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Back to blogging: my surprising #top3 posts list

I ended up taking a much longer break from blogging than I planned to. Like most things, once you get out of the habit, it’s much harder to re-start. (Although I think I did have a fairly good excuse – getting my thesis finished!)

But I’ve been thinking it’s time to start regularly blogging again. Thinking about blogging has led to me reflecting on my experience of blogging so far, and in particular some of the surprises I have discovered in seeing the popularity and responses to some of my posts. In response to that, and to kick start my return to the blogosphere, here is a list of my “top” (i.e. most commonly read) blog posts and the possibly surprising reasons why they have been popular …

#1 Can we please stop saying “Charity Begins At Home”?

This is by far my most commonly read post. Every single day for the past year, it has averaged between 20 and 50 views. This intrigues me. It was one of my earlier posts, and was born out of my own frustration at the frequent misuse of the saying. What the post’s popularity seems to suggest (along with the fact that most people come to it via a google search) is that although the phrase is frequently thrown around, a lot of people don’t know what it means or where it comes from, and there apparently aren’t too many answers to those queries available! I’m glad I can provide a helpful information service of some kind.😉

#2 Beauty in the Dry Season

This post has been popular for quite a different reason. Written as part of my travel reflections, my intention in writing it was to reflect on different types of beauty out of my experience of visiting Victoria Falls in Zambia at both peak water time and during the height of the dry season. Unfortunately, some of my photos showing the lack of water during the dry season were picked up by a couple of other blogs and used as “proof” that there was a desperate drought in Africa and even as a “sign” of the judgment of God on the world!! It was quite bizarre receiving comments and emails from people all over the world, some wanting to check whether the photos were real or photoshopped (they are absolutely real), others wanting to warn me that they were being used without my permission (which bothered me less than the fact that they being used in a way that directly contradicted what I had written about them), and others congratulating me on getting the ‘truth’ out (which was disturbing because I had done no such thing!) I hope those who continue to come across some of the false information actually read what I wrote and get a different perspective.

#3 How does the church respond to #yesallwomen?

This was a post that I felt very vulnerable writing and so it was quite confronting to realise it had been much more widely read than my posts usually are. But it is also the one I am most pleased got attention, because of the ongoing discussions it started. Written in response to a twitter hashtag, it contributed to a conversation that has brought out into the open the experience of too many women that too many men were unaware of. It is certainly the post that I have had the most in-person conversations about and it has been a privilege to hold other women’s stories as they have been prompted by my vulnerability to share their own. It has also been incredibly encouraging to have people seek to respond to the ‘awareness raising’ that blogging can do with tangible, practical action. I trust this will only continue.

Three very different posts, and three very different reasons for the attention they have garnered.

What have I learned from them?

From the first, I’ve learned that you never quite know what is going to be helpful for people and that blogging can apparently have an educative role. From the second, I’ve learned that once you put something on the net you can’t control what people do with it and that blogging can get you into unexpected trouble. And from the third, I’ve learned that being open and vulnerable has incredible power and that there are always people who can hear you and say “me too.” I’ve also learned that it is possible for blogging to transcend the digital page and open up amazing and unexpected opportunities. All of these are helpful reminders as I re-embark upon this journey of “thinking out loud.”

So, just in case anyone has wondered why I’ve been quiet, or whether I’d given up blogging altogether, this post is my way of saying “I’m back” and of getting myself back into the habit of posting regularly again. I’m planning a similar mix to before – responses to current issues (whether global, local or just in my own head!), travel reflections, theological ponderings, political and social musings and lots of questions of all kinds. It’s a useful process for me and I’ve missed it. I hope some of you might be looking forward to engaging with the things that I think out loud about that interest you along the way. And I’m looking forward to seeing what unexpected responses are yet to come …

A God who speaks my language

I haven’t blogged in the last few months as I have been busy finishing up my thesis, but I’m hoping to get back into it soon. For now, here’s a post I wrote for Tabor’s blog “Manna” last week …

Manna

Isaiah 65

I teach Old Testament and one of the things students often struggle with is how foreign and distant the text can seem from us. There are huge gaps between us and the Old Testament’s original readers: gaps in terms of time, location, and culture. And that means it can be quite a bit of work to try to bridge those gaps so we can interpret the Old Testament well and discern its relevance.

But every time a student raises this issue, I’m reminded about a wonderful and profound truth those gaps teach me about our God.

The reason the Old Testament seems so foreign and distant to us is, of course, because it wasn’t spoken or written to us. It wasn’t written in our language, or through our worldview. It was written in Hebrew, through an ancient near Eastern worldview, because that is how the people to whom it was…

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The cult of celebrity and Christmas carols: some random thoughts on the implications of the incarnation

It has often been observed that our culture worships the “cult of celebrity.” The idea is that there are certain people we look up to, want to know about, want to be like, and want to meet. Whether that is because of certain abilities they display (sporting stars), or attributes they have (good looking actors), simple due to their visibility (Kim Kardashian) or even because of their family connections (Kate Middleton), the idea that would could in some way “get to know” these people drives a multi-billion dollar gossip magazine industry and results in large crowds gathering wherever these people go.

There’s an awful lot that could be said about that from a cultural-analysis perspective, and there’s a lot to dislike about it, but the reason I’m thinking about this today is entirely different. I’ve been listening to some of my favourite Christmas carols and wondering how these two thoughts connect.

So God imparts to human hearts                                                                   The blessings of His heaven

The cult of celebrity seems to suggest to me that there is something deep within us as human beings that wants to connect with those whom we look up to or admire. That somehow we feel like getting “close” to them elevates us in some way. A famous person who takes time to hang out with a sick child in hospital is universally admired. Throughout history there has been prestige ascribed to having any kind of connection with royalty. Associating with those who have status and value seems to bring a kind of status and value of its own. Perhaps it overcomes our insecurities: if they like us, well then, we really must be likeable and everyone else will know so.

Imagine if a really famous person joined one of the groups or clubs you belong to. Suddenly your whole group would be elevated by their presence. Your status and value would somehow go up.

What on earth does all this have to do with Christmas?

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see                                                                    Hail the incarnate deity                                                                            Pleased as man with men to dwell                                                                       Jesus our Immanuel

The incarnation of God as a human being elevates all of us. It brings us status and value.

At Christmas, we celebrate the miracle of God choosing to become a human being. The creator of the universe chose to become part of His creation. And not just any part but our part. God became one of us. The Godhead for all eternity now includes a human being. The ruler of all things is now a member of our group.

That is a truly incredible, astonishing, surprising, mind-blowing, shocking thing to believe.

And it changes everything.

It tells us that God loves us. Immensely. Enough to become one of us.

It tells us that we are loveable. There is no need for insecurity. The One of ultimate worth has found us worthwhile.

But even more than that, it calls us to love one another because every single other person we share this planet with is not only created in the image of God, but is a being whom God has chosen to become like.

Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother                               And in his name all oppression shall cease

One of the implications of the incarnation is that God becoming human elevates us all. The refugee and the billionaire, the inmate and the Kardashian, the lost child and the superstar … each and every one is one whom Jesus chose to become like.

Now that’s a cause for celebration.

And a call to compassion.

And a challenge to contemplate.

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