30 Days of Gratitude: Nov. 1

I have decided to do 30 days of Gratitude here on my blog, both because I need to write a lot more here, and so that I don’t loose all of my Facebook friends.

Looking back on the first of November, I am thankful for a loving woman who encourages me and who challenges me. I love her, and she must love me, because I am not the easiest person to live with. I am lucky to have found her, and to have won her over.

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Metablog: Blogging for the Future of Unitarian Universalism.

I once had an idea of becoming a social media guy. Becoming an expert in an emerging field seemed like a good idea, and this was a field that I had both interest and relevant experience in. That was a short lived goal, as I saw that the only way to reach it was just to jump in with both feet. I quickly understood that you couldn’t become a social media guy; you had to just do it and prove yourself.

I’ve got a decent number of followers on Twitter, where I post a lot of links and quotes. My Tumblr is getting a fair number of likes with similar content, plus some observations that I intend to be thought provoking. I have 2 Facebook pages with several hundred fans each. What I am really invested in, though, has become content creation. I have started trying to create sharable images, with some success, that spread UU (small p) principles and ideas, helping others share those mutual concepts of faith. Most of my efforts, though, have been going into writing.

The fact is that this is what I am doing, right now. I don’t have a regular job. I take care of my mother and the kids and I write and “curate” links and, more and more often, create some visual piece that I feel should be shared. I’ve taken time off for other obligations, but I feel like I owe it to myself to come back to this and prove that my blog is a serious effort.

One thing I have learned about myself in this effort: I enjoy seeing other people respond to the things that I publish. I love seeing people share my thoughts and images on Facebook with their friends, knowing that I have given them a way to talk about their faith when they might not have done so otherwise. I love putting ideas in terms that people can understand, even when they disagree, because starting a conversation where there was none fosters deeper contemplation, which is the only way to build real understanding. I have seen how people respond when they find something that helps them say what has been in their hearts, and it is amazing.

In the information age, anyone can sermonize. There are millions of people now able to rant, rave, and ramble about any number of topics, and there are plenty of people blogging about religion. Most of them are just screaming into the aether. While I am not awash in comments, though, I clearly do have people sharing links to my blog and talking about the ideas that I present.

That interaction is what I work for. I’d love to find a way to monetize it at some point, but I am more gratified to know that people are thinking thoughts and pondering ideas in new ways because of what I have crafted. I am a blogger, and you, dear reader, make that a worthwhile endeavor.

The state of technology is that everyone can be a preacher. Everyone can be a journalist. Everyone can be an advertising agency. The only thing that differentiates the random weirdo from someone with real reach is the ability to incite conversation. That is also the state of religion and of politics. Being able to shape the conversation by creating the talking points and giving people the confidence to express themselves. It is only by recognizing those who have the ability to shape and stimulate conversation that we can ensure that people hear our message of salvation. We don’t need to sell it, but we need to make it accessible and we need to get people talking and asking questions.

I am proud that I am part of this movement, and that it still has life in it, despite many declarations from inside as well as out. We are still in a position to be part of the new awakening that America is headed for. If we choose to be faithful and bold, then we can ensure that love, acceptance, and respect win this time around. The world wants reason along side fulfillment. They want something that reflects how small the world has gotten and how connected the human race is becoming. We reflect that, already.

So I thank all of my readers and fellow bloggers. I thank those who are trying to create a missional form of Unitarian Universalism. I thank those who are participating in the discussion, and leading our congregations forward. I have often said that we have something great to offer. Now I am saying that we have a great opportunity before us as well. We have to use it by talking to people and making our message personal. Saving the world will come from the ground up, once we focus our religion on saving people from the culture that we hope to change. Culture is made of people, and saving the people will change the change the world.

I am going in search of 5 Smooth Stones…

Some time ago, I started a project to breakdown the 7 Principles of the UUA, and to write about the meaning I draw from them and how I apply it to my world view. It feel apart after “a free and responsible search“, but I feel that I have covered “right of conscience and democratic process” and a quick look at my tags will show that I have invested a lot of time and energy into writing about equality and civil rights, if not “Peace” and “Justice”, per se. I will admit that I have not written enough on the Interdependent Web, aside from human interactions, and I am feeling a little remorse at overlooking my own earth-centered spirituality on my blog so far.

Still, I am going to move on to a new project now. I am reading, for myself, “Guiding Principles for a Free Faith” by James Luther Adams, from which we draw The Five Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion. Though the principles laid out by Adams have been simplified and interpreted, I find that very rarely does the whole meaning come through in the poster versions. I doubt that I could do very much better than others who have more skill, training, and practice at condensing complex ideas into manageable nuggets and memes, but I would like to write about my thoughts, not just on the section about the Smooth Stones, but about the whole essay.

I am certain that this has been done a great many times, but I want to do it in my own voice, because I feel like this is one of the defining works of Unitarian Universalist theology. We are a young faith, but what we are , realistically, is the embodiment of James Luther Adams’ Liberal Religion. There is even a UUA responsive reading that ties the Smooth Stones to the wording of the 7 Principles.

Still the UUA has not accepted the Five Smooth Stones as an essential part of Unitarian Universalism, not having enshrined them in the covenant of congregations (much less asking individual UUs to understand, much less commit, to them). This is a loss for our movement, as this essay lays the foundation for honest religious growth within the Unitarian Universalist movement. There are a great many current, former, and maybe even future UUs who would love to see us fully embrace our heritage as a Liberal Religious tradition.

I have read the essay through, and I am inspired by passages and phrases. I will be making notes on the whole essay as I read through it again. I will be posting thoughts on sections as often as I feel I have a complete thought ready for you. This will not mean that I am not posting any other content, or that this is the only thing I have to work on, but I needed something of a project for the blog. I am creating a new tag, GP4FF, that will be for posts relating directly to “Guiding Principles for a Free Faith”. I hope you will join me as I delight in the revelations of one of the greatest liberal Theologians to write since the AUA and the UCA merged.

Metablogging: Finding my voice (and it sounds funny)

You know how you always sound weird to your own ears when you hear a recording of your voice? That has been what the last few months have been like here, for me.

I’ve gotten a little off my intended track in the last week, posting a UU post on Friday in an attempt to be timely, and a somewhat political, not very spiritual post on Tuesday, because I felt I needed to get the idea out there, and it didn’t leave me with time to write another that I was happy with. I’ve got some great notes for the next few posts, but today I want to talk about blogging.

How do you people do it? I know some just post when the spirit moves them. I know others who post as often as they can come up with an idea. It must be nice having a mission or adventure to blog about. Me, I am just trying to push myself to write more and refine my ideas.

I’ve been told that my writing is good. I’ve been told by a few people that I’ve inspired them in one way or another. It is great to hear, and it makes me want to keep up the effort. The thing is, this is hard! Not so much the self-imposed schedule, mind you. Sure, I don’t always have ideas, but as a product of not only the American education system, but the “honors” version there-of, I can write when there is no topic. The hard part is making it something I want to say, and something I am proud to hit publish on.

I’m also trying to not let this or other personal or blog related posts be just filler. I am trying to make sure that, even when all I can say is that I am overwhelmed or lost, that I say it truthfully, and that I find something in that which is worth sharing. And I am still amazed when those are the posts that people respond to.

So, I ask my blogging friends: How do you do it? How to do engage readers, and give them enough of yourself to genuinely make a connection, and not loose your mind putting it all out there for the world? I know some people use a nom-de-plume, but for some, the boundary is either so thin that it hardly serves its purpose, or (the bigger fear for me) it is so removed from the author that it takes on a life of its own. Because so many are pseudonymous, I can’t even be sure which is more prevalent in the blogs I try to follow.

On that subject: how many blogs do you try to read? Do you use some method or 3rd party to help figure out what is worthwhile this month? Do you find that the give-and-take creates a dialog that helps, or do you think that too many posts responding to other people’s work just confuses the reader?

I am still trying to feel comfortable at this. It means a lot to see more comments. I means a ton that they are positive. (Though I am open to constructive criticism!) Still, it worries me, each time I post something more personal than my view on politics, culture, or theology (funny how that doesn’t feel personal…) that I will go to far and the trolls will find me. So far, that hasn’t been a real problem.

As always, I invite comments. New commenters are screened. Once I approve one, though, future comments using the same identifiers will post automatically. If your comment isn’t approved in 24 hours, tweet me about it, and I’ll try to track it down.