Tag Archives: blogs

Chicken Soup for the Blogaholic’s Soul

In casual conversation, I am likely to mention treatment options for Kate, Bowen, or Jessie, or how the Stone family is doing these days.  What you won’t know, however, is that I don’t actually KNOW these people, at least in the traditional sense.  You see, I follow blogs…lots of them.

Most of my favorite blogs were created in times of tragedy or in response to a medical crisis. I often have to steel myself to click the links, as these posts certainly aren’t mindless reads.  My heart seizes at the news of an agonizing decision to be made and I regularly shed tears over the unfathomable experiences of these families.  They are desperately reaching out for help and support, and I find myself magnetically drawn to them.

Some find my hobby a bit morbid and wonder why I torture myself by actively taking on the pain and grief of strangers.  While the subject matter is indeed difficult, the rewards are many.  First, however, I have to get past being a selfish human.  Just like many children create imaginary friends who have problems – fear of the dark, aggression, etc. – as a safe way to talk about newfound issues, I think reading about the sad and tragic side of life helps me process emotions about my own worst fears.  However, in acknowledging the really hard realities of life, I sometimes develop the “I’m glad it’s them and not me” syndrome.  I have to squelch those thoughts so that I can focus on the people and their needs, and not just the fears their stories evoke.

As a result, I can attest to the tremendous beauty and inspiration that often rises from the ashes of tragedy and helplessness.  I am refreshed by the way in which I can touch and be touched by people’s hearts across so much distance.  The written word is incredibly honest, heartfelt, and the authors are completely transparent.  In a world where the truth is often buried beneath layers of you know what, reading something so raw and heartfelt is meaningful.

When I stop the whirlwind of life to catch up on these families, I feel a renewed sense of faith in humanity.  I admire the strength that resonates from their words and I deeply hope that I would have equal fortitude in their shoes.  As strong as they are, they are also at their most vulnerable, and this allows them to put on paper the thoughts that most people could never speak.  I think this is a strong connection point for me personally given that I’ve always been better at expressing myself in writing than in face-to-face conversations.

Part of that ability is simply dissociating from what the world expects me to be or say, and simply writing what I feel without the risk of immediate and sometimes awkward reactions.  I love real, but being entirely real is usually the exception and not the rule.

Finally, in addition to the gift of inspiration I receive from these blogs, they also provide me the opportunity to give back in a profound way.  I’m not a doctor, so I can’t heal the sick.  I’m not a millionaire, so I can’t offer riches to fund medical treatments.  However, as a woman of faith, I can add my voice to those interceding on behalf of precious families who need guidance, hope, and strength beyond what they can muster on their own.  I believe firmly in the power of prayer and that giving away my heart and prayers, whether to close friends or virtual strangers, simply expands my capacity to do so over and over again.

It’s only fitting that I include information on a few of my favorite blogs, and I encourage you to post a comment with additional links.  There’s nothing like a shared bowl of chicken soup to warm us all up!

http://renziandleeannestone.blogspot.com/ – Oklahoma City couple Lee Anne and Renzi Stone lost their almost one year old son to a sudden epileptic seizure.  They honor little Isaiah by sharing their daily challenges and joys.

http://www.audreycaroline.blogspot.com/ – Angie is the wife of Selah singer Todd Smith.  While expecting, Todd and Angie were told their daughter had many life threatening conditions and would not survive outside the womb.  Her book, “I Will Carry You,” details their experience and utter reliance on God to make it through to the other side.

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mcraekate – Kate McRae is a six-year-old Arizona girl living with a very rare form of brain cancer.  Her mother writes regularly about treatment options, highs and lows, and specific prayer requests.

http://www.carepages.com/carepages/JessicaBoone – Oklahoma teenager Jessie Boone suffered massive head trauma during a ski accident last year.  Her mother chronicles the numerous touch-and-go moments, months in hospitals and Jessie’s current journey.

http://www.kellyskornerblog.com/ – Kelly is an Arkansas gal who began writing when doctors said her newborn wasn’t expected to live.  After a difficult beginning, she now has a healthy and happy daughter and another on the way.  Having also suffered infertility for many years, she is an inspiration to those women desperately hoping for a baby.

http://bowensheart.com/ – Matt Hammett is the lead singer of the Christian band Sanctus Real.  Their son, Bowen, has a severely underdeveloped heart.  They are journaling their experience and sharing the love of God through their words and stories.

Stories Written in Blood

by Josh Bottomly

Not long ago my wife, Amy, posted a picture of my night stand on her blog.

It was a picture of the books propped up on my stand.

From left to right.

Tim Keller’s The Reason for God.

Abraham Heschel’s God in Search of Man.

C.S. Lewis’s Quotables.

Eugene Petersons translation of the Bible, The Message.

And, N.T. Wright’s Matthew for Everyone.

An anonymous blogger saw this picture and posed this question directly to me (and indirectly to all Christians):

Why do so many Christians just read Christian books?

My first mental response was of course immature, arrogant, condescending, and reactionary:

How dare you try and pigeonhole!  I peruse the Fiction and Literature section at Barnes and Noble more frequently than I do the Spiritual Devotion section.

I have a undergraduate and graduate degree in English literature.

You name a classic or contemporary author, and I’ll bet I have studied him or her.  Shakespeare.  Check.  O’ Connor.  Check.  Camus.  Check.  Kerouac.  Check.

But later, after I had calmed down, I sat down to think a bit about that anonymous person’s question.  It’s an appropriate question, really.  And it was probably not meant to stir up conflict. But conversation.

So after some reflection, this is how I responded to this blogger.

Simply put: I’m interested in reading any story that is written in blood.

Take East of Eden by John Steinbeck, for example. Now that’s a book written in blood. Who of us hasn’t felt an acute sense of displacement? It’s not that we are living in the wrong place; just the wrong way. Or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  I’ve got a son now and the thought of dying for Silas – not a iota of fear. But the thought of Silas having to live beyond my dying love – nothing but fear.

Any story then that struggles with what it means to be human, what it means to walk upright in a bent world, what it means to live within tensions and questions and doubts – that’s a story I want to read and participate in because it is written in the author’s blood. Whether it is written by a Christian. Or agnostic. Or atheist. Or Buddhist. Or Muslim.  Because all truth is God’s truth.  And part of the theology of common grace includes the animating belief that when we tell the truth about our experience of being human, regardless of our “worldview” or religious belief system, somehow, in some mysterious way, a “gleam of the evengelium”, as J.R.R. Tolkien argued, shines through.

J.R.R. Tolkein, smoking his famous pipe.

So I pose this contagion of questions for you to ponder – Christian or not:

What books have you read that are written in blood?

What stories have spoken and resonated with your deepest humanity?

What narratives have shaped the way you understand the narrative we live in?

No doubt, I’m always looking for a good read. And by good, I mean a story where the author simply has the courage as Fredrick Buechner puts it,  to “open a vein.”

RDC News and Updates: “What’s New” Plus Standards and Practices

Hello there, dear RDC community.  I’m sitting here with wet hair in my big fuzzy bathrobe and no house shoes in a 65 degree house trying to write an entry about “what’s new” when all I can think about is whether or not the hot water on my stove is boiling yet so I can make some tea. I also ALMOST edited that sentence because it was too long.  I didn’t, however, because the point of it and the rest of this article is to share with you just a bit about who we are, what we do and why we do it. And, the fact that an occasional long sentence slips in is just part of how we’re structured right now.

The RDC will be deploying our 200th post this upcoming week.  We’ll hit our 17,000th view sometime on Sunday or Monday and we’ll be giving away more promotions in November and December than the previous four months combined.  We kicked off two new areas of writing this month (a series on “Where the Red Fern Grew” and the “Stockyards City Cookbook Cook-Through“) and have added a few more contributors as well.  Since our last update Kendy, Jennifer, Jani, Whitni, Michael (guest blogger) and Dan have joined our team.  Our “Friends of the RDC” are also growing and we couldn’t be happier; we generally have between 100-250 views per day with some spikes these past few months hitting 600-1100, depending upon what content was deployed.  What this means, however, is that we’re adjusting to that growth.

This week I’ll be talking to someone about managing our promotions and advertising.  We’re going to celebrate our 6 month birthday by launching a new website, designed to be more efficient for someone who might visit us, as well as more visually appealing.  We’re also having a first official “contributor meeting” on December 11th at which time we’re going to make a decision about which way to steer the RDC in terms of a business model.  And, we have a few interviews scheduled for this next month that make me think we’re beginning to get noticed as perhaps a place that has some beneficial contribution.

And, while I’m really happy about all that is going on around here, I also want to let you know that we’re doing our best to keep our side of the street clean.  What that means is that the world of blogging isn’t very well-defined.  If you go to WordPress.Com and simply begin looking through a random selection of blogs you will find some amazing work, and some extremely poor work.  Some bloggers simply post other work they’ve found and would like to share.  That’s fine as long as they are referencing the source, and most do.  Others appear to be writing all their content but sometimes you can’t tell about their images.  And finally, there are those who cite or link to their sources, credit their photos and seem to be doing the best they can to keep their own standards high.

In case you’ve wondered in the past, we write all our own content.  We shoot all our own photos or credit the source from which they were derived.  If there’s no credit, then we purchased the license for that image from a photograph company.  And, we link to all our references or sources whenever we feel you might need further context or the original source supporting what we have created.  Right now, I do light editing for every release except sports.  Rob is our sports editor.  And, when I feel like I need to make a decision about something I’ll bounce a question off Julie (she was my first co-contributor) or send it out to our whole team.

I’m sharing this information, in part, because of a very unfortunate copywrighting issue that came out on the Reddit and Facebook communities this week.  This link pretty much explains just how bad theft can get when it comes to plagiarism and blatant use of what was deemed to be the fact that “all content on the internet is public domain.” Cook’s Source Magazine royally ticked off “the internet” and they’re paying for it handily.

So, everything in this letter (except for the previous immediate paragraph) pretty much sums up the way we do business.  But we also “do business” on a volunteer and for-a-hobby only status right now…which is why I’m in my bathrobe writing to you this morning.  After December that might change, but for right now all you see is simply because of the heart of those who write it.

Have a wonderful Saturday in Red Dirt Country.  Y’all come back now, ya hear?