Overcome by Love.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”

Jesus in The Gospel According to Mark, chapter 8 verses 35, 36

This sentiment in the Bible is often misunderstood in that the command to “lose one’s life” is viewed as stifling, leading to an empty existence of joyless servitude when in fact the opposite is true, for “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). The reality is that when a person sees Jesus Christ in full, it is out of an abundant joy that he lays down his life—the treasure gained far outweighs the treasure lost. Nevertheless the stereotype exists because many of us have seen examples of joyless religion.

On the other hand the command to lose your life is often taken too lightly, acknowledged in theory but largely ignored in practice. When the following lines are preached during a Sunday morning sermon, warning that “whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38) the initial tingling of healthy fear* so tangible in the moment is diluted to a marginal concern come Monday. While any attempt to will yourself into selfless generosity leads to bitterness and pride, downplaying the command to “lay down your life” ends in wasting the only one you have.

There is however another way, one that enabled the apostle Paul to say “for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8) and to live a life of profound joy even in the midst of debilitating sorrow. The path between being the religious equivalents of a Tryhard and a Carebear is one that only God can unveil through a relationship of trust built on the promises of the Bible. It comes from a metamorphosis of the heart, cocooned in the redeeming blood of Jesus and born anew through suffering and hardship. It sounds absolutely awful when I put it like that, doesn’t it? Yet every person I have met who has been taught by God through trusting in the truths of the Bible in the midst of difficult or even impossible circumstances is changed in incredible ways, living lives of joy for the benefit of others.

All of this is true, and I’ve seen evidence of it time and again in the lives of men and women I’ve met over the years through the church yet I am personally resistant to the idea of suffering or discomfort of any kind, really. That’s not uncommon, it is quite human to seek out the path of least resistance and to chase after personal ease and give a wide berth to pain. However while it is human, it is not always spiritually healthy.

Recently my wife and I were having a conversation about our neighborhood. It’s not the best— certainly not the middle class, suburban haven in which I grew up. Our neighbors are mostly blue collar, lower income families and we of course are no different in that sense. But along with this demographic there are examples of human depravity and brokenness in our neighborhood that I would rather not have my children exposed to at such a young age, or at any age for that matter. “If we’re here,” my wife said, “it is because God has placed us here and we shouldn’t move unless he leads us otherwise.”

Intellectually I can agree with that statement, but emotionally I railed against it. I was appalled at the idea, imagining the worst (as protective fathers are want to do) and thinking to myself “God’s will or not, we’ll move out if we can.” I was driving at the time, and this tantrum was in part a prayer to God, a wrestling with him of sorts. While I’m slow to learn many things as a Christian and slower still to live by them, I have at least figured out that there is little use in hiding from God. If you’re angry with him you might as well be so in his presence, minding that you do your best to be reverently so. But the result was a profound despair at how distant I was from the likeness of Christ, how poorly I was embracing central truths of the Christian faith.

After that I went into a depression for several days. During that time I was distant from my family and loved ones, wondering when (or if) I would ever change into the selfless, loving man that I want to be. I couldn’t bring myself to explain it to my wife either, other than to assure her that I was not mad at her in any way, but rather myself. All our conversation had done was expose where my heart has been for a long time now, suspicious of God’s character. I was doubtful of his goodness and focused on the everyday comforts of recliners and digital television rather than joy, real irrevocable joy found only in losing my life for Christ’s sake.

When I finally did give my wife a glimpse of how I was feeling, I was equally resistant to her response. With the same forcefulness with which I had refused the prospect of suffering for Christ’s sake, I locked my arms firmly against her offering of understanding, encouragement, and compassion. Among other things she said to me “I love you very much for who you are right now in this very moment. Imagine how much more God loves you” and my silent, internal response was to say “No, that isn’t the way. You don’t pardon this kind of doubt, you don’t forgive. You punish—there must be consequences.” What I struggle to get through my thick skull is that while I am right, there must be consequences, for those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ his death on the cross is the punishment, paid in full on our behalf. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). None, period.

So how does a person become so suspicious of forgiveness? Of love? I’m reminded of an episode of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan: Family Edition in which a cocker spaniel had gone years without the care of a proper owner, and the current owners were running out of patience with the nervous dog. Their attempts at caring for the spaniel and tending to his matted fur were met with nips and yelps and fear. When Cesar arrived he did a curious thing, he allowed the dog to go through the panic, through the fear, until he reached a point of exhaustion such that he had no choice but to submit.

The dog was expecting something awful, instead he was brushed clean; painful burs were removed from his fur. He was loved, pet, and embraced. To the untrained outsider with little trust in Cesar or his methods, the process at the beginning seemed cruel. To bodily turn a dog onto its side and hold him gently but firmly until the panic subsided appeared not to be love, but callous indifference. Yet Cesar, in his understanding of the nature of dogs and a clear vision for what peace was in store for the creature on the other side of the frightening experience carefully returned the dog over and over to that place of submission. Through the panic and through the pain he led the dog until it was resigned to the process. And in the end the animal could see for itself that the trainer’s intent was good, not harm. The cocker spaniel was free to love and be loved with a peaceful spirit.

And is that not so different from what I am experiencing in my own walk with God? I couldn’t tell you where my resistance comes from or why I’m so put off by the concept of being loved by God—or anyone for that matter—when I haven’t earned it. All I can see at times is that I deserve the opposite of mercy. So when God continues the process of combing out the matted fur and the painful burs I resist. I’m fearful of the inevitable pain that comes tandem with the process of being made like Christ, sure. But I am equally resistant to the love and forgiveness generously extended to me by God because deep down I know it is not the reception I deserve, even if it is the one provided for me by the death of Jesus Christ. And that’s okay, because I belong to a loving, patient God; one who loves me too much to let me remain in my state of doubt and insecurity and who also loves me enough to work through my resistance and fear with resolute gentleness.

This is the process of growing by faith as a Christian. It is first the exposure of one’s shortcomings and sin—a sick person will not seek to be made well if they do not first admit they are sick. Then it continues through a process of healing that can at times be painful and uncertain but that is always carried out in love. For someone like me—stiff necked and stubborn—it may take many, many circumstances in which I am allowed to buck and twist against the loving arms of God, but eventually I will grow tired. Eventually I will give in to the will of the Almighty, and instead of becoming a man of hypocrisy or indifference, I will be greeted by transformation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is a metamorphosis that reflects the likeness of Jesus Christ whom I admire so much. And I’d give anything to be like him, or at least I will as God continues his work of restoration. Eventually, I will be overcome by love.

“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear* me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear* of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.”

Jeremiah 32:38-41

*(When reading the word “fear” used in this context in the Bible, consider the following passage by C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

“The fear of the Lord,” a common phrase in the Bible alludes to a posture of reverence, respect, and awe in accordance with a God who is both almighty and benevolent. Knowing this turn of phrase helps communicate the tone of this passage from Jeremiah.)

State of the Rez: The Mob Squad

Syp published a post today with his current lineup of characters across several games along with his current in game goals and I thought it would be fun to do the same. Last week I had an idea for a series of posts called “One to X” in which I would track my progress toward end game in several MMOs that I started but never finished. I’m not sold on the idea as an ongoing theme, but listing where I’m currently at might be a good way to start if I ever do start up the series. So here they are, my Mob Squad! (And no, that’s not a typo.)


These are characters in games I am actively rotating through right now. With the exception of DCUO and Marvel Heroes, I am currently playing these characters at least once a week. My current goals are simple: reach end game with each of these titles and find interesting subjects to write about in the process.


Yehn’wo Tanhyeu- FFXIV, level 44 Ninja

I’ve played around on a lot of classes in Final Fantasy XIV and the Ninja is the closest I have come to 50. I have two other jobs in the 30s and several more classes in the 20s because they all seem so interesting, I want a taste of them all before settling on one. All that leveling has put me off from the game at times, a common problem for any MMO when I cannot decide on a class. However I’d like to get a little taste of FFXIV endgame before Heavensward when I will likely start leveling the Dark Knight, so I hope to get Yehn’wo to 50 in the next couple of weeks.


Weakness The Savage- GW2, level 35 Ranger

I just returned to GW2 last week to start a new ranger for Heart of Thorns. As we learn more about profession specializations I may focus on a different class, but for now the Druid is a tantalizing carrot and I’m progressing quickly. If the ranger class doesn’t work for me long term I still have Weakness the Shrewd, a level 80 Necromancer and Weakness The Subtle, a level 73 Thief. I’ve never geared the Necromancer and I am baffled as to why I left my Thief so close to 80 without closing the deal. Perhaps before the expansion I will finish both the Subtle and Savage Weaknesses, giving me three options primed and ready for Heart of Thorns.


Fahd’ali Azim- ESO, level 13 Sorcerer

I started this game as a DragonKnight in the Ebonheart Pact and made it all the way to level 18 before looking into a guild. It was then I realized the multi-gaming guild I sometimes join had a chapter in ESO but primarily with the Daggerfall Covenant so I rerolled a Sorcerer. The switch took the wind out of my sails though and it’s been slow going regaining those lost levels. However I much prefer the Sorcerer and the guild has been a great group of people (see: About a Horse) so in the end the change was a good one.


Ironweakness- DCUO, level 17 Light Powers

I’m fairly certain the last time I played this game was just before I wrote about it in a previous State of the Rez. Nevertheless I don’t think I’m entirely done here, but it is definitely at the bottom of the list. I’d still like to get to level 30 and finish the base storyline and possibly whatever content I purchased with the Fight for the Light DLC (I bought it for the class unlock and didn’t pay attention to anything else) but it is definitely lowest priority on my “active” list and may get moved to the “B” team shortly.

X-23- Marvel Heroes 2015, level 55

Originally I added this character to my “B” team list because I haven’t played in a couple of months. However when I logged on to confirm what level X-23 was I ended up playing for a half hour, gaining another level and remembering how enjoyable this game could be, even in short bursts. I’d like to get X-23 to 60 and then move on to level one of the other characters I purchased, maybe Psylocke, Dr. Strange, or Ms. Marvel. X-23 is still a great character, but I don’t plan on any “end game” gearing with her, at least not right away. I want to spend a little time with a few other heroes on my roster first.



Finally, we have the “B” team consisting of games I’ve played in the last 6-9 months but are currently shelved. All of these games I have enjoyed and may revisit in the future but there is only so much time in a week for MMOs. I’m including them here anyway just to be thorough and because if I do go forward with the “One to X” idea, these characters might pop back up from time to time.

Sunlit Arch1_Scarlet Gorge_Euoneif

Euoneif- Rift, level 41 Rogue

I finally gained some traction in this game last fall but was lured away by Warlords of Draenor. I love the ability to more or less change classes within the specific calling without losing your character progression, but the game world itself has never had the stickiness that others have. I’m hoping the content from Storm Legion and Nightmare Tides will appeal to me more than the base game. All that said, Rift is still top on my list of MMOs to revisit.

Constant Audentius- WildStar, level 30 Warrior

Nexus is probably my favorite environment out of every MMO I’ve played. I love the art style, the lore, and the tone of the game. However the class design and overall gameplay has not held my attention for more than a month or two at a time. I finally made it to 30 this January and I would like to continue but being a subscription game it has to compete with WoW and FFXIV for my money because I will only subscribe to one game at a time and unfortunately it loses big time to both of them. A transition to buy-to-play would keep me invested in this game long term.

Grim’weakness- SWTOR, level 8 Bounty Hunter

I’ve actually made it to level 15 or 16 in this game before, but I ended up deleting that character and starting over. Actually the number of times I’ve deleted characters and started over in this game would have probably landed me at 50 by now. I was tempted by the $40 deal recently that would have earned me all the expansions through Shadow of Revan as well as 2 months of subscription time but I just can’t fit in another game and I know SWTOR can’t compete for my time with the other games on my “A” list.

Findweakness_Garrison Night

Findweakness- WoW, level 100 Rogue

I have seven other characters between the levels of 90 and 92 in World of Warcraft (every class but Mage, Paladin, and Priest) so it’s possible if I return I might focus on leveling one (or all) of those to 100. It is more likely that I will continue to play my Rogue for more of the new end game content which is both the reason why I have considered returning and why I haven’t yet. Playing so many low level characters in different games I miss out on the end game experience which is why I often return to WoW for a month or two. However this expansion really doesn’t offer much that interests me at 100 and so I am that much more motivated to push through the 40s in FFXIV and have a new MMO for end game content.

And that brings me full circle back to Eorzea and Yehn’wo. This was a lot more than I intended to write, but I enjoyed going through my collection of characters and thinking about what (if any) goals I have for them. Hopefully at least a few of these characters will see max level in the coming months. Knowing me I’ll probably scratch them all and start a new MMO tomorrow.

The New Player Experience in Guild Wars 2

Since the announcement of Heart of Thorns I’ve been meaning to purchase an additional character slot to level a Sylvari Ranger and finally did this past weekend. While I have a birthday boost allowing me to start at level twenty I decided to level the old fashion way for a while to check out the changes to the new player experience. Overall I can appreciate what ArenaNet was trying to do and actually prefer the changes however after the first ten levels the handholding should have stopped.


Weakness The Savage

The first change that delighted me was that my ranger began with a longbow instead of an axe. At first I did not notice the change, because it was far more intuitive that my ranger have a bow. I have started a ranger two or three times before and I never made it past level 4 or 5, deciding the class was not for me. Now I’m sure the disconnect was the weapon, not the class. I’m now in the thirties and still using the longbow partnered with a great sword as my combination of choice.

What I did not like during the opening instance was the locked weapon abilities. Before the changes to leveling I was able to unlock two or three abilities in the first scenario. Now that it is gated behind character level rather than weapon usage I was only able to press the number one ability for the entire encounter. That basically meant auto-attacking for the first ten minutes. Even a brand new MMO player can handle more than auto-attack at the start of a game, at least two or three abilities should be available by the final boss.

Once I was through the inaugural scenario I was let loose on Celadon Forest. Well, “let loose” is probably more accurate a description for the new player experience as the game existed at launch. This was more like “let loose with supervision in a specified direction.” In place of the freestyle start there are now clear indicators as to where you should begin. The game directs you to the first heart then on to the next, and so on. While I never had trouble sorting this out on my own, I see no problem with providing additional direction for those who need it.

Learning to dodge... "BAMF!"

Learning to dodge… “BAMF!”

The system is not completely static either. There is an icon in the upper right corner of the UI directing you toward your next objective, however it does seem to dynamically update as needed. For example, if there is an event starting up nearby it will adjust and point you in that direction, then once completed it will steer you back to whichever heart you were aimed at before. At level four there is a prompt to learn how to dodge, however when I accidentally overshot the NPC’s placement on the map the arrow pointed me toward the closest heart instead. Once I had finished, I was redirected toward the dodging tutorial again.

Another change I noticed was that dynamic event veteran mobs were much easier to solo. In the past I remember needing help on some but this time I was able to solo an undead drake and her children as well as a spider queen with her brood without trouble. I’ve seen some complaints on the official forums (I know, shocking) about the difficulty level of certain events but I think it was a smart move. Difficulty is something that should ramp up over time in order to improve the retention of players regardless of their experience upon entry. There is plenty of opportunity for challenge as the game progresses, starter zones should be a soft introduction to the game’s combat, increasing in difficulty with character progression.

I make "n00b" look good

I make “n00b” look good

By the time I reached level seven I went ahead and used my level twenty birthday boost. While I’m glad I took the opportunity to see the changes, I’ve been through these early levels enough in the past and I felt I had seen enough. However once you have used a boost, you still have to manually accept all the leveling rewards by clicking an icon on the right-hand side, and this is when I started to grow concerned that the gradual introduction to the game as designed by ArenaNet went a little too far.

Everything up until level ten seems fine—that’s when you unlock the personal story and I’m okay with that. It is not the strongest part of the game and I think it is best to get players involved in the starter zones introducing the hearts and dynamic events before starting the story. Delaying the personal story also allows you to go through several chapters at once, lending it continuity. When games break up the main storyline too much I lose track of it (my memory is VERY short term) so playing through an entire chapter at once alleviates that problem.


I chose the Sylvari race for the story, I stayed for the Fern Hounds.

Everything after level ten is overkill. With every click of the icon a window notifying the rewards I had unlocked would pop up and I was shocked at how much was delayed and for how long. To give you an idea of how long it takes to unlock certain features, consider underwater combat. It was initially unlocked at level eight with a single ability. By the time I finished my play session I was level twenty two and I was still missing access to my fifth underwater ability. That stretch is completely unnecessary. If I can make it twenty two levels learning five abilities on two weapon sets, I’m fairly certain I can manage five underwater abilities in a shorter time frame.

On the whole I think ArenaNet made the right decision changing the introductory experience for new players, however if they ever decide to revisit the design I would like to see them ramp up unlocking abilities and features around level ten. At that point players should rapidly receive everything that is missing with the entire game unlocked no later than level fifteen, the same time the first zone is completed. I’d also like to see skill points awarded at level fifteen as well rather than at level thirty, but this does not bother me as much as waiting to unlock basic things like the underwater combat abilities until the mid-twenties.