Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three Approaches to Public Speaking and Teaching

I've been lurking at the local "franchise" of the Perspectives program for which I often serve as an instructor. These classes are hosted by local churches across the country and around the world. Each class invites 14-15 different people to come and teach, each on a different week of the class. The class that's taking place nearest me this semester didn't invite me to be one of their instructors, but after sulking for a day or two I realized this might be a good semester for me to give extra time to listening, learning, and observing how other people do things. So when I can make it, I'm going to class.

A few of the speakers we had are in high demand. They came with books and CDs to sell and smooth, well-rehearsed presentations. These, though, were also the speakers who came with a disinclination to hear from or interact with the students. While they did a great job, in my mind they fell a bit short in honoring those they came to serve. Several even asked the coordinators to call off the other things scheduled for class on the days when they were with us. Anything that might have been designed to include the students in prayer, worship, discussion, or response was canceled in order to give more time to the "speaker."

I like a good lecture, and I think I lecture well myself. But if this class is designed to turn people's lives upside down, I think we need to ask: what approaches best engage and connect with the people who take these classes? What approaches accomplish the stated goals of the course? Do lecturing and entertaining fall short of the best we can provide?

I don't want to be too hard on instructors, especially in a context like this where they come and go. The responsibility for integration lies more with the the class coordinators, who can (if they choose) get to know their students and help frame the whole experience. Some really embrace the role and add a lot of value to the whole course for their students. But it usually doesn't happen accidentally.

The course design includes several good tools to help individual students process the material and reflect on its implications for their own lives. There's a text and study guide, reflective homework questions that are graded and handed back, and a major project to complete. I'd love to see students participating in an online discussion forum as well, but I don't think there is one. In this class, no in-class discussion forum either. I've seen very few of these classes use the small-group structure that was common when I first took the course in the 1990's. I've also noticed fewer and fewer class sessions seem to include any notetaking handouts, taking notes seems discouraged.

If all the class content "integration" happens on an individual level and/or through assignments on the syllabus instead of in the classroom, the 50 percent or so of the students "auditing" the class don't tend to benefit from them. They may choose to do the reading, but don't get much (if any) reward or feedback for it. The instructors learn to assume the students haven't done the reading! So I think we're falling on short on integrating what happens in the classroom with the text as well as with the actual goals of the program. I can see some ways this could be fixed, but it's not an easy ship to turn.

As an instructor trying to work within the system, I ask: What can instructors do to increase the "stickiness" and transforming power of the material we teach? 

Teaching Methods:

2. Lecturing: Some of the instructors mostly lectured, covering and illustrating key principles and providing a framework for organizing and understanding the material most significant to their topic/lesson. I appreciated the thoughtfulness in this approach: you can be sure that those using this technique are going to tell the students what they want to know; that they will "cover" the lesson and do it justice.

This approach is the least risky of the three. But sometimes it seemed a bit dry and academic.

Even those who preferred to do all the talking themselves made at least some kind of attempt to answer students' questions. Most, however, gave up when their "does anyone have any questions?" brought stony silence. Once they'd covered their material, they would dismiss the class as much as half an hour early. I guess that's better than going over, but somehow I felt cheated.

1. Teaching: A few of our instructors, including the several seminary professors, took a more of a workshop or seminar approach. They taught. Typically they would share a case study, hypothetical situation, or discussion question to elicit students' personal experience or engage their imagination/problem-solving abilities. They set aside time for personal reflection or group discussion, and provide a means for reporting back. Even if students are cautious about talking, they make extra effort to draw them in.

This can work great, and hypothetically I would consider it the "best" of the three techniques I'll describe. But often it falls flat - particularly when participants do not know the instructor or one another, and haven't been subtly trained to participate in this way. Each instructor only gets one "go" at this; they don't have time to create the class's culture of engagement. Even the most skillful of teachers may fail when they try to "teach" in someone else's class. Sometimes the students get frustrated; if they came to hear the instructor share his/her wisdom. They don't like being thrown back on themselves and expected to pool their ignorance.

3. Storytelling: Other instructors told a lot of stories. One guy in particular opened his session by explaining that he was going to teach by telling stories, "because all the studies show that's how people learn best!" He was one who'd asked the coordinator to cancel as much previously-scheduled programming as possible in order to give him time to tell his story the way he wanted to. He also promised us we'd remember more of his lesson than all the others unless the other instructors had told stories. Kind of a bold statement, I thought - though, I'd heard him speak before and knew he was a compelling storyteller. Over the next couple of hours, he shared his personal experiences - and nothing else.

His stories were right in line with the objectives of the lesson he was teaching. Yet, other than his invitation to the students to laugh, cry (or buy the stuff he was selling), he didn't give the students ways to participate. I guess they could enter into the story and identify with him as a storyteller, but if they didn't, there would be nothing there for them. He felt he needed the whole time we were together to tell his story. Little or no provision for questions, response, or interaction. So you can see why I have some reservations about this approach. I guess only time will tell if he was right: if his lesson is the one everyone remembers (as he claimed they would). Is that a good goal?

As a teacher - and as a writer - I use all three of these techniques - I lecture, I teach, I tell stories. But I'm not sure I use them and balance them very deliberately. I don't give a lot of thought to what technique is appropriate to the environments in which I teach and write, other than the significant accommodations I make for the differing class sizes and - as much as I can anticipate them - group cultures. Sometimes I fall short because I'm trying to do it all, or expecting one approach to accomplish that for which another approach is better suited.

I find the storytelling approach, handled well, often the most fun for both student and teacher/writer. I can see why the guys who tell their own stories are the ones in highest demand. But I don't think storytelling stands alone. This is especially true when what trying to catalyze a movement or to train people who will train others. Yes, personal stories are "sticky," but they are often not transferable. If my goal is to equip others to pass on what I teach them, the application of the principles in their own context matters more than how I've applied them in mine.

If you want to teach people who will go out and teach others, the stories you tell should be ones they can turn around and tell others as well as you told them. When I train trainers, I replace many of my personal-experience stories with stories from the Bible and other literature, parables, metaphors, etc. Nothing others can't imitate.

>> Will you help me out? As a student - maybe even in Perspectives classes - what works best for you, and why do you think that is? As a teacher - maybe even in Perspectives classes - what teaching style(s) do you use? To what extent does your approach depend on your material, personality, status, culture, or context? What (besides glazed eyes) tells you it's time to take a different tack?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Writer's Wormhole

Photo from Flikr, licensed by Creative Commons
Oops... I just pushed "publish" on a long-ish post I planned to send out to the world on Tuesday - after my American readers have returned from holiday mode. I'd neglected to make those intentions clear to Blogger. 

Google Reader seems to think my post is up even though I snatched it back. Did you see that post and want to leave a comment? Don't give up. Just come back Tuesday.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Looks like about a dozen friends will join me in the Jingle Bell Run in a few weeks. I'm still working up to running a whopping five kilometers, but am improving!

And - this is cool - through our participation team "GoDeb" is now contributing more than $400 to the Arthritis Foundation. If you want to make a donation, click here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What can happen when you want it all...

As we enter the season of excess, do you need some extra motivation to live a life of moderation? On the food front, see the startling Michelangelo's David Before and After Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Martyrdom: What's Worth Dying For?

He knew what he was doing was dangerous. He had a hunch that those young men who had come to ask about the faith were not sincere, that they might betray him.

But he told them everything he could about the Prophet Jesus, anyway.

He didn't know they'd come back to torture and kill him for being - as they saw it - a traitor to his people, a traitor to Islam.

A few weeks ago I heard his wife tell the story in broken English.

She spoke of how she went to the morgue and prayed over his body: in the name of Jesus, come back! But the Holy Spirit said to her, she said, and let him go.

Later, she talked to God about it again. God said. They might seem like harsh words but she was comforted.

The story had a high profile. Because a Westerner was also killed it was an international incident. That brought opportunities to publicly seek and receive support, to share stories about the men's lives and convictions, to express forgiveness to the guilty.

She and her children sought asylum in another country, leaving their own - another loss.

I've been following the stories of two other Christians who have been condemned to die for their faith, this time under the rule of law rather than at the hands of vigilantes. Looks like Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman, will be pardoned.

Time is ticking down for Pastor Youcef Nadarkani of Iran. “As you want me to give up Christ and otherwise have to die, then I simply have to die,” he says. His attorney is in the process of appealing to the supreme court, and others are praying and working to see the death sentence overturned.

Sometimes international pressure helps save the lives of those persecuted and condemned for their faith, but only if things go slow enough and there's a system of law in place and susceptible to such influences. Most martyrdom is secret and hidden. Justin Long writes about that in Martyrdom Down, Persecution Up?

It seems that suffering is something that comes with the territory, hard as that is for the American mind to accept. Jesus said it would be like this. Something to bear in mind, says Justin: Even if you are working in relative freedom now, any strategy that falls apart in the context of persecution isn’t a strategy that is likely to endure.

And this applies outside the realm of faith as well: Any strategy designed only for times of prosperity, for favorable conditions, but without provision for disaster and opposition? It may go down like the Titanic. 

See also: The Most Effective Strategy (April 18, 2009) and Worried about Hail Damage? (September 16, 2010).

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Headline News

Man, am I tired. When I added up the numbers I realized I'd worked 84 hours last week if you count the 25 hours of travel. Spent most of that in meetings with colleagues in Orlando. Very helpful. But it took a lot out of me.

Thought I'd take Monday off as a comp day. But the people whose messages I haven't answered don't know I was out of town... and I still have that ezine deadline at midnight Tuesday... and we still have a five-day weekend coming up... so I'll just try to pace myself and keep going.

Here are a few random updates on my life listed in the appropriate newspaper sections. I'll try to publish something of more objective value soon. 

Technology: This blog will be getting a new look, just as soon as I get my practice blog for Missions Catalyst cleared off and settled in its new location. I plan to relocate this blog to Wordpress. I believe I can import everything that's here, there. I'll let you know when I have a new URL.

Sports: I signed up for what I believe is my first ever one-time voluntary athletic competition: a 5k race! It's the Jingle Bell Run, a benefit for the Arthritis Foundation. Supposed to be a very jolly sort of run; everybody dresses up in Christmasy clothes and wears jingle bells and brings their kids and dogs, and you can walk if you want to. So it seems a good place for my running debut. Now, let's see if I can really work up to 3.1 miles. A bunch of people from my small group plan to run with me. And we'll do this in honor of my long-time roommate Deb, who has suffered daily pain from arthritis for many decades.

Finance: I got a raise! I'd asked one of my supporting churches if they'd consider increasing my support, and they raised it by $150 a month. I'm so grateful. My ministry account has been in the negative all year. It would take $11,000 coming in in December to get me to full support for 2010. So, that's not too likely. But turning around the monthly trends will help. I was very encouraged that the church wanted to do this.

Home Front: After much consideration, I've decided on apple and pumpkin. Pies, that is. I have lots of recipes for more creative, experimental pies, but it's for Thanksgiving. We'll stick with the classics. 'Cause wouldn't it be a shame to show up for Thanksgiving dinner and not have a slice of pumpkin pie? (Maybe two. Even if you are "in training.") I'm going to Bob & Lisa's house. And maybe back again the next day to watch the Ducks game. Lisa's dad, who will be visiting from Oregon, is a fanatic. Go Ducks!  

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Short Answers

    Ha ha, no, I haven't been to the Brookings Institute.
    I'm just practicing my right to borrow Flikr images
    registered with "Creative Commons."
    The panel discussion. When you don't know what people have to say, or what other people want to hear about, you add a panel discussion to your group meeting. But my heart sinks when I see it happen; often I come away frustrated and disappointed. What is it that keeps these things from working well? Are there patterns that show up in other forms of communication, too?

    Maybe it's the lack of a coherent message. These guys are just talking to a captive audience off the cuff, when they could be coming in with planned, thoughtful speaking or teaching.
    Maybe it's that the answers don't match the questions. Neither the moderator nor the person in the audience who asks a question is apt to elicit the kind of response they are seeking. Nobody really gets to do all the driving; nobody gets what they want. To use another analogy, sometimes too many cooks spoil the broth. Panels are messy. They may seem to drag on, but seldom are long enough for everyone to really feel they've fully asked or gotten answers to their questions or expressed what's important to them.

    Under such pressures, panel members often seem not to be listening. They may come in a little nervous, and hoping to get a certain agenda across. Perhaps they are formulating their next sound bite or wondering how they can weave in a certain reference. So their off-the-cuff responses to questions and to one another may seem ill-put or ill-conceived.

    Would it improve things if everyone disciplined him or herself to give a short answer?

    The most recent time I saw a panel kind of flop was when a panel member responded too quickly to a question, gave an inappropriate answer, realized he wasn't make sense, and tried to extricate himself with more and more words - taking up time that could have been given to another question (or another panel participant). I thought: hush. Let someone else talk.

    In fact, you could issue the invitation yourself: "_____, I think you could probably respond to this better than I could," or "_____, what do you think?"

    Do you have other ideas for making panels work well?

    No sooner did I start to analyze this, then I realized how often I fall into these traps, myself - both in casual conversation and when I'm "speaking" someplace. I want to ask or be asked questions, I want interaction, but I don't want to or am afraid to follow where it leads. I want to stay in control, or finish my thought; I have some other motivation that doesn't honor and respond to the other person. I make a mess of it and then try to pull myself out of the hole with more and more words.

    Better to respond with a short answer and/or ask a clarifying question before making my long, impromptu speech.

    I've been keeping a mental list of the social skills I see demonstrated by people who handle presentations, questions, and group interaction very well. These things don't make as big an impression as the negative examples, do they? But I love to learn and try out new "tricks" for listening and communicating well, and lately I've picked up quite a few. Perhaps I'll write a post about that too.
    See also: W.A.I.T.: Why Am I Talking? (June 30, 2009)

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    One Foot in Front of the Other

    Have an unending to-do list? Or maybe just unable to relax because of a nagging feeling there's something you're supposed to be doing? Do you make a decision to do one thing, then dread the consequences of not choosing another? Struggle to live "in the moment" and give the person you're with your full attention?

    I am not living that way, habitually - not anymore. But there are times I feel such patterns forming again.  And at the moment I'm vulnerable.

    I'm heading into another week without any down time to set it off from the week before. Monday through Friday was pretty busy. Saturday, too, was full of activity. Then I had to hit the road early Sunday morning for 12 hours of travel. Now I'm in Florida, and it's about time for bed. A full week of meetings starts at 8 am, Eastern time. Even as I feel a bit resentful about not getting a day "off," I'm also scheming, in another part of my brain, about how many other things I can squeeze into the margins between meetings...

    Oooh, wait. That's not how I want to live my life, is it? If I'm overloaded and trying to catch up or get ahead, how will I be able to give myself freely to the people I've come here to spend time with - not be nervously looking at my watch or itching to check my email?

    I was journaling and praying about this on the plane. What I felt God showed me was that if I am serious about creating that space where I can be fully present to listen to, honor, and enjoy other people, it will take two things: rest and preparation.
    1. Rest: I'll have to let go of any expectations I might have about doing it all, just trust God and relax. Chill.
    2. Prepare: With things that, when examined under the light, still seemed important to do and do well, I'll have to set aside the time to pay attention to those things. Actually work on them.
    Just beware what can happen if you try to do both at once. There's a time for everything, but you can't do it all at the same time, and these two can be a deadly combo. When you're trying to relax, and failing, and trying to think something through, but just sort of in the back of your mind - well, it just leaves you worried and fretful, neither relaxed nor prepared.

    It's like what would happen if you tried to put your right foot forward and your left foot forward at the same time.

    OK, maybe you'd manage to "hop." But probably not. If you did hop, you probably couldn't keep hopping indefinitely; it would wear you out fast. And even on the first try it's just as likely you'd collapse in a heap, hurting yourself and maybe somebody else, too.

    Ouch. OK. One foot in front of the other.

    So, for me, for today? I wrote it all out, did triage, identified the "work" that needs to be done, then got lost in a novel for an hour or two. Met my coworkers at the airport, and spent several hours actively engaged with them. Now that's over for the evening and it's time to rest again. Set the alarm to make sure I get some time to myself in the morning before it all begins again.

    One foot, then the other. 

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Forty Candles

    My stepsister K. offers the following advice:

    "As you and Megan turn 40 this year, I celebrate with joy the gift of life that God has given you.

    "Please refrain from too much evaluation of your life as you observe this milestone birthday. Counting successes, assessing accomplishments, ticking off dreams unfulfilled, it's too soon for any of that. It's only the 4th inning with much more game to play!

    "This is the start of a new chapter. Rejoice! The best is yet to come!"

    Monday, November 08, 2010

    Book of Letters

    Before the modern reality show,
    there was "This Is Your Life."
    Do you remember it?
    L. wanted to throw me a birthday party. She told me months in advance, and asked me to make a list of 12-15 people to invite. Tricky, that; I wanted people from different parts of my life, but not such a diverse crowd that they wouldn’t feel connected to one another. I didn’t want to hurt someone by including one person and leaving out another. I decided to just invite women this time and made sure that while nobody knew all the others (except me), everyone would be able to look around and see someone (besides me) whom she knew.

    I made my list, and we set the place and time, and L. took it from there. I was a little nervous, especially after she asked me to track down two people who hadn’t acknowledged any of her emails. Just two, but they didn’t respond to my messages either. I wondered how many others had said “no,” or “maybe.” But I thought perhaps L. had left me out of the communication loop on purpose, that she’d asked them to prepare for the event in a certain way or bring something specific to this event as a surprise, and didn’t want me to know.

    The Art of Letter Writing

    Sure enough. She had asked each one of them to write me a letter. This is something we had done for some of the girls in our community when they turned 13: words of wisdom. Love it. I wish people still wrote letters. I love getting them, love writing them, but these days the practice seems almost extinct. 

    In fact, L. had not only asked the women who came to the party to write letters (and read them to me aloud), she had also tracked down all kinds of mutual friends, relatives, and other significant people in my life and asked them to send her a message for me. She printed out the letters on colored stationery and assembled them into a album. More than 50 letters. She made me a book of letters! What fun. This Is Your Life meets The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

    Some of the letters are long, some short, some serious, some hilarious. Full of stories, some I'd forgotten, and each showing the unique character of the writer. What a treasure. I’m delighted. And I’m also glad we did this the Saturday before the big day, instead of after. Now when people tell me to have a wonderful birthday, I can smile, knowing I already have.

    L. pictured me taking the album to Tattered Cover (our excellent independent bookstore) and reading them while enjoying a pot of tea, on the actual day I turn, um, yes, 40. Well, who can resist? I think I've skimmed them all. I will sit down and look at them all more closely again, then, and leisurely write my thank-you notes. The treasure is mine to enjoy again and again.

    A Gift of Words

    Many of the people who wrote structured their letters around words. Words for my birthday! What fun. I love words. And they knew it, because I'd taught them how to write newsletters, marked up their copy as an editor, or helped them catch up with me at Speed Scrabble. Here’s a word from L’s husband J. I’m pretty certain he coined it for the occasion.

    "Here are a few of the things I appreciate about the person God has made you," he began.
    Megadabblifly, def. 2?
    "…You are a multi-tasker, not a multi-slacker. I don't think I've known many people who enjoy the art of "dabbling" as much as you. But you don't just dabble, you mega-dabblifly! 

    "(Def. Megadabblifly: adj. 1. The rare capacity to be involved in many pursuits and projects and still make a significant and worthwhile contribution to each. 2. A state-of-being experienced by very large flies in the winter months in which they seem stupefied by cold temperatures and fly very slowly and lazily around the room.)
    "Of course in your case I refer to definition #1."

    Sunday, November 07, 2010

    Welcome to my home/office

    "They" say you should protect the sanctity of sleep by not using your bedroom for anything but rest.

    "They" say you if you don't have an office or cubicle to go to you should set one up at home and keep regular office hours there.

    I don't see the advantage of that. The basement's too cold for working in, anyway, and the living room doesn't have room for my stuff. So here's where I do most of my work/writing.

    >> What precepts of common wisdom have you found it's fine to ignore?

    Saturday, November 06, 2010


    What should I do to get more pictures for my blog?
    So, maybe you've noticed I'm less likely to illustrate my post with a picture than to offer up the thousand words it's supposed to be worth. Even if I've been out on a photo shoot I seldom capture things that would go with my text.

    I'd kind of like to be one of those bloggers who has a picture or two every time. But I'm not sure how to manage that. If I were one of those "mommy bloggers" I'd have pictures of my precious tots doing cute things, but I'm not. And I don't travel with an iphone, snapping as I go.... Besides which, mostly I'm writing about ideas, not concrete things, so sometimes it's hard to imagine the apt image.

    I used to harvest appropriate images from various places off the web, but even when I thought an picture I'd found was fair game I'd often discover that someone else - the image owner? my keepers here at Blogger? thought otherwise. They'd yank it away some weeks or months later and  leave an awkward hole. (If I saved those pics to my hard drive and then uploaded them on my own, no one would be able to snatch them out of my hand. But does that seem a bit more nefarious?)

    Can you recommend strategies for finding engaging and ethical-to-use image sources to illustrate my blog? Any technical, ethical, or aesthetic tips would be welcome.

    Friday, November 05, 2010

    Spirituality for Extroverts

    My friend Lisa is an off-the-charts extrovert. I'm just a mild one, and more bent towards introversion in a couple of key ways. But when I heard Lisa was doing research and writing a dissertation on spiritual practices for extroverts, I asked to tell me more. Maybe I could buy her a cup of coffee?

    We got together last week. In typical extrovert fashion, we both talked a mile a minute and covered many other topics as well. As I left I realized that without taking notes or seeing something on paper I might have a hard time summing up her research with any accuracy. However, she's promised to let me read the thing at some point. I will probably have to reciprocate by following through on my promise to send her the rather pathetic little paper I wrote in hopes of laying the foundation for a book (on listening).  

    While in many ways the culture we live in and the American church punish introversion and reward  extroversion, the opposite is true when in comes to spirituality. Want to hear from God? You have to go to the mountains, by yourself, with your journal. Want to grow in your faith? The "daily quiet time" is essential - American Christians think it's a sacrament. And we're not a sacramental people.

    While not knocking those things - which are great, but no more mandatory than daily mass - what can we do to offer authentic, helpful models for spiritual discipline to the extroverts? I am assuming it's not impossible to have a vibrant spiritual life if you are a more extroverted, community-oriented person, not a private, keep-it-to-yourself monk in the desert. Most of us would fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, right?

    This is an important question to raise not just for American Christians, but people of a variety of backgrounds. I've been in quite a few cultures where people are never alone - never. Sometimes this has to do with fear; I think of the Malay guy I met, a college professor and head of household, who said he hadn't been alone in his home in years - he's that afraid of the djinn. Even without that fear I think the idea of finding and treasuring time alone would seem pretty weird and foreign to someone like him. I know it would to many of the people I've met in Central Asia or North Africa. And "How can I know God?" would be less the question, than "How can we know God?"

    I think it was an Albanian girl who told one of our research teams, "We never drink tea alone." So many of the world's cultures value "togetherness" much more than "individuality." The balance of those two things has a huge effect on what discipleship looks like. If we're going to fulfill the call to disciple nations, we have to navigate these questions more thoughtfully.  

    In researching spiritual discipline for extroverts, Lisa pulled together two groups of extroverted women, all mature Christians. They shared their experiences and attitudes, and tried out some variations on classic spiritual disciplines chosen and adapted for extroverts. For example, they did "lectio divina" - reading and reflecting on spiritual texts - reading and talking it all out together, in a group. They practiced confession, also together. After a discussion of traditional liturgical observances (something all of them tended to feel awkward with) they "practiced" liturgy through memorizing scriptures together. They did some silence and sabbath too - but it didn't have to be a weekend alone in the woods, and their sabbath included the "celebration" element that often gets left out.

    I encouraged Lisa to take some of the best stuff out of her dissertation and write it up in an article or two, say, for Discipleship Journal. She agreed that this would be a good idea, but she doesn't want to do it, at least not now - not after so many months in the basement trying to crank out the dissertation. Writing is hard work. Maybe harder for someone who plans to reward herself, when she finishes, by hitting the road and visiting good friends and far-flung family. Yes, an extrovert's solution! I believe she'll find a way to pass on what she's learned one way or another, but more writing might be tough.

    No, I didn't offer to interview her and write her article, though that would be fun. I thought about it. But these days I'm trying to do a better job at distinguishing - both to myself and to others - between recognizing a great idea and making a commitment. I hope someone does write it. Maybe the "funnest" way to get the article might be to give Lisa a chance to prepare and teach a lesson for a big group, then record and transcribe it?  

    Question: Do you struggle with spiritual disciplines, and/or with expectations and models that don't fit your level of introversion or extroversion? How have you adapted? What's worked? What hasn't?

    See also this previous post: Seeing God's Voice

    Thursday, November 04, 2010

    What Happened to Downtime?

    I haven't been blogging much, have I? And I haven't been reading books, or going for walks. Life has filled up with other kinds of writing, reading, thinking, connecting. Some of it with less proven value.

    Today I woke up at 3:30, thinking to take something for my headache and go back to sleep, but now it's after 4:00 and feels like morning, not night, so I wonder if I will. Turned on the computer. Saw that a friend has booked a one-way ticket to Arizona to be with her dad who seems to be dying. Prayed for her, and another friend, also my age, who lost her mother lately. Remembered I'd told my sister I'd pray for some of her friends facing various losses and lifted them up again too. 

    Thinking about the day to come and the one that just ended...

    Wednesdays I tend to spend a lot of time watching our ezine unfold. It goes out first thing - by which I mean, 12:15 a.m. Eastern. I like to see who has opened it, who has shared it, who has written comments or sent in questions. I re-read it, reflect on what we've done, what I might want to do next time. And I watch what links people click and who is clicking. 

    Yesterday, the story that got the clicks was about a woman who creates art inspired both by traditional henna designs and stories from the Bible. It captured my imagination; I'd like to see a collection of henna-art Bible story pictures. Hundreds of people clicked on the link that said "full story with pictures," but the pictures were too oblique and I wonder if they were a little disappointed, as I had been; you couldn't really see the art very well. 

    I wonder how much of my stat checking - on Wednesdays and other times - is honest healthy reflection, and how much is what they call "insecurity work." I first saw this helpful term just recently, here:

    >> What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking and Sacred Space (Scott Belsky) 

    After a day that involved a lot of frittering, things took a sudden turn. I was wondering how I'd get the "two hours a day of people time" which helps me feel connected - really connected. And this time it found me. A friend who now lives halfway across the country suddenly showed up at the coffee shop where I was sitting hunched in front of the laptop. She was in town, was having dinner with someone we both knew I'd love to meet, and did I want to join them? The far-reaching conversation that followed was wonderful. Thanks, Nancy. 

    I have several half-composed posts it would be satisfying to finish and share with you, but I think perhaps some time with pen and paper - journaling 'offline' - will come first.