Introducing Null


Howdy, Readers!

My friend Hank recently started up a blog, and I thought his first post might interest some of you. The post is titled “Uncomfortable Atheists”, and is a response to recent research revealing that atheists, as well as Christians, feel uncomfortable when asked to pray for unfortunate events in others’ lives.

Here’s the link to Hank’s blog, and I’ve also added it to my list of links on the sidebar in that ——> direction.

🙂

Enjoy.

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A World Where People Don’t Think


The following is a post from June 27th by Nathan Bransford that articulates (better than I’ve ever been able to) why I’m not on Facebook. Bransford’s blog has been more helpful than any other in my attempts to learn the publishing industry, so you should check it out by clicking here.

Jonathan Franzen and a Fear of Noise

Jonathan Franzen, like any curmudgeon, is eminently easy to make fun of. From his hyperbolic denunciations of social media and e-book readers to his passion for birds to that whole Oprah thing… he’s an easy target.

So I was extremely excited about seeing him speak in person this past Thursday. I even live-tweeted some quotes, which I knew would probably annoy him intensely considering he called Twitter “unspeakably irritating”:

“What is fiction if not a purposeful dreaming?” – Jonathan Franzen

I’m a huge fan of Jonathan Franzen the writer, but could not have a more different worldview than Jonathan Franzen the social commentator. Where Jonathan Franzen loathes e-books I see vast potential, where he fears social media I’ve made it a career, and where his worldview and human nature is rather bleak with a touch of anger, I’ve been described as being “posi-core.”

And yet, after seeing Franzen speak… I finally think I get where he’s coming from.

The moment that made it click for me was almost a throwaway. He was talking about that feeling you have after you’ve stayed up an hour too late reading a book, and how much better you feel after doing that than when you’ve stayed up too late watching the World Series of Poker.

Eureka!

I honestly have no idea why that made it click for me, but for some reason it did. I think what makes Franzen tick is a fear of noise.

What’s apparent from hearing Franzen talk is how deeply he thinks about everything. He was reading his remarks, but was still thinking about his words as he was talking. He isn’t afraid to let twenty seconds go by as he thinks about how he will respond to a question. He is extremely self-aware and is constantly self-examining his motives and hangups. He opened his talk by saying, “I’m here because I’m being paid to be here.”

There’s a palpable Franzenian weariness and almost exhaustion in all this thinking. He said of his process, “When I’m writing I don’t want anyone else in the room – including myself.”

But I can see why someone who thinks so deeply and intensely about things would be wary of social media, which he referred to dismissively as “that stuff.” I can see why someone who enjoys deep thinking would also be passionate about bird watching, with its waiting, long treks, and elusive moments of glory.

And you know what? If this is what he believes (I don’t presume to speak for him), he has a point.

We do live in a world of tremendous distraction. We have all but eliminated boredom. Every stoplight is a moment to check our e-mail, every wait in a supermarket line is a chance to sneak a peek at Twitter, every time our dinner companion uses the restroom is a chance to Instagram.

I intentionally try and just sit and stare out the window on my bus rides to and from work in order to refocus my eyes and let my head clear, and yet I rarely make it the whole way without checking something on my phone.

Societal pressures are on more and more work, more and more content, more and more connection, more and more communication.

Where is the pressure for more and more thinking?

Franzen’s process takes time. He takes years to write books. The initial plot of The Corrections was practically a caper. Then he took some minor characters and rewrote it to feature them. Then he took another seemingly minor character and rewrote around that. It seems like the only thing the final draft shared with the first was the title.

Franzen thinks. I think he fears a world where people don’t.

Reblog: “Here’s to ‘Religious Leaders’, Jesus-Style”


Awhile back, Lori #1 left a link on one of my posts, and it went to a completely brilliant, beautiful blog post written by a guy named Brant. The post is convicting, but also uplifting because the servant leader is exactly how I’d describe Pastor Pete/The Rev. Another of Brant’s recent posts is about Christian video games, which is just one of a variety of topics he covers involving faith. You can check his blog out by clicking here. I’d encourage you to check out his other posts, and I offer up the one Lori linked to for your reblogged enjoyment.

Here’s to “Religious Leaders”, Jesus-Style

 

So Americans are losing faith in “religious leaders”. 

I’m not.

I mean, sure, if “religious leaders” means office-holders at religious organizations who love being experts or “sought-after speakers” or CEO/visionaries or who build churches around their own personal awesomeness, well then, okay, you’ve got me.  Just being honest:  I have lost some faith in that kind of leadership.

But not leadership, Jesus-style.  No, for those people, those servant-hearted men and women whose names you may never see on a book at a Christian Bookstore (TM), I thank God.  I’ve not lost faith in them.  They’ve shown me how God is at work, and the way He works is shocking:  He raises the humble, the weak, the unlikely.  He says “THIS is how you lead”, and then He washes the feet of a motley bunch of liars, betrayers, and sinners with no earthly status whatsoever. 

That’s what Jesus called “authority”.  It’s upside-down style. 

So — and I know I’ll sound like the beer commercial, but:  Here’s to you, Jesus-style leaders.  I may not know who you are, by name.  Not here.  Not yet.  Good thing God knows who you are, though, and He doesn’t need you to be on a stage, or under lights, and He doesn’t need to read your book, to know you. 

In my little list below, “Leaderman” will likely accomplish some impressive things, and earn some applause.  But — speaking for myself, at this point of my life?   I can’t get enough of the other kind.  So here’s to you, servant leaders.

———–
Servant Leader:  Has something to say
LeaderMan:  Wants a platform on which to say something
———–

LeaderMan:  You almost feel you know his family, because he’s your Leader
Servant Leader:  You allow him to influence you, because you know his family

———–
LeaderMan: Wants you to know he’s a Leader
Servant Leader:  You’re not sure *he* knows he’s a leader
———–
LeaderMan:  Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church
Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path
———–
LeaderMan:  A great speaker, but self-described as, “Not really a people person.”
Servant Leader:  Makes himself a people person
———–
LeaderMan:  Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization
Servant Leader:  Helps you find where God is leading you
———–
LeaderMan:  Gets together with you to talk about his vision
Servant Leader:  Just gets together with you
———–
LeaderMan:  Resents “sheep stealing”
Servant Leader:  Doesn’t get the “stealing” part, since he doesn’t own anyone to begin with
———–
LeaderMan:  Wants the right people on the bus
Servant Leader:  Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it
———–
Servant Leader:  Shows you his whole heart
LeaderMan:  Shows you a flow chart
———–
LeaderMan:  A visionary who knows what the future looks like
Servant Leader:  Knows what your kitchen looks like
———–
LeaderMan:  Everybody must be excellent!
Servant Leader:  Excellent at welcoming everybody, even the inept
———–
LeaderMan:  Talks about confronting one another in love
Servant Leader:  Actually confronts you in love
———–
LeaderMan:  Impressed by success and successful people
Servant Leader:  Impressed by faithfulness
———–
LeaderMan:  Invests time in you, if you are “key people”
Servant Leader:  Wastes time with you
———–
LeaderMan:  Reveals sins of his past
Servant Leader:  Reveals sins of his present
———-
LeaderMan:  Gives you things to do
Servant Leader:  Gives you freedom
———–
LeaderMan:  Leads because of official position
Servant Leader:  Leads in spite of position
———–
LeaderMan:  Deep down, threatened by other Leaders
Servant Leader:  Has nothing to lose

What Christians Can Learn From Comic Fans


*This month of literary abandon with NaNoWriMo is absorbing a lot of my creative energies, so I unfortunately didn’t write a post for today… Never fear! I went back through the STILL GROWING archives and found just the post to re-publish for your reading pleasure. It’s from July 14, 2010 and is one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written. For today, I made a few revisions to the original post (mostly deleting needless words).

ENJOY!

Before Phoenix Comicon 2010, I was only vaguely aware of the existence of comics and graphic novels, & I certainly didn’t acknowledge any literary merit they might have. However, upon my return from the greatest Geekfest EVER, people regularly engaged me in the following irritating dialogue:

“You went to Comicon?  I didn’t know you read comics.”

“Well, I don’t really,” I’d reply. “But Comicon is about so much than just comics.”

“But it’s called Comicon for a reason, right?”

“Well, yes. There are a lot of comic venders there, but you don’t have to like comics to go. There are plenty of other things to do. There are tabletop and console gaming rooms, & guest panels, & Geek Prom, & Rockband with celebrities, zombie parade, costuming classes, book signings, Karaoke, art auctions, Mad Hatter tea parties, D & D adventures, Film festivals, paranormal activity geeks, Nasa Science updates, people dressed like ninjas, trivia contests, writing classes, anime, and tons of stuff to buy.  Really, there’s something for everyone.”

Long pause.

“So… you don’t read comics?”

That conversation replayed in my life at least 20 times in the weeks following my convention adventure, and the most disappointing thing to me as a single girl is that the ones eager to play out this conversation are generally men who lose interest upon hearing my honest answer to the final line.

So I did what any self-respecting geeky girl would do… I took up a new hobby.

I started out by googling the local comic shops in my area, then checked them out one by one. At the first store, I met Charlie, the middle-aged store owner who prefers reading prose, but stays up late every night keeping up with new releases in the comic world.

“Hi. You close in like fifteen minutes, right?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he looked down at his watch, obviously concerned that he’d have to stay late.

“I’ll make it quick,” I said, pulling out the only graphic novel I’d ever read, Samson: Judge of Israel. I had picked it up at Comicon along with a Jesus action figure with ‘gliding action’.

“This is the only comic thing I’ve read, and I like the artwork, and I guess I was just hoping you’d give me some recommendations for where to start.”

His eyes lit up a little.

“Do you read prose?” he asked.

“Yeah, I read a lot of fantasy & historical fiction.”

“Alright. Well, if you follow me over here, Vertigo has some inexpensive first issue reprints. They’re a dollar each and we can probably find something you’ll like.”

He went over to a box filled with about 40 plastic-wrapped issues littered with advertisements on their covers.

“You might like this one,” he said. “It’s highly character-driven and it’s about this group of archeologists who uncover hidden historical secrets.”

He started a stack for me with Planetary on the bottom.

“And this one is about a Mayor of New York with super powers. Then, Y: The Last Man. It’s about this guy who ends up being the only man left on Earth after a biological disaster. Do you like superheroes…  even a little?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “I watch Smallville, but that’s about it.”

“This is one of my favorites. It always surprises me how emotionally engaging it is.  It’s about the downsides of being a superhero and how it affects family life and privacy. It’s brilliant…”

Our conversation lasted for almost exactly 15 minutes, and every time he recommended one thing, it reminded him of another character or story he loved, and he’d race across the room to find the next issue to add to my stack. I’m sure that his enthusiasm and thoroughness led to a later closing time that night than he’d hoped for, but he didn’t show even an ounce of annoyance. On the contrary, he seemed jazzed to help me, and when I went to the other two Tucson stores, it was the same thing: pure joy in sharing something precious. Granted – the young men who helped me at the other stores were the types who probably haven’t seen a girl in the past decade, but beneath the desperation for romance, there was still a genuine sense of excitement at the prospect of adding a new member to the comic fan club. It didn’t matter that I was the least-likely candidate for conversion. If anything, my a-typical female presence in the shops was all-the-more thrilling for them because it provided the rare opportunity for these guys to talk about their first loves, forged in the mysterious depths of the 12-yr-old little boy heart.

It may seem like I’m exaggerating the significance of stories about guys flying around in tights, but I’m not. Comics provide a moral compass and sense of hope to young men who are rejected by the world. And when they talk about the first time they ever read a comic or about a person who introduced them to new characters and storylines, they are really telling you about the moments and people who shaped their personalities, senses of right and wrong, and hope in the triumph of good in the world.

Let’s think about this, though. I met 3 comic fans in the course of a couple of days, and every one of them displayed the joy and fellowship of the comic book world. I can’t help but doubt that the same would be true if I were to meet 3 Christians at their home churches.

I don’t mean to be an evangelistic skeptic, but recent events have made me consider that Christians don’t really want other people to enjoy the Bible. Maybe it’s because misery loves company. I don’t know, but I get the feeling that most Christians read the Bible out of legalism or don’t really read it much at all. It’s rare to find a Christian who treasures the word of God the way that comic fans treasure their own fictitious accounts of the saviors of humanity.

Reblog From Christina Gohn


Since attending my new church for the first time, I’ve made a serious effort to make friends. It’s not at all in my nature to talk to people I don’t know, but I made it my mission to meet everyone. I inserted myself into other peoples’ conversations. I awkwardly said, “Hi. I’m Katie,” and usually people looked at me like I was crazy, then introduced themselves. Then they’d forget me. Christina, however, was one of the few people I awkwardly met, and she still talks to me 🙂 Christina wrote the following blog post over at RANDOM UTTERINGS FROM A COLLEGE STUDENT and I loved the honest way she examines the dilemma of how to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Totally rebloggable.

March 30, 2011 No longer will I…

Lately in my choir class I’ve been venturing out and hanging out between classes with those I don’t really know or wouldn’t normally talk to that much. After Chorale gets out I normally put my headphones on and listen to music and either walk around the class a few times or work on homework. But today I decided to go outside for once and not use my Ipod. I went over to where one of the tenors who I do exchange pleasantries with was smoking. I don’t normally go where people are smoking since I have a hard time breathing around the smoke but today I decided to see what they were up to. I didn’t assume any of these people (two tenors one alto and one other soprano) were Christians nor did I exclude myself because of that. They (I assume since one has asked) know that my major is Christian Ministry, and they didn’t leave me out of the conversation even though I was visibly uncomfortable with the current topic.

Now you may ask, “Christina, why would you stay with a group that was talking about subjects that you wouldn’t normally talk about?” And I will answer you, you see I’m trying to be more open with people. No longer do I stare out the window and ignore people on the bus(but I also don’t strike up conversations with the first person to look at me..that’s sometimes is awkward.), instead I smile politely at them and move over to make room if it looks like they might have to stand. When I get on I smile at the bus driver and when I get off I thank them. I think that they need to be thanked more often, but that’s for another time.

Now back to the conversation outside. I’m not really going to get into it simply because I don’t feel comfortable doing so, however I will say this. One of the tenors was disrespecting one of the girls. But it wasn’t done to her face, nope it was don’t after she left. And then joined in the other female and other tenor. I was the only one just sitting there. Although I do see myself just as bad as them for not speaking up firmly I don’t fully place myself in their category. After a bit of it I decided to say something, but at the same time I didn’t want to say anything that would make them shun me and start mocking me about my Christianity. I simply said “That’s really mean [insert tenor’s name] and walked away.

I have decided that I am no longer not speaking up about things like that, nor will I laugh just to “seem normal”. See I used to be one of those girls that used to get made fun of and everyone would just laugh instead of having a voice for me. So I have decided to become an advocate for those girls who either get made fun of, get disrespected or just feel left out. From experience I know what it’s like to have even one voice going along to help you, so I figured it’s time to pay it forward..sure it’s late but, better late then never right?

Well anyway I just wanted to get that out since I don’t see it happen often enough, it’s time (especially since we are in college) to grow up and not stand for this anymore. Break the status quot so to speak. So until later

~Christina

Reblog From Ligonier


This is a little piece of a blog post excerpted from R.C. Sproul’s The Prayer of the Lord, and it touched me to the core. It reminded me of how blessed I am to know without doubt that I will wake up to a more-than-adequate breakfast… and to have a God who answers prayers. Read the full post by clicking here.

After the Korean War ended, South Korea was left with a large number of children who had been orphaned by the war. We’ve seen the same thing in the Vietnam conflict, in Bosnia, and in other places. In the case of Korea, relief agencies came in to deal with all the problems that arose in connection with having so many orphan children. One of the people involved in this relief effort told me about a problem they encountered with the children who were in the orphanages. Even though the children had three meals a day provided for them, they were restless and anxious at night and had difficulty sleeping. As they talked to the children, they soon discovered that the children had great anxiety about whether they would have food the next day. To help resolve this problem, the relief workers in one particular orphanage decided that each night when the children were put to bed, the nurses there would place a single piece of bread in each child’s hand. The bread wasn’t intended to be eaten; it was simply intended to be held by the children as they went to sleep. It was a “security blanket” for them, reminding them that there would be provision for their daily needs. Sure enough, the bread calmed the children’s anxieties and helped them sleep. Likewise, we take comfort in knowing that our physical needs are met, that we have food, or “bread,” for our needs.

…If we find that God’s hand seems to be invisible to us and that we cannot discern His providential intrusion into our lives, that may be due partly to the way we pray. We have a tendency to pray in general. When we pray in general, the only way we will see the hand of God’s providence is in general. As we enter into prayer, this conversation and communion with God, and put our petitions before Him, pouring out our souls and our needs specifically, we see specific answers to our prayers. Our Father has invited us to go to Him and ask Him for our daily bread. He will not fail to provide it.

Reblog About Phillis Wheatley


Phillis Wheatley. A variant of earlier frontis...

Image via Wikipedia

The following appeared on the Desiring God blog and was written by John Piper. It touches my heart as one who also didn’t seek or know redemption, but was rescued nonetheless… and as a writer/reader/English teacher.

Phillis Wheatley was the first black person to publish a book of poetry in English. There is a story behind it.

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, had to be published in London because the Boston publishers, where she lived as a slave, did not believe a young black woman could have written them. The British publishers required an official “Attestation” from leaders in Boston that the poems were hers.

So on a spring morning in 1771, “a young African girl walked demurely into the courthouse at Boston to undergo an oral examination, the results of which would determine the direction of her life and work. Perhaps she was shocked upon entering the appointed room.

There, gathered in a semicircle, sat eighteen of Boston’s most notable citizens. Among them was John Erving, a prominent Boston merchant; Rev. Charles Chauncey, pastor of the 10th Congregational Church; and John Hancock, who later gained fame for his signature on the Declaration of Independence. At the center of this group would have sat his Excellency, Thomas Hutchinson, governor of the colony, with Andrew Oliver, his lieutenant governor, close by his side.

“Why had this group . . . seen fit to summon this adolescent African woman, scarcely eighteen years old, before it? This group of ‘the most respectable characters in Boston,’ as it would later define itself, had assembled to question closely the African adolescent on the slender sheaf of poems that she claimed to have written by herself.

“. . . The African poet’s responses were more than sufficient to prompt these eighteen august gentlemen to compose, sign, and publish a two paragraph “Attestation,” an open letter “to the Publick” that prefaces Phillis Wheatley’s book, and which reads in part:

We whose Names are under-written, to assure the World, that the POEMS specified in the following Page, were (as we verily believe) written by Phillis, a young Negro Girl, was but a few Years since, brought an uncultivated Barbarian from Africa, and has ever since been, and now is under the Disadvantage of serving as a Slave in a family in this town. She has been examined by some of the best judges, and is thought qualified to write them.

So important was this document in securing the publisher for Phillis Wheatley’s poems that it forms the signal element in the prefatory matter printed in the opening pages of her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, which was issued in London in the fall of 1773 because Boston printers remained skeptical about her authorship.”
(The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, New York, 1997, pp. xxxi-xxxii)

Here is one of the poems from that book.

On Being Brought from Africa to America

’Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d and join th’ angelic train.