Monday, November 19, 2007

Methodist Blogger Profile: Robin Russell

Robin Russell of UM Reporter Blog

I live in Dallas with my husband, son and our two Chihuahuas, Bob and Bunny, but am not from around these parts. I hail from Milwaukee, Wis., but have lived in Texas most of my adult life.

Thinking my life would be more gratifying if I could help change the world instead of earn big bucks, I earned a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin.

I’m not a United Methodist, but I play one in my day-job as managing editor of the United Methodist Reporter, a national, weekly, independent newspaper.

If anything would persuade me to become a Methodist, it would be Charles Wesley’s glorious hymns and the denomination’s British roots (I’m such an Anglophile). But I think I’d find it hard to invest in the excruciating minutia of United Methodism. I’m already fairly Wesleyan as far as grace theology and being in covenant with my church “life group,” which I co-lead with my husband.

Why do you blog?
I blog as a way to engage readers in “the rest of the story” and to share my thoughts and feelings on some news event or personal experience. It’s a more personal way to connect. And sometimes, it’s the quickest quick way to get the word out on some breaking news.

What has been your best blogging experience?
Anytime someone posts a comment! What a great feeling it is when someone I don’t even know feels compelled to respond.

What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Read some of the best bloggers out there and then decide if there’s really a reason why you should blog. It’s a time-consuming “hobby,” so having a focus/reason will help motivate you to maintain the discipline of writing.

If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
I read’s critiques of religion coverage in mainstream media, the Dallas Morning News religion blog for the latest religion news across the board, and Locusts and Honey for the scoop on what Methobloggers are buzzing about—as well as the unexpected bonus of some really great art and laugh-out-loud humor.

Who are your spiritual heroes?
The usual suspects: the apostle Paul (how did that man keep persevering?), John Wesley (for his genius in small-group accountability and graciousness in preaching to the masses) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (for modeling a costly obedience). Oh, and also my husband, Art, for his enthusiastic and unswerving devotion to people. He’s so engaging, witty and kind, and has never met a stranger. I sometimes channel him when I need to survive a roomful of people I don’t know.

What are you reading at the moment?
I usually keep three or four books going at a time. I’ve either just finished or am about to finish Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow (the best novel ever about being a pastor without being a professional minister), Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild (how family secrets can lead to a destructive inner rage), Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time (incredibly well-written account of the 1930s Dust Bowl), and United Methodist pastor Paul Escamilla’s Longing for Enough in a Culture of More (wise words for our consumer culture).

What is your favorite hymn and why?
Classic: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (interestingly enough, composed by an 18th century Methodist pastor, Robert Robinson) for its piercing third verse: “Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be . . .”
Contemporary: Eric Wyse’s Wonderful, Merciful Savior for its heart-breaking reflection on our Savior: “Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men?”

Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind?
I’ve renounced the evangelical myth that you should only invest in someone if they’re open to the gospel (otherwise, “shake the dust off your feet,” you know). I have a much clearer sense now of Kingdom work, caring for all whom God puts into my life as well as for God’s creation.

What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
Absolute certainty about things on which Scripture is silent—that’s a pretty weak substitute for real faith and real thinking. The older I get, the more I realize there are many more shades of gray than I thought possible. When life throws enough at you, most of us break out of those tidy black-and-white boxes. A little mystery is not a bad thing. And compassion always trumps being “right.”

If you could effect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
To designate an Ambassador of Clarity whose task it would be to explain to the world that being an American is not the same thing as being a Christian (which, by its very nature is countercultural and way bigger than nationalism).

If you could effect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
Having just written about the candidacy process, I’d like to see that experience streamlined to get these young, gifted people into the work of ministry rather than bogged down in a bureaucratic maze.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Or as The Message puts it: “Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.”

What, if anything, do you worry about?
Whether my son (21) will come to really own his faith and become a follower/disciple, not merely a believer.

If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you’d do differently?
I’d have insisted on rearranging my work schedule during my single-mom years, so that I could have been home in the afternoon when my son came home from school, particularly during his middle-school years.

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
Dallas is convenient, but not very pretty. Seattle, San Francisco and Asheville, N.C., come to mind. But Oxford, England is my all-time favorite city.

What do you like doing in your spare time?
Have some unstructured time alone to think, plan and read, read, read. Naps are good, too! I’m a movie buff, and also enjoy opera—the more tragic, the better—and live theater.

What is your most treasured possession?
A keepsake memory box given to me by my husband that holds letters, cards and notes of affirmation from my husband, son, colleagues, friends and some very kind readers.

What talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to sing well enough to perform a solo without even a hint of stage fright.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner, who would they be?
Scott Peck (the best interview I ever did), Ruth Graham (the interview I wish I’d done) and either the Coen Brothers or Christopher Guest (just for their quirkiness factor).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What has been your best blogging experience?
Anytime someone posts a comment! What a great feeling it is when someone I don’t even know feels compelled to respond.

After reading this, I just had to leave a comment in response to your profile. Nice to meet/read about you. Continued success with blogging.
May you and your family have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!