A Friend’s New (thoughtful) Blog

It’s not often I edit the “Regular Reading” list of sites on the sidebar, but a good friend’s entrance to the world of blogging is worth the edit.  I hope you’ll take some time to read through Michael Washington’s relatively new blog; he’s been writing regularly for a few weeks but has only recently let folks know about it.  (Great move!  Don’t tell anyone you’ve started a blog until you’ve written enough to bring initial visitors back again.)  Here’s where Michael’s coming from:

I’ll blog as a married man–born, raised, and living in Chicago–who fumbles through fatherhood, works as a pastor in a multiethnic church, teaches and learns in a seminary, and writes mostly in yet-to-be-seen places.

That multiethnic church is the same one I work with and Michael and his wife have been close friends for the past decade.  In other words, I’m confident your time won’t be wasted reading from Michael’s blog.

I’m curious whether any of this site’s readers have taken up blogging?  If so, leave a comment so we can take a look.

How to blog

Earlier this week I wrote about why you should consider blogging.  If you’re ready to jump in, here are a few things you might want to consider.

  • Write regularly. Whether it’s once a day, week or month, posting new content somewhat regularly will be helpful for those who are interested in what you have to say.
  • Don’t tell anyone you’ve started a blog… for at least a month. Avoid the temptation to email everyone in your address book about your new blog before you’ve built up some content.  You’re more likely to have return visitors if the first time folks visit your blog they’re greeted by more than the ubiquitous “So, I’ve decided to start blogging” post.
  • Write about what you know and care about without being a narcissist. We know you care about this idea/thought/question; show us why it could matter to usKathy Khang consistently does this very well.  She writes about her interests while inviting her readers to consider our opinions on a variety of topics.
  • Be provocative.  Don’t be a jerk.  The internet has far surpassed it’s jerk-quotient but that doesn’t mean you can’t push and provoke, encouraging your readers to consider an old issue from a new perspective.  A post from last year, “Immigration?  No.  Torture?  Yes.  Christian?  For sure.” is an example of my attempt at this balance.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time on the technical stuff. WordPress and Blogger are two free blogging platforms that allow you to be up and running in a matter of minutes.  Take an hour or two to learn the basics and then begin posting content.  It’s tempting to spend time making your blog look pretty, but many of us will read your posts via an RSS reader and only rarely visit your blog.  Your initial efforts are best spent creating interesting content.
  • Capture ideas when they come. Most of us don’t have the luxury of writing when inspired, so it’s a good idea to jot down that brilliant thought or provocative question before it disappears.  I generally create a new post, type the idea as the title and then save it as a draft, a process that takes less than a minute.  The next time I’m able to blog my initial idea is waiting to be expanded and published.
  • Find your focus without being too narrow. It will be helpful for your readers to know what kind of content they can expect from you.  However, don’t be so specific that you’re unable to write about interesting things that don’t fit within your blog’s stated theme.  The Signs of Life umbrella has served me well in this regard.

There is much more that could be said, but I’ll stop here.  What would you add to this list?

If any of this blog’s readers begins a blog, I hope you’ll let us know about it… one month after you’ve begun.

Why blog?

In the span of a few days two different friends asked my opinion about blogging, specifically how to blog consistently.  I’ll get to a few thoughts on the “how” of blogging, but it makes sense to start with the “why.”  Here are a few reasons you should seriously consider blogging and I’d be curious to know what you’d add.

  • Writing is a reflective process, one that helps you see things otherwise missed.
  • Blogging your thoughts, observations and questions is a way of inviting distinct responses to your own limited perspective.  Signs of Life has been a way for me to learn from an incredibly eclectic group of folks; the comments on “On being a white man in leadership” being just the most recent example.
  • You have interesting ideas and observations to share and blogging will help you distill and critique these things.  Remember, what seems commonplace to you will be completely foreign-and, thus, fascinating- for many of us.  For example, one of the blogs I link to is kept by Stanford Gibson who sometimes writes about his vocational interests and expertise, scientific matters I  just barely understand but find genuinely interesting.
  • At its best blogging will connect you with others who are interested in similar questions and ideas.  The trick- in my opinion- is to keep your blog from becoming a members-only club visited only by those who agree with each other.  This isn’t hard to avoid though, and after blogging for a while you’ll find yourself “conversing” with folks you never would have connected with otherwise.
  • What begins on your blog will quickly spill into face-to-face conversations.  A friend will read something you wrote and offer their own thoughts and questions on the subject.  Given the significant limits of virtual communication (i.e. comments on a blog), these in-person conversations may be the best reason to begin blogging.

What other reasons would you add?

I’ll get to the “how to blog” question later this week.

Black Friday & Eid al-Adha

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has occasioned some rather depressing posts on this blog (2007, 2008).  My friend Brian, who lives in Jordan, today has a completely different and utterly fascinating take on Black Friday.

By way of contrast Eid al-Adha falls on a different day each year as Muslims follow a lunar calendar.  This year the Thursday of Thanksgiving corresponded with the preparation day before the actual beginning of the festival.  The 5-day government holiday begins on preparation  day.  The streets were crowded yesterday with people making their last minute purchases for the holiday.  I was caught in a couple of traffic jams.  The interesting contrast with Thanksgiving is that many Muslims fast on preparation day.  Feasting and Fasting.  Traditionally in America early Thanksgiving Days were accompanied by a day (or even days) of fasting as people expressed their gratitude to God for his blessings. But it seems we Americans have lost that tradition over the years, preferring the feast to the fast.

The entire post is well worth your time.  Nothing like a completely different angle to lend some perspective to my own traditions.

soong-chan rah reviews “gran torino”

Soong-Chan RahI do my best to keep the Regular Reading list of blogs on the sidebar to a manageable size.  There are a handful of additional blogs I follow, but the ones on this list are good conversation partners with the general thrust of this blog.  I’ve just added Soong-Chan Rah’s blog to the list.  You might remember my review of Dr Rah’s book, The Next Evangelicalism back in June.  Have you read it yet?  Dr Rah also spoke at our church a few weeks back about some of the themes from the book and took a number of insightful questions from the congregation.  Those of you with an interest in the future of the church in America would enjoy following Dr Rah’s blog.

This morning Dr Rah posted some thoughtful critique about the recent Clint Eastwood film, Gran Torino.  His interpretation of some of the film’s themes differ from my own over at Out of Ur, but that’s what makes films interesting conversation starters.  Those of you who’ve seen Gran Torino will appreciate this blog post, “Gran Torino or Clint Eastwood is my Savior.”