At the Table – Pandemic

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Pandemic is a cooperative board game that requires players to take on different roles/coordinate their moves in an effect to treat infections/find cures for four different viruses. At the end of each player turn, cards are drawn which cause the viruses to spread even further. Will solid teamwork win the day?

Pandemic Cover

Years ago, Tab and I had a bad experience with Pandemic. For an entire game, we were told what to do:

“Use your special move to do this.”

“You should move here to stop the yellow virus from spreading.”

Instead of being allowed to wrap our head around the game’s unique mechanics, we were compelled to be good soldiers and follow orders. This experience made Tab and I never want to play Pandemic again… and so we didn’t. We avoided the game like the plague.

Side Note: Our experience, I later found out, was not unique. In the board game world it even has a term: “Quarterbacking”. Quarterbacking occurs in cooperative board games when one player dominates the group by telling everyone else how to play.

Pandemic
Behold, the board! And the many virus cubes of evil.

Last year, one of my big pushes was to introduce cooperative board gaming to our family. I wanted less of us all working against each other and more of us working together to overcome the board. So we played a bunch of cooperative games such as:

  • Castle Panic
  • Forbidden Island
  • Jaws
  • The Mind
  • The Game Card Game
Jaws
From our recent family playthrough of Jaws.

For Christmas, I decided to ask for Pandemic. I thought maybe playing the game with just Tab and Wyatt might redeem Pandemic in the Hall house. I was right! We had a great time stumbling across the board, as we tried to figure out exactly how everything worked. By the time the world was imploding with viruses, we lost the game. But even in our defeat, we are all eager to play Pandemic again.

Final Thoughts: Castle Panic is our favorite family cooperative game right now. We love the way it plays. However, Pandemic isn’t too shabby. Funny how one bad experience soured the game for us. I am happy to have brought Pandemic back to the table for another go.

From Across the Net – “Coronavirus: Photos From Wuhan Under Quarantine”

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Though these photos are a few days old now, they still show a scene many of us have only seen in movies. The Chinese city of Wuhan looks like a ghost town due to the Coronavirus quarantine. The photo of the super market, the way it stretches out (the market looks huge, almost as if a mirror is making it look bigger), is but a glimpse of a much different culture. Yet life goes on, and residents exercise in the street (see photo in slideshow linked below).

Check out the photos here

Change My Default Setting

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While reading this morning, I caught this towards the end of Galatians 1:

21 After that visit I went north into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And still the churches in Christ that are in Judea didn’t know me personally. 23 All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” 24 And they praised God because of me.

We live in a culture that is skeptical. Daily, we are bombarded with news cycles which are hyped-up and presented as entertainment. In our communities, we bump into the super skeptical–the Moon landing never happened!–. We live in a time where our discernment muscles are worked to a fatigue. This causes many of us to be swept along with the cultural tide, bobbing along the surface of noise.

Photo by Ryan Pernofski on Unsplash

If our world is skeptical, Christian culture can even be more so. I think back, a few months ago, to Kanye West’s “supposed” conversion. Twitter was a mess with Christians initially calling his new relationship with Christ false. How many times have we done that ourselves with those in our own churches? I am not calling for blind acceptance here, we need to be wise. But I can’t imagine how our modern Christian culture would react to someone like the Apostle Paul. The churches in Christ that were in Judea behaved this way (verses 23-24):

23 All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” 24 And they praised God because of me.

Which makes me ask:

  • Do we praise God when we hear about a brother or sister coming to Christ?
  • Is our first reaction one where we are skeptical? Taking a “we’ll just see how this turns out” approach?

Personally, I want to react with awe and wonder at what God has done and is doing. I am not 100% there yet though. Being honest, I am skeptical most of the time. Nevertheless, I want God to change my default setting.

Simple Accountability

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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.

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

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?

Distracted Gaming

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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
  • SteamWorld Heist
  • 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?

Adoption Update: God Has Called Us To This, He Will See Us Through

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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.