Revering God’s Name – A Reprise


Anne Elisabeth Stengl's rescue dogSome years ago I saw a Facebook ad: “Hit ‘Like’ if you love Jesus.”

Is it wrong or sinful or a bad testimony to join the over 9,000 people who hit “Like”? I’m not ready to go that far, but the first thing I thought when I saw that was, How cheap.

It’s like taking the most valuable human relationship you can imagine and saying, “Show how much you love your spouse or your kids by hitting ‘Like.’ ” Does hitting “Like” really show how much you love them?

It reminds me of an era gone by when there were bumper stickers saying, “Honk if you love Jesus.” Really? Honking or Liking shows you love Jesus?

Honk if you want that driver to wake up and realize the light turned green; honk if a dog is sitting in the road and won’t move, honk if another driver doesn’t see you and starts to swerve into you, but honk if you love Jesus?

Hit “Like” if your friend posts a cute picture of her new puppy, hit “Like” if a commenter says something you agree with, hit “Like” if someone cheers for your same sports team, but hit “Like” if you love Jesus?

These kinds of soundbite responses are typical of our culture, but I’m troubled when we reduce our relationship to our Savior and Lord to a one-second button push or, in the olden days, a tap on the horn.

I’m wondering if such a costless and near anonymous declaration isn’t also meaningless, and maybe worse. When we put Jesus on a par with the thousands of other things people can “Like” on Facebook, aren’t we actually demeaning Him?

Scripture says, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness of Deity to dwell in [Christ]” (Colossians 1:19). Yet we’re saying, treat Him the way you treat your favorite actress or singer or politician. Or your friend’s real estate business or restaurant or antique shop.

Clearly, not everyone treats God this way–because some never had any reverence for Him and others believe Him to be high and Holy and beyond a gimmicky “Like” button. Sadly, I don’t see the former group taking much notice of God because a group of people are hitting the “Like” button to say they love Jesus.

If we truly love Him, we’ll obey His commandments. That’s what He said. And His commandments were two-fold: love God and love your neighbor.

If we truly revere God and His name, we’d do an act of kindness for our neighbor–something significant that cost us in time or in money. We wouldn’t honk as we drove off for the day, shouting out the window, I just wanted you to know I love you. We wouldn’t flash a “Like” sign when we spotted them walking to their front door.

Those are cheap expressions that might make us feel warm and fuzzy for a few seconds, but they in no way lift up God’s name or show Him as the one we worship as Creator and King.

How can we expect a world in need of our Savior to give Him a second thought when we treat Him in such a cavalier, perfunctory way? How could anyone believe we have a genuine relationship with someone we treat with such disrespect? How can they believe He is God when we so clearly don’t treat Him as a person who is worthy of our highest praise, not our quick hit of the “Like” button.

David said in Psalm 18

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock
And exalted be the God of my salvation.

Declaring God’s greatness and His attributes and His work to rescue us, deliver us, enlarge our steps, and set us on our high places is far removed, in my view, from hitting the “Like” button.

Of course we’re not all poets like King David was, but we can sing out the praises he wrote, and we can scratch out our own praises in our poor prose, we can certainly cry out our thanks to God in prayer.

And we can “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10a).

Hitting the “Like” button . . . may we think better of God than that.

This post first appeared here in October 2013.

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Published in: on January 11, 2018 at 5:54 pm  Comments Off on Revering God’s Name – A Reprise  
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Laughter Is The Best Policy


us_navy_laughingOK, actually honesty is the best policy, but laughter is right there beside him.

I have to say, I used to turn my nose up on the many, many pictures posted on Facebook with cute or clever or wise sayings inscribe on top. The technical name for this, I guess, is memes. Some people seem to post nothing more than memes, and quite frankly I rarely read their posts. Until recently.

What I’ve experienced of late is angst, disharmony, despair, confusion, criticism. Yep, lots of criticism. It’s his fault, it’s their fault, it’s our fault, it’s this other group, it’s our group, it’s the fault of those behind the evil conspiracy.

Enter a belly laugh-inducing meme.

Or even better are the funny pet videos. I have to say, some have made me laugh so hard, I nearly put them on my own site. I mean, a meme or a pet video has to be pretty hilarious for me to share it.

But given the seriousness of the news, the negative tone, and the disagreeable disagreements, funny feels refreshing.

I think other people might agree. Some of the biggest responses to my Facebook posts are to the ones that are humorous.

Of course there’s a real, physical reason for this. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers. There are other benefits to laughter that we may not realize right away: it lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, exercises your abs, is good for your heart health, improves sleep, and increases your chance to win the lottery.

OK, not that last one. But laughter has numerous physical benefits. No wonder we enjoy laughter as a tension reliever. No wonder movie makers and playwrights include a little comic relief in their stories.

Interestingly, science has grabbed hold of laughter, and it’s become a topic of study. Apparently people in all cultures laugh, so laughter is considered one of the universal languages.

Laughter isn’t dependent on jokes either. Circumstances and people seem to be the most important factor.

When I was growing up, I remember a couple of instances when we as a family broke into laughter. The thing was, the harder we tried to stop laughing, the more we laughed. Once we were in a diner and a rather large woman squeezed herself between two tables. We thought that was funny but didn’t want to be rude, so we tried to control our laughter. Finally my sister and I went to the bathroom to get the laughter out of our system.

I remember laughing as a family at some of the I Love Lucy shows. Funny, slapstick comedy made the funnier because we were together laughing.

Once we got to laughing in church. It didn’t end well.

My dad could make me laugh simply by adopting a loud fake laugh. My sister-in-law got my sister and me laughing so hard because she pressed an invisible laugh button.

I think we need a laugh button, invisible or not, in America today. We need to solve the great divide in our country by laughing together. Maybe then we could move toward common solutions instead of divided arguments.

Laughter reminds me that we’re all human. What makes one person laugh, will probably make other people laugh, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. People are people, and we seem to forget that sometimes.

Yep, laughter is the best policy. At least for the short term. It’s only a fleeting burst of joy, but it has longer-lasting effects. I’d like to hear more of it and less of the vitriolic over-talking that seems to be so popular these days.

Published in: on January 31, 2017 at 6:47 pm  Comments (5)  
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A Cat Claim And The Existence Of God


savannah_cat_portraitEarlier this week I spent the better part of one day in a discussion in the Facebook group for theists and atheists. One person (who I will refer to by the generic pronoun he) wrote, “If someone told you they had a cat, yet there was no evidence they owned a cat wouldn’t that be evidence against their cat claim?”

My answer was simple: their claim that they owned a cat must be considered as evidence, unless they’ve proved themselves to be liars or delusional.

His response was simply this: produce the cat.

But there’s the problem. What if the cat is an indoor cat? Or what if, for safety reasons, the owner only wants the cat to be allowed in the backyard?

Anybody claiming that the cat doesn’t exist has to doubt the word of the owner. Some might even go so far as to doubt the existence of a backyard. Oh, you say he’s in your backyard, but I’ve never seen your backyard. In fact, you don’t actually have a backyard. It’s more likely a park that lots of people share, and any cat that might have been spotted back there is likely someone else’s cat, or it’s not a cat at all. It’s probably a small dog or maybe even a squirrel. I’ve seen squirrels in your tree before, so your supposed cat is probably just another squirrel.

Those who question the existence of God operate from the same premise: what is true must be verified by an approved method—either by first hand knowledge (because eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable) or by passing the hard-evidence test.

Therefore, since I have not seen your cat, you don’t own a cat. Or, since there is no litter box contents going into your trash can, since you never bring home a new bag of cat litter, since you don’t bundle your cat into a cage and drive him to the vet from time to time, and since there aren’t cat hairs clinging to your clothes, you don’t own a cat.

Even though you say you do.

This discussion can be frustrating, especially if the cat is somewhere else at present. Suppose the owner took it with her on a trip abroad, only to have it quarantined when she returned. Roughly thirty days, the customs officials said. So day after day the owner tells the neighbor she has a cat, one he’ll see when it gets home.

The neighbor, however, refuses to believe she has a cat because he says, “Faith is no path to truth as it can be used to justify anything.” In other words, he refuses to believe the owner’s word. That would not be evidence. That would be faith, and faith is just wishful thinking.

But what if the owner’s son also said, “Yes, we have a cat.” And the vet who gave the animal shots before the trip abroad said, “I know she owns a cat.” Are three eyewitnesses enough?

To complicate things, what if the discussion was about a former cat, not a current pet. What if she told her neighbor she once owned a prize-winning Savannah she sold for $30,000. The neighbor demands proof. “Produce the bill of sale or pictures,” he says.

But then he disqualifies the bill of sale she brings out because it is handwritten. “Anyone could have forged that document,” he says. The pictures could just as easily have been photo-shopped from ones on line. So how can she prove that she indeed owned the cat? Eyewitness accounts are out, documentation is out, and “faith” in the owner’s word is out.

I don’t want to belabor the analogy. The point is, the neighbor has decided he doesn’t believe the woman owned a cat which she sold for $30,000. It’s not in his experience that a cat could cost that much, and he never saw the cat himself. He’s not going to be so foolish as to believe the woman because she could tell him anything. Is he supposed to believe any old story that she or others choose to tell?

The fact is, the man does have faith: primarily in his own knowledge and experiences. If he had seen the cat, he’d believe. Others might believe once they see the bill of sale. Still others might be convinced by the pictures. But all of them have faith in something or someone.

Faith is nothing more than trusting a source.

When it comes to God and His existence, He is the primary source. He demonstrates His existence in what He has made. He tells us of His existence in His written revelation. Ultimately He exhibited His existence by taking on the likeness of humankind. Currently He verifies His existence by His presence in the lives of those who believe Him.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled? (“How Firm A Foundation,” Timeless Truths)

Published in: on December 7, 2016 at 6:00 pm  Comments Off on A Cat Claim And The Existence Of God  
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Thankfulness In The Argument Culture


Broncos linebackerI’m a dye-in-the-wool Denver Broncos fan, a political conservative, a Christian. Occasionally I visit some Broncos fan blogs and interact with others who are passionate about the Broncos. Inevitably, though, someone will say something that reminds me, not all these people who love the Broncos like I do, love God the way I do or even like Him. And probably a lot aren’t political conservatives.

Yet if we were in the stands at a Broncos game, we’d be cheering them on as loud as we could. Together. And when the opposing quarterback fails to complete a pass, we’d yell in unison with the rest of the fans, In-com-plete. That’s what you do when your team has the No Fly Zone as your secondary.

The point here is this: football fans lay aside their differences when they come together to cheer for their favorite team. The only differences that count at that moment are between those in orange and anyone wearing the opponent’s jersey.

My guess is, football fans don’t let religion or politics divide them because they don’t discuss the topics. But in the argument culture, our opinions have begun to divide us.

Things are becoming extreme in a land built on the right of free speech and freedom of religious expression. Now when people speak publicly, someone is bound to be offended and to call for a free zone.

The common approach is for someone to express their view. A commenter then tells them how stupid their ideas are. Then a third party will call the commenter a name and the commenter will cuss out both the original writer and the third party. It could go on from there, but it likely will end up with someone unfriending someone else.

Because in all likelihood, people who read blog posts or Facebook updates are doing so at sites they mostly agree with. When someone of a different viewpoint projects a new idea, it rarely sparks meaningful dialogue. Rather, the ensuing discussion is apt to be filled with vitriol and a repetition of talking points which originated somewhere else. Things like, Donald Trump is not my president. Or Hillary (her critics hardly ever use her last name and certainly not her appropriate title) is a liar. And, Black lives matter. Or, All lives matter.

Welcome to the argument culture we have created. What is substantive in the slogans we throw at each other?

Even “reputable” news outlets seem more interested in headlines that will get readers to click over to their site than they are in fairly representing the story or the people in it. Click bait. We’ve apparently proven we’re vulnerable to certain emotive words that will prompt us to action, so the “news” sites use those words with gusto.

First_Thanksgiving_in_AmericaThen along comes Thanksgiving Day.

Suddenly we’re suppose to pause, to relax, to hang out with family, to think about the things we’re thankful for.

In truth Thanksgiving calls Christians to do what we should be doing all year long. Even in an argument culture, we are called to be different. This is what Paul told the Roman Christians:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Rom 12:14-21 NASB]

These were believers who weren’t simply at odds with others because of how they voted. No, they were living in fear for their lives. They weren’t simply being unfriended on Facebook. They were being hauled off to be part of Caesar’s massacre.

Yet Paul says, weep with those who weep. Don’t celebrate the downfall of your enemy. If he’s hungry, thirsty, serve him. Don’t take justice into your own hands. Make a difference by doing all you can to be at peace with the very people who hate you. Don’t stoop to their tactics, but conquer their vitriol with God’s gentleness.

Are these the features that mark the Church? Is this what the world knows about us?

It should be. We are new creatures in Christ, so we ought not live like everyone else.

One of the ways I want to put this passage into practice is by being thankful. You see, despite the fractured nature of our culture, we still have a great deal to thank God for.

I lost a friend this year—a woman nearly ten years my junior, so her death seems especially wrong. But I am genuinely thankful that I will see her again. It might seem cliché to some, but I can look each of my Christian friends in the eye and say, See you later, knowing that I will, either here or in life after this life in the presence of our Lord and Savior. I am so grateful for that assurance. So thankful that Jesus Christ made it possible.

Politics and hurt feelings and misunderstanding might make relationships hard at times. But death is the ultimate divider. If we think our culture is fractured, that’s nothing compared to the last line, when people stand for or against God. Now that’s a division.

The fact that I can shake hands with the man at church who has terminal cancer and say, see you later, indicates that God through Christ has conquered the divide. He is the great uniter.

We Want To Be Cats, But We’re Sheep


Maybe I should have titled this post, “I want to be a cat, but I‘m just one of the sheep.” After all, should I be speaking for you?

I’m a little irritated right now at social media in general because The Powers That Be decide for the rest of us what they think we want, without asking us. Today it was Yahoo. Suddenly when I clicked on a new tab, I had a Yahoo search page pop up. I had to deactivate the Yahoo add-on to make it go away.

Sometime ago Facebook decided to speak for me—or more accurately, to think for me—by selecting what they deem to be my “Top Stories.” But they’re no different than Google+ who has determined what other G+ users I would most likely want to invite into my circles.

I think these social networking sites have taken their cue from cars that not only give you directions, but now park for you, change braking capacity under certain conditions, and even give you the hands off driving experience. For some years, those with alarm systems tell you (loudly) when something untoward approaches the vehicle.

The problem is, I’d rather think for myself. I’d rather do the driving because I like driving. I’m a responsible agent and shouldn’t need to be told to put on my seat belt. I like choosing my own routes instead of having a GPS tell me when to turn, and I think map reading is a good skill to have.

But more than that, I don’t want to be told who my friends should be on social media sites or what posts I should want to read. I want to think for myself.

I kind of assumed everyone else felt the same way (which is why I said “we” in the title, but I realize I am sort of playing the role of Facebook by doing so).

Perhaps this desire for independence is part of American Rugged Individualism we hear so much about— some of which I believe to be true. I mean, for people to pull up stakes and move across an ocean or to a foreign land where few people speak their language, they have to have a bit of individualism in them, I think.

And no matter how short or how long an American’s ancestors have been here, there is some value-passing that has preserved that individualistic spirit, that determination to go it alone against great odds.

However, I think there’s some of this independent spirit in all humankind. It’s not actually a good thing, either. It’s our desire, like small children who tell their parents they want to do “it” by themselves, to tell our Father that we can live life on our own.

In spite of this drive for independence, though, we—and this is the right pronoun this time—end up like sheep. Scripture says so. Besides Isaiah 53 that says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (v. 6a), Jeremiah paints a picture I think reflects our world today:

My people have become lost sheep;
Their shepherds have led them astray.
They have made them turn aside on the mountains;
They have gone along from mountain to hill
And have forgotten their resting place. (Jeremiah 50:6)

The passage originally referred to the Jewish people, but since all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to see us Gentiles in the same light—as sheep who are lost, who have shepherds leading them astray.

Now cats—they don’t let anyone lead. They don’t allow for herding. They scatter whithersoever they desire. But us sheep, we go where we ought not go just because everyone else is going there. We don’t always even notice where it is we’re going because we’re not paying all that much attention.

This is why we need a Good Shepherd. Cats, though, even if they had a Good Shepherd, would still go their own way. Eventually they’d end up high in a tree and too scared to climb down, too ornery to let anyone near enough to help them. Maybe being a sheep isn’t so bad. 😀

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in October 2011.

Published in: on August 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm  Comments (5)  
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Revering God’s Name


Anne Elisabeth Stengl's rescue dogI just saw a Facebook ad: “Hit ‘Like’ if you love Jesus.”

Is it wrong or sinful or a bad testimony to join the over 9,000 people who have hit “Like”? I’m not ready to go that far, but the first thing I thought when I saw that was, How cheap.

It’s like taking the most valuable relationship you can imagine and saying, show how much you love your spouse or your kids by hitting “Like.” Does hitting “Like” really show how much you love them?

It reminds me of an era gone by when there were bumper stickers saying, “Honk if you love Jesus.” Really? Honking or Liking shows you love Jesus?

Honk if you want that driver to wake up and realize the light turned green; honk if a dog is sitting in the road and won’t move, honk if another driver doesn’t see you and starts to swerve into you, but honk if you love Jesus?

Hit “Like” if your friend posts a cute picture of her new puppy, hit “Like” if a commenter says something you agree with, hit “Like” if someone cheers for your same sports team, but hit “Like” if you love Jesus?

These kinds of soundbite responses are typical of our culture, but I’m troubled when we reduce our relationship to our Savior and Lord to a one-second button push or, in the olden days, a tap on the horn.

I’m wondering if such a costless and near anonymous declaration isn’t also meaningless, and maybe worse. When we put Jesus on a par with the thousands of other things people can “Like” on Facebook, aren’t we actually demeaning Him?

Scripture says, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness of Deity to dwell in [Christ]” (Colossians 1:19). Yet we’re saying, treat Him the way you treat your favorite actress or singer or politician. Or your friend’s real estate business or restaurant or antique shop.

Clearly, not everyone treats God this way–because some never had any reverence for Him and others believe Him to be high and Holy and beyond a gimmicky “Like” button. Sadly, I don’t see the former group taking much notice of God because a group of people are hitting the “Like” button to say they love Jesus.

If we truly love Him, we’ll obey His commandments. That’s what He said. And His commandments were two-fold: love God and love your neighbor.

If we truly revere God and His name, we’d do an act of kindness for our neighbor–something significant that cost us in time or in money. We wouldn’t honk as we drove off for the day, shouting out the window, I just wanted you to know I love you. We wouldn’t flash a “Like” sign when we spotted them walking to their front door.

Those are cheap expressions that might make us feel warm and fuzzy for a few seconds, but they in no way lift up God’s name or show Him as the one we worship as Creator and King.

How can we expect a world in need of our Savior to give Him a second thought when we treat Him in such a cavalier, perfunctory way? How could anyone believe we have a genuine relationship with someone we treat with such disrespect? How can they believe He is God when we so clearly don’t treat Him as a person who is worthy of our highest praise, not our quick hit of the “Like” button.

David said in Psalm 18

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock
And exalted be the God of my salvation.

Declaring God’s greatness and His attributes and His work to rescue us, deliver us, enlarge our steps, and set us on our high places is far removed, in my view, from hitting the “Like” button.

Of course we’re not all poets like King David was, but we can sing out the praises he wrote, and we can scratch out our own praises in our poor prose, we can certainly cry out our thanks to God in prayer.

And we can “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10a).

Hitting the “Like” button . . . may we think better of God than that.

Unstoppable


KirkCameronByLuigiNovi
Was it a glitch in the automation or something more calculated?

After actor Kirk Cameron who happens to be an outspoken Christian had the links to the trailer of his upcoming movie, Unstoppable, removed from Facebook, he publicly took issue with the action, saying on his Facebook page

that links to the website for “Unstoppable” had been blocked by the social network for allegedly being “abusive,” “unsafe” and “spammy.” The following day, he announced YouTube had done the same and had blocked the “Unstoppable” trailer because it was considered “spam,” a “scam” and “deceptive.” (Huffington Post)

In his appeal to fans to support him against Facebook and YouTube, Cameron said his movie is about

“faith, hope and love, and about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. What is ‘abusive’ or ‘unsafe’ about that?!” (Ibid.)

A day after Cameron went public with the issue, Facebook rescinded their block, saying that the address he was using for the movie site had previously been used by a spammer and therefore blocked by Facebook. Their automated system simply hadn’t caught up to the change.

Sounds reasonable.

But what about YouTube?

Apparently there’s an active attempt to have all Cameron’s YouTube videos removed, though they also retracted the “Unstoppable” block. Why would YouTube want Cameron’s videos taken down?

Without saying this is the reason, a USA Today article on the subject mentions that Cameron is “outspoken against gay marriage.”

Cameron himself addresses why people hate God in a new YouTube video, pointing first to the fact that they hate the moral standard.

So is all this a tempest in a teapot, a simple and understandable techno-glitch? Or is this a foreshadowing of what is to come for Christians who speak up for what they believe? I suppose only time will tell, but I find it sobering.

Social media has given every person a voice and an audience, but how quickly it could be snatched away. What if “religious topics” are one day considered too divisive, too inflammatory to be allowed?

After what happened with Kirk Cameron, that possibility doesn’t seem so far fetched any more.

I suppose for too long we Christians in the United States have felt protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. It guarantees freedom of speech, doesn’t it? It guarantees freedom of religion.

Amazingly, the very clause that was put into the Bill of Rights to ensure that people could speak their mind and practice their religion, is being turned against people of faith. No “establishment of religion” has come to mean no allowance of religion.

First this was in schools, then government buildings. Now there are attempts to extend this to government property–like public parks and beaches.

While the shift is startling, it simply reminds me that government was never the guarantor for our freedoms. God is.

Should Christians face a period of persecution here in the US, we’d only be joining the millions of our brothers and sisters who are experiencing the same around the world. It’s not something I look forward to, but it’s something I expect. Could it be that the vitriol aimed at Kirk Cameron (see comments such as “Kirk Cameron is a sanctimonious, obnoxious f***knut and a washed-up former
child T.V. star…”), is an indication of what lies ahead for all believers? What do you think?

Blog Tours In The Age Of Social Media


csffbannerWhen a group of us speculative writers started the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr and the like did not exist. Blogging itself was fairly new. The concept of a blog tour seemed like the perfect way to create a community of like-minded people willing to talk about the books we wanted to see in bookstores.

When we first approached Donita Paul, *our first author, about touring one of her books, she asked, What is a blog tour? For some time we answered that question fairly regularly, but before long, the concept caught on. Now there are sites dedicated to setting up and running blog tours.

As late as three years ago, however, I had an industry insider note the lack of immediate book sales from a particular tour, then say, “It seems that the main body of people reading the blog tour reviews consisted of other reviewers on the tour.”

At the time I thought that comment was short-sighted. No one other than the blogger knows the traffic his or her site receives unless there’s a visible stats counter. No one else knows how many subscribers are receiving the blog in their email in-box or in a reader. The fact that people who had read the book in question were carrying on an intelligent discussion about it should have been appealing to other visitors. And why would those who had not read the book jump into the conversation? That they were silent doesn’t mean they weren’t listening.

Add to that the marketing idea that a buyer needs to hear about a product X number of times (I think it’s 7) before buying. Here CSFF voluntarily puts the name of these various books out over the Internet for any number of people to get their first nudge, or third, or sixth.

Clearly, I believe blog tours, from the beginning, have helped books sell though their impact may not be immediately felt.

But today we have another whole layer to our blog tours–social media. In the past, if someone wrote a particularly good review, the author might link to it or excerpt it for his blog or website. That may or may not have attracted more readers.

With the growth of social media, however, authors can link to posts on their author Facebook page or Tweet to their followers. In turn, those fans can read and share posts to their social media contacts. So, not only are visitors to my site finding out about the tour reviews and the books we’re featuring, but in essence, the author’s loyal followers are now sharing the reviews with their friends and followers as well. People I don’t know and can’t reach are getting the word.

But the author could do that without the tour, some say. Not really. The author can’t say, Go look at this post, if there is no post to go look at. The tour, operating independently of the author, gives him something to point to.

Interestingly, the tour works best when there is either controversy or positive accord. The books that garner tepid posts won’t stir up a great deal of conversation or receive outside notice. Those that create some passion in the tour participants, however, end up having memorable posts, discussions, and reviews to which the author can point.

In short, blog tours seem to me to be more effective than ever, as long as they do more than regurgitate the back cover copy of the book they are featuring and as long as the book is well written. Somehow, it still comes down to that point, doesn’t it.

– – – – –

* For the record, CSFF opened in May 2006 by featuring a Christian fiction reviewer’s website, specifically a page he called “Focus on Christian Fantasy.” We highlighted Donita Paul the next month as our first author. If you check out that inaugural post, you’ll see a few names you may recognize as current active tour participants.

Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm  Comments Off on Blog Tours In The Age Of Social Media  
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Promoting And Platforms


empty_stageI’ve been thinking about loving your neighbor, mostly because I was reading Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis, but in the writing world, I’ve come across more and more talk about getting noticed. Somehow a book needs to stand out in the crowd. And believe me, with the ease of self-publishing, the crowd is growing.

These two concepts seem antithetical. I mean, with people in so much need around the world, I’m supposed to concern myself with … ME?

Not to mention that a couple situations of what I’ll call overly zealous advertisement–which is the euphemistic way of saying “spam”–I suggested in a Facebook update that unfriending/unfollowing the perpetrator might be the only answer. I was gratified to see that a good number of others agreed–not so much about severing ties as the solution, but about spamming others in the name of promotion being a problem.

Yet I understand where these aggressive promoters are coming from. They read articles that say they need a platform, the publishers are no longer looking at number of blog followers or even Facebook friends, but at Klout scores. They read other articles that say having a platform isn’t enough on its own. You have to hold contests and bring people together into teams, do book give-aways and participate in blog tours. Promotion. It’s part of the book business, whether a person is self- or traditionally-published.

But in the back of my mind, I hear a quiet voice whispering, But I want you to love your neighbor.

There really are only so many hours in the day to do all we need to do. How’s someone with a day job, a writing career, a family, and church responsibilities supposed to add in promotion . . . and loving that needy neighbor?

I don’t have an answer on the promotion part yet. I figured I didn’t need to face that one until I actually have a book that needs to be promoted. But the loving my neighbor seems to be the larger, more pressing, and urgent task.

And yet, it also seems as if I may be overlooking the obvious. It came to me today as I listened to a tribute on the radio program Family Life Today for Dr. Howard Hendricks, former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, who passed away this week.

He taught for sixty years and continued to mentor seminary students even after his retirement. But what difference was he making in the lives of widows and orphans and strangers? How was he reaching the unreached with the good news of God’s good and free gift of His Son? In short, how was he delivering the cup of cold water or feeding the hungry or visiting the sick or imprisoned–the things Jesus said would be like doing those needful things for Him?

I have to believe that all the students–thousands and thousands, many of them in positions of leadership–who Dr. Hendricks taught may have learned from him the importance of loving their neighbor. His role, then was to love them by giving them not just a cup of cold water, but the whole well–or more accurately, the means by with they could go out and dig the well themselves.

And what about the rest of us who aren’t seminary professors? What about writers who are jammed up with edits and dirty dishes and stacks of laundry and grocery shopping and taxes and birthday parties? And promotion?

I think we’re simply to love the person in front of us. Whoever that might be. Whatever he might need.

Loving our neighbor isn’t going to look the same to each person. We’re not all going to travel half-way around the world to find a needy someone to love.

And the needy God puts in our path may not need medical care or bus fare or escape from an abuser. They might. But they might need someone to listen. Someone to cry with. Or even someone to sit beside. They might simply need us to stop talking about our book long enough for them to be noticed.

What Does God Think Of Social Media?


The majority of the people I associate with in the physical world don’t blog — or read blogs — aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, and probably haven’t heard of LinkedIn or Pinterest. But social media is here to stay and seems to be growing in its influence. If in doubt, listen to how many businesses now have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. Recently a couple of our local TV stations held contests to encourage people to “Like” them. (The prizes were pretty good, too, and I seriously considered putting my name in the hat.)

Another interesting and somewhat related piece of information — WordPress has recently added a new breakdown of my stats. I now can see by country how many views my blog receives.

By country? That startled me the first time I realized people in other parts of the world can read what I’m writing, but since then I’ve had editing clients or inquiries from Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Brazil.

These new stats confirm that, for whatever reason, people from various parts of the world are clicking over to A Christian Worldview of Fiction.

What a small world we are becoming.

Like most things, there are pluses and minuses to this amazing technology. Cyber-bullying has become an issue, but support communities have sprung up for people suffering from abuse or various types of cancer or any number of things. Identity theft has become a problem, but PayPal and online banking has made doing business easier and less time consuming. Dangerous relationships have developed on the Internet, but so have opportunities to help, pray for, and support someone like Katie Davis and her Amazima Ministry.

So what does God think of all this?

I believe He cares about all the stuff of our lives, big or small. He cares about the collective direction the world is taking, and He cares about the personal ramification for each person.

The last time the world got together in such a unified way, God split us up. (See Gen. 11:1-9). Prophecies of the last times, however, suggest there will be unified action again.

All of this togetherness, then, seems to be unfolding according to His sovereign plan.

And for the individual? I’m not sure things are different. If we are to be honest in our face to face relationships, I feel confident God expects us to be honest in our online interactions as well. If we are to be kind to our neighbors, then I believe we are to be kind to our Facebook friends, blog guests, Twitter followers, and the rest.

God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, hasn’t given us a pass to be rude to people we’ve never met, even when we disagree with them.

Granted, sometimes we don’t realize how our words are coming across. As was mentioned in the recent discussion about fiction, when it comes to writing, intent and interpretation both come into play to yield understanding.

I’ll be honest. I wish I had thought about what God thinks about the Internet years ago. I wish I’d considered what others might be thinking as they read my part of discussions. And I pray that I’ll remember what He thinks about it tomorrow, too.

The Internet and social media are here to stay, and God should be as much a ruler of my thoughts and actions in cyberspace as He is in my living room or church or car.

Published in: on March 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm  Comments (9)  
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