A Birthday in the City

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Celebrating a birthday is a great excuse to take a vacation day from work. So, Tab and I decided to take Wyatt to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science for his birthday. We totally surprised him! The boy had no clue.

We loved:

  • The Expanding Universe Hall – Was neat to hear Tab and Wyatt talk about different astronomers they’ve been learning about in their space unit study.
  • The Journey to Space Exhibit – Seeing Neil Armstrong’s gloves from the Apollo program. History is all about the small things.

3 1/2 hours later, we were tired and done. Had a great time though!

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Why Do We Play?

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A few weeks ago, I asked the Theology Gaming Community:

The TG Community answered:

  • Entertainment
  • Bridge gaps of distance
  • Stories
  • To slow down and enjoy friends
  • To learn new systems/rules
  • To be invited into a piece of art, by the artist, as a collaborator
  • To forget about problems
  • Video games are fun
  • Enjoyment
  • Escapism
  • Fantasy of having increased power/capability
  • Gaming brings people together

Sam went on to say:

Mainly it’s my time to ‘turn off’ from any sort of stresses in real life and just sit back and enjoy something. But there are other huge things I’d miss if I wasn’t gaming. Mainly the excellent communities you become a part of, and I have found, since starting college, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends who went elsewhere.

Joe emailed me his reply:

Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies. It’s a classic tale of man versus adversity. Human ingenuity wins out over a catastrophe that almost certainly should have spelled certain death for the three brave crewmen. It’s a great story to watch, but as a viewer I can only be a passive observer of this story. Kerbal Space Program, however, allows me to be the solution as well as the cause of all my Kerbonaut’s problems. What should be a routine trip around the moon turns into an epic series of rescue mission because of my inability to effectively design spacecraft. Running out of fuel, botched engine burns, missing solar panels, and the inability to dock two spacecraft turn Kerbal Space Program into an interactive rescue simulation. The best part of all this? My experience will never be exactly the same as anyone else’s. 
That’s the appeal of gaming to me: personalized entertainment. While most games will offer a similar overall experience to its players, little details and interactions are unique to each person. Nobody has the same struggles as I do in Kerbal Space Program. My approach to clearing Liberty Island in Deus Ex will be different than anyone else I know. Dark Souls fosters camaraderie with fellow players who follow the same story beats, even though not everyone will struggle with the same sections. Though I play the same game as thousands and millions of other people, my own experiences with that game are unique to me. This is what sets gaming apart from every other form of media. It’s fun, it’s dynamic, and it’s accessible. Why wouldn’t I play games?  

For me, gaming is about:

Relationships  The conversations that happen while trying to outscore my wife in King Domino.

Nostalgia – Playing Chess with my son reminds me of all the times I played Chess with my Grandpa. I miss him and those times we had together playing Chess, flying remote control airplanes, and telling stories.

Imagination – As with good books, video games allow me to visit other worlds and step into the shoes of someone else.

Discovery – Digital worlds come with their own individual sets of rules. I love seeing what a game world will allow me to do/not do.

Connection – Nothing like discussing games with fellow enthusiasts, taps into my nerdier side.

Sampling All The Flavors – I love constantly trying new games which allows me to experience the different gaming mechanics they each bring to the screen.

Why do you play?

A Reminder That We Are Called To More

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My church has been hosting a time of renewal with Life Action Ministries. One of our speakers last night encouraged us to write down 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Every time the verses mention the word love, we were instructed to write our names there instead:

Bryan is patient and kind. Bryan is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Bryan does not demand his own way. Bryan is not irritable, and he keeps no record of being wronged. Bryan does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Bryan never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

In our relationships, as Christians, people should see Christ in us.

Putting my name into those verses is a great reminder of how I should be living. Our speaker further encouraged us to write down the verses on a card and place them where we can see them everyday. Reading them to remind us that we are to be “little Christs”.

I Know Nothing

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There have been times, as a parent, where I’ve thought that I have had everything figured out. Moments where I mistakenly concluded that I had mastered the art of parenting. Looking back on old photos, I realize now that I knew nothing. The older Wyatt grows, the more I feel unequipped as a dad. Each day presenting a new challenge, a new set of decisions on how best to guide my child.

Parenting an almost 9 year old, I have been learning about freedom and letting go. Making what feel like hard decisions in the moment, like sending him to summer camp for a week by himself. Emotion versus logic battle it out:

  • Emotion: He is too young to be gone for a week by himself. What if he gets scared or wants to come home?
  • Logic: We can always go pick him up if need be. He’ll be in a safe place. Our Children’s Director, who is amazing, is going to camp/loves the camp they are attending.

The instant gut reaction of “lets wait until next year” gives way to questions of why. Tab and I are learning to push through these gut reactions, compare them against non-emotional truths, and then ask Wyatt what he thinks. Giving him voice and a choice in the decision at hand has helped us both make a final decision. Big decisions, such as “let’s try this!”

Parenting is not easy. But I’m thankful for the grace that is given to parents which allows us to grow up alongside our children. Grace that allows me to admit that I do not know everything about parenting, but I know a little.

Grow Up Faster, Kid

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Tab and I were at the bookstore recently and I came across Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer. Knowing Colfer’s reputation from his Artemis Fowl series, I picked up the Iron Man book to read to Wyatt before bed. Being a good dad, in that moment, I decided to read a bit of the book before reading it aloud to the boy. I am happy I did.

Within the first chapter, teenage Tony Stark is accused of being “one of those boys”. Howard Stark’s secretary is angry at Tony for something he might have/have not done with her daughter. Tony acts surprised. All I could think of, as I was reading this, was having to explain to my 8 year old what “one of those boys” meant. I get that this is 100% par for the course for the character of Tony Stark. But I wish that Colfer could have played teen Stark more like he is in the cartoon Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Which is to say a Tony Stark that is driven, sometimes moody, but always resourceful; a Tony who is not on the girl crazy bus, yet.

For years now, I’ve noticed that children’s media (cartoons, TV shows, books, etc.) seems aimed at rushing kids to grow up. Presenting them with topics and life issues kids won’t encounter until well into the middle school years.

As someone who was homeschooled fourth grade through high school, I know that there is no hurry to grow up. Kids can be innocent, their imaginations left to thrive, by proper parental engagement in curating media choices.

My goal is not to shelter Wyatt. I want to help him work through life issues as they are presented to him. My goal is to be wary, watchful, and help make sure no outside media influences are forcing him to grow up faster than he is ready to grow up. I want my kid to remain a kid, on his own terms.

Age classifications and ratings boards cannot do the job of a parent. Just because another entity designates a piece of media as age appropriate doesn’t mean that it is.

As parents, we need to stay vigilant, realizing that we might need to hold off on introducing such things as Iron Man: The Gauntlet until our child is ready for it. Even if that day of being ready is weeks, months, or even years away.

What are you kids consuming, media-wise, that is causing them to grow up faster than they should?

Be Silent, Don’t Talk

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Sometimes I want to feel like I can talk out loud. I want to talk about what it’s like not being able to have more children. How years upon years can go by and nothing happens… and how bad that hurts. I want to talk about the lies that constantly swirl around about not being whole… the lie of being a failure for not being able to produce. Whenever my wife and I open up about where we are, people say the most insane/insensitive things:

“You should be quiet, you already have one.”

“You should focus more on others.”

“You should come up with a plan to adopt and be ready to start next week.”

Why can’t others just listen? Why can’t we mourn together? Why is it so hard to just pray and be?

Eric Schumacher wrote a post yesterday titled “Dads Hurt Too: A Father’s Memoir of Miscarriage“. Made me cry. Even though my wife and I haven’t experienced a miscarriage (that we know of… there are different types of miscarriages), I get where he is coming from. I’ve heard the same lies:

Comparison pointed a paw at our living children—three of them, then four, then five—and demanded, “What right have you to mourn a child you never knew, when you have all these?” Comparison thrust the faces of friends before my own—friends who could not conceive, friends without a living child, friends whose children died in the crib or in college—and mocked, “You mourn, but not as those who have no kids. Others are worse off; stifle your sorrow.”

There comes a point where you feel like you should just be silent. The hurt experienced from opening up and talking in community not worth the price.

  • Why do we, as Christians, go silent when others who are hurting pour their hearts out?
  • Why do we act like we have no power when we claim Jesus lives in us?

I feel like I should be able to talk, especially around fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet I can’t.

Don’t Be A Looky-Loo

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I do not drive much anymore. Living in a small town, my workplace is about 10-15 minutes from the house; church is about the same distance on a good day. Compare that to the time I spent in the car when I lived in California and its nothing. I remember, especially in junior college, hitting the weekend and being happy to be nowhere near the inside of a car.

Southern California and freeway traffic go hand-in-hand. Carpool lanes, express lanes, all have done little to alleviate the problem of too many cars in a small space. Driving the 91 Freeway, I have vivid memories of cruising along at 70mph only to crest a hill and have traffic come to a dead stop. Often these traffic jam would be caused by serious accidents. Other times traffic would come to a dead stop because everyone was slowing down to look at a car that had broken down on the side of the road. Drove me nuts! We even had a term for such people, looky-loos.

Have you ever noticed that when we see or hear about a situation, say a ministry a falling apart, that we want to know more about it? Even if we have no connection to the community (Facebook group, website, podcast, etc.) we want to know the gory details. Curiosity, in this case, can quickly lead to gossip. Gossip that can then further fuel anger and hurt that is already present.

A rather large ministry, one that I’ve followed from the sidelines, has been hurt this past week. Accusations are flying, staff being let go, a complete restructuring of the ministry is taking place. While I am sad to hear of such things, as the ministry is closely patterned off of something I once wanted to do myself, I want to urge caution to my friends.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts. – Proverbs 18:8 (boldness added for emphasis)

You may want to know more about what has happened with this particular ministry; you may want to hear the “choice morsels”. A certain level of curiosity is understood. But at some point, the things you are looking at (tax/salary information, etc.) is not for you to look at. It is easy to judge from the sidelines. To say, “If I had been running that ministry, I would have structured it this way.” The thing is, you and I were not running that particular ministry. A group of people who felt they were doing the work of the Lord are.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

My wife reminded me today that a ministry blowing up is the work of Satan getting in among Christians. Causing hurt and ultimately division for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Such division is not meant to be.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. – Romans 16:17-18

It’s okay to pause and mourn a ministry that is going through upheaval. But don’t slam on your own personal brakes for too long or you’ll end up causing a pile-up. Keep your eyes open, take note, and drive the path the Lord has you on. I write this just as much for myself as I do for others.

Grace and peace to all my brothers and sisters in Christ.