When I was young, I would spend my summers with my grandfather on his farm. Every night, we had a ritual of watching the ten o’clock news (followed by Quincy with Jack Klugman).
As I got older, I learned to appreciate the news. It was delivered by well-dressed men and women with spot-on hair, concerned expressions, and a cadence in their voices that carried authority and understanding. When commercials for the news came on, they would say things like:
A difference you can see
A friend you can turn to
Coverage you can count on
Stories that count from people who care
Then I went to work in media and discovered it was all total bull$#!+.
The news doesn’t make a positive difference, news outlets are not your friend, you can NOT count on objective reporting, and they do not care about you any more than McDonald’s cares about the last dope they sold a box of mystery meat nuggets to.
There is one fact about news that everyone knows but chooses to forget. It’s glaringly obvious but we push it aside because we want to believe that reporters have our best interest at heart.
News reporting is a business and its number one priority is to make money.
The news is not a charity. Not even NPR. It is not a benevolent institution existing to dispense truth to an otherwise ignorant people, blessing the masses with information they need to know to survive, take action, or otherwise be generally more interesting.
At best, it’s entertainment. At worst, it’s misinformation designed to create a narrative to sway readers, listeners, and viewers toward the station owner’s bias, even if it means turning family and friends against each other.
In the business of broadcasting, eyeballs equals money. There’s no better way to do that than to create drama, divide people, and get some hashtags trending. It’s about stirring up emotion, even if it means creating panic and anxiety in people who are helpless to do anything about the trauma playing out in front of them.
Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster.
Have you heard about the car that is being developed to run off of solar power? Did you know that the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot is giving away 80% of his wealth to charity? How about that there is a greater percentage of people in our country going to church than in a very long time?
Of course you haven’t heard about these things! That kind of news doesn’t get clicks. You’re not going to get the comments, likes, and shares on your Facebook post by talking about these things.
Remember when the Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire? Why haven’t we heard about restoration efforts? What about ISIS? Is that still a thing? North Korea was testing short-range missiles. Is the threat over?
Apparently, nobody cares. Those issues aren’t “hot” anymore. They weren’t generating enough ad revenue so they’re no longer important.
Currently, the news is ablaze with stories about the conditions at the U.S. and Mexico border. This is an issue that is over 10 years old. It’s terrible and there are thousands of people that need help but why is it so popular now?? Why, all of a sudden, are we being force-fed endless articles, videos, and radio pieces on this topic?
Hint: it stirs drama and provokes feelings outrage. It pits people against each other. It generates ad revenue. And as soon as the story has served its purposes for those who share it, it will disappear behind the next hot-button issue that can be spun to grow the business.
Just in case, let me be clear. I am not singling out any particular media bend. I see this in liberal media, conservative media, christian media, public media, and all media that benefits from more readers, viewers, or listeners (which is pretty much all of them).
So, what’s the takeaway? Before you get all lathered up about an issue or topic, before you share, comment, or lose your peace, remember that doing so is exactly what news producers want you to do. You are advertising for them!
Like soap opera producers, they want to keep you addicted to their programming (there’s a reason why it’s called “programming” by the way). They’ve got your attention and they will do whatever it takes to keep it. Their first priority is to make money. They are a business, and not a benevolent distributor of objective information.
I’m not suggesting ignorance but let that fact filter every headline you read and every story you hear.
The news is Bull$#!+.
Stan Lee died today.
It’s strange feeling a sense of loss over someone you’ve never met personally but I can’t think of a time in my life that I didn’t know about him. As an avid Marvel Comics reader throughout my childhood, teen, and young adult years, I remember seeing his name on the first page of every issue, “Stan Lee Presents”.
Over the years, I read interviews with Stan, checked out articles, and enjoyed “Stan’s Soapbox” printed toward the back half of earlier comics. I’d known about him for so long that, when he appeared in cameos in the Marvel films, it felt like I was seeing someone I knew up on the screen.
To honor his memory, I thought I would share a few things I’d learned from the work of the man who created icons like Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. It’s a small list but it’s filled with things that have had a big impact on me and others.
There’s no such thing as too crazy of an idea. When you consider the massive, ridiculous ideas printed in Marvel Comics, you have to admit that they’re insane. People that can burst into flames without burning up, realms of incredible unreality, and worlds in peril day after day. I wonder if anyone ever thought that an idea was too far-fetched! He taught that no idea was too crazy and that the only limitation to telling a story was our imagination.
Good wins. Sure it might take a few months. The hero might face some setbacks. But in the end, good triumphs over evil. I always knew that The Hulk would overcome The Leader. Spider-Man would defeat Doctor Octopus, and The X-Men would beat Magneto. The old saying, “right is might” is true in comic books and I believe it’s right in real life.
Heroes are born from tragedy. Stan wrote about characters who became heroes when they went through tragedy. Peter Parker lost his Uncle Ben and vowed to fight crime instead of waste his talents entertaining people. Steve Rogers was puny and bullied and enlisted to serve his country. And Tony Stark became Iron Man when he became a prisoner to terrorists. Tragedy can shape us all into heroes if we’ll let it and Stan Lee captured that beautifully.
There is greatness in the unlikeliest of people. One of my favorite things about Stan’s characters is that they’re far from perfect. Bruce Banner is a spineless nerd. Donald Blake is borderline crippled, and most of the X-Men are social rejects. You don’t have to be pretty and perfect to be great. You just have to be willing to step up.
You’re never too old to imagine and have fun. Lastly, Stan Lee demonstrated that growing old doesn’t have to mean growing up to be a curmudgeon. At any age, you can still make up amazing stories, create unbelievable characters, smile, and have fun. Even in his 90’s, he was still dreaming, still laughing, and still having a blast. I hope that I’m still carrying on the way he was when I’m late into my life.
Thank you, Stan, for the gifts of creativity, imagination, and wonder that you brought into the world. You will be missed!
Leaders are readers, and readers lead. At least that’s what I’ve always been told.
For 2017, I decided to make it my goal to read 15 books. I’ve read 17 so far and I’m working on number 18. I felt pretty good about myself for that, and then my wife told me she just finished reading her 40th book this year. (Insert comical wah wah wah wah trombone sound here.)
Anyway, I thought I’d share with you the five books that had the greatest impact on me in 2017. In no particular order, they are as follows:
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
In this book, Greg McKeown walks readers through the process of eliminating the non-essentials in life and work so that our efforts and energy have greater impact. It’s definitely one I’ll read again every year or two to keep the concepts fresh.
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing
Dr. Joy DeGruy does an amazing job of explaining the impact that hundreds of years of slavery has had on American black culture. If you’ve ever scratched your head wondering about racial tension this is a great place to start.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Ever struggle to concentrate for more than a few seconds? Cal Newport writes about creating the conditions conducive to strong focus, problem solving, and life free from distractions. I’ve recommended this book to more people this year than any other.
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
N.T. Wright explains the gospels in a way I’ve never considered before. Incredible insights on the Kingdom of God, the coming of Jesus, and the role of the believer today. It might hold a personal record for most highlighted book!
Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You
Here John Eldredge shares a pathway to manhood for a generation where Godly fathers were in short supply. Really helpful for understanding where you are along your life’s journey, and how you can make a contribution to the development of other.
That’s my list. If you have a book or two that were particularly impactful to you this year, would you mind sharing them in the comments? I’m building my list for 2018. Thanks!
I know this post doesn’t really fit that great here at my blog site, but I was hoping that this would be a blessing for both of us.
Last year, I took a huge, stretchy step of faith and decided to become a tent maker. After 17 years of full-time ministry, I started my own business, and continued to speak, write, take missions trips, etc, without receiving a weekly paycheck. I know that sounds backwards. Most people work a job outside of ministry until they can go “full-time” at a church or something. It’s an experiment I wanted to conduct and the results aren’t in yet.
The business happens to be a media/marketing business. We build web sites, create graphics, videos, etc for churches, ministries, and small businesses. We also build blogs, which leads us to this opportunity…
I would like to set up a first class blog for you for free. One with a real address like www.yourname.com instead of www.yourname.blogger.com. One built with a premium theme that you can customize and make your own. And I’d like to give you a super cool email address with your own url in it instead of that old gmail address. What will this cost you? NOTHING! Just pay your hosting fee ($10 a month) and you’ve just stepped in to Awesome Bloggerville.
Why? Because your monthly hosting fee helps me to keep leading prayer experiences, keep preaching, and keep taking equipment to Irish church planters, that’s why. It’s a blessing to me and my family AND a blessing to you because you get a premium blog setup for free.
So here’s how it works. We’ll take care of your domain name (how about jesusisawesome.com?), give you two email addresses, build the required database, install WordPress on our servers, and hook you up with one of the best themes available. It’s the same theme I use (without the wood background and other customizations I’ve made). Then you take it, add your own personal touches to it, and blog like the wind!
It’s a super great opportunity to upgrade to a first class blog site AND support a cool ministry! Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, email address, phone number, and current web site (if any), and I’ll contact you to get started. You’ll be glad you did!
Thanks so much!!
I almost forgot! Please consider hitting that Tweet button on the left. It would be great if LOTS of people knew about this opportunity. Thanks in advance!
Risk is… risky. How’s that for profound? We like sure things. When we invest out time, money, and energy into something we want to KNOW it’s going to succeed. It’s heartbreaking to put yourself out there, pour yourself into a project, or invest your life into something just to have it fail. I know. I’ve been there. In 1999 I sold most of what I owned, packed up my family, and moved to Ireland to plant a church. You know what happened? It was an epic failure… More on that later, but let’s take a deeper look at this thing we call risk.
Look at the great successes in our world and in scripture. Esther’s role in the deliverance of her people, Moses and the Israelites at the bank of the Red Sea, David standing up against Goliath. How about William Wilberforce against the slave trade, The Pilgrims coming to America, or any of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Today, we only read their stories from this side of their struggle. We hear about the victory. But to them, in that moment of engaging in a mission, they had no idea how things would turn out. They were risking everything with no promise of success. I’m so grateful they decided to risk it all!
I want to share a couple of things I’ve learned when it comes to risk:
If you want to do anything of significance, it’s going to require risk. From planting a church, to establishing new relationships, to reaching the lost, or helping the poor. From writing that book, to interviewing for that job, or preaching for the first time it all requires risk. There’s a chance for failure and we have to be willing to live with that because the moment we decide to stop taking risks we lose all potential for doing anything great.
All risk in God’s economy is worth taking. This one is tough, especially in a culture that worships security. We want to know that, whatever risks we take, we’ll still be able to live at the “standard of living” we are currently living at. I think, as Christians, we should be far more concerned with our standard of dying than our standard of living. We’ve been fed the gospel of success for so long that the idea of a venture not turning out as we hoped leaves us feeling disenchanted and hopeless. The truth is this: when we take a risk for the sake of Christ, whether we fail or succeed, it was totally worth taking.
1st Corinthians 15:58 says, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
NOTHING you do for the Lord is ever useless! What an amazingly comforting word! That means my failure to plant a church in Ireland was not useless. Something came out of it even if I never saw it. And truth be told, I don’t regret doing it. I risked, and I lost, but I also gained, and I’m sure there were people who were blessed along the way.
So go ahead and take that risk! Focus more on obeying God’s call and less on what-ifs. “be strong and unmovable”. Whatever the outcome, it will have been worth it!
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Inspire. That’s a huge word (for only two syllables). It’s what I love to do. I had my first opportunity to inspire a church body way back when I was just a teenager and now, all these years later, I still love to provoke people to reach farther, pray harder, dream bigger, and love stronger. My hope is that, somewhere among these paragraphs of stories, anecdotes, and (unapologetically) sermons you’ll think, laugh, feel, and be inspired.
Thanks for taking the time.