Archive for the ‘ Community ’ Category

DANIEL SMITH, CORNERSTONE, AND THE LIFE I HOPE TO LIVE

Last night at Dwellings, the new church that I’m a part of, we hosted the first of three movie screenings in a film series called Contineo. Contineo is a Latin word meaning “to connect or join together”. The heart of the Contineo Film Series is to connect people together through discussions on faith, art, and community as we explore some interesting movies together.

As I sat in the Flint Local 432 watching the first film in the series, Danielson: A Family Movie (or Make a Joyful Noise Here), I was reminded of the place that this idea was born. In 2006, my wife and I made our second trip to the Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, IL. The festival was an experiment that began in 1984 by a group of Christian/hippy/rockers from a commune in Chicago called Jesus People USA. Cornerstone was created to provide a space for Christian music that fell outside of the mainstream by gathering annually to celebrate the diversity of God’s people. Over the years, Cornerstone added different elements to the festival experience including a film festival called Flickerings.

During our first trip to Cornerstone in 2004, I was so excited to see every band possible that we ran around like crazy people. While it was a memorable experience, it was exhausting! So when we went back to Cornerstone two years later, we realized that we wanted to have a more restful experience. It was out of this desire for restfulness and a slower pace that we stumbled on Flickerings. On the second day of the fest we crawled out of our hot, sticky tent and made our way to see a documentary about a quirky musician from New Jersey named Daniel Smith.

That morning I was struck by the beauty, creativity, and honestly that the filmmaker, JL Aronson, was able to capture. I remember being inspired to think of Christianity in new ways. I saw Daniel living out an authentic faith apart from the Christian subculture that so often seems to seek to shelter and protect people from the world around them. Daniel seemed driven to create art from who he was and share it with anyone who would listen. He was true to himself even though the sounds he creates aren’t always the most pleasant for casual listening. As a new Christian, the experience of Cornerstone and watching Danielson: A Family Movie were formational events for me. I began to dream about how I could live my life with the kind of integrity displayed by Daniel. I wondered how I could live my faith in a way that didn’t scare away those who had different ideas and desires than I did. I wondered how art could be used to build relationships and nurture productive conversations.

So six years later, these are still the kinds of questions I wrestle with. And I think with every new day and each step I take I’m moving towards the kind of life I started dreaming about down in Bushnell, Il. Now, that Cornerstone has called it a day (the final Cornerstone Festival took place in July of 2012), I hope that Dwellings will help to create that kind of safe space for people to question and connect with God that Cornerstone, and artists like Daniel Smith, have provided for me, at least did in my little corner of the world.

I’d love to hear from you! What are some experiences or pieces of art that have moved your towards the kind of life you want to live?

If you are interested joining us for the next installment of Contineo, can get more info here.

DWELLINGS DAY ONE

Yesterday was the big day! As I said during our first service yesterday, we didn’t become a church yesterday when we held our first public gathering. We became a church back in January when a group of people began to come together to follow God into the unknown to learn to love and serve the people around us in Flint, Michigan. The church is a people after all, right? Well, yesterday was significant because we gathered to enter into a weekly rhythmic of worship. It’s tough to find the words to describe something that is so meaningful. Especially when this something that you are trying to explain has been a dream that has been in the works for nearly 10 years. But I’ll try…

The one word that keeps coming to mind when I think about how our first service went is comfortable. From set up to tear down everything felt very natural. I didn’t feel the need to make anything happen. It didn’t seem hard. There was an excitement in the air because new things are, well, exciting, but I think  comfortable sums it up nicely.

Set Up and Music

When we showed up at 8a.m. in the morning to get everything set up everyone who was there chipped in without a ton of direction and just did what needed to be done. With the help of the Flint Local 432’s regular sound guy, Tim, the band got set up and was ready to go within 20 minutes. We decided last minute to project the words of the songs we were singing for worship (and the PowerPoint that went along with the sermon) on the wall to the left of the stage instead of on the giant screen that would have came down in front of the stage and obscured the players from the shoulders up. It was a last minute decision that didn’t occur to us at rehearsal a couple days earlier but when we showed up in the morning it was pretty obvious that it would be a great solution. I think the result was fantastic. First, it allowed the musicians who wanted to stand to stand without worrying about being cut in half by the screen. Secondly, and I think most importantly, the screen being off to the side changed the focal point of the people in the congregation. Folks looked toward the screen and I think it made it easier to focus on the words in order to collect ourselves in worship.

After we set up the band, we quickly put the chairs and tables in place and did a run through of the set list for the service. This gave our tech person, Sarah, a chance to run the the powerpoint and get her familiar with the songs. After the band wrapped up, another crew of people showed up to get the coffee brewing, set up the kids area, and pass out donuts to the bikers who were in town for the big Bikes on the Bricks festival Downtown.

Coffee

We bought a fancy new airpot brewer to make our coffee so Jay and I had to spend some time making sure we knew how to work  it and where we were going to store it but we managed to get some decent coffee made to offer our people. We have decided to use ceramic mugs and have someone take them home each week to run them through the dishwasher in order to cut down on waste. Lisa and I went to the Salvation Army last week and picked out a bunch of the most random mugs we could find. The mugs were a nice conversation piece for the morning. We joked that instead of having people who come and sit in the same pew week after week we’ll have people that live and die by the coffee mug that they drink from. We’re also working with a local coffee roaster who will be roasting fresh coffee beans for us each week so we will be supporting a local business and have great coffee to share with our people.

Kids

Since the space we are meeting in is essential one big room with a couple restrooms attached we are trying to figure out ways to have kids stay with us in the service that allows the adults to focus and participate in the service without having to worry about their children being a disruption. We decided to set up a table and some floor mats up off to one side of the room to give kids an area where they can draw, play with playdough, or do puzzles. A couple parents and Casey, one of our college student, sat down on the mats to play with the kids throughout the service. A few of the bigger kids passed headphones back and forth while watching a movie on a computer. The kids seemed to really enjoy the atmosphere and made themselves quite at home. During the service, the kids were amazing.  For nearly and hour and a half they hung out with us doing their thing. Hopefully they will enjoy themselves as much next week as we continue to explore different ways to engage them in what we are doing as a church. We’re thinking about getting a bunch of tambourines and shakers so they can dance and jam with us during musical worship. Lisa and I saw this done at TheStory in Sarnia and it was awesome to see the kids involved in worship. Besides we don’t currently have a percussionist, so what the heck, right?

Donuts

Since the big Bikes on the Bricks thing was going on Downtown we decided to find away to engage in what was already happening around us. So we ordered 8 dozen donuts from Donna’s Donuts and gave them away to bikers who were setting up for the day. We didn’t do this as a way to have an opportunity to invite them to church but just to tell them thanks for coming to the city. This seemed very organic. As soon as the donuts showed up, a bunch of our people paired up, grabbed some of the kids and went walking around on Saginaw Street passing out donuts. I think everybody had fun and it was a simple way to connect with our neighbors for the day.

The Service

By 10:20a.m. the rest of the folks who were joining us for the service had arrived. People mingled, drinking coffee and chatting until we got started at 10:30. The service was pretty simple. We started with a song and welcomed people to make themselves comfortable while we sang songs together in order to engage in the same activity together as a community and to quiet our hearts to focus on whatever God might have for us. We sang a couple more songs and Carrie came up to read from the Psalms. We played one more song and then Jay gave some brief announcements before moving into the sermon.

We decided that we wanted to invite people to be an active part of the service by asking some questions and giving some time to reflect by writing in community journals. I asked some simple, straightforward questions throughout the service to give the congregation an opportunity to share ideas out loud as we talked about the idea of “following”. We talked about the different ways of coming to know someone or something, different kinds of things people follow in our culture, and what is required of those who want to follow someone or something. People who wished to share simply chimed in with answers. I think this questioning seemed to help people stay engaged in the message. Then, toward the end of the message, I introduced the idea of the community journals. We bought some simple composition notebooks and pens and passed them out to people around the room. I explained that the idea behind the journals was to give people a way to process and wrestle with what we were talking about in a quiet reflective way. I instructed them to keep their entries anonymous and asked them to leave the books at church so they can grow with the community. Sometimes I’ll give specific prompts for people to respond to during our services but other times I won’t mention them at all. But the plan is to make them available week to week to be used however they help the church process; taking notes, writing prayers, drawing pictures, doodling, asking questions, etc. I gave a few prompts and gave folks a 5-7 minutes of quiet to jot down some thoughts. After the journaling, I gave a few closing remarks and closed the service with a video. After the benediction people sprung into action helping us get the space back into shape for the next punk rock show. Tear down was swift and organized. I think having been a part of the set up and tear down crew at Wildwind, our mother church, for so many years really helped the process to go smoothly.

The buzz in the air was thick, at least it was for me. I know that I’ve given a brief record of concrete details here and while that might give people an idea of what we did, it doesn’t really contain the feeling of the experience. It was a great morning. The people that were with us (which included our initial core team, some friends from Wildwind, and a handful of people who wanted to see what we were all about before deciding how/if they wanted to be involved in a more direct way) seemed to be engaged and I’ve since received a lot of positive feed back in the last 36 hours.

Several new people informed me that they would be back! Another person wrote and thanked me for making the experience comfortable for introverts and extroverts alike. And yet another person made a point to tell me how refreshing the service was and how the content has already provided them with opportunities to share some of the ideas they heard at Dwellings with people at their workplace. Good stuff is happening here. Stuff I couldn’t have planned. We’re just gonna show up and see what happens next, listen for what God is up to in our midst, and then show up again the next week…and the week after that…and the week after that. So good? Maybe you can join us sometime.

If you are interested in hearing my sermon (lo-fi) from Sunday you can do so here: http://www.dwellingsflint.com/sermons/follow-me/

Thanks for sharing in our story. Blessings.

 

LINK ROUND UP #2: HEARTLAND HAULING HIT THE GOAL!!!

Last night,my game The Great Heartland Hauling Co. reached the goal of $10,000.00 in pledges! Thanks so much for all of your support. You guys are seriously helping make my dream of being a published games designer come true!
Even thought the game has reached its initial goal there is still lots of ground to cover. As of today, there are still 27 days left in the project. This means that for the next month people can still make pledges to preorder their game on Kickstarter. Each pledge made from this point will just keep pushing us beyond the initial goal. The more we push past this goal, the more buzz we’ll have surrounding the game which is a great thing for me as a designer and for Dice Hate Me Games as a publisher. But its not just good for us, its going to be good for you, too!

At certain thresholds as we push past out $10,000.00 goal there will be new bonus rewards available to you fine folks as a thank you for helping us to get the word out about Heartland Hauling. The first “stretch goal” threshold is at $15,000.00 where everyone who pledged enough to get a copy of the game will also get a copy of the Truck Stop “Inspansion”. What’s an “Inspansion” you ask? Well, it’s a game expansion that comes in every box of the game to add more challenges and variety to the game! We’ll be rolling out more details about the Trucks Stops soon but just know that its going to be sweet! There are also some more surprises in store for all of our backers as long as we keep trucking down the road!

Also, if you are still on the fence about backing the game or just want some more info, here are some of the latest links to content regarding The Great Heartland Hauling Co.:

Interview on Funding The Dream on Kickstarter Podcast with Richard Bliss. Richard is in his fourth season of covering the board games space and Kickstarter in short 20 minutes bursts of interviews with designers, publishers, and other industry folks. In my interview we talked about the process of moving from being an average joe to becoming a published game designer. Richard is a great guy so I highly recommend you check out his show!

Game Designer Interview with Bellwether Games. Bellwether Games is a small publisher that features various game designer interview on their blog. Make sure to take a look at what are up to which includes their award winning card game Drop Site.

A Geek-Craft Review of The Great Heartland Hauling Co. Ken Grazier played a copy of the Heartland Hauling prototype at the World BoardGaming Championship in Lancaster, PA and shares a glowing review on his blog!

A Cartrunk Entertainment Preview. John Moller shares his initial impression from World BoardGaming Championships as well.

Don’t forget the Kickstarter page! Keep your eyes on this page for more info regarding stretch goals and continued progress!

And, last but not least, here’s a link to my first link round up.

Thanks again for getting The Great Heartland Hauling Co. on the road!

LINK ROUND UP: THE GREAT HEARTLAND HAULING CO.

What a ride! We’re trucking toward 75% of our funding goal as I get this post ready. Thanks so much for your support so far.

In case this idea got lost in the social media mix, I wanted to make it clear that when you pledge at least $25.00 on Kickstarter you will get one of the first copies of The Great Heartland Hauling Co., hot off the production line and shipped to you anywhere in the U.S. or Canada (At $35 you get worldwide shipping!). So we’re not just asking to you to get our game going, you get something in return; a super fun, portable card game that plays with 2-4 players!

If that offer doesn’t whet your whistlein a major way, he are some of the latest links where you can learn more about the game and the process involved in putting the game together before you make your pledge:

Designer Diary on BoardGameGeek.com. This is a fairly in depth look at how I came up with Heartland Hauling and how the game made its was to Dice Hate Me Games for publication.

Futile Position Interview. I was interviewed by Michael for his site FutilePosition.com. We talked about the game and a little bit about my thoughts on game design in general.

The Green Couch. This is a link to my previous post that has even more link and info about the game, including my podcast appearance on The State of Games!

Here’s the video promoting the Kickstarter Campaign. I’m nervous that folks are missing my stellar acting but skimming past it on Kickstarter:

Heartland Hauling Video

Last but not least, here’s a link to the Kickstarter page where you can pledge your support, and get rewarded in games!!!

Thanks again for your support. There is much more to come if you are willing to hang with us. We’ve got reviews, and other exciting news coming down the pike!

WHAT TO DO IN THE IN-BETWEEN TIMES

This is a note I wrote to the people who are joining us in the church planting adventure that is Dwellings Church. Though this list fairly specific to those in our community, I thought there might be some helpful ideas here for others, too.

Here we are in the in-between times. I’ve heard from some of the Dwellings folks that they weren’t sure what to do in the time between when Lisa and I finished up at Wildwind and a month or so down the road when we begin meeting on Sundays for worship with Dwellings.

Here are some ideas to help with the transition, some of which our family will be doing, too:

1. Rest. Take a Sunday off and sleep in. God gave us the Sabbath to remember that we aren’t machines. Somebody said (maybe it was Rob Bell, or somebody like that), “We are human beings, not just human doings” See what I did there?

2. Visit another church to see how others experience the community of faith. We’ll be visiting some friend’s churches to share about Dwellings and see how others do it. We’d love to head back to TheStory.CA in Sarnia (the church Darryl helped start) and a church called Praxis way up north. Some of what they are doing really resonates with us so we’d like to connect with some kindred spirits. Maybe you can join us. We’ll keep you posted. Otherwise, visit your parent’s church, or a church in your neighborhood. We’re all family so go visiting and ask for open eyes to love and serve and listen for what God is up to.

3. Invite someone else you might not know that well who is a part of Dwellings over for breakfast on Sunday. This can be church, too. Just hang out and get to know the people of our community in a different way than a larger group setting. Remember, the church is a people, not just a service.

4. Do a service project with your family. Is there a need you can meet by spending a few hours together on a Sunday? Connect with the people and the needs around you by giving some of your time, talents, or resources.

5. Consider our Wednesday night gatherings as “church”. Show up. Be present. Worship in community as we learn to listen and dream the dreams God has for our church. Again, church is wherever God’s people are.

6. Go to Wildwind. It’s okay, we love these people. Spend some time with them. They are our family, too. We would, recommend however, to take some time doing something different to ease into our new rhythm of life. I imagine that Dwellings will feel very different on Sunday than being at Wildwind. The change might not feel so abrupt if you take some time away.

7. Spend your Sunday at a coffee shop or going around to garage sales. Notice that for many Sunday morning worship is irrelevant and dated. Listen to the lives of others and try to spot how God is working outside the walls of the church.

8. Seek God in nature. Go for a hike or a bike ride. Spend some time in quiet. Listen God’s still small voice…remember, he is still there even if, especially if, we aren’t busy!

9. Engage in worship on your own or with your family. Read the scriptures together. Write a poem about God’s love. Write a story about God activity in your life.  Do something creative. God is the Creator and we are ‘created in his image’….don’t be afraid. Don’t seek perfection, just do something out of your comfort zone to connect with God.

10. Come up with your own idea. I hope my ideas are just a little spark to get you thinking about being the church over the next month. Grace and peace is the key. No guilt. Just step into the stream of God’s love and see where it leads you. And then come share your stories! We can learn a lot from each other, that is the beauty of community.

I love you guys. I can’t wait to see who we become and how God will use us in Flint. Let’s be open to new adventures and encounters with God in places where we least expect it!

DWELLINGS CHURCH @ FLINT LOCAL 432, PART 2: WHAT IT MEANS

In my last post, I shared a bit about the arrangements that Dwellings Church has made with Flint Local 432 regarding the use of their space for our Sunday services. In that post I shared some ideas about what this relationship DOES NOT MEAN. I hope you’ll take a look since I believe it will help explain some of what we are trying to do as a church. Hopefully this post builds on that conversation.

The other night, I sat in my living room with a group of people who are joining us in this church planting adventure. Some of us have known each other for years and some folks were meeting for the first time. It was a night of conversation and collaboration, both things I value greatly and will continue to strive to build into the culture of our new church. Our discussion really helped me to see that this won’t be a difficult task. Ideas flowed freely while grace and peace characterized the words that were shared.

During our time together, we tried to identify some of the opportunities that are available to us as a direct result of holding our services at the Flint Local 432. Here’s what we came up with (in no particular order):

1. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 means that we will get to be present in Downtown Flint. Being present means locating ourselves in a specific community and being available to that community.

2. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 means that we will have the opportunity to defeat negative stereotypes that are often associated with Christianity. It is our hope that as we are present Downtown, we will be able to demonstrate the love of Jesus in a refreshing way. And let’s be honest, there aren’t a lot of churches that would choose to hold services in a punk rock club. These Dwellings folks must be at least a little different. 🙂

3. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 means that we will be involved in a place where God is already at work. Folks might not recognize how God is at work but we believe that God is at work wherever love and truth live. Love and truth live at the Local, and just about everywhere else, too. If we are willing to look for it, we’ll find it.

4. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 will give us opportunities to have new, exciting experiences of learning from others. Sometimes it can be easy for Christians to get stuck in our own little bubble. Locating ourselves in a public space will help us to connect with people in new ways.

5. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432  allow us to be renters which will keep our focus on building community. Buildings are cool because they give us a place to be. But owning property takes a lot of energy. We hope that by being renters we will be able to keep our energy focused on building relationships and serving others as our new church is being born.

6. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 allows us to gather in a comfortable space for those interested in exploring life-with-Jesus who might not be comfortable in a traditional church setting. People, myself included, have a lot of baggage that they associate with “church”. We hope that doing church in a different way, in a different kind of space, we’ll create opportunities to connect with folks who would otherwise avoid stepping into a church building.

So there it is. This list represents some of the opportunities we are being provided with by being welcomed into the Flint Local 432. We are grateful for the chance step up and grow into these ideas/opportunities. We also look forward to recognizing new opportunities as they are presented to us. Thanks for keeping up with our unfolding story.

DWELLINGS CHURCH @ FLINT LOCAL 432: WHAT IT DOES NOT MEAN

I made an exciting announcement on Facebook and Twitter last week about Dwellings, the church we’re planting, holding it’s services at Flint Local 432, an all ages music venue and art space that has existed in different forms in Downtown Flint for more than 25 years.While our first service doesn’t happen until September, I wanted to share a little bit about what this means for us as a church and also a little bit about what it DOES NOT mean.

Today, let’s talk about what it DOES NOT mean.

1. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not mean that Flint Local 432 endorses the worldview of Dwellings Church. Flint Local 432 is not a “Christian” venue. It’s a place that has always been host to a diverse body of people with varying worldviews and ideas.

2. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not mean that our church is only for the “young” and “hip”. If you are interested in checking out what we’re up to you are welcome no matter what year you were born or what kind of music your listen to.

3. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not represent all of who we are and what we do as a church. The church is a people. Wherever we gather, whether two friends meeting in a coffee shop or home, or serving together in the community, the church is represented by a rhythm of life together. Gathering on Sunday mornings is one of many different expressions of the church.

4. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not mean that we think we are “cooler” than other churches, it’s just the way we have decided to begin our journey. We hope that meeting in a non-traditional space for worship will allow us to have some refreshing dialogue about what it means to”be the church” and maybe remove some barriers that keep people away from exploring Christian spirituality.

5. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 does not mean that everyone will understand what we are trying to do. We hope to respond with grace and peace to those who have different ideas about what is good and bad; appropriate and inappropriate. We aren’t interested in winning arguments as much as we are interested in having conversations. By the way, we don’t have it all figured out and won’t claim otherwise. We expect to learn a lot along the way, hopefully from unexpected sources!

I’ll be back soon to share a little bit about what makes this opportunity so exciting for our church community. I hope this gives you an idea of the kind of church Dwellings hopes to become. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Post comments and questions below.

ART ASKS GOOD QUESTIONS

I went to see some bands play this past week at Flint Local 432, the local  all ages art space in my city. I had been looking forward to seeing a band from Atlanta called The Wild. I’d been listening to their record, Set Ourselves Free, for the last year or so. The record is good but it didn’t really sink in all that deeply. Seeing them live really took their music to the next level for me. The energy and emotion came through in a big way even though there were only 30 other people in the room.

One song in particualr struck me in a powerful way. Here’s a snippet of some lyrics to their song “The Saddest Thing I Ever Saw”:

       on the corner there once stood a church full of sound, you could hear songs escape at night. they’d sing praise be to him for what we have built… a home, a community, a life. but it broke. now stands a high-rise. I can’t take back what I’ve done. so we danced around the room to an old familiar tune, and I looked deep in your eyes, and I thought about the fact that we are lucky for what we have, but I wonder what’s the price.

For me, good art asks good questions. It leads to reflection, about self and the world around us. The Wild helped me to ask some good questions the other night.

As I stood bobbing my head to the music, I wondered about the ways that our choices shape our world.How do our shopping habits impact our sense of community? How does the shape of the spaces we inhabit influence our thinking about things like security and safety? How often do we abandon something good for something quick and easy? Summing up the question that The Wild asks in the song; what’s the cost of what we’ve got?

Good art doesn’t always have to give you the answers. Sometimes just getting the conversation going is enough. It allows us the opportunity to search out the answers for ourselves. I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m grateful for the encouragement to wrestle with them. I’m grateful for art that asks good questions.

How has art encouraged reflection about your life or community? 

LIFE LESSONS: JASON’S GREATEST HITS

As I’m preparing to begin the adventure that is becoming Dwellings Church, a new church community forming in Flint, Michigan, I am wrapping up my work at Wildwind Community Church. This month, I will be teaching the teens at Wildwind for the last time as their youth pastor.

My life with these kids has been so formative for me I wanted to make sure I could say thanks and leave them with a piece of me that will last. The best way I could think to do that was to present them with “Jason’s Greatest Hits”. I decided that for my last month of teaching I would revisit and present some of the biggest lessons I’ve come to learn on my own journey as a way to encourage them in theirs.

 

I thought I’d like to share those lessons here as well, just in a different way. Here are some brief thoughts that I’d to share with you:

1. You are more than what you do.

When meeting new people, the first thing I usually ask is “What do you do?” I think this is the case because our identities are wrapped up in our jobs, our interests, and our various affiliations…this is all stuff we “do”. Beyond the things  that we “do” we find that deep down, at our core, we are more than what we do. We are humans; loving, feeling, being. We are innately valuable with, and even without, all the stuff we usually define ourselves by. If my identity is wrapped up in my job and I fail, I will feel like a loser, or worthless. But if I know I am more than my mistakes and the things I do, I will see an opportunity to grow and learn. In knowing that we are loved by God for who we are, his beloved children, we find that our value isn’t reliant on what we do. Then, we’ll be free to do what we do from the knowledge that we are truly valuable and loved…no matter what.

Psalms 139:13-14 (NIV)
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

2. Things in this world will try to steal your attention from celebrating the things that really matter. Don’t miss the party!

There is a lot going on in our busy world. And we all have our issues. For some it could be jealousy; for others it may be pride. In general, whenever we are too focused on ourselves we miss opportunities to celebrate the good taking place all around us.  If we learn to look at the world in a different way we’ll be able to see that God’s goodness is everywhere. And maybe when we start to see it “out there” it will be easier to see it “in here”.

John 9:39 (MSG)
39 Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”

3. God is love. But we have our own ideas about what that kind of love looks like.

Out of all of Creation, God chose us as the focus of his love. In a world where statements like “I love Doritos” and “I love my family”  are built around the same key word, it can be easy to misunderstand the “love of God.”  I believe that God’s love is best represented in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. God’s son demonstrates his love through selflessness and sacrifice; presence and persistence. God’s love is a gift; something given, not forced. This gift of love when received calls for a response…my response is to reciprocate love in the best way I can. My truest self, yearns to know and love God, even despite my best efforts to get in my own way. This love is deep and lasting. I’m not always aware of it but I’m reminded often through the goodness surrounding me. I see this love in relationships; in the quiet spaces of life; in the beauty all around me.  I’m grateful to have begun the journey of recognizing this love that is deep and wide.

Ephesians 1:4 (MSG)
4 Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.

4. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. When you do, you might just find out something about who you are!

I’ve written about this elsewhere but it bears repeating. We have a lot to learn about ourselves from places we might not expect. As John Ortberg says “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.” There are adventures to be had! You can handle more than you know! But if you don’t take that first step into the unknown you’ll miss the chance to find out what’s out there for you. I’m learning to trust that I’ll be okay if I just take that first step “out of the boat”. I hope you can learn that, too.

Matthew 14:29 (NIV)
29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

 What lessons have you learned in your life that might help others?

ORIGINS 2012 HIGHLIGHTS

This past weekend I was able to get away to Columbus, Ohio to spend a few days at Origins Game Fair. Origins is one of the biggest tabletop gaming conventions in the United States featuring a slew of special events, a large exhibit hall, and a gigantic open gaming area.

I attended the convention, along with a handful of friends from Ann Arbor, on behalf of Cambridge Games Factory to demo and peddle their games in the exhibit hall. CGF had a slew of new releases available at the convention this year, including a few advanced copies of Glory To Rome: Black Box Edition, Montana, Pala, and my personal favoriteof the bunch Plato 3000, a rummy game where each meld gives players a special ability.

It’s always a blast demoing new games to people and getting to share a little love for my favorite hobby. Cambridge Games Factory has really turned a corner visually this year so it was neat to see people’s reactions to some of the new games and more specifically the art and design.

Aside from my time working the CGF booth here are a few more highlights:

Pirate Dice

On the first night we ran into some friends we met last year at Origins. One of these friends, Clint Herron, was rooming just across the hall from us in our hotel and getting things finalized to launch his Kickstarter campaign for Pirate Dice: Voyage on the Rolling Seas on Thursday morning. It was super excited to have a friend getting ready to take such a big step with one of his game designs. I was able to test the game last year and was stoked to hear that the game had since been picked up by Gryphon Games. The game is a neat race for treasure with, well…dice and pre-programmed movement that leads to a lot of chaos and fun. The Kickstarter for the game was fully funded before the close of Origins on Sunday! What a cool thing to watch unfolding for one of my new friends.

My First Math Trade

One of the cool things going on in the gaming scene for me has been trading. On Boardgamegeek.com you can post a trade list and a want list and let a program match them up so you can strike up deals for games from gamers all over the world. I have had some fun trading away nice thrift store games for other games on my wishlist. A cheap way, to feed the hobby hunger, to be sure. But what’s cooler than trading your games with someone?

Math Trade!

Someone way smarter than me developed a computer program to connect people’s trade lists and want lists to maximize trades between a larger group of people. You might not even give anything to the person who is giving you a game because you gave a game to someone else who gave a game to someone else who is giving another game to you. See, it’s math…I don’t get it either, it’s just cool. And cheap since we had a big meetup at Origins to avoid the shipping costs normally associated with trading games. I ended up trading away 10 games I didn’t really care for to get 12 or 14 new games to try.  Sounds sweet, eh? My wife is stoked that I spent less money at this convention than the others I’ve been to. Thank you math trade for keeping my family happy!

Gaming with New Friends

One of the best part of gaming conventions, for me, is getting to meet new people. I played some late night Werwolves with a big group of folks one night. We all went out to dinner together the next night where we all talked about relationships and the things about ourselves that annoy our significant others. It was nice, un-game related, and made me feel all fuzzy inside.

I also got to hang out for a bit in the Cartrunk Entertainment UNPUB area where folks were testing our unpublished and/or not-yet-published games. It was awesome feeling the energy surrounding all these new ideas. I even had the chance to sit down with the Dice Hate Me crew to show them one of my games. Cherilyn was flowing with creative ideas and Chris’ accent was contagious. I’ve been pretending to be from the South for days.

Wil Wheaton Got Knighted

They also occasionally have celebreties at these sorts of things. Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Bang Theory, and the Geek and Sundry Network’s new gaming show on youtube called Tabletop, was one the special guests. He’s a big gamer and fellow nerd so it was cool to see him roaming around the exhibit halls when he wasn’t signing autographs in the lobby.

When I stopped by the Mayfair Games booth to pick up a present for my daughter (I’m working on a complete set of Catanimals for her by purchasing one at each convention I attend), some of the Mayfair bigwigs pulled out a big wooden sword and dubbed Wil Wheaton a Knight of Catan. It was super nerdy…and awesome.

It was a great weekend getaway for me. It was filled with lots of fun games and friends, new and old. There is something special about connecting with real people around something you love. It doesn’t take long to find out that it’s the people, as much as the thing that brought you together in the first place, that makes anything really worthwhile. I am grateful for the opportunity and especially my wife for taking on the task of single motherhood for a few days to allow me to get away. Can’t wait to drag them along to Origins someday.

What do you love to do that brings you closer to people that you care about?

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