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A personal update

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Dear readers,

Instead of the usual post about my latest (and impressive) spiritual insight, or my latest gripe about presidential politics in the U.S., I thought you might enjoy a more personal update:

My next book

It now appears that the publication date of my new book has been pushed back to Spring 2017. I am disappointed, of course, more than you know, but maybe the silver lining here is that interest in my topic – becoming a multicultural church – is growing. Here’s a link to an interesting New York Times article about the subject.

Language learning

I continue to learn grammar and add lots of vocabulary at my village language school, but my German speaking skills are nicht so gut. Schrecklich, to be honest. So, I’m going to do what I probably should have done at the start – namely, attend an immersion class. I’m going to use my study leave this year to attend a Goethe Institut summer intensive in Berlin. I will even be living with a German family while I’m there, enjoying Frühstück with them every morning before class. Sadly, even after attending this class, I won’t have any idea what my Swiss German friends are talking about, since they prefer not to speak Standarddeutsch, the language I am determined to master.

Church Life

My congregation voted in January to extend my contract, a gifted new associate pastor will begin work next month, there are gratifying signs of life and growth, and so I find myself excited about staying in Switzerland a while longer. I occasionally worried about being on autopilot at this stage of my ministry, not being sufficiently challenged, but that worry (like most of my worries over the years) can now be set aside. I find myself fully engaged with the complexity and excitement of ministry in this wonderful multicultural context. All (or almost all) brain cells are engaged!

The Blog

Google Analytics continues to provide me with information about you, my dear readers, and I have no idea what to do with most of it. Here’s an example that you might find interesting. My readers over the last month came from the following cities (in order):

  1. Zürich CH
  2. Wheaton, Illinois
  3. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  4. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  5. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  6. Batavia, Illinois
  7. Chicago, Illinois
  8. New York, New York
  9. London UK
  10. Plantation, Florida

And here are a few honorable mentions:

  1. New Delhi, 34. Paris, 44. Sydney (Australia)

and interestingly

  1. Rio de Janeiro (with three page views!)

Thank you for reading my blog, thank you for your thoughtful comments (on the blog itself and on Facebook), and thank you for encouraging me to do what I like to do – namely, write about faith and life.

Love, Doug

(Photo: That’s me in the reflection, wearing a University of Michigan cap and modeling quite a good photographer’s stance. You can’t teach something like that. It’s a gift. )

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Doug’s Blog turns two today

The_Sun_Sets_on_Château_de_Chillon

Two years ago I started out on my church website, and five months later – after buying the totally awesome domain name dougsblog.org and teaming up with the Web Designers in Australia for my totally-cool, super-sleek, now somewhat-dated design – I moved to my own site.

Months of surprisingly steady growth later, I reached more than 6,000 “unique visitors” for the first time in April – nearly 6,500 to be exact, without posting at all the last week of the month.

That’s pretty good – better than I expected, to be honest – but then I had no idea when I started where this thing was going.

To put the 6,000 “unique visitors” in perspective, Andrew Sullivan writes one of the most popular blogs in the world today (he’s listed down there on the right side of the page under “favorite blogs”), he has a full-time staff of 4-5, he posts maybe 20 times per day (more if he’s live blogging something like a presidential debate in the U.S.), and he has more than 800,000 “unique visitors” per month. And that was after he put up a pay wall, meaning that you have to pay to have access to all of his content.

Anyone who knows me knows that I set impossibly high standards for myself – like Andrew Sullivan, for example. If I compared myself to “Glen’s real estate blog serving metro Dubuque, Iowa,” I’d look really good. But I’ve never been able to do that. So, look out, Andrew! I’m right on your heels.

Google Analytics continues to tell me more about my readers than I can possibly absorb. Here’s a list of the top 20 cities where my readers come from, but – just so you know – I know more about you than where you come from. I know what device you use to access the site, how long you stay on a page, and where you click to after you leave my site. Frankly, I would be more concerned about Google’s reach right now than the National Security Administration’s, but that’s just me.

  1. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  2. Ann Arbor, MI
  3. Wheaton, IL
  4. Zurich, CH
  5. Stafa, CH
  6. Basel, CH
  7. Chicago, IL
  8. New York City
  9. Plantation, FL
  10. Davie, FL
  11. Dubendorf, CH
  12. Grand Rapids, MI
  13. Pune, India
  14. Glen Ellyn, IL
  15. Sky Lake, FL
  16. Lagos, Nigeria
  17. Pompano Beach, FL
  18. Eau Clair, WI
  19. Coral Springs, FL
  20. Frauenfeld, CH

And just for fun, London ranks 24, Los Angeles 27, and Malaga (Spain) 45. Am not sure who my readers in Nigeria and India are, but I’d like to meet you.

My most-read posts for the last six months or so have been those with spiritual content, but blogging about the move to Switzerland has clearly bumped up the number of readers. And then, being listed on the Expat Bloggers website has also added a few readers I wouldn’t otherwise have reached. So, those are the topics I will continue to focus my attention on – musings about faith, but also comments about this interesting culture where I now live.

I have political opinions, like most people, and occasionally have the urge to express them here. Earlier this week, for example, I wasn’t happy when former U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke to the annual convention of the National Rifle Association and made a sort of equivalence between torture and the sacrament of baptism.  I vented for about 200 words before deleting what I had written.

I’ll continue to keep my political viewpoints to myself. I’ll leave Sarah Palin to Andrew Sullivan and stick to what I know. Besides, he’s better at outrage than I am.

Thanks for your support. Don’t forget to subscribe (posts are delivered to your inbox within seconds of being posted). And please keep leaving those comments – public and private. I read them all.

Here’s to the terrible twos!

happy-2nd-birthday

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Der Blog ist groß!

der die das blog

That headline is nonsense, of course, but I sure am having fun in German classes.

I was sitting in the train yesterday listening to the conversation taking place in the seats behind me (in German), and I realized that I actually knew what they were talking about – some juicy gossip. Which produced great joy in me – große Freude! – that I could actually understand, but then I realized that I was listening in on something I shouldn’t have heard, which prompted a little guilt.

And of course, being helplessly human, the guilt was followed by some brilliant rationalization – “they shouldn’t have been talking so loud if they didn’t want me to hear!”

Isn’t it great to be alive? Joy, guilt, rationalization all in the space of about 10 seconds!

But back to the blog, which is getting grosser and grosser. Readership in March averaged close to 200 unique views per day, meaning that I am closing in on a readership of 6,000 per month. I’m very pleased that this little venture has continued to do so well, and thanks for your support. (Subscribing, by the way, is as easy as entering your email address in the space provided on the right side of the page. New posts will show up in your inbox within seconds of being posted.)

According to Google Analytics, the greatest (grossest?) increase in readers, not surprisingly, has come from Switzerland. Here’s how the 20 top cities break down:

1) Zurich

2) Fort Lauderdale, FL

3) Ann Arbor, MI

4) Wheaton, IL

5) Meilen, CH (where I now live!)

6) Chicago, IL

7) Stafa, CH (just a couple of train stops away)

8) Grand Rapids, MI

9) Hialeah, FL

10) Basel, CH

11) Geneva, CH

12) Plantation, FL

13) Dubendorf, CH

14) Davie, FL

15) New York City

16) Glen Ellyn, IL

17) Pompano Beach, FL

18) Hollywood, FL

19) Dallas, TX

20) Frauenfeld, CH

I hope this finds all of you well in the days leading up to Easter.  (Below is a front view of the French Reformed Church where you are invited to join the congregation of the International Protestant Church of Zurich in worship on Sundays at 11:30.)

front of French church

 

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Blog news – you’ll never guess who’s reading my blog

blog-news

Every few months I like to give you an idea of what’s happening with my blog.

Doug’s Blog launched nearly two years ago on my previous church’s website, and then in October 2012 I purchased my own domain name and moved to dougsblog.org. Readership has grown steadily each month. I now average close to 200 “unique views” each day, with more views – obviously – on those days when I actually post something. I post on average 2-3 times per week, and my subscribers find out immediately when a new post appears with an email alert in their mailboxes.

According to Google Analytics, which continues to tell me an astonishing amount about my readers and more than I can possibly use, a small shift among my readers occurred with my move to Switzerland, with Zurich displacing Wheaton as the number three city. The majority of my readers still come from Florida, but the Swiss are closing in.

Here are the top 20 cities where my readers come from…

1)      Fort Lauderdale (FL)

2)      Ann Arbor (MI)

3)      Zurich (CH)

4)      Wheaton (IL)

5)      Hialeah (FL)

6)      Grand Rapids (MI)

7)      Chicago (IL)

8)      Plantation (FL)

9)      Holland (MI)

10)   Pompano Beach (FL)

11)   Glen Ellyn (IL)

12)   Mannedorf (CH)

13)   Davie (FL)

14)   New York (NY)

15)   Seattle (WA)

16)   Coral Springs (FL)

17)   Dubendorf (CH)

18)   Winterthur (CH)

19)   Interlaken (CH)

20)   Boynton Beach (FL)

In case anyone is interested, the top five web browsers my readers use are…

1)      Safari

2)      Internet Explorer

3)      Chrome

4)      Safari (in app)

5)      Firefox

And in the unlikely event that anyone has made it this far, the top three devices that my readers use to access the blog are (in order)…

1)      Desktop (55 percent of my readers prefer to read my blog on their desktops, while the rest split almost evenly between mobile and tablet)

2)      Mobile

3)      Tablet

A link to my blog was recently added to Expats Blog, and an interview with me (about my first impressions as an expat) will appear in the next few weeks with photos of me buying train tickets and cleaning up after my dog. Right now there are 14 expats in Zurich who blog about their experience, and I’m the newbie in the group – and the only pastor.

That’s all for now.

If you’d like to subscribe, just add your email to the space provided on the right side of the home page. I don’t sell the email list – or do much of anything with it, except marvel at the screen names you’ve given yourselves.

If you’d like to contact me – and not have your comments appear for all to see – just use the contact submission form, cleverly titled “Contact Doug.” I respond to all contacts.

See you in church. I’d love to see you some Sunday at the International Protestant Church of Zurich.

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“Auf Wiederluege”

swiss-air2

I know, I know. I’ve been saying goodbye for months now. But this time I really, really mean it. The flight leaves tomorrow from O’Hare. I plan to blog the adventure … as soon as I land and find my stuff and get wi-fi and think of something interesting to write. In the meantime, Auf Wiederluege! Blessings!

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Ten most popular posts from 2013

saying goodbye

Here’s the list of my ten most popular posts from 2013, with a click-able feature (in blue) so that you can go to the post and read it, if you missed it the first time.

All but one of the most popular posts come from the last three months of the year, indicating: 1) that readership continues to grow; 2) my writing continues to get better and better;  and 3) there’s nothing like announcing a move to Switzerland to drive traffic to your blog.

10. Mariano Rivera and Me (As I mentioned in a previous post with blog news, I happen to like this post a lot, but I cannot tell a lie: The photo accompanying this post continues to show up in every Google Images search for Mariano Rivera, hence driving traffic to my blog and to this post in particular.  In other words, it ain’t the post; it’s the photo.)

9.  Pope Francis and Me (Part 2)  (I plan to write more about the new pope in coming year.)

8.  No Manger, But Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes

7.  Christmas and Learning to Live on Baby Time (More honesty: this was my older daughter’s guest blog post. My younger daughter is committed to writing something about faith and health economics – her field – in the new year.)

6.  Reading for Preaching

5.  A Prayer for Sunday Morning  (I publish a lot of prayers, and – by and large – they get lots of readers.)

4.  And Then There Was One

3.  My Annual Christmas Letter (For the second year in a row, I went all-digital in this annual tradition.  The letter also includes my favorite photo of the year – me having a mud treatment at the Dead Sea.)

2.  “A Wandering Aramean was My Father…” (Deuteronomy 26:5)

And the number one most popular blog post of the year…

1. Saying Goodbye

Thanks again to all of my readers – and especially those of you who’ve left comments – for making this such a good year for Doug’s Blog.  I enjoy doing it, and a growing number of you are reading it.  Email me and let me know what you like – and don’t like – about the blog.

A few weeks ago I emailed one of my favorite bloggers (Andrew Sullivan), thanking him for his Sunday themes, and he responded personally within an hour or so.  He’s one of the most-read bloggers in the world right now, so he’s setting a high standard.   I promise to respond to you too!

(Photo: That’s the photo I used with “Saying Goodbye.”)

 

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Black Friday Blog News

Black Friday shoppers

You won’t be surprised to know that I didn’t camp out last night in front of the local Best Buy. I wish retailers all the best, of course, but I’m not a shopper. Ask anyone.

Like retailers, though, I have a strong interest in the numbers, and I’ve been looking at my blog traffic for the last couple of months.

Things are looking good.

There’s nothing like announcing a move to Switzerland (and turning 60) to drive traffic to your blog.

For the month of October I logged nearly 5,000 “unique views,” my best month ever. My best day ever occurred in October too. On October 21, there were 513 visits to my blog. That was the day I published “Saying Goodbye.”

Here’s some new data I found in Google Analytics. Most of my visitors are men. Surprised? I am, a little.

54 percent of you are men, and only 46 percent are women. With church membership skewing decidedly to women these days – 60 to 40, according to recent studies – I would have guessed that more of my readers would be women.

Here’s another surprise. My readers skew to the younger ages. 28 percent of you are between 18 and 24 years of age, while 34 percent are between 25 and 34. That means – whoa, have to be careful with my higher-level math computations here – over half of my readers are younger than 34 years old.

Of course maybe blog readers tend to be younger, on average, too. But I’m still surprised. And pleased. I’ll have to write less about getting older. That can’t be all that interesting to the 20-something set.

One last thing. Members of my new congregation in Zurich seem to have lost interest. In the ranking by city, residents of Zurich ranked second back in September. Today Zurich ranks 15th.

Here is the ranking of the top 20 cities where my readers live:

Fort Lauderdale, FL
Ann Arbor, MI
Wheaton, IL
Plantation, FL
Hialeah, FL
Chicago, IL
Holland, MI
Coral Springs, FL
Pompano Beach, FL
Grand Rapids, MI
Glen Ellyn, IL
Davie, FL
Hollywood, FL
Weston, FL
Zurich, Switzerland
Hallandale Beach, FL
Glasgow, Scotland
Hong Kong, China
Madison, WI
Tallahassee, FL

Interesting, isn’t it? Am grateful to my readers for their interest.  Happy  Black Friday.

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The man from Galilee, Elias Chacour

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I first met Abuna Elias Chacour 20 years ago on what has turned out to be the first of several trips to Israel.  

I was with a group of 33 pilgrims, most of whom were members of my church in Wheaton, Illinois, and one of whom knew of Abuna and suggested that all of us read his book, Blood Brothers, before making the trip. (I will always be grateful to the person who made the suggestion.)

That first meeting – at the school Abuna founded in the Galilean village of Ibillin – profoundly shaped me in a variety of ways, not the least of which is the way I understand my own ministry. I dedicated most of a chapter to him in my book, What Should I Do With My Life?

Since that first meeting, Abuna has become Archbishop of Galilee for the Melkite Catholic Church, and our relationship has deepened, with more visits to the school and with Abuna preaching for me at my churches in Wheaton and Ann Arbor.

I would call him a dear friend – and he is to me – but the truth is that Abuna has touched the lives of hundreds more just like mine.

As my loyal blog readers may have gathered, I’ve been away for a few days – and therefore not posting. I’m back in Israel, and on the first day of the trip my group met with Abuna for nearly two hours. He told us his story and the story of his school, as he has for countless groups who have passed through over the years. For me, even though I’ve heard the story many times, the two hours passed quickly.

I am grateful that the gospel is alive and well – and being lived so courageously – in the land Jesus called home.

(Photo: Jet lagged as I am, it’s hard to miss just how delighted I am to be with my friend Abuna.)

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“A wandering Aramean was my father…” (Deuteronomy 26:5)

zurich street scene

The first real adventure of my life was moving to New Jersey.

I could have done better, as adventures go, but Princeton Seminary was in New Jersey, so it was there that I went, after living the first 20 years of my life in the same house, same neighborhood, same city.  The distance door to door was only 750 miles, but it was far enough for me.

I met people in New Jersey I had never met before – Presbyterians, of course, but also Unitarians, Baptists, Quakers, Catholics, Coptics, Italians, Jews, and a wonderful Ph.D. student from Thailand who once went with me to a Yankees baseball game in the Bronx (my dating skills left a lot to be desired).  My next door neighbor on the third floor of Alexander Hall, where I lived, was African American, the very first black man I recall having had an actual conversation with.  He pretended not to notice how sheltered I had been.  He was (and is) a fine man.

New York City was only an hour or so away from Princeton, and so on Saturdays, when I probably should have been at the library learning my Hebrew grammar, the bus would deposit me at Port Authority, and from there I walked and walked all over Manhattan, looking in store windows, visiting museums, and watching the people.

The world was far larger than I had ever imagined.

Over the years this adventurous spirit hasn’t taken me all that far from home in terms of miles – Pennsylvania, Illinois, back to Michigan, and most recently to Florida.  But I’ve compensated by travelling – to the Philippines, Peru (twice), Haiti (three times), the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Europe (have lost count of the number of times), Canada and Mexico (do they count?), Israel (four times), Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Morocco,  and more.

My passport is worn out, just like my Bible.

I’m pretty sure I know where this longing to wander came from.  It was my Kindergarten Sunday school teacher Mrs. Peterson.  (Parents: do a thorough job of investigating the sweet old ladies who are teaching your children.  You never know what kind of subversive ideas they might plant in young minds.)

Mrs. Peterson had just returned from doing missionary work in the far off and terribly exotic land of New Mexico, where she worked with Zuni and Navajo children, telling them all about the love of Jesus.  I’ve posted about her before, I know, but I’m just beginning to realize what an important influence she was in my life.

It was from her that I first learned how God might very well call me to a distant land (like New Mexico), and there I would have the privilege and opportunity to talk about my faith, just like she did.

I’ve waited and waited for that call.

I always assumed it would be to a tiny village in sub-Saharan Africa, someplace remote, where maybe there was no written language and no Internet.

And for a long time I thought the call would never come.  But – could I have buried the good news any deeper into this post? – early in the new year I will be moving to Switzerland.  I’m happy to announce that I’ve been called to be pastor of the International Protestant Church in Zurich.  It’s an interesting church with wonderful people, and I’ll be posting more about it in the days ahead.

Several people have asked, “Are you going to keep blogging?”  The answer is, “Yes.”  There will be more to write about.

As you can imagine, I’m very excited.  I’m also scared.  These were the two emotions I remember best from the summer before I moved to New Jersey.  I’ve got them again.  But I have something else I didn’t have then, and maybe that’s why God has taken his sweet time with me.  I know what I believe today in a way I didn’t then.  I have something to say.

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The miracle of Google Analytics

blog news 2

Who reads “Doug’s blog”?

Not surprisingly, most of my readers live in and around Fort Lauderdale.  That’s been my home base for going on five years.

But through the miracle of Google Analytics, a free service from Google, I’ve been able to find out a great deal more about my readers.  I know what city they’re in when they log on to my site, I know what pages they view, and I even know how much time they spend on each page.

Actually, there’s far more information than that.  But you get the idea.  Google Analytics is obviously a fine new way for me to waste time.  If I ran a business, I would be checking these reports obsessively.  I’m guessing that many web site managers do.

In September “Doug’s blog” averaged 87 “unique visits” per day.  I thought you might like to see where these “unique” readers live.  Some surprises, but mostly what I’d expect. Here are the top 20 cities where my readers live (in order):

Fort Lauderdale

Zurich (Switzerland)

Ann Arbor (Michigan)

Plantation (Florida)

Wheaton (Illinois)

University City (Missouri)

New York (New York)

Hollywood (Florida)

Grand Rapids (Michigan)

Chicago (Illinois)

Baden (Switzerland)

Winterthur (Switzerland)

Hialeah (Florida)

Coral Springs (Florida)

Tallahassee (Florida)

Weston (Florida)

Davie (Florida)

Tampa (Florida)

San Francisco (California)

Pompano Beach (Florida)

I plan to post tomorrow about the second city on the list.  And by the way, you can subscribe and have my posts delivered to your email inbox by supplying your email address along the right side of the page. I don’t sell (or do much of anything with) the list, but I do marvel over some of the screen names.

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