The final Finding Livelihood endorser I want to thank by highlighting him on this blog is Marcus Goodyear, acting Editor-in-Chief for The High Calling, a website devoted to exploring issues of faith and work. The High Calling as well as Laity Lodge are programs of the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. I’ve never met Marcus in person but he and I met online about 3 years ago when he saw a post from my blog about work-related art from The Museum of Russian Art here in Minneapolis. He sent word of the post to a colleague of his who lived near me, who then reached out to me, and the multi-layer connection was made.
I asked Marcus if we could do something different with this post compared with the others in this endorsers series. So instead of me giving a bio introduction to Marcus, he agreed to do a Q&A with me about him and his work at The High Calling and elsewhere. I love learning how people came to do what they do, and Marcus generously shares of his story here, including letting us in on his childhood career dream.
NN: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
MG: In kindergarten I wanted to work at a car wash. I was so fascinated by the machine itself, and I wanted to be near that machine. It must have been alarming to my parents for me to have drawn a picture of myself drying the windows of somebody’s car as it left the wash. I still want to be close to the machine, but now I have a better understanding of what that means. In some ways, though, an editor is still the guy who puts the polish on what the machine spits out.
Of course, I also have the more traditional answer. I wanted to be a cartoonist, because I liked the idea of telling stories. Then I wanted to be an engineer, because I loved math and statistics. Then I was editor of the newspaper and the literary magazine, and I decided that teaching English was my future.
NN: What was your path to your current position at The High Calling?
MG: I was teaching community college and high school AP English and Literature when a friend in publishing called me about a job at the H. E. Butt Family Foundation working for Mr. Butt himself. I was feeling a little stale at the time, so I tossed an application, resume, and portfolio into the mail. A few weeks later, I was interviewing at Mr. Butt’s house and we hit it off. I remember sharing my vocational approach to teaching high school English. I said something like, "The school district hired me to teach students to write, not bring them to Christ. So if I’m not careful, an evangelical stance in my classroom can be manipulative to the students and dishonoring to my employer. This means my first task is always to honor God by honoring my employer by teaching kids to write really well.” Mr. Butt was quiet for a moment, and then said, “How did you learn this at such a young age? I spent most of my life trying to learn that.”
At the time, I didn’t know where I had learned to approach the gospel in that vocational way. Now I know that Mr. Butt himself had paved the way for me. His work through Laity Lodge and the H. E. Butt Family Foundation had percolated throughout churches in Texas where I spent many of my formative years. In a sense, his life’s work led me to The High Calling even though I didn’t know it. When I was hired, The High Calling was a very small part of my job. There seemed to be so much potential there, and gradually I spent more and more time on it.
NN: How has The High Calling changed since you first became involved?
MG: Back in 2005, The High Calling was probably 10 times smaller than it is now. Each week we published a new audio message, two related devotional articles, and reprints of devotionals written by Eugene Peterson. Shortly after I came on, I started choosing the articles for each week and helping with the audio messages. By accident we discovered that writers with a strong print platform may not have a strong online platform. The Message has sold very well as a print product, for instance, but Eugene Peterson doesn’t attract much of a digital audience. At the time, bloggers attracted the biggest audience. They understood the digital space and understood how to extend digital hospitality to their readers. Gordon Atkinson first introduced us to many of these ideas, and I still remember sketching out some strategic goals on napkins at a pub years ago. As the digital, interactive landscape has changed, expanding beyond blogs to social media, we have tried to change as well. Thus, we don’t lean nearly as much on bloggers as we used to do.
NN: What’s your vision for the future of The High Calling?
MG: Now that we have a new president, David Rogers, we are taking a look at the future of all H. E. Butt Family Foundation programs, including The High Calling. Recently, we relaunched the site to create a better mobile experience for our readers, who are mostly on mobile devices. David Rogers and several of us have been talking about the future in much more comprehensive ways than just a redesign though. Without a doubt you will see some exciting things coming out of the H. E. Butt Family Foundation in the future.
NN: When you’re not working at The High Calling, what else are you working on?
MG: My family is very involved in community theater in our home town. I try to support my kids to follow their passions. My daughter plays violin in a variety of orchestras and recital groups. My son and I work on his 4-H projects together during the fall and winter. And I help coach the local First Lego League. Our robotics team is going to nationals this year!
NN: What role does leisure have in your life? How do you re-fuel? What practices help you reflect back on meaning within ordinary events of your daily work?
MG: I like board games a lot, so I torture my family with Nerd Night. They are fairly accommodating and don’t complain too much. I also like to run, and need to do that at least three or four times a week or I go a little stir crazy.
NN: You have a book of poetry called Barbies at Communion: and Other Poems, published by T. S. Poetry Press in 2010. Tell us about the writing of that volume. Are you working on another book?
MG: Poetry has become my primary form of prayer. I still write a lot of poetry, but I have pulled back from sharing it for several years. It is hard to be fully present for my family if I’m looking to take on a second job in publishing. Instead, I have chosen to engage in local projects, performing Shakespeare with my wife, raising animals with my son, coaching robotics, and all the other things I mentioned. As much as I love writing poetry, there is no time pressure to publish poetry on a national scale. A good poem today should be a good poem in five years. Every now and then I submit to various chap book contests, and I’ve been thinking of submitting another collection somewhere. We’ll see.
Finally, here's what Marcus wrote about Finding Livelihood:
"Finding Livelihood is a breath of radical honesty for the workaday Christian. Nancy Nordenson does not fear the long dark night shift of the soul, but neither does she accept it. Her real world stories of people at work inspire and challenge at every turn."
For a chance to win a copy of Finding Livelihood, head over to The High Calling,at this link, and share where you're finding meaning in life and work this week and/or what you wanted to be when you grew up.
Finding Livelihood is also now available at Hearts & Minds Books for 20% off.