From Across the Net – “Follow the Way You Want To Be Followed”

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
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I feel like God has been teaching me this for years (via Tim Challies):

If we are going to follow in such a way that we parse every word and appeal to every loophole, we should expect our followers to parse our every word and to pursue every loophole. If we are going to follow formally, to go through the motions but with grumbling and complaining, we should expect our own followers to grumble, to complain, to do no more than the minimum. If we are going to follow the letter while ignoring the spirit, we should not be shocked when those we lead likewise follow the letter but violate the spirit. We are all natural imitators, so that the way we follow begins to look a lot like the way they follow.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “Google Maps, Mater, and Proverbs”

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Life is a journey. Make sure you’re listening to the right voices. Get godly counsel. Don’t only consider your own opinion, because the way of a fool is right in his own eyes. That means if you are doing something colossally foolish, it may seem perfectly logical to you. Even if you’ve invested a lot in the direction you’re going, progress might mean turning around. And if you get stuck, make sure you call someone reliable for help.

You can read more here

Prayer Is Not My Strong Suit

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Can I admit that prayer is not one of my strong suits? I can read the Bible all day. I can teach through the Bible with ease. When it comes to prayer though, prayer is something that I have to work at.

Chuck Lawless posted “8 Ways I Pray for My Wife“. #5, on his list, is what stood out to me:

That God would maximize Pam’s incredible gift of hospitality—and that I would be fully supportive. I add that latter phrase because I’m an introvert while Pam’s an extrovert. I love seeing Pam’s joy when she serves others. I just need to love it more….

Tabitha also has an incredible gift of hospitality. A gift that I too push against with my introvert nature. I need to work on being supportive when Tab wants to invite others over. Even when that invite pushes me out of my comfort zone.

God has been speaking to me a lot about prayer these past couple of days. A friend posted a quote, to Facebook, that I’ve been thinking on:

The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own. – H.B. Charles Jr.

Got me thinking about:

  • How I’ll often talk more / write more on certain topics than pray over them.
  • How there are some prayers I don’t think God will ever answer–me being honest here–, so I quit praying over them due to lack of answer.
  • What type of spiritual legacy, I’m modeling, for my wife and son.
Photo by Peggy Paulson on Unsplash

Tabitha has always told me that God answers prayer in 3 ways:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not Yet

Reminds me of how long I prayed for my wife before we even knew one another. How I went through years of thinking I’d never find someone. Only to meet Tabitha when I was least expecting.

Reminds me of our current adoption process. How I find the silence and slowness of the process to be heart breaking. But I realize also that I need to pray more over the process as God says not yet.

Prayer is that unused tool, on my spiritual tool belt, that I need to actively use more. Not use in order to get what I want, per se, but use to communicate with my Heavenly Father and deepen my relationship with Him.

How about you, do you find the spiritual discipline of prayer to be easy?

From Across the Net – “Writing About Charlie Brown Feels Like Writing About Myself”

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Yet here’s the paradox: Charlie Brown is still happy. He still has friends. He still gets excited about all the projects that are destined to fail. Very often, young Americans are simultaneously pessimistic about the world and optimistic about themselves—they assume everyone’s future is bleak, except for their own. Charlie is the opposite. He knows he’s doomed, but that doesn’t stop him from trying anything and everything. He believes existence is amazing, despite his own personal experience. It’s the quality that makes him so infinitely likable: He does not see the world as cruel. He believes the world is good, even if everything that’s ever happened to him suggests otherwise. All he wants are the things everyone else seems to get without trying. He aspires to be average, which—for him—is an impossible dream.

You can read more here

Infected with the Plague

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I started feeling sick last week.

  • Chest pressure
  • Weakness
  • Almost losing my voice by the end of the day

I found myself googling the symptoms of the Coronavirus as I anxiously waited for a fever to pop. Thankfully, my body’s temperature did not go along with the horror story playing out in my head.

Tabitha reassured me, as we tried to figure out what was going on. She told me that I sounded just like I do when I get a cold… my yearly man cold.

By Friday, I was miserable. I was tired of not having energy and coming home and crashing in the evening. A couple hours after being home though, I felt okay. It was then that Tab and I realized something, my workplace has been making me sick.

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

At certain times of the year, my workplace zaps my body. I have googled sick building syndrome, etc., but have never figured out why. Until last year, when we discovered that there were no air filters in the building’s air conditioning units. Once we installed filters, I felt fine. All of my bad allergy symptoms, including the daily almost losing of my voice, vanished. Nothing like putting one’s detective skills to use.

It’s funny–not really–how we can jump to the worst case scenario. Thinking we are:

  • Infected with the plague
  • About to lose our jobs
  • Going to die thanks to Google and WebMD

When our typical life outcomes are far more chill and often as simple as changing an air filter at work (which I did this morning).

Where we spend our time (social media, articles, comics, video games, blogs, etc.) affects us; What we breathe in, literally, affects us too.

Review: Mutazione

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I have trouble writing about games I actually like. My excuse–yes, it is an excuse–is not wanting to spoil the experience by too much thought. Mutazione is one of those games for me, a game where I’m like, “Yeah, that was good.”

Mutazione‘s Steam page describes developers Die Gute Fabrik’s game as:

A mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural. Explore the Mutazione community as Kai as she cares for her ailing grandfather. Discover magical gardens, new friends & old secrets. They can survive an apocalyptic meteor strike, but can they survive their small-town drama?

Mutazione is a chill adventure whose story ruminates on loss, love, and finding a way forward from past tragedy.

I enjoyed running around the island, listening to the subtle wind chimed soundtrack.

I loved seeing Kai’s relationship with her grandfather blossom over time.

Sure there are some soap opera-like elements that I did not like, or at least, I did not feel rang true for me. But beyond those drama bits, the story’s supernatural and mysterious threads propelled me forward–much like Oxenfree did… but this is totally different than Oxenfree–.

Mutazione captures those slow summer days. Days spent with family, friends, and magical gardens? More so days spent:

  • Collecting seeds / gardening
  • Enjoying conversations, with friends, that last late into the night

Mutazione is a game about healing; a game about moving on from the past. Moving forward with new hopes, dreams, and most importantly, new friends.

5/5 – I loved my experience with Mutazione via Apple Arcade.

Title: Mutazione
Developer: Die Gute Fabrik
Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, macOS
Reviewed On: iPad / Apple Arcade
MSRP: $19.99

Review by Bryan Hall

The Concert
Up in the trees.
Mutazione - Boat Trip
Floating
Mutazione - Meteor
Secrets
Mutazione - Saying Goodbye

Date Night – Playing Detective

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A few weeks ago, I noticed that Portal Games was offering a free print n play / standalone short case for their Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game (you can find that link here). Having never played the game, I thought to myself:

“This looks like a perfect date night for Tab and I.”

You see, Tab and I love a solid police procedural. There is nothing quite like the two of us sifting through clues, testimony, and evidence in order solve a crime.

So, I printed out the:

  • Board
  • Tokens
  • Cards
  • And the “Suburbia” case introduction / information

After dropping Wyatt off with the grandparents, Tab and I picked up Thai food and headed home. Reading through Detective’s instructions, we decided that we did not want to play with the provided board. The game’s time element, where each player action equals a certain amount of in-game time, sounded a bit too constraining for us. Instead of following the game’s rules, we started reading through the individual cards; Each card offering branching story paths with different decisions to make.

Detective game components

We had a great evening reading through the cards together. As we played, I entered some of our case findings into the game’s online database (Antares Network). When we thought we had finally reached a solution, the Network then asked us a series of questions in order to solve the case.

We won!

Thai food + detective-ing made for a pretty amazing date night.

Is there a recent date night/date night idea you would like to share? Tell me about it in the comments below.

The Corona Reset: A Blessing in Disguise

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Before the pandemic, my wife and I were balcony dwellers at church. A throwback to a time when our Sunday school class would all sit together, on high, in the balcony. A great place to watch all the movements below and be hidden from the pastor’s view due to the bright lights.

Unnecessary Explanatory Note: We have stayed in the balcony due to the ease of finding seats. When you serve, easy seat access is a plus.

Since we have returned to church from the dark pandemic times, Tab and I have sat downstairs. Free from Sunday school, serving, and any other positions we may hold, we have been free to just attend… to just be.

Sitting where we have been sitting, I have smiled to myself many a time. You see, church goers joke about members having assigned seating. When I say joke, I speak of a partial truth. One of those things that is awkwardly grinned at but often experienced in the form of a wordless glare. The “Hey, why are you sitting in my seat” glare. But why are you talking about assigned seating and “the glare”, Bryan?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

On the other side of COVID-19, everything is new at church. Months of not meeting together have erased ingrained habits. We’ve had to figure out what the church looks like when it does not meet; We’ve had to figure out what church looks like when it does meet with a lurking virus.

My key here is that the old is gone. The boardgame has been reset. New habits, even those as small as seating, are allowed to begin anew.

  • I have loved being able to talk with those I didn’t normally see by sitting in the balcony.
  • I have loved feeling more a part of the worship service, not so distant–proximity is huge–.
  • I have loved the feeling of a new beginning.

As we experience a reset of the old norms, I want to encourage you to shake things up. Talk to those you didn’t talk to before. Allow yourself to experience the Body of Christ in a whole new way.

Press Start – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All

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This week, I picked up the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy on the Nintendo Switch. Tab and I love this courtroom drama series filled with over the top characters and entertaining word play. We decided to start with the second game in the trilogy, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, as Tabitha had already completed the first game, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Nintendo DS), long ago.

Last night, we completed Episode 1: The Lost Turnabout.

Phoenix Wright himself.
Phoenix Wright, doing his thing.
The witness.
Just a typical courtroom.
The Prosecutor.
The Judge.
There are worse crimes than murder...

Note how the witness reacts when accused. Nothing abnormal to report here.

This first episode turned out to be a sad story of someone being killed just because of their uniform. Spoilers. 🙂

From Across the Net – “Leadership Is Being Wrong and Right, All At The Same Time”

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Leaders are called to lead and leading means making decisions. As it relates to worship services within our church, some people will be thrilled if we choose to remain outdoors for the next three months. Others will be frustrated if we choose to endure the July and August heat outdoors in Camden, SC. Neither decision is morally superior to the other, but either decision will be judged right by some and wrong by others.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “What Hath Gondor to do with Geneva?”

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This is a good read.

There are many other truths that Tolkien’s works reflect, but I would like to mention two. First, Tolkien’s works, and The Lord of the Rings in particular remind us that even the most seemingly insignificant among us are important. It can be argued, for example, that the hero of the Lord of the Rings is a gardener, a servant of the one who is usually considered the hero of the story. The steadfast loyalty, faithfulness, and perseverance of the hobbit Samwise is absolutely crucial to the success of the mission that will save Middle-earth. In the eyes of the world, Sam and the other hobbits in the fellowship are small, both literally and figuratively. But the role they play is just as important, if not more, than the role played by the great powers and kings in the story.

You can read more here

Disinfecting Concern

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“So, how often do you do that?” A co-worker asked me the other day.

I had been caught in the act of wiping down office door knobs and light switches.

“About once a day. I am the only one doing this.

The conversation naturally stopped, I continued wiping things down and left the break room.

Disinfecting Wipes

Not patting myself on the back here, but if I didn’t wipe things down, no one would. I’ve even tested this theory by waiting a day or two to see if anyone else–SOMEBODY, ANYBODY!–would jump in. Nothing.

Got me thinking about how we can talk a big game. How we can say and even act like something bothers us and yet how that “concern” ends up being…

Words.

Words.

Words.

Hiding behind those words, that often false sense of concern, lies a lack of action on our parts. If the frequency of wiping things down in the office bothers someone, they can step in and help out.

Beyond our words, our daily actions show our true priorities and concerns to a world watching.

Outrage, Anger, and Shame

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My parents moved to Rancho California, from Anaheim, when I was young. Back then, sheep herders herded sheep down what would become major city streets. At night, the sky was dark and the stars were bright. But time marched on, more and more people moved to the area. The stars grew dimmer and the desert monsoon weather changed due to the abundance of pools installed. My hometown eventually voted to change the name of the town from Rancho California to Temecula.

Temecula, CA

I loved growing up in Temecula. I loved the small commuter town, situated in a valley, surrounded by beautiful mountains. Living in East Texas now, I miss those mountains the most. The way the snow would sit on top of them in the winter, as seen from my parent’s kitchen.

I have been living in East Texas for 17 years. Far away from the Southern California sun; far away from the traffic that clogs up Interstate 15. I still hear news though from my parents. News about the Mayor of Temecula misspeaking. How he apologized, began receiving death threats, and ultimately had to resign. I hate politics in our country.

I also hate the shame/cancel culture that is taking over our society. How one moment, captured on film and social media is then used to destroy a person’s life. Internet vigilantes–no, not the Batman type–who won’t stop at anything until a person has lost their job and perhaps even their dog.

Have we become a society that has forgotten forgiveness, treating others as we want to be treated?

Does the Internet accurately reflect our culture? How about what you are encountering and seeing on a daily basis?

As Americans, we say that we prize freedom of speech. The actions that I see, especially online, scream that if one doesn’t believe/act/or even look as you do, they have to be nuked. Destroyed lives from high orbit. Their very lives made into burning infernos due to a mispoken word, a bad day, or even a sentence written in a blog post.

We say that we want freedom.

We say that we want to live in a free society.

I don’t think we do.

Katniss Everdeen is a herald from the American future we don’t think can exist. But the general attitudes I’m seeing, the rage, the anger of the Internet, signal that the Hunger Games have already begun.

Hitting the Snooze Button

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Woke up this morning, and I hit the snooze button. I hit the snooze button, over and over again, for the next hour. I didn’t want to get out of bed today. But I did get up, make my coffee, and manage to eat a few lemon poppy seed muffins–thanks, Tab!–with some oatmeal.

Photo by Paul Neil on Unsplash

In the process of getting ready, I happened to check my social media feeds. Friends and family, who are normally pretty chill people, are upset and angry right now. The topics of Coronavirus and racial injustice overwhelm my normal places of fun escape.

This has been one of those weeks where I have hit the snooze button more; this has been one of those weeks where I haven’t read my Bible as much. Instead of starting my mornings in the Word, I have been starting my mornings with a different type of word.

I am tired this morning.

Physically tired.

Mentally exhausted from being told that I should fear something. That instead of engaging history, we think that that engagement equals erasing the past. We live in some sort of Orwellian nightmare.

Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. – Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

I am also heart tired. As Augustine wrote, I long for how our human experience could/should be versus what it actually is. While we may not put this longing into words, this is a longing for Jesus to return. His return will fulfill that deep human longing for the restoration of all things, for justice. No more:

  • Sickness
  • Death

A future where we will work alongside the Creator of the Universe. The curse of Adam, against work, removed from us.

In writing all of this, I realize that I need to pray for strength to overcome being tired. I also need to pray for grace… maybe for myself with the snooze button… more so for those whose actions I do not understand right now. When you have been living a pretty normal life, for more than a month, and your friends and family have not been, it can feel like talking to people on Mars. Irregardless of that Martian divide, I think grace continues to be the word.

Short Story – Battle of the Bay

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The ground shook once again, causing rock and debris to fall from the cave ceiling.

“How long have we been down here,” a voice questioned in the dark.

“About a week now,” a man nearby responded.

Time passed and the ground shook again, and again, and again. People cried out as rocks hit them causing mass injuries.

“I’m not sure how much more of this we can take,” a woman sobbed as she held her now dead son.

The shaking soon stopped with a horrific final, “Boom!”

Silence.

As the dust settled in the cave, flashlights began to turn on. What had once been a large group of survivors was now just four people.

One of them suggested venturing outside to see why the rumbling had stopped. What had happened to their hometown?

Emerging from the cave, Lisa Langford exclaimed, “Oh my!”

The Road

The town that was St. Troy’s Bay was no more. Snapped power lines, crushed houses, and burned out vehicles littered the landscape. In the center of the town, lay a gigantic monster… and it was still breathing.

Sentinel 451, a robotic armored defender of the Megaton Navy, towered in the distance, watching over the town. The robot’s sword was drawn and ready for action.

“Harry, we need to get those systems back online,” Captain Jackson barked.

“Sir, shielding is down to 25%. If that beast gets back up, I’m not sure we can handle another blast from it’s mouth.”

Captain Jackson took a deep breath. The battle he and his crew had just waged had been brutal. Stroking his beard thoughtfully, he answered the crewman calmly.

“Lieutenant Rawlings, divert all power from the forward thrusters to the shields. Gentlemen, let’s send this beast back across the seas.”

From Across the Net – “A Cake On The Back Seat”

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Photo by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash

I am thankful for my wife’s encouragement and wisdom. She is my Abigail.

As David’s impatience risked boiling over into dangerous rage, it was Abigail who placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, bringing grace and wisdom with her words. Not only was Nabal rescued from his wrath, but David was saved from a foolish and rash action that could have had long reaching consequences. David needed an Abigail. I needed an Abigail. I needed to hear that there may be a cake on the back seat.

You can read more here