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…!


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….


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.


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…


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…

Playing the Black eyed Peas..

Sometimes things in life happen unexpectedly and you have a carpe diem moment where you have to “seize the day”. Takes me back 20 years to a song I loved at the time.

Yesterday I was going through my unopened emails at work. There was one offering opportunities at the local Adult Education College. Free courses. I never normally look at such emails but I did and there was an acoustic guitar course for beginners. A ten week session that started the previous Tuesday. A phone call and there I was last night trying to understand the difference between a minim, a crotchet and a quaver (you don’t eat the latter!) And plugging away on one string playing the tune to “I got a feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas on my 43 year old jumbo steel string. It proved to me I have a steep learning curve to get over! But having guitar lessons was on my 60@60 list so a chance was taken and carpe diem lives.

I have little doubt that my very limited musical talent will be fully stretched but that’s how growth happens. I hope one day the learning will be useful too and causes others a bit more pleasure rather than pain!

I was touched at Open Doors “Standing Strong” conference last Saturday about how the church in countries like China had adapted to the Covid crisis. How it has seen increased state surveillance and restrictions as opportunities as well as a threat. How brave Christians in Syria are looking for opportunities to establish “Centres of Hope” to help all in their communities. However bad things are they are “seizing the day”. Your donations and prayers help them make a difference. Thank you.

Wandering home…

Back home in a wet windy Essex after a 540 mile journey finishing after midnight. I can’t remember if I’ve ever driven that far in one day. I saw both the east and west coasts and much of the length of England (apart from the South West).

Life is a journey, often with twists and turns. Seeing places I used to live; visiting where my parents were laid to rest; seeing friends and going near where others live. Moving on can be unsettling but valuing the past and the present are both important. The future is in God’s hands.

Columba was a Pilgrim. From Ireland, to Iona, to Holy Island, Ripon, the Farne Islands and linked with Durham. Yet his strongest identity and where his mission came from was in the Quiet place with God. What journey are you and I on and are we seeing the rainbow through the rain?

I was travelling by choice. Many however have to leave their homes at short notice with virtually nothing. Forced to flee because of their faith. In a way, like the Holy Island monks had to flee before the viking raiders. Christians in northern Nigeria live in constant threat from Fulani raiders, for example. And in many other places too.

I have already mentioned the Open Doors event this Saturday evening 3rd October. 90 minutes of inspiration and challenge. Do sign up and find out what is really happening around the world from people around the world. Join in their journey.

Kings, Monks and Vikings…

The monastery on Lindisfarne started in the 630’s when Oswald, the new King of Northumbria, keen to establish christianity in his Kingdom brought Aiden from Iona. A few years later, after Aidens death, Columba came to the island as Abbott. Both lived austere lives; indeed Columba lived on his own mini island and later the more remote Farnes. The churches were equally simple.

After Columba’s death the monks became rich. In 793 Lindisfarne became the first place in England to be sacked by the Vikings and by 865 the monks abandoned the island altogether. It wasn’t until the 1080’s they returned to set up a Priory created as a mini-Durham cathedral and later a monastery. But after 150 years the Anglo-Scottish wars started which greatly reduced the monastery size. This finished then Henry V111 decided to dissolve the monastery in 1536 and the building fell to ruin. Only in recent years have the Island’s spiritual roots been rediscovered.

We all have times of growth personally as well as times of difficulty. But I was especially reminded of the persecuted church which 60@60 is all about. In China the church had a number of false starts from the 500’s and in the 1200’s then grew slowly from the late 1800’s. Mao thought he had destroyed the church in the cultural revolution but it expanded rapidly underground to become one of the world’s biggest. Now it is being pressured once again. Persecution is still alive around the world today and our support is needed. But with our help there is hope!