Joey Sparks
25Apr/130

Writing Well and Writing How

I've been told I write well.

College professors complimented my writing style when grading my assignments. Rarely do I write a bulletin article that someone doesn't tell me "good job," or "I liked that one." Amanda probably praises my writing ability and style more than any single strength of mine. I've even had a childhood friend praise my writing style, though he disagrees with much of what I've written.

I wouldn't dare suggest that praise is proof that I'm a good writer. But I do think I've learned throughout the years how to communicate in a clear, smooth, and enjoyable style. On that level, my on-again/off-again blogging habits are irresponsible stewardship of an ability with which the Lord has blessed me.

But this alleged "writing well" also provides a different dimension in the world of blogging. I know a lot of good writers who write blogs that stink. There are very few blogs--including popular ones--that I actually enjoy.

The blogs I enjoy most communicate a specific purpose, but are not predictable and formulaic. I can think of at least one such blog by someone I don't consider a great writer. But he (or she) is a fantastic blogger.

So it's possible part of my struggle with maintaining consistency at blogging (to a lesser degree than this) is that I've never approached this space with a sense of purpose.

I still don't know what my exact purpose for blogging should be. I know a few things I don't want it to be. And I have some ideas about what I might like for it to be.

Above all, I want to be helpful.

I have no desire to get another "Thanks for that post," "great job," or "someone needed to say this" about posts here. But my prayer is that from time-to-time, someone does something based on what they read here and it influences the kingdom, the community, or the world for good.

Our greatest struggles often aren't determining what to do. But a lot of us struggle with figuring out how. So I want to write not to write well, but to write how. Writing well easily becomes about me; but I want to write how so that it's about you. And about that someone you can help.

Again, I thank you for reading. Let's commit to helping one another. It is difficult to purposefully and consistently be helpful. But we all need it.

22Apr/132

Why I Don’t Blog More Often

"Joey has a good blog, but he doesn't update it often enough. Is that fair?" 

Words from a good friend while he was teaching ministers about blogging. It was and is a fair statement. I'm certainly aware that I don't post regularly. Not as regularly as I want. Nor as regularly as I should.

I'm not writing to apologize. And I'm not writing to make excuses. All I'm doing is telling you why:

I lack the self-discipline required to write and publish regularly.

That's not a new problem for me. And it's not reserved just for of blogging.

Like you, I'm well aware of both my strengths and weaknesses. I love to create. I love being artistic and how technology makes it easier to create art than ever before. And I enjoy writing because, for me, it is art. This is why I want to maintain a blog.

But I struggle to create the self-discipline I need to make it happen.

And I'm pretty certain God doesn't want me to stay this way. "The slacker does not plow during planting season; at harvest time he looks, and there is nothing." Proverbs 20:4

I'm not committing to doing anything in this post. I'm simply stating why I don't update it enough.

I know the Lord continues to open doors of opportunity and influence and I pray I use godly courage to commit to them. For now, it's my prayer this space continues to be such a door.

Thanks for your encouragement and for reading.

7Feb/130

Short, Helpful, and Transformational

In 20,000 Days And Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Now, Robert D. Smith gives us a short book so as not to waste much of our time, and what's better, he also writes in an entertaining style that makes the content digestible. I love that Smith's focus is upon practical, actionable steps to help us make the most of our days. I'm still getting comfortable reading books on my Kindle Fire, but the style and formatting made it an enjoyable experience

20000Days&CountingCover

I resonated most with the section about starting the day off with forward momentum and energy. Making the most of the morning really does have the power to transform the rest of the day. I am more of a "night" person instead of a "morning" person. Smith's encouragement challenged me to reconsider *how* I start my days instead of focusing upon (and coming up short) *how early* I start them. I especially love the idea of asking, "What does God have to say to me today?" to focus in the morning with Scripture.

I also appreciate how Smith opens up into his own life without being too prideful about himself or his successes. He earns your permission and builds his case so that it benefits you, not a personal agenda of his own.

You would do well to read the book. Even better to highlight helpful thoughts & quotes. Best to put into action his advice. But even if you don't read it, be sure to count your days (Psalm 90:12).

By the way, I've lived 10,846 days thus far.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2Aug/120

Protect Their Hearts

The Internet is simultaneously one of humanities' greatest inventions, amazing blessings, and dangerous threats. We are always one click away from danger no matter our age, gender, profession, naivety, or blamelessness. We must make sure we interact with the same godliness online that God expects in all other ways of life.

We frequently hear of children who are harmed by brutal and sick individuals who gain access to their lives through the Internet. We should do all we can to close up those loopholes.

As parents, you have the right--and responsibility--to know exactly what your children are doing on the Internet...no matter how old they are. You should have the same access to their accounts (with passwords, etc.) they do. You should talk openly and honestly about their online friendships, habits, and overall safety. But when you do, do your best to model the attitudes in yourself you wish to see from them. If you're condescending and not understanding, you shut those doors of communication down.

ABCLRC-Internet Safety (by ABC LRC Flickr CC by nc sa)

But the most urgent arena of concern for your children on the Internet is that of sexual sin, specifically pornography.

The statistical likelihood of your child facing a child predator online is slim. But the chances of your child NOT viewing pornography online in some capacity is about 3% for boys and 9% for girls. That includes those who unintentionally stumble across it. If your child wants to find it, there's a 100% chance he or she will. It's just that easy.

The good news is that God forgives and cleanses no matter the depths of sin (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

More good news is that you don't have to know everything about the Internet and computer technology to protect your child's heart from spiritual threats such as pornography.

The most powerful weapons at your disposal are spiritual and internal; they should be aimed at his or her heart. Pray for them. Model purity, consistency, and propriety before them--online and off. Talk openly and honestly (with common sense) with them about temptations, sexual sin, and God's purpose for sexual intimacy in marriage.

Would you rather them to hear the truth from you and God's Word or error from the world and Satan?

There are other weapons that can assist you from an external perspective, as well.

The best place to start is http://covenanteyes.com. Covenant Eyes specializes in Internet technology that provides a safe surfing atmosphere for the entire family. They feature two softwares: Internet accountability software (browsing is monitored around the clock and reports are sent via e-mail to accountability partners) and Internet filtering software (specific sites are blocked and attempts to access blocked sites are logged and sent via the accountability reports). These softwares simply run in the background, but cannot be disabled without also disabling access to the Internet. This "two-pronged" approach is the best external solution, especially for homes with children. Covenant Eyes charges for using their services. While they are not free, they are more than reasonable. Amanda and I have used the accountability software for years and we pay for an entire year of service for less than what most Internet service providers charge for one month. There are a few free services out there, but research suggests the paid services are much more efficient and effective. If you recognize the legitimacy of this most dangerous threat, is any price too great?

Additionally, the Covenant Eyes website also features a wealth of resources for all kinds of Internet safety and protection. They have numerous (free) e-books, articles, statistics, podcasts, and a well-maintained and regularly-updated blog. No matter your relationship to the dangers on the Internet, whether totally naive or buried in addiction, there's something to educate, challenge, and help you.

Every child born in our part of the world is a "digital native." He or she will never know a time with less technology. He or she will never be less tech-savvy. He or she will one day view smart phones like many of us view rotary phones.

In a matter of a few decades, computers have moved from warehouses to business centers to living rooms to briefcases to front pockets. We as adults and parents will never be on the edge of technological advancement like younger generations. But that's no excuse for letting this powerful tool destroy their souls. May God help us to use the Internet responsibly and ensure our children do the same.

 I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? (Job 31:1)

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea." (Mark 9:42)

The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. (Proverbs 20:7)

20Nov/080

What If Starbucks Marketed Like the Church?

I'm not a fan of those who are constantly negative about the church. Just as my wife exercises patience with me, I hope Christ exercises patience with His bride as we overcome our faults and outgrow our immature complaining (Eph. 5:22-33).

In the process of growing and improving, there are some interesting things to consider. Over the past several years, discussion has increased concerning how to welcome guests/visitors to our assemblies. This video highlights how some of our good-intentioned efforts likely fall short at welcoming those who might be new to our assemblies. I've seen it on several blogs recently and felt it worthy of passing on.

I think there are some things worth considering. Ultimately, I think guests can easily detect whether our actions (whether or not they are considered the most "guest friendly") are growths of love and warmth.

30May/081

Most Recent Blogging Revelation

This comes a little late considering I've set this thing up and have posted off and on for a while, but I'm now convinced I'm not a blogger. I love to read (good) blogs, but I'm not sure I have the drive (or the interesting life) to maintain one to the standards I think necessary.

That being said, I'm not closing my blog down. I'm going to "tilt" the purpose of it slightly though. Since I do love to read good stuff here on the internet, I'll just post links to the good stuff I'm reading. We'll see how it goes...thanks for reading and for your interest in spiritual things.

Joey 🙂

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23May/070

Blog Announcement


One week from Friday (June 1st), a new Christian/Personal Finance blog will launch itself into existence. "Where Your Treasure Is" will feature Biblical, inspirational, and practical offerings from the world of personal finance.

If anyone expects us to use our blessings responsibly, it is the Lord (it's all His anyway). Hopefully, this effort will serve as a reminder of how important faith-based financial decision-making is in our daily lives.

I am honored to be among the four authors of "Where Your Treasure Is." Adam Faughn (Haleyville, AL), Wes Hazel (Manchester, TN), and James Dalton (Blytheville, AR) will be official authors as well.

Mark the date on your calendars, bookmark the link, set up a RSS feed, and even mention it on your own blog (or your preferred web 2.0 application).

Stay tuned for more information...

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

Filed under: Bible, blog, WYTI No Comments
8May/070

Appearance Update

I've changed some things about the appearance of things 'round here. You'll notice a title graphic instead of text. Additionally, I've shifted the blog info to the right-hand side of the page. I noticed that the blogs I enjoy reading most start on the left-hand edge. Included now in blog info is a Flickr stream of random photos. Hope you enjoy :). Finally, the subtitle is more concise. "Relaying Spiritual Inspiration" describes more accurately the aim of this space. I am merely a messenger; I only pass on (hence "relaying") thoughts of spiritual significance. To God be the glory...

Filed under: blog, computer No Comments