Friday, July 25, 2014

In which I share what has entertained me on Youtube lately...

Since I talked about the effects of the Digital Age on us last week, I thought I'd share a few of the videos I've enjoyed the most recently on Youtube with you. First up is a band I've discovered recently, Anthem Lights, with their mash-up of the "Songs of the Year" from the K-Love Fan Awards. Love their harmonies!

Now I'm excited to introduce Broken Lens Productions, the project of a fellow OYANer, Braden Russell. Not only is he a talented writer who blogs at The Storymonger, but he's also hilarious. Check it out!


And finally, I'd like to share my absolute favorite song from The City Harmonic. If you haven't heard of them, you should definitely listen for yourself, because they're amazing! 

 As one final non-video note, you should check out Stasis, the project of J. Tobias Buller, which will be releasing for Kindle in the next few weeks. Check out the fantastic cover! 

What kind of videos have you been enjoying recently around the Web? Let me know in the comments! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Overloaded: The Results of the Digital Age

I’m a product of the Internet Age. I use words like “feels” and “ship” on a daily basis. I know that the Supernatural fandom routinely hijacks Tumblr posts, yet I don’t watch Supernatural or have a Tumblr! Sometimes I feel like I know a little bit about everything, though half of it is untrue and the other half is just a fraction of the world. There are TV series that I can’t fathom watching week by week because binge-watching is the only way I’ve ever seen them. I have to force myself to go to bed, because I routinely stay up way too late online. Yet I have an incredible amount of information at my fingertips. I can do everything from put a library book on hold to order a piece of furniture in a matter of minutes. I can generally figure my way around a cell phone, TV, camera, or computer. I probably know more than about some things than my parents did at my age.

Overloaded The Results of the Digital Age

But it scares me sometimes, this living on the edge of sanity. I mean, what have I let happen to my life that I never get to sleep before eleven anymore? I know nearly every major fandom out there; I’m actually interested in the characters of certain shows I’ve never seen. I know that “Oncers” compose the Once Upon a Time fandom, that “SuperWhoLock” is a very real fandom, and that Benedict Cumberbatch’s many fans are called “The Cumber Collective.” And every now and then the thought pops into my mind: why does any of this even matter? In some of my more introspective moments, I’m terrified that Pinterest is destroying my life. What’s happened to me? What’s happened to us?

The Internet and the Digital Age in general is, of course, not all bad. It’s been hugely beneficial in many ways.

  • It’s opened up many new avenues for writers. Blogging, online magazines, and e-publishing have all benefitted the writing community in one way or another, though I have my dislikes of the last one. I love my blog; I’ve grown tremendously as a writer from both The Ink Loft and the many blogs I follow.
  • So much information is available to us. Can you imagine our grandparents knowing the things we have access to? Cures for ailments, the accessibility to a favorite author, an incredible volume of music, popular names in ever year since some time in the 1800’s, how-to’s for everything under the sun, and so much more… I think we take for granted the wealth of information at our fingertips.
  • It’s broadened media and the way we experience it. No longer is entertainment limited to books, movies, and radio. Now we have online comic strips, Youtube mini-series, Pandora, Netflix, and many, many more. Fans can interact with and influence their favorite stories in unprecedented ways; for example, the first episode of BBC’s Sherlock, Season Three, was based almost entirely on Tumblr’s many theories, ships, and general buzz about the show. Fan art and fan fiction take a story to often unexpected depths. The many posts related to Marvel’s recent release Captain America: The Winter Soldier prove my point. And the creativity shown on Youtube is mind-blowing. I adored the Lizzie Bennett Diaries, a modern mini-series adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and am now enjoying Emma Approved, an adaption of Emma. I found myself surprisingly drawn in by a short series called Kissing in the Rain, and I’m in the midst of an adaption of Anne of Green Gables. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the prodigious musical talents found all over the site, including the brilliant Piano Guys, and the comedic genius found on such channels as Blimey Cow. The Internet has forever changed the way we’re entertained.

And, of course, there are many other benefits. But I think there are a lot of downsides that we don’t think about. The Digital Age has affected us in many ways, and not all of them are positive:

  • We’re always busy. I’ve discovered this in my own life: I struggle to set things aside and soak in peace and quiet. Sure, I still read and do non-Internet things, but I find myself turning to something to keep me busy every time I have a moment of inaction. It’s hard for me to just be, to rest. And Jesus calls us to be at rest. The Digital Age has largely destroyed our contentment in moments of silence and stillness.
  • We’re incredibly impatient. The Digital Age has made so many things available immediately that we have trouble waiting for anything. Patience is hard enough to practice, but with our ability to watch movies on demand, listen to music with the click of a button, etc., I fear that we barely demonstrate it at all. And impatience leads to strife with everyone. It also leads to us not appreciating the blessings we’re surrounded by.
  • It affects our health. I’m sure we could talk about this one forever, but I just want to touch on a couple of aspects: prolonged time on screens affects our adrenal glands, which then affect the rest of our bodies. And, as I mentioned earlier, I struggle to get to sleep at a decent time. Because of the Internet and my seeming ability to say no to it, I routinely deal with sleep deprivation.

Again, there are so many other things I could mention, but I’ll stop at three apiece. Feel free to jump in with your own conclusions, though! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Digital Age and its effects in your own life.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What is Love?

I find it fascinating that love is the first Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. It’s as if love is the most important fruit, and, realistically, all the other fruits just describe love in action. Heart in Hand with attribution1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter”, supports my theory – “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (v.13)

Our society is obsessed with love, or rather, with what it thinks love is. We debate about who should be allowed to “love” each other. We celebrate romance on Valentine’s Day; we glorify touchy-feely opinions that aren’t grounded in a biblical definition of love. And we watch marriages fall apart in startling numbers because people don’t understand what true love means.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post the day before Valentine’s Day, laying out my determination not to let my lack of a “significant other” stop me from being happy. This year, God’s been teaching me that I can’t let it stop me from loving others, either. Just because I don’t have a boyfriend doesn’t mean that I’m not surrounded by people who need to be loved. I find it so easy to get wrapped up in myself and my life when what I really should be doing is opening myself to others. Love isn’t selfish, which is why we find it so difficult to truly love. It’s opposite our sin nature. It also takes a great deal of work.

Love requires:

  • Letting go of yourself – I’m not saying become a doormat, but, ultimately, love is looking at someone else and saying, “Their well-being is more important than my wishes in the moment.” My favorite description of love is this: Love is sacrifice. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16. The theme of sacrificial love underlies some of the most painful stories I’ve ever read; the story of Jesus’ death is a very sad story. But those are some of the greatest stories ever told, too.
  • Giving of yourself – “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Cor. 13:4); “But the fruit of the Spirit is…forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…” (Gal. 5:22-23). Love requires not only letting go of yourself but also putting effort into the lives of others. It takes work to be patient – trust me, that’s been a life-long battle for me. Some people are exceptionally difficult to be kind and gentle with. Faithfulness means you have to move beyond your own selfish whims.Love is hard. And to truly love, you must share yourself with others. “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” - Jazlyn Roehl
  • Doing something – It’s easy to speak platitudes about love. But the real test of that love comes when you’re faced with the need for action. “Works, not words, are the proof of love.” – Unknown Author. Are you willing to put some work into this person you love? Or is your “love” just sweet things whispered in the heat of emotion? Love is a choice: choosing every day to turn your words into actions, to give up your personal time for someone else, to listen to them without judging, to do their chores for them, to invest in their passions. Love is so much more than words.
  • Understanding people – While Disney has taught us that “love at first sight” is the height of romance, true love requires knowing people beyond your first impressions. It’s easy to like people when you first meet them. I’ve met plenty of guys whom I thought would be fun to date. But as you get to know someone, your perception changes. Only when you understand who a person is can you love them through their faults. “Love at first sight usually ends with divorce at first slight.” – R. Prewitt. Love is so much more than attraction, though it can start with that. But true love understands the best and worst in people (thought not always specifics) and loves them through it. “Nothing beats love at first sight except love with insight.” – Unknown Author

True love doesn't end

What’s your understanding of love? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

BBC’s Sherlock: A Discussion

Today I get to bring to you my second monthly discussion, and I’ve chosen as our subject BBC’s Sherlock.

Since being introduced to this series last fall, I’ve loved seeing the brilliant creation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s brought to life on a modern stage. The series is brilliantly transferred from the Victorian Era, though I do have issues with it. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Here’s a couple of questions to get us started:

  1. Favorite aspect of the show? This is hard for me to pin down, but I think I’ll have to go with the sheer complexity of the plots and Sherlock’s brilliance in solving them. I enjoy the banter among the characters as well, though.
  2. Most-disliked aspect? The not-so subtle homosexual references. They drove me batty for the first two seasons, and then the first episode of the third season just about drove me over the edge. Then they seemed to calm down, which I appreciated. The fandom is kind of crazy about it, though. That’s the other aspect that disturbs me.
  3. Why do you think Sherlock has gained such popularity? I really want to hear your answers before I weigh in on it.

So, have you seen Sherlock? If so, what do you think of it? If not, why haven’t you tried it yet? Jump in with any related thoughts!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Realistic Christian Fiction: How Much is Too Much?

Today I share with you the conclusion of my two-part series on making our Christian fiction realistic. You can find Part 1 here. I’d also like to wish my American readers a happy 4th of July! I hope you enjoy your day!

Last week, I partially covered the problems we find in many Christian books, which are too often unrealistic because we’re afraid of including “mature content.” I then delved into reasons for including violence, profanity, etc. But I’m not just gung-ho for including these things without any caution. I have genuine concerns that surfaced when I read the article mentioned in my previous post.

  •  We expect Christian fiction to be clean. One of the reasons I read predominantly Christian stories is that I don’t want to be surprised by foul language or a sex scene. Christian books are generally clean, and, as I reader, I highly appreciate that. My forays into secular fiction usually end with me putting the book down mid-read, frustrated because I liked the story but am now stuck with things in my head that I didn’t want. I don’t have to worry about that in Christian fiction. There must be other readers out there like me, and, for us, the idea that Christian fiction should be edging into PG-13 and/or R-rated territory is worrying.
  • “Mature content” can poison your mind. The Bible clearly tells us to think on pure and true things [Philippians 4:8]. It’s very difficult to do that when you’ve got something impure stuck in your mind. Drugs, nudity/sex, profanity, and violence are all dangerous things to put in your mind. Ultimately, your level of tolerance is between you and God (and your parents, depending on your age), but it’s still something to consider for Christian authors. What are you putting into your mind as you write this story? And what will you be placing in your readers’ minds?

Photo courtesy of Idea go [backslash]

Image courtesy of Idea go/

  • Focusing on bad things makes it much easier to glorify them. Whenever you put time, effort and detail into something, it suggests to a viewer/reader of that something that it’s important, even valuable. As writers, we hope that the time we spend showing ideals such as courage, honesty, and the like will rub them onto our readers. But how often do we think about that fact that the not-so-savory aspects of our stories may rub off on them, too? In fact, that’s more likely. People pick up on negatives far more easily than they do positives, because the bad things appeal to our sin nature. So, in our efforts to be perfectly realistic, maybe we don’t shy away from showing sin. And, of course, we don’t intend to glorify it. Yet the potential is there for it to be appealing anyway. My caution in being more graphic is that you don’t glorify what you’re showing. Draw your lines very clearly. And remember that you’re trying to show redemption, grace, and beauty, not sin in all it’s “glory.”
  •  Less is more. Ultimately, I’ve discovered that readers are intelligent enough to figure out what’s happening without you describing every little thing about it. You actually insult their intelligence when you point out everything. I’ve heard people say that the Bible is full of “mature content,” and, yes, it is. There is a reason that I never knew certain Bible stories until I moved into high school. Murder, rape, deception, etc. abound, especially in the Old Testament. God didn’t ignore the fact that bad things happen. Yet I’ve found that some of those stories don’t include a lot of close-up detail.

Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar? “But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.”

Cain’s murder of his brother Abel? “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”

David and Bathsheba? “She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home.” And David’s subsequent murder of Uriah? “When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.”

As I said, you can understand exactly what’s happening without every detail. Now, there is a lot of telling vs. showing in the Bible, so it’s not a perfect example. But I used it to counteract the theory that the content in the Bible authorizes us to fill our stories with mature content. If anything, Bible stories actually show us the benefit of keeping our descriptions minimal.

I’m far from having all the answers. But I believe this a very real issue for writers and readers alike. How do we make our stories real without gratifying our sin natures? How do we accurately show light without damaging ourselves and our readers with darkness? Every person’s answer will look a little bit different, and, ultimately, it’s between you and God. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Where do you draw the line on “mature content”? What kind of content enhances the story and what kind distracts you from it? If you’d like to read some other thoughts on this, read the comments on this article - Marcher Lord Press and the Hinterlands Imprint. I found some of the opinions quite fascinating, and I’d like to hear what you think of them.

In closing, I’d like to mention a couple of series off the top of my head that I think do a good job of balancing reality and discretion. If you have others, by all means, tell me in the comments!

  • Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers – You may dispute me on this, and it is quite intense. I always recommend it with caution. But I find this trilogy to be rich with realism; every time I read it, I’m sucked into the world of Ancient Rome, which wasn’t a pretty place. There’s a lot of heavy content in this series, but I never felt like Francine Rivers was glorifying any of it. She showed the consequences of sin without being judgy. And she showed the opposites of those sins with equal realism. In addition, she manages to do it with little or no profanity, something I highly appreciate. Easily one of my favorite series ever.
  • Above the Line series by Karen Kingsbury – I read this recently and fell in love with Karen Kingsbury’s stories because of it. The four-book series deals with some serious issues, everything from temptations on a movie set to teenage pregnancy, but they’re handled in a beautiful, grace-filled way.