at a cost as it does for many around the world. This video is a good overview of the price paid..

Baklava

Amazing how different the weather is this weekend. Been out in the garden both pruning and digging out roots of a big dog rose. Tough work-bent back the prongs of my large fork! It made think how deep rooted issues in our lives can be hard to shift…

Lovely to see my first ladybird of the summer and the daisies coming out…

It’s been challenging to move forward much with the 60@60 activities this week. I have been really tired. But I keep adding new recipes and done a couple of random kindness acts. Today I have baked my first Lent recipe-Baklava, based on a recipe from Aleppo in Syria πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡Ύ. Baklava is peanut based dough in pastry but very sweet. But even mine tastes quite nice so the real thing must be amazing!

Syria is Number 12 on the Open Doors World Watch list. The civil war still continues in some areas while around the country converts face great risks and Pastors are targets for abduction. Covid-19 has made people yet poorer with lots losing their source of incomes. Many Syrians still live in awful conditions within camps in neighbouring countries such as Jordan πŸ‡―πŸ‡΄ and Lebanon πŸ‡±πŸ‡§ which themselves are suffering. Your donations can help the churches who are reaching out to the poorest in their communities.

Lent

Stop! Yes, STOP!

Rest, reflect and repent. Be still, contemplate and turn around.

Shrove Tuesday has gone. Today is Ash Wednesday. Lent is here. A season of preparation for Easter. In a sense Lent is a bit like covid lockdown but in a voluntary sense. We can either resent the restriction it brings or within the challenge see the opportunities it brings.

Why do we-I-find Lent hard? Is it because we associate it with seemingly negative things, like giving up chocolate? There is no doubt that when Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness (at the start, not the end of his ministry) it was really tough. But it was the launchpad for all He was to achieve going forward. Interestingly, repent in Hebrew means to turn round but towards something that is good. Lent can be many things but above all it’s about getting our focus right first so that we can do right as a fruit of that.

I have been promising to tell you what I planned to do for 60@60 in Lent. So here are the ideas:

*Cook meals from different persecuted countries

*Live like a North Korean for a week on a basic diet

*Delete my BBC sport app

*Memorise Isaiah 60

Each of these will be quite a challenge (the app is already deleted). But it will be good to stand alongside my persecuted family food wise. The memorisation reminds me that many around the world are still not allowed bibles (it is forbidden to buy a Bible on the Internet in China, for example and owning one can get you executed in North Korea πŸ‡°πŸ‡΅)

I shall also be looking out for opportunities to bless others-it’s great to be positive during Lent too!

Rest, reflect and repent. I hope you get the chance to do that too.

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day. I hope that it has been a good one for you whatever your circumstances; it can be a hard day for many. But what is love? For Valentine it meant giving his life in 269 for daring to marry Christian couples and tell the Emperor about Jesus. Legend has it that he healed his jailers daughter of blindness and before going to his execution left her a note signed “Your Valentine”.

Love is more than gushing emotions, supercharged with pheromones. While romantic love πŸ’˜ is important, the Greek word most used in the New Testament for love is agape, from which comes our word “agony”. True love has a cost.

340 million Christians around the world face rejection, imprisonment or death for their faith. Loving service to those in need or bringing healing can be a reason for suspicion or beatings, in countries such as India. It takes a lot to love when it is rejected and spurned. But as St Paul said, love always hopes always perseveres. Let’s remember all those who have difficult choices of love to make.

It was a great thrill today to see not one but two goldfinches. Along with a flock of Fieldfare and a Sparrowhawk chasing another bird it meant I reached 60 bird species. It’s taken about 4 months but I’ve quite enjoyed it and will see if I can get a few more. But another tick on the 60@60 list πŸ™‚ πŸ˜ƒ I also discovered I have written nearly 70 blogs now…

I said in my last post I would tell you about my Lent plans for the 40 days up to Easter. That will have to wait until Wednesday…I will keep you in suspense until then….! In the meantime enjoy your pancakes on Tuesday whatever you put on them!

Snow business…!

This week has been cold! I haven’t risked running but decided in addition to the snow angel I would do something I hadn’t done in years-make a snowman! Trying to make a snowball bigger by rolling it around the garden proved pretty ineffective so I resorted to piling it up. Then the eyes wouldn’t stay in! Hardly a work of art but a 60@60 creation. I’ve seen some amazing snow sculptures (love to see your pictures) but this isn’t one of them! Nevertheless, it’s good to know that with all our imperfections and idiosyncrasies our creator stands back, looks at us and loves what He has made.

I’ve also been busy preparing for the latest round of greetings cards deliveries-the new stock should arrive tomorrow. I shall announce a bit more about Lent at the weekend-nothing dramatic but ideas welcome. The sixty day beard period will come to completion in early March and I’m already planning the culmination with the rainbow 🌈 beard. The first dyes arrived today..any suggestions on how best to do it are welcomed.

I am thinking today about a Pastor called Raymond Koh who was abducted in broad daylight four years ago in Malaysia πŸ‡²πŸ‡Ύ His grieving family are still looking for answers. I remember sharing a meal with the man who Pastor Koh was travelling to meet up with when he was abducted; who told me the feelings of guilt that he experienced. If they hadn’t scheduled the meeting would Raymond have been safe? Pastor Koh is one of thousands of Christians abducted whose family and friends wonder where they are; who are hit with ransom demands or who are threatened if they pursue the case. Do remember the individuals today and Open Doors partners as they seek to support the families. Your contributions help make this possible.