Ordinary me and ordinary you

There are many, many days that I question why I blog. I read the blogs of some very talented people – great writers who lead busy lives and seem to walk much closer to Jesus than I do. Many of these folks have suffered much, travelled, served Christ and overcome obstacles beyond my comprehension.

Whereas I am just plain old average. I was going to write ‘very average’ but that would be overstating the case and adding the idea of excelling at being average, I don’t, I’m just average. My academic record is average (all B’s and C’s, not many ‘pointy grades’), my income is average, even the size of my family is average! The main points of difference about me are my height (short) and my house (small). One of my struggles in life is finding anything interesting to write in my Twitter bio.

Point of difference

So what purpose does an ordinary person like me have in writing stuff for the whole world to see ? (If they chose to look – they don’t!)

Marketing gurus like to tell us that whatever we are trying to publish needs to have a ‘point of difference’ so that people will be interested. This makes good sense in a marketplace crowded with stuff and an internet congested with blogs.

Within contemporary New Zealand culture my point of difference is that I am a Christian. In our very secular society a person has to be pretty committed to be an active church goer with a deep faith in Jesus Christ. Still, there are plenty of other Christians in NZ, some of whom write blogs and most of those folks are more educated, opinionated and articulate than me.

So I suppose my ‘point of difference’ is that I’m just an ordinary Christian living in a secular society and trying to figure out what it means to trust Jesus while working to pay the bills.

Ordinary folks welcome!

Given that I’m just an ordinary guy with no special training in theology or such like, I do not set out to teach deep theological truths on this blog or argue about fine points of doctrine. Theology and doctrine are important to me but I have learned over the years that God uses people with inadequate understanding about Him – He has to because nobody fully understands God.

All I’m really aiming to do is share the reality of striving to live for Christ in an ordinary life. Not the life of a missionary or pastor or scholar, just plain old making ends meet in the context of work and family.

 I’m not the only person to think this way:

Because your story matters more than your stats

Summer holiday

Today we are packing up the car ready to head off for our summer holiday.  Although we don’t travel particularly far, it always seems a long way in hot weather with three young kids and a dog or two in a small car.

We will be staying in a small cabin at a camping ground. Friends will also be camping there too so our kids are looking forward to having someone else to play with. We are looking forward to being able to read a book in the shade while supervising children playing angelically. (Dreams are free!)

Holiday from blogging also:

Much as I enjoy writing, I’m also looking forward to not being able to access the internet for a week. So no new posts will show up in that time. If you’re needing something to read have a poke around some of my older posts – try using the ‘category’ list in the sidebar as a way to find posts. Or take a stab and use the  search box.

Have a good week, God bless.

Gifts I have noticed recently (#763 – #779):

763) Abundance as my normal experience.
764) Clean, cold water on a hot day.
765) A New year’s day picnic a Purakanui inlet.
766) Being woken up by a toy truck driving over my head.
767) First born’s 10th birthday.
768) Christmas day with great friends.
769) Middle child’s birthday.
770) Father-in-law helping me cut down our prickly front hedge.
771) Two weeks off work.
772) Seeing a miracle baby walking and laughing.
773) Heather and I working together as a team.
774) Our old dog keeping Poppa company while we are away.
775) Looking forward to holiday soccer games.
776) And water fights!
777) Music from The Lion King stuck in my head.
778) Vacuuming our car out.
779) Fresh peas in pods.

Self-induced anxiety

When I start justifying my own choices to myself, it is a good indication I’m probably heading down the wrong road.

I found this to be the case in deciding upon the best option for hosting this blog. There was a low limit on how much disc space was provided with the plan I was paying for at my previous host, meaning I genuinely needed to assess whether an alternative would be better than paying for more data.

After some research I decided upon another provider and transferred the blog. However, the new option was slightly more expensive than what I’d been previously paying. With a small blog and low visitor numbers my heart was telling me that paying for huge bandwidth and storage capacity was overkill.

For a blog which is growing rapidly and generating an income from advertising it would be an excellent option, but that is not the direction I want to take. Yet this was the path I was burdening myself with in order to justify an more expensive hosting option.

As I have engaged with the blogging community, particularly those who have positioned themselves as experts, the general assumption is that most bloggers seek more visitors to generate income through advertising and other mechanisms. Although I never completely embraced this as my own goal, I did assume the principles used to make a blog successful in that way would also make my own blog better. There is some truth in this, also some self-deception.

If money, popularity or growth is the primary goal then more and bigger is better; more visitors, a bigger audience. Is this my goal?

Growth had in fact become my goal, wanting reassurance that there is some merit in what I write because more visitors arrive at the blog. Yet a reasonable proportion of these visitors arrive here via random Google searches for stuff I don’t even focus on – how does that ‘show’ any merit in my writing?

This goal of growth is one I gave myself. It is certainly not a goal given to me from God. I am convinced that what I should be doing is to write stuff that honours God and builds up other Christians. To quote Ann Voskamp:

A successful blogger is a serving blogger
(What is Success?)

In the Kingdom of God the values we are accustomed to in this world are turned on their head, it is an ‘upside-down kingdom’. To be successful as a child of God I must become a servant, even as I write.

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:11-12 ESV)

So my crucial tools for blogging in the Kingdom of God are not Google Analytics, PHP, CSS or an awesome web host; rather the crucial ‘tools’ are to love God and serve Him.

You, with a keyboard – you are an artist.
You with a blog – you are filled with the Holy Spirit.
You telling your story – speak it with boldness.
Ann Voskamp, (What is Success – Life in the Upside Down Kingdom)

What message is this medium giving you?

The medium is the message” according to Marshall McLuhan. I haven’t read any of his publications myself, but recently listened to an audiobook of The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies in which he discusses this concept.

In a nutshell, the idea is that every medium of communication carries with it inherent constraints which determine how the content carried by that medium will be created, transmitted and received. So the way in which we receive a message is partly determined by the medium through which we receive it (i.e., text versus TV, or blog versus Bible).

My musing over this stems from a concern over whether I might be unwisely using my time writing a blog? I tend to justify it to myself with two reasons:

  1. Writing these posts gets me thinking more deeply about ‘God-stuff’ than I would do otherwise.
  2. It serves the Body of Christ to have God-glorifying content on the internet.

However, I cannot say with absolute certainty that God has ‘called’ me to blog. I could write in my own notebook in order to think deeply about God without inflicting my musings upon the world. I am not even certain that what I write is of any benefit to the Body of Christ.

So I have two questions:

  1. Is it possible to truly honour God with the medium of a blog?
  2. What is the best way to use a blog to glorify God?

Question 1 is basically a yes/no question. Question 2 may require some explanation: the format of a blog determines how the message is received. Some of the ways in which the format affects the message is that readers of web pages tend to skim rather than ponder; many blogs are entertainment so this colours how people read all blogs; there are technical constraints on how a web page can be displayed, limiting how it can look; a blog must always be viewed through a gadget (computer, ipad, phone); and so on.