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Entries in Blogging (31)


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.


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.


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.


Blogging lessons in middle age

I think I'm probably more than middle aged. The average lifespan of women in Canada is not 100 years old as far as I know. Late middle age is a better designation, I guess.

I love how God continues to teach me lessons as I get older. Perhaps it's because I'm in seminary right now (and I am definitely not the oldest in my class at the moment), but I feel like I'm learning a lot about many things. Maybe the estrogen deficiency induced brain fog that seems to have taken over has lifted somewhat. At any rate, I'm learning.

I have been blogging for eleven years. Lately, I don't blog much, and that's largely because I'm busy with other things and because I have finally (and I am sure there are many who are relieved!) reached the point where I realize that I don't need to express every thought that comes into my head. I did that in the past because I felt obligated to blog every day. However, there is no crown in heaven for blogging every day. Actually, on occasion when I tried to blog every day, there were one of two end results, and maybe two of two results: first, I took time away from something I needed to be doing, probably paying attention to my kids or my husband or my home, and second, I blogged about something that didn't need to be blogged about.

In the past ten months, I've blogged less than ever before, and it hasn't been such a bad thing. I've spent more time reading and thinking. I've actually written quite a bit. There is a lot of value in writing for oneself rather than an audience. But most of all, I've realized over these past ten months that I just don't need to add to the noise. Who cares what I think about the latest controversy? When Christian scandal breaks out, hundreds, if not thousands, of responses pop up, and usually there is usually only a handful which are helpful or even necessary. Too often in the past, I jumped on the bandwagon. And what did I gain from it?

We can't change the foolish decisions we made in the past, but I trust in the fact that the majority of what I wrote is largely forgotten by those who read it; unless of course, it was really bad, and in that case, I don't want to know about it. I tend to react quickly (which can be good in some situations) and that has not always served me well. I'm learning how to be more thoughtful, and that means speaking less. This past week I had to answer the question "What do we learn about God's sovereignty and human responsibility from the Major Prophets." In 200 words. It took me all of the five days I had to complete it to finish. I really had to stop and think and I definitely had to choose what was most important to say.

I am sure most people have learned this lesson much earlier in life. I tend to tak a lot longer in learning such things. But I am thankful that the lessons come eventually.


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.