Tuesday, June 23, 2015

7 Creative Ways to Generate Visibility for Your Brands

In an overcrowded consumer marketplace that continues to add new products and inventions each year in every imaginable category, it's important to determine how your products can stand out in this saturated space.
For entrepreneurs and small businesses, it's always a juggling act where and how you want to spend your time, energy, money and resources while working with limited budgets and minimal resources. So your objective is to implement strategies that generate visibility and the best publicity for your brands with the least amount of time and resources.
Here are seven creative ways to generate visibility for your brand.

1. Add guerrilla marketing strategies to your campaign. There was a term invented by Jay Conrad Levinson called guerrilla marketing that relies on time, energy and imagination rather than big marketing budgets. It's an advertising strategy that focuses on low cost and creative strategies for marketing a product or an idea. Tactics used are unconventional and often localized or involves a large network of individual cells or groups whose goal is to create buzz in order to promote a product or an idea. Levinson states that guerrilla marketing efforts works best for small businesses and entrepreneurs because they have closer relationships with their customer. But big businesses have also joined the bandwagon and have included this strategy to execute their marketing campaigns. Some examples include, those multiple posters that you see on walls and fences (record labels still use this frequently), street promotions where freebies are handed out, and those annoying flyers that you find on your car windshields:). Car graffiti or car signage is another type of guerrilla marketing. And, the most current craze right now is flashmobs! Wondering what a flashmob is? If you've seen the AT&T commercial where the guy starts dancing and then he gets a message on his phone and realizes he had the wrong time...well he was supposed to participate in a flashmob...a group of people who assemble in a public place to perform something at the same time.

2. A publicity strategy which is especially popular for fashion and lifestyle-type products is the use of celebrity endorsements. There are public relations (PR) agencies that are well connected and have a great rolodex where they can get products in celebrities' hands. The objective is for the celebrity to be seen with the product in public or on a reality show or to talk about it, thus create a frenzy of consumers who want to buy the product or service. Sadly nowadays, it's a known fact that big celebrity names are actually PAID to tweet to promote products. Product placement is also another type of PR where your product or brand is used for a television show or a movie. Both strategies can be quite pricey than most people would think.

3. Use both offline and online marketing. The advent of internet marketing has been another great solution for entrepreneurs and small businesses challenged with generating visibility with very tight marketing budgets. Offline advertising include print, radio and television ads; all of which are mediums that are cost prohibitive. So, online marketing has become the way to generate visibility for smaller businesses. However, online marketing isn't necessarily free. Search engine optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising - meaning optimizing your website or blog so you get on the top of search engines like Google or Yahoo, and online ads on highly visited sites and blogs cost money too, although more affordable than more traditional advertising.

4. Social media has become one of the best ways to build brand awareness. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social media platforms have become one of the best ways to generate visibility. Going viral or viral marketing is another marketing term used that utilizes more innovative-type strategies to promote and market a product such as videos, blogs, texting and mobile digital applications. The goal is to create a buzz using non-traditional, guerrilla or grassroot-type marketing strategies, creating hype so that it goes viral and therefore creates greater impact in a short period of time...similar to a virus. This is another way to generate visibility without having to spend money. All you need is a computer and a list or connections.

5. A website and/or a blog are essential tools when generating visibility for your products. A well-designed, beautiful and expensive but static website is no longer the way to go. Adding interactive features to your site such as videos, slideshow presentations, interactive games and social media icons/links, feeds, and the ability to comment and join a conversation, not only allows your prospective customer to stay on your blog or website longer, but it also encourages brand awareness and allows the customer to build a relationship with your brand and affords the opportunity to invite them to spread the word to their network.

6. Use your expertise to boost your brand's credibility and generate visibility. Creating an eZine (online magazine or newsletter), writing articles for your blog and other niche blogs and websites, submitting articles to article submission sites and directories, and joining groups where you comment on Q&As are all great ways to establish online presence, generate visibility and present your expertise to your prospective customers. The more people know, like and trust you, the more chances you have of selling your product or service.

7. Finally, one of the oldest and probably still the most effective types of marketing is word of mouth. The power of trends and brand names is so prevalent in our society that we're either influenced by advertisements or driven by the desire to have what other people have. Then, there's the power and pressure of persuasion especially amongst kids and teens. If a "cool" kid in school has a "cool" product or it's the next best thing that everyone is talking about, then almost everyone wants to have one. Successful products and brands are usually built on word of mouth, success stories and testimonials. This is probably the cheapest and fastest way to generate visibility (and sales) for your brands.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Humans Enslaved

By "humans enslaved" I mean not so much physical ownership and physical slavery imposed on you by others, the form of slavery that has been and often still is practiced in the world, but often self imposed mental slavery. You are a slave and what is enslaving you is in fact you. But if you want a scapegoat, you can pin the blame on society for brainwashing you in the first place since none of what follows is hardwired or innately carved into your little grey cells.
TIME: The basic premise here is that when the clock ticks, you jump. How often do we say "Can't talk now"; "I'm late"; "Gotta run"; "Its kick-off time" or its time for (the meeting, catching the train, the dinner party, etc.). It never ends. Alarm clocks, the factory siren, the referee's whistle, your life is regulated by the clock from the moment you get up in the morning till the moment you lie down at night. You are indeed a slave to Father Time!
MONEY: Money is not always of root of all evil. Some people are just born nasty! Still, the average person worships the great dollar bill (or equivalent), and for good reason - you avoid getting a "go to jail" card since you can pay your bills. But quite apart from the necessities - bills, the rent/mortgage, food, clothing, heat, education and medicine - we tend to be slaves in not just needing, but wanting, more and more and more, and more and more and more requires more and more and more money. And thus, a major part of our existence and purpose is to acquire wealth - and that's hardly something that's modern to the here and now. It's been that way since Methuselah was a brat in diapers (and even before that when you consider those Ancient Egyptian tomb robbers). If your bank account is bigger than anyone else's, well it's the golden rule - them who has the gold makes the rules. Be it gold or the dollar bill, you're a slave in pursuit.
POSSESSIONS: Be it gold or the dollar bill, you're a slave in pursuit. Why? You want things, stuff, possessions. You get bragging rights if your (fill in the blank) is bigger, more expensive, and/or larger in quantity, than that of your peers. You are a slave to obtaining stuff way above and beyond the basic necessities for all sorts of psychological reasons. Instead of the application of "enough is enough", you let the concept of "shop till you drop" rule your mental roost.
FADS & FASHIONS - THE LATEST MUST-HAVES: You are blitzed with hundreds of ads per day, in print, on TV, on the radio, on the Internet, even non-promotional 'ads' in the form of news stories, articles, etc. that note and log trends in society. You are told, via these ads and 'ads' what's hot and what's not. What's the latest style in ladies shoes? What are the latest in-colours? Should you get carpet or tiles? What's the newest kitchen gadget? What's the newest toy? What's all the latest rage in laptops? What's the hottest new TV show either on TV or on DVD? The list of fads and fashions that you MUST HAVE are as lengthy as a telephone book! From the hula hoop to the whitewall tire; from the microwave to the convertible; from the espresso coffeemaker to the miniskirt (or hotpants); now what's the latest bestseller in books? Who's the latest artist with a top ten hit? Of course multi-millions part with their $$$ all in pursuit of owning the latest MUST HAVE - actually it's MUST HAVES, hundreds of MUST HAVES. And so we are slaves to Madison Avenue and equivalents around the county and around the world. And it must work. The ads have enslaved us (though the buck stops with you) otherwise there'd be no new fads and MUST HAVE fashions. But of course today's MUST HAVE is next week's BORING, to be replaced of course with a newer version of MUST HAVES! It never ends.
MARKETING: Even if you apparently don't want unnecessary possessions and don't partake of the latest fads and fashions, there's a whole marketing enterprise out there designed to make you reconsider and dance to their tune; grab you by the privates and make your heart, mind and wallet follow to the beat of their drum. You're hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. There are numerous ploys or tricks into making you cough up your money, often slogans and buzz phrases. See if you recognize a few: "Last chance"; "Never to be repeated"; "Our pain is your gain"; "Below cost"; "No extra cost to you"; "Hurry, last days"; "On sale"; "Exclusive to"; "Limited offer"; "Limited edition"; "Once in a lifetime offer"; "Sale ends..."; "Limited time only"; "Buy two get one free", and hundreds more buzz phrases. There are many variations on the theme. I mean this type of strategy works; otherwise the strategy would have been abandoned eons ago. You may think you're immune, but the odds are your enslaved just the same.
APPEARANCES: If there ever was an obsession, this is it. From time immemorial, anyone and everyone has been a slave to how they appear to anyone and everyone else. But if you stop and think about it, what counts is the real you, what you represent; your characteristics; your personality. How you dress, your hairstyle, your makeup, your adornments, your house, your car; your social smarts and etiquette are really irrelevant. If you go to work in a smart suit and tie, or in your birthday suit, neither has anything whatever to do with how competent you are to do the job you are paid to do. A Nobel Prize winner is still a Nobel Prize winner even if he plays the bongo drums, likes to visit strip clubs, womanise, and lists safecracking as a hobby! Without naming names, the late Nobel Prize winning theoretical quantum physicist Richard P. Feynman's book "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" should sum up the concept that superficial appearances are just that - superficial. Would you sooner go down in history as a snappy dresser without a hair out of place, or as an Einstein, notorious for having a rather poor sense of adornments or dress sense?
LIFESTYLE: You can accept the fact that some people are better athletes than you; some people are smarter than you; some people are better at leadership than you. But you probably cannot accept that some people have, and deserve to have, a better lifestyle than you.
Humans constantly compare themselves to others. It's hard not to when the lifestyle of others, especially the rich and famous, are thrust in our faces by all manner of ways and means; from quality news sources to the tabloids. And much like the often artificial desire for stuff, to have the latest gadget, to be attractive to the rest of the world, so too do we cultivate in our mind's eye an idealistic lifestyle that we can strive for, but never achieve, since we keep raising the bar because someone else's bar is above ours. No matter what your lifestyle level is, you know someone who has a better lifestyle, and since you feel you are their equal (or probably their better) you acquire an attitude "I deserve."
Two points: someone has to be 'top dog', and that 'top dog' is relative. 'Top dog' could mean wealth; it could mean health; it could mean education, it could be fame; it could be achievement, it could mean lots of things, but it's not going to all of the above simultaneously. So, you have to pick-and-choose what lifestyle means to you. But whatever criteria you choose to pursue, of course someone else will have already scaled that Mount Everest. Rather than accept your place in life as somewhat below the summit, you often become enslaved to reach the summit too. Of course with lots of people desiring the same, that summit in theory could get awfully crowded, and as we all know from childhood, there can only be one "king of the mountain" at ay one time. That fact however never seems to reduce your enslavement to climb, ever climb and knock that other bastard off their perch!
TRADITIONS & HABITS: More likely as not, you're a slave to various traditions and personal habits. You might say something like "that's the way my parents did it; that's the way their parents did it and their parents before them and as far back as you care to go - it's tradition and we observe tradition and no correspondence will be entered into on the matter!" Or, it's such-and-such a time; such-and-such a day or date, therefore such-and-such will be done or observed. Sound slightly familiar? We're often creatures of, slaves to, tradition and habits without ever stopping to question "why"?
CHRISTMAS: Christmas just has to be singled out especially from the rest of the book of days because it's at the extreme end of our numerous traditions and habits. By any way you care to measure things, Xmas can be the best of times but it's usually the worst of times (conveniently forgotten one year on). The Xmas propaganda (i.e. - the Xmas Season) starts months before the appointed date and is relentless in its build-up and intensity. It extends several weeks past the use-by date when the Xmas wrapping paper and Xmas cards are now 50% off, and those post Xmas sales where you're tempted to by next years Xmas gifts now. And then the Xmas bills arrive just to remind you about all those fun times you had over the past several months.
Do you do Xmas because you want to, or because society has so shoved this concept down your throat ever since you were knee high to a cockroach that you now just go through the motions by rote because you have got to appease that great deity called "Shop Till You Drop"? Translated, do you do Xmas just because it's expected of you? The latter you admit? I thought so. I mean what sane person voluntarily desires to max out their credit cards for gifts for others who probably don't need or want them and will just shove them towards the back of their closet? What sane person voluntarily spends hours in crowded stores just for the pleasure or satisfaction of maxing out their credit cards on behalf of others? There's hardly a store you can shop in that isn't loaded to the rafters with Xmas trimmings. What sane person would voluntarily, laughing all the way (Ho, Ho, Ho), spend hours writing and addressing Xmas cards to persons they really don't give a damn about? And isn't it just jolly good fun wrapping up all those gifts? Do you honestly look forward to hearing all those Xmas songs for the millionth time? There's hardly a shop in town (not to mention buskers) that doesn't bombard you with endless repetitions of Xmas music. How the staff can stand it is quite beyond me.
I'm sure you just love being exposed to Xmas spin multi-thousands of times per Xmas Season and not just the repetitious music and endlessly reading the word "Christmas" or "Merry Christmas" but those endlessly repeating Xmas images and Xmas colours. It hardly qualifies as subtle or subliminal - you're clobbered over the head and you love it - "pay attention stupid, it's time to do your Xmas bit or else there's no Santa for you!" Now this isn't some national emergency as in "Uncle Sam Needs You!", rather the Chief Executive Officers of the retail sector need you, especially if they are to get their Xmas bonuses!
And what about slaving over the kitchen stove preparing that special Xmas meal for all those relatives you'd really rather poison? Speaking of Xmas dinner, why not try something different for a change, like pizza, spaghetti, macaroni & cheese, chicken pot pie or even sirloin steak. Fish & chips would make a nice change too! No? It has to be ham or turkey and plum pudding / mince pies / Xmas fruit cake according to someone's (whose long since dead) tradition. Actually it's not your fault. That's the Xmas dinner fare that the supermarket catalogues and store displays feature, in LARGE PRINT, that twist your arm and in a manner of speaking end up shoving this must-have-because-it's-traditional Xmas fare down your throat; this time literally! Boring! Same old fare! No imagination! So, being an independent minded SOB, its fish & chips for Xmas dinner for me (and no leftovers either).
So why do you do it, year after year after year? Because society says it's that time of year to test your 'right stuff', to see if your heart (and sanity) can stand the pressure one more year. Society says you snap to attention at Xmas and you reply, via your wallet, "Yes sir! I will sir. Thank you sir"! Society says you will run the annual Xmas obstacle course, and run it you do, and aren't you proud of yourself, huffing & puffing, when you cross the finish line. So, if you do Xmas for any reason other than because you want to, you really honestly and truly want to, then you're enslaved, hook, line and Xmas sinker.
Quite apart from the commercial aspects, you're enslaved to Xmas if you do Xmas for religious reasons because you're still being led up the garden path by the nose. Why? It's because you're celebrating Xmas for the wrong 'religious' reason. Xmas is all about a natural rebirth, not about a supernatural birth. The latter, the alleged birth of a Christ, was superimposed by the Christian church over the real pagan reason for celebration around the late December period. That original celebration centred on the return of lengthening daylight after the Northern Hemisphere's Winter solstice. Therefore, celebrating Xmas as the birth of Christ is not only incorrect, but irrational in that the date of Christ's birth isn't know by anyone. And celebrating Xmas for any reason in the Southern Hemisphere is ludicrous for either of the above possibilities. You've all been suckered yet again.
TECHNOLOGY: We're enslaved to our technology fixes, and to those repairmen and their extravagant bills who fix our fixes when those fixes need fixing. I mean when the TV goes on the blink; when the hard drive crashes, the fridge conks out, even when there's a power failure, well we may not panic, but we get a tad close to it. We've all seen those quasi end-of-the-world movies where the few survivors have to rebuild civilization from scratch without all those modern technological conveniences like gasoline and electricity, and it's not easy. Could you survive without supermarkets and clothing stores or modern hardware shops? Would you like the task of separating a teenager from her Twitter or Facebook? Video game addiction is well known. The commuter who has to, shock horror, take the bus because the car broke down is NOT a happy camper. So what bits of technology are you enslaved to, and who forced you to adopt those bits in the first place?
AUTHORITY: I haven't received my bill - I'm not at fault yet if I don't do something the powers-that-be are sure to cut off my (fill in the blank) for non-payment. Do you ever find yourself in that sort of situation? The onus is always on you to rectify things even when you're totally innocent of any wrongdoing. I've found myself, usually several times a year, having to chase up items which could result, if I fail to do so, in some bureaucratic authority figure come crashing down on me even though I'm not at fault of any wrongdoing. That's enslavement. We're enslaved to another deity - the great god of bureaucracy. We've all had experiences akin to banging our heads against a bureaucratic stone wall. It's always the ordinary person who has to prove, out of fear of some authority, that it was the system at fault, and since when does any authority figure admit that the bureaucratic system to which they are a part of is flawed? The ordinary person is guilty till proven innocent; it's never the fault of the system.
POWER: Power may not always corrupt and absolute power may not always corrupt absolutely, but we tend to seek power; we're all slaves to seeking power and all slaves to keeping what power we have. It may be very local like the husband who beats the wife who in turn screams at the eldest kid, to the older brother who was screamed at now in turn bullying his younger sibling, to that brat kicking the dog, who then chases the cat. I guess it stops with the cat. Of course it might be power at the office - always seeking promotion so that you have more people under your command/supervision. It might be seeking political power, from local mayor to prime minister. But we all feel good having someone, or something, we have power over.
LEAVING YOUR MARK - LEGACY & POSTERITY: You don't have to leave any physical record of yourself behind, not even a carved tombstone, but you're a slave to whatever inner drive compels you to do so. People tend to be obsessed (a form of mental slavery) with being noticed, even after death and even if only anonymously. There's architecture, from the pyramids to Stonehenge to modern skyscrapers and houses. There's graffiti (not a modern phenomenon). There's artistic works from hieroglyphs and cave art and petroglyphs to all the various arts and crafts we have today as well as those that form part of our cultural legacy. The upshot is that in the long term, while most try, few succeed. How many of those hundreds of thousands of Ancient Greeks are remembered today, yet probably nearly all sought some sort of long-term legacy.
HOBBIES: Hobbies are any dedicated activity not normally related to day-to-day survival, usually, but not always involving collecting things. If you started to list now the various hobbies engaged in by peoples around the world, past and present, you'd probably still be jotting them all down this time next year! The critical point is that all too often the hobby controls you and not the other way around. Much of your entire existence and purpose revolves around your personal hobby obsession. It's that transition from fan to fanatic that marks you as enslaved.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Technology Reaches Farther Than Ever

After the tragic and brutal murder of Neda Agha-Soltan on desolate Tehran soil, the man who shot the footage of it in a journalist-banned area knew he had done something monumental. He recognized that he had done something that would infuriate his government and had to be mindful of his own safety.
He considered posting the video to YouTube or FaceBook, but those were too mainstream and were monitored meticulously. Instead, he turned to a close confidant, emailing him the low resolution, minuscule two-megabyte video. Quickly, this friend propagated it to everyone, sending it to "Voice of America", the newspaper "The Guardian", and five of his friends. The message was inscribed with: "Let the world know."
People copied the video and posted it on multiple websites and others who had their own video and picture evidence came out of the woodwork. After appearing on YouTube, it aired on CNN, and soon everyone in American knew the once-nameless girl who is now the poster child of the Iranian protest movement.
Once upon a time in a less-than-idyllic age, authoritarian regimes could simply snip a few phone lines, and block a couple of foreign interlopers from their sites, but that time has passed. The advent of modern technology has changed the way people operate, and made it that much more difficult for the system to suppress information. The public now has virtually (no pun intended) unlimited amounts of media from which to communicate, and no matter how many are blocked, more will appear.
Iran's attempts at pulling the wool over their citizen's eyes and their foibles and triumphs are being carefully observed and monitored. Minds that were once imprisoned are fighting for their rights to privacy and their rights to speak freely, and not have certain things concealed from them, especially injustice! Bob Dylan was right; the times they are a' changing.
There is one lesson the government in Iran is proving to be infallible. While they may be able to limit their own citizens from accessing and posting content on the Internet, they cannot stop anyone from outside their jurisdiction from doing so. People in America and other countries around the world are there to lend a helping hand (or proxy server) to these oppressed peoples, allowing them to remain heard and exercise their impromptu cameraman skills.
Almost three dozen governments around the world are known to actively monitor and censor their citizen's Internet access and web activity. China, Uzbekistan, and Cuba are on the list, but the recent winner has been Iran. Maybe soon they will have their own pithy headline, like "The Great Firewall of China." As the decades have progressed, Internet censorship is actually showing an increase in these countries, but it is a moot point. The censor can't win. All they can do is stall and frustrate. It's like a game of whack-a-mole; one medium is censored and another is reporting three minutes later.
This censorship has always been a tit for tat system. When the people have some sort of uprising, no matter how small in scale, the government gets nervous, thinking it is losing control. So they do some censoring, create a scene, and flex their muscles so the public is clear about who is in charge. Sometimes they do it as a pre-emptive measure as well. On the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China, they actively blocked sites about a week before, so the public couldn't find a place to come together and start an e-riot.
Iran is actually very sophisticated in their Internet censorship. When countries first started doing this, it was very unstructured and easy to get around. People had no trouble defeating the censorship methods employed by the government and it was only a minor inconvenience, but it was the principle of the blocks that angered them. Now, in Iran the censoring is actually a complex infrastructure, with all Internet traffic squeezed through a sieve to find incriminating information. Although this stops the grassroots of the computer user community from surfing the web, the computer can get around these blocks with myriad tools. Being resourceful is the only way to defeat these injustices.
Because of those computer savvy and determined netizens, the Internet is rich with raw, uncut footage of the Iran protests, police brutality, and other crimes against the people. You can see the evidence of their actions on other forms of communication as well: news networks on T.V. eat this stuff up, and play it 24/7 with their world highlights. As was mentioned earlier, the censor cannot win. The Internet will always find a way to defeat the injustice and get the real news to the people who need it, and won't be stopped by the government crying "insubordination" or "treason" as someone tries to talk to friends on MySpace.
Although safe once they are on the Internet, in real life the risks are quite genuine for these amateur journalists. People taking pictures are often harassed and threatened, and their cameras confiscated, and they face the threat of being sent to jail. On June 12, when the controversial outcome of the Iranian election was announced, the country shut down text message servers for a time, which was the prime tool of communication that the protestors used, and so continues the endless game of whack-a-mole. The government knocked down mole #1, and out of slots #2 and #3came Twitter and Skype. Once the government finds a way to thwart this method of speak, the people can always go back to the archaic art of speech: all share a common vernacular, and word of mouth can spread like wildfire if the message is incendiary.
When the government is serious about getting something censored, and tired of the whack-a-mole game, they can employ professional companies. Even before the much anticipated election and its dubious outcome, the country of Iran was well-known for running a tight ship on the subject of sensitive matters. They have a great infrastructure for filtering and blocking that suppresses information that is considered harmful or slanderous by the government. Obviously, these companies don't condone or endorse government censorship or any sort of privacy invasion, but whistling to the tune of multi-million dollars, and they will do anything. This was empirically proven when Iran brought in big names Siemens and Nokia to help engineer an impregnable wall that had no loopholes for their citizens to utilize and bypass their security checks.
Although some are scared into submission by their repressive government, many are just determined to circumvent the measures taken by their rulers, for there are always loopholes. Many of these headstrong Iranians have utilized proxy servers, which can help these illicit surfers remain anonymous while browsing, and allow these incognito citizens the freedom of avoiding being tracked while online.
In exchange for the small tradeoff of a slight performance reduction in their browsing speed, these Iranians can surf any site they want without being blocked. Tor, a volunteer run proxy server, reports that Internet traffic using their servers to surf anonymously from Iran has shot through the roof, when the censorship has been heavily deployed and is breathing down every civilian's neck. There is hope! Some people will not put up with this injustice, and will fight and be resourceful in finding ways around it.
These despotic tyrants hope to completely sequester their countries from the rest of the world, so no one knows what is going on within their borders, and the citizens don't know what they are missing on the outside. They also want to eliminate any website or document that would hurt their ideology at all. This simply cannot be done in today's world; the genie is out of the bottle. The people know better, and they are not going to take it.
Some governments are trying harder than ever to censor and strip their citizens of their freedom and privacy rights. China is a real over-achiever when it comes to this. They should be awarded a big medal for all of the work they put in keeping their people shielded from the rest of the world, and completely shut off. Isolationism can only work for so long. You can feel the rumble every time you log onto a news site, or view a shaky hand-held camera video from a persecuted Iranian. It's getting more intense, and the feeling is becoming more palpable every day; even the government is perturbed by the vibrations.
It is an earthquake, slowly emerging, but every time the tremors die down, the racket grows as another program infiltrates their defenses. The people can feel it, and they are fueling it. It is an earthquake, not to destroy and hurt, but to knock down the monolithic skyscrapers that bar the public and infringe on their privacy and freedom rights. It's growing, and the authoritarian governments had better check their Richter scales and, however grudgingly pursue change before it's too late. Bob Dylan may have been an idyllic flower child, but he was also a soothsayer of his day, and his words ring as true as they did back in the summer of '69, the summer of purple haze, psychedelics; peace, love and rock n' roll: "There's a battle outside and it's raging'... It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, for the times: they are a changing."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Listening to God on the Appalachian Trail

We live in a fast pace world, where our minds have to travel even faster. Throughout history, life has never been this way. Think about your day. You wake up to the sound of an alarm, not a rooster. You get out of your allergy free, down alternative, Poster-pedic bed and turn off the electric blanket as you place your feet on the ground. You walk across your heavy face weight, high density, plush, synthetic fiber carpet and take the few steps to your indoor bathroom. You do your business, close the seat that you had your name engraved on and flush the chrome handle on the piece of finely constructed porcelain.
Next, you turn on the water with a simple twist of the wrist, no pumping, priming or walking a mile to the well, carrying a bucket on your head, required. You grab the latest technologically advanced toothbrush, the Crudomatic x2312, and slap a dab of teeth brightening, taste bud dissolving toothpaste on your Crudomatic x2312 and push the button. This device that resembles some sort of James Bond type spy-ware starts to go to work in your mouth.
Stuff is flying all over your bathroom. You are careful not to swallow any of the solution that you placed on your new toothbrush...you have read the warning labels that say, "DO NOT SWALLOW. IF SWALLOWED SEEK MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY!" After you clean up the mess that you have caused all over your faux marble vanity, you look at the clock that is screaming, "You're late." You turn around and with a flash you have tied your machine made tie on to your tanning bed tanned neck. You rip the cleaners bag off of one of your professionally steam cleaned and pressed tailored suits and run down the steps. Then, you help the kids go through the production line of, "Have a good day at school" and rip open the plastic package on your "breakfast." The label on your "breakfast" says that it is packed full of vitamins and minerals so you take a bite of the artificially instituted genetically engineered vitamins and the "minerals" that have been classified as minerals, due to the intent of medical based research. You get half way out of the door and realize that your cup of coffee is still sitting in its automatic fresh brewed, just the way you like it, holster. You know, your gunshot that you need to open your eyes the rest of the way.
You only got 5 hours sleep last night. After you played an artificial game of golf with the kids on the television screen, you had to catch up on your Facebook messages, send out your friend request and play Farmville. Oh, and yesterday would have been a disaster if you did not't get your Sports Center update so you had to watch the days news. When you saw 12:05am on the clock you started wrapping up the day and walked up the stairs to bed and started thinking about everything that you didn't get done.
So, you need that cup of coffee in order to stay awake long enough to get to the next cup of coffee. You drink up and push the button to start your car. You tell Mr. Bluetooth to open your garage door and pull out into the man made mirage of a world that God created. You stop at most of the stop signs and make your way to the freeway. They call it a "free"way of all things, as people are traveling as fast as the law will allow them and a little faster to get to a place that they are told what to do; compromise morals, to meet the bottom line. This place that you are traveling to is what you have to do so that you can play on your computer at night while worrying about what you need to get done. So, you press the gas peddle a little more, risking a ticket, higher insurance rates and an embarrassing aggravating moment with a police officer. (Which reminds me, have you heard the one about the guy that got pulled over and the police officer asked him, "Sir, do you have any ID." The man replied, "About what?") You pull into work and turn off your radio. You, "dut dut", push your car alarm and lock the doors simultaneously, report to work, do some of the things you are supposed to get done and drive through the smog alert back to your neck of the concrete jungle.
You meet the kids for dinner at the families favorite grease pit (the world has told us what is acceptable to eat) and you and your wife discuss how you will divide and conquer. One of the kids has indoor soccer practice and the other has to study for a test on evolution and how man was formed by a "big bang." You find time for a preliminary check of your email and Facebook messages on your iPhone on the way home. You don't think that your eleven year old little boy minds that you are paying attention to a 3 inch screen while driving instead of him. He is busy texting his friends on his iPhone, playing his own hand held game with his iPod in his ears, listening to his favorite pop star singing about "itches and oes" and bumping and grinding with that hard body thang at a bar all night. You would never let him listen to such things but you didn't have the time to check during your busy day. You want to know more about him. You long for it. You want him to talk to you more but this is the way times are now. They have busy lives to with school and hobbies. How could you ever take care of them if you did not work like you do? Things can't change, you would not be able to keep up, if your schedule was different.
We live in this concrete world that man has made. Our God wants and longs for you to get the iPod out of your ears and find time for Him. He is not looking at the 3 inch screen instead of you. He is here. He is waiting to have a relationship with you. I have lived in the city my whole life. Although, I had the pleasure of having a Grandfather who had a farm....my favorite place on earth. As a boy I played in the barn, chased cattle through the field, walked through the mud getting a little dirt on my hands and everywhere else. I remember the joy that my grandfather and I would experience together doing things around the farm that only such a place would provide. I remember running to him when I caught a tadpole and how proud he was. He was happy because I was happy. He was proud because he provided this environment for me to find such childhood wonders.
We have a God that is the perfect father; the perfect grandfather, if you will. He has made this green and living earth; full of beauty and amazement, peace and joy. God made it for us. I imagine God looking down at an individual who has discovered something that they have never seen before, something that He created, with deep satisfaction. When you walk through the woods on a hike to discover more of God you are surrounded by His artwork. No doubt it is difficult to impossible to escape the "busy" where you currently are...I believe that God wants to get you away long enough to rekindle a campfire in your soul. Come and let God do the rest.
Sadly, this aspect of life, many have never experienced. We have built literal walls which have blocked the young and the old from being a part of God's incredible masterpiece. He painted the heavens and the earth. He designed the trees and the waters; the mountains and the birds. We have installed concrete and metal over what God has created. I can't help but ask the question, "Do we think that we can paint a better picture?" He designed you and I. I believe that in man's ever increasing knowledge of providing for ones wants, man has forgotten about his need. We have forgotten how to listen to God. I believe that nature, a hike through the woods, allows a person to be in the place that God has designed for just this...to listen to Him. As we step back from our "priorities" God can work to align ours with His.
Never in the history of the world has man been in the absence of nature, the nature that God created. I feel that I must give an opportunity to others to experience something that they may have never experienced. I feel that taking all of the other elements out of sight, all the busyness and routine, and leaving them for a few days is absolutely essential to the spiritual state of a man. Come on The Walk with us. Come, listen to God, you will not return the same.
I believe that God is about progress and I do not feel that a city or a building is wrong to build. I do not believe that working in a city or even using a Crudomatic x2312 is wrong. However, I believe that, as a whole, we leave little room for the voice of God.
Genesis 11
The Tower of Babel
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2As men moved eastward, [a] they found a plain in Shinar [b] and settled there.
3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel [c]-because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.