I moved my blog off of the WordPress.com platform and have transferred everything to my own domain name with hosting that will offer me a whole lot more flexibility. Plus, the ads on my WordPress.com site were getting really outrageous. There was nothing I could do to curb the kinds of ads WordPress.com was throwing on my page. So after several people complained, I took that as my cue to take my blog to the next level.
Now that I’ve upped my game in the blogosphere world, I am feeling the extra motivation to write more regularly and engage more people in conversation. I have also reorganized my site to better categorize previous blog posts. If you go to the “All Topics” menu above, you’ll see the different categories, and they will lead you to previous posts pertaining to those topics. (I’m currently trying to find a way to list blog posts by title within each category. I haven’t figured that out yet!)
You’ll also see that through the years, my writing and ideas have really evolved. As I was reorganizing my site, I looked back— as all writers are prone to do— on things I wrote even just five years ago, and occasionally I facepalm. Sometimes multiple facepalms. But I kept every post. Nothing was edited or deleted. If for nothing else, they’ll serve as humorous museum pieces!
Please know, I am all ears to hear and read your ideas and suggestion. Is there something you want to see more of? Less of? How would you challenge me to up my game? Bring it on!
Lastly, I am very, very grateful that you take time out of your day to read all this stuff. I have met some wonderful people through blogging… along with a fair share of trolls, too. God bless them. Either way, I love the challenge and art of writing and engaging folks on meaningful topics. None of that would be possible without you being there as a willing conversation partner.
Several weeks ago after my church’s Tuesday morning prayer time, I asked one of our participants how she was doing. Just a few months ago she had suddenly lost a very close cousin, also a member of our church. Her answer was a short two words, “I’m struggling.”
For some reason, her answer really got to me. Part of it was her authenticity. She had the sincere courage to tell me how she was really doing beyond the typical, protective “I’m fine” blanket response. But the other part of it for me has to do with the kind of person she is. This woman is a wonderful Christian with a deep faith and a true Christ-like love. And yet, she struggles. That conversation lingered with me for a while and has since then become the impetus for a series of sermons I’m sharing next month called “The Faithful Struggle.” I purposefully left that title a bit vague, as in the words faithful and struggle could be read as different parts of speech. Now just in case your grammar skills are a bit rusty, let me help you out a bit. We could read “the faithful struggle” as “our struggle defined by faith” or “faithful (people) struggle”. Truth be told, it means both things.
Struggle. So often that word is synonymous with failure. We hear of struggling people, struggling sports teams, struggling churches, struggling communities, and we know the implication. It’s a roundabout way of saying that failure is probable, if not imminent.
But I would venture to say that struggle is how most of us would define our lives, if we’re honest with ourselves. (I know I do!) Life is hard… very hard! Life is patently unfair and unjust. Things rarely go according to plan. We live with a degree of pain we didn’t ask for and don’t deserve. Mistakes and regrets checker our successes. None of this is a cynical “half-glass full” view of life. It’s reality— one we don’t admit very often for fear of looking weak or pessimistic.
Nevertheless: the faithful struggle. The faithful do indeed struggle. And our struggle brings true definition to a life of faith. I would say that this struggle defines the terrain of the entire biblical story. The biblical story is born in struggle, carries forward in struggle and ends with a great struggle that gives birth to a new heavens and a new earth. In this sweeping narrative of the Bible we find our own struggles affirmed and defined. Then we know we’re not alone. Our personal struggles are both unique and universal. We do not struggle by ourselves, and more significantly, there is always hope for better things.
On a personal level, it seems like struggle has defined most of my life, especially my adult life. Words like victory, achievement, conquering, winning don’t mean as much to me. It’s not that I haven’t had a good share of victories and successes. I have. But they are high-rise markers on a much larger map, a map shaped by hills and valleys, muscle-aching climbs, back-breaking, steep falls, thick marshes, and dense forests with scant paths.
Those things, to me, are the defining moments of my life, not the summits themselves. It’s the struggles— the broken relationships, devastating losses, depression, life stresses of familial, professional and financial demands, inner battles, and health ups and downs— that define the real contours of my life. The dirty, nitty-gritty of everyday living. It’s there, mired in those struggles, where I’ve learned to love, to believe, to trust, to grow and mature, to strengthen, and to learn through failure.
So where do we go from here? My sermon series is in five parts:
1) Accept where you are. We will never grow or improve unless we take an objective, sober look at where we are and accept it for what it is. Note: that doesn’t mean we stay here. But we won’t get very far with any degree of success unless we name our place. In naming it, we also may find that a better life is not as far away as we may think.
2) Struggle to pray. I’m a pastor, but let me admit: prayer is tough. Yes I pray, but it never seems like I pray often enough or deeply enough. Sometimes we make prayer more difficult than what it is, but the nature of connecting our minds and hearts with God can be a challenge, especially in the heat of struggle. Yet without this vital connection with God that only prayer can provide, we will never see the road ahead or have the strength and wisdom to take it, even if we do get a glimpse of it.
3) We have a future with hope. God always promises that our future is one with the hope of restoration and blessing. Granted, we do not know what shape our restoration and blessing will take, this promise of God can be the source of so much creative impetus in the now of our lives.
(on the other hand…)
4) The struggle is step by step, only in this day. Crystal balls are over-rated and they don’t work most of the time anyway. As much as we desire to know what tomorrow brings and worry about preparing for it, most of it is a fruitless endeavor. Truth: we simply do not know what the next moment holds. Period. That truth sets us free to live fully in the moment we’re living right now.
5) Struggle with the cross. The cross of Jesus is the ultimate sign of the faithful struggle. It’s there on the cross that God faces and achieves the struggle of all humanity for reconciliation and life. Jesus makes clear that the cross takes center stage within each of our lives, too. It defines and shapes our lives of struggle and offers us our path home through Jesus, who promises to be our Way, our Truth, and our Life.
I anticipate that these series of messages will be some of the most important I have ever shared. They are part autobiographical and universal enough that I’m confident anyone can find themselves in what I will share. So, I hope you can join us at Trinity UMC starting on Sunday September 2, 2018!
It was a fantastically adventurous, insightful, blessed 2010 for me in the blogosphere, and that’s all due to friends like you who take the interest and time to read my schtuff and then go the extra mile to interact with each other and with me. I love to write and to use the power of words (and the concepts behind those words) to encourage, challenge, and at times, to make a holy mess. And I love to read your writing and thoughts, too. You’ve helped me to grow and mature this past year.
Thank you for enriching my life and the lives of other readers by the conversations we have in the world of ideas concerning life, faith, and “religion”. I look forward to sharing the journey with you in 2011! Happy New Year, and may you find every blessing of God for you each day, one day at a time.
-your friend and brother, Chris
The WordPress.com statistics for pastorchrisowens.wordpress.com
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.
In 2010, there were 27 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 50 posts. There were 24 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.
The busiest day of the year was January 15th with 1 views. The most popular post that day was My Two Words for Pat Robertson: Shut Up!.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were WordPress Dashboard, facebook.com, en.wikipedia.org, networkedblogs.com, and derrenbrown.co.uk.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for agnostic, hebrew bible, scripture, ignatius of antioch, and cross and flame.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
I just closed the poll asking you to vote for your favorite thorny topic for me to write about, and here are the results:
So as you can see, I’ll be wrestling through disillusionment with church (as we’ve known it.) Actually for me, the wrestling will not be over how or why we get disillusioned with church.
That’s the easy part. As someone who has spent only half of his life in the church and knows lots of people who have been turned off by church, I can complain about the sorry state of the church with the best of them. The real challenge will be prescribing a practical remedy.
Stay tuned, and as always, thank you for being a part of the ongoing conversation!
P.S. The other topics in the poll will not be neglected. But because I’m not too much of a masochist, I’ll be spacing out my trips through the thorns, unless, of course, the Holy Spirit would nudge me otherwise!
Okay, my friends, this is your chance to choose an upcoming topic for me to wrestle through and for you to read and discuss with me! I’ve never done this before– and I may never do it again!– but some of my greatest successes and greatest lessons learned have been through taking risks.
So, I got to looking at some saved but unpublished drafts of blog posts that have yet to see the light of day. That led to an internal debate on which post I should finish, hold my breath, and publish. And that led to another thought: hey, why don’t I make a poll and let you decide?
Take a moment to read the following topics and to vote for your favorite. After a few days, I’ll see which topic has the highest votes, and [gulp!] take it on. That will in turn lead to hopefully another lively conversation, or, perhaps some of you writing me off for good. But hey, you always have my promise that I will remain sincere and honest about my convictions (for whatever that’s worth to you!)
In the next couple of days, I’m going to post a blog that looks at the difference between Jesus and the religion of Christianity. I’m sure it will rattle the cages of many Christians, but… so be it! No matter your faith background, I hope you’ll find it to be both challenging and liberating.
Keep your eyes peeled, and thank you again for reading and leaving your comments. I do read and value each one!