2017 In Review

2017 has been over for a while now. It was such a crazy year. It hasn’t been the best year for me, but it certainly hasn’t been the worst ever. I am alive and happy!

I did this last year and I really enjoyed it. I want to take a few moments and share a few of my favorite things from this past year.

  • Game of the Year- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You will easily get lost asking what is over that next hill? What is that on the Horizon? Is that another Shrine on that Island? What an adventurous game! It feels like Zelda and sucks you in like Minecraft. What a world! (Runner-up: Ghost Recon: Wildlands)
  • Book of the Year- Immeasurable by Skye Jethani. An honest look at the current state of the Modern Christian Church. It reflects on ambition, anger, community, consumerism, fame, health, justice, platform, preaching, rest, simplicity, success, vision, and more. Skye examines these issues with honest and thoughtful insight from experience. This is a great barometer for where we are at in our faith. (Runner-Up: The Trellis and The Vine by Colin Marshal and Tony Payne)
  • Movie of the Year- Baby Driver. Fast cars, great music, and interesting characters. This is a fun movie. The way the music and action intertwine is remarkable. This is an incredibly stylish and fun action movie! (Runner-Up: Thor Ragnarok)
  • Show of the Year- Better Call Saul. The performances from the cast just keep getting better and better. This season you really start to see things take that darker turn you knew was coming. The center of it all is the drama of the tumultuous relationship between Jimmy and his brother Chuck. So good! (Runner Up: Mindhunter)
  • Gadget of the Year- Nintendo Switch. I had been gaming less and less as I grew older. Then I got a switch! A console that goes with you where ever you are? Yeah. That is amazing. I spent a lot of time in line waiting to pick up my kids playing Stardew Valley. It is awesome! (Runner Up: Google Pixel 2)
  • Podcast of the Year- Doctrine and Devotion. I learn and laugh during this show. Joe Thorn and Jimmy are incredibly fun together. It is great for Theology Nerds, and those who would just like to learn more about the faith. It comes from a Reformed perspective. Even if that isn’t your thing, it is a good show. (Runner Up: The Movie Proposal)
  • Marriage Moment of the Year-  I can’t really explain it, but December seemed to be a turning point for us. We had a rough year and it just seemed like we both woke up and finished strong. We had more time together over the Holidays than we had anticipated which really helped us just be together more. I am blessed to be with Shelly!
  • Parenting Moment of the Year- I got my 8 year old his first knife. We went to get a steak, watch Thor, and then went to go grab it. We just had a good moment of bonding and interacting. He loves it and is careful with it. I made sure it was easy for him to close/open.
  • Challenge of the Year- I blogged about a few of the changes my family and I were going through. It had been a very challenging year for me and I am glad to be moving on to new challenges!
  • Accomplishment of the Year- I helped lead the Church I was at through a merger with another congregation. It was a great experience in Leadership. Experiences like that have potential to go bad very fast. It was a difficult but satisfying experience when all was said and done!
  • Lesson to carry into 2018- Keep the priorities in check. It did not take much to knock things around and I did not realize it was happening. Looking back I know I wasn’t taking care of myself, my wife, or my Children like I should. I also know I was not focusing on the other projects I was doing as well. I had to be taken back to see what was going on. I started 2018 by intentionally focusing on my priorities.

What About You?

Extra-Life begins today!

My friends over at Theology Gaming and I will be joining together with Extra-Life to raise funds and awareness to the good work that is done through the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

I personally will be donating not just my time but also a donation of at least $20. Will you join me? Any donation, not matter how small, helps me reach my goal of $100. Together we have already raised $280 and the fun hasn’t even started yet!

I would love to raise more than $100 so please CLICK HERE!

Even if you are not able to give you can help out by sharing this post so someone else will know and hopefully join in giving!

You can follow along with the action here on our Twitch page. Today at 11 am CST Theology Gaming will begin playing and streaming for over 24 hours! I personally won’t be playing the entire time but will be on and off with the team over the weekend. We will giving away games to lucky donators and viewers over this time as well!

If you want to know when I am personally hosting join me tomorrow Saturday November 4th at 10 am CST. I will be joining forces with our good friend Jeremy Smith!

You might remember Jeremy from a series of posts I shared this past year. He has been a good personal friend, and friend of this blog. I am looking forward to our time together. He had shared an amazing story of how Children’s Miracle Network has helped out his family personally!

As a Father of 3 the heart of this organization really hits close to home. I know several friends and family who were blessed by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Several kids I know and see often are here because of this work being done. As a Pastor I have had to make several visits to our local Children’s Miracle Network hospital at Vanderbilt and it is an incredible organization.

Please join in the movement! Your contribution today will help a child have a much better tomorrow.

Links you might have missed

Donate Here

Watch us here

Streaming schedule

Learn more about Extra-Life

Learn more about Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Join the discussions of Theology Gaming

Our very good friend Jeremy Grant Smith

Out Of Nothing… (Pt. 3)

What can you make out of nothing?

My friend Jeremy and I found out with our collaboration on SkyFactory 2.5! Ever heard of Minecraft? SkyFactory is Minecraft with a collection of mods added into it. You start a new world with nothing in it but 1 piece of dirt and 1 ordinary tree and that is all.

What can you create from just dirt and a tree? We were able to go from just the basics to producing more energy than we had needs for. It was a lot of fun. We had some great projects. Want to see for yourself? Check out our final episode! This is an overview of all that we did in our collaboration!

This was a whole lot of fun to do. Jeremy was a very patient and gracious collaborator. My free time and game time really started to dwindle as the series continued on. Jeremy was awesome to work with. Not only that, he is a whole lot of fun. We had a great time together and really accomplished a lot. You should really look into his site, channel, and more!

Want to know more about my friend Jeremy? Here you go!

The best place to find out about Jeremy is to go to his personal site at http://JeremyGrantSmith.com .
Subscribe to his YouTube page to get the latest Let’s Plays and Vlogs.
Follow him on Twitter to see what he is chatting about.
He is still on Google+ if you love Hangouts!
Or check out the ChurchMag YouTube channel for the Minecraft Theology series and Minecraft Let’s Play series that are still ongoing.

Wanna play along? Clicky on the linky!

Here is the playlist if you want to start at the beginning!

Concerning my own YouTube channel, I am not sure if I will keep making content on it. It has been a fun hobby and great outlet for interaction, gaming, and creativity. I just am not sure if I have the creative energy to keep up with it in a way that will actually be worth while for viewers. One thing I learned with this project with Jeremy is that I may be through with YouTube for good.

I would love to do something with it that is new, different, and appealing. I also would love to integrate it more into this blog. I am just not sure how. Please help me brainstorm!

The Long Hall

My friend Brian over at JohnnyBGamer started a new podcast and I highly recommend you give it a listen! It is called The Long Hall and it is about Family and Gaming. He has probably the best and most awesome guest of all time on his first episode. Not sure how he landed such an amazing first guest.

It is me.
I am talking about me.
I am his first guest!

Not only is this a good chance for you to support a friend of mine, it is also the first time I have ever been on a Podcast! Brian is an incredible Host and really made it a great conversation between the two of us. I was certainly nervous beforehand, but Brian did a great job just making it very relaxed and personable. We really just had a great conversation about what does and does not work with gaming with your kids!

Take a listen to the pilot episode and stop by JohnnyBGamer and let him know what you think in the comments!

Only The Good Stuff

What is really making you HAPPY right now?
What are you enjoying?
What is it that you are really looking forward to doing?

I found a podcast that seeks to answer these questions.

Only The Good Stuff is a discussion about things being presently enjoyed.

No grumbling
No complaining
No cynicism
Only good stuff.

It is a refreshing discussion about the things that are making them really HAPPY! It seems to stand out in a world of criticism and cynicism. You need to give it a listen.

I think it is certainly time to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative!

So, being inspired by someone else’s good idea, I am going to share some things that are really making me happy right now!

  • Books: Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt has been worth digesting. I am reading at a much slower pace lately which is really giving me time to think through this book. Have you ever wanted to grow in the way you speak about The Gospel? This book is for you! Even as a Pastor I find myself struggling to speak the good news. The goal of this book is to become as Fluent in the Gospel as you are with your first language!
  • TV: Into The Badlands on AMC has the most beautiful Kung Fu sequences on TV. I love a good Martial Arts epic. The story is interesting enough to make it watchable and curious as to what will happen next. Season 2 adds some amazing Characters.
  • Movies: Moana has been playing non-stop since we got it. The Music is fantastic, and the story gets incredibly deeper every time I watch it. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but it certainly has the most remarkable visualization of redemption and being given your new identity In Christ. I was blown away when I saw it and still am. I know it wasn’t meant to be Christian or deeply Theological. However, this beautiful scene shines like a glimmering truth nugget bursting out in plain sight.
  • Music: It isn’t really new, but Explosions In The Sky has been on repeat this week. I have a Spotify playlist with all their records. I rock out to it… rock out like a bandit gleefully flying away from the scene of his latest heist.
  • Game: Ghost Recon Wildlands is what happens when you take a Grand Theft Auto type open world Sandbox and add in an incredible Military Strategy game on top of it. The world you are in is beautiful and seems endless. The weapons customization options are a lot of fun to mess with. Playing with a team and making a plan is certainly interesting. That plan falling apart and you gotta react, this is where things get really fun. It is a great game.
  • Love: My wife and I are approaching 11 years together. It hasn’t always been easy, but I certainly feel like 2017 has been one of our best. It isn’t like a mountain top type of thing, but more of a soup that has been in the crock pot for a few hours and when it comes time to taste it, it is uniquely how it should be. She is my best friend and her heart is just beautiful. She has grown up a whole lot since the whole thing got started, it has been amazing to see.
  • Parenting: The other day Sam asked me what kind of kyber crystal Kylo Ryn had in his light saber and I cried. We pulled up a cool article that showed all the light-sabers in the Star Wars Canon and what they were made of. He has been asking a lot about geek stuff, but even more about Jesus and our faith. He saw a friend get Baptized a few weeks ago. He is close to baptism himself! Joshua makes the most interesting platforms to climb on to get the candy off the top of the fridge. Earlier this week Lainie crawled into my lap, laid her head on my chest, and just stole my heart.
  • Work: The Church I was the Pastor at just merged with another Church in town. It was a long process, but in the end, it was a step I can confidently say that we took together. I am proud of this family of believers that chose to give up so much familiarity to become something new. I would say the hard stuff is over, but in reality, the hard stuff just began. The past year has stretched me farther than I have ever been stretched before as a Leader. It has been difficult personally. It has been exciting. It has been good. It was tiring. It feels great to be able to dream about what can be. We really can be much better together than apart!
  • Podcast: This post was inspired by a Podcast I am enjoying called Only The Good Stuff. That is the easy choice, right? Here is another Podcast I am enjoying very much. The 5 Leadership Questions is like a conversation at a coffee shop with a leader you admire. The hosts do a great job is keeping it conversant. They really do pick the brain of some incredible men and I get to benefit from it! It is worth a listen of you are looking for a new podcast!
  • Trailer: Timing on this one is a little obvious… I cried. I cried when I watched it twice. I cried when I showed it to my kids. I cried when I loaded it up to link on here.

    Now it is your turn. What have you been enjoying?

2016 In Review

2016 is over. Can you believe it? I really can not. It has been such a crazy year. It has been a good year for me, just crazy. I have grown a lot this year, and still, have miles to go!

Inspired by my friend Brandon Z, I want to take a few moments and share a few of my favorite things from this past year.

  • Game of the Year- Stardew Valley is just brilliant. It feels like a village from an old school RPG that you never leave. I love some of the major themes of it and it just feels so cozy. Expect a blog post and Let’s Play of on it soon! (Runner Ups: Civilization VI, Battlefield 1, and Forza Horizon 3)
  • Book of the Year- Visual Theology by Tim Challies. An illustrated theology book? Yes, please!  The images are just amazing. The content is very solid. I would love an entire set of these! (Runner Ups: Preaching by Keller, Rooted by Medders and Smith, Parenting by Tripp, and Discipling by Dever)
  • Movie of the Year- The Martian came out in 2015 but I watched it this year. It was truly the best movie I have seen in a while. For 2016 Hell or High Water was awesome. The acting in it is amazing and the overall feel of it was exciting and well executed. I wished the last scene lasted longer.(Runner Ups: Kubo and the 2 Strings, Civil War, and Rogue One)
  • Show of the Year- Stranger Things hands down. There were moments in this show that just captured my mind and heart in ways that are ineffable. One episode caught me so emotionally off guard I was shaking, weeping, and had to walk away for a bit. So good. Go watch it. (Runner Ups: The Grinder, Halt and Catch Fire, Better Call Saul, and The Walking Dead of course!)
  • Gadget of the Year- I got a Blue Yeti for Christmas and it is amazing. It is heavy, solid, and well constructed. The sound that comes out of it is great for what I am using it for. I don’t think it can be beaten! (Runner Ups: Peterson Standard System 303, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, and Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Pitcher)
  • Verse of the Year- “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:4 This one keeps lurking and hitting me. Love is crucial to the expectations God has for our lives. Love for Him, Love for Others, and Love for the World. I am constantly being reminded To Love.
  • Marriage Moment of the Year- My wife and I celebrated 10 years of Marriage with a weekend get away in Gatlinburg, TN. Over these past 10 years, we have been blessed with so much including 3 beautiful Kids! Life with her has been so good. The smartest thing I have ever done is marry this amazing woman. This is one area that I need to be careful I don’t take it for granted.
  • Parenting Moment of the Year- I taught my oldest son how to play chess. He caught on really fast. He is brilliant. I could say a lot about this kid, but just watching his curious little mind grow has been amazing. I spend the majority of my time with my 2 youngest kids Joshua and Elaina. Just look at my Instagram and you will see picture after picture of these wonderful little kids.
  • Challenge of the Year- This past year I have been called as the Lead Pastor. This has not been easy and honestly a bit lonely. I feel like I have no idea what I am doing. Other times things seem to be so clear. In the end I am doing what I have always felt I was made to do.
  • Accomplishment of the Year- It took me over 40 Sermons but I preached through the Gospel of John. I have never done a Sermon Series that long before, and I don’t think I will do another one that long in a while. Romans will be the next long one, but for now, I will stick to some shorter series!
  • Lesson to carry into 2017- Confidence needs to come from the core of who I am In Christ and how he has made me. Don’t let the things I am good at be the things I hide behind. Stepping out into the unknown and stretching myself is how I learn best. I can coast or I can care enough to truly step out and give it a try.

What About You?

Out Of Nothing… (Pt. 2)

What can you make out of nothing?

My friend Jeremy and I found out with our collaboration on SkyFactory 2.5! Ever heard of Minecraft? SkyFactory is Minecraft with a collection of mods added into it. You start a new world with nothing in it but 1 piece of dirt and 1 ordinary tree and that is all.

What can you create from just dirt and a tree? Take a look at our most recent episode. Things are really starting to FLY (pun intended) now that we have our power flowing.

What used to be so mundane and routine now can get automated with fantastic machines! Check it out!

We aren’t done yet!

Want to know more about my friend Jeremy? Here you go!

The best place to find out about Jeremy is to go to his personal site at http://JeremyGrantSmith.com .
Subscribe to his YouTube page to get the latest Let’s Plays and Vlogs.
Follow him on Twitter to see what he is chatting about.
He is still on Google+ if you love Hangouts!
Or check out the ChurchMag YouTube channel for the Minecraft Theology series and Minecraft Let’s Play series that are still ongoing.

Wanna play along? Clicky on the linky!

Here is the playlist if you want to start at the beginning!

Out Of Nothing…

What can you make out of nothing?

My friend Jeremy and I find out as we begin our collaboration on SkyFactory 2.5! Ever heard of Minecraft? Sky Factory is Minecraft with a collection of mods added into it. You start a new world with nothing in it but 1 piece of dirt and 1 ordinary tree and that is all.

What can you create from just dirt and a tree? Watch to find out!

You might remember Jeremy from another project about a year and a half ago. You can find more about him and that ongoing project here!

The best place to find out about Jeremy is to go to his personal site at http://JeremyGrantSmith.com .
Subscribe to his YouTube page to get the latest Let’s Plays and Vlogs.
Follow him on Twitter to see what he is chatting about.
He is still on Google+ if you love Hangouts!
Or check out the ChurchMag YouTube channel for the Minecraft Theology series and Minecraft Let’s Play series that are still ongoing.

Wanna play along? Clicky on the linky!

Minecraft Potty Trained My Son

Say what now???

Yup, You heard me right!

Minecraft Potty Trained My Son.

We had failed horribly at potty training.  After 4 months of trying we just could not get him into it. It did not matter if we offered him

M&M’s
Skittles
Gummy Bears
Chocolate
Cheerios
Toys
Grapes

It seemed nothing would work. Nothing could get this 3-year-olds attention to give it a try. No reward was worthy. No big boy underwear was cool enough. He was just not into it at all. We looked at other parents with kids who were going pee-pee in the big potty with those jealous eyes that you never confess you have… but you know you do.

We felt defeated.

It was 2012 and Minecraft had been out on the Xbox 360 for a few months. I caught the bug and just found myself playing the game like crazy. If you have ever played Minecraft you know how sucked in you can become. If I wasn’t working or spending time with the family I was either playing or watching TheLMNOSteve, Keralis, Bdouble0100, Generikb or other youtubers showing me how to play.

During this time I noticed that when I was playing or watching YouTube my 3 year old would just be attached to the screen. This turned into him crawling into my lap and eventually taking the controller out of my hands and trying to play himself. We let him mess with it a bit, but nothing too crazy. One day I told him he could play if he went to the bathroom.

So he did.

Looking back it might have been a little more complicated than that. However, it was that one thing that connected with him. He would go to the bathroom, earn his reward to play for a certain amount of time, go back to the bathroom to earn more time to play. He and I began to play together. We went on adventures together. I began to record our adventures so he could have something safe to watch on Youtube. (See video at the bottom) We still play together to this day. All he asked for from me for his Birthday this year is to record a video with him.

Minecraft Potty Trained My Son

Minecraft was that thing that connected with my son. It was the thing that worked! It might not be the thing that helps you with potty training your kids. I do hope you heard something more from this story. There is more here than just video games and potty training.

If you are anything like me when something does not work like you think it should you begin to feel defeated. I have a track record of feeling that defeat and letting it keep me down. That frustration makes me want to quit. It makes me want to stop. I then defeat myself. Yet in this instance we kept trying.

Keep trying.

The answer you need might just crawl into your lap and take the control away from you.

Keep trying.

The answer you need might just open the door for more than just a solution.

Keep trying.

The source of the struggle might be the source of joy down the road.

Keep trying.