Tag Archives: community

Virtual Blog Tour

A few weeks back I was asked to take part in a virtual blog tour by one of my readers, to which I agreed. I usually avoid things such as the blog awards that roam around WP, nothing against them, but they feel somewhat like those chain emails or “I bet you won’t share this on facebook” to me. The Virtual Blog Tour however is different, to me at least, and hey I always wanted to go on tour 😉

To begin with the person that asked me to be a part of it is one of my most consistent readers, Julie Harris, my fellow bloggers will surely understand how much that means to me! If you read my writing almost every time I press, there is a good chance I’ll say yes to a groovy little social experiment. Julie’s blog is always a pleasure to read, she writes poetry, sings songs and shares stories of her walk and family life that will surely be a blessing to anyone that reads them.

The rules of the Blog Tour are to invite 3 others to join the tour and give them a Monday to post on & answer a few questions of your writing. I am suggesting Monday August 18th for my fellow tourists. On that day they will recommend 3 other blogs for you to visit & answer the questions just as I am to do below.  Coming up with 3 blogs to suggest you visit is not quite as easy as it sounds. Apparently I follow 113 blogs, although admittedly not all of them are active (this is probably a good thing because I’d never be able to read everything if they were). I love all the bogs I read, that is the reason I read them regularly, I don’t follow blogs as a way to try and garner readers, there are some very good blogs that I don’t follow just due to a lack of reading time.

However to choose just 3 to recommend you to go visit (& have them agree to take part), is not so easy, on the bright side I’ve never been that great with rules anyway. So what I’m going to actually do is give you 2 bloggers who have graciously agreed to be part of the tour and then recommend you visit 3 of my go to blogs in 3 different categories, these blogs are not part of the official tour (unless they just want to be), but you should go check them out because they’re awesome.

1 – First up we have the “Abuse Expose With Secret Angel” – http://secretangelps911.wordpress.com/

This may be one of the most important blogs out there, Secret Angel is writing to raise awareness of all kinds of abuse & helping the victims of abuse. She writes some beautiful prayerful poetry and she has even written a book on abuse that you can find here: http://www.thewalkingwounded.us/. I’ve been reading this blog for so long I don’t actually recall how God graced me with finding it, but I am very grateful He did.

 

2 –Next we have the “Journey of Kylie” – http://journeyofkylie.com/  Kylie writes a wonderfully eclectic blog ranging from life as a music college student to dealing with life as a person living with bipolar disorder.  Bipolar is honestly not something I knew a lot about before starting to read Kylies blog and it is something we should all know more about so we can better understand it.

Kylie also produces a weekly podcast with Kenneth Justice (http://culturemonk.com/) which you can check out here: http://kennyandkylie.com/ it is a 30 minute show dedicated to blogging, each week they have a different guest and is not only good entertainment but has become for me a fantastic way to discover some new excellent blogs to read, I have discovered some of my favorite new blogs through the show.

 

Now for my random randomness section, these guys are not parts of the tour, but I’d recommend you check them out anyway (even limiting this part to 9 was tricky)

 

Christian Devotionals, teachings & thoughts

 

The River Walk – http://tworiversblog.com/ (Devotionals that will cause you to think deeper about your faith)

In My Father’s Househttp://melwild.wordpress.com/  (I’m fairly new to following this blog, but what I have read on the Father’s love has quickly established it as a favorite)

Oh the Things We Shall See –  http://ohthethingsweshallsee.com/  (Delightful photography & heartwarming devotions, you should check out the poetry too!)

 

Poetry

Richard Ankers Writeshttp://richardankers.com/  (I’m not sure what should annoy me more, the ridiculous productivity or the astoundingly high quality of all his creations)

Tender Heart Musingshttp://tenderheartmusings.wordpress.com/  (Sometimes more can be said with less, the poetry here is usually short, but utterly stunning in beauty).

Jenny Kissed Me –  http://jeglatter.wordpress.com/  (Another home to consistently excellent poetry. While you’re there you should definitely check this entry out http://jeglatter.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/acceptance/ )

 

Life / Other

Long & Luxe – http://longandluxe.com/  (Spiritual writing that will bless you no matter where your faith comes from)

Chapter TKhttp://chaptertk.com/  (TK questions everything & will make you do the same)

Variety of Sound – http://varietyofsound.wordpress.com/  (They make really good VST compatible audio effect plugins (& they’re free) if you record music at home you need to check them out)

 

Now for the questions I was given to answer:

What are you working on/writing? 

I have a laundry list of things I need to start making progress on, I need to be more intentional with writing my longer posts. The biggest things that I am working on, other than my ongoing music project, are a couple of bible / life study posts and also a chapter story set in the old west that I started last year and has sadly been untouched for months. Hopefully I can get them finished later this year.

How does your work/writing differ from others of its genre? 

There is definite randomness to my writing and the subjects of my writing that you don’t see everywhere. I feel that there is no one subject that defines my life & so there is no one subject that defines my blog. Obviously my faith is central to who I am & I’d like to think that shows in my blog, no matter what the subject.

Why do you write/create what you do?

I write primarily to force myself to think, something I didn’t do a lot of until a couple of years ago. I also write because it turns out I am a naturally creative person & creatively expressing what is inside really helps me to maintain my inner peace.

There are also loftier goals of trying to become a better person, deepen my relationship with Jesus. Externally my hope is to encourage others to let their light shine, if little old me can shine, imaging how amazing you could be? Just let yourself go, you are beautiful and amazing; the world needs to see that!

How does your working/writing process work?

It depends on what I am writing. When I’m writing poetry, there is usually a prompt, it can be a thought, something I see or something I feel, I then try to capture that as quickly as possible, most of my poetry is written in just a few minutes.

My longer articles are a little different, although they also usually come from an idea or a moment of inspiration. Sometimes I will write immediately, but more often I will sit on the idea for a while to determine where I want to go with it. When it is time to actually write though I usually try to get as much done at one time as possible. Much of that is determines by the optimum availability of time and energy, not a mix that always happens as often as I’d like.

 

And there you have it, hopefully my bending the rules didn’t mess the concept up too much 🙂

Healing, Your Story & The Journey – The JIBTYI Notes; part 7

The original plan was not to do a chapter by chapter break down of Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined (by Jonathan Merritt), although thus far I kind of have, as such I am going to stop and wrap this thing up today.  There are so many great thought provoking pieces in the book from Jesus’ baptism and the question of what it might have symbolized to finding Jesus in sacrilege, dealing with tragedy, fighting the impression of God’s absence in your pain. There is a great piece on the community of the church and what that means, I have written on community many times before and I’m sure I will again.  There is a great section looking at the use of sheep and the shepherd that will radically change your thought process.

It wasn’t my intention to paint myself as some kind of victim when writing my thoughts, all though in some respects I certainly I was. Those incidents were just the things that came to mind, more the things that happened to me to cause my brokenness rather than the choices I made as a result of my brokenness (a revelation previously that cured much of my guilt struggles).  It is written that he who is forgiven much will love much, I think the same is true of the one that is healed much.

The past is the past, for me it is dealt with, it no longer holds a controlling influence in my life. However my story is still my story and if my brokenness or my stupidity can help just one person, then it is not for nothing, this is the reason I share things. While I didn’t really learn anything new about the actual incidents from my past itself when revisiting, finally understanding that God was there with me through it all was worth the price of admission itself.

The great thing is that when we are connected to God, truly in relationship with Him, He can make all kinds of miraculous changes to us. The pain of my past is no longer an anchor that I drag behind me, it is my story, it is my history, but it does not define me. I found healing in Jesus, He brought me to the place and to the people that He wanted to use to help me and it has been an incredible journey. Getting healing is not easy. Facing your demons is a challenge, but when compared to experiencing the pain of being in those challenges it is nothing. Sure it hurts for a while, it is certainly not fun, but if you have survived what caused the wounds, you can certainly survive the healing. Once you survive the healing, that’s it, it is healed, there may be more to work on, but that is it, no longer a festering wound, but a scar that can point to your history. Now you get to face the next challenge of figuring out how to live life without the wounds you have used as a crutch or an excuse for your behavior for so long, that is a whole other kind of challenge right there.

The life of faith is not to be one of an introspective self-help course. There is of course a great need for personal healing in order to be fully free. However if you remain in the introspective process you will become trapped by a religion and not experience the freedom offered by salvation. Instead press forward through your infancy as you become healthy, this may take days or this may take years. However, there will come a time, a clearly appointed time if you listen to the Lord, when it is time for you to move forward into maturity.

For all the wonderful guidance and revelations in JIBTYI, life it always seems to come back to the things I know to do, no matter what book or what sermon. Keep your focus on God, make time for God, and guard your heart (be careful with how you live your life, one wrong step easily leads to another). Do these things, live life well and it will make sense. It may not go the way you would like, but if you are deeply connected to Jesus, if you have His peace, if you can find the joy that Paul writes about, then life works. This to me is the secret to the free life, the life after healing, the life free from the bondage of simply surviving.

It is not always easy to keep pressing, it’s not always easy to keep wanting to. It can be difficult at times to keep your focus on God when life is happening all around you. Sometimes you will forget, sometimes you will royally screw up, but He will use that, He uses all things. Sometimes we have to be reminded (hopefully briefly) or our capacity to fail and of how much we still need to be in relationship with God in order to focus, and really start to make progress. It is important to keep moving forward because any attempt to stay still will result in stagnation, attrition and a general reversal of progress.

The fun part is that this journey looks different for all of us. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. We have to find what it means to be us, what it means to honor God with your life. Striving for some unattainable level of excellence, of righteousness, is not pursuing God, it is seeking to glorify oneself and leads down the path to become a Pharisee. God is glorified when we are authentic, not when we try to pretend to be what we think the world says that we should be.

We are called to a life of honor, a life of love, a life of mercy, a life where our faith is displayed by our deeds. For how can you truly say “I believe” if your faith and belief does not spur you into a way of life that was foreign to you previously. Instead of anger and judgment, offer love and grace. Instead of hiding behind business and stimuli, consciously make the effort to be aware, take time, even a short time to be still. For it is in the stillness that you will be refreshed and directed, not when the volume of your life is so loud that you can hear nothing around you.

When your story does not bring you to your knees anymore, when your relationship with God is healthy, then you are really ready to start using it. That is not to say you could not use it before, but when you reach some undefinable level of maturity, then it is time to really move. Your testimony is your story and the gospel of your life is a story that should be shared. People are desperate for community, deep meaningful relationships. Being authentic and transparent is the way to share your story, not with window dressing or exaggeration, nor recklessly. If you are a believer and want to lead people to Jesus, you should end with the bible, not begin with it, you begin with your story, you begin with a relationship. Most people who do not know Jesus will run from a “religious nut job”, however they will run to a genuine friend, so start with coffee, certainly not judgment. When that friendship allows you to share your story of redemption, that is when the seed is sown to allow it to become their story of redemption.

Now please don’t think that I am trying to somehow minimize the bible, the bible is unspeakably important, it is the written word of God, living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. However the bible is rarely going to draw in a pre-believer, the bible is where you take them after you have built the relationship. We need to be careful not to minimize God to a book, yes it is His book, but He is so much more than the bible, when we limit Him to just the bible we do Him a great disservice.

Community is something that must be built and entered into, not demanded on odd moral grounds. It is the purpose of life, it is the greatest way to bring honor to God, it is not just for us, it is a legacy that will be left.

Community is built on relationships, great relationships are built on mutual respect and compassion. Compassion is the choice, not the obligation, to enter into someone’s world & feel the intensity of their life, to share their pain, to offer a plan for relief. Not because you had to, or it was the right thing to do, but because you need to, you want to, because you love enough, because you are loved enough, because Jesus will always be better than you imagine.

 

The previous posts related  can be found here:

 

The book “review” for Jesus is Better Than You Imagined

Good Gifts – The JIBTYI Notes; part 1

Slow Down – The JIBTYI Notes; part 2

Limiting the Limitless – The JIBTYI Notes; part 3

Getting Mugged and Believing the Impossible – The JIBTYI Notes; Part 4

Bullying and Masks – The JIBTYI Notes; part 5

Waiting and Bartering – The JIBTYI Notes; part 6

 

notes

What do you like about blogging?

One of the blogs I most enjoy reading is The Culture Monk (http://culturemonk.com/), I thoroughly enjoy his social observations and balanced worldview. The “drinking in the culture tour” has taken things to a new level and on top of that there is his new adventure of a podcast, the man clearly has too much time on his hands 😉 you should head over there and enjoy it (after finishing reading of course). During the first podcast the question was posed; what started you blogging, what do you like about blogging? Etc etc. On the surface it is a very generic question, yet one I feel is highly pertinent to me at this juncture as I’ve found myself not devoting as much time and effort to my blog recently as I used to.

I have answered this question several times, especially early in my blog, but here we go again. What do I like about blogging after 15 months or so of doing it? What keeps me writing? What keeps me reading? Etc. If I were to identify one thing about blogging that I like the most, it would not be writing or stirring my creativity, it would be the community. It is rare in my first person life to meet people who think deeper and actually articulate those thoughts readily in conversation. It could be that is just my lack of social abilities to deeply engage people; other than my friends at church who as fellow life survivors join me regularly in deeper conversation.

Regardless of my face to face (ever improving) social ineptitude, today it is the blogging community that keeps me interested in blogging in general. My experience has been one of an open and welcoming community, supportive and enjoyable. From poetry to Christianity, social observations to travel blogs, regardless of the blog type, the collective attitude is usually one of welcome.

There is not always that much to it; maybe it’s a comment, maybe its hitting the like button. Maybe it’s a virtual friendship that is built on sharing each other’s thoughts over a period of time. Regardless the community aspect of blogging is good. It’s funny, community, real community is so sadly lacking in western society today that virtual communities are almost becoming more real & more common place that physical communities where everyone is just too busy to slow down and enjoy each other.

Let me try to phrase it this way, it feels like everyone in America is too busy to enjoy living life, then when we realize it we hate ourselves and hide in our business to try and get away from hating life & so the cycle continues until something breaks it, the wake-up call, the come to Jesus moment, you get what I’m saying.

In a way blogging does not help with this, it is not real time, it is not face to face, it is done on your schedule. Yet I feel that when approached correctly, you find not only a community of people facing the same challenges; but as you are drawn into reading the blogs, you find yourself slowing down, it may be for only 5 minutes while you look at your phone when you are supposed to be working, but those 5 minutes probably made your day better, they probably made the madness of 21st century adult life a little more bearable, it does for me at least.

One of the beauties of the blogging community is discovering something new. Sometimes for me that is new poetry or some other art form. Sometimes it is running across a new blog, usually somehow connected to one of the blogs I am reading. There are so many things that I don’t think about, so many new perspectives to learn about. When I run across a deep thinking blog it reminds me of why I got on this blogging journey in the first place. It was never supposed to be simply a creative outlet, although that is a very good thing; it was always supposed to be about causing myself to think more, to not go through life on auto pilot. That is one of the things I love most about the blogosphere, the people who are way better at thinking than I am that cause me or challenge me in some small way to become more than I was 5 minutes before I read their thoughts.

There is something special to being a part of the community, it means something, in some ways it is unspoken, but there is a great multitude out there that get it. You are not just a lone voice in the night, but part of a collective that whether we realize or not, is making the world just that little bit brighter. We are all drawn to communities in life, wanting to be accepted, to be part of something, maybe its sports fandom, maybe it’s a book club, maybe it’s a gaming clan, community is a craving at the core of humankind. This particular community just happens to be, in my opinion, a beautiful crazy diverse cross section of the world.

I’m sure there are many bloggers out there who do not think this way, who are in it for notoriety or whatever; I would be surprised to find myself clicking the follow button on those blogs though. That follow button that I have a love hate relationship with. I love to read blogs, but after a while it is easy to have a “reader” that is overwhelming with the content for you to read through. It becomes a struggle with time, time for writing and time reading. Are you really reading and comprehending or just scanning, are you enjoying it or has it become a chore, are you even remembering to do any of it at all?

So like all healthy life, it goes back to the fine art of finding balance. I love the blogging community but I cannot read every post that is pressed from every blog I follow. Sometimes there will be great blogs out there that I just won’t discover because of time. Sometimes my own blog will be sadly neglected as I pursue other things in life. I have learned that this is ok, the blogging world will not fall apart in my absence and, it seems it will always welcome me back when I do have time. After all, just like just like music or video games or sports, blogging is my hobby, it is not my job, it certainly is not as important as my family & the great thing is, most everyone out there seems to get this too. Hence, once again I tell you, the blogging community is the best part about blogging. And I apparently have just rediscovered the ability to ramble and circle talk again, I should write some more and quickly…

Which just leaves the question: What do you like about blogging?

Community

I recently read an excellent piece on community or to be precise genuine Christian community on the blog here in the after. It resonated with me deeply, so I felt I should write my own thoughts on the subject and my search for it. It won’t be as in depth or as beautifully eloquent but it will be at least my own exploration & if you’re used to reading my writings at all you’ll now that exploring what is going on inside of me is what this blog is all about.

I looked up the definition & these were what sprang to my attention:

Community; a unified body of individuals; an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location.

The community of Christ is way more than just going to church with people. It is more than just friendships. It is a deep connection with true believers the world over. It is true friendships, real deep trusting relationships. My pastor talks about the different levels of relationships, level one being your typical cowboys & the weather relationship. I am a master of this kind of relationship. The opposite end of the spectrum, the level 10 relationship is complete trust, complete honesty, no secrets, a friend that knows not only the best of you but the absolute worst of you & they still love you, they are still proud to call you a friend, they love you like Jesus does. With the exception of my marriage I have been an abject failure at these types of relationships. Although my marriage is certainly the best place to start!

There are many reasons for my failings with relationships of depth but I won’t go into them here. Let’s just say I am in recovery, it starts with healing, it continues with awakening & over time the transformation while you don’t see it happening, it’s like a butterfly coming from a caterpillar.

A couple of years ago frustrated at the lack of Christian men in my life I prayed for God to bring me a friend, just 1. Later that year my church started a new men’s ministry, I got involved, volunteered to be a table lead in the small group I joined, completely out of my comfort zone but I did anyway. What came from that was not 1 friend, but 10s of friends and a few of those friends who going by the scale I’m probably already at a 5 with. It is not easy, it takes effort & commitment, but what good thing doesn’t. All I know is that I feel alive when I drag myself out of bed early on a Saturday to hang out with my band of brothers so learn of the ways God wants to transform us. I feel even more alive when we go out & serve together, those are special times for me.

For me, a true Christian community is a bunch of people walking in the freedom of these level 10 relationships & taking that into the world & making a difference in the name of Jesus. Feeding the poor, helping the hurting & broken, not bible pounding, but being Jesus with skin on, making a difference & shining his light in the world for his glory. That to me is community & when the community of Christ lives like this, not only is it a beautiful thing, but the world notices. They notice, sadly they do not recognize it as normal behavior for the 21st century church, but hopefully my generation & those coming after us can work to change that.

Ultimately for me this journey of self-improvement, as much as it is about discovering who I truly am, it is about being a better member of the community of Christ. If I am seeking self-improvement simply for myself, it is empty, it is meaningless to me. Sure I might be a better person, I might find more enjoyment out of life but I would fall back into the old struggle of what is the point in life. I feel most alive when I am in a community of believers, that is my place in life, I don’t know if it is a calling, but it is certainly my place & I thank Jesus for that & that he didn’t wait any longer than he did to call me into it.

Of course community is not just a Jesus thing, its better with him, but almost everything in life is better when shared. Music is wonderful by yourself, but it is a powerful experience when shared. The same with sports, food, movies you name it & I bet it is better with a friend.

So did I just write about community or relationships? Not sure, for me I think to sum it up I believe an effective community is a collection of deep and healthy relationships.

I had the thought today about how many people who attend church are not in community, how the lack or deep relationships is strangling the church. Thoughts came to me about things to write, like elevator music Christianity, which I only say because I think it’s an awesome line. If I am honest though, my heart brakes for those not in real community. I pray for an awakening in their lives, because if they know it is real, if they know it is possible, how could they not want it & strive for it? Sure everyone is different, but everyone deep down craves acceptance & love. So I guess the main thing for those of us in real community, especially those who have been in it for a while (I’m getting there) is to make sure to share it. It has to be an open door thing, God’s love doesn’t max out , you love these people with God’s love, so just keep loving & enjoy the ride. Live like Jesus, he hid nothing & loved everyone, it’s impossible for me, but for Him through me, He can do it.

 

Side note, I love this song, it speaks to where I am at right now so much.

He is spring time, He makes all things new