Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Blogging (28)


Valuing encouragement of those who know us

Back in the early days of my blogging, one of my favourite blogs was Pyromaniac, the blog of Phil Johnson. This was before it became a group blog. I appreciated (and still do) Phil's incisive writing and passion for the gospel. 

Phil used to do something called "blogspotting," which was basically to link other people. One morning, as I checked my site stats, I noticed visits coming from Phil's blog. My stomach lurched, and my heart sped up. What on earth was this? My first thought was, "have I said something stupid?" I am not a funny person; generally when people laugh, it's at me.

I don't even remember what it was, but it was, of course, all in good fun. I have been blessed to have met Phil and his wonderful wife on a few occasions, and I can tell you they are the warmest, kindest folks you'd want to meet. At the time, though, I was actually quite terrified of him. It was, though, a little boost to a nobody blogger like myself.

A few years ago, I wrote a letter to my favourite aunt. She and I used to do this often at one time before email and cheap long distance calls. I know she loves letters, so I wrote her one. When I saw her the following October, she told me that she loved my letter, and that she had not only read it several times, but taken it around to my other aunts and uncles and read it to them.

"You should have been a writer," she said seriously.

That was one of the most precious things I have ever been told. 

My aunt is not a writer, although she knows what good books are. I admire her a great deal. I am indebted to her for all she taught me about domestic issues, about being a newlywed, and what hard work is. When she commented on my writing, it was like my heart sprouted wings.

It is flattering when other writers whom we respect encourage us in our writing. On the occasions that it has happened to me, I have felt both thankful and a little scared; scared because I don't ever want to become prideful, and I know my own heart. I also don't want to find my sufficiency in the praise of men. However, it is a blessing and an encouragement when someone we admire compliments our writing. Who doesn't like to get a link from a blogger we respect?

At the the same time, we need to value and be grateful for the encouragement of those who know us. When my husband likes what I have written, that means a lot to me. When the bloggers I consider friends like what I've written, it's the icing on the cake. It's not that I am seeking a carte blanche endorsement of everything I write. But the folks I consider good blogging friends are theologically solid; I can trust their judgment. The added bonus of us knowing each other makes their encouragement and support valuable, indeed.

Having "big" name bloggers can increase your traffic exponentially. But it is a fleeting high; after a few days, the numbers go back to normal. We need to be careful about placing too high a value on such things. I have a small readership; you won't see my name on any "Top 100 Blogs" list anytime soon. But I have some good friends who read here regularly. And I have an aunt tell me I should have been a writer. I'd say I'm very blessed.


Things you probably shouldn't blog about

I've probably already blogged about them.

I've determined in my head to blog less about personal things, but I could not help but laugh when I read an old post this morning, and was reminded of this. Other woman bloggers will appreciate this. Sometimes, when we read blogs or visit social media sites, we're tempted to believe other women have perfect lives, perfect homes, never lose their tempers, never do anything foolish. Well (not that I think for one minute anyone has concluded those things about me) here is something that the perfect blogging homemaker would probably leave from her repetoire.

I was expecting child #3. In fact, I was big enough that when I  contemplated getting down on my hands and knees to wash my kitchen floor that afternoon, I wished I had a mop. I used Pine-Sol. I don't know why, because it really stinks, but that's what I used. After measuring the amount into my bucket and filling it with water, I put the measure cup aside, and set to work. I was busy for the remainder of the afternoon.

We were having small group at our house that night, and prior to that, our pastor and his wife were coming over for dinner. I made a chicken dish, and I also made a broccoli and cauliflower side dish with a creamy sauce. 

We sat down to eat amid lots of chatter. Our pastor and his wife had no children of their own, so they liked talking to ours. As I was eating my vegetables, I was surprised at the flavour. This wasn't how I remembered it from having made it on previous occasions. In fact, it was downright awful. I couldn't figure out what it was, but it tasted terrible. I looked around the table and saw others eating. The kids weren't really eating, but that wasn't surprising; they never ate well when we had guests. I especially looked at my husband to see if he had noticed something. Nothing was said, and we finished the meal, cleaned up and waited for the rest of the people to arrive.

As my pastor was talking later that night, it hit me. Pine-Sol. Yes, that was what the funny taste was.  I felt my stomach lurch. Clearly, I had not rinsed the measuring cup out in my haste. I had used Pine-Sol laced milk and fed it to my pastor and his wife. And on top of that, I had fed my unborn child that concoction. As visions of the death of my pastor and birth defects in my child rushed into my head, I discreetly slipped from the room and went to read the label. There didn't seem to be any warnings about it being toxic. I drank a few glasses of water, and wondered if I should say anything.

After I gathered my wits around me, I calmed down, realizing that the amounts were small enough to simply ruin the taste of my food. It wasn't, after all arsenic. My pastor and his wife lived, and my son was born healthy and with a great Apgar score. Ironically, the pastor turned out to have some really interesting ideas about the inerrancy of Scripture, being slain in the spirit, and the extent of the atonement. He was fired about a year later. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the Pine-Sol's fault, though.

This is the kind of story that would relegate me to the category of "mommy blogger." I don't know if that's a disparagement today or not.

I'm happy to say that since that night, I have never used Pine-Sol again.


Cringing, laughter, and nostalgia

I don't know why, but this past weekend, I got it in my head to review the archives of my blog. These are the posts that came from my original blog, which I began in 2005, on Blogger.

There were some interesting observations.

First, I talked too much back then. I talk too much now. You know the old saying, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Second, I cared deeply about biblical doctrine even back then. That encourages me somewhat.

Third, homeschooling was joyful and hard, and I loved it. I still have good memories of those years.

Fourth, I have always had too thin of a skin. I remember writing a post, wondering whether or not Wal-Mart sold thick skins, but I've yet to come across it. Again, the more things change...

Fifth, there is a very big difference in the tone of my writing in 2005 compared to now. I was too bold, too sure of myself, too flippant.  My bad; my very bad. The teen years were exceptionally humbling. And I still have a long way to go.

Sixth, I think there are many things I should have waited to write about until I was older. I think the perspective of time would have made a big difference. While I still lack wisdom, I have a bit more than I did then. Sometimes, social media and blogging makes us think we need to say something right now!  There are lots of things I'm sure in five years I will wish I had waited to talk about.

And last: I know my blog had a bigger readership back then, yet I wrote longer posts. That says a lot for how things have changed in social media. 

All in all it was (and will continue to be; I'm not done purging yet) a good exercise, keeping what I think needs to be kept, and tossing what really shouldn't have been written in the first place. There are a few posts where I comment about how foolish I am.

Again, the more things change ....


Are blogs soap boxes?

I was recently challenged by the idea that blogs are nothing more than soap boxes for people who want to promote themselves. I was also challenged to consider how blogging is a forum for immodesty. The individual who shared this with me admitted to not being a reader of blogs for those very reasons. In the description I was given, the phrase ad nauseum was used.  You have to know that when that phrase is used, it isn't really positive.

Those are challenges worth considering. If we are to be men and women accountable to God, we will take seriously challenges to what we do. I asked some fellow bloggers and readers of blogs to share with me their thoughts, and I was happy with the amount of feedback I got. I want to share some of those thoughts. I realize I run the risk of being "self-promoting" with this, but as you'll see, one can hardly communicate a word without the risk of appearing that way.

Blogging can be a self-promoting act. It's a communcative act and communicative acts begin with, yes, the person communicating. We take it for granted that when someone speaks, they are intending for you to realize that they are offering their thoughts. I don't communicate your thoughts; I communicate mine. Any form of communication can be considered self-promoting. Someone wisely pointed out to me that even within a bible study setting, a comment can be self-promoting. Any medium of communication can be self-promoting, whether it is a blog post, news article, book, or comment at an online site. The medium is not the issue; a medium of communication is only as good as its user, and since sinful people are using the medium of speech, both written and oral, the risk for abuse is there.

Blogging is about writing. Whether one writes about cooking, training dogs, or the love of beautiful paper and pens, blogging is about writing. Stephen King said that writing is "refined thinking." We write what we think. Writers write to be read. Anyone who says they don't write for others probably doesn't have a blog. If we write for ourselves alone, we wouldn't ask someone to read it, and we would keep our words in a notebook or in a file on our computer desk top. Putting words out there for someone to read does carry with it the risk of appearing self-promoting. Just imagine if every writer kept his words to himself for fear of being self-promoting. Would we have any good things to read? I'm not comparing blogs to fine literature, but the principle is the same. Taken to an extreme, we are all, daily, self-promoting. 

When we read someone's blog and don't like it, we need to ask ourselves why. Sometimes, I have read a blog and chafed at it only to realize weeks later that I was being convicted. If we don't like it, we're free to navigate away. Someone shared with me that she doesn't go to every neighbour and explain to them how wrong they are. If we don't like a blog, we don't have to tell the person that.  How about ignoring them? If they aren't attacking us personally, can't we just walk (or click) away?  My husband tells me often that there is freedom in ignoring.

We cannot impose our convictions on someone else. If someone doesn't like blogs, then he doesn't have to read them.  But I should not be obligated to join him in his disdain. When we attack a medium of communication, we are, ultimately, attacking its user.  The words don't appear on the screen devoid of a writer behind them.

One of the bloggers who shared her insights reminded me that as blogging people, our purpose should be clear. The easiest way to become self-promoting is to lose focus and forget what our purpose is. I would be willing to say that the bloggers I enjoy have the glory of God as their purpose. We endeavour to write in a way that directs the reader back to God. We will be more or less sucessful depending on the day. We are, after all, sinners in need of daily transformation, and that includes how we use our words.

I enjoy blogs. I enjoy them for reasons that may be different than yours. Yes, there are blogs that are self-promoting.  And don't even get me started on the use and abuse of Twitter. But as with anything, if I have a conviction that they're bad, it's my issue, not yours. Currently, I find them useful and edifying. And for the ones that are self-promoting, I simply don't partake of them. And if you find my blog immodest and self-promoting, you don't have to read, and I won't be offended.


Reminders from a day of controversy

Yesterday, the blog circles I travel in spent considerable time evaluating Kevin DeYoung's post about complementarianism. What seemed to be the talk of the town, so to speak, was completely unknown to my husband when he came home.  When I shared some of the details, he looked at me with only mild interest. What seemed to consume my day was rather a "meh" moment for my husband.  He doesn't get all that excited over these debates.

I linked the post on Facebook, and there was some discussion. I checked back with the post and social media later, and discovered that after seeing Iron Man 3 had basically pushed that from my consciousness, there was still some discussion. As I thought about this before dropping off to sleep, I had some valuable reminders about controversial posts and spending time thinking about them.

First, when our views are challenged, we get defensive. Defensiveness doesn't always make for coherent comments. We can get a little "tribal" for lack of a better word, and even in the some of the comments I read yesterday, there was a "we versus them" aroma floating about; a reminder to me to think before commenting should I decide to, and to avoid taking a defensive stand.

Second, these controversies take time from our day and distract us. Honestly, I felt very bad by the end of the day when I realized my undue fascination with this situation had been at the root of why my bathrooms didn't get cleaned. Yes, theology is important, but so are the dustbunnies lurking in the corners of my house. If we're going to get embroiled in these things, we have to weigh the cost of spending too much time with them. There is nothing wrong with reading and thinking, but we still should ask ourselves just how much is too much? I point my finger at myself: yesterday was a bust due to me putting too much attention toward this situation.

Third, there is wisdom in the saying that today's newspaper will cover the bottom of tomorrow's birdcages. Yes, the story was riveting, and yes, I was interested, but today dawned, and no doubt there will be more things to distract me.  There is, again, merit in evaluating prayerfully just to what I give my attention.

And last, the need to comment at all. There are people who have good points to say, and I appreciated them, but there were also people who had less than edifying comments, and those who simply wanted to be heard. Don't we all like to be heard?  I confess, I do, but I want to get over that. I want to be a better listener. I want to be less embroiled with these things. I found myself really frustrated with myself by the end of the afternoon, thinking that I allowed a debate consume my thinking when I am in the midst of getting a Sunday school lesson ready, and getting ready for a speaking engagement later this month.

It was a shame on me kind of day.

Social media, including blogging, tempts us to draw attention to ourselves, sometimes even in the name of exalting Christ. May my motives not be the attention-getting variety. May I think more and speak less.  May I be above all a listener before a speaker.