Combat the Familiarity and Embrace the Wonder

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Four days into December, and I’m whipped. The combination of:

  • Allergies–come on Texas, get cold!
  • My company Christmas party
  • And a baby dedication for my niece–which was both sweet and fun!

All the above have left me drained. Add on the craziness that is the month of December at work, and I’m ready to crawl back into bed. I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to just hunker down and push through the holidays. At some point the:

  • Company Christmas cards will be finalized/stuffed/mailed.
  • Hustle and bustle of the season will end. Local drivers will return to their normal driving habits.

Do not misread me, I love Christmas. I enjoy spending time with family, the joy of giving gifts, and beginning new traditions with my own family. One of the traditions we have started, as a family, is going through season of Advent. Advent allows us to prepare our hearts and focus on the coming birth of Jesus.

In a culture that uses this season to get children to dream about how their lives would be made better by possessing a certain material thing, where Christmas has been reduced to a shopper’s nightmare and a retailer’s dream, it is vital to draw the wonder of our children away from the next great toy and toward the wonder of the coming of our great Lord and Savior, Jesus. – Paul David Tripp, Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional

This year, we are moving through the Advent season with two guides:

  1. In the evening as a family, we are walking through Focus on the Family’s Holy Night Advent Calendar. Each day, you read scripture and an overall thought. Then, you cut out an item (could be a palm tree, dove, etc.) and slowly build a paper craft manger scene.
  2. Tabitha and I are reading through Paul David Tripp’s Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. This book has been excellent so far and I’m using it as a teaching resource for Sunday School.

Photo by Kacper Szczechla on Unsplash

The craziness of the holidays and being away from family in another state, for me, can distract from what I have in front of me and what the Christmas season is all about. By moving through Advent, I’m hoping to combat the familiarity and embrace the wonder of God sending His son, Jesus.

Familiarity tends to rob us of our wonder. And here’s what’s important about this: what has captured the wonder of our hearts will control the way we live. – Paul David Tripp, Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional

Q: What family Christmas traditions help you keep your focus on Christ during the Christmas season?

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From Across the Net: “Wrestling with Big Decisions”

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Focus on the Famly’s John Ortberg wrote a great piece titled “Wrestling with Big Decisions“. I found the following perspective helpful:

Indeed, for years after my “What should I do with my life?” conversations with God, I did not realize that what I had been actually looking for wasn’t so much “God’s will for my life.” What I was really looking for was a way to be relieved of the anxiety that comes with taking responsibility for making a difficult decision.

God is a door opener, not a celestial enabler.

Friendship

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"I don't understand why we can't get close enough, I miss the shivers in my spine every time that we touch" - Jars of Clay, Closer

This morning, on my way to work, I was listening to a Focus on the Family podcast featuring Doctor’s Les and Leslie Parrot. They were talking about the importance of friendship in relation to marriage. Specifically, they spoke about how important it is to be good friends with your spouse. Reminded me of how easy it is to take spousal friendship for granted.

From the moment I met my now wife, we had an understanding, a connection. From our first conversation, I opened up to her about my Grandpa passing away and how I missed him. My wife has always been someone that I can talk very easily with. Quite quickly, she became/ is my best friend.

We have been through a lot of trying experiences over the years. Multiple family deaths, surgeries, and hardships at work. We have also experienced the birth of our son, four years of marriage, and the continual adventure that life brings each day. In short, we have traveled amongst the peaks and the valleys; we have grown stronger in our travels.

I don’t ever want to take the friendship I have with my wife for granted. I think that the ease of our friendship makes it easy to forget “the spark” that we have, the unique connection.

I never want to let you go baby, I love you .

Christians and Gaming: Part 2

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For the second part of this series, I would like to take a look at what is currently out there in regards to Christian video game sites.

Our tour begins with an organization called gamers4Jesus.org. The site exists to provide a safe place to play and fellowship on the Internet. You can read their About section here. The site doesn’t feature any news, reviews, or editorial on gaming. However, it does feature a game/ Team Speak server and a Bible study that is hosted over Team Speak every Thursday night at 5pm (5pm PST; 8pm EST).

Another site that seems similar to gamers4Jesus, is Hardcore Christian Gamer. From what I have known about them in the past (their Our Mission link is broken), they provide a podcast, devotions, occasional articles, and a forum. They primarily seem to provide sort of an in-game club for PS3 and Xbox 360 users.

(Note: As I am writing this, I am noticing that these sites can be classified. For instance, the sites listed above could be classified as clan/community sites; below, the sites can be listed as review sites.)

Chugging along, Guide2Games.org offers video game reviews from a Christian perspective. This site is more user review driven as one can submit a game review.

Other sites that offer game reviews from a Christian perspective include:

  • Christ Centered Gamer – I can’t tell if this site just started or what (lack of dates). I did note that there is not a ton of content.
  • Plugged In Online – Probably the most professional looking Christian game review site I found. The only problem is that the reviews aren’t written in a format comparable to a major video game review site.
  • Plain Games – Christian video game reviews rated with their unique “Bar Rating” system. Definitely written by a gamer/s.

Balancing, Rated, Violence

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The other day I was looking up something on Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Online, and I came across an article written in 2007 entitled “‘Halo’ and the Holy”. The article discusses the use of Halo 3, in churches, as an evangelistic tool. It goes on to talk about:

  1. Church vs. Pop Culture
  2. How Halo 3 is M-rated (age 17+) and not appropriate for those under the age of 17.
  3. How the church has always been a sanctuary, therefore violence and mayhem need to be kept outside its doors.

And now, a bulleted response:

  • The balancing act of being in the world but not of it is something that every Christian must deal with on a daily basis. Churches often use different genres of music to bring in non-Christians (oh no, rock-n-roll!) and the use of video games is no different.
  • I readily agree with the fact that Halo 3 is a M-rated game and not meant to be played by those under the specified age. I have no issues with that.

  • I do, however, have an issue with the article’s conclusion about the lack of violence in the church. The Bible itself is full of violence, war, rape, and general mayhem. Violence is apart of the human experience, unfortunately. I don’t see having video games within the church as inviting violence into it. If anything, one is inviting competition, team work, and communication.

In the end, I feel that the article fixated too much on Halo 3 and ultimately failed to to touch on how other games  (such as Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers) can be used instead. I see nothing wrong with using video games in an effort to bring people into church. I don’t believe that should be the reason that people attend, but I also don’t think that it is harmful in the least. Heck, most of these kids have video game consoles at home anyways.

Plugged In followed up their article with a reader response post. Some of it was quite entertaining.