Tag Archives: reading

Why I Love/Hate Blogging and Why You Should Too

Once upon a time I wrote a weekly email for all of my friends called “God Sightings.” This was long ago when AOL ruled the world and people ran to the store and back while their computers where “dialing up.” I’m not sure, but I think dinosaurs also went extinct during this period. By this period I mean while AOL was dialing up.

In “God Sightings” I usually told a story about seeing God in the everyday and mundane things of life. People really liked it. Or so they said.

Then someone suggested I write a blog. Being the faithful Lemming that I am I leaped into the blogging world.

Since that day I have had a love/hate relationship with blogging.

  • I love blogging because the written word is powerful

I have dreamed of being a writer ever since the day I read “Go, Dog. Go!” by P.D. Eastman for the first time as a child. From that day forward I drowned myself in books. The written word has rescued me from loneliness, depression, and ignorance. Words strung together to form pictures and ideas have sailed me into new worlds. From the Bible to “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” the written word has changed the world.

All this reading gave me an ache to tell stories that move others the way so many books have transported and transformed me.

I love blogging because it is to writers what a blank canvas and full palette of paints is to an artist. Blogging is my invitation to tell stories on screen.

  • I hate blogging because it saps the strength of the written word

There may be as many as 164 million blogs on the internet right now. Too much information. Thus we skim.

Skimming is sliding your eyes over a piece of writing looking for interesting or relevant ideas. By definition it means to not go deep. Most “how to blog” blogs claim this is how most readers interact with your blog. Therefore, they say, write short, easy to read blogs.

But skimming naturally promotes lower comprehension in the reader and a shallow development of ideas in the writer. I may have lost you already.

Blogging may be making both writer and reader shallow says Patricia Greenfield, from UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center.

I hate blogging because the thoughts and ideas that have transformed the human race cannot be communicated in word “tags” or how to articles.

  • I love blogging for its easy access to an audience

Every writer knows, finding an audience is difficult. My wife is a faithful and honest reader of my work. But writing loses its appeal when only your mom and friends read it. There are over 2 billion internet users. That’s one heck of a potential audience. And blogging is free.

When I wrote articles for magazines or the Vail Daily my potential audience numbered only in the thousands. Plus blogging bypasses editors and query letters and–worse yet–rejection letters.

Blogging allows us to connect in ways paper communication rarely dreams of.

  • I hate blogging because the audience is an enigma 

I don’t get blogging. When I write for magazines, I know each magazine has a set and defined audience. One does not write a hunting story for a parenting magazine.

What do lurkers in the blogosphere want? I have no idea. And neither do the billions of experts blogging about writing blogs. Blogging is like fly fishing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Will the fish even see my fly?

Write short how to blogs, they say. Yet Lesley Carter writes one of the most successful blogs out there. It is often long, personal, and more of a story than a list.

And comments and the “like button” are no help. Liking may not mean the person actually likes your blog. They may actually be just fishing for followers on their own blog. Why, for example, did another blogger like my blog about God, when said blogger claims to be an atheist on their blog?  I hope it’s because of the content of the blog not just fishing.

Blogging is a daily frustration because slapping Tim Tebow’s name in my title gets me more hits than working hard on well thought out and well written prose.

I hate that.

I love/hate blogging because every time I post, I am already writing my next blog and at the same time vowing to quit blogging and write something serious. Like you, I post my blog and check my stats over and over because I love the instant feedback and responsiveness to the written word blogging provides. I respond to those who have taken my words seriously.

At the same time I castigate myself for my Lemming-like behavior and my addictive slavishness. I long for the simple days of just writing. Of taking an idea and shaping it and letting it go. But maybe that’s all blogging is anyway.

How about you? How do you love/hate this blogging world?

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What To Do In The Happiest Place On Earth

Fulford, Colorado is the happiest place on Earth.  At least that’s what my friends call it, and I tend to agree with them.  And I am lucky enough to have friends who own a cabin in the happiest place on Earth.

This little mountain community is ten miles up into the White River National Forest just below New York mountain, away from any type of civilization.  No cellphones, no tv’s, and no computers.   You couldn’t even read my blog if you wanted to.  Well, I guess some cabins up there have satalite dishes, but I sure don’t go up to the cabin to stay connected to the world.

Yes, Fulford is great for hiking, fishing, and star gazing, all great things to do in the mountains, but I love Fulford because it is a great place to relax.  Whenever my family is able to stay at the cabin, we set aside any agenda.  If we want to wake up early and go for a walk, we do it.  If we sleep in and then relax on the couches drinking coffee or hot chocolate, we do that.

Fulford is not a place for the busy lifestyle.  Last week in my blog, I wrote about how we need to slow down as we experience life.   Fulford is a place that forces you to slow down.  While I was up there this weekend, I finished the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes (of which I had been reading on and off for three years) took a hike, and napped.

If you really want to know what to do in the mountains, follow my advice.  Find a quite spot, in a cabin, or in a tent, and read.  Read until your eyes are too heavy and then take a nap.  God wants us to relax.  If we are always on the go we wont have enough concentration and energy to notice him.

I’ve been trying to live spiritually this year, and sometimes I forget that God just wants me.  He doesn’t want me to do anything special, yes it was fun hiking Mt. Elbert, but he would rather have me.  And that takes some quiet time.  That is why Fulford is the happiest place on Earth.  It takes you away from every modern comfort and forces you slow down.  And I find when I am living slowly I feel more complete.

I hope everyone is able to go on a vacation this summer, short or long, heck Fulford was just a weekend trip, and is able to relax.  If you haven’t found time to get up into the mountains or some other quiet spot, then turn off your computer and power down all of your other distractions, ’cause God wants you to have some time with just Him.

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Are Books About to Become Extinct?

By Eugene C. Scott

I have thousands of good friends. Friends not just acquaintances. People who have spoken into my deepest fears and hopes, people I have shared untold hours with. They have asked and answered questions, frustrated me, left me yearning for more, angered me, comforted me, challenged, and have always been only an arms length away. None of these unusual friends have ever met me, however, nor I them. Still they have walked with me down every path of my life.

I’m not talking about my covey of life-long friends, who are thicker than blood, who also fit the above description. And no, I’m not referring to my Facebook friend count nor people in church, though they are friends too. These are friends some would not count or–possibly–even notice in their own lives. But they are there. And they have so much to say.

One of these friends, one of my best gave me great pleasure–and insight into my own family of origin–by telling me a story about a 1960s tragedy—a murder—that rocked a Minnesota family and brought one brother to his knees and the other to an understanding about the true nature of faith. Through that story, I was transported back to my childhood and warm memories of my family, before it was broken, and how my own loss started me on a journey of faith.

Another less poetic friend shared theology with me that challenged (oh how I prefer avoiding challenges to my beliefs) me and gave me a refreshed relationship with Jesus and a new view of heaven and earth.

An older friend mesmerized me with a series of jokes, puns, and one-liners retelling his life story. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt and I found myself wishing I didn’t take life so seriously; and for a moment I didn’t.

I also had a young friend who shared with me his struggles and victories while growing up without a father. I saw my own struggle in his–my father died when I was eleven. He too had fantasy father figures. His were Bill Cosby from “The Cosby Show” and an older hippy kid who befriended him. Mine was my older sister’s boyfriend. We arrived at a school father/son event in his souped-up GTO. I knew I was the coolest kid there until I realized this guy was not my dad no matter how hard I wished he was. My friend’s story defined my story. Though many men could influence, help, mentor, and love us fatherless kids, no one could replace our real fathers, except maybe God.

There are many more of these friends I could share with you. Strangely none I have seen face to face, however.

As you may have guessed, these friends are all books. The Minnesota family is Leif Enger’s invention in his outstanding novel, Peace Like a River. Enger’s storytelling and prose were so simple and beautiful I have read this novel half a dozen times.

Dallas Willard wrote one of the freshest, most challenging, accessible theologies called The Divine Conspiracy. It describes God’s desire, God’s conspiracy to let us know him and to live life beyond our human constraints. I go back to it again and again and discover new layers each time.

The next friend mentioned above is I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! an autobiography by my favorite comedian, Bob Newhart. I read it in two days and still retell his jokes to whoever will listen.

Next Donald Miller’s delightful books are each funny and light, true, and flawed, real, yet able to slip under the skin and pierce one’s heart. Miller’s fourth book To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father is a slim book—197 pages—each page of which showed me my past and future vistas through viewing Miller’s life.

Some suggest my friends, books, should be placed on the endangered species list. Reading is declining, ebooks may bury books with bindings. Movies and TV have also dug the grave deeper. These good friends of mine are on life support. Or are they?

I look at my library of friends, lined neatly on the shelves, or not, so diverse and beautiful, and full of life and wisdom–and even foolishness–and I grieve. Their loss, if it comes, will be great. To me people who do not read books (or God forbid, cannot!) are like people who have seldom or never tasted chocolate or ice cream. They are missing something delicious.

Or more accurately they are missing a rich interaction no other medium can offer, daily conversations with people from all over the world and all through time that will comfort and challenge while also delivering them on great flights of fancy. I have read a piece of one book or another daily, missing only a few under duress, for nearly twenty-eight years. I can’t imagine life without books.

In 1953 Ray Bradbury wrote a science fiction titled Fahrenheit 451 in which the government begins to burn books because they deem them dangerous. But like most other beautiful, important things in our lives, nothing so drastic or romantic will spell the demise of books. If books die it will be while we are not looking. Their loss will come at the hands of inattention.

There is hope. Brabury’s novel recounts a secret society that covenants to save their favorite books. Each person participates by memorizing a book and in essence becoming the book. The book through its host, so to speak, comes to life. Bradbury’s idea is not far-fetched because story–factual or fictional–is the life blood we readers share with books. Story is a part of most–if not all–of our lives. Our very lives are stories, unbound, living books. Therefore, the soul of a book, story will live on, as it did before books and as it will after.

And I for one–no matter whether others read or what technology comes–will not easily let go of my many friends.

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Who’s Reading Who?

I have a confession to make: I like to be in control. This desire for control affects my relationships. But probably the core relationship this desire affects most is my relationship with God.

As long as I’m in control, I can keep God at arm’s length. And as long as God is at arm’s length, I remain unchanged. Safe. Unchallenged. Sinless.

Obviously, God lies outside the control of any person. Control is an illusion. When life follows my plans, I assume it’s the result of my efforts. Then he throws my plans in the air like a handful of paper in the wind, and I realize who’s in charge.

But my resistance to control prevents me from being changed.

In his book Shaped By The Word, Terry Mulholland writes:

You are the “victim” of a lifelong, educationally enhanced learning mode that establishes you as the controlling power (reader) who seeks to master a body of information (text) that can be used by you (technique, method, model) to advance your own purposes (in this case, spiritual formation).

Mulholland then asks the all-important question: do we read Scripture or do we allow Scripture to read us?

Please don’t let the esoteric nature of the question deter you from its importance.

When we read Scripture, we master interesting facts like the meaning of the word “love” or the distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. But when we give up control and allow Scripture to read us, we ask God, Am I loving people well? Or, How far have I strayed from your heart?

Read Without Reading

Mulholland offers three suggestions in order to “‘read’ without ‘reading’”:

  1. Listen for God. When reading God’s word, keep asking yourself, “What is God seeking to say to me in all of this?”
  2. Respond with your heart and spirit rather than your head. Don’t worry about neglecting the rational, analytic part of your being. It’s hyper-developed in our culture. He writes, “We respond to the Scriptures, but often our response is simply that of reading ourselves into the Scriptures at some level rather than allowing God to speak to us out of them.”
  3. Let your response take place down in the deeper levels of your being. Ask yourself: How do I feel about what I’m reading? Why am I responding in that manner? What is going on down inside me?
  4. Write it down. This is my suggestion. If you’re like me, a profound insight can hit you, and then an hour later, it’s completely forgotten. By writing it in a journal, you save a snapshot of the moment. Since we’re going to be reading the Bible online, you might consider journaling on your computer as well.

On Monday we’re going to apply Mulholland’s suggestions to a passage of Scripture, and then share our insights with one another.

Have a great weekend, on this fourth Sunday of Advent.

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