Monday, March 6, 2017

"Geek Church"... a joke? a dream? necessary for the future?

This blog comes deep from within my soul... that tortured part that is trying to find my way and God's will for my life.

Now, I am purposely writing this blog for my Geek friends; D&D, cosplay, convention attending, science fiction and fantasy loving friends.  I truly crave your thoughts and opinions, but please no "hate" comments, because I am truly seeking what can or even should be done.

First, I feel the need to establish my Geek Cred.  I have always been a stereotypical nerd.  I have been bullied because I was smart.  In elementary school I walked over a mile to catch the bus so that I wouldn't be pushed down and forced to eat dirt or worse yet worms.  I snuck down to my brother's room to watch Star Trek and Logan's Run, because my parents thought Science Fiction was too scary for a 5 to 6 year old girl.  I went to my first Star Trek convention when I was 14 and when I realized that people actually went in uniforms I had my mother help make costumes for my brother and me.  I have been cosplaying ever since!  (Well, unless you count being Princess Leah for Halloween in 77, 78, and 79... if so then I have been into cosplay since I was 10.)  I discovered D&D in Middle School back before it was even AD&D.  In High School I was BOTH a theatre and choir geek... Not to mention having a 4.0.  I met my husband in the college gaming club, which while I was an officer we officially changed our name to Vanderbilt University League of Gamers and Roleplayers... even though the yearbook refused to list us as V.U.L.G.A.R.  Through all this I still had a strong faith.  When I felt called into the ministry my mentor asked me two questions that should have tipped me off to some of the problems I would face in the church.  1. How will you respond when you encounter who believe that women shouldn't be ministers? 2. How will you respond to the people who think that D&D is the equivalent of Satan worship?  (To be clear, he didn't agree with either view, but he knew what I would soon learn.  The church is made up of sinful people just like the rest of the world, and it is most dangerous when it believes it is being "righteous.")

It has always bothered me that the people that I feel the most kinship with are for the most part absent from the church.  I have spent many long nights in college, over D&D tables, and waiting in line to see the latest Dr. Who or Arrow guests discussing why that is so.

I have discovered that most geeks fall into two categories.  The first I will call the "Sheldons".  Like Sheldon Cooper in the "Big Bang Theory" they were raised (or just encountered) churches that taught that you couldn't believe what science taught.  They believed that all Christians believed in Creationism and that the world was only a few thousand years old.  They were shocked when I said that isn't universally true.  The Presbyterian Church doctrine says that there is nothing in science that contradicts what we believe.  For instance the Bible itself says that God's time is not our time.  A thousand years is just a moment to God... So, creation could have easily taken Billions of years.  Also, not all Christians believe everything has to be taking literally.  My example:  God said, "Let there be light" sure sounds like a description of the big bang to me.  Hebrew culture, that wrote the Old Testament is filled with parables, analogy, and (gasp) even poetry.  There is a group of NASA scientist that write a Christian journal for the scientifically minded discussing new scientific discoveries and how they show God's Glory.  (They happen to be Presbyterian.)  Those weird off putting black robes that most Presbyterian ministers wear that creep out some church visitors have their origins in Masters' robes.  Education was so important to John Calvin, one of the Presbyterian Church's founding fathers, that you wore your graduation robe to prove you had a formal education.  Presbyterian ministers are still REQUIRED to have a Masters Degree... (and "yes" it is a real Masters Degree... You wouldn't believe the number of times people have asked if a Masters of Divinity is a real degree or just honorary...  Three of the most challenging years of my life including learning to read both Greek and Hebrew, argue, "yes" it is a REAL Masters Degree.)

The second category I will call the "wounded".  Just like in school, many of my Geek peers feel unwelcome in church.  Whether it is because they played D&D, believed what they learned in Science class, or because their sexual orientation didn't fit with what some well meaning, but misinformed church members in their past told them, or whether they were actually asked to leave because of who they were or what they believed, these friends have real reason to mistrust the church. I do my best to explain to them that it isn't God or Jesus who rejected them, but sinful, fallible, human beings.  The Bible teaches us that God so loved the world... not just the chosen few.  We are called to love our neighbors, and even more our enemies.  We are told NOT to judge.  No matter how much of God's healing, grace, and love I am able to show I have very little belief that I will ever get them to go through a church door.  It is clearly not just a problem of my friends... At Dragon Con there is one lonely "fans for Christ" table and more than 16 "Good without God" type groups represented.

From my experience most Geeks are good people.  They volunteer, they give to charity, they give gallons upon gallons of blood, they march for equality and serve their fellow human beings whenever they can.  They fight for justice. They are also spiritual.  They hunger for meaning and seek the truth.  All of these things are things that Jesus taught and God wants from us and it breaks my heart that we as the church have driven off or alienated these wonderful, beautiful, human souls.

So, a couple of years ago as Jon-Paul and I were admiring a "Geek Easy" (a grill and bar in the back of a comic shop) he only half jokingly suggested that I start a Geek Church (Geek Orthodox Church in his words... but the word orthodox has too much negative baggage for me.)  We could meet in the back of comic book shops and discuss faith in comics and movies and work together for good.  I rolled my eyes at the time, but it has been gnawing at me ever since.  I also keep running upon a relatively new Presbyterian phenomenon, the 1001 Worshiping Communities.  This is a program that is helping us re-imagine what it means to be faithful.  There is one group that is Cyclists for God.  They bike 10 or 20 miles then stop for a meal and worship.  Then, this past Saturday Katy gave an update on her "Missing Piece" worshiping community.  The people who were coming together in homes, coffee houses, and parks to "Worship through Cerebral, Spiritual, and Physical and service"  sounded like my Geek friends!  They were doing it!  They were reaching these people who felt a strong call to serve, but for one reason or another had turned away from the church.  Katy was actually excited when I mentioned my silly dream of reaching out to my fellow Geeks, and her thoughts were seconded by two other Geeks who happened to come to speak to Katy about similar things.  Katy suggested that I start to talk to people about my dream and write about it.

So, Katy this is probably my longest blog to date.

My question to all of you is, "Is this just my silly dream?  Am I being called to reach out to the intellectual, comic book reading, roleplaying, cosplaying community?  Would there be any interest to meet over drinks(Yes, Jesus drank wine and probably danced as well), before or after super hero movies, or even around a gaming table to discuss faith, being faithful, and what is the meaning of life?  (I know... 42)  But most importantly, does the church itself need the re-imagining that the Geek culture could bring to it?

Faithfully yours,

Karen
Blogger, Preacher, Cosplayer, AD&D Roleplayer, sci-fi/fantasy amateur author, and humble seeker of truth


Monday, January 23, 2017

An Open Letter to God

Gracious Lord,
I am heart sick. I am falling into despair. I ask for your intervention. Our nation and our world are in trouble. The world, the media, and the politicians are telling us that it is OK to hate your neighbor if they disagree with you. They are telling us that if someone has a different opinion that they are the enemy. They tell us that anyone or anything that is different from what you believe needs to be stamped out and destroyed. God help us, so many good people are beginning to believe this. This is not what you teach!

Lord, we need You to help us, because we clearly cannot discount the voices of the world on our own. Fill our hearts with love for our neighbors. Remind us that every single person is your beloved child and deserves, love, compassion, respect, and grace. When we start to listen to the world saying "they are your enemies", remind us that you said, "Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you."

Fill us so full of your love, compassion, forgiveness, and grace that we can't help but to treat each other with love and respect. Let us see through Your eyes, so that we see each person (even those we disagree with) as precious, valuable, children of God.

Lord, help us to remember that we are not supposed to judge. That is your job. There is so much judging and so little justice. Take away our need to judge, criticize, and grumble. Replace it with the desire to reach across the divide of politics, gender, race, and all other forms of prejudice and discrimination.

And Lord, I know that it is a lot to ask, but touch the hearts of our elected leaders. Fill them with the grace, compassion, and spirit of compromise. Help them to put the good of the people and the good of our nation above their own political agendas and self centered plans.

Lord, I know that I am not exempt. I get angry. I want to spew hate right back. Stop my tongue (and my fingers) when I want to give in to the hatred that the world says is normal. Lord intervene! Please, Lord, break our hearts of stone. Fill us with your Spirit of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Amen.

Monday, August 22, 2016

An Open Letter to All Politicians

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our election season is barely underway and I am already being bombarded with hate, slander, and mudslinging on TV, the radio, and online.  It makes me sad for our nation.  How can we stand together when we are told that one half of the nation is supposed to hate the other half?

I have one wish and prayer for every election season.  I would like every candidate to focus on what they would like to do.  We don't want to know what you think of your opponent.  We don't want to know how corrupt, inept, or downright evil that you think they are.  When all the campaigning is negative we have to choose the lesser of evil.

It would be so much more helpful to hear your hopes, and dreams, and goals.  What would you like to do if you are elected?  What do you believe?  What do you stand for?  What are your priorities?  How do you plan to work WITH others to get things done?

It would also be helpful if you knew what powers of your office entails.  World Peace is a wonderful beauty pageant answer, but it is not in every politician's job description.  If you promise things that your position doesn't allow you to do, then the voters feel let down, even when it isn't your fault.

Finally, could you try to see your opponent as a human being?  Assume that even though they disagree on ideologies and methods, that they might want what is best for us, just as much as you do.  If you tell us what you would do and your opponent does the same, then we can make an educated choice on who we feel is best for the position.

I pray that some day I might not dread election season.  I dream that candidates will be civil and honest.  I dream that the parties learn to work together again and stop villainizing each other.  I believe that our communities, states, and nation are still a wonderful place to live.  I know you do too.  So, I ask you do do your part to make it a positive and productive election.

Thank You,

Karen Estes
(Voter)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub,

OK, just to give credit where credit is due...  My title is a quote from "Hamlet."

I have discovered a weird phenomenon on-line lately...  There are so many celebrity death hoaxes that when someone really dies, people don't believe you.  It is an Internet boy who cried wolf syndrome.

I personally have never thought the death hoax stories were funny.  I was sad briefly thinking the world had lost another piece of my childhood until people started calling me stupid and laughing at me...  Then, I got mad.  Never did I find them amusing.  OK, maybe the "Betty White Dyes" article was a little funny, because the spelling alone should have told me something was up.

Today, Patrick MacNee passed away.  He played John Steed in the "Avengers" TV show in the 60s.  JP and I did a cosplay of Steed and Peele a couple of years ago.  So I was saddened to hear of his passing.  But burn me once, shame on you.  Burn me twice, shame on me.  So when I first read it, I went to research it first to make sure it was true.  The BBC, the Telegraph, and his own personal web site all confirmed that he died this morning.  I noted this on the post as I shared it...  Still, more than one person posted a link to an article saying it was a hoax...  So, I checked again.  The Associated Press, ABC, CNN, and the entertainment magazine Variety are all now confirming it.  Still, people are linking back to an online magazine I have never heard of and saying that all of these news sources must not have checked their sources, because so and so assures us that he is alive and well.

Personally, I think I will trust the dozen or so legitimate news sources that are required to do their research rather than a random person on the web.  (Yes, I know I am also a random person on the web, so feel free to believe me or not.  But at least I try to check my facts.)

So, what I am wondering is why is there suddenly such an obsession with celebrity death hoaxes?  When someone really has passed on, why tarnish their memory by posting a hoax that it is a hoax?

Maybe it is the fact that much of our culture fears death and wants to avoid it at all costs.  As a Christian, I don't fear death.  I do not necessarily want it to come soon, but I am not afraid to go when it is my time.  I know that Jesus promised that he went to make a place for us.

At funerals I tell people that it is OK to be sad.  A person you love is no longer there and you will miss them, but do not be sad for them.  They are safe in the arms of the Lord.  They have earned their heavenly reward.  They are in the presence of their Lord for all eternity.  It is a good thing!  They are happy and at peace.  I believe that I will see them again when I join them in glory.  That is the Good News of the Gospel.

So maybe we need to be less obsessed with death while we live.  We should live like we know where we are going and spread grace, love, and peace rather than hurtful rumors.

Peace!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Messed Up Priorities

I have spent the past several days ignoring the thousands of posts about Bruce Jenner's sex change.  I am not going into whether it was right or wrong, but seriously folks...

It seems that every conservative Christian publication or broadcast is now focusing all of their time and energy on preaching against Bruce Jenner's "sexual deviancy."

First off, people are calling him horrible ugly names.  If you think he has committed a horrible sin what do you think Jesus would do?  Would Jesus call him names and be all hateful?  Jesus loves sinners.  Jesus loves us enough to die for us!  For those who are quoting their Bible all over the place, "You who are without sin, cast the first stone."  Stones are being thrown all over the internet!

More than that, is one man wanting to become a woman really the worst evil going on in the world right now?  Really?

What about everyone who is being murdered by ISIS?  What about the Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and Africa?  What about the innocent children being sold into sex slavery all around the world?

Then again, if you would rather focus on the positive things we should be doing as Christians rather than the negative things that need to be preached against...  How many natural disasters have occurred over the past couple of months?  There are people who have lost their homes or even their lives in the floods in TX.  That is just here at home.  Where could we be using the internet to get people to do positive things to help those in need?  Where could we be bringing attention to "the least of these?"

Over the past couple of days I have actually been embarrassed on behalf of Jesus and God's church.  All I saw was ugly, mean spirited, name calling, and rock throwing.  That is not what we are about as disciples of Jesus Christ!

As Ron Weasley said in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", "[We] really need to sort out [our] priorities."

May Christ's Peace be with you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When It Is Hard to Pray

I had a really bad morning.  Actually, it started last week....  Our account one one of the ones affected by the Home Depot hack, so we were already having to deal with that.  This morning I discovered that our bank account was hacked Friday.  It is not that we are careless.  My husband has an app monitoring all of our financial accounts that is supposed to alert him to every large transaction and anything irregular.  We use extremely long, complicated passwords like we are supposed to.  We do everything right to keep ourselves protected.  Still, we wind up victimized.  I hate feeling like a victim.

After a long detailed phone call with the bank, we have begun the process to get the problem fixed.  I should say a prayer of thanksgiving that I caught it so fast, and that the bank says that everything will get straightened out and our account will be fine.  I should thank God that I had the presence of mind to stay calm and do what needed to be done.  Or at the very least I could have prayed a prayer of lament asking why do things like this happen.

But I didn't want to.  The odd thing was that I was aware that I didn't want to talk to God right now.  I am not sure if I was mad because God let this happen to us, or embarrassed that we had been victimized, or if I was just wanting to feel sorry for myself for a while.

I actually picked up my prayer journal at the time I would normally pray and said, "no" and put it back down.  I just didn't want to talk to God, like a rebellious child who doesn't want their parent butting in.

So what do you do when you just don't feel like praying?  What do you do when you are feeling angry with God and the world, or guilty over something you have done or left undone, or are just feeling distant?  Prayer isn't a punishment.  Prayer is a lifeline to grace, love, acceptance, strength, and forgiveness.

It is when you are feeling the most disconnected (or dare I say ornery) that it is the most important to keep the line to God open.  God is always there and listening, even when you wish God wasn't.  God knows what happened.  God knows how you are feeling.  You can't hide anything from God by not praying.  All you are doing is isolating yourself (or myself as the case may be.)

So, I forced myself to pick up the journal and picked out an obnoxiously cheery colored pen.  It started out slow at first, and a but grumpy.  "You already know all this.  I don't know why I have to tell you..."  But as I wrote my prayer all of the pain and frustration began to pour out.  I railed about how unfair life is.  I cried about why stupid things like this happen to good people.  I complained about how I hated to feel like a victim.

I started to feel better.  I was finally able to see the light in the situation.  I did catch it early.  The bank assures me that they will straighten it out.  We will get our money back.  I was able to thank God for standing beside me even when I didn't really notice or even want God there.

Experts all say that it is really bad for you to bottle up and hold onto bad emotions like anger, guilt, and hate.  They eat you up inside.  Have you ever felt like you didn't want to talk to God... that you would rather God left you alone?  Maybe you have something bottled up inside that needs to come out.

You can be mad and yell at God.  God is big enough to take it.  You can admit your failures and mistakes to God.  God already knows about them and understands.  You can scream and complain about injustice and the unfairness of our world.  Believe me, God empathizes.  There is nothing you can't say to God.  Look at the Psalms there is some major grumbling going on, or better yet the book of Job.  Job lost everything and told God all about it, and God heard and responded.

Believe it or not, once you have finally prayed about it you may feel better.  It is like sharing your burden with a trusted friend.  You may even find grace, and hope, and peace for your situation.  So, pray continually, especially when you DON'T want to.

Grace and Peace!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's Not the Zombie Apocalypse

Silly me, I subscribe to the local Oviedo page on Facebook.  Tonight it is all lit up with people in full panic because the news said that there has been one case of Ebola found in the US...  In Dallas...

OK, first off, I am glad that I am in Florida...

But Chicken Little, do not assume that the sky is falling.  Everyone is assuming that the  disease is going to spread like wild fire and bring about the Zombie Apocalypse with only a few surviving humans who will need to band together to kill all the infected???

First off: Listen to the facts in the report.

Ebola, also known as Hemorrhagic Fever has been around for a long time.  Our troops had to deal with it in the Korean War and it didn't wipe out the US.

One person who contracted the virus in Africa came to visit his family here in Dallas...  He was determined to NOT be contagious while he traveled. The CDC have isolated him and are watching EVERYONE he came in contact with for 21 days... way longer than the incubation period...

According to the CDC there is NO risk to the general populace.

So, either you believe in conspiracy theories that the government is lying to us and... (Insert whatever end of the world Sci-Fi movie scenario you like) OR you take a deep breath and realize that it is beyond your control.

There were plagues in the time of the Bible, in the Middle Ages, and believe it or not still today.  We have been blessed to live in a country with a very high level of health care.  We have not had to deal with rampant disease.  We probably won't because, as I just said, we live in a country with a very high level of health care...

In any case what will worrying (or freaking out and preparing your Zombie Apocalypse Kit) get you?  There is nothing that we as average citizens can do about it unless you work in health care or something.  So, wash your hands.  Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and pray for serenity or at least sanity.

God has watched over humanity since the beginning of time. God has loved us through good times and bad.  God has stood with us in times of sickness and health.  If this earthly existence was it, that is a rather sad thing.  I believe that there is a world beyond this one where there will be no sickness or death and God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

So let's all take a deep breath and be sensible.  Do what little you can to bring hope, cheer, and joy to those you meet and leave the panic and rumor mongering to those who have no hope.

Blessings and peace!