Everyone has a story to share

For those of you who have followed my weekly posts for the past seven years, thank you for your readership and your participation in the discussions that sometimes ensued. I’ve enjoyed the community we created together. But now I’m taking a break from regular posting. I prepared the post below as a piece that can remain on my home page and serve as a portal to previous writings. I’ll also be tinkering with the site, trying to keep it organized, add new features, and maintain it as a useful resource. If you choose to keep your LifeLines subscription active, you’ll receive an email whenever I do post something new; I just wanted to let you know that won’t be happening with any regularity. Thanks again. And feel free to contact me at info@lifelinespublishing.com if you have any questions.

helping you share your story

LifeLines can help you share yours.

LifeLines Publishing offers writing and editing services to businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. Need to turn your website into a client-attracting tool? Want to use that photo in an effective fundraising appeal? Wish you could turn your memories into a self-published book? LifeLines can help. Annual Reports, blogs, brochures, business cards, catalogs, Facebook pages, newsletters, memorial programs, memoirs—all are beautiful ways to share your story with the world.

  • Business writing

    Businesses—writing style, graphics, and layout impact how customers hear your message. Hiring LifeLines lets you focus on the things only you can do.

  • Nonprofit writing

    Nonprofits—well-told stories in effective appeal letters can convert skeptical prospects into generous donors who are eager to fund new projects. When you’re too close to your cause to speak the language of potential donors, hire LifeLines.

  • Personal or family writing

    Do you have a story or memoir or collection of poetry you want to share with your family (or an even wider audience)? LifeLines can proofread, edit, and design your document, and then help publish it in hardcover or paperback.

P.S. One other category

I do have one other category of writing: Politics. I don’t consider myself politically intelligent, but occasionally I need to express something about citizenship or leadership or government. If you are interested in those writings, they can be found here:

Thanksgiving Top 5 (2015 edition)

Thanksgiving

One of the blessings of freelance work is the variety of jobs I get to do and the variety of people I get to work with. Each Thanksgiving it’s become a tradition for me to choose five projects from the past year that I’m particularly grateful for. This tradition gives me an opportunity to review my year, remember my work, and reflect on the good people in my life.

So, these are the…

Top Five
projects I was thankful to work on this year

~1~
Deer Creek Christian School branding

PrintDeer Creek is a small private school that had to re-think its identity in order to thrive rather than simply survive. By the time they contacted me, they had already done much of the groundwork—the key constituents had already been discussing values, vision, mission, distinctives, buy-in, and “living the brand.” They just needed help communicating it all. We started with business cards and then discussed the benefits and costs of direct mail, a quarterly newsletter, and social media. Their budget is small, but their dreams are big. Brainstorming with them was a reminder that a brand can succeed independent of budget, that investing in people doesn’t have to cost money, and that the process is as important as the goal.

Thank you Deer Creek!

~2~
Dying Like Jesus

It’s a real treat for me to work with someone who has his own ideas but also respects mine, because then a project becomes a true collaboration. Chris Spoor is an old friend, my former pastor, and a retired hospice chaplain. He began working on a book for people facing death, and he came to me for help editing the manuscript so he could submit it to publishers. We had many email conversations, but we also scheduled a number of phone calls—because Chris often wanted to discuss what I was doing to his book. Sometimes he disagreed with my editing choices. Sometimes he just wanted to understand my reasoning. And sometimes I had to re-think my editing when I heard what he was really trying to communicate. Through it all, because of our mutual respect, we were each able to contribute our best work, and no one’s ego got in the way.

By the way, the title is one example of how this kind of collaboration plays out. Chris did not have a title on his manuscript, and he was open to suggestions. I put Dying Like Jesus forth as a possibility. Chris wasn’t thrilled with it, but we used it on a couple of the submission proposals we sent in. Later, Chris suggested Seven Words for the End of Life as a title. I don’t think it has the same intrigue as Dying Like Jesus, but I’m willing to live with it for a while and see if it grows on me. Neither of us knows yet what the final title will be. Chris and I work well together because we both want what’s best for the book, and we both respect each other’s strengths. That kind of collaboration is rare, and I really appreciate it.

Thank you, Chris!

~3~
Living Springs sermon series slides

I maintain the website for Living Springs Community Church, and that gives me the opportunity to create banner ads for each new series of messages. Now, I don’t consider myself a “real” designer. That is, I don’t draw or paint or create my own designs. But I do like taking pieces of existing images and combining them to create something new, and I like choosing fonts that contribute to the message. The banners below are a few of my favorite creations from the past year:

FireMeUp_570
SpiritFilledLife_570
Advent_570
FriendshipWithGod_570

I don’t often get a lot of lead time to create a banner, and sometimes the descriptions are kind of sparse. But Living Springs trusts me to work with whatever they give me and come up with something. (In fact, one of the pastors told me he’s always eager to see what I come up with!) There’s no routing process or approval committee, and I appreciate the freedom to just do my best to create a visual representation of an intangible concept.

Thank you, Living Springs!

~4~
Medi-Mex brochure

Brochure_MediMex_300When a friend and former co-worker asked me about updating a brochure for a nonprofit that provides medical supplies to impoverished areas of Mexico, she sent me as much resource as possible—their existing brochure, their Facebook page, a recent newsletter, and an explanation about the process their board would go through to accept and approve a new brochure. All of that, plus my own experiences in Mexico and with nonprofits, helped me write a brochure that uses story to connect donors and volunteers with the people who receive the supplies they bring.

I was given plenty of lead time, which is really helpful. In fact, the brochure pictured at right is only the first draft that I sent back in time for a December board meeting. I enjoyed the work I’ve done so far—playing with different type treatments, choosing compelling photos, and telling the Medi-Mex story in a new way that I think will be effective. Plus, it’s always fun to work with old friends.

Thank you, Michelle!

~5~
Oak Tree Leadership website

OakTreeLeadership_570Sometimes, it’s just fun to clean up code! When Jason Perry gave me access to his website, I could see that the code behind it was a mess. I spent a few hours sorting it out and cleaning it up, which I found strangely gratifying. Along the way, with Jason’s permission, I simplified and clarified his message by pruning duplicate information and organizing his many projects into logical categories. And I designed a less literal banner image (again by combining existing images and fonts) that conveys growth and leadership, with a new tagline that has dual layers of meaning.

OakTreeLeadership_banner_570
(previous header image)

Working on websites is fun because the results are immediate and visual. Page by page I could see the difference I was making, and the end result was a clearer message via a more efficient website.

Thank you, Jason!

Other thanks

So far, my Top 5 list has never contained all the projects I’ve worked on in a given year. I hope you know that though my list is short, my gratitude is not. My thanks extends to all the interesting people who have requested my help with their interesting projects this year. I am grateful for the work, but mostly I appreciate your trust. Thank you.

I’m grateful, too, to all of you readers, subscribers, commenters, and friends who make up my online community. That community is very real to me, and I thank you for it.

My Thanksgiving prayer for all of you is that your tables will be filled with more than you need, your homes will ring with laughter and love, and your hearts will respond by blessing someone else even more generously.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

 

Why don’t Christians
read the Bible?

why don't Christians read the Bible
why don't Christians read the Bible
I thought I had enough Bibles, and then this one made me curious.

Most Christians do not read the Bible. At least not very much. That’s what my own anecdotal experience tells me, and various studies (for example, the ones cited in this 4/4/13 HuffPost article) confirm it, though the exact figures vary.

This is kind of surprising since the Bible has been the best-selling book in the history of printing, with up to 6 billion copies sold. (That’s about 6 times more than the combined total of the next nine best-selling books.)

Why don’t people read this incredibly popular and generally respected book? Specifically, why don’t Christians read the Bible? I’ve got a few theories:

1. We secretly believe reading the Bible doesn’t really matter.

Honestly, I think a lot of Christians put the Bible in the same category as other literary classics, like War and Peace, or the book version of Roots, or anything by Shakespeare. We have a vague sense that we should read it in order to consider ourselves “informed,” but we can’t cite any specific, practical difference it would make. It’s hard to prove that reading the Bible does any measurable good. After all, there are plenty of nice, successful people who don’t read the Bible. And there are plenty of jerks, racists, and annoying people who do. I think many of us secretly wonder if Bible-reading makes any difference.

2. We would rather outsource Bible-reading to professionals.

Whether it’s their own priest or pastor, or a celebrity theologian like Rick Warren or Joel Osteen, most American Christians are consumers just like the rest of modern society. We would rather be fed Biblical truths than feed ourselves. And it’s true, religious professionals are probably better at gleaning, understanding, and teaching those truths than we ordinary amateurs. So why not just outsource our Bible-reading to them? As religion becomes more adept at packaging itself in market-driven, user-friendly trappings, its adherents become more dependent and less self-sufficient.

3. We don’t have a support system for reading the Bible.

Even when Christians do resolve to spend more time reading the Bible, most of us will fail because we won’t put a support system in place. Many American Christians believe that “personal devotions” should be, well, personal. So we try to go it alone. But the Bible is meant to be read in community. It’s more authentic that way, more effective, and more fun, and it’s far more likely to actually happen—because of the natural accountability a support system provides.

4. We’re hypocrites.

I’m guilty of this. I mean, I do believe that the Bible is full of living power. I’ve seen it change people’s lives dramatically. I’ve relied on it for advice, direction, peace, and hope. I’ve read it cover-to-cover more than once; I’ve studied it in groups and on my own; I’ve come back to it again and again because those old, familiar words take on new layers of meaning when I read them through different experiences. And yet, when I get busy or depressed or lazy, Bible-reading is one of the first habits I drop. I say it’s essential, but I give it up so easily. I’m a hypocrite.

Trying again

But I’m trying again. I’m setting my doubts and hypocrisy aside, I’m refusing to let professional Christians take over this task, and I’m putting myself in the company of others who are curious about what the Bible really says. I’m reading the Bible.

Want to join me? Let me know. I could use your help.

why don't Christians read the Bible

Cheap, easy photo editing: A short review of Noiseless

review noiseless

It’s a small app that makes a big difference. Not just in my photos, but also in the time I have to spend on them.

review noiselessNoiseless is the name of a little program by Macphun that I recently bought, downloaded, and started using on the old grainy slides and scanned photos that were the main content of the family photo book I recently completed for a client. It really saved me a lot of time—and therefore it saved my client a lot of money.

Noisy photos

Digital noise is a problem particularly in photos taken in low light or at low resolution. Typically, I use Photoshop’s Filters and Adjustments options to eliminate noise, but it’s a tedious process. The goal in this kind of editing is to reduce the noise but preserve the detail, and that can be a difficult balance to find.

Noiseless does it all in one swipe. Easy.

Wanna see?

review noiseless
The print I have of this photo is a copy of someone else’s 20-year-old point-and-shoot original, and I scanned it on a low-quality scanner. Lots of noise.
noiseless review
I opened the image in Noiseless and applied the “Extreme” preset. I was worried about losing too much detail around the tentacles on this rambutan (an Indonesian fruit), but they came out pretty well. And my fingers look awesome!

Easy

A true review of Noiseless might go into detail about how the software works, what your settings options are, and the actual process of using it. But I’m going to cut to the chase: It works. And it’s easy.

Cheap

It’s also cheap. I bought Noiseless for only $14.99, and later I saw it in the app store for $9.99 (doh!). There is also a Pro version for $59.99 that can be used as a plugin for programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture, as well as a standalone app.

I recommend Noiseless

If you have old JPEGs that were scanned at lo-res, or you tend to take a lot of pictures at dusk, I recommend Noiseless as a cheap, easy way to eliminate digital noise and improve your images.