Blog Archives

Encumbrance

We had another great XLM Bible Study last Saturday. Here’s the audio. The background noise is the Magic players from the next table over.

God vs. Your Baggage (MP3)

Here are my notes. Hope they’re useful!

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By baggage, I just mean the stuff that’s happened to us that we still carry with us. Maybe it was our fault, maybe it wasn’t (maybe we think it’s one way when it’s the other). Whatever happened, it weighs us down. It could just be depressing to think about. We might have developed a bad habit because of it, or one of those automatic reactions that gives us trouble sometimes. It’s something in our past that’s negatively affecting our present.

Baggage is stuff we don’t need to hold on to, but it’s tough to let go of.
Read the rest of this entry

How to Grow

The last XLM Bible Study was great. Thanks to everyone who came out! And thanks once again to Adventures in Comics and Games for hosting us!

We’ve got more events coming up soon. We’ll post more details soon on the Facebook page, the Twitter feed, the Google+ page, and here at the blog.

Below are my notes from the Bible study.

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Last time, we talked about how God can change us into new people, how he can move us past things that we think are insurmountable. We can grow beyond what we are now.

In Extra Life Ministries, and at Crossroads in general, we talk about growth a lot. We encourage people to really engage what God wants to do in our lives. So, the question is, how do we do that? What can we do to grow spiritually?

I want to talk about three areas we can grow: knowledge, faith, and practice. And as I was thinking about those, I realized there were some parallels to the Matrix.

Think about Neo at the beginning of the Matrix, before he’s really Neo. He goes through life with these lingering questions he can’t ignore. He’s literally enslaved, but he can’t do anything about it because he doesn’t even know he’s enslaved. Something in him knows it, and knows he needs to do something about it, but he has no idea what.

When we lack knowledge, we are left without answers to the questions that bother us. Sometimes, we don’t know enough to even ask the right questions. Read the rest of this entry

New People, New Places

Below are the notes from today’s Bible study.

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Today doesn’t have to be just another yesterday. God wants to transform us into new people, and take us to new places — and He can do it.

To illustrate, I want to look at Paul today. He’s one of the prime examples of the type of transformation God can bring about in us. To recap, Paul was one of the fiercest opponents of the church when it was just starting out. Then, he had a dramatic encounter with God, and became one of the founding fathers of the church. It’s like Red Skull had a vision and suddenly joined the Avengers.

I want to look at some of the details of Paul’s transformation because as we do, it’ll give us hope for our own personal growth and change. If God can make an apostle out of Saul of Tarsus, He can make anything out of anybody. Read the rest of this entry

Push the Button

I had an unexpected moment in a police station that got me thinking about my life. Or rather, my character did.

A little while ago, Emily Reese of Top Score interviewed Normand Corbeil, the guy who composed the soundtrack to Heavy Rain. I was terribly intrigued about the music and the game. So, when Pastor Shep — our most experienced pastor and resident unexpected gamer — let me borrow his old, busted PlayStation 3 in a bid to convince me to join him in White Knight Chronicles, I also borrowed his copy of Heavy Rain to try it out.

Heavy Rain European cover art

Now, I dislike quick time events as much as the next guy. I found myself shaking the controller up and down, watching Ethan shake a carton of orange juice, thinking to myself, really? Our hero proceeded to help set the table and play with his kids. Hardly a fast-paced intro.

But it definitely picked up, and I got engrossed. Then came that unexpected moment.

My character was in a police station, being questioned, and his possible responses were floating around his head, each assigned to a button. I took a moment to pick a response; a moment too long, apparently, because my character gave a response without me pressing a button.

Dialogue options in Heavy Rain

Given the unusual game design of Heavy Rain, I was only a little surprised. Then, I found myself wondering how much the game would do by itself if I just set down the controller. Maybe I could get through large sections of the game without doing anything.

I remember living like that.

There was a period of my life where I just coasted. My basic physical needs were taken care of: I was living with one of my parents. Life was comfortable enough: I had my Game Boy and my laptop, and a few hours of work to do each week for spending money. Frankly, I didn’t do much.

Opportunities came and went. I wasn’t ready for them. I wasn’t in the right place to act on them.

Life is like some of those scenes in Heavy Rain. If you just sit there, life will move around you. Someone else will make decisions for you. Your circumstances will slide out of control.

The problem is, that’s seldom how we see it. When we sit still, we imagine our lives in stasis. We get comfortable, and ride it out as long as we can. But we always think we have longer than we actually do.

Then comes the day when we run out of money, or a relationship crumbles, or we get kicked out of the house. When we realize we have no goals and no forward momentum. When we realize we’ve been drifting more than living.

It took me a while to realize that I needed to change. My comfortable little world started to seem awfully small compared to what God was offering me. So, I found a regular, decent-paying job, saved up, and found my own place for the first time. I had to stop sleeping in until ten. I had to keep a tight budget. I had to be a little more conservative with my money and a lot more adventurous with my life.

God was calling me to push the button, and I’m glad I did.

Are you stuck? I’d be glad to pray for you. Have you followed God’s call out of complacency? I wanna celebrate with you. Let me know in the comments, or via the contact page.

Fail Better

I tried recording a podcast this morning for my day job. I moved our Mac Mini to an empty office, plugged in our shiny new Blue Snowball, and fired up Garage Band. My subject matter expert did great: very articulate. Good info. It looked like we were on our way to a respectable episode one.

Here’s where we were recording. Anyone who has any experience with recording audio could tell you how it sounded when I hit play.

My first attempt at a recording setup in a spare office at my day job.

Small room. Flat walls. No good.

The echo gave the recording a little bit more of an epic fantasy feel than we intended. I’m gonna have to re-record the whole thing in a better environment. Preferably somewhere without close, flat walls.

Say it with me: FAIL.

That particular four-letter F-word has crept into my vocabulary over the last few years, thanks to the Internet. It’s the verbal equivalent of the game show buzzer. We see it stamped unceremoniously on pictures that make us feel better about themselves. Hey, it’s good for a laugh. I don’t even know how many hours I’ve spend on FAIL Blog.

My problem with calling FAIL on someone is that it has an air of finality.

Read the rest of this entry

Transformation Hurts

In Highlander, when one immortal kills another, there’s an event called the Quickening. There’s lightning and explosions. Energy roars into the victor, who lifts off the ground, racked with pain. But they end up stronger.

image from Highlander of the Quickening

SFX: BZZZZZ *pow* RAAAAHHHH! *crackle*

In Dragonball, the fighters gather energy to fuel their attacks. They’re not subtle about it. There’s blazing energy and flashing light and lots of screaming. They fill themselves with power, and when they release it, you know it.

SFX: One half-hour of screaming

 

When werewolves transform – especially for the first time – it’s not pleasant. Bones and ligaments pop, skin stretches and deforms, fur and claws burst out. Before they’re howling at the moon, they’re crying out in pain. Once the transformation is over, though, they’re big, bad, scary monsters.

SFX: Metallica's "Of Wolf and Man"

Even in our fiction, strength does not come easily. And when it does, we cry foul. If a character doesn’t have to suffer to become exceptional, it seems cheap.

I’ve often made the mistake of expecting awesomeness without effort, both from myself and from others. It’s not realistic, and it’s not fair.

Sure, some people can coast a long way on talent. But there will come a time when what comes easy won’t be enough. I, for one, didn’t have to try hard in school until college. When I got there, I didn’t have much in the way of study skills. That was less than fun.

“No pain, no gain” is a cliché for a reason. Gaining strength will cost you.

A couple reminders for all of us:

First, transformation hurts. If you want to grow, it may not be a smooth, pleasant process. When you’re in the midst of it, imagine looking back on it, having become something new.

Second, painful stuff is gonna come one way or the other. If you’re in the middle of a sucky experience, you may as well try to grow from it. Jesus’ brother wrote a letter that reminds us to “let perseverance finish its work.” That is, whenever you can, let the pain teach you.

You’ll be better for it.

I Like My Vampires Dark and Brooding

Pastor Michael will tell you that vampires are supposed to be hideous, irredeemable beasts. The Dracula from the novel? A wild-eyed monster trying to pass for a man. Nosferatu? A walking nightmare. None of this sparkly stuff.

My favorite take on vampires is the Anne Rice / World of Darkness option. These are the decadent, seductive vampires that burn in daylight and lose humanity as they age. They see themselves as superhuman, as beyond morality by virtue of their predatory immortality.

But – and here’s the part I love – there are some among them that struggle with their sinister urges. They agonize over their corrupted natures, fighting the blood-thirst that roils inside. Do I even have a soul to save? they wonder. How can I keep living this un-life without hurting or destroying those around me?

It’s all dramatic and stuff.

I love that take on vampires because it opens the door for redemption stories.

Not stories that say “oh, they’re not that bad.” Stories of twisted, broken creatures whose nature is to harm… who strive to overcome. Who find healing, who find purpose beyond their own survival.

I love those stories because I know how wicked I am inside. And I know that God has saved me from that wickedness, and is redeeming my life more and more, day by day.

It’s not a perfect metaphor. The repentant vampires have only willpower on their side. The Christian has the Holy Spirit, who makes all the difference in the world.

But there is one other worthwhile comparison: for each, the only way to live is to drink blood.

(We Pray) You Will Be Assimilated.

Much love to E for the premise of this post, and several of the analogies.

Christians and the Borg: compare and contrast.

I can hear the mindless robot jokes already. Stick with me for a sec.

In the case of Christianity, assimilation is good. Rather than losing your personality, you become more yourself than you ever could have otherwise. Instead of losing your free will, you become stronger than you could ever be by yourself. And far from becoming just another cog in the machine, you become a truly valuable part of a living body, complimenting the whole.

As noted, you gain greater strength and resiliency. You gain access to more and greater knowledge. You become part of a greater whole. Your mission is to add more to the collective. And in the end, resistance is futile. At best.

We can’t force you to believe anything with mind-controlling nanites and cybernetic implants. That’s not how God works.

We may be called to lay down our lives for the collective. That’s okay.

You don’t have to take on our culture to assimilate, by the way: just our Savior. Add your distinctiveness to our own. Adapt to serve Him.