The Regularity of Sunday: A Pastor’s Confession

A dear mentor and pastor once said to me, “Sundays come along with alarming regularity.” These past few years as a preaching pastor, those words have sunk in.
 
I love preaching. I love reading and studying God’s Word. There are few things I love more than to read a text out loud, then explain it to a group of listening ears. I’ve learned in my preparation, and they will learn from me in my presentation. Teaching is a gift from the Lord that I cherish. I make it a part of my livelihood during the week as well as on weekends. I love my church. I am happy with my work and very glad to do it. But…
 
…preaching is hard work. Each week, I stand in front of our small church and teach them the Scriptures, and I know some things I have to say are hard. I also know that some things I have to say are difficult for me to follow myself. “Love one another as I have loved you,” is a hard teaching for a man who wants complete silence most of the time. I love people, but I love solitude a little bit more. Some weekends I think, “What if I could just have today off too?” I’m jealous of the folks I see driving toward the lake. I’m more jealous of the ones who sleep in. On Saturday, as I finish preparing the next day’s message, I’m sometimes tempted by an old sermon. I’m more tempted by a sermon someone else preached on the same text.
 
Why do I continue? Romans 10 rings in my ears when I think of just sitting in the pews…
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:14-17
Of course, I’m not the only preacher out there. However, I am the preacher for my small flock. The Lord has used me in the past despite my failings, and I trust he’ll use me again. So, I press on.
 
Pray for your pastor. Pray that he’ll preach the Scriptures faithfully. Encourage him when you see him. Sundays come along with alarming regularity, and some weekends, he’d rather have two Saturdays.

My Thoughts on Breaking Statues

Recent events in the world have stirred my conscience a bit. Most of the time, I’m a passive person. I tend to let things slide, even to a fault. I don’t get too bothered by the opinions of others, even when they tread on mine. I’m a secure person, and I know why I hold to my beliefs. I’m a man of conviction in most areas of my life. So, when I read about the destruction of landmarks and statues around our country, I became stirred.
 
To be clear, racism is abhorrent and right thinking and moral people the world over should stomp it out. There will always be racism because people will always be different. That said, we don’t have to like it, and we should do what we can to eradicate it from our families and our immediate influences.   If you remember you aren’t owed anything from anybody, and that we are all created in God’s image, racism goes away. I treat all people equally because God made all people as a reflection of his character. A human being has value inherently without my input, or anyone else’s. Every person has value, regardless of their skin color. 
 
With that, the destruction of our historical monument is ill-conceived. For one, it’s breaking the law. There is a right process to remove things. In today’s world, where hurt feeling rule, getting a statue removed peaceably should be an easy task. Second, the monuments themselves represent history more than they represent an ideal. Granted, many of the South’s “ideals” were horrible in regards to slavery, but an image of Stonewall Jackson is just that – an image. It doesn’t represent the hurts of generations of black families. It doesn’t represent the wrongs of generations of white families. It is an image. Now, we can assign meaning to it, sure. We all do in one form or another. For me, I see it as a sign of mistakes corrected and a world I hope we never return to. For others, they embody hate. Whatever it is they represent to you, it doesn’t change their actual status as rock and metal, representing something or someone that has been dead for decades.
 
I can see the opposing argument. People have hurt other people, and they continue to do so. It’s a sad commentary on living life in society, and frankly, the only fix is time and help from the Almighty. Destroying statues today may feel good for a time, but it only puts a bandage on the gaping wound of past and current indiscretions. The act also seeks to destroy the metanarrative that we are currently hoping to leave behind. When we attempt to eradicate our history, how will we remember what we need to rise above? How will we teach our children, “And this was a time when we hated our neighbor. It was a bad time.”
 
The struggle to love one another is always present and real. Each of us can do better as we seek to erase the problems of the present while remembering where we’ve come from.

What motivates your gaming?

I saw a video of a robot playing Settlers of Catan recently and it made me think. I enjoy playing board games on my phone against AI opponents, but how would that change if the AI was in front of you? What motivates AI in the game? Winning? The word “winning” is a full word, and means lots of things to lots of folks. It made me think of the broader implications of a robot gamer: why do I play games?

I play games for the diversion. “Diversion” comes from the Latin divertere which means “to turn aside or away.” So, when I play games, I play to veer away from the normal life. “The normal life” isn’t a bad thing. I live a happy and easy life. Even with all my comforts, a break is necessary, and I use games to fill that time. I don’t play to win. I don’t play to become good. I play to play. I also enjoy the time spent with family and friends. I also play for the intellectual challenge and exercise. There is something about learning a complex game and playing it well. When “playing it well” starts to mix with “playing it better,” I begin to lose interest. I’m alway striving to be better at my job, my marriage, and my family. I don’t want to be better at games. I only want to play them.

That is a human thing. A robot can’t play to “just play.” I suppose you could program a computer to make random plays to progress the game rather than win. Its purpose is still derived from its program. I can’t “just play.”

There are many who can’t define a game outside of the need to win it. In that way, I see a continuum. One extreme is the “just play” motivation. The other is the “must win.” Most folks land along that path.

Are there other motivations? Is this too linear? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Christian board games? Or Board games by Christians?

In my last post, a reader commented on Christian board games. It made me think of the first time I saw a Christian “reskin” of a game: Bibleopoly.
 
Of course, it is like Monopoly but reworked to have a Christian theme. The theme doesn’t add anything to do the game. It doesn’t even present itself as “Christian” aside from the changes in terminology. It is a “reskin,” meaning the designer took the bones of Monopoly and put a different outfit on them.
 
Is there anything wrong with this? For me, I shout a resounding YES! There aren’t any overt moral implications. As Christians, however, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. If we want a game with definite Christian themes, that is a great goal. Rather than re-skinning a game, we should make our own.
 
Being a Christian game designer without designing “Christian” games is another idea. There are only a handful of themes that a Christian should distance themselves from. I know several Christian designers who have excelled at their craft and have designed games with many themes.
 
There is a broader idea at work here. There are similar questions with music, literature, and art. The Apostle Paul tells us that whatever we do, we should do it for the glory of God. In my view, using any of these creative outlets to create new works glorifies the one who is the first Creator.

Broader Scope Incoming

After an extended break, I’m ready to write again.

I thought a lot about my blog and it’s scope after the last month. I decided that while I love to write and talk about games, I also like to write and talk about other things. I saw this blog as a way to begin a discussion about family gaming and some of my own designs. Now, I see it as a way for me to reflect on my gaming experiences as well as other experiences I have.

Every blogger has to come to the place where they realize their blog isn’t going to become the next great blog. I wasn’t naive, but I was hoping to gain a bit more steam for a particular concept. Now I see that hope may be a pipe dream. I want to broaden my scope to consider other “hobbies” of mine: theology and teaching.

My mind is always racing. That doesn’t make me different. My particular bent on the things listed above does though. I often see the three things – games, theology, and teaching – coming together. There is something very pleasing about teaching a new game. There is also something very please about teaching theology. While theology isn’t always game-worth, good games reflect creativity. That creativity comes from a Creator.

While I’ll still write about my thoughts on games and family, I’ll now be adding other things to the mix.

Any of you Christian gamers? Christian teachers? Gaming teachers?

What is Dungeons and Dragons?

“Dungeons and Dragons” has come to represent any number of tabletop roleplaying games. Since its beginnings, certain groups have made it out to be a Satanic ritual. Some have said it encourages suicide. Others, like myself, see it as a great form of cooperative storytelling. Tabletop RPGs are something I plan to play with my family in the coming years. For some who question that, it may be helpful to see them from my perspective.
 
Tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs) have been around for a long time. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) was one of the first to gain some popularity, in large part due to negative press. The first public concerns games with the case of James Dallas Egbert. Much of the early stigma surround D&D then had to do with fictionalized association about this case. Today, there are still similar holdovers. D&D uses words like “witch” and “devil” to describe fictional monsters, and for many, this is too much.
 
While I’m not a fan of some of the terms either, everything about how one play a TRPG is optional. The world you create, the characters, their stories – everything. The “Dungeon Master” (DM) facilitates the world and its non-player characters (NPCs). The characters either stick to the main storyline or drift around, discovering new people and places. That is one of the things that makes TRPG so great. Sure, you could make your story “evil” if you chose, but you could also make it a great family adventure. Designers have created other TRPG systems that allow for my diversity. Savage Worlds is my favorite when it comes to creating your own type of world and building a story. I have played everything from Middle Earth to Wild West with the Savage Worlds system and have grown to love it.
 
TRPGs deserve a second chance if you’ve cast them away in the past. What have been your experiences with TRPGs?

The Board Game Cafe

Last weekend, Emily and I, along with two friends, traveled to St. Louis for a weekend of baseball. The Lord had other plans, as it rained the entire time we were there. We did get to watch one game on Sunday, but the team postponed Saturday’s game a few hours before game time. We scoured the webs looking for something to do, and one of the things we found was Pieces, a board game cafe.
 
Pieces is the first board game cafe I’ve ever seen, much less been to. They featured good food and atmosphere…and a collection of over 500 games. They hooked me with the games part. Emily and I love gaming, but our friends had never played many of the games we are into. After looking at their shelves for a while, I chose a few to play. We had a great time playing games and eating food. What excited me most was the variety of games folks were playing, and everyone was having a great time.
 
If I ever stumble into wealth somehow, I’m going to open a cafe like Pieces. Also, if you’re in St. Louis and need someplace to spend several hours, I can think of no better place.

A blog discussing games, family, and games with family.

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