I stepped out of my comfort zone Sunday morning. Normally, I teach adults during the Sunday School hour at church. But yesterday, I went and joined a 9th-12th grade boys class.
My friend Jon, who I used to co-teach with, leads this group of guys. He opened with the question:
“What did you read in your Bibles this week?”
The room was silent, awkwardly silent. Jon asked again, his question hanging in the air:
“What did you read in your Bibles this week?”
The silence broke as one of the guys talked about what he was reading in the Book of Revelation; another talked about reading in the Gospel of Mark.
We discussed other things, but our opening question stuck with me. Got me thinking about what would happen if I asked this question in an adult Sunday School group. What would the answers be like? Do we expect to be asked such a question by a fellow believer?
I think that often we can put up a good front. We can demonstrate that we know a lot about Jesus and the Bible. The difference between knowing and growing; the difference between reading your Bible and praying on a daily basis is huge.
I want to grow closer to Jesus. I want to be able to give an answer about what I’ve read on a given day… about what He is doing in my life. Accountability starts with a simple question: Are we willing to ask?
I don’t know about you, but I have been all over the place with video games as of late. Bouncing between:
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Wolfenstein II – The New Colossus
Horizon Zero Dawn
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
I’ll race through a cup in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and then play a level or two in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Following that up with a couple hours of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and then a level of SteamWorld Heist. I feel like a kid at a buffet who keeps dashing between food items… and deep down I know that I just want to get a single plate of corn fritters (deep-fried cream-corn goodness).
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Wolfenstein II – The New Colossus, and Horizon Zero Dawn all equal games that require time to get into the games head-space; time to feel out the game’s rhythms and core gameplay loop. I have found myself attracted lately to games that can be played in quick bursts. Racing a cup (4 races) in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes 10-15 minutes, count me in! Destroying Wyatt in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (more likely the other way around), I’m there!
Gets me thinking about the larger list of games I have laying around, waiting to be continued. Games such as:
God of War – I played for a few hours and liked what I played.
Anthem – Picked up for $5. Played the first mission. It’s okay.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – Have sunk at least 10 hours into.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Have sunk 15-20 hours into the game only to realize I need to stop and level up a bunch to progress.
Diablo III Ultimate Evil Edition – Wyatt and I have played towards the end of the second act and then quit. This game is dark, ya’ll! Even worse, boring?
Hollow Knight – Have put in some time on this game… I keep getting lost… but I love the atmosphere.
Ori and the Blind Forest – Same as Hollow Knight, I get lost which equals frustration.
So many games… so many worlds… so many play styles… so many experiences waiting to be had. But, right now, I keep gravitating towards the games that allow me the maximum amount of gameplay for my time. I’m not looking for deep video game experiences. But I would love to settle down with a plate of corn fritters soon.. and maybe Ni No Kuni II… and Destiny 2: Forsaken… does it end?
How about you, do you ever feel like you are bouncing from one game experience to the next?
I had one of those difficult conversations last night with a foster mother. She talked about a recent placement her and her husband had received. As she unpacked a story that included:
Level of care being misrepresented
Messed up family drama on a scale you know exists but try to not think about
I was reminded that these children need an advocate–and not just the children she was talking about, all children in the foster care system–. Someone to fight for them, to push back against doctors / teachers / life; Someone to provide a place of stability after living in what I’d call a war torn home. There comes a point, when you are listening to such a story, where feelings of empathy and ultimately justice kick in. You can’t help but feel for these children; children who have done nothing to deserve the adult situations they have been plopped into. Makes me thankful for those who have been called to foster and who provide a sense of normalcy and stability while birth parents have a chance to figure things out / get their lives together.
As the foster mom talked, I could feel a small thread of fear trying to grip me. An inner voice saying, “This is the type of horror story you’ve heard about. This could happen to you and Tabitha! You could be placed with a child that has been misrepresented to you AND has all sorts of problems.” As I pushed back on that fear, the foster mom kept saying, “God has called us to this, and He will see us through it.” Amen.
I love how God used this conversation to strengthen my resolve. Reminding me that children are out there, hurting, needing a place of stability. I stand firm, in God-given peace, that He has called us to adoption.
This is not to say that I am not still wondering about timing. I am not good at waiting. God first spoke to Tabitha and I in January of last year (2019). Calling us to move past our 10+ year grief of infertility; calling us to adopt.
I still remember the peace I felt going to the first informational meeting with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
How quickly we were plugged into a PRIDE Training Class.
The crazy stories we heard while in training.
The 30 minute drives to Marshall, where I had Tabitha all to myself to talk / unpack / dream / decompress.
How happy we were when training ended at the beginning of May.
How after completing the Home Study / various hoops, our family was certified to adopt at the beginning of August.
Adoption is a process. The Hall Family is still in that process. At the beginning of December, we met with our Adoption Development Worker. She said that she had not found any children that were a good fit for our home. So we wait knowing that our God is big, His timing is good, and that He loves us.
Some of the points, on this list, seem like no duh parenting moments; other points come across as alarmist. But, I did find a few things helpful, like this:
Teach kids that when someone offers to show them anything on a screen, they should ask “What is it?” before looking.
And this regarding streaming services:
Many will tell you to just set up a separate profile for the kids–easy! But that’s not enough. The profiles are not password protected and kids can easily switch profiles. Your best line of defense is to set up parental controls. Some parents find it annoying that they have to enter a password so that they themselves can watch content, but it’s a small price to pay to protect your child from mature content!
I have to admit, I always thought that having separate profiles would be enough. Setting up a PIN, for all accounts, to help govern content watched, seems smart.
Ant-Man has been Wyatt’s favorite Marvel movie so far.
Watching the Marvel movies in order, I have loved Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain American: Civil War (two movies I had previously disliked). These films are amazing in how they build on one another. And yes, Tony Stark is 100% a jerk by the end of Civil War.
Doctor Strange is the second Marvel movie (besides Winter Soldier) that has bored Wyatt into talking during the movie.
I still love how the end of Doctor Strange is told in reverse (could be the best Marvel movie ending of all time). Also love the way “magic” looks and the overall special effects. Solid effects movie.
Tonight, we act as if Thor: The Dark World never happened and that Thor: Ragnarok is the official continuation of Thor’s story. I enjoyed Ragnarok the first time through the Marvel movies… and I’m hoping my opinion doesn’t change like it did with Winter Soldier (which is very talky and a tad boring).
I am learning that one of the joys of being a diabetic is having ones blood tested every three months. Spent a small portion of my day, yesterday, having blood drawn and meeting with my doctor. The tests showed a dramatic improvement in my glucose levels, which made the doctor happy. He told me that he thinks that I should be able to kick this diabetes diagnosis to the curb.
But let me tell you, the holidays were tough! I had to be more vigilant than normal about what I was putting into my body. There were some days that I didn’t do the best of jobs; but more days than not, I succeeded.
Has me thinking about something I taught on this past Sunday, in Mark 7 (bolded emphasis mine):
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” 17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18“Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) 20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Before this passage, the Pharisees are arguing over the tradition of hand washing before eating. Jesus calls them out on using man-made law as an excuse to ignore God’s law:
6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ 8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” 9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
But what I want to go back and focus on verses 22-23:
20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you.21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Unlike diabetes, which is all about what one puts inside them, the Bible talks about what comes from inside being the problem. We can feed this problem through what we consume on a day-to-day basis through:
The books we read
The games we play (excluding Ice Ball above)
The movies/television we watch/stream/consume
Even through our daily bad habits we’ve picked up–I see you picking your nose!–.
All of these, as with the sugar I am fighting against putting into my body, can act against our souls in unhealthy ways. Diabetes is teaching me that I can give up/avoid certain foods. That I don’t have to have a Vanilla Coke, 2-3 times a week, in order to stay awake/just enjoy/fend off headaches. We get to where we think that we have to have certain things. That we have to watch a certain series or play a certain game so that we are on top of what is going on culturally. The fact is, some of the things that we consume hurt us… and God calls us to let those things go.
We are our own worst enemies. I am thankful that I do not have to operate on my own strength. That I serve and love a God who gives me discernment, wisdom, and the ability to know when my self control has failed and I just need to flat out run/get away from whatever it is.
This is a good article from Thom Rainer. I hate it when personal preferences start to make Sunday School Teachers, Youth Leaders, and even the Pastor question the path God has them on.
In churches, I see pastors, again and again, yield to the pressures and criticisms of the ten percent. I get it. I’ve been there and done that. May I suggest some perspectives on this issue? Perspectives are not solutions, but they can help us persevere when the ten percent get really loud.