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.

The End of a Father / Son Tradition – Pokémon Sword and Shield

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The release of Pokémon Sword & Shield today, on the Nintendo Switch, marks an end of an era for my son Wyatt and I.

Pokémon Sword & Shield

We first started playing Pokémon games together with the release of Pokémon X & Y–he had to have been in kindergarten, although I’m thinking more first grade.–. Armed with our 3DS systems, we’d encourage and compete against each other while playing through our separate games. Spending evenings battling each other to see who had the strongest Pokémon. I’d like to say that I won most of those matches, but I’d be lying. Wyatt is one tough Pokémon Trainer to beat.

I’ve been playing the Pokémon games since the original Pokémon Red & Blue debuted in the United States in 1998–crazy to think that I’ve been playing the same series for over two decades!–. I have owned and put time into:

  • Pokémon Red
  • Pokémon Diamond
  • Pokémon Platinum
  • Pokémon Black
  • Pokémon Y
  • Pokémon Moon

Across all of those hours spent catching Pokémon, I somehow never managed to complete a single game. Playing with Wyatt gave me the competitive edge I needed to push through. Pokémon Y was my first Pokémon game to see through to the credits. I thank my son for the accomplishment of FINALLY finishing a Pokémon game. All I wanted to do was crush a little boy’s dreams by finishing the game first, typical dad stuff, right? (Wyatt won, btw.)

We moved on and battled through Pokémon Sun & Moon. At some point, hours upon hours into the game, I gave up. Wyatt went ahead and finished the game. He then completed the follow up, Pokémon Ultra Sun, by himself. We still battled in the evenings. Nothing like Pokémon fighting between a father and son.

Pokémon Sun & Moon

With the release of Pokémon Sword & Shield, Nintendo has shifted the main series from the 3DS to the Nintendo Switch. In our house, we have a single Nintendo Switch console. I think that it is silly to buy another system just for the privilege of being able to play a Pokémon game. I will miss the memories and competition between Wyatt, our Pokémon, and I. Never forgetting the lesson that:

Kids have a ton of more time to play video games than a working adult. Never compete against a kid when time is required, Bryan, you’ll lose!

Coming to the end here, I am reminded of how long I’ve been playing video games with Wyatt. How I only have 8 years left with him until he graduates from high school… I hope we continue to play games together in some fashion; I can’t wait to show and introduce him to more.

Fatherhood has taught me forgiveness

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The whole concept of a dad can be challenging for some men. Many have grown up without having a dad in their life. Some of us even had dads that had to work outside of the home, for days on end, to support the family. Anger, resentment, and even a quest to fill that dad-shaped hole can occur.

I am thankful for the men that God brought into my life, as my dad was out working to provide for our family.

I am thankful for my Grandpa Ayers. For him sharing his love for the outdoors, radio controlled everything, and tabletop games. For showing me and my brother that slingshots, knives, and guns are cool toys (when properly respected) to play with. I’ll never forget our late nights playing Chess OR my Grandpa letting my brother and I build our own fires (FIRE!). His unexpected death at 60 years of age still haunts me in some ways. I have found that grief is ever changing but forever there. I am thankful for the time he invested in my siblings and I; thankful for the time that I got to spend with him.

Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash

For the longest time, I retreated into negative emotions concerning my own dad. Unable to see the bigger picture of what it means to provide… unable (still unable) to see through the family fog-of-war of the example his dad left him with when it came to interacting with family. For years, even as an adult, I’ve wanted more from my dad… But I’ve learned that whatever it is I have wanted from him, I have built into my relationship with Wyatt. Letting the past go, letting anger go, has allowed me to see my dad for who he is instead of who I wanted him to be.

My dad, Steven, is an amazing guy. He is funny, insightful, and a hard worker. The older I get, the more I appreciate him AND realize how much I am like him. I wish I had been able to push past what is deemed, in Christian circles, as a “father wound” sooner. Arriving at a point where I can accept my dad for who he is is priceless. Being able to see the bigger picture, where other men were allowed to step in and teach me and my siblings, and not resent that, is liberating.

All of the above to say, Father’s Day is this weekend. Chuck Lawless reposted a piece this morning that resonated with me titled “8 Reflections on Being Childless and Celebrating Father’s Day“. I encourage you to check it out.

These greeting card holidays can stir the emotions!

Happy early Father’s Day.

Homecoming: Why are video games so hard to come back to?

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A long time ago (2014), in a living room far far away, I asked Wyatt to help me create my Dragon Age: Inquisition character.

Me on my throne.

We created a:

  • Scrawny Elf
  • With a facial tattoo that covers his entire face
  • Who carries a two-handed sword
  • And has a deep voice

I loved playing as him.

I sunk hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition until I hit the wall and got stuck in the game. At this point, I am sure, a new game entered my orbit, and I blasted away from my elf and the inquisition.

My throne room.

I loaded Dragon Age: Inquisition once more last night. Combat/gameplay rhythms were unfamiliar after being away from the game for so long. My elf had not changed… but I have.

Unlike reading multiple books at the same time, I think video games are harder not to play fully invested in. With big AAA games, I tend to forget about the:

  • Controls (muscle memory does help with skill-based games)
  • Story (I’m thankful for the games that feature a story recap)
  • How much I cared/was invested in characters

So I wanted to ask you:

  1. How long is too long to come back to a game?
  2. At what point do you give up/delete/move on because you simply do not care anymore?

Let me know in the comments below!