So This Is New

ImageYeah, I changed the blog again. I’m striving for a more professional site that looks great but is still easy to navigate. I’m not sure this is the one, but for now, I like it a lot.

So what’s new? Well, for starters, the name has changed. Instead of Everyday Faith, it’s now the simple yet boring Jason Eric Brooks. That’s to help get higher in the old Google rankings, and also to connect my writing with me, instead of a brand that doesn’t connect to me as an individual. That sounds conceited, but it’s the way of the modern media world, and I’m getting used to it. Strangely enough, I feel more freedom to take credit for my words – I don’t need to hide behind a descriptive but impersonal brand.

I have the confidence now.

There’s also a new static landing page that gives you an idea what I’m all about as a writer. The blog is now featured on its own page, which is kind of cool. Also, you’ll notice at the top of the page the little black boxes – those are the gateway to some blog extras.

The first box takes you to my sponsor information and subscription link, as well as a calendar that shows you all of the days I’ve posted this month. The middle box (the one that looks like a chain link) takes you to all of my social media connections. You can simply click on an icon and go straight to my profile. The final box is the search feature – click on that, type in a word, and you can see if I’ve written anything on that topic.

As I mentioned, not the easiest thing in the world to navigate, but once folks get used to it, I think it’ll work for a while. Eventually I’ll get around to changing the domain, but as I’m on a budget, I’m trying not to just toss money aside.

So – that’s all for the day. I hope you don’t hate the changes, and as always, I’m open to feedback and suggestions. In fact, I need a logo for that front page, something font driven I think, featuring my initials or something. If you want to take a stab at something, I’d be happy to feature it on the page and give you credit. In the meantime, I’ll continue cleaning things up as we go along, so if you see something ugly or horrific, leave a comment here or on Twitter or Facebook, and I’ll add it to the punch list.

Personally, I’m gonna spend some time staring at the walls of this new place, fighting back buyers remorse. Talk to you later.

Any Advice On Author Website?

I think this weekend, I’m going to jump off a cliff. I’ve been debating whether or not to shift to a premium WordPress account (or even a self-hosted one), and I’m about to fall off the fence onto the side of doing it. I would get my own personal domain, some extra perks, and not lose any of the wonderful people who’ve followed the blog thus far. It would be an easy transition from just having a blog to having a full-fledged author website.

But there’s this other company I’ve had my eye on, and they’re cheaper, and their websites look so cool…

I don’t know what to do. I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I really like the second company’s product. On the other, I’ve built something pretty good here at WordPress and I’d hate to even lose a fraction of the momentum. I’ve asked around to some experts (thank you Jane Friedman) and I’m confident that WordPress would be a great first step.

But I’m torn.

What do you think? Any advice?

Summarizing Yourself

Getting set up to succeed as a writer isn’t easy. I’m doing a lot of reading, a lot of research, and while I sometimes feel hopeless, I’m slowly learning. One of the things that I learned today was the need to be able to sell myself quickly (it’s not as bad as it sounds), or what many people call “an elevator pitch.”

Here’s mine:

My passion is translation – taking ideas and making them accessible for my audience. With over fifteen years experience in diverse fields, I know how to turn a complex thought into an “a-ha!” moment. Whether I am on a stage or writing for the page, my goal is the same: to make sure that my audience comes away understanding.

That’s it. That’s what I want do, be it online, in print, or on stage. The writing part is taking care of itself – there are some exciting things in the works – but the speaking part is going to require some work.

But what about you? How would you pitch yourself, your dream for life, if you had only a few seconds to do it? What drives you? What inspires you? What is it you want to achieve?

Let me hear from you in the comments below. I’d love to know how you summarize yourself.

What Would You Call This?

PlatformSo today I was trapped in the Customer Service lounge of my local Ford dealer while waiting on my car (oil change, no big deal). While I waited, I started reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World, because I’m interested in building my platform as a communicator (a fancy term for speaker/author) and because I needed something to distract me from the lady yapping into her bluetooth headset.

She seriously freaked me out. I didn’t even notice she had a bluetooth headset, so when I sat down next to her, I thought she was just watching TV. Then suddenly she shouts – shouts – “No, dadgummit, I told you to leave the beans on the stove!”

Never looked away from the TV, never changed her body language. Freaked me out.

Anyway, to keep my mind occupied, I started reading Hyatt’s book. I’ve had it for a month but haven’t been really motivated to read it because I’ve been battling the fear giants in my own head.

Oh, you don’t have fear giants? I’m guessing you do, you just call them by another name. Mine used to be called, “realism.” But whatever – I digress.

So I’m reading the book, and when he starts talking about branding, naming and packaging the thing you do that is uniquely yours, I started thinking about the blog. This is the biggest part of my platform (other than Twitter and Facebook), and I’ve never been satisfied with the appearance or limitations of the WordPress free site. It’s been fine thus far, and will probably suit me for a while longer, but I’m trying to think ahead and figure some things out. But beyond the blog’s appearance, I’ve got to say that the second biggest dissatisfaction has always been the blog’s title.

I started out as StorySouth, but quickly moved past that. For the longest time it was Jason Muses, but that felt too pretentious (though, strangely enough, a decent brand). Currently, it’s Everyday Faith.

And yet, I still don’t think I’m where I need to be. I mean, if someone said to you, “You know what? I’m looking for someone who can help me see life just a bit more clearly. Someone who can help me find the extra- for my ordinary. Someone who makes daily life seem full of blessings and wisdom. Can you recommend someone?” would you, off the top of your head, say, “Oh – you need to read Everyday Faith“?

Of course you wouldn’t.

So what do I need to call this blog? I’m open to suggestions. And while we’re at it, if you could describe why you read this blog with five words (like insight, humor, schadenfreude), what five words would you use? I ask because I know what five words I’d use to describe me – I’m curious to see if they line up with how you would describe me.

And please – while I’m always good with the humor, I’m seriously trying to learn something about building a platform. So if you could leave the jokes for Facebook, that would be great. I need serious help here.

Feel free to comment below. Or, like it normally goes, feel free to not say anything at all.

Is Baptist a Dirty Word?

I’m a Southern Baptist. Have been for quite a few years now. Didn’t grow up that way, mind you (we were…I don’t know what we were. Let’s call it “fundamental missionary independent Baptists” and leave it at that), but I’ve come to embrace the label. And normally, whenever someone asks me about my denominational affiliation it’s in the following manner:

“Now, wait – why are you Southern Baptist again?”

It sort of provokes incredulity from a lot of folks. After much thought on the matter, here are my two conclusions: 1) either I’m a lot more liberal than I think I am, and thereby have little to do with the convention which I claim, or 2) most people have a really, REALLY bad impression of what it means to be a Southern Baptist. And while number one could quite possibly be true, I think that number two is much more likely.

Let’s face it, of all the denominations out there, the SBC gets a pretty bad rap. We’re the backwards, racist, homophobic, woman-hating, vitriol-spewing, politicking, back-stabbing, tobacco-chewing, JEEEEEE-zuhs!-loving, Bible-thumping, our-way-or-the-highway crashers of the great Evangelical movement. At least, that’s what a lot of people seem to think. An awful lot of people, actually.

That’s why the current president of the SBC, Dr. Bryant Wright (of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church here in the good-old ATL) has convened a special task force to examine the ramifications of a potential name change.

The resulting outcry is such that you would think Wright convened a special task force to look into the moral feasibility of eating puppies. Or drinking a beer.

As the argument goes, the Southern Baptist name (read: brand) has fallen on hard times. People run away from it. People associate it with the things I jokingly mentioned above. In other words, in an era where the best brands are the most powerful ones, the SBC ranks down there with HD-DVD, Zune, HP Tablets and MySpace. (And in case you’re surprised by the hyperlink on MySpace, yes – the site does still exist.) So the most intuitive thing to do is, naturally, change the brand.

Yep, just give folks a kickin’ logo, some big ads and new packaging, and people will be fine with whatever’s inside.

Uh, not really.

Personally, I don’t think we need to change the name of the Southern Baptist Convention (regional designation has never seemed to hurt the Roman Catholic Church…), but neither do I think it would be some sort of world-ending travesty if we did. As long as we didn’t go to something lame like Fishers of Men Worldwide, or WWJD: World-Wide Jesus Domination…uh, Denomination!, I’m cool with re-branding. It certainly can’t hurt.

But what really needs to change is the content of the brand, not the packaging. And I’m not referring to things at the corporate level, either; the political stuff can be left to the politicians. I’m talking about heart-level stuff right in the average Baptist’s backyard.

First of all, let’s ditch the apathy, huh? If we’re going to tell people that we exist to share the Good News of Jesus, it would help if that Good News didn’t come across as the emotional/spiritual equivalent of a prostate exam. Too many of us are too tight around the heart and humor. We need to learn what Piper called, “Christian Hedonism” – to delight in God, and thereby delight in everything else.

Second of all, let’s quit fighting over music/worship experience, okay? I know the Worship Wars have long since passed (supposedly), but there are still plenty of times when the choice of song seems to deflate one half of the room or the other. Listen, I don’t care for some styles of music, but that doesn’t mean I want those styles banned, and if someone else gets a modicum of enjoyment out of a style of music I find deplorable (cough**moderncountrymusic**cough), then I should focus on the other person’s enjoyment over my own disappointment.

I mean, didn’t Jesus call us to a life of self-denial? Surely that includes giving up your auditory tastes for just a couple of minutes on a given Sunday, right?

Third, I think we can improve the quality of the Baptist brand if we’d back the heck away from the public eye for a little while, sort of go underground and concentrate on the whole “live for Jesus” thing. I know that we live in a media-saturated culture, but that doesn’t mean we have to be involved in every aspect of the media. We don’t have to have our own TV channels, movies, and radio stations (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And we sure as heck don’t have to be the first people interviewed on TV whenever the local news outlet needs someone to denounce something. The more we stand up and wrestle for the media’s bully pulpit, and then voice nothing but outrage over something, the more we resemble the Pharisee over the Publican. So let’s just chillax and love on some people.

And that’s my final point: let’s try loving people. I know, we live in a morally confused society where so much is seen as acceptable – homosexuality, cohabitation, recreational sex, drug use, alcohol abuse, Dane Cook – and we feel our moral obligation to take a stand and let people know that there is a standard. There are lines we should not cross for the sake of our own souls. But you know what? Getting people to understand those boundaries, those truths, is a lot simpler when you’re not calling people “faggots” or “fornicators” or “worthless sacks of sinful crap” in full public view. It seems to work a lot better when the morality you’re professing drives a life that is loving face-to-face in the real world.

So let’s quit quibbling over the name change, SBCers. Let the higher-ups debate the value/cost efficiency/blahblahblah of the denomination relaunching as Metta World Peace (wait, that’s already taken?).

The rest of us need to get back to what we are supposed to be doing in the first place: bringing glory to the name of Christ and His Kingdom.