Be Not Afraid: Updated for 2017

“Fear Not” appears in the Bible more than 100 times. In fact, the Bible talks a lot about fear. We are commanded to fear God and not His angels, not the world, not death, the list goes on. Why does God want us to fear Him? Because He wants our focus on what’s important, not the temporary realities (slings and arrows if you will) of living on earth. We’re inclined to be more concerned about our jobs, our financial situations, our health, kids, success in whatever way we define it, whether we’re loved. God has to remind us of what we should really be worried about – our heart and minds, our soul.

For a person struggling with anxiety, fear is a constant. It invades every-day thoughts. It’s an oppressive, unwelcome partner living only to sap a person’s strength, their contentment, their charity, and sometimes their sanity. It’s fear out of place and out of control. There’s nothing healthy about it. The kind of fear the Bible is talking about when it says Fear God, is not this. Not by a long shot.

Fear thou not; for I am with thee- be not dismayed; for I am thy God- I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (1)

Fearing God is to focus on the eternal, not the ephemeral. Fearing God is to put your Faith in Him alone, not in the authorities of the world, not in your pastor, not in your partner. Sure, you can have faith in institutions, leaders, and even loved ones, but they have feet of clay. When you put faith with the big F in these you are not fearing God. How can you be? You’re raising them up to have equal value as if they are as complete, as perfect, as powerful. And when they fail you, and they will, it shakes your foundations, making you question everything.

Is fear of God respect and reverence? Not quite. Think of it this way, God alone can save you from your sin, from your fickle heart, from your doubts, from your anger, from the deepest, darkest evil thoughts you pretend you don’t have. God alone. Being God-fearing is to remember that, to put your full faith and trust in the only being that can save you from yourself. If you’re not afraid of what you’d do without God, then you are mistaken. You, on your own, are not a good person. There are no good people. We are all lost without Him.

In our current political climate many of the popular preachers and leaders in Christian media are telling us to be afraid. They’re preaching fear of progressive politics, of immigrants, Muslims, liberals, gays, transgender people, leftist professors, anti-fascist protesters, or other, more shadowy groups. They are telling us to be afraid of our neighbor instead of fearing for our neighbor’s salvation. This is not the Gospel.

The Bible tells us what we need to fear and it isn’t anything of this earth. It isn’t anyone’s opinion, or politics, or sin. The Bible tells us to fear God. It’s time we listened.

 

 

Pick Your Battles Wisely: Or Why Columbus Day Is No Hill To Die On

Since today is Columbus Day and the United States is still mired in political partisanship, your social media feeds are likely to be clogged with memes both praising and criticizing Christopher Columbus. Possibly one like this:

Columbus meme 2

Or maybe this one:

Columbus meme.
Yikes. Women are not a resource, dude.

Or this:

CC meme

Columbus day became an official holiday in 1937, but it had been celebrated for quite a while before that. Columbus was a venerated figure symbolizing exploration, progress, and the history of the founding of our nation. It was in the late 20th century that historians began to research the details of his life and voyages that were less savory; the treatment of native peoples, the start of the Atlantic slave trade, etc. An established fact is that Columbus had been replaced as governor of the territory he explored due to accusations of tyranny. In 2006 a document was discovered in an archive. It had the record made by his successor that detailed those charges and the evidence discovered and boy, was it grim.

Rethinking Columbus Day as a holiday to venerate a man who was a brave and skilled explorer, but was also a flawed and maybe even terrible human being, is valid. We should question our choice of who we hold up as heroes for our kids. We should not sugar-coat our history to make the rise of the United States look better. In order to form this union, a lot of native peoples died. To say it was a genocide is not that wide of the mark. Asking questions and acknowledging the facts of our origins is not erasing history, it’s being truthful to it.

Today you may see a meme that makes you angry, or begs to be refuted. Maybe it’s a post that makes you want to pull one of these:

ANGER_Render

you’ll be tempted to argue one way or the other.

Don’t.

Was Christopher Columbus a Christian? Maybe. But the holiday isn’t for his faith, it’s for his exploration. Simply put, Christians do not have a dog in this fight. For far too long American Christians have taken the flag and wrapped it around the cross. We’ve defended traditional Americana as if it was the Gospel. It’s time to stop.

We have one main job on this earth – to spread the Good News that while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us. His perfect sacrifice has atoned for us and all we need do is repent, place our faith in Him, turn from our sin, and follow Christ. Our secondary job is to love one another, love our neighbors, and even love our enemies. Don’t let the petty squabbles of today get in the way of sharing the Truth or actively loving the people that God has put in our lives.

You might have strong opinions about this, but what do they serve? Are you an authority who can bring clarity to the debate? Or is this another argument that will push your neighbors and friends who think differently than you further away? There are so many forces trying their best to pull us apart. Don’t rise to the bait. Let it go.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the early Christians. Ours was a faith derided as one practiced by and only fit for ‘slaves and women’. Those early believers traded their status for the Grace of God. They were about as counter-culture as you can get. When I find myself in the middle of a social media dust up, I think of them. What deserves my passionate defense? My energy? My time? They risked their lives to save children literally thrown away. They spent their time and energy promoting the Gospel. They ministered to the sick, the outcasts, the stranger, and the poor.

Putting that frame around the current discord has been helpful. I’ve found myself bowing out mid-argument because it’s not where I should be in the first place. And I’m a lot more careful with my tone. Christians do not mock. I don’t think we should be snarky or dismissive either. Christ saved his anger for the men turning his Father’s house into a temple of greed. He flipped tables and drove them out. But look how he dealt with sinners? He sat down with them and talked. He had dinner with them and talked. He traveled to their town and talked. We need to be careful in our rhetoric, to follow his example.

So, sit this one out. Enjoy the day off if you have it. Read a book (mine, maybe) and enjoy your friends and family. Spread a little love around and have a Happy Columbus Day.

HelloKitty-PeaceOut

 

 

 

Here Be Dragons: Twitter’s Stormy Seas

Hands down the most helpful information I have sourced on publishing and even creative writing itself has been through Twitter.   I opened an account years ago just to check it out and then ignored it for a good five years because my life got really complicated.  In a six month stretch I had a baby, my husband was laid-off from his job, my career took off in an unexpected way so I was a bit distracted for a few years.  When I decided to take writing seriously again I found my way to Twitter through a random blog I was ready and BAM!  The info dump began.

If you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll know that it was through a Twitter pitch contest, PitchWars that I realized my finished manuscript needed some serious work and that I was not prepared to publish.  I began to follow editors, agents, and fellow authors on Twitter and the information kept flowing. I did an online workshop From Pitch to Published and finally learned what my MS needed and it was through yet another pitch contest that I realized my MS did not have what it takes to attract an agent and eventually trunked it to concentrate on new work I was far more excited about.

My engagement on Twitter has helped to demystify the process of querying and has given me a far better understanding of the publishing industry.  So, Yay Twitter!  Right?  Yes, with a few caveats.

1. Just like anywhere on this planet, there are people on Twitter looking to make money off you by offering you products and services you do not need.  If you’re a writer you really need to pay attention since there are a wealth of really great offerings and among them, some iffy ones. Research is your friend here.  I found a great workshop on Twitter, but there’s others out there that are squiffy. Make like Sherlock.

Sherlock
That’s Jeremy Brett, Baby. Cumberbatch wishes he was this awesome

 

2. Twitstorms:  Holy Toledo is Twitter filled with some rage.  It’s the ‘car effect’ – you know when you’re in your car and someone cuts you off and you let loose a stream of curses against them, their house, their dog because the physical isolation let’s you forget their humanity?  Twitter (and elsewhere online) allows you to have a degree of anonymity and just enough distance from your target to bring out the worst in you.  There is a person on the other end of that post or that comment.  Do not engage unless you can remember that.  Your shouty rants can be seen, screen captured, and live for eternity.  They can also end your career.  The thing about Twitstorms?  They get out of hand quickly so protect yourself.  When someone gets all up in your face, walk away.  Do not engage.  Seriously.  And if someone needs it – block them!  I actually had to do this just once when a gentleman did not care for my reply on someone else’s Tweet. He was rather…unpleasant so I blocked him.

Twister
See that cow. Don’t be that cow.

 

3. Scam/spam/phishing:  Use the same common sense you use elsewhere online.  Never give out personal info, guard your passwords, don’t click on links from unknown sources.  Really.  That is baaaad news.

mad eye
Mad Eye was right.

4. Friends and Followers:  First of all, follow you you find interesting, follow fellow authors, follow editors and agents and publishers you’d like to work with and do not freak out if you have too few followers.  Unless you write non-fiction a potential agent doesn’t care how many followers you have on Twitter.  Use it as a tool, a source of entertainment, and when you have a readership as a way to connect with them.  That being said, there are programs out there that help you manage your followers if you’d like to obsess about that. I like Friend Or Follow.  It’s free and if you want to see who unfollowed you it’s an easy way to do that.   As a general rule when someone follows you, check out their profile and if they seem to be someone you might like hearing the thoughts of, follow them back.  If not, you can ignore them entirely or tweet to them to say thanks for the follow.     If you find someone you follow interesting 90% of the time then they start live Tweeting episodes of the Bachelor or something equally heinous – you do not need to unfollow.  You can Mute them instead.  Then unmute them when you think the coast is clear.

hands

 

5. Politics:  I like politics. I love to debate.  I am also pretty dang opinionated and I can get downright fiery.  But, even I am astonished by Twitter’s ability to get uppity about polarizing topics.   Twitter is both reactionary and self-righteous in it’s anger and no subject is too petty.  Doesn’t matter what side of the issue you are on, there’s bound to be some shouting.  People assume the absolute worst about every comment made, every person speaking.  The hate that is then spewed at that person for making that comment is then extreme.   Tread lightly, friend.  I’m not saying keep your opinions to yourself. I would have an aneurysm if I tried, but go with care knowing that the Twitterverse is ready to misinterpret, misunderstand, and take offence.   As Facebook is often conservative in it’s overall tone, Twitter is often progressive, but both are shrill and often one-dimensional.   Facebook can be an ech0-chamber if your friend group is not diverse and that’s where Twitter differs.  Sure you can follow like-minded folks only, but your tweet can be see by anyone so you’ll get comments from anyone – no privacy settings to save you.  I’ve waded into these choppy waters cautiously because I feel strongly about having constructive conversations with fellow citizens I don’t agree with.  I encourage you to do the same, but again – cautiously.

Caution-Sign-psd55805

 

All that being said, if you’re an author looking for representation or just looking to better understand the industry – get on Twitter!  Go now!  And upload a picture when you get there – don’t be an egghead.  🙂

Sound off in the comments:  Who do you follow and why?  Have you been caught up in a Twitstorm?  What’s your best advice for a newbie?