Jedd Medefind (former White House official and now President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans) and Erik Lokkesmoe (principal of entertainment company Different Drummer in New York City) are close friends and fellow writers. The pair recently teamed up from opposite coasts to write UPENDED: How Following Jesus Remakes Your Words and World.
On one level, Upended is a practical examination of how we communicate and practice our faith richly in a media-saturated age. Its themes range from storytelling and attentiveness to the ways in which thoughtful communication makes abstract ideas present to the senses. Dig deeper, however, and Upended points to the choices we all can make that carry the potential to make our lives entirely different. Out of the accumulative effect of thousands of decisions and cultivated skills and techniques arises a character that reflects Jesus in ways that upend the assumptions of our culture and cut through its clutter.
Here Jedd and Erik share about writing the book together and some of its big ideas:
Tell us about the friendship that formed the basis for this book?
Erik: Jedd and I had the chance to collaborate in 2003 on a first book (The Revolutionary Communicator), and that set us exploring together the themes developed in Upended. Jedd was living in California then, and I was in Washington, DC. But in 2005, I said if he really wanted to be in politics, he should play in the major leagues, not Triple A ball. (Laughing.)
Jedd: And I fought it. I feared DC held nothing but blue suits and ambition. Yes, there was plenty of that, but also so many thoughtful, vibrant people who had gifts for things that matter. After living a month in Erik's basement, my family moved into a row house just around the corner from his on Capitol Hill. We did life together—shared meals, attended the same church, took our kids hiking. With our lives intertwined like that, we were really able to spur each other on to explore more fully and live out the ideas we'd previously written about.
Erik: I've heard all great ideas come out of dorm rooms, garages, and, well, basements.
You talk a lot about becoming an "apprentice" to Jesus. What do you mean by that?
Jedd: It's like a cook getting to learn from Bobby Flay. Or a young painter in the workshop of Rembrandt. It's watching and then reflecting the ways of the Master in everything: his instructions, his brushstrokes, the things he cares most about. Becoming a true disciple to Jesus—an apprentice—is about much more than a "ticket into heaven." It is, as 1 John puts it, learning to "walk as Jesus did." We know we'll always do that in halting, imperfect ways. But we yearn to reflect the heart and ways of the Master more every day—not just in an abstract, philosophical sense, but in the small daily choices that really define who we're becoming and the impact we'll leave behind.
Erik: For me, it's about abiding in Him, not striving to be something. Resting in who He is and who He has made me to be, and saying, "Jesus, I'm ready to echo you."
Why focus especially on communication?
Erik: First of all, much of our professional lives have centered on communication: speechwriting, marketing, presidential addresses, entertainment and social cause campaigns. If we were going to be apprentices to Jesus in the midst of that, we had to think seriously about how to reflect Jesus in how we approached communication. Communication is central to life for every one of us, not just the professionals. The way we love our wives, how we speak to our children, the depth of our friendships, and the "always-on" social space where we tend to determine our value and impact on the number of friends, followers, comments, and retweets.
You've both worked with some of the best and brightest, from the White House to Madison Avenue. Why did you pick Jesus as the model?
Erik: It came about organically. I think we began this book as a challenge to ourselves. It seems that readers now find it very meaningful also, but what initially impelled me into this was my own personal question: is what I see around me really the best way to love others? I find Jesus very subversive. He flips every assumption on its head. I like that he does the unexpected, especially in what He says and how He says it.