Lunch Time Detective: Part 2

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I got into a fist fight over lunch…

So there I was, accusing a man of murdering his wife, when suddenly he takes a knock-out swing at my partner. Officer down! Suddenly, I am up to bat and I can’t remember which buttons to push to throw a punch. Frantically, I button mash, trying to defend my character. Nothing. My heart is pumping and the screen is slowly turning gray as my character is being used as a virtual punching bag. I’m dead.

I played through the above scenario at least 3-4 times before I miraculously figured out how to throw a punch. With the perp handcuffed and snuggled in nicely in the paddy-wagon, my partner and I proceeded downtown for what was sure to be an intense interrogation.

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The Coffee Virgin

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about starting to drink coffee. A good chunk of my friends drink coffee, heck, even my in-laws drink coffee. Why wouldn’t I want to give myself that added caffeine boost in the morning? One simple daily cup would begin a quiet revolution in which I would be awake in the morning. Actually awake! Slowly rising above the other bleary-eyed worker drones, I would soon take over my current place of employment due to my increased level of awareness. People would marvel and the world would never be quite the same again, all because of one small change in my daily routine.

The Coffee Virgin

The most experience I have had with coffee are the sugar-loaded drinks at Starbucks–I love a good soy Caramel Macchiato!–. Well, that is not quite true, there was this one time I was at my in-laws and I drank an entire cup of coffee. I will note though that the scoop of ice cream I had put into it helped sweeten the deal.

So, coffee drinkers, where do I start*? Do I go the instant route first?

*Please keep in mind that I am terribly lactose intolerant. Creamers would be the death of me!

Elm’s Peak: Chapter 1 – The Will

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At one point, I used to do a lot of creative writing. I enjoyed spinning worlds out of thin air. Below is one of those places I started to visit and just didn’t stay long enough to get to know. Perhaps with some encouragement, I will one day continue the tale of Elm’s Peak.

Elm’s Peak

A Tale of the American West

By Bryan Hall

> – – – <

During a time when the West was rugged and still wild…

A time when a gun was a necessity to live…

A period when our nation was expanding and exploring…

An age in which Men were Men…

There lived a man by the name of Neil Conner…

This is his story…

> – – – <

Foundation:

Hugh Conner had died at the young age of 45 in a fire that burned down his New York Mansion. This blaze also claimed the existence of his companion in life, his wife, Alice. The wealthy couple had brought only one youngster into this world, a son by the name of Neil.  He was about 20 years old at the time of their deaths. He had been away from New York, and thus his family, for the last five years. Working on various ranches in the American West learning about what it takes to run a ranch and to live the life of a cowboy. As the story opens, Neil is living near the town of Elms Peak. He has recently bought a spread of land, with the intentions of running his own cattle ranch. In the past few days he has received a dated telegram that carries the message of his parent’s tragic deaths. According to the telegram a lawyer, whom has been entrusted with carrying out the family’s will, is now on his way to meet with Neil. We catch up to our character as he is riding into the town to meet with his late parents legal representative.

> – – – <

Chapter 1 – The Will

Two horses could be seen coming towards town of Elms Peak. Their riders looked to be Neil Conner and Ross Nelson. Both men were about the same age and had reputations of being gunslingers. Rumor even had it that Conner came from an affluent family, which had disowned him at an early age and turned him out into the world. Whether this rumor was true or not, it was the gossip that has some how made its rounds about the small town. Riding into town as the sun started to climb into the morning sky, they passed the local bar, Greene’s Tavern. Jacob Greene, the taverns owner, was out on the front boardwalk sweeping when they rode past.

“Good morning Jacob!”

“Morning Neil. Morning Ross. What are you boys doing up so early?”

“Business to take care of.”

Jacob was about to ask another question when he noticed that the two men had not stopped and were a distance down the street. Continuing to ride down the dusty street they past Scott’s Hoard, which is the towns only General Store. No sign of life could be seen inside the General Store. It was well known throughout the town that the stores owner, Kevin Scott, was a drunk. Most of his time was spent sleeping off the night’s consumption of alcohol. It was almost at the end of the main street of township that they stopped and dismounted. Tying their horses to the hitching post, they walked into the Fortune Hotel. Inside Ralph Winter, the Sheriff, and his Deputy, David Stewart greeted them. Both gunmen tipped their hats and continued walking by in silence. As they passed the front desk the hotel owner, Jim Fortune sighed.

“Only one guest in the hotel must be your man.”

Mounting the stairs that led to the upper section of the hotel they slowly counted off the rooms one by one. Finally coming upon the room that had been predetermined in the telegram, Neil opened the door and went inside. Ross closed the door behind him and stood guard in the hallway. Knowing that the meeting, that was taking place today, was of the greatest importance, Neil had prearranged the security downstairs. Little did he know that the talk of all New York was about to be decided in a moment? What was to happen to the Conner estate? The telegram that Neil had received had been brief and to the point.

<Telegram>

Parents have died.

Lawyer being sent to discuss the family estate.

Fortune Hotel Room #8.

Use great caution.

“Use great caution,” echoed through his mind as he stepped into the darkened hotel room.

Running his hand over the cold steel of his Navy Colt, reassured Neil, as his eyes adjusted to the dark.

“There is no need for the weapon, Mr. Conner,” said a man sitting in the shadows.

The striking of a match filled the room suddenly with a dim light. A hand could be seen guiding the match into a lantern that was sitting on a desk. The room was suddenly lit well enough so that Neil could see whom had just spoken .

“There, so much better, now we can see each other,” smiled the lawyer as he blew out the match.

Neil surveyed the man that sat before him. The gentleman appeared to be older and was rather generously proportioned. Neil took off the gun belt that hung around his waist and laid it on the bed.

“A man can never be too careful.”

“Quite so Mr. Conner, quite so.”

“You are?”

“Mr. John Cameron, from the firm of Cameron, Jacobson, and Schmidt. I apologize for not introducing myself.”

“I have many questions Mr. Cameron. I hope that you can answer them.”

“I will answer all questions in due time. We have much to discuss so what questions would you like answered first?”

“What happened to my parents?”

“I have been dreading this question but very well then I shall tell you what I know. According to my reports, your parents were in bed sleeping when the fire started.”

The old lawyer shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“Fire?”

Neil raised his eyebrows curiously and sat on the edge of the hotel bed.

“Nobody knows how it started, just that it did, and that your parents’ house completely burned to the ground while they were inside.”

The attorney frowned.  Neil shook his head and looked down at the wooden floor.

“I can’t believe they are dead.”

“I am sorry for your loss Mr. Conner.

A few moments of silence passed.

“The talk of all of New York has been of what is to happen to the Connor family fortune. Today I present to you the fate of this great American fortune.”

The old man pulled a file from a black briefcase sitting next to his chair.  Neil had tears welled up in his eyes, he could hardly control his emotions in front of the lawyer.  So close he had been to them, now they were gone. The attorney looked at Neil.

“First, there is the land.  All of the land your father owned belongs to you now, which is the thirty-five acres in New York. Then we have the money. All of your parents’ assets will be directly transferred to you.”

Neil leaned over and turned up the lamp.

“Exactly how much money are we talking about Mr. Cameron?”

The attorney smiled and leaned back in his chair.

“Five hundred thousand dollars.”

Neil choked. The lawyer chuckled.

“Other than that you now own your father’s steel corporation.”

Neil cleared his throat and gave a faint grin at the old man.

“Is that all then?”

Mr. Cameron laughed.

“Yes, that would be everything.”

Neil stood up and strapped his gun belt on again.

“Well then, if all is in order, I thank you for your time Mr. Cameron.”

The other man stood up and shook Neil’s hand.

“I shall be off then, here are the deeds that belong to you now.”

With that the lawyer handed some papers to Neil and walked quickly out of the hotel room. Neil sat on the bed again and thought for a moment about his parents. After a few minutes, he got up, blew out the lamp on the dresser, and quietly left the hotel room.

“Everything ok?”

Ross Nelson emerged from the shadows of the hallway.

“Yes and no, mind if we talk about it later. Theses hallways have ears.”

A door down at the end of the hall suddenly slammed shut. Neil grinned and motioned for Ross to follow him back down to the hotel lobby. Coming down the staircase into the lobby, the hotel owner, the sheriff, and the deputy greeted the two.

“Is everything all right Mr. Conner?”

“Yes Sheriff, it is.”

“Well if all is well then Stewart and I are off to get some grub.”

“Thank you for your time.”

“You’re welcome. Come on Stewart, I am hungry!”

> – – – <

Wednesday Night Study: Acts 2

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After a short summer break, my Sunday school class started back up it’s Wednesday night Bible study. This week we read from portions of Acts 2. We picked up right after the Apostles had received the Holy Spirit. Some in the crowd were wondering if the Apostles were in fact drunk due to hearing them speak in different tongues (languages).

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

So, Peter addresses the crowd:

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c]

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[e]

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’[f]

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:14-47 (NIV)

Thoughts from the study:

1. I love how Peter immediately addresses the crowd regarding the thought that the disciples were drunk (Acts 2:13). They weren’t! Peter quotes to the crowd scriptures found in Joel 2:28-32 which talks about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The day they had been told to wait for, by Jesus, had finally come.

49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49 (NIV)

2. My Bible had a side note that talked about how up until the time in Acts 2, all throughout the Old Testament, only select men (some kings and prophets) received the Holy Spirit. Now, all believers have the Holy Spirit in them the moment they accept Christ. We have been clothed with power from on high and sent a helper.

3. I also like how Peter re-accounts Christ’s story. Specifically telling the crowed that:

23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Verse 23 wonderfully reveals that Christ’s death was not in vain but part of a bigger plan. Oftentimes we can’t see God’s bigger plan for our lives. Rest assured that His plan is active and good. I like the following verse as well:

24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

4. We focused a lot on verses 42-47. Specifically on how the early Christians treated one another. A few thoughts hit me that I was unable to voice:

a. Much was made about how the early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (42).” Our group openly wondered how we could be like this with our own class. We talked about how we could invite others into our homes and how we needed to get together more than just once a week. Something that struck me during this conversation is how we do not need to make a big deal about when we have people over. Reminded me of Matthew 6:3 – “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”

b. Verse 45 talks about how they gave away their possessions and goods to anyone who had a need. I want to note that this verse says nothing about personal possessions or goods being bad or evil. As our group talked about what it looks like to give stuff away, to fight the American obession with goods, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:

18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

God is always concerned about the individuals heart. I want to stress that it is a gift from God to be able to enjoy what He has given to you. This means that possessions and wealth aren’t bad! As long as your heart is in the right place, pointed towards God, you are good to go. Anything else is a guilt trip that reeks of legalism that seeks to rob us of a possible area of blessing from God.

In closing, this was the beginning of the early church, believers were excited about what God was doing. The Church still had it’s new car smell. I would argue that it is easy to do things when you are “enjoying the favor of all the people” (47a). Therefore, it would be easy to meet daily and live together when you do not have any conflict. When things are positive, with believers numbers being added to daily, it is easy to be a follower of Christ. What I love about Acts, as a book, is that it shows that things weren’t always easy for the early church and that things won’t always be easy for us. 

Next Wednesday, our Bible study picks up in Romans 1. Should be good!

Batman Vs. the 2 Year Old

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Lately, I have been playing through Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PS3. The game features impressive controls, voice acting, and the dark and gritty environments of Arkham Asylum itself. (Side note: At times the game has reminded me of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Both feature a dark color palette and stealth action mixed with all-out brawling.) If I were to make a Batman game this would be it.

Babysitting

Now I normally play video games once my son has gone to sleep. This way I can play guilt-free and enjoy myself with little interruption. The other night I was watching “the boy” as my wife was at Bible study. Trying to unwind a little, I popped in Batman and started killing the bad guys. As my two year old sat there watching me play, a small thought entered my brain, “should you be playing this in front of him?” I quickly dismissed the thought. I was enjoying myself far too much and wanted to progress further in the game. My son soon lost interest in watching me play and went and grabbed my wife’s “hi-pad”. As he sat there playing his educational games, I continued my quest to return order to Arkham Asylum. Something nagged at me though later on in the night; something that has caused me to question the very games that I enjoy and use to de-stress.

My son is used to the sugar-coated worlds of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Veggie Tales. He has never spent much time watching something set in the hellish environment of a prison. In fact, I know that he never has outside of what he has watched me play with Batman: Arkham Asylum. This has led me to ask the question:

What type of an example am I being to my son?

PS3

Ever since purchasing a PS3 last year, I have indulged in hours filled with high body counts, floating flower petals, and exotic locations. The PS3 has taken me to places that Nintendo’s Mario would never dare tread. But at what cost?

Last night, I went to bed playing The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass on the DS. The cell-shaded graphics, brightly-lit landscapes, and fun gameplay reminded me of why I enjoy Nintendo games. Here was a game I could easily play in front of my son. Though there might be evil in the world of The Phantom Hourglass I ultimately know that good will triumph.

Closing Thoughts 

In closing, I do know that there is a difference between maturity levels, adult vs. kid appropriate material, etc. What I am trying to focus on here is two things:

What type of an example am I setting for my family with the games I play?

Do I really have to indulge in games that feature mass amounts of violence to be satisfied as a gamer?

The Bible is clear in it’s call to:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. – Philippians 4:8 (The Message)

The Bible only wants us to fill our minds with the best, the beautiful, and the things worthy of praise for us. What does that look like in your media choices? This is something I’m going to have to think more about.

Honesty

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1 Don’t turn a deaf ear when I call you, God.
If all I get from you is
deafening silence,
I’d be better off
in the Black Hole.

2 I’m letting you know what I need,
calling out for help
And lifting my arms
toward your inner sanctum.

– Psalm 28:1-2 (The Message)

Over the past few days, I have been reading in Psalms as part of my morning devotion. Something that has really struck me, in my reading, is how much David whines to God. David never minces words, he tells God exactly how he feels. I like how he compares deafening silence, on God’s part, to living in a black hole.

6 Praise be to the LORD,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.

8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.

– Psalms 28:6-9 (The Message)

Notice that David lets God know what he needs (prays), humbles himself (assumes the right posture), and then gets an answer.

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

– Psalms 28:7a (The Message)

  • Due to God being David’s strength, he trusts God.
  • Due to God being David’s shield, David knew that God would continually help him.
Have you let God know what you need today? As we have seen, God is faithful to answer.