Where I Ruminate on the Protean Character of my Blog

>I started this blog back on March 23 and, frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing. My friend Martin Langeveld, who has a popular blog at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, encouraged me to give it a try. He told me how easy it was to set up a blog on Blogger as indeed it is.

Martin had just created a blog for The Monday Evening Club, a group you could call an old boy’s club, except none of us are boys anymore. The club goes back to 1869, and Martin was lamenting that the papers club members had delivered over the years were mostly lost. He had suggested that we start archiving them on-line, and he began doing that as members made current and older papers available to him.

So archiving was part of my first model for blogging, and since I have written quite a lot over the years, I began to archive some of my writings, mostly on theology and ministry, onto my blog. None of these have been very popular, but they get a steady stream of hits, and it feels gratifying to have them available in this new format. Since my retirement in 2004 I have been casting about for something that feels like ministry, and blogging seems like it may be that. Since I have a disability (Traumatic Brain Injury) that limits my activity, blogging is good for me in that I can do it when I feel like it, and not do it when I don’t.

Due to the wonders of Google Analytics one can see how many hits each post gets, along with way more information than anybody needs to know about it. Its fun to begin the day with a visit to Analytics to see how many hits you’ve got, and where from all over the world they have come. There is a map of the world that shows you where and how many hits you get. Most of my hits come from the USA, with a number of others from English-speaking countries such as Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

I have to confess that watching Analytics brings out the competitor in me, and some days watching my blog’s progress feels less like a ministry and more like a game, like World of Warcraft without the killing part.

So my blog has a heavy theology/ministry focus, but Analytics reminds me this is not a world-beating formula to get a popular blog. My most popular single post was an interview of Martin I did on the future of newspapers. He referred to it on his NiemanLab blog, and the traffic spiked up, as well as the international diversity of the hits, including many from Europe. Of course, not everybody who is interested in the future of newspapers is interested in theology (the soteriology of P.T. Forsyth, for example). And so I wonder if some of these visitors wonder if they had landed on the blog of some strange Christian cult.

Likewise, my Facebook “friends,” many of whom are not Christian or even religious, and who get a notice of any new posts on their wall, must wonder just what Floyd is up to. Now that Facebook has put us back in touch with friends from High School and University that we may not have seen in thirty or forty years, I sometimes get messages such as, “You’re a minister?” Yup, for 34 years! And they may have trouble equating that with the basketball player, beer-guzzling frat boy, or hippie mystic they remember, depending on when they knew me.

So the blog is there each day to post or not to post, and some days it feels good to do it and other days it feels like a job.

And then some days I feel constrained by the theology focus and want to post about other interests in my life, such as cycling, food and wine, music, TBI, and the like.

One of my more popular posts was one I did on my first trip to Scotland and my first taste of single malt whisky. Why that one is more popular than my one on eschatology is anybody’s guess.

So it’s been fun blogging and I’m going to keep at it. It has put me in touch with some people around the world. The coolest connection was when I blogged on my love of books, and mentioned that my mother, who died in 1967, had been a middle school librarian, and one of her former students made this comment: “If your mother was the Mrs. Floyd who was the Wandell (Middle School) librarian in the ’60s, I remember her! She was wonderful. In fact, I use FLOYD as a password on book-related websites (what greater homage?)” That comment means a lot to me.

So if anybody is actually reading this, I hope to continue the theology and ministry focus, and archive some more of my published and unpublished articles, book reviews, hymn texts, lectures, etc. But I also hope to blog some recipes (I’ve been working on a cookbook for several decades), and touch on wine and whisky, Van Morrison, traumatic brain injury, and other various and sundry topics. As one of my friends likes to say about some preachers: “When you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know when you’ve done it!”

Where I Ruminate on why a Blog is like Sourdough Starter: A Parable

After about a month of blogging it has occurred to me that keeping a blog is like maintaining sourdough starter. Let me explain. Thirty years ago in our newlywed Maine days our friend Alison gave us a small batch of sourdough starter, which is a fermented batter of flour and water. This particular starter, Alison told us with reverence, was reputedly more than a hundred years old. The starter is used, in lieu of other yeast, to make sourdough bread.

Martha and I were young and countercultural and this sounded very cool, and it was kinda cool for a time, but there was a problem. You have to feed the starter! If you don’t feed the starter it gets funkier and sourer by the week and eventually turns dark brown and poisons your refrigerator (did I mention it takes up room there?)

You have to feed the starter every week. First you drain off the alcoholic liquid that has accumulated on the top (it’s called, appropriately enough, “hooch.”) Then you put in some flour for the living colony of organisms that is your starter to munch on.

So as time goes on the thing in the refrigerator grows, which is fine if you are a professional baker or an avid amateur that makes bread several times a week. But we were neither.

We made sourdough bread a couple times, and found the feeding to be a chore, but still somehow felt loyalty to this heirloom starter in the fridge, so it just took up residence there.

The starter wasn’t really useful to us anymore, but we had been feeding it for so long we were invested in its survival.

Finally, two things happened that led us to abandon the starter. First, we had a child, who actually really needed to be fed regularly, which took away some of the starter’s leverage. And, secondly, we each admitted to the other that we didn’t really like sourdough bread. “Those who have ears let them hear.”