Wednesday, June 22, 2011

7 Questions with Stephen Altrogge: Author of The Greener Grass Conspiracy

Stephen Altrogge has written a helpful book on contentment entitled The Greener Grass Conspiracy.  (I plan on reviewing this book on Friday).  You will certainly want to buy a copy.  You also will want to check out Stephen’s blog, The Blazing Center

Stephen was nice enough to answer 7 questions about himself and his book:

1. I have to be honest, for awhile I was not interested in purchasing this book because I thought it had something to do with the global warming conspiracy. I’m not sure why. Just in case I am not the only one, how would you sum up for my readers the main message of your book?

The main message of this book is that God has loads of joy and contentment for us right where we are, and that we don't always need to be on the search for something else to satisfy us.

2. Why this book on contentment?

Two reasons.  First, because I'm often a very discontented pig.  Several years ago I was going through a time when I just didn't like the way my life was shaping up.  My schedule was frenetic, I was tired, and I hardly had any time to be with my family.  In the midst of all this I found myself grumbling and complaining, rather than going to God for joy and contentment.  These circumstances prompted me to go to the Bible and see what it had to say about contentment.  What I found there, particularly in Philippians 4, was transforming, and prompted me to start writing this book.  The second reason I wrote it is because every Christian battles against discontentment.  We all have an idea in our heads of what a perfect life would like, and when we don't get that life, we battle discontentment.  I wrote this book in the hopes that it would help others find their contentment in Christ instead of circumstances.

3. I notice that you quote the Puritans quite often. What were some of the books that you drew most from in writing this book?

I drew primarily from "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" by Jeremiah Burroughs and "The Art of Divine Contentment" by Thomas Watson.  Everyone should read those books.  Seriously. No, I mean drop what you are doing and go purchase those books right now.    (To follow Stephen’s advice you can do so here and here).

4. I love your writing style. You are funny, engaging, and yet always bring your humor around to make a really solid point. I know most of this is probably simply God-given talent, but I am curious who are your greatest influences in writing?

Hmm, that's tough.  Off the top of my head, I would say: John Piper, Dave Barry, with maybe a splash of Jon Acuff thrown in.  I read a ton so it's hard for me to nail down all my influences.  Anne Lamott might be in there somewhere too.

5. I love this statement, “complaining sucks the joy out of life”. I tend to agree with this statement but I do wonder about the Psalms. Something tells me that their “complaining” is much different than what we typically engage in. What is the difference between the complaints of the Psalmist and our typical complaining? Is there a…I’m not sure how to phrase this…redemptive way of complaining?

Yeah I think you're on to something.  I think that the posture of the heart makes all the difference when it comes to complaining.  We can complain in such a way that we are demanding something of God.  When I complain about having a cold, behind that complaint is the implicit demand that God owes me better health.  The Psalmists, however, voiced their complaints to God in a humble, trusting way.  Basically they would say, "God this is hard, I don't like this, please help me, but ultimately I trust you."  I think that we can tell God about our struggles in such a way that we are not demanding better treatment from him, but simply laying our burdens at his feet.

6. Many of my readers may not know that you also write music for Sovereign Grace Ministries. What are some of the most popular songs that you have written?

Let's see.  I've written "The Birthday Song", "The Alphabet Song", and "Thriller".  No, seriously, the one people might know the most is called "He Is Jesus".  I also wrote on called "How Deep" that people seem to do a fair amount. 

7. You state in your book that your favorite Christian rock group is dcTalk. First question, related to this. Are you serious? Second question. “Rock” group, seriously?

You had to bring this up, didn't you?  Yes, dcTalk is my favorite Christian rock group.  I liked other groups like Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, and Pax 217, but in terms of pure creativity and songwriting, dcTalk is my favorite.  When they released "Jesus Freak" in 1995, that was a momentum shifting album for the entire Christian music industry.  And yes, they are a "Rock" group.  Now, granted, up until "Jesus Freak", I would say that they were a rap group.  But "Jesus Freak" was most definitely a rock album. 

Thanks for the interview!!!!

Thank you Stephen for your time and your helpful responses.  And I’m really sorry about the dcTalk thing.  Not asking the question…just sorry that you haven’t been discontent enough to search out better music. 

I know Stephen encouraged you to buy those books by Burroughs and Watson, but you should also seriously consider buying Stephen’s book.  It is funny, engaging, and probably just as helpful as the two books he suggests buying. 

You can buy Stephen’s newest book here

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