Tag Archives: Blogging

Writing, Speaking, Podcasting and Lamenting … out loud

I called this blog Thinking Out Loud because that describes something I love to do – working out, wrestling with, and sharing my thinking externally. Writing is a helpful tool for this as it forces you to wrangle your ideas into some kind of structure and shape, that you hope will help spark ideas, resonances, and responses in those who read them. There is also some trepidation in putting your thoughts into ‘print’, as they can then be perceived as fixed and final, unable to be further nuanced or developed.

Podcasting is another great way of thinking out loud. I have a range of podcasts I’m loving listening to, hearing other people ponder and wonder, dialogue and debate, inform and imagine as they speak their words into being. (I need to update my top listening list soon). There is probably a greater sense of immediacy and connection with listening rather than just reading, which makes me want to think more about the engagement of our different senses in this context.

Many of the messages I preach are available as podcasts, and a friend and I have been imagining what a podcast we hosted could look like.

Last week I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a fairly new podcast, hosted by Andy and Mike, two guys serving as worship pastors in churches that are part of the movement in which I lead and serve.

Our topic was Lament, and in particular how the Psalms of Lament teach us and lead us in this practice as part of our worship. I really enjoyed sitting down and talking through some of what I have learned through my studies and teaching, preaching and practicing, of the Psalms.

The downside of talking over writing is that you don’t necessarily say everything you want to, and I did wonder if our tone was sometimes more upbeat than the topic might suggest, simply due to the enjoyment of having the conversation itself.

But having dialogue partners means you can bounce off one another in real time, which is great for both questions and tangents. Hopefully it leads to key ideas being both clarified and applied in helpful ways. I really enjoyed our conversation and it probably could have gone for a lot longer.

In many ways, learning to lament is itself a practice of thinking out loud.

The Psalms invite us to enter into their experience and relationship with God,  to experience their emotions and imagination and embodiment. I believe it is in enacting the Psalms, voicing their words as our own, that they form us.

The lament psalms in particular invite us to share our experiences of disorientation with God and with one another in the community of faith: asking questions in our doubt, weeping tears in our sadness, expressing anger at injustice, confessing our weaknesses and failings, standing in solidarity with the grief and brokenness of others. And doing all this in an attitude of prayer and worship.

I’m currently working on a few writing projects on the Psalms, but if you’d like to hear some of my thinking out loud specifically about Lament, you can listen to the podcast episode here: Captivate Podcast, Episode 8.

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 lament from behind the scenes

When I started this blog nearly two years ago, my goal was to write a post every week. It quickly became apparent that aiming for at least once a fortnight was a more realistic goal. But this is my first post in almost two months – the longest break I have had.

There are a few reasons. I have been really busy and so finding time to write is a challenge. But if I’m honest with myself (and now you) there’s probably been some other reasons as well. I haven’t been sure if I have anything to say. Or maybe even more, I haven’t been sure if what I have to say is worth hearing. As someone who is often the teacher or the pastor or the leader or even somehow the “expert” … what I feel like I have most at the moment is lots of questions, irritations, hurts and fears. In a number of areas I feel like I haven’t been seeing much in black and white, but am almost overwhelmed by how much grey there is. And I’m never sure how much to let the rest of the world see my tears.

I think one of the dangers ­– or at least temptations ­– with blogging is something we all can experience on social media: feeling like we need to present our “best selves” for others to see. That we need to be “up” or “on”, that we need to look good and sound good and contribute something good for others. And so then we fall into the trap of comparing what we see from others with what is really going on for us and we always fall short.


So here’s the truth for me. The last six weeks or so have been really tough and not much fun. There’s been the usual busyness, coupled with things like the day to day frustrations of tasks that should be simple but end up taking way more time and energy that you anticipated, or people who say things that you hope they don’t really mean but you still feel really hurt by. I’ve had a number of performance and presentation events for my PhD, which have taken a fair chunk of my intellectual and emotional energy. I’ve also been struggling with really enjoying the new church family I am a part of while also realising that I still feel new and dis-connected and that it is really hard and takes time to make good friends and to feel part of a new community. Most significantly, I have had both a family member and a close friend pass away, and while there have been moments of grace within each of those situations, overall it has felt incredibly sad, massively unfair, emotionally exhausting, and just downright awful.

Yet I can say with confidence that I have a faith that is strong despite how I am feeling. I totally trust that God is good, even though it doesn’t feel like it every day in every situation. For me, part of my faith is being honest enough to say that I don’t have all the answers, I don’t understand, sometimes I question God and am angry with Him, and yet I continue to follow Jesus and look to Him to lead me through because I believe He is my hope and my salvation.

How can this all be true at the same time? Hope in the midst of darkness, joy through despair? For me, that’s what lament is all about.

In the middle of the last few weeks, I gave a presentation to a group of hospital chaplains on lament. I felt completely inadequate speaking to them – I might have lots of study and head knowledge to bring, but these are people who are sitting in the trenches, walking alongside death and despair, and I know that I couldn’t do what they do every day. Our time together ended up being an amazing day where I learned from them even as they learned from me. And together we looked at the psalmists and the prophets of the Old Testament and how they teach us to lament. To be honest about our questions and doubts and hurts and fears. To speak them aloud to God and to one another and to wait upon Him. (I’m really glad the authors of the Bible didn’t feel the only thing they could share with the world was their “highlight reels”!!)

The book of Lamentations (literally the “lament of laments”) recounts the darkest chapter in Israel’s history. It is not a book for the fainthearted. There are horrific stories and desperate cries and unanswerable questions. And if you read it from beginning to end looking for a conclusion that ties it all up with a neat bow, you will be sorely disappointed. But what amazes me is that at the very centre of this book of pain and despair, lie some of the most profound words of hope and faith that you will ever find. Words that have been spoken and sung by generations of people of faith all across the world, and words that I am continuing to sing today:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind

and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”

(Lamentations 3: 19-24)