For the Love of Cupcakes, Fear is in the Air!

Standard

An invisible enemy is scarier than most enemies. For how does one combat what one cannot see? An invisible enemy could be anywhere. They might even be sitting next to you right now.

Photo by Rae Goldman on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, Wyatt and I walked into a local cupcake shop. We quickly noticed a piece of tape marked out on the ground that read:

“Stop. Stand Here.”

From behind the counter, the shop employee was wearing a mask. She was trying to fight against the invisible enemy. But underneath that mask, Wyatt and I both could read the look on her face. Which screamed in terror (and I’m not trying to be mean):

“Why aren’t you two wearing a mask?”

And even louder:

“Why are you two even here?”

A cupcake for momma; A simple Easter treat. I had wanted to surprise Tabitha, and Wyatt had come along for the ride. But here we were, in the cupcake shop, and feeling like we shouldn’t be in there.

It was in that moment that I discovered that I didn’t have my wallet…

I smiled, “We’ll be back.”

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

How we respond to the invisible enemy matters. Even weeks later, Wyatt and I can still remember the cupcake employee’s face. I hate the way this pandemic has caused us to view others. To think differently about something as simple as human touch. I want my personal response to be different, but I’m finding it hard to wade through the daily onslaught of online negativity. How about you?

Adoption Update: God Has Called Us To This, He Will See Us Through

Standard

I had one of those difficult conversations last night with a foster mother. She talked about a recent placement her and her husband had received. As she unpacked a story that included:

  • Level of care being misrepresented
  • Messed up family drama on a scale you know exists but try to not think about

I was reminded that these children need an advocate–and not just the children she was talking about, all children in the foster care system–. Someone to fight for them, to push back against doctors / teachers / life; Someone to provide a place of stability after living in what I’d call a war torn home. There comes a point, when you are listening to such a story, where feelings of empathy and ultimately justice kick in. You can’t help but feel for these children; children who have done nothing to deserve the adult situations they have been plopped into. Makes me thankful for those who have been called to foster and who provide a sense of normalcy and stability while birth parents have a chance to figure things out / get their lives together.

As the foster mom talked, I could feel a small thread of fear trying to grip me. An inner voice saying, “This is the type of horror story you’ve heard about. This could happen to you and Tabitha! You could be placed with a child that has been misrepresented to you AND has all sorts of problems.” As I pushed back on that fear, the foster mom kept saying, “God has called us to this, and He will see us through it.” Amen.

I love how God used this conversation to strengthen my resolve. Reminding me that children are out there, hurting, needing a place of stability. I stand firm, in God-given peace, that He has called us to adoption.

This is not to say that I am not still wondering about timing. I am not good at waiting. God first spoke to Tabitha and I in January of last year (2019). Calling us to move past our 10+ year grief of infertility; calling us to adopt.

  • I still remember the peace I felt going to the first informational meeting with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
  • How quickly we were plugged into a PRIDE Training Class.
  • The crazy stories we heard while in training.
  • The 30 minute drives to Marshall, where I had Tabitha all to myself to talk / unpack / dream / decompress.
  • How happy we were when training ended at the beginning of May.
  • How after completing the Home Study / various hoops, our family was certified to adopt at the beginning of August.

Adoption is a process. The Hall Family is still in that process. At the beginning of December, we met with our Adoption Development Worker. She said that she had not found any children that were a good fit for our home. So we wait knowing that our God is big, His timing is good, and that He loves us.

From Across the Net – “Praying for a President Is Not that Radical: Platt, Prayer, and Polarization”

Standard

Had meant to share this article by Ed Stetzer the other day. Man, this has been a long week already.

Furthermore, we can and must recognize that many hold different views and see things in different ways. Where some see praying for a president, others see a celebration of values they do not hold. We can acknowledge that people can and will experience such moments differently in the body of Christ.

Yet, the degree of ire directed towards Platt reveals that at times we can allow the same polarization and fear to grip our hearts in failing to extend grace to those with differening views. Likewise, the attempts to use Platt to endorse Trump fail to grasp the nuances of his prayer and inject meaning he was careful to avoid.

You can read more here

Fear, Geek Culture, and the Church

Standard

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

Batman: The Telltale Series

Standard

There is something brave about Batman: The Telltale Series. I love how Telltale made me care about Bruce Wayne just as much as I care about Batman. Their artful balance between diplomacy (Bruce) versus the shear force of The Dark Knight was great to play through. Also, loved the way Telltale portrayed The Joker.

I wish Telltale was still around to continue refining their storytelling (RIP 2018). While Batman: The Telltale Series is a high point for the developer, I still think that Minecraft: Story Mode and Tales from the Borderlands will remain my two favorite Telltale series.

Bottom Line: If you want a good spin on the Batman mythos, be sure to check out Season 1.

 

 

4/5 – Sometimes the past comes back to haunt us.

Title: Batman: The Telltale Series
Developer: Telltale
Platforms: PC, iOS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Android
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $30

>> SPOILERS <<

When Security Masks a Spirit of Fear

Standard

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?

You’re Going to Hell

Standard

“If you wore your hair past your ears, you were going to hell.”

“If you wore a colored dress shirt to church, instead of a white shirt, you were going to hell.”

“If you were at a stop light and looked poorly at a woman and then got into a wreck and died, you were going to hell.”

The list of rules and unofficial law went on and on. Deep diving into the insanity of whether you wore a short sleeve shirt versus a long sleeve shirt, to church, determining your eternal destination.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

“God’s grace was something that was preached but not understood.”

God reminded me this past week that we all come from different places. Even members of the same church, who are fellow believers in Christ, have prior built foundations. Rules and family situations, that may have felt true and normal at the time, which turned out to be built on lies of men.

I’m reminded that if the backdrops of our lives can differ so much with those that are around us, what about those that we encounter online?

I think we can easily assume that others are just like us. Raised, perhaps, in stable families; Raised in churches that were more about God’s grace versus invented “Biblical” law.

“I was afraid to read the Bible.”

We assume so much in our day-to-day interactions. This week, when I was able to actually listen to someone, I heard a different story than my own. I had assumed, perhaps projected my own experience, and I was wrong.

God is teaching me to listen more intently. I can’t imagine growing up without the peace that God has shown me through his grace. I can’t imagine thinking that my slightest action was going to send me to hell. I’m sure my wearing shorts to church, more often than not, would secure me a permanent place there… if the laws I described above were founded in truth. Thankfully, God, in his grace, isn’t concerned about my clothing.

The lies of the devil are prevalent. His lies even infect the church. Be aware. Listen. Lift a fellow brother or sister up. Speak truth.

Peace.