Habits

Lately the amount of time I spend traveling for work has been excessive; I’m often out of my home three or four days a week. Sometimes longer. The “advantage” to this, at least as far as this blog and my gaming hobby is concerned is that it provides me with additional time to write and play MMOs that I otherwise wouldn’t have at home. For a while I kept the time I spent gaming even while away to no more than an hour or so longer than what I would have done were I at home, but over the last few weeks that’s changed and I’ve started to spend additional hours gaming when I’m away.

There are many readymade excuses of course—I don’t have much else I could be doing, I’m tired from an often physically exhausting job, it’s only for a couple of days, etc. However I’ve noticed that this additional time spent playing games on the road affects my expectations when I get back home. I am by all definitions an introvert and slightly obsessive compulsive so I prefer to be alone and I am most comfortable when I have set patterns in my life. For a while now that has included taking an hour and a half most evenings to play an MMO and another thirty minutes to write.

However being allowed even for a few days to immediately withdraw from people after work and delve into the comfortable pattern of MMO gaming has created a desire to be able to do the same when I’m at home; it very quickly devolves from exception to expectation. Unfortunately this is not a first for me. When I began playing MMOs and especially once I discovered raiding in World of Warcraft I would do the same. “I can get in an extra hour or two, the kids are busy playing with friends,” I’d tell myself. Or I’d wake up on a Saturday and immediately sit down to farm mats or level alts as I sipped my morning coffee only to continue playing in the afternoon and evening if I could get away with it. It was an unhealthy time in my life as an MMO enthusiast and more than once I questioned whether or not I should just quit altogether.

That isn’t to suggest that I’ve noticed the same degree of obsession this time around but that I am all too aware of what it can devolve into. The irony in all this is that at the same time I’ve been looking to make some new habits in our family life so that we spend more meaningful time together without TV, electronics, or devices of any kind. However developing that kind of family habit really does require me to be home consistently and so I’m struggling to find the time I need to get us started down this route as a family. So because of this travel I’m on the precipice of developing some very bad habits as a gamer yet I’m also feeling crippled in my ability to cultivate new family habits at home. What to do?

Well, pray for one. That for me is a given. I’m praying once again that I would either hold loosely to this hobby of mine and let it be holy, consecrated for God— “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) or that I lay it aside. I’m praying for the wisdom, resolve, and love that I need to develop these new habits in our family life. And I’m also praying for a change in the travel time required for my job and I fully expect to be writing about the answer to all these in a future “Answered Prayer” post. Whatever happens I don’t want to go back to those early WoW days when my every waking thought was about class builds, professions leveling, and BiS gearing.

For my own wellbeing and as a role model for my family I want to demonstrate a heart for worshipping Christ alone and to exercise that freedom I have in Christ responsibly. My hope is that I’m able to do so and also be able to continue playing MMOs and be a part of this community. Perhaps the problem is I’m too bound to the latter for the former to be possible. Either way I trust the Lord to resolve this internal conflict and it’s nice to be able to share all of this with people who won’t view my love of gaming and MMOs as petty but who can also appreciate the value I place on Christ and family.

Have any of you experienced a time when your gaming hobby was out of balance with the rest of your life? Is there any advice you would give, especially to a husband and dad for improving and prioritizing family time while still being a gamer?

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A Biblical Perspective on Modesty

In the wake of the recent Overwatch fiasco regarding one of the poses for Tracer, I’ve been contemplating the notion of modesty and how it is addressed in the Bible. As such I’d like to present what I think is a Biblical view on modesty and while it will not directly address the current matter of Tracer’s pose and Blizzard’s response, I hope it will paint a picture for how Christians ought to approach the subject in their own lives. My goal is not to address the issue of modesty directly with some arbitrary list of rules and regulations, but rather to provide a larger framework for placing the wellbeing of others ahead of our own rights on a voluntary, Spirit led basis. Thus the question is not whether others are restricting our freedom, but rather if the exercise of our freedom is creating a barrier between others and Christ.

The Church in Corinth

To begin, let’s look at an example from scripture that illustrates abusing freedom at the expense of other people in a completely different context. In his letter to the church in Corinth the apostle Paul was having to correct the motives of some of the church’s members when they were instructing other believers. Veteran Christians were wielding their knowledge of spiritual matters in a way that was burdensome and even abusive to newer followers of Jesus Christ. Their motive was not love, but rather pride. “This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” Paul writes (1 Corinthians 8:1b). His admonishment was in reference to the way the church was shaming new converts for still believing that meat sacrificed to idols held weight or meaning because, according to the more “learned” veterans, if there was no other God besides Yahweh, then naturally these sacrifices were meaningless and thus the meat untainted.

Paul’s answer to this situation is to point out that the Corinthians were using their knowledge in a foolish way; as a demonstration of their own “superior” understanding rather than for the edification of others. Instead, Paul prescribes this approach:

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Paul illustrates a voluntary desire to surrender his own rights in Christ (to eat whatever he wishes) for the sake of the spiritual wellbeing of another follower of Christ. While he understands that “an idol has no real existence” he is less concerned about demonstrating that knowledge than he is mentoring a new follower of Jesus by meeting this man or woman at their current level of understanding and walking with them as they grasp more fully the freedom they have in Christ. This is not the establishment of a specific rule to be followed but rather a conscientious decision to forego his own freedom in Christ out of love for another person.

College Romance

Rather than jumping straight into an example of why I think modest attire is an expression of this principle, I’d like to illustrate what Paul is teaching with two examples from my own life during my college years; one positive and the other negative. The first involves an overt and disproportionate romantic gesture on my part toward a woman I was interested in dating. I say “disproportionate” because while I was interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with an acquaintance, my gesture gave her the impression that I was far more committed to our involvement than I actually was prepared to be. As a result, she tried to move things along more quickly and I bailed out of the relationship all together.

Unfortunately my motives with that “immodest” act (emotionally speaking) were selfish; I was more interested in how she and our mutual friends would perceive me over such a grand gesture rather than considering what message I would be sending to her about how serious I was about the relationship. I didn’t recognize this at the time but in hindsight I see that my motives were self-centered. To make matters worse, I didn’t fess up and explain where I was at in the relationship but instead pulled away all together and ruined a perfectly good friendship.

Later in my college career my roommate and I ran into a couple of freshman women at a hangout on campus who we recognized as being new to the art department. What began as a few games of ping pong turned into an evening of introducing them to the art student’s life on campus—hanging out in the art department after hours, going to the local donut dive, etc. What I failed to recognize right away was that one of them was taking a liking to me. However when I mentioned an interest in my then-friend-now-wife while we were all talking as a group, thus revealing my affections for another woman, I saw a visible shift in her countenance.

Around that same time a Christian professor of mine had offered me the novel advice of “being honest” with women and actually used a very similar example as his illustration. He suggested that rather than dancing around one another with this “does she like me, does she not” cloak and dagger nonsense men and women should be upfront with one another. I took his advice and brought up the situation in private, acknowledging that I wasn’t entirely sure if I had read the situation correctly but that if so, I was sorry for any misleading on my part. At first she was cold toward me and denied my claims but about an hour later we ran into one another once more and she confessed that yes, she had taken a liking to me and was disappointed that I was unavailable. She was grateful though that I had cleared the air and it paved the way for our friendship to continue.

Voluntary Expressions of Love

While neither of these illustrations have to do with modesty as we generally think of it, they are examples from my own life of when I made decisions based on either my own satisfaction and pride or on the wellbeing of another person and our relationship as a whole. For the Christ follower, that is to be the spiritual foundation of all our choices—to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets,” (Mathew 22: 40).

This doesn’t mean a Christian will never offend another individual; I’m sure the men and women of the church at Corinth were quite offended when Paul called them out on their arrogance. What it means is that a Christ follower will voluntarily remove every unnecessary offense out of love for another person and will only risk offense when doing so is also rooted in love. And this love must be defined by who God is and what he has revealed about love in the Bible, not by any relativistic human standards. After all, God is love.

What does this all have to do with modesty? Well, for starters, both Christian men and women ought to consider their actions, words, and yes, even how they dress, with regard to the affect these things may have on others. In my experience, men and women use provocative attire, body language, and communication for the sake of manipulating the opposite sex or for inflating their own egos (myself included). In Christ there is great freedom—we are not constrained by laws that demand we dress a certain way or wear our hair in certain styles—and yet we ought not to use that freedom callously or even worse, for deceitful gain.

There’s one other question to be answered here though, and that is what determines “modest” and “immodest,” especially with regard to clothing and body language. The problem here is that modesty has more to do with cultural norms than a specific line drawn in the sand however that only serves to enforce the idea that this is not about law, but love. I’m not arguing modesty as a rule, but rather as a gesture of respect and compassion which first requires an understanding of what makes others uncomfortable which will vary from culture to culture.

Take for example a friend of mine who lived in an Islamic nation for several years. He was invited to the Muslim equivalent of a westerner’s bachelor party, where women were brought in to dance with elbows and ankles exposed as well as having their hair worn down. It may not seem like much if you’re from the west, but to those men it was the equivalent of going to a show in Las Vegas. My friend, wanting to express exactly what I’ve been describing in this post, excused himself on the basis that he was a married man who would not watch other women dancing in that way.

Now, growing up in the west, he did not view any of this as provocative or immodest in the slightest. But out of a love for his friends and a desire to share with them his commitment to Christ he based his choice not on the freedom he has in Christ to innocently view a woman’s elbow, but on a culturally relevant expression of faithfulness to his wife and a respect for women in general. Ultimately this one act became pivotal in changing how this Muslim community viewed the west in general and Christians in particular, an opportunity very few in their region ever have.

Personally, I don’t want to see overly sexualized men or women in the videogames I play, and there are some I’ve avoided all together because it gets to the point of being uncomfortable for me. But I don’t expect businesses to do anything other than what is in their best interests financially, and arguing whether Blizzard was right or wrong isn’t my concern. However I do have a desire for Christian men and women to consider their actions and attire and how these things not only affect other people, but how they reflect the nature of Jesus Christ. Following Christ is a path full of freedom, but that freedom must be used or surrendered voluntarily as a gesture of genuine love for God and other people.

Answered Prayer: Work and the Neighbors

Once again I’d like to share a few of the prayers I’ve seen answered in my life over the past few weeks. In case you missed the initial write up, back in February I wrote about prayer becoming a focal point in my life and what exactly that means for me. I’ve certainly continued to pray regularly and far more often than I use to but it has changed a little during that time. For one, I’ve been using my prayer schedule less and praying more spontaneously throughout the day every day. It’s a result of feeling more confident in approaching the Lord despite not always feeling “worthy” because my confidence is in Christ. And it’s also because I am more mindful of my need for God in all things. However I would like to get back to using my list as well because otherwise I do tend to forget some needs and individuals I would like to be praying for. Regardless of how or when I pray, I am seeing God answer my prayers and it has been remarkably faith building.

Finding Favor in a Difficult Work Situation

A few weeks ago my boss visited one of the stores that I oversee as a regional manager. Her first reaction was not a positive one and as would be expected, I was concerned. I thought things had been going well at that location ever since it became a part of my region and it was really discouraging to be told otherwise. However her visit was not completely over yet and so while on the way home from another one of my stores I began to pray, “God help me to see what I was missing or help my boss to see things differently.”

In the end, I received both answers to that prayer. Shortly after I prayed and once her visit had concluded I was able to talk with my boss over the phone. Her response was very different from the first one I received, far more positive and encouraging. Most notably, she had taken the time to look at things more closely and to realize that a) some of the problems I was facing at that location were quite difficult to solve, so much so that even she after going over options for a half hour came to no viable solutions and b) there was actually a lot going well with that store and employee.

This past week I was able to visit that location myself and execute some of the plans my boss had made as well as problem solve quite a few new ones that had come up. It was a long week and physically exhausting work to get everything in order, but along the way I prayed daily for wisdom and each day that prayer was answered. When I left I was really happy about the solutions we had come up with, including those areas my boss had struggled to resolve. Employees from another department commented on the vast improvements as well, nothing that the store looked better than it had since it was opened. In the end I found both the understanding I had hoped for from my boss as well as an opportunity to get better at my job.

A Change of Plans

My daughter is going to be in an Easter play at our church next week on Palm Sunday. She loves acting and has been really excited about this play, even going so far as to running rehearsals with one of the neighbor girls who’s in the play as well. Unfortunately, I had assumed the play would be on Easter Sunday and did not realize there would be a conflict with my work schedule until a week ago. I had a flight at 7am that Sunday and I was going to miss the play. When I emailed the woman in charge, her response was that I could contact the airlines myself to make the change and that I would have to pay a $200 fee. I was discouraged and did not know what to do so I began to pray.

The next morning on my way to work I continued to pray. I thought maybe a voucher I had with the airlines might work as one possible solution. Another thought I had was to simply pay the fee and trust in the Lord to provide the finances. Two hundred dollars is a lot of money for us, but to God it is nothing and if he was giving me an opportunity to show my daughter just how much I loved her then I was going to take it. Two minutes after I concluded my prayer I received a text from the same woman who had told me the night before it was up to me to make the change. She was contacting me so that I could pick from two later flights that would allow me to make my daughter’s show. Not only had she done the work of finding a different flight for me, but she ended up paying the fee as well. It was completely unexpected but I am so grateful that now I get to see my daughter’s play.

Bringing the Neighborhood

I’ve been praying for the kids in our neighborhood a lot lately, especially a boy and a girl next door who’ve had a difficult home life this past year. The two kids and their dad live with his parents, our neighbors, and the mother is pretty much out of the picture. Specifically I was praying that they would start coming to church with us. Eventually they did but before that happened, one of the other neighbor kids spent the night with my daughter and went to church with my wife and kids the next day (I was out of town). When the neighbor girl and Sophie were talking about it later that week the two that I had been praying for overhead and wanted to go as well. My wife told me this on Saturday that week when I got home which is when I shared with her my prayers.

The next morning we received a call from the grandparents wondering about church that morning for their grandkids. Even though my wife hadn’t actually invited them, the kids had wanted to go so badly they told their family that we had. Knowing that this was an answer to what I had been praying for (and probably noting the grin on my face while she was on the phone) my wife officially extended the invitation. They’ve come with us for two Sunday now along with the other neighbor girl and I hope they will all continue to come every Sunday.

Sick Rats and Dog Bites (Cont.)

Remember the older man I met a couple of weeks ago, the one whose dog bit my son? I ended up inviting him to church that following Sunday after we had a brief conversation about God in the emergency room lobby. That Saturday I gave him a call to give him the address and the time when the service would start and he still seemed genuinely interested in coming along with his wife. Sunday morning came and the time I told him to arrive past and still I did not see them. Ten minutes later the service began and my wife and I took our seats (along with half our neighborhood…) I kept looking to the back, praying they would come and despite the late time was still anticipating their arrival. Sure enough they showed up, and the smile on my son’s face made me so happy. He understood that even though something scary had happened to him, God had used it for good.