Lost the Plot

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In between craziness at work, change at church, and the unknown of adoption, I have to admit that I have been thinking a lot:

  • Reassessing my career (updating my resume)
  • Trying to figure out what God is saying after my church voted 93% in favor of our interim pastor
  • Wondering how long it will take to be placed with a child (we keep hearing 2 years)

With all these swirling thoughts, I got thinking about JohnnyBGamer. I love how the site has morphed into more of a personal blog for me. I especially need a place, right now, to work through thoughts and share ideas. But I got thinking about the idea for a gaming-based ministry, God gave me long ago. An idea that never included:

  • Articles on discernment
  • Answering questions such as: Can Christians do ____________?
  • Finding a spiritual bridge between whatever game I’m playing and connecting it back to a spiritual truth (no matter how weak the link)
  • Justifying why I’m playing (insert game here)

I think I got lost somewhere between the idea of being a combo of a Christian Gamespot mixed with what would later become GameChurch. Somewhere along the way, I got wrapped up in running a Christian video game Facebook group (which I stepped down from last year) and wanting to compete with GameChurch (which has since become something else). I forgot that God never called me to be this online thing. He always has shown me that it is more about building relationships than playing games. The games are simply a gateway to making friends and having a conversation. People are the focus.

I’m not sure what any of the above means moving forward. But I am thankful to be able to put into words what has happened over the years. I lost the plot.

The Electrical Panel

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A few weeks ago, we had an air conditioning company do some work in the office. While fixing a circuit breaker, they forgot to put the electrical panel back on the box. Instead of letting me put the two screws in, that hold the panel in place, I was told to call the company back out. I was mortified.

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

The technician the company sent out was 115% understanding. Took him less than a few minutes to put the panel back together.

I get the principal of holding a company to their work… but I wonder where the line of entitlement and laziness meet. Maybe I’m too practical? Either way, I say screw it.

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.

From Across the Net – “Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Opportunity”

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When we flew out to California a few weeks back, we encountered a grumpy TSA Agent at our local airport. I’m still not sure why she was acting so rude at 6AM. Maybe she didn’t get her coffee? OR WORSE, maybe she doesn’t drink coffee!?!

But while work may not be exciting and may not be particularly fulfilling, I’ve been struck recently by how much our joy can be improved or eroded by people who work very ordinary jobs. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that ordinary people working ordinary jobs have an extraordinary number of opportunities to improve or erode our joy.

You can read more of Tim’s article titled “Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Opportunity”, here.

Your Calling Doesn’t Equal Career

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Ivan Mesa, writing for The Gospel Coalition, wrote a fantastic article titled “3 Things Your Calling Is Not“.

This might sound like an obvious point, but part of my angst has been due to the assumption I had to grab hold of my calling or else it would slip away. I’d be lost, I feared, wasting my life because I hadn’t been decisive or clear-eyed enough to know what God had called me to.

For a long time, the Church preached to men that your calling equaled your career. I personally found this line of thought to be hurtful and confusing. The night before college graduation, I remember breaking down and crying. I had no clue where God was calling me, no clue what a career might look like. Tears running down my face, I prayed that He would make a career path clear to me. That He would provide for me a job/career so that I could make ALL the money and further His Kingdom.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Looking back, I can see how I took the preaching I had heard for years to heart. How when God didn’t immediately answer my career/job prayer, I took His silence and withdrew into anger, resentment, and bitterness.

Through His grace, God has nudged me over the years–He is a slow and patient teacher to my stubbornness–. Teaching me that He calls me where I am. He calls me at:

  • Church
  • Home
  • And Work

He reminds me that I do not have to set out on a mystical spiritual quest to figure out His will. Thank God for that.

If there is one lesson God has taught me over the years, it is this:

When I focus too much on myself, life becomes depressing. When I step out of myself and focus on/serve others, I find life and joy.

Which stirs up and boils down to this:

Embrace where you are called.

From Across the Net – “Why Men and Women Can—and Must—Work Together”

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Even though this article seems specific to a church/ministry organization, I have struggled with this at work. Especially when I am in the office alone, working through lunch, and a female co-worker decides to eat her lunch at work and wants to talk. There is a fine line between being professional and alienation.

It’s important—especially as seemingly more and more Christian leaders are caught in a scandal—to make sure the right boundaries are in place to protect your marriage, your ministry, and your soul.

But in doing so, it’s easy to put up so many boundaries you alienate yourself or stifle the giftedness and friendship of the opposite gender.

You can read more here

Your Feelings Lie

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My pastor said something that has stuck with me:

“Your feelings lie.”

Photo by Ryan Pernofski on Unsplash

Work has been a swirling vortex of condescension, anger, and stress. A tidal wave of not accepting where we are on a project. We’ve been behind for months. Months. And yet at no point has acceptance of this fact been had. No moment of admitting:

  • Hey, we messed up.
  • Yeah, we are behind… BUT let’s move forward, as a team, and do our best.

My feelings have been lying to me; my body absorbing the workplace maelstrom of emotions.

I’m done with feeling stressed towards this project.

I’m done being lied to by my feelings.

If anything, I’m beginning to find the current situation at work humorous.

People have got to chill.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

– Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

Jesus is our peace

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Just a few days into December and work is exploding. The environment is tense as a major project must go out soon after the beginning of the year. In other words, a typical stressful December here in my office. Knowing that things will get harder before they relax, I find my anxiety kicking in, causing my chest to tighten up. Feels like an elephant has taken up permanent residence on top of my heart. In the midst of fight or flight, God has reminded me of a snippet from Micah I read yesterday.

Micah 5:5A

I want His peace. Peace that surpasses all understanding.

A Christmas Note To Myself

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On the day before December begins,

I’d like to remind myself.

That no matter how stressful work gets,

Nor how much I miss family,

Swirling down into the depression pit isn’t worth it.

At all.

I need to focus on my family around me,

My friends,

The anticipation of the Advent season.

Spending the entire month of December, in a funk, sucks.

You know it, and your wife knows it. 

So stop it!

Break the cycle this year.

Tell depression to get off your mental lawn.

You’re welcome, by the way.

– A note from November Bryan to December Bryan.

Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash

Not sure about you, but December is traditionally a tough month for me. All through November, I’ve been watching depression circle around outside the fire light. Beckoning me to step away from the comforts of clarity and embrace the dark/warm fuzzy jacket of depression. Wanted to write a quick note to remind myself not to go down that path this year. I want to encourage you also to stay near the fire and pay attention to the words you are speaking to yourself. We can do this.

Blame the parents, if you can

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Got up and went to the dentist this morning. Have had a tooth that has been bothering me that I wanted to get checked out. Turns out there was nothing wrong with the tooth in question. The dentist did tell me to quit clenching my teeth down, while at work, and that I should check into consulting an orthodontist. I then told the dentist that it was all my parents fault. That they should have paid for me to have braces. Of course I was joking, not sure the dentist took it that way. Had to explain myself. Oh well.

2.22.15weather

Sitting here listening to the rain hit the windows. Kind of a dreary day outside. Has rained non-stop. Wouldn’t surprise me if we have gotten 3-4 inches by the time this storm system has blown through.

Work has been slow lately. We currently have a bunch of projects on the horizon (April/May-ish) but a lot of prep work in the meantime. Trying to busy myself with lower tier office items that I neglect when we are running in full swing.

Not a bad day over all. How are things with you?

Death in Motorville – Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

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(Bryan Note: This essay was originally published over at TheologyGaming.)

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure” ~ J.K. Rowling

Every story has to have an inciting incident. A moment that propels the protagonist to respond with action. No matter the greatness of the action however, forward motion is key.

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In the lands of the digital

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch opens in an idyllic American town. Seemingly breathed to life out of a Norman Rockwell painting, Motorville is sweet Americana. The game opens with Oliver, Ni no Kuni’s protagonist, dwelling in this perfection with his mother, Allie. As in many stories branded with Walt Disney’s name, Oliver’s father is no where to be found.

Living in a town called Motorville, one would think there would be into a thriving automotive culture. Something akin to the car culture of Southern California. Well, one would be right in their thinking. Oliver’s friend, Phil, is a tinker who has built his own race car. After showing the car to Oliver, Phil asks him to sneak out, later that night, and come for a test drive. So, Oliver waits until his Mom is asleep and then quietly tip toes out of the house. A decision has been made, the adventure has begun.

Outside of town, Oliver gets behind the wheel of Phil’s race car. Goggles in place, Oliver races the car down a road that runs alongside a river. Meanwhile, in another realm, the White Witch zaps Oliver’s car which causes one of the wheels to come off. He quickly loses control and swerves into the river. Drowning, Oliver gasps for air. The situation looks dire until his Mom shows up and saves him. Carrying him out of the river, she places him on the road above. Due to a weak heart, she then collapses and dies. Oliver is now alone.

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Grandpa Ayers, my brother and I at Mount Palomar, CA.

In the lands of the real

My own father–or Dad, as I like to call him–drives a big rig for a living. This means that he is home maybe 2-3 days a week, depending on the week. With my Dad rolling down the highways, I was left with a lack of a strong male role model growing up. Thankfully, God filled that void in the form of my Grandpa Ayers. However, like Oliver’s Mom, my Grandpa was taken from me suddenly. I wasn’t alone, but I felt that way.

My Grandpa’s death led me to a series of events that catapulted me into the lands of East Texas; his death was my inciting incident.

Back to the digital

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Mr. Drippy comes to life!

A funeral comes and goes, the game shows Oliver in his room crying. His family is no longer a party of two. Crying begets tears, one of the tears falls upon a stuffed animal Oliver’s Mom made for him. Mr. Drippy is this odd creatures name. Suddenly, he comes to life! Mr. Drippy, Lord High Lord of the Faeries, invites Oliver on a quest to save his Mom. A decision must be made…and Oliver decides he has nothing to lose. Following Mr. Drippy into the Ni no Kuni world, Oliver has a mom to save…or does he?

 Death in Motorville   Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Everyone has to travel in style, right?

In reality that comes from above

God is calling, there’s no bigger love

– Newsboys, Reality

As a Christian, I am a citizen of Heaven.

  • I know that Jesus defeated death by dying on the cross.
  • I know that my Grandpa Ayers is in Heaven and that one day I will see him again.
  • I know that I do not have to embark on some epic quest with the Lord High Lord of the Faeries.

The Lord calls me to go, tell others about him, and help train up Christian brothers along the way. Death has no power over me; death is simply an Earthly signal that I have gone on to work and serve my God. I can’t wait.

Failure is OKAY

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A few weeks into a job, I came across a situation that was very foreign to me, verbal abuse. I don’t remember exactly what the task was, but my boss repeatedly told me that I had failed.

“This task is so easy that a third grader could do this.”

Then pointing out the window, “Do you see the Fedex person walking by? This is so easy that they could do this.”

Any sense of college optimism I had jumped out the window in that moment. Sadly, I began to let small repeated moments like those define who I am. Lies from the very pit of Hell itself.

Past failure, if we let it, can quickly become a part of our identity.

Failure is okay. I think that we have to grant ourselves the slack to fail from time-to-time. As long as we are learning from those failures, we are golden. Lies can only be exposed by truth. It is okay to fail because you will.

Happy Place

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Not sure what to write about today. Not exactly in a “happy place” in my life right now. Don’t get me wrong, everything at home is okay. Work lately though has been challenging. Not challenging on a work level, mind you, but more so in having to deal with fellow office dwellers. Each day I have to prepare myself to brace for whatever insults are about to be hurtled; for whatever gripe is made that is said to remind me of being the low man on the totem pole.

“Oh, I didn’t realize that would take you so long.” – Spoken to me in front of a client. Embarrassing.

Being at the bottom, the support structure of the office, is not always easy. This is especially true when you work for a smaller firm. While company size can often dictate a wider assortment of tasks, size can also mean working in closer quarters with others. Familiarity breeds contempt, right?

During this season of my life, I think that God is trying to teach me perseverance and patience. I just have to keep in mind that this is not forever. I won’t forever have to deal with a phone-slamming boss and a co-worker that seems hell-bent on proving something.

Amplify

I went to bed last night not feeling well. My stomach was in an absolute state of ruin. I had eaten nothing that should have upset it and yet there I was, sick. I awoke this morning still not feeling well. This has only served to amplify the happy thoughts I have towards my current occupation. Sometimes though it does get old being stepped on all the time; sometimes you just want to step back.

Discontent

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I saw this John Piper quote over at What’s Best Next and so I thought I’d share:

The Meaning of Your Discontent

Many of you should stay where you are in your present job, and simply ponder how you can fit your particular skills and relationships and resources more strategically into the global purposes of your heavenly Father.

But for others reading this book, it is going to be different. Many of you are simply not satisfied with what you are doing. As J. Campbell White said, the output of your lives is not satisfying your deepest spiritual ambitions.

We must be careful here. Every job has its discouragements and its seasons of darkness. We must not interpret such experiences automatically as a call to leave our post.

But if the discontent with your present situation is deep, recurrent, and lasting, and if that discontent grows in Bible-saturated soil, God may be calling you to a new work. If, in your discontent, you long to be holy, to walk pleasing to the Lord, and to magnify Christ with your one, brief life, then God may indeed be loosening your roots in order to transplant you to a place and a ministry where the deep spiritual ambitions of your soul can be satisfied.

It is true that God can be known and enjoyed in every legitimate vocation; but when he deploys you from one place to the next, he offers fresh and deeper drinking at the fountain of his fellowship. God seldom calls us to an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of his sustaining grace. . . .

Big issues are in the offing. May God help you. May God free you. May God give you a fresh, Christ-exalting vision for your life — whether you go to an unreached people or stay firmly and fruitfully at your present post. May your vision get its meaning from God’s great purpose to make the nations glad in him. May the cross of Christ be your only boast, and may you say, with sweet confidence, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Don’t Waste Your Life

In December of 2006, I graduated from college with no job lined up. After months and even years of praying over what I wanted to do with my life, I hadn’t a clue. In January of 2007, I married my Texas treasure, my wife Tabitha. Still, I hadn’t found a job. 9 months went by, still no job. I hunted and hunted, even took a position of a bank teller for a few weeks before landing my current position at an architectural firm.

Nearly 4 years later (hey, I’m stable!), I find myself in a position that has no hope of moving upwards…unless I become an architect. Through it all, I have continued to pray that God would show me what I need to do to move forward; through it all, I have remained thankful that I have a job that provides me a paycheck during the recession.

Rewind a second

Sometime into my college career, I decided to swap majors from English to History-Political Science. I had thought at the time that a history degree would make a great partnership with a pastoral degree. Upon graduation, I even applied to a seminary in Dallas. I received a reply soon after that told me to work on decreasing my school debt. Seemed fair enough.

As the years progressed, I have still felt called to seminary. However, the entire time I have also continued to have this argument in my head that says you don’t have to go to seminary in order to serve God. Heck, most pastors I knew from Southern California didn’t have a formal seminary education and they were amazing speakers. Seminary equals taking out more loans and becoming a further slave to the lender. That doesn’t make sense to me. God has quite clearly shown me that I need to work to pay off my debt AND that I can serve Him in the process.

Discontent

I have often wondered if God has kept me uneasy, kept me discontent in my workplace in order so that I don’t become comfortable. What I liked about the Piper quote, was that it calls on us to focus back on Christ. As a Christian, I should be primarily focused on how I can serve God. I have learned that God does not reveal things to us in huge chunks. Instead, God seems to show me just enough to keep moving forward. He is constantly teaching me how I have been uniquely gifted me to impact His world for His purpose. Seems like a life long process. I hope and pray that I do not become angry or bitter during this time of feeling unsettled. I know that God has a purpose, and I pray that I am willing and able to be a part of that bigger purpose.

Entitlement

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The promise of record heat allows me some comfort in knowing that I’ll be indoors all day. Record heat in May? I’m already worried about how hot this summer is going to be. This morning though the clouds are making every attempt to block out the sun. A bit of morning respite before the onslaught of the day.

Had a good conversation with a friend last week. We talked about the feeling of entitlement college bestows upon graduates. “Finding a job is going to be easy”, administrators and professors tell you throughout your college career. 4 (usually) years of hearing their melodious spiel is enough time to start to believing the lies. Yes, I said lies. The real world, that place outside of the college campus bubble, proves to be harsh for many young graduates. After being unknowingly brainwashed, they suddenly find themselves dumped out into the world with a mountain of debt (unless mom and dad have helped). The jobs that had once been mythically “promised” are no where to be found. The sense of entitlement that has firmly taken root by this point won’t allow the graduates  to simply take a job they could have had in high school. No, those types of jobs just aren’t good enough anymore. “4 years of hard work certainly entitle me to something better”, the newly graduated thinks to themselves. Sadly and perhaps fittingly, this is not the case.

The current economic crisis has turned the business world upside down. Companies are afraid to hire new employees and are instead downsizing/ consolidating normally open positions. The world is tightening its belt. The entitled graduate has a hard time making sense of this economically depressed world. Promises of something better turned out to be lies…for now.

But not all is doom and gloom. Like someone recently held hostage, a bit of deprogramming is needed for the newly minted graduate.

  • Realize that finding a job takes time AND hard work.
  • Realize that obtaining that perfect job with a corner office could take years.
  • Recite daily: “Just because I have a degree doesn’t mean I’m special”

Having a good attitude is probably the most important piece of advice I could ever give someone. Attitude is everything. So, don’t despair recent graduates, time and hard work will soon make all the effort put forth in college worthwhile. If not, there is always the option of fleeing the country to escape the loan bounty hunters.