Reach for the stars ๐ŸŒŸ

No, I’m not going to burst into a rendition of the old S Club 7 song that my girls loved so much when they were in Primary School. Karaoke is not on the 60@60 list!

Yesterday I went up the Shard in London, Britain’s highest building. I don’t like heights as you know but after praying about it (Proverbs 18:10 God’s name is a strong tower) I felt real peace. In the end I really enjoyed it. It felt safe and it was great to see London in many moods and share the experience too.

It was interesting to read that they originally wanted to build it 75 metres higher but weren’t allowed to for air traffic reasons. The jagged bit on the top is intended to symbolise something unfinished; of striving for something higher. Reaching for the stars…

Often I find my feet struggling to make their way through the unset concrete of everyday life. It can feel tough at times. Thanks for standing with me over the last year, helping me as an individual to reach for the stars. Very nearly there; this was activity 59. Can you help me go above and beyond the ยฃ6k; to make yet more difference?

There are still many in the world who don’t even have the privilege of seeing the stars because they are held in horrible jail cells, like Evin Prison in Iran. Or those who are forced to sleep under the stars because they and their family have seen their house destroyed and have been forced into the Forest, in places like Laos. But the God who made the stars, working through our generosity, can make a real difference to the lifes of people we will never meet. Looking down from the Shard people were as Lowryesque pinpricks yet each is unique and important. So it is with persecuted Christians around the world, who seem like distant stars within a huge galaxy of need. But for people like Preetha, who though far away, are special individuals who your donations make a real difference to.

Thanks again for your support and interest. Only 4 days to go until 5th August and 61!

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Core strength…

One thing they advise you to do if you want to run better (and improve your balance) is to do exercises that strengthen your core. So I have incorporated “planks” (press ups without the up and down) into 60@60. 60 x 60 seconds but over a number of days. I’m not sure if it got any easier by the end though! But I have finished it so that’s 58 activities done.

Talking of running ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ I thought I would check if I had done 600 miles in the year but counting up it looks like I will be around 50 miles short. Injuries!

Core strength. What is your core strength like, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically? I never cease to be amazed by the ability of many persecuted Christians to stand strong when they are being battered by the storm of opposition and the race seems so hard. A strength from deep within. A resilience that enables men like Madan to keep leading a church in an area where he receives opposition, threats and beatings. “There are always more miracles and healings where there is more persecution” he says. Core strength making a real difference.

Madan, who spent time in jail for gang violence before he became a Christian, is running a strong race. My 5th August finishing line is now getting very near and, pacing myself, I hope to complete my final 2 activities this weekend. Will you help me support more men and women like Madan? It would be so appreciated. Thanks as ever for your support and interest. And to finish, another 5 activities that have been done as I work through the list:

*Run 7.5 miles in under 60 minutes

*Eat 60 pieces of chocolate in less than 60 minutes

*Run 60 miles in a month

*Take a train to Southminster

*Produce and distribute a calendar of my own photos

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Highs and lows.

I was looking back through some of my journal entries for the 60@60 year this morning (sadly not as comprehensive as they could be). It was a reminder of the hilltops and the valleys; the moments of achievement, the amazing gifts coming in but also periods of nothing happening, of tiredness and despair. In my morning reading today there was a quote by Marcel Proust which said that the times he suffered were those where he learnt most. What some call “good suffering”.

There are times I have wanted to reach the destination without the journey in between. The trudge of life can be wearisome. But without the lows you don’t mature. I wouldn’t have learned so much in 60@60 about myself, the generosity of people and the faithfulness of God otherwise. Psalm 42:8 talks about God always being with us; the God of all our days. And He is.

For many persecuted Christians their story is one of highs and protracted lows but still they persevere. Sanna and her family in India came to faith after her mother received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, was prayed for and recovered. Sanna was then banned from visiting any other villagers for 2 years on pain of a heavy fine. Attitudes have started to soften a bit and Open Doors partners have helped but there is still opposition. Highs and lows. Like in Psalm 42, Sanna feels the persecution but knows the God who is with her each and every day.

Finally, a few more of the activities undertaken:

*60 minute cycle ride

*Tour of Bamburgh Castle

*See all main castles on Northumberland coast

*3 day retreat on Holy Island

*Run 7.5 miles in 60 minutes

Thanks for all your support; let’s keep making a difference around the world giving encouragement to people like Sanna at their lowest point.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Leek and Squash Crumble..

Last night I thought I had better use up the leeks so turned to Google and made a Leek and Butternut Squash Crumble. It was a trifle dry and tasted much better with gravy tonight. But it is my 60th different recipe so that was quite a mini-achievement and was activity 57 ticked off. What’s your latest culinary adventure?

Last time I wrote I promised you that I would keep listing the different items that have happened over the year so here are a few more:

*Visit Frinton on Sea

*Visit Manningtree

*Trip on Mid Hants Railway

*Part 1 of Pilgrims Way-120 miles walk from Winchester to near Sevenoaks in 8 days

*Virtual Great North Run Half-marathon

It’s been pretty hot these last few days. I hope that you have been able to either enjoy it or find somewhere cool. There are sadly many people around the world who live with no real shelter. I remember meeting Syrian refugees in Lebanon living in makeshift tents and half-built shelters. Boiling in summer; frozen in winter. In countries like Ethiopia; Nigeria and India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ people’s houses are sometimes destroyed simply because of their faith. I can’t imagine having my roof ripped off or the house set on fire with me and the girls in it just because of my faith but sadly it does happen. Open Doors partners help to rebuild houses in countries like Iraq ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ถ to give those who have suffered so much a fresh start.

Thanks as ever for your support. Though I have reached my target, every additional ยฃ raised goes to help those who are through terrible circumstances unable to help themselves. Let’s stand alongside them and make a difference.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Summer is here..

Well, here comes the sun ๐ŸŒž I hope that you are enjoying the very warm temperatures that have arrived along with the start of the school holidays.

Yesterday evening I went to East Beach about a mile from home to do my 60 strokes in the sea. I had been a little apprehensive because the shoreline has lots of stones and bigger objects. With my very flat feet these can be quite painful. But as is often the case the anticipation was far worse than the reality. The sea was actually very nice and I did quite a few more strokes than intended.

Given I am now less than 3 weeks from the end of 60@60 I thought I would start going through the list of things undertaken chronologically. Some are challenges, others places I hadn’t been:

*Visit a castle with water in the moat (Bodiam)

*Trip on Kent and East Sussex Railway

*Learn how to blog (well over 100 so far) and set up a website

*Visit Beachy Head and see spitfires (they kept appearing over the year)

*Visit Eastbourne

As we enjoy the higher temperatures I am reminded that this is not about me, though it has been a privilege to do so many interesting things. The heat continues to be turned up on persecuted Christians with stories even over the last week of abduction s in Nigeria, imprisonment in Iran, beatings in India and continued struggles in Syria. For them, the reality is as bad as the anticipation. 60@60 is fundamentally about standing alongside vulnerable but courageous men, women and children.

Thanks as ever for all your support and interest. Your prayers and donations bring the sunshine of hope to those who need it most.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

The extra 1%

I was reading a blog last night by one of my daughters former teachers. He was explaining how in the 2012 Olympics six of GB’s medals were won by an inch or less. He also explained how coaches such a Dave Brailsford in cycling emphasise the 1% improvement to performance. It’s often at the margins that the difference makes a difference. Likewise in life it’s often the cumulative small choices that add up, especially when the going is hard. Every journey starts with a single step.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Last August I started 60@60 wondering how I would ever get through the activities and ยฃ6000 seemed virtually impossible. But step by step ๐Ÿšถโ€โ™‚๏ธprogress has happened and on Sunday a very generous gift took me over the ยฃ6000 target. Amazing! Thanks so much to the 100+ people who have supported me. The Bible verse for that day on Bibleapp was Mark 9:23: “with God nothing is impossible”. So true and I’m so grateful to the God of all my days.

The finish line is in sight with the activities (2 more nearly complete and three to do after that) but I’m very much a tortoise rather than a (multicoloured) hare. But they will all be done before August 5th!

I realise it’s a cheeky ask but if you haven’t given so far it would be great if you could over the coming weeks. It’s not because I want to look good but because I want to raise as much as I can while I have this wonderful opportunity to support persecuted Christians who really need our help. It’s about making a difference to as many lifes as I can. To make a difference for precious individuals like Kirti.

Thanks as ever for your amazing support.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Keep on running…

Southend has the accolade of having the longest leisure pier in the world at over one and a third miles. It was built so long in order to reach the deep water Channel for the steamers from London. So to run down it and back again seemed like a good thing to do for 60@60! I also added in running to the station at each end to bulk it up to 6 miles.

Those on Facebook will also know that early yesterday morning I went to see a steam engine that was based in Hull in the 60’s. I may well have seen it growing up but never as an adult. Interestingly it’s number starts with 61 which I will be in a few weeks and if you read the last two numbers in reverse it’s 60!

As I do these things I am reminded of those who don’t have the freedom I have. 61306 was delayed in its journey yesterday because the water tanker didn’t arrive on schedule. Many Christians around the world have to walk much further than the length of Southend Pier to gain access to water because they are refused access to the village well. In India; in Pakistan; in Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ they are told their presence pollutes the water. Denied food in covid distribution, they are ostracised by their communities; called names; beaten. How must that feel? Please pray for them.

Thanks as ever for your support and giving, which makes a huge difference to people who will never be able to thank you personally but give thanks for your generosity.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Goal!

Well I think everyone knows what a goal is after last night’s rather tense game. Even if it was a soft penalty and a follow-up tap in it still counts!

I didn’t post last night as I thought you would all be fully occupied! But what is a goal, other than something we want England ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ to score more of than Italy ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น on Sunday? It’s something that we aim for; work towards; seek to reach. Achieving a goal requires focus, effort and quite often learning and mistakes.

This is my latest recipe, a sort of broccoli ๐Ÿฅฆ meringue. 2 more recipes to go then the goal of 60 culinary adventures is reached. The other remaining activities planned to reach 60@60 are:

  • 60 strokes swimming ๐ŸŠโ€โ™‚๏ธin the sea on my nearest beach
  • Running ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธfrom Southend Central Station down the World’s longest leisure pier and back
  • Completing 60×60 second “planks” (20 done)
  • Complete memorisation of Isaiah 60 (onto final verses)
  • Going up the Shard in London

And of course to raise a minimum of ยฃ235 to reach the ยฃ6000 target!

What are your goals, both short and long term? Are they realistic but challenging with a path towards achieving them and the motivation to do so? And the help you need to get there? May God help you with them.

For many persecuted Christians survival is for many a challenging goal. But many chose more: with God’s help to reach out to help others; to spread the good news; to be hope bringers. Taking risks they do not let their circumstances control their situation. They have a higher goal.

Thanks for your support and help.

Adrenaline

Adrenaline. It’s a hormone that enables us to respond to potentially threatening situations, that puts us in a heightened state of readiness.

Adrenaline sports are essentially those with a level of perceived risk (though it’s football and running that have given me injuries!) This weekend has been 60@60 adrenaline weekend where I first of all did White Water rafting then England’s longest zipwire. As I said in my last blog, out of my comfort zone!

Above the first rapids
At the back of the boat…

The White Water rafting was on the course used in the 2012 Olympics though there were no cheering crowds or gold medal for me! But I’m happy to say that I never fell out of the boat though two of the crew did. Going down the actual full course was a bit scary (especially first time), bumpy but really exhilarating. Less good were the sessions where we had to spend time going round and round within individual rapids being battered by the water to the point the raft nearly sinks. I was getting travel sick by the end and had consumed a lot of chlorinated water! You have to learn when to paddle, lean left, right, forward or duck down or you get thrown in and under! Following instructions is key.

The flight-I’m the one on the left, closest to the cliff wall

The Zipwire at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent has only been open a fortnight and is England’s longest at over 700 metres. I must admit that I had been a bit queasy about the thought of doing this as I don’t like heights (driving over Dartford bridge gives me mild palpitations though I’m OK as a passenger). Watching people being trussed up at the top of the tower while waiting, with one lady obviously terrified, was the worst bit. But when it came to my turn to be hooked onto the wire I really sensed a peace that was not my own, despite being suspended looking over the edge. The actual ride though was amazing and so so good, despite only lasting a minute.

Adrenaline. It’s what produces the “fight or flight” response within us. Will we face the consequences of what we fear or will we run from them? For me, it was stepping off dry ground to enjoy myself. For many Christians around the world, adrenaline is what comes when extremists or even your own family, threaten you, beat you, dispossess you. The adrenaline comes because there is a very real, existential threat to your life. Extreme Hindus in India are seeking to prevent all minority groups, including Christians and Muslims, from practicing their faith. Some high ranking members of groups aligned to the ruling party seek to “cleanse” the country of Christians by the end of this year. I was shocked this week to hear that it is common for attacks on Christians to be posted on social media by these vigilantes, who often have links to to senior politicians, to show how committed they are. You can find out more about it below in this Report from the London School of Economics commissioned by Open Doors and presented to MP’s this week. Many believers attest to God’s peace at these terrifying times and show great bravery in staying in their villages but for others the only option is to flee.

https://media.opendoorsuk.org/document/pdf/Destructive%20Lies-Executive-Summary.pdf?_ga=2.132510990.1670002542.1625408661-1881754475.1625408661

How do you respond when faced with danger, real or perceived? What can you do to help those who face it every day? ยฃ60 will pay the medical costs of an Indian who has been beaten for their faith and help with Covid relief.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/adriansmith6060

Thanks for your continuing interest and support.

Double challenge weekend

It’s Wednesday already! This weekend coming up is perhaps the most challenging and/or most exciting of the whole 60@60 year. Friday afternoon is white water rafting at the Olympic Centre in East London followed the next afternoon by speeding at 60mph down England’s longest zipwire at the Bluewater Centre in Kent. What have I let myself in for?! I don’t know whether to feel sick or excited-probably both. I’m no adrenaline junkie so out of my comfort zone but in a good way. But an arrow prayer would be appreciated! I’ll let you know how I get on in my next blog.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com
Hangloose/Bing.com

So, what about you? What is “out of your comfort zone”? What would you really like to give a go but it seems too scary? And why? I’d be interested to know.

I’m now only 4 recipes away from completing sixty cooking experiences which is good and have started on 60 “planks” of 60 seconds duration (for the uninitiated that’s like holding a “press up” position for a minute). I hasten to add these will not all be done in one go! Apparently the world record for holding a plank is about 8 and a half hours…

Persecuted Christians around the world are thrown completely out of their comfort zones but not in a good way. It is an unwanted consequence of choosing to follow Jesus; part of the cost they must pay to live out their faith. It can be experienced as discrimination; in being rejected by family or community or as beatings, prison and even martyrdom. In the UK we go out of our comfort zones because we think that somehow it is worth it for the thrill, experience or because it raises money. Persecuted Christians accept the need to go out of their comfort zone, to experience persecution, because they think that following Jesus is worth it. Anything I do is fundamentally to help them in what they go through. India is currently an area of particular concern….this video is disturbing but it is a daily reality of what far too many people experience.

Thanks for your support and interest, as ever.