When the idea of a book club is just what I needed.

This morning, I was listing to my friend Steve's podcast. In it, he mentioned a blogger named Steph from Minneapolis, who was starting a book club about his new book, Beginnings. I wondered who else named Steph was a Minneapolis blogger, and friends with Steve. Because though last week I wrote a post about the book, and offered to give away a copy (one day left to enter!), I had no intentions of starting a club. 

I went to his show notes and discovered the link did in fact go to my site. At first I laughed, feeling the human connection of making a mistake. The laughter quickly faded when I felt the prompting that it's absolutely what I should do. 

What Steve doesn't know is that the beginning of this new year had me pondering what to do with my blog. The start of a new year is a great time to ask if it's time to stop something that has been part of our routines. My writing has been slowly fading out over the last year or two, as I have tried to figure out where it fits with the rest of my shifting vocational directions. 

I like writing. But I love having conversations. The isolation of blogging has always been difficult for me to navigate. I'm an extrovert who is at my best when I can look into someone's eyes instead of at a screen. I love being with people face-to-face and diving into the depths faith. That is why I adore the way of teaching the Scriptures that has entered my life, where we gather in a circle with slowness, vulnerability, and questions. 

questions are kindling

Questions are kindling for the fire of connection. They are among my favorite things. 

One of the many gifts Beginnings gives the reader is the great questions at the end of each chapter. If you are like me, though, you read good questions in books, think about how they would be good prompts for reflection, then keep moving onto the next chapter. In the absence of community, questions can easily be skipped.

All this got me wondering: what if my blog became about questions instead of answers? What if posts were an invitation to dig into life together? What if it was less of a monologue and more of a conversation? 

I don't know exactly where this wondering will go, but I know where it will start: Steve's book. I guess I'm starting a book club after all. Though, I'm not sure I'd call it a book club- it will be more of a book prompt. I hope to use the book to create written conversations about life and faith. 

Here's how it will work: Each week, I will choose a question from Beginnings, write about it, and invite you to write about it too.

I will reveal the question a week in advance, to give time for us to ponder it. When I write my response to the question, I will provide a link up where you can post a link to your blog, if you choose to write about it, too. If you don't have a blog, you can write your response in the comments. If you don't want to do either of those things, perhaps you can write your response in a journal, or talk about it with a friend. (I also recommend reading the book, as it will help you dive much deeper into the questions.)

When we get done with the questions from Steve's book, I have some other questions I have used in Scripture studies or explored in conversations or been pondering, which I would love to explore here, too. (I might even start sprinkling those in between his book questions... we'll see.)

I am struck by the beauty of having a new beginning in this space that starts with the book Beginnings. I am excited to see what new life is coming. 

Here's our first question, from page 25, at the end of the chapter about light: What do you most long to hear from God these days? 

Check back next week for my reflection, and to share yours, too.  I can't wait.

An Open Letter from a Faith Blogger to the God She Writes About

  Dear Heavenly Father,

 

I don’t know how to process what is on my heart today.

 

I am not sure if these words should be written here, on my site, or if they are private utterances that should be left between You and I in my journal. Something tells me the public space is appropriate for this reflection, but even as I type, I am unsure.

 

That’s just it. I am never sure. I am never sure what I should be writing for the world, and what I should be writing for just You or just me.

 

I don’t know how to be a faith blogger.

 

That’s technically what I am, right? I don’t mind the category. It’s what I like to write about the most: how I see You moving in the world around me, and what I see You saying in Your Word.

 

The thing is that I don’t know is how to be a faith blogger whose faith remains true and vibrant.

 

I notice myself analyzing almost every situation in terms of what would fit into a 140 character tweet or written about in a compelling 600 word blog post. Have I started to squeeze You into a box of my own making? Am I shoving away the mystery?

 

There is so much about faith that cannot be summed up in these digital spaces and confined words.

 

I wonder sometimes if faith blogging limits my faith.

 

And yet, I have seen how blogging has cultivated my faith. The processing I have done in this space has grown me in innumerable ways. I treasure the community of people I am getting to know, who are welcoming my words into their lives.

 

Father, how can something be so helpful and so frustrating at the same time?

 

Oh, those moments when I feel a prompt from You to write. When I share something You have been teaching me and it hits home for others, too. The joy I feel to be in step with Your Spirit. I am honored and humbled by the ways You have used this space.

 

But in one more post, that feeling turns on its head. I try to write a post as successful as the last, and it comes up short. Just one comment. No shares. Embarrassing statistics. And on the same day, that other writer, that master of words I admire from afar, that writer has a post that spreads like wildfire.

 

And I wonder, who am I? Are You really using me at all?

 

I take matters into my own hands and I fail. The comparisons trap my trust in You beneath their weight. I am sorry God. I am sorry I forget so easily about that conversation we had at the beginning of all this.

 

You know, that talk You gave me when only a handful of people read my posts at all. When I wondered what in the world I was doing and if I should keep it up. But then, I had that phone conversation with someone I care about, telling me how my words had made a difference.

 

It was such a gentle word You gave me that day. The way You reminded me of the story of the lost sheep. That You are a God who goes after the one. You are not about numbers, You are about people.

 

If I pour my heart out in this space and touch only one other person’s life, that is a rich exchange in Your economy.

 

I’m sorry that I so often get caught up in the wrong things. This is not about the numbers of readers I have. This is not about how many times a post gets shared. This is not about how my writing skills compare to those of another.

 

This is about You. A living and active God moving in the world, and in each of our lives. This is about us, sharing stories, and reminding each other that our faith is true and we are not alone. This is about the way You can connect strangers who have never met to help each other in our times of need.

 

Faith blogging is a frustrating, difficult, miraculous, and beautiful responsibility.

 

Thank You for letting me have this space. Help me to honor You well in the midst of it.

 

I love You.

 

Signed,

Your Beloved Child

 

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A Little Dose of Encouragement

I often look at this blog in a funhouse mirror. You know the mirrors I’m talking about? The ones that distort the way you actually look, sometimes making you look short and fat, sometimes making you look tall and thin, but never reflecting your actual appearance?

Some days I wake up tall. I have an over-inflated sense of my importance, my followers, and the message I need to bring to this world. And I wonder, is anyone noticing me?

Some days I wake up short. I get stuck on my stats. I compare myself to blogs with thousands more readers than I. And I wonder, what am I adding to the conversation?

This is my lens as a fledgling blogger. I am writing for a reason. There is a message I want to flesh out. Maybe I am doing it for myself, but I still choose a public forum, hoping for a public reading.

I have questions. I have dreams. I am surrounded by unknowns. And often, things look distorted. It can be hard to know if my voice is helping anyone.

Then, last week, I got a surprise.

I follow the blog Inspiration Driven Life by Sarah Koci Schielz. I love the way she pushes me to be intentional in how I live my life.

Sarah is a fledgling blogger, like me. She received the Liebster Award, and she chose me as one of five blogs she follows to also get the Liebster Award.

This award we’ve discovered is given to bloggers who inspire you and have less than 200 followers. The Liebster Award takes its name from the German word meaning ‘Beloved, Dearest or Favorite.’” - Quit the Cure 

Now, I have to be honest. Though I was honored to be chosen, I was cynical of the award itself. After some further research, I can’t figure out its origin. To win an award, and then have to choose 5 others to give the award to, feels a bit like a pyramid scheme or a chain letter. I have always hated that kind of stuff.

But the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated the idea. Because who doesn’t like being chosen for something? It’s encouragement. And sometimes we need an excuse to give someone else a bit of applause.

Now the technical rules of the award say I should give it out to 5 other bloggers with 200 followers or less. But that’s the other trick- I don’t actually know how many followers some of the blogs I read have.

For those of us who are fledgling, it’s not usually something we advertise. “Hey, come join the 5 other people reading my stuff!” (For my blog, the give-away is when you click on the link to like me on Facebook and see that the number is in the twenties.)

So, to the 5 I choose, I apologize in advance if your blog is actually bigger than I thought. Or, if it’s small and you were hoping people didn’t know, and I am actually offending you by adding you to this list.

But, from what I can tell, you are like me. Fledgling. We are finding our voices, figuring out our place in this blogosphere, and inching our way to more followers.

My hope is that this list helps some of my readers discover you. Because you are worth following. I’m grateful that you blog. Your words encourage and inspire me.

  • .Joys of the Journey by Denise. Denise opens up the Bible and makes faith accessible and relatable. Her blog is a conversation with a friend. I look forward to her posts every time.
  • Awake my Soul by Laura. Laura is a wise woman. When I read her words, I am sitting across the table of a coffee shop with a mentor. She gives advice, talks about struggles, and brings me to reflection.
  • A Diamond in the Rough by Jessica. Jessica is a new mom and former missionary. She weaves beautiful tapestries out of words. Her posts are pictures of life, faith, and grace.
  • Ink in Pink by Melissa. Melissa is an editor who uses Ink in Pink to display her own voice. Her writing helps me pause to look at life and culture, and how I should be interacting with it.
  • Spiritual Glasses by Jennifer. Jennifer is courageous. She is new to this world and in some ways still finding her voice. But I love what I have seen so far. She boldly shares stories from her life that remind me that God really does provide hope in dark times.

Now that I have recognized a few bloggers, I would also like to recognize my readers.

I want to say thank you. Thank you for walking with me as I find my voice. Thank you for the ways you have provided me with encouragement. And thank you for helping me grow in my faith as I write and interact with you.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – 1 Thess 5:11

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