Walmart and the COVIDS

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I am not much of an expert when it comes to science. I can read though, process the information, and come to my own conclusions.

I was at Walmart the other day. I walked in without a mask. No one said anything to me. No weird looks or strange glances were given to me. Nothing. At the time I was there, there were probably more wearing masks than not. Still, no one said anything to me.

From one side of Walmart, there is a sign that says that masks are required; The other side of the store does not have a sign. You can draw your own conclusions over which door I choose to enter by.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t wear a mask if you wear one. I’m not saying to not wash your hands either. I think that we have been fortunate, in East Texas, so far. The virus doesn’t seem as big of a problem here. And yet, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m going to be entering by the door nearest the pharmacy. No sign = No mask.

With all of ya’ll wearing them, I figure the air is probably the safest it has ever been.

An Update: Week 18 of the 5 Day Bible Reading Program

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Photo by Elvis Bekmanis on Unsplash

Drove to work this morning in the rain. As I watched cloud-to-ground lightning, I listened to a list of names being read. I am currently in Week 18 of the 5 Day Bible Reading Program. Lost in the overwhelming tide of genealogies that has been 1 Chronicles. Learning about how “Phinehas fathered Abishua; Abishua fathered Bukki”. If one was looking for a unique baby name, 1 Chronicles would prove to be a valuable resource.

“Hey Bukki, it’s time to come inside for dinner!”

One of the best things about The Bible App, is that you have the option to have the Bible read to you. I find myself marveling over the narrator, as he skillfully pronounces strange Biblical names. The dude is good at what he does. The reading option has made passages, where I’d normally find myself skimming, easier to digest.

The Bible App - 1 Chronicles

As I’ve read through Scripture this year, God has been teaching me that it is easy to read the Bible (gain knowledge) and miss out on the relationship (engaging with God through prayer, etc.). I’m working on the engagement part and trying to overcome my “check off the list” tendency.

How about you? What tools, resources, or apps, do you use, as you read the Bible?

No Silent Christians

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My pastor recently said something that grabbed my attention:

There is no such thing as a silent Christian.

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

I’ve often hid behind a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Perhaps you know it?

Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

My thoughts have been, that in my life and online presence, I would let my actions speak first. People should know that I follow Christ due to:

  • What I like
  • What I post
  • And what I say about the content I consume

But something about that quote, that is falsely attributed to St. Francis, has always rang hollow to me. A sort of free pass Christians give to one another for never sharing what Christ has done/is doing in their lives; for never sharing the Gospel.

Even on this blog, I have internally struggled and fought over how much is too much to post, when it comes to the topic of faith. For those that follow me for my video game angle, are my faith posts somehow pushing them away? I have struggled with these thoughts for years. “I’ll just let my actions do the talking”, I’ve reasoned. As a follower of Christ though, I think that not speaking is disingenuous. So, I wanted to share my faith journey below.

Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

No Longer Silent

I grew up in a small town, in Southern California. My dad was a truck driver, while my mom stayed home and homeschooled us kids. My dad’s truck driving meant that he was home two days and gone three days. He worked hard to provide for our family. Looking back now, I can appreciate the sacrifice both of my parents made in raising my siblings and I. But in my dad’s absence, God filled that father-space, in my life, with many men. One such man was my Grandpa Ayers. Looking back, he taught me a lot about what it means to be a man.

I made a decision to follow Christ at the age of 5. My family was hosting a Vacation Bible School at our home. Even then, I understood that sin separated me from God.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

– Romans 3:23 (NIV)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 6:23 (NIV)

And that because God loves us so much, He sent His son to die for us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

– Romans 5:8 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

– John 3:16-17 (NIV)

All one has to do is accept this hope, this gift, and believe in Jesus Christ.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

– Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[a]

– Romans 10:13

All of that at the age of 5, huh Bryan? Yup. I knew enough to make that decision. God has walked with me and helped me grow in the knowledge of Him ever since.

In junior high, I made the decision to be baptized. Baptism is an outward sign, to fellow believers, that you have made a decision to follow Christ. I was at a youth beach day, and I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully, no sharks tried to aid in that baptism.

At the age of sixty, my Grandpa Ayers unexpectedly died overnight. I was looking at going away to college at this point, after attending junior college for a few years. I felt lost losing him. But God used his death to spur me on.

I was reading a book when a single sentence mentioned LeTourneau University. So, I traveled from Southern California to East Texas for a preview event… and felt peace. I went home, packed up my stuff, and I made the drive across Texas. Where I ended up meeting my now wife, Tabitha, within a month of being at school. (I was 25 and had never dated beforehand. Ignoring the Beach Boys, I didn’t want a California girl apparently.)

Tabitha and I married in 2007. Two years later, we had our son Wyatt. Last year at a Life Action Conference, we felt God calling us to adoption, after years of infertility. We finished jumping through the adoption hoops last May (2019), and we are waiting to grow our family. In the meantime, God continues to grow us.

There is no such thing as a silent Christian.

I’m hoping that by sharing where God has brought me, I can push against the silence and use words to share my faith. I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ first and foremost. I am then a husband to Tabitha, and a father to Wyatt.

This blog is my attempt to engage the world for Christ. To share the life He is working through me. Thanks for reading and coming along for the journey.

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.

The Passionate Fisherman

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I had a sales rep stop by the office yesterday. He was dropping off some furniture samples for a bid we have coming up on a project. One of the samples was a heavy student desk. So I helped him unload the desk from his Suburban. While unloading, I noticed that he had two fishing poles sitting in the back.

“I see you have your priorities in order.”

He smiled, “Yeah, I try and fish any chance I get.”

There are so many ponds and lakes across East Texas, I’m sure his chances come often.

Photo by Vladislav Suvorov on Unsplash

I love that moment when you ask someone about something they love. Their face lights up in pure excitement. And then that wave of body animation kicks in as they talk about whatever sparks their interest.

Although I’m not much of a fisherman–never ask my brother-in-law Mike about me and fishing–I 100% understand the excitement of getting to talk about something you love.

So what about you, what are you passionate about?

A Quick Update

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I’ve been sick since before Thanksgiving. Living in a world of drippy mucus and cough syrup infused days and nights. I haven’t felt very creative. One of the reasons my blog has been quieter lately. Not helping things, our weather here in East Texas keeps going up and down. We’ll have a day in the mid-70’s only to drop into the lower 40’s. To all of this, my body says, “nope”.

We live in a pier and beam home, which is cool in the summer and cooler in the winter. Often we’ll be freezing in the house only to walk out and find that it is warm outside. This morning, I put on my jacket thinking that it looked like jacket weather. I walked out the back door and was immediately hit with humidity. The ground, that I thought looked soaked from a stray over night shower, was wet from the humidity.

Photo by Anton Scherbakov on Unsplash

Spent the weekend doing a bit of Christmas shopping, rollerblading, and meeting our potential pastoral candidate at church. Feels good to have some Christmas shopping done. Rollerblading, which I hadn’t done since junior high, didn’t result in any broken bones. Our pastoral candidate, whom we met during a meet and greet yesterday evening, was very nice. I’m excited to think about where my church could possibly go under his leadership.

I have 10 days of work left for the year; 9 days after today. With Tabitha’s help, I got a chunk of the company Christmas cards mailed out–thank you, baby!–. As things wind down, I’m working on a marketing project that is due by the end of the week. Otherwise, I am hoping things chill at work as the year comes to a close.

How about you? How was your weekend? How is your Christmas shopping going? Let me know in the comments below.

East Texas Yamboree – 2019

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While driving to the East Texas Yamboree, in Gilmer, Texas, I saw a deer off to the side of the road. The doe seemed to contemplate running across the highway. I could see her muscles tense as she started to run in what would have been a direct line for our car. She tensed up, ran, and then seemed to think that running into a car wasn’t the best of ideas for an overcast Saturday. Just one of those surreal moments where I could see things playing out in slow motion and couldn’t do anything about it. Thankful she decided to veer off.

The East Texas Yamboree was fun. We met up with some friends and watched the parade. We saw:

  • Harry Potter (JK Rowling)
  • Mary Poppins
  • Julia Child
  • Beverly Clearly
  • Mary Kay Ash
  • Joanna Gaines

One of the local cowboy churches even had a float with Moses and Jesus on it. Harry Potter and Jesus in the same parade. Only in Gilmer, Texas can you celebrate yams and Jesus. And tons of American manufactured cars. Parade might as well have been sponsored by Ford.

How has your weekend been? Drop me a comment below.

Fear, Geek Culture, and the Church

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Michael Mendis, writing for Geeks Under Grace, recently wrote a piece titled “Geek Culture and the Church“. As he weaves through the history between the church and geek culture, he touches on something I have always found interesting:

Over the years I have heard numerous stories about Christian geeks who feel that they have to hide their hobbies from fellow saints. I’ve met a well-respected leader in a church who can’t reveal to the rest of his leadership team that he plays Dungeons & Dragons. A gaming missionary I have worked with tells a story about how he once visited a church to talk about gamer culture, and after his presentation, two people came up to him—back-to-back, but independently of one another—to privately confide that they were gamers, and that they were afraid to tell the other people in their church.

On a basic level, I get that we can’t 100% be ourselves at church. Fellow Christians may struggle with things that we do not, making it un-wise to talk about whatever it is in front of them. I get that. But playing video games, to me, is just as normal as watching television or following sports. In all my time, living in the buckle of the Bible Belt for over sixteen years now, I have never felt like I needed to hide the fact that I enjoy playing video games and tabletop games (and I get that my experience may be unique).

I remember approaching my pastor, soon after college graduation, about how I wanted to start a video game ministry. He encouraged me to talk to our youth pastor; who then encouraged me to think outside the box and not go to seminary. “Just do it”, he said like a Nike commercial (it was deeper than that). I’d like to think that my experience here isn’t unique, I was encouraged by my East Texas based church staff, not discouraged from where I felt God leading me in that moment.

As I edge closer to 40, I have learned to not be as worried about others opinions, to enjoy what I like. I have found that there are others out there, in the church, who share my hobbies. I want to encourage you not to live in fear. Be passionate about what you are passionate about. Own your video games, your hunting, and your love for modifying old cars.

Update 5/23/19 – My wife lovingly reminded me that I have encountered instances, at church, where fellow Christians have been less than loving about my hobby. Funny how one forgets such things when not in the moment. As with anything, I think you quickly learn who you can talk to and who you should avoid talking to about nerdy things. Such is life. – Bryan

I met my wife in hell

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I met my wife in hell. In the bowels of a Christian haunted house. I was playing some sort of motorcycle riding bad boy; she was playing the role of my sister. Nothing weird, just evangelism.

I remember my dorm floor chaplain asking me to be in the play. I wasn’t interested. And yet felt that I needed to be a part of this “scare people to Jesus” movement.

At our first practice, I was immediately attracted to the other woman playing my sister. You see, we had two casts that rotated turns acting throughout the night. No polygamy or Arkansas relationships going on here. Turns out I was attracted to a mean married woman. I’ve never known much about the lady folk beyond Jane Austen.

We rehearsed, rotated through the different walkthrough sets, finalized how things were going to go down. I didn’t notice Tabitha until the next night.

We were between scenes. It was late. I was laying across some chairs, tired. She didn’t see me and almost sat on me. We laughed. I knew I could talk to her about almost anything. I told her something about my Grandpa Ayers, not sure what. The sister I hadn’t paid a second thought to was suddenly front and center.

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Tabitha and I always laugh about how we first met. How we were both in a place where we had given up on dating, on finding the “one”. Heck, Tab wasn’t even supposed to be at school that semester. A cancelled class, much to her displeasure, put her on campus at the same time as me. God is funny.

Life hasn’t turned out the way either of us thought it would. I’m still working in an unhealthy work environment with zero room for advancement. We haven’t been able to have any more children beyond our only son. The Special.

I think we’ve been in a period of refocusing. Trying to figure out who we are as a family and who we want to be.

I’m not sure what the future holds. We could be leaving East Texas; we could be adopting children. I have no idea. But I do know that obedience to God, that stepping out and following Him, has always been hard but good.

Time to Hop Out

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Woke up yesterday a bit late. Didn’t have time to exercise. So I jumped into the pool for a bit. In May, East Texas received record amounts of rainfall. I was beginning to think that I had somehow moved to Seattle. As I got into the pool, I noticed a small frog on top of a lounge float. He didn’t stay in the pool long. One might say he flipped out.

Work has been slow lately. My firm is in the midst of gearing up for two projects. Both projects are simple. I’m not sure what anyone is going to be working on after we complete them.

After seven years of working as an office manager, I am feeling ready for a new challenge. I am ready to work for a company that offers job growth outside of going back to school to get a degree in architecture. I don’t want to be a frog stuck in the same pool. Time to hop out.

Just need to figure out what hopping out looks like.

Great Texas Balloon Race – 2014

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Saturday night, the family and I buckled in and headed out to the Great Texas Balloon Race for the balloon glow. 10368391_10154436237110521_5710903903240490913_n There is nothing like standing among 30-40 hot air balloons and feeling the heat come off their burners as they all fire in unison. 10553322_10154436238020521_3377637352394727598_n The weather was cooler this year than in years past where we’ve experienced 90 degree heat. Couple the outdoor temperature with the heat from the balloon burners and suddenly you feel like you are in an inferno of sorts. 10525713_10154436236985521_3051195024239664992_n Until next year.

Fasting by Jentezen Franklin

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Neon lights mix with the sound and smell of sizzling fajitas, nothing like a Mexican food restaurant in East Texas.

My pastor and I had a lunch meeting a few weeks ago. During the meeting, he encouraged me to start fasting as well as read Fasting by Jentezen Franklin. I have since done both.

fastingjentezen

In the book, Jentezen discusses a Biblical command that is often ignored, fasting. Matthew 6:1-18 serves as the Biblical aircraft carrier from which he launches his book. The following are some quotes and notes I jotted down while reading.

“Jesus said, “when you give…” and “When you pray…” and “When you fast.” He made it clear, that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is given to giving and to praying.” (p11)

According to the book, there are three types of fasting:

  • Absolute fast
  • Normal fast
  • Partial fast (giving up particular foods or drinks for an extended period of time).

“Whenever you begin a fast, remember, if it doesn’t mean anything to you, it won’t mean anything to God.” (p35)

“…fasting is a constant means of renewing yourself spiritually.” (p71)

This one was interesting:

“When you fast, you abstain from food for spiritual purposes. I have heard people say that they were planning to fast TV or computer games or surfing the Internet. It is good to put those things down for a time of consecration if they are interfering with your prayer life or with your study of God’s Word or you ministering to the needs of others, but technically, that is not fasting. Fasting is doing without food for a period of time, which generally causes you to leave the commotion of normal activity. Part of the sacrifice of fasting, seeking God, and studying His Word is that normal activity fades into the background.” (p111)

What do you think? Any thoughts on fasting?

Thinking Aloud: Why We Don’t Need Another Church Building

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In East Texas, especially in the City of Longview, the locals jokingly say that there is a church on every street corner. If you think about this, this means that the city’s original churches fractured and then multiplied. Division beget division; street corner after street corner was soon bestowed with a church.

Just as the Internet does not need another Christian video game site, the world does not need another church building. While it is true church buildings serve as a central place for Christians to receive Biblical teaching and fellowship with fellow believers, we were never meant to stay in one place. If you think about it, what do church buildings help foster? Isolation. Sure we can invite our “lost” friends to church, but do we? Most of the time, we fail at reaching out to those that Christ came to save for the sake of comfort. I’m guilty of this. Why invite an outsider to Cheers, right?

Instead of hanging out in fortified churches, how should we be reaching out to those around us in our community? My friend Scotto happened to hear the rapper Lecrae speak on this at The Resurgence Conference the other day. Lecrae talked about how:

…he intentionally lives in Atlanta because all the other major rappers live there. He wants to be in the culture, because he knows that God can use him there. Same goes for him using rap to spread the Gospel.

His points were:

1. Engage the culture. (Learn the culture, speak the language.)

2. Love the culture. (Really develop relationships. Care about people. Don’t just wait for opportunities to give your gospel points.)

3. Rehabilitate the culture. (How can you restructure what you already do to glorify God?)

I do think that it is important that we, as Christians, grow and fellowship with one another. I just think that the emphasis on the building, that some churches put into theirs, is wrong. The Church isn’t about the building but about the people. We need to be engaging, loving, and acting as Christ’s hands and feet in this broken world, with or without a building.

What do you think?

God: Working Behind the Scenes

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I stood out in the front yard last night watching the clouds swirl by. A storm was coming. The sky was growing darker by the minute as the clouds rotated in an eerie fashion. Sirens blared off in the distance, a tornado had been spotted in the northern part of our county. Beauty and death danced before me in the clouds, such a mix of awe and fear.

Back in the house, the weatherman was drenched in full HD glorified sweat. I openly wondered if he was going to have a heart attack. He didn’t. He did, however, rant and rave about “rotations” and “charging up your cell phone”. There was no calm, no awe in his voice, just fear.

When the weather outside is possibly life threatening and the weatherman is swamped in a fear-induced froth, I find it hard not to become fearful as well. But fearful of what? Tornadoes, “death from above” as I like to call them, are random creatures. They can be slow moving and quick to strike without notice. In other words, I have no control over them.

Journeying through life, we live under the illusion that we are in control. We aren’t. Lately, I’ve been studying through the Old Testament. Reading through the book of Joshua, I have read time and time again of God orchestrating massive events, even using evil things for good. Though we are not in control, God is. Even in times where it doesn’t seem like He is answering our prayers, He is working behind the scenes as the book of Haggai points out. But even with God in control, our daily choices still matter. Choices such as whether to let fear rule our lives, instead of the hope of Christ (for those who have accepted Him), these choices matter.

Are the clouds of fear swirling around you? Does destruction seem to be looming on the horizon? Take hope in that God is orchestrating all things for the good of those who love Him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NIV)

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.

Surf Report – 5/10/10

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Welcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report.

Woke up this morning to overcast skies and a nice cool breeze. Even though its supposed to be in the high 80’s today, I’m enjoying the cooler weather of the morning.

East Texas has been experiencing record highs lately, which is certainly odd for the month of May. I have been running my air conditioner non-stop — no doubt adding to the destruction of the environment–.

Funny thing happened this weekend, I received an annual letter from the Social Security Administration. Supposedly Social Security funds will be close to depleted by the time I am ready to retire. Correction, people who would have normally received over a $1000 dollars a month will instead receive $700 a month. Guess I need to learn how to eat/ live cheaper. Wonder if my future kids will let my wife and I live with them…

Had a friend get me back into World of Warcraft. I am happy to announce that I have finally made it to Burning Crusade content! Huzzah! Huzzah! What a difference an expansion makes to game play. I love World of Warcraft again. For anyone on the Stormscale server, be sure to look me up (Arclight, Alliance).

Hope everyone is having a great Monday. If your not, go pick up some sort of caffeinated beverage and get to work. Otherwise Tuesday is going to become Monday 2.0.

-Bryan