Outrage, Anger, and Shame

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My parents moved to Rancho California, from Anaheim, when I was young. Back then, sheep herders herded sheep down what would become major city streets. At night, the sky was dark and the stars were bright. But time marched on, more and more people moved to the area. The stars grew dimmer and the desert monsoon weather changed due to the abundance of pools installed. My hometown eventually voted to change the name of the town from Rancho California to Temecula.

Temecula, CA

I loved growing up in Temecula. I loved the small commuter town, situated in a valley, surrounded by beautiful mountains. Living in East Texas now, I miss those mountains the most. The way the snow would sit on top of them in the winter, as seen from my parent’s kitchen.

I have been living in East Texas for 17 years. Far away from the Southern California sun; far away from the traffic that clogs up Interstate 15. I still hear news though from my parents. News about the Mayor of Temecula misspeaking. How he apologized, began receiving death threats, and ultimately had to resign. I hate politics in our country.

I also hate the shame/cancel culture that is taking over our society. How one moment, captured on film and social media is then used to destroy a person’s life. Internet vigilantes–no, not the Batman type–who won’t stop at anything until a person has lost their job and perhaps even their dog.

Have we become a society that has forgotten forgiveness, treating others as we want to be treated?

Does the Internet accurately reflect our culture? How about what you are encountering and seeing on a daily basis?

As Americans, we say that we prize freedom of speech. The actions that I see, especially online, scream that if one doesn’t believe/act/or even look as you do, they have to be nuked. Destroyed lives from high orbit. Their very lives made into burning infernos due to a mispoken word, a bad day, or even a sentence written in a blog post.

We say that we want freedom.

We say that we want to live in a free society.

I don’t think we do.

Katniss Everdeen is a herald from the American future we don’t think can exist. But the general attitudes I’m seeing, the rage, the anger of the Internet, signal that the Hunger Games have already begun.

Detroit: Become Human

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My wife and I recently finished playing through Detroit: Become Human together. By the time the credits rolled:

  • Markus died.
  • North died.
  • Alice died.
  • Luthor died.
  • Hank lived.
  • Connor might as well be dead.
  • Kara made it across the finish line, alone.
  • Alice’s abusive father was given closure.

Decisions, slight choice variations, gave us a super sad ending. Our ending was so bad, that as the credits rolled, Tabitha and I were on Youtube watching other endings. I’m not sure I have ever done that for any other game.

Director David Cage likes to swing for the fences with his games. In Detroit: Become Human, I think he finally pieced together a coherent world with an unrelenting storyline. A story that grabbed my wife and I from the beginning… and didn’t let go. Detroit was the perfect summer game.

— Welcome to Spoiler Country —

I loved:

  1. The feeling of real consequence.
  2. The branching choice paths/story variations.
  3. Playing through the game with my wife. Our late night conversations about the story.
  4. Alice being given closure when her abusive dad shows up at the bus terminal (no, I didn’t kill him in the beginning).
  5. Kara making it to freedom.

Hillary Clinton is President in Detroit: Become Human

I disliked:

  1. The language. I felt like the f-word was used as emotional shorthand.
  2. How much I was made to dislike humanity. Humans are gross pigs! Only towards the end of the game were one or two humans given a chance to shine.
  3. Markus dying. I should have retreated from the police versus sacrificing Markus. Markus held Jericho together; he was the glue. Without Markus, the option for peace was removed and violence became the end game with new leader North.
  4. Connor dying.
  5. Alice dying. The foreshadowing that the river crossing into Canada being treacherous was true. Bullets kill androids too.

Freedom. Equality. The end of slavery for androids everywhere. In the closing moments of Detroit: Become Human, I was presented with two choices:

  • Suicide – In Detroit’s case, this equaled one last defiant act of freedom.
  • Slavery – Become a puppet leader, to an evil corporation, used to control the newly freed androids.

After spending hours with Connor, I struggled with these two choices. There was no way I was going to choose suicide… so I forever imprisoned Connor to his corporate masters. Tabitha looked at me, “Bryan!” I immediately wished I could go back and change that choice. Death was a better decision than eternal slavery. Instead, I let my human emotions enslave a person and a people. So much for all their blue blood spilled.

From Across the Net – “I Opted Out of Facial Recognition at the Airport – It Wasn’t Easy”

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Photo by Keith Chan on Unsplash

Always interesting what we do not question in the name of convenience. Thankful for those who do question.

As I watched traveler after traveler stand in front of a facial scanner before boarding our flight, I had an eerie vision of a new privacy-invasive status quo. With our faces becoming yet another form of data to be collected, stored, and used, it seems we’re sleepwalking toward a hyper-surveilled environment, mollified by assurances that the process is undertaken in the name of security and convenience. I began to wonder: Will we only wake up once we no longer have the choice to opt out?

Until we have evidence that facial recognition is accurate and reliable—as opposed to simply convenient—travelers should avoid the technology where they can.

You can read more here

Fatherhood has taught me forgiveness

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The whole concept of a dad can be challenging for some men. Many have grown up without having a dad in their life. Some of us even had dads that had to work outside of the home, for days on end, to support the family. Anger, resentment, and even a quest to fill that dad-shaped hole can occur.

I am thankful for the men that God brought into my life, as my dad was out working to provide for our family.

I am thankful for my Grandpa Ayers. For him sharing his love for the outdoors, radio controlled everything, and tabletop games. For showing me and my brother that slingshots, knives, and guns are cool toys (when properly respected) to play with. I’ll never forget our late nights playing Chess OR my Grandpa letting my brother and I build our own fires (FIRE!). His unexpected death at 60 years of age still haunts me in some ways. I have found that grief is ever changing but forever there. I am thankful for the time he invested in my siblings and I; thankful for the time that I got to spend with him.

Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash

For the longest time, I retreated into negative emotions concerning my own dad. Unable to see the bigger picture of what it means to provide… unable (still unable) to see through the family fog-of-war of the example his dad left him with when it came to interacting with family. For years, even as an adult, I’ve wanted more from my dad… But I’ve learned that whatever it is I have wanted from him, I have built into my relationship with Wyatt. Letting the past go, letting anger go, has allowed me to see my dad for who he is instead of who I wanted him to be.

My dad, Steven, is an amazing guy. He is funny, insightful, and a hard worker. The older I get, the more I appreciate him AND realize how much I am like him. I wish I had been able to push past what is deemed, in Christian circles, as a “father wound” sooner. Arriving at a point where I can accept my dad for who he is is priceless. Being able to see the bigger picture, where other men were allowed to step in and teach me and my siblings, and not resent that, is liberating.

All of the above to say, Father’s Day is this weekend. Chuck Lawless reposted a piece this morning that resonated with me titled “8 Reflections on Being Childless and Celebrating Father’s Day“. I encourage you to check it out.

These greeting card holidays can stir the emotions!

Happy early Father’s Day.

Assassins Creed III Reborn

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As a History / Political-Science major, I was excited over the launch of Assassins Creed III. I even pre-ordered the game (a rarity for me). When all was said and done though, Assassins Creed III was a disappointment. So many ideas, poorly executed, with a game engine that couldn’t do the heavy lifting those ideas required. The end result was a buggy, slow-running mess, and I quit.

The upcoming PS4 remaster of Assassins Creed III has me intrigued. I’m wondering if the game engine has been upgraded? I’d love to play through this period of history. Maybe protagonist Connor has been given some hugs/love to help with his sour disposition? Maybe not. I guess we’ll soon see.

Revisited – The Onion Layers of Time

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I wrote this back in March of 2012. I can tell you that I’ve chilled out a bit since then. No longer do I feel angry or frustrated when I don’t get to play a game in the evening. I’ve gotten to where I might game once a week (IF). I more so now enjoy the time I’m spending with my family. Just needed to grow up and discover a few more layers. Always thankful to Shrek for that analogy. – Bryan

As we advance in years, I believe that we all wish that we would personally be able to grow and mature with time as well. For some, growth and maturity are unattainable due to personal life choices; for others, growing in maturity and stature are a knowingly made decision.

Before I was married, I had all the time in the world to pursue what I wanted to pursue. If I wanted to go out with friends for coffee at 2AM, I could. If I wanted to sit down and play a video game every evening, for hours on end, I could do so as well. I was a free man and time was all mine.

Photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash

As I dated and was soon married, my time quickly became our time. No longer did I have the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I had to now take my wife into consideration. What did she want to do? What could we do together? There was nothing wrong or bad about this change in the way I spent my time. Like an onion, I had simply discovered a new layer of personal depth; like an onion, my time had also grown thinner in peeling away that new layer.

The birth of our son set into motion the equation of: my time + our time = his time.

Age, growth and maturity force us to constantly evaluate the things that matter to us. Are we spending our free time pursuing the things that we love or the things that we simply like? This got me thinking about video games and my constant struggle to figure out where they place in my life. Do I love them or just like them? Are they keeping me from pursuing the things that I love?

What about you?

We Cannot Bring About Lasting Change In Anyone

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Labor Day has thrown me off this week. I keep thinking that it is Tuesday when it is really Wednesday.

I’ve been wanting to share my notes from teaching through Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family in Sunday School. Each week has been a good reminder of what I’d call Christianity 101. Foundational Biblical truths we all know, as Christians, and yet forget to live out.

Sunday morning, our topic was on Inability (Chapter 4). The key principle was: “Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting.”

We started out by reading the following quote:

If you are going to be what God has designed you to be as a parent and do what he’s called you to do, you must confess one essential thing. This confession has the power to change much about the way you act and react toward your children. It is vital that you believe and admit that you have no power whatsoever to change your child. If any human being possessed the power to create lasting change in any other human being, again, Jesus would not have had to come! The incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus stand as clear historical evidence that human power for change does not exist.

And then shifted to talking about our inability to save ourselves from the punishment we deserve for sinning against a holy God. How only faith in Jesus Christ can bring about lasting change, in our lives, and save us.

Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

We then went over the Gospel presentation that our Children’s Director goes over with our kids. I think it’s helpful to know what our kids are going over AND the simple presentation is good for us adults.

As a class, we read through the following scriptures noted in the presentation:

  • Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16-17; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:8; Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9; Romans 10:9-10, 13.

Afterwards, discussing what Tripp calls “The Three Most Often Used Tools of Parental Power”.

  1. Fear – “the power we buy into here is that we can issue a big enough threat that creates a big enough fear to change our kids.”
  2. Reward – “This may be the most popular way we fight our inability to change our children. We manipulate them to do what we want them to do by holding certain reward in front of them.”
  3. Shame – “Shame and guilt are power tools that parents use more frequently than we recognize.”

Coming to the point where we realize that we cannot bring about lasting change in others, apart from Christ, is freeing. Whether in our friendships, relationships, or parenting, Christ is the only one who can bring about lasting change. We CANNOT change anyone, no matter how hard we try.

“Good parenting lives at the intersection of a humble admission of personal powerlessness and a confident rest in the power and grace of God.”

I Know Nothing

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There have been times, as a parent, where I’ve thought that I have had everything figured out. Moments where I mistakenly concluded that I had mastered the art of parenting. Looking back on old photos, I realize now that I knew nothing. The older Wyatt grows, the more I feel unequipped as a dad. Each day presenting a new challenge, a new set of decisions on how best to guide my child.

Parenting an almost 9 year old, I have been learning about freedom and letting go. Making what feel like hard decisions in the moment, like sending him to summer camp for a week by himself. Emotion versus logic battle it out:

  • Emotion: He is too young to be gone for a week by himself. What if he gets scared or wants to come home?
  • Logic: We can always go pick him up if need be. He’ll be in a safe place. Our Children’s Director, who is amazing, is going to camp/loves the camp they are attending.

The instant gut reaction of “lets wait until next year” gives way to questions of why. Tab and I are learning to push through these gut reactions, compare them against non-emotional truths, and then ask Wyatt what he thinks. Giving him voice and a choice in the decision at hand has helped us both make a final decision. Big decisions, such as “let’s try this!”

Parenting is not easy. But I’m thankful for the grace that is given to parents which allows us to grow up alongside our children. Grace that allows me to admit that I do not know everything about parenting, but I know a little.

Pokémon aren’t free

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Woke up the boy this morning.

 

“Hey Bulblasaur, it’s time to get up.”

“Venusaur, I choose yo….”

“No. That is not how this works.”

“What?”

“You’re a Pokémon, you can’t summon other Pokémon. You have to do what I say. You have to fight when I say.”

>Insert random combat move yelled by child here<

“Oh look, you are back in your Pokéball. It’s time for breakfast. Get up.”

>this went on a bit more<

Got me thinking about how Pokémon are slaves to their Trainer’s whims. With no free will to make their own way in the world. That is as deep as I get for this Tuesday. Go forth and catch’em all!

Please leave my wife alone

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I admire and respect my wife. For eight years Tabitha taught as a third grade teacher in her hometown. I was with her through the highs, lows, and in-betweens of teaching. Learning that our education system prioritizes/champions testing and scores. That challenges come not only from in the classroom but from outside of it. Taking the form of parents and district representatives. Through it all, her love for educating her students never died. As long as she could close her door and teach, she was happy.

Somewhere along the learning journey we had Wyatt. Tabitha found herself torn between being a mom while working as a teacher. For years, Tab’s mom gave us peace of mind by watching/raising Wyatt. But we lived in that tension of her wanting to stay home. We didn’t think that we could live without dual incomes and the insurance her job provided.

After much time and prayer, we made the decision to keep her home. A decision that has not always been easy but has been good.

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Something weird happened when Tabitha became a stay-at-home mom. A cloud of lies settled in that said, “she must not have anything better to do” OR “she needs to be doing something”. My wife became the dumping ground of low paying jobs and babysitting requests.

I am here today, as her husband, to tell you, whoever you are, that my wife’s freedom comes at a cost. She doesn’t have to watch your kids; she doesn’t have to take that babysitting job for the church. If she does watch your kids, she has made that decision to help you out. Not because she has to but because she wants to. As a husband, I love being able to give my wife that freedom. That ability to be a mom, a wife, whoever else she wants to be.

Whether we have just one child or many, that does not change her role. Whether we choose to homeschool or send Wyatt to public school, that does not change her mission. She is still a mom; she is still my wife. I am proud of her. Please leave her alone.

 

Feel Stuck Volunteering In The Church? Stop.

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Sunday mornings you get dressed, eat breakfast, and then head out the door to church. Upon arriving, you check your children into their designated areas. Ah, free childcare!

Navigating halls filled with the smell of fresh brewed coffee, you make your way to your small group. Greet friends. Swap stories. Enjoy a quick Bible lesson before heading off to the main service.

Everyone wants to be served and no one wants to serve. This model of the Body of Christ is broken. Prone to burning out volunteers who become stuck in their volunteer roles, for years. No escape. No growth. All due to someone else not heeding the call, that slight Spirit tug, to be the hands and feet of Christ to the church.

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Dejected and depressed, these burned-out volunteers fuel our churches. Under the impression that if they do not serve, no one else will. This is a lie.

God calls every Christian to serve in various areas for a season. Seasons change, just look outside the window. The Bible talks about there being an occasion for everything (read Ecclesiastes 3).

I want to challenge those that feel stuck volunteering in the church to stop. Take a step back. Examine where you are on your faith journey, where God is calling you. The Body of Christ cannot function in selfishness. Give another brother or sister in Christ a chance to serve His people. Allow God to help them grow through service; Allow God to help you grow in freedom.

Masks

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I used to write with some frequency. The more people who came to read my blog, especially those who I am friends with in physical space, the more I felt like I couldn’t be myself. I became careful, almost cautious of what I was sharing. Part of me felt like I had to put up a front, a mask if you will, to project an image I thought people wanted to read and see. I began to write less and less. Dropping any personal vulnerability and focusing more on general items. This alarmed me. Writing is my outlet, a window to an inner world of thoughts rarely spoken.

“How can we be loved if we are always in hiding?” – Donald Miller, Scary Close (p140)

I have always been insecure with who God made me to be. Perhaps this is a fault. I have issues accepting God’s grace and forgiveness, even though I know that they are real. I find it easier to mentally beat myself up than accept something I cannot grasp. Wrestling with faith is not easy but necessary.

This is where I am today. I want to write. Be myself. Embrace who Christ has created and called me to be. Not worrying what others think, what their perception is of me. I am created with a purpose and a unique voice. I am tired of the negative thinking. I am tired of fear. Today I want to be free.