2014 in Review
In a month or so I will have been writing in this space for eight years. As the years go by and the posts accumulate, it becomes increasingly interesting to track which posts grab people’s attentions and which do not, which have “staying power” (a tenuous term for, if ever there was one, in the context of our rapidly shrinking, social media-shaped attention spans) and which fade into online oblivion pretty much from the moment I press “publish.”
Speaking of pressing “publish,” I did so one hundred and sixteen times in 2014, which works out to nearly ten posts per month or two and half per week. And of those one hundred and sixteen posts in 2014, here are the five that caught readers’ attention more than the other one hundred and eleven, along with a brief description of each.
Lament for a Small Town Bible School
I wrote this one a few weeks ago in response to the announced closing of a small Saskatchewan Bible College—a place that I have connections to by virtue of my brother teaching there, as well the many people in my orbit who have spent time there as students or faculty. I was quite frankly astonished at how this post took off. In two days it quite easily became the most read post in the history of this blog. I think the popularity of this post speaks to the grief felt by many at the closing of Bethany College, as well as to the impact that the school has had on many people’s lives. Reflecting more broadly, I wonder if it also speaks to the uneasiness that many of us feel at the dwindling of commitment to institutions that have historically played vital roles in the formation of faith, and uncertainty at what might step in to the void(s) left in their absence.
Riding with Richard in the Land of Atheist Devotion
A fairly sarcastic piece that I wrote in response to what I considered to be Richard Dawkins’ facile comparison of the anthropologies yielded by science as opposed to religion. The “popularity” of this post was enhanced, in no small measure, by the fact that my brother tweeted it to Richard Dawkins’ Twitter account, which led to hordes of unhappy atheists showing up at my doorstep (and boosting my stats). 🙂 On a more serious level, I continue to find it troubling that the sort of naïve and inconsistent uses of the categories of “science” and “religion” that Richard Dawkins persistently espouses get the kind of traction that they do in popular discourse. This post was a response to this regrettable reality (as well as an opportunity to quote David Bentley Hart extensively, which I always enjoy!).
Probably the only post that I have ever literally written with tears in my eyes. I wrote this one shortly after the heartbreaking death of the ten-year-old daughter of a friend of mine, written before I knew that I would find myself doing the funeral of this dear little girl, written when I, like everyone else in our community, was simply groping around in the dark trying to find something—anything!—to say in response to such a monstrous tragedy. A reflection, in the end, upon the face of God that we see in Jesus Christ, the face of a God who is deeply acquainted with suffering, and a God who we trust will one day heal all wounds and wipe away every tear.
I wrote this post in September, as the kids were all heading back to school. It was a pretty simple reflection upon the kids who find themselves on the outside, whether at school or anywhere else in life. It was a prayer that these dear young human lives would not allow themselves to be defined by the fleeting categories and judgments of what can often be a harsh and unforgiving environment. And it was a plea for kindness. For kids, certainly, but also for we grown ups who sometimes find kindness just as difficult to extend to those around us as they do, we grown ups who are in no less desperate need of this most basic and vital of human gifts.
This post was written in the aftermath of being “taken advantage of” (a curious term, if ever there was one) by someone who came to the church looking for material assistance. I reflected a bit on the anger I felt at being manipulated, at my discomfort with having to be the judge in situations like this, and of the creeping cynicism that is coming to permeate the way I approach so many of these encounters. In the end, though, it was also an exercise in placing myself in the shoes of another, and coming to the only posture that any of us should ever be eager to locate ourselves: forgiven sinners at the feet of a gracious God.
So, there you have it. Five posts that quite clearly had the most eyeballs pass over them of any that I wrote in the past year. I would, of course, be quite delighted if some of the other one hundred and eleven received even half the attention that these five did, but such is the world of blogging. 🙂
As always, though, the main (and best) reason for writing these year-end posts is to simply and sincerely express my gratitude to you for reading what I write here. There is a lot of me in eight years of posting here. It continues to be immensely gratifying to discover that some of the things that matter most to me in this world—the things that break my heart and things that bring me unspeakable joy and hope—matter to others as well.
Really an interesting overview.
Your very first blog I read was on Jesus’ presence, that he has come, is coming, and will come. It reminded me of a poem by Rowan Williams which I quoted in part. This Christmas on VirtueOnline the psychologist Bruce Atkinson contributed a stunning couplet on the subject; note the visual filigree as well as the sound of the slant rhyme:
There’s a sense in which, present and infinite,
Jesus Christ is born in each arriving minute.
Beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.
I read your posts not only because I find them of interest but because it is like we are not really separated by hundreds of miles. You are still missed.
Thank you, Joyce. I, too, am grateful for the connections that this blog allows me to have with friends spread out in different places.