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.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The one with the Strong Woman

Following a few rant-like conversations on Twitter I was asked to write a guest post on 'Strong Women'.   The original post can be found over at James Prescott's blog here.  Why don't you pop on over and read some of his posts and say hi?  You can also hear an audio version of the post on Partakers  (March 10th 2012)

Strong Women

‘She’s a very strong woman!

Last week, this statement cropped up in three separate conversations regarding different women.  Strong women.  And each time - I cringed.
I used to be a ‘strong’ woman.
I lifted weights at the gym regularly, practiced Judo weekly, and had a pretty good success rate with arm wrestling. 
There's nothing wrong with being a strong woman. 

But, this wasn’t what they meant, was it?

No, the focus of their strength had nothing to do with their muscles, but their character. 

What is a strong character?

Therefore, a strong character can simply be defined as someone with the ability to respond with strength in all circumstances.  To remain constant and strong in a world crazed with uncertainty, inconsistency, and irrationality.  A strong character is needed if we are to effectively navigate life's experiences. 

If this is the understanding of a strong character, then why does the phrase so often get spat out with disdain and caution when specifically referring to women?

A strong woman?

The term 'strong' when referring to the character of a woman, often carries quite a distinct interpretation.


But only of a woman. 

Very rarely does the phrase get used when describing a man.  And if it does, then it is usually referred to as a positive character trait. 

Is strength in a man a virtue, but strength in a woman a vice?

Is it good that a man displays strength, but a woman conceals it?

Is this what God ordained?  Did he create men to have strong character and women to be weak?  Can we read only of strong male characters in the Bible?

What of Ruth?  A woman of 'chayil' - (power, strength, resources, army, effective) 
What of Deborah?  The prophetess and judge who had to know her own (or God's) mind and speak it.

What of Mary?  Who chose to go against the cultural norms of the day, and engage in something she (rightly) saw as more important.

And what of Jael?  Who took matters into her own hands, confidently driving a tent peg through the head of an enemy.  

And Biblical women weren't strong? 

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, aspire to have a strong character?  A character that allows them to follow the will of God, speak on his behalf, and love and forgive in a culture that exemplifies the opposite?

Shouldn’t all Christians, whether male or female, demonstrate a strength of character that comes from knowing who we were created to be?

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, be encouraged to speak up, and not shut up?

Shouldn't all Christians, whether male or female, be encouraged to stand up for what is right?

Shouldn’t a strong character in all Christians be celebrated and not shunned or frowned upon – regardless of gender? 

Yes, even a strong woman.

And if the idea of this makes you feel uncomfortable, perhaps you ought to ask yourself why.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The one with the catching up

Sadly, it has been quite a while since I last blogged something fresh.  I have tidied up a few blogs, and written a few guest posts, but nothing new has come this way.  The silence does not represent apathy, but rather a busyness of life outside of the blogosphere.  Nothing much has changed either and I suspect the balance is still going to lean heavily on the side of 'real' life for a while.  This will eventually pass ... and I will be back to more regular posting (and reading) again soon.

But in the meantime, here's a little insight into the current life of Jo ...

Blood:Water Mission
Forty Days of Water 

Just before the Lenten period started, I received an email from a friend.  It said:
'Jo, if you did this, you could provide a lake!!'  Attached was a flyer from Blood:Water Mission about their Lent challenge to drink only tap water for 40 days.  The money saved by not buying drinks is donated to help provide clean water in Uganda.  The statistics were shocking - donating the cost of a latte each day -  $3 (it's an American charity) will provide a family of 6 with clean water for between 15 and 20 years!  That can't be ignored can it?  I had to take up the challenge.

I used to drink A LOT of tea, at least ten mugs a day, (hence the joke about me providing a lake).  I have now only had tap water for eleven days!  Yes, it has been difficult.  My head hurt a lot during the first week and I walked around in a bit of a fog, unable to wake up properly.  But a week in, and both the fog and the pain lifted.  Whooop.  I can do this!

Drinking tap water only has made me appreciate how blessed I am.  Not only do I have a range of drinks to choose from, but I am also able to turn the tap on and safely drink the water.  So many don't have this luxury, that I have always taken for granted.  I am thankful. 

Email Clean up

Ok, this isn't the most exciting thing to be sharing with you!  But, I am amazed at how many email subscriptions I had picked up along the way.  The emails came in thick and fast and had began to clog up my inbox.  Their density also meant that I occasionally missed important, or interesting mails.  It was time for a clean up!  Over the last two weeks I have been clicking away at 'unsubscribe'.  Finally, they are slowing down, and my inbox is enjoying a bit of respite!

It is surprising how quickly we can collect junk.  We sign up for something that seems like a good idea at the time, and let it run on.  We click subscribe to get the best deals sent to us, but more often than not nothing exciting comes in.  We just stand by and let it all come in - just like life! 

Alongside the great email clean up - I have also been reflecting on various aspects of my life, and attempting to clean up all the unwanted or unhelpful elements.  Time is too short and too precious to have 'junk' in it, isn't it?

Open Doors

Everyone knows that opportunities are found by pushing on various doors don't they?  Well, during the last month or so, several doors have opened for me.  Brilliant!  But what has been even more exciting (at least to me!) is the fact that I haven't actually been out on a door pushing mission.  In fact, I wasn't even aware the doors were there to push!  It has been amazing.  Emails, conversations, circumstances, connections ... doors just being flung open.  And with all the opportunities presenting themselves I am reminded that despite my insecurities, weaknesses and feelings of inadequacy, God has a plan and a purpose for me - far beyond that which I can imagine.

However, it would be unwise to blindly run through every door without first seeking God's will.  I want to be doing the right things, not just the good things.  Lord, please direct my steps and help me to faithfully fulfill your will for my life.

There are plenty of other things I could share with you, but as I try to keep my posts short, I will close here.  Despite a few frustrations and disappointments along the way -  life has been very good :)

I will be back writing more regularly soon - but until then - know that God is faithful, can be trusted, and has a plan.  Love it!!


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