Thoughts on Pilgrimage

November 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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What comes to mind when you hear the word pilgrim?

A girl backpacking

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In America most of us probably form a mental picture of the people who celebrated the first Thanksgiving, dressed in their austere black clothing, complete with funny hats. For some, the word might bring to mind John Bunyan’s allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. Others may think about the pilgrimage that Muslims must make to Mecca once in a lifetime.

Each of those mental pictures evokes a similar concept: travelling.

When we think of the “Thanksgiving Pilgrims”, the ones who came to America on the Mayflower and landed on Plymouth Rock, we generally are thinking about people traveled to a land where they would have religious freedom. On the other hand, Pilgrim’s Progress focuses on a different kind of journey, a journey to the “Heavenly City”. And the Muslims’ pilgrimage to Mecca is also a journey. For some, it is a short distance; for others, it involves great expense and a trip to the other side of the world.

Generally speaking, when we think of a pilgrim, we think of someone who is on a journey. Although that’s true, it’s not the complete Biblical picture.

In Hebrews 11:13, the King James Version reads, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13 KJV).

But the word that is translated “pilgrims” here is better translated as “resident aliens”, “sojourners”, or even “exiles”.

Peter uses the same word to describe Christians when he writes, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul,” (1Pe 2:11 ESV).

How do you view your life here on Earth?

Do you see yourself as a resident alien, a sojourner, an exile?

What does that even look like?

It seems to me that most Christians in America (myself included) live lives that don’t remotely resemble the lifestyle of a sojourner or exile.

The old hymn lyric goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.”

Based on the general conduct of Christians in America, it might be more accurate to sing, “This world is not my home, but I’m going to enjoy it as long and as much as I can.”

Are you an exile?

I hope so.

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What do you think? Keep the discussion going by adding your comments below.

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Happy Turkey Day — Not!

November 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Is it just me, or are we seeing less and less “thanks” on Thanksgiving?

It seems that with every passing year the last Thursday in November has less to do with thankfulness and more to do with consumerism. That trend is most dramatically illustrated in the morphing of the holiday name from “Thanksgiving” into “Turkey Day”.

I remember a few years back the first time I heard Thanksgiving referred to as “Turkey Day”. At first, I was taken aback by the reference, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to feel that “Turkey Day” might be precisely the right name for what we used to call Thanksgiving.

Of course, we could also call it Football Day.

Or perhaps: Black Friday Eve.

And now that more and more stores are staying open on Thanksgiving to get a jump on the pre-Christmas business, maybe we should just start calling it Black Thursday.

I know I may sound as if I’m ranting against others, but as I look at myself I can often see a profound lack of thankfulness in my own life. It is very easy to look at the state of the world and be anything but thankful. The world’s economy is in shambles. Young men and women are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is political uncertainty all around us and the increasing threat from countries such as Iran.

What’s to give thanks for, anyway?

It’s when I’m feeling like this that I remember my favorite Bible verses. They come at the end of the book of Habakkuk. When the prophet Habakkuk faces the impending destruction of his own nation by the Babylonians, a destruction that is coming as a direct result of God’s judgment, he says: “Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines. Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food. Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will rejoice in God my savior. The sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to walk on the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

It is when things are darkest that we must give thanks. For only thanksgiving removes our gaze from the circumstances and lifts it to the Lord of the circumstances.

In this week before Thanksgiving, take time to lift your eyes to God and thank Him for all the good things in your life.

Don’t celebrate Turkey Day this year.

Give Thanks.

 

 

 

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Author Marketing: It’s Time to Start Studying

July 31, 2011 by · 6 Comments 

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I attended my first writers conference back in the late nineties.

This particular conference had two tracks: amateur and professional. To attend the professional workshops, you had to have had two pieces published. Well, it just so happened that about five years earlier I had sold two short stories (to Sunday school publications).

That qualified me as a pro.

When I arrived at the conference I looked down my nose at all the poor “wannabe” writers who had to attend the amateur workshops, all the while knowing that I would be hobnobbing with other professional writers. I was eager to learn all the writing secrets of the pros that would guarantee great success and launch my career as a bestselling author.

When I went home, I was probably the most discouraged “pro” who ever walked the earth—or at least who attended that conference.

Instead of learning writing secrets that were going to take my prose to a stellar level, I learned that publishers expected authors to market their own books. I learned the ins and outs of author marketing, how much work it was, how expensive it could be, and how frustrating it could be.

I walked out of that conference with my rose-colored glasses lying shattered on the floor.

And I’m very grateful.

Granted, at that point in my writing career, I should have stayed in the “amateur” track and gone to workshops that would have helped me develop my craft. Nevertheless, the marketing workshops opened my eyes to an ongoing reality in publishing: Authors are expected to do most of the marketing for their own books.

We may not like it, but that’s how it is.

Author marketing was important back in the late ‘90s; it’s essential now.

We are expected to come to the table with a “platform”, a marketing strategy, an awareness of social media and how to use it. We are expected to not only write our books, but also to sell them.

At first, I complained.

I am a writer, not a salesman. If I had wanted to be a marketer, I would have gone into marketing. Besides, I don’t know anything about selling. On top of that, I’m an introvert. If I tried to make a living at selling, I’d starve to death.

After I ranted for a while, I realized that all my complaints hadn’t changed a thing (except perhaps my blood pressure).

If I wanted to be a published author, I would have to learn how to market myself and my work. That’s just how it was.

Now, six books later (with a seventh on the way), I’m still not a great marketer—but I’m learning.

That’s the key.

At least it was for me.

When I decided that I wanted to be a writer, I studied. I read books on how to write fiction. I read and studied novels. I read more books on how to write fiction. I wrote novels. (Do you see a pattern here?)

And that’s what I’m doing now. I’m learning.

I read books on marketing and platform-building. I keep up to date with the latest blogs. I’m learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. I’m learning how to blog effectively (got a long way to go on that one).

The point is, you can complain and be frustrated all you want, but it doesn’t change a thing.

If you’re going to be an author in today’s publishing world, you absolutely have to market. You need to build a platform. You need to learn how to effectively use social media.

So, if you’re like I was and don’t know how to do these things. It’s time to start studying.

If I can do it, you can do it.

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