Monday, May 1, 2023

Don't Fear AI Generated Content


Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Some readers have asked about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential impact on writing for publication. Some have expressed concern that this may undermine the work of real writers. 

AI draws from a huge information database. That database is largely skewed toward sources that are popular and/or recognized as having expertise (science journals, academic journals, and marketing experts). AI generates content by analyzing and synthesizing data, and then creating content using that data. That said, AI does not replace human creativity. It does not generate unique perspectives. The writer alone does that. 

One concern about AI that should put people on guard is its potential to sway elections. AI can create AI-generated audio, robocalls, or text messages about a candidate and disperse them to millions in an instant. AI is used to "improve fundraising efficiency by targeting prospective donors and voters with increasing specificity."

Some bloggers have found that using AI writing can produce quality content with less effort. However, the AI generated images are not yet perfected, but the quality is better than ever. If the writing sometimes seems flat that is because there is no substitute for the individual's perspective and emotional tone.

AI is cost saving for corporations that market multiple brands. The corporation can produce marketing content faster and at a greatly reduced cost. 

Christian writers should be publishing regularly to add our vocabulary and perspective to the database upon which AI draws. Do not waste time hoping an editor will purchase your work. Do not wait for payment if you have something really pressing to say because by the time you find someone to purchase your piece it may no longer be relevant. 

That is why I publish something every day somewhere online. In addition to the 7 blogs I manage, I publish at sites such as Virtueonline, The North American Anglican, the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, and Christian Women in Science. AI is a tool that Christians should use to correct misinformation about the Gospel, to clarify who Jesus Christ is, to build up the Church, and to present the hopes and struggles of Christians around the world.

Yesterday I published this piece.

The day before yesterday I published this:

Do not be afraid of AI. It can serve the cause of good. Do not delay what you have to say. Create a blog and publish regularly. Do not concern yourself with recognition. That will come when your writing becomes prolific. I now have 2000+ pieces available from which AI can draw data. 

If you have questions, please comment here and I will respond.

Wishing you success in your writing lives!

Alice C. Linsley

Friday, April 14, 2023

God in Hand


Lying in my palm,
the coming of a holy Presence
to fill my life with love,
lying in my palm
to save me from myself,
the feeding of a hungry soul:
lying in my palm.

 By Ed Pacht

Receiving the consecration wafer in one's right hand is a very old custom. Ephrem the Syrian invites the Christian communicant to feel awe at what is received in his or her hand, since even the Seraph did not take the divine coal with his hand, nor did the prophet Isaiah eat it (Isa 6:6). The divine coal is a common image of the Eucharist in Syrian theology.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

His Resurrection Breaks Us Free


The Seed Pod

By Hope Ellen Rapson

I walked along a quiet lake today,

And found a seed pod along the way.

Long and leathery, it outlined so tight,

Tomb-door shapes, darkly out of sight.

Each had a slightly different shape,

Some a gothic arch, some a rounded cape.

All are bound until sun, soil, and rain,

Allow the casings that restrain.

To rot or tear away, setting each one free,

That they might, in strength, grow the tree,

From where they first originated,

And for which they were created.

So, we, in some unmeasured season,

Will be released, revealing the reason,

Our restricting pods were closed to grow,

Us into the likeness of Him we know,

Broke from His cave of death,

Bringing new life and spirit-breath

To those who lay entrapped by sin.

Indeed, we need not strive to win,

Or make the changes we think just,

But only love and know, obey and trust

All God has powerfully given,

In Christ who, then and now, has risen!

Monday, February 27, 2023

Lewis' Narnian Dwarves Hint of Africa and the Bible


Alice C. Linsley

Have you wondered what inspired C.S. Lewis' idea of dwarves as smiths? The dwarves of Narnia are highly skilled smiths, miners, stonemasons, and archers. Perhaps Lewis had read about the dwarves of Nigeria who were smiths. For most of his lifetime, Nigeria was a British colony. (Lewis died in 1963 and Nigeria gained independence in 1960.) In Igboland, the metal-working dwarfs are called Neshi. They are credited with the early sacred script known as Nshi-biri, which in Igbo means "Written by Nshi".

There are other features of Narnian dwarf society that suggest knowledge of ancient Africa. 

What I find most interesting is the social structure of the Narnian dwarves/dwarfs and how it parallels the social structure of the early Hebrew (long before Judaism).

The social structure of the Narnian dwarves is a moiety. They are organized into red dwarfs and black dwarfs. Perhaps Lewis was thinking of the early Nilotic Hebrew with their moiety structure. The Hebrew ruler-priest caste was organized into two ritual groups, the Horites and the Sethites. Each group maintained their own shrines and temples along the Nile, and they competed for royal favor. Likewise, the Narnian dwarf groups enjoy competing with each other. 

The red dwarves were loyal to their own moiety and the black dwarves were loyal to their moiety, but they share a common loyalty. They recognize any dwarf as more like themselves than any other creature of Narnia. In an argument, a dwarf is likely to take a fellow dwarf’s side, and few things anger a dwarf more than the notion that his kind are being treated unfairly. Dwarves put the interest of dwarves first. That too is a characteristic of the early Hebrew caste.

In the Book of Genesis Tubal-Cain is described as a metalworker (Gen. 4). Studies of the kinship pattern of his early Hebrew people reveal a moiety structure. The descendants of Cain and Seth intermarried (endogamy). However, they maintained separate territories and separate identities. 

The oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship is at Nekhen on the Nile (4000 BC). Archaeologists have found elite burial grounds, figurines of Seth as a red man with the head of a hippo, massive stonework, and elaborate jewelry. They also found the body of a man who had red hair and a red beard.

Black and Red Nubians
Detail from a painting by Ippolito Rosellini
The Franco-Tuscan Expedition to Egypt of 1828

Narnian red dwarfs have soft red hair and beards, and black dwarfs have wiry black hair and beards. Both types of hair have been found in Africa. 

Lewis wrote the Narnia series in the 1950s. The rural settings, forests, and mountains would be familiar to most readers. The most exotic setting is found in "The Horse and His Boy". That has a Turkish flavor. Lewis never visited Turkey. He probably read about it. He was a voracious reader, and it is likely that he read about the metal-working dwarves of Nigeria.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Standing Still is a Way of Knowing


by Kristen Lippert

I've seen more of the world than you

Though you may think you are well-traveled

We learn more by staying in one place

Really knowing it

Than by trotting around tourist traps

I've seen more of the world than you

Standing at bus stops

Listening to strangers tell their stories

Without a camera or a

Photo gallery to prove my proficiency

I've seen more of the world

Resting right here in my yard

Noticing dew drops and dandelions

Nothing else—

Just how nature phases the moon night to night

I've seen more of the world

In your lonely, expectant eyes

Because these feet know how to grow roots

And I want to plant you

In this abundant experience.

Kristen Lippert is a poet and a coach. She works with athletes of all ages. Her background and education include track and field, nutrition, French, and biotechnology. Her chapbook Biophilic was published in 2021. Learn more here:

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Holy Imagination


Jared Hartenstein

Imagination is an important aspect of the heart. It’s a gift the Maker gave us when he breathed his life into our lungs. But how often do we think about our imagination? How often do we pay attention to what we put into it and the fruit of that intake?

For writers, a holy imagination means everything because if our imagination isn’t sanctified, the things we create will be full of our own understanding (the flesh) and the world’s darkness. I am not talking about the elements of suffering and evil in our stories (those are essential). I am talking about the implicit beliefs that find their way into our stories because we haven’t devoted our hearts to God.

Those beliefs show up potently in our character’s development and conclusion about life. They affect the heart of our readers as they walk with our protagonists, (hopefully) thinking, feeling, and experiencing their journey. If our stories don’t end or point to the true, good, and beautiful of God, what are they worth? If our readers don’t experience his joy, hope, and love, what is our audience walking away with? They leave our stories empty instead of full, which I don’t think is the goal of anyone here.

So, how do we sanctify our imaginations or make them holy? Well, we have to start by redefining the word “holy.” Growing up, I defined holiness as “set apart,” which ultimately led to a lot of false conclusions about life. I lived apart from the world and those around me, thinking I had to create or make life work outside of every pre-existing system and faculty. “Being in the world and not of it” was impossible with this definition because if I am “set apart,” my devotion to God looks like removing myself entirely from the world, but that’s not our entreaty as friends of Jesus.

Josh Nadeau, creator of Every.Day.Saints, defines Holiness as “draw[ing] near to God and sit[ting] in his presence.” When I heard this, a piece of me fought back, but as he listed examples, the scales fell from my eyes.

The most potent example of this definition is the Holy of Holies. What qualities give the Holy of Holies its name? Does it exemplify “apart from the world and not of it”? No, in the Torah, the Holy of Holies exists inside the Israelite encampment. Later on in the story, it is the central part of the temple Jerusalem amidst the people. So, what is its defining quality? God’s presence resides there.

So, if Holiness is defined by God’s presence, how do we become holy? We draw near to God’s presence. He becomes the anchor for our vessel amidst the raging storms of the world. By residing in him, we can be “in the world, not of it.” And as we draw near to his presence, we become holy because the flesh and world cannot stand his spirit. They flee like rats when the lights come on. Being made holy takes a lifetime because so much of our hearts need healing, correction, and Jesus’ renewed life, but as we draw near to God and walk with him, every part of our hearts becomes holy, including our imagination.

As we become holy by drawing near to God, his presence infuses our imaginations. We see as he does. The work that flows from that stream is not holy because it is absent from the world (I mean, I hope my stories reach an expansive audience) but because it is full of God’s rich presence- his truth, goodness, and beauty.

When our audience experiences Him in our stories, they can’t help but wonder why it grips them; the truth is, every thread they pull from that question leads to the Maker’s heart. I hope that’s the kind of legacy I leave when all is said and done on this earth.

Related: Stimulate the Imagination; Pen-Pecked Dreamers