Control Is Hard To Give Up

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God is in control so we don’t have to be.

titanicI’m not too sure what is going on anymore. The company I work for has built it’s business on school bond elections. We design schools, gymnasiums, and administration buildings with bond issue funds. A workable and sustainable business model with one major hiccup, voters. Back in the beginning of May, voters shot down two of the three bond issues we were counting on for work. Thankfully, we have learned a bit from a similar failure last year. We have since diversified our client base and moved into areas not targeted by large Dallas architectural firms. What is odd is that one week we were talking about hiring, growth, and technology upgrades. In the weeks following the bond election, optimism has disappeared and silence rules. Just like last year. I have no idea whether my company will lay off anyone within the next few months. I do not think we have diversified enough/obtained enough clients to sustain our company long term. While business may seem normal for now, I keep waiting for the hammer to drop like it did last year when I lost a fellow co-worker due to layoff. Frustrating to be back in a situation where I have no control.

Health-wise, I’ve been seeing a couple doctors and having some tests run. Will be getting the test results next week. I am nervous. My body is tense and I feel sick. I have zero control over the situation.

nineveh02This past Sunday (5/17), my small group leader asked me to teach during our morning hour together. Knowing that the kids were having a lesson from the Book of Nahum, I decided to dive-in and see what the book is all about. Turns out Nahum is a sequel to the Book of Jonah. Nahum takes place a 100 years after Jonah visited the City of Nineveh. By this time, Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, had returned to idol worship. The Minor Prophet Nahum steps in and speaks aloud (an oracle) that the destruction of Nineveh is coming.

The people of Nineveh must have laughed at Nahum. Their city walls were a 100 feet high with a 150 foot moat extending out from the walls. The moat, for anyone who is wondering, was 60 feet deep. Who knows what lived in there. Situated on the Tigris River, Nineveh had a series of dams throughout the city. Now what is interesting is that Nahum prophesied that the city would be destroyed by water (2:6). The dams that held back water-giving life would end up unleashing water that would undermine a part of the city walls. Like a sandcastle, the walls would fall, allowing the Babylonians access into the city.

640px-Nineveh_map_city_walls_&_gatesOne of the key verses that stuck out to me was 1:3 –

The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
    the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
    and clouds are the dust of his feet.

God gave the people of Nineveh a chance. He sent Jonah, a reluctant prophet, to tell them to turn from their evil ways. And they did! A hundred years later though, the people had forgotten all about Jonah. What stuck out to me in 1:3 is that God is slow to anger. He could have destroyed Nineveh a hundred years ago, but He didn’t. Another verse I noted was 1:7 –

The Lord is good,
    a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,

The head and heart disconnect, I call it. I know that God is good, no matter what the situation. I know that He is a refuge, ready to catch us/hold on to us when all seems to be falling apart. I know that. But sometimes my heart forgets. I want to be in control.

I am not sure where my job is going to be in six months. I have no idea what is going to happen next week at the doctors office. What I do know is that God is good. He will take care of me. I just need to tell my head and my heart that.

Off Campus – UPDATE – The Female Perspective: How Do Video Games Impact Relationships?

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Theology GamingToday I am off the JBG campus and over at Theology Gaming. Check out the additional response I received for the videogame relationship survey (A3). The closing line is a keeper:

Keep on gaming (and crafting stuff in World of WarCraft continuously! I need new stuff!).

With the magic of the internet, you can visit Theology Gaming with this nifty link!

Surf Report

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Surf ReportWelcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report. A quick summary of my weekend.

.: God:

Why is Good Friday called Good Friday? What is good about betrayal, torture, and death? I understand Jesus’ death on the cross being a good thing but do not understand the goodness of Friday. Unless the word good, used in a more antiquated sense, meaning ‘holy’ is the sought after definition. Holy Friday, Sacred Friday, even Passion Friday convey more depth and meaning.

I learned something this weekend. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1a when he says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” David goes on in verses 16-18:

Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

What David describes in Psalm 22 is prophecy fulfilled under Christ. Interesting to note that crucifixion did not yet exist in David’s time and yet he writes about it.

.: Life:

Spent some time outside this weekend. Trimmed bushes and filled up the trashcan.

Went to the Caldwell Zoo. Which is a most excellent menagerie. Ever had a white tiger roar at you? I hadn’t either until Saturday. Scary.

Celebrated Easter with my in-laws on Sunday. My brother-in-law cooked up some steaks, which were perfect! Had a good time hanging out with them and playing Ticket to Ride. Even though I lost.

.: Gaming:

My wife and I played Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris for the first time this weekend. Mechanically, the controls feel tighter than Tomb Raider and the Guardian of Light. The gameplay is fun, varied, and adventurous. However, by the end of our first level we were both feeling eye strain. Not sure if it was due to how far the camera is pulled back or TV video settings, but our eyes hurt. Going to have to look into this.

Wave SplinterThat’s it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

Serial: Episode 11

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Just finished up listening to Episode 11 of the Serial podcast. The final episode, Episode 12, releases this Thursday (12/18). At this point, I am not sure if Adnan is guilty or not. His friend Jay comes across as a much more believable suspect in the case. Either way, I am convinced that there is more to this murder. Someone hasn’t told the full story.

What is odd about listening to this podcast is that it isn’t a work of fiction. This was a real case. A girl died. Innocent or guilty, Adnan’s life changed forever due to this event. As Sarah Koenig presents the case, I find myself judging Adnan. There is something disconcerting about passing judgement on a person I do not know. But I do this all the time.

Thursday is right around the corner. Have you been listening to Serial? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Show Favoritism

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I could tell I was half awake this morning when I read James 2:1 like this:

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must show favoritism.”

Instead of how it was written (emphasis mine):

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must NOT show favoritism.”

This could be a long day. . .

The End of the Track?

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Monday I was called into an all office meeting. My co-workers and I were told that the firm we work for cannot sustain our current staff numbers due to a major project falling through. All of the firm’s eggs, so to speak, had been put into one project basket that had sealed our fate. We were then told that we would either be spoken with privately or as a group, sometime during the week. Untold numbers could be leaving soon.

Today is Thursday. The office is tense. No one knows if they are going to be the single person or one of the multiple people let go. At this point, no one has been talked to yet.

Knowing that the ax could fall at any moment leads to a stressful office environment. Even though I have complete peace as far as leaving this job, I just want to know if I am going to be leaving. Hoping to hear something soon. This week has been such a roller coaster.

Surf Report – 4/1/2014

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Surf Report
Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God:

Sunday morning I listened to a great discussion in small group. The topic was on evangelism and how there are different roles in bringing others to Christ (sowing, watering, reaping, etc.).

.: Life:

Saturday, my father-in-law came over and helped me take down the handicap ramp out front. Looks much better now.

Hall House

Phase I of our front entry project.

.: Gaming:

raiders-of-the-lost-ark
Friday night I had some time to myself. So I fired up the PlayStation 3 and decided to pick Tomb Raider back up. About an hour and a half later, I found that my opinion of the game has not changed. Tomb Raider is a videogame that basks in tension, torture, and somehow female empowerment. The entire time I was playing I kept thinking, “I wish this was an Uncharted game.” I wanted the fun of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark versus the seriousness of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Six missions left until the end of the game. I will persevere.

– LINKS – 

– “But man, if you’re looking for some deep philosophical themes or life-changing experiences, Chrono Trigger (or most any game, for that matter) will not be the place to look at all.” – Adults Playing Chrono Trigger

– Also, I enjoyed The Theology Gaming Podcast #33 – A History of Healing. Great discussion! Would love to hear other topics such as: resurrection, circumcision (as mentioned), baptism, etc.

The Call of the Wild Monkey

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Early in my career, I was sagely advised to immediately process any item that came across my desk. Call it a game of office hot potato. A quick turnaround time ensures that the proverbial monkey stays off ones back.

What is the Monkey?
When the ball is in your court, the monkey is on your back. The monkey is anything that clings to you and refuses to let go until completed.

How does one battle a Monkey?
Guns, lots of guns. Maybe even a bigger boat, versus a smaller one, if one wishes. The key is to face the task, do what you can do deal with it, and then send the task back into the darkest of jungles.

The Call of the Wild Monkey
Often the monkey is 100% your responsibility; other times the furry creature has been bestowed upon you by someone wishing to share their work/responsibility with you. Their stress, their monkey, quickly becomes your own bundle of screeching joy.

There is a word that can destroy the wild monkey. That word is no. Can you say it with me?

NO.

Surf Report – 1/8/2014

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Surf Report

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God:

“We plunged into John 8 and looked at how Jesus coined the phrase, “He who has no sin casts the first stone” and then as the only sinless person is like, “I don’t condemn you.””
via Love Subverts

.: Life:

Sandwiched between two links this week is my life.

In review, December was a pretty awesome month. The Hall family watched God provide financially for both Christmas and current/future student loans. A random envelope here and there were proof that He is working behind the scenes…even when it doesn’t feel like it. Funny how God’s character doesn’t change despite our situations. He is not a mere god of the moment but the God that created the heavens and the earth. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for my family and I in 2014.

.: Gaming:

“In other, more succinct words: the game came first, rather than the pride of the singular director.”
via Theology Gaming

Passion

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I am passionate about:

  • Solid Bible teaching. I want to see fellow Christians challenged in their faith straight from the Bible. 
  • Keeping the focus solely on the Gospel and not on personal preferences.
  • The videogames industry being influenced with the love of Christ. I’m still not sure what this looks like, whether it includes handing out beer and Bibles, but I’m always processing this one. Currently I am exploring starting a GameCell at my church.
  • Helping others avoid the same mistakes that the Internet helped me make. I want parents to be aware of the parental controls on their children’s devices; I want individuals to take preventative steps to protect themselves from the wild west of the Internet.
  • Blogging. Yeah, you wouldn’t know it from my posting frequency, but I have always enjoyed sharing my life and what I’m learning with you. I love writing and it is not something I allow myself the time to do enough.

Working the 8-5 grind, I often get lulled into patterns that prevent me from focusing on my passions. This walking dead-like slumber causes me to forget how much I love my wife and son and how blessed I am to have them in my life. I am noticing that it is only through being intentional with what I consume media-wise/what I do daily that I am able to overcome this personal apathy.

So what about you? What are you passionate about?

Things I’m Learning: Social Media

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twitter logo

I did something stupid the other day. Radio host, author, and speaker, Dave Ramsey, had posted the following Joel Osteen quote on twitter: “God’s mercy is bigger than any mistake that you’ve made.”

Nothing wrong with the quote. God’s mercy is huge! For some reason though it bugged me that Dave Ramsey was quoting Joel Osteen.

So I replied: This is true, even if, as in Joel’s case, you are leading people to Hell.”

Yeah, I went there. I honestly believe that Joel Osteen leads people to Hell by promoting God as a genie (just pray super hard and God will give you your dreams) and by not talking about “negative” things such as sin.

I didn’t expect Dave to take the bait; I didn’t expect him to reply but had an inkling he might. Replying to me via twitter, in the face of all of his “followers”, he responded, “Struggle with Grace?”

Defensive now, I replied: “Most definitely. I also struggle with those who misrepresent the Bible.”

Dave’s disciples quickly descended upon me. Some offering support and others calling me to the mat for not being loving enough.

.: Social Media Misused :.

I want to admit, here and now, that I was wrong. Irregardless of my thoughts towards the Joel Osteen school of theology, I shouldn’t have ever responded to that original quote. I was baiting/trolling Dave Ramsey, effectively calling him a supporter of a false teacher. So Dave, if you are out there, I’m sorry. I hope you accept my apologies.

I want to intentionally reflect God in all that I do. Fighting a “twitter war” through an innocent man (Dave) is not the best way to do that. So again Dave, I’m sorry.

What I’m Learning: About Stress

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In this season of life, I work as an administrative assistant at a local architectural firm. Essentially I spend my time balancing the front office (clients, ordering, etc.) all the while providing assistance to 2 bosses and 7 employees of varying titles. I often find myself being dragged and pulled in opposite directions based upon some sort of cryptic hierarchy of needs. While my position can be stressful, I do enjoy the field I work in.

When I am not at work, I am a:

  • Husband
  • Father
  • Son/Brother
  • Friend
  • Blogger/Writer
  • Bible Study Host/Teacher
  • Video Game Connoisseur

I also spend various evenings and early morning hours devoted to learning the craft of web design. We all need a dream, right?

Something that I have been learning, lately, is not to let other’s stress become my own.

Putting stress within its proper context, is an art that everyone should practice daily. Below are a few examples of deflecting stress:

.: Example A :.

You have designed a web site for a company and have given them the keys. You no longer have anything to do with the site. Soon after, one of their employees comes to you wanting to change a portion of the site. Happy to help, you listen as the employee describes something the site was never built to do. Graciously you smile, tell the employee to check with the companies designated web master, and you move on.

.: Example B :. 

It is 4:30PM on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. Office supplies have dwindled down to the last paperclip. A fellow employee vents to you that they are about to use said paperclip and that you need to go out and get more, stat! In the most professional manner, you assure your co-worker that supplies will be ordered tomorrow. The paperclip crisis, small as it is, has been averted.

Stress isn’t worth it.

Surf Report – 3/4/2013

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Surf Report

Welcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

On Sunday nights, my church has been going through a series called P-52. Two weeks ago, our speaker for the evening, Brent, talked about the concept of silence. Brent talked about how we are constantly bombarded with audio and visual noise. He said that this noise can serve to distract us from our relationship with God, specifically in the area of prayer. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with prayer. I’d much rather listen to something on my commute to work than sit there uncomfortably and talk to God. Why?!? This is another one of those areas, in my life, that requires discipline.

I want to encourage you to take some time to be silent.

.: Life :

Life is complex. My wife and I are on the brink of making several decisions which impact our future in a great way. These decisions require us to step out of our comfort zones and trust God. Is God who he says he is? Prayer would be awesome.

.: Gaming :

Fire Emblem: Awakening and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood have been my distractions lately. I finally fired up AC and completed the Passion Play mission. That finished off Memory Sequence 7 which leaves me with two more sequences to go until the game ends. Best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.

Fire Emblem has become my go to lunchtime game. I love portable games! I’ve been plugging my 3DS into my car’s stereo and gaming the lunch hour away. Good times so far.

wavesplinter

That’s it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

The Podcast Trinity

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*Photo by flattop341, Creative Commons

Trying to shave off time on my morning commute, I decided to take another route today. Riding shotgun was a podcast that I will not name. As the tires spun and the traffic lights frequently slowed me down, I began to notice some things:

1. The route I was taking was actually slower. I was going to be late.

2. The podcast I was listening to kept violating the podcast trinity.

 

 

– The Podcast Trinity –

Format – Find a format that works and stick with it. Like a bowl of tasty oatmeal, listeners find comfort in a solid format. Also remember that having no format is a format.

Identity – Pretending you are a radio show host will get you no where. You aren’t. While ranting and raving can be an identity, for me, it leads to you being turned off. Unless you are part of that 1% of ranters/ravers that appeals to me. So act professional. Develop your voice.

Quality – Darth-breathing, eating, sounding like you’ve been auto-tuned due to Skype, these are turn offs. Invest in a good microphone. Learn to edit. Create amazing content. My ears and brain thank you in advance.
Thanks to @jacobingalls for helping me out with this list. 

Focusing on the Bigger Picture

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*Photo by Stephen Bowler (SFB579), Creative Commons

Got up this morning and drove my son out to a friend’s house. His Grandma, who normally watches him, is out of town for the next few days. Our drive was mostly quiet. I can tell that he isn’t used to being in the car for a “long” ride (more than 20 minutes). Being a former Californian, I find this amusing. After getting him all settled, I raced off to work.

Walked into work and was immediately greeted by a co-worker standing in my office. “Your filing system leaves a lot to be desired”, I was gruffly told. Well gee, thanks. He then told me that he was in a bad mood. Moments later my boss intercoms me, wants me to find some pricing book. This book could be anywhere and I hadn’t seen it. In an exasperated/pissed off tone, I was told to find the book! Thankfully five years of working here has given me the office-smarts to know where to start such searches. I found the book in moments, in a stack and in an office that it shouldn’t have been in. Crisis averted.

At home, I hold my 3 year old to a higher standard. He has been told that no matter how tired he is, that does not change the fact that he is to be obedient. I also expect him to put away his toys…so that he can find them later. Hint. Hint.

Last night I came across a verse that came to mind this morning:

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

Most often it is easy to focus on what is in front of us. Whether that is a bad situation or even mood, we quickly become consumed in the now. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, reminds us to focus on the eternal and not the temporary things. A good reminder that is hard to live.

The Red Bow

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The boy and I went on another adventure last night. Once again we fought our way through a backyard filled with scary monsters (re: trees). This time though, we came across a new nemesis, the red bow.

Looks all cute and gigantic during the day.

As we walked past the bow, which had somehow been declared a “monster bow” over the weekend, my son started firing his light-up gun at it. “I shooting the monster!” Bam. BaM. BAM! I just smiled, patted his head, and thought, “good boy”.

Stargazing

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Sundays are always long days for some reason. This past Sunday was no different from any other, except I took my son on an adventure.

The sun had long set when I asked my 3 year old if he wanted to go outside. He had been sitting on the couch playing Learning with the PooYoos on the PS3. He quickly said yes and scrambled to get his shoes on. Wanting to know what we were going to be doing, I told him that we were going on an adventure. So we grabbed our flashlights and headed out into the dark backyard.

Trees transformed into monsters; shadows danced along with the flashlights. We walked around the backyard on our adventure, checking out different nooks and crannies. It was then that I had an idea, so I ran back inside the house and grabbed the iPad.

*Photo by HubbleColor {Zolt}, Creative Commons

Coming back outside, I set a chair out in the middle of the yard and we sat and stared at the sky. I showed him where different planets were thanks to the Star Walk app. The entire time you could almost see the gears in his brain working overtime. He kept asking questions, wanting to know if we could breathe on Mars. He asked me if there were robots on Mars. I told him yes. He grew very concerned when I told him that we had left a robot or two on Mars due to their batteries dying. Later on, when we went back into the house, he asked his Mom how we could get batteries to the robots. Apparently robots are cooler than planets. I should know that.

Failure is OKAY

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A few weeks into a job, I came across a situation that was very foreign to me, verbal abuse. I don’t remember exactly what the task was, but my boss repeatedly told me that I had failed.

“This task is so easy that a third grader could do this.”

Then pointing out the window, “Do you see the Fedex person walking by? This is so easy that they could do this.”

Any sense of college optimism I had jumped out the window in that moment. Sadly, I began to let small repeated moments like those define who I am. Lies from the very pit of Hell itself.

Past failure, if we let it, can quickly become a part of our identity.

Failure is okay. I think that we have to grant ourselves the slack to fail from time-to-time. As long as we are learning from those failures, we are golden. Lies can only be exposed by truth. It is okay to fail because you will.

The Rewarded Life – Gamification

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Right down the street from my house is a series of paved walking trails. They interweave beneath cool leafy canopies; They provide a great place to relax and exercise.

My friend Jon and I meet there once a week. We walk and talk about the lives we are living. The small hills and smooth curves, of the walking trails, serve as a fantastic physical representation of how we can be doing well one week and veering off into the unknown the next. Around each corner we never know what we are going to run into. One week we saw a man sitting without a shirt in a grassy field. He looked like he was meditating or somehow communing with nature. I’m not into that. At least not out in public. Another week we saw a herd of deer. One of the most memorable times we had was when we were caught out in a thunderstorm. As marble sized hail dented our bodies, we seriously wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. Unless you’ve used a tree as shelter from a hail storm, you’d know that the tree is absolutely worthless. All the tree does is become a natural pinball machine for the frozen orbs. Enough about the hail though.

Gamification is the use of game design elements,game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts.

Helping users lose weight since 2011.

My sister and my parents bought me a Nintendo 3DS for my birthday back in July. The 3DS has a built-in pedometer. After recording about a 1000 steps, the system rewards the user with 10 gold coins. These coins can be spent on two built-in games. Now what does this have to do with walking? Well, after discovering this simple feature, I started walking with the 3DS in my pocket. I wanted to earn more gold coins. Walking had turned into a game I wanted to win.

I wonder why other companies haven’t caught on to this phenomena. The concept seems so simple, integrate game-like elements into our everyday lives. I commend Nintendo for their almost sneaky approach to making users want to exercise more. My only wish is that the coins earned could be applied to e-shop purchases. In the meantime, avoid hail my friends.