RIFT Impressions 1.2

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Often times I feel like I’ll mention a game on this site and then never talk about it again. I promise you that this is not some small part of a larger conspiracy theory. I truthfully just quickly get bored with games that fail to grab hold of me. Case in point:

Closing Thoughts:

MMO’s are time-sucking-vortexes that I simply do not have time for anymore. While I still enjoy reading about them, I feel that the genre as a whole has not advanced forward. World of Warcraft is the pinnacle of modern MMO gaming. Games like RIFT, though polished, offer me nothing compelling to forget about World of Warcraft and move forward. I do hope that Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 do something to shake up this genre funk. I miss playing a good MMO. Until that day, MMO’s like RIFT have been banished from my computer. Case closed.

Alleluia

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Two weeks ago, my church hosted the California Baptist University Choir and Orchestra. While not normally my type of music, I found the choir and orchestra to be absolutely beautiful! One of the songs they sang, Alleluia, has been stuck in my head since then. The chorus for the song is incredible! Almost haunting in a way… This morning I woke up with the song in my head…so I hunted it down on the youtubes. Enjoy!

Capable of Much: The Tongue

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This morning my wife and I read James 3 in preparation for our Wednesday night Bible study. The first part of it really stuck out to me:

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. – James 3:1-12

In verses 3-8, the tongue is compared to a:

  • Horse bit
  • Rudder
  • Small spark
  • Fire (Hell)
  • Restless evil (full of deadly poison)
Verses 9 & 10 points out our hypocrisy:
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. – James 3:9-10
Which then reminds me of Proverbs 18:21:
21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Everyday, we make constant word choices in our conversations. We have the ability to lift people up or tear them to pieces with a verbal tongue lashing. Just this morning I was presented with such a choice at work. Thankfully, I took the high ground and kept my mouth shut. Do I still want to say something? Yes. Do I need to? No.
11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
I want to be known for speaking words of life into peoples lives. I want to be a spring of fresh water. Do you?

Isolation

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The Christian life is one that is often lived out in unintentional isolation. We go to church, mid-week Bible study, and hopefully connect with fellow Christians. From that, we create our own little Christian bubbles filled with like-minded individuals. Now I think that it is great to attend church, Bible study, and get to know other believers. However, I think that we are isolating ourselves from those that we have been called to reach out to, those outside the church.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, – Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

Yesterday, I attended a meeting for a ministry that is seeking to teach a weekly Bible study at a local homeless shelter. The study would meet every week and would be taught by teams of two guys who would rotate with other teaching teams. The commitment is very low; the potential to share our lives with these guys is huge!

One of the requirements for being a part of this ministry is that you have to be willing to give your cell phone number to these guys. That way if one of them needs to talk or needs prayer, they can give you call. Now I have to admit that I was going along with the whole thing until giving out my cell phone number was mentioned. COMFORT ZONE ALERT! Which then made me ask myself a few questions:

  • What are my motives in wanting to do this homeless ministry?
  • Are they to further Christ’s kingdom or to maintain my false sense of cell phone number security?
  • Do I really want to live in communion/ open my life up to these guys, many of who are ex-cons?
  • Am I happy living in isolation and ignoring Christ’s Great Commission?
My wife and I read this morning, during our devotional time, about how Christ wants us to have open hands. Often though we clutch our hands together, holding onto something we don’t want to give up. We think that somehow we can do better holding onto whatever it is versus giving it to the Creator of the universe. I know that I need to see the bigger picture, to push past the comforts of isolation…I also know that I need Christ’s help to do so.

PlayStation Store Strikes Back May 24th

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Barring any additional problems, Sony plans to bring the PlayStation Store back online next Tuesday, May 24, according to a memo sent to the console’s publishing partners. – Gamasutra

I am honestly not sure how I feel about this, especially in light of yesterday’s news of Sony being hacked again. Sony has not won back my trust just yet.

Relevance

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While there’s little inherently wrong with learning how to help yourself or take care of our planet, more and more churches are serving up the issues du jour with such fervency and flair that they compete with or even drown out God’s word.That’s not cultural relevance. That’s elevating the temporal above a timeless God, relegating Him to back burner status. – Reverence vs. Relevance…at Church

Chump Change

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On June 24th, Disney-Pixar’s Cars 2 skids into theaters. This time, Lightening and Mater have accelerated past Radiator Springs on their way to a road trip around the globe. The movie’s trailer (found here) exhibits racing, travel jokes, and a spy-theme overlay. Will Cars 2 signal the end of the Pixar-touch?

Take a look at Pixar’s current release schedule:

  • Cars 2 – June 24, 2011
  • Brave – June 22, 2012
  • Newt – 2012 – Cancelled
  • Monsters University – June 21, 2013
Notice that there is only one new storyline/ concept being offered. The other two films are sequels. For awhile now, Pixar has seemed to be interested in delving deeper into the sequel goldmine. Perhaps they have found a rich vein of creativity they think they can tap into? More power to them. However, who made the decision to make a sequel to Cars? Cars, which is an average Pixar film in my opinion, was not deserving of a sequel. Especially when the previous film released by Pixar, The Incredibles, almost screamed for one. I personally think that Pixar is not being driven by creativity and imagination anymore; No, I think that Pixar is being driven by the almighty dollar. Do you disagree? Check this out:
Estimates from the New York Daily News indicate that sales of Cars merchandise two weeks out from the release of the film amounted to US$600 million. Estimates put out in November by the Walt Disney Company peg total sales for the brand at around $1 billion.[27] 
Cars merchandising is huge! Who wouldn’t want to capitalize on such a thing? In the midst of all this branding and merchandising business, who is profiting? Disney. So, is Pixar really the driving force behind the sequel-itis it seems to suffer from or is it Disney? Either way, on life’s highway, I can only hope that Pixar doesn’t lose it’s soul.

Traffic

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On a recent visit to Southern California, I was quickly reminded of my hatred for traffic. Cars, cars, and more cars flood the streets and freeways. Everyone is in a hurry to go no where.

Returning home to East Texas, I could not help but compare the two traffic-wise. Growing up, my Dad had an average commute of an hour to get to work. Random accidents and the traffic created by them would easily increase his commute time. In comparison, I only travel a combined 20 minutes a day, to and from work. I love it!

Traffic doesn’t have to be something that we just accept. I mean really, who wants to deal with a 2+ hour commute everyday? There are other options:

  • Moving closer to work, if possible
  • Moving to a more rural area that does not have traffic
  • Use mass transit

I do realize that these options are often not realistic due to money, job location, and proximity to mass transit. There are bigger picture things we can move forward towards:

  • Encouraging urban planners to build towns/ cities around mass transit. Also encourage sidewalks and bike lanes to be built to accommodate those that are close enough to walk/ ride to work.
  • Pushing our local and state level politicians to push for mass transit items like trains to be built.
  • Funding Google to perfect the Google Car concept. If everyone had one of these we wouldn’t have anymore accidents…unless there was a total computer failure.  🙂 I know, I know, I can dream can’t I.

PSN Customer Appreciation Program

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All PlayStation Network customers can select two PS3 games from the following list. The games will be available for 30 days shortly after PlayStation Store is restored and can be kept forever.

  • Dead Nation
  • inFAMOUS
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Super Stardust HD
  • Wipeout HD + Fury

For PSP owners, you will be eligible to download two PSP games from the following list. The games will be available for 30 days shortly after PlayStation Store is restored and can be kept forever.

  • LittleBigPlanet (PSP)
  • ModNation Racers
  • Pursuit Force
  • Killzone Liberation
Full post here.

On the Verge

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So here we are, standing on the verge of another week; another week of the mundane mixed with unexpected adventures.

Went to church today and listened to the California Baptist University Choir and Orchestra. The group played and sang quite well! I enjoyed the experience most when the choir members came out and sang a few songs mixed-in with the audience. Talk about stereo sound!

Rewind!

The rest of my weekend was very relaxed. Saturday night my wife and I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow: Part 1. Overall, the movies pacing, intimate moments, and build-up to the final confrontation and battles made it a thousand times better than the dreadful Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film. Seriously. I had thought that the Harry Potter film franchise was sunk after watching Prince. Thankfully director David Yates found his bearings and cranked out one of the best Harry Potter films yet!

Otherwise, I didn’t have much time for video games this weekend. I did however have a chance to sit down and read some more of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. The political intrigue has finally begun!

So here we are again on the verge of a brand new week. Are you ready?

RIFT Impressions 1.1

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"Nirvana is coming, the mystic portal awaits."

Ah, the smell of a new MMO! The joy of playing through starting content and actually seeing fellow human players running around completing quests. I had forgotten what this feels like.

During my first play session last night, no matter what, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be playing World of Warcraft instead. I mean, there is nothing inherently wrong with RIFT. I fear though that years spent in the refined lands of Azeroth somehow set a mental bar in my head. Why should I play anything less than the perfection that is WoW?

After leveling to level 4, I called it quits last night. That is, until a few minutes later…when I sat down again and played some more. Call it the MMO pull or the relaxation that mindless tasks (kill ten mystic dudes) bring, but I continued to play until I hit level 5. By then my laptop’s fan was screaming and the base of the computer was super hot.

The last time I really dove into an MMO, besides WoW, was with Warhammer Online. Warhammer had something special going for it. At least I thought it did. The public quests, dark art style, and a land perpetually at war drew me in. Heck, the fact that it was something other than World of Warcraft was enough for me. As I progressed through the levels however, I soon came to the conclusion that Warhammer was a shallow affair. My friends quit shortly after the first few months and I did too. Warhammer was fun while it lasted.

I‘m still not sure what I think of RIFT. Can’t tell if it is just more of the same or if something “special” is just over the next horizon. Like I said in my first post, I’ll keep you updated. Until next time.

RIFT Impressions 1.0

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I love the dark castle lurking on the horizon.

Perhaps I am totally burned out on MMO’s, but RIFT seems like more of the same so far. The combat, storyline, and level progression are all things that I have experienced over the years. I will note that the soul system could prove to be interesting… but do I really want to commit to playing “another” level grinder? Something to think about in an age where Lord of the Rings Online is free-to-play.

In my first session of play I have managed to hit level 4. With 6 days left on the free trial, I am going to continue to give the game a shot. Say hello to Waldcelter on the Greenscale shard if you think about it. I could use some friends! More impressions to come!

RIFT Free Trial

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For months now I have heard @Syp talk about the wonders of RIFT via his blog. Being burned out as I am on MMOs, I had decided to take a pass on this one. That is, until I found out that RIFT has a 7 day free trial. Free being the goodness that it is, I think that I may have to take a leap and see what all the talk has been about. Care to join me fellow burnouts?

Personal Conviction

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8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.- Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

I got into an interesting conversation yesterday with a good friend. He has been recently convicted by God to get rid of the things in his life that do not necessarily praise Him. For my friend, this looks like getting rid of some movies, books, and even music.

21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent [emphasis added] and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. – James 1:21 (NIV)

Kratos wants blood...

After talking to him, I got thinking about the stuff in my own life I have walked away from due to personal conviction. For example, I played through the original God of War on the PS2. I loved this game! In playing it though, I noticed that it brought out a thirst for what I would call “blood lust” within me. I just wanted to kill, kill, kill. Not only that, but the cut scenes in the game featured what might as well have been soft core porn. There was one time when I was playing that my wife saw one of these cut scenes, she was appalled…I was embarrassed. Soon after I beat the game. I made my wife promise me to never let me play another game in the series again. I simply did not like the all encompassing worldview found in the game. The gameplay was another matter…

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world [emphasis added]. – James 1:27 (NIV)

More recently I have walked away from playing through the game Darksiders on the PS3. The game had everything going for it minus a highly spiritually convoluted storyline. Heck, I could have even looked past that! What really killed it for me was that the game forced you to offer blood sacrifices to demons. It was then that I ejected the disc and never looked back. I know, as a Christian, that God would never consider such acts, even done virtually, to be honoring of Him.

5 You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God… Exodus 20:5a (HCSB)

Beyond the realm of video games, I have also dealt with conviction over books I have read. The best example I can think of is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. A few months ago, I rushed through the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones. I loved how Martin was able to weave political intrigue with such a rich cast of characters. What started to bug me though, as I moved through the 1000 pages of the book, were the explicit sex scenes found therein. In the end, I concluded that Martin’s brutal fantasy world was not one I needed to be a part of. Reading what amounted to bits of pornography was not good for my mind nor my soul; Nor was it honoring to my wife and my God.

Being a Christian is tough. The price for following Christ often means making choices that you don’t want to make but know you need to. I have not always followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting when it comes to things I need to walk away from. But the times I have listened to that prompting have lead to an even closer walk with the Lord. So I encourage you to put down that which you know you shouldn’t be touching. God will give you the strength to walk away.

13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

In conclusion, the conversation I had with my friend has bought me to prayer. I am now praying that God would help me figure out what “moral filth” I have allowed into my life. I know that removing it will not be easy but am reassured that God will see me through.