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

From Across the Net – “Five Reasons You Need to Get Back in the Habit of Church Attendance”

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We grow spiritually when we commit to faithful attendance. We grow as a believer in Christ when we have a committed prayer life. We grow when we are committed to read Scripture daily. We grow when we share our faith regularly. We grow when we serve in ministry. And we grow when we commit to attend worship services faithfully. That attendance is a spiritual discipline. It is a vital and necessary act toward greater spiritual maturity.

You can read more here

Church Attendance is a Discipline

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The Coronavirus has wounded the American Church in a way that many cannot see yet. As social distancing measures lift and other post-pandemic precautions ease, some Christians are hesitant to return to the Church. Presented with the convenience of watching a worship service on Facebook or YouTube, many believers are making the intentional choice to stay at home. Telling themselves, “The virus is still out there, we still need to protect ourselves for another month or two.” Happy in their newfound sermon consumption that doesn’t require one to ever leave the home. Or better yet, require them to sit with their kids in the worship service due to the church’s children’s program not being up and running.

Photo by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

Meanwhile, In Social Media Land…

  • I can see that you recently volunteered on a project.
  • I can see that you went and visited the zoo.
  • I can see that you are hanging out with friends and family.
  • I can see you doing all of these things, and yet, I haven’t seen your happy face at church.

Gathering with fellow believers, attending church, this is a Christian discipline. What I have hated seeing, in these pandemic times, is how quickly that discipline has been let go; convenience and inconvenience pushing against one another.

I am not advocating for fellow believers to come back to church in order to check a box. I am advocating for fellow believers to come, grow, and encourage other believers with your presence.

I keep asking myself, “Is Jesus enough of a commonality to hold believers together in these times?” My answer is of course, Jesus is enough. But, I think these pandemic times are revealing who church attendance is important to.

  • Our Time
  • Our Talents
  • Our Treasures

All of these things communicate to both the world and our fellow believers where our priorities lie.

I want to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to push past their preferences and convenience. The withdrawal of your presence is hurting others, silently wounding the Church in the process. Please do not let being in the habit of attending church slip away and become your new normal. Your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ miss you.

I miss you too.

From Across the Net – “Seeing Foster Parents as Local Missionaries”

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Foster care is a lot different than just straight adoption. But I can relate to a chunk of this piece. The training/on-going training, the background checks, and the rules that we’ll have to follow–for six months–once we have a placement.

Like missionaries, significant preparation is needed to enter the field of foster care. Just to start, those who take on this role, must go through hours of training, complete a home study evaluation where their homes, families, finances, and lifestyle are evaluated, complete criminal, abuse and FBI clearances, and regularly submit to on-going training and re-evaluation. Once approved as a foster care placement, they are subject to many rules and regulations, social work visits, and parenting guidelines.

You can read more here

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? 🙂

Video Game Mechanics That Need to Go – Quick Time Events

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Rushing into a bunker, I found myself surprised by a soldier wielding a knife. I quickly think, “Gotta press the square button just right to defend myself.”

Oh no, I failed!

Quick time events, like the one from Call of Duty: WWII above, need to go. There has to be a better way to create player tension than mashing a button/performing a swipe of the joystick perfectly.

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.

Press Start – Call of Duty: WWII

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Call of Duty: World War II opens against the backdrop of the D-Day invasion.

As the Higgins boat ramp drops into the water, your fellow soldiers are mowed down where they stand. Blood and bullets are flying everywhere! We’ve all seen this moment in history play out in such movies as Saving Private Ryan and even video games such as Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. For some reason though, Call of Duty: WWII makes this moment in time different. There is a human angle present, in a Call of Duty game, that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Advancing up the beach, I died over and over again. Somewhere between 10-20 times, I was killed by German bullets. The game kept telling me to crouch, which I did, but I failed to realize that the game wanted me on my belly to avoid enemy fire. Once I figured out that I could run and then hit the deck, I was good to go. But in all of my dying, I got thinking about the soldiers who didn’t make it that day.

By the end of my part in the D-Day assault, my character is told that he did a good job. He survived. And then the camera pans down to the blood on his hands.

My only complaint with Call of Duty: WWII so far is that I am finding it hard to tell my squad mates a part. Underneath helmets, characters unintentionally become “Random White Dude #1”, “Random White Dude #2 with Glasses”, and so on. I am hoping that as I continue to play, that I’ll be able to tell the guys a part. Onward and forward!

So what if your kids have to sit with you in church?

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Growing up, Sunday mornings could often become tense. While getting ready for church, words would be said and feelings hurt as all six of us hurried to get out the door.

Even with a family of three, there can occasionally be a morning where we pull up into the church parking lot and say, “Everyone smile.”

Tab and I serve in our church’s kids ministry by helping check kids in, Sunday mornings. As parents walk up to the check in desk, they will often look relieved to be dropping off their children. Maybe their morning had been harried/tense while trying to get to church? I am never sure. But I get it. I try and reassure those parents with a sincere smile and a quick, “Hey, ya’ll made it today.” Sometimes merely getting to the destination is the biggest family battle of all.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

In the wake of the pandemic, my church has started meeting once again. This week will be week five of meeting physically, together. We’ve been meeting with some rules/modifications in place:

  • Not shaking hands, although elbows are encouraged
  • A row of spacing, behind and in front of, each occupied row
  • No passing of the offering plate.
  • Masks and gloves offered to those in attendance (not mandatory)
  • And this week, we are beginning to offer an earlier service for those ages 60+/vulnerable

Our small groups have yet to restart and have been meeting online.

One of the bigger changes now is that our children are sitting with us in the service.

Sunday morning, during the worship service, I got looking around. Trying to see if any of my little friends were in attendance; kids I used to check in each week. A few of the kids were there, sitting alongside their parents or even grandparents. For the most part though, the kids from our kids ministry have vanished.

  • I understand the need to practice social distancing.
  • I understand a parents desire to want to keep their children healthy.
  • I understand wanting to protect the vulnerable.

At some point though, I wonder if there is another reason I’m not seeing my little friends anymore. I wonder if their parents do not want to sit with them in the service.

Serving in the kid’s ministry, I have seen how amazing our children’s minister is. I have sat through her teaching time; I have seen the way she handles the kids and the expectations she holds them to. Yes, your child can sit through the service without getting up to pee.

Get’s me thinking about the way we can pass our children along to others, expecting them to teach/raise them. I see this pandemic time as the perfect time to model through action how to sit in big church. Pulling out, if needed, items to help your child:

  • Coloring books
  • Dot-to-dot books
  • Blank pages to draw on
  • And, depending on age, maybe even–gasp!–an iPad (with headphones)

I’m not sure about your church, but our children’s minister offers a kids sheet for sermon notes. Our pastor, each week, provides notes for his sermon. This is a great way to encourage our kids to engage in the service. I’m not interested so much in behavior as I am in teaching our children how to worship God.

I get tired of parents treating their children like they are the plague. Yes, I am a parent of one (and God-willing, more one day) but that doesn’t lessen my experience… nor my overall encouragement to bring your kids to church right now. This is the perfect time to grow spiritually as a family.

In closing, I say this with love: Some of us need to stop hiding behind this virus and using it as an excuse to forgo meeting with fellow believers. So what if your kids have to sit with you in church?

I love ya’ll. Until next time.

Gender, Politics, and the Media We Consume

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Voltron: Legendary Defender

Wyatt and I loved watching Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender. Who doesn’t like a little space magic mixed with sword-carrying robots? In the midst of Voltron’s fight against an evil galactic empire, the show reveals that one of the characters is gay. This sudden character relationship fact hadn’t been hinted at for over six seasons. Suddenly Season 7 premieres and Volton’s leader, Shiro, is in a relationship with another man named Adam (shown via flashback). The show never mentions Shiro’s relationship again until the series finale, when Shiro and Adam kiss in the closing credits.

Voltron: Legendary Defender is an amazing show that disappointed me by injecting gender politics into something aimed at children.

Last year, I powered through Sayonara Wild Hearts on Apple Arcade. Sayonara Wild Hearts is a music-based action game (see video above) where your protagonist fights against past loves/relationships. The game’s finale has you kissing former flames instead of killing them. Wyatt happened to be sitting next to me as the kissing started:

W: “Are you playing as a boy?”

Me: “Nope.”

W: “So did two girls just kiss?”

Me: “Umm, maybe…. yeah.”

Life went on, and I didn’t make too big of a deal about that scene. I had read/heard online that Sayonara Wild Heart’s story was open to interpretation but why the sudden gender moment? All my love for Wild Hearts died as I felt as if the fourth wall had been broken by gender politics once again.

Mutazione

The other night, I was playing Mutazione on Apple Arcade. During one of the in-game conversations, the protagonist admits to another character that she likes a fellow female classmate of hers. The two of them exchange notes to one another via their lockers. This isn’t a game ending revelation to me, but I got thinking about what the developers worldview is. Nothing sinister… but definitely foreign from my own worldview.

I told Wyatt recently that the Bible is clear on homosexuality (it’s a solid no). But that does not mean we have to treat others poorly nor use others relationship preferences as an excuse not to love them.

Hollywood and even game developers continue to increase LGBTQ representation in the media we consume. We, as Christians, need to continue to be a voice in the Internet wilderness. Proclaiming that God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that none shall perish but have everlasting life.

Press Start: Mutazione

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I started playing Mutazione, via Apple Arcade, over the weekend. So far, I’m enjoying the chill adventure game vibes mixed with a mysterious story. I can’t wait to see how this one wraps up.

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 – “Stop and See the Unseen”

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Eric Anderson, over at Nerd Chapel, wrote this excellent piece titled “Stop and See the Unseen“. I especially like the way he seamlessly works a conversation between Tony Stark and Dr. Strange into the mix.

Tony had no clue that the threats dealt with by the Sorcerer Supreme even existed. While the Avengers were publicly acknowledged and posted all over social media, popular media, and the news, nobody talked about what Strange and his fellow sorcerers do. Nobody knew that threats from other dimensions were coming; even Thor did not know about the Sanctum Sanctorums or the group that runs them on Earth until Strange invited him to come for a visit.

You can read more here

Dr. Strange

From Across the Net – “When Will Your Church Be Back to Normal?”

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I have loved watching my own church pivot in this crisis. Embracing technology as a way to bring us all together.

Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

Some churches that never even recorded their sermons were able, in no time, to livestream their services, to provide ways to do youth group Bible studies via Zoom, and maintain prayer chains through texting and social media. Churches without even a website address found ways to enable their people to give their offerings online. Some churches had to find a way to vote on calling a new pastor with online voting or drive-through affirmations. 

This sort of creativity will not end. The fact is that though many, if not most, churches can plan for a “re-opening” some time in the foreseeable future, in almost every case, this will not mean dropping live-streaming and other forms of connection but adding in-person gatherings to what we are doing now. 

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “Final Fantasy XV, Joy, and the Pandemic”

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Final Fantasy XV is one of the only Final Fantasy games I’ve ever beaten. I loved this bro-trip so much! Reading this piece on Final Fantasy XV, Prompto, and joy makes me miss spending time with these guys.

One of the ways that Prompto expresses his joy is through photography. He snaps pics of Noctis comically falling down, goofy faces of the crew, and moments he and his friends are the happiest together. Right before confronting the final boss, knowing that there’s a good chance that none of them may survive, Noctis asks to look at these photos one last time and takes one with him. I like to think that he needed that photo to get him through the roughest bit.  We don’t often realize how valuable joy is until we’re in the darkest of times, but that’s when it shines brightest; joy reminds us what we’re fighting for.

You can read more here