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.

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!

Press Start – Celeste

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Hidden in the mists of gamer hobbyist culture, the Temple of Git Gud was known as a place of brutal honesty. If a new convert could not make the cut, they were immediately told to, “Git good and try again.”

Over and over, a new convert would be beaten into submission with those words.

Life by life.

Death by death.

Level by level.

Until one day one progressed further than before, only to die again. In failure, those dreaded words would be uttered once more, “Git good and try again.”

There seems to be a genre of difficult games. Games built upon dexterity and perfection; games built upon imprinting moves into muscle memory. Ori and the Blind Forest was one of those games for me. Celeste, developed by Matt Makes Games, is another game of this genre. A genre built upon not just seeing the solution to the platforming puzzle but being able to execute that solution with perfection.

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The developers of Celeste try to frame death as a learning device, not a penalty. A subtle shift in thinking for games of this genre.

And yet, everytime you load up the game, there is your total player death count staring at you. (Ignore the photo below, I have far exceeded 386 deaths by now.)

I struggle over my lack of progression in Celeste. I can spend 10-15 minutes on a single screen. Where I can see the solution to the platforming puzzle but lack the dexterity to pull off the required moves.

Is challenging myself with continual punishment fun?

Is fun even a part of the equation anymore?

I press on in Celeste, pushing myself to git good but questioning why.

Waiting for the Bomb to Go Off

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Life for me, in this pandemic, hasn’t changed much. I still get up in the morning and drive to work. I spend my day at the office, filled with bosses and coworkers, where we push forward on projects. At home, my wife continues to homeschool our son. His home education hasn’t stopped even due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19. Life hasn’t changed much for the Texas Halls.

And yet life has changed all around us. From the local grocery store being out of such things as rice, yeast, and other baking supplies. To hearing stories about people around us dying, oftentimes alone/separated from their spouses, due to hospital quarantines.

Spring, in the South, is filled with severe weather days. Days where we:

  • See the skies darken
  • Hear the thunder, off in the distance
  • Watch for for rotation in the clouds
  • Find ourselves praying over the weather

Tornadoes are a real threat in the violence of Spring. A time of pollen and a time for death from above. There are days where we feel like we are waiting for the bomb to go off, for the hammer to drop. That feeling of anticipation we experience every Spring is the same feeling I feel, right now, in the midst of this pandemic. Even though my life hasn’t changed one bit, I feel as if I am on edge.

Photo by Siim Lukka on Unsplash

To all my friends and family, who live in places where the weather doesn’t try to kill you, welcome to feeling like you are living in the South. A place founded on sweet tea, sweet people, and the subtle feeling of dread. From experience though, I can tell you, Summer is coming. Threats of rain-soaked death will cease. This pandemic is only for a season, as is the pollen. Soon the sun will come and bake it all away… or try and kill us too.

Press Start – Destiny 2: Forsaken

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While on a mission with Cayde-6, you experience a mission gone sideways. Things happen. Serious stuff guys! Friends mourn the loss of their friend… and the universe moves on. But not you. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Thankfully, you are geared up against the cold blackness of space. It’s time to lock-and-load, my friends. Vengeance is the players, says Destiny 2: Forsaken.

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The Journey Begins

After reading so many good reviews, I finally picked up Destiny 2: Forsaken. I’ve sunk a few hours into the game already. Forsaken reminds me of why I like Bungie games:

  • Solid Controls
  • Cinematics
  • Huge Set Pieces

I am enjoying what I’ve played so far. More thoughts to come; more thoughts on the topic of revenge and the Christian.

How about you? Have you played through the Destiny 2: Forsaken campaign? What did you think?

From Across the Net – “The Deadliest Disaster at Sea Killed Thousands, Yet Its Story Is Little-Known. Why?”

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I can’t imagine having to flee for my life, away from Soviet forces. Frantically boarding a ship, thinking I was saved. Only to have a submarine destroy what had been my salvation… and bury me in the cold sea. This is a good piece, via the Smithsonian, on the sinking of the “Wilhelm Gustloff”.

In context, the Gustloff was another tragedy in a war full of losses. By then, “there was a stigma about discussing any sort of German suffering during the war after everything the Nazis did to the rest of Europe,” Edward Petruskevich, curator of the online Wilhelm Gustloff Museum, writes in an e-mail. “The Gustloff was just another casualty of war along with the countless other large ships sunk on the German side.”

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “It is well…”

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I did not know this… sometimes we want people and even history to be “real” up until a point.

His own ship, breached by disaster, was sinking. Rather than confess his failures and start repaying his debts, Spafford abandoned his faithful church and embraced the fervent millenarianism and spiritualism of his day. Jesus must be coming soon, and His sinful, broken, yet obedient servant must be on hand to meet Him. With Anna beside him, Spafford gathered a band of followers in their Chicago home, preached a message of purity and self-sacrifice, and launched a pilgrimage to Palestine, where they would celebrate the Lord’s return. No one else would die.

You can read more here

When Security Masks a Spirit of Fear

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in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can man do to me? – Psalm 56:11 (ESV)

Another week goes by, we hear another story of a gunman invading a space and taking innocent lives. Calls for gun control quickly ring out in the media. Feelings of justice, fueled by anger and pain, trigger that deep down knowing that the world should not be this way. That we were not meant to deal with nor experience death, separation, brought on by a single choice made back in the beginning.

The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 56:11 that we should put our trust in God. There is no reason to fear when we put our trust in the Creator. Right? And yet fear percolates and permeates the atmosphere we breathe. Even in our churches, where Safety Teams equal Security Squads, fear rages. Played out with armed church members, unofficially, watching over the flock while services take place. A new defensive cultural norm.

NOTE: Please, do not misconstrue my words here, I’m all for keeping the Church safe. But I’m not okay when the spirit of fear drives a weekly version of security theater.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Keeping silent. Toeing the party line. Those seem like the obvious responses. But I believe God calls us, as Christians, to more: Power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

What do you do when a spirit of fear infects a church?

FROM ACROSS THE NET – “Dark Souls Journal #02 – Losing Battles but Controlling Myself”

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Joe, over at the Raving Luhn, is chronicling his adventures through Dark Souls. I like when consequences have permanence to them in a game.

That poor shopkeeper thought the best thing he could to do a well-armed traveler that bursts through the door is start talking. I had to respond somehow. I pressed a button that I thought was supposed to initiate interaction, but I pressed the wrong one and whipped a throwing knife at his face. He doesn’t want to sell me things anymore. In one enraged motion, he came crashing through his table and lunged towards me. I’m forced to defend myself against who I assume is the only one able to sell me supplies in this location. This shop is now closed permanently. No friends do I have in Undead Burg. All because I pressed the wrong button.

Read more here

 

From Across the Net – “Christian Games Done Right: That Dragon, Cancer”

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Nelson knocks it out of the park with his piece titled “Christian Games Done Right: That Dragon, Cancer“.

…I want to tackle how I feel this title has been tragically misrepresented by the games media. And as a result, those who might have benefited most from playing it were turned away.

That Dragon, Cancer is not the story of Joel’s tragic death. It’s the story of his life. The difference may seem small, but it is extremely important, because it defines the very way you approach the game.

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Bloodborne: Death As A Teacher

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I am not a fan of the horror genre. Life has enough real horrors already.

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Ah, beauty of a different sort.

The City of Yharnam has become my new prison. My attempt to break out of my gaming comfort zone and explore the Souls genre. Bloodborne demands mechanical mastery. The ability to read individual animation frames, seeking vulnerability. Discovering that sweet spot at which to sidestep evade and attack. One cannot get too cocky. Spamming attacks with Diablo-like gusto. Some attacks take a moment or two longer. Leaving your character open to damage. Death brings about a refinement of skill. Death the great teaching tool.

I think I died at least 20 times trying to take on the first monster in Bloodborne. No, no, make that 30. No weapon in hand, no help, I struggled through Death Education 101. And yet, I felt compelled to continue.

“Tab, I think this is the meanest game I’ve ever played.”

In a moment of triumph, I beat the first shadow monster and made my way outside. Only to face a man with an axe. He died. Rounding the corner, I ran into two more guys with axes. I let my guard down, just for a moment. The game tells me in a simple manner, “You Died”. Yes, yes, I did.

Bloodborne is definitely not one of those games that I will be playing in front of Wyatt. The Gothic atmosphere, showers of blood, and creepy monsters all have the makings of a fantastic nightmare.

For me, the Gothic aesthetic is just there. I had thought it would bug me with my aversion to the horror genre. Like Neo from The Matrix, I don’t really see the in-game world. All I see are moments to evade, attack, and not get killed. Bloodborne appeals to that mechanical side of me that loves pure gameplay. Gameplay that demands your absolute best.

Yharnam is my home now. A digital mosquito bite that I want to itch.

Thoughts on The Last of Us

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Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is the antithesis of the Uncharted series. One game is built on stealth, scavenging, and nonviolent solutions; the other game on blood, ammo drops, and guns, lots of guns.

I happened to take a sick day this week. To relax, I fired up The Last of Us. Now I should note that this is a game I have tried quite a few times to get into. Somehow, someway, The Last of Us has failed to capture me, until now. The fact that it was daylight outside could have helped my bravery. Scary games and I do not get along.

The last time I played The Last of Us, I had left Joel, Tessa, and Ellie out in the rain. They were trying to make their way down a slick street, avoiding the military along the way. Years of Uncharted training told me to unload my gun on these goons, up the body count, and get along. Yet, The Last of Us teaches one that guns are bad. If you are going to shoot a gun in this game, you better prepare to deal with the consequences. You see, guns are loud. In a game all about stealth, enemies swarm towards gunfire like flies to fresh poo.

We soon came across two new enemy types: 1) Clickers: Infected that are blind yet have amazing hearing; 2) Runners: Infected that can see and rush one at will. I realized that each enemy encounter is like a puzzle. If you can distract an enemy with a glass bottle thrown into another room, you are golden. The Last of Us is all about misdirection. And bricks. Bricks are fantastic melee weapons. They also provide something to throw to stun or create a diversion. I cannot stress enough that the moment your gun clears its holster, you will be stringy flesh on toast.

Expect to die many times. Each encounter is different. Sometimes it is best to observe first, die, and then try a solution. Death isn’t the end, death is your friend.

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Further along in the game, we made it to the state capital building. The military arrived and surrounded the building. I tried at least 5-7 times to sneak around and out of the building. No good. So I then decided to move as fast as I could from one barrier to the next. Avoiding military patrols like the stealth professional I am not, I walked out of the building without a single shot fired. This game is good.

The Last of Us pushes for non-violence and yet is the most violent game I’ve played in a long time. I like how the non-infected humans are scarier than the infected. I love how the game is kicking me out of my comfort zone of running and gunning.

I ended my sick day entering the darkened corridors of a high school. My wife and son where out shopping for the evening. I was home, alone. Coming across a group of Clickers, I decided that enough was enough for the day. Could have been that my bravery left me when the sun went down or that I was just tired. But I’ll be back, brick in hand, to continue the journey. Not forgetting the quiet moments in the game, moments of utter wonder.

Beauty. Light. Darkness. Oh the world we live in, reflected in a video game.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

We Are The Halls

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My wife and I hear it all the time:

“You only have one kid, you have it easy.”

OR

“Just wait until you have more, then you’ll know.”

There is an insinuation that our experience is somehow lesser due to the amount of children we have. That as parents, we are clueless because we have only one child. People are stupid with their words. Including fellow Christians.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.- James 3:9-10

I want to implore my brothers and sisters in Christ to watch what they say in passing. To those who do not believe, to be wary of your words. Words have the power to cut like a knife. To rip open wounds that are healing.

Do not dilute my family’s experience based on a trivial number. We are the Hall Family. We are who God has designed us to be.

Off Campus: Bryan is over at Theology Gaming today. Come visit!

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Theology Gaming

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure” ~ J.K. Rowling

Every story has to have an inciting incident. A moment that propels the protagonist to respond with action. No matter the greatness of the action however, forward motion is key.  Click here to read more

Legacy

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This morning I went to a funeral of a former co-worker’s dad. Knowing nothing about the deceased, I learned that he had been:

  • In the Korean War
  • A local sheriff
  • A husband, father, and friend to many
  • A man set in his ways
  • A man who was willing to drive to the far corners of the country in order to barter and bargain

The gentleman was also described as:

  • Being set in his ways
  • Onry
  • Stern/strict
  • Frugal
  • There when his family needed him

As I sat in this church built in 1920’s “mission style” architecture, I started to think of my own legacy. How do I want people to remember me? What words do I want people to use to describe me?

First and foremost, I want people to remember me not for my own idiosyncrasies but for my actions. I want people to remember that I was obedient to Christ. That I followed Him and was obedient enough to allow Him to use me.

Second, I want those that I come into contact with (family, friends, etc.) to know that I loved Jesus. Not only that I love Him, but that I was willing to put action to Christ’s words. That I went forth and made disciples (shared my presence, my life with others); That I truly loved those around me as God loves them.

Every man wants to make a mark upon this world. I want my mark, my legacy, to not be about me. I want my legacy to be all about God and His work. I want people to say:

He was a believer in deed

He had a heart of a different breed

He made his mark and he lived by his creed

A true believer, a believer in deed.

– Petra, “Believer In Deed”

What do you want your legacy to be?

Photo of the Day – 5/31/12

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What better way, to end the month of May, than with a picture of death to gruesomely display! Well, skeletal remains of a small bird may be a better description.

Saw this little guy resting outside an office window. Thought his bone structure looked pretty cool. I’m guessing he hit one of our windows and dropped dead. BAM! Scares me every time.

Satisfaction: Unquenchable in Thirst Like Death

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Good morning,

Did you know that it is dark outside at 6am? Couple that with the freezing air conditioned air and you’ve got a certain someone who is not willing to surrender his blankets. This morning though, I got out of bed earlier than normal and ate breakfast with my wife. She had made a wonderful breakfast cake that tasted quite good! Afterwards, we dove into Proverbs 27. As we were reading, verse 20 really stuck out to me:

20 Death and Destruction[a] are never satisfied,
and neither are human eyes. (NIV)

Every day we hear about the latest death tolls and destructive forces menacing the planet. Death seems to have an unquenchable thirst. Think about this for a moment, every seconds 2 people die. In the time it will take me to write this over 1,200 people will have died. Weird to think that that many people can die within a ten minute span.

Destruction is also something that is constantly surrounding us. Places that have been untouched for over a hundred years are now experiencing the destructive forces of hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. When destruction isn’t being caused by nature it is unfortunately being caused by fellow humans. War and terrorism seems to be a staple in our modern society. If it isn’t the United States fighting somewhere in the Middle East, it is some African country screaming out in pain under the latest warlord of the month. Death and destruction are universal, two forces constantly at work in our world.

So think about verse 20 again:

20 Death and Destruction[a] are never satisfied,
and neither are human eyes. (NIV)

Have you ever wondered why you’re never happy with the stuff you have? In the beginning you thought that, “If I just had this” you’d be made whole or at least happy. As you’ve grown older, you have discovered that this is not true. Just as death and destruction are never satisfied, neither will your desires for more. Ultimately, we can only find satisfaction in the Lord Jesus Christ.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail. – Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)

25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” – Jeremiah 31:25 (NIV)

Memories of My Grandmother

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I’m not sure what to write about today. My mind has been an accelerated mess since the death of my Grandma last week. Her death has affected me more than I could have imagined. The funeral is this Saturday…I have been debating on whether to write something or just speak at her funeral. I have concluded that I am going to talk about her. Her life, my memories of her, and about her faith in Jesus Christ.

My Grandma was an only child. I have recently read that children who grow up without siblings are like super firstborns. I would say that this was true of my Grandmother. Not only did she cook, clean the house, and take care of my Grandpa, she also made time to spend with her grandchildren. Now, I’m not going to get all sentimental and say that she spent tons of time with us. But I do remember going on dates with her every few months. She loved doing this. I remember her saying that she had to save up her allowance money in order for her to take me out. Burgers, fries, and a drink and Grandma was happy. Funny memory: Grandma chewing on a Big Mac, with her mouth open. 🙂

My memories of her, at least at this time, are highly polluted by the years she declined with Alzheimer’s. What I do remember though was a woman who was interested in both local and national news. She could carry on an intelligent conversation on just about any topic. More importantly though, my Grandma loved history. This is something that she imparted on me. I wish that I could have told her that I obtained a degree in History. She would have been proud.

In elementary school, I remember having trouble with schoolwork, specifically reading. Now, I wouldn’t work well with my Mom, so my Grandma came over and helped me. I remember loving this extra time spent with her.

My Grandma was also a woman who valued her freedom. She would wait all day, until my Grandpa got home, to get her hands on their pickup truck. This was generally when she would go shopping or come and pick me/ one of my siblings up.

Standing next to her at the Christmas Eve service, my family went to every year, I remember listening to her sing. I have been told that at one time she had sang in a church choir. She told me that she had loved doing this. She had a pretty voice.

I wish I could remember more. What I do know though is that I loved her. Grandma Hall was special to me. I felt like she took the time to actually engage me/ get to know me. She accepted me for me.

The best part about my Grandma dying is that she is now in Heaven. She is no longer a prisoner trapped within her own body. I know that my Grandma is in Heaven due to her belief in Jesus Christ. She knew that the most important decision a human has to make in this world is whether or not he will accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Those that choose to receive eternal life need only realize that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (John 3:23). Due to falling short, the wages of our sin is death (John 6:23). But God provides a way out, through His only son He sent to die for the world, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). All a person has to do is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is by grace that we have been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I love you Grandma. See you soon!

When it rains…

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Yesterday was crazy!

Tuesday (4/26), my morning started with a phone call from my Mom. She was calling to tell me that my Grandma Hall had died. After battling alzheimer’s for over six years, her vacant body finally decided to give up. I have a mixture of emotion over her death. On one part I am happy that she is no longer suffering; the other part of me misses her. I hate how my memories of her are tainted by the the disease that took away her mind. My Grandma Hall was such an amazing woman. So smart, well read, and up on the current events of our time. She was also a lover of history, just like me. I’ll miss you Grandma.

Tuesday evening, we had severe weather roll through East Texas. A fantastic way to end an already cruddy day. My wife and I spent the majority of our evening watching the local news. Probably not the best decision but it kept us informed on what was heading our way. At one point, we had a tornado heading for our house! Somehow, at the last minute, the tornado dissipated. Whew! Talk about a little excitement for the night.