Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Blogging (28)

Tuesday
Jan202015

Building, dismantling, and the critical spirit

When my children were small, one of the things they loved to do was watch their father build towers with blocks. We had a huge bucket of wooden blocks of various shapes, in bright colours, which their industrious father would use to build intricately designed towers. Upon completing, they were allowed to knock the tower down. They loved it. They could not make those elaborate towers themselves. It was just too difficult at their age, and it was easier to tip the towers over. And of course, watching dad build those towers helped them greatly when they began making their own.

I thought about this recently as articles about women's bible studies and books floated around the interwebs. We are a society which loves to find fault. We love news stories that detail someone's fall from grace; we love to debunk things and prove the masses wrong. We love to hear when someone gets his just desserts. Sometimes, that can have an eroding effect on our morales. There is a place for evaluation, but I think there's an imbalance out there. And for those of us with a tendency toward a critical spirit, we can get sucked into constant critique, dismantling without ever building anything ourselves.

Taking something apart without offering an alternative is much easier than just putting something together. It takes a lot more work to write a bible study than it does to pick one apart. I'm not saying we should not evaluate. Absolutely not! My concern is the imbalance, and honestly, I sometimes find the constant, "Don't read this!" and "Don't read that!" wearying. Yes, by all means, point out areas of concern, but how about on the other nine days out of ten, saying, "Hey, look at this! It's really good material!"

In blogging circles, just as with regular news, bad news attracts attention. I've written blog posts that have "true confession" type of writing, where I admit what a fool I am, how great my sin is, and what a mess I made. There will be far more readers of those kinds of posts than the occasions when I write about a biblical passage I've just taught. Crickets.  I'm not complaining; I'm just pointing out what actually happens.

For me, though, the building part is better. As I said, I already tend toward a critical spirit. When I get in the midst of a multitude of critical voices, I end up along for the ride. I don't want that for myself. I want to be constructive. I don't plan to close my eyes to things that are wrong, and maybe I'll even write about a book I don't like; but it will be the exception and not the rule. It's time to start building more. 

Friday
Dec192014

When they tell you their secrets

My kids are beginning to arrive home for the holidays. I love to see how insanely happy the Beagle is when they come in. She was so happy last night that she sounded like she was being disemboweled. It's like she was saying, "Where have you been? I've been waiting."

We had dinner with all of our kids together last night. Our daughter will be home on Monday, but we were in town where she lives, and we ate together. I love to hear my kids laugh with each other. It's so much  nicer than when they were younger and just filled the dinner table with bickering. It's a blessing to see my adult children be friends with each other. It's not always the case. Of my three brothers, I really only have anything to do with one of them, and that's kind of sad.

Inevitably as they talk together, snippets of things they've done while being on their own come out. My brothers used to do that to my mom, too; share a story of some gross infraction she would rather not have known about. She didn't like it, and I could see that. I sympathized with her, and I sympathize with her more now.

I really don't want to know the things they have done which are displeasing to the Lord. When mothers hear that, the guilt impulse automatically kicks in. When my kids persist on sharing details, I try to keep it light, and say, "Too much information," or "I don't want to know that." Because I don't want to know.

Mothers have one desire for their children; Christian mothers, that is. We desire our children to pursue righteousness. A righteous life is a blessed life. It may not be an easy life, but it's a good life. That's what I want for my kids no matter what their vocations are. We don't want to hear about the things they have done which are unrighteous, no matter how small. Hearing them say how they learned from a mistake is one thing, but hearing the details we can do without.

My mind is drawn back to an incident when they were younger and we were homeschooling. I had just started blogging, and I was typing away one morning and one of the kids was beside me, speaking to me, asking for permission for something. I was quite involved in what I was doing, and lo and behold, later on I discovered I had given consent for something, had I been paying attention, I would not have.

I wonder how many other moments there were like that. When they share some of their secrets, I feel like I wasn't paying enough attention, that I was too wrapped up in my own affairs at the time. There is a temptation when they are getting older and more independent that we don't have to pay as much attention. I wonder if my time should have been better spent. It's all water under the bridge, but every now and then, I feel regret for it.

I'm studying Psalm 56 in prepration for teaching in January, and in this psalm, David is running from Saul. He is surrounded by enemies. They are "trampling" him "all day long," (v.2).  Their thoughts are evil against him (v.5), and they "lurk" (v.6).

I feel sometimes like those things in the past are my enemies. They trample on an otherwise good day; they lurk, only to jump out when I least expect it. I don't have the kind of enemies David had, but things like guilt and regret can be oppressive in their own way. These enemies from within are stubborn to leave. They want to drag me down.

In the second half of verse 9, David says, "This I know, that God is for me."

What a tremendous thought! The God of the Universe is for me. He is for us. This season of Christmas reminds me what lengths God went to in order to show that he is for us. He sent his son who knew the glory of heaven to a humble stable. This is my comfort. No matter how relentlessly my inner enemies want to be against me, God is for me. That is my comfort and assurance.

Young moms who blog, take care. While there is nothing wrong with blogging, keep it in proper perspective. Don't get distracted with looking for the affirmation of the blog world. Be there for your kids. You're the only mother they have. There will be time for blogging later.

Wednesday
Oct082014

Ten years of blogging

Ten years ago today, I wrote my very first blog post. The reason I started was because I liked to write. I had no real aspirations. It was just for the writing, and for the possibility of interaction with others who liked to write.

Things have changed in ten years.

When I began, I was a homeschool mom with three kids at home. Now, I am an empty nester. That's a big change. My circumstances have changed, and with it, some of my interests.

When I began blogging, it was okay to post recipes, and quizzes that asked, "What Pride and Prejudice Character Are You?" Now, recipes are for food blogs, and the quizzes are for Facebook. Blogging was more friendly back then. Some days, it seems far too serious for ordinary folk like me.

When I began blogging, it was okay to write 1,000 words. Now, I think people have trouble with 500 word posts. 

In 2004, Facebook was not open to public use, and Twitter was still two years away. One heard about blogs by reading blogs. It's much easier to promote a blog now than it was then.

When I began blogging, I had been a parent for fifteen years. I thought I knew a lot about parenting. I discovered I had a lot yet to learn.  

What's stayed the same?

Controversy still sells.

People still know how to beat a dead horse.

Grown men and women still conduct themselves online in ways that, if their children did so, they would be in trouble.

I'm still not a fan of stereotypical "women's ministry" content, whether it's a blog or a book.

The Advantage of Being Unknown

I have not made one dime with my blog. I have not built an impressive platform. I have not become famous. I have not become a "speaker," or had a book published. I am still just a simple bible teacher, wife, mother, and member of the body of Christ. I have a modest readership, and I'm very thankful for the small numbers who read here and occasionally reach out with a word of encouragement or a comment. Once, I was seriously thinking about packing it in, and I got an email from a reader thanking me for blogging. My husband reminds me regularly that one reader is enough to keep on writing.

Being unknown gives me freedom I wouldn't have otherwise. I like blogging without others having expectations from me. It means if I want to knit in front of British crime dramas instead of blogging, no one is going to care. If I choose to post a recipe rather than comment on the latest controversy, the blog cops won't come a-knocking. No one is waiting for me to make utterance, and that's a relief. There is a tremendous amount of responsibility to be someone everyone is waiting to hear speak. I don't think I would like that responsibility. My primary vocation is my family, and I'm grateful that nothing seriously interferes with that.

A Gift

Ten years with no substantial reward? By the world's standards, my blogging effort has not proven to be fruitful. Maybe even in some Christian blogging circles, I'm not successful. Perhaps. But I have been given an unexpected gift: friendship.

I have a group of blogging women who are my friends. Some of them, I've been fortunate enough to meet in person, embrace, share a meal or a cup of coffee with, and have fellowship that ended far too soon. I can turn to them when I need prayer and counsel. Two of those ladies I have known since I began blogging in 2004. When two years is like a thousand in blogging years, how cool is that?

There are other people I have met through blogging, some who have been brave enough to allow my husband and me to come to their homes. That is what I have loved about blogging: the connections I have made. I have no monetary success, no fame, no audience who waits with bated breath for me to speak. But I have friends, and that's a gift. 

In 2004, I wondered if there were other women who were serious about theology and doctrine. One of the suggested names I had for this blog was "The Purpose-Driven Dissident." That was how I felt; like I was always in the wrong place, saying the wrong thing. I probably was saying the wrong thing, but I was not alone in my search for like-minded women. When I began The Upward Call, I did not know that I would find such women through blogging. I did not know I would find other women who felt like they didn't fit, like they were on the fringe. I didn't know I'd come to see that sometimes, the fringe is a good place to be. I'm thankful for these past ten years of blogging.

And this post is over 500 words; if you made it to the end, I thank you.

Thursday
Oct022014

Perhaps the blogging audience has changed

In the last few weeks, there has been a bit of discussion about why women's blogs become inactive. Sarah Beals had what I think is the best comment on the matter. I remember thinking when I read the posts surrounding this matter, "Men who blog probably have someone cooking and cleaning for them, that's why they're blogging." 

I've been blogging for ten years. Next week, it will be 10 years since my first blog entry. Things have changed. I could write a post about said changes. But I won't. Many of you know what they are. One thing I know that has changed is the what the audience expects.

Social media and the reality of a blogger becoming published has collapsed the distance between the reader and the writer. We can tweet at our favourite authors and for some, become Facebook friends. All of a sudden, we're blogging alongside "professionals."  The run of the mill, ordinary female-authored blog  feels like she is writing among the one with the PhD, the MDiv, or the one with two books published. While we should not compare ourselves, it is inevitable. That would be like me playing a game of tennis with Venus Williams and not comparing my abilities. I think a lot of female bloggers stop because of insecurity. And yes, that is something we must learn to get over. I think, though, that with so many professional blogs, the audience expects the writing to be professional, and that's intimidating for a blogger who isn't blogging to build a platform or promote a book, but is just doing it because she likes to write.

Years ago, before standardized measure came into vogue, our great-grandmothers cooked with the "cup of this, pinch of that" approach. After the turn of the 20th Century, domestic work became systematized and organized, and schools began offering courses on household management. I'm currently reading the journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and her cousin was involved in such a course. When something like domesticity becomes professionalized, anything other than the standard comes across as insufficient. Great-grandma's cooking was indeed very good, but it was so old fashioned and not as good as the professionally produced food. I think we little bloggers may feel that way about our writing, and it makes us apprehensive.

Writers write for an audience. If we write only for our own amusement and our own eyes, what is the purpose of putting it online? We want to share. To never consider our audience seems a bad approach to writing. For some of us, we don't stop writing because we're not getting thousands of readers; we stop because we perceive we are not even in the conversation. 

For all of our talk about loving the ordinary, and realizing that God sanctifies the ordinary life, I'm not so sure we all like to read about the ordinary lives of others. We like to hear about famous ordinary people. For me, I love to read about ordinary. There are a handful of blogs I've been reading for years and I read them regularly. I like to hear about their regular lives. We're friends. Perhaps that is what has changed in blogging, and why women pack it in: it's not as friendly.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a rather random entry about odds and ends. One of the comments was from someone who said she felt like she'd had a cup of coffee with me. I like that. And I wonder if there is still an audience out there who likes that. If you are out there, we'd like to know.

Wednesday
Feb192014

Is the blog a good medium for everyone?

I was writing the other day, working on a post where I have a particular word limit. I did what I always do: I wrote way more than is allowed and then edited the thing to get the word count down. I find that much easier than writing too little and then struggling to fill in the gaps.

Later, I went to read someone else's blog post and it was very long; much longer than you'd expect. But it really needed to be, because the writer was talking about a very complicated issue and it required more than the paltry amount of words that blogs seem to allow these days. 

The post I was working on involved study of history, and history is always complicated. No historical figure or event just pops up randomly. It is always a matter of numerous things intersecting with each other. Sometimes, even 1,000 words isn't quite enough.

I like researching things, and I like soaking myself in the topic. I like knowing a subject well. I like studying for my Sunday school lessons well enough so that I only have to glance at my notes. Sometimes, I don't think the blog is the best medium for someone who is like that; at least not if she wants someone to read it. And let's be honest, here; why bother writing in a public medium if it's not with the intent to have someone read it?

I think it's wise to know our strengths and weaknesses. It is not my particular strength to be funny. Some people write with ease, expertly inserting those dry, sarcastic (in a good way) quips, often bringing in some rather vague pop culture references that some people get and some people don't. I enjoy a dry sense of humour, but I can't replicate that. Generally speaking, when I generate laughter, it's when I'm actually serious.

Neither am I the kind of person whose prose borders on poetry and makes people cry on their keyboards. Nope, can't do it. I like my prose with prose and poetry with poetry.  As a few friends and I were contemplating yesterday, I'm kind of a wet blanket. I'm a hard-working wet blanket, mind you, but soggy nonetheless.

I don't know as if the blog is the best medium for everything. I enjoy reading articles that are short and interesting, but I don't think every topic can be condensed to 500 words. I often wonder how much misunderstanding is perpetuated because we try to keep it so short. No, we can't say everything in a blog post, and if we try, people get bored and leave. When we don't say everything, there is an inevitable flurry of debate in the comments box, and we all know how productive those comments boxes are (sarcasm intended).

All of this thinking reminds me again how blogging is a very different sort of writing than other kinds. My daughter is a PhD student in English. There is a lot of writing. When I told her what I was writing about and how long it needed to be, she looked at me wide-eyed and said "Is that all?" I don't think a blog would suit her needs even if she had the time to write one.

This October, I will have been blogging for ten years. A lot has changed. I'm still trying to figure out what is the best way to use this medium.