Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The one with the Encouragement

Wisdom for Women in Leadership

During January, Sophia Network ran a series on Encouragement and Empowerment, in which various women were invited to share how they have experienced empowerment in their lives and ministry. 

I was privileged to be asked to share my experience:

'Throughout my time in Christian ministry, I am thankful to have received encouragement in many different guises; from a casual pat on the back accompanying a ‘well done’; to kind words written in a card; through to more intentional mentoring conversations in which various abilities were identified and encouraged.   All have been appreciated, and no doubt have had a positive impact on my personal development and ministry.   To attempt to individually name and thank all the encouragers in my life would be an impossible task, so I offer a collective ‘thank you’ with sincerity here.
The impact of a simple word of encouragement should not be underestimated; it can literally be life changing.  Sadly, the opposite can also be true.  A word or a look that discourages can hinder development, and unless corrected, could potentially snuff it out altogether. 
The phrase ‘it’s not your thing’ spoken to me after I (very nervously) gave a short testimony one Sunday morning became ingrained in my mind, resulting in a self-belief that I had no gifting or ability to speak to adults in a public setting at all.  From then on, although happy to speak in front of young people, I avoided speaking to adults whenever possible.  After all, it wasn’t my thing!
Since then, many encouraging words have been given that have helped me to loosen the hold that phrase seemed to have over me.  However, one incident in particular stands out as having a significant impact on my development, and actually, I think on my life as a whole.
We would like you to preach at our wedding’.
Dan and Gemma, who both served on the youth team with me, were due to get married and wanted me to preach at their wedding ceremony.  They must be joking?!  I can’t speak in front of adults. But they were absolutely serious. 
This conversation impacted me tremendously, because they demonstrated a belief in my ability, not only in theory, but also in practice.  If they trusted me in this way, then perhaps I could do it after all?  Despite being petrified, I did speak at their wedding, and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so - what an honour.
Encouraging words are great, but when they are accompanied by a demonstration of trust, I believe something far greater is experienced.  This is true empowerment. 
Jesus didn’t just speak of his love for us, he demonstrated it on the cross.   Likewise, Dan and Gemma didn’t only say I had the ability to speak, they demonstrated it by entrusting me to do so.   This spoke volumes. 
Who is God asking you to encourage in theory and in practice?'

I found the series both encouraging and challenging as it forced me to consider how intentional and effective I am as an encourager.   Why don't you click on the links and read the series? 

(This post was first posted on Sophia Network on the 28th Jan 2012)

Friday, 10 February 2012

The one with the Award

And the 'Versatile Blogger' and 'You Bless Me' Awards go to ...... Jo Royal, at All in a Day!

Yes, this morning I awoke to find that I had received my fist ever blog award!

So, in true award winning style, I would like to thank all those who have made this possible, those who believed in me, those who take time out to read my writing, those who ...... yeah, I will stop now!

OK, so the Awards might only be a bit of blogging fun, but I am thankful to Rhoda, over at Living to Please God, who nominated me for the award.  I feel encouraged to keep writing. 

I have been thinking a lot about encouragement lately, and the role it plays in our Christian development.  It is key.  Encouragement says:

You can do it!
I'm right here with you.
You're appreciated
Hang on in there
Go for it!
You're not alone.

I appreciate all the encouragement that comes my way - it keeps me going!

It is a joy to receive encouragement - but 'It is better to give than to receive' (Act 20:25)

So, I'm giving.  One of the 'conditions' of receiving the award requires the recipient to pass it on. This is rather like a chain letter, but without the curse!!  There is no threat of writer's block, or your blog losing readers if the award isn't passed on.  The 'magic' is in the joy of being able to encourage someone. 

I therefore send some Blogging Award encouragement to five blogs that I enjoy reading.  And perhaps you can encourage them too, by hopping over to their blogs to say hello!

1 - Sam at The End of my Tether?  Sam is such an inspiration.  In her blog she shares her journey as a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer.  She is funny, real, informative, challenging and truly inspirational as she invites her readers to join her on the journey, always pointing to the Hope that she has in God.  If you only follow one of my suggestions - make sure it is this one.  You wont regret it. 

2+3 - It is always good to encourage new bloggers, so I am sending an award to both Hannah at Not Yet Perfect and Gemma at Whirlwind through Life.  Both these bloggers share their thoughts and experiences as they work out what life as a Christian really means. Ladies, keep it up! :)

4 - I am also sending a Blogging Award over to Laura at Fingertip Meditations - Laura was the first follower I had on my blog that I didn't know personally.  I have enjoyed reading her blog - especially as she unpacks her thoughts about Christian living in a very down-to-earth way. 

5 - And, finally, Emma at A New Name.  I absolutely love reading this blog.  Emma has an amazing way of writing, that not only entertains, but really provokes thought.  She shares with brilliance.  I appreciate her transparent thoughts (and challenges!) a lot. 

(Nominees - here is the part where I tell you that if you choose to accept the award, you must put the badge on your website, nominate a further five bloggers to receive the award, and tell us five random facts about you! - Of course, I don't really expect you to - but hey, you may choose to accept the challenge to encourage someone instead?)

And there's more ...

The other condition of receiving the award is that I share five little known facts about myself.  Ok, time for a bit of self-indulgence - and pressure to portray my life as exciting, funny, quirky, spiritual - or whatever!  Forget that, I am just going with randomness!

1 - I own 16 pairs of Converse.

2 - I have been to Colin Firth's House (OK, so he wasn't in - but I did see baby pictures!!)

3 - I love hanging out in my local Starbucks - and, depending on the barista - I can walk in and ask for my usual.

4 - I really really really dislike butterflies, moths and ladybirds.  I will freak if they come near me.

5 - I am all or nothing.  If I can't do something well, I would rather not do it. 

There - that's me!

Enjoy your day :)

Monday, 6 February 2012

The one with the Token

 I totally agreed.  Positive discrimination and tokenism were wrong.  Always.

The agreement came during a question and answer session at Inspire, the Assemblies of God Probationary Ministers' Conference last year.

The question:  All those on the National Leadership Team are white men.  Is this a fair representation and good example to the rest of the denomination?

The answer: It isn't about example, it is about choosing the best people for the job, and we believe we have.  It would be wrong to invite someone on the NLT for any other reason.

Positive discrimination and tokenism had been the subject of many discussions whilst I was at college, and I knew firmly where I stood on the matter.  So, when the National Leader of the Assemblies of God answered in the way he did, I nodded shamelessly in agreement.

According to Jeeves 'Positive discrimination is regarded as the preferential treatment of members of a minority group over a majority group, either by sex, race, age, marital status or sex orientation. It is generally considered illegal and unlawful.'  I absolutely agree. 

I had a similar perspective on Tokenism.  How could anyone expect a job to be accepted on these grounds?  How insulting to be asked to join a team or organisation as a minority in order to create a false appearance of inclusive practice?  Outrageous!

Would I accept employment based on my gender, race, age ... and not my ability?  Absolutely not.  It is both insulting and devaluing.  A role or opportunity should be given and accepted on ability and value - and nothing else!

Or so I thought.  But recently, my thoughts on the matter have begun to teeter.   Am I becoming fickle?

I don't think so.  Instead, I see maturity developing, as I begin to ask questions that force me to seek answers from a wider perspective.  A perspective that moves beyond the now and into the future.

Because, what if tokenism, or positive discrimination, inadvertently becomes the catalyst for change?

What if it opens eyes, ears, hearts and minds to something different; something never experienced or witnessed before? 

What if a 'token' demonstrates a gifting and ability that challenges prejudice?

What if a 'token' confronts agendas and structures?

What if a 'token' creates cracks in that which has always been set in stone?

What if a 'token' paves the way for change?

Would it always be wrong?

I am not so sure anymore.

So, I am challenged.  If I were offered a position as a (suspected) result of positive discrimination or tokenism should I automatically turn it down on principle?  Or, instead, is there value in seeing it as an opportunity to influence future decisions?

And if so, taking it further, should this consideration also have an impact on the opportunities that we give to others? 

Is it always as simple as choosing the best person for the job?

Or are there times we should see past the immediate performance and consider the bigger picture. 

I am beginning to think that the best person for the job isn't necessarily the person most able to perform the required task.  Instead, the best person for the job maybe the one whose involvement will challenge preconceived ideas and structures.

It is a tension between immediate results and lasting impact.

It involves risk taking, visionary thinking and wisdom, but I also think it has the potential to change the future.

Question is, am I willing to put it into practice?  I hope I am not too proud, or set in my ways to say yes.

What do you think?

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