Outrage, Anger, and Shame

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My parents moved to Rancho California, from Anaheim, when I was young. Back then, sheep herders herded sheep down what would become major city streets. At night, the sky was dark and the stars were bright. But time marched on, more and more people moved to the area. The stars grew dimmer and the desert monsoon weather changed due to the abundance of pools installed. My hometown eventually voted to change the name of the town from Rancho California to Temecula.

Temecula, CA

I loved growing up in Temecula. I loved the small commuter town, situated in a valley, surrounded by beautiful mountains. Living in East Texas now, I miss those mountains the most. The way the snow would sit on top of them in the winter, as seen from my parent’s kitchen.

I have been living in East Texas for 17 years. Far away from the Southern California sun; far away from the traffic that clogs up Interstate 15. I still hear news though from my parents. News about the Mayor of Temecula misspeaking. How he apologized, began receiving death threats, and ultimately had to resign. I hate politics in our country.

I also hate the shame/cancel culture that is taking over our society. How one moment, captured on film and social media is then used to destroy a person’s life. Internet vigilantes–no, not the Batman type–who won’t stop at anything until a person has lost their job and perhaps even their dog.

Have we become a society that has forgotten forgiveness, treating others as we want to be treated?

Does the Internet accurately reflect our culture? How about what you are encountering and seeing on a daily basis?

As Americans, we say that we prize freedom of speech. The actions that I see, especially online, scream that if one doesn’t believe/act/or even look as you do, they have to be nuked. Destroyed lives from high orbit. Their very lives made into burning infernos due to a mispoken word, a bad day, or even a sentence written in a blog post.

We say that we want freedom.

We say that we want to live in a free society.

I don’t think we do.

Katniss Everdeen is a herald from the American future we don’t think can exist. But the general attitudes I’m seeing, the rage, the anger of the Internet, signal that the Hunger Games have already begun.

No Silent Christians

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My pastor recently said something that grabbed my attention:

There is no such thing as a silent Christian.

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

I’ve often hid behind a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Perhaps you know it?

Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

My thoughts have been, that in my life and online presence, I would let my actions speak first. People should know that I follow Christ due to:

  • What I like
  • What I post
  • And what I say about the content I consume

But something about that quote, that is falsely attributed to St. Francis, has always rang hollow to me. A sort of free pass Christians give to one another for never sharing what Christ has done/is doing in their lives; for never sharing the Gospel.

Even on this blog, I have internally struggled and fought over how much is too much to post, when it comes to the topic of faith. For those that follow me for my video game angle, are my faith posts somehow pushing them away? I have struggled with these thoughts for years. “I’ll just let my actions do the talking”, I’ve reasoned. As a follower of Christ though, I think that not speaking is disingenuous. So, I wanted to share my faith journey below.

Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

No Longer Silent

I grew up in a small town, in Southern California. My dad was a truck driver, while my mom stayed home and homeschooled us kids. My dad’s truck driving meant that he was home two days and gone three days. He worked hard to provide for our family. Looking back now, I can appreciate the sacrifice both of my parents made in raising my siblings and I. But in my dad’s absence, God filled that father-space, in my life, with many men. One such man was my Grandpa Ayers. Looking back, he taught me a lot about what it means to be a man.

I made a decision to follow Christ at the age of 5. My family was hosting a Vacation Bible School at our home. Even then, I understood that sin separated me from God.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

– Romans 3:23 (NIV)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 6:23 (NIV)

And that because God loves us so much, He sent His son to die for us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

– Romans 5:8 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

– John 3:16-17 (NIV)

All one has to do is accept this hope, this gift, and believe in Jesus Christ.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

– Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[a]

– Romans 10:13

All of that at the age of 5, huh Bryan? Yup. I knew enough to make that decision. God has walked with me and helped me grow in the knowledge of Him ever since.

In junior high, I made the decision to be baptized. Baptism is an outward sign, to fellow believers, that you have made a decision to follow Christ. I was at a youth beach day, and I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully, no sharks tried to aid in that baptism.

At the age of sixty, my Grandpa Ayers unexpectedly died overnight. I was looking at going away to college at this point, after attending junior college for a few years. I felt lost losing him. But God used his death to spur me on.

I was reading a book when a single sentence mentioned LeTourneau University. So, I traveled from Southern California to East Texas for a preview event… and felt peace. I went home, packed up my stuff, and I made the drive across Texas. Where I ended up meeting my now wife, Tabitha, within a month of being at school. (I was 25 and had never dated beforehand. Ignoring the Beach Boys, I didn’t want a California girl apparently.)

Tabitha and I married in 2007. Two years later, we had our son Wyatt. Last year at a Life Action Conference, we felt God calling us to adoption, after years of infertility. We finished jumping through the adoption hoops last May (2019), and we are waiting to grow our family. In the meantime, God continues to grow us.

There is no such thing as a silent Christian.

I’m hoping that by sharing where God has brought me, I can push against the silence and use words to share my faith. I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ first and foremost. I am then a husband to Tabitha, and a father to Wyatt.

This blog is my attempt to engage the world for Christ. To share the life He is working through me. Thanks for reading and coming along for the journey.

BOY DAD

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I am a boy dad. I thank the Lord for the gift he has given me in my son, Wyatt. The gift that sees that a boys energy and curiosity is normal; The gift that allows me to say that yes, boys are different than girls.

Photo by Yuval Levy on Unsplash

Two years into our marriage, Tabitha and I were driving up Palomar Mountain. I wanted to show her where my Grandpa Ayers used to take my brother and I camping. As we wound our way up the mountain, Tabitha started to feel sick. I wrote it off as car sickness at the time. Elevation + switchback roads = car sickness for some. What I didn’t know, is that on that trip to visit my parents in Southern California, Tabitha was pregnant. I was going to be a dad.

Parenting Wyatt has forced me to wrestle with many things in my life.

My Past

My upbringing of growing up in a home where my dad was home 2 days and then gone 2-3 days. I just wanted him home. I wanted his presence. I wanted him without the zombie schedule truck driving demanded.

I am thankful that God brought other men into my life to fill this need. Men like my Grandpa Ayers. He stepped in, for my brother and I, and showed us what it meant to be men. Whether he was reading us Bible stories or telling tales around the campfire; Whether we were hiking with slingshots, flying RC planes, or playing Chess. Grandpa was that escape, for us, from the feminine world of my mom.

I realize now that both my parents did their best… and I’m thankful for the time I had with my Grandpa.

Who I Am As A Husband

There are many stories that I could write here. But the clearest one that comes to mind is of me sitting on the couch, watching TV, while Tabitha is getting herself and Wyatt out the door for the day. Tab was teaching at the time. Wyatt would spend his days with my mother-in-law. I didn’t do a thing, as I watched The Today Show, to help Tab out the door. We were supposed to be a team, and I was failing.

God knew what I needed. Looking back, I am thankful for us having issues with breast feeding. Thankful for the formula, which I once thought was expensive, that allowed me to take on late night feedings. I miss those times of bleary-eyed snuggling. Him watching me, with those blue eyes, in the darkened living room.

Being a dad has forced me to find maturity as a husband. Praise God.

Who I Want To Be As A Dad

At the end of the day, I want to be a dad who:

Listens – I wanted to be able to talk about whatever Wyatt is into, even if that means talking about Pokémon like a scholar.

Plays – Having a family game night, playing through a video game co-op, I want to play with my son.

Reads – Whether reading the Bible or work of fiction, I want my son to hear my voice/see that men read aloud. I miss hearing my Grandpa Ayers read Bible stories.

Prepares – I want to have those difficult conversations. I want to be a dad who talks about puberty, sex, and dating.

Photo by Enea Rezhda on Unsplash

I am a boy dad. I am thankful for my son.

However, I’d be happy being a girl dad too. 🙂

The Bonkers Lincoln Lawyer

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Tab and I dove into The Lincoln Lawyer last night on Hulu. We figured Matthew McConaughey + courtroom drama = win, right?

In the far off land of Los Angeles, Matthew McConaughey is defense lawyer Mick Haller. Mick has figured out a scheme most Angelenos would balk at in an instant, he works out of his Lincoln. Mobile, free from having to pay property taxes or outrageous SoCal real estate costs, Mick is the man. Until one day, Reese Witherspoon’s ex-husband, Ryan “Pretty Boy” Phillippe, hires Mick. Turns out the rich white dude Ryan is playing (Louis Roulet) has been accused of beating up/trying to rape a woman and kill her. BUT SHE LIVED!

A bunch of other stuff happens. Ryan (playing Louis) turns out to be evil. SPOILER! McConaughey, being the top dog that he is, plays the game and brings him down. Also, JUSTICE!

The biggest crime in The Lincoln Lawyer isn’t the films plot but the way it hands out small amounts of screen time to amazing actors. I’m still trying to figure out why Bryan Cranston is in this movie. And what about William H. Macy? And future Aunt May (Marisa Tomei)?

I was good with the movie up until it’s 11th hour super conspiracy theory reveal and biker beat up. But the smoggy Los Angeles landscape made me miss my home state. Take a deep breath… cough, cough, cough. Ah, asthma.

Final Note: Someone please tell Matthew to stop pointing with his middle finger? It’s rude.

THE END

What’s your favorite McConaughey courtroom drama?

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.