Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Blogging (28)

Friday
Oct092015

How blogging can adversely affect a seminary student

Seminary is teaching me a lot; and not just the course work. It's giving me insight into how I've changed as a student.

In my undergraduate days, there was no social media. There was email, but there was not this continual glut of information screaming for our attention. We could close the newspaper, turn off the television, and have silence. In recent years, though, as I have engaged in blogging and social media, I, like many, have noticed a deficit in my attention span.

This was really brought to my attention this past week as my class discussed wisdom literature. As I read through the class's answers to the reflection question -- which are supposed to be around 200 words -- I found myself getting impatient with those answers which clearly went beyond 200 words. I forced myself to concentrate, because part of this class is interacting thoughtfully with others.

And that brings me to something else I noticed. Just how thoughtful am I? I was in a hurry to get my answer completed, not think deeply. I am more used to blogging, which features a lot of fast responses. Do most people spend a week or more contemplating every blog post? Some do, but judging from the way post after post popped up in the wake of the drama surrounding Douglas Wilson, most often, people post quickly. I have been guilty of that myself more often than I would like to admit.

Critical thinking takes time and effort. It takes silence, too; and not just audible silence, but the kind of silence we get from unplugging for a couple of hours; or days, if necessary.

There is a need for thinking fast on one's feet. I can do that, but I want to be more thoughtful about things. I am glad that there is something which is forcing me to do this.

Saturday
Sep052015

I do not want to be a groupie

When I was a teenager, I went with my friend to see Rick Springfield at a local venue. Of course, the place was crawling with his groupies. I was a bit of a Springfield groupie for a while, but it was not long lived. He was kind of a one-hit wonder, and I didn't see what the fuss was about.

I have written here about something that shaped my attitude toward celebrities, Christian and non-Christian alike. For Christians, the questionable lifestyles of Hollywood actors may make it easier to avoid becoming a groupie. With well-known Christians, however, the temptation may be greater because we have shared values, and technology makes it so easy to hang on their every word.

I do not want to be a groupie. I have seen what happens in Christian circles when women are groupies: we become unreasonable. Women who could be considered Beth Moore groupies love her so much that they do not tolerate any critique, and if you offer some, you're mean and uncharitable. With all of these talented people who are so easily accessible, how can I avoid being a groupie? Here are some ways I try to approach the matter.

I try to read widely.  There are a lot of good writers out there, and being limited in my reading is a road to being narrow in my thinking.

I read older and dead authors. Some of the books which are popular today will be forgotten in ten years. I want to read what is enduring.

I respect and pray for my pastor. With all of the pastors out there, it can be tempting to give more heed to those men than to the one God has put in our midst. I need to remember that my pastor is my pastor because God put him there. I  need to pray for him as much (if not more) as I do the famous pastor.

I try to read more books than blogs. Blogs are great, and I love them, but I also need to read something that has a well-developed, thorough, and well-studied message. Blogs also tend to ride on the wave of what everyone is talking about. Sometimes, what everyone is talking about is not worth nearly as much attention as it is getting.

I remind myself of the old addage, "we all put our pants on one leg at a time." These popular individuals are human. Some of them leave the lid off the toothpaste, snap at people in a heated moment, and leave their dirty laundry on the floor. We only see one side of them. Recent days have certainly shown us that no one is immune to error, and no one is above critique. Focus on the work of the person, not his personality.

Finally, I try to build relationships with people in my local church. Christian circles on the internet are not the church, and we live in the real world. What is the point of reading and taking advice from Christian writers if we aren't going to live it out in the flesh?

I am grateful for good writers, but I am wary of celebrity. In the long run, it isn't helpful to exalt Christian leaders or put them on a pedestal. Usually, the only way off a pedestal is down.

Wednesday
Aug052015

When trials come, what helps the most?

My social media reading has changed over the last six months. While I still follow pretty much the same people as I did a year ago, my attention focuses less and less on the articles out there that deal with issues about the role of women in the church. Don't get me wrong; I think it's an important topic, but it's become one of those "musts" which determine whether a blogger is worth reading or not. And let's face it: writers write to be read, and that includes bloggers. If we didn't want to be read, we wouldn't do it.

I am losing interest in the continual material on the subject of women in the church. I don't begrudge anyone wanting to write about it, but honestly, for women who complain that women don't have enough of a voice, why are they writing about women? Why do some criticize "mommy bloggers" for their focus on womanly arts when they are still writing about women's issues themelves? Yes, the issues may be more complex, but women are still writing about things of concern for women. Where are the women writing about theology proper? Some of the writers I enjoy the most write very eloquently about women, but I seldom see them write about theology proper. All is not lost, though; one of the women bloggers whom I've known the longest does indeed write about such things as do the women I write with at Out of the Ordinary. For them, I am thankful.

In the last seven months, I have been going through a very difficult trial. There have been days when reading social media is the worst thing I could possibly do, and there are days when I have been completely disinterested in blogging at all. Some days, the only reading I have been able to manage is the Psalms. Just prior to the onset of this trial, I purchased the first volume in the long-awaited series on the writing of William Perkins. It has sat untouched for six months now. I do plan to pick it up again soon, becauase things are improving.

What has helped me the most over the past months is not reminders of my womanhood in the church. Articles about how I as a Christian woman can "engage" the culture have not been helpful. Reminders that yes, I need to be an influence in the church have not helped. Being told what I'm supposed to do as a woman have not helped. Having friends who want to discuss how we as women can have more influence and break the shackles of male domination have not helped.

What has helped is continual reminder of who God is. And that is where the Psalms have helped. Over the past seven months, I have read through the entire book of Psalms every month. There are Psalms I have read over and over again (Ps. 4, 5, 6, 18, 34, 46, 91, 145). These have reminded me who God is, and by extension, who I am. What has helped are friends who continue to remind me that God is good, that he is sovereign, that he loves me. The articles and books I have read have reminded me of the same thing.

I have been teaching the bible in some capacity for over 15 years. I have a lot of knowledge stocked up in my head, but I still have so much to learn about who God is and who I am before him. As I stand before God on my own, through the blood of Christ, I continue to learn more about my sin, my pride, and my faith. I have been a Christian for 30 years, and in the past seven months, I have never learned more about these things.

Perhaps those who feast on the issues of the day have already learned what I clearly have not. Perhaps I am living in a state of spiritual arrested development. I still feel like I have a long way to go. Not that anyone was waiting for me to comment on such things, but until I have learned enough about God, you won't see me addressing popular topics. That, of course, means obscurity in blogging, and I'm okay with that. That's another thing I've learned during this trial: what's important and what is not. I have seminary to look forward to next month, and that goal is more important to me now than the goal of keeping this blog going. While the ambitious side of me would love to have people read what I write, I guess I'll be content with writing for my professors.

Some days are still not easy, but I've arrived at the point where I can say, "It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes" (Psalm 119:71).

Wednesday
Mar182015

Learning not to care

Since the early part of February, there's been more than the regular amount of stress in my life. This has frustrated me, because tomorrow, I am going to my very first seminary class. I should be excited about that, but the stress of the past number of weeks has occasionally overshadowed that. I've never been great at handling stress, and it's quite humbling to realize at the seasoned age of 50 that I'm much worse than I believed.

In the midst of all of this, I found myself really not caring one bit about blogging, whether it was posting here or reading blogs. Oh, I continue to read my favourite few, the ones who've been with me for a long time. They're friends; both the blogs and the writers. But as for some of the other things going on in my social media feed, I felt a big, fat "I just couldn't care less about this." In some instances, I had the uncharitable thought, "What a silly thing to be going on and on about on social media!" I just didn't care. I found myself thinking one night that I don't care if I ever write another good blog post, or get linked by Famous Blogger, or even get a "Great post" comment on my blog again. I just wanted the stressful situation to be over with. And I want to be fully focused for the next three days as I attend seminary.

Yesterday, I had an appointment with the student I'm tutoring. After our time was done, his mother came into chat, and we had a nice visit, as we always do. She's a lovely lady. I shared with her some of the things going on, and she prayed with me. It was the balm I needed. She gave simple, sincere, loving words of prayer for me, and I left feeling refreshed. I thought, "This is the real stuff. This is the kind of thing I really care about." I had similar feelings this week when friends emailed me to ask how I'm doing, knowing that the past few weeks have been a little unruly. Unsolicited, "Hey, how are you doing?" is also the real stuff.

I'm not saying I don't care about this blog or Out of the Ordinary. But sometimes, when stress comes along, it can make me evaluate just how important some things are. Sometimes, it's okay to not care about blogging for a while. It's even okay to not care about what the latest and greatest bloggers are talking about. Sometimes, it's okay to hunker down and memorize Psalms, read the Puritans, and re-read J.I. Packer's Knowing God.

My prayer for today is that I will benefit greatly from these classes I'm about to take. I continue to pray for the removal of stressful situations. I'm praying one of my favourite Psalms:

Be still and know that I am God
I will be exalted among the nations
I will be exalted in the earth! (Ps. 46:10)

Wednesday
Jan212015

Elsewhere

That is where I am today.

At Out of the Ordinary, I share some thoughts about the need to serve in the local church.

At my Canadian history and literature blog (yes, you may run screaming now if you wish, and I won't be offended), I share a snippet from L.M. Montgomery's journals which reveals a rather embittered pastor's wife.

And now, Psalm 139 beckons to me as I prepare for Sunday school.