Category Archives: fear

Second Rate: A year on

Its been a little over a year since I first blogged about my fear of being Second Rate and about 18 months since my heart first broke about the issues surrounding the role of women in the church.

Its been a long, slow journey which is far from being over, but one that I feel strangely content to be on.

The initial fear of not being what I should be and a resulting wavering in my confidence about the character of God still visit me from time to time.  The pain I feel over generations of gifted women being judged, excluded and made to doubt their worth continues to throb deep within me  and I’ve realised that that is regardless of which side of ‘the debate’ (or kerfuffle!) they reflect.

The pain, the tears, the conversations… I have been pushed to think through something which is a crucial issue to my life journey in more ways than I ever would have imagined.  The battle to walk alongside the high horse as opposed to climbing up on it or lying down under it is never far below the surface.  When I meet certain people, hear certain jokes, encounter certain issues, there is a struggle not to judge, exclude or hurt; a struggle to take each person as an individual whose ideas about one thing does not automatically mean they think the other, a person to know rather than a debate to avoid; a struggle to root myself in what God says rather than what others think of me.  I need constant reminders that the goal is to love, not to prove that I am right.  To love and serve Jesus, to glorify him – make the character of Yahweh known – in everything I am, just as He did.

As the journey goes on, I am more convinced that my footprints are not alone on this path.  I am more confident in the harmonies I’m singing in the great choir.  I am more concreted in the love my Father has for me…

But there’s still a long way to go.

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Filed under change, church, fear, freedom, God, grace, hope, perspective, questions, sin, women

Thirst

When I listen to you live my throat feels dry.

My lips crack and dry up,

Thirsty for water that breathes deeply

Into my longing.

Lifting the cup to my mouth I hesitate,

Pursed lips tentatively gasping,

Drawing you in like hot tea that might blister my tongue

Rendering all else tasteless.

But I’d rather drink you down

(with

–     no fear of getting burnt     –

reckless

gulping

drafts)

Drink you down to the depths

Of sweet Spirit, and of Truth

And of grace.

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Feminism and Flat-pack Furniture

While she was building a flat-pack chair, my friend once commented “Does this mean I’m an Independent Woman now? I’m worried that means I don’t need a husband.”

Now, there are several things about that statement that worry me. Apologies to said friend if ever she should read this. It is not criticism of her nor her plight, but it was the perfect example with which to write a blog that has been brewing for a few days. PLUS it gave the perfect alliterative title!

These are only preliminary thoughts which I hope to develop over time. How many of them I publish here depends on my waxing and waning concerns over how I am perceived and judged by any readership that should stumble across my small corner.

Okay, here goes … in no particular order…

1. Inherent is a picture of a God who gives women certain skills so they can cope when he makes them live as old spinsters.

Women I know (in this context of the single variety) often think about whether or not God is ‘calling’ them to be single til the grave (I imagine men also think about this but with perhaps less urgency…). It’s a big thing. Perhaps it’s the bio-clock a-ticking (of which we’re aware in one way or another from a ridiculously young age), perhaps it’s the importance and honour which the media and culture place on couples/romance or perhaps – and I think that often – it is rooted in a tragic sense of ‘What if…?’ What if I’m not attractive enough? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t deserve it? What if God doesn’t love me enough to give me what I most desperately want? Relationship. Connection. Community. What if God is giving me practice at building flat-pack furniture so I can look after myself when all my friends get married and I’m alone?’

Is this really the provision of which ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ speaks?

2. Negative connotations of being independent – as if its not a feminine quality.

Now, I know Beyoncé and the girls coined this idea of an Independent Woman – and let’s face it, if we could wave a wand and be like Beyoncé I’m not too sure how many of us would decline the offer (the Spice Girls’ ‘Girl Power’ might be somewhat less tempting…) – but, actually in reality, culture (at least N.I Christian culture) seems to consider independence in a woman isn’t ‘all that’.

I’m in great danger here of stealing another blogger’s soapbox and start ranting, but I’ll curtail it for now as this, I hope, is just the introduction to a series of posts on these things.

Suffice to say (for now) that, whether explicitly or otherwise, culture says that ‘real’ women are pink and fluffy. Which leads to my third preliminary observation…

3. Desire to be seen as ‘feminine’ in ‘masculine’ eyes.

Again, the fear that we don’t match up to what we’re ‘supposed’ to be. Most women (we cannot be completely free from generalisations here…) are greatly concerned with relationships and connections with people – its what we love, its our frame of reference for our identity. It is both a blessing and a curse. The curse being that we want others to think well of us and thus the concern to be desirable to the opposite sex in the hope of finding that one relationship that will remain til death do us part. So we fuss about our hair, our weight, our clothes; as students we cook for the boys’ house down the road, we do their dishes to ‘serve’ them ‘like Jesus would’, we talk about relationships to show we’re interested,  but not too much in case we look desperate… We want to be the ‘feminine’ friends our ‘masculine’ friends feel safe with, always fearing that if we get it wrong we’ll soon be spinsters with nothing but feline friends to inhabit our flat-pack furniture filled flats… FOREVER.

Perhaps this all sounds very negative and pessimistic, but it is sometimes necessary to talk in extremes in order to illustrate the issues. My intention is NOT to enforce flat-pack furniture lessons and burping contests on girls from the age of three, neither is it to criticise nor diminish the incredibly important, demanding and beautiful work that mothers and homemakers do every day. Nor is my intention to incite hatred towards men – their struggles are as big as our own (I just don’t have the same kind of insight into them.) and we must learn to love each other well as people made in the image of God. Rather, my desire is to become, and help others become, who God has designed us to be rather than what society would tell us to be.

I also will NOT be burning any bras…

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Filed under culture, dating, fear, modern life, relationships, sin, truth, women

Choose Your Own Adventure

1. Your ship is sinking… Do you…?

a) Jump ship, you have no obligation to stay.  Go to #7

b) Stick around, but deny the fact that you’re all sinking.  Do your drills, make the calls, carry on regardless.  Go to #2

c) Do everything you can to make things better for those on board.  Go to #4

2. Water is starting to seep through the cracks.  Do you…?

a) Start carrying a mop around to tidy away the mess before anyone sees.  Be sure to smile and nod a lot. Go to #3

b) Start screaming “We’re sinking!!!” at the top of your voice.  The sooner everyone knows they’re in trouble the better.  In fact, the more drama you make, the more sympathy you’ll get.  Go to #4

3. The mop isn’t working anymore and your feet are getting wet.  Do you…?

a) Pretend that everything’s normal – this is actually what sailing is meant to be like. Go to #6

b) Start blaming other people for the situation and make sure everyone knows its not your fault. Go to #4

c) Face up to the fact that things might be changing and start taking realistic stock of the situation.  Go to #5

4.  People are starting to see that this ship won’t make its destination.  Do you…?

a) Ignore their questions about the escape plan and say ‘I told you so’ until the bitter end. Go to #6

b) Stay out of trouble, find a lifeboat and get outta there while you still can.  Go to #7

c) Quietly make preparations for evacuation.  Buckle up your lifebelt, talk people through the procedures and show them the lifeboats.  Go to #8.

5. Start showing people the lifeboats and do what you can to make to make the transition to the evacuation procedure easier.  Go to #8

6. Salute and go down with the ship.  A slow and painful ‘Game Over’.

7. Game over.  Your heart is still beating, though others weren’t so lucky.  Find another ship, you’ve still got places to go.

8. You’ve done all you can to execute a successful escape plan, now its time to go.  Don’t worry about going down with the ship – its nothing but an empty shell of wood and stuff – the most important thing is the Destination.

 

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Fitting in

 

  

            Like a kid who laughs at a joke he doesn’t understand,

      I nod assent to your theological assumptions,

Secretly terrified of being discovered to be

           

   too liberal,

            too legalistic;

                        too smart,

                                    too stupid;

                                                too flaky,

                                                            too opinionated…

                                  

                                                                       . . .

 

                                 Too much like me and not enough like you.

 

 

 1 Cor 13: 12-13  …We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (MSG)

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Ce n’était pas moi qui le lui ai donné…

 

 

 

Il est très facile à tomber amoureux de la France.  Le plus difficile, c’est de convaincre la France à t’aimer en retour.

 

Elle est fière, la France ; la fille ainée de l’Eglise catholique, la bien aimée de la Raison…  Elle est bien consciente de ses fautes, ses faiblesses, mais elle se cache devant les étrangers – non pas en dessous de la table comme une fille petite et timide mais elle se cache en se vantant en toute sa splendeur : l’histoire, l’intelligence, la mode ; Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité… Mais elle cache son vrai cœur.

 

Au cœur, elle est perdue.  Elle se batte comme un oiseau qui s’est entré par la fenêtre et n’arrive pas à la retrouver ; elle glisse comme une araignée qui s’est promené dans le lavabo.

 

On m’as dit  « Merci d’avoir un cœur pour la France ».  La vérité ?  Si mon cœur appartient à la France, ce n’était pas moi qui le lui ai donné.  Si c’était à moi, j’aurais le garder de toute ma force.  Pourquoi donner ton cœur pour quelqu’un qui ne le veut pas ?

 

« Que votre attitude soit identique à celle de Jésus-Christ : lui qui est de condition divine, il n’a pas regardé son égalité avec Dieu comme un butin à préserver, mais il s’est dépouillé lui – même… jusqu’à la mort… »  Philippiens 2 :5-8

 

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Filed under culture, fear, France/French, heart, love, random, travel

Bloggy and the Beast: Will the real Small Corner please stand up?

iheartwordpresssign.jpg

 

Aaahh, WordPress – how I adore thee!

I spent some time this afternoon expostulating about the benefits of WordPress over other blog service providers.  I did it with such passion I could’ve been preaching life or death!  It is perhaps a little sad (how did people ever describe that concept of sad before ‘sad’ came to mean anything other than unhappy?!?) that I care so much about my small corner of the internet and how it looks and functions, but I AM NOT ASHAMED!  I will stand loud and proud, declaring my love of all things blog.

Just don’t link to my page in case anyone I know reads it…

Hmmm… a strange thing, perhaps, to be rather choosy about to whom one discloses the details of where one publishes one’s contribution to the community we call ‘Blogging’, but I am reluctant that anyone and everyone should know where to find my online voice.

I suppose its mildly ridiculous in many ways, because a blog is hardly a private affair: random strangers from all over the world can tune in to my latest ‘un-intellectual musings’ (I stand by that, Mr Zoom – you can take it up with me later) at the click of a button.  Also, how many people in the actual real world of my life spend much time reading blogs?!?  Not many (enough, but not many)!  AND, even if they read blogs, it is, perhaps, arrogant to assume they would put much thought into reading what I’ve written…

The Beauty of blogging, you see, is the sheer pleasure of expression: finding exactly the right word in exactly the right place to convey exactly the right tone… its an ART!  Then of course the pleasure of reading the rants, stories and thoughts of others who are, if not similarly minded – at least similarly appreciative of the craft:  creating dialogue from monologue, banter from battle and in many tiny steps ultimately plotting to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!

The Beast, however, is my fear is that people will judge me  solely by what they read here and that they will judge me to be something worse that what I already am.  For someone who has recently yelled: “ENOUGH!  I am DONE with worrying what people think of me!” I’m pretty worried about what people think of me.  Someone told me that once you hit forty you get over such fear because you’re more confident in who you are.  Someone else said it was because senile dementia begins to set in…

two_faced_cover.jpgYou see, the thing is… its not that what I choose to publish online is a different persona than that which I project in life and work – that I lie or falsify myself in either area.  But I guess I’m just wary of publicising the fact that some of my thoughts have made it into written form and are emblazoned across the Web because, in a sense, its only one part of me.  A part that can be held up and spread around out of context (if anyone actually could be bothered doing so!).

I’ve heard it said that “who you are when you’re alone is who you really are”.  I could be being rather hasty (it happens when you think ‘out loud’), but… b*ll*cks.  Maybe even with a capital ‘B’, but I’m not sure yet…  Surely different situations bring out different parts of your personality in a way which is neither false nor schizophrenic?

So, for example, if I’m with my best friend, I’m laid-back, blunt as a sledge hammer and sometimes ridiculously silly; if I’m with students, I’m more upbeat, phrase my sentences more carefully (sometimes!) and am generally more pragmatic; if I’m with older people from church I’m more measured, thoughtful and serious; and on my blog I’m much more flippant and articulate (its all relative, huh?!).

Which one of those people is the real me?  Surely all of them!?  I am not a two-dimensional character… I am a person, created in the image of Yahweh, and I cannot be summed up by the examination of one part of my life and to do so is to judge wrongly.

Is that what we do when we judge people?  We only look at one (maybe even two or three) ‘parts’ of a person and come to a conclusion, put them in a box and sit back with our arms folded smugly thinking we know them.  We look down on people’s insecurities because we don’t take the time to understand why they act or feel the way they do; we gossip about one thing someone once did without making the effort to find out why; we give up talking with someone we’ve known ‘inside out’ for a long time because we don’t recognise that their thoughts, opinions, dreams, desires, likes and dislikes are fluid and don’t fit inside the box we built any more.

That, I suppose is why only God can judge – He truly knows us inside out, upside down, right side up and back to front.  He sees all our ways, thoughts and actions all of the time.

I’m not saying that we can’t be false – just that when we’re different with different people its not always as deceptive as we think; nor is it something to get hung up on. Where is the line…?  I’ll leave that to you to conclude (or perhaps to the Jewish World Review?).

So, who is the real Small Corner…?

I am.

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Its in the blood (or at least the air…)

union-jack2.jpg

11_08_17-irish-flag_web.jpg

So, I went to my “cardio kick” exercise class on Monday.  A proud moment of self-control and discipline in the face of i’d-rather-die-than-go-ness and a event of marvel in itself.  We’ll skip over the fact that my punches and kicks were rather half-hearted and that I only did one sit up for everyone else’s two…

Being still relatively near the start of a new year there were lots of unfamiliar faces there.  A couple of late teens were there with their mum and were wearing Gaelic tops.  Instantly I felt intimidated.  Now, its not like I’ve never seen people in Gaelic tops before – I work with an all-Ireland student movement after all.  But this was different!  This was in a town not known for its peaceable catholic-protestant relations; in what should have felt like neutral territory.

I leant towards my friend and whispered “Its hardly the place to wear Gaelic tops, is it?”.  She agreed: “It makes quite a statement doesn’t it?  We wouldn’t wear Rangers football tops here.”

Now, please don’t misunderstand me; these feelings of intimidation did not incite religious hatred nor strong desires to assert my identity as a British/Northern Irish Protestant (though I’m pretty sure those things would be low on my list of identity definers if they made it at all!).  It was simply a reaction to the association with a ‘side’ that has become common in Northern Ireland.  Like, even seeing a huge Union Jack flying outside a house last week put me on my guard…

…then I remembered I was in England.

Back in the leisure centre up the road, though, I was feeling uncomfortable – but I didn’t really think too much about it until I realised I was wearing my Christian “CSSM” t-shirt.  Why, if I could wear that, could they not wear their Gaelic tops?  Why did it matter?

Basically, it shouldn’t matter – and in terms of my feelings of non-hatred for people from a Roman Catholic background it doesn’t matter!  Rather, it seems to be that I am a victim (awww poor me! 😉 ) of the culture of bigotry I’ve grown up in – not from my family’s influence, but more I guess the divided school system, the eventful news, the ‘no football tops’ signs over bowling alley doors… 

Meaning that, rather than a sports tops reflecting an enjoyment of the sport or a flag being a symbol of wholesome patriotism, I have grown up interpreting these things as a political statement:

“This is who I am and if you’re different, you’re my enemy.”

If that’s me, from a middle of the road un-bigoted Christian family, I can only imagine the depth to which such lies run amongst those for whom painting curb stones and hanging flags is an ‘innocent’ past-time…

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Precious

When I read in the Gospel of John that “Jesus wept” I always thought of weeping as a soft, delicate thing: tears sliding silently down his cheeks.  But a few nights ago, I wept.  The only apt word: “wept”.  Wracking sobs, moaning, nose streaming, tears flooding…  I wept from loneliness, from fear and from doubt.  I questioned the validity of my faith, the truth of my ‘gifts’, the character of my God.

 

Tonight, on the way home from sharing in God’s truth with my home church I wept for different reasons.  For fullness, for love, for hope…  Because I know that He is True.  And that He calls me precious.

 

They’ll try to take you and steal your heart

They’ll try to make you something you aren’t

You can be swept like sand on a beach, but not out of reach:

Don’t let them drag you down – hold on.

 

Know that you’re precious

Know that you’re precious

Know that you’re precious

So precious…

(martyn joseph, ‘precious’)

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The show must go on…

(It was either that title or ‘My heart will go on’…)

The general topic I’m about to broach could be summed up in the immortal words of the great philosophers, Chumbawumba – “I get knocked down, but I get up again – you ain’t never gonna keep me down”.  It is potentially a dangerous topic to blog about – particularly for a “verbal” processor – because I don’t want to poke around in wounds, and so will try my best to be sensitive.

Consider yourselves warned.

I heard a 50-something man speak to a room full of Christian university students last week on ‘Joy in Suffering’.  Several times he said something along the lines of ‘none of you probably know much about suffering’.  Either: a) he is naive in terms of what can happen to even young people, or: b) its all relative and it all gets worse.  I mean, I know that by that age myself, I’d lived with people experiencing depression, had experienced the slow death of a grandparent through cancer and seen the divorce of my parents.  Those things that happened to me were no means worse than the things others have known.  I know that there were people present that night who have been abused as children, lost a parent, been bullied almost to the point of self-harm…

Suffering knows no age limits.

But as much as I was rooting for (a) being the case, it would be more likely I, then, who would be called naive.  Though perhaps its not so much that it gets worse, just that the more time you live, the more time you have to suffer.  Happy thought, huh?  I’m not about to set forth a nice neat suffering theology package blog (who am I kidding, as if you’d ever expect that anyway!), I’ll leave that to someone better read and thought-out than I (You up for it?).  But, I’m generally feeling somewhat impressed by the sheer resilience of mankind.

When my granda was getting really sick I used to spend the week at university dreading going home at the weekends – not because I didn’t want to see him, but because I knew I’d have to face a house of sickness, sadness and approaching death.  When Friday came and I turned up at the house, I was okay – I kept moving, I kept breathing, I kept living and I kept smiling.  I had the strength to face it.  When I was outside of the situation it was harder: fear, sadness, hopelessness, dread; but right in the middle there was calm.

 I’ve seen others endure much, much more both personally and with their loved ones with such courage, spirit and drive to survive… Its truly incredible.  As I’ve been thinking about this resilience, I’ve thought about being made in God’s image.  That may be random, or even ludicrous to some, but seriously – it just made me think about how often Israel pretty much spat in God’s face and broke his heart, but yet he pursued them with justice, mercy and love.  Now, I don’t know how it all fits in – I know there huge, huge questions about all of this, but my post isn’t really about that.  Its purely an observation.

Observing it, I am filled with hope and faith that if – or more aptly, when – I’m experiencing difficult times again, that I’ll survive too.  Sure, I’ll be most likely foot-stamping, pants-wetting with the best of ’em at the thought of it, but when I’m in the middle I’ll get the strength I need, because I trust that in the end, it’ll be okay.  Whatever that looks like.

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