Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp – Awareness

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The Lenten season is about the sin that was the reason for the suffering and sacrifice of the Savior. It is about taking the time to reflect on why we all needed such a radical move of redemption, to confess the hold that sin still has on us, and to focus on opening our hands, in confession and submission, and letting go of sin once again. But as we do this, it is important to remember that the knowledge of sin is not a dark and nasty thing but a huge and wonderful blessing. If you are aware of your sin, you are aware of it only because you have been visited by amazing grace. Don’t resist that awareness. Silence your inner lawyer and all the self-defending arguments for your righteousness. Quit relieving your guilt by pointing a finger of blame at someone else. And stop telling yourself in the middle of a sermon that you know someone who really needs to hear it.

Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash

Classic Disney Cartoons Failed Me

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Classic Disney cartoons ill prepared me for snow in East Texas.

Scenes filled with Mickey and Minnie skating across the ice? Nope.

Scenes filled with Huey, Dewey, and Louie battling against Donald Duck in an epic snowball fight? Nope. Our snow is sandwiched between two layers of ice. Sandwiched! Even if you can get through the first layer, the snow underneath is powder. Not an ideal snowball building material… at least not here.

Luckily our power has still worked, our heater is running, and my wife did grocery pickup before the storm hit. East Texas, for the most part, has had it pretty easy. I think there is something about the constant thunderstorms (re: death from above), in the spring/summer, that keep our powerlines in working order. The storms are good for something, I guess.

So how about you? What is the weather like in your neck of the woods?

Playing Together in Among Us

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“Do you want to play again?”

Wyatt looked at me. He had us playing Butter Royale on Apple Arcade. To say that I was done with it after 3 games was an understatement.

“No, I’m good. Do you want to play Among Us?”

“Sure.”

Among Us

I hadn’t played Among Us before. I had no clue how the controls worked; I had no clue what you did in the game besides make guesses as to who the imposter is.

The game starts you off in the lobby where you wait for other players to join your game. Wyatt and I created a password protected game first, joined the game together, and then opened it up to the public. While we waited, I used the computer to change my color and add some accessories. Perfect. Once we had enough players (the minimum is four), we were good to go.

Among Us - Playing

From there, we ran around and accomplished different tasks (as you can see in the top left of the screen above). While we were accomplishing tasks, the imposter lurked nearby. Before I knew it, I was dragged into a meeting where we could chat and decide who was the imposter. Wyatt and I decided it was a specific player, so we voted for him. Among Us then cuts to an airlock screen where the player who received the most “he’s the imposter votes” is sent floating in space. The person we all voted for, the person we thought was the imposter, wasn’t.

Our game went through this cycle a few more times. Each time we voted wrong, a fellow player was sent out the airlock. Eventually, the imposter won, and we lost.

Wyatt and I played 5 or 6 games together. Each on our own screen (we both have iPads). Completing tasks, making accusations, and generally having a good time.

I miss this.

Playing games, together, is a lot of fun.

It almost makes me miss Fortnite. Almost.

The Surf Report – Bible Reading, Social Media, and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

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Welcome to the Surf Report for January 14, 2021

.: God :

My Bible reading plan for 2020 has carried over into 2021. I’ve got to finish up:

  • Jeremiah
  • Psalms
  • James
  • 2 Kings
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Lamentations
  • Obadiah
  • Ezekiel
  • John
  • Daniel
  • Ezra
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Esther
  • Revelation
  • Malachi
  • Job

.: Life :

I’ve been sitting here scrolling through Facebook. Mindlessly, I scroll past former friends and acquaintances. Some have tried to monetize their lives, perhaps even create some sort of lifestyle brand; Some have tried their hands at homebuilding, while documenting how many kids they have on the side. Through the countless pictures, videos, and inspirational images of scripture, I have to wonder, does anybody care?

We put so much time into social media but what does it really give us?

More importantly, could I start a lifestyle brand? 🙂

.: Gaming :

I spent part of my Christmas break playing Ustwo Games Alba: A Wildlife Adventure on my iPad. I love it! I loved:

  • Skipping around the island
  • Taking pictures
  • Enjoying the wildlife
  • Being able to explore and chill at my own pace

So, what about you?

How did your Bible reading plan go for 2020? Did it bleed over, like mine, into 2021?

Play anything good lately? Read a fantastic book?

Let me know in the comments below.

From Across the Net – “What We’ve Lost by Over-sexualizing Male Friendship”

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“But with this change has also come a loss of male friendship—something which men everywhere will readily admit. Keeping close male friendships just seems hard. It is. Intimacy makes a bond, but we no longer have access to male intimacy because it seems sexual. We avoid it. We do not have strong bonds.”

You can read more here

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

From Across the Net – “How Do We Discern Good and Bad ‘Magic’?”

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Based on these truths, when parents approach a fantasy novel, our critical thinking should always precede our impulse to censor the story. Start by analyzing the story’s magic system to determine the source of power. Ask: Do the magicians seek to elevate themselves? Or do they wield their power in sacrifice and service to others? More importantly, does the story cause you, the reader, to desire to elevate yourself over others or even over God, the source of all real power?

Read more here

Photo by Christopher Ott on Unsplash

President Trump, Twitter, and Freedom of Speech

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In the midst of the storming of the Capitol yesterday, Twitter pulled the plug on President Trump. Initially restricting anyone from replying, liking, or sharing his tweet (and later pulling it all together), Twitter had enough. Apparently there is a magical end to the freedom of the Internet, and President Trump reached it.

President Trump, who is no school boy, knew what he was doing. I would call his response to the attacks calculated.

“We had an election that was stolen from us,” Trump said. “It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now.”

One does not pour gasoline on a fire unless you want to see things explode.

But I digress, what will be talked about in the months to come, will be freedom of speech.

Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

Freedom of speech[2] is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.

The moment Twitter did not like what President Trump had to say, they pulled the plug. Up until this point, they had let him exist. Call the election stolen, sure, stay on our platform. The moment though you do not do as we say (in this case, denounce the protestors), you can show yourself the door.

Now, Twitter is a private company, they can do as they please on their platform. But what do Twitter’s actions say about freedom of speech?

  • Should politicians be held to a different standard on social media?
  • Have social media companies become too big? Big enough to silence the President of the United States?
  • When does freedom of speech become a “risk of violence” OR WORSE a result for permanent suspension?

Sound off in the comments below.

Welcome to JBG in 2021

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You are probably now discovering what everyone else is discovering, the problems of 2020 have carried over into 2021. We are still dealing with COVID, masking up, and all of the little things that a pandemic brings. Here in East Texas, life has continued as pandemic normal. Which is to say that I’m still wearing a mask when going into businesses (thankfully though, not at work) and that I’m still beyond bothered by decisions this pandemic “forces” us to make.

In the midst of it all, be it 2020 or 2021, God is still in control. Beyond my annoyances (which are annoyances), He is still reigning.

In 2021, I hope that you’ll make the journey with my family and I. A journey were we can:

  • Share what we love and what we don’t like
  • Practice authenticity
  • And continue writing on the topics of Faith, Life, and Video Games

The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged. – Deuteronomy 31:8 (CSB)

Impressions – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

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In the absence of Nate, Elena, and Sully, where does the Uncharted series head off to next?

Building upon the lessons learned while making The Last of Us and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, developer Naughty Dog unleashes a new kind of adventure in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

Chloe Frazer (Uncharted 2)
Nadine Ross (Uncharted 4)

I’m only an hour or two into the game. Enjoying my time with Chloe and Nadine so far.

The Dirt Clod Wars: Rewind

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Seacrest was a sleepy seaside community located next to Flint Air Force Base (AFB). Locals often joked as to why such a big name was given to an airstrip, a few buildings, and two jets. Rumor around Evansdale was that Flint AFB was the place the military sent those they wanted to forget about. 

The Morris family had received orders to move from Youngstown to Seacrest just two days after Hawk’s Dad had returned from the Middle East. This had been a surprise to Hawk’s parents, who had always lived in or around the town they had both grown up in. Stability and success had always followed the Commander throughout his military career. The Middle Eastern campaign had brought various medals, promotions, and a hidden secret into the Commander’s life.

Hawk pressed his face against the car window as the family turned off the highway into Seacrest.

“We’re almost there?” Hawk asked as he yawned in the backseat. His Mom had driven through the night; his Dad had had to report to the base earlier in the week and was going to meet them at the new house. 

“Yep, I think we are almost there.”

The main strip through town contained a grocery store, movie theater, and a bowling alley called The Purple Tango. On this Monday morning, the downtown area was virtually empty.

Turning off the main street and onto Starlight Ridge Drive, Hawk noticed bicycles laying in front yards, basketball hoops in driveways, and all other sorts of signs that there were other kids in this neighborhood.

“Which house is it Mom?”

“Umm, your dad said it was 2104, the house is painted white with a blue trim. See it yet?”

“Yeah!” Hawk could see his dad out in the front yard carrying boxes into the house. The house itself was a rather imposing Victorian style home with towers and intricate woodwork. Compared to the other houses on the street, the house stood out due to sitting on a slight hill above all the other homes. A perfect vantage point, Hawk thought.

Pulling into the driveway, he jumped out of the car.

“DAD!”

The Commander came out of the house and stared at his son in disbelief. “You’re already here?”

“Yeah, Mom drove all night.”

Austin Morris shook his head then grinned, “Your mother is a stubborn woman.”

Hawk ran past his Dad and into the new house. 

“Hold up, son.”

The house was dark inside. Odd, thought Hawk. Candles lined the entryway and cast a warm glow through the darkness.

“Power isn’t on yet, chief.” 

Seeing the fear on Hawk’s face, the Commander handed Hawk a flashlight. 

“Why don’t you go check out your new room. It’s at the top of the stairs, second door on the right.”

Hawk planted his feet at the foot of the stairs. 

“Do I have to go all by myself?”

“Yep,” his Dad nudged him, “Go on.” 

The floral carpeted stairs creaked as Hawk climbed towards his new room. “Top of the stairs, second door on the right”, Hawk repeated to himself over and over. 

“Did you say something, son?”

“No,” Hawk yelled from the top of the stairs. “Just talking to myself.”

The upstairs hallway was a mixture of dark wood and wallpaper with wild flowers on it. Second door on the right. Opening his new bedroom door, Hawk was blinded by the daylight pouring in through the three bedroom windows. A dust covered telescope sat in front of the middle window. Curious, Hawk decided to see what he could see from his new outpost.

Focusing the lens, Hawk panned the neighborhood up and down. Nothing too out of the ordinary. He did see a basketball in the driveway next door. Curious.

“Pretty cool room, huh?”

His father smiled and wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Pretty cool telescope too. See anything interesting?”

“Yeah, there might be a kid next door.”

“Well, school doesn’t get out until this afternoon. Why don’t you come on down and help me unload the U-Haul.”

“Yes sir.”

< –  – >

Later in the afternoon, they were still outside unloading boxes when the school bus pulled up down the street. Hawk heard it immediately. He put down the box he’d been carrying and found himself starring as the kids streamed off the bus. A group of boys met up and then began walking up the street. They looked to be Hawk’s age.

Hawk watched as the boys came closer.

“Hawk?”

His dad was calling him from inside the house.

He reluctantly walked inside, away from the boys. He found his dad in the entryway.

“Yeah, Dad?”

“I just thought I would check on you.”

The sounds of talking and laughing drifted into the house from the street.

His dad looked at him, “Boys, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, do you want to go meet them?”

Hawk looked wistfully out the door and then shook his head no.

“I’ve got to help you unpack.”

The Commander took note.

“Okay, you’ll get to meet them tomorrow. Your starting school first thing.”

“School?”

>>–<<

To read the first part, click here: The Dirt Clod Wars: M-Day

Tis the Season

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There is so much uncertainty in the air. Uncertainty as far as what the future looks like for the United States; Uncertainty as far as what the pandemic might bring.

Everywhere one looks, they are told to think in a certain way. Due to fear, masked in the veil of compassion/the right thing to do, we should act accordingly. After all, if we want to protect everyone, we must all do what is right, just, and ultimately good.

In the midst of this Advent season, I am reminded of a plan. Of a baby, his birth, and the plan to redeem humanity.

With uncertainty and confusion whipping around, I am thankful for Jesus. Making a way for us through his birth, death, and resurrection on the cross.

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

The Surf Report – Junior High Boys, Dogs, and Star Wars

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Welcome to the Surf Report for December 9, 2020.

.: God :

I’ve been teaching the junior high boys, at church, for over a month now. I find myself surprised. I think, walking into this, I had thought these kids would be on the same level (at least) of the adults I used to teach. Sadly, basic Bible reading and prayer (essentially a daily quiet time) are really hard for these kids. Be that these spiritual disciplines are perhaps not happening at home, I realize we have a lot of ground to cover. And yet, it is hard to teach the lesson at hand when you are fielding off-topic questions, off-the-wall thoughts, and just trying to create a general order in the room.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenge of teaching this class. I don’t regret stepping down from teaching my adult Sunday school class. I just thought it would be easier.

Right now we are focusing on:

  • Prayer – having one boy pray per week
  • Reading – having the boys read the Bible in class
  • Pushing the core theme of the lesson at hand

.: Life :

We got a dog! This is Gus.

Gus

Gus is a American Staffordshire Terrier (at least, that is what his official documents say). He is a good boy who enjoys having his belly rubbed.

.: Gaming :

Wyatt and I have been playing Star Wars Battlefront lately. Specifically the co-op hero battle matches that allow you to destroy one another. Oh yeah, we’ve also been playing Castle Crashers! I picked this one up on sale, and we’ve really been enjoying it.

That’s it for us. How about you? What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments below.

From Across the Net – “A Friend Who Sticks Closer than…a Hobbit? What the Inklings Teach Us About Friendship”

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“In the age of social media, the notion of friendship has taken on new meanings. Many people have “friends” whom they have never met, nor do they know them on any personal level. While most of us would agree that such a relationship does not constitute a friendship in the true sense of the word, the term itself has broadened in application over time to now include nearly any individual one has met and not found deplorable. This expanded use is not necessarily a bad thing, provided one understands varying degrees of friendship.”

You can read more here

The Bath

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I woke up this morning and rolled out of bed. Grabbed my towel before heading for the shower. Wait. No shower. The shower is going to be fixed later today. So I disrobe, start the bath water, and climb on in.

Part of me feels absolutely ridiculous. A 39 year old man doesn’t take a bath. Does he?

As I scrub the various things that need scrubbing, I think to myself, “The water sure is nice.” I can feel the relaxing feeling coming over me, the feeling that only comes from sitting in the tub.

***

Not wanting to be late, I pulled the plug, and I watched the water swirl down the drain.

Maybe a 39 year old man does take a bath every once in awhile.

Adoption Update – The Door Hasn’t Closed Yet

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A friend asked me recently, “Have you heard anything on adoption front?”

I sighed, “No.”

Turns out our caseworker visited us a few weeks back. As she inspected our home, she confirmed ages, whether we want a boy or girl, etc. All things she should have already known. After a year and a half of waiting, we found this a tiny bit discouraging.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

And yet, my friend also said something that gave me hope.

“You’re just going to keep plugging along until God tells you otherwise?”

I hadn’t really thought of this before, but yes, we will keep our house open until God tells us otherwise. He called us into this messy process, and He can call us out of it.

Patience is hard. Waiting is hard. But until God closes the adoption door, we’ll be standing right here, waiting.

The Dirt Clod Wars: M-Day

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My parents told me never to talk about what had happened in the last town we lived in. The Battle of Starlight Ridge was one I would never forget. 

Moving day had finally arrived for the Morris family. Hawk Morris had been dreading this day since the beginning of summer. All of his friends, family, and even school, everything he known and grown up with, would soon be gone forever. Forever. His parents had said that the move had nothing to do with Hawk, but Hawk knew better; the whole town of Evansdale knew better. 

The Battle of Starlight Ridge continued to be one of the most talked about events in Evansdale. Ladies at the local beauty salon whispered in horror over the damage that had taken place; men at the local barber shop shook their heads in disbelief that something so exciting had happened in their town and yet they had not been apart of it. The battle had taken place a few months before school let out for the summer. Joey Higgins, resident Evansdale Elementary bully and Hawk’s next door neighbor, had pushed Hawk for the last time.

“Hawk, we need your help downstairs,” yelled Hawk’s father.

“Coming!”

Hawk took a quick look around his room, noting that everything had been packed except for a photo that sat where his nightstand used to be. Wiping away the dust, Hawk smiled as he looked at his combat unit in their full fatigues. never in his life did Hawk imagine that he would have to move away from his friends. He couldn’t imagine life without them.

“Hawk!”

“Coming!”

Commander Morris, Hawk’s father, was an Air Force pilot that always demanded punctuality. Hawk knew that if he had to be called a second time, he would be scrubbing oil off the driveway until sun up. No joke. Hawk placed the photo of his friends, his comrades in arms, into the last open packing box and headed down stairs into the entryway.

“What do you need, Dad?”

“There you are,” Commander Morris huffed as he carried a loaded box out the front door. “Why don’t you grab one of the boxes stacked in the living room and give me a hand loading up.”

“Yes, sir.”

The living room was a forest of boxes filled to the brim. Last week it had looked like a normal living room, couch on one side and television on the other. Hawk had had his friends over last week for a farewell party. Well, he had had the friends over that would still speak with him.

“Hawk?”

Hawk’s mother, a dental hygienist by day, poked her head over one of the boxes and stared down at him, “You helping your Dad?”

“Yes, mom.” Hawk stared at the ceiling for a moment. “Do we really have to do this?”

“Do what honey?”

“Move.”

Rustling around a stack of boxes, Hawk’s mom navigated around the room to him. She hugged him tight.

“Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. Your father has received orders that he is to be re-stationed near the coast. Our moving is a step up for your Dad and has nothing to do what happened. Do you understand?”

“Yes ma’am…and no. I just don’t want to leave Tommy, Scott, Cory and Andrea. They’re my friends.”

“Hawk, I thought you were going to help me?”

Commander Morris had come back in from the yard and had been standing there for a few moments.

“Everything okay?”

Hawk’s Mom gave him another hug, “Everything is fine.”

Hawk quietly grabbed a box and headed out the front door. 

“What did you tell him,” the Commander whispered.

“I told him what he needed to hear.”

“You sound so cold hearted my dear,” the Commander chuckled, “He is our son after all.”

Felicia Morris smiled at her husband, “I should probably get back to work.”

Walking up the moving trucks ramp, Hawk noticed that Cory was out riding his bicycle. 

“Hey Cory, you allowed to talk with me?”

Cory silently shook his head no, popped a wheelie, and took off down the street to his house. Fears of moving and loneliness swept over Hawk, he sat down on the truck’s ramp and buried his head in his hands. 

“You okay, chief?”

The Commander placed his hand on Hawk’s shoulder. “I noticed that Cory didn’t say hi to you. Guess his parents are still a bit unhappy over what happened.”

Hawk shook his head.

“No reason to cry son, you did win the battle after all.”

“I know but everything is changing now because of it.”

“Hawk, your Mom and I have told you over and over that our moving has nothing to do with you. I received orders that I have to follow.”

“You could have said no.”

The Commander sat down next to Hawk.

“I’m just a fighter pilot son, I do as I’m told. We, our family, has to move. Orders are orders whether you like them or not. I’m sorry.”  

“It’s okay, dad.”

“I am sure there will be lots of kids your age where we are moving.”

“You sure?”

“Yes.”

He doesn’t know that, Hawk thought. He just doesn’t know.