← Older posts Newer posts →
August 20, 2014
My GenCon experience this year has been a very tiring one. I spent a great deal of my time in the Christian Gamers Guild/Fans for Christ booth but also had some time to sit outside and talk with many of my friends in the gaming industry. The panel and worship service were both loads of fun and I enjoy participating in them but, I must say, it all really wore me out.
The most interesting experience I had this year was viewing the premier of the movie Dark Dungeons. For those of us who lived through the “moral panic” of the 1980s, we are very familiar with this movie. For those who aren’t, it is based on a Jack Chick gospel tract of the same name, which purported to educate people on the “evils” and “demonic nature” of Roleplaying Games. In short, this gospel tract tells parents this type of gaming is an entryway into the occult and will lead them to joining a witches coven.
I have to say when I first found out about this movie I was Bothered About Dark Dungeons (heh). Why? Well, in looking at the website, I saw that it was meant to be as close to the original gospel tract as possible. The people behind the film were taking it very seriously and I was afraid on two fronts. First, that this film would be used as a way of trying to once again prove the evils of Roleplaying Games and, second, this film would actually be a parody used to make fun of Christians. Either option, for me, would not be a good one. As someone who has tried to build bridges between the geek community and the church, I thought this would tear away at much of the work I’ve been doing for the last seven years.
Before I share my thoughts about the movie, it is necessary for me to talk about my own experiences with the moral panic of the 1980s as well as a part of my Christian journey at that time.
I was raised in what I often refer to as an “occasional Baptist” home. This simply means that when we went to church, occasionally, it happened to be a Baptist one. In the part of the South from which I’m from, most people are culturally Baptist to one degree or another. I say this to let you know I didn’t have a steady diet of Sunday School or preaching which heavily influenced me. Most of my understanding of Christianity came from TV shows such as a Charlie Brown Christmas and various other holiday specials. I thought Easter Sunday had more to do with a bunny and candy than it had to do with the Resurrection of Jesus.
Sometime between 1983 and 1984, I picked up my first copy of Dungeons & Dragons. I was interested in it because I had seen some guys playing it during recess at school and these fellows seemed quite cool to my teenage self. (Yeah, I’m that much of a geek. People playing D&D seemed cool to me.) I really wanted to check this out. Having read quite a bit of fantasy and science fiction by this time, I have to say I was quite intrigued.
When it got close to spring, sometime in 1983 or 1984, we were on Mardi Gras break from school. (Louisiana schools have cool holidays like this one.) My mom and my stepdad decided to take us on a trip to visit my stepdad’s brother in Texas and, while out shopping, my mom and my step-aunt decided to go a HUGE mall. As we were walking around, I noticed something I had never seen before: a game store. This being the 1980s, gamestores such as this one had no video games but they did have lots of miniature games such as Warhammer and various other tabletop wargames. There were also interesting games by companies such as Avalon Hill. It was all quite a new experience for me. I broke away from the party and went in the shop and my life was changed forever. As I walked around looking at the various terrain and painted miniatures, my eyes fell on a shrink-wrapped Dungeons & Dragons booklet. It was the Tom Moldvay Basic D&D book and looked absolutely gorgeous. The image of the dragon on the cover fighting a female magic-user and dwarf will be forever etched in my brain.
I immediately left the shop and began to beg my mother to buy it for me. Like any mother who takes their child to the mall, her response was an emphatic, “No!” I kept pleading with her but since she’d had the experience of raising three other children my cries of despair fell on the deaf ears of a 20th level parent. However, my step-aunt, Gwen, who had less experience with children was found to be more receptive to my charm spell and agreed to purchase this $5 booklet for me. When we got back to her house, I immediately devoured its 64 pages. Sadly, though, I immediately realized I didn’t have any of the interesting dice the game seemed to require.
When I returned home, I showed this book to the guys playing D&D at my school and it seems I was now “in.” The cost of admission to this group of gamers, for me, was having a D&D book, as they were fairly hard to find in our rural area. (I later found out our nearest gamestore was in the neighboring large town in which my father lived.) My gaming with this group of young men was often sporadic and mainly consisted of me running a quick adventure during recess or in the library when we had free time. I was the DM who would give them cool magical items for when they played in the other DM’s game. We Monty Haul’d it like crazy.
Occasionally, I had the opportunity to play with all the guys over at Roger’s house (Roger’s dad was a Baptist Deacon and, I believe, later became a Baptist minister). My gaming with them often turned into my character getting killed rather quickly by another character and then I would help the DM run the game. (Interestingly, I often played the cleric. Who in their right mind kills the cleric? To this day, I play cleric’s rather rarely though am known to play druids occasionally.)
As we played, most of my friends and I were tangentially aware of the moral panic occurring at this time. Rumors would go around of parents burning their children’s D&D books but most of us laughed at it because we all seemed to be fine. Then one day I came home and found all my D&D books spread out on my bed.
(By this time, my collection had grown. I was known for saving my money and being frugal with it. However, I now found that most of my spare money was eaten away by Dragon Magazine, D&D, Savage Sword of Conan comics, and a few computing magazines. )
With fear in my heart, I asked my mom, “What’s up with my books?” She replied, “Nothing to worry about. Just put them back up.” She then took a piece of paper and threw it in the trash. I continued to ask her and she explained to me, “Our neighbor gave me this piece of paper listing all the evil things in those books of yours so I thought I would check it out. It’s all a bunch of **** as I can’t find anything in your books it talks about.”
I want to pause here and give my mom a big KUDOS for checking things out. She was never the type to just take someone at their word but always wanted to find answers for her self. She was pretty much self-taught about many things and had a tremendous love of reading which she passed on to me. As someone with only a high school education, she later began to work for a number of professionals and was known for being an intelligent, no-nonsense, business professional.
Being raised this way still has an influence on my life and who I’ve become. All that said, looking back on it, I realize the pamphlet she was given was one that describes the Little Brown Books which had been published almost a decade prior. I’m pretty certain of this as I remember some of things on the paper and now have a pretty extensive knowledge of the history of Dungeons & Dragons. (It doesn’t hurt that I consider some of the children of Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, to be personal friends. Shout out to Elise, Ernie, and Luke.)
I will pause the story here and try and return to it tomorrow. In the next post, I will discuss my faith journey and how, in spite of my mother’s excellent example, I burnt all of my Dungeons & Dragons books after coming to faith and how I later returned to gaming. (It seems this blog post is turning into more than I expected.)
July 13, 2014
Jesus said, “Once there was a youtuber who scattered videos across the internet. One day he uploaded quite a few videos. Some of them were watched for a few minutes, and then people were distracted by other items in their news feed and all his hard work was lost amidst the chaos. So, the video blogger decided to specifically target his video to one or two specific social media sites and they were shared very quickly. However, while they received a lot of views early on, within a few weeks they were ignored because there were other, flashier LOL cat videos out now. And, so, the vlogger decided to try some of the more difficult places on the internet. Yes, he would put his videos in places where there was much controversy and see how they would do. Unfortunately, the videos did not do much better in these spots because all the trolls blasted them in the comments section. And so, finally, the blogger decided to specifically target these videos to those he knew would be interested in them. Instead of placing them everywhere, he said to himself, “I know these folks are the ones who are really interested so I am going to share with them.” Eventually, the videos grew over a period of months and years, and he found that he had 10,000 shares, a 1,000,000 shares, and then he realized his videos were going viral all over the world.”
Those who are willing to listen and watch, let them listen and watch.
This is what the story of the youtuber means. It is about God’s Kingdom being a reality hear on earth. When someone hears or sees God’s story and gets distracted by the chaotic noise of everything around them, the evil one has come and distracted them from the good stories which could have been placed in their hearts and minds. We all know people who share and watch videos online, and share them with their friends out of a sense of joy and laughter, but then they get distracted by the newest and best video which has come out and the original story is quickly forgotten. Others have found that when a story gets too controversial or it might identify them with a certain group of people or they just get attacked for sharing it, they decide to disengage very quickly. They’re worried about others opinions of what they say and do. They prefer people’s opinions of them over God’s story changing the lives of those around them. The one’s who hear God’s story and enjoy it are the ones who reshare it until a 10,000 people have seen it, 1,000,000 have viewed it, and then realize God’s story has gone viral all over the world.
June 30, 2014
Today the Supreme Court has ruled that “closely held” companies are able to act as persons in the particular area of birth control. I will not delve into the Affordable Healthcare Act, my views on birth control, or a variety of other areas. Those who know me well know my views and they are summed up in this statement: “Jesus turned no one away, never distinguished between the ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ poor, and always found himself spending time with those cast out on the margins of society.” Take it for what you will.
Still reading? Good. Now, let’s talk about corporations as people and, more specifically, corporations as spiritual beings. Ever since Citizens United ruled corporations could be treated as people for the purpose of political contributions, people have been up in arms left and right about it. People are angry and frustrated. People are mad. Why should corporations get the same rights as citizens? How dare you treat corporations like people?
How dare you not? But I will talk about that a little bit further along.
I was reading an article on the Religious News Service earlier today where Rev. Harry Knox, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said, ““No matter how closely-held, a corporation is still not a spiritual being…” and I couldn’t disagree more.
You see, in a very real way corporations are “people” in the sense they are spiritual beings. Christians, in all their bluster, seem to have forgotten this simple truth. As a geek and a child of the 1970s and 1980s, great movies like Robocop taught us that corporations would be the governing bodies of the future so we should equate corporations with governments. So, how have Christians often viewed governments?
Well, to be honest, I can’t speak for all Christians but I’m just going to be very frank. I see all these groups that dictate their compassionless desires upon others as “powers.” They could be individuals, they could be corporations, and/or they could be governments. As Hendrik Berkhof says in his book, Christ and the Powers, “They are ‘the rulers of this age’ (1 Corinthians 2:6). In their desire to rule they are in enmity toward the Lord of glory, who can suffer them only as instruments, not as lords.”
So, geekpreacher, what does all this rambling have to do with the Supreme Court’s decisions concerning the ACA and Citizens United? It’s rather simple. Both of these cases are about the stronger trying to rule over the weaker. Whether you like the Affordable Healthcare Act or not, it gave power to the weak to make medical decisions for themselves. That’s not something that happens everyday. In Citizens United, suddenly the free speech which has often been a hallmark of American society and a way in which the weakest of people can often have a voice in our society you find it co-opted by powerful lobbying groups and organizations who make more money in the time it takes me to type a sentence than many of us will make in a lifetime.
All of it boils down to control. Who controls you? Who rules over you?
Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. He is the one who said take my yoke upon you for my burden is light. Jesus came to rule us by serving us but in a fallen world organizations, even closely held ones, do not see themselves as serving others by allowing them to make their own decisions but, instead, seek to enforce their own desires and designs upon others. Those in positions of power still seek to rule.
As part of the Church, we are to unmask these powers for what they are. I could care less if they go under the label “evangelical Christianity” or conservative politics. It is our calling to see these powers for what they are and expose them. As Berkhof says, “When the Powers are unmasked they lose their dominion over [people’s] souls and the jubilant exclamation arises, ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus!'”
Yes, these Powers flaunt their ability to try and control the lives of people and rule over them but one thing they cannot do when we unmask them for what they are is control the hearts and minds of people. Are you walking in the love of God? Are you seeking to be one with Jesus? This may seem like hollow comfort in the midst of the Supreme Court’s rulings granting these rights to the corporations but when we realize it has been this way for a very long time then suddenly we have much clearer insight.
Too many people are arguing that these corporations are being maneuvered by money and the bottom line while others are arguing it’s the spiritual beliefs of those in control when, in reality, it is the powers guiding them. Sometimes these powers can be redemptive and sometimes these powers can be evil. The best way to distinguish the nature of the powers and to help us see more clearly is to see if these powers are trying to control our lives or grant us freedom.
At the end of the day, can we say, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” or is some group trying to place us under their own yoke of bondage? You decide. For me the answer is fairly clear.
Here are my final thoughts. Let’s treat corporations like people. If an American individual goes overseas and commits a crime against a child, did you know they can also be prosecuted by the American government? We have great laws like this one. Laws I think are wonderful and are meant to protect all children. So, if say, a corporation sends their manufacturing processes over to China and a child is abused in unsafe working conditions shouldn’t they be prosecuted just like an American individual? Let’s make it happen! I wonder how the boys in prison will treat you.
GP out….hope you still love me.
May 30, 2014
Hi! Your friendly, neighborhood Geekpreacher here. United Methodist Churches around America are about to start meeting for business and, like most business meetings, it can be boring and frustrating. I’m sure there will be arguments about finances, sexuality, and a host of other issues. Honestly, it can sometimes get downright nasty.
Personally, I think a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” so I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and introduce a bit of levity into these proceedings across the UMC.
A friend recently introduced me to the United Methodist Annual Conference Scorecard and I thought it would be a good idea if we could, like Chris Hardwick of @nerdist and @midnight, have our own #hashtagwars and yell out #points via social media. How does this work? Simple. Stop by the Scorecard website and whenever one of the points happens just post on your various social media #UMACscorecard and tell us what happened.
If you think something is points worthy, just post it and give yourself #points every time it’s retweeted. Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing a variation on the old joke, “How can you tell a Methodist from a Baptist? The Methodists say ‘Hello’ to each other at the liquor store.” Whenever I hear that tired old joke (or tell it myself) I’m posting it to Twitter and giving myself some points. (Okay, I’m also hoping to find a preacher’s kid named Zebediah. I just think that would be awesome.) So, what’s with the points? Well, everything is made up and the points don’t matter and if you get that reference tell Drew Carey I said hello.
Or, I could be like Chris Hardwick and just give out points to the one who makes me laugh the loudest or gets the most retweets.
So, are you in? I hope so. Join me in the #UMACscorecard and I will see you on the Internetz.
March 17, 2014
Here is a portion of “The Breastplate of St. Patrick” for St. Patrick’s Day. Hope you find it as moving as I do.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
February 18, 2014
Preacher Myth #5: “You don’t pay taxes on your income, right?”
Answer: “Have you lost your frakkin’ mind? Of course I pay taxes. However, some ministers took an option often referred to as “opting out” on social security due to religious reasons. The key is you can only opt out of paying social security tax and it only counts for ministerial income. This means some preachers have ‘double-dipped’ over the years. They did not pay in social security taxes on their ‘preaching money’ but held a secular job on the side and used that to make sure they were able to still draw it.
How do I know this has happened? Please. I’ve had this conversation numerous times with people who have done it. Many of them regretted it because they found themselves retiring from their ‘secular job’ a bit too soon to draw full social security. If you’re interested in finding out how to do this craziness and you’re a minister, then go here and may God have mercy on your foolish soul.”
Preacher Myth #4: “You can get your student loans forgiven under those new fangled loan forgiveness programs like everybody else, right? I read somewhere if you work for a 501(c)3 (nonprofit organization) you can have them forgiven.”
Answer: Ahh, you’re thinking of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Things get a bit tricky here. You see, technically I do not work for a 501(c)3. While I receive a W-2, no taxes are withheld so I must pay ALL OF them on my own. (Yes, unlike people in “normal” jobs I don’t have an employer pay half my taxes. The full amount comes directly from me.) This means according to the IRS and PSLF folks I’m considered self-employed.
Even if I did happen to work for a religious 501(c)3 where I had taxes withheld from my check, religious workers are held under these guidelines:
“You must meet your employer’s definition of full-time. However, for Public Service Loan Forgiveness purposes, that definition must be at least an annual average of 30 hours per week. For purposes of the full-time requirement, your qualifying employment at a not-for-profit organization does not include time spent participating in religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.“
Note the part I emphasized. This could mean that even if I taught a religious course full time at an institution it could be construed that I do not qualify for this type of loan forgiveness. It’s all on my head.
Preacher Myth #3: Preachers and Pastors should visit the sick without being asked.
Answer: Nope. I’ve been in ministry on and off for over twenty years. Some people want you to visit them and some do not. Preachers are NOT psychic (and you ought to be glad about that!) and don’t know who would like a visit and would not like a visit.
The easiest and best way is to let your pastor/preacher know you’d like a visit or have a close family member ask them to visit. Do not be surprised if your pastor is like me and says, “Hey, I don’t know them that well. Would you please come with me? Otherwise, it might feel awkward.”
Yeah, I said it. We’re human. We feel awkward visiting strangers just like the rest of you.
Preacher Myth #2: Preachers should not have doubts or questions about their faith. They should have it all lined out before they get into the pulpit.
Answer: This is a fairly common mistake. In fact, it’s a mistake made by many preachers and pastors. Too often, ministers have walked around in self-assured confidence believing every word they’ve spoken from behind the pulpit was the infallible, inspired word of God. Sorry, to burst any bubbles but preachers get it wrong.
Any good minister should always be growing and learning. Doubt and struggle play an important role in our lives as people of faith and we should always be willing to wrestle with it. Question and grow. That’s the way it works.
One caveat for all of my progressive friends. Please don’t let doubt become your deity. Don’t be willing to wrestle with doubt to the point you’ve forgotten to rest in Christ.
Now, no drum roll for number one. It’s the most obvious one.
Preacher Myth #1:
“Hey, you preachers only work one day a week, right? Oh, wait, two because of those mid-week services?”
Answer: “Do you want me to slap you upside your head?”
Seriously, I said that to a young man when I was in my mid-twenties when he told me he wanted to be a preacher for this very reason. He didn’t realize I was holding down a full-time job and working “part-time” at a local church as an associate pastor while helping my wife finish college. I think this boy was about 18 or 19 and he recoiled at the level of anger and frustration which poured out from me.
That memory still makes me smile.
Now, let’s get serious here. There have always been tremendous demands on a preacher’s time. I’ve seen this demand cause marriages to become cold and stale and/or fall flat apart…and this was before the common usage of the Internet we have today.
Let’s face it, we live in the information age. People who used to expect to get in touch with preachers at a reasonable hour are not afraid to text, call, tweet, IM, Facebook, or contact you in a half-dozen other ways any time day or night. Many expect you to respond immediately. I’ve seen people get downright mean because you didn’t notice their prayer request for that ingrown toenail they posted at 2AM.
So, here is my personal run down. I don’t know about all the preachers out there but I know I spend at least 20-30 hours a week studying for sermons. Now, this studying does include reading normal news and staying up on what’s going on in the world around me. Preachers need to be aware of what’s happening. Now, this may sound like a lot for someone who only preaches 20-30 minutes a week, right? (I generally speak two to three times a week in different contexts so it requires a bit more for me. I want to be able to switch gears well and personalize the message for each group.)
My rule of thumb is one hour of study for one minute of preaching. In a world where anyone can google what you’re preaching on, you must make sure you’ve done your studying and you have correct information. That’s right, no urban myths should be spouted from the pulpit as fact. So, aspiring preacher, don’t quote The Onion as if it were true. Please…don’t. I will hurt you.
It’s also important to get out into the world. Seriously, go out and meet people in general. I’m not talking about evangelism or anything of that nature. Just listen to people’s stories. Make new friends. You’ll find this is an essential part of preaching because, without it, your stories get stale and there is no new life breathed into them. Part of what I do is go out looking for God’s story in the world around me. Sometimes this story makes me happy and allows me to share something beautiful. Sometimes just the opposite happens. There are stories filled with pain and hurt which need to be shared as well. In the end, you may find yourself giving someone Christ or, if you’re really fortunate, find someone giving you a bit of Christ into your own life.
There is also a certain amount of visitation to be done. Continuing Education should occur often. Spiritual disciplines should be practiced. Meeting and getting to know folks in the community should occur. Plus, there is a level of counseling that occurs many don’t realize. You might be surprised at how often people who are not members of a congregation you serve seek you out and ask for guidance. Most of these folks aren’t connected to any church at all and you find yourself the only contact they have. This is a good thing and shouldn’t be avoided but it does take time.
There is also the schmoozing. Pastor/Preachers are expected to schmooze a certain amount in the community. Personally, I don’t mind it. I get to walk in there with my earrings in and clerical collar on. If they can handle that then I’m obviously in the right place. (And, more often than not, I’m in the right place)!
Oh, and please don’t let me get started about the committees, paperwork, planning, and staffing of a local church. You’ll just make me sad.
So, there you go. 5 myths about preaching and preachers your probably didn’t want to know. If you read this far, God bless you and say a prayer for me and all those others out there doing what they love.
February 10, 2014
Recently, I’ve had a conversation with a colleague on how a minister spends their time. I’ve also had others ask me similar questions. So, how does a geekpreacher spend his week? Let’s take a look at last week and see.
Sunday. Two worship services. Also had some phone calls in the afternoon to make. For a Sunday, I have to say this was not as hectic as it could be.
Monday. I had interview work for my Board of Ministry due. I’d turned it in a week early but double checked it anyway. Also had a meeting at the office. Spent some time looking over mail. The amount of junk mail you receive at a local church is amazing. I sometimes wonder how much these “ministries” would save if they tried another form of marketing.
Tuesday. Brownsville District Clergy Meeting. I always enjoy attending these but sometimes it’s a bit of struggle to get my daughter off to school, come home and walk the dog, and make sure I’m ready to be at the meeting on time.
The meeting went well. Lots of challenges from the District Superintendent as well as the Bishop. Quite a few changes are coming along on how we should be handling things on the local level. There is an increased emphasis on the spiritual life of all of the leaders (not just the pastor!) in the church and I am glad to see it.
After the meeting, a number of us go have lunch together and see how each other is doing. There is some good conversation and it’s always nice to be updated on what is occurring in their lives and ministries. Of course, I end up staying later because one of my colleagues and I need to see about planning a meeting for yet another peer group! These groups are important but we keep finding it more and more difficult to coordinate our schedules. So, we just picked a date and hope our friends can make it. Hopefully we won’t have to reschedule again. These meetings are important for us.
As an aside, I should point out I am involved in three peer groups. One has been assigned by the Board of Ordained Ministry as I work my way through the ordination process. The second is one assigned to me by my District Superintendent. He has asked me to coordinate a study for UMC ministers in my county. (Very thankful one of the members of this group is going to help put together the next meeting.) The third group was one I was invited to by mistake. Yep, a mistake. I needed to speak with a friend one day and he said we could just talk “at the meeting.” I said, “What meeting?” He told me, “Wait, you’re not in the peer group?” I said, “What group?” I think he felt guilty about it so he invited me to the group. I must say it’s been one of the best mistakes ever. I’ve made friends with people I may never have met otherwise. (I’m looking at you, Will Cooper. You’re awesome)
Wednesday. Had an afternoon meeting which was canceled. That turned out to be a good thing since both children were home sick. This, of course, makes study difficult and even though one is fifteen she still wants a bit of attention when she’s not feeling well. I think I ran to the local pharmacy at least twice because I kept forgetting things.
Since it’s Wednesday, I had to make sure I was prepared for our study. We’ve been talking about the previous Sunday’s message and, while it may seem easy to talk about it, it’s not. Being willing to be critiqued for a message you’ve preached is never an easy thing. Also made sure to pick up some chicken since it was a “potluck night.”‘
Thursday. The four year old was still sick. So, I had to bundle him up to take the girl to High School. Somehow I think he wanted even more attention. 😉 Overall, though, it was a good day. It was nice spending time alone with him. He took a nap when we got back from dropping “Sissy” off at school and, I must admit, I napped with him. After he woke up, we ate a snack and about a few hours later he was down for a nap again. I know he must have been feeling bad because he doesn’t normally sleep that much.
We did have a nice time playing some Mario Brothers on the Nintendo emulator I own. It was really nice seeing him develop some hand-eye coordination. (That’s the excuse I’m giving the wife!) Thankfully, I was able to get in some reading time this day. I know I would have been in trouble this week if I had not outlined my sermons a few months in advance.
Since the little boy was feeling better by the end of the day, we picked up his sister from school and then drove over to Brownsville. My wife’s school was having games and snacks for the pre-k and kindergarten children from 5PM-7PM and she was required to attend. (I really get frustrated when people imply teachers only work from 7:30AM to 3:00 PM.) We met mommy and were able to share a meal at the local restaurant with just enough time for her to get back to school. I took the children to the games for a little while and was extremely happy with myself for having given the boy his bath in the afternoon. Plan ahead!
Of course, I did let him stay up a little bit later than normal so he could see his mom before he went to bed.
Friday. Friday is an interesting day for me. Most people look forward to it as the end of their week but I’ve spent years in the ministry as well as in retail and for me this is when things get busy. Instead of winding down, this is when I wind up!
I thought it would be a relaxing day where I could relax and finish my studying for Sunday’s sermon but I was wrong! It seems I’d forgotten I had a meeting with my ministry mentor in Jackson but, thankfully, my iPhone alarm went off 15 minutes before the meeting. The only problem is it is a 25 minute drive to Jackson! Thankfully, I was able to get in touch with my mentor and he wasn’t bothered about me being late. I’m normally pretty punctual and I really appreciate the grace he showed me at this time.
We had a great discussion and I must say he helped make me feel a bit more certain of myself as I will hopefully be called before the Board of Ordained Ministry in March. It’s been a long process in the United Methodist Church. If all goes well, I will have been in the ordination process for seven years and be ordained this June. (Seven is a pretty good number, right?)
Saturday. Snow. Snow. Snow. Plus, now I have “the crud” the children had been suffering with and it seems to have hit me full force. However, I know I’ve got to get out and check the churches. I drive to the “country church” to see how the roads look and I’m a bit worried about what will happen if the roads freeze over. I call my wife and tell her and, in her great wisdom, she calls one of the leaders in the congregation and asks her thoughts about Sunday services. My wife tells me they believe it will be fine and that makes me happy! Hate to have to miss services due to the weather.
I make it to the “city church” and see the sidewalks are covered pretty thickly in snow. I’m a bit worried about this knowing I feel like crud and don’t have any idea where the tools would be to clean it all off. So, I go in my office and look through my desk for a few numbers I might need to call. Before I can call anyone, I am distracted by MORE JUNK MAIL. I really think this stuff is a waste of money and time.
As I’m chunking it all in the trash, one of our great church workers comes in. This lady is awesome. She tells me she’s going to check the sidewalks and see what she can do. I tell her, “Let me know how I can help” and I get lost in sorting through some things on my desk. I eyeball a commentary or two wondering if I should pick them up. Before I know what’s happened, an hour has gone by so I decide to walk outside and see what’s up.
Every sidewalk has been cleaned! Amazing. Awesome. Awe inspiring. It just blows me away.
So, my week was busy and all this went on. I felt a bit overwhelmed at times and in the midst of it all a faithful, caring person comes by and takes care of the sidewalks. I know this may not seem like much but I have come to know this person. She works….she has grandchildren….she stays busy. Yet, when needed, she is always there.
And, suddenly, my week doesn’t seem as busy as it could have been.
February 5, 2014
In honor of the Knights of the Dinner Table: Live Action Series hitting its Kickstarter goal, I thought I’d write a post about its creator, Jolly Blackburn.
My wife and I first met Jolly Blackburn, creator of the gamer comic Knights of the Dinner Table, in 2003 at Midsouth Con in Memphis, TN. This was a time in my life when I had turned my back on ministry because I was tired of the frustration of trying to “sell myself” to churches to get a job doing what I felt called to do. Well, that was a major reason. The other reason was I also had become very tired of the nitpicky doctrines I had to sign off on as well. (Long story short, I was on a journey to realizing this whole Christian thing is about Jesus. He summed it up best when he said, “Love God with all you’ve got and your neighbor as yourself.”)
What’s this got to do with meeting Jolly? Well, Jolly didn’t know when we met that I used to be a preacher and that wasn’t something I was openly sharing with the gaming community. Too often, gamers and geeks had been mistreated by Christians and, at that point in time, the gaming community wasn’t too accepting of people of faith as well. They were, rightly so, a little gun shy. So, I kept things on the “down low.” Besides, I’d turned my back on this ministry thing, right?
Jolly and I met after the opening ceremonies of Midsouth Con. I had been to MidSouth Con a few times by this point in my life but, as a gamer, I never went to the opening ceremonies. Why would I want to go to that? There’s gaming to be done! However, I knew Jolly would be there and I thought it would be a great chance to meet him. I was afraid I’d have to wade through the crowd to meet him but, since that crowd only contained my wife, me, and maybe two others it was pretty easy to meet this guy.
This was our first conversation as I remember it. I walked up to Jolly and said, “Hey, man, I love your comic! I’m glad to finally meet you.” Jolly said, “Oh, wow, there are gamers here? Man, they asked me to come as a comic artist Guest of Honor but I’m just a gamer. Where are all the gamers?” I laughed and said, “They were here hours before the Con started and are already playing games.” He said, “Really? Dude, can you show me around when I’m free? I want to get my game on.” At that point, a friendship began to develop…a good friendship. (I could mention the “Drunken Orcs at the Gates Game” but I think the video is still floating around the InterTubes somewhere and I will let it speak for itself.)
Jolly and I stayed in touch over the years through the KenzerCo forums as well as email and various other social media and we seemed to hit it off. It wasn’t until a few years later I first met his wife Barbara (Barb) and found out what an amazing person she is. Oh, she is a pretty humble lady and, if you don’t know her, may not realize her pure awesomeness. She’s kind, considerate, nurturing and a great human being. I also found out she’s a devout Christian. This meant, wonder of wonders, I could sit down and talk gaming and comics with Jolly and then, in the next breath, look over at Barb and discuss some faith topic we were both interested in.
Truly, I couldn’t have asked for a better friendship to develop. And this friendship has led to some interesting times and places. Because of Jolly and his ability to make friends with almost anybody I found that, when I returned to ministry, knowing him kept others in the gaming community from shying away from me. Come on? A preacher among gamers? That can be scary for some folks if not downright intimidating.
Jolly, in one way or another, has helped introduce me to gamers and geeks from other faiths, people who claim no faith, and people who couldn’t give a rat’s behind about any of this spirituality stuff. Without Jolly as a friend, I don’t think I would have been as welcomed as openly as I’ve been among the gaming community. I mean, come on, this is guy you have to work hard at to dislike!
And why did this happen? I don’t really know. It’s definitely not something I planned or expected. All I know is I was a fan wanting to meet a writer and I was more than willing to help this guy find a game. He was also open to making new friends. In fact, he is so open and nice, those of us who know him get a little protective. In the gaming community there is always someone trying to promote the newest and greatest hit….and all they need is YOU to support them.
It’s tough because being a geek is all about making new friends among those who like strange and wacky things. At least, I like to think so. And Jolly is the type of guy who was willing to make new friends. He is someone who is not afraid to take a chance on people. I think this is a pretty good Christian sentiment and one I’m still working on…making new friends. Even ones who can be a bit frustrating and needy. Or especially ones who are a bit frustrating and needy?
In the end, I’ll sum this whole post up with this: “Go out and make new friends. If you’re a gamer and/or a geek, it’s always nice to have someone else to hang out with and, if you’re a Christian it gives you the opportunity to help someone in need and maybe spread a little bit of this Jesus guy around. If you’re a geek, gamer, and a Christian, well, I think you’ve hit the trifecta and should have the best of all worlds.”
February 2, 2014
I recently received a message about evaluating fruitfulness in one’s ministry and this is an area I’ve thought about over the years. As I thought over it, I realized I could point to some wonderful speaking engagements over the years or drop a name or two of well known people I’ve had the privilege to share with during this time.
However, these aren’t the ones which stand out to me. The three that do are quite different. The first is a young man who contacted me a few years ago whom I youth pastored in my early twenties. He said to me, after describing a number of difficulties he’d faced in his life, one thing had stuck with him during the intervening time that I’d mentioned to him, “God has done some amazing things for me, he will do the same for you.” The young man told me those words had helped him through those days.
The second one I think about was when a lady said to me in a small group and, later, in front of a much larger one “Brother Derek has taught me how to read the Bible through the lens of grace.”
Last, but not least, is my family. Having a wonderful wife and two children. My wife’s steady faith has always been a beacon and guide to me. Her willingness to growth with me on this journey of faith has been quite amazing.
Our daughter’s incessant questions which remind me of my own which I began to ask when I was much older also shows me seeds sprouting which had been planted at her baptism. (Nevermind her willingness to bludgeon me with my own words as a reminder to keep me faithful to my calling.)
And the little boy….the one with the willingness to change a family prayer and add a bit of goofiness and laughter when we all begin to take ourselves too seriously.
Yes, this is the fruit I see. Some of it has grown so nicely and begun dropping seeds of its own while others are beginning to blossom and smell so very sweet.
At the end of the day, may these three be the judge of my life and ministry.
← Older posts Newer posts →
February 1, 2014
I recently posted this on Facebook and my wife said I should post it on my blog so here goes….
Prayers needed. Tomorrow is Sunday and I will be running over all creation today to help a friend. Plus, my daughter turns 15 in just a few days….that’s kinda stressful, eh?
One major thought overwhelms me in all this…the idea of being a vocational pastor. In all of this craziness, I can think of no other job I could have which could afford one the flexibility to be there for those in need.
No matter how often I’ve questioned the concept of “paid clergy” over the years, it comes back to the simple truth this work is meant to allow me the freedom to be there for others I would not normally be free to do so.
This reminds me so much of when my mother was ill before her passing. Prior to returning to vocational ministry it was nigh impossible for me to take the time to run home and be with her. During her last year of life, I went to Louisiana at least 4-5 times. This was more than many years previous added together.
Sadly, mom could not realize this because her bed bound state caused the days to run together. In her mind, she thought I was visiting less and less on my return to ministry. It took me a long time to get over this hurt but, now, I understand it more clearly.
Today, and all days in the future, as I walk this ministry path to which God has called me I realize the key area this geekpreacher has been called to:
It is to be available. To share a ministry of presence and, in doing so, realize I cannot be at all places and all times. In living into this “Jesus life” as a pastor, part of my goal is to lead and guide others into this ministry of presence within their local settings.
I may have the freedom, at times, to run to Memphis or half way around the world which reminds me that, as a pastor, I’m to guide those living within a given area to be Christ present in the lives of those right around the corner to them.
This, for me, is how the beauty of the Methodist system of itinerant preachers can be lived out.