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Entries in Blogging (30)


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.  


The first rule of research

As early as the 5th or 6th grade, I learned from my teachers that when writing a report of some kind, we ought not to use only one source for our compositions. In high school, it was emphasized in even more definite terms. One course I took in university, about writing essays, had a list of specific types of resources I had to use, primary, secondary, critical, academic journal, etc., if I wanted to earn a passing grade. It was simple to me:  the more research one did, the better. It was also important to use reliable resources, not just fill our reports with someone's opinion.

And then along comes the internet. Aside from Wikipedia, there are also blogs, where we can say anything we want. I can tell you I'm an astrophysicist if I like, and maybe someone will believe me. Increasingly with news media online, which is saturated with more image than text, we look to the news sources for our information, and by default, our understanding.  Who wants to read a book, right?  It's all there online.  

After reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, I came away realizing my own tendency to confuse information with understanding. For example, all of the information I have about what happened in Boston or West, Texas, has come from the news. There is also a story here in Canada about a young girl who was gang raped at a party. I have learned about that from the news. This is where we learn of these things.

Unfortunately, there are serious issues that require more research than just the internet. For example, the nation of Israel, and all of the surrounding issues is a complex thing. Yes, I can rely on the news, but that is not understanding. There is a missionary couple my church supports who have lived there for twenty years. If I want understanding, I'll ask them.  They live there, they have first hand experience. Furthermore, the wife has gone to school there and studied Israeli history and politics. They have understanding.  Quite intersestingly, they report that a good deal of what happens there isn't reported by North American journalists.

I could sit here and scour the internet for articles and blogs about various topics, but I'm old school enough to think that opening up a few books and reading in-depth on the topic is part of the research activity. Recently I read, cringing, words written about my country, penned by an American, which revealed startling ignorance about this country.  The source for the information?  From behind the computer screen, on the internet. The individual knows little about this country. I would never presume to make sweeping generalizations about America, its politics, or culture, because I simply don't know. And a few hours on the internet wouldn't help me with that. 

This kind of thinking trickles down to spiritual arenas. Here on my blog, I could (but I wouldn't) label someone a false teacher based on something he said. I may take no time to find out anything about him, what he preaches, or what his doctrinal position is. I just blast him because I don't like what he's said.  Somewhere out there, I'd probably be able to find a few people who agree with me, and presto, bingo! we have a little tribe.

I don't think so. I don't think that's a good use of my time. I also think it's a serious allegation to publicly call someone a false teacher. If he's in my local church, I'll follow the proper avenues to deal with my concerns. Some, but not all of the name hurling and mud-slinging that goes on online has, as its root, a poor conception of what the difference is between understanding and information is. We think the more information we have, the more understanding we have.  That may be true, but it depends on what kind of information we're partaking of.  Most people don't want to take the time to know anything deeply.  Most of us can't even get past 500 words on the screen.  I'm quite certain that at this point in this post, most people have clicked away.

Understanding takes work.  It takes research, and it takes time. Personally, I know I want to be much more careful in the future about seeking understanding, not just information.


A woman of discretion talking about discretion

Yesterday, my dear friend and fellow Out of the Ordinary blogger, Melissa, made a comment that I have been thinking about a great deal.  As the discussion was about sharing and discretion, she made this comment:

I think the question we must ask ourselves, in both our online & 3D lives, is "Is this pointing the reader/listener to God or to me?"

This can be one of those "ouch" moments or it can be one of those "aha!" moments as we think of this. When we counsel or blog, what is our motive? Do we want our particular view embraced, or are we pointing to Christ? This is a challenge.  It's a challenge I have thought about often, but Melissa articulated it so well, as she often does.

When one scans the blog world, it becomes very apparent that there are a few themes repeated in a myriad of places. There truly is nothing new under the sun. The differences show up in how those themes are presented. I want to read from those who point me to Christ, and I want to write things that point less to me and more to Christ. That may mean sharing less of my experiences.

I think we all know the difference between a writer who is promoting him/herself and who is promoting Christ. I fail miserably on a daily basis in pointing others in that way, but it is my desire.

I don't have all the answers, and I'm sure anyone who knows me knows that.  I don't need to give an itemized list of my sins and shortcomings to alert you to that. I do, however, want to honour Christ in my speaking and my writing. Sometimes, that means being silent on things and allowing others more knowledgeable and wiser to take the lead in discussing those matters.  Sometimes, it means letting those who are more profound and articulate to speak on various things.  

I'm only 48 (yes, for all the under 30 crowd, the adjective "only" seems misapplied; wait, you'll say it, too, when you get there); what do I know?  Not much.  Being discreeet and listening more is a way to learn more, and I look forward to doing that.


Blogging lessons for Christian women

I've been blogging since 2004.  I've written my own share of garbage.  I've written some things someone actually found useful.  In the end, I am the one who has likely learned the most.  The biggest lesson?  Not to think more highly of myself, or take myself too seriously.  After all, I can read fifty blog posts a week and in all likelihood, I won't remember more than two of them.  It works the same when folks read mine.  I'm forgettable, and I know that.

One thing I have also learned, and I'm only seeing it recently, is that when in doubt, share Scripture over experience.  The blog world is filled with women teaching other women about marriage through their own experiences.  Now, there certainly is nothing wrong with using our experiences as a beginning position to demonstrate how Scripture has instructed us, but when we put too much emphasis on experience and not enough on Scripture, I think we're not doing the best writing possible.

There are myriads of topics out there:  parenting, marriage, friendship, exercise, dieting, life in the body of Christ, engaging the culture, apologetics, politics.  We are free to engage in discussing all of them, but ultimately, what will really help us as we wrestle through these issues is knowing the Word of God, and understanding theology and doctrine.

I don't blog because I feel I have an influence with anyone.  I don't blog because I think I have an "audience" or an "online presence."  I blog today for the same reason I started: to process my thoughts, and because a woman can only bore her family with her dialogue for so long before they ask her to be quiet.  I blog mostly for myself. It's the times when I think I have more importance than I do that I feel the least satisfaction with it. There are any number of blogging women out there trying to make a name for themselves.  I don't want to be that blogger.  Even if it means I remain unknown and obscure, I want to continue to emphasize the gospel, and emphasize knowing the Word of God and theology.

I visited a blog recently that I've determined I won't visit again. Despite being a Christian blog,  I just don't see the focus being on Christ; it's about the author's experience. If I'm going to use this vehicle of technology, blogging, I want to focus on Christ.  It's certainly fun to blog about silly things once in a while, too, but I want to remain focused. I pray that I will do that.  I also want to live by a new blogging rule:  when in doubt, don't post.

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