Infected with the Plague

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I started feeling sick last week.

  • Chest pressure
  • Weakness
  • Almost losing my voice by the end of the day

I found myself googling the symptoms of the Coronavirus as I anxiously waited for a fever to pop. Thankfully, my body’s temperature did not go along with the horror story playing out in my head.

Tabitha reassured me, as we tried to figure out what was going on. She told me that I sounded just like I do when I get a cold… my yearly man cold.

By Friday, I was miserable. I was tired of not having energy and coming home and crashing in the evening. A couple hours after being home though, I felt okay. It was then that Tab and I realized something, my workplace has been making me sick.

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

At certain times of the year, my workplace zaps my body. I have googled sick building syndrome, etc., but have never figured out why. Until last year, when we discovered that there were no air filters in the building’s air conditioning units. Once we installed filters, I felt fine. All of my bad allergy symptoms, including the daily almost losing of my voice, vanished. Nothing like putting one’s detective skills to use.

It’s funny–not really–how we can jump to the worst case scenario. Thinking we are:

  • Infected with the plague
  • About to lose our jobs
  • Going to die thanks to Google and WebMD

When our typical life outcomes are far more chill and often as simple as changing an air filter at work (which I did this morning).

Where we spend our time (social media, articles, comics, video games, blogs, etc.) affects us; What we breathe in, literally, affects us too.

Hitting the Snooze Button

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Woke up this morning, and I hit the snooze button. I hit the snooze button, over and over again, for the next hour. I didn’t want to get out of bed today. But I did get up, make my coffee, and manage to eat a few lemon poppy seed muffins–thanks, Tab!–with some oatmeal.

Photo by Paul Neil on Unsplash

In the process of getting ready, I happened to check my social media feeds. Friends and family, who are normally pretty chill people, are upset and angry right now. The topics of Coronavirus and racial injustice overwhelm my normal places of fun escape.

This has been one of those weeks where I have hit the snooze button more; this has been one of those weeks where I haven’t read my Bible as much. Instead of starting my mornings in the Word, I have been starting my mornings with a different type of word.

I am tired this morning.

Physically tired.

Mentally exhausted from being told that I should fear something. That instead of engaging history, we think that that engagement equals erasing the past. We live in some sort of Orwellian nightmare.

Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. – Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

I am also heart tired. As Augustine wrote, I long for how our human experience could/should be versus what it actually is. While we may not put this longing into words, this is a longing for Jesus to return. His return will fulfill that deep human longing for the restoration of all things, for justice. No more:

  • Sickness
  • Death

A future where we will work alongside the Creator of the Universe. The curse of Adam, against work, removed from us.

In writing all of this, I realize that I need to pray for strength to overcome being tired. I also need to pray for grace… maybe for myself with the snooze button… more so for those whose actions I do not understand right now. When you have been living a pretty normal life, for more than a month, and your friends and family have not been, it can feel like talking to people on Mars. Irregardless of that Martian divide, I think grace continues to be the word.

Church Attendance is a Discipline

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The Coronavirus has wounded the American Church in a way that many cannot see yet. As social distancing measures lift and other post-pandemic precautions ease, some Christians are hesitant to return to the Church. Presented with the convenience of watching a worship service on Facebook or YouTube, many believers are making the intentional choice to stay at home. Telling themselves, “The virus is still out there, we still need to protect ourselves for another month or two.” Happy in their newfound sermon consumption that doesn’t require one to ever leave the home. Or better yet, require them to sit with their kids in the worship service due to the church’s children’s program not being up and running.

Photo by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

Meanwhile, In Social Media Land…

  • I can see that you recently volunteered on a project.
  • I can see that you went and visited the zoo.
  • I can see that you are hanging out with friends and family.
  • I can see you doing all of these things, and yet, I haven’t seen your happy face at church.

Gathering with fellow believers, attending church, this is a Christian discipline. What I have hated seeing, in these pandemic times, is how quickly that discipline has been let go; convenience and inconvenience pushing against one another.

I am not advocating for fellow believers to come back to church in order to check a box. I am advocating for fellow believers to come, grow, and encourage other believers with your presence.

I keep asking myself, “Is Jesus enough of a commonality to hold believers together in these times?” My answer is of course, Jesus is enough. But, I think these pandemic times are revealing who church attendance is important to.

  • Our Time
  • Our Talents
  • Our Treasures

All of these things communicate to both the world and our fellow believers where our priorities lie.

I want to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to push past their preferences and convenience. The withdrawal of your presence is hurting others, silently wounding the Church in the process. Please do not let being in the habit of attending church slip away and become your new normal. Your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ miss you.

I miss you too.

From Across the Net – “Stop and See the Unseen”

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Eric Anderson, over at Nerd Chapel, wrote this excellent piece titled “Stop and See the Unseen“. I especially like the way he seamlessly works a conversation between Tony Stark and Dr. Strange into the mix.

Tony had no clue that the threats dealt with by the Sorcerer Supreme even existed. While the Avengers were publicly acknowledged and posted all over social media, popular media, and the news, nobody talked about what Strange and his fellow sorcerers do. Nobody knew that threats from other dimensions were coming; even Thor did not know about the Sanctum Sanctorums or the group that runs them on Earth until Strange invited him to come for a visit.

You can read more here

Dr. Strange

From Across the Net – “When Will Your Church Be Back to Normal?”

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I have loved watching my own church pivot in this crisis. Embracing technology as a way to bring us all together.

Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

Some churches that never even recorded their sermons were able, in no time, to livestream their services, to provide ways to do youth group Bible studies via Zoom, and maintain prayer chains through texting and social media. Churches without even a website address found ways to enable their people to give their offerings online. Some churches had to find a way to vote on calling a new pastor with online voting or drive-through affirmations. 

This sort of creativity will not end. The fact is that though many, if not most, churches can plan for a “re-opening” some time in the foreseeable future, in almost every case, this will not mean dropping live-streaming and other forms of connection but adding in-person gatherings to what we are doing now. 

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “Don’t Let the Angry Ten Percent Control the Direction of Your Church”

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Photo by John Cafazza on Unsplash

This is a good article from Thom Rainer. I hate it when personal preferences start to make Sunday School Teachers, Youth Leaders, and even the Pastor question the path God has them on.

In churches, I see pastors, again and again, yield to the pressures and criticisms of the ten percent. I get it. I’ve been there and done that. May I suggest some perspectives on this issue? Perspectives are not solutions, but they can help us persevere when the ten percent get really loud.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “I Made Myself Lose My Phone”

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Relationship versus connection…

“We think we have a relationship with someone [when using social media] but what we have is a connection,” explains Larry Rosen, an expert in the psychology of technology at California State University. “Connection is part of communication, but it’s not all communication. Communication is pulling in various cues about the person you are communicating with that include things like body language, tone of voice, a roll of the eyes. Through social media, you don’t get that. You are reading what they wrote and then jotting down a few words of comment, but it’s not the richness of communication.”

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “Technology and our anxious hearts”

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Working in an office, I have constant access to social media. All day, everyday, I keep up with the news as it unfolds around the world. Once the weekend hits, my access to social media declines. I take the weekends off from blogging. At home, I find that I check Facebook, Twitter, and email out of boredom/to fill time. What I have noticed though is that I feel much more at peace over the weekends minus the constant social media connection.

Reuben Bredenhof wrote a piece titled “Technology and our anxious hearts“.

The problem is that our sinful natures will always say that if we could just have our idols (whatever they are), eventually they’ll be able to satisfy us. That goes all the way back to Paradise. What more could Adam or Eve want than what God had given? But Satan said, “Escape your creature-hood. Define your own truth. Keep the glory for yourself. Why miss out on becoming like God with just one bite?”

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “Instagram, Twitter, and the Longing for Approval”

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Russell Moore wrote great article titled: “Instagram, Twitter, and the Longing for Approval”. I liked this:

One needn’t spend very much time with parents of teenagers with heavy social media usage to see how many of them are battling a generalized anxiety specific to social media itself. It’s hard enough to be an adolescent, wondering constantly where one fits it and what others think of you, without having a mechanism that purports to show you the answers to those questions with raw data, all of the time. Such a life is like a politician checking his or her daily tracking poll numbers, except without an election at the end.

I’m not sure about you, but I struggle with the constant influx of information. Watching my blog stats, in real time, to see how many people are liking/reading my posts. And then agonizing over my traffic numbers as they’ll never top JBG’s traffic from 2010 (I have no clue what happened that year). Sounds silly typing all that out…

Read more here

From Across the Net – “Why Facebook’s Bans Warrant Concern”

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Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

I had caught a headline on this, last week, and thought it was disturbing. Moderation is a tricky task where the easy path equals censorship versus allowing conversations to take place.

Facebook’s speech rules were already vague and malleable. And now the platform is apparently evaluating at least some of its users actions off its pages. This means a person can potentially face social-media bans even if they comply with every syllable of the company’s speech rules on the company’s platform.

You can read more here

Blackballed

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We live in an odd time. A time where we think about how much our friends like our social media posts. How when they suddenly stop liking them or commenting, we begin to question whether they really are our friends or not.

Can you imagine telling your great grandparents, those that had lived through the Great Depression, about how your friends on social media are suddenly not liking your posts?

“I feel like they are blackballing me, Great Grandma Hall.”

And as we are navigating these choppy social waters, the thought dawns on us that we will have to help our kids through muck like this too. (Pulling the plug on the Internet isn’t the solution either. Let go of the cord!) We have to engage, walk through, and confront these thoughts/situations that pop up.  Asking ourselves if perhaps:

  • We are spending too much time on social media
  • A friend we know through social media isn’t a great influence on us
  • Why such such a seemingly petty thing matters

When we get down to the core of the issue, it shouldn’t matter whether someone likes or comments on our posts… and yet it does.

“And Jesus said, love only those who like and comment on your social media musings.” – Not In The Bible

What do you think? I love it when you share your thoughts below in the comments.

From Across the Net – “The Cost of Surrounding Yourself with Negative People”

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In our culture of “unfriending” and “muting” others, I found this piece by Tim Challies titled “The Cost of Surrounding Yourself with Negative People” refreshing.

It turns out that there is something far more costly than being with negative people: The cost of avoiding negative people, and thus, avoiding the kind of life that Jesus calls us to.

You can read more here.

Photo by Tom Roberts on Unsplash

Internet of Buttholes

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I wasn’t allowed to say the word butthole growing up.

Butthole

Butthole

Butthole

Slinging that word at a sibling was considered a no-no and led, at least for awhile, to getting my mouth washed out with soap.

The Internet is full of buttholes. Those people we normally wouldn’t allow within 5 feet of us who are now snuggled up to our screens. Writing comments on our blogs and saying things on our social media pages that they would never say to our faces… or maybe they would say those things?

Photo by Marc Schäfer on Unsplash

I’m tired of the buttholes ruining the Internet. I’m tired of:

  • The Josh Groban fan who got mad at my not liking Josh Groban’s CHARACTER in his latest show.
  • That person who doesn’t like me blogging and yet calls me a friend.
  • Those on twitter who have made it a hellish cesspool of negativity versus allowing it to be the amazing news tool it originally was.
  • Those on Facebook who think that it’s the best place ever to hash out politics and deep theological debates. (Add twitter to this comment too.)

Today I declare war on the buttholes. Go away! Your words are like poison to the soul. 

My shields are up. I’m not going to let some random internet person ruin my day NOR be the cause of me getting my mouth washed out with soap for calling them…

A butthole.

(Not that that would happen. I’m an adult now. I can say adult things. I think.)

From Across the Net: “Help, I’m Exhausted by Social Media”

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Thankful for this piece by Stephen Altrogge:

“I get jealous. I want your calling. I want to do those fun, amazing, big, fast things. I want to do cool stuff for God. Quiet is boring. Mundane seems lame. I feel pathetic and purposeless.

Social media stretches me beyond my calling. It makes we want people and places and things that God has called you to, not me. I find these words of John Calvin to be helpful:

Each individual has his own living assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life.

Your calling isn’t my calling, and if I try to take what’s yours, I’ll wander heedlessly through life. I’ll leave the places of good, fruitful, productive work God has staked out for me, and wander into wastelands instead.”

Read more here

Moving on

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I stepped down as Community Manager of Theology Gaming a few weeks ago. After three years of cultivating conversation and community, I’m done. The mental background noise of what began to feel like a part time job has diminished. I am free. And yet, I miss the online community where I could throw ideas at the wall to see what stuck.
Right now, I find myself evaluating:
  • Where to go next.
  • What to do with my blog.
  • And on a deeper level, what it means to interact with others online. The internet is weird when it comes to relationships. Instant messaging brings about a false sense of freedom in conversation. You find yourself saying things that you’d never say in physical space. Even weirder, the internet lacks permanence. You can talk to people for years and then poof, they are gone. What does that mean? How are we supposed to react?

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JohnnyBGamer has always been my space, online, to create and share. That won’t stop anytime soon.

Remember who you are in Christ

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Social media is a mess. Everyone seems on edge. Nerves raw after what felt like a prolonged election cycle. Ready to explode when given the hidden signal or somebody sneezes on accident.

Social Media

My twitter feed has become a water pitcher filled with fear and adult temper tantrums. I get it, people are upset over the Presidential regime change. When you spend 8 years with one President, you are bound to feel shaken. Especially when the newly elected President is Donald “You’re Fired” Trump.

As a Christian it is easy to get caught up in the political vortex, to lash out without thinking. Easy to forget your identity.

Pastor Paul Tripp said it best in his devotional New Morning Mercies. As you go about your day:

“May God give you grace to remember your identity as His child in those moments when remembering is essential.”

Remembering is essential. As Mufasa told Simba in The Lion King, “Remember who you are.”

I want to challenge myself. I want to challenge you. Remember who you are when:

  • You are hastily typing out responses to a debate on Facebook
  • Your co-worker goes on a political rant
  • You feel compelled to correct someone in an un-Christlike manner

There is no need to pass along the negative emotions you are absorbing as you scroll through twitter.

Listen first. Limit your social media time/exposure. Be who God created you to be, remembering that you represent Him, now.

Miitomo

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The legacy of the Mii, Nintendo’s player avatar creations, continues with Miitomo. Uniting iOS and Android users, Miitomo is a personable social network experiment. Inhabited by Facebook and Twitter friends, Miitomo encourages and rewards players for:

  • Answering questions
  • Reading, listening, liking, and responding to your friends replies

Gamification of Social Media: Check

There is also an odd game within the game called Miitomo Drop (drop a player down a board, hope they hit something valuable). As well as options to buy and dress up a player’s Mii. Style points awarded, of course.

Beyond the spongy exterior, the heart-filled frosting of Miitomo tastes hollow. There just isn’t much to do in this app. Yes, Nintendo has done a great job building an oddball social network. I keep wondering though where the gameplay hook is.

As a longtime Animal Crossing fan, the ability to decorate your Mii’s space would be most welcome. Minigames in the vein of the 3DS Mii minigames (Find Mii, Puzzle Swap, etc.) would elevate Miitomo to another level. Nintendo excels when they take a simple concept and refine the player experience.

Miitomo makes great first impression. The missing gameplay hook, the reason to stay and enjoy this weird world, must be found. Mario is indeed missing.

2015 – A Year In Review

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2015 has been a roller coaster year.

We’ve Explored

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

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.

Read more here

We’ve Been Real With One Another

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Longing For That Missing Person

Social media is filled with photos of babies. Beautiful children who are all snugly and cute. While I am excited for my friends and family who are pregnant, there is always this void that gnaws at my soul.

Read more here

We’ve Shared In The Joys Of Parenting

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Boys Club

Best part of our day was in the backyard. Wyatt wanted to go outside and play Transformers. So we each picked a weapon. I grabbed a foam sword, he grabbed a Nerf gun. Somehow we never got around to playing. Wyatt was too concerned with making up rules, structure, to our play. I got bored. So I grabbed his gun and took off. There were tears over my dual wielding weapons.

“You can’t have two!”

Read more here

We’ve Read Some Great Books

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Scary Close – Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy

I first discovered Donald Miller in college. I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure about my Christian faith anymore. There was a disconnect between the Christians I read about in the Bible and the Christians I met everyday. Tired of the hypocrisy, I found honesty in Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Someone was finally writing from a perspective that felt authentic. God used Miller’s words to remind me of the freedom we have in Christ; He used Donald Miller to bring me back to Him.

Read more here

We’ve Called Each Other To More

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A Call: Moving Beyond Artificial Relationships

Surface level relationships will never go beyond the surface. Diving equipment, time invested in person, allows us to get to know one another better. Being purposeful in our pursuit, this is key. We have to make time to have time to spend with others; We have to get over ourselves, move beyond technology.

An invitation to go for a walk, time set aside to enjoy nature and listen. Spending the lunch hour eating with a friend. Time invested. Physical time. We need more of this. We need to do this.

Read more here

I’m not sure of the places we’ll go in 2016. But we can explore, share, and be real together. Here is to another great year. Happy New Year!