Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Blogging (28)

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.

Thursday
May042017

Women in the news

While I was on vacation, and scanned Twitter briefly at intervals, I did notice an exchange of articles about women and blogging. I am not generally a reader of Christianity Today, but I did see a couple articles from that direction, but I only quickly skimmed them. I'm aware of the conversation going on, but it has not grabbed my attention. However, when I saw the title of one article, something along the lines of who is in charge of Christian blogging, my immediate thought was, "Whoever manages to generate the most attention."

I did read this morning an article that Tim Challies linked, from RNS. There were some interesting observations; interesting enough for me to break my own self-imposed rule that I don't use my blog to critique other blog articles. This isn't a critique, however. It's more an observation which arose from the article.

In the article, Hannah Anderson compares the way women go about leading to the way men go about leading. She concludes:

From moral decision-making to leadership styles, women, in general, work with an eye toward relationships and cooperation while men operate more impersonally and individualistically.

When I read that, I thought, "That is not me."

I am a leader in my local church. I take on responsibility quite naturally, and when I am given it it, I work to give it 100% of my attention. But I don't work with relationships and co-operation in mind. I am not a dictator, but when I go about leading, I am not so much concerned with gathering a group or forming community as I am in simply doing the job given to me and working with integrity. In fact, I tend to avoid groups of women. Maybe it is a hangup from my past, or maybe it is the result of having mostly male friends as a child and being the only girl in the family, but I am more prone to backing up from a group of women than I am in embracing it. Seeing pictures of women at conferences, smiling and happy together makes me feel a little melancholy at times, because that has not been my experience, yet everyone keeps telling me that it is the goal I am supposed to aspire to. 

This often frustrates me. The current "leaders" in the Christian blog world who are debating about who is in charge don't really speak for me. Many are much younger than I am, and have few similar experiences to mine. I am Canadian; most are from the U.S. And yes, that makes a difference. I cannot help but think that there is a particular socio-economic similarity among those leaders, and I wonder how women from other backgrounds react to what is written. This also leaves me wondering a bigger question: should women be seeking to be led by women they will never know? With whom there is no personal accountability? This is a basic question, of course, and one that is always left there in the background while at the same time, we actually do allow ourselves to be led. This has troubled me lately, as I am seeing more and more the potential downside of putting too much emotional energy into online relationships.

Questions are good. I've never been one to avoid asking questions. My questions don't revolve so much around who is in charge of the blog world, or which women are the leaders. Rather it is how much does my interest in such leadership influence my relationship to Christ? Is it more distracting than helpful? 

Wednesday
Mar222017

A blogging crossroads, or what women blog about

Ultimately, whether or not I write on my blog is not really crucial. If something were to happen today which meant I could no longer keep up this blog, the world would not end for me or for anyone who has ever read it. Actually, it's true for every blog.

Yet, I love to write. When I see people stop writing altogether, I wonder how they can do it. I have been writing in some venue since I a kid. Whether it was in those old Hilroy notebooks or in a more pricey Moleskine notebook, I have written. Stories; thoughts; bad poetry. Writing isn't the question. But the venue does matter.

Blogging has helped me in that the weekly reflection papers I write for both of my theology classes are like blog posts. They don't go beyond a couple of double-spaced pages, and they must be focused on the question. I have loved the assignments because they give me a topic, rather than wondering what appeals to the reader. And that is where lately I find blogging frustrating.

A lot of people say "blog for yourself." And that is a good maxim. I am left wondering, though, that if someone who writes doesn't care if anyone reads it, why she would put it online line in the first place? There does come a point when if someone doesn't attract readers, it could be a sign to move on to something else. I ask myself that a lot. It may be true that blogging is dead. I tend to think of it more as having been consolidated. It's not an unusual phenomenon that something which began as a venue for the ordinary person becomes "professionalized" in a sense, muting those ordinary voices. It's sort of like what happened with midwifery at the turn of the 20tht century. Medical advancements in obstetrics could have helped childbirth in general, but what it actually did was phase out midwifery for a while, putting the doctors in the forefront. 

Recently, I have noted among women bloggers two extremes: borderline navel gazing or indignant discernment posts about the failings of the Church in general. I don't care for either. I would love to see more theological content that isn't couched in a controversial issue or in the text of a "beating a dead horse" post. I see posts about how women need to be equipped biblically. Where are the posts exegeting a passage of Scripture? I know why they aren't written: they don't attract readers like the extreme posts do.

I've thought about changing the title and content of my blog. There are lots of things I love to write about. Starting in September, I'm starting my Greek studies. I will have three semesters to look forward to. I could call it "It's All Greek to Me!" However, I'm just a beginner, so I can't see any content other than, "I don't know what I'm doing." I have also thought of blogging nothing but quoted passages from good books, especially the Puritans and dead theologians. I would call it "Don't Take My Word For It." But that takes time, and with school, I don't have it. I'm already bogged down with reading.

And then there is the option of not blogging at all. I'm seriously considering applying to do an MDiv Research degree which would definitely put demands on my time that could leave me with little time for blogging. That is something I'm still pondering. I would miss blogging, so I don't want to be hasty.

So, here I am left wondering "What do women want to read about?" Perhaps the better question is "What do the women who read my blog want to read about?" Believe it or not, there are a few readers. And they have been faithful readers and faithful friends. I have to remind myself over and over again that it's not about influence or audience.

I will press on then, with my few faithful, encouraging readers. It's good for my pride in the long run.

Thursday
Mar162017

Answering the door in my pajamas

I had an idea of something that would make a good blog post. I believe it would be helpful to someone. But even as I logged in during a study break, I hesitated. I was glad I did. I've been writing more in paper these days, and as I jotted down a few thoughts, I changed my mind. In being too transparent, there is a risk.

When we are transparent with others, regardless of the venue, it is an offering. We open up ourselves, knowing that there is the potential for rejection; ridicule; shame; judgment. Even when we are "anonymous" via the internet, the risk is the same. The difference is that we don't see the reactions of others. Anyone who thinks that the risk is less when online isn't thinking through the matter.

In the past couple of years, there have been bloggers whom I think have said too much. I recognize it because in the past, I have been guilty of that myself. Not everything needs to be said. There are things I said as a mom of teens which I see now as a mom of adults I shouldn't have said online, despite the facade of anonymity. When a blogger who hasn't been married all that long says something too personal about the marriage (despite getting "permission" from the spouse), I feel embarrassed for that person. The only kind of things my husband and I reveal about one another to others are the things which are not all that serious; the silly things we tease each other about. I would never go into any detail about my husband's emotional situation or anything serious about our marriage. It's off limits, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, I haven't always been wise. There are things I have written which, now that my blog is all but dead, make me feel the same way I do when someone comes to the door and I'm still in my pajamas. Yesterday, as I contemplated that post, and rejected the notion, I wondered, "Does this mean I'm all grown up now?" I doubt it, but I think I'm on my way. My post can stay safely contained in paper and maybe some day, I'll share it. But not today.

Thursday
Jan122017

When online debate ate up my time

I'm back to school today. On Saturday, I have a class all day. I have a feeling blogging time will go back to being less than more. 

Recently, Frank Turk, who formerly blogged with the Pyromaniacs blog, retired from blogging. At one time, I read the Pyromaniacs regularly, and benefited from it. It was among the first blogs I read. There was always something entertaining there. There were also lively discussions, and occasionally, heated exchanges. There were days when I would check the posts repeatedly to see what shocking thing would be said next. Sometimes, I even participated, although, not as actively as some. It could be an intimidating comments box.

As I thought back to those days, I felt a little guilty, though. It occurred to me that some days, I probably wasted a lot of time. It wasn't reading the blogs, necessarily, which ate up the time, but rather, expending mental energy to follow the controversy. Sometimes, it was almost like being hooked on daytime drama. That is not something I'm particularly proud of. Blogging can bring great benefits. I have made friends, learned a lot, and been introduced to wonderful resources. But getting involved in the drama was not one of the benefits.

Occasionally, I will see that someone I follow on Twitter is engaged in a long and protracted discussion with another person. I want to shout: "Don't do it!" It takes up so much mental energy, and ultimately, it is a poor way to engage with someone. Having to sift through this tweet and that tweet to find a point is not a way I want to use my time anymore.

Kids move away from home, and you don't get that time back. While I was engaged in following the drama, I ought to have been spending more time with the kids and with my husband. I wish I had practiced a little more self-control. I wish I had followed my husband's counsel to just let someone else have the last word. My kids were more important than that last word. It's easy to think that our adolescent and teenage children don't need us anymore because they can fix their own snacks and do their own laundry. They need our time and attention.

It isn't good to dwell on things we can't change, and usually, I don't even think about those bygone days. I have good relationships with my adult children, and what's done is done. But every now and then someone I knew a while ago online pops up and it makes me revaluate myself. That's not always a bad thing.