All Creativity Comes From Love.

DoMakeCreateMaybe you have never thought about it, but all creativity that is refreshing and beautiful comes from a place of love. Creativity and love are interwoven. We are each affectionate towards our ideas, our skills, our talents and our craft. Without this love and affection, the creative processes become mechanistic. Without love, all that should flow naturally and organically becomes plastique.

However, if we were to spend our energies focusing on the things we love—

putting our affections on the things that make us come alive—something marvelous would happen: the fears would go away.

 If we let the love of engaging the creative things inside us be perfected in us, the fears of failure or disappointment all disappear.

Fears of what, you might ask?

Fears of failing. Fears of doing “it” wrong. Fears of amounting to nothing. Fear that the impossible isn’t really possible. The task is to love the creative things within us, even if it is the hardest thing we ever do. The Bible speaks about how a love that is perfected will cast out fear. If we let the love of engaging the creative things inside us be perfected in us, the fears of failure or disappointment all disappear. In other words, we love our creativity so much that it doesn’t matter what any person or any society says—we do it anyway.

My advice for you today is find those things you love. Writing. Cooking. Painting. Designing. Managing. Leading. Teaching. Playing. Singing…

Whatever you love, engage it. And then once you pour out your love on your craft, extend your hand to give it all away. The world needs a whole lot more love, and the more love that can be expressed through the creativity of your life, the better off you and our world will be.

WordPress Security Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

Featured article written by Drew Strojny of The Theme Foundry.

WordPress has a less than stellar security reputation. You may have even heard some horror stories from friends or colleagues who’ve had their site hacked. So, is WordPress actually secure?

Yes. Very secure. To understand why, consider the popularity of WordPress. It now powers around 20% of the internet. It’s extremely popular. WordPress is also open source software. This means the underlying code can be reviewed by anyone. WordPress security issues can be uncovered and reported by any of the thousands of developers that use the software, so they tend to be discovered and fixed quickly. If you’re the president, would you rather have fifty secret service agents looking out for you, or just one? More eyeballs and more scrutiny equal better security.

The popularity of WordPress is also a weakness. Imagine those millions of WordPress websites as a roaming herd of buffalo. Now imagine some hungry wolves (malicious hackers) hunting for a meal. The thundering herd is obviously going to attract some attention. But, what buffalo will they target? The stragglers of course. The old, the young, and the weak. Your goal is to not be one of those stragglers. Let’s review some basic WordPress security practices that will help you keep up with the herd.

Always be on the latest version of WordPress. Period.

Using the latest version of WordPress is the single most important thing you can do for the security of your WordPress website. WordPress doesn’t release any security updates for old versions of WordPress. Let’s be clear about what that means: If you use an old version of WordPress and an exploit is announced, you’re vulnerable until you update. To be secure,you need to be using the latest version of WordPress. If you stay up to date, you’re effectively running with the herd.

Automatic updates

WordPress introduced automatic security updates in WordPress 3.7. You no longer have to worry about updating WordPress quite as often, but you still have to update WordPress. The new automatic updater only performs minor maintenance and security updates (eg. WordPress 3.8 to WordPress 3.8.1). You still need to update WordPress manually (by clicking a button) when a new major version is released (eg. WordPress 3.7 to WordPress 3.8). This may become automated in the future, but for now, you still have to do it manually.

Another option is to just find a web host that updates WordPress for you. There are quite a few different hosts out there that do this, but I’d recommend WP Engine. They’ll automatically keep WordPress up to date for you. And no, that isn’t an affiliate link. I recommend them because they do a great job and come highly recommended from others. We don’t get any kickbacks or monetary gain for recommending WP Engine.

Stay on the main roads

If you were trying to avoid getting mugged, would you explore dark alleys late at night, or would you walk down busy main street in broad daylight? Consider this advice when you’re choosing a WordPress plugin or theme. Get your themes or plugins from reputable sources and they’re much more likely to be kept up to date and monitored for security issues. Do your best to stick to the official WordPress directory and established theme and plugin providers. Consider our guides on finding the best WordPress themes and finding a WordPress plugin.

Three other WordPress security tips related to themes and plugins:

Keep a list of your active themes and plugins and follow the blogs of the authors. Make sure it’s easy for them to communicate with you. Sure, it might make your inbox a bit noisier, but you’ll be the first to know if there is a security problem.

Sign in to your WordPress dashboard around once a week, even if you don’t have anything to do. If you don’t sign in to your WordPress site very often, consider a plugin like WP Updates notifier. It will send you an email whenever there are available updates for your WordPress site.

Review the lists of disallowed plugins on popular hosts like WP Engine. Some of these are disallowed for speed optimization reasons, but other are related to security.

Secure your login page

Almost every WordPress website has the same URL for signing in. Type/wp-admin/ at the end of the site name and you’ll be taken to the sign in page. This is the front door to your WordPress site. Adding an extra layer of protection is akin to installing an extra deadbolt. You can use some of the basic security built into Apache to require an extra password before someone can even see the sign in page. This will help prevent brute force password attacks. If you want to take things even further, consider a plugin like Wordfence Security. Either way, an additional layer of security around your WordPress login page is a good idea.

A secure WordPress hosting environment

Hosting Quick Tips

  • Change to a non-standard SSH port.
  • Set up iptables to block unwanted traffic.
  • Disable root logins.
  • Disable password login (only use SSH keys).
  • Disable remote database access if you don’t need it.
  • Install an automatic package updater or actively monitor for security updates through a mailing list.

We’ve covered WordPress. We’ve covered your themes and plugins. The only thing left is your hosting environment.

Hosting generally falls under two categories: managed and unmanaged. Managed WordPress web hosts like WP Engine, Laughing Squid, orPressable manage your hosting environment for you. You don’t have to worry about keeping the environment itself secure, you just have to worry about keeping WordPress and your themes and plugins up to date. Some of these hosts (like we mentioned earlier) will actually keep WordPress up to date for you and actively monitor WordPress for security problems. If you just want to focus on writing your blog or building your website, go with a managed web host. The more updating and monitoring they do for you the better.

If you’re going with an unmanaged web host you’re likely looking at a VPS or a dedicated server. If you need a VPS, I’d recommend Linode. We’ve used them for years, and they’ve been cost effective and reliable. I’m not going to get into all the details of securing an unmanaged server, as the topic deserves its own blog post, but here are some quick tips:

This is just a short list. If you’re running your own unmanaged server or VPS, it’s worth doing some more research on hardening your server.

Stick to the basics

WordPress security can be intimidating, but if you get the basics right, you’re unlikely to ever have any issues. Remember, the most important thing is to keep WordPress up to date. If you’re using an old version of WordPress, you’re a straggler, and you’re more of a target for hackers. If you always stay up to date, and use a good managed web host, you won’t have anything to worry about.

If you have any other WordPress security tips, let us know in the comments.

 

 

Echoes Of A King

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of his time, but also a prophet speaking to our time.

Dr. King spoke truths about the inequalities in the United States when most were silent. Even worse, the church in the United States was not only silent, but in many cases, willing participants in such injustice and division. That was in the 1960s until King’s assassination in 1968. Now, 46 years later, I wanted to reflect on King’s words he wrote while sitting in the cement walls of a jail in Birmingham, Alabama, after he was arrested for civil-disobedience.

I read this letter this morning, and it is amazing how his words echo even today. His words, and his prayers, are as relevant today as they were in 1963. The Christians not only in the South, but across the United States, are more in need of a personal awakening now more than ever before. As you read King’s words below, may they stir you and awaken a new hunger not just for justice, but for the One who is Justice.

QUOTES FROM LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL:

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?… 

I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love.

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment.


But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom.

To read Martin Luther King Jr.’s whole Letter From A Birmingham Jail, go here.

Morning Hope

Meet Moses. He will be a part of the generation that says “No more!” to the violence and 20+ years of war in his home country of the D.R. Congo. 

I have the pleasure of knowing Cassandra Bassnett who runs JusticeRising. Their work stretches from the D.R. Congo war-zones to the brothels of Kenya. My wife and I support her any way we can, and the more help she has, the better. Learn more about her work in Congo, feeding the hungry in Somalia, and her new safe-house for prostitutes and victims of sexual violence in Kenya by going to JusticeRising.org.

How To Make 2014 A Year of Strategies, Not Mere Plans

It’s a new year with new adventures. A new blog. And my wife and I are starting off excited for what is to come. I’m not much of one for yearly resolutions (how many friends are making the same resolutions they made last year and the year before that), but I do enjoy that every year brings a sense of newness with new possibilities. And of course, the thing possibilities that the things we didn’t do last year could be accomplished this year.

Resolutions are one thing. Most resolutions are ideas in the very least, and at the very best, plans. But plans cannot succeed without strategy. Strategy comes from the Greek word, stratēgia, which was a war-time term for “generalship” and the art of being the troop’s general, leader or commander.

Almost all resolutions are great plans. We may want to lose weight, read more, eat less, get a better job, buy a house, make more money, get a job that we love, or start our own business. These are great plans, but I have met many people who will be saying these same lines 365 days from now.

So I thought I’d give us some tips to making myself and all of us sure that our plans have strategies. And the hope (and prayer) would be that 365 days from now, we get to see how far we’ve come.

STRATEGY MAKING

  • Forget The “Plan”—Write Down Your Goal
    We want goals, not mere plans. The best way to make sure something gets done is to get it on paper. Notice that I said, on paper. Not on the computer. Not on your phone. On
    paper. Better yet, make it sticky paper and you can post it up somewhere that you will always see it. There is also the physical-to-mental connection made when you take that writing utensil and jot it down.
  • Next, write the answer to this question: “Why do I want this goal?”
    Discovering and writing down the answer to this question is vital as it creates the motive-ation to see this goal accomplished. Maybe your goal is to lose weight—your answer for your main motive might be so you can live to see your children’s children. Maybe your goal is to make more money—your answer to “why” might be because you want to travel, or have enough money to have children, or get that new car.
  • Identify The Critical “Action Items” To Achieve Your Goal

    Identify the critical “Action Items” to achieve your goal. This step is the most important.

     This step is the most important. Just because you wrote down your “what” and “why” doesn’t mean you’ll accomplish anything. It takes action. We all know this in theory, but it’s so hard to put it into practice. Think through the “Action Items” it will take to reach your goal—things that are possible, doable and realistic. Don’t over-complicate these items. And again, you want to write them down. Why? Because, these are the tasks you will do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to actually achieve your goal.
  • Find Your Accountability
    We must be vulnerable with our goals and we must take the risk and let people in on our strategy to reach them. Ask yourself: Who are the people I want to let into life to help me succeed? Maybe it’s your wife, your best-friend(s), your parents or to use the example above, your children. My advice is let at least one person in on what you are doing. This is a personal decision, and will be hard for some. You must also be honest and think through the best people to push you. If you only chose one person (like an immediate family member or spouse), will they truly push you towards your goal (or, is it better to get help from outside of your immediate family)?
  • Lose The Guilt-Trips
    The “last but not least” of this list means you must ditch the guilt. If you aren’t fulfilling your Action Items on a regular basis, don’t fret. This is a perfect time to let your Accountability in on your hardships. This is also a perfect time to go back and read “Why Do I Want This Goal?”. Remembering the “why” will help rejuvenate that motivation within you to keep going.

With that, see you in 365 days to see what you’ve accomplished!