Start blogging again

Its been more than a month since I last blogged. Since then I have gone to Japan on vacation. I have seen a wonderful successful kidney transplant between two wonderful members in the church who are not blood related. I have been moving around in a Toyota Picnic that a kind American missionary friend who left for USA allowed me to use till the COE runs out in 2 January 2015. The church worship hall will undergo renovation so I have been busy with arrangements and communications of the alternate worship service space. And I have been on Whats App in a prayer group for the kidney transplant, and quite often communicating on my personal and church Facebook page. All these took time. And they drained me of ideas and the motivation to update this blog. In other words there were things to blog about but somehow the one liners of Twitter and Facebook seemed an easier and quicker and lazier way to express my thoughts. This blog is losing out but I know that if one of my goals of blogging is to practise writing then I simply have to push aside other competing demands and shun the broad and easy highways of one liners and plentiful pictures and “likes”. So here I am on Christmas Eve. I have decided I need to start writing again and avoid the easier path. Just write the ideas that strike me and reflections of what is happening around me and in the news. Ramble if I have to. Just get started again on a regular basis.

I am so heartened by Christian leaders and pastors who have continued to blog. Many have stopped as traffic moved elsewhere but these guys still keep writing regularly with persistence and quality. They are on my blogroll links on the right hand and I hope to keep company with them.

Well this is a good enough kick-start for today. Hopefully the passion will kick in and I will have something more substantial to say.

Encouraged to keep blogging

On Sunday a guest in church asked if I was the one who wrote a blog and she mentioned reading it. I did not have the presence of mind nor cleverness to ask what she read or to inquire as to what interested her or whether she found it helpful.She must have read one of those posts that were probably from a period when I wrote about twice or thrice a week.

On Tuesday, I was in the car with a colleague talking about the thesis I have to write. I had a few ideas I was exploring. He strongly felt I should write something about the use of social media in learning and discipleship since he knew blogging was something I was enthusiastic about. In passing he mentioned that he had met quite a few friends who reads blogpastor.net.

On Thursday, I was having lunch with a pastor who mentioned occasionally reading my blog too. Hmm.

Three affirmations within five days is not normal. Something is afoot. As I reflected on this I remembered how I felt after I came back from my study module in Bangkok. My target had been to blog once a week. But I was tired from the intensity of the course. I had sermons to prepare. I had post-campus assignments to do. I felt like maybe I should just stop blogging. It is like you are jogging at a good pace and an anxiety fills you and all of a sudden you simply stopped in your track. All those incidents, so surprising, are probably the Lord’s gentle pat on the back to encourage me to continue on this writing journey. It will lead somewhere. It does me good. It helps people. Blogging sounds like slogging but I want to write as fulfillment and delight but is this possible all the time…..I wonder.

 

Blogging tips from “Amazing Grace” hymnwriter

Tony Reinke wrote an interesting article listing 15 tips on blogging which he had drawn from the Writings of John Newton, the John Newtonformer slave-trader who encountered Christ and became a hymn-writer and quite a prolific letter writer too. His letters were written in an informal easy style, topical, and experience-based. This is similar to blogging. Scan the list of 15 tips and if you want to read John Newton’s own words from which Tony deduced the tips read the full article HERE.

1. Bloggers should write to learn, to meditate, and to remember.

2. Bloggers should write to edify, therefore it is preferable to write simple truth than to spread eloquent trifles.

3. Bloggers should expect the well to run dry at times, and understand some of the personal factors that explain this barrenness.

4. Women should be encouraged to blog for the benefit of the entire church, since they naturally write in a style more enjoyable, and less stilted, than men are normally capable of.

6. Blog to offer both converting and comforting grace to your reader.

7. Make it your constant aim to blog with the intent of prospering your reader in God.

8. Be extra careful when handling controversy on your blog, and if you do engage it, know that it carries with it extra responsibilities, first in the tone of how you write, secondly in requiring you to sincerely pray for your opponent(s) before you engage them, and thirdly in requiring that you address your opponent as one who has an eternal soul, and who will either be lost forever, or as one that will be your brother or sister in heaven for all eternity.

9. Bloggers should aim to write from personal experience.

10. Bloggers should also write from their observations of others.

11. Learn to blog your observations more freely, especially if you are bent towards a stilted formalism.

12. Blog humbly and in faith, knowing the Lord will lead you to offer a “word in season” for your readers in their time of need.

13. Pray that God would fill your soul with divine joy as you write, that this joy would be communicated on the screen, resulting in a shared joy with your reader.

14. Do not allow blog writing to cause your neglect of family priorities

15. Redeem your barren blogging experiences, use them to see your needs and weaknesses, and lean upon God for his sustaining and supplying grace.

To blog or not to blog

Reasons not to blog

In the past year I have been nibbling on the idea of a blog funeral for blogpastor.net.  One reason was my burnout. My blog entries went downhill and I wrote less often. My heart was not there and inspiration waned. Another was the temptation to follow the crowd. Many blogs have in recent months idled into the grave. Even popular ones I have followed like Real Live Preacher and Internet Monk. This was disheartening. The buzz also seemed to have migrated to Facebook. Furthermore, I was disturbed by the pleasure I had from online approval. It fed my ego.

Reasons to continue to blog

Today I read Dr Tony Siew’s 10 reasons to blog and I agreed with all of them. Then I asked myself, What are my own reasons to continue blogging? And I found 4 main reasons for me to continue.

1. Its an incredible space to address an audience that’s potentially global. The world is my parish is no longer a cliche. It is made possible by the internet. Readers from 71 countries visited this blog in the last month and this has to be the Lord’s doing for I do not write mind-bending stuff.

2. My blog is a good platform for me to clarify my thoughts, practise writing, and express my personal views. It also acts as a  resource folder: insights and lessons, a record of events and experiences and stories, which I sometimes turn to when I prepare talks or do my assignments or just reminisce.

3. My desire is that the posts I write will be to the greater service and glory of God. Promoting unity and understanding among churches and appreciating what is good, praiseworthy, true and just is one way to do this. Another is to help lay people understand their pastors better and increase their appreciation of them. I also enjoy highlighting the glory of the small church and their pastors and the vital role they play in the kingdom.

4. It is also my digital legacy for my children and children’s children. When I became interested about my grandparents all of them had gone and all I had were faded black and white photos and personal anecdotes of unreliable memories of surviving relatives. My digital store will give a more three dimensional picture of who I am and what I believed and what I lived through.

Keep me in your prayers and thoughts.

Nestled in His arms, rested in His love

trusting loveMore sleep

Freed from regular work, I have given myself permission to sleep more than I have slept before. When I feel drowsy or tired, I would just go to bed and lie down for a nap. So in addition to my regular sleep I have been sleeping at any hour of the morning, or afternoon or evening. A pastor friend on long leave told me he slept at ten at night, and woke up at about ten every morning for several weeks. Another pastor friend on sabbatical dreamt of church work every night for several months. It’s like the ignition key was removed but the engine was still running….or slowly winding down.

More writing, more prayer

child thrown by fatherEvery morning I wake up and go straight to the laptop and power it on. Then its straight to the 4EverJournal, my online journal. Password. Click on the day and start writing and praying whatever comes to mind without censorship. It has been a pleasure to get into this habit. It doesn’t go beyond 500 words. At least not yet. It is peppered with prayers to Pa. Sometimes I would go to e-Sword and read a verse from Psalm 42 and meditate and then write my response in the notes. And then it is back to the journal.

Being like a little child trusting the Father’s love has been an experience that has been growing on me. Sometimes my sanctified imagination sees the Father swooping me up and throwing me into the air and catching me in his hug. Many squeals of delight later, I find myself nestled in His arms and rested in His love.

More trusting

The Lord has been guiding my paths and making each day so pleasant to the taste. To see His hand of love in the little detailing of life’s unfolding has been such a delight. Even the date due reading assignments seemed light and pleasant. The project work was done in a breeze. The Lord has been giving me some inspiration for Sunday’s message in the New Covenant Church.

Tomorrow I take a coach to Kuala Lumpur, and by God’s providence I take the same coach as pastor Mary Tham, my colleague, who is completing her Elijah House ministry journey. Lord you are so kind with the little details. It’s always nice to have good company.

Philip Yancey’s secrets of successful writing

Seminar with author Philip Yancey

Over 450 fans of Philip Yancey, popular Christian author, filled the ACS Junior School auditorium with lively anticipation. Each seminar participant held a plastic file of notes titled “3 Keys to Quality Writing” and each clutched a two-in-one gift book by the author,” The Jesus I Never Knew” and “Disappointment with God”. I spotted Conrad Raj, Jenni Huan, Alfred Yeo, Stillhaventfound, Sarah, and sat with Didi. Hmmm…so Conrad Raj, the journalist, is a Christian. Present also were several acquaintances from last year’s Armour writing workshop: Ricky, Ali Smith, Lindsay, Linda and a few other familiar faces. Two of them have finished writing their books.

Philip Yancey and wife receiving gifts

Authentic and inspiring

Philip Yancey looked as though he came out of Shenton Way, neatly dressed in a long sleeve grey shirt (without a tie) and black pants with black belt. Everything was in place – including his Afro hairsytle and trimmed beard. He reminded me of Garfunkel, the singer. His two talks were conversational and folksy and his anecdotes and advice had an attractiveness that’s charming and almost hypnotic. This is one accomplished author who is an inspiring speaker too. From 9am to 12pm with a fifteen minute break, he taught, dialogued, and carried an Q and A time. Listening him was like watching a good movie.

How much money?

During the Q &A time, I waited for my inquisitive question to be asked. “How much money do you make as a writer?” His answer was that he has been very blessed in that respect and that he could even start a foundation to channel royalties to charities.

The secrets

Movement, he said, was one of the 3 important keys to quality writing.  Good writing keeps the people moving forward like a gravitational pull. He identified one the three gravitaional pulls as “suspense” such as is found in most good stories.  The passage of time, a sense of mortality and materiality are elements that make a story seem real, and the suspense taut.

A piece of writing that has movement is one that discloses movement taking place within the writer. He spoke of a book he read, “Yellow Wind” and how it moved him as he identified with the Israeli author’s emotional conversion as he interviewed suffering Palestinians. The author documented his feelings and how he was moved to a different point of view, and it moved Yancey too. This is the second and third gravitational forces: movement within the author and reader.

Besides movement, the other two keys he touched on was: “Finding your unique voice”, and “Finding a form that fits your message”.

One tip I picked up was to not use the verbs to be. Weak. Avoid it like a virus. This should require my diligent application, until it becomes second nature. Good writing requires good sentences. Mine are sloppy.

Blogpastor jia yu!

Hacked blogpastor posts in thumbdrive

archivesMemories in a thumbdrive.

I took it from Vee San, my website designer, and thanked her profusely. At least the files of all my archived posts were intact. Some were precious because they were the fruit of research and risk. Others were sentimental in value. Not only were all the files intact, but they looked and ran exactly like the old blog . Vee did well. It looked so boomz!

Strangely the Great Hack did not upset or worry me. Knowing the files were intact was a relief. I had taken a long break from blogging and so it did not matter that the website was knocked out of service. Yes I felt like a poor host. It probably irritated visitors who clicked the search list and got an error statement instead of a blogpastor post. It also damaged the readership. But it couldn’t be helped.

I am just happy today that I have my archived “memories” back. I want to edit and reintroduce into this new blog some of the significant and meaningful archived posts and pages. Improving the impact of the old stuff will also make me more conscious of the secret of writing: rewriting!

I trust the revised posts will bless visitors of my blog.