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Tag: Social Media

A Poor Woman’s Meditation on the Desert

Photo Credit: Diego Jimenez on Unsplash

It is a fearsome thing to be dealt with by the heart of the Lord.

One recent weekend (I reserve weekends for guilt-free R&R), the Lord swung a punch to my psyche.

I profess no practical knowledge of the publishing industry. All I know is what I have read in books, online posts, and magazines. I do have experiential knowledge with blogging — my first weblog (an older, shortened term for web log) in the 90s was called My Hearthstone. My prodigal blog title returns home.

When I was writing my weblog – back before social media became popular – I was just proud that I was writing posts using HTML 3.2. I shared my views, one referring to Elton John song lyrics, another on Y2K. Technorati, a precursor to likes and follower counts, displayed popularity results for the world of weblogs.

Enter Twitter in 2006, the year I bought Twitter for Dummies and drove in.

Twitter, and a few others, paved the way for the interstate highway system of social media, bypassing American’s Main Street of weblogs. All the action entered the highway of social media, and our blogs became homing places. Our websites, our hearths, had been bypassed by social media companies that circumlocuted our blog posts with algorithms and AI. Wisdom congealed into building platforms first then writing books afterward.

A few weeks ago, the Lord, acting as a traffic cop, stopped me with the dastardly deed of AI and algorithms. In my human wisdom, I had gone looking for other writers to follow instead of working on my writing projects. I was looking for conversations, as limited as they are on social media, with other writers for some semblance of a give-and-take encouraging environment.

This behavior was outside the AI algorithms that Instagram had decided for me. I was locked out of my account immediately for suspicious activity and asked for a cell phone number to receive an SMS message containing a code to reenter. Which I don’t have.

Now mind you, I had 11 followers, mainly family and a few others who were interacting with me through my posts and comments. But they meant something to me. I had read and underlined a book about blogging on Instagram using captions. I shed a few tears.

He had been dealing with me for months to write first and demote social media platforms to a second-place priority. Telling me that my local isolation is a blessing in disguise so that I can concentrate on my writing. As Eudora Welty wrote in One Writer’s Beginnings, “My temperament and my instinct had told me alike that the author, who writes at his own emergency, remains and needs to remain at his private remove. I wished to be, not effaced, but invisible….”

Another lesson I believe the Lord wanted me to learn was to write steadily on a schedule and as Isak Dinesen said, “Write a little every day, without hope, without despair.”

But beyond the pain of losing what I was trying to build on a small level (for many followers would swamp me) was the pain of knowing I was not writing the way the Lord meant for me to write – a long Psalms 119 type poem and venturing to write longer, thoughtful blog posts. And I abandoned the joy of writing itself.

Writing is my God-ordained baptism. A dying to self in front of a blank page. I never would have thought the desire of my heart would be used this way.

I had a vision a few months ago: I was sitting down writing and had so much paper that it was floating all around me, no supply issues here. I know that meant my drought days of writer’s block would be over, but I can’t help but wonder if the vision did double duty and showed me how different the coming days would be regarding how we published our works. I don’t believe the paper in the vision meant an old-school return to book-only publishing, but I do think it might have signified a change.

On a national level, I see around the corner which we are turning now, as do many others, a total upheaval of our society. Social media and publishing companies are not exempt. Even though my Instagram account was taken out prematurely, I know it was a matter of time before censoring companies are taken down, regulated, or for all practical purposes boycotted.

I don’t want to see the Internet go down. I know that is primarily the only way my works are going to be read by those that God sends my way. And I know I am not alone in this. I want to see it cleansed.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing – variety is the spice of our literary lives. I chose Substack because of the melding of the social media aspect with the newsletter format (and because they don’t censor). My blog before h. renell’s Hearth was with WordPress because of the ability to have a community of followers. And my aforementioned Instagram account.

Many years ago I read Thomas Merton’s book Seven Storey Mountain. The Lord prompted me to revisit it. In the epilogue “Meditatio Pauperis In Solitudine.” Merton records the Lord’s message to him regarding his popular published poetry and his conflicting desire for solitude.

I will give you what you desire. I will lead you into solitude. I will lead you by the way you can not possibly understand, because I want it to be the quickest way…But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in my Mercy which has created you for this end…And your solitude will bear immense fruit in the souls of men you will never see on earth.

Thomas Merton

Building a literary life with God, me, and the eyes that God sends my way has become the joyful practice of my weekdays, done in His way. Writers usually don’t see most of the hearts that they touch. For the work is ours and the reach and glory are His.

FaithReadingWriting

Poems, Blogging, and Process

Austin Kleon wrote a book, Show Your Work. The premise is creativity is a process, not a product. It allows a public showing of the stages we go through in our art by sharing our process publicly.

After the process of importing my data from my old blog into my new one, I read through all my posts. Deciding which ones to keep and which ones to toss. Over the last year, I saw a progression of style and subject matter. I also did some deep thinking about the direction I wanted to take my new blog.

I desire to write more in-depth posts and return to writing poems, which went by the wayside. No more posting quote graphics and public domain poetry – for that I have started a Tumblr blog to complement this one. I will post once a week, Saturday, all prayer concerns for my readers to read and pray over as the Lord leads, called Prayer Points. I will be posting twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. And I plan on expanding my newsletter beyond just sending the last post via email. Finally, I am adding more graphics to my posts to make them more visually appealing.

It was an act of faith for me to start again. National news made me want to throw up my hands and say, “Lord, what is the point if censorship is rolling ahead full steam?” But I have learned to hear His voice over the years, and have seen His faithfulness. I know if He says, “Write!” then I need to honor this process and write, not only for Him but for my readers and for me too.

FaithPoetryWriting

Feeds for a New Era

My blog post today may be old-hat to some, but because of the censorship issues today, I am revisiting it.

The technology of RSS feeds some consider to be old-hat, and they have been since the rise of social media. But they have been under the radar, not obsolete like others have proclaimed over the years. Twitter had a feed many years ago.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Netscape created it in 1999 under the different name of RDF Site Summary, and through the years it morphed into the current name.

The format is in XML language, which is a plain text file. Another file associated with RSS is OPML, which is XML’s outline format for exporting the feeds you have created in a feed reader for backup.

Feed readers consolidate feeds from websites that use this form of syndication. Blogs, podcasts, emails, websites, and news sites (this is not an exhaustive list) publish the XML files to their sites so that feed readers can pull in articles that are newly published. Most feed readers are free. Another file form of aggregating websites is called Atom. Most feed readers support both.

I will use mine to illustrate. I use the Linux program named QuiteRSS. It allows you to add folders to organize subject matter. For example, I have folders called Oregon, News, Church, Writing, and Personal. I can update all at once, only certain folders, or certain sites. There is a rudimentary browser so that you can read the feeds on their home website. Or you can open an external browser to read articles. Filters are available to further help sort information. And the articles can be labeled or deleted as needed. I clean mine daily so I am not overwhelmed.

The fall of popularity of RSS, a decentralized form of gathering data for the user, instead traveled to companies centralizing data on us users, was planned? If so, it is time to stake our claims on the World Wide Web and raise the flag of our RSS mailboxes.

ReadingWriting

Battle Axes and Spiritual Warfare

My mother was a warrior. She was the counselor at a small town high school – the students called her Battle Ax.

It has been a long time ago, so I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but it I think it was junior high school or a year or two later. I was sick – normal flu symptoms – that morning and stayed home from school. She went to work. We lived in a larger community about 15 miles down the highway. All of a sudden, without any warning, I felt extremely dizzy, disoriented, and called her at work, panicking.

She left work immediately, and while driving down the road, was telling the devil where he could get off – literally, no metaphors. And before she got home, I all of a sudden felt refreshed.

It was from her I learned spiritual warfare. I have used it in the seen and unseen realms.

In this same town when I had returned to live as an adult, I attended a church that practiced the gifts of the Spirit. Rumor mill had it that some in town viewed us as a cult. All I know is this church is the only one I attended (plus a home bible study of a friend of my mothers) where I felt the presence of the Lord. It was in that church that I taught high school. And it was in that church that I healed after a divorce.

If the church has failed us, I believe it is in this area: our spiritual authority in Christ. Deception is running rampant today, and discernment coupled with spiritual warfare is key.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV

Have a blessed weekend!

Faith

Wild West and WIPs

With the revelations of malfeasance in the offing, Big Tech being in the cross-hairs in the days ahead, it is hard for content creators to know where to publish their works. Many that I follow online are doing a tremendous job of keeping afloat in the atmosphere of censorship.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 is in the President’s cross-hairs as a national security threat. It would stifle social media companies by making them liable for on-site postings, therefore open to lawsuits. Some say to enforce this by punishing those companies that have censored conservatives. Others want it to be deleted.

And it has been a national security threat. If it were only a few companies censoring, they would most likely be disciplined and that would be the end of it. But the Big Tech companies – the big, bad apples spoiling it for us all – have consorted, pushing out the truth, and bamboozling a large swatch of the population in believing lies. The lies being antithetical to the U.S. Constitution.

With unbridled, unrestrained freedom, I see a governmental backlash coming. If the social media companies are held accountable for what they publish, what does that mean for those of us who use the internet for ministry and/or writing? Are we about to reap what we have sown by not using freedom wisely?

If we are called to keep pursing our online writing ministries (and as a small fish in a big pond, I am), then I see a return back to what the internet was in the ‘90s, when I published my first blog. We all had our own home space on world wide web with search engines (like Technorati) and RSS feeds for others to read our content. I do think there is room for social media, but with a proper perspective to our home base.

Wild West days are upon us, it will be a work in progress – a WIP. It will be interesting to see what companies survive and those that don’t.

Those that have callings to produce content, need to get before the Lord and ask for wisdom, if they have not already. He shall surely give it.


Have a blessed weekend!

FaithWriting

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