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

Standard

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.

Press Start: Mutazione

Standard

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.

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

Standard

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 – “Gameboard-1 will be a digital slate for your tabletop board games”

Standard

There are somethings that I instantly understand… and other things that I just can’t wrap my mind around. The Gameboard-1 is one of those items that falls into the middle of that divide. I’m not sure I understand the why. When I play board games, I am playing them because I want to unplug.

Loved this random little “gem” in the article:

They also saw that today’s technology is seen as promoting isolation trends in our population. Video games are being blamed for depression, ADHD and many other ailments that plague our society. In order to break these trends, a gaming device should be built to enhance the human connection, they felt. Games should bring people face to face. That was how they came up with the inspiration for Gameboard-1. They started their company in 2019.

How does technology somehow become the human connection savior? So many questions that ultimately end in, why?

You can read more here

Thomas Wasn’t Alone – A 2015 Flashback

Standard

I came across this piece the other day and still felt it was relevant. At this point, Thomas Was Alone is available on pretty much everything (even your iPad). Give the game a chance if you haven’t happened to play. Never know what life lessons you can learn from colorful shapes. – Bryan

We are not meant to go at this life alone.

thomas-was-aloneThomas Was Alone drives home the point that we are meant to live in community with others. As the levels in Thomas progress, the game reinforces that red rectangle Thomas needs others to move from one point to another. Thomas cannot move through the game world alone.

My son graduated from kindergarten today (5/29/2015). I’m not sure how I feel about that. Sitting there in the auditorium, I was reminded of what big personals events were like growing up. I remember having the biggest cheering section out of anyone. My parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were always there to cheer me on. I wasn’t alone.

thomas-was-alone1Thomas Was Alone combines minimalist design and expert narration to introduce characters one cares for. Take Claire for instance. Claire is a large blue square. Even though she cannot jump high, Claire dreams of becoming a superhero. Thomas and his friends need Claire. She is the only one that can float across the toxic waters that would kill anyone else in an instant.

The Bible talks about the human body having many parts, each with it’s own task, function, and purpose. The Bible likens the human body to the body of Christ. In that we are meant to live in community.

I teach a group of men on Wednesday nights. We’ve been going through some difficult material. Peeling back masks and becoming real with one another, I have learned that we all have a need for friendship. Most of us feel as if we do not have anyone to walk in life with. We feel alone. Sometimes lost. Isolated within our families, running the race of life. The guys and I discussed how we can move beyond our personal islands:

  • Reaching out, in person, on the phone, even a simple text
  • Having a bigger focus than just ourselves
  • Being legacy minded

God lives in community with the Holy Spirit and Christ. If He is our example. . .  it may be time to pick up a phone, knock on a door, and connect.

Why Do We Play?

Standard

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?

Moving on

Standard
I stepped down as Community Manager of Theology Gaming a few weeks ago. After three years of cultivating conversation and community, I’m done. The mental background noise of what began to feel like a part time job has diminished. I am free. And yet, I miss the online community where I could throw ideas at the wall to see what stuck.
Right now, I find myself evaluating:
  • Where to go next.
  • What to do with my blog.
  • And on a deeper level, what it means to interact with others online. The internet is weird when it comes to relationships. Instant messaging brings about a false sense of freedom in conversation. You find yourself saying things that you’d never say in physical space. Even weirder, the internet lacks permanence. You can talk to people for years and then poof, they are gone. What does that mean? How are we supposed to react?

jbglogo.jpg

JohnnyBGamer has always been my space, online, to create and share. That won’t stop anytime soon.

Joe and the God who helps

Standard

Joe, over at Theology Gaming, writes about Dark Souls and community. You can read more here.

There’s a life lesson in here somewhere. How many times in my own life have I set out with unwavering determination to accomplish a thing, armed only with my own knowledge and experience? More frequently than not those experiences serve to remind me that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. It’s certainly not that I think I know it all; I just think I know enough.

Let us share your joy

Standard

I am not exactly sure how to write this. But I’m living at that point where friends and family don’t want to tell my wife and I that they are pregnant. Somehow afraid that our feelings will be hurt after years of dealing with infertility.

More than any birth announcement, I am hurt more by silence. Robbed of that shared joy that comes from living in community with others.

photo-1438962136829-452260720431

I want to encourage those around my family to share their news. Allow us to come alongside them. Please don’t be silent. Let us share in your excitement.

When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
    as well as the other. – Ecclesiastes 7:14a (NIV)

We are made for community

Standard

An isolated soul can become an echo chamber of lies. Creating a false but believable reality. Apart from community, we can mentally torture ourselves with untruth.

In the midst of saying depressing things like:

  • Those that are dead are happier than the living (4:2)
  • Better to never be born than to live and see evil (4:3)

King Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, tells us that we are made for community:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (4:9-12)

We need others to speak truth into our lives. To tell us when we are doing well, off target, and sometimes just to listen. Trusted and positive outside influences help break through the mental echo chamber. Breaking down the walls of silence.

There are often days where I am doing my best to go to work, come home, and spend time with family. I tell myself that I have no more energy to spend. A simple text, email, or phone call too much work. I believe these are lies we tell ourselves. I believe that God calls us to more.

photo-1454997423871-b5215756e54d

That intergalactic communication device, you know, the one in your pocket? Use it.

I want to challenge you. I want to challenge myself. We need to break out of our everyday lives and invite others in. I think it’s more simple than either of us realize.

Video Games – Better Together

Standard

I am a social gamer. I enjoy talking about video games more, oftentimes, than actually playing them. I also prefer playing through a game co-op versus playing single-player. Unless the single-player mechanics/gameplay are mind-blowing, then sign me up. There is something compelling about sharing a game experience. Whether that is shooting aliens together in a Halo game or operating on a patient in tandem in Trauma Center. Video games are best played with one another.

1415324863908_halo combat evolved anniversary edition (3)

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Halo: Combat Evolved were two games I played through with my friend Cory. Fun times where we would purposefully get together, drink the soda, and push through the game at hand. Finding/equipping new gear, fragging enemies, and general friendship created fond memories for me. I miss those times.

wp-1-1920x1080

When we first started dating, I brought my silver GameCube over to Tabitha’s house. She was not a gamer, but I wanted her to fall in love with video games, like me. So I introduced her to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I can still remember her trying to get through the pirate ship’s hold. Lanterns swaying, platforms threatening to disappear, the game proved challenging for her. And yet, she made it.

Our gaming together has continued since we married.

  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
  • Tomb Raider and the Guardian of Light

The above are a small sampling of series that we have played together. Sometimes even playing with a walkthrough in hand. Don’t judge.

header

My son and I have started our own tradition of playing video games together. With him, just as with my wife, I have had to learn to chill out and watch how I talk while playing. I hope that:

  • Memories are being made. Good memories.
  • Muscle memory and skills are developing
  • My love of virtual worlds is being passed on

Surrounded by people, encouraged by friends, gaming together is awesome.

Let the Mario Parties begin.

Thomas Wasn’t Alone

Standard

We are not meant to go at this life alone.

thomas-was-aloneThomas Was Alone drives home the point that we are meant to live in community with others. As the levels in Thomas progress, the game reinforces that red rectangle Thomas needs others to move from one point to another. Thomas cannot move through the game world alone.

My son graduated from kindergarten today (5/29). I’m not sure how I feel about that. Sitting there in the auditorium, I was reminded of what big personals events were like growing up. I remember having the biggest cheering section out of anyone. My parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were always there to cheer me on. I wasn’t alone.

thomas-was-alone1Thomas Was Alone combines minimalist design and expert narration to introduce characters one cares for. Take Claire for instance. Claire is a large blue square. Even though she cannot jump high, Claire dreams of becoming a superhero. Thomas and his friends need Claire. She is the only one that can float across the toxic waters that would kill anyone else in an instant.

The Bible talks about the human body having many parts, each with it’s own task, function, and purpose. The Bible likens the human body to the body of Christ. In that we are meant to live in community.

I teach a group of men on Wednesday nights. We’ve been going through some difficult material. Peeling back masks and becoming real with one another, I have learned that we all have a need for friendship. Most of us feel as if we do not have anyone to walk in life with. We feel alone. Sometimes lost. Isolated within our families, running the race of life. The guys and I discussed how we can move beyond our personal islands:

  • Reaching out, in person, on the phone, even a simple text
  • Having a bigger focus than just ourselves
  • Being legacy minded

God lives in community with the Holy Spirit and Christ. If He is our example. . .  it may be time to pick up a phone, knock on a door, connect.

I write all this for myself. I am sure no one else can relate.

Escape From The Lonely Christian Gamers Club

Standard

The cars sit in traffic as you pass by. Headphones on, you make your way along the sidewalk, sidestepping those around you. A rain drop hits your arm. Great. Forgot the umbrella today. Quickening your pace, you collide with a fellow passerby. Human contact. You apologize and move on. The rain is starting to come down now. Cold. You are almost home.

photo-1427348693976-99e4aca06bb9

If only your apartment offered views like this.

Walking into your apartment, you take off your jacket, hang it up, and fling your shoes into the corner. Flipping on the TV, you fire up your console of choice and then head to the kitchen. Feels like a cereal night. Bowl in hand, you park yourself down for an evening of gaming. Alone.

As Christians, we often feel disconnected from other Christians. We forget that there are other believers around us who share our hobbies. Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who enjoy exploring virtual worlds, solving puzzles with friends, and developing muscle memory through challenging play. Even worse, we lie to ourselves out of laziness and embrace an existence that God did not intend. God created us to live in community with others.

When was the last time you played a game with someone else? When was the last time you opened yourself up and talked, really talked, with another human being?

I want to encourage you to turn on the lights. Step out of yourself and invite. Host a game night. Enjoy a meal together. We aren’t meant to go at this alone.