Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Journals, Blogs, and Heart Conditions

Back when "blog" was a typo, I journaled. Since taking up this little bit of writing as means of sharing my thoughts on matters, developing sermons further, and seeking to generate discussions on matters of faith, church, politics, etc., I'm journaling substantially less.

Lately though, I'm feeling the need to journal prayers because blogging is a little bit like public speaking: there's only so much you can write before it becomes an unhealthy dumping ground. And the very act of limiting disclosure creates an even greater necessity for a platform where one can be honest with God. The Psalmist calls this pouring out his heart. And the Psalmists, both David and others, did it well. The full range of doubt, fear, anger, praise, rest, trust, gratitude, awareness of beauty and ugliness, pain and healing, are all expressed, directly to God. I wonder: if David had known his work would be published, would he have been as open?

The danger with blogging instead of journaling, or keeping myspace instead of having people over for supper, is that these pixel and byte sized versions of ourselves can easily become confused with our real selves. But they never are.

My real self right now is profoundly moved by the early mornings, before the sun is up, because the air is invigorating and cold, and the hints of impending autumn genuinely create joy. But I'm also profoundly aware of my own struggles and doubts right now, mostly centered around feelings of inadequacy for my calling. I know the right answers; know that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. And yet... I just feel weak, even though I'm truly excited about the church I pastor, and love the work I do. I'm also feeling mid-life anxieties because so many people I know have died or are in the midst of dying this summer. This is affecting me more deeply than I'd care to admit, because I'm finding myself desperately wanting to make each day count. Yet its precisely because of this that I have been biting off too much that seems 'important'. When I do this two things happen: 1) I feel so overwhelmed that I'm not certain what to actually do in the next moment. Long to do lists of big projects have a paralyzing effect on me sometimes, and 2) Relationships suffer. This bothers me, and I'm in the midst of talking with God about it. In addition, there's a board meeting next week, a big budget, our youngest finishing school this year, decisions to be made about a season pass for skiing, shopping for a birthday, concerns about people, family matters, a desire to play more music and play it better, two hikes I want to complete before snows come, and many other matters much closer to the heart. But this doesn't feel like the right place to pour out one's heart - so blog entries are kind of like coffee shop conversations you wouldn't mind a stranger overhearing; "I saw this movie - what do you think of the war in Iraq? - did you hear that boring sermon yesterday?"

That's why entries like this one today are very rare for me. These things, it seems to me, belong in a journal. I'm thinking of the story of Moses, when the children of Israel, having been delivered from Egypt, are complaining to Moses because they think they're about to die. (Exodus 14) He speaks boldly in front of Israel, but it's clear that when he's along with God he pours his heart out, which apparently included his own doubts Moses isn't being two people - he's simply being discreet about where he expresses certain things.

I'm not even certain why I'm writing this entry, other than a desire to share with you that this isn't the platform where I pour my heart out. I am different than movie and book reviews, ideas about the kingdom, politics and economics, hiking trails. I'll still blog because I think talking points on matters where faith intersects the rest of life are important, and because I want to share what I'm learning through various experiences in hopes that others might learn too. But I am not my blog.
What are your thoughts on the limits of self-disclosure in public settings?



At 11/9/07 22:12, Anonymous Sierra said...

Thanks for sharing...

I just want to say that I have done a considerable bit of communicating on the web in various communities, and learned the hard way how public the internet is.

Professionally, I write under my real name, but except for my own blog which involves my profession, I am always careful to stay anonymous nowadays on the internet.
For example, I used to post quite a lot on a discussion group that grew to thousands of members. In the earlier days, we talked quite openly about a lot. Later, it became clear that recruiters and potential employers were using the site, and screening people based on stuff we said.

The bottom line is, no!--blogs are not journals, though many people treat them that way.

I post here because I want "my voice" heard in the Christian community. Also, I must say that your blog has had a lot to do with my being at Bethany as well. The church is so big that it doesn't seem realistic to get to know you except as a teacher. Here, for example, I learned that you love French movies. So do I. And, for much the same reason you expressed. It is not about faith but it rounds things out, in the way that things can be, in the brave new world we are living in.

I would urge you to blog a little less often, and devote yourself to your own journals. Mostly because I think it takes time for people to come to things, and often you are on to something else while "we" are digesting. And, there is a danger of creating only the superficial in the blogging world.

That said, I loved the reference to David today. Sometimes I read his writing now, especially if I am pissed off. He wrote about everything. I plan to write my own psalms, my own versions of David's writing at some point. Would he have written the same if he knew that we would know everything? Maybe he did know. van Gogh wrote that he would someday be everywhere, and now his work is found everywhere in the culture.

At 12/9/07 14:09, Blogger Tom said...

I think that most of us who have been blogging for any amount of time are guilty of using it as an "unhealthy dumping ground." From time to time I've reread some of my past entries and have had to hide them as "Drafts."

It's a fine line. I journal in addition to blogging, and I would not put the contents of my journal on my public blog. My blog helps me to keep in touch with old friends, to test out ideas and to form online "friends."

The blogs that I enjoy most make me think, are not inappropriately transparent and are just honest perspectives on people's lives. I hope you keep blogging - often.


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