I need to answer these interview questions I was sent last week and get them turned into the interviewer but I also need to blog something this morning. So why not do both at once? Man, I’m efficient.
There are many good causes one could get involved with. How long have you been involved with Compassion International and why did you decide, specifically, on this organization?
I’m not great with time but my best guess is that I’ve been involved with Compassion International for about two and a half years. I was first exposed to the work of Compassion International when touring with Bebo Norman back in 2001. He spoke every night from stage about Compassion, asking the crowd of college students to sponsor a child. While on that tour someone from Compassion came out on the road with us for a few days to visit Bebo and she and hit it off. We stayed in contact over the years. By just being an acquaintance of hers I got to see what Compassion INternational is like on the inside. I got to hear stories of communities around the world being impacted. I met the Wess Stafford, the president of Compassion, visited the headquarters in Colorado and over a couple years became convinced that the work Compassion International does is work Jesus would do if He were here in the flesh today. I went on a trip to El Salvador to see the children who are being taught, fed, mentored, clothed and loved in the name of Jesus by the local churches Compassion works through there. I met my sponsor child, Jancey and pushed her on a swing and fed her lunch and traced her hand in crayon. And I was sold. Compassion International rescues children from poverty by meeting not just their physical needs but also seeking to meet their spiritual needs as well. They give children more than food; they give them hope. And they do all this on behalf of Jesus, working through the local church in the third world, and doing so with such integrity that Money Magazine and others have consistently given them high marks when rating non-profits.
In short, Compassion International does the work of Jesus by enabling followers of Jesus in the third world to minister to their own people using resources provided by Jesus followers in more privileged parts of the world and they do it in a way that works and is above reproach. I’ve seen what they do from every angle and I can’t think of a better mission, a better approach to that mission or a better group of people to carry out that mission.
What makes your blog, “Shlog,” unique? What were your hopes in creating this interactive space? Why should people visit?
Shlog.com is unique in that it’s written by an artist, updated almost every day, and it’s interactive. There aren’t many artists these days dealing directly with the public on this level. I think there are many who would love to and would do it better than I do, but blogs are a new medium and haven’t been discovered by tomorrow’s best bloggers yet. For now that makes Shlog.com unique. Most artists have a “journal” they or their publicists post “news” to once a month or so but these journals aren’t updated regularly enough to make them worth visiting a site to read and the level of intimacy in those journals is fairly low in general. Then there are artist blogs that the artist never visits and even some that don’t allow the reader to talk and leave comments. On Shlog I write about my real life – the good, the bad and the boring. And I think – I hope – that breaks down the barrier between artist and audience and allows us all to laugh and learn together. To help that happen I check in on Shlog three times a day to respond to comments and keep the conversation going. It’s gotten to where I know a lot about the regular commentors. I see their screen name and I remember where they live, how old they are, what they look if I’ve met them at a show – it’s a connection to the audience I’d never have without Shlog.
I’ll be honest. I don’t know why people should visit. I’m amazed that a thousand or so folks read my blog every day. I’m grateful that they do. But I’m not sure why they do. I’ve tried not to analyze it too much, tried not to figure what people want from my blog and then give them only that. What I try to do is just write something everyday and make sure it’s honest, true, inspiring, funny, educational or interesting to me for some other reason. If that’s the kind of thing you’d like to read every day then maybe you should check it out. I’m a horrible salesman, can you tell?
What are you currently listening to and/or reading these days?
I’m listening to a lot of Patty Griffin and Rufus Wainwright these days. Patty Griffin in hopes that her lyrical prowess will rub off on me and Rufus in hopes that his vaudevillian melodies will push me to write outside the usual pop music formulas. Both of these artists go one small step beyond the norm, writing music that is very accessible and popular but unusual at the same time. I’m hoping to get better at doing that myself.
I’m reading a new book by Ron Martoia called Static. I’m only a couple chapters in but so far it’s intriguing. The premise is that we Christians don’t communicate what Jesus was really about very well. There is a language barrier we need to overcome but there’s also a misunderstanding on the part of modern Christians in general when it comes to what Jesus was really about. Jesus, he asserts, wasn’t mainly about saving us from hell and sin. When we understand what Jesus was primarily concerned with, phrases like “kingdom of heaven” and “good news” take on more meaning and we’re better able to communicate and live out our faith in God. That’s what I’ve gotten from Static so far anyway. I’m hoping he stays on that path to the end because these are things I’ve been thinking through for quite a while now. I really think I’ve been robbed of an awful lot of true Christianity by growing up in the American Church. Are those things I’ve missed essential? Are they life-changing? I don’t know. But I’m thinking through all this right now and probably will be for quite some time.
What, for you, ultimately makes “life on the road” worth it?
Saving kids from poverty. Knowing that over 200 kids are rescued from poverty every month at my shows makes waking up in a dozen Fairfield Inns each month worth it. I still limit my touring so I can be a good parent to my own kids and a good friend and husband to my wife, but even playing ten or so shows every month we’re able to mobilize hundreds of churches and individuals to give thirty-two dollars a month to save the life of a child in the third world. I don’t like music enough to do this job anymore. But I love seeing the American church respond to the needs of children around the world when given the chance. It’s a cynicism killer. It’s inspiring. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.
For those who may yet be undecided, what are the top five (or ten) reasons for attending the Shaun Groves concert in Elon, NC on Friday, July 13? (Feel free to be creative or to enlist the help of family and friends.)
10. Two words: Poodles and spandex
9. Two more words: disco inferno
8. There’s nothing else to do in Elon, North Carolina. I’ve been there. I know.
7. There’s a Bojangles nearby.
6. The show will be picketed by fans of NASCAR and sweet tea offended by comments made from stage during my last appearance in North Carolina.
5. Proof that sarcasm is a spiritual gift that can be used for good.
4. It’s free.
3. If you’re on the front row I’ll probably make fun of you.
2. If you can’t clap I’ll probably make fun of you.
1. If you’re not there I’ll probably make fun of you.