Are We Over-complicating Life?



Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

I’ve heard of oh, so many people who are stressed out, and any number of new books are hitting the shelves about managing our anxiety. I’ve even written blog posts on the subject (such as this one or this one).

Worse, the suicide rate among teens is on the rise, and there’s apparently so much pressure on kids to get good grades, to get into the right universities, that some people have simply thrown away the book on right and wrong.

What’s the matter with us? Our technology is supposed to make life easier, but teens are now getting killed because they allow their screens to dictate their lives. They get lured into places by dangerous people, they text while they drive, they tarnish their reputation by foolish pictures or comments or arguments.

And parents aren’t far behind. They work so hard to accomplish so much and then face their empty nest without a relationship with the kids they thought they were doing all their frantic activity for.

I didn’t mean to get started on the negative stuff. The fact is, even if we’re not living it, we rub shoulders with those who are.

But we ought to live differently. God put all people on this earth that He might enter into a friendship with each of us, that we can enjoy Him, that we can shine a spotlight on Him to show others how great He is.

Isn’t that what we do with our family? Pull out the phone and show pictures of the new baby or post the graduation shots on social media? We want people to know how great our kids are. How cute, how accomplished, how hard working. We want everyone to know what we know about them.

So, why shouldn’t we want to do the same about our Father? Our Heavenly Father? It’s a normal, natural family reaction—hold up the picture so everyone can see Him. Tell others how great He is.

Of course we can’t tell people about what we don’t know, so we need to wrap ourselves in this relationship and learn all we can about the God who made us, who loves us, with whom we will spend eternity.

Instead, we scurry and storm about trying to accomplish all the things the world tells us are important. We need to earn, accomplish, move up the corporate ladder.

But why?

If we were made for one thing, just one thing, why do we trouble ourselves with doing so many other things?

Jesus put it this way to His friend Martha:

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42; emphasis mine)

What had Mary chosen? To sit at Jesus’s feet and learn from Him. Enter into relationship with Him. Spend time with Him.

I don’t know how that would look for others living in western society in the 21st century. Each person has to decide that for himself or herself, but I’m pretty sure we all think there’s more than one thing that “is necessary.”

Jesus said, No. Only one is necessary.

The rest? We put them into places of importance, sometimes even crowding out the necessary to work on our other stuff.

Ironic. I recently heard a pastor preach on knowing God’s will. He gave something like eight questions that he asks to know what God wants for him—the ones he suggests everyone else asks in order to figure out God’s will. In the back of my mind I thought, Really? Jesus put two things before us: love God and love our neighbor. That’s what God’s will is. I don’t need to over complicate this issue. To Martha, He narrowed that down to one thing: the necessary thing.

We love God by sitting at His feet until we desire what He desires, until we do what He directs us to do. We love our neighbors by putting the needs of those who cross our paths before our own needs. I could give examples, but really it’s not up to me to define what this means for other people. I have to know what God is saying by His Holy Spirit, to me.

But it’s not complicated. Not really.

Advertisements

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)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

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  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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)  
Tags: , , , ,