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

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.

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.

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.”

A Case of the Mondays

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“What are you doing?”

“Cleaning. If I don’t clean this space now, I won’t get to it for awhile.”

I had a co-worker leave on Friday. After putting in his two weeks and serving them with a smile, he left Friday never to walk into the office again. I didn’t know him too well; he didn’t know me too well either. Perhaps we could both feel that his term, in the office, was going to be temporary? Either way, he left, ready to start a new adventure.

My co-workers old space

I got thinking, what would you do, Bryan, if you could do anything? If money wasn’t an object, what would you do? The longer I work in my office, the harder those questions are becoming to answer. I know that I want to make more money. That I want to feel more engaged throughout my work day. I get tired of working in a role that is 75% administrative assistant and 25% office manager.

Stayed up late thinking I was almost done with a game. I ended up playing through the climax and resolution to the game’s story. Only to find out that there was another chapter to the story… saying goodbye to the cast of characters. I decided it would be best to go to bed about then.

Just as the adoption path has been silent, so has my search for a new line of work. I was driving back to work from lunch the other day, and I saw a sign that advertised x-amount of money for working on an assembly line at a local business. For a moment, I considered that job. It paid more than what I currently make per hour. But then you start to think about vacation time, having to work weekends, general hours, and one starts to talk themselves out of such things.

I know that God has me where I am for a reason. That He has grown me, changed me, and molded me into a totally different person than I was when I first started working here. In the twelve years I’ve worked here, I’ve become:

  • A dad
  • A homeowner
  • A Sunday school teacher
  • A deacon
  • A father waiting to become a father again, through adoption

The time that I have worked here, in this office, has not been wasted. I feel like God has been teaching me to find my fulfillment in Him, not in my job title or what I do 7 days a week. But I wonder what else there is… I wonder what other challenges await. I wonder how far we’ll have to go–will we have to move?–to find such prospects. I want to work again in a place where I am friends with my co-workers. If anything, the Coronavirus has shown me how alone I feel at work.

I am ready for something new.

Time for some more coffee.

Q: When was the last time you stayed up late trying to finish a book, movie, or game? Was it worth it? 🙂

Adoption, Racism, and Injustice in America

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Last year, when Tabitha and I were going through adoption certification/PRIDE classes, I shared with a coworker the journey we had begun. Somewhere in that very honest conversation, she said to me, “I just don’t understand white people adopting black children, acting like white saviors.” While our conversation ended well, I was quite taken aback and felt hurt. Tab and I had started our adoption journey because we felt God calling us to do so. We felt Him telling us to proceed. We’ve both said that we can provide a stable home for someone who has not been given that stability. Never in my mind did I ever see myself nor my wife as some sort of white saviors. Apparently though, those thoughts exist in others. I had known that the adoption process was about developing thicker skin, but I had not known just how thick it was going to have to become.

Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

In our adoption classes, we would hear about how we would need to expose our potential black adopted children to black culture. At the same time, we were never told what black culture is.

From white friends, I’d hear, “Well, if you adopt a black child, you are going to need to expose them to people like their own, black culture.”

I would reply, “What is black culture? How does that differ from white culture? Do you even know what you are saying/talking about?”

Stuttering. Silence.

My heart hurts.

  • My heart hurts over George Floyd’s death at the knee of a police officer who knew what he was doing.
  • My heart hurts over the 3 other police officers standing nearby not intervening as George Floyd complained about not being able to breath.

I can’t wrap my mind around this situation. The blatant injustice on public display. How a moment in time could be escalated to the point where someone dies intentionally at the hands of those who are supposed to uphold justice.

I want justice for George Floyd.

Photo by Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash

In the same breath, I wonder about bringing a black child into my home. Raising this child in a white family. Worrying about the possibility of them being killed, by a police officer, due to the tone of their skin.

As a white male, I don’t think too much about being killed by a police officer during a traffic stop. Last year though, I was pulled over for making a right hand turn into an outer lane versus the lane closest to the curb. I watched as the police officer drove past me and then made a quick u-turn to come after me. I couldn’t figure out what I had done. Daily, I watch other drivers make the same type of turn I had just made. After thinking about it, I think I wasn’t pulled over for turning wrong. No, I think I was targeted due to the condition of my car and the perceived nature of my skin.

Note: My Honda has black paint that has been peeling for ages. The car is nice on the inside but looks rundown from the outside. I call it camouflage!

As the young officer walked up to my car, I noticed a change come over his demeanor. I could tell that he thought I was going to be either black or Hispanic, but not white. As he told me why I was pulled over–which to me seemed like he was reaching for a technicality–he told me he was going to let me off with a warning.

Now, every time I pull up to that traffic light where I was pulled over, I make sure to practice the correct type of lane change. I also get a little angry, remembering that day, remembering feeling targeted because of the condition of my car. If that incident was but a small taste of what black people deal with, in America, on a daily basis, I cannot even imagine living like that.

I know that we live in a fallen world. That Jesus is coming back. But I hate the injustice that I see around me. I hate the helpless feelings that I can’t do anything to bring about change. I hate having to think that someone that we bring into our home, no matter our parenting nor love, could still be the target of such heinous acts.

I am thankful to serve a God who is bigger than all of this. That I don’t have to shoulder all of these thoughts and feelings alone. I am thankful for serving a God who can give wisdom, discernment, and guidance to us on how to proceed in the midst of such racism. I am thankful for His call to adoption, no matter the color of skin.

I figure that if my family can be a model of God’s love to just one child, perhaps he or she can make an impression and help change the world for the better until His return. And while we are waiting for that child, black or white, I have my own son to teach.

Adoption is messy. Conversations about race are messy. But we need to listen, talk, and act towards a brighter future.

Fresh Air and the Ticket Queen

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Last night, we had dinner outside on our patio. Tabitha made this awesome shrimp stir-fry. Which may have even rivaled the Thai food, that we had picked up for date night, the night before. My wife is an amazing cook.

Sitting outside, enjoying the fresh air and cool breeze, I think we all felt liberated from the house. The warmer temperatures we’ve been experiencing, combined with humidity, have triggered us running the air conditioning.

Air conditioning, in the State of Texas, is a serious thing. Summers here make it feel like you are suddenly an astronaut. Your home, your car, even your place of work become your climate controlled spaceship. Every once in awhile, you’ll adventure out for an away mission. Perhaps you’ll even venture forth to work in the lawn followed up by a mandatory dip in the pool. But eventually, summers here make the pool water match the outside temperature. Nothing like diving into 80-85 degree water on a 90-100 degree day. Ah, so refreshing!

The Coronavirus, or as those more in the know call it COVID-19, has forced upon us social distancing as well as self quarantine. Even as the Governor of Texas opens up the State, the virus damage has already been inflicted. Self quarantine has triggered those mid-summer cabin fever feelings already. It is only May, and I am ready to escape the spaceship–I mean house–and enjoy fresh air.

That is why last night, I enjoyed spending time with family outdoors. Being able to enjoy the non-spaceship air; being able to eat good food and not eat family. We even managed to get a game of Ticket to Ride going. Wyatt (green train cars) destroyed Tabitha (yellow train cars) and I (red train cars).

Ticket to Ride

Playing Ticket to Ride, as a family, is a completely different experience than the silent games Tabitha and I play together. No longer is the game a battle between two powerful rail tycoons. Instead, Wyatt introduces a random element to the mix, another player to foil our track laying schemes.

As Wyatt cut me off from a crucial move, I whined out loud, “No!”. And then I kept whining until he won. Darth Vader would be proud.

It’s interesting to think that one day we could have another Ticket to Ride player in our house (nothing happening on the adoption front, FYI, all is quiet). Until that day, I’ll be working on destroying a little boy’s dreams… I mean… blocking a young man’s trains.

As the final points were counted, I ended up placing third. I am in no way salty about my ranking, as I am used to being beaten by Tabitha. Tabitha is the Ticket queen. Or maybe I should say, she was?

From Across the Net – “Navigating Different COVID-19 Recovery Convictions”

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“I believe one of the ways that the enemy will seek to divide our ranks within the church is by tempting us to use our opinions against each other. If the Devil has his way, we’ll be throwing stones of accusation from all sides, calling the cautious people “soft,” labeling the optimists of being “reckless.” More than that, the enemy especially loves when we cement ourselves in political corners; adding opinionated fuel to the already tumultuous fire of conflict.”

Costi Hinn, For The Church – https://ftc.co/resource-library/1/5289?fbclid=IwAR2vq3Xds5JDa-vXtC5pef78_9Gmat9f_KutxW4ZNUNy9FBJEVz5VXsYznQ
Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Comfort in the Stories We Tell

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All was dark; all was not bright. But in the darkness sat a boy named Walter, and his pet alligator named Frank.

“How long have we been sitting here?” Questioned Walter into the void. He knew Frank was somewhere near him.

A low rumbly growl came from nearby, “A long time, Walter.”

“Frank, why is your breath so bad?”

“I haven’t been able to brush my teeth since the lights went out.”

“Why do you think the stories stopped?”

“I think Wyatt’s dad has forgotten about us.”

For a period of time, my bedtime routine with Wyatt included stories about Walter and Frank. Until one day… those stories stopped. I’m not sure why I quit telling of their adventures with their mighty robot. Or why I quit expanding the weirder aspects of their universe, with characters such as the ninja dolphins.

All of that changed the other night, as I put Wyatt to bed. I pulled Walter and Frank from the darkness. Starting the story just as I did above.

  • Turning the creative lights on once more.
  • Firing up the mighty robot.
  • Adventuring.
  • And, as always, concluding with milk and cookies provided by Walter’s mom.

There is comfort in the stories we tell. And there is no need to leave anyone in the dark, most of all, Walter and Frank.