Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Blogging (25)

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.

Tuesday
Oct112016

Don't pick the scab

Did your mother ever warn you about picking at a scab? Mine did. And she was generally right about why I shouldn't: it will slow down the healing process; it will bleed again; it could leave a scar. But we did it as kids, anyway. Scabs itch sometimes, and it was irritating.

Something has been bothering me the past couple of weeks. And, no, it has nothing to do with American Politics (although that's downright scary) or Trinity debates. It's watching people online pick at things.

When I first began blogging and reading blogs, I got really annoyed with people who seemed to reject discernment and theological thinking (not realizing, of course, that I was ignorant myself, and had much to learn) and I would read their content. I would churn. I would rant about it to my husband, and more often than I ought to have, online. He would say to me, "Why do you read her/him?" I would decide that I wouldn't do that anymore, but I would find myself being drawn to the drama like the proverbial moth to the flame. Sometimes, there's a little rush when we get indignant and then let fly with criticism. 

Why do we follow online those we ultimately cannot abide? Is there not enough negative content that we can't control without making a point of following it somewhere else? Is there an energy that comes with taking our morning coffee and going in search of something with which we disagree so we can refute it? Yes, I'm probably exaggerating that description, but how close do we come to doing that? There is a big difference between engaging with someone's teaching and just looking for things to criticize. Yes, by all means, address the error, but making someone's questionable teaching the main staple of our reading diet just feeds our desire to complain. I've done it. Now, please don't understand me: I am not saying we should not address error. But surely while error is being pointed out, some building up could be going on.

I still struggle to fight the temptation to churn over things I've read online. I long to be an encouraging person, a gentle person, and a person who thinks before she speaks. For those writers who do spend time thinking before speaking, I am grateful. I admire that. I enjoy so much the good teaching of men and women whom I read. I am sharpened by it, and edified by it. But it's disheartening to see men and women throw unconstructive rhetoric at one another through cyberspace. Surely we are better than that.

The blogger I admire the most is a lot like my husband: little is said on a regular basis, but when it is said, it is sound, and worth listening to. There is patience, and thought before speaking up. I've longed to be like that blogger, and I long to be as restrained as my husband. Learning when to speak and not to speak is something I continue to strive toward.

Perhaps some would react to this post with disgust and lump me in with the capitulators and those who are apathetic about theology and orthodoxy. I can't stop people from thinking that about me, but those who know me well know that isn't true. I know how I react to someone who never seems to have anything but a combative word to say, and I don't want to be that person.

Friday
Mar112016

Blogging fear and loathing

It was one of those weeks. I was busy, things didn't go as planned, and the tendonitis in my ankle bothered me on and off. These are small, 1st World things. As I made my way to the x-ray and ultrasound clinic, wishing I had a doctor who wasn't 30 minutes away, I reprimanded myself internally, remembering that I have an aunt and uncle who are over 65 and whose doctor is 80 years old and 45 minutes away. I have nothing to complain about. Go away, complaining self; you're being ridiculous.

On the car ride there and back, I had an idea for a blog post. I took an hour later in the afternoon to get it out for fear of losing those words, something that happens more as I get older. Ladies, estrogen is your friend. It plays a role in the little grey cells; don't wish it away.

Anyway, after using more time than I probably should have, I looked at my post and said out loud, "This is garbage."

I didn't have time to fix it. I have homework. Lots of homework. I can't complain about that, either, because I asked for this, and once I get down to the work, I love it. I forget about bad blog posts. I forget that I only have about four regular readers. I never thought I'd feel that way about blogging. Being able to say I post regularly, whether it is daily or weekly, is not a sign of virtue.

Seminary has eaten into blogging time. It has inspired thoughts for blog posts, but they inevitably require more words than most people want to read. And they don't involve the popular issues, things like how we can make our Christian days more productive, reactions to the current US political situation, or the latest round of shocking things Christian leaders say. I'm wondering if seminary is going to ruin blogging for me. And if it does, will it really matter? It's almost as if I need to wear a different hat, so to speak, if I'm going to succeed at school. I need to take of the blogging hat more often and put on the seminary hat.

At the end of April, I will be finished hermeneutics, and I've learned so much already, both about biblical interpretation and writing. I am sure I will learn more as I tackle the essays.  In May, I begin another course. In September, I will be taking two, one of them Biblical Hebrew. I don't foresee blog posts about taking Hebrew being remotely interesting to anyone but me. I will be thankful, though. I've been waiting for this, and God is allowing me to do it. And blogs come and go, so if this one gets neglected, life will go on.

And now, I have a date with Daniel's Seventy weeks.