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Entries in Blogging (30)

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.

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.