Foreword by Mark Batterson

In less than a month, my book Awake will be released both online as well as in your local bookstore. What I have pasted below is the forward to Awake, written by good friend and constant encourager, Mark Batterson. Mark is the bestselling author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day as well as the brilliant, just released, New York Times bestseller, Circle Maker.

I first met Joel N. Clark back in 2008. He called me up and asked if I might be interested in working with him on a project. Joel had just returned home from a month of filming in Antarctica and wanted to show me what he’d created while there. Intrigued, I met him for coffee. It was in this first meeting that I began to understand, Joel views life with a different perspective than most people; he filters everything through the eye of STORY.

After watching his Antarctic adventure, I immediately signed on to the project. Who wouldn’t have? It was brilliant! Over the years we have worked together on several projects and met for many more coffees. Although I feel like I know him pretty well, it wasn’t until I read this book that I truly began to understand him. Within these pages there are enough adventures to fill ten lifetimes. Whether he’s running from the secret police in China, hiding from UN Tanks while spending days with Haiti’s top gang leaders, freebasing off a Johannesburg skyscraper, interviewing child slaves for a documentary, or chasing the girl of his dreams all over the world, Joel awakens a desire for adventure in even the most tame souls.

Yet he isn’t an adrenaline junky and he definitely has both feet firmly planted on the ground. In every story, even those that might otherwise feel unimportant, Joel somehow manages to transform the seemingly mundane into a meaningful adventure. And this, according to Joel, is the power of story. When we choose to live a story that is greater than us, we find God in the midst of it. These stories take him beyond the walls of the church into places around the world where Jesus is inviting his followers to be.

More than a montage of brilliantly told stories, Awake is a call to action. From the very first page you will be swept into an adventure that will have you laughing, crying, or feeling as if you’ve been punched in the gut. Each story will inspire you to live a greater story of your own, to love more fully and experience God more intimately. Think carpe diem with teeth.

What I love about this book is that Joel doesn’t teach us how to live a better story. He doesn’t give us the dynamics of story, a list of “how-to’s” or rules for better living. Rather, he shows us what it means to live to the fullest. In these pages I experienced the truth of what it means to find God in the midst of my story. I may not hang out with Gangsters in Haiti, but the truth I found within this story is still relevant to my life. I could try to explain what this story meant to me, but that would defeat the purpose of what Joel has done in Awake. Joel doesn’t spell out what a given story should mean to you or me, he tells us what it means to him and invites us to experience our own stories within these pages. And this is the real power of Awake. Rather than preaching a message that stirs the head, he presents a story that moves the heart.

You will notice that I have yet to mention Joel’s revolutionary new format: Awake is interactive in a way that will take your breath away. The format is amazing, a game-changer in fact but its simply “added-value” to the story filled pages. The films, art, and associated website embedded in Awake are unlike anything that currently exists. Each entry is itself a story, an experience on its own. For example, the films allow you to actually meet the people and experience the places contained within these pages as well as many more adventures that never made it into the book.

Before you begin this adventure- I will only tell you this – Hold on. Don’t simply get excited about the stories told within these pages, but ask God to speak through them. Pray that you won’t simply find God in the midst of Joel’s stories, but that you will also see him at work in every aspect of your story as well.

Most great writers play the role of observer. They peer through wet windows and skillfully relate the rain outside. Not Joel. He dances and weeps while drenched in the downpour. His narratives have as their source his own passions, experiences, triumphs and anxieties. Though he regards himself a storyteller, he is indeed a story-maker. Each paragraph is a fragment of a life well lived, his narrative daring us all to be more.

Mark Batterson

Lead Pastor of National Community Church

Bestselling author of Circle Maker


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