And so, we have come to the end of another year.  Most of us will spend at least a bit of time just now reflecting on our lives and our past year.  I’d like to take a minute to reflect, as well, on the year we’ve had on the blog.

My sense is that the blog has been and still is going strong.   This past year I have made something like 300 separate posts – so nearly six a week.   Almost always these posts are around 1000 words – sometimes more, but rarely less.   Most of the posts are written fresh every day, though often I do post something of relevance that I have previously published.

I’m starting to find that I want to post on something that I’ve already posted on, but by and large I have resisted the urge.  I do think, though, as time goes on, that it won’t matter much if I cover similar ground to what I dealt with, say, two years ago.   There are people who join the blog anew all the time (every day, in fact), and some people drop off, and I don’t expect much of *anyone* to spend all their time reading old posts (let alone remember something I wrote two years ago.  Usually *I* don’t remember!)  In any event, I don’t *think* I’ve had any repeats yet.  If I have, no one has mentioned it.  (If I vaguely remember posting on something, I usually search to see….)

On average I read and approve, and often provide a brief reply to, about 150-160 comments per week – so maybe something like 7000 or 8000 this past year.

We have made some significant improvements to the blog this past year, thanks mainly to my ally and computer assistant, Steven Ray, without whose incredible skill and hard work this entire endeavor would collapse on itself in about four minutes.   It is unbelievably complicated, running one of these things, when there are not only posts but tons of other things (including Paypal) to contend with.  If you need to hire someone for any of your computer needs – Steven is your man.

Among the improvements (many of them have been silent, and simply have made things easier and better), we have gotten *rid* (thank goodness) of the practice of having two separate posts a day, one for members and the other for non-members (a truncated version of the former, enough to “tease” people into wanting to join to get the full scoop).  Instead, Steven has devised a way for me to do one post, only part of which can be seen by those who do not belong to the blog.   And – possibly even more important — we have started a “discussion forum” where people can address topics they want and converse among themselves, with one another, instead of only through me.

I think this discussion forum is good stuff, and I’m very pleased with it.  I anticipated more activity on it than we are getting, but I’m not at all complaining – more activity means more work, since I have set it up that I have to approve every post, every time.   The posts have been superb and my main concern – that people would violate every conceivable norm of courtesy and tact (as usually happens in such fora) – has proved, so far, to be completely unfounded.   This forum has provided an outlet for people to express their views, challenge the views of others, and exchange ideas in a thoughtful and enlightening fashion.   Many thanks to all who have participated.

All in all, the blog obviously takes a lot of my time.   I try to keep my blog activity to about an hour a day, and usually am successful.  But I constantly ask whether it is worth it.   I’m an unusually time-conscious person.  I map out what I’m going to do, virtually hour-by-hour, every day.  Drives my wife nuts.  But I’ve been like this for over thirty years.   So, the deal is that I’m putting in something like 300-350 hours a year on the blog.  It doesn’t seem like much if it’s just an hour a day, but if you calculate a full work-week as 40 hours (I don’t, and I know many of you don’t; but still, supposing that was the calculation, in the hopeful thought that someday that *will* be the work-week ), that means that I am spending eight or nine weeks of my year on the blog.   That’s eight or nine weeks that I could be doing something else:   research, writing, working out, reading novels, going to films, listening to music, walking my dog, thinking deep thoughts, watching football…   OK, it would be research and writing.  And more work outs.

So is it worth it?   Well, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.   But two things keep me, and the blog, going.   The first, obviously, is you.   I am able, with this blog, to communicate with you what I think is important information and thoughts and reflections and ideas and opinions about topics of mutual interest:  the NT, the historical Jesus, the history of early Christianity, the manuscripts of the NT, early Christian apocrypha, the Hebrew Bible, and lots of other things.   And the reactions I get back from you by way of feedback are encouraging and make me want to keep at it.

But the primary thing, as I’ve always said and always will say, is that the blog is set up to raise funds for charity, and this is really what keeps me going.  So how are we doing in that department?   The reality is that we are doing better and better.   We are not yet where I want to be (and I suppose, by definition, we never will be).   But we are making great strides.

This past calendar year we did terrifically well.  We raised $72,000 for charity.  So congratulations to us!!  That is about a 20% increase over the previous year.   And you can crunch the numbers yourself – it is just about $200 per day, each and every day, all of if money going to deal with problems of hunger and homelessness.  That’s really what keeps me going.   Most of that money comes from subscription fees to the blog.  But a chunk of it comes from donations that many of you have so generously provided to the blog.   I can’t thank you enough.

I want to increase the subscriptions to the blog.  I’d like you to give gift subscriptions.  I’d like you to tell your family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, dog-walkers, bank tellers, insurance agents, car dealers – everyone in your life – about the blog, and try to get them interested.   I also want to increase the donors and donations to the blog.   Remember, donations are completely tax deductible, and every penny goes to good causes.   And indirectly keeps the blog going, since as long as we’re raising serious money, I’m going to keep at it.   If you have bright ideas either for how to increase our membership or to increase our donations, please do let me know!

Let me end again by thanking each and every one of you for joining and participating in the blog.  It’s been a good year.  I hope our good fortune will continue in the year to come.   All best wishes for a Happy New Year!