life lessons from a so-far brief stint in journalism.

I’ve been fortunate to write three articles for a website called World Soccer Talk. All three of those have garnered response, most of which is mixed. But my most recent was the worst of all in terms of negative feedback. I wrote an article which was meant to read as a request for respect of domestic laws in Russia for the 2018 World Cup. The laws are widely seen as “anti-gay” as they request that people don’t display pro-gay propaganda. Unfortunately this is a hot, hot topic, and as respectful as I attempted to be in writing the piece (and I could have done better,) it was seen as bigoted, ignorant, naïve, etc. Probably fair, as some of my points were a bit naïve, and my logic a bit flawed. But this latest post and the backlash I (and unfortunately, the website, as people were swearing they wouldn’t come back after my post) have felt has pushed me toward writing this.

I’ve learned a few things from my very little time in journalism.

  1. Do your homework. This will play into my next point, but seriously, as a journalist, if you don’t do your research and know what you’re talking about, people can tell. If your logic is flawed, people will pick up on it like a shark picks up on blood in the water. If you don’t know exact figures and facts—such as where a player used to play, how much a player was bought/sold for, why a law was passed—people will rip you apart. Now this is obviously a bigger stage for journalists than perhaps for the average layman, but it never hurts to know your facts and figures for things, be thorough and meticulous in what you’re talking about. Our world doesn’t like people who are ignorant and opinionated without knowing their stuff. As a consequence…
  2. Speak with conviction. If you don’t believe something, don’t say it. If you’re not sold on something, and if you can’t back up what you say, it may be best that you don’t say it. There’s nothing more humiliating than when you’re up a creek because you’ve said something you’re unsure of and someone tears you apart for it, leaving you without a defense. That’s not to say that people can’t disagree with you, but be ready for it, and be willing to defend your position. People respect that.
  3. Have a spine. I’m especially bad about this. I find it ironic that I’m the world’s biggest people pleaser, and yet I aspire to a career of ministry and possibly some interspersed journalism. Both are careers in which you have to tell people things they may not want to hear and on a regular basis won’t agree with. At some point, I have to learn to have a spine and realize that not everyone is going to agree with me. But if I follow #1 and #2, then I guess I’ll be okay. I can only control my own opinion.
  4. Things get better. In the first 5 or 6 hours after I posted that article, the most backlash occurred. I got on and read the comments and my heart started pounding. I don’t like being not liked. But it’s died down, and I haven’t seen a new comment in a while. Now granted, if and when my writing gets on a bigger stage, it will circulate longer, and there will undoubtedly be more backlash, but eventually things die down, and as long as you don’t mess up bad (like that guy who accused Albert Pujols of using PEDs) you’ll be alright.

 

Just a few quick lessons on life I’ve learned from journalism.

4 things I’ve learned from my brief stint in journalism.

I’ve been fortunate to write three articles for a website called World Soccer Talk. All three of those have garnered response, most of which is mixed. But my most recent was the worst of all in terms of negative feedback. I wrote an article which was meant to read as a request for respect of domestic laws in Russia for the 2018 World Cup. The laws are widely seen as “anti-gay” as they request that people don’t display pro-gay propaganda. Unfortunately this is a hot, hot topic, and as respectful as I attempted to be in writing the piece (and I could have done better,) it was seen as bigoted, ignorant, naïve, etc. Probably fair, as some of my points were a bit naïve, and my logic a bit flawed. But this latest post and the backlash I (and unfortunately, the website, as people were swearing they wouldn’t come back after my post) have felt has pushed me toward writing this.

I’ve learned a few things from my very little time in journalism.

  1. Do your homework. This will play into my next point, but seriously, as a journalist, if you don’t do your research and know what you’re talking about, people can tell. If your logic is flawed, people will pick up on it like a shark picks up on blood in the water. If you don’t know exact figures and facts—such as where a player used to play, how much a player was bought/sold for, why a law was passed—people will rip you apart. Now this is obviously a bigger stage for journalists than perhaps for the average layman, but it never hurts to know your facts and figures for things, be thorough and meticulous in what you’re talking about. Our world doesn’t like people who are ignorant and opinionated without knowing their stuff. As a consequence…
  2. Speak with conviction. If you don’t believe something, don’t say it. If you’re not sold on something, and if you can’t back up what you say, it may be best that you don’t say it. There’s nothing more humiliating than when you’re up a creek because you’ve said something you’re unsure of and someone tears you apart for it, leaving you without a defense. That’s not to say that people can’t disagree with you, but be ready for it, and be willing to defend your position. People respect that.
  3. Have a spine. I’m especially bad about this. I find it ironic that I’m the world’s biggest people pleaser, and yet I aspire to a career of ministry and possibly some interspersed journalism. Both are careers in which you have to tell people things they may not want to hear and on a regular basis won’t agree with. At some point, I have to learn to have a spine and realize that not everyone is going to agree with me. But if I follow #1 and #2, then I guess I’ll be okay. I can only control my own opinion.
  4. Things get better. In the first 5 or 6 hours after I posted that article, the most backlash occurred. I got on and read the comments and my heart started pounding. I don’t like being not liked. But it’s died down, and I haven’t seen a new comment in a while. Now granted, if and when my writing gets on a bigger stage, it will circulate longer, and there will undoubtedly be more backlash, but eventually things die down, and as long as you don’t mess up bad (like that guy who accused Albert Pujols of using PEDs) you’ll be alright.

 

Just a few quick lessons on life I’ve learned from journalism.

the prayer I’ve been putting off.

Lord, I repent.

Where do I even start?

I guess I’ve got to start somewhere: I repent for trying to mold Christianity to fit myself, and not molding to the gospel. For so long I have strived to not look like other people for various reasons. I didn’t want to look passionate because I’ve seen people whose passion has turned me off. People who I think dance funny and who I suspect do it for show. But when will I learn that other people’s motives are not really my business? When will I learn that it’s Your job to correct someone’s heart when it needs doing, not mind? I’ve avoided taking risks—particularly asking people if I can pray for them or introducing myself to new people—because of fear of men. I’m afraid of hearing “no, you can’t pray for me,” or afraid that if I pray, nothing will happen. I’m afraid of introducing myself to new people because first of all, I never know how to navigate an introductory conversation. I don’t know what to ask a 35-year-old visitor to our church when he brings his wife and kids. I especially don’t know what to ask an older lady who comes by herself to our church—I have so little in common with them! But that’s just fear manifested, and I recognize that. So Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I want to repent—to turn and change my ways—about everything I avoid for fear of man, other people, and what they’ll think of me. When my heart is stirred during worship, I want to shout “hallelujah!” and not think about whether or not people are judging my heart. I don’t want to judge my own heart, either. You know where I stand, and that’s what matters. I want to be the type who flies to meet new visitors to our church and greet them with a brotherly love from Jesus. I want to be a catalyst that makes our church a welcoming and inviting place for others. Only You can help me do that.

But wait, Lord—there’s more.

I repent of coming to You on my own terms. I repent for everything I’ve failed to surrender to You, and everything I’ve tried to make bigger than You. I repent for thinking that—while I was in school—I made school more important than You. I repent that now that I’m out, I prioritize sportswriting over You. I repent for every time that I’ve allowed a church function to become an obligation and not a joy, and for every time that I’ve resented seeing the people of God because there was a match on, or a book I wanted to read, or a coffee shop I wanted to go to instead. You’ve taught me in the last few years how vital community is to one’s growth, and I hate that at any point, I have despised community. Thank You for forgiving me, and thank You that You’re changing me.

Speaking of growth, and speaking of priorities—I repent that I’ve allowed myself to believe I have no more growing to do, what a joke! Who am I—a 22-year old, single, fresh college graduate—to believe that I have no more growing to do when I know 40-year-olds with two degrees and families and children who are still more teachable and more eager to learn and grow than I am? What’s wrong with that picture? That implies that I believe I’m at a mature place spiritually (which I hardly am) and that I have been persistent in my own discipleship: that I feed myself on Your Word, that I pray diligently for others, that I share my faith with others, that I pour myself out to others; none of which have consistently been the case. Lord, thank You that You forgive me of my rotten pride, and I’ll receive that forgiveness.

And Lord, here lately You’ve helped me to see how I regard more highly—based on how I spend my time and my mental resources—my desire to be a journalist than Your call to be a pastor. That’s disgusting to me, and I repent. I’m thankful for the doors You’ve opened to let some of my work get out there, but I’m disappointed in myself that I let that work become a god to me, and that I’ve let myself slip to give more of my attention, energy, and passion to writing and not to being a pastor. I repent for not laying my life down more for the glory of God and the good of others just because it’s inconvenient, tiring, or that there are other things I can do with my life. Teach me to balance my enjoyment of journalism with the call of being a pastor, and better yet, teach me what it looks like to bring my journalism into submission to Jesus.

I promise I’m almost done. There’s just one more little thing I want to get off my chest.

I’m really bad at reading the Bible. Seriously—I never know exactly what to read, or how to approach it. I know that there are reading plans, and that people will work through a certain book of the Bible at a time, but I don’t trust myself with them because as soon as life gets busy for me, my Bible reading is what suffers as a consequence. And that is where I can tell my heart is wrong. I’ve heard it said that there are scales and spectrums (or pendulums) in our life as Christians—particularly, we start on  religious end where our lives are lived out of duty and legalism, and then as we begin to understand grace, it swings to the other side, where we realize that there’s absolutely nothing we have to do to be saved. So reading the Bible, praying, serving are no longer in our minds the source of our salvation—Jesus is. But at some point that pendulum has to swing back to the middle, because both ends of said pendulum create tired Christians. The legalistic end creates a tired believer who is exhausted from all of his work and tired from his worry that he may lose his salvation. The “grace end” (though I would contend that grace is at its most effective in the middle) creates lethargic Christians—like the tiredness you get from sitting around in your living room all afternoon, when you lose all desire to do anything with your life. That’s the end where I’m at, Lord, and I need Your help getting unstuck. I want to read the Bible because it’s a revelation of Jesus. I want to pray for others because You’ve tuned my heart to do so. I want to pour myself out to others for the sake of seeing them grow and make disciples. Bring me to the middle of that pendulum, because that’s where my passion lies—not in being lazy, not in being a fearful workhorse, but being a son working in the family business, seeking with my whole heart to share the Gospel, because it’s the best news and the greatest treasure the world could ever know. Help me, Lord.

Ask.

“Do you want a special coffee, Ezra?”

I had convinced my friend Katie to come to the coffee shop where I work and bring her son with her. He likes to get a “special coffee” (chocolate milk) when he comes. Instead of responding to my question, he buried his head in his mom’s shoulder.

“I’m not going to make it for you unless you tell me ‘yes!’”

Kids are so illustrative of spiritual truths. I think I understand things the best because of kids.

I’m really, really bad about remembering to pray. If I’m being entirely honest, it’s not a discipline I’ve developed very effectively in my years as a Christian, because much like the practice of reading the Bible, once I realized that it wasn’t something I did to be saved, I stopped prioritizing it. When I realized that God wasn’t sending me to hell if I don’t read the Bible and pray at 6:00 AM, I didn’t do it. They’re disciplines I am still developing.

I have this really bad habit of telling a friend I’ll pray for them, when in reality I just make a mental note and say to myself, “I hope things work out.”

But this thing with Ezra reminded me that sometimes, we just need to ask God for things.

I knew Ezra wanted his chocolate milk. I knew him well enough to know that. I could have just gone ahead and made it, but I wanted to produce in him the habit of saying, “yes, that’s what I want.” I don’t believe it’s any different between us and God. I believe God wants to intervene when we’re having trouble at work. I believe God wants to heal relationships and make people more like Jesus. I believe God wants to heal the sick and raise the dead.

But Jesus talked a lot about asking.

First, He said that the Father knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8.)

He also said that if we ask, it will be given to us (Matthew 7:7-8,) the Father will give good things to those who ask (Matthew 7:11,) if two agree on anything they ask, it will be done for them (Matthew 18:19,) and that whatever we ask in prayer, we’ll receive (Matthew 21:22.)

Friends, God is a Father, and He’s a Father that loves His people, and wants to move on their behalf. I loved Ezra and I wanted to make him a chocolate milk, but I didn’t do it until he asked me. I’d contend, based on what the Bible says about it, that all God wants is for His kids to ask Him to move. I say this to myself, but also to you: let’s remember how important it is to ask God in prayer.

Honesty is the best policy…

I’ve never been very smooth. When I was a kid, I was an awful liar. I envied my siblings’ abilities to get themselves out of jams (at least to my naked, admiring eyes) by being smooth talkers. I didn’t get that “gift.”

And then, like most people, I find I say things that I really, really shouldn’t. The kinds of things you look back at and think, “Oh, God, Jeff—what were you THINKING?!?!”

Call it foot-in-mouth syndrome, if you will.

Let’s switch gears, I’ll get back to the point.

I’ve dated one girl in my life, and while it didn’t last long, I learned a valuable lesson from our few months of dating:

A tough conversation isn’t going to kill you. In fact, it’ll probably help you. Even if the content requires brutal, awkward honesty, that honesty is always the best policy. The Bible backs this up:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)

Confessing to each other leads to healing, so if you’re an idiot like I am and you say things you really shouldn’t, then here’s a clue: repent. Confess that to someone. (this is the point I was getting back to.)

It’s tough, it’ll hardly ever be easy, and it’s often going to be messy.

All this to say that perhaps the remedy to your tough situation in which you feel at odds with someone is not to hope they repent to you (even if everything indicates you’re in the right) but talk to them and repent of your own feelings of animosity or tension. Confessing heals.