While I’m a little behind in my 5 Day Bible Reading Program, I continue plugging away. This morning, I came across these verses in the Book of Amos:
21 “I hate all your show and pretense— the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. 22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. 23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.
Amos 5:21-24 (NLT)
Or as another translation puts verse 21:
I hate, I despise, your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies.
Amos 5:21 (CSB)
Got me thinking about how we can come to a point, individually and as a Church, to where our worship of the Lord can become like a stench to Him caused by:
I won’t ever forget watching The Fonz, water skiing in his leather jacket, jump over a small ocean corral of sharks. For years, I had heard of this “jump the shark” moment, but I could never have imagined just how random/stupid this stunt really was.
Our adoption journey had a jump the shark moment a few weeks ago. Our caseworker, despite knowing our adoption preferences, sent us the profile of a much older kid.
At first, I was okay with our case worker testing the waters. Sure, Tab and I could give this child a last name, a place to crash, and help them get ready for life. Sure, we could pack in all of the important life lessons, we would have taught them over the years, into one year of their life. I was okay with the idea of adopting a 17 year old–would especially like to look into this once our son is older–, until I wasn’t.
Our adoption process has been marked with friends and family making small comments that burrow deep under my skin. Comments such as:
“Why don’t you do foster and adoption like we did? You’ll get a kid then.”
“And we were told that we’d never get a child if we went the route that you have.”
“You shouldn’t be frustrated, hurt, or angry over this process, God has this under control.”
“Oh, I’ve heard horror stories about older kids being adopted.”
I don’t think that these comments are meant to be hurtful but they are.
I am forever thankful for those that ask us how the process is going. Those that are willing to listen and not necessarily push their way of doing things. God has brought good friends to walk alongside us on this journey.
I haven’t written as much on adoption lately because there hasn’t been much to say. Silence, from our caseworker, continues to be the norm. I have also felt God telling me to pray more and write/talk less about it. I’m sure there is a balance to that though.
If you think about my family, could you take a moment and pray with us? Every morning I wake up to see the room across the hall is empty. Someone is missing. Could you pray over that with me? That God would have His way. That we would be able to listen/discern the route we need to take. I’d really appreciate it.
Before the pandemic, my wife and I were balcony dwellers at church. A throwback to a time when our Sunday school class would all sit together, on high, in the balcony. A great place to watch all the movements below and be hidden from the pastor’s view due to the bright lights.
Unnecessary Explanatory Note: We have stayed in the balcony due to the ease of finding seats. When you serve, easy seat access is a plus.
Since we have returned to church from the dark pandemic times, Tab and I have sat downstairs. Free from Sunday school, serving, and any other positions we may hold, we have been free to just attend… to just be.
Sitting where we have been sitting, I have smiled to myself many a time. You see, church goers joke about members having assigned seating. When I say joke, I speak of a partial truth. One of those things that is awkwardly grinned at but often experienced in the form of a wordless glare. The “Hey, why are you sitting in my seat” glare. But why are you talking about assigned seating and “the glare”, Bryan?
On the other side of COVID-19, everything is new at church. Months of not meeting together have erased ingrained habits. We’ve had to figure out what the church looks like when it does not meet; We’ve had to figure out what church looks like when it does meet with a lurking virus.
My key here is that the old is gone. The boardgame has been reset. New habits, even those as small as seating, are allowed to begin anew.
I have loved being able to talk with those I didn’t normally see by sitting in the balcony.
I have loved feeling more a part of the worship service, not so distant–proximity is huge–.
I have loved the feeling of a new beginning.
As we experience a reset of the old norms, I want to encourage you to shake things up. Talk to those you didn’t talk to before. Allow yourself to experience the Body of Christ in a whole new way.
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.
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.
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:
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.
We grow spiritually when we commit to faithful attendance. We grow as a believer in Christ when we have a committed prayer life. We grow when we are committed to read Scripture daily. We grow when we share our faith regularly. We grow when we serve in ministry. And we grow when we commit to attend worship services faithfully. That attendance is a spiritual discipline. It is a vital and necessary act toward greater spiritual maturity.
The Coronavirus has wounded the American Church in a way that many cannot see yet. As social distancing measures lift and other post-pandemic precautions ease, some Christians are hesitant to return to the Church. Presented with the convenience of watching a worship service on Facebook or YouTube, many believers are making the intentional choice to stay at home. Telling themselves, “The virus is still out there, we still need to protect ourselves for another month or two.” Happy in their newfound sermon consumption that doesn’t require one to ever leave the home. Or better yet, require them to sit with their kids in the worship service due to the church’s children’s program not being up and running.
Meanwhile, In Social Media Land…
I can see that you recently volunteered on a project.
I can see that you went and visited the zoo.
I can see that you are hanging out with friends and family.
I can see you doing all of these things, and yet, I haven’t seen your happy face at church.
Gathering with fellow believers, attending church, this is a Christian discipline. What I have hated seeing, in these pandemic times, is how quickly that discipline has been let go; convenience and inconvenience pushing against one another.
I am not advocating for fellow believers to come back to church in order to check a box. I am advocating for fellow believers to come, grow, and encourage other believers with your presence.
I keep asking myself, “Is Jesus enough of a commonality to hold believers together in these times?” My answer is of course, Jesus is enough. But, I think these pandemic times are revealing who church attendance is important to.
All of these things communicate to both the world and our fellow believers where our priorities lie.
I want to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to push past their preferences and convenience. The withdrawal of your presence is hurting others, silently wounding the Church in the process. Please do not let being in the habit of attending church slip away and become your new normal. Your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ miss you.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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?
As part of my devotional time this morning, I was reading through Luke 9. Verses 51-56 caught my eye:
51 When the days were coming to a close for him to be taken up, he determined[m] to journey to Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead of himself, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him. 53 But they did not welcome him, because he determined to journey to Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” [n]
55 But he turned and rebuked them,[o]56 and they went to another village.
Luke 9:51-56 (CSB)
What I noticed is that Jesus didn’t get upset over not being accepted. He didn’t take a moment to write a negative review on Yelp. Instead, he rebukes his disciples for wanting to destroy the town (Jesus didn’t come to destroy people’s lives but to save them) and then walks away. No nasty words, no insane tweet, Jesus and his disciples simply move on. Got me thinking about how we, how I, often need to do the same thing.
The “plan dragon” is one of those I’ve had to battle for years. Thankful for God’s grace and how we grow, as parents, as our children grow.
When I was setting up our new family tent, a big part of my frustration sparked because I had plans and my daughter interrupted them. Most of our anger and annoyance happens when our plan (or our kingdom) becomes threatened or disturbed.
The very people we’re trying to serve and love become the problem in our eyes. They ruin our plan—even if that plan is to make memories with them—so we get angry.
During our PRIDE Training, Tabitha and I were told that the interview/home study was going to be:
Thorough (expect 4 hours, at least)
Invasive (questions could/would be asked about things like frequency of marital relations, etc.)
Deep (we were warned that every one of our drawers could be opened/inspected)
Once we found out that our home study was going to be scheduled for this past Saturday, Tabitha and I kicked into cleaning overdrive… even though the house already looked great.
Saturday morning arrived blanketed with heat and humidity. Our Independent Home Screening Assessor pulled into the driveway 30 minutes early. Tabitha and I were nervous. We had no idea what to expect nor what questions were about to be asked of us.
Our interview ended up covering basics such as:
And what types of things Tab and I can and cannot handle when it comes to an adoptive child (the gamut ran from learning disabilities to types of abuse)
An hour later, we were finished with the interview. Our Home Screening Assessor took a few pictures, told us that we were great, and that she would text us when she turned in her report to our caseworker with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. And with that, we were done.
Not all monsters are cute.
I cannot stress enough how God showed up in this moment. I was sick to my stomach. And yet what I am learning, through this adoption process, is obedience. When God calls us to something, we have to be obedient and step out in faith. It is through that process of obedience that we see God work. Seeing Him fight our monsters, our giants, and stretch us in our faith.
I am excited to see what happens next. Our Home Study is due to CPS July 10. We should hear more soon! Will keep ya’ll posted.
This is heavy… but good. Thankful Malinda chose to share this.
Adoption starts with trauma.
Perhaps this doesn’t seem like something to rejoice in. It’s actually not. But, it’s something that is important to grasp and accept when it comes to thinking about adoption. The majority of adoptions start with trauma. I hesitate to use the sweeping word “all” here, but I struggle to think of an adoption scenario that wouldn’t involve some element of trauma to at least the child involved. I think so often we can have a glorified view of adoption—and I don’t want to diminish its merit—but to bypass this root element of adoption is to lessen its messy beauty.
I have learned that when root-issues are overlooked—and this applies beyond adoption—there can’t be a solid foundation for anything to be built on top. Without a solid foundation, whatever was built will surely crumble.
A daughter got up to speak at her mother’s funeral recently. She talked about how her mom was a “modern woman”. Her unspoken words silently screaming that her mother resented staying home and raising her and her siblings.
The funeral continued with another daughter stepping up to the lectern to speak. She mentioned that her mom was a life long member of the church they attended. She also talked about current tensions between siblings and made a sideswipe at her brother for his lack of talent.
Sitting there, I noticed that nothing was said of the deceased woman’s faith but only of her membership. As another daughter’s words were read aloud by the pastor, I felt grossed out by the tension in this family. The bitterness smothering any love that might once have existed between them.
As Tabitha and I walked out of the church, we held hands while walking out to the car. Trying to imagine living in family, having siblings, that were so torn up and hurt by one another. In the privacy of the car, we talked about how we want to be remembered. How we want people to speak of us at our own funerals.
I walked away thinking about what holds our family together. The faith and values that Tabitha and I surround ourselves and fill our home with. I would hope that Wyatt would grow up and look back on his childhood with fondness. I also realize that we can do EVERYTHING we’d consider right and things can still go sideways. I am thankful that God is bigger than any of my own parental missteps.
I want people to remember me for my actions and not my accomplishments. I want to be remembered as more than just a life long member of a church.
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.
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]”
I’ve known Justin Fox for awhile now. The last time he visited JBG, we talked about faith and his game ReElise (which was on Kickstarter at the time). Three years have passed and I figured it was time to catch up with him.
Hey Justin, what have you been up to since your last visit? What happened to ReElise on Kickstarter?
I’ve done a lot reading and understanding of the business world since then. Helped build my church, and I made another game (Black Simulator) in the process just to get a project finished relatively quickly.
As far as the Kickstarter goes, I gained a lot of new great connections… but I fortunately didn’t reach my goal. I say fortunately because I wasn’t mature enough with such an amount of money. I’m not saying I would have spent it on Blackjack and hookers or anything, but I wouldn’t have applied the “sowing and reaping” (making sure the money is making money) principle that I now understand. The investment wouldn’t have been what it COULD have been for that project. So I took a hiatus from it for 2 years to clear my head and only recently started active development on it again. Fortunately, I was able to raise a fair amount of money for ReElise through the Patreon. I’ve been able to hire colorists for the illustrations. It’s very humbling to receive support of any kind for it.
It’s interesting how God uses different seasons to grow and mature us. Seasons where we think we know what/where we should be going, but God is sitting there saying not yet. I hate those seasons of life but get why they are important.
Tell me more about your smaller project you’ve released. What did you learn in the process of creating the game?
The smaller project is a project called Black Simulator, a satirical mini-game on Steam where you’re just trying to run 3 errands without getting shot or arrested by the police. Started out as a joke with another developer but… here we are.
I learned a ton about the importance of workflow, time management, and even overcoming ego/defense mechanisms. That last one though is the biggest thing. I was so scared to release this game. My brain found all kinds of reasons to protect itself from potential failure. I had essentially been sitting on this thing for months, slowing my own progress, because it wasn’t perfect. It still isn’t perfect (truly far from it), but sometimes the bigger picture is just the experience of releasing a game on the market. Not a perfect game, but YOUR game is out there at least. It’s a starting point no matter how bad it is, you can grow from that place. Beyond even that, sometimes your loved one’s need to see you trying, because you never know who’s waiting on your progress to encourage them to do the things they’re scared to do. I learned that a good “why” can slay the ego. My “why” was that releasing this game would be edifying to my friends, because they need to see me win just a little bit. I don’t know if my game will have the impact of bringing understanding to culture, but I know it’ll edify my friends who believe in me… because they tell me it does.
So what’s next for you? Where can people find you and your game?
Next is wrapping up ReElise in August. It’s not the full game or even in the engine that I want, but I’m gonna release the first half of it. Then I’m planning to start ReElise over in an engine that isn’t RPG Maker VX! I now have someone to partner with, and we’ll make a true version of the game. After all, we’ll have an alpha/beta so to speak, with finished art, music, and sound. The Patreon is doing well to produce the art assets, and I’m so thankful to each of them.
In between ReElise and it’s final version though, I think I’m gonna make White Simulator and some other weird games. Super Baby Fetus: Pro Life Power is something I’m really excited about.
But to find everything that I do, I’d just go to JustinFoxMedia for: Patreon links, YouTube live streams, links to demos and games, (merch coming soon) the works!
I wrestle over writing on the topics of faith, parenting, and gaming. Realizing that faith and gaming seem like polar opposite topics pitted against each other. I have a tendency to lean more towards gaming when I write as those posts get more clicks. That’s me being real. I hate how when I log into JBG, the first thing I see are the site statistics.
Over the years, I’ve been told to focus my blog more. Focus more on gaming, keep your faith and life posts to yourself or better yet, journal or start another blog for those. I’ve even had some encourage me to quit blogging, as it is a perceived waste of my time, and focus on writing for professional outlets.
In the shower this morning (where I do all my deep thinking, of course), I had one of those realizations that I’ve been allowing others, even complete strangers, to influence my thinking. Had to pray over this:
God help me to move on, to not be stuck on the past nor by what people have said. I’m tired of feeling held back by past hurt.
All of the above to say, that I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to keep blogging on the topics of faith, parenting, and gaming. Hopefully some of you find my writing helpful, insightful, funny, or just plain ludicrous.
Drop me a note in the comments section, if you have a moment. Let me know if you have benefited from joining me on this life journey. Thank you, as always, for reading. It means a lot to me.
Enjoyed listening to Drew, of Love Thy Nerd, interview Ben Esposito, developer of Donut County. Drew has created such an awesome environment on his Humans of Gaming Podcast. I love how relaxed his guests are and how open/honest the faith discussions become. Give Episode 118 a listen for me here.
Read a quote this morning that was a bit convicting:
Lead family worship It doesn’t need to be extravagant or long or particularly deep. But it does need to be consistent and it does need to be led by you. Set a time, sing some Psalms, read a Bible passage, ask each kid a question about the passage, and then pray together. Even if this wasn’t the Biblical pattern for Christian families, could you give me a decent argument why it’s a waste of time or unnecessary? – Read more here
Leading family worship has long been a struggle for me. One of those areas where I could easily lay blame on it not being modeled growing up–my parents did the best they could–. But at some point, I’ve learned, one has to forgive their parents and accept responsibility for what one is doing with their own family.
So what am I doing to lead my family spiritually? / How can I take the lead?
How are you leading your family spiritually? / How can you take the lead?
Away from the lights and fellow believers at church, in our homes, how are we leading?
I’m not sure what a family worship time looks like for my family. I can’t imagine us all sitting around singing songs. Sure, we’ve tried a few things in the past. When Wyatt was younger, we’d read Jesus Calling and pray before bed. More recently, we’d sit down and read scripture/pray in the evening. Consistency has always been my enemy. Kind of like with a personal quiet time. An evening would pop up that was out of our regular schedule and the first thing that would end up going were family devotions.
Jon Acuff, in his book Finish, talks about the day after perfect; the day after everything hasn’t gone 100% well. He asks what you will do after that day? Will you accept defeat or continue on?
I know personally that I often complicate things. Simple can be my enemy. And yet simple has to be the starting place for leading family worship. The simple acts of:
Taking/scheduling time for the family to sit down
Opening the Bible
Reading the Bible
I know that these are all things that I can do. I simply choose not to make them important nor do them.
It’s time to change that. Let’s consider this the day the family worship vehicle was put into gear.