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December 23, 2007

A couple of days ago, a skid’s worth of books showed up at my sister’s place. Two days later I showed up and finally got to meet my book. After almost two years from the time I first to pen to paper, I finally saw the results. It wasn’t nearly the moment I thought it might be. But it was still fun and it’s good to have something to hold in my hands.

So here I am starting out signing all those pre-ordered books.

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And then, quite a long time later my brother-in-law snapped a shot of me signing the last one.

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And here are the results.

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Tomorrow we’ll put together an assembly line and stuff all of those books into envelopes. Then we’ll stamp them, put them in the back of my van, and get them to the post office. Good times!

For those wishing to order through Amazon or another retailer, I suspect you’ll have to wait until very early in the new year before they have stock available.

December 22, 2007

I have a particular interest in books that seek to give us categories through which we can understand this strange new world that is being built around us through the internet. The sheer pervasiveness of the internet has allowed it to impact our lives so deeply and so profoundly and I’m not sure that many of us really understand this. One person seeking to bring sense to it is David Weinberger, a writer, teacher and marketing consultant. In Everything is Miscellaneous he offers a tour of the new digital disorder that is happening as we move from a physical to a digital world.

December 17, 2007

I spent some time this weekend reading Al Mohler’s forthcoming book, Culture Shift (set for a mid-January release). In an endorsement of this book, John Piper writes, “Albert Mohler is a steady guide, unremittingly clear-headed.” This is a fair assessment. Anyone who reads and enjoys Mohler’s blog, will find this book is more of the same—commentary from the junction of faith and culture. In fact, many of the book’s twenty chapters are based upon Mohler’s previous commentary at his blog. It is a good book and one I benefited from reading. It has given me a lot to think about and, as you’ll see today, plenty to write about.

In June of 2005, Mohler wrote an article titled “Needed: An Exit Strategy” and discussed the issue of public education and the Southern Baptist Convention. At that time, for the second year in a row, a resolution was “submitted to the denomination’s Committee on Resolutions, calling for Christians to reconsider support for the nation’s public school system.” Dr. Mohler begins with this article and adapts it in the ninth chapter of Culture Shift. Here he says “Christians parents are increasingly aware that the public schools are prime battlegrounds for cultural conflict. Given the deep ideological chasm that separates the worldviews and expectations of many educators from those held by many parents, we should not be surprised by the vitriolic nature of this conflict.” He believes that the near future of public education will prove increasingly hostile to Christians and traditional values.

Examples of the downgrade of public education abound. He provides several examples. For example, he writes about King & King, a parable of homosexual marriage in which a young price decides he wishes to marry his true love, which in this case is another prince. This book has been read to seven year-olds in Massachusetts. He writes also of children who were sent home with “diversity book bags” to help teach that there is no such thing as a “normal” family and that all family structures are equal in value. And he writes of the national “Day of Silence” now supported in many high schools—a day organized by homosexual activists. These are not just extreme and isolated examples but are, more and more, becoming common.

The breakdown of the public-school system is a national tragedy,” he writes. “An honest assessment of any history of public education in America must acknowledge the success of the common school vision in breaking down ethnic, economic, and racial barriers. The schools have brought hundreds of millions of American children into a democracy of common citizenship. Tragically, that vision was displaced by an ideologically driven attempt to force a radically secular worldview.” What was once one of America’s great strengths is now beginning to lead to her moral breakdown.

Because of these factors, Mohler believes that it is time for Christians to leave the public school system and that homeschooling and Christian schooling are alternatives all Christian parents should consider. Those who are not yet ready to make the move should, at the very least, have an exit strategy in place. In his original article, Mohler writes this:

I believe that now is the time for responsible Southern Baptists to develop an exit strategy from the public schools. This strategy would affirm the basic and ultimate responsibility of Christian parents to take charge of the education of their own children. The strategy would also affirm the responsibility of churches to equip parents, support families, and offer alternatives. At the same time, this strategy must acknowledge that Southern Baptist churches, families, and parents do not yet see the same realities, the same threats, and the same challenges in every context. Sadly, this is almost certainly just a matter of time.

In the book he changes the statement only to increase the scope from Southern Baptists to all Christians. It is time, he believes, to leave the schools. Or at the very least, it is time for parents to consider the alternatives and what factors would drive them to these alternatives.

As I’ve indicated in the past, Aileen and I choose to place our children in public schools. We do not do so lightly and certainly not without some trepidation. Yet, because of factors I’ve outlined elsewhere, we feel this is the best thing we can do right now. Every year we re-evaluate. While we do not have a firm exit strategy, one that says “precisely under these conditions we will withdraw from the public schools,” we do keep a close eye on what our children are being taught and do not take for granted that they will remain in the public system indefinitely. We benefit, I believe, from our province’s highly-regulated system where the curricula are consistent throughout the entire system. We benefit also from knowing teachers and from pressing them to understand what children are being taught and what ideology is behind it. We have been very pleased with almost all of the teachers we’ve met so far.

If the time comes that we feel it would be right to take our children out of the public education system, I will be left with two great and related concerns I would need to reconcile. The first is this. If all of the Christians withdraw from the public schooling system, it seems to me that we lose our ability and even our right to speak to that system and to influence it. Though the political system is terribly corrupt, Christians continue to be involved and continue to vote, knowing that only in this way will we have any influence. Yet in the schooling system many wish to withdraw. But when we do so, I fear, we lose any right we might have to correct or influence. As Christians we look to better not only our own lives, but the lives of those around us. We look to be a transformative influence. If schools truly are “prime battlegrounds for cultural conflicts,” as Dr. Mohler states, why would we purposely remove ourselves from them? Why would we give up and retreat from this battleground? If this is where the hearts and minds of generations of citizens will be formed, why would we take no interest in it? If we retreat, we lose our voice.

And from there I think we will see as well that the downfall of the public education system becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I look at the examples Dr. Mohler provides—examples of all kinds of ugly things that happen in the public schools, I realize that things in Canada do not seem so bad. Canada is a very liberal nation and, by rights, it should be in worse shape than in America. Yet I do not see that this is the case. Yes, there are occasional stories that strike fear in this parent’s heart, but it seems that our education system is less corrupt than that of our neighbors to the south. And I can’t help but wonder if this owes to the fact that fewer Canadian Christians have exited the public schools. While the homeschool movement, following the American trend, is beginning to catch on in Canada, and while it seems that homeschooling is fast becoming the favored or even the default option for conservative Christians, this is largely a recent development. With Christian schools notoriously underfunded and overpriced, and with homeschooling not an option many believers have even considered, most Canadian Christians have kept their children in public schools. They have maintained their voice and their influence. When all the Christians leave, we would expect the schools to decline. And perhaps this is what we are seeing in the United States. Perhaps Christians are inadvertently contributing to the decline.

I wonder sometimes about a “Genesis 18” principle. In Genesis 18 we read of Abraham interceding for Sodom and for his people in that city. “Then Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?’” Abraham asks God, pesters God even, whether God will preserve the city for the sake of the righteous. Will God preserve the city because His people are in it? God answers in the affirmative. And is it possible, I wonder, that the Canadian system has been preserved more than its American counterpart because God’s people have remained there? Perhaps this is a long shot; perhaps I am abusing the text and the principle it teaches; but I can’t help but wonder. Would we not expect God to preserve an institution where His people are present and are attempting to make inroads for His glory?

At any rate, Aileen and I continue to keep our children in public schools and continue to wonder if the day will come when this is no longer something we can do in good conscience. I believe that Dr. Mohler is right and that we will need to arrive at an exit strategy. Yet I hope this is never a strategy we need to put into action. I hope and pray that Canadian Christians will find that they can continue to place their children in public schools and that, as parents, they can continue to serve within the schools, to make their voices heard, and to positively influence this prime cultural battleground for the glory of God.

December 14, 2007

Every year, in the weeks before Christmas, we have my son and daughter compile a list of the gifts they most desired. Topping my son’s list a couple of years ago was a Playmobil castle—a huge, grey castle that looks like the kind of toy every boy dreams about. He asked for this with some hesitation, though, because he knew that it was expensive. We told him several times leading up to Christmas that we did not think we would be able to afford such a toy. Neither Aileen or I were raised in families that celebrated Christmas or birthdays with hundreds of dollars worth of presents, so the price tag of the castle would be quite a stretch for us. In the end, we settled on a smaller castle, still Playmobil, but one that was the “bad guy” castle instead of the “good guy” castle.

When my son opened this gift on Christmas morning we could tell that he was both thrilled and disappointed. He had so badly wanted that big castle but knew it was unlikely that he would receive it. When he saw a big box on Christmas morning he thought that maybe, just maybe, we had splurged and bought it for him. But when he opened it, he saw that it was almost what he had wanted, but not quite. Still, he was happy with the gift and put a brave face on it. If he was exceedingly disappointed, he masked it well for a young boy. We were proud of him.

When his birthday rolled around in March, the Playmobil castle was still at the top of his list. Knowing now that his desire for this castle was not just a passing fancy, we decided that we would break form and buy it for him. We shopped around a little bit, found the best price, and bought it. When the day of his birthday arrived we hid the box and had him open all his other gifts first. When he had opened a couple of gifts from us, and gifts from other family members, he seemed truly pleased. It was then that I went downstairs and returned with that huge box. His eyes went wide and he exclaimed, “You didn’t! No, you didn’t!” We put the box before him and he made short work of the wrapping paper. His eyes lit up and I think I saw a tear in his eye as he saw that long-awaited castle. I think it was made sweeter by the waiting. We built the castle for him that afternoon and it has given him countless hours of pleasure since then. It remains a favored toy.

One little event struck me later that afternoon. The castle had been built and my son had already been playing with it for a few hours. I went downstairs to watch him enjoying his toy. When he saw me watching him, he ran up to his room and returned clutching something in his hand. He walked up to me and handed me a loonie, a one dollar coin. He explained that he knew the castle was very expensive and that we could not really afford it. He wanted to give me a dollar to help with the expense. It was a touching moment, really, and one that showed a sweet innocence, for of course his one dollar coin could hardly repay the castle. I explained to him that it was my privilege to give him the castle as a gift and that he could show me gratitude not by attempting to pay me back, something he could not do despite his best efforts, but by playing with the castle and receiving from it a great deal of joy. That seemed to satisfy him, so he put his money in his pocket and continued to play with his new toys.

I think there is a lesson in my son’s behavior and it’s one I see time and time again. It’s a lesson about grace—free grace. As sinful humans grace is so foreign to us that we so often get it wrong. So often, I realize, I have been just like my son, attempting to repay God for His gifts. I attempt to provide good works as repayment for mercy. God gives us grace as a gift and does not expect us to repay Him for it. As with myself when looking at my son, God’s satisfaction is not in our attempts to repay Him, but in seeing our heartfelt delight as we rejoice in His free gift. The gift is cheapened when we attempt to repay it. In The Great Work of the Gospel John Ensor writes, “His reward as a gift giver is in the gladness of heart that we experience in receiving his gift as a gift.” Ensor points out another reason we cannot pay for our sins by doing good works as a trade off for God’s mercy. “Anything we do with a motive of adding to the work of Christ so as to win the forgiveness of God becomes the ground of self-satisfaction in our own goodness, rather than trust in God’s grace.” In receiving this gift from me, my son was unable to boast. Had he saved his money and paid me back, he could have led his friends to the playroom and said, “Here is a castle I earned.” But with the gift I gave him, all he can boast in is in having a father who loves him and who knows how to give him good gifts.

My son’s motives were pure, I’m sure. He felt some measure of guilt in receiving a gift he felt we could not afford. And so he tried to repay me, but in a way that was inadequate, impossible and in denial of the very fact that what I gave him was intended to be a gift. I expected no repayment and took my joy in my son’s delight. His delight was my reward. And there is the lesson for me. God wants me to receive mercy and grace as a gift. Even my best efforts at repaying Him merit me nothing. What God desires is that I receive His gift as a gift and that I return to Him all the praise and the glory through enjoying what He has so graciously given me. He delights in my delight.

December 12, 2007

Over the past few years, Aileen and I have continually returned to the question of why so many young people these days seem unwilling or unable to grow up. It is a question that has confused us, especially as we look to many of the young people we know. There was a time when young people seemed eager to grow up, to mature, and to head out into the world to make their mark on it. Or that is how we remember it (we were, after all, married at 21 and parents by 23). But those people now seem to be the exception more than the rule. More and more, it seems, young people (and increasingly older young people) are choosing to stay home, to stay in colleges, to earn a second or third or fourth degree. They are, it seems, refusing to grow up.

To help our thinking on this issue, I’ve been reading The Death of the Grown-up, a fascinating book by Diana West and one that seeks to answer the question of “Where have all the grown-ups gone?” The book’s subtitle is “How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization.” I suppose that says it all. West has studied this phenomenon and has determined that it is one that is going to have serious repercussions. The lines between child and adult are growing increasingly blurry. I hope to write a review of the book next week.

One section of the book that has caught my attention deals with the notion of “shame.” Shame is a bit of a tricky concept, I think, as it seems to me to be both negative and positive. The Bible makes it clear that, in their innocence, before they invited sin into the world, Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” Written after the fact and written at a time when people could hardly conceive of nakedness as being anything but shameful, these words are clearly meant to make people think and to consider a world without shame. Shame, after all, in at least one of its forms, is product of guilt. Shame comes about as we realize our guilt or our inadequacy. Shame comes as we compare ourselves to a better standard or even as we compare ourselves to another standard (which is, more often than not, other people). So while it is a product of sin and a necessity only in an imperfect world, it is also a gift, of sorts. Shame is an aspect of God’s common grace that keeps us from expressing ourselves in ways that would otherwise result in serious consequences.

But shame is becoming increasingly foreign in our culture. We hear of the way teens act these days—with 13 year old girls propositioning their male friends and dispensing sexual favors on the school bus; with men and boys alike proudly discussing just how much pornography they consume; with the sexual preferences of movie stars being discussed in the evening news; with commercials for sexual enhancers constantly playing on television. Where has shame gone?

West traces the decline of shame to the death of the notion of obscenity, especially in the world of art. “By the time the courts, in effect, declared obscenity was dead, they had killed something vital to a healthy society: the faculty of judgment that attempts to distinguish between what is obscene and what is not obscene—the avowedly ‘grown-up’ sensibility of an outmoded authority figure who had long relied on a proven hierarchy of taste and knowledge until it was quite suddenly leveled. From this leveling came another casualty: society’s capacity, society’s willingness, to make even basic distinctions between trash and art.”

This has led to all manner of offensive, vulgar art being paraded in front of us, even if that art is just plain bad. The question is not, as it should be, “is it good art?” Rather, people simply cry “censorship” and allow anything to be displayed, no matter how vulgar, no matter how devoid of artistic merit. We can no longer distinguish between trash and art. Exempting art from censorship laws, effectively concluding that there is no such thing as obscenity, has had consequences.

Once the law balked at recognizing obscenity, the populace began to doubt the very basis for shame. With no legal, institutional support for consensus, little wonder the bottom fell out from under morality.” As obscenity became a thing of the past, so too did it’s necessary consequence: shame. Shame is increasingly missing from our culture. We do things, watch things, enjoy things, participate in things that at any other time and in any other place would be considered shameful. Politicians show little remorse, little shame, when their dirty sexual deeds are exposed. Parents cavort with children, acting like children. “Shamelessness sheds light on why it is that American matrons are more likely to host sex-toy parties than Tupperware parties; why the Major Leagues showcase Viagra ads at home plate; why a presidential fund-raiser for GOP candidates includes a well-endowing—that is, contributing—porn star and pornographer; and why at grocery store checkouts shoppers can check out “hot sex tips” along with a loaf of bread. We have all learned—or at least we have all been taught—that the mental blush is superceded by the genital tingle.”

The paradox is something Christians know well. “Less restraint doesn’t necessarily deliver greater freedom.” It should be not surprising that the “land of the free” is also the land with more laws than just about any other nation in the world. With rules comes freedom—not with a lack of restraint. Humans being what we are, we rely on rules to keep us acting within the bounds of morality and within the bounds of shame. When these rules are tossed out and when shame disappears, so too does our willingness to restrain ourselves. With no concept of obscenity there is no shame; with no shame, anything goes. “In a shameless culture…self restraint is continually undermined.”

By the twenty-first century, shame and embarrassment have zero association with sexuality—or so we are endlessly, numbingly instructed—and, correspondingly, an infantile lack of behavioral restraint may be observed in everything from freak dancing, to ‘super-size’ eating, to McMansion-building. Without the concept of obscenity, without reason for shame, the ‘self’ in self-control sees no greater, larger, socially significant point in holding back.”

What has happened to shame? Well, it appears that shame has been put to death. “Culturally speaking, obscenity is all but legally obsolete, and shame is a kind of secular sin—a symptom of ‘hang-ups,’ of repression, of inhibition, of liberty lost.”

The only thing our society tells us to be ashamed of, it seems, is shame itself.

December 11, 2007

PrudeI almost gave up reading Prude. I have read other books like this and have found they follow a fairly consistent pattern. The first few chapters are always the hardest to get through. Where my interest in this kind of book is in its cultural commentary and analysis, the initial chapters seem always to be filled with examples of sexual transgression. I suppose this is necessary to build the author’s case that “our sex-obsessed cultural damages girls (and America too).” And so the first half of the book tells story after story and provides example after example of the moral decline of America. The author moves through web sites, magazines, television shows, popular music and fashion, showing how in each of these areas, girls are receiving damaging messages about their bodies and about sexuality. Television shows model sexual perversion as freedom and popular music objectifies both sex and sexuality. Web sites provide lurid details of base sexuality and consider it normal while the latest fashions seek to bare bodies for all to see. We know all of this, though there is still room to be shocked and disgusted. This continues for nearly 150 pages and by the end of the seventh chapter I had just about had enough. I put the book down.

But I picked it up again after seeing advertising for this book in Christian magazines and publications. It seems clear that, though this book is not published by a Christian imprint or by a Christian author (as far as I know), it is being marketed to Christians. And for that reason I thought I would read the second part and seek to understand how the author, Carol Liebau, analyzes all of these forces—what they mean and how they are affecting American girls.

Liebau does this over about 100 pages. In chapter 8 she discusses “Paying the Piper: The Toll on Young Girls and the Cost to America.” Strangely, for a book being marketed to Christians, though she covers the physical toll, the economic toll and the emotional toll, she neglects the spiritual. While certainly the factors she outlines in this book may have serious consequences to girls emotions and bodies and to the nation’s economy, they also impact a person’s ability to know and to honor God and the way a person understands God. This is a serious consequence of our culture’s perverse view of sexuality but one that is, unfortunately, neglected in this book.

In subsequent chapters she proposes a new sexual feminism that will once again celebrate sexual restraint rather than promiscuity, suggesting that this will allow women to reclaim their true power—“the power to hold men to standards of behavior that honor the differences between the sexes, even as it recognizes their intrinsic equality.” She writes of the rise of moral relativism and the dire consequences of that major transformation and then of examples of hope—organizations that have arisen to challenge the status quo. And finally, she seeks to reclaim the concept and the word “Prude” so it is no longer a mark of shame, but of pride.

In a sense the book’s power is not in the analysis but in the descriptions; not in the latter half of the book, but in the first half. Reading the awful details of moral decline is not easy, but it does allow us to get a glimpse into the unique challenges girls face today. Gone are the days when fathers would protect their daughters and when mothers would seek to ensure their daughters were chaste. Gone are the days when sexual restraint was a virtue. Instead, girls, often from their earliest days, are sexualized—taught that they are little more than the sum of their [private] parts. This hypersexualization harms girls and, as the author shows, harms nations. I would argue, though, that the harm to America goes far beyond economics and outbreaks of new and ugly sexually transmitted diseases. The harm goes as deep as the soul, scarring girls who will soon be women, searing consciences and keeping women (and men!) from understanding the true power and beauty of sexuality.

If we wish to get sexuality right and if we wish to temper the decline of sexual morals, we’ll need more than prudes. We’ll need men who act like real men, protecting women rather than taking advantage of them; we’ll need fathers who love their daughters enough to protect them; we’ll need mothers who are deeply involved in their daughter’s lives; but mostly we’ll need to return to the Source, to the One who created sex, who gave it to us as a gift, and who desires that we use it for His glory.


Notable Quotes

Sometimes it seems that sexiness has become the most important measuring stick for determining what is worthy of public interest; being ‘sexy,’ as most celebrities would attest, has become the ultimate accolade.”

Ironically, many of the [dating] customs that today are dismissed as limiting were actually empowering, because they offered young women a way to resist unwelcome sexual activity without themselves being labeled as cruel, frigid, or uninviting.”

Every time looser standards for dress or behavior become socially sanctioned, it becomes more difficult to retrench—and twice as difficult to resist the next step toward the vulgar or extreme on the cultural continuum.”

December 11, 2007

This is a public service announcement to let you know that this is the last day you’ll be able to pre-order a signed copy of my book. As of tomorrow I need to get final numbers in to the publisher so they can get the books shipped to Chattanooga where I’ll be signing and sending them about two weeks from now.

If you are interested, you can order it right here…but only until the end of the day!

December 07, 2007

It has been a while since I cracked open the Feedback Files. While I receive a lot of questions through this site, probably the most common have to do with blogging. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve made several promises that I would soon write an article suggesting some things to consider when beginning a blog. Today I’ll keep those promises. I’m going to offer six tips for new or prospective bloggers. I hope you’ll find them helpful.

Question Everything

For people who are considering beginning a blog, I think the best place to begin is with your motives. It is worth asking yourself, I believe, why you wish to blog. And more so, it is worth considering why you want to have other people read your blog. I receive lots of questions from prospective bloggers and can often detect an underlying attitude that seems to say, “I have something to say that the world needs to hear.” That may well be the case, but I wouldn’t take it for granted. Some people truly do have good reason to desire that a lot of people read their blogs; others do not. There are some who wish to gain an audience more for their own sense of pride or accomplishment than to truly bless those people.

So before you begin your blog, ask why you should want to blog. Ask what you can contribute to the blogosphere. And once you begin the blog, ask why you want other people to read it. Question your motives and do not take for granted that other people will or should read your site.

Grow Up

Most people blog what they know (the exception being a handful of “professional” bloggers-for-hire to write about anything that will pay a few bills). If you write frequently, you’ll soon exhaust all that you know. After all, you have a limited number of stories to tell, a limited store of knowledge to share. So if you want to blog, make sure you are continually challenging yourself in the area you write about. As a Christian, this means that I dedicate myself to the Christian disciplines to ensure that I am continually growing in my knowledge of God as revealed in His Word. It also means that I constantly read good books (and some not-so-good books). These two disciplines provide me with the food for thought that keeps me writing and, most of the time, provides me with topics to write about. I’ve said it often, but I’ll say it again: if I stopped reading the Bible and stopped reading good books, I’d have nothing to say. I’d have to pack it up and move on.

I have found blogging a wonderful way of ensuring that I continue to grow and mature as a Christian. It has forced me to dedicate myself to learning and has really become one of my spiritual disciplines, as strange as that may sound. It has caused me to have to grow up. I know of many bloggers who would say the same.

Participate

The blogosphere has rightly been compared to a network or an organism. Blogs are best seen in this way—as a kind of social network where one blog is connected to another. Those who do best in this community are those who participate in it. So do not see your blog as being isolated from all other blogs. Instead, see it as part of this community and see yourself as a participant. This means that you will want to read blogs that deal with similar topics as yours and that you will want to see these blogs not as competition but as friends.

Here are just a few tips:

  1. Link often to other blogs. Do not allow pride to keep you from linking to great content on other sites.
  2. Comment on other sites and participate in discussion at other blogs.
  3. Carry on conversation begun on other blogs by writing about similar topics on your own.

One of the best ways of getting your blog noticed, is to be recognized by one of the more popular bloggers in whatever area you choose to write about. Many blogs “arrive on the scene” after being linked to by a very popular blog. There is a temptation, then, to send everything you write to these bloggers hoping that they will link to you. While there is nothing wrong with sending a link to a blogger if you feel you’ve written something particularly good and relevant, do so with some caution. It is better, I think, to simply link to their articles, knowing that most bloggers keep tabs on who is linking to their blog. Write great content relevant to discussions on the more popular blogs and hope that your articles are noticed and linked.

Optimize

If you are going to go through all the trouble of creating and writing a blog, you may as well optimize its exposure to the rest of the world. There are a lot of great blogs out there that deal with blogging. They tell you how to use the tools available to you in order to optimize your blog’s exposure to your target audience and to the search engines. I will largely leave you to explore those blogs. But here are just a few tips:

  1. Submit your blog to Technorati and learn what Technorati is all about.
  2. Ping Google’s blog search every time you post (your blogging software may do this automatically.
  3. Ensure your blog is using search engine friendly URLs.
  4. Subscribe to Google or Technorati Alerts for your blog or your name or any topics you cover extensively.
  5. Keep tabs on what others are saying about your blog through Google Blog Search (click here to see an example of what this looks like for my blog).
  6. Consider reading a few of the blogs about blogging, such as ProBlogger or Performancing.

Write Right

Though the last point encouraged you to optimize your blog, I would do so cautiously. Here’s why: Blog optimization may inadvertently lead to a dangerous amount of navel gazing. I have seen far too many bloggers do all they can to optimize their blog at the expense of making their site worth reading. They dedicate endless amounts of time to following all the rules and will do almost anything to get readers to their blogs. But they forget that a reader will only stick around if the content is worth reading. In many cases it is not.

If you want to be successful at blogging, make sure that your first priority is writing good content. I tell this time and time again to people who ask me for blogging tips. Worry first and foremost about writing good content. Don’t expect people to read your site unless the content is good. Write right, and eventually the readers are likely to follow. If your content is good and compelling and well-written, people will find it. So write well and write a lot. Then worry about having people read it.

Discipline

Let me close with the importance of discipline in blogging. I’m going to suggest three different ways in which you should exercise discipline as you blog.

First, there is good reason that writing and journaling have long been considered important spiritual disciplines. I have found often that I do not really know what I believe about something until I have written about it. Only in writing down my thoughts am I able to press to the furthest extent to learn what I really believe. Writing has become a critical discipline for me and one that tells me much about myself and the state of my heart.

Second, writing does not come naturally to very many people. And even the most natural writer will find his skill increasing with practice. Anyone who wishes to be a good writer will need practice. So if you want to blog and want to make your writing available to the public, be sure to discipline yourself to write often. Not everything you write needs to appear on your blog. But discipline yourself to write so that you can get better at it.

Third, people who read blogs tend to get into patterns. If they know a person updates a site daily, they may well make that site a daily stop. If they know that a person blogs only every Wednesday, they may make that blog a weekly stop. So try to form patterns with your blogging so your readers know what to expect. Try to blog consistently, whether consistency means once per day or once per week. Discipline yourself to write consistently.

I hope these tips help a little bit. If you’ve been blogging for a while, feel free to add any tips you’ve found particularly helpful.