We Don’t Have What It Takes


Mountain climber
Recently on Twitter a Christian with some standing in the writer world tweeted this: “We all need to be reminded more often that we have what it takes. It’s true. You are enough.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t know what world this individual is living in, but in the real one, none of us is enough. We wouldn’t be around if our parents hadn’t seen us through that awkward stage called infancy! We weren’t enough in those early years.

None of us is growing our own food and making our own clothes and pumping our own water that I’m aware of. We aren’t enough in the day-to-day business of providing for our basic needs.

Someone in the writing business ought to be aware that none of us is enough. Writers need editors (or friends willing to read over our work for mistakes) and cover designers and Amazon if we want to do the simplest, most basic kind of publishing. Even if we decide we will put our work up on our blog, we are not alone in the endeavor. We not only need the blog platform, we need the computer and the software and the Internet connection. We simply are not enough.

But of course, our inadequacy is most evident when we look at spiritual matters. Our pride would like us to believe we’re enough. Satan would like us to believe we’re enough. The world, and now this professing Christian, tells us we’re enough. But God says we aren’t.

In fact God says our righteousness doesn’t cut it, that salvation is “not of ourselves” (Eph. 2:8-9), that it is found in no one except Jesus Christ (“There is salvation in no one else . . .” – Acts 4:12).

Quite honestly, I’m baffled. I know this “look to the power within” movement, a very Zen idea, is quite the rage these days. But really? Power to do what, precisely? Do we cause the sun to rise? The tides to swell or withdraw? Can we stop the rain from flooding or bring it to drought-ravaged land? Do we “have what it takes” to force our boss to give us a raise? Or cure our friend of cancer? Do we have what it takes to force ISIS to stop killing people or the Boko Haram to stop kidnapping and raping Christian girls in Nigeria? Is it in us to bring an end to the Ebola virus?

The amazing thing to me is that a handful of people have retweeted this utter nonsense and an almost equal number have favored it.

What do these people think we have in us that “is enough”? Enough for what? And what do we have? What is the “it factor”? And what does it accomplish?

I can see people reading those words now, nodding, and thinking, Oh, so wise. Yes, I am enough.

It’s a bit of meaningless garbage, but it stokes the ego—which I assume is why people think it’s worth passing on to others, why they want to save it where they can find it and read it again some day.

As near as I can figure, ego stroking is all those lines accomplish. They are void of any substance and they are patently untrue.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I know. Satan is all about cutting humans off from God upon whom we must depend.

God uses a variety of metaphors to show us our connectedness with Him, our dependency on Him. He says we’re sheep and He the Shepherd will guide us to green pastures, quiet waters. Christ says He’s the vine and we are the branches, that abiding in the vine is how we produce fruit. He says He is the head, the brain, if you will, and we are the body. Paul even identifies the lack of connection to Christ as pride:

Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. (Col. 2:18b-19, NLT)

Psalm 71 spells out our need for God, as opposed to an independent state of being enough:

For You are my hope;
O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.
By You I have been sustained from my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother’s womb;
My praise is continually of You. (vv 5-6)

The Psalmist did not say, my praise is continually of myself for I have it within me. I am enough.

So I wonder, have we stopped reading our Bibles that we would be suckered into believing this platitude of the world’s philosophy? I have to admit—I feel a little shell-shocked. I mean, believers, or at least professing believers, writing something or agreeing with it and sharing it with others, that is so contrary to what the Bible says is true. It’s another instance of calling wrong, right, and even encouraging others to do the same.

Make no mistake, though. God does not reveal in His word that we have what it takes, that we are enough. He reveals that our best efforts, our righteousness, is dirty, grimy, muddy, slimy, unclean, mucky foul, squalid, sordid, nasty, soiled, sullied polluted, contaminated, unhygienic, unsanitary rags:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on Your name,
Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us
And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities. (Isaiah 64:6-7)

So if by “we have it in us,” this individual means, we have the power of our iniquities in us, then OK. If by “you are enough,” this person means we are enough to cause God to turn from us because of our sin, then OK. I don’t think that’s what they were going for, though.

The reason this false teaching is a big deal is simply this: unless we see our need for a Savior, we won’t want one. Unless we realize we aren’t enough, we won’t seek the One who is enough. Unless we see our best efforts as God sees them, we won’t want the new life we can have in Christ. Instead we’ll be off trying to conquer mountains with what we have in us. Which decidedly isn’t enough.

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Published in: on May 28, 2015 at 6:20 pm  Comments (12)  
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An Argument Against Thanksgiving Day


horn_of_plentyWhen I was in school, our teacher would inevitable give us an assignment as Thanksgiving approached that required us to write down all the things for which we were thankful. From what I remember, I put the big things on my list: my parents, God, my home, my brother and sister, our cats and dog, my friends, school and teachers (OK, maybe I didn’t put those on the list. 😉 )

The point is, I was thinking of all the good things I had, in particular the ones I took for granted, but when I paused, I really was glad I had each one.

Never once did I think that Thanksgiving could be a day for digging deeper. In fact, this “count your blessings, name them one by one” approach to Thanksgiving trained me to think of the good things I was thankful for as the tangible evidence that God cared.

I didn’t stop to think that He might also care just as much for a little Christian girl in an orphanage in India who had no parents or home, and sometimes went to bed hungry.

I also didn’t realize that many, many of the people recorded in Scripture who started well, who said they would obey God, turned from Him on the heels of receiving His blessings.

King David comes to mind. He’d survived Saul’s attempts to kill him, ascended to the throne, and led his people to victory after victory. Then, as he enjoyed the fruit of his labor, he decided to stay home while his commander led his army into battle. And that’s when David saw Bathsheba, ignored the fact that she was married, and committed adultery with her.

David repented, but others never turned it around. King Asa, for example, ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah, walked with God and experienced great success against the enemies because he turned to God for help:

Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.”

God answered that prayer, and for thirty-eight years Asa ruled as a man dependent upon God. But there came a day when he decided to buy his way out of trouble instead of pray his way out.

His scheme worked, but here’s what God told him:

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

Asa could have repented too, but instead he threw Hanani into prison and he oppressed some of the people. He ended up sick, alone, and bitter. He had the blessing of answered prayer and God’s protection and power, and he turned his back on the Giver of all those good gifts.

I could go on and on. Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Uzziah, Miriam, Nadab and Abihu, Jonah, Gehazi, and many more.

It seems as if the good things either became an idol that moved in front of God as the most loved, or the individual took credit for the good things and moved himself in front of God as the most loved.

When the people of Israel were in want, they turned to God. When they experienced His abundance, they turned from Him.

So it seems to me, having a thanksgiving day in which we simply tick off the good things we have is a way to set ourselves up for failure. Not that we should deny the good things, but it seems to me the true approach to Thanksgiving should be an enumeration, not of our stuff, but of God’s attributes–the things He’s revealed about Himself that give us a look into His character. And not just an enumeration, but an all out face plant at His feet, thanking Him for who He is and what He’s done.

After all, who God is lies behind what He’s given us and why. Who God is will outlast any of the stuff we enjoy today. Who God is, is a treasure that outshines any other.

It’s certainly not wrong for anyone to celebrate a national Thanksgiving Day as we are here in the US this coming Thursday, or for anyone to have a personal day of giving thanks. For myself, though, I want to change my focus. I don’t want this to be about the good things our God gives but about our good God Himself.

I wish I was clever enough to make a video that would go viral or savvy enough to get this trending on Twitter. What I’d like to see is believers unite to say, I’m thankful because God is merciful. I’m thankful because God is just. I’m thankful because God is generous. I’m thankful because God is my salvation. I’m thankful because ___ Your turn! 😀

Published in: on November 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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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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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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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind?


How does one book take off like wildfire and another die like a match in the wind?

On one agent blog today I read about how she and a fellow agent had gone out to celebrate because their client’s book had stayed on the NYT best-seller list for twelve weeks. In fact, sales were rising, and the title had climbed to #2, with a shot at #1 if things continued to progress. The thing that I noticed in particular was how surprised she was that sales were growing, not shrinking.

Another agent today mentioned an article about how short the life of a link is these days. Apparently, if people don’t respond to your Facebook link or Twitter link within the first couple hours, they aren’t going to respond.

Out of sight, out of mind?

On one hand, this doesn’t surprise me because I know my own Twitter and Facebook habits. As a general rule, I’m not visiting my friends’ walls and reading their updates for the last few days or weeks. Instead, I’m reading the most recent updates whenever I pop over to my home page. Same with Twitter.

On the other hand, though, I’ve thought of book sales as a growing thing — the PyroMarketing approach. Mind you, I haven’t read Greg Stielstra’s book.

I do know that a good portion of new releases only stay on bookstore shelves for three months, that another portion of them are routinely returned to the publisher, never having been in the hands of a potential buyer. So I’m not saying naively that a book is bound to grow in sales simply because a writer tells people about it on Facebook or Twitter. And yet, I’ve believed the publishing marketers who say that word of mouth is the best marketing there is. Consequently, it seems sales should start to rise as word begins to spread.

One more thing to consider. A small press publisher tweeted today that book blog tours are largely worthless. Of course it’s a tweet, so no added information as to why this particular person reached this conclusion. You might guess that I have a different opinion, but here’s a professional who doesn’t see the return for the time spent organizing others to post about her books.

Not so long ago, author and friend Mike Duran hosted a discussion about social media and book marketing. It was interesting to see that some thought the online chatter was overrated.

So I come back to that first agent I mentioned, the one who was so excited their client’s book was increasing in sales. Could it be that the Facebook/Twitter model, something equivalent to a person’s fifteen minutes of fame, is the norm for most books — a quick blaze that fires hot for that three-month window, then burns itself out?

Does this happen because our culture is so ready to move on to the Next Big Thing? But if that were the case, then how is it that Harry Potter could remain such a huge commodity for over a decade?

Is the answer in the lack of persistence on the part of the author and publisher? After all, a book that’s been out for three months is about to be eclipsed by the author’s next release. So the efforts and emphasis now are going toward the book that will be, not the one that was.

In this environment, how, then, can a book/author grow an audience?

I’ve thought some about the phenomenon of The Shack because that book seemed to burn brighter and brighter. In relating its success to the factors I wrote about over at Spec Faith on Monday, I’d say it succeeded because it had three of the five elements I identified.

But The Shack had something I’d never seen before — in the back, the author listed action points for a satisfied reader to take to spread the word about the book. Rather than letting the book fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” category, or hoping that the reader would seek out the author online, this plea to spread the word almost became a part of the book.

It was unique and perhaps unrepeatable. And perhaps that’s the thing that will spread the word about books — something that isn’t an imitation of what others are already doing.

– – – – –

There are still three days left to vote in the “It’s All In The Opening” poll.

Published in: on September 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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Promotion, Promotion, Promotion


In his comment to yesterday’s post Alex said

you really have to wade through the muck to find someone with something interesting, or purposeful to say.

I suspect the flood of trivia, junk, dirt, spam, ads, and promotion has only just begun. Businesses have discovered the goldmine of marketing through bloggers. And people like me who want to create buzz about a particular something (in my case, Christian fantasy) will undoubtedly proliferate.

So do we all just jump on the spam wagon and ride it for all it’s worth? I don’t think so. Having something to promote does not mean I have to become a spammer.

If I have a product or know of a product that I think someone else might be interested in, then it’s worth talking about. That’s a far cry from a) lying about a product and saying it’s good when it isn’t; or b) pretending that everyone I know will be interested in it, when I know they won’t.

In my mind, what separates legitimate promotion from spam is this: honest evaluation and care for the consumer.

Believe me, I’ve read posts and emails and status updates that turn me off because no matter what the subject, in the end the person ends up telling us about his latest work or her latest book. Sometimes those are appropriate and fit in well. But sometimes those kinds of comments simply sound self-serving.

It reminds me of the complaints that were bandied about regarding Christian fiction being preachy. If the writing comes across as propaganda, then it ruins the story. I don’t see any difference in writing non-fiction—blog articles, emails, or tweets.

So what is propaganda? From Wikipedia: “propaganda in its most basic sense, often presents information primarily in order to influence its audience.” There’s the thing—the purpose of propaganda is actually to manipulate others. It goes beyond information. Here are examples of each.

Information: I like this, and I think other Christian women my age might like it too.

Propaganda: This is the best one yet, and your life won’t be complete unless you too, all of you, buy now, before the price goes up or they run out of the autographed edition (or hardback copy or accompanying tee shirt … )

Propaganda: Yellow Labs and Golden Retrievers are popular dogs, which reminds me of how popular my book has become.

😀 Yeah, promotion can morph into propaganda, and as I see it, that’s not a good thing.

What’s What with Social Networking?


So here’s my question. What do you think about social networks? I mean, first MySpace was all the rage, then Facebook, and now Twitter.

Once upon a time, I was involved in a growing online community, Faith in Fiction. We discussed books and writing and faith. It was a happening place where mostly wannabe authors congregated. A good number of those authors are now published and have blossoming writing careers.

But along the way, some of the regulars weren’t so regular any more. As it turned out, they had moved to the suburbs—they’d started their own blogs and were building their own communities. Consequently, they no longer had time to visit the old neighborhood.

Obviously I eventually followed suit. But now come the social (and business, a la LinkedIn) networks. Are these the new ‘burbs? Are people leaving Blogland for Twitterville? And why would they?

Is it time? Perhaps no one wants to take the time to read 400-800 word articles when you can touch bases with a scant 140 characters. But touching bases at what level? Can a person communicate anything meaningful in a Tweet?

As near as I can determine, Twitter was never intended to be a place for meaningful connection. Facebook gives many more options, but still, the format seems to encourage shorter bursts of thought or fun and games.

I had envisioned that my presence on Facebook might bring more visitors here to A Christian Worldview of Fiction, but so far I don’t have the numbers to back up that premise (although it’s a little hard to tell since I’ve been involved in two blog tours in the short amount of time I’ve been on Facebook).

So I’m wondering. Is our culture creating a sound-bite mentality? If it can’t be said in an easily repeated catch phrase, it isn’t worth saying … or reading?

Honestly, I feel privileged. I mean, Facebook has put me back in touch with many, many people I thought I’d lost track of.

But I’m wondering if the post-Facebook crowd, who no longer drives or walks or sits without an iPod playing or a cell phone implant hanging from their ear, will have people with whom to reconnect. I mean, what are friendships made of these days? Virtual coffee or St. Patrick Day shamrocks, a one line “sorry you’re having a bad day” bit of encouragement? How real are the connections?

This inquiring mind wants to know.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:50 am  Comments (11)  
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