Beth Hess and I go back a long way. We grew up between the same four walls of a church building and clinging to the same wooden cross calling 'olly olly oxen free' in the twilight. It has been years since those days, but blogging is a strange creature and has serendipitously crossed our paths again. Today I am honored to have Beth share her heart about how the sacred art of community can be formed in online spaces. She has some good, solid words here. Words it thrills me to bring to you. Feel free to engage with us in the comments, won't you?
An empty space becomes a showcase of wares. Blank rooms transform into a hall of treasure. Each unto her own area -- designing said space carefully to match the mood and tone of the goods she will offer. Hand- and heart-crafted works laid out for public perusal.
So I, among the others, stage my assigned table. The right items. The right display pieces. The right incentives. The right posters hung behind me.
I fluff my dress. And my smile. And wait.
Many others around me have done the same. We nod politely in each other's direction. We secretly hope what we have prepared will be more liked than theirs.
They are fine people all -- I am sure -- but I have no time to glance over when the public doors are open. I don't know what brought them here or what they are offering or even how it could possibly serve my own needs.
Because I am here to be seen. Not to look.
This, my friends, is a convention. Not a community.
But I have been guilty of blogging this way. Primping and preening for the public. Adding my words to a linkup only to stand back and wait for the crowds to arrive.
Can I recommend an alternate solution?
Could we abandon sterile draped tables all in a row and gather instead for Story Time? Can we sit criss-cross applesauce and pass around our words like a beloved Show & Tell? Can we take turns oohing and aahing for each other? Could we rest on a carpet of community and know we are safe in our exposure? Can we turn a junior high dance into a dance-yourself-silly beach blast?
Because this isn't about business. It's about the beauty we all bring to the room. The beauty not fully realized until every one of us is assembled -- and abandoned. And everyone has their moment to speak. And everyone is surrounded by love and applause.
Can we together relearn that the way to be encouraged is to be encouraging?
"So encourage each other and build each other up." (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
What does that look like for Unforced Rhythms? What can it look like as we grow together?
- Invest where you link. It's tempting to link up in
every possible place. To make yourself seen. To throw your wares on the
table and hope someone likes what they see. But I can't tell you the
difference it has made for me to be more judicial about my link ups and
only post where I also take the time to spend some time encouraging
those around me. It's been the fastest path I've ever found to turning
strangers into friends. So read a lot. Comment a lot. Encourage a lot --
inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.
Those of us who have cracked ourselves open wide enough to ever press the "publish" button should know more than any other people on the planet the importance of a kind word. Won't you do that for the others in this beautiful sharing circle called Unforced Rhythms?
- Stop lurking and start linking. You faithfully walk the aisles of our offerings and silently wish you could find the courage to join with us. To write and publish and link. If you're wondering if this is a safe place to be yourself, I promise you it is. We're just a bunch of imperfect people working to reflect a perfect Savior. We do it oh, so imperfectly. But there is grace here. So much grace.
I've spent enough years working a convention floor. I'm hungry for community. Thanks to Kelli and those who built this foundation, Unforced Rhythms is that for me. Won't you join us?
Beth Hess blogs under the name Just Be Beth because she's finally learning that's all she's ever been meant to be. No matter where she lives or who she's with or where she works, Beth strives first to be a Beauty Hunter. God Spotter. Grace Giver. Story Teller. Key Dropper. Find her at www.bethhess.com and www.facebook.com/