Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Blogging (26)

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. 

Friday
Dec302016

My year in review

Actually, I'm not really going to do a year in review. At least not the kind where I look back at my posts for the year. I don't really keep any real statistics that would enable to tell me that.

I was thinking back over the past year as I got out my 2017 wall calendars and began using my Moleskine day planner (it starts on December 26). After making a mental promise to myself to seek to avoid breaking another bone in 2017, I thought about what has gone by this past year. What has stood out to me?

Although it's not an illuminating thing, it's something that has been re-inforced to me repeatedly this past year: there is life outside the internet and social media. Of course that's a no-brainer. We all know that. But, often, I feel like we forget. I know I do. I will worry more about an exchange on social media than I will about my relationship with my family or friends. I may think that following someone on social media means I know them intimately. I may get unduly irritated by something I see happen on Twitter. I need to remember that those things are very fleeting. Internet attention spans are notoriously short, so why do I get in a tizzy?

Two things in particular have really driven this point home. First, my systematic theology class. Being able to talk face to face with other theology nerds has reminded me of the value of in person communication. When I consider the many topics we discussed this past semester, I've often thought, "I wonder how this exchange would play out on social media?" The answer, of course, is not with nearly as much grace and kindness. We didn't rant at one another, speak with nasty sarcasm, or call each other heretics. My prof, especially, has modeled what valuable, biblically-driven disscussion looks like. 

Second, I broke my ankle. That not only meant being unable to spend a lot of time online (my Mac is a desktop, and having my foot down was not a good thing), but depending on people. While I love my blogging friends (especially the women I blog with at Out of the Ordinary), and they offered prayers and concern for my situation, ultimately, it was not they who brought food, drove me to appointments, or came to visit when I had cabin fever. It was the people in my circle of friends and family. I was especially served well by my children. My sons regularly took turns driving me to and from school when they were able, and my daughter came a few times to help out when my husband had to be away. My husband's help was nothing short of fantastic. I know many women don't like the idea of depending on a man, but I sure am thankful he was able to get up early with our dogs, do the grocery shopping, and much of the cleaning; this on top of a very busy job which is especially busy in the month of December.

I really love reading blogs and using social media. When it begins to irritate me, it's easy enough to mute the voices I don't want, ignore them, or just walk away. The past year, I've seen the value in doing what my husband always suggests: ignore. I think the best analogy of social media is the one that says it is the "town crier" of the day. And there are so many town criers, and some of them are not nice. It shouldn't surprise me that some Christians conduct themselves in a truly awful way online, but every now and then I just can't believe it. I need to ignore it and be committed to not being afraid to speak truth, but to speak it without being a brute.

All in all, this year has shown itself to be, through God's provision, a good year. That doesn't mean it was absent any blips on the screen or any struggles, but considering one of my closest friends closed out 2016 by burying her son a month before he was scheduled to get married, I'm not going to complain. 

Tuesday
Dec202016

The Great Conversation

I had a professor in university who talked about Shakespeare studies as a "Great Conversation." She was very gung-ho for Shakespeare (and, I must admit, she had me declaring mid-semester to devote my life to Shakespeare studies; as you can tell, it didn't last). Her principle of a Great Conversation has always stayed with me, and no more so than in the context of theological discussions.

I like to talk theology. From the time I was converted in 1985, I had questions. For a while, when the kids were little, the questions were lingering in the background in the midst of the domestic concerns of our family, but always, they simmered. After I read a few books, The Holiness of God, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and No Place for Truth, the questioned stopped simmering, and boiled over. They made me restless. When I discovered blogging in 2004, I was like the proverbial pig in the mud: finally, other women with similar questions and desires to discuss. It was the Great Conversation of my dreams.

Blogging has changed, of course. Twelve years in internet time is like the passing of an entire era. It doesn't have that friendly feel. Unless you're someone of repute or promoting your new book, it feels like there is no place for the voices of the ordinary. Some of us have become quieter as our lives have changed. Some of us have all but stopped blogging. I miss those friendly voices, those contributors to that Great Conversation. 

Most days, I may get 35 visits to my blog, and some of them are just spam. The traffic wasn't always so paltry. By comparison to other women, it's nothing; sort of laughable that I even keep on writing. I'm not a blogger of influence. I used to think I was "failing" somehow if I didn't get a lot of visits. I don't think too much about it anymore. Theology matters to me, and writing about it helps me process things. A little stint with anxiety two years ago helped me see what really matters (as cliché as that sounds). Since I began seminary, I suppose you could say that Great Conversation is happening more in another location, this time face to face. And that's been exciting.

I think there is still room for that Great Conversation in blogging; that conversation about our Triune God, about our faith, and our place in the world. It's not a conversation that is going anywhere, and why should the professionals have all the fun? I wonder if some of us have been caught up in the idea of building a platform, establishing a voice. Sometimes, I think the effort of establishing a platform can mute our natural voice, so that we're taking on a voice that is too conscious of its audience. It feels awkward, so we just stop talking. There have been days when I definitely feel intimidated because I'm not "someone." And yet, in my own life, I realize it's the "not someones" who have had one of the biggest impacts on me. When I sit down and think about it, there really is no famous Christian who has had the kind of impact on my life that people in real life have. This past semester, I have been greatly impacted by my theology professor, unknown in the blog world, but who over his 30+ years of teaching has had an impact on many people.

I don't know why those of us who miss the relational aspects of blogging don't just do what we want to do. I miss those days when it was okay to post a recipe or a quiz. We're busy, and our lives change, and that's understandable. For me, I'll keep writing, I guess. Maybe only a handful of people will see it. Maybe I'm kind of indulgently amusing: that middle aged woman with no "platform." I'll keep plugging away. Writing is something I simply can't see myself stopping any time soon. That Great Conversation is worth writing about.