The Halls Head West – Part One

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Had a good visit with my parents last week. Hadn’t seen them in two years! Was nice to visit them in Southern California, enjoy the weather, and tour some of the local sites.

Our plane flight, out of Gregg County, was a bit bumpy. Our pilot had to dodge thunderstorms while flying into Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).

View outside the plane as we took off from Longview, Texas.

Nothing like a little turbulence as we flew around thunderstorms.

We eventually landed at DFW and made our way to our second flight. The flight boarded but we had to sit in the plane as a second wave of thunderstorms made its way into the area. Tab and I caught up on much needed sleep (we were so excited that we hadn’t slept the night before).

Fun Fact: When lightening hits near the airport, a clock starts a countdown to an all clear (so much time has to go by). Apparently airport workers cannot work out on the tarmac when lightening has struck nearby. Safety first!

Landed in San Diego without incident. Loved flying on what appeared to be a new Airbus! Tab and I watched Netflix’s The Highwaymen, with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, on the flight. Super good movie about two former Texas Rangers hunting down Bonnie and Clyde. We had about 30 minutes till the end of the movie when our plane landed. Can’t wait to finish this film.

My parents picked us up in San Diego. The weather was cool, cloudy, and drizzling. Such a relief from the 80 degree humid weather we’ve been having in East Texas.

We made our way over to Old Town San Diego, ate lunch, and toured around.

I can’t imagine traveling in a wagon like this. Talk about back issues!

While there, we walked into Seeley Stables (which was pretty amazing and free). Came across some old gaming machines… something that one rarely sees in a museum. I was impressed.

THE JUDGE!

THE OWL!

Rolling history.

After a bit of walking around, we braved the traffic and headed to my parents house.

The next day, we woke up and headed to Anaheim. Spent the day at Disneyland. Wyatt loved it (his first trip) and we all walked quite a bit.

I do not have a ton of pictures from Disneyland. We spent the day being in the moment and absorbing the magic of Walt’s original park.

Highlight of our day was Wyatt getting to meet Darth Vader. Wyatt tried to pledge allegiance to him… and Lord Vader seemed pleased. He told Wyatt that when he was of age that Wyatt would make a great recruit for the Imperial Army. I’m taking this as a parenting win!

Click here for Part Two

For the Love of Strategy Games

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I blame my Grandpa Ayers for my love of strategy games. How he taught my siblings and I how to move Chess pieces around the board. Which then translated to late night Chess matches while on camping trips with him. There is something nostalgic about playing Chess while eating prunes, graham crackers, and M&M’s. It is no wonder my stomach was usually so upset on those trips into the mountains.

Note: I’m the kid in the far back with the mop hair.

I have tried to share my love of strategy games with my son Wyatt. Teaching him how to move the knight, the rook, and the bishop in Chess. Also sharing with him the other game my Grandpa loved, Stratego. All the while branching out into Hall family favorites Carcassonne and Catan Jr. (I’ll note here: Never play Catan Jr. with Wyatt. He will win. Kid quickly figured out how to game the game.)

This past December, I decided to go deeper into the strategy game depths. Having read reviews, I intentionally asked for My Little Scythe for Christmas.

My Little Scythe

My Little Scythe has been perfect at teaching us how to see the bigger game picture amidst all the smaller moving pieces. I love it.

Wyatt recently came home from a homeschool park day with a deck of Magic: The Gathering (MTG) cards. He said that the other homeschool kids had been playing and had taught him how to play. Now I know that MTG can be an expensive hobby, due to having to buy new cards blindly in order to build powerful decks. I wanted to push past the expense AND further our strategy horizons, so I picked up a box of Dice Throne: Season 2 – Gunslinger v. Samurai.

Dice Throne: Season 2

My wife, Tabitha, is amazing at analyzing instructions and then teaching them to a group. (I think this has something to do with her teaching third grade for eight years. 🙂 ) But after looking over the Dice Throne instructions, she proclaimed, “This is a rule book, not an instruction book that describes how to play the game.”

A few hours of mowing the backyard later…

We decided to consult Watch It Played with Rodney Smith:

Which we found more helpful than the official Dice Throne video. But we still wanted to see the game played out. So we watched a bit of a Game the Game episode:

That was all on Sunday. Due to how crazy our week has been, we have yet to play ourselves. But I wanted to ask you…

Have you ever bought a game and thought, this is overwhelming!

Tell me about it in the comments below.

A Friday Confession

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I used to pray, God, use me however you want. I used to sing loudly, with tears in my eyes, God, where you lead, I will follow. (Tears because I didn’t want God to send me into the backwoods somewhere without air conditioning.) I prayed with a bigger picture in mind; I sang open to the will of God for my life. The subtle current of wanting adventure, thrills beyond the everyday life, thrummed beneath the surface of my prayers. As The Killers sing in their song “Read My Mind”:

I never really gave up on
Breakin’ out of this two-star town

What I was really praying was, God, I’m willing to follow you as long as it means new places, new people, and a lack of monotony. 

Photo by Camille Puche on Unsplash

When I graduated from college back in 2006, I thought I’d get married and leave Longview forever. My big plans were to go back to Southern California, get an amazing job OR start a video game ministry, and life would go on. But then economy imploded… and God has used those 12 years since graduation to shape and form me into something new. I’m not the same guy that I was, and I recognize that as being good.

Do you ever feel like Moses, living in the wilderness with his wife and father-in-law? Being prepared, by God, away from the limelight, in safety? Do you ever wonder if you are being taught to just focus on and impact those around you? I do. Our world is all about the big, the bold, the blaring Coldplay stadium anthems. Anthems that silently whisper to us that if you aren’t doing something big, in life or for God, then you are a failure.

Here is where I want to land: You are not a failure.

In the Bible, God consistently uses those the world does not know for His glory, purpose, and Kingdom. I think we have to pray that our hearts align more with Him and less with the overwhelming expectations the world and even Christian culture can put on us. You can make a difference for His Kingdom where you are, right now. You don’t even have to move. Even though Switchfoot might dare you to.

Don’t Be A Looky-Loo

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I do not drive much anymore. Living in a small town, my workplace is about 10-15 minutes from the house; church is about the same distance on a good day. Compare that to the time I spent in the car when I lived in California and its nothing. I remember, especially in junior college, hitting the weekend and being happy to be nowhere near the inside of a car.

Southern California and freeway traffic go hand-in-hand. Carpool lanes, express lanes, all have done little to alleviate the problem of too many cars in a small space. Driving the 91 Freeway, I have vivid memories of cruising along at 70mph only to crest a hill and have traffic come to a dead stop. Often these traffic jam would be caused by serious accidents. Other times traffic would come to a dead stop because everyone was slowing down to look at a car that had broken down on the side of the road. Drove me nuts! We even had a term for such people, looky-loos.

Have you ever noticed that when we see or hear about a situation, say a ministry a falling apart, that we want to know more about it? Even if we have no connection to the community (Facebook group, website, podcast, etc.) we want to know the gory details. Curiosity, in this case, can quickly lead to gossip. Gossip that can then further fuel anger and hurt that is already present.

A rather large ministry, one that I’ve followed from the sidelines, has been hurt this past week. Accusations are flying, staff being let go, a complete restructuring of the ministry is taking place. While I am sad to hear of such things, as the ministry is closely patterned off of something I once wanted to do myself, I want to urge caution to my friends.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts. – Proverbs 18:8 (boldness added for emphasis)

You may want to know more about what has happened with this particular ministry; you may want to hear the “choice morsels”. A certain level of curiosity is understood. But at some point, the things you are looking at (tax/salary information, etc.) is not for you to look at. It is easy to judge from the sidelines. To say, “If I had been running that ministry, I would have structured it this way.” The thing is, you and I were not running that particular ministry. A group of people who felt they were doing the work of the Lord are.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

My wife reminded me today that a ministry blowing up is the work of Satan getting in among Christians. Causing hurt and ultimately division for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Such division is not meant to be.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. – Romans 16:17-18

It’s okay to pause and mourn a ministry that is going through upheaval. But don’t slam on your own personal brakes for too long or you’ll end up causing a pile-up. Keep your eyes open, take note, and drive the path the Lord has you on. I write this just as much for myself as I do for others.

Grace and peace to all my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Traffic

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On a recent visit to Southern California, I was quickly reminded of my hatred for traffic. Cars, cars, and more cars flood the streets and freeways. Everyone is in a hurry to go no where.

Returning home to East Texas, I could not help but compare the two traffic-wise. Growing up, my Dad had an average commute of an hour to get to work. Random accidents and the traffic created by them would easily increase his commute time. In comparison, I only travel a combined 20 minutes a day, to and from work. I love it!

Traffic doesn’t have to be something that we just accept. I mean really, who wants to deal with a 2+ hour commute everyday? There are other options:

  • Moving closer to work, if possible
  • Moving to a more rural area that does not have traffic
  • Use mass transit

I do realize that these options are often not realistic due to money, job location, and proximity to mass transit. There are bigger picture things we can move forward towards:

  • Encouraging urban planners to build towns/ cities around mass transit. Also encourage sidewalks and bike lanes to be built to accommodate those that are close enough to walk/ ride to work.
  • Pushing our local and state level politicians to push for mass transit items like trains to be built.
  • Funding Google to perfect the Google Car concept. If everyone had one of these we wouldn’t have anymore accidents…unless there was a total computer failure.  🙂 I know, I know, I can dream can’t I.