About Community – by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

When the people and values that shape my diverse communities are in conflict with each other, I must consider: Will I remain true to my God or true to the native land or continent in which my ancestors were born, or will I remain true to the native land or country in which I was born? My native land wants me to remain true to the American philosophy that I have been taught in my formative years. On the other hand, my people—the black community—have a history of being oppressed by the land in which many of us were born. Where should my loyalties lie, knowing all of that? The black community has also been stripped of our African culture, history, and traditions, and I want to learn what values have been lost from that culture and to understand what values are important to hold on to.

 

Discernment for the American Christian is determining what is actually of God and what is true only to our native land. Believe it or not, American Christianity looks quite different depending on where and how you worship on Sunday mornings, what stories you read, what voices you listen to, and who you call friend. Our various community shapers can be in conflict with each other, so remaining true to God requires that we analyze the sacred community—the shaping grounds, including what or who is missing from those spaces. Affirming our identity in Christ means that we must wrestle with our community shapers to accept, celebrate, cultivate, and then share what individually makes us unique.

 

Community is about the places that shape us. Orangeburg, South Carolina, is where I come from. Community is about the people who shape us. When I had the opportunity to deliver the student address at my graduation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Charlotte, I told my family and friends, “I take you with me wherever I go.” Community is who you roll with on this journey called life.

 

Community is also the environments that we intentionally cultivate and the people we invite to form and shape them. Creating culture and cultivating community is a continuous act of discipline. If you desire to have lasting influence and to implement real change, this is an internal wrestling you must be willing to do, a risk you must be willing to take, and a skill you must learn. Your life may look very different from mine or that of Moses. You have your own stories, relationships, and experiences. The work of spiritual formation requires that you pay attention to how God wants to shape your community.

 

*Taken from A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Copyright (c) 2018 by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL

 

Learn more from Natasha at our spiritual writers’ conference in May: https://writingforyourlife.com/writing-for-your-life-spiritual-writers-conference-holland-mi-may-2019/

Craft is a Form of Hospitality

Craft is a form of hospitality. When readers (real or imagined) show up at your door, how do you invite them in? What makes them comfortable but not too comfortable? What nourishment or conversation might make them linger? When they leave, what will they take with them?  

 

from “Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew 

 

“How To Build Your Own Podcast Program” – video training

Mike McHargue (better known as Science Mike) is an author, podcaster, and speaker who travels the world helping people understand the science of life’s most profound and mundane experiences. Mike’s the host of Ask Science Mike, and co-hosts The Liturgists Podcast with his friend Michael Gungor. In this 65 minute video presentation (including Q&A), Mike goes through all the steps necessary to develop your own podcasting platform, sharing what he has learned through developing his own.

Learn more here.

Creating Social Currency

In “Contagious” Dr. Jonah Berger establishes three key strategies to help create social currency that gives people a way to make themselves look good while promoting you and your ideas along the way.

1. Identify your inner remarkability. The key to finding your remarkability is to think about what makes you surprising, interesting, or novel. In my book “Social Media Explained,” I suggest that marketing strategy needs to begin by finishing this sentence: “Only we …” That’s a tough task, but it’s the essential path to discover your remarkability.

2. Help people achieve something with your content.

3. Make it exclusive. According to digital marketing savant Christopher S. Penn of SHIFT Communications. “Scarcity is actually more powerful than ever on the social web,” he said. “While content may be free, what has become extremely scarce is time, attention, and influence. These are hot commodities, rare commodities.”

– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer

Being a Voice Not an Echo

– by Rachel Hauck

Writing in the Christian fiction market pushes us to go beyond the realm of this life to find meaning and purpose for our characters. Even non fiction requires genuine truth told in a unique and engaging way.

For fiction writers, while we are not writing sermons and devotionals set in fictional places with fictional characters, we are imitating life.

Jesus is very much a part of our every day life. We want to express Him in some way in our stories, through the lives of our characters.

But often our stories sound hokey, canned, full of Christianese. How we talk in the foyer at church, or in Sunday school class does not translate into fiction.

Remember, our goal is to write great stories about great characters. Our goal is not agenda fiction where we pound the pulpit — so to speak — about some error of ways.

So how do we develop a convincing, authentic spiritual thread? A lot of prayer and pondering. Digging deep the translate those standard words like, “Is he a believer?” to something every one can understand. Like, “Does he believe in Jesus?” Simple, straight forward, a non-Christian gets it.

Avoid soap boxes. Don’t preach to the reader out of your own wounds or doctrinal passions. One, it’s obvious. Two, it’s boring. Find one truth that you’ve learned and weave it into your character’s being then let the words flow naturally. Maybe in one or two scenes.

It’s not a Bible study. Don’t write and discuss long passages of scripture or quote noted Bible teachers. Have you characters quote a verse in a natural way, using his or her own words.

Express God in creative ways. In one of my books, God got the heroine’s attention with feathers appearing out of nowhere. In another, the heroine senses a strong fragrance.

You can’t write about what you don’t have in yourself. The spiritual journey of a character is often the fragrance of God in and on the author. If you aren’t going deep in God, spending time at His feet, in His Word, praying, worhshipping, fellowshipping with others, your spiritual message will be flat. Always. Your message will feel forces and tacked on. Or worse, fake. Or untrue.

But as you spend time in His presence, the spiritual thread becomes a part of you, a part of the character, a part of the whole book. And you may only have to mention Jesus once. But He’s everywhere unseen.

Don’t lead with doctrine. Lead with the Spirit. Lead with a story. Fiction or non fiction both require story. Don’t just repeat what others are saying. Get your own revelation and then back it up with the truth of the Word. Pray for a creative way to weave it into your character’s journey.

Be a Voice not an Echo.

Take Note of Others’ Responses

Pay attention to how other people respond to your creative work. A true gift gives true pleasure to others-or it truly stirs them up. When your friend’s face lights up while he’s talking about some endeavor of yours, you know that somehow that endeavor really connected to another person. When people have a strong reaction to your work, positive or negative, that tells you that you’ve hit on something that’s meaningful.

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

Be Uncomfortable

While writing, we choose again and again to be uncomfortable, going against instinct and social norms and, possibly, good sense. From discomfort rises our best work. If we can hold paradox in our bodies, we can illuminate paradox inside our stories. If we can practice walking the middle path on the page, we’re more likely to walk it in our lives.

 

from “Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

 

The Sharing of the Crowd

 

Harnessing the sharing of the crowd will often take you further than you think, and it is almost always the best place to start.

We have barely begun to explore what kinds of amazing things a crowd can do. There must be two million different ways to crowdfund an idea, or to crowdorganize it, or to crowdmake it. There must be a million more new ways to share unexpected things in unexpected ways.

In the next three decades the greatest wealth – and more interesting cultural innovations – lie in this direction. The largest, fastest growing, most profitable companies in 2050 will be companies that will have figured out how to harness aspects of sharing that are invisible and un appreciated today. Anything that can be shared – thoughts, emotions, money, health, time – will be shared in the right conditions, with the right benefits. Anything that can be shared can be shared better, faster, easier, longer, and in a million more ways than we currently realize. At the point in our history, sharing something that has not been shared before, or in a new way, is the surest way to increase its value.

 

– from “The Inevitable” By Kevin Kelly

It’s Not About You

If you’ve paid any attention to my posts, you know that I am bullish regarding the need for new authors to participate in social media and build a platform (a following of people who resonate with what you have to say, and who are thus likely to purchase your books, regardless of whether you work through a traditional publisher or self-publish).

But often I hear from early-stage writers that they are reluctant to do this because they don’t like self-promotion; they don’t want to “toot their own horn.”

My answer to this sentiment is two-fold:

1. Whether we are talking about social media or writing a book, the important thing is that it is not about you. It needs to be about your ideas that will help people. Why does someone buy a book? Because they want to learn, because they want to solve a problem, because they’re interested in the topic. Sorry, but you’re not a celebrity, and they really don’t care about you. They care about what is unique and valuable that you have to say.

If you have not already, this is a mindset I suggest you adopt, and it is incredibly freeing and focusing. What you are all about is helping people! What is better than that? It is freeing because it removes the guilt, and it is focusing because it forces you to concentrate on what really matters…

2. If you believe that God is working through you, then let it happen! Let God do the talking! Remember all of this Holy Spirit stuff that we say we believe. Then believe!

Attraction -> Affinity -> Action

Every business today, no matter its size or legacy, faces four massive challenges. They are:

– Clutter
– Competition
– Commoditization
– Consumer consciousness

Faced with unlimited choices, savvy consumers are becoming more discerning, and more companies are lining up to respond to their wants and needs.

For a long time, product development and marketing were about making stuff and creating awareness and the converting that awareness to attention in the hope that it would lead a prospective customer to take action and part with money.

Awareness and attention were the holy grails of every marketing strategy, so the way you became successful was to pay for more of both. But there’s a subtle change taking place. Brands that are starting small, that are customer-centric and not just focused on a single bottom line, are making inroads into territories once dominated by big, established players in the marketplace. People are choosing to spend their money with companies that take the time to get to know them and whose actions resonate with their values – companies that thrive by doing the right thing and making things customers love, instead of trying to get customers to love their things. Their advantage isn’t necessarily being faster or cheaper, bigger or better; it is that they take time to understand their customer before making what she wants.

Marketing has gone from this…

AWARENESS -> ATTENTION -> ACTION
…to this…

ATTRACTION -> AFFINITY -> ACTION

It turns out that affinity that is earned, not attention that is bought and paid for, is what’s powering business growth now.

– from “Meaningful” by Bernadette Jiwa

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