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Entries in Blogging (32)

Wednesday
Apr252018

Cooking, midwifery, and now blogging

When I was working on my degree in history, I took a course on the history of women in Canada. One of the more interesting things I learned was how the "professionalization" of various things changed women's work. Specifically, I read about how the standardization of cooking measures and the changes in medical practices affected women.

For the grandmother type who used a "handful" of this or a "pinch" of that, standardization of cooking was probably unintelligible. It also made teaching her granddaughters how to make a cake a challenge. Especially after the First World War, there were education programs that focused on home economics. In L.M. Montgomery's book, Rilla of Ingleside, at the end of World War I, the main character, Anne Shirley's daughter, is contemplating going on such a course. Technology always helps us, but it also means that things become more complex, and often, professionalized.

The same thing happened with midwifery. Today, there are many more midwives than when I had children. In fact, having a midwife was not an option for me when I had my children. At one time, that was the primary way of bringing a child into the world. Once medical practice began to become more organized and doctors' care more available, midwives, especially the ones with no training, became obsolete. A couple of years ago, I read the novel The Birth House, which was set in 1917. This was about this kind of transition.

Though blogging is not nearly as important an activity as midwifery or cooking (and we could all do quite nicely with out blogs when it comes right down to it) I see a similar occurrence. Tim Challies' article today deals with the topic of why Christian blogs aren't what they used to be. I want to suggest that it is in part because the big parachurch blogs have "professionalized" blogs, and the regular, ordinary blogger rather unnecessary.

Organizations like the ones Challies mentioned in his article tend to establish a standard, whether it is intentional or not. Women, especially, who have little time to read a lot of blogs, may prefer to read the ones written from the "professional" platforms. That means that the regular, ordinary voice is seen as not nearly as relevant or necessary. Blogging has become less about fellowship and more about information. I would suggest also that it has become more like journalism than anything else. The way bloggers race to be the "first" to comment on a juicy story has made me often think of reporters trying to "scoop" one another. When Rachael Denhollander gave her victim impact statement, everyone wanted to be in on the story, and now, every other woman and her dog wants to be writing about such issues. I don't think that Christian blogging is even about doctrine and theology as much as it is about cultural aspects. Someone always sets the trend, and we follow. And that means fewer "ordinary" blogs.

I loved the old blogging days. It's different now, and I never though there were be a day when I was indifferent toward my own blog, but seminary has offered me writing venues that are simply better for the kind of writing I'm interested in. But now that school is out, I like to keep cranking out sentences. I still like the voices of the ordinary, and in all honesty, I don't often read what comes from the big name bloggers. But I do regularly read  my favourites, the ones I've been reading for years, my friends; and I don't mind if they're not professionals.

Tuesday
Feb272018

The Evangelical Christian reading world is not the whole world

I probably shouldn't be taking time to think about the question put forth by Tim Challies yesterday. With only a little over six weeks in the semester remaining and a whole lot of work yet to do, I need to keep focused. However, I did spend a little time thinking about it yesterday, and maybe I'll think about it some more when I have more time. 

The title of the article and the question posed assumes a particular view: "Why Aren't Men Reading Women Writers?" Clearly, in general, that isn't true. All over the world, and throughout history, men have willingly read women writers. What is meant by that question is that in evangelical Christian circles men don't read books by women writers. And likely, considering the original question, coming from a writer named Jen Pollock Michel, the men come from more conservative -- and likely, complementarian-leaning -- circles. 

I was curious about what are the reading habits of those outside these evangelical Christian circles. What are they like among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, or even in more academic circles? Is it true that men are not reading books written by women in those environments? I don't think the situations are similar. I suspect the question "Why aren't men reading women writers" would not be asked some places. I recently picked up a book that I'm positive men have read: Paul and Gender, by Cynthia Westfall, who is a professor at McMaster Divinity School. Of course men read women writers; it's just not the same in some circles as it is in others. 

Furthermore, these concerns are confined to Christians in North America (and possibly the UK; I don't know) who have access to books and time to read them. I have friends who are missionaries in PNG, and I'm sure they know nothing about this situation, and they probably don't care. It is interesting how easy it is to assume that our situation is the situation, when in reality, it's only a very small slice.

The answer to that question does lie in the publishing industry and what people will buy. But the fact that it must be asked at all has something to do with the place from where it originates.

Monday
Oct162017

Blogging may be dead, but . . . 

I have been blogging for twelve years. No, I haven't blogged every day, and I am not well-known. But I've been here. If one of the young women of my acquaintance asked me advice on how to begin, I'd be willing to share some counsel. These bits of advice reveal that I'm largely out of sync with things, but this is where I have arrivied twelve years later.

Get Educated

Learn how to construct a sentence. Learn some basic grammar rules. Learn the difference between its and it's. Learn that the possessive form of "I" is "my" not "I's". Proof read and correct mistakes. If you have the attitude "it's just a blog," then why blog at all? Good writing mechanics is the easy part.

Further to that, research what you write about. This may mean reading beyond the internet. It may mean that your post doesn't come to fruition for a week. Or two. If you're really serious, consider listening to podcasts or lectures from seminaries which are available for free. Get a user-friendly systematic theology. Start with something simple like Packer's Concise Theology. Just learn. Keep learning. Use blogging as a reason to learn. Learning has a way of making us humble. When we see how little we know, we feel it. Humility is a valuable tool in good writing.

Sleep On It

One thing about online communication is it tends to be like journalists all rushing after the scoop. When something controversial comes up, there is a rush to see who can respond first and with the most insightful commentary. That is too bad, because sometimes, insight only comes from sustained thinking. At the very least, think about it for more than an hour. Especially if you're really charged up about something, slow down. Passionate writing isn't bad, but if we're too charged up, it might sound obnoxious.

Beware of Controversy

Controversial topics get visits to a blog. There is a feeling of community when everyone bands together to commiserate or complain. That should be the minority of blog content. If all we ever write about is that which is complaint-worthy, how are we demonstrating the hope that is in the gospel or the beauty of the Word of God? I've read a lot of blogs over the years, and some I've given up on. The ones I continue to read don't provide a steady diet of controversy. Part of being a good writer is knowing how to write about anything. Consistent controversy really narrows what we write about, and can ultimately make us boring.

Be in the Word

Being in God's word regularly, and in deep ways, transforms our thinking. It is the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Without that regular diet of God speaking to us, it will influence our thinking, and in turn, our writing. There is only so much time in a given day, and if we spend more time online reading blogs and less time in the Word, we may very well have a great understanding of how to write a blog post that attracts readers, but we may be spiritually poorer for it.

Take Care of Your Kids

There are a lot of parents (especially women) with children who blog. Blogging takes time and attention. Don't rob your kids of time with them so you can get a post up. I did that more than I should have. Am I the only one who ever did that? I doubt it. There were times I know that my kids were speaking to me while I was at my computer writing and I didn't even really hear what they were saying. I'm sad about those times. I have adult children; trust me, they remember the times we seemed to be ignoring them.

Confrontation is not a spiritual fruit

I have come across a lot of confrontational bloggers over the years. I guess some of them are called "watchbloggers." Some are more overt than others. Some disguise their "watchblogginess" with better writing. But I still find them wearisome if that's all they ever do. I avoid those kinds of blogs now. There is nothing wrong with speaking truth or identifying error, but if that is all a blogger produces, eventually I stop reading altogether. There is a very fine line between holding strong views and just beng a harpie. Learn to write incisively about your topic, not go at people with all guns blazing.

Get someone to edit your writing

The blog world is filled with men and women who write without any real accountability. And they may have a lot of readers. Just how responsible are we for what we say on our blogs? It's a worthwhile question. Get someone to read your writing before you post; someone who can be honest with you. I wish I'd done more of that. And be humble if that person cautions you about something.

Write with grace

In your learning (see above), understand what grace is. And use it in large measure. I am not always gracious, but I know grace-filled writing when I see it, and I'd rather read that than anything else.

Monday
Oct092017

Keep some of ourselves to ourselves

There is a reason why books like Finding God in My Loneliness get written. I got a deal on that book for Kindle over the summer. I haven't read it, but I've read other things by Lydia Brownack before, and I really like her. It is, of course, one of the ironies of contemporary life that in a context where we are flooded with information and the ability to interact with people at the click of a mouse that loneliness has not been eradicated.

Augustine was right when he said we are restless until we find our rest in God. Much loneliness comes from trying to fill an empty space with something that is fleeting. And yet there are Christians who have found their rest in God who still struggle with loneliness. I often wonder how online activity contributes to loneliness among Christians.

It's popular to be transparent online. Sometimes, it really helps someone out. To find someone who understands our struggle is always encouraging. However, for the one who writes those things, there is a risk. What happens when we share our hearts and no one reacts? Does that mean no one cares? When you put little pieces of yourself out there and no one is receptive to them, it can make you feel a little discouraged. There are times when if we want to combat feeling lonely, we need to just keep ourselves to ourselves. Being too open can make us later feel exposed, and that may make us feel lonely. There is nothing wrong with guarding our hearts. Transparency is not a bad thing, but a wise person will know not to be too transparent. It takes discernment and good writing skills to word things in a way that gets to the heart of the matter without leaving ourselves open to feeling vulnerable. I haven't figured out how to do that yet. 

I need to write things to process, so I have been doing more of that offline. Blog and social media circles have become funny things, reminding me more of the high school cliques I loathed than places where one can feel encouraged to participate. I have grown more cautious as I have got older. More than ever, with our culture being so connected, I think we need to foster those face to face connections where we are confident someone cares about our thoughts and struggles. 

And of course, there's always simply taking those things to the Lord.

Monday
May152017

Specialized theology

Since starting seminary, I have benefitted from theologians who are specialists in a particular area. One of the first profs I had specialized in war in the Old Testament. My prof last semester did his doctoral dissertation on baptism. In the books I have used to prepare papers, I have been introduced to other theologians who specialize. When I want to know about a particular subject, especially when looking for a commentary on a book of the Bible, I look for someone who has studied extensively in that area. 

We all have particular areas of interest in our own theological studies. I tend to gravitate to historical theology or systematic theology. How have we understood the Bible? How have we used it to work out doctrinal positions? How do those studies enlarge my view of God? I also like to study about Bible study and hermeneutics. I notice that fellow bloggers also have a favourite interest, and for many, it is the place of women in the Church. 

I tread lightly on this matter, because in all honesty, I am all too aware that one can say something seemingly inconsequential, and then find out later that it was the wrong thing to say. I may be going against my gender, but I sometimes sympathize with the men when they look perplexed: "What did I say wrong?" I don't discount the reality of the marginalization of women, but occasionally, I find myself reluctant to offer an opinion that is not 100% agreement for fear that I will be drummed out of womanhood. Even asking a clarifying question may generate confllict. That troubles me, and is an issue all its own. I have many thoughts on it, but I am a coward, and likely won't articulate many of them.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to study extensively issues such as women, racism, social justice, poverty, covenant theology, or the Trinity. We all have interests which drive us. I don't think we should feel guilty if things about which we feel strongly don't algin with the interests of others. I won't hold it against you if you don't care about how the doctrine of justification developed over time or whether you find your eyes glazing over in a discussion about hermeneutics. By the same token, I hope you would excuse me if I pass by an article about women in the Church or don't react with as much passion as you might. It doesn't mean I don't care, and it doesn't mean I'm not listening.

I do care about how women are treated in the Church. I care deeply. But I care about other matters, too. Part of the beauty of finding our equality in our essence as opposed to our function means that we are free to pursue what we want without fearing that others, especially our sisters in Christ, will accuse us of being apathetic in other areas.

As I get older my poor brain needs focus, and that means that less is more. My greatest desire is to know God more, to be more yielded to him, to know his word better, and to love others better. I don't want to come across as argumentative with anyone whether the subject matter is women, the extent of the atonement, or whether or not I should eat gluten. I just want to keep fixing my eyes on Christ, and follow where he leads. And yes, that may mean I miss out on some reading. I will take that chance.