A Letter To My Church Family

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Dear Church Family,

Back in February, during the Life Action Conference, God spoke to Tabitha and I. He told us that it was time to move on from the grieving process of not being able to have more children. After 9 years of trying to conceive, we felt Him calling us to adoption. So we stepped out of the boat, out of our comfort zone, just like Peter in Matthew 14.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

In obedience to God’s call, we have completed:

  • 40 hours of state-mandated PRIDE Training (for foster and adoption families)
  • Numerous forms and have submitted an ant mound of paperwork
  • A home study interview that delved into our backgrounds, relationships, and family structure

Through all of the above, we have continued forward, waiting for the day that we will bring a child into our home. But like Peter, we do have days where we question; days where we freak out a little.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

I was telling Dr. Kelley (our pastor), who recently resigned, that even on our worst days, I still have God-given peace. A deep knowledge that God is in control, no matter how unknown (timing, age of child, etc.) the adoption process is moving forward.

I want to take a moment to encourage my church family. We are voting on an interim pastor this upcoming Sunday. I want to encourage you to:

  • Think about where we are as a church. We are not the same church that we were seven years ago when Dr. Kelley was hired.
  • Think about where we are going as a church. What does it mean to live out the Gospel in Longview, Texas.

I want to encourage you, church family, not to retreat to what is comfortable. Please do not grasp at what has worked before because someone is available OR because popular people say we should vote a certain way.

If God has been teaching Tabitha and I anything, He has been teaching us to let go of the boat and grab onto Him. I pray that our church would be able to do that, even if that means taking a deep breath, a moment, and searching for a different interim pastor.

Change is hard… but He is good.

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

From Across the Net: “Double-Minded: Christian Culture’s Diametrically-Opposed Views of Marriage and Singleness”

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11 years into marriage, it is easy for me to forget that I wasn’t married until I was 25 years old. What I’ll never forget though were the years in-between high school graduation and marriage. The churches I was a part of did not know how to handle those who were single. Nathan Marchand, whose book I reviewed sometime back, touches on this “single limbo time” period in his piece titled “Double-Minded: Christian Culture’s Diametrically-Opposed Views of Marriage and Singleness“.

What the church needs is consistency. Celebrate marriage with everyone. Help singles maximize their lives where they are and don’t shame them for desiring a spouse. For those rare few who’ve been called to singleness, give them opportunities not afforded to married people. Modes of service don’t decrease with marriage—they just change.

Marriage is hard, but so is singleness. (you can read more in the link above)

Churches, that I have been a part of, have been structured like this:

  • Nursery
  • Preschool
  • Elementary
  • Middle School / High School
  • College (which is often a thrown together class)
  • AND THEN Adult General Population (Big Church)

We go from structure-structure-structure to nothing. I agree with Nathan, I think that we, as Christians, could be doing better. Speaking into the single years instead of letting culture show how it is to be done. By opening up our homes, speaking truth/being real (remembering those hard years), and being intentional with singles ministry (not throwing rando-Bob to deal with this area), we might have a chance. The Apostle Paul said that singleness is a gift and so is marriage.

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

JBG Rewind – Should Men Put Video Games Away As “Childish Things” For Their Wives / Girlfriends?

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I wrote this piece back in 2014. Four years later, I still do not think that this is healthy situation, no matter the hobby. – Bryan

This tale is as old as 1989.

Boy meets girl. Girl dislikes boys hobby. Boy gives up hobby for girl. Girl gives up nothing. Swap the genders; swap the roles. Rinse. Wash. Dry.

I have known countless guys who have given up their favorite hobby due to a spouse or girlfriend disapproving– I am sure that this is true for the female species as well. Once upon a time, these guys enjoyed playing video games. They used them to drop stress levels, rest, and relax. For some reason though, chemistry, the alignment of the stars, who knows, they end up coupling with someone who disapproves/looks down upon their hobby. So they have to quit, have to walk away from something they love, to be in love.

I just don’t get it. If you are in a loving relationship, your spouse or girlfriend should accept you for who you are. They shouldn’t be out to change fundamental parts that make up you. Sure, your bad habit of tossing clothes on the floor may need to be corrected, because let’s face it, your mom always cleaned up after you. Too personal? Sorry.

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Video games are often seen as a less mature hobby than following a team of guys in tight fitting clothing. Huh? How is it that working on cars, following a sports team, or going hunting are somehow more respectable and less “little boy”? A hobby is a hobby. Video games are no worse than stamp collecting. Except that unlike a stamp collection, video games deal with:

  • Complex realities
  • Connecting players through interdependent activities
  • Challenging players with complex decision making

My wife has been accepting of my hobby from the get go. She encourages me to sit down and play games. She realizes that I often use video games to de-stress. As long as I am not playing World of Warcraft (the marriage killer), I’m golden. This does not mean that I play games every day of the week. Gaming for me, married, with a kid, looks more like a couple of hours a week. Some nights, my wife even joins me. I’ve always appreciated that about her. She loves me for who I am.

I am tired of those around me feeling guilt, having to change, just to conform to the person they love. If you are in a loving healthy relationship, your significant other will understand the healthy hobbies you chose to pursue.

Note: My friend Scott reminds me that the picture I painted above is painted by an individual who is loving, mature, and self-controlled–most of the time. Video games, as with any hobby, can be distorted and abused in the hands of an undisciplined individual. In order not to feed into the video game stigma your wife/girlfriend might view the hobby through, Scott suggests setting some ground rules:

  1. Be mindful of your wife/girlfriend, even though the game demands attention.
  2. Always be ready to pause. Pretty much everything is more important than your next in-game checkpoint, so put the controller down if you need to.
  3. Tell her how long you intend to play – and stick to the plan.

No matter the hobby, communication and respect are foundational to building healthy relationships. I want to encourage you to let go of any video game guilt you might carry, set some healthy ground rules, and game on.

I also wrote a follow up piece to this from the female perspective. 

Why Do We Play?

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A few weeks ago, I asked the Theology Gaming Community:

The TG Community answered:

  • Entertainment
  • Bridge gaps of distance
  • Stories
  • To slow down and enjoy friends
  • To learn new systems/rules
  • To be invited into a piece of art, by the artist, as a collaborator
  • To forget about problems
  • Video games are fun
  • Enjoyment
  • Escapism
  • Fantasy of having increased power/capability
  • Gaming brings people together

Sam went on to say:

Mainly it’s my time to ‘turn off’ from any sort of stresses in real life and just sit back and enjoy something. But there are other huge things I’d miss if I wasn’t gaming. Mainly the excellent communities you become a part of, and I have found, since starting college, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends who went elsewhere.

Joe emailed me his reply:

Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies. It’s a classic tale of man versus adversity. Human ingenuity wins out over a catastrophe that almost certainly should have spelled certain death for the three brave crewmen. It’s a great story to watch, but as a viewer I can only be a passive observer of this story. Kerbal Space Program, however, allows me to be the solution as well as the cause of all my Kerbonaut’s problems. What should be a routine trip around the moon turns into an epic series of rescue mission because of my inability to effectively design spacecraft. Running out of fuel, botched engine burns, missing solar panels, and the inability to dock two spacecraft turn Kerbal Space Program into an interactive rescue simulation. The best part of all this? My experience will never be exactly the same as anyone else’s. 
That’s the appeal of gaming to me: personalized entertainment. While most games will offer a similar overall experience to its players, little details and interactions are unique to each person. Nobody has the same struggles as I do in Kerbal Space Program. My approach to clearing Liberty Island in Deus Ex will be different than anyone else I know. Dark Souls fosters camaraderie with fellow players who follow the same story beats, even though not everyone will struggle with the same sections. Though I play the same game as thousands and millions of other people, my own experiences with that game are unique to me. This is what sets gaming apart from every other form of media. It’s fun, it’s dynamic, and it’s accessible. Why wouldn’t I play games?  

For me, gaming is about:

Relationships  The conversations that happen while trying to outscore my wife in King Domino.

Nostalgia – Playing Chess with my son reminds me of all the times I played Chess with my Grandpa. I miss him and those times we had together playing Chess, flying remote control airplanes, and telling stories.

Imagination – As with good books, video games allow me to visit other worlds and step into the shoes of someone else.

Discovery – Digital worlds come with their own individual sets of rules. I love seeing what a game world will allow me to do/not do.

Connection – Nothing like discussing games with fellow enthusiasts, taps into my nerdier side.

Sampling All The Flavors – I love constantly trying new games which allows me to experience the different gaming mechanics they each bring to the screen.

Why do you play?

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!

The Female Perspective: How Do Videogames Impact Relationships?

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I recently wrote an essay entitled “Should Men Put Videogames Away As “Childish Things” For Their Wives/Girlfriends?”. Many readers immediately answered the title question in their heads and moved on; others chose to engage the essay and actually read it. (Kudos! I really appreciate it.) For myself, the piece scratched the surface of a much larger issue, how do videogames impact relationships. I decided to post a quick survey to delve into the female perspective on the issue. Below are the responses I received:

Q: What’s one thing that you wish others knew about dating a gamer?

A1: In college, dating a gamer was fun. I was able to play video games with my husband and his friends, which allowed me the chance to spend lots of time with him.

A2: My husband and I started dating at 17. He regularly gamed in his free time and wrote soundtrack reviews, etc. I knew he was really “into games,” but I didn’t think it would continue after college. After all, all the male role models in my life didn’t game so it just wasn’t part of adult life in my mind. Lo’ and behold, times changed- and they continue to- and now many 20 and 30+ people turn to games as their number one hobby. If you find yourself dating an avid gamer, consider that their hobby might not go away with age. It’s something they really enjoy. Take the time to reflect on that, your expectations of hobbies, and talk about it with your partner.

Q: What’s one thing that you wish others knew about marrying a gamer?

A1: Set up gaming boundaries early on in your marriage. Without good gaming boundaries, a wife might have a lot of unspoken expectations. As those expectations go unmet, bitterness and resentment can seep into a marriage.

A2: That marrying a gamer will require solid communication. There is no cookie-cutter guideline of what will work for each couple. You have to have enough maturity to talk about hobbies and their role in your life together, and what a good, healthy balance is.

Q: What’s one thing you would have done differently if you knew what it would be like married to a gamer?

A1: I wish I would have taken an interest in gaming sooner. It took a while for me to learn to take an interest in my husband’s hobbies. As soon as I told my husband that I wanted to play video games too, he began to find games that we could play together. I love his willingness to include me and let this be another way that we can spend time together on a regular basis!!

A2: Along with solid communication, respect is key. Early in my marriage to a gamer, I didn’t know how to properly say I was being hurt by the time my husband spent playing games. And that lack of communication turned into snide comments and disrespect. It still creeps up every now and then, but I have learned I need to take responsibility for what I can control- and that is expressing my observations and feelings in a collected way. Mutual respect is a necessity.

BONUS: What would you like your boyfriend/husband to know about his videogame hobby?

A1: Thank you for your willingness to include me in your world of gaming!! I appreciate your willingness to cut back on the amount of gaming you do, especially as our family has grown and our time is short. I can’t wait until you can take the girls to play video games, because it will be something fun we can do as a family. I love you!!

A2: Honestly, that I think we need to talk more about it. And from both sides. I often feel like a nag when I bring it up; ideally, I’d like to see us both talk more frequently and openly about gaming and whether or not we’re still balanced etc.

Thank you ladies for your thoughtful replies.

A Quick Survey: In Response to Should Men Put Videogames Away As “Childish Things” For Their Wives/Girlfriends

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Ladies, I wrote an essay last week entitled “Should Men Put Videogames Away As “Childish Things” For Their Wives/Girlfriends?”. This essay skimmed the surface of a far larger issue, how videogames impact relationships. Now, I want to hand the microphone over to you. If you would, please answer one of the three questions below. I will share your responses, anonymously, in the follow up post to my original essay. Thank you for taking the time to offer your perspective on this issue.