Revisited – Christ, the Coliseum, and Violence

Standard

This is one of the first pieces I ever wrote for another site (back in 2013). Still love this scenario. The Assassin’s Creed series is often the Adventures in Odyssey equivalent of the Imagination Station

I left Christ in the Roman Coliseum; I left him to die.

Carefully scaling the Coliseum walls, I slowly made my way towards my first targets: three would-be snipers. Quietly, in succession, I stealthily stabbed each in the back. Not one of the snipers knew of my existence. I am the wind, the shadows, the reaper of death. I am justice incarnate.

My second target: saving the actor playing Jesus Christ in a play. The irony of a Passion Play in the Roman Coliseum does not escape me. Who knows how many Christians fought for their very lives within these walls? Some believers even torn to shreds by lions for the amusement of Nero and the people. I shudder in disgust and then slip on the disguise of a Roman soldier. Christ awaits my saving grace.

Events quickly unfold in a way I could not foretell. The actor playing Christ has been drugged! I effortlessly scoop him up as Borgia men flood in from all sides of the Coliseum. My mission: get Christ to a doctor. Holding him, I can clearly see his crown of thorns and the fake blood smeared on him. I know his only hope is a cure beyond the battle ensuing around me. Suddenly, the world grinds to a stop.

– Reality Confronted –

If you haven’t guessed, my PS3 locked up as I was escorting the drugged actor to a doctor. I was frustrated. A day has since gone by and I have yet to try again. My wife reminds me that it took Christ three days to resurrect, so why not give the game a rest? My conscience is restless. Nine hours of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has left me with questions. I find myself questioning the digital bodies I have left de-rezzed; I find myself questioning what I am learning about life, beyond the fact that assassinations from the air look awesome. Perspective is everything.

I know that at the end of the day I will return and continue my “historical” Roman adventure. But I want to keep in mind that violence is reality based. Violence is also something that is worshiped within American cinema and culture. I believe that the reason on-screen violence resonates with people so much is due to the fact that it is usually carried out in the pursuit of justice. The Bible says this though:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19 (NIV)

and this:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

I realize that Ezio’s actions in Brotherhood are simply a part of a fantasy world. I also realize that God is an avenger and a dealer of justice. Though I know that the worlds of fantasy and reality can sometimes blend, I want to be mindful of who and what I am allowing to shape my soul. So God help me.

Grand Adventures Squashed

Standard

Last night at bed time:

“What did you do while I was gone?” Said the boy with a hint of accusation embraced by curiosity.

“I played with your toys, ate candy, and had fun.”

His face told me that he didn’t buy that answer.

“Let’s see, I reinstalled the light cover on the light above the kitchen sink. I installed new mini blinds in the kitchen window. And I also had to work on the kitchen sink plumbing because suddenly the sink was leaking all over the floor.”

I’m not sure he liked that response. I kind of squashed the illusion of Tab and I being off on some grand adventure while he is away.

Oh well. At least I got a few things done. Amazing what one can do when their child is away at Vacation Bible School.

We are made for community

Standard

An isolated soul can become an echo chamber of lies. Creating a false but believable reality. Apart from community, we can mentally torture ourselves with untruth.

In the midst of saying depressing things like:

  • Those that are dead are happier than the living (4:2)
  • Better to never be born than to live and see evil (4:3)

King Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, tells us that we are made for community:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (4:9-12)

We need others to speak truth into our lives. To tell us when we are doing well, off target, and sometimes just to listen. Trusted and positive outside influences help break through the mental echo chamber. Breaking down the walls of silence.

There are often days where I am doing my best to go to work, come home, and spend time with family. I tell myself that I have no more energy to spend. A simple text, email, or phone call too much work. I believe these are lies we tell ourselves. I believe that God calls us to more.

photo-1454997423871-b5215756e54d

That intergalactic communication device, you know, the one in your pocket? Use it.

I want to challenge you. I want to challenge myself. We need to break out of our everyday lives and invite others in. I think it’s more simple than either of us realize.

Too Much Blood For My Six Year Old

Standard

Wyatt and I watched Naruto for the first time. Let us just say that will also be the last time the orange jump suited ninja will be allowed in our home for awhile.

1304

The line between fantasy and reality is a thin one when you are a kid. Our imaginations go wild in youth. Dreaming big dreams, playing on playgrounds of fantasy. Reality, physical consequence, stalking at the unseen edges ready to pounce.

In one of the Naruto episodes Wyatt and I watched, Naruto accidentally gets clawed by a weapon in battle. The weapon’s tips laced in poison. Naruto decides to act. To get rid of the poison, he jams a knife into his hand. Blood shoots out. At this point, I’m blocking my son’s eyes. I wasn’t quick enough.

Sometime later:

“Daddy, do you remember that ninja guy who shoved a knife into his hand?”

“Yes. You know that wasn’t real but was fiction, right?”

Silence.

As much as my preferences for story surge against the dam of sanity, I made a mistake. Not only that, but that I failed in my role as a guide for my son.

I have to remember, I am the gatekeeper. Not only controlling what walks in past the gate but also for taking my son in hand and beyond the gate. His mom and I are tasked with explaining life to him. Helping him navigate between what is real and what is fantastical.

One of my greatest faults, as a father, that I’m sure I share, is that I am always in a hurry for my child to grow up. I want to share much cooler worlds than those that Garfield inhibits. Age, individual maturity, and even family rules dictate that Naruto stay beyond the gate. For now.

The last thing I want is for him to think that the mature violence depicted is somehow okay to carry out in real life.

naruto1

I apologized to Wyatt. Told him that Naruto can’t come over and play for a bit. He wasn’t thrilled, cliffhanger episode, but maybe with time he’ll understand.

Being a dad is hard. The mistakes I make are often centered around me wanting to fast forward time. Contentment, meanwhile, calls.

Prepare to be Stretched

Standard

A long time ago, I almost went to Azusa Pacific University. Finances fell through, reality set in, and I ended with a time where I felt lost. I had just walked away from my first job that I worked at for five years. Life felt unstable. I remember a marketing photo from Azusa that featured a ball of rubberbands. The tagline below the ball was, “Prepare to be stretched.”

July-14-012-535x400

Growth is oftentimes not comfortable. Growth can be painful.

Some eleven years later, I feel lost once again. Caught in some sort of cyclical orbit that I cannot break free from. Since college graduation, Fall 2006, I have been trying to get my bearings. Part of that could be cultural, I live in Texas now versus my native California. Things are different here. The other part of that was thinking that God had called me to be a pastor. I had thought that I would go to seminary after college. First seminary I applied at told me I had too much student debt. The second seminary, which accepted me debt and all, was not to be. As I got ready to select my first classes, we ended up pregnant with my son. Any money for schooling vanished.

Where does one go with the path changes? How does one adapt?

I work as an Office Manager by day. Not the first job I would choose for myself, but I do enjoy the work when we are busy. In my eighth year now, I have no room for growth. I feel trapped.

I find myself wondering what that next step is. Where is God calling me to be? I find myself questioning my faith. I know all the right Christian answers, there is just a head-to-heart disconnect.

God constantly reminds me that He is working though. As waves threaten to sink me, He taps me on the shoulder and says, “hey man, I’ve got this.” I just need to believe it.

Life After 9/11: The Avengers

Standard

Living in a post-9/11 world, I view the world through a different lens. This past weekend I finally had a chance to sit down and watch The Avengers with my wife. As the movie raced towards its world-ending conclusion, with a portal opening above New York City, I found myself drawn out of the movie’s fantasy and into reality.

Helpless bystanders were running through the city streets, trying to evade the destruction going on around them. New York City was in havoc.  As taxi cabs were blasted through the air and skyscrapers were torn asunder, I became uncomfortable. I remembered scenes of people fleeing the dust cloud on 9/11; I remembered the repeated video footage of the planes that flew into the twin towers.

I don’t think I’ve ever realized just how much my perception of life has changed since 9/11. Even the movies that I used to think were fun, big budget action films, are tainted in messy reality.

Side Note: With all of the above being said, did anyone else notice that despite the falling debris from the skyscrapers, there was no dust in the air? The end scenes from The Avengers would have been almost unviewable had reality ruled. Hurray for viewable fantasy!