Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Batter my heart....

“And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay and you are the Potter. We are all formed by your hand. Oh, be not so angry with us, Lord, nor forever remember our sins. Oh, look and see that we are all your people." Isaiah 64:8-9 (Living Bible)


John Donne (1572-1631), was a poet and writer who wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main....Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

The opening words from one of Donne's poems have been in my head lately. It is an intensely emotional and personal poem, full of strong and intimate language; a poem that is the raw outpouring of a man's heart longing after his God. It is also a clear expression of his own weakness, sinfulness, and need for "mending" in the most potent sense. There's a chorus that goes "Break me, melt me, mold me, shape me..." It's the same sentiment Donne is expressing, just not in such a raw, transparent manner.

Reading the poem, if you listen carefully, you can hear echoes of David's brokenness before the Lord (How long, O LORD, how long?), as well as Paul's gut-wrenching admission that he does what he does not want to do, and does not what he should. Yet, as so many others, both of them moved resolutely forward in their faith and trust, no matter what. So did John Donne.

Here is Donne's poem. The title is the same as the first line:

                                 Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
                                 As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
                                 That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
                                 Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
                                 I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
                                 Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
                                 Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
                                 But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
                                 Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
                                 But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
                                 Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
                                 Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
                                 Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
                                 Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


If the heart of the poem's meaning seems elusive because of the language, then get a clear picture in your mind of a potter shaping clay. The clay is pummeled, smacked, poked, whacked, and squeezed hard before the less violent, even gentle shaping takes place.

I don't know how it is for you, but for me it's really easy to sing sweet sounding choruses and declare smugly, "Oh Lord, make me more like You." But then the words of John Donne or a particularly anguished Psalm comes to mind and saccharine promise-box platitudes fall flat. Taking on true Christlikeness can be painful and wrenching, but it is well worth the price, since the price He paid is so much greater.

(First published online in 2004.)

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Thoughts?
 

The importance of clear communication


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Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Short attention span God?

Have you ever listened to people pray out loud in church? It often goes something like this:
“Dear Lord, I just want to thank you, Lord, for all you have provided, Lord. I’m asking, Lord, that you would bless George, Lord, as he seeks to do your will, Lord. And, Lord, even though we don’t, Lord, always know what to do, Lord, you do, Lord. And, dear Lord, we joyfully look to you, Lord, for the answer to George’s dilemma, Lord, and sustain him, Lord, as he carries on in your will, Lord. Amen.”

Well, Lordy!

Instead of using Lord, people may insert God, Jesus, or Father instead. Some even mix it up using every name for God they can think of and getting really fancy with “Alpha and Omega,” “Jehovah,” “Everlasting Almighty,” and ad infinitum. Sometimes these are loud interjections for special emphasis; “WELL, GLORY TO THE GLORIOUS ALMIGHTY!”

OMG!

We must think God has a very short attention span! Or that he’s deaf?

Think about it. Would you ever talk to a friend like this?
“Hey John! I’m calling, John, to remind you, John, that we’re supposed to be meeting, John, at the coffee shop, John, at sixth and main, John, around 11 AM, John. Okay, John?”
Do we pray like this so others listening know we’re talking to God and not to them? Do we think by interjecting some form of God’s name more frequently – and loudly – it improves our odds of getting an answer?

Maybe we do it – especially with the fancier name choices – to sound a little holier than Aunt Sal or whoever we look up to as a spiritual giant or our spiritual audience.

Given that God is omniscient I’m sure he knows when someone is talking to him. He doesn’t need us to punctuate each sentence with his name to keep his attention. Right?

What would Jesus do?

Jesus provided us with a clear model and some simple instruction on prayer:
“’And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:5-14, NIV)
Let’s break this down.
  1. Direct your prayers to God, not men. The point of prayer is not to prove your holiness or grasp of religious language. Prayer is talking to God. If your goal is to impress others with your prayerific eloquence, then don’t expect anything from God because you weren’t talking to him to begin with.
        
  2. Be humble. There is a time for both public and private prayer. When you’re seeking God for yourself, this is a time of intimacy between you and God; go be alone with him. When you are praying for others in a public setting, focus on their needs and close the door on your pride; it’s not about you.
        
  3. Avoid babbling. In the KJV this is rendered as “vain repetitions.” Some people repeat something over and over turning it into more of a magical incantation than a prayer. They wrongly believe that by repeating this “formula” their prayers are somehow more powerful or more effective. Not so! It just makes the praying annoying. Kind of like OCD-prone Sheldon knocking on Penny’s door.
For praying out loud

Imagine someone coming to you with something they indicated was very important. As they share it, they don’t look at you but at the guy behind you as if they were talking to him. They inject big obscure words and complex ideas that sound impressive but are really meaningless. And they keep repeating everything over and over. You’d smack them, right? At least you’d want to.

Don’t do this with God! When he smacks it really hurts. Not that he would.

Get to your point, be honest and specific, and move on in trust. He hears you the first time and saying something over and over, including God’s name, doesn’t give your prayer any more weight. Besides, God already knows what you’re going to talk to him about.

Here’s the model Jesus offered. Note that a form of God’s name (Father) is used only once:
(A) Acknowledge God and who he is: Our Father in heaven,
(i) Reverently honor him: hallowed be your name
(ii) Agree with his plan: your kingdom come,
(iii) Submit to his will: your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
(B) State your needs or the needs of those you are praying for: Give us [them] today
(i) For material sustenance: our [their] daily bread. Forgive us [them] our [their] debts,
(ii) For relational sustenance based on obedience: as we [they] also have forgiven our [their] debtors.
(iii) For spiritual sustenance, strength, and protection: And lead us [them] not into temptation, but deliver us [them] from the evil one.
Keep in mind that this is a model and not an incantation to repeat. Use the imagination God gave you to pray honestly, sincerely, and creatively. Leave the flowery show-offery to the Pharisees.

Based on the model, our example prayer could go something like this. Let’s assume the specific motivator for the prayer is that George is looking for a job:
“Dear Lord, thank you for all you have provided for George and we trust you for your continued mercy and care. Please bless him and give George wisdom as he seeks to know and do your will regarding work. He needs a good job to be able to provide for his family. In the meantime his family looks to you for meeting their daily needs. As George has so willingly helped others, bring others into his life who can help connect him with a new job; the job where he can be a witness for you. Guard George from discouragement and frustration and fill him with hope and your Holy Spirit. Amen.”
It’s short, direct, to the point, and focused on George’s needs. It isn’t needlessly peppered with the Lord’s name or with reminders of what you’re doing as in, “Lord, I pray…. Lord, I’m asking…. Lord, I’m praying…. Lord, I’m coming to you….” and on and on and on.

Again, God knows when you’re praying and talking to him.

It's okay, don't worry

But don’t worry. If you get a little flustered or tongue tied when praying in public, it’s okay to throw in an extra “Lord” or two if that helps you regain your focus and your composure. Even a couple of “I’m asking’s” are okay.

As Romans 8:26 states, sometimes even the Holy Spirit is at a loss for words! “…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (NIV).

If your prayer is sincere, God will sort it all out. He’s pretty smart like that.

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Thoughts?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Increasing frequency: Got ‘ny ideas? Suggestions? An open invitation to my readers, all 2 of you.


A few weeks ago I was notified that I’d won a “major award” from the Evangelical Press Association for this blog; the blog as a whole, not a specific post.

The judge or judges offered encouraging comments that were very positive. And they offered one criticism and suggestion: post more frequently. Exactly what they said is, “Every other week or so seems okay, but more often would help to build a consistent, reactive audience.”

Are they kidding?

It hurts so good

Blogging is hard. Well, at least I find it challenging.

Yes, even those of us weirdly configured people who love to write still find it a tad painful. I guess that makes us a kind of masochist, but we won’t go there right now.

I know there are other bloggers who post short snippets daily or even more frequently. I doff my hat to them and their prolificness.

But that’s not me. At least for now. But who knows?

Weakly weekly

I try to post to this blog and my more business related blog once a week each. I target Tuesdays as the deadline for this blog and Thursdays as the deadline for my CleverSmith™ Writing Blog.

I’m not always successful. In fact there are some weeks I don’t post to either blog. Life happens and the writing doesn’t. (Actually, it’s always happening in my head. The challenge is to get it on the digital page.)

Even when I don’t post I still feel the self-imposed pressure of those deadlines.

I also feel the pressure of wanting to write well on whatever topic comes to mind. And, of course, I want what I write to be of some value to you, my invisible readers.

Desperately seeking quality

Many of the blogs I mentioned earlier where postings are daily+ seem to be very uneven in both quality of writing and value of the topic. I don’t want to do that.

Another blogging friend and excellent writer, mentioned a blog she reads where they only post once in a blue moon. “When they post something,” she said, “I know it’s going to be good and it’s something I need to read.”

That’s what I’d like to achieve with both my blogs. I want what I post to be something readers want to read and feel they must read.

It's a wonderful random life

The content for this blog is, as it states in the header, random. There are no constraints. Although I tend to trend toward writing on faith, the Bible, and related topics. Recently I’ve ranted on things that are wrong in our society and a bit on politics.

My other blog is more narrowly focused on writing, business, communication, and the like.

Rise up and speak, my evanescent reactive audience!

So, my question to you, my lurking readers, is what would you like to see me address here in this blog? Are there any topics you would like to see me tackle?

I’d love to read your suggestions. Actually, it’s much easier to write “on assignment” than create ex nihilo. Working from a list of suggested topics could be helpful.

Please, email me or comment here or on Facebook (only if you're already a friend) and share your ideas.

Don’t be shy! That’s my job.

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Thoughts? Suggestions? Anything? Hello? Are you there? Anyone?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

That’s not what she said! Or what he said. But I'll take credit for it.

Have you ever had a boss or a friend take credit for your work or your idea? It wrings the joy right out of your day, doesn’t it?

While you took the time to develop a nicely written report, come up with a great cost-saving idea, or crafted the perfect project plan, your boss, co-worker, colleague, or once-upon-a-time-friend gets the credit, attention, and bonus.

Don’t you just hate that?

Then why are you doing kinda sorta the same thing?

Abnegating accurate attribution

It’s on YouTube, circulating via email, and making the rounds on Facebook. It’s “Bill Gates' 11 Rules of Life” allegedly part of a text of a speech Bill gave to a California high school.

And it’s all a lie. Well, at least the part about Bill being the source.

For 12+ years this list of exhortations has been wrongly attributed to Bill Gates, and a few others.
Even though this has been debunked on UrbanLegends.com and Snopes.com, the false attribution persists.
Many will say that it’s not important who originated the list, the ideas are just so darn cool and worthy of sharing! That’s probably what your boss thought when she stole your ideas.

If you were the originator of this list of truisms, wouldn’t you want to receive the proper credit? And, as writers, teachers, and generally all around good people, shouldn’t we set a better example for others and ensure the right person is credited?

After all, incorrect attribution is one tiny step away from plagiarism.

While you aren’t passing the material off as your own, you are passing it off as someone who didn’t originate it. This is especially egregious if you are aware that the attribution is wrong!

Perpetuating the error lends license to others to cop your stuff and label it as by someone else.
If you know who wrote something and see it wrongly attributed, say so. Offer a gentle correction. And don’t pass the material on as is!

It’s just plain lazy to let it go without comment.

The perilous pox of plagiarism

Letting an erroneous attribution slide by greases the slippery slide to plagiarism.

Plagiarizing means simply that you take someone else’s material, usually writing, and slap your name on it, declaring that it was your original work.

Plagiarism has brought down professors, students, authors, politicians, and ministers.

Publishing houses have recalled books because of it. Universities have failed students and fired professors because of it. Politicians have lost elections because of it. And, sadly, ministers have been booted from pulpits because of it.

Yet the problem persists.

Stung senseless by stupidity

Some years ago I was editing a book manuscript and my editor’s “spidey sense” kept tingling. Something about the text bugged me. I copied a random sentence from a random chapter, pasted it into the Google search box, and – oh my goodness – got a word-for-word hit. It turned out the whole book was plagued with plagiarized material easily found on the web.

The author’s explanation?

He claimed that the websites from which material was lifted was actually his own writing. This was somewhat plausible. However, the material no longer belonged to the author. Yes, it is possible to plagiarize yourself!

To share the same ideas in his book he needed to substantially rewrite the material produced for the websites, or at least credit the website.

A friend who taught evening courses that were part of a Master’s level program was baffled by papers submitted by several students. These students were adults, many holding management level positions in various companies.

Somehow these students had magically turned in papers containing several identical paragraphs. Had they copied from one another, my teaching friend wondered? No! They lifted the material straight from their textbooks!

When confronted they were nonplussed. After all, they reasoned, they were just too busy to write something entirely new and demonstrated that they knew where to find the material. They figured it was kind of like an open-book test!

They were a little unclear as to the definition of plagiarism and conveniently forgot they had signed a non-plagiarism agreement when they enrolled.

Giving right credit where credit is due

So you want to share something and you want to make sure you credit the right originator; how do you verify this?

The simplest way is to copy a string of text from the item and search on it in Google or Bing. If you can’t find a definitive source for the material, either don’t share it, or if you do, indicate that you’re not sure who said or wrote it. Ask your friends for help; someone may recognize the quote and know the source.

But definitely do not post something you know is wrongly attributed without stating so. If you see someone else do it, again, gently point out the error.

As for plagiarism, don’t do it and don’t enable others.

If you’re unsure of what plagiarized material entails or need help detecting and dealing with it, check out these online resources:
The bottom line? Wrong attribution is lazy and plagiarism is dishonest. Both should be rigorously avoided.

Yes, you can quote me. That’s Stephen with a “ph” and no “e” after Clark.


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Thoughts?Do you think wrong attribution is no big deal or truly important? Have you had an idea or something you wrote stolen? Sound off! Share your thoughts, insights, experiences, and reactions below. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Splash into God!

As we were traveling to and from Philadelphia for a wedding recently, we zipped by a church VBS sign that caught my attention. It was hand-stenciled on plywood with the headline, “Splash Into God!”

The phrase sloshed around in my head for the next several hundred miles as I wondered what it meant to splash into God. It seemed a rather irreverent proposition and I couldn’t imagine God being happy with people splashing into him.

Nor could I imagine the kids participating in this program learning anything of value about God, how he is involved in their lives, and how all things hold together in him through Christ.

Your God is too small, again

In 1961, J.B. Philips issued an excellent little book titled, Your God is too Small. It was required reading in my college Bible classes. In the introduction, Phillips explains,
“The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs. While their experience of life has grown in a score of directions, and their mental horizons have been expanded to the point of bewilderment by world events and by scientific discoveries, their ideas of God have remained largely static. It is obviously impossible for an adult to worship the conception of God that exists in the mind of a child of Sunday-school age, unless he is prepared to deny his own experience of life. If, by a great effort of will, he does do this he will always be secretly afraid lest some new truth may expose the juvenility of his faith. And it will always be by such an effort that he either worships or serves a God who is really too small to command his adult loyalty and co-operation.”
Phillips was addressing the problem of his day in which many people attended Sunday school or church and had some idea about who and what God was and is and is to come. These ideas, he rightfully lamented, while noble, were too small.

In other words, however God was viewed by people, they believed he was in need of help to truly be a god.

Today, this sentiment is still valid although for different reasons. Where God has not been totally written off, he has most certainly been squished and trivialized to the point of being irrelevant.

Just a “splash” of God is all we need – if he even exists – everything else we can accomplish without him.

Even to those who lay claim to faith and relationship with the Almighty, he’s often viewed as anything but mighty.

Honey, I shrunk the God!

Christianity as practiced in our churches, evangelical and otherwise, is to blame for shrinking God down. In order to make him relevant and accessible to successive generations, we have contextualized God into our culture to the point of making him irrelevant and pointless.

The God many Boomers grew up with often tended to be big, noisy, scary, distant, punishing; not exactly an attractive image for Seekers. While there are elements of God’s character that evoke these “negatives,” He was and is much more.

Still, God seemed a bit too thunderous and needed new marketing. We wanted a cool, with it, happening God.

So the church in all its permutations got busy making God over into a friendlier, kinder, gentler, warmer, fuzzier, grandpapa-fied deity.

We emphasized his love, forgiveness, graciousness, patience, and other more “positive” characteristics, putting a more attractional face on God and faith. It was like saying, “God loves you and he always has candy in his pockets for you dear.”

The problem with this is that we have made him into a sort of magic-genie-pet you can hold on your lap; rub him, feel him purr, and get your wishes. He’s the god who gives everyone a trophy and a free pass to heaven.

In this cute and loveable form, while he seems very approachable, who would call on him for help in the midst of life’s storms? Why would you lean on him for real moral support? How is his “candy” going to help you as you grapple with all the challenges of a messy life on earth? He’s too frail and fragile and, well, not God-like!

We’ve made God into a god who is a nice but inadequate idea, rather than Someone you can and would want to know and believe in.

So Vacation Bible School offers a romp in the kiddie pool with an adorable old useless go.

The God who is really there and has a pretty awesome personality

It’s easy to get caught up in extended theological discussions of God’s attributes, but we’ll not do that right now. Here are two links where you can find more on the topic of God’s attributes:
For now, let’s just hit some highlights which are pretty mind-boggling and reveal a God that is truly Supreme.

God is a person in the sense that he has a personality and expresses himself personally, connecting with us, his created persons. As with any person the personality of God is multi-faceted and complex, more complex than any other being in the universe.
  • He is triune, meaning that he exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
       
  • He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
      
  • He is omnipresent, meaning that he exists here, there, and everywhere to infinity and beyond, simultaneously.
       
  • He is omniscient meaning that he knows the known knowns, the known unknowns, the unknown unknowns, and everything else.
        
  • He is omnipotent meaning that there is no one or no thing, real or imagined, that is more powerful in any way than him.
        
  • He is sovereign, just, righteous, wrathful, beneficent, jealous, loving, and, while approachable and knowable, he is also infinite and incomprehensible.
The bottom line is that God is more than adequate to be the Supreme Being and the One to protect you, care for you, provide for you, and help you make sense of this crazy world.

He is not your pool buddy, splash mate, magic lamp, or fuzzy purring pet. He is beyond awesome, in the truest sense of the word, and worthy to be worshipped, loved, and trusted.

The huggable yet transcendent God

The reality of who God is can be found in and between Genesis 1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”) and Revelation 21 ("Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”).

There’s nothing wrong with thinking about God in endearing ways. But we must never let any sense of coziness with God become an idol that blurs who he really is.

Here are a few more aspects to consider…

Being flippant in our attitude and talk about God puts us at risk of reducing him to the equivalent of a spiritual stuffed toy. This does both God and ourselves an eternal disservice.

God is more than a pool party theme. He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty [God] will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life” (Revelation 21:6).

Stay thirsty, my friend. Don’t merely splash into God, get to know who he really is and be blessed beyond belief.

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How are you thinking about God? Is your God big enough to truly meet your needs? Does he need your help to accomplish your goals?  Is he something you want to splash into or Someone on whom you can depend? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trendspotting: Introverts, generalists, and wordsmiths rejoice!


There are three hopeful trends shaping up that promise a better life for many. Chatter in articles, Tweets, comments, books, and more has been popping up addressing the increasing influence of introverts, the value of generalists, and lamenting the failing quality of writing and editing across the board.

These are good things!

Introverts leading in the workplace

In a recent Fortune article, Campbell Soup CEO Doug Conant talks about being an introvert in an extrovert’s domain; the C-suite.

That this topic is coming up over and over in business journals and in books is a sign that the rah-rah ego-driven personality-cult leadership style cultivated by hard-driving in-your-face extroverts is on the wane.

Thank goodness!

The value of introverts was clearly documented in 2001 with the publication of the book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Jim Collins wrote:
“Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders seem to have come from Mars. Self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy – these leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. They are more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton or Caesar.”

This idea began picking up steam and was pushed along by bestselling books such as Introverts in the Church published in 2009. Although targeted to an evangelical audience, the book connected with readers from all walks of life as it graciously affirmed that being an introvert is okay and part of God’s plan.

A more recent book aimed at a more general audience, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, has been holding steady in the top 100 of Amazon’s bestsellers since its release in January of this year.

The author’s manifesto is brilliant. Check it out.

In the meantime, introverts arise and unite! Quietly.

The broad vision of generalists recognized

Too often I encounter corporate HR types who are looking for writers and insisting that candidates be ultra-specialists in their field, whether it be health care, finance, religion, technology, banking, education, and so on. They want a geekish subject matter expert who also, by the way, can write.

They believe that only a subject matter expert can write well about the specialty.

Balderdash!

As I stated in a previous blog post, “A good writer is able to write well because they possess a broad knowledge of many subjects. This enables them to create stories, metaphors, and examples that will connect with your customers, most of whom are not medical geeks, insurance geeks, or technical geeks.”

You don’t want a specialist or a geek, you want a good writer! And the best writers are generalists.

Or, as the Greek poet Archilochus wrote, as quoted in the article All Hail The Generalist, we’re foxes: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

In the article the author states further:
“The future has always been uncertain, but our ability to navigate it has been impaired by an increasing focus on studying bark. The closer you are to the material, the more likely you are to believe it. In psychology jargon, you anchor on your own beliefs and insufficiently adjust from them. In more straightforward language, a man with a hammer is more likely to see nails than one without a hammer. Expertise means being closer to the bark, and less likely to see ways in which your perspective may warrant adjustment. In today's uncertain environment, breadth of perspective trumps depth of knowledge.”
I’ve never cottoned to comparing myself to a tree or an animal as many personality inventories like us to do, but in this case, I’ll cave. We've got too many hedgehogs. The world needs more foxes. Foxes eat hedgehogs for lunch. I am not a hedgehog.

I know a lot of introverts who are not hedgehogs either. We should get together for lunch.

Writers and editors valued

Seldom does a week go by of late that someone isn’t lamenting the failing quality of all things written, both online and in print.

From incoherent writing to sloppy editing to zero proofreading, whether you refer to it as information, content, or writing, it’s all going from bad to worse.

This dire state of affairs was brought into the forefront recently with a blunderous typo by Mitt Romney’s people. In an app, America was rendered with the “i” and “c” reversed.

In his article, Why 'Amercia' needs copy editors, Merrill Perlman cites several other recent very “pubic” and “moronic” typo fails.

While Perlman issues a call for more editors, the problem goes beyond simple typos. The world is awash in information. Only the best content deserves to survive and be curated.

Good content starts with good writers. Good writers know how to organize and structure information to make it both accessible and interesting. And I don’t care what Seth Godin says, good writers deserve to make money.

So do good copy editors and proofreaders. All are wordsmiths.

Producing great content for print or online takes a team of skilled professionals. Copy editors are aces at fact-checking and ensuring paragraphs proceed clearly and logically. Proofreaders straighten crooked sentences, make sure the grammar is in sync, and ferret out those nasty typos.

Cutting these roles out of the publishing picture will lead to disaster and can even add unnecessary costs when you have to keep re-explaining what you meant to say the first three times.

So, writers, editors, and proofreaders, CMOS and AP at the ready!

And now, so what?

So, these trends bode well for people like me who are introverts, generalists, and darn good writers. Not to mention editors and proofreaders. And, of course, consumers of content, the readers.

They also bode well for companies and organizations who learn to listen to their quieter leaders, harvest the wisdom of their broadly-visioned generalists, and build communication departments staffed with great writers, editors, and proofreaders.

Here’s hoping!

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What do you think? Are introverts undervalued? Are specialists over-valued? Does great writing and good editing make a difference? Have you seen other evidences of these three trends? Please share your comments!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

R u a h8tr? The world needs more < 3

I hate the word “hater” which is often rendered with a redundant “t” in texting as “h8tr.”

The online Urban Dictionary defines h8trs: “another word for Haters. ppl who are jelous and envious of other ppl.” [sic]

Clearly the poster of that definition is spelling-challenged with an affinity for texting-inspired abbreviations.

Tbh, I h8 that, ppl.

In reality, the h8tr label isn’t about jealousy and envy; that’s the smokescreen of denial being used by the hater-callers.

A h8tr by any other name may not be who you think

“Haters” (aka h8trs) is a label that has rapidly proliferated attached to anyone and anything the tagger omnipotently determines to be outside the pale of perceived approved tastes, opinions, and their ill-informed and oddly-shaped worldviews.

Basically, if you express disinterest in, disdain of, or are just innocently unaware of a type of music, a bent lifestyle, perverse behavior, questionable fashion choices, liberal politics, atheism, and so on, then you are by default a “hater. End of discussion.

Regardless of the arena, whether culture, education, sexuality, fashion, business, politics, or religion, the “h8tr” police seem bent on killing intelligent discourse, reasonable disagreement, and general morality.

It’s their way or the highway. Once thusly labeled you are outside the camp of cool.

Basically, they make taking a stand against tastelessness and even evil seem like a bad thing by calling it bigotry instead of courage, and simply labeling those who speak truth as "haters."

It’s a very shoot first and ask questions later approach. Except they don’t ever ask questions.

For example….
  • If you think vegans and PETA should just mind their own business and have an Angus burger, you are a h8tr.
       
  • If you regard evolution as mere theory and creationism as having merit, you are a h8tr of science and probably stupid.
       
  • If you are a Republican, conservative, or a watcher of Fox News, you must be a h8tr and probably intellectually impaired.
        
  • If you believe the Bible is the standard for determining morality and law, you are a small-minded non-progressive h8tr.
        
  • If you are part of a religious organization that restricts participation in your group based on religion, you and your group are h8trs.
        
  • If you are not pro-choice, you are a h8tr and considered a threat to women’s rights.
        
  • If you hold the opinion that government has no business dictating health insurance requirements to religious institutions even when those requirements violate their religious doctrines, you are a h8tr.
        
  • If you consider same-gender marriage to be an affront to God and generally not a good thing, you are most certainly a h8tr as well as a homophobe (a disparaging term I dislike intensely).
        
  • And if you choose to not support or vote for Obama or any other liberal or Democrat seeking office, you are the worst of h8trs, and probably, somehow, by default, a racist.
Free speech is a right and a responsibility to be respected

Once upon a time in this beautiful country called America, free speech was considered an absolute right and a treasured responsibility. It was the distinctive that set us apart from nearly every other nation in the world.

Whether you expressed your views profanely or with intelligent grace, we all still upheld your right to do so. We simply agreed to disagree from time to time. Men and women have died on battlefields to preserve this most treasured of freedoms. And they still are.

Yet free speech is being quashed by rampant political correctness which is nothing more than a kind of reverse nazisim. Little hitlers have cropped up in every realm of culture bent on silencing all who hold views divergent from theirs by slapping them with the h8tr scarlet H.

The truth of the matter? Those ppl who are quickest to loudly and vehemently declare others as h8trs are most often the ones who are deeply biased, intolerant, non-inclusive, racist, bigoted, and repressive.

They themselves are the real h8trs. And no one is jealous or envious of them.

All that they accuse those they’ve identified as h8trs as doing, they are often more guilty of.

They are truth-phobes and rights-robbers. They deny the truth, ignore facts, and are intent on robbing others of their rights to free speech while shutting down intelligent discourse.

I don’t h8 them, but I do find them intensely annoying.

Turning the other cheek to the cheeky

Proverbs 15:1-4 offers this insight: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (NIV).

Labeling those with whom you disagree as h8trs is not a gentle answer. It does not commend knowledge. It does not bring understanding. It does not facilitate honest dialogue. It does not yield peace or unity.

Instead it stirs up more anger, gushes folly, exposes deceitfulness, foments dissension, and seeks to crush any spirit of goodwill.

Calling people h8trs because you don’t see eye to eye really harshes everyone’s mellow and doesn’t win you any debating points.

It doesn’t bring us any closer to mutual understanding.It doesn’t facilitate honest communication.It doesn’t accomplish anything positive for anyone.It alienates and divides.

Don’t you just h8 that?

Ppl, it’s time to banish the use of hater/h8trs in all forums.

Let’s tamp down the discord in our disagreements, embrace the diversity of different points of view, agree to disagree, and choose to be respectful of one another.

Let’s have less h8 and more <3.

Don't you agree?

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Thoughts?