Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reflections on 10 years of blogging: Networking

Once I started blogging, it was not very long before I discovered that writing a weblog was a wonderful tool for networking. In early 2005, MySpace was just getting off of the ground, Facebook would not launch publicly for another two years, and Twitter was a glimmer in some techie's eye.

Networking happened in a number of ways for me in my blogging journey:

Professional Networking

One of the things I discovered through my blog is that I could connect to a number of ministry leaders and colleagues that also had blogs. We could have dialogue on certain issues about important matters. It was wonderful to have personal access to people with whom I might have never been able to have a conversation with otherwise. Authors personally asked me to review their books.

Also, there were influential community thought leaders throughout Colorado Springs that I was also able to connect with through my blog. This led to some interesting conversations with folks that I would have never had a chance to talk about my faith with otherwise. It also led to some stellar social invitations.

Social Networking

In my early blogging days, social networking happened in a couple of ways. One way to social network was through what I would call "blog-surfing". By this I mean that one could press a "next-blog" button on the top of one's blog, and surf from blog to blog all over the world. If a person had similar or shared interests, or said something interesting, you just left a comment on their blog and invited them to visit yours if they wished.

Also, once I started blogging, I had several friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends that began to blog. I met some neat people this way. For instance, I met Robin Moser, who turned me on to Red Dirt Country music, which I still enjoy. I also, through a happy accident, met someone who turned out to be related to some good friends of mine through Sterling, KS.

Some people from these blogs I keep track of  through Social Facebook today. Folks such as an artist/author in Austin, a stay at home mom that moved to Las Vegas, A businessman and thinker from Auckland, a working mother from El Paso, and a pet owner from Southern California, and a musician that now lives up in the Northwest.

The blog allowed me to talk about my ideas, my life, and my faith with seminarians and atheists, Muslims from Pakistan and missionaries in Africa. It was a great time for diverse conversations with Northern European fundamentalist Christians, African_American women from the South, homosexuals and homophobes, bestselling authors and people were afraid to get out of the house.
It was the hey-day of blogging as far as I was concerned.

Reflections on 10 years of Blogging: A New Beginning

I began blogging on December 7. 2004. For the next couple of weeks I am going to reflect on my blogging experience, and perhaps offer ideas about how my blog may evolve into the future.

Friar Tuck's Fleeting Thoughts was born after I had been at Colorado Springs for about 15 months. After serving at First Baptist Church of Colorado Springs. I was, for a number of reasons, feeling more and more isolated and lonely in my life and in my ministry. I felt trapped in my work. I felt stuck in my career. I was single. I did not have many hobbies, and I had always dreamed of being a writer.

I remember when I wrote my first post on my blog. It was intoxicating. It was like seeing my name in print. I had my own free website. I had the opportunity to form my own voice, to practice writing, and to share my thoughts with others. 

When I started blogging, my writing had several purposes:

Recording my thoughts and insights somewhere permanent, so that they would not get away from me.
I had this habit of reading something, and forgetting what I had read. I would think of things, but then forget what I was thinking about soon after I did so. The blog was a way of keeping track of those insights that came to mind, especially if I thought they would be helpful or useful later. So, the title became Friar Tuck's Fleeting Thoughts.

Strengthening my writing skill
I have wanted to be a writer since I was a child. And, if I was not a pastor I might have tried to be some sort of journalist. I still dream of writing books, being an academic, or something else that will allow me to read and write.

To develop a feedback loop for ministry thoughts and ideas
I was often thinking about theological and ministry matters, but had no way of having any sort of conversation about such things. Putting something down in writing and letting people respond gave me a forum to get the feedback I needed.

Developing a scrapbook of sorts of pictures and old writing I had done
I did not want to lose track of the writing I had done, and some of the sermons and articles I had written. This had happened in the past when computers crashed, so I began to assemble pictures and writing from the past on this blog as well.

Quote collection
I have always loved quotes. The blog would be a place to collect quotes and links to writing I appreciated.

And so I began to write and share, Many of the above goals were met. However, I had no idea how my blog was going to evolve and my experience with blogging was going to grow in the years to come

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review of John Knox for Armchair Theologians

John Knox for Armchair Theologians
by Suzanne McDonald (Illustrations by Ron Hill)
ISBN 978-0-664-23669-4
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have been very interested in Calvin and in Reformed Theology for quite a while now. However, I have learned very little about the development of the Reformed Movement in Scotland and the rise of Presbyterianism in the British Isles. Thus, I found this John Knox for Armchair Theologians helpful and informative. The illustrations entertained me, and the reading was both instructive and easily accessible.

John Knox was a complex figure, and this book captures his complexity. Whether it is trying to discern his level of influence in the confessions and order of the early Presbyterians in Scotland, or discussing his marital history, McDonald does a good job at describing the importance of Knox while cutting through myth and controversy and getting down to business with real history and theological issues.

McDonald also does a great job at presenting the information in an orderly manner. Some of the "Armchair books" read more like monographs, bouncing around from issue to issue. This book has a logical and easy to follow progression that tells the story of Knox's life through his beliefs and his actions.

Book Review of Calvin's Theology and It's Reception edited by J. Todd Billings and I. John Hesselink

Calvin's Theology and Its Reception: Disputes, Developments, and New Possibilities 
edited by J. Todd Billings and I. John Hesselink
ISBN 978-0-664-23423-2
Westminster John Knox Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Calvin's Theology and Its Reception is a unique book of theological scholarship that will be used by people from all sorts of theological backgrounds from years to come. Including both conservative Reformed voices and well as voices that love Calvin and his theology which would be considered more mainline, this short paperback monograph packs a big punch in a fairly brief package.

Another thing that is very helpful about this book is the systematic way it is organized.  Each section has a few articles. Topics covered include: Scripture and Revelation, Union with God, Election, the Lord's Supper, and the church in society. Each section includes both reflection on the historic as well as the contemporary implications of different aspects of Calvin's theology. Of particular interest to many who, like me, are interested in matters of spiritual formation, will be the discussion of Union with Christ by J. Todd Billings and Michael Horton.

Having lauded this book for its diversity, I must also say this: at least have of the scholars that are writing in this book are from institutions in western Michigan. Nevertheless, this is a fine book, and would be great for a class on Calvin or a discussion group of Reformed pastors of any stripe.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys by Robert C. Dykstra, Allan Hugh Cole Jr., and Donald Capps

The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys
by Robert C. Dykstra, Allan Hugh Cole Jr., and Donald Capps
ISBN 978-0-664-23340-2
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys is a short book put out by Westminster John Knox about the relationships of adolescent boys. The book is very therapeutic in its approach, with some references as well to how to relate and pass on the Christian faith to teen boys in the church.

This book is well researched and well documented. It is both accessible and intelligent, and will have much to offer to pastors, youth pastors, teachers, and parents of teens as well. Central to this book is that healthy identity formation for adolescents, including adolescent boys, takes place in the context of relationships. This is an important insight. Many youth leaders in churches are strongly geared toward relational ministry with teens, but have a harder time equipping teens to relate well to one another.

Also, a lot of attention has been paid to the dynamics of adolescent girls relationships with one another, including their structure, as well as the benefits and pitfalls of those relationships. Less attention has been paid to how boys relationships are structured, and how the social structures of adolescent boys can either be life-giving or destructive. (Most often boys have experience with both kinds of relationships).

I would recommend that youth leaders and pastors at least skim this book if they have any interest in either healthy spiritual formation or identity formation for adolescent boys.

Book Review of Violence In Scripture by Jerome F. D. Creach

Violence In Scripture
Interpretation Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church
ISBN 978-0-664-23145-3
by Jerome F.D. Creach
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Violence In Scripture is part of the resources provided by Westminster John Knox Press and the Interpretation Series. To begin with, Interpretation put out a series of Bible commentaries directed at preachers and bible teachers. These commentaries are very practical and well respected. After finishing the Bible commentaries, the Interpretation folks began to take on the study of themes in Scripture, of which this work is a part.

Violence In Scripture takes on the issue of how the Bible deals with violent behavior, as the title indicates. It attacks this issue sequentially, moving through the narrative of Scripture from the Patriarchs, through the Pentateuch, in Hebrew history and through the Prophets, moving forward into the New Testament. The Psalms are also employed in this study.

The work in this commentary/study is smart, thoughtful, and even handed. Jerome F. D. Creach definitely has a perspective, but his perspective does not cloud him from being fair-minded and taking on the difficult issues regarding violence and discussing them with intelligence and integrity. I love how it is outlined, and the thoroughness of this fine work.

I will add this book to my library, and use it right along with my other books on war, peace, and violence in discerning God's will on such issues.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review of The NIV Once-A-Day Bible for Leaders

The NIV Once A Day Bible For Leaders
ISBN 978-0-310-44243-1
Zondervan (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Clint Walker

In my life, I have found that Bibles that help you read through the Bible in a year are a very helpful tool to promote discipline in one's Bible reading and in one's spiritual journey. The NIV Once A Day Bible for Leaders is one such resource.

The most popular Bible in this genre is from another publisher, and is knows as the One Year Bible. It will be helpful, then, to compare this Bible to that one in order to communicate the uniqueness of this product.

One clear difference is the choice by the editors to have either the Psalms or Proverbs as a part of the readings for the day. This is a good decision. In the One Year Bible, both are included in each reading, and to be honest it forces the readings from the Wisdom literature to be unnecessarily abbreviated.

Another difference is the brief devotional thought for each day based upon the theme of the Once-A-Day Bible. In this case, there is a brief daily devotional thought about leadership. So, for the person that wants to read through their Bible, and grow as a Christian leader, this is a perfect Bible/devotional to do both at the same time.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, check it out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review of Organic Mentoring by Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann

Organic Mentoring: A Mentor's Guide to Relationships with the Next Generation Women
Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann
ISBN 978-0-8254-4333-6
Kregel Ministry
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Mentoring might be the most impact-filled way of forming disciples of Christ and building the church, but in our quest for efficiency and numbers in attendance in church programs it has often been neglected. Thankfully Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann have put together a wise book that calls the church, and especially church womeen, to engage in the act of mentoring both to make disciples and to help them grow into maturity in the Christian faith.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part makes the case for a new day for mentoring, as well as a new way for mentoring women. Seeking to be sensitive to the needs and culture that mentors need to be missional within, they make the case for a new way to reach and mentor a new generation.

Then, the women lay out the specific fields of ministry and ways of reaching women in order to mentor them. Included are topics such as how to use technology to your advantage as a mentor, and ways of connecting to people who are not necessarily awash in church culture. This really is a rather thoughtful book. Something I hand to a mature Christian women who wants to make an impact on younger generations.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Verizon Size Queen

So, I finally decide to do it. I walk into the Verizon store. Why, you ask? To try and get my phone working properly. I talked to the door lady. She seems to think the only way to properly update my phone is to work through Itunes. Then I get to the "expert" who was supposed to help me.  I explain that my updated apps are not working. That my Facetime is not working. I also added that I was having trouble updating the operating system.

She asked me what Iphone I had. I said I had a 4. She said with eyes rolling...."you only have a 4 and you only have 8G" she said with contempt.

She then repeated, "a 4," followed by the words, "that is a 5 year old phone."

She exhaled with a deep sigh. I asked, "So you are saying my phone is a dinosaur?"

"Press your phone," she replied. Then I complied, "Not even a 4s," she said contemptuously, "you only have a 4. A 4. With only 8G. We now have and IOS 8. You have an IOS 6."

She then shook her head.

I left half insulted, and half laughing. I called Jennifer. "I'm sorry honey," I said, "Apparently I am not man enough."

"Why is that," Jennifer said.

"I stopped by the Verizon store, Apparently the young lady there does not think I am man enough,"

Jen laughed.

"She says a 4 is so small and inadequate. How can you be satisfied with only 8G? My operating system is only a 6. She doesn't know how we could EVER be satisfied."

I guess I will have to upgrade. I told Jennifer, "I never thought it mattered whether my phone was a 4 or a 6. It was just how well I used it. I guess I was wrong."


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