Ellen Elliott

Ellen Elliott: Geeking Out with God (Part 1)

John FarrellBy John Farrell16 Minutes

John Farrell: What was your inspiration for writing Geek and Ye Shall Find?

Ellen Elliott: I had put off watching the show “Chuck” for years. It was on TV and I was like, “It’s going to get canceled. I don’t want to watch it. It’s going to get taken away from me.” I wrote about that a little bit in the book, but probably like four years ago or something, I finally watched it. It was all on Netflix, so I could binge the whole thing.

There was this one episode in Season 3 where he gets an upgrade with Kung Fu powers. So, he had all these CIA secrets in his mind and then he gets this Kung Fu upgrade, but he keeps shorting out when he’s supposed to perform and save people because his natural human emotions get in the way. They come up with this military fear pill that he’s supposed to take, that’s supposed to wipe out all of this normal fear that he’s having. So, he took this pill.

I struggle with fear. I have through my whole life, mainly taking risks in life and going out on a limb and doing what I think God’s calling me to do – that kind of thing. I was like, “That would be really nice to take like a fear pill.” I was like, “That’s stupid. I’ve got the Holy Spirit. I have a ‘no-fear’ pill already.”

That led me to start thinking about how I’ve gotten all these themes and spiritual lessons in my life through lots of different pop culture stuff. I’ve always been into pop culture as long as I can remember. Sometimes that’s looked down upon in the Christian world because there’s the sexy stuff or there can be a little funky stuff that sometimes Christians look down upon. But, I would say on the whole, through things that I’ve watched in pop culture over the years, I’ve actually got some great spiritual lessons from them. So, I thought it’d be fun to write a book about that. That’s how I got the idea for the book.

Honestly, when my agent and I were shopping it around, we kept our hopes very low because it’s such a weird idea. I don’t know if there’s ever been a geek devotional out there before – at least I haven’t seen one. I was thrilled when Harvest House took a chance on it.

JF: One of the things I found cool about your book was that it extrapolated those messages or Easter eggs, as you call them in the book, from various pop culture elements and relate them back to different stories and messages from the Bible.

Ellen: Yeah, that’s what I mean. I think in life that’s everywhere. If we’re looking for it, we can find these big sematic lessons that God gives over and over in the Bible. But, it’s really all around us and everywhere. If we’re looking for it, we will see it. I think sometimes God kind of knocks us over the head with it, and sometimes we kind of have to scratch the surface and see it as well.

JF: Absolutely! What is the overall message you hope readers take from your book?

Ellen: In the “Doctor Who” chapter, where it talks about our legacy in life, I think as geeks and people that are kind of quirky and odd – which Christian geeks tend to be – we sometimes wonder where we fit in to the body of Christ and what we are really doing for God’s kingdom.

I wrote another chapter on Avengers, about being part of a team and being the weird part of the team. I would hope that people who are kind of funky and geeky and march to the beat of their own drum know that there is a place for them in God’s kingdom, too. They just need to be themselves and do whatever it is that God’s calling them to be.

I think what I really wanted to accomplish with this book is just make all of us oddballs out there feel like there are other people out there just like them, and we serve the same big God.

JF: Why is that message so important today?

Ellen: I have kind of an interesting background. I was raised in a mainline church and I became more nondenominational as I entered adulthood. I grew up reading a lot of Christian nonfiction, especially entering adulthood. In those years, I tried to mold myself into what I thought a good Christian was supposed to be.

There are a lot of books out there that give Christian rules. Not that they’re meaning to come across as rules, but I think sometimes in evangelical culture we can tend to feel like we have to pigeon ourselves into a certain role and that we are not accepted by our fellow Christians and the Christian world if we’re not a certain way, kind of towing a certain line.

As I’ve grown and matured as a Christian through my life, I’ve seen that life’s not that way and that God never had that purpose for each of us. He made us all each unique and creative and different. Just as there are roles out there for people who are born pastors or born evangelicals and born shepherds of a church, there’s also a role for those of us who aren’t really sure about where we come in. Maybe someone’s job is to provide humor in a situation or look at things from an interesting point of view.

There’s all sorts of different roles that God creates for us in our life and He wants us to be ourselves. I think, for me, it was just trying to make others feel like there’s a place for them and it’s a wonderful place, but they have to have the courage to just be themselves.

JF: One of the things I liked about your book is that it was tongue-in-cheek and wasn’t so serious. There was a nice blend of humor and pop culture, while at the same time relaying a biblically based message. It made for an interesting and entertaining read.

Ellen: Well, I think that was kind of a struggle. I’m so thankful for Harvest for taking a chance on the book and everything because it could have gone south.

There were a couple of times where I was like, “Okay, am I straying too far off into pop-culture land?” I want this rooted in Jesus, but also how far can I kind of play around with pop culture?

I drew all the little illustrations in the book, too. For the chapter on The Princess Bride, I had drawn a little illustration of a rat popping out of a toilet, and I didn’t think twice about it. He was pretty cute, but some of the powers that be at Harvest were a little horrified that I’d drawn a toilet. So, I had to redraw it without the toilet. That is one of the things you come up against when writing for Christian booksellers. You can’t draw toilets.

JF: That’s too funny. Like I said, the book was a lot of fun to read. It must have been a lot of fun to write. What did you learn about yourself during the writing process?

Ellen: That’s interesting. What did I learn about myself? I learned my brain is even more spazzy than I thought it was. I would be writing and I would have these thoughts that were like, “Oh, I need to talk about this.” That’s why there’s a lot of footnotes in my book, because that’s my brain kicking in.

I think I learned about myself that I love to write. I love being a writer. I love connecting with people.

The comments that I’ve gotten back from readers about my book have been awesome. I just love meeting people that identified with it and found that there was a kindred spirit out there like me in them. That was primarily, I think, the best thing that came from the book – finding connections with other like-minded geeky people out there.

JF: In your book, you mentioned that you’re an uber Muppets geek. What other geek elements that you talk about in the book are up your alley? Like are you a Trekkie or are you a Star Wars fan?

Ellen: Yeah, I am not a Trekkie. My sister is a Trekkie. Maybe this can show what fiction and pop culture and stories can bring into our lives.

My sister, when she was in high school, lost a very dear friend in a car wreck and she really struggled with depression for about two years there. One thing that made her happy when she was struggling through this loss was she would come home every day after school and turn on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and drink a Coke and eat chips with salsa. That was her thing she did every day after school. It was like this little joy in the middle of her day.

That is actually how she became really fluent in Star Trek. It’s this touching thing that brought her peace and joy in her life when she was much younger.

I knew that I could talk to her about Star Trek and that kind of thing. I never really had that affinity for Star Trek, but I always appreciated that it had given her joy.

There are some geeks out there that are like me. I would say I’m like a jack of all trades with geekdom. I dabble in a lot of it. There are a couple that I’m hardcore about, like the Muppets. Then there are some people who are a master of one. For some of my chapters, I had to reach out to some of my friends.

One of my friends, Emily, is a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan. After I wrote my Lord of the Rings chapter, I sent it to her and said, “Help me. Did I say anything wrong in this chapter?” She went through it with a fine-tooth comb and was like, “Well, technically this sword is named this.” I was like, “Alright.”

I like Lord of the Rings. I appreciate it, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a master of it. Like Star Trek. I like Star Wars also. I really liked Star Wars. I really like the middle three. Empire Strikes Back is my jam. I love that movie.

I don’t even want to talk about the prequels because I literally fast-forwarded through the third movie. I watched it on fast forward. I know that’s heresy to some people.

But, I’m a master of Muppets. I love the Muppets. I really love Wallace and Gromit. I love anything Aardman. That kind of thing. I have memorized Little Shop of Horrors.

I would probably say I also like “Doctor Who.” I appreciate Whovians out there, but I had another friend who had to read through the chapter and make sure I hadn’t embarrassed myself.

l love Lost. I watched every episode and I was diehard the whole way through. I even made lots of excuses for them that last season. I was like, “They’re going somewhere with this. I swear they are. We all have to stick together and wait until the end.” And then the last episode … I was just mad. I can’t even talk about it anymore. I didn’t like the last episode.

GEEK AND YE SHALL FIND, Copyright © 2019 by Ellen Matkowski. Used by permission of Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408. www.harvesthousepublishers.com

Order your copy of Geek and Ye Shall Find: Devotions for Nerds, Geeks, and Dorks Everywhere by Ellen Elliott

Featured Image Credit: Muppets Mural / JeffChristiansen / CC BY 2.0