#FridayFive: Another 5 Interesting Medium Posts

Hey folks! Back this week with another group of Medium posts that I found informative and/or challenging, and that I think you may appreciate:

Confessions of A Failed Female Coder – Caroline McCarthy tackles the topic of women in STEM (specifically in Computer Science) and provides some perspective on the infamous “Google memo” by James Damore. McCarthy’s insights on how education and learning style influence the way girls interact with STEM subjects gave my wife and I some good things to discuss regarding how we will raise and educate our daughter.

Las Vegas, Murder, and Gun Control – Rick Thomas wrestles with some of the political/cultural conversation around the latest mass shooting in the US. Most helpful for me was his breakdown of the 3 arguments used by cultural evangelists, in regards to guns.

You Weren’t Very Persuasive Today – Cody Libolt provides some good ideas on how to have productive and persuasive discussions with people with whom you disagree. In an age of people screaming past each other into the digital abyss, this post is worth some consideration.

Killing Television – Michael Marinaccio cites a few Pew Research results about the demographics of news consumption and media trust, as he considers the possible effect of a generational shift from visual news back to print news as a more trusted resource.

Why You Should Quit Reading Paper Books – I disagree with Andy Sparks’ premise entirely*, as do apparently ALL of the commenters (the answer to your problem, Andy, is a combination of marginalia, pocket notebooks, and highlighters), but I’ll admit he has some useful tips for how to capture and review ideas and quotes from your digital reading. So take that for what it’s worth, and leave the rest, I guess.

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There you go, gang. Some fun reading for the weekend.

If you’re on Medium, let me know! I’d love to check out your work. I’m on Medium, too, if you want to follow me there–though I haven’t produced much of anything in that forum. Yet.

Have you read any useful or challenging articles online lately? Post the link in the comments below!

 

 

*Much to the possible dismay of Mr. Sparks, I’m actually playing around with the idea of reading EXCLUSIVELY print books in 2018, and limiting myself to books I actually own as of January 1. I figure it’s a good way to battle my tsundoku tendencies.

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#FridayFive: 5* Interesting Stories I’ve read recently on Medium.

So I have a confession to make: I use the “bookmark” function on Medium entirely too much.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Medium is a free public blogging platform in which anyone can submit articles. (And I mean anyone.) If you subscribe to certain people’s feeds or click that you are interested in certain topics, you can get a daily (or weekly, I imagine) digest email from the site with links to articles that might interest you. And you can even “bookmark” things you want to read later.

What happens when you bookmark a whole lot and don’t actually read that much? You get a backlog of articles that may number into the several hundred. Or so I’m told.

So I figured, at least for a few weeks, I was going to go through this backlog and pull stories to tell you about that I found interesting, informative, funny, and/or generally worth reading.

Disclaimer: I will try to warn you in advance, but in these posts I will link to articles with bad language from time to time. I’m going to trust that you and your conscience will make good choices, based on your convictions. If I link to the article, it’s because I think the content is worth reading, despite objectionable verbiage.

So here you go–5* stories I’ve read recently that I thought were worth sharing:

I Envy Your Fake Life — Stephen Altrogge talks about the confluence of social media and comparison. I appreciated his honesty, and the reminder of how God’s sovereignty speaks to our contentment.

The Only 3 Types of Writing People Actually Want to Read — Okay, so a lot of the stuff I read on Medium has to do with content creation, writing, publishing, etc. This piece by Ayodeji Awosika was a very useful and direct reminder about what people want to get out of online content (or really, any written content).

Read Like You’re on a Diet — Okay, this one hit a little close to home, as Cody Musser describes the glut of reading material online, the temptation to try to catch it all, and how overwhelming it can be. He’s also frank about how writers’ motives can cloud how good or useful content is. And he emphasizes the need for creating, not just consuming. Worth considering. (NB: language)

23 Ways to Immediately Get more Traffic to Your Blog — Okay, this post is SEO’d to the max. Unsurprising, since it’s Jeff Goins, who’s a pro at platforming. BUT it’s also got some good and useful ideas for boosting the number of eyes that land on your writing, so if you’re into such things, this is a good one to read.

Reading to Learn: Why You Shouldn’t Read Beginning-to-End and What You Should Do Instead — Michael Motta discusses what looks like a very effective method for reading non-fiction (especially textbooks) with an eye to better retention and comprehension. If you’re in school, this may especially be worth a look.

BONUS:

Jesus Took Away My Freedom of Speech… — Couldn’t wait until next time to include this one. Billy Schiel reminds us in this great article about the implications of being servants of Jesus Christ, including how it affects the way we speak (or blog or tweet). Don’t miss this one.

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There you go: the first “Medium” edition of the #FridayFive. If you are already on Medium and are so inclined, you can follow me there. No, I don’t have much content up at this point, but I will be rectifying that in the next few weeks–both with cross-posts from this blog and some Medium-exclusive content as well. Looking forward to that!

Have a great weekend, do something fun, be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day if you’re a believer, and I’ll be back next week (hopefully).

The irony isn’t lost on me.

My last post, over a month ago, was talking about waiting. Since then, gentle readers, you have patiently waited for more content (or, more likely, forgot about the blog and moved on to other things).

I’m not “back” yet. But I’m coming back to this…sometime. Still trying to figure out what the new normal looks like. Nevertheless, I’ve got some stories, lemme tell ya.

Here’s the bare bones version: We had a baby! And she’s great. And I miss what a “full night’s sleep” feels like. And there was a hurricane, but we’re okay. And now it’s mid-September, and the year has flown by, and there are pumpkin-flavored things being sold, and I can’t quite keep up with life. So. Blogging was bumped down below the cut-off line for “things claiming time and attention” (sorry).

Back soon-ish.

#300aDay: The waiting is the hardest part.

That’s another thing about taking on a 30-day writing challenge: usually, there’s not room built in for grace, if you miss a day here or there. The most important thing is that you don’t break the all-important “chain,” and if you do, you’re a failure. But you know what? If while seeking to engage in a new habit or challenge you are successful 25 out of 30 times, that’s not a failure. What a crazy thought. It’s 25 more days of writing or practicing music or exercise or whatever else than you would have done otherwise. Madness.

So yeah, the idea of taking on a 30-day writing challenge is fraught with perils. I’m still unsure if doing so would be wise at the moment. More consideration is needed.

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My wife is more than 41 weeks pregnant. For you kids keeping score at home, that’s over a week “past due.” What that means practically is that we are in a kind of holding pattern. In the last 2 weeks of work, I’ve been trying to clear my inbox and close most of the “open loops” on my projects and responsibilities. At home, my wife has done the usual nesting-type preparations, and the nursery is ready to go. Super cute–white, grey, and pale-yellow with little baby stuffed animals.

We thought our little girl would come a bit early, so we were getting ready around the beginning of last week. Then the due date approached and we thought, okay, she’s “due” around Thursday. Then the due date passed and we thought, okay, fine, it must be during the weekend. Now at “Due Date Plus Eight” (the worst reality show ever), we’re tapping fingers and watching the clock. Neither the kiddo nor my wife’s body are giving indications that this party’s ready to start. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, and we’re creeping toward the point when intervention is required.

This past week (really, the past month, but especially the past week), we have been struggling with anxiety about the birth process, the health of mother and baby, and what comes next. And as the days drag on, that anxiety threatens to grow. I have taken to repeating the following phrase, as a comfort to my wife and reminder to myself: “God’s will, God’s way, God’s time. Because He is good.”

When the waiting is the hardest part, the best thing we can do is trust the One who sees the end from the beginning, and hang on for the ride.

300 Words a Day: Too crazy to attempt?

An idea I’ve heard about over and over in the realm of writing/productivity/creativity is having a daily writing goal: a benchmark that you commit to, no matter what, in order to build a habit, get the creative juices flowing, get the Muse to start showing up–whatever metaphor you prefer.

Of course, that idea has always intrigued me. I struggle with consistency in several areas of life. If I could pick a superpower (and flight wasn’t an option), I would pick the power of consistently doing all the things I commit to doing. That’s right, folks; here comes Self-Control Man, to save the day!

Seriously, though. The BIG THING I would like to change about myself is that I want to commit to a course of action and stick to it–whether that’s eating better, exercising regularly, spending consistent time reading the Bible and praying, or, yes, writing a minimum amount of words every single day.

The number doesn’t have to be huge, either. I just read a Thomas Kidd newsletter (do you get Thomas Kidd’s email newsletters? They’re really good!) from last fall, in which he talks about having a thousand-word-a-day goal. That’s…really intimidating, to be honest. A thousand words a day?!? I don’t know if I could do half that. Or even a third of that.

But then, that got me thinking: could I do 300 words a day? That’s not very ambitious, right? Three hundred words. Typically, my blog posts are 500-800, so 300 words seems like it would be a breeze.

On the other hand, my wife is about to have a baby. My world is about to be turned sideways on its axis as we welcome a baby girl (who is already 5 days late–takes after her daddy, unfortunately). So committing to 300 words a day seems like I’m taking too much on at once–right?

We’ll see. Maybe I’ll consider it some more tomorrow.

Young, Ranting, and Reformed.

For once, I kept my foot out of my mouth. Chalk it up to the grace of God.

I had a dilly of a post ready to go today. I’m telling you, it was a stinger: a polemic against the type of non-biblical garbage Christians post on social media that completely undercuts their testimony of Jesus being Lord in their lives. It was clever, it was tightly argued, it had an altar-call ending.

But it was not pastoral. It wasn’t kind. It didn’t take into consideration that each of us is at a little bit different stage in our growth and maturity.

This morning, on the bus, I started reading a book called Blind Spots by Collin Hansen (review coming probably next week). From the outset, Hansen punched me in the gut a bit as he talked about how we talk about the church being divided, but we’re quick to publicly point out the mistakes of others. In our rightful defense of truth, we miss grace. We expect everyone to be just like us and develop blind spots to our own weaknesses.

I realized that today’s planned post was polemical but not pastoral, critical but not constructive. So with literally seconds to go, I stopped it from going live and threw it back in the drawer for a while. I need some time to smooth out the jagged edges and sand down the splinters.

Here’s the irony: the big finale of the post was the statement that our social media interactions preach a sermon about who we are, who Jesus is, and what we believe. However, the post I wrote to communicate that truth was less like Jesus than it should have been. Maybe it was preaching a true sermon after all; out of the abundance of the heart, the blogger types.

Don’t misunderstand me: I believe that hard words make for soft hearts, so hard truths are necessary. There are times to cry out woes against the spiritual hypocrisy of hardened, self-righteous religious folks. (Folks like me.)

But I realized that some of things I was addressing and considering in my critique were being posted by people who are still really young in the faith and don’t know any better, or who may not really be believers at all. In such cases, my mission isn’t to call down shame on them, but to come up beside them and lovingly challenge and correct foolish behavior. In fact, for most of the people I’m thinking of, a word or two might be all that’s needed.  Those with hard hearts may need more than that, and if so, then a private word is still the wiser path than oblique public scorn.

So. Consider this a public example of how God is revealing my inner Pharisee and slowly, so slowly, refining my heart so that I will be a better disciple and pastor. Learn from my mistake. Hold-fire on that rant you want to post. Consider your words, consider your people, and consider if delivering the truth more graciously may help it be received more readily.

Something to think about this weekend.

Peace and grace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Escalator Temporarily Stairs.”

My wife is back, and I’m thrilled that she’s home.

But I’m now in the final week of classwork before the end of the semester, and I’ve got 4 different deadlines looming on Friday. Plus, I think I may be coming down with something. No bueno.

So I’m going to beg your indulgence one more time. As much as I want to pour some more energy into this blog again, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

So I’ll see y’all in (hopefully) a week. Expect the next post on Monday, May 4th.

If you’d prefer, feel free to subscribe to the blog (with the buttons below), and you’ll be notified the next time I post.

Thanks, friends! See you soon!

Three Stars out of Five.

It is a fact widely ignored that noteworthy people about whom one may share opinions on social media are flesh-and-blood human beings capable of responding to such comments directly.

I realized this all too well when I wrote a fair but critical book review last fall and the author left me a kind but lengthy rebuttal in the comments section.

I’m starting to dip my toe into the waters of book reviews, and with that comes the reality that authors sometimes read what reviewers write. Sometimes they even respond.

And sometimes, in the bizarre case of Kathleen Hale, they go to great lengths (some would call it stalking) to contact negative reviewers who post on social media sites and then write confessional pieces about said “pursuit” in (inter)national papers. Spooky.

I’m glad I’ve never had to deal with that level of crazy intensity, but it does give the online reviewer pause: what if the author actually reads my review? Am I being critical or just cruel? Are my critiques justifiable or personal?

I will freely admit, being snarky is fun. It’s easy to go for the cheap dig and the harsh slam. But critical red-meat and ad hominem attack doesn’t make for a good review. What matters are things like style and content, not cheap shots. I’m not writing clickbait for Buzzfeed here. [#Irony]

When I wrote my recent review of The Art of Work, I wrestled with this tension a little, even though I really liked the book. I was part of Jeff Goins’ online launch team. He sent me a free copy of his book to review, and I knew that he and others on the team would see the review. Of course the temptation to write a puff piece was high! But I had legitimate critiques and I owed it to you (and to Jeff) to be honest about that.

A short time after I shared my review on the Launch Team Facebook page, Jeff reposted an article about handling criticism and  ignoring haters. As i read the post, I felt dread and a little shame rise up in my gut. I went back over my post to see if I made a mistake, and decided that I still stood by it. I was honest but very positive on the book. In the end, I realized that Jeff’s post was written years prior and had nothing to do with me; but it nevertheless made me reconsider how I write about others’ work. After all, someday soonish, I’m going to be the author tempted to read people’s reviews of my work.

Which brings me back to my original point: the people we talk about online, whether book reviews or blog posts or Twitter updates, are real people. So if we criticize, we must be careful to do so lovingly, wisely, and only when necessary.

This may sound like a Pollyanna policy, but it’s not. I’m not advising you to say nothing if you can’t be “nice.” Sometimes “nice” isn’t loving, if stern words of correction are needed. But what happens more often in social media interaction is that we reach for sabres over scalpels because sabres are easier to swing. Unfortunately, that often reveals who’s more interested in being a swordsman than a surgeon.

#ArtOfWorkBook: “The hard is what makes it great.”

[This is Part 3 of a series of posts inspired by Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work. Until March 23rd at 11:59PM, the book can be pre-ordered for only $6.99, the cost of shipping, and it comes with a ton of online bonuses. That’s only 3 days away, people–get on it!!! Check it out at www.artofworkbook.com.]

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“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

–Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) in A League of Their Own

Chapter 3 of The Art of Work is probably one of my favorites. In it, Jeff talks about the “myth of talent” and the importance of painful practice. He suggests that it’s practice, not talent, that makes the difference in an endeavor, and that even those who have natural ability owe it to themselves to push themselves past the point of what comes easy in order to discover what they’re really capable of achieving.

He writes:

In an era of human history in which we prize comfort above nearly every other virtue, we have overlooked an important truth: comfort never leads to excellence. What it takes to become great at your craft is practice, but not just any kind of practice—the kind that hurts, that stretches and grows you.

A question I wrestle with from time to time is, Am I really a writer? Don’t writers…write? There are different views on this question of legitimacy. Some would argue (pretty convincingly) that if you’re not driven, if you don’t have a compelling need to write, then you need to quit kidding yourself and move on to something else. I see the logic here—writing is challenging and lonely work. There’s no instant feedback and recognition. It’s an act of faith that what you’re doing means something, is worth something. If you’re not willing to sacrifice the time and sleep and energy to create, you may be more enamored by the thought of being a writer than the actual writing.

The counter proposal is that sometimes writers need time away from writing in order to figure out what is worth saying at all. The longer this season lasts, however, the more important it is to take a hard look at what you love and what you don’t. Your passions are often revealed in how you spend your time, money, and energy (unless these resources are tied up in other necessary things, and you’re living under constant frustration—that’s a different conversation).

More from Jeff Goins:

I don’t know where this idea that your calling is supposed to be easy comes from. Rarely do easy and greatness go together. The art of doing hard things requires an uncommon level of dedication. You have to love the work to be able to persevere through those difficult times, those painful moments when you would probably rather quit. How do you do that without an uncanny amount of passion? It’s not possible. You must love the work. Not until you find something you can do to the point of exhaustion, to the extent that you almost hate it but can return to it tomorrow, have you found something worth pursuing.

I can admit: this is how I’ve felt about church ministry from time to time. As I’ve expressed recently, there have been moments in the last year when I was ready to throw up my hands and say, “This clearly isn’t my calling.” But the love and the Lord have kept me going.

And I think I can say the same for writing, to some extent. I’m not as prolific as some of you, dear readers, but I’m working on it. I keep blogging. I keep writing poetry. I can’t seem to quit this, because it won’t let go of me. I’m still getting bursts of inspiration for stories to tell, and I’m scribbling down all those notes until I can start fleshing them out.

So I’m just going to keep moving my fingers and making the clickety-clack sound, and hopefully you’ll keep reading what I share, and one day, I’ll hold up something made of physical paper and ink and say, “Mine.”

Until then, I need to keep practicing and keep posting. Thanks for taking the ride with me.

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Your Turn: Have you ever reached the point of painful practice, when you both hate and love the thing you’re passionate about doing? How did you break through that temptation to pull back and stop?

Green-eyed blogger.

I’ve been blogging on and off for about 12 years. Over that time, I’ve discovered a few new confirmations of Jeremiah 17:9 in my own life. One of these is how I react to blog traffic. I too easily become motivated by stats–do they like what I’m saying? Do they think I’m funny or interesting or insightful?  Suffice it to say, if I had the audience of, say, Jon Acuff, at this point in my writing “career,” I’d be a basket case.

Another problem I have is that I delve into self-analysis a bit too much, especially in the area of blogging. I’m already a bit too introspective and self-reflective, so displaying that tendency in a public forum can get me into trouble. Let’s just say I’ve blog a LOT about blogging. (You may be thinking, “You’re doing it RIGHT NOW, Dave.” But I’m kinda not. Hang in there.)

I’ve been wanting to get back into regular writing for a while. Lord-willing, I’ll transition into writing books and pursue some side-work writing while I move toward full-time pastoral ministry. So I knew I needed to get back into the habit of writing consistently. Obviously, this hasn’t really happened yet. (Did I really think trying to kick this off, while also working full-time, teaching Sunday School, taking online seminary classes, AND helping to plan and carry out my upcoming wedding, was a good idea? Clearly, I also don’t think through some things ENOUGH.)

Past blogs had more of a regular readership, developed over time. I don’t know why, but I guess I assumed that I would jump back in to the blogging and be met with an adoring crowd. (It appears I have writer-vanity tendencies, too.) But without regular content, readership atrophies. It’s the second law of bloggodynamics: readership breaks down if it’s not consistently maintained and boosted with good content. (It’s in a book somewhere; wiki that mess.) So my most recent blogging enterprise has stumbled out of the gate, and I knew I needed something to build momentum.

I heard Michael Hyatt once talk about how guest-posting is great because it cross-pollinates web traffic, plus it gives your readers something new to check out, a new “voice” on your blog. Sounded good to me.

So when Webster Hunt (@livingheart) mentioned that he was considering blogging, I thought, “Hey, one less day I have to produce content, and maybe he can bring some new readers to my page!” I offered him the slot on Wednesday, and he brought a fantastic, confessional, challenging post. A post I frankly needed to hear, now less than 80 days from my wedding.

As a result, I had more blog-traffic that single day than I had in the past few weeks on my own.

And I caught myself becoming bitter about it.  I was jealous that he was not only getting page hits, but comments–Comments!–on his post. I was a little indignant.

And that’s when conviction hit me, like a running arm-bar clothesline. I was suddenly flat on my back, spiritually speaking, and staring up at the spotlights. I realized what was going on. I was falling into the trap of using pageviews and comments to measure my worth or importance, compared to other people. And the fact that another guy got huge response after one post made me angry. It wasn’t “fair.” But that’s when the Spirit starts poking and prodding, and I started asking myself those uncomfortable “why” questions. Why did I want to blog in the first place? Why did I invite Web and a few others to post on my page? Why am I so concerned about pageviews?

One other question weighed heavy on me: Whose glory am I after, right now?

So I wanted to take a moment and confess my sins.

Web, I confess that my motives for inviting you to post were not wholly pure, but I am very glad you took the offer, and I would love to have you post here more often. I still think you should branch out on your own, soon, because you have good stuff to say.

Further, I’m sorry I became a green-eyed blogger for a little while. I tried to hide it, but I want you to know I’m sorry for that, too.

As for the rest of you, I want to apologize for approaching this thing all wrong. You probably didn’t notice, and that’s fine. But I want to do this the right way. So, I’ll work on that. And I’m glad to have you along, for as short or long as you’re willing to hang with me.

Peace and grace. Have a good weekend.

And heed my example: beware the green-eyed blogger.