On Saturday the 40acts task was to go screen free. As a massive football fan, and an obsessive checker of BBC news, emails and twitter, this was never going to be an easy task. First of all, Saturday is football day. I cannot remember the last Saturday I have had were I haven’t watched any football. Whether it is a 3pm trip to the Pub, enjoying the antics of fellow Sorted Magazine contributor Dan Walker on FootballFocus,  or watching Match-of-the-day’s three musketeers (Lineker, Shearer and Hansen), football is a central part of my weekend. Even when I was visiting my girlfriend in Durham last weekend I still managed to squeeze in a trip to see Newcastle at St.James’ Park and the Carling Cup Final on BBC (extra time and all!). So the thought of a football free Saturday was a bout as enticing as a stroll in the park with Atilla the Hun.

The task was made slightly easier as I was working a wedding from 12 til 8 so any mid-day pub trips were off the cards already. I quickly realised that my time keeping skills on a Saturday are primarily dependant on Premier-league kick-off times, so, an hour into the shift I was aware that Arsenal and Liverpool had already played 15 minutes at Anfield. My palms began to sweat as I realised the hopelessness of the situation. Anything could have happened at Anfield and I wouldn’t know. The bride and groom were lucky that my beloved Newcastle United weren’t playing as I’d have been a quivering wreck, sure to rudely interrupt their vows with a person plea of ‘please, just somebody tell me the score!’   . Amazingly, the preacher on the day, an avid football fan himself, began the sermon by declaring that Arsenal were 2-1 up. As we well know, ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love….football?’.

I’m kidding of course, but It has begun me thinking about my idols in life, things that too often I put before God. Here is a start to a long list; football, pride, knowledge, relationships, TV, clothes, money, success, power, comfort, responsibility, respect…. the list goes on. Too often do I get home from work and switch on the TV, I watch lots of rubbish and things that it would be gracious to even call rubbish (you know who you are Jeremy Kyle fans). I’m currently doing a lot of writing for a series of Lad’s Bible Studies to be released in November. The deadlines have meant that I have had to seriously look at my TV habits and my massive amount of screen time, something that is far from healthy (how many of you are reading this with the box on in the background?). I’m now aiming to goggle less, to dedicate time for writing and studying and to spend more time having decent conversations. Maybe you should too!

The last couple of days have been pretty busy, with much work/study/writing, so much so I didn’t even get to watch the Scotty and Psycho lead England team on the the end of an absolute Double Dutch injury time Robben (robbing – get it?!). My spontaneity therefore, will have to wait a while, which might seem a contradiction in itself however the closest I was able to get yesterday was buying the round at the pub. Though, with it being the 29th February it was my Girlfriend’s spontaneity that I was most concerned about…

Today however, was a day off, and I managed to spend it with two guys, one an new Christian soon to be married and working out his faith (occasionally accompanied by me and a Starbucks coffee) the other a chap who in recent years has both become a father and re-found a faith once pushed aside.

The time spent with these guys was amazing, we opened the Bible, chatted faith, marriage, the Church and a bit of football. I’m constantly amazed to see the way that God is working through these guys. I shouldn’t be, but I am.

It was great to give a day off to other people, it was by no means a selfless act, (I probably grow more in my time with them than they do with me), however so often it is easy to get so tied up in my own life that other people are pushed to the side. I forget about the wider Church family, the body of Christ and my responsibility to it.

I’ve written more about this time-sharing stuff in my Blog for Day 12 ‘Pass it Forward‘ which hopefully will challenge us all to invest time in peoples Christian growth. Until then though, I’m going to plan my spontaneity a day or so late…..

   As a Church worker and a writer I find that every day I spend some time in the Bible. However yesterday as Nicky challenged us in Act 6, I wanted to spend time in the Bible myself, not for the benefit of leading a study, or doing a talk or writing an article, simply to enjoy and be challenged by the Word.

I turned to one of my favourite passages; 1 Peter 2, a passage where Peter explains what we as Christians are now, through what Christ has done on the cross. A brief summary: We are like newborn babies (verse 2), chosen by God and precious to him (v4). We are like living stones (though not of the ‘Ken’ variety), we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (v9).  We are aliens and strangers to the world (v11) and we must in all things Glorify God.

Idon’t want to say any more about it, you should read it for yourself. So often I find myself reading passages simply to gain knowledge, to be able to teach others or write an interesting study or article or to stay up to date with my Bible-in-a-year, but it is great just to spend time in the Word, allowing God to teach me through it.

I should do this far more often.

Ps. You can find a great exposition of this text in John Stott’s The Radical Disciple

When I was looking through the tasks for this week, I have to admit, I saw Act 5 as a bit of an easy one. ‘Buy Fairtrade‘ seemed like just a case of popping into the local newsagents on the way home from work and picking up anything with a funky little blue, green and black waving man logo printed on the side. Important of course (as David Marshall clearly explains) but a bit of a doddle, I’d already ticked it off the list.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first shop I went into had no Fairtrade stuff, in the second, a rather larger convenience store that I won’t name (apart from saying it rhymes with ‘strange-berries’, and sounds similar if you say it with a mouth full of them) it took me forever to locate any Fairtrade goods. Now, for all those who had given up caffeine or Chocolate for lent I can’t imagine this was an easy task, particularly if you can’t stand bananas! The reality seems to be that, in your everyday convenience store, the choice is still rather limited. In reality it is a shame that not more of the stuff we consume daily can declare itself fairtrade. In the end I did pick up some Cadbury’s chocolate buttons (‘a much better choice than banana’s’ my housemate declared, or at least I think that’s what he said, I couldn’t really tell, his mouth was full of Cadbury’s chocol…)

It does bring to question, however, how willing I am to go out of my way to pick up Fairtrade. Yeah, I like the idea, and its always a great feeling when you look at the packet and think, ‘great, it’s Fairtrade too’. But would I really be willing to regularly go to another shop just to get Fairtrade? Or to walk an extra few streets to find a Fairtrade store? Or to buy clothes from different shops that I knew were using Fairtrade cotton in their manufacturing process? As 1 John 3:18 challenges us:

‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’

How willing are we to really love, day in day out, in a way that actually affects our life? We can’t just talk Fairtrade, we must walk Fairtrade. And I’m the biggest hypocrite of them all.

How did you get on? Did you manage to escape the Fairtrade trinity of chocolate/banana/coffee? Did you make a Fairtrade meal, how about a banana, coffee and chocolate cake (it exists, just look here)? Are you going to buy one of  Real Easter Eggs?

Greetings all. I trust that you have had a enjoyable and generous weekend! I travelled North this weekend to visit my Girlfriend, Charlie, in Durham, thus my day 4 Act was in a completely different location to all my others. Saturdays Act was to ‘Grab-a-cuppa’, not much good for any of you who gave up caffeine for Lent, but I’m sure you got around it. On Saturday Charlie and I headed into Newcastle to watch the Toon (Newcastle United) at St. James’ Park. I was so keen to get to the game that I missed countless opportunities to ‘grab-a-cuppa’ with some ‘un-desirables’. My selfishness got the better of me. It wasn’t until the evening then, that another opportunity to show some Luke 14 love appeared. Walking to the pub we stumbled across Connor and Tim, two of Durham’s many homeless men. They were setting up for the night in a shop doorway chatting away to each other and asking passers by for a bit of cash. I popped into the local Tesco and picked up a packet of chocolate Cadbury’s Twirls and some hot pies, one chicken and one steak. Praying that neither was a militant vegetarian I knelt down next to them and offered them up. Tim replied ‘I’ll eat anything mate’ and grabbed the Chicken. We sat and chatted for a while, I learnt their names, they learnt mine. We chatted about were they were from (Connor lived in Durham as a kid and has been homeless for years, Tim was originally from Doncaster) We shared a couple of laughs and I walked on, to a different world of warm pubs and expensive drinks. I’m going to do it again, soon. What a great challenge. How did you get on?

  Today’s act was to Share your Skill. Now, I have a number of interesting skills. My most impressive being an immense ability to flick biscuits off my feet and elbows and catch them in my mouth. This, however, is not the easiest skill to share (and believe me, I have tried) so I had to think of other skills to share. An opportunity arose at 09.10 hours this morning when I was setting up for JellyBeans (the All Souls Tots group, not the famous Jelly Belly Sweet). I was given the task of setting up the train set. This made me slightly more excited than it probably should and, as a life long fan of Lego blocks (there’s more than two of you; KrishK and Beechy!) and the son of two Civil Engineers, I am well trained in the  art of construction. After creating a safe and strategic place for my station (including pleasant views for all the wooden passengers) I had started building the bridge (an absolute essential part of an vehicle related boys toy) when a 4 year old boy arrived at the table, ready and waiting to join in the fun. However, no self respecting construction manager simply lets an amateur pick up his tools and  crack on (particularly one intent on chewing the wheels of the 07.15 to Gatwick), so he quickly became my junior (school) apprentice. Thus a skill, honed and perfected over many years, was shared and, before long, we had a working figure-of-eight railway, complete with chewed wheels and biscuit crumb debris. Day Three completed! How did you get on?

  So, today’s 40acts challenge was to cross a social divide. In many ways, working for a Church in central London, I do this every day. We have some amazing people coming into All Souls from all over the World from every background, living situation and circumstance. As a Church Assistant I’m often on the front line, the first point of contact. We regularly chat with the homeless who live in the area, whose life experience I can’t even begin to grasp. More recently, however, I had developed a rapport with the lady who sells the Big Issue on one of the streets between home and work. I now know she has sons (two or three I think), she is Slovenian and likes to laugh at me when I walk past her carrying my lime green suitcase. At Christmas I gave her some Chocolates to give to her sons, today however, she was nowhere insight. Come to think of it I haven’t seen her for a while, and, as my own self-indulgence so often rules the roost, I wonder how many other people have noticed. In somewhere like London where Millionaire and down-and-out share the same postcodes (the homeless do local community better than many Christians I know!) It is remarkable difficult to fully cross a social divide, whether through selfishness, fear or a lack of ‘Jesus like’ love. Today I failed (the closest I got was a lunch with my father) and many other days I do too. Tomorrow is a new day and I will try again. Though I’ve still got my walk home from work in a couple of hours, who knows. I’ll keep you posted!

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