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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Content, Creativity, & The Christian Life: An Interview With Blake Atwood

Blake Atwood is a friend (I’m pretty sure he’s ok with me saying that publicly) from what we call in the church world “my home church”. More than that, he’s a creative that I have a ton of respect for and highly admire. This week I got him to answer some of my questions about content and creativity as well as what his degree is actually in. I hope you guys enjoy!

 

Tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

I’m a recently and happily married man to a woman whose beauty and kindness often duel each other for my affections. We live and work in the Dallas area. I’m a full-time editor at FaithVillage.com, a sometimes writer at BlakeAtwood.com, and an every-so-often drummer. I haphazardly fell into being a featured subject in a Wall Street Journal article because I once used the word albatross in a blogpost. I also managed to compress my 15 minutes of fame into less than one second as an extra in Friday Night Lights, Season 2, Episode 9.

To anyone reading this, this question may seem completely irrelevant, but it makes sense in my head as being important to the rest of our conversation: What’s your degree in? I know you went to Southwestern in Georgetown, and I’ve known you as a church publications/media/web guy, and I think you did technical writing for a law firm, and now I know your title is Editor of Church Leadership (or something like that) for FaithVillage.com. So…what kind of degree prepared you for all those hats?

Though I almost certified to teach (and I have major respect for teachers of all sorts, many of whom I have as friends), I was adamant about not going into teaching after college simply because so many people assumed that to be my only route where my degree could hold meaning. They assumed I had to teach or keep going to school. Neither option appealed to me at the time. A few months after college, I landed my first professional gig: a proofreader for the Texas Senate. So, if you’re taking sloppy notes at home, my English degree from a small liberal arts school got me into the Senate as a 22-year-old.

How has that helped/mattered in each of those positions (and any other you may have had that I don’t know about)? Or has it at all?

It’s mattered in every single job I’ve held, but I was intentional about that. I’ve also been fortunate in that aspect as there are multitudes of people who don’t get to mix their passion with their profession. I’ve worked at a bookstore, as a proofreader, as a communications director, as a law firm copywriter, and now as an editor. Even with the retail job I held as an “inventory specialist” at a bookstore, I wanted to work near words, even if they weren’t coming directly from me. My English degree, as well as the well-rounded, liberal arts education I received at Southwestern, definitely prepared me to pursue my passion through my various professions.

What is FaithVillage? Someone asked me once “Isn’t that just a “Christian facebook”?” I don’t think it is, but I’m terrible at telling people about it.

     We’re part Google, part Facebook, and part Amazon, though not (yet) quite with their reach. Our content is aimed at Christians.

  • Google-ish: People can search for topics relating to Christianity and find articles, podcasts, or videos on that topic. We have 600+ bloggers and organizations that contribute content. There’s always something new to read, hear, or watch.
  • Facebook-ish: We offer a free, custom-built social media platform for individuals and churches, complete with profile pages, friending, status updates, and groups. You could create a David Stippick fan club if you wanted to, but we mostly envision churches using it to create public or private groups for online collaboration, like a Bible study that wants to keep their discussions going throughout the week.
  • Amazon-ish: We launched our bookstore about a month ago, stocked with 200,000 Christian titles. We also launched our Great Book Reviewers Group, where members can join for free and request review copies of books in exchange for a review on their blog and in our bookstore.

How did you get involved with FV?

     One year after moving to Dallas, I found a job posting on LinkedIn for “Christian Living Editor.” I sent in my resume, thinking that the description fit me all too well, aside from a few minor parts. At the first interview, I learned that there were two other editorial positions available, neither of which were listed on LinkedIn. Tip: Always send in your resume to any jobs that look promising. You never know if they may have something else that’s a perfect match for you.

I was cautiously hopeful about getting the job. After two interviews and just a few short weeks, I was hired. Thanks to my time on staff at a church, I was offered the position of Church Leadership Editor.

Why do you think it’s important to have a faith based online outlet like FV?

This is a question we get often, especially with so  many social networks available to us today. We understand it too: FaithVillage is on FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedIn, and Pinterest. So why another social network?

For the same reason that you go to church and Bible study and hang out with Christian friends. We are not opposed to reaching out to the world (i.e. you can share content within FaithVillage via Twitter, FB, Pinterest, etc.), but there are particular conversations that can only occur within the confines of a church or between two Christians. Among other things, we wanted to create a safe place for those conversations to occur and for Christians to find encouragement to keep running the good race.

You’re involved with Art House Dallas. What’s that about?

          Art House Dallas is a non-profit organization that brings artists and creatives together once a month to talk about everything a creative struggles with: the day job vs. the dream job, inspiration, the process, what you’re currently working on, why you’re not currently working on what you’re supposed to currently be working on, etc. It’s a great place to meet like-minded individuals with a creative bent that want to make the world a better place.

Alright. So here’s what I’m really excited to talk to you about – content. You write your own blog, you write for others sometimes, you write for FV as well as edit and manage content for them. That’s a lot of content! Did you ever think you’d be dealing with so much content development/creation?

     I’d always hoped to work for a magazine or a book publisher or a media website. Still, I’m surprised by how much content our site generates on a day-to-day basis. The Internet is a hungry beast, constantly yearning for more morsels to feed its insatiable appetite. There are (depressive) times when I ponder the ephemerality of online content, i.e. if someone doesn’t catch one of our articles in their likely overflowing Twitter stream, they may never see it. On the other hand, the content is near eternal, insofar as our site doesn’t crash or the Internet itself doesn’t implode.

If I believe in an all-powerful God, I have to believe that he can arrange for a particular person to find a particular article at a particular time for a particular reason. I know how words have affected my life at particular moments, how much power and weight they can carry, and how they can spur you on to real-life good deeds and a closer relationship with God. It’s for these reasons that I don’t mind feeding the beast.

Do any of the areas you’re doing this in intersect or interact at all?

     Quite often. When you work in a job that closely aligns with who you are, overlap is bound to occur. For instance, I contributed a few articles to a Mac-centric website called MacDaily.co. I’m also in charge of church tech content within FaithVillage. I’ve written a few guest posts for bloggers I’ve met as a result of their involvement contributing to FaithVillage. All of my former jobs prepared me well for what I’m doing now.

You’re clearly involved in quite a few things…how do you keep it fresh? How do you not run out of stuff?

     It helps that we have 500+ contributors to FaithVillage. We’re never in want of content there. As for my personal projects, I often feel like the well is dry. I’d love to blog more consistently, but I also have an ebook I’m working on. My best advice for content creation is to always write down your ideas as soon as they come to you, even if they’re crappy ideas. Good ideas need fertilizer.

What’s your “creative process”? Do you have one? Is it different for these different areas?

Great question, and one that I’ve never actually considered in depth, even though I’m often interested in others’ processes. At this point in my life, my process involves (straining) to get up before 5:30am, then placing my rear squarely in my chair, setting my hands on my keyboard, and just writing … something. This doesn’t always happen. I’m a big fan of Stephen Pressfield’s book The War of Art: “The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water is another great book on the creative process: “Someone wrote, ‘The principle part of faith is patience,’ and this applies, too, to art of all disciplines. We must work every day, whether we feel like it or not, otherwise when it comes time to get out of the way and listen to the work, we will not be able to heed it.”

At my job, the creative process is more about forming interesting headlines and writing engaging, yearning-to-be-clicked status updates. However, my creative process may best be summed up in my title of editor. It’s all about winnowing down dozens of ideas into the best idea one’s willing to release into the wild at that moment. Since we create such a large amount of content, not every headline is going to be a winner simply due to time constraints. Sometimes you just have to ship.

In the Christian life/walk/journey/catchy buzzword why does content and creation matter?

Allow me to quote myself, along with L’Engle again. She said, “We cannot create until we acknowledge our createdness.”

In this blogpost, I said, “To be created in the image of a Creator God means that, by original design, we’re creative. Regardless of talent level, we are all born creative. Whether or not we foster that creativity or choose to use our powers for good is another story. By acknowledging our createdness, we humbly come to a much deeper appreciation of the tasks set before us. We incarnate with our art and our lives, bringing nothingness into somethingness, echoing God’s work at the dawn of time.”

Jesus seldom if ever settled for the expected approach. His answers, his words, and his life consistently defied the expectations of those around him, even those who spent the most time with him. He lived creatively because he was the Creator. We’re asked to follow in those footsteps, but it’s less like walking in a straight line behind him and more like following his lead in a dance.

How do we create better content (relationships, work ethic, whole life experience, etc.), that points to Jesus with our lives?

Be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People resonate with honest stories well-told, whether they’re written or spoken. The Christian life is not all unicorns and rainbows, and we shouldn’t fear telling the truth when it comes to our shortcomings. If we really believe that Jesus is everything he says he is, then we should have enough humility to say “I don’t have it all together, but there’s one who keeps me altogether.”

Allow me to quote another author I greatly appreciate, Anne Lamott: “If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”

 

Make sure you check out the links above. You can follow Blake on twitter.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Friday Interviews

 

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Don’t Just Break, Rest.

Let’s talk more about breaks. Not just your fifteen minute smoke break (do people still take those?) or more likely your fifteen minute facebook break (ala Rebel WIlson in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting). But rest. Intentional rest.

In church talk we call it taking a Sabbath.

I love taking a Sabbath. It’s something that was built into my life/schedule while I was doing my Mission Year in New Orleans, and I’ve tried since then to keep it going whenever possible. Taking a Sabbath is more than just having a day off where you sit around and do nothing. It’s about resting and communing with God.

There’s two places in the Old Testament where we’re given the reason for Sabbath:

  1. In Exodus chapter 20 verses 8-11 we find the first reason; we’re not better than God. Plain and simple. God gives the command to work six days and rest one “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” God – the creator of everything, Lord of the universe…rested. He took a break. I don’t know why, and the why isn’t really that important, what’s important is that He did it. Now…if God needed a break, a rest…who are you and I to think we don’t? That if we don’t do x, y, or z they just won’t get done. Likely we need to prioritize our time better to get things done in the allotted time rather than working all day every day. We are not better that God.
  2. In Deuteronomy chapter 5 verses 12-15 we find the second reason; we’re no longer slaves. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” You know who doesn’t get a day off? Slaves. Now, I’ve never been a slave in the literal sense of the word, but I do know I’m no longer a slave to sin. In this case specifically a slave to the sin of glorifying my busyness. God has set me free from the consequence of sin, and because of that I can rest and spend time with Him. I’m not a slave any more.

So how do you move from having a “day off” to a Sabbath? That’s pretty much up to you? What is restful for you? What helps you commune with God? Spend some extended time alone with Him in personal study and worship and go from there. Do you work with your hands and your body all week long? Enjoy a good novel, or a book on a topic of interest for you; rest your body, engage your mind. Do you spend most of your time engaging your mind? Mow the lawn, plant a garden.

Go for a walk, play some disc golf, have a great meal with friends. Do something that is restful and restorative for you.

How do you Sabbath? What is restful for you? How do you connect with God?

 

Grace & Peace,

Stippick

 
 

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Take A Break

On Saturday Hillary and I took a day trip to Abilene. We don’t do this often, but it’s so rare that we don’t have something scheduled on a weekend. On those weekends it’s rare to find us anywhere but holed up in the confines of our apartment plugging away at our hobbies. But we needed to get away for a day.

We needed a break.

We had a great time. We did some shopping, a lot of looking, and just spent time together away from the hecticness (I got a red squiggly line under that – that means it’s a good word to use, right?) that can be our lives.

This week Hillary will start full time at her new job, and I will jump headfirst into a summer of great Youth Ministry. That coupled with the fact that we just finished a semester of school, and the fact that Hillary will have a full summer course-load online was the biggest reason we took the break.

Our Saturday away and this relaxing day off will make tomorrow (the kind of Monday of our week) great for us. Sometimes we just need a break.

Sometimes you just need a break. And it’s ok to take one.

Grab the kids (if you have kids), or leave alone or with someone you trust, and take off for a day trip. Maybe a day trip in your town doing the things it has to offer that you’re normally too busy for. Or maybe you, like we did, need to get an hour or two away and just breathe. That’s ok. It’s healthy. You should do it.

Today would have been a great day for it, but it’s almost over. Maybe you took a break. If you didn’t though, I would challenge you to sometime in the next thirty days. If you find yourself with a chronic Case of The Mondays a break may be just what you need. Sit with your spouse (if you have one, if not this could be a lot easier for you), look at your calendars, and get it planned.

What do you do to take a break? Did you have today off? What did you do?

Grace & Peace,

Stippick

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Cases of Mondays

 

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Jesus And Sports: An Interview With Ted Kluck

Ted Kluck is an sports blogger, and author. I just recently read his book “The Reason For Sports: A Christian Fanifesto“, and loved it. If you know me at all, you know I’m not a big sports guy, but Ted’s book is one of the few that has helped me understand why so many people are. You can check out Ted’s books here, and his website here. I hope you enjoy the interview!

I’ve done some reading about you through your website, and know a little bit about you from “The Reason For Sports: A Christian Fanifesto”, but can you tell my readers and myself a little bit about you?

Yeah, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer, or thinking I would be; and then when I became a writer I didn’t think I’d be a Christian writer. That all just sort of happened. I’ve always loved sports, I’ve always been an athlete. I grew up wanting to play and coach football as long as I could. I had an injury in college, and really at that time discovered that I loved writing so I started to pursue that and chip away at it. It’s been a long hard grind really. I started out doing some freelancing for ESPN in 2000, thereabouts, chipped away at that for a little while, got my first book deal in 2005 for a book called “Facing Tyson”, where I interviewed a bunch of guys who fought Mike Tyson and then I’ve just kind of been steadily working at the book thing since then.

Alright, cool. So, in “The Reason For Sports” you talk a little bit about your son, or is it sons? You have one son, or two?

I have two boys now, they’re both adopted from Ukraine. I wrote about that in a book called “Hello I Love You: Adventures In Adopted Fatherhood”.

You said you’ve been playing sports for a long time, so you’ve been a “sports guy” for most of your life then?

Yeah, for sure. I’ve been a football guy, really. It’s funny, I’m not really a sports guy, like you mentioned in your first e-mail. I’m not a sit around and watch a ball game guy. I really just love football, and I love boxing too. So football and boxing are my two sports. You know, I’ve been a football player my whole life. I’ve kind of dabbled in boxing. So I’m not a “fan” per-say; if being a fan means cheering for your team and caring whether they win or lose, I mean I’m really not a fan then. I’m interested in the stories behind sports and the people that play sports and their motivations, what they’re really like. Those are the kind of things that excite me as a writer and as a person.

Yeah, like I said in my e-mail, I’m not really a sports guy. I try to follow some things so that I’m not completely in the dark. I was talking to one of my friends the other day while we were watching a 30 for 30 and he asked me if I actually liked it or not. I told him, “I LOVE 30 for 30 because I love sports stories.

Which 30 for 30 were you guys watching?

Oh gosh…um…Four Days In October. The one about the Red Sox Pennant race. I hadn’t seen that one before, I loved the story there. Let me back up a little – I don’t think I heard you say, have you been in church for most of your life as well?

I have, yeah. I grew up in the church. Grew up in the 80’s – kind of the evangelical health, wealth and prosperity decade where you sort of made this passive agreement with God that if you did everything right then He would make all your dreams come true. When that didn’t happen for me it really disillusioned me man. I really thought, “Lord I’m in church every day, I’m not chasing girls, I’m a good kid, why aren’t you hooking me up with the NFL career I’ve always dreamed about. In the mind of a kid, that’s just how it works. If you don’t have any better theology, that’s just kind of how you operate. So it’s been a steep theological learning cure for me over the last decade where you realize, “Wow that’s really not what Christ, the Bible, the Gospel or any of that is all about.” So I’ve been in church all my life; I’ve probably been in good churches and paying attention for the last decade or so.

So is that when you began to kind of see the relationship in the church, or Christianity, and sports, or did that come even later than that?

I’ve always seen the relationship, and quite frankly even when I was a kid I thought the relationship was kind of weird. I’d see these athletes do post-game interviews or writing books and kind of waving the God thing around, and I felt weird about it to be honest. You know? It seemed to me like they were grandstanding, or using God as a lucky charm for themselves, or talking about bringing glory to God but really bringing glory to themselves; it was all really confusing for me. Even as a kid I thought, “Something about this doesn’t feel right”, and that feeling continued into adulthood and I think I’m still trying to figure that out.

So as a kid, and even as an adult, at first glance would you say it’s an unhealthy relationship at times?

At times, definitely. You know even Christians make idols of sports. I think we idolize the dream, I think we idolize the money. I think we see professional sports as the ultimate thing our kids could achieve or the ultimate thing that we could achieve and when we do that, when we put any individual or ideal on a pedestal that isn’t Christ, we’re committing idolatry. I think we do a lot more of that with sports than we’re comfortable admitting.

So those are some of the unhealthy aspects, what are some of the healthy aspects of sports and the church?

I think there are a lot. Number one, just the joy that it brings to play, you know? I think no matter how old I get I’ll always enjoy throwing a football, or playing a game, or whatever, you just get a thrill if you’re an athlete, and I think that comes from the Lord and I think that’s a good thing. The avenue it gives you for evangelism is one of the big positives. Especially for guys, it’s hard to have relationships and we tend to have all these shallow relationships in our lives and sports, just by the nature of being on a team, of going through things together, of going through things together, it gives you a great chance to be in community and be in relationships with people. I would see that as a huge positive. Like anything else in life, we can make an idol out of it. That kind of thing can happen in other areas, it’s not just sports.

You talked about the importance of male relationships in “The Reason for Sports” in two different spots as far as friendships and father figures and how sports helps foster those things. Why is that important and what are some of the ways it does that?

Some of my best memories in life have been in sports with my dad. Working out together, going to games, whatever it was, football helped that relationship with my father. Those are just great memories. Those are things that I look back on and I’m thankful for without qualification. So I think it can do that for kids who don’t have fathers a good coach can do that for a kid. I’ve done some coaching too and really enjoyed it and really enjoyed the depth of relationship and closeness that you’re able to have with an athlete when you’re a coach. You spend so much time together, and they’re such formative years when you’re in high school and college. The potential for impact for a Christian coach is tremendous.

You mention that athletes are entertainers when we already have people whose job it is to be an entertainer. Some people just want to go watch athletes be athletes and do some of the incredible things that athletes do. How do we move back athletes being athletes and entertainers being entertainers?

I don’t know that we’ll ever move back to that, and wouldn’t it be great if we could. The culture we live in with facebook, and twitter, and the whole blogosphere – basically as a public figure you have to be on stage you’re entire life. You really never have to go off stage. One of the things I appreciated about the old days was that, I grew up a Chicago Bears fan, so when I watched Walter Payton on Sunday it was another seven days before I got to see him again. There was a sense of anticipation. I didn’t hear all the stupid things he was thinking and saying throughout the week. You just waited. I think it’s taken a lot of the joy out of sports to have that non-stop oversaturation in the media. I know it’s taken a lot of the joy out of it for me as a fan. Probably for the athletes too. I think they all have to deal with the burden that they have to be “building their brand” all the time when the fact of the matter is that most of them don’t even have a brand. Most of them don’t have a lot to say, and that’s ok, they should just be able to just be athletes.

In that same chapter you talked about what if the athlete instead of pointing to the sky, or taking the knee, or pounding their chest…just walked back to the huddle to keep on playing, and that was how they represented Christ well. For the average Christian, what’s our “walking back to the huddle” to represent Christ well to those who know we claim Him?

For me, my personal walking back to the huddle was getting off of facebook. I don’t do any social media anymore. I quit about a year and a half ago, and it was so liberating. It was scary at first, I thought “Oh am I going to miss this?”, but for me it was incredibly liberating to feel like,
“I don’t have to post a clever comment, I don’t have to post this quote that I read that makes me look super intelligent.” So much of that I found was my own grandstanding. That’s not a hard and fast for everyone, but for me part of “walking back to the huddle” was getting rid of some of that. Blogging less, facebooking not at all, tweeting not at all – and these are all things that in publishing, all the publishers want you to do this. It really bothers people in my industry that I don’t do this, because they think it will hurt my ability to sell books. Maybe they’re right, but to me it felt creepy, too “look at me, look how clever I am all the time”, and I just didn’t want to be that guy.

That’s great to hear. I love social media. There’s times when I go through my stuff, or I’ll post something and my wife will mention something about it to me later, and just the way she mentions it to me I’ll think “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that”, and I’ll go take it down. So I’m at a point now where I do try and think a lot about why I’m posting something. One thing I loved reading, and I’d never heard this before, was when Tom Brady says in that post Super Bowl conference “Is this all there is?”. And I thought about how we look at people like Tom Brady and think “Well they’re this multi-million dollar athlete, why would they do this stupid thing, or that stupid thing?” And it’s because they still want more just like anyone else. Why is it that we expect athletes, or anyone famous and rich, to be more satisfied than we are?

It’s because they’re living our dreams. You and I don’t have any idea what it feels like to be Tom Brady. We don’t know what it’s like to be that good looking, to win a bunch of Super Bowls, have all that money etc. We look at a guy like that and think, “He’s living my dream, so he should be content, based on what I think people should want.” Really that’s the dream that gets packaged and sold every Sunday, and that’s why sports parents are freaks, and everyone takes it a little too seriously because everyone wants that, or thinks they want that. So for a guy like Brady to get up there and basically say “Look, this is a little empty, a little unsatisfying, I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” that was an incredibly honest thing for someone to say in an industry where people are very rarely honest. It almost never happens that an athlete will say something interesting and honest like that, and I think the fact that he did was noteworthy in and of itself. So it spoke to the human condition, and our desire for more; the fact that we’re never satisfied. Here’s someone that has everything society values as far as satisfaction, but I think, and I’m sure you’d agree, that Christ is our only source of satisfaction. That can be a really tricky thing for people to understand, it can be tricky for me to understand even though I grew up in the church. I would have consented to that conceptually, I would have paid lip service to it, but until a few years ago I didn’t understand what it meant to be satisfied or joyful in Christ. A lot of people probably feel the same way.

You mentioned that there’s rarely that level of honesty in the industry which you also touch on in chapter one about “Jock apologies”. I think if we had the opportunity we would apologize like that, “Sorry you got your feelings hurt, let’s move on” – I think that says a lot about us.

The Gospel is a radical thing man. It’s outrageous in our culture, where nobody takes responsibility, where no one talks about sin, no one acknowledges sin, the M.O. seems to just be “Let’s get through this as quickly as possible”, it’s all PR. Especially in sports today, everything gets vetted by agents and PR reps, and there’s not honest communication, much less confession of sin and repentance. That makes the Gospel all the more radical. So that’s what made the “jock apology” so funny but also so sad. As Christians we’re called to something completely different than that.

Any jock apologies that come to mind that you felt were particularly honest, or took ownership of what they did?

I can’t think of any specific names or instances, but there was this kid Josh Hamilton who plays baseball. I think he plays down in Texas actually, that might be where he plays.

He’s with the Angels now. He did play for the Rangers until this season.

He was a Christian kid who had some substance abuse issues. I think he’s always owned it and always been really honest about it when he’s relapsed or had problems. I remember reading over the years his quotes or apologies and thinking “This guy is broken and struggling, but he’s honest about it.” He seems to be honest with his fans and teammates about it.

Your section on steroids and the like was really interesting to me because it’s not something I know much about. We do that in life too though, try to find things that enhance our experience or our pleasure. We’ve talked about satisfaction already, but how do we practically seek that contentment in Christ? How do we put those enhancers to the side, or how do we enjoy them without letting them become the thing that satisfies?

In a way you answered your question in the question. When those things we enjoy, whether they’re sports, social media, movies, tv shows, when those things become the things we need that we can’t live without, at that point they become idols. One of the answers to combating that is, it’s not sexy or new, involvement in a local church where you’re accountable. Time in the word, time exposed to good preaching. These are the things that sort of keep us on track. The world looks at that and says, “Going to church every Sunday makes you a good person?” No, but when we’re followers of Christ we’re compelled to be in fellowship and in the body of Christ. I’ve found that to be a huge encouragement, and huge convicter when I’ve needed it.

You said that Athletes are good at racial reconciliation because they’re not trying to be good at racial reconciliation. I spent a year with a mission organization where that’s a big part of their program. We read folks like John Perkins, and I enjoyed all that and grew from it. But when you’re pushed to be good at it, it’s difficult because you feel like you’ve got this thing hanging over you telling you you’re supposed to be better at it than you are right now. I think Jesus is passionate about racial reconciliation. Where do you think the church has missed the mark on this that sports got it right?

The nice thing about sports is that when you come together on a sports team, the goal isn’t racial reconciliation. You’re not getting on the bus and going, “Hey we’re driving three hours to play this other team, and I really hope we become closer with different races.” That’s never the goal, the goal is to win a game, or get to the playoffs. So that makes it easier, it diffuses the tension. There’s a sense of common purpose besides trying to awkwardly become closer. Whether you’re a mission organization or a church and you’re thinking about maybe doing outreach to the inner-city and bringing reconciliation racially to whatever city you’re in – some parts of that are going to be good but you start with this huge noble purpose and you can’t help but in some sense be crushed under the weight of what you’re trying to do. It’s so big, it’s so hard. It’s a lot more than going to a neighborhood and fixing up a building. There’s so many aspects and nuance’s that sports doesn’t even try to approach. The great thing about sports is that when you’re an athlete and you’re getting yelled at by a coach, you could be a black guy, you could be a white guy, hispanic guy, and it doesn’t matter – you’re all getting yelled at. There’s a natural camaraderie that just grows out of that. You go through that hard experience together and you’re closer regardless of what your racial background is.

I wanna back up and ask you one last thing before we wrap up. We were talking about story in sports earlier. In “Four Days in October” they talk about Schilling playing with that bloody ankle and I just think that’s cool. It makes such a cool story. What is the importance of seeing story in sports? Why is it important to see it as just more than a competition? To you.

To me, that’s what makes it redemptive. That’s the part that makes it interesting to me as a Christian, and as a citizen of the world. The fact that these guys are human beings with fallibilities and struggles, and families and expectations of their own that maybe aren’t being met. The more you can see these guys as humans the easier it is to extend grace, the less likely you are to be that kind of out of control, crazy, idolatrous fan. That’s the hidden genius and value of those 30 for 30 docs. It puts a human face on someone that week in and week out we see as a set of statistics, or a dollar value. They put a human face on a dehumanized thing, and I think that’s great. That’s why I’m drawn to those and as a writer trying to write things like that.

 

Grace & Peace,

Stippick

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Friday Interviews

 

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Sound It Out With Me

When I was learning to spell as a kid one of the ways I was taught some of the basics was spelling the days of the week. It’s likely this is the case for you as well. Because Wednesday isn’t spelled like we commonly say it I was taught to sound it out as I spelled it: Wed-nes-day. It was great. It made it easy to figure out and gave me a great tool to continue to spell it beyond that particular learning process.

I still have to sound out “Wed-nes-day” when I spell Wednesday. (It’s getting quite annoying in my head as I type all this out). And a lot of you do too. It’s ok, I won’t make you admit it here. But we do it because it’s how we were taught. And it is a great tool. Instead of staring at the word and wondering if you spelled it right we can use this great little thing we were taught years ago to power through and move forward.

So I still have to sound out how to spell the word Wednesday. What does that have to do with a typical Wednesday post here at Things I only Share With Everyone? On Monday of every week I try to talk about something that will give you a bit of inspiration, or lighten your Case of the Mondays mood. On Wednesday I share how I’m still sounding out my relationship with Jesus.

These posts won’t relate to everyone. Especially those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. And that’s ok. In Philippians 2 Paul says this:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The last part of verse 12 is familiar to some of you, you may have heard it as “work out your salvation daily”.  What we fail to remember many times when we make an effort at scripture memory is what is else going on around the verse or passage we commit to our memories. This comes toward the end of a passage where Paul is encouraging the readers to make their lives more like that of Christ, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” We’re to be like Christ. Who emptied Himself. Who submitted to sacrificial death.

That’s what we’re working out with fear and trembling. We’re to ask ourselves, how do I serve like Christ in this moment. We’re to conform our thought life to think on the things of God. We’re to develop a life of prayer that prays in the way Christ taught us to bring about the things of God. We’re not machines waking up every day and praying “the sinners prayer”. We’re sinner who wake up every day and begin to sound out our relationship with Jesus for that day.

That’s what I love about talking with you here on Wednesdays. I don’t always think that everything God is doing or has done in my life is exactly for everyone who read it on that day, But it’s for someone on some day, somewhere. Continuing to sound out my relationship with Jesus here is healthy for me. It helps me to process through things, and gives me the opportunity to be held to the standards I discuss.

So I invite you to join me on Wednesday every week and sound out this journey with me.

What do you do to sound out your relationship with Jesus?

 

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