Because life is a series of edits

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Half-Pint House: The Rap Album Cover

In Family on November 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Girls on Steps (with Train)

Yo, check out my posse. Megan took some pics of the girls today. In light of the background (train with graffiti), I suggested that instead of "Cheese" they say something like "Word to your mother" to be a little more hip and get down with their bad selves.

Paging Dr. Dre…

A Night in the Life

In Calling, Pop Culture, Westminster on November 15, 2010 at 9:08 pm

So I’m lying on the couch trying to finish up a lesson plan for tomorrow morning, when an email from one of my students drops into my inbox:

“Mr. Dunham, I was wondering if you knew where in the New Testament Paul talks about the church dealing with a man sleeping with his mother? Thank you.”

Chuckling at the brief and bizarre nature of the request, I write back:

“A little random, but okay. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 describes the offense.”

The response:

“Thank you so much. I need it for an essay I am doing on Woody Allen.”

Just a night in the life of your friendly neighborhood Bible teacher…

Coming to St. Louis in 2011

In Calling, Church, Education, Internet, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians on November 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

Mike Teaching (with logo)

In case you missed it, the website I've been working on for musician/author Michael Card's Biblical Imagination Series just went live this weekend. I used Clover Sites to create it and am impressed (still) with how easy and well-thought-out their content management system is (I've worked with plenty of lousy ones in the past and this was a dream).

For those in St. Louis, we're bringing the conference to Chesterfield Presbyterian Church all day on Saturday, January 15th, with Mike doing a concert on Sunday the 16th. The cost is only $58 for the conference AND concert ($78 if you want Mike's new book and album coming out next year as well – see site for details), and I can personally vouch for the quality of the experience (though the emcee/education guy's a little suspect).

Whether you've read the Bible for years or are just starting out in the Scriptures, this one-day conference would be well worth your investment in cultivating greater biblical literacy and love for God and His Word. Hope to see you there (and please help spread the word about the new Biblical Imagination website and Facebook community – thanks).

Blogging Down Memory Lane (Part 2)

In Calling, Internet, Technology, Web/Tech on November 10, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Schoolboy blogging

(continued from previous post)

3. How do you feel blogging and the presence of social networks and media has influenced students at Westminster?

While I know there are some students who keep blogs, I don't know many – it's too much work for too little instant gratification. Some students are on Twitter, but not nearly as many who are on Facebook. And, of course, cell phone texting is the medium of choice when it comes to communication for high schoolers.

As for the influence of all this on students, I have two thoughts. First, I think social media affects students very much the same way it affects adults, that is, training us (if we let it) in the art of distraction rather than the art of focus. I've written about this before here, here, and here (and it's not an idea original with me), but the Internet is by design created to distill our focus rather than sharpen it. I feel this when I'm on my computer (which is frequently because of what I do): it's easier to check Facebook or Twitter or a blog or two than actually write something myself to contribute something of worth to the blogosphere. The effect is the same, regardless of age: a lot of time gets wasted with very little to show for it (for an excellent article on this from a biblical perspective, click here).

Second (and this seems more true of students than adults, though there are plenty of exceptions), the ease and proliferation of digital media tools has created a constant public existence that robs kids of much of the privacy and mystery of their youth. I worry that students share so much online (vulnerable thoughts, sacred memories, less-than-appropriate pictures, and personal experiences) that they have nothing enigmatic really left for others (parents, boyfriends/girlfriends, even themselves) to gradually discover about who they are. In many ways, the Internet has made us more boring than interesting because everybody knows so much about us already. Where's the mystery and intrigue in that?

4. What is your opinion about blogging's future?

I've been asking this question a lot of late, even posing it to some friends of mine who are far more wise in the way of all things wired (read my friend Will's fascinating comments in answer to my inquiry here). I remember a few years ago I first started hearing folks warn of blogging's demise, largely because Twitter was really starting to explode in mass popularity and micro-blogging was coming into its own on a wide scale. Even in my own reading habits, I wasn't checking blogs like I used to (I follow anywhere from 100-150 different blogs using Google Reader, but only check them now when someone notifies me via Twitter that they posted something…and only then if the 140-character summary sounds interesting).

All that to say, blogging's not going away anytime soon, but I do think people's reasons for reading blogs continue to evolve. I think we're going to see the middle of blogging drop out; that is, the bloggers with bigger audiences will get bigger because of content and deals, while the bloggers who write for smaller audiences (usually made up of people who know them) will continue to do so simply for their personal love of writing or for niche reasons tied to their interests or work. Those in the middle who anticipate writing for a huge following but are unwilling to "sell out" to attract an audience are going to end up choosing one or the other.

5. Where do you see the future of your blog headed?

In light of my answer to #4, I easily fall into the second category mentioned and have no real desire to be part of the first. Sure, ideally, if I could cultivate a huge following of folks who love my writing, well, that would be great, but I don't anticipate that happening (and without the "deals," there's really no money in blogging).

Personally, I still write with books in mind, but I've struggled over the past three years as to how much to adjust my thinking to wholeheartedly pursue the more digital versions of publishing (if "publishing" is even really a word/concept anymore). Even going the full digital route, I'm haunted by the words of one of my seminary professors who, when I asked him if he ever feared running out of topics to write about, responded by saying he was more afraid of running out of people who would want to read what he wrote. His concern wasn't that people would stop reading him (he's an excellent writer); his concern was more that people would stop reading, period.

Granted, in many ways because of social media, we're reading more than ever, but much of what we're reading is not worth the page or pixels it's printed on/with when considered within the broader historical context of scholarship and publication. There's a lot of garbage to sift through to find well-written truth.

6. Why do you enjoy blogging?

I'll probably continue to blog because I'll always continue to write; in fact, I can't NOT write – it's how I process life and discover what I think. Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved keeping journals and writing letters – a desire that has never gone away even with the creation of websites and email. As Wendell Berry wrote in his essay, "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer,"

"My final and perhaps my best reason for not owning a computer is that I do not wish to fool myself. I disbelieve, and therefore strongly resent, the assertion that I or anybody else could write better or more easily with a computer than with a pencil. I do not see why I should not be as scientific about this as the next fellow: when somebody has used a computer to write work that is demonstrably better than Dante’s, and when this better is demonstrably attributable to the use of a computer, then I will speak of computers with a more respectful tone of voice, though I still will not buy one." —Wendell Berry, “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer” in What Are People For? (1990), p. 171.

Gathering my thoughts on my blog (and not everything I think gets posted for reasons listed in my answer to question #3) is a perk of living in the 21st century – one for which I'm grateful. But in terms of meaning and significance, I still don't think today's technology compares to the original social media – oral tradition – through which God spoke and preserved His Word. After all, look at what this social media produced: words that are still just as current and relevant as the latest update, tweet, post, or book I could ever write, and the best part is you can talk to the Author whenever you feel like it.

Blogging Down Memory Lane (Part 1)

In Calling, Internet, Technology, Web/Tech on November 9, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Blogging dream and reality

I have a student coming in Thursday to interview me for Westminster's school newspaper, The Wildcat Roar, on the topic of my blog (or more specifically, I think, the fact that I have one). I asked her to send along her questions so I could think through my answers. Here's what she sent (and what I think):

1. Why did you want to begin writing your blog?

Second Drafts is not my first blog; it's actually my third. Back in the early part of the "aughts," when I was on staff with The Navigators in Colorado Springs, I was using a really poor content management system to post book, movie, and music reviews to our family ministry website. This was novel and fun, but there was no means (other than email) for interaction with others, so it was basically a static page that I just added to and kept up. I wouldn't call this a "blog," but it was a step toward what was coming.

In the fall of 2003, as part of promoting my first book, TwentySomeone, a friend of mine set up a promotional website and suggested including a blog as part of the homepage. I liked the idea since it provided the opportunity for feedback and interaction, and especially because the software (I used WordPress for the interface) was so much better than what I was used to. It was also cool to be in on the early stages of blogging, particularly since the book was aimed at people in their twenties (surely, I thought, this made me ultra-hip). I kept this blog for two-and-a-half years.

When we moved to St. Louis to start course work at Covenant Seminary, I felt the need to chronicle some of my experiences, but I wanted to do so in a different way. Using Blogger (which has come a long way from when I started using it back in 2005), I created an anonymous third-person "reporter" – Seminary Tychicus – who kept track of the ups and downs, ins and outs of the life of a new seminary student, "Learner," who was adjusting to graduate school with a family of four and plenty of insecurity to boot. The Tychicus connection came from Paul's words in Ephesians 6:21: "Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing." I kept this blog for almost two years, from June 2005-April 2007.

Having started the Tychicus blog and getting further into my mid-thirties, I felt it was time to discontinue the TwentySomeone blog, as I didn't want readers to feel like I was desperately clinging to my twenties (I also didn't have a lot of mental energy to spare for two blogs). So, I shut down the TwentySomeone blog at the end of 2005 and stopped blogging as me all together for six months (which I now consider a mistake as I lost hundreds of readers in doing so). It was around this time that Facebook really started to explode, but I wasn't a big fan of the whole micro-blogging idea as it seemed a cop-out on real content.

Probably as a reaction to all this (as well as the fact that I missed writing as me in first-person), I started Second Drafts in June of 2006. The idea was to use the blog as a place where I could combine all the past writing I had done – books, magazine articles, online resources – with new stuff that might turn into new books, magazine articles, and online resources (my second book, Learning Education, is made up of a lot of my posts about teaching). In addition, I use the blog to pass along interesting links I come across through the inclusion of my Delicious and Twitter feeds, as well as to try to sell my books and some of the music I've recorded as a way to generate some (very minimal) additional income for my family.

2. What was/is your inspiration?

From the beginning, my goal in blogging has always been to offer my thoughts to others for the good of God's kingdom. I think of myself as a maven of sorts – "a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others," and while I'm no "expert" in anything, I do know people trust me and that I love to learn and help others do the same in a wise way. Translating big ideas into more manageable thoughts has always been my modus operandi, as it's an opportunity to influence others. Sometimes I'll come up with an original idea, but most of my writing seems to be along the lines of discerning or restating something in a way that helps readers better understand than they did before (at least that's what readers have consistently told me I do for them). I'm grateful for (and gratified by) that.

(To be continued)