Thursday, April 14, 2016

That One Time Jesus and I Went to a Gaming Convention

My PAX East 2015 team at our booth. Pretty much the coolest kids on the block.
Last year I had an opportunity to blend everything I'm most passionate about into one amazing weekend with a group called GameChurch. What is GameChurch, you ask? Good question! That's why I'm writing this post.

Put simply: GameChurch is a unique missions organization made up of Gamers who love Jesus who want to share Jesus with other Gamers. If you're a Christian I'm sure you're familiar with a half dozen missions organizations focused on outreach to unreached people groups, translating the Gospel into the language and culture of people who have never heard it. That's what GameChurch is doing, except they recognize the Gaming community for the uncreached people group it is and are working to bring God's love straight into the heart of Gamer culture. Want to hear more specifics? Let me tell you more.

Gamertag: 1337Savior360NoScope

Every year dozens of gaming conventions take place across the world drawing hundreds of thousands of attendees to come see all the coolest new stuff happening in the world of video games and tabletop games. Game makers rent out boots at the convention to advertise the exciting thing they have to share with the world. That's what GameChurch does. GameChurch gets a booth alongside your favorite video games (last year we were across from the stellar This War of Mine) and advertises the exciting news: Jesus Loves Gamers.

GameChurch hands out stickers, lanyards, and little books called Jesus For the Win! which Christians would recognize as the unabridged Gospel of John with several stories from Gamers who have found Christ and other bits relevant to any Gamers looking to learn more about a relationship with God. At the booth GameChurch hands out all these things and as each convention attendee gets their book a GameChurch missionary looks them in the eye and says the all important words: "Jesus Loves You."


When I first heard that I thought it sounded kind of stupid. Saying "Jesus Loves You" to a stranger? Why would they care? Wouldn't that be weird? I completed underestimated the impact those 3 simple words could have. Some people just sat there kind of stunned. Some people thanked me. One girl cried. Sometimes I forget how many people feel unloved and forgotten and just how important a reminder of the fact that they are loved can mean the world to them.

To me the coolest thing about GameChurch is that it really is missions in it's purest sense. We are going to where the Gamers are, sitting in the heart of their culture, and sharing God's love and the reason it works is because the missionaries are gamers too.

My favorite experience at PAX East last year was at a Magic: The Gathering tournament. I am absolutely obsessed with the world's original card game and when I realized I had a chance to play in a sealed tournament after I was done at the booth I jumped at the opportunity. In the second round of the tournament I lost rather quickly, but I had a friendly opponent and we had chatted the whole time. Since our match was done but we still had about half an hour left in the round we continued to hang out at our table were two other matches were still taking place. As we were chatting he noticed my exhibitor badge and "Jesus Loves Gamers" lanyard and asked what I was doing at PAX. This gave me the opportunity to tell him, and the four other guys at the table, that we had come to PAX East to tell gamers that Jesus loves them. I looked him in the eye and said "Jesus Loves You."

Me in action! Look at me go!

My experience with GameChurch also led to me being able to share about gaming and faith both in a devotional at United, a regional gathering of Salvation Army youth, and do a session at Youth Councils, a larger SA youth event, which I am doing again this year.

By the way, have I mentioned yet that I'm going to PAX East with GameChurch again next week! Absurd, right? Also, it is a mission trip so I am fundraising. So far I've managed to get $820 of the $1000 I needed. I'm only $180 short of being fully funded for this amazing experience. If this year is anything like last year I know that this $180 goal will be met just in time by people just like you! If you're reading this and thought this sounded like an amazing ministry, opportunity for me, and just all around cool thing please consider throwing a bit of money my way to help me finish strong with my fundraising. My fundraising link is here: http://gamechurch.com/campaigns/clark-paxeast-2016/

Thank you for reading this post. I haven't been blogging much lately, but this is a post I've been needing to write for a while. If you have any questions about my experience or want to know more about GameChurch feel free to comment or shoot me a message. Until next time, Jesus Loves You!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Where You Been, Bro?

Well, I didn't blog at all last week. Not here. Not on the Meadery. No writing whatsoever. Life happens sometimes.

So I guess it's time for some life updates, right? Let's start with my dear passion: gaming. When last I wrote I was I the midst of preparing for 2 competitive Magic: the Gathering tournaments. I bet you've been waiting excitedly to hear all about that, you random person who both reads my blog and cares about Magic. Remember my New Year's resolution to Top 8 a competitive Magic event? That's what this is all about.

Last Wednesday night was the first of the two GPTs I was planning to attend. I went to The Complex out in Scarborough, a new gaming store for me, and felt fairly confident. 12 people showed up for the event which meant that though we would play 5 rounds there would be a cut to the top 4, not the top 8. I dominated in the first two rounds, securing relatively easy victories. Once I hit the third round I got paired against the strategy I knew going in was the biggest struggle for me (Jeskai Black for those in the know). My opponent was a friend of mine and I knew that winning wouldn't come easy. It turned out winning didn't come at all. I picked up another loss in the 4th round against another friend. At this point it was about 10pm and I was feeling pretty. Several of the less successful players had left already and I considered leaving too. But then I realized if I won my next match, and the correct people lost their matches, I would be in 4th and make the cut to Top 4. I played it out. I won. I got 5th place, just shy of the final cut. I was still proud to have done that well, but bummed to have not met my goal. While I was technically within the top 8 players, my New Year's Resolution is to survive the cut to the top. I just barely fell short.

This past Saturday I had another chance. Another GPT was scheduled. I was excited to finally meet my goal. Almost no one showed up and the event was cancelled. Boo, so much for goals.

What non-gaming news is there, you ask? Well, not much. Work is still stressful. Still shorthanded due to multiple people being out for surgeries, which makes those who are left bitter and fight-y. I have some other stuff stressing me out too, but I'd rather not blog about it. To be honest I'm just feeling exceptionally stressed and a little upset right now, but I wanted to write anyway.

So, that's where things stand. Once again I'm writing a "Tuesday" post on a Wednesday night in bed. If you enjoy these posts, keep reading. If you hate them, yell at me about it and destroy my remaining self-esteem. If you're ambivalent, well, we're like-minded. Let's be friends. Good night.

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Handle Stress Like an Adult

On Wednesday I blogged about how stressed I've been this week. A lot has been going on and I've been feeling kind overwhelmed. So, aside from writing fussy blog posts, how does one deal with an extra large load of stress? Well, for me, dumplings help.

On Thursday Jenny and I realized that our collective marital stress level had reached a critical mass and needed attending to. For a long time now I've been wanting to go to Bao Bao, a hip little dumpling place here in Portland. Jenny decided we needed a date and that would be the place. I agreed.

The food was really good. As we laughed at dumplings slipping off our chopsticks and drank calming herbal tea we managed to take time to really talk. With all this stress it's hard to find real time for each other, so making this time was important.

I'm really bad at being in touch with my emotions. I'll feel emotions like anger, stress, and sadness but have trouble nailing down what I'm actually feeling stressed/angry/sad about. I've found that a helpful tool for me is to make a list. So as we sat together I made a list of all the things leading to me feeling overwhelmed and overstressed. 28 items in 5 categories ranging from health to work to finances (always freaking finances.) It was immensely helpful to get it all down. Once I could identify the issues I could begin trying to think how to deal with them.

After our wonderful lunch Jenny and I went back to work. Things have become arguably more stressful, but it was really helpful to take that time for ourselves and focus on one another all the same.

So that's my post for the day. Confession, both today's post and Wednesday's post were written in bed on my phone right before going to sleep. With all that's been going on it's been hard to take time to sit down at a keyboard and craft an actual post. I'm hoping next week will see a decrease in stress and increase in personal creativity. Who knows what will happen? That's right, future you knows because you read my blog. Good job future you, and good night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Being an Adult is Stressful

This week has been exceptionally stressful. In Friday's post I mentioned how my plans had been messed, but I didn't talk about my wife's day. Jenny had planned to go out to Portland's First Friday Art Walk with a friend. It was supposed to be a leisurely day and a much needed break. Then Friday afternoon Jenny was called to an emergency meeting that didn't allow her to get home until almost 9pm.

Due to confidentiality I can't go into any further detail than to say it was a very serious and high stress emergency. Also, it didn't go all that well, setting up this week to be all about dealing with the fallout. So, that's where things stand right now. Soul-crushing stress.

My work life isn't nearly as stressful as Jenny's. Sunday was average and fine. On Monday there was more severe snow so my usual programs were cancelled. I am feeling some personal work-related stress, but not for reasons I care to elaborate on.

On Sunday Jenny and I went to a friend's house for a Magic cube draft. If you don't know what that is then feel free to read my post about it on the Meadery. We had a really fun time socializing and playing Magic. It's nice to have friends.

Speaking of my post on the Meadery, that's my weekend blog post. I put a lot of care and effort into my writing about Magic because it's something I'm passionate about, so I'm going to start counting those for my regular writing schedule.

Speaking of my writing schedule...yeah, about that. I'm going to say that my "official" schedule is still Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays but let's keep in mind that, like last week, I may always be a day late.

Because I'm an adult. And life is stressful.

Check back for more posts. If I have more cool Magic shenanigans my weekend post will be on the Meadery again. Now have a good night, and don't get stressed. It's bad for your health.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Name's Mr. Fancy Pants, But You Can Call Me Pants

I am a youth pastor. My work outfit is pretty uniformly a t-shirt and jeans that I don't mind a kid puking on. If I'm feeling especially casual I might even wear shorts. When I want to look my most professional I wear a polo shirt with a Salvation Army shield on it. My wife runs a program that fights human trafficking. She meets with police and politicians and all sorts of big wigs. Thursday night she was invited to a dinner at a local college, and that means it's time to get fancy. Since I was attending the dinner as her driver/trophy husband that meant I had to be fancy as well. Jenny said I couldn't wear jeans. So I wore literal fancy pants.

This is a big deal to me for some reason.

Thursday was deeply uneventful. At work I sorted through Sunday School books and did lesson prepping for Sunday. Then I went to dinner in my fancy pants. The dinner was nice and I chatted with some college kids. They seemed to think I was an adult. I had them so fooled. I'm kind of intimidated by college students because of the sheer potential they seem to exude. They seem more prepared to take on the world than I do, and I graduated almost 4 years ago. Like I said, I tricked them into believing I was a functioning adult.

Full disclosure, this is my Thursday post. I started it on Thursday, so I'm closer to sticking to my writing plan with this one. Just not quite there yet. It's alright. Friday is alright.

Today I spent most of the day playing (and loving) XCOM 2. I had planned to spend the evening playing Magic, but for some reason a bunch of snow just dumped all over Portland after a week of mild weather. The one day I actually want to leave the house is the one day I was snowed in. Oh well, I guess being forced to play my brand new video game isn't that bad.

I don't really have anything else to say. These blog posts might go better if I didn't wait to write them until I was already falling asleep. If I stick to the plan then there will be a new post up tomorrow. If I continue my trend of being super late it might actually be Sunday. Either way, keep checking back, friendo.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

I'll Name This the "Week of Ups and Downs"

Remember when I said I would write on Tuesdays? Notice how it's Wednesday? Yeah, I didn't write yesterday. I ended up going to sleep instead. I don't regret it. Also, I'm making up for it with this post. So, you know, still good.

I want to be Kurt Vonnegut when I grow up.

So, this week is just all over the place for me. There's some ups and some downs, some things I'm quite excited about and things that have me a bit stressed out. But that's okay. As Kurt Vonnegut points out, good stories have some shape to them. Note the cool little graphic above. My story for this week is mostly highs with some dips. Allow me to elaborate. I'll start with the ups, then dip into the lows.

I have big plans for Friday. Really, really big plans. How big? How about saving the world big. That's pretty big. That's right, XCOM 2 comes out on Friday and I'm planning to play it pretty much all day. I adored the last XCOM game, so much so that not only have I spent 143 hours playing the game, I also wrote a blog post about it. Because I worked so much this weekend (I punched in on Monday with 18 hours already logged) I have the luxury of being able to stay home all day on Friday. That means it will be a non-stop XCOM party almost all day. Check out the message I have planned for the aliens in the video below.


The reason I specify that I'll be playing XCOM almost all day is because that's not my only plan for Friday. I'm also going to go out to Friday Night Magic to sling some cardboard. I'm packing a ton of geeky excitement into this Friday, and I can't wait. Many of my fellow Modern players will be away at a big Magic tournament in Providence so I will most likely play a draft instead. Oath of the Gatewatch came out weeks ago and I still haven't have a chance to draft it, so I'm pretty excited. Friday will be a very good day.

So, there's my ups. Lots of good stuff going on this Friday. Whatever stresses I may face it is massively helpful to be able to look forward to Friday. "If I can just get to Friday I won't have to stress anymore," I tell myself.

I did say there were also downs. So now I'll take a moment to address those. This week I'm feeling stressed about work. One of the many programs I (attempt) to run is a series of teen fellowship times. In the past they have been weekly, but due to some complaints from parents they have been changed to be monthly events. The stress here comes from the fact that since switching them to be monthly events attendance has dropped. To zero. This means I spend a considerable amount of time planning and coordinating for an event that ends up just not happening. It's extremely frustrating.

This Saturday was supposed to be one such teen fellowship. I held out hope that maybe people would come until today I finally got enough people to RSVP today (which is itself a pulling teeth style activity) and realized that there just isn't interest in attending this Saturday. So I'm just feeling kind of flustered. I know that this will be viewed as a failure on my part. I'm doing my best. I've done all I can to make this a success. It's bringing me down. A lot. I'm just so tired of feeling like I'm fighting an uphill battle just to not be viewed as a screw up by everyone at work. I'm doing my best. The worst feeling in the world is to try my hardest and just, apparently, fall short.

But at least there's Friday. As much as I get frustrated with the situation at work I can remember that I have a wonderful day planned for myself on Friday. On Friday I will see friends, I will have fun, and I will feel good enough. Kind of funny that I have to go to video games and gaming events to feel good enough when working for a church makes me feel so down on myself. The place I go for unconditional acceptance and support is my local game store, not my church. There's a whole separate blog post there and I'm digressing pretty heavily.

That last paragraph makes me super uncomfortable. But I said I would be more vulnerable this year, especially on my blog. I'll just hope that if anybody who would care saw this post they stop reading much earlier when they got bored of my video game talk.

I don't want to end this post on such a negative note. XCOM 2 is going to be amazing. From what I understand it's actually being released at midnight, so I'm tempted to stay up and get some gameplay in right when it comes out. I know my wife wouldn't be such a big fan of that, though. We'll see what happens. If I don't I'll just wake up super early like a kid on Christmas day and play it as the sun rises.

Because this post didn't go up until today that means that my next post will be tomorrow. This post turned out to be pretty long and cover some actual human emotion, so who knows what tomorrow's post will look like. You should come check it out. Just don't tell anyone that I secretly feel human emotions. That's just between us. Have a good night, friend.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The End?

January is over, and with it my daily blogging. It's been a really interesting experience. There was some part of me that hoped that I would write every day for a month and suddenly regain the passion and confidence I used to have for writing. That's not what happened, of course, but I did learn some things.

I've learned I can't write like I used to. My lifestyle just isn't conducive to it anymore. Working full time while also juggling a marriage and multiple hobbies just doesn't leave me with as much time for "the life of the mind" as I used to have. The other thing I learned is that just because I can't write like I used to doesn't mean I shouldn't. Writing helps me to process my life. Writing makes me happy. Well, happy isn't quite the right word. But writing feels right, and I feel more whole when I do it.

I've also learned that I need to change the way I view my writing. The most damaging thing I ever did to myself as a writer was to get a bachelor's degree in writing. Through four years of getting graded and fighting deadlines I changed the reason why I was writing. I became jaded. My writing became less about improving my own life and expressing myself and more about producing something that could be considered worthy. Eventually writing for anything less than perfection became worthless in my mind. I'm going to work on regaining the simplicity of writing for myself.

So, where do I go from here? At the beginning of all this I listed several topics I could write about and I only covered about half of them. I've decided to set a writing schedule for myself and my blog. I managed to do 7 days a week for a month, so now I'm going to try for 3 days a week for a little while to see how it feels. What does that mean for you, oh faithful reader that may or may not exist? Well, you can expect posts from me on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Generally speaking those are the days I can find time to write.

I wish I had something more profound to finish this month off with, but I just don't. Like I said, I don't get to go all "life of the mind" as much as I'd like, so profundity will just have to wait. If you've enjoyed this month then continue to check back as I continue in my new writing schedule. Have a good night, and thank you for reading.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Another Night, Another Forgetful Writer

Today was a pretty good day. I spent my morning at United pretending to be more mature than the teenagers I was hanging out with. Afterwards Jenny and I went out for an ice skating date a Thompson's Point. When we got tired of skating in a circle we took a french fry break. Once we refueled we went back to circle skating just a little while longer. It was wonderful. Dates with my wife are one of my favorite things.

I had originally written this post in the Blogger app, but attempting to include the image above crashed the app and made it impossible to publish the post or even get the draft to show up in my drafts. So here I am retyping the whole thing. I'm pretty disappointed in you Blogger app.

Once Jenny and I got home she revealed that she had a mad scheme to consume the rest of our day. She had a plan to clean and rearrange our apartment. Now we have 2 overloaded bookcases in the living room instead of 1, our bed is in a new spot for the first time in 3 years, and our cat is super confused by all the changes. Jenny's scheme was so mad that we're actually still not done, so tomorrow should be interesting.

Speaking of tomorrow that's the end of January. That means the end of this blog challenge I set for myself. I will be busy until late tomorrow night, but I am determined to make time for a proper end to this. Check back tomorrow for the end of an era. Sleep tight.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

I've Slept on Harder Floors

I'm in a sleeping bag on the floor surrounded by snoring teenage boys. This is what I do for a living.

I was just closing my eyes to sleep when I remembered I hadn't blogged yet. I'm too stubborn to stop this now. Look, this is a post. Enjoy it. I'm going to sleep.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Was a Teenage Anarchist

Today's post is brought to you courtesy of me not being able to sleep back on January 12th. Much of this was jotted down and set aside to be forgotten. A lot of the writing I do these days is set aside to be forgotten. Because this is my blogging revival month I will pick these thoughts out of my mental trashcan and turn them into a post. Enjoy my mental trash.

I have a lot of angst. If you read my blog back in it's glory days you know that angst was the name of the game. It was an all the angst, all the time type situation up in The Chronicles of Chris. Back in those days my angst was mostly about three things:

1. Girls
2. Friends
3. Being inadequate

I was afraid no one would ever love me and I would die alone. I was afraid that I would forever be trapped in my missionary kid isolation, without friends. I was afraid I would never be good enough, that I was a failure from the start.

Now my list is slightly less diverse. I've condensed my angst into two very similar thoughts:

1. I didn't turn out right. I took a wrong turn somewhere and it's my fault.
2. I didn't turn out right. My life has been too abnormal and fragmented. It's not my fault but I can't fix it.

When I was young I was obsessed with the "could bes" of my potential future. Now that the future is here I'm obsessed with the "what ifs" of my past. It's not that my life turned out bad by any means. I'm happily married. I have a job that pays my bills and doesn't violate my ethics. I have a cute cat. But it's obsessive, this constant "what if."

Sometimes when I'm laying in bed trying vainly to fall asleep I'll feel a pang in my chest. I've led a life characterized by impermanence and I often mourn the "could-have-beens." I miss Estonia.
I'll listen to Streets at Night, most of which seems to have been filmed in Tallinn, and just have an unnamed longing. A part of me wishes I could relive my youth and be a better person. Waste less time. Be more than I am. A part of me wishes I could go back to that home. Portland is also home, but it's not complete. Neither is Estonia. They're 2 pieces to a puzzle that don't fit together. But They're the pieces I have, so I just try my best to make do and not feel the jagged, unfitting edges grinding against each other.



It's called being a TCK. Third Culture Kid. Kid, not adult. Some part of me believed I'd grow out of this. Other people move as adults, but they have a solid, complete base they are launching from. A whole, fitting puzzle. I just don't. I have no secure base. How can I begin to even try to figure out what's ahead if I have no real idea what's behind? I Visited Estonia this summer with my wife. So much has changed. But the heart was the same. I miss it so much.


Sometimes I'll have a specific image, Kadriorg, the tram stop at Tallinn university, the sky over red Old Town roofs, and my heart will just cry out. I don't know why or what to do about it.
I've never consciously admitted this to myself but I think nights like tonight are a part of why I quit writing. When I'm writing I become self aware and introspective. Sometimes I can't turn that introspection off. When I'm self aware I can't just distract myself from my frail human mind by scrolling through Facebook and binging Netflix. These are my stuffs, my painkillers and antidepressants. I'd rather feel nothing in digital oblivion than be sleepless at nearly 2am while my cat worries about me.

When I was younger I was passionate about changing the world. In college my roommate and I went door to door with petitions and got involved in student government because we were angsty young anarcho-activists with a need to improve this crappy world. I wanted so desperately to do something good. I was disillusioned with "the system" but I had hope things could be better. I had hope worth fighting for.



Now I'm still disillusioned, but I also feel entirely disenfranchised as well. The world is crap, but I don't feel that I have the power to do anything about it. But now I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I had kept my will to fight? Who could I be if I wasn't beaten down by "the system" or "the man." Could I have made the world a better place? Should I have? Am I failing myself? Sometimes I feel like there's a sixteen year old boy looking at me over the span of 10 years with a fire in his eyes question how I could have become this lame old man?

I'm actually extraordinarily intimidated by that 16 year self judging me. Back then I used my blog as this lens to examine my life and realize how awesome it was. I'd be like, "today I walked home and I was listening to music. Then I started running and felt like a ninja. I'm so freaking cool." Now my blog is still a lens to look at my life, but instead of thinking that I'm a ninja, or cool at all I look through the lens and say, "today I went to work. I sat in my office for 8 hours, then came home to my small apartment and educational debt to do dishes. Sometimes I play video games too. Also, I'm married. But no life is perfect, right? Right?"

In one of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books he describes time and alternate realities as spokes in a wheel. For some reason that has always stuck with me as I think about my life. Each time you choose a path you kill an entire alternate reality. The paths branch away and what could have been is gone. I wish I could write an email to alternate Chris, hear how things turned out for him. What if Chris had never left Portland as a kid? That one doesn't trouble me too much. What if Chris had never left the US? That one's a thinker. What if Chris had somehow found a way to stay in Estonia, or go back after college? What if I had pursued my writing? Or an education in psychology? Or a revolutionary activism? What if I had pursued anything at all?

It leads me to this crazy question: who am I now with all these jumbled, unmatched pieces? Does the sum of these parts even equal a whole? I don't know. Moving to another country and being a TCK wasn't my choice, so if going down that path screwed me up I can blame other people. But does that make it better? Does knowing that other people screwed me up making my being screwed up any less difficult? Then there are the choices I could control, like giving up on my writing. Did I fail myself? If I'm messed up and disappointed with my life and it's all my fault, well, am I just the worst?

So there you have it. Here's my thoughts that keep me up at night. Aren't existential crises great? I hope you've enjoyed this whiny manifesto. Check back tomorrow for some (hopefully) less whiny nonsense. Here's hoping you have a night free of existential dread.