Today marks the third anniversary of this blog. So in honour of this, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the past three years. (You should know by know how much I love a good retrospective!)
I started this blog in January 2018 for three basic reasons: First, my vocational discernment that led me to leave the process toward ordained ministry in the Anglican Church also made me realize just how deeply I needed to write. Second, the nature of publishing in the twenty-first century means that anyone who writes really needs to find their own audience, whether through a blog or through self-publishing. And third, and most relevantly for the project, I felt there was a lot of fertile space at the intersections of Christian theology and spirituality, positive psychology, and integral thought where I wasn’t seeing a lot of — if any — sustained Christian engagement, and I felt I had some of the resources, educational background, and experiences to at least begin that.
One of the biggest things I wanted to convey on this blog was a sense of curiosity and openness to experience. So, my first major project was a year spent exploring different sacred practices offered up by various spiritual and philosophical traditions for engaging with the transcendent. It was a beautiful experience for me and through it I gained both a better sense of what kinds of practices work well for me (and which don’t) and a more deeply rooted conviction that, with the right intention and attention, anything become a place of encounter with God. These posts have also given me an interesting window into what kinds of practices are resonating with people right now, as a few of these posts continue to be among my most widely trafficked. (In case you’re wondering, Florilegium, the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian, and anything to do with Pema Chodron all regularly get a lot of visits.)
Apart from the sacred practices project, that first year didn’t have much structure and I simply wrote on whatever came up. But many of these ad hoc posts became pretty foundational in laying out some priorities and setting my direction for what I wanted to the blog to do. These include:
- Religion That Works, which introduced the conviction that true religion encourages us to grow up into greater spiritual maturity;
- Bright Lent, in which I wrote for the first time here about repentance as seeing the world with God’s eyes;
- Missing the Mark, which explores different ways of looking at sin
- I ♡ Nones, in which I look at the phenomenon of religious ‘nones’ and the Church’s posture towards them
- Toward an Integral Hermeneutic, a series through which I tried to develop an intentionally integral model of how to approach Scripture
My big project in the second year was to investigate the different types of “good fruit” God calls us to bear in our lives. Wanting a more expansive list than the “fruit of the Spirit” offered up by Paul, I explored the Values in Action Character Strengths, a list of twenty-four traits that have been identified by positive psychologists as (more-or-less) universal indicators of human well-being in the world’s different cultures. After that project, I turned to other series, like Languages of God, which looked at religion through linguistic metaphors; Knowing God, which took a broad perspective on how we might come to know God (while I really like a lot of the content of this series, I admit it got away from me a bit and was far too long!), and ‘Magical Thinking‘, which engaged with some contemporary trends in popular spirituality that are outside the customary bounds of Christian practice.
The second year of the blog also saw me write weekly reflections on pieces of Scripture, based on what came up for me in my daily lectio divina practice. This marked a significant turn in my writing here, since I hadn’t planned on doing a lot of Scripture study in this space, but, it’s proven to be a positive and lasting change. Some notable posts from the second year include:
- Fear and Loathing in Jerusalem, which talked about how the scapegoat mechanism plays out in the Holy Week narrative
- The Big, Beautiful, All-Encompassing Salvation of our God, on the breadth of the idea of salvation in the Scriptures
- Integral readings of specific Bible stories:
- Bound / Freed, on Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac
- Seen, on Jacob’s wrestling with God
- Is it Peace?, on one of the most troubling stories in the Scriptures, Jehu’s brutal rebellion
2020 began carrying over from 2019, as I continued my ‘Magical Thinking’ and ‘Knowing God’ series. But it quickly became apparent that the year was not going to be ‘business as usual’ and by the end of February, my thoughts had already shifted to the difficult year it was shaping up to be. Before long, current events began to dominate my reflections, as anything that didn’t directly address the hurt of the world seemed horribly irrelevant. And so many of my posts throughout the late Winter and Spring reflected on the pandemic, and reflections for much of the rest of the year focused on the challenge of the Gospel to existing social and political structures, including structural racism, and our continued need to grow up in faith and accountability. (I did, however, take a bit of a break from these more serious topics to explore the idea of Sanctified Imagination.)
Some notable posts from this third year of the blog include:
- Facing the Whirlwind, an integral reading of Job’s meeting God in the whirlwind
- There is No Map, about the tension between canonical examples and frameworks about the life of faith and our unique, individual journeys with God
- Being, Following, and Seeing Christ, which summarized the lessons of the Knowing God series
- Winds of Change, my reflection on the feast of Pentecost
- How WEIRD is Your Theology?, a post on the need to make sure we aren’t only listening to people who look and sound just like us.
- My White Shadow, a personal story about how I came to understand the continued importance of race
- The Movement towards Accountability, which wrapped up the Movements of Faith series
So, what’s next for year four of the blog?
Honestly, I’m not sure. During the pandemic, I got in the habit of writing my weekly Scripture reflections on the Sunday readings. While this was not intentional, a few readers have commented that these have become an important part of their pandemic Sundays and have missed them on the weeks I haven’t done them, so I think I’ll continue this pattern for the time being. And, while we were all hoping that 2021 would be a kinder, gentler year, the social and political upheaval of 2020 was never simply going to disappear with the turn of a calendar page, and so I’m sure many of the themes from last year will continue to make themselves heard this year.
Beyond that, I’m not sure. My curiosity is pulling me into some unexpected directions right now, and I do have some ideas for upcoming series, but nothing is jumping out to me as being for immediate attention.
This sense of the unknown feels very fitting. We really have no idea what 2021 is going to be like, and so the whole year feels like an exercise in trust — like a collective leap of and into faith. I’m excited, curious, anxious, and terrified to know how it will turn out! Only time will tell.
Thanks again for journeying with me over these past three years. And now, onward we go!
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