Monday, November 26, 2018

NeverEnding Sorrow

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Found on imdb.com
This weekend my Mom and I watched the NeverEnding Story for the first time in years. I probably had not watched it since high school or even middle school (and I'm in my 30s now). This film from 1984 is filled with fantastic creatures, twists, and a significant theme: sorrow.

This theme comes out in the beginning when we realize that Bastian has lost his Mom, possibly quite recently, and is also dealing with bullies on the way to school. While running from the bullies he finds an old book shop where the owner teases him about a certain book. "This one is to dangerous" he says before wandering off to answer the phone. Bastian grabs the book and runs off to skip class and read it in the schools attic. We then go on a journey with Atreyu, who is destined to help find a cure for the Empress who is sick.

Spoilers ahead.

Along the way, Atreyu faces many difficulties. As he seeks out a wiseman he must go through a bog known as a place of sorrow. He knows that anyone travelling through must not give in to the sorrow but should keep going. If they stop and sit in it, they slowly drift down and are consumed by it. While Atreyu handles this alright, his horse does not. We watch in the saddest scene of the movie as his horse refuses to move and slowly sinks in. This warns us of the horrible reality of depression. It isn't sudden. It creeps up on you and slowly erodes you, even when brought on by sudden events such as unexpected deaths or rejection.

"A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed." 
Proverbs 15:13 ESV

After losing his horse he forces himself to move forward, one big, painful step at a time. Eventually he finds this wiseman, who is not what you expect. He has been torn down not just by years of living in a place of sorrow but by living alone in the place of sorrow. He knows what Atreyu needs to do and gives him instructions, but he does not see any hope. It has been drained from him over the years simply by loneliness.

Loneliness, sorrow, rejection are all intertwined. Find one and it will feed on the other two. I know this from experience as do many other people. The reason for the title is not just that this land we are exploring through Atreyu is never-ending, it is because sorrow feels that way. When stuck in it you don't feel like you will ever find a way out.

But that is when Jesus comes. Just like a luck dragon named Falkor who comes with great cheer and hope, Jesus steps in to save the day. Jesus spoke of this many times:

 "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world."          John 16:33
"Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy not sacrifice. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners" Matthew 9:12
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls..."                                                                                                       Matthew 11:28
I remember one of the hardest times of my life. I came back to college after a bad Christmas break where my Grandma died. Upon telling a girl, whom I thought was one of my best friends, that my Grandma had died; she walked away without saying a word and broke off our friendship in an email a couple days later.  One guy, new to school, told me I was walking around looking like death. In this time of difficulty, I spent two hours an afternoon for five days straight meeting alone with Jesus. Over this time I read John 17, prayed and wrote a few things down. Although those writings are now lost, I gleaned some things from John 17 that I prayed over myself for years after that on a regular basis. A few friends also rallied around me and walked with me in this.

Jesus is always available to us. He won't necessarily take difficulty away, but He will walk with us and lighten our load. Sometimes he will do big miracles but that is not as common as His presence, which is very powerful. He might use the hardship to shape you into a better example of Him to others. All we have to do is meet with him in prayer, worship, and reading scripture. Just make sure you come to Him with a listening ear. In this way NeverEnding Sorrow is ended by Eternal Grace.

As you watch the movie you will notice that Falkor acts like this. He doesn't take the difficulty away from Atreyu, but he does bring cheer to him and aids him on his way. Well, ok, maybe he does take one difficulty away, but I won't spoil that for you.

Quick Note:if you look above the article you will find a link to a band-new Ko-Fi account. If you want to support what is happening on this blog and with the convention ministries I do, please go and support me there.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Daredevil and Manifest Listen

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!



Listening to God is a subject that is difficult for modern minds to handle. It has come up in the new season of "Daredevil" (specifically Ep. 2 of season 3) and has come up a lot in the show "Manifest".

In a flashback to a conversation with Father Lantom when he was a kid he gets warned that his anger will destroy him if he doesn't handel it well. After suggesting that this might be God's plan, they have this conversation:

Father Lantom: "Maybe you don't understand original sin after all. God gave us free will, Mathew.                                 Adam and Eve were not puppets; neither are we. We make our own choices. It's one                             reason we pray. For help making good ones. You should try it sometime."

Mathew:           "I do pray. I pray all the time, I've been praying for years. God doesn't talk to me."

Father Lantom: "So that's what this is about? You feel God is neglecting you? Matthew, the burning                               bush business doesn't happen very often, even in the Bible. Usually more subtle                                   than that. You want to hear God, Mathew, you have to listen more carefully. He                                     speaks in whispers."

In "Manifest" we are seeing a different conversation. Many members are hearing something they call "The Calling" and sometimes seeing things. These promptings are very insistent and they just come back again if ignored. They don't have any trouble hearing it, but they don't know where it is coming from. In the most recent episode a question is brought up as to whether or not this Calling can be trusted. These promptings have led to several developments including the rescue of two young girls who were kidnapped. Yet there is still a question, can we trust this voice? What is the real agenda behind it?

In the Old Testament listening to God was something that seemed to be reserved for prophets. Only those that God called to a special purpose could meet with Him. Now for Moses this was such a deep relationship that it had a certain "face to spirit" aspect. He regularly met with God and regularly heard from Him. While at Mount Sinai he spent some 40 days alone with God and that resulted both in the 10 commandments and the first few books of the Bible. Exodus 33 records that he had a "Tent of Meeting" outside the camp where he was meet with God and seek wisdom from Him. Other prophets that sought God a lot include Joseph, Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, and many more.

But a prophet named Joel prophesied that one day many would have the Holy Spirit. That many would prophesy and have dreams from God. Then, Jesus came. As "Emmanuel" (God Among Us) He taught publicly and mentored 12 men. Then, He was crucified and rose again. 10 days after He ascended to the Throne, the Holy Spirit brought on an event we call Pentecost. In this event the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit and then began their ministry of spreading the Word of Jesus. Now, we all have access to it.

Listening to God is not meant to be rare for us. Originally Adam and Even had plenty of access to God. Then sin came and corrupted them. God is fully available to us, but are we listening? Are we seeking Him? Do we pray to get things for ourselves or to hear from Him? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Ask. The book of James tells us to ask for wisdom. Jesus told us to knock and the door would be opened. Have you asked God for wisdom? Have you asked Him to speak to you?

2. Sit. Yes, I do think that God might bring thoughts to your mind as you sit and wait. But you need to put your attention to Him. That means a place that is quiet.

3. Compare what you hear with scripture. God will never ask you to do something against His own teachings.

4. Sometimes you need to set the thought "on a shelf" and wait to see if God brings it back in another way.

5. Look. Sometimes I hear form him in music; other times something meaningful will be in a book I'm reading or a show I'm watching. Other times I've been out in nature and God has met me when I was not expecting it.

If you want a full sermon, you should check this link. Pastor Peter Yoshonis spoke about this just this past Sunday at All Shores Wesleyan Church. Well worth a listen.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Manifest 828

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.



Earlier this week I sat down with my Mom to watch the pilot episode of "Manifest." A new drama with a time travel intro and very little else to catch my attention, aside from Josh Dallas of Once Upon a Time as a lead actor. What I found was more mystery than the trailers let on and a show much more focused on spiritual development than I expected. Sit down ladies and gentlemen it is time for some geek theology!

SPOILERS AHEAD

The show begins with a family getting on a plane. The family consists of 2 older parents, a son named Ben Stone (played by Josh Dallas) with his wife Grace (Athena Karkanis) and their twin children. Also along is Ben's sister, Michaela Stone, played by Melissa Roxburgh. As the family talks we soon see that the matriarch of the family is a believer, especially when she quotes Romans 8:28 while talking to Michaela about the guy who wants to marry her and other life stuff.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."          Romans 8:28
With the plane overbooked the family splits up with the older siblings and the brothers son staying behind for another flight. What we then find out is that the son, 8 years old or so, has cancer. Soon they are on the plane and someone else is working on a research paper.

With some interesting symmetry and connection, the flight they take is labeled as Flight 828. There was a major shift of turbulence on the flight but nothing else was unusual. Everyone on the flight is confused when they are held back upon landing. This state of confusion continues as they try to come back to life, family and friends. Although they left the vacation spot and went straight to New York, the flight has arrived late by about 5 and a half years. I have had late flights before, but that takes the cake.

We find out that Michaela is a member of the police force, as is her boyfriend who is now married. The twin sister is now five years older. The woman with the research work comes to find her work in a clinical trial for cancer treatment. That is not where the 828 issue stops. Through the show Michaela and then Ben each start hearing very clear instructions to do different things. Michaela helps a bus driver stop right before a kid runs into the road. They let 2 dogs loose after this constant push to "set them free" but later on, when going to apologize for the gate breaking with her Detective ex-boyfriend, Michaela finds two missing girls being held captive by the guy who owned the dogs. Finally, all the passengers find themselves drawn back to the plane only to watch it explode.

This show works on one single issue: can bad things happen for good reasons? As a Christian, I trust God to use all things, good and bad, for His purposes. But in life that that belief is consistently challenged. It often feels like just another platitude being pushed out to try and make me feel alright when so many things are so wrong. Here we find a mainstream show that is daring to ask that question. Is this just a platitude? They just happen to be using a thin line of fantasy in their questioning.

This is not surprising to many of us. Just like all fiction, fantasy and science fiction are all about the human experience. Why do we think this way? How would that change us? The show is not titled "Manifest" because of a list of passengers. It is titled "Manifest" because something is manifesting in the lives of the passengers to bring about change in a world that is hurting. What happened to the flight? Why did it happen? What will the result be?

I firmly trust that God is working for our good. I don't think He wants bad to happen, but when it does He makes better people out of us through them. I can tell you that when I was rejected by a girl in college it probably kept me from experiencing a bad relationship. Think about the crucifixion. It was the worst thing ever. The Son of God killed by His own people. Yet through that we find Jesus taking our sin on Himself so we can have a healthy relationship with God. He took a horrible thing and used it for good. Then He did the best come-back ever by resurrecting from the dead.

In this show, a time travel experience and a new power of knowledge are being used to ask if bad really can be used for good. Along with that, other questions seem to be getting explored about family, faith and destiny. While I don't expect a perfect Biblical lesson in each episode, I plan to keep watching and see where it goes. Will you be watching?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

GrandCon 2018

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!


GrandCon 2018 was a success. Over the 3 days I connected with several faces I don't see very often who have been following Nerd Chapel for some time. I also met new people and some people I see a bit more often. This show has a special place in my heart. I consider it to be the flagship show for Nerd Chapel. For the first time I had buttons for sale and stickers to hand out.



All the games I hosted went over very well (Pandemic, Unauthorized, Commissioned). I also played 2 rounds of Coup and got to play Scream of Die, a new game just about to come out where you play as monsters that have become little kids and are trying to get candy.


Photo Credit: Katelyn Campbell

Photo Credit: Katelyn Campbell

For the Sunday morning service we had about 40 people, which is even more than last year. Definitely our highest attended event yet. Portal Dragon team members Jon and Liz Meitling led worship. They did a fantastic job. My buddy Darrin Ball led us in communion and brought us a devotional based on LotR. I spoke about Truth by using "Legend of the Seeker" and jumping around the book of John quite a bit to find different pieces of our discussion.

GrandCon is a different experience for Nerd Chapel than other cons as a community has built up. Most cons I have a table as a visible connection point but here we have a combination of the table, games where people interact and the service on Sunday morning. This is happening naturally so nobody has to push it.



I also had the pleasure of  help from a new ally. One of the team members for A'Campbell Consultants joined me just for one day of the con. Katelyn Campbell was a great help and company. Glad to be able to serve with her.

This was a successful weekend indeed. Next I will be at Fantasticon in Fort Wayne, IN. This show will just be a table but it is always a good time. This is one of the shows I know Nathan Marchand will be able to hang out with me at.




Thursday, September 13, 2018

DragonCon

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!



A couple weeks ago I made a trip down to Georgia for DragonCon. I am trying to get out of the Great Lakes region once a year to network and explore and this year I felt this would be a good stop. I have been connected with the Bridge, a Christian nerd community that has been involved with this con for years) on FB for a while now but I had not met many of them face to face before so this was a chance to do that.

In short it was an amazing weekend. My time with the Bridge included helping with the table, walking with them in the parade, attending the Sunday service, and a few opportunities just to sit and talk. I also had the pleasure of hanging out with Hector Miray, who writes the Faith and Fandom series of books. I was surprised to find a panel on the Catholicism of Skully from The X-Files and I attended a panel on Christians in Dark Fantasy. This was an amazing time.

Along with all of this, I enjoyed panels for Warehouse 13, the Librarians, Doctor Who and a panel with Lou Daimond Philips and Mitch Pileggi.  I also got some photo-ops with a few actors. 

DragonCon is a lot to take in and figure out. It stretches across many city blocks with 5 hotels hosting a variety of events as well as 2 other buildings hosting gaming and the exhibit area. It felt very chaotic but it was a lot of fun and has way more opportunities than you will be able to take advantage of. I did not do any of the gaming at all but I did walk through and take a look at the gaming area.

This weekend, Sept. 14-16 I will be at GrandCon in Grand Rapids, MI and the next weekend, the 22-23 I'll be at Fantasticon in Fort Wayne, IN.

Here are some pictures from DragonCon but there are many more on Facebook if you find the Nerd Chapel page.








Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Comic Con Christianity"

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Image provided by author.
I recently got to read a portion of a new book recently released. "Comic Con Christianity" is written by Jen Shlameuss-Perry. She looks at issues of the Christian life both from the perspective of a fan-girl and as a catholic. This caught my attention for a couple of reasons. Firstly is that I have not seen very many ministry resources for nerds and geeks coming out of the Catholic quadrant of the Church. Note, when I say Church with a capital "C," I mean all who follow Jesus as the Son of God, born of a virgin, liver of a sinless life and bringer of redemption through his death and resurrection. I have served in ministry alongside Catholics in a few occasions and have come to respect many of them, even if I disagree with their organization on a few things. Next, this is coming from a contributor to Geekdom House. A Christian/Nerd bridge building organization I have heard about and with which I might have had some small online interactions or perhaps some interactions with at Gen Con at some point.

The portion I got to read is all about villains. What drives them? Why do we sometimes feel for them even in their terrible choices? How are we similar to them? In this chapter she looks at familiar villains like the Joker, Darth Vader, Magneto, and even Loki but she also shares scripture with us. She helps us look at who we are and challenges us to be aware of our own likeliness to make depraved choices. Along with the villains she has us look at Jonah, Job, and even spends some time in Wisdom, a book the Catholics see as canonical but we Protestants do not. I enjoyed reading a portion of it in this chapter and getting a look at it through her eyes.

She explained in a FB message why she chose to send me this portion:
"I picked this one because it's my favorite chapter. My Master's thesis was on Religious Education as a Ministry of Reconciliation, and everything I do as a pastoral minister and a person stems from my belief that that's what I'm supposed to be about."
Reconciliation is indeed the focus of the last portion of the chapter. Forgiveness would also be a good section header for it. After all the disillusionment experienced by the nerd/gamer/geek culture with the Church, should we not be concerned about it? Even as humans, regardless of our hobby preferences, we need it.

I think this book will help some nerds, both Christian and non-Christian, look at who Jesus is and what we can do to follow Him. I think nerds who are not following Jesus will find her work thought provoking and perhaps even fascinating. If you have a follower of Jesus, esp. a catholic, who does not understand our fondness for these stories this book might help them to see how these stories point back to the redemption provided by Christ. Note this is based on one chapter of the book and not a read-through of the entire book.

To learn more about the book, click here.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Gen Con 2018

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!


I just got back from Gen Con a few days ago. What did I see? I saw a lot, and that is putting it mildly. Over the four days of the con I played 13 games I had not played before. I also was privileged to be on the Christianity and Gaming Panel and still had some time to help author Nathan Marchand with his table in Author's Avenue.

Photo courtesy of A'Campbell Consultants
The panel was a great opportunity to join others in a discussion on how gaming interacts with the Christian life. This is held by the Christian Gamers Guild each year and I have been to the panel before but this was my first time on the panel. People asked questions about going deeper to share Christ with other gamers, about worldview issues and concerns over fictional deities in some games. Also on the panel was a cosplayer and literature expert named John Stanifer as well as Abigail A'Kessler and Katelyn Campbell from A'Campbell Consultants, a couple of ladies that love to help people, churches and other organizations use games for building community. You can see their website: https://www.acampbellconsultants.com/

Now to some games! I won't go over all of the games I played, but here are a few I wanted to tell you about.

Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks.


I did not even get a full demo of this coop, but I was still so intrigued and excited for a Doctor Who game that I bought it. Definitely excited to get it to the table! You must get all of the Tardis pieces to Galifrey before the Dalek ship gets there. Along the way you will fight various monsters from the show and gather companions from throughout the history of the show.

5 Minute Marvel

This was a very fun, cooperative game. If you have played 5 Minute Dungeon you know the basic idea of this game as it is a re-theme. That being said, I really enjoyed myself playing this at their demo booth. It was a very fun experience and I plan on purchasing it at some point.

Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters

I loved the giant, light up board they had for demoing this game!
This was a neat surprise and also cooperative. The game itself has been out for a couple years but they showed a new expansion with this demo. I had not expected Mattel to put out a game I would enjoy so much or that could be so fun for gamers. The game is about kids fighting ghosts and collecting treasure but the new expansion adds a basement and some story for what is causing the ghosts to haunt the place.

The Kings Guild

This is a fun game still taking pre-orders. I like worker placement games but I don't own very many and this was a very fun time. You are building a guild by collecting resources, adding rooms to your guilds hall, and providing items and weapons for heroes in their quests all to get the attention of a council so your guild can the official guild of the kingdom. You win by having the most points.

Agents of Mayhem

Based on the video game of the same name, this is a light miniature based game that does feel like a lot to learn your first time playing. There are quite a few symbols to learn but it is doable and you get to make significant tactical decisions. I did lose, but my team did destroy a building and I kind of destroyed my own Golem trying to destroy another one. In my defense that building only had one hit point left. I think after another time or two playing I could get used to the symbols and enjoy it quite a bit.




Azul

I played this with some guys at the Love Thy Nerd meetup. It is a tile laying game based on laying decorative tiles for a building. You take turns pulling tiles from a supply and putting them on your board. At the end of each round if you have a full row of the same color you then place one of those tiles on your board, gaining points for that tile and tiles in the same row and/or column. Fun puzzle game and worth noting that it won the Spiel Des Jarhes this year. If you have not hung out with Love Thy Nerd yet, check them out.


Star Trek Fluxx

This one I played at another gathering; this time for the Tavern, the FB group for Innroads Ministries. I am in the group but had not met very many members face to face yet. So this was a great opportunity to connect. There were at least 3 tables with games going but I found myself playing a lot of Fluxx, most of it being Star Trek. There are actually 2 different Star Trek Fluxx games: one for the original series and one for TNG. There is also an expansion that lets you put the two together. We played one round with the original series and one round with both decks put together. I had a lot of fun with it, even as the rules changed continuously as we played different rules cards. If you are not familiar with them, visit the Innroads website here or the FB group here.