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Posts from the ‘Writing’ Category

Tuesday Miscellany

A few disconnected and thoroughly disjointed musings for a Tuesday afternoon…

Here in Canada, it’s the morning after a federal election. And, like the provincial election in Alberta back in May where the NDP party swept aside a Conservative party that had been in power for roughly forever years, the result was equally shocking. Gone is the much-maligned Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada. In his place, we have Justin Trudeau and the back-from-the-dead Liberal Party promising hope and change and bright new days and the usual assortment of platitudes that inexplicably retain their capacity to get people screaming euphorically and exultantly waving their signs… Read more

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. Read more

Questions and Answers

Among the more delightful and rewarding tasks of managing a blog is dealing with the blight upon digital existence that is spam. My blog platform’s spam settings are usually pretty reliable, but occasionally either a legitimate comment is labeled spam or something gets through that shouldn’t. The sheer volume of spam seems to have dramatically increased over the 7+ years I’ve been doing this (my dashboard proudly proclaims that it has “protected” my site from 1,187,079 messages as of 11:50 AM MST). I try to empty my spam folder out a few times a day—often there are hundreds to delete even after a couple of hours. Spammers (or, their programs) are, evidently, a rather persistent lot.

They’re also getting more creative. Often, a “comment” will just be bunch of random nonsense in a wide variety of languages or a collection of unsavoury links. But occasionally, spammers will try to sneak in apparently legitimate messages to improve their odds of escaping the filter. I’ve started a file on some of the more interesting ones. Today, I was intrigued by this one, in particular:

I was really confused and this answered all my questions.

Read more

On Oprah’s Tea and Other Flood-Worthy Inanities

I was sitting in a local Starbucks this afternoon when I saw the most absurd thing in the history of humankind: a big glossy advertisement for a product called an “Oprah Chai Tea Latte.” Alongside pictures of what I can only imagine must be very tasty delights indeed (iced or hot) was a (larger) picture of a beaming Oprah Winfrey, lending her teeth, her hair, her celebrity to this product. What does Oprah have to do with chai tea lattes, you might wonder? I certainly did. Did Oprah Winfrey make this chai tea? Did she create the recipe? Did she enjoy drinking this tea in some kind of unique way? Does she own the tea? Did she import it for our benefit? The advertisement didn’t tell us. It simply presented a picture of Oprah, a picture of tasty beverages and assumed that we would make (invent?) the connection. Read more

All That Life Threatens to Steal

I read an article this week about the death of handwriting and how a whole generation of kids will grow up with bad to nonexistent penmanship skills due to the proliferation of technological devices that they master before their tenth birthday. I read another one about how we retain far more of what we write when use pen and paper rather than laptop and tablets. And then I read yet another article about how wireless technology was giving us cancer and generally rotting our brains. Feeling appropriately despondent about the state of our wired and technologically dependent world, I said to myself, “very well then, pen to paper it is.” My handwriting, as you will see, is truly abysmal (I’m old enough that I can’t even blame the Internet for my inadequacies), but hopefully it is legible nonetheless. Believe it or not, this is the result of me writing extra slowly.

I wrote the following reflection sitting in a dumpy coffee shop with an old notebook after visiting a dear saint walking through the fog and sadness of the valley of the shadow. Read more

On With the Words

It was one of those articles where I started to get a little queasy about a millisecond after reading the headline: “Why Writers Should Stop Blogging.” That the piece was written by a respected fellow pilgrim and writer only made things worse, as did the links she provided to other content echoing the same themes. I have long suspected that blogging is inherently inferior to more traditional modes of communication—kind of like the minor leagues of writing—and have reflected often on the deleterious tendencies that it tends to inculcate among it’s practitioners. Each and every one of these suspicions (and others) was confirmed in reading this post and the attendant articles. Jeff Goins’ piece called “Why You Need to Stop Blogging & Regain Your Writing Soul,” in particular, summed it up with painful precision. Read more

Vanishing in Order to See

I get a lot of books in the mail, but there are few that I can recall anticipating as keenly as the one that came in a little brown box today.  Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss has been on my radar for a while now, whether due to the almost unanimously affirming reviews it has received, or simply to the nature of the story behind the book: poet/writer/scholar gets cancer in his thirties and begins (begins again? continues?) to chart the rocky terrain from secularism to religious belief.  The story and the subject matter both compel me, but it is the writing that is blowing me away.  This man is, truly, at home with words.  I am reading, and rereading, and reading more slowly than I have in quite some time.  Occasionally, very rarely, I come across a writer whose words leave me thinking, “Yes, I have found a friend.”  One chapter into My Bright Abyss, and I am convinced that Christian Wiman is one of them.

Read more

2013 in Review (And a Thank You!)

So, 2013 is drawing to a close, which means it’s time to take a peek in the rearview mirror and reflect a bit on the year that has nearly passed.  In the blogging world, this means—what else?!—highlighting the most read posts on this blog over the past 365 days or so.  It’s an imperfect tool of evaluation, obviously—a cursory count of clicks and page views hardly provides an accurate assessment of meaningful or substantive engagement—but I suppose it give some sense of the themes that drew people here over the year.   Whenever I look at statistical summaries on this blog, I find myself scratching my head.  That was my most-read post?!  I don’t even like that one!  Why didn’t ____ make the list? Posts that I am convinced are the best thing the internet has seen since, well, two hours or so ago languish in obscurity while others that I dashed off in twenty minutes generate more traffic than I would ever have expected.   I suppose such is the nature of blogging. Read more

Speaking Personally

This morning’s tour through the aggregator yielded a couple of pieces that gently admonished self-indulgent blogger-types for their propensity to write about blogging. Nothing too serious, just a kind of slap on the wrist for those prone to indulging their already hyperactive narcissistic tendencies by making oblique (or explicit) reference to their popularity and influence (or bemoaning their lack of popularity and influence), or who commemorate blogging “anniversaries,” milestone posts and comments, or who just generally seem to assume that their blog is quite a bit more important to the world than it really is. Read more

Up and Down

My infallible WordPress stats counter tells me that this blog recently passed the 700 posts and 8000 comments mark. We had a little party, WordPress and I, which consisted mainly of the WordPress minions showering me with randomly generated congratulations and what I imagine were intended to be inspirational quotes. I’m not too proud to admit that I choked up a little. So touching, that WordPress would take the time…

At any rate, the passing of this momentous milestone means—that’s right, you guessed it!—it’s time for another tortured, myopic reflection upon the nature of blogging where I predictably vacillate between self-congratulation and self-flagellation and various other points in between. If you’ve seen this movie before, please feel free to ignore the following and put your next ten minutes or so to more profitable use elsewhere.

Seriously.

Still here? Ok, well on with the show, such as it is… Read more

Finding Our Place

If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a big fan of Frederick Buechner. I admire the way he writes, the way he pries open a space for faith in a cultural context often characterized by skepticism, doubt, and even hostility to God. His book of sermons, Secrets in the Dark, is often one of the first places I turn when I am feeling like the well is dry and the inspiration just isn’t coming.

Having said that, I have always had a bit of an ambiguous relationship with what is perhaps one of Buechner’s most famous quotes: Read more

Keep Writing

At a church campout this weekend I had been absent from the larger group for a few minutes. When I returned, someone jokingly asked me if I had ditched them to write a blog post on my phone. Apparently, I am developing something of a reputation. It was all in good fun, of course. I have received nothing but support and encouragement to write from people in the churches I have served—a gift for which I am profoundly grateful. Read more

Take Words With You

This morning’s Bible reading was a bit of an unexpected one.  Hosea 14. I suspect I am not alone in saying that I don’t tend to spend a lot of time in Hosea for devotional reading. It’s a fascinating book and a remarkable story about the fidelity of God to his people, but Hosea, like most of the minor prophets is a bit off the beaten path. At least for me. It’s like that interesting little town that you drove through once upon a time but haven’t visited in quite a while. You’re glad to know it’s there, but you don’t tend to treat it as one of the important stops on the Bible highway. Read more

Words About Words

This past weekend was spent camping, hiking, relaxing, playing, and worshiping in the stunning beauty of the Rocky Mountains.  Time away is good for many things—to clear the head, to unplug, to read, reflect, refocus.  It’s also a wonderful time for un-agenda’d conversation around the fire, along the trail, and over meals. Read more

500

Mondays are my Sabbath day, and they represent a chance to relax, do some recreational reading, tidy up some loose ends around the house, and often spend some time blogging.  Today, as I was reading some comments, I noticed on my dashboard that my most recent post was number 500 in the history of this blog!  I don’t post nearly as frequently as many bloggers do, but 500 still seems like a lot to me!  It’s hard to believe that I’ve been doing this for that long. Read more

Good Words

Blogging can be a bit of a strange animal in that you hurl your words out into the wide (and wild) world of the web, where they can be read (or not) by a virtually limitless variety of people who come to them from a virtually limitless assortment of links, searches, recommendations, “likes,” etc.  Of course, on one level this is no different from the publishing of books and articles.  But the sheer volume of words out there in cyberspace makes it easy to imagine one’s own words just getting lost in the noise and clutter of the online world. Read more

Wondering at the Fair

I’ve been tracking the evolution of the blog Wondering Fair over the past year with great interest, not least because of the excellent writing and theological engagement with culture that it contains. I have appreciated the diversity of voices, the spectrums of issues raised, and the overall vision of a safe and interesting place to talk about the things that matter most to us.  René has really done a great job in articulating and implementing a vision for constructive and stimulating conversation about faith, God, and truth in a post-Christian world that is often suspicious about these very  things.

Not surprisingly, when I was asked to be a regular contributor to WF, I leaped at the opportunity. Read more

(How) Is God in Control?

One of the benefits of having a blog is that, aside from feeding your ego through the ordinary rhythm of writing about whatever you want whenever you want and plastering it all over the internet, you can use it to draw attention to yourself at any and every other convenient opportunity as well :). Like, say, when an article of yours is published. Read more