To the average person this might sound strange. But to the creative mind of Eric, it makes perfect sense. What began as a way to creatively capture and chronicle his time in grad school, LEGO Eric often pops up all over the place – sometimes holding a cup of coffee or other times with a tool. “It’s a fun way to document the projects I’m working on without taking a selfie.” Eric has found a fun and entertaining way to bridge his creative imagination with his everyday world. No surprise, he is in the entertainment world.
As we talked, I could hear the footsteps of a production company stomping overhead in my house. They have rented it for a movie set, which I discovered was also Eric’s world. After receiving his B.A. in Theater from Hope College in Holland, MI. Eric moved to Chicago to act. This lead to him trying his hand at directing. “I always played with LEGO sets as a Director, not like a technician or an engineer. I played to create stories.” Turns out, that skill would later pay off.
“I was a better director than an actor.” But in order to get work, he started designing stage lighting for plays. And within a few years he was in grad school getting his MFA in Lightning Design. Today, he is back at his alma mater; only this time as a professor. “I always had a mind to teach.” But at one point, Eric also thought about ministry.
Like I said, I saw some of Eric’s LEGO creations years ago while visiting his parents in Spencer, Iowa. He is a PK – a preacher’s kid – like his sister Laura who I met exactly one week ago. It's not uncommon for a PK to want to follow in their parent’s footsteps. But few ever do. “I’m theologically connected, but I cuss like a sailor.” I can’t think of a better candidate. He confessed that the only thing he likes about ministry is having "the opportunity to write a well-crafted speech every week.” (I would be lying if I didn't say I'd totally have LEGO Eric do pulpit supply for me).
Eric is a story teller, like his parents. Like them, he has started writing a new story, with his wife, as newish father himself. “It’s what I wanted it to be” (when asked about fatherhood) but he was quick to add that “I never really liked babies. I always struggle with someone who doesn’t talk.” Eric likes to talk, and much like I am around both his parents, I held on to his every word.
When his grandmother asked him why he always played with LEGOs he told her, “I love to make up stories.” But he never wrote them stories down. “I should have but didn’t.” Another thing he hasn’t done, but would love to one day, is shoot a crossbow. Like the advice he’d give to his younger self, “don’t sacrifice your dreams for a relationship.” If you want to shoot a crossbow, go for it.
Like I said to his sister, it was really nice to finally meet this man. And not the inch high version of himself. He is a professor of so much wisdom, a director of so much creativity, a big nerd dad and a man with an even bigger heart. He is confident, yet humble; eager to learn, but ready to teach; always ready to create the next scene or set the mood for it.
As I heard someone yell, “Cut!” above me, it seemed like the perfect time to dim the lights and gave him an applause. Life is a story that plays like a movie, or a sitcom, or a drama. And for some people, maybe a musical. When it happens, you can bet Eric and LEGO Eric will be there to play it out for our entertainment. That in itself is a ministry – finding your talent and living faithfully in it.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”