Monday, September 29, 2014

The Very Best Recent Books Introducing Christian Faith

I am always on the look-out for brief resources I can suggest to those interested in digging deeper into the basics of Christianity, or those wishing for an introduction (perhaps for the first time).

A recent spate of new titles now fit the bill nicely, so I suggest them here.

Top of the list is Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and his Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer. Among its many merits, it is brief, winsome, well-written, and focused. It is wholesome, in a good way.

Next up is Peter Enns and his The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. Often when people are looking for an introduction to Christianity, what they really mean is they want an introduction to reading Scripture. This fits the bill nicely.

Some inquirers are looking for direct instruction in the practice of faith, especially prayer. My favorite book is still Robert Benson's In Constant Prayer (Ancient Practices). It focuses on the practice of praying the daily prayer offices.

If people are wondering what life could look like in 21st century congregational life, my new favorite book is a team written volume, The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community. It focuses on how congregations fit into the ecology of life in local communities.

For similar reasons, I also love Sara Miles' book, City of God: Faith in the Streets

Now, if readers are looking for a challenge relative to social justice, calling out the church for its failures but paving a way forward for re-conceptualizing Christian faith in contemporary North America, I truly think the best place to start is James Cone's The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Christians in our nation need to look race and faith head on, and this work does so.

Similarly, for faith in the face of empire, faith in the Middle East, I can't suggest strongly enough Mitri Raheb's wonderful Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes.

If readers are interested in class issues and faith, Tex Sample has done a lot on working class spirituality, and I love his Earthy Mysticism: Spirituality for Unspiritual People

For secular folks returning to Christian faith, or skeptics looking for fellow skeptics on the journey, I recommend Christian Wiman's My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

However, if readers are interested in the rise of secularity and its impact on faith, James K.A. Smith's brief introduction to the work of Charles Taylor may be an even better place to start, How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.

Finally, for wider and global perspectives on Christianity, I recommend three books. Pope Francis's The Church of Mercy

All of these have the merits of being eminently readable, brief, and strong as introductions to their topics. Consider this a contemporary resource for exploring Christian faith (again) as if for the first time. Which reminds me, sometimes the elephant in the room for an awakening desire to connect or re-connect with Christian faith, is the topic of same-gender marriage. As an advocate for the LGBTQ community and their full inclusion and rights in the life of the church, I know of no better book than Justin Lee's Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate

This is a NY Times photo, and includes some of my
favorite books of all time, including Alex Ross, Denis Johnson,
Little Heathens, Roberto Bolano, and Out Stealing Horses

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Let's be a safe haven for those fleeing persecution

Last week, members of Congress passed a temporary funding measure before heading home to their districts for the next 7 weeks leading up to the November election. The stopgap measure, which funds the government from the start of Fiscal Year 2015 on October 1 through December 11, includesno new funding for immigration and refugee agencies within the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Health and Human Services (HHS) or Justice (DOJ) that care for vulnerable refugees, children and families seeking safety in the United States.  Funding conversations in Congress are expected to resume after the elections.

The temporary funding measure does, however, allow DHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within HHS to spend funds “as necessary” to maintain services at Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 levels. Just last week, ORR was able to release $71.5 million in funds for social services that empower arriving refugees to become valuable members of their new communities. The funds had been withheld as ORR struggled to resettle refugees and care for children seeking refuge from Central America.

Support funding for refugees and vulnerable migrants in FY15
Without additional FY 2015 funding, ORR’s ability to serve vulnerable people under its care will be severely limited. The withholding of funds this summer had drastic impacts on LIRS’s resettlement partners throughout the country—including cuts to preventative health services, language training and school assistance for refugee children—because of uncertainty in their budget. We need your help urging Congress to fully fund services for vulnerable migrants.

As a nation of welcome, we must show vulnerable newcomers compassion and justice. LIRS continues to urge Congress to fund ORR at levels sufficient to welcome refugees, unaccompanied children, and other vulnerable migrants. We also call on Congress to fund immigration courts adequately so families and children have a fair chance to tell their stories before an immigration judge.

With Members of Congress in their home districts for the next 7 weeks, your voice is critical to ensure that vulnerable newcomers receive the welcome they deserve. Please take a moment to visit LIRS’s Action Center to tell your elected representatives that people of faith stand for funding measures that honor our nation’s proud history as a safe haven for those fleeing persecution. You can also visit LIRS’s Congressional Recess Advocacy Guide for helpful tips to meet with your Senators and Representative while they are home to discuss the importance of supporting refugees and protecting vulnerable children from Central America.
Thank you for standing for welcome.

In peace,

Brittney Nystrom
Director for Advocacy

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ebola: Action Update

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

In the past several months, the Ebola outbreak has claimed thousands of lives. The virus has spread rapidly, and with no approved vaccine and a high fatality rate, the World Health Organization is now calling it "one of the world’s most lethal diseases." Ebola has spread to multiple countries, the hardest hit being Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Liberia - Ebola video
In addition to health care, one of the most urgent needs is food. As people in affected areas are quarantined to their homes, towns are being shut down to limit the spread of the disease and people are not able to work, harvest crops or purchase food. The shipment of food has also stopped because people from other countries fear contracting the virus.

“We need food,” says the Rev. D. Jensen Seyenkulo, bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. "There is a saying now: 'If we don’t die of Ebola, we will die of starvation.'" | Watch video

You can help. Your gifts to the Ebola Outbreak Response will be used, 100 percent, to assist those impacted by this crisis. Our partners and companion churches have requested our help in responding to the outbreak with food distributions, shipment of personal protective equipment, training health workers, outreach through education about prevention, and construction of an isolation unit at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in Liberia.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and its predecessor church have walked with the people of Liberia for more than 150 years. Our long-standing relationship with our companions in Liberia and Sierra Leone provides a strong foundation to respond holistically to the needs of those who are suffering and living with the threat of Ebola.

Thank you for your prayers, your partnership and your gifts.
The Rev. Daniel Rift
Director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal

P.S.  Use this bulletin insert in your congregation to pray for the people affected and support the Ebola Outbreak Response. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On Being Lutheran In Spite of Ourselves

The thing about being Lutheran is, we never are. 

It's really odd, we're one of the few global Christian movements named after its founder. Except Luther isn't our founder, and he never wanted a movement named after him.

So we're Lutheran, but shouldn't be, or can't be. Yet we are. It's a paradox.

Well, at least on this point we're all good, because if Lutherans like anything, it's a good paradox.
"We are simultaneously saints and sinners." 
"A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all."
"We are Lutheran, and we aren't."
Here we are, these five centuries later, calling ourselves Lutheran, in spite of ourselves. In fact, we are gearing up to celebrate once again, at the end of October, Reformation Day. In 2017 we'll even celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the LutherJahre.

I find myself, as a "confessional" Lutheran, repeatedly in the awkward position of wanting to claim, for the sake of transparency, my perspective as a Lutheran, while also disclaiming it because this movement, whatever its origins and reasons, has introduced and widened the conflicts in Christian community of which we are all heirs.

I regret so very much the ways my own confessionalism has contributed to schism or lack of unity in the body of Christ. I desire so very much that the Christian community as a whole could lead with unity. 

Yet like the other paradox, of being Lutheran, so Christian unity is one. Much of what passes as unity is no such thing, it is a brutal unity. And sometimes those who divide the church do so for the sake of its unity.

Even those forms of church that attempt to transcend disunity--I am thinking here of non-denominational, post-denominational, or undenominational church--are themselves always, in another sense, also schismatic, typically because they are so very congregational, and also because they are almost always baptist (small b). 

Non-denominational Christianity is like an elephant wearing a sign that reads, "I'm not an elephant."

But lest I get all self-righteous as an ELCA style Lutheran whose denomination is in full communion with many other denominations, I have to remember that although we're in full communion with over half a dozen, there are dozens more with whom we have considerable tensions.

Peace in the Christian communion seems about as difficult as the camel threading of the eye of that needle. Impossible for us. Possible only for God.

I am thankful for some of the resources coming out of the Evangelische Kirche im Deutschland, and the joint work between the LWF and the Vatican. Each of them in their own way carefully includes confession of sin and lament as proper aspects of any observance that will truly honor reform.

In our own context, our conference of ELCA congregations here in Western Arkansas is gathering the Sunday prior to Reformation Day for a Reformation Festival. As we do so, I'm trying to keep Philip Pfatteicher's insights into Reformation Day at the center of our planning and remembrance.
[Reformation Day] is to be understood and observed not as a triumphalist celebration as though all error was purged from the church forever in 1517. Rather, it is a day of humble recollection of the revolutionary and cleansing word of God, which is continually reforming and renewing God's church. It is a day that reminds God's people of the provisional nature of all that is less than God, and of the sovereignty of God alone, who is always free to tear up and destroy in order to build and plant anew. Reform and renewal is not a once-for-all-event, nor even an occasional eruption, but rather a continuing condition of the church.
This is a theme Lutherans aren't always particularly good at remembering. Except when we do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Technology of Prayer: There's An App for That

The question we repeatedly ask of new technologies is always the same: Does it make our lives better, or intrude on them?

With phones, for example, we love the accessibility of cellular, the ability to make a call from the road side if our tire goes flat. We hate it when a phone rings during a movie, or interrupting an important face-to-face conversation.

Perhaps more than any other aspect of our lives, new digital technologies have disrupted, or at least dramatically changed, the space and time we give to prayer.

No one has quiet time any more. All moments that used to be pauses are now potential space to check messages, make calls. The ubiquity of always on communication, as much of a blessing it is in some instances, does change the approach we take to God as the one to go to when all else falls away.

So what if we attempt to develop a digital technology that enhances and deepens the life of prayer. This is what a number of app developers have undertaken, and wisely, they approach the development of prayer apps with the approach to prayer that is most widely experienced: We ask others to pray for us, and we promise to pray for them.

But do we? And how do we?

So I took time this past week to research prayer apps on iTunes. There are a variety of them out there. Some of them are painfully inelegant. A few of them are expensive, or include in-app purchases and advertisements, something I despise. But I did find one app that met all my criterion: it is beautiful, simple, and helpful. It's called Echo.

Here are some screen shots.

First add your prayers or pray

OLTT is our catechumenate: the app scrolls through your prayers

Expand and edit your prayer list on the fly

Set a specific amount of time for prayer, then scroll through the prayers

Title your prayers, and add descriptive information
You can also set alerts so your phone reminds you to pray at certain times. I've already noticed I'm using this app as much or more than my social networking apps, and am regularly migrating prayer requests I receive by e-mail, Facebook, or in person, into Echo. This app is going to change how I pray.

If you aren't an app person, there are some other ways to improve the shape of your prayer life. One of my favorites is the Daily Prayer Office resource. This dynamic web site designs daily prayer offices for you each day. There is also a page in preferences that allows you to insert your own personal prayers into each of the offices.

Prayer, in whatever way you practice it, really includes a variety of technologies. To pray at specific times, you need a clock. To remember to pray, you need lists. To pray with the wider Christian community, you need prayer books, and liturgies. It is not a huge stretch to incorporate prayer into the technologies we are now regularly using, but it is enough of a stretch that we have to be intentional in our transitions and engagements.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Signs of Life in Christian Publishing (and Good News for Lutherans)

Christian publishing is changing about as fast as the publishing industry more generally, and for similar reasons. Access to resources has shifted on-line, and although publishing new media remains a layered endeavor (think of the St. John’s Bible in comparison to the NET Bible, as just one example of how publishing continues to employ both ancient and modern techniques), figuring out how to be profitable in a shifting media market is anything but simple.

What’s the joke? There are three ways to make money in publishing these days, and none of them work.

The Christian Century recently included an appeal to readers for contributions to keep the journal afloat. In the same editorial, the editor analyzed its decision-making process for how much of its content to provide free on-line before a “gate” goes up for paid content. He writes,

We have thought a lot about a question that all journals, from the New Yorker to the New York Times, must ponder: How much of the magazine should appear online, without cost to the reader? Currently, readers can freely access any three articles per month from the print edition. Our hope, of course, is that this taste of the magazine will be an inducement to read more and to subscribe, either in print or online. 
The Christian Century is unusual among print publications in that subscriptions account for 60 percent of our revenue (with advertising bringing in 19 percent of the total). Other publications depend on a much higher percentage of ad revenues. Many publications also rely on institutional financial backing or wealthy benefactors. We rely on you, our readers, to keep this enterprise viable by your contributions over and above the cost of a subscription.

In the midst of all of this, I was pleased to read this update from Augsburg Fortress:

A few weeks ago, Publisher’s Weekly noted that bookstore sales (all categories) were down 7.9% in the first 6 months of the calendar year as compared to the same period in the year prior.  By comparison, Fortress Press sales through June were approximately 17% up as compared to the same period in the prior year! This is truly remarkable performance against the general retail book industry.  While not all of our FP sales go through retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, etc.) the vast majority do.

Anything about publishing ends up being about Amazon, because, for example, Publisher’s Weekly estimates a whopping 41% as the share of Amazon in total US book sales! Fortress Press matches the national total fairly closely.  

The publishing industry knows that building community around what they publish is an essential marketing strategy in a digital, social world. Look up any book on Amazon, and you learn this, with reader reviews and stars prominently displayed next to the books. 

One strategy Fortress Press implements includes building relationships with their customers by creating community around their titles.  They gather people into conversation about shared interests like teaching and learning or religion and theology. If you haven’t explored them recently, take a look at some of these creative Fortress Press community-building endeavors (if you are an advocate for another Christian publishing house, share some links with us of community-building resources these publishers are implementing):

• Seminarium blog (
• Fortress Press Forum on Facebook (
• An active Twitter account (
• Video interviews with FP authors and editors distributed via YouTube (
• And, behind the scenes interviews with FP staff (


These are not the only signs of life in Christian publishing. There are many more, although the level of profitability remains to be seen. Podcasting has really taken off, with spectacular programs out there like Homebrewed Christianity and White Horse Inn

Patheos has positioned itself as a leader in on-line religious publishing, while prominent traditional Christian journals like Christianity Today and First Things continue to roll out excellent on-line content that supplements, replicates or expands their print issues. 

Then there's the bleeding edge in Christian publishing, the global app market. It's hard to filter down to the best, but some favorites include Accordance bible software, the Youversion Bible, and Prayer Notes Free

The largest traditional Christian publisher, by a considerable margin, is Thomas Nelson. Some readers may find this surprising, as the "big" name in Christian publishing is Group. However, Thomas Nelson has a unique history of acquisitions in the last century (Word Inc. etc.), plus the development of a self-publishing arm, not to mention the release of incredibly popular books like Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back and Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence that put six of its books on the New York Times Bestseller list the same week early in 2012. 

Then that same year HarperCollins acquired Thomas Nelson. It is intriguing the extent to which developments in Christian publishing go hand in hand with larger shifts in the industry as a whole (remember, for example, that Zondervan is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns HarperCollins). 

A development somewhat opposite of these mergers is the spin-off of subdivisions of publishers to create space for diversified creativity and to reach new markets. Two of my favorite publishers of this type are Sparkhouse, and Brazos Press. Sparkhouse, part of Augsburg Fortress, publishes faith formation resources for children, youth, and adults, but in a way that sparks new life in Christian communities, especially through unique design and product development. Brazos, an imprint of Baker Academic, fosters the renewal of classical, orthodox Christianity by publishing thoughtful, theologically grounded books on subjects of importance to the church and the world. They serve authors and readers from all major streams of the historic Christian tradition, recognizing that the renewal of Christian orthodoxy transcends many traditional boundary lines and polarities.

One could argue the same is true of publishing more generally--the renewal of publishing will like transcend many traditional boundary lines and polarities. It's really a grand adventure.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Paul wrote love letters

I miss writing letters. Or maybe I miss receiving them. I've never been particularly great at the letter-writing genre. My hand-writing is lousy, and I think better while typing. So perhaps I should say I miss writing e-mails.

But mostly I don't even write e-mails anymore, except as the means to arrange meetings or send other basic types of information.

The kind of letters I miss are the ones my Grandma Johnson used to send me in college. They were long, loving, hand-written things, sometimes with newspaper clippings enclosed. There would be a breezy conversational opening, often something about the weather, that would then shift into something deeply philosophical, followed by a quote from a poem or Scripture, some words of advice, and expressions of love.

Very few letters from grandma were less than two precisely scripted pages front and back. I always learned something. Often I teared up. My grandma knew how to write letters.

I used to write e-mails that at least attempted something like the epistolary form. Prior to the existence of Facebook, thoughts and experiences would pile up long enough to warrant long letters home. One friend in particular, a former parishioner from Seattle and now a monk in Arizona, loved to write letters, and the two of us nurtured a close friendship over many years almost exclusively via letters.

A good letter is, above all, an act of love expressed at a distance.

I don't argue that similar things can't be accomplished with our new mediating forms. I've had chats via text that arguably are as philosophical as the collected correspondence of actual philosophers. And I've had read enough status updates from friends to know that we can really experience shared life together in shorter, ambient snips.

But I still miss the letter, and perhaps what I miss the most is the chance to read contemporary examples of literature that parallel the part of Scripture that is my favorite--Paul's epistles. Whenever I sit down to read Paul's letters, I'm once again and over and over amazed that there were communities of readers, small little enclaves, in remote places all over the Mediterranean to whom these strange and beautiful texts made sense.

I like to imagine the people who carried the letter. I am astounded by the expense involved in the materials to simply write a letter. I wonder at Paul's careful thought and prayerful meditation that led to the composition of texts so white-hot and fraught with import and faith.

I love the analysis. I love how we can't tell if he wrote all the letters ascribed to him, or whether epigones wrote some in imitation of his style or in honor of his name. Did he take on different voices when he wrote to different communities? Did he think of these letters as forming, eventually, a collection? How are they connected? Are they each occasional?

Did Paul really steal the gospel away from Jesus, like some contemporary theologians argue? Or is it more the case that he deepened and applied it?

But more than anything else, I simply love the fact that these are letters, written by a real man (with an anamneusis in most cases) to real people, specific communities. I love the individuality of them. The breadth of Romans. The sharp focus of Philemon. The sharpness of Galatians. The spiritual depth of Phillipians and Colossians.

And I love that although the letters do include direct instructions, sometimes even news, they actually also trust that people we write to actually want us to think fresh things, and write them down, to find fresh ways to express ancient impulses, that we love, and are beloved, and these pages between us are illustration of that.

If you're interested, we begin a series on the Letters of Paul at noon Wednesdays at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church here in Fayetteville.

For further reading:

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Hearthstone, Sentinels of the Multiverse, and Play: Faith is in the Cards

It started with Hearthstone. After a lengthy (twenty year) hiatus from role-playing or video game play, I've been back at it a bit. A friend sent me a link to the new strategy card-playing game that Blizzard, creators of World of Warcraft, had launched. Reminiscent of wildly popular deck-building games like Magic and Android Netrunner: The Card Game, the attractions of Hearthstone were many. It is free (although to move forward with better decks you have to grind a lot of games if you don't want to pay for upgrades); it is social, with opportunities to play against other live players; it is connected in concept to World of Warcraft, without requiring the same length of game-play and immersion.

After playing a few games, I was hooked, and pretty soon the kids were sitting on both sides of me encouraging us to play a Taunt, or cast a spell, or save a highly strategic card for a later hand. Suddenly, I had that dad moment when the kids are playing a dad game with dad!

So the son and I decided to port our strategy card-playing back into real life. We picked up a copy of Sentinels of The Multiverse Enhanced Card Game (2nd Edition) at the local gaming store, Gear, and spent an afternoon learning the rules. We spent a significant portion of our summer trip to Iowa playing Sentinels with anyone who would join us--my dad, my brother, other gullible souls.

Sentinels ( is what you call a co-op game. You play cooperatively with the other players against a common enemy or scenario. In this way Sentinels is different than games like Hearthstone or Magic or Netrunner, all of which pit players against each other. In the case of Sentinels, all the players play a deck of hero cards against the game itself, which has a deck of villain cards. One additional deck, the environment deck, creates the context or arena in which the heroes do battle with the villain.

So what is up with gaming? Why invest time and energy in it? Perhaps I have no better explanation than it is what a lot of us do in mid-life, we revivify interests from earlier in life. I played some AD&D when I was in high school, and loved Shadowrun when I was in college. I played a lot of video games, especially the role-playing kinds (Bard's Tale, anyone?). And I've always loved comic book heroes. So Sentinels is a modern day mashup of all of these.

Additionally, it's a way to play together that isn't on a computer, and isn't a first-person shooter. As fascinated as I am by the art and story-line of games like Bioshock or Skyrim, in the end all the grinding and killing bores me a bit. Card and board games are, in this sense, more capacious and enjoyable, at least for me.

My only issue with those early RPGs was the time involved. A session could last an entire Friday evening and well into the wee hours of the morning (like cricket).

Recent popular games from Germany and France like Settlers of Catan, Agricola, Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, etc. have acknowledged that most gamers don't have hours and hours to invest, so they design games that last, on average, about an hour to 90 minutes. Sentinels follows this pattern.

So, as much as I am keeping an eye on how games may emerge as the next great art form that can communicate faith and the depth of human life in the way other great art like cinema and music do (see, for example,, I'm genuinely more interested in simply playing games because I enjoy them, and I think they expand my imaginative horizons.

I should also say, my best friend gave me the assignment to play more, and to play more with others. This was a good assignment to be given. It's one of the reasons I've started trying to connect with the community gaming already happening here in Fayetteville. It's a fast-growing industry. We have at least three locations here in Fayetteville for cooperative and RPG type games, and additionally, Barnes and Nobles and other stores host regular table-top game nights. It's a very different sub-culture, and a chance to meet people in town I might not otherwise meet (full geek hipster confession, I've also started playing more disc golf, and for similar reasons).

I know that increasing numbers of philosophers and educational thinkers are considering the ramifications of game theory and "gamification" for education and business contexts. I'm surprised by the paucity of reflection on gaming as it relates to the life of faith. Perhaps we are all still recovering from the embarrassing period in the 80s and 90s when Christians erroneously conflated role-playing games with the occult (presumably said gamers listening to lots of Beatles and Led Zeppelin backwards while gaming).

So although there are plentiful resources designed to aid Christian reflection on film and literature, there is very little written anywhere that intentionally thinks through the faith aspects of gaming, video or otherwise.

This is problematic, for two reasons. First, it is a problem because gaming has now surpassed the music industry in its scope and size, and is on the way to being a larger industry than the movie industry. If there is considerable reflection to be done on film and music, certainly people of faith can and should have something to say about games.

Second, it is a problem because perhaps it indicates that faith communities have themselves forgotten that the life of church is like a game. It is a form of play. Like Sentinels, in worship each person takes up a deck of cards and learns their role. Ideally, everyone at the table is intrinsically inspired to be there, they take on the challenge of learning the rules, engaging the game, because they have imaginatively entered a shared world with others they desire to inhabit.

To pray, you have to role-play. There's no other way. It is a serious form of pretend. You talk to someone who doesn't talk back... and yet there isn't silence on the other end. The rules of engagement are not a burden but the context that creates the space for joy.

And so on. I need to invest some more time riffing on worship as play, Christian community as gaming, in order to get my mind and heart around the concept a bit more. In my admittedly limited experience, I find that the gaming community isn't necessarily the most engaged in church, and I almost feel like perhaps gaming is it's own kind of church, a sub-culture with its own liturgy and form of life.

In the meantime, I would love to gather more resources around Christianity and gaming, and hear from readers where they see God in games, or how they reflect on worship as play. And as a geek, I also just want to hear what your favorite games are, and why you play them!