Some Winter Posts Worthy of your Time

Winter scene

In my peregrinations around the blogosphere I came across two very wise and well-written posts by ministerial colleagues of mine. I hope you will check them out.

First, the incomparable Mary Luti, whose blog, sicut locutus est, should be on your blogroll, wrote “Why I Teach.” Here’s a sample:

I want students to take someone else’s wisdom for a serious test drive. I want them to rent with an option to buy; to suspend suspicion and develop a bias toward faith in the considered opinions of others; to respect the authority of authorities instead of keeping up the fiction that all ideas have equal value and that all opinions count the same.

Secondly, Emily Heath, a Vermont pastor and top-notch blogger, has a beautiful and bravely personal post called “Falling: Recovery, Silence and the Church.”  Here’s an excerpt:

But the more I thought about it (new Boston mayor Marty Walsh’s openly talking about his recovery during the campaign), the more I felt sad for the church. If an admission of being in recovery can actually help someone in the hardball world of politics, why is it so feared in the very place where redemption should be celebrated? Why aren’t we, people who talk about grace and forgiveness and new life, in the business of teaching people what to do when they fall? Why don’t we acknowledge these things so that we can help people know where to turn when they need help to get back up?

There are mountains of ephemera in the blogosphere, but well-written wisdom, like gold, is where you find it.

(Photo by R.L. Floyd, 2014)

My Top Posts for 2012


cropped-winter-11.jpg

In keeping with my annual end of the year tradition here are the top posts from “When I Survey . . .” for 2012:

“Confused? Interpreting Your Congregation’s Numbers” was by far the most popular with nearly 3,000 hits.

Other popular posts from this year were:

Posts from previous years that continue to get visited frequently are:

I am working on a book that I hope will be published this coming year with the tentative title of “Prepare Three Envelopes” (and other ruminations on pastoral ministry). It will collect many of the posts from this blog, and from my former blog “Retired Pastor Ruminates” plus some other previously unpublished pieces of mine. I will keep you posted about it. In the meantime thank you all for you support this year. I hope you will continue to visit here in 2013.

Be Careful What You Write For

Those of us who blog and write for publication face a singular temptation. We hone and polish our little masterpiece, and then sit back and wait for the reception, which comes in the form of hits on our blog (maybe it will go viral!), favorable (or not) reviews, attention, controversy (we hope), even (better) attacks. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The worst outcome is nobody notices or cares.

I just watched the Martin Scorsese documentary “No Direction Home” about Bob Dylan (I’m a huge fan of both of them) and the message was loud and clear that Dylan didn’t give a toss about how his art was received, he just put it out there.

The world would be a better place if we all stopped looking at Google analytics and just tried to tell the truth as we know it.

Welcome to “When I Survey . . .”

This is an old blog with a new name in a new place.  If you have been a loyal follower of Retired Pastor Ruminates, welcome and I’m glad you found your way over here.  Everything that was there is now here, and I think you will be able to find things easier.

Why the name change? Several friends and colleagues have lately challenged me on whether there actually is such a thing as a retired pastor, and if there is, am I one of them.

I have given this some thought, and have decided that they are right.  Although I no longer serve a congregation I still have a ministry to offer the church in my thinking and writing and conversations. I am not a retired pastor.  It has taken nearly seven years for me to come to this conclusion, but it feels like the correct one.

Why the move to WordPress?  I think it gives the blog a cleaner look and I have more options about what I can do with it.

If you are new to this blog, welcome.  Have a look around and come back often.  As always this is a free blog without ads.

My Ten Guidelines for Oversharers

 

Our little family was on one of those cool Hebridean car ferries, traveling from Oban to Mull on our way to Iona, when I first ruminated on the American national trait to share way too much information with total strangers.  My five-year old daughter (this was 1989) had just commented, “Duddy, there are lots of Americans on this boat!”  I was reminding her that, although we had lived in Britain for several months, we were, in fact, ourselves Americans, when we were set upon by two very friendly Mid-Western American women who had overheard our conversation.

Within minutes we knew where they were from and the names of their children, their children’s spouses, and their grandchildren.  And when they discovered I was a minister, they felt compelled to tell me all about their church, their pastor, and all their activities in the congregation.

Perhaps none of this would have struck me as particularly strange if I hadn’t been a foreigner in Britain, but the contrast was evident to me.   Everybody in England had been quite pleasant to us during our stay, but with few exceptions maintained a certain reserve that I actually came to appreciate.

When we left Oxford that summer, I said my goodbyes to college dons and staff, and several remarked,  “But you’ve only just arrived!  We will miss you.”  While I believe they were sincere, I was amused by their heartfelt goodbyes in that they had barely given me the time of day.

I liked it in Britain, but I must confess that I’m an American oversharer, and that I come from a family of oversharers. I was one even before my brain injury, which adjusted my social filters to, shall we say, a more porous setting.

I come by it honestly.  My Dad, of blessed memory, was at times an oversharer.  One Thanksgiving dinner he launched his own campaign of “shock and awe” (shock to the grownups and awe to us kids).  My Uncle Dick was expertly carving the turkey with an electric carving knife (remember those?).  My Dad felt the need to share that a former secretary of his had committed suicide using such an implement, but his telling was not nearly as discreet as mine here.  I suspect that there were lots of leftovers from that meal.

The Internet was made for oversharers.  Blogging or updating one’s status on Facebook  offer hourly temptations.  So in yet another of my high-minded public service offerings, here are my ten guidelines to avoid oversharing:

  1. Never post on the Internet when you are intoxicated.  Trust me on this.  You may wake up to see that cute little red flag with lots of numbers in it on your Facebook page, and smile and wonder, “Which of my carefully crafted witty status updates are all my ‘friends’ responding to?”  Moments later you are mortified to suddenly remember that last post you made right before bed, which seemed like a good idea at the time.  It wasn’t.
  2. Remember the old adage about the difference between major and minor surgery?  “Major surgery is surgery on me, and minor surgery is surgery on someone else.”  The same is true for the difference between interesting surgery, and boring surgery.  And no surgical scars please.  Remember LBJ?   Nobody wants to see your scar.
  3. If you have an interesting story to tell about your friends the Andersons, and you ask your friends the Smiths if they know the Andersons, and the Smiths say, “No,” don’t tell the story.
  4. If your child or grandchild just learned to use the potty that is a grand thing but don’t share it.  Same thing for cute pictures in the tub.  Cute now, but the kid might not appreciate it when he’s 13 and the class bully finds it on the Net.
  5. Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome may well be very preoccupying to you, but it is not of general interest.  In my thirty years of pastoral ministry I patiently listened to people’s accounts of their bodily ailments.  We call it an “organ recital.”  You can and should share such concerns with your pastor and your doctor, but not with the world, and not on the Internet.
  6. Pastors are notorious for telling cute stories about their children from the pulpit.  Everybody loves this, right?  Well, no, actually.  The children usually don’t.  I would ask for permission.  Same policy for posting. Children and other family members have a right to privacy.  I have sometimes observed this rule in the breach, as my children have noted.
  7. When I go on vacation I take lots of pictures, and love to look at them again and again to relive the experience.  This is something that you want to share with all your friends and dinner guests, right?  No.  Pictures of other people’s vacations are not everybody’s idea of a good time.
  8. We live in an age of scientific miracles, and have medications available that can make us feel younger, happier, healthier and, just better.  Nobody wants to hear which ones you are on.
  9. Have a new hobby?  Yoga or origami?  Just because it excites you doesn’t mean it will excite others.  Same for religion.  If someone asks you what you believe, don’t lay out your systematic theology.  Say, “I’m a Methodist.” Or, “I affirm the Nicene Creed.”   A balance between talking and listening is a good anditote against oversharing.  Remember Bette Midler’s character in Beaches?  She says, “But enough about me, let’s talk about you, what do You think about me?”  Don’t be her.
  10. Tighten up you privacy settings.  Not just on Facebook, but in real life.  All of us experience ups and downs in our lives.  Most of us are battered and worn one way or another.  Some of us have had really traumatic events that have left us permanently scarred.  How and when (and whether) we share these parts of our story is something each of us must discern in our own way.  But such sharing implies some level of trust and intimacy, and although the Internet may sometimes give the appearance of allowing that, it is a risky medium for such sharing.   Be careful with yourself and others.

But I’ve shared too much.

(And yes, I know “oversharers” isn’t a recognized word, but it will be.  Just watch!)

When Blogs Die

 

You know the signs. First you notice that a favored blog on your blogroll hasn’t had a post in 5 months. That is often the end, but sometimes there is a preliminary stage, akin to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ stage of denial. The blogger appears and posts an apology for slackness. “I’ve been . . .

  1. Sick
  2. New child
  3. Writing my dissertation
  4. Rereading the Church Dogmatics in German
  5. Working too hard
  6. Leveling my blood elf ret pally
  7. Moving
  8. Despairing of life itself

Do not be fooled by this desperate act of repentance or by the pledge to lead a new and upright blogging life. Chances are this blog is going to die and soon.

Our internet presence gives us the illusion of both transcendence and permanence, but it is an illusion. Both our blogs and our selves are finite and destined to die. I have already outlived one blog, where I posted for years. When the Webmaster of the site changed programs the archives disappeared, with all my posts. Many I had saved as a Word document, but some were written on the blog, and so lost forever. There is one I wrote when Bard Childs died about a gracious personal encounter I had with him that I wish I had. Oh well, sic transit gloria mundi, sigh.

Our blogs exist as fragile lines of HTML code. They can vanish like the morning dew. Yet, it is also possible they can outlive us. I was on Linked-In the other day, and they suggested people I might know and one of them was a dear friend of mine who died way too young two years ago.

Either way, both our blogs and we are going to die, so “teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

To replace some of the dead blogs I have added some new ones to my blogroll that I like:  Cathedral Bells,  Chrisendom,  and Intersections.  Enjoy them while they last.

Are Bloggers Angry People? Or “How to Get out of Jury Duty!”

 

Last week I was thrilled that one of my blogposts got picked up and reposted by a big institutional blog. And so, in a fever of hubris and self-promotion, I fired off a bunch of e-mails with the link to anybody that I thought might be even remotely interested.

One of these people was an old college friend who is a defense attorney, and he wrote back the following:

“This morning, I attended a seminar on jury selection in death penalty cases. The point applies when defense counsel is deciding who to “thank and excuse” from juror duty.

A jury consultant spoke and told us she would always recommend kicking off from the jury panel anyone who blogs. “They’re angry people,” was her explanation. “Unless they blog about gardening or the symphony, get rid of them.”

I wonder if she thinks theology and ministry are safe subjects? So now you know how to get out of jury duty. Just start a blog!

Ironically, I have been called to jury duty a number of times, but have never been chosen. When the prosecution finds out that I am clergy they “thank and excuse” me.  I am guessing they imagine that my mercy might temper (or subvert) their justice. The funny thing is I have always thought it would be interesting to be on a jury and witness a trial. So the blogging ploy has no utility for me. Besides, I think it is my duty as a citizen to serve on  a jury.

But maybe she is right about the anger.  I’ve noticed that even facebookhas been getting a little testy lately over the health care bill.  Any of you other bloggers out there feel like you might be an angry person?