"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering." (Romans 12:1, MSG)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Word of Prayer - Spiritual Formation

So beautifully simple...
Lord, teach us that spiritual formation takes time and discipline just as a seed must be watered, nurtured, and pruned as it grows. Deepen our roots in spiritual growth even as we are extended in our passion for peace and justice. Amen.

Excerpt from: Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove & Enuma Okoro. “Common Prayer.” Zondervan, 2010. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Word for the Everyday - Video Games

Dennis Frohlich is a guest author on "Everyday, ordinary worship" and will be hosting a program called “The Cultural Impact of Video Games” for parents on Wednesday, November 6th, at Trinity United Methodist Church. During this program, he’ll explain what the research says about the harmful effects of video games, explain how the video game ratings system works, and offer suggestions for how parents can stay informed about the games their kids are playing.

Can God be glorified by playing video games?

Before I attempt to answer this question, a little introduction is in order. My name is Dennis Frohlich, and I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida studying mass communication. Recently I talked with the Trinity United Methodist pastoral team about doing an educational program for parents about video games. Pastor Aaron asked me to write a short reflection about glorifying God through video games. This is a topic I think about a lot, so I appreciate the opportunity to do this.

Video games have been a huge part of my life ever since I was five or six. I’ve been playing for over 20 years and have spent countless hours mastering so many games I can’t keep track of them all.

A few years ago, I was trying to explain to my friend, a fellow Christian, why I enjoyed video games and how I thought they were beneficial to my faith. He dismissed my explanation and thought I was just trying to justify mindless entertainment. Maybe so. After studying mass communication in school for the past decade, it’s natural that I reflect a lot on my media consumption. As a Christian, I am constantly endeavoring (often unsuccessfully) to point my life to God.

I played video games for about 10 years before I found Christ. At first, my Christian faith didn’t have much effect on the kinds of games I played or the way I played games. But slowly, God has been molding me after His image, so I think it’s possible that at least some of the games I play are glorifying to God. If He were beside me on the couch, I think He might even like playing video games with me.

Glorifying God through activities

As a young Christian, I often got mixed up trying to get answers to very specific questions: whether it’s right or wrong to play video games was one such question. After all, the Bible says nothing about video games. When approaching topics like this, wiser Christians than me have always encouraged me to seek out the foundational principles that order the entirety of our lives.

I’ve been taught then, and I think this is true, that activities and behaviors in and of themselves are neither good nor evil—excluding, of course, those things the Bible explicitly lists as sins. Christians are allowed to partake in secular activities, then, as long as they don’t cause us to stumble or we don’t cause others to stumble through those activities (Paul discusses this fully in 1 Corinthians 8, the chapter about food sacrificed to idols).

All secular activities, then, present us with an opportunity to glorify God or to turn away from God. People can glorify God through music, for instance, but they can also rebel against God through music. As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve learned that many activities can be glorifying to God, even if I don’t understand how.

Take sports, for instance. Growing up, I was never interested in sports, especially team sports. I didn’t understand the appeal of playing them or watching them, and I even thought they were a waste of time. I definitely fit the stereotype of a gamer that’d rather spend hours playing video games than sports. I can’t think of a single athlete that I look up to or admire, though I can think of several game designers, like Shigeru Miyamoto.

Over time, I’ve slowly gained an appreciation for sports as a godly activity, mostly through talking with Christian athletes. Many of my friends have told me how playing sports radically changed their lives. These athletes speak of the many virtues they learned on and off the field, such as the importance of practice, dedication, perseverance, teamwork, cooperation, leadership, and developing a sound mind and body. Christian athletes speak of glorifying God by giving the best performance they can, by trying their hardest to succeed and trusting God with the results.

I take them at their word. Sports can be glorifying to God, but they aren’t inherently so. They can be turned into an idol just like anything else.

In the same way, playing video games can teach people valuable lessons, lessons that God can use in many different ways.
My giant watering can, part of my Minecraft world.

What God has taught me through video games

When I think of glorifying God, I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV). This isn’t to say every time I’ve played video games I’ve glorified God: that one time I killed over 2,000 soldiers in the Facility level of GoldenEye 007 was probably a bit excessive.

Here’s just a sampling of the lessons I’ve been taught through games: 

  • Super Mario Bros. for the NES taught me the importance of practice and patience. This was the first game we owned, and I cut my teeth on this game.
  • The Legend of Zelda series taught me about exploration and gave me a sense of wonder about the world. I learned that discovering the world’s secrets was a joy in itself. 
  • Tetris taught me the importance of staying organized under pressure. 
  • The Final Fantasy series has shown me the realities of war and oppression. The characters in these games taught me that through determination, teamwork, and patience, evil can be overcome in the world. 
  • SimCity taught me how to manage a large-scale operation, an entire city, and how to respond to crises when they arise. 
  • Warcraft II and StarCraft taught me how to manage my resources, both time and treasure, lessons I continue to apply as I schedule my week and budget my money. 
  • Pokemon taught me the importance of sharing. 
  • Donkey Kong Country, Yoshi’s Island, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and many other games showed me how visuals, audio, and gameplay can create works of art. These games have evoked emotions in me and moved me in ways most other art cannot. 
  • Minecraft has fostered a deep sense of creativity in me, and provides me the tools to shape and reshape an electronic world, instilling in me just a bit of joy that God must feel when He creates the universe. 
  • Many games—like Contra, Interstate ‘76, Top Gear Rally, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Mario Kart 64, and Super Smash Bros. Melee—have deepened relationships with my brother, cousins and close friends.

I could go on and on. Some games were with me during certain points of my life and were crucial to my development. These games—like WWF Attitude, Paperboy 2, and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire—aren’t always fun in retrospect, and some I haven’t played in years.

Other games stick with me for a long time and continue to influence the person I am today. For example, something resonates with me about the Triforce in the Legend of Zelda series, which is composed of Wisdom, Power, and Courage. While the game isn’t Christian by any stretch (the world of Hyrule was created by three ancient goddesses), I think Christian truths are embodied in the character Link, who possesses the Triforce of Courage and willingly accepts his calling to fight the evil Ganondorf, even though the mission is incredibly challenging and offers him no rewards.

If you have any stories to share about how video games have benefited you, or ways you think video games can glorify God, please reply to this post and share with others!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Introducing - A Word for the Everyday

As I wrote several weeks ago, I've been dreaming of ways that I might be able to use my blog as a tool for ministry. More specifically, I've been pondering its use in the area of spiritual formation and discipleship. I've already introduced three categories for the blog I hope to feature regularly:
  1. Foto Friday - This category is purely personal and is more for my own benefit and spiritual formation, but I plan to use it regularly as a means for holding myself accountable to Sabbath and using photography as a Sabbath activity for seeking God through the lens of my camera.
  2. A Word of Prayer - This category was introduced here.  Some blog entries might come from reading  and studying books on prayer as a means of engaging in practical conversation about the discipline of prayer. Other blog entries might simply be prayers that I encounter, so that we can read and pray together. 
  3. A Word from Wesley - This category was introduced here. Through his sermons, journals, and letters, John Wesley had a lot to say to Christians and the Church of his day...much of which we Christians in the post-modern Church need to hear afresh today.
The fourth, and final category for now, is "A Word for the Everyday." Some time ago, I wrote a blog called "The other six days..." which I used to help explain my initial inspiration for this blog and for naming it "Everyday, ordinary worship." As followers of Jesus, we are all ministers of the gospel and are each called to embrace our very own "holy ministries." To put it another way, we are all called to become who God made us to be with our everyday, ordinary lives. 

Something I plan to use as I write posts for "A Word for the Everyday," is a unique book titled The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity (An A-to-Z Guide To Following Christ In Every Aspect of Life), edited by Robert Banks and R. Paul Stevens. This volume is everything its title claims to be and is more comprehensive than you might imagine. 

If we truly are Christians committed to making a difference in the world, than I hope you will agree "that our religious convictions and values should be reflected in all that we do - the way we eat and drink, work and play, worship and vote, the quality of our parenting and friendships, our involvement with our neighbors and colleagues, our engagement with popular or high culture" and so on. (p. vii, The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity).

So, there you have it. I hope you are looking forward to following the blog and engaging the content by entering into conversation with me about what it means to be an "everyday, ordinary worshiper." Please subscribe to the blog by following via e-mail and, if you read something of interest to you, I would appreciate you helping me get the word out by sharing it via social media. Thank you, friends, and may grace and peace be always with you in your everyday, ordinary lives.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Foto Friday - Morning prayer walk at Trinity

I dropped my daughter off at school this morning and took advantage of the cool morning air and soft light of the new day sun to prayer walk the campus at Trinity and see what I could capture through the lens of my camera. Here are a few of the more than 200 pictures I took during my two and a half hour walk. Regardless of what you think of the quality of my photography (I'm still learning), it was time well spent. Shabbat shalom, my friends.

I saw the mist over the ground from the parking lot and decided to start at the athletic fields.
On the altar in our chapel.
I was walking near our pumpkin patch, looking at the light come through the trees, and noticed this web.
I flipped this image upside down. The top half is actually the reflection of the back wall of our worship center in the pond.
This is "the" tree located near the entrance of our worship center.

From the altar in our worship center.
This squirrel and I danced quite a while. I finally caught him looking straight at me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Word from Wesley - Catholic Spirit

Back in August (has it been that long?), I introduced one idea for a regular feature on this blog, "A Word of Prayer." Today, I would like to introduce you to a second - "A Word from Wesley." Through his sermons, journals, and letters, John Wesley had a lot to say to Christians and the Church of his day...much of which we Christians in the post-modern Church need to hear afresh today.

Through my study of John Wesley and his sermons, I have really come to love Sermon 39: Catholic Spirit. In fact, it is my favorite (as evidenced by the fact that I've already made reference to it here). In it, Wesley is not talking about the Roman Catholic Church, of course, but the desirable quality of universal love. The Scripture Wesley used for this sermon comes from 2 Kings 10:15 where we read of an exchange between Jehu, King of Israel, and Jehonadab, son of Rechab.

Jehu asked, “Is your heart right, as my heart is toward your heart?” 

Jehonadab answered, “It is.” 

Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.”

There is a lot more to the Old Testament story from which this verse comes, but it is this simple exchange between these two men, and the image evoked by it, that Wesley found so endearing. 

Wesley first preached this sermon in 1750, preaching out of hope that in spite of the diversity of the evangelical revival going on around him, that it could be unified for a single, purposed renewal of the church. Still, differences are never easily reconciled. We see evidence of that every day. Even so, Wesley never wavered in his beliefs for the sake of unity. But what he always did, setting differences aside, was unconditionally extend his hand in friendship. 

Wesley believed, as do I, that interfaith and ecumenical relations are a worthy pursuit. However, pursuing such relations does not mean we should compromise our beliefs. 
“If it be, give me thine hand.” I do not mean, “Be of my opinion.” You need not. I do not expect it nor desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot. It does not depend on my choice. I can no more think than I can see or hear as I will. Keep you your opinion, I mine; and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavor to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other. Only “give me thine hand.”
I am convinced that Jesus so fervently prayed in the garden at Gethsemane that we, the people of God, would be one as He is one with God the Father because He knew unity would be our greatest challenge. You don’t have to watch the news, read the paper, or even peruse Facebook for very long before all that divides us overshadows all that should unite us. 
"Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt we may.”
Are there relationships in your life that are in need of a Catholic Spirit? If so, extend them your hand.