From Across the Net – “These Have Been Good Days, But Hard Times”

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But I both feel and know this: God is good. Though I have had some moments of self-pity, I don’t think I’ve had as much as one moment of doubting God’s goodness or kindness or noble plan. Though I can’t say I have any idea why I am going through this, I have never doubted that it is God’s will and that somehow it is good, even if I cannot quite see it. I have never doubted that somehow it is better than the alternative, even if I never see it on this side of eternity.

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A Letter To My Church Family

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Dear Church Family,

Back in February, during the Life Action Conference, God spoke to Tabitha and I. He told us that it was time to move on from the grieving process of not being able to have more children. After 9 years of trying to conceive, we felt Him calling us to adoption. So we stepped out of the boat, out of our comfort zone, just like Peter in Matthew 14.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

In obedience to God’s call, we have completed:

  • 40 hours of state-mandated PRIDE Training (for foster and adoption families)
  • Numerous forms and have submitted an ant mound of paperwork
  • A home study interview that delved into our backgrounds, relationships, and family structure

Through all of the above, we have continued forward, waiting for the day that we will bring a child into our home. But like Peter, we do have days where we question; days where we freak out a little.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

I was telling Dr. Kelley (our pastor), who recently resigned, that even on our worst days, I still have God-given peace. A deep knowledge that God is in control, no matter how unknown (timing, age of child, etc.) the adoption process is moving forward.

I want to take a moment to encourage my church family. We are voting on an interim pastor this upcoming Sunday. I want to encourage you to:

  • Think about where we are as a church. We are not the same church that we were seven years ago when Dr. Kelley was hired.
  • Think about where we are going as a church. What does it mean to live out the Gospel in Longview, Texas.

I want to encourage you, church family, not to retreat to what is comfortable. Please do not grasp at what has worked before because someone is available OR because popular people say we should vote a certain way.

If God has been teaching Tabitha and I anything, He has been teaching us to let go of the boat and grab onto Him. I pray that our church would be able to do that, even if that means taking a deep breath, a moment, and searching for a different interim pastor.

Change is hard… but He is good.

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

Stepping Out of the Boat

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Life has become all about stepping out the boat. Go ahead and read Matthew 14:22-36 (NLT) and then join me below.

Jesus Walks on Water

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning[b] Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here![c]

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong[d] wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

34 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. 36 They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

The new adventures of the Hall Family have required action. Stepping away from the comfortable and out into the unknown. In our first few steps on this new adventure, this has meant being exposed to decisions and situations completely foreign to us. Exploring scenarios that we were not raised around but have only vaguely heard of. Overall learning not to be quick to judge due to what might be lurking below the surface.

Our first few steps on this new adventure have made me reflect upon many things. Making me thankful for my parents, for how they raised me and my siblings. I’m also thankful for my siblings, for relationships that haven’t been blown apart with time.

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

Like Peter, we’ve been encountering waves as we step out of the boat. I was telling Tab, over lunch today, that it is interesting what form these waves take. God is definitely preparing us for the future.

Got thinking Sunday morning about how good it feels to be obedient to God’s calling. And maybe “feels” isn’t the best way to express this thought. Praying Sunday morning, I thanked God for my family’s obedience to His calling. I’m thankful that like Jesus in the above story with Peter, He is there walking with us through the waves.

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here![c]

That Dragon Cancer drove me to prayer

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Tabitha and I experienced That Dragon Cancer together. With Wyatt tucked away in bed for the night, we hooked the laptop up to the television. Light’s dimmed, we entered the world of the Green family. The musical score comforts like a warm blanket. The woods around full of promise and wonder. In this setting we meet the Green’s son, Joel, who is feeding a duck. Joel laughs, a lot. After a transitional time at the playground, we meet the dragon of this story, cancer.

Cancer, represented in jagged distorted shapes of hate. Always lurking like a monster in the night. Howls reverberating as a heartbeat of a sick boy.

That Dragon Cancer is a series of vignettes, brief flashes of hope and dark nightmares. Narrated at times by Ryan and Amy Green, we follow their family on their journey with Joel. Tabitha and I appreciated the depth of honesty in Amy’s comments on doubt. Doubt is normal, she says. A contrast to the modern Church whispering “hush” in such moments.

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No matter how dire the situation became. No matter how hard Amy and Ryan prayed, their faith stood out to us. A faith that allows for questions, doubts, and even fears. Media, as a whole, has a hard time portraying faith. The video game medium allows for an unknown level of intimacy. Allowing us to partake, in some small way, in the Green’s suffering. I’m thankful for that.

As the game ended, I found myself in a contemplative mood. That Dragon Cancer reminded me of my need to pray. I prayed for Amy, Ryan, and their family. I fell asleep only to wake up sometime later. Praying over life, direction, and meaning.

I would like to thank Ryan and Amy for being real. For sharing Joel’s life and opening up their family to the world.

Wave SplinterTitle: That Dragon, Cancer
Developer: Numinous Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, OUYA
Reviews on: PC
MSRP: $14.99

*A review copy was provided for this review. 

Brisingr

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Thoughts on Christopher Paolini's epic

Over the past few months I have been slowly reading through Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr, the 3rd book in his Inheritance cycle. The book so far has shown a remarkable improvement in both Paolini’s writing style and growth as a writer. That said, I have enjoyed what I have read until this point (about a quarter of the book left). The other night I came across a scene in the story that I felt was out of place in this epic tale of dragons, dwarves, and elves.

The scene in question involved the title character, Eragon, going to visit the mother of a dwarf who had died protecting Eragon’s life. As this dwarf mother mourned for her son, she prayed to the dwarf gods. This lead Eragon to contemplate a bit of theology. Take a look at the quoted section below and then we’ll continue.

She said, “Tonight Kvistor will dine in Morgothal’s hall. That I know.” She kissed her amulet again. “I wish I might break bread with him, along with mine husband, Bauden, but it is not mine time to sleep in the catacombs of Tronjheim, and Morgothal refuses entry to his hall to those who quicken their arrival. But in time, our family shall be reunited, including all of our ancestors since Guntera created the world from darkness. That I know.”

Eragon knelt next to her, and in a hoarse voice, he asked, “How do you know this?”

“I know because it is so.” Her movements slow and respectful, Glumra touched the chiseled fee of each of the gods with the tips of her fingers. “How could it not be otherwise? Since the world could not have created itself any more than a sword or a helm might, and since the only beings with the wherewithal to forge the earth and the heavens into shape are those with divine power, it is to the gods we must look for our answers. Them I trust to ensure the rightness of the world, and by mine trust, I free myself of the burdens of mine flesh.”

She spoke with such conviction, Eragon felt a sudden desire to share in her belief. He longed to toss aside his doubts and fears and to know that, however horrible the world might seem at times, life was not mere confusion. He wished to know for certain that who he was would not end if a sword should shear off his head and that one day he would meet again with Brom, Garrow, and everyone else he had cared for and lost. A desperate yearning for hope and comfort filled him, confused him, left him unsteady upon the face of the earth.

And yet.

Part of himself held back and would not allow him to commit to the dwarf gods and bind his identity and his sense of well-being to something he did not understand. He also had difficulty accepting that if gods did exist, the dwarf gods were the only ones. Eragon was certain that if he asked Nar Garzhvog or a member of the nomad tribes, or even the black priests of Helgrind, if their gods were real, they would uphold the supremacy of their deities just as vigorously as Glumra would uphold hers. How am I supposed to know which religion is the true religion? he wondered. Just because someone follows a certain faith does not necessarily mean it is the right path. . . . Perhaps no one religion contains all the truth of the world. Perhaps ever religion contains fragments of the truth and it is our responsibility to identify those fragments and piece them together. Or perhaps the elves are right and there are no gods. But how can I know for sure? – Brisingr, p477-479

Notice several things here:

  • Talk of grief and assurance of something beyond ourselves.
  • The worldview that suicide denies entry into Heaven or the beyond.
  • The longing for assurance that there is something bigger/ beyond ourselves.
  • Human nature – to not want to relinquish control.
  • Questions of where we come from/ who created us.
  • Doubt – perhaps there are gods? perhaps there is not?
  • Universalism – all religions have pieces of truth that eventually form Voltron and end up in the same destination.
  • Athiesm -the elves. What is interesting about this is that the elves, in the world of Eragon, practice a sort of nature magic.
  • Lack of absolutes – there is no absolute truth. What is true for me is not necessarily true for you.

I write all of this not to say that theology has no place in a tale of fantasy. (The Narnian Chronicles are a fantastic example of theology being weaved into a story in an indirect way.) I believe that discussions of such are good as long as they do not draw the reader out of the main story. In regards to this scene in Brisingr, I felt that Paolini dealing with Eragon’s struggle with faith, a struggle not let onto until this very moment in this 1000+ page series, was forced. Sure one could argue that Eragon is contemplating faith and the afterlife due to the death of his guardsmen. If this was true though, why didn’t Eragon go through a similar crisis when his mentor Brom died in the first book? Perhaps this theme of faith struggle is echoed in future pages of the series? Time and the speed of my own personal reading will soon answer that question in regards to Brisingr.

While I applaud Christopher Paolini’s efforts in exploring themes of doubt and faith, I also feel like I have been duped. As asked above, why suddenly have a conversation that hasn’t been apart of Eragon’s life or has been explored earlier in the series? The author’s worldview is unknown to me.  I would love to know where he is coming from and if this specific faith conversation reflects questioning going on in his own personal life. For now I proceed with caution…there could be dragons about.

What do you think?