"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic." (John A. Logan)
Monday, May 30, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
One other Small World memory: my family used to kid me that the dancing girl was winking at me. (I believed them.)
In 1966, Walt Disney presided over the opening ceremonies of the attraction in its new home at Disneyland park. Children representing countries from around the world came together to pour water from all seven continents into the “Rivers of the World.”Since that moment, more than 233 million Disneyland park guests have joined “the happiest cruise that ever sailed” – enough to circumnavigate the Earth more than 190 times.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Proclaim good news to the poor... bind up the brokenhearted... proclaim freedom for the captives &release from darkness for the prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1, NIV)Not pity, not pious looking down our nose, not patting ourselves on the back for our theological brilliance... but instead grace. And lots of it.
Friday, May 20, 2011
You should not, under any circumstances, look to the upfronts to tell you either (1) what will be good in the fall, or (2) what will be successful in the fall. No, sirree. Critics (like me) will offer you gut reactions, and it's sort of a fun and speculative time when you figure out how the table is being set, but that's all those reactions are, and that's all you should assume they are.She also said:
So mostly, we are gazing upon a giant cage in which a motley collection of animals is assembled, and very soon, the cage will be opened, they will all attempt to run across the highway at the same time, the vast majority of them will become roadkill, and perhaps two or three will reach the other side. When they do, you may well look at those that survived and say, "Really? The one with the two broken legs and the boulder tied around its neck? That is very curious!"So, with that firmly in mind, here's my picks for the three shows I'm mostly likely to watch in six months. Awake (NBC) - a tremendous cast & a mind-bending premise... what if you lived two parallel lives? Alcatraz (FOX) - another mind-bender... this time with Jorge Garciz (Hurley!) from "Lost" and arch-criminals who've managed to escape - through time! Person of Interest (CBS) - Pretty intense "real" sci-fi/vigilante show w/Michael Emerson (Ben!) from "Lost" & Jim Cavaziel!
Thursday, May 19, 2011
While my esteemed colleagues at the Opinionated Gamers have found much to love in the joys of the classic 2 hour + Euro, I want to extol the virtues of the mash-up game… those wonderful & odd moments where a designer/publisher has shoved chocolate into my gaming peanut butter & made “two great tastes that taste great together.” (I’ll also say some nice things about some other games that don’t make me want to reference candies and/or ancient TV ad campaigns.)
When you combine the dungeon crawling joys of Descent: Journeys in the Dark with the flicking goodness of Carabande… then subtract 3+ hours worth of playing time – voila! you have Catacombs. It’s a one hour romp through a dungeon with combat resolved via wooden discs.
There are so many ways this could have gone horribly wrong: out-of-balance player and/or monster powers, items that ramp up adventurers too quickly, making the game too long, etc. That a first-time designer & publisher managed to avoid all of those traps is a miracle – an extremely playable miracle!
I can NOT wait for the expansions. (Yes, there are two different expansions promised right now. I have goosebumps.)
Matt Leacock lifted his own basic design for a “smart” game engine from Pandemic (a wonderful game in its own right, especially with the On The Brink expansion added) and combined it with the stunning art from the computer game Myst… and this year, we’ve all been transported to a island stocked with treasures yet ready to pull an Atlantis & disappear into the sea.
OK, so the art isn’t really from Myst - but it certainly reminds me of it… and the cooperative puzzle of figuring out how to abscond with the four treasures before one of a number of different things goes horribly wrong is edge-of-your-seat fun.
Two other things I need to mention about Forbidden Island:
- because of the short (30 minutes or so) playing time & open hands, this is a great family game – I’ve played it with kids as young as six years old
- this is probably the best gaming value for the money to come down the pike in a long, long time – the components are beautiful AND sturdy… and for a price point cheaper than many card games!
Heroscape: Battle for the Underdark
Amongst the sadder bits of gaming news this last year was the shuttering of the venerable Heroscape franchise. For long-time fans (I literally own at least one of every Heroscape item published), it was a time of mourning & gnashing of teeth.
It was also a very good year for Heroscape to go out on… what with the Battle for the Underdark Master Set & three waves of D&D-based figures coming out. The last gasp of this “war at the end of time” was to attempt to cross-pollinate with Dungeons & Dragons… which, while it may not have saved the game, gave us some of the best new special powers & scenarios we’ve had in a long time.
Yes, yes, I know, Heroscape fans – I’m supposed to hate on the borrowed sculpts and the weird choice to change the base size for the last wave, but I just can’t muster the energy to do that right now – I’m having too much fun playing with the excellent character designs & the adventure mode of stringing battles together.Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game
Space Hulk is a classic Games Workshop miniatures combat board game (with nifty modular board design) that lifts the aliens from well, “Alien”, and puts hordes of them up against a couple of squads of heavily armored Space Marines. Carnage ensues. Death Angel simply takes this theme and adds a cooperative element (while cutting about $80 bucks off the list price.)
Once you figure out how to play the game (made more difficult by a spectacularly bad rulebook), this is a great little card-driven system that captures the nail-biting tension of Space Hulk. Fantasy Flight has even published a couple of small expansion decks to add even more variety to your desperate adventures.
The one dissonant note thematically is the Space Marines blissful lack of awareness of their ultimate mission – while I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve wondered if the final card should be revealed at the start of the game.
Tannhauser: Revised Rulebook
When I played the original U.S. release of Tannhauser back in early 2008, I enjoyed the alternate history theme & the Pathfinding board mechanism that makes checking LOS easy… but the rules were kind of a mess, with some real problem areas that begged for serious development. So, even though I knew this was “my kind of game”, I was scared away by “good luck, you’ll need to house rule ad infinitum to fix this” nature of Tannhauser circa 2008.
So, earlier last year when Fantasy Flight finally announced that they had revised the rules so completely that they were publishing a new rulebook, I sat up & took notice. One math trade later, I had a copy of the game in my hands to go with the aforementioned rules… and Fantasy Flight had a serious customer on their hands. (It’s no surprise that the guy who owns every expansion set for Heroscape & Memoir ’44 would do the same with Tannhauser.)
Here’s what I like about the game: it combines a compelling thematic world (an alternate history universe where the First World War never ended & the armies utilize alien technology harvested from the Roswell crash and occult items harvested a la Raiders of the Lost Ark), a simple combat & line of sight system that makes game play fast-moving, and a wide variety of characters & weapon packs that make each game a different experience. It plays well as a 2 player game… or with multiple players (up to 10) with each person controlling a single character. And it doesn’t hurt that it has pre-painted minis – that stuff is like catnip for me.
This is “Hellboy” (theme) meets “Halo” (game play)… and it works like a charm.
Unmashed – But Still Terrific
This is a great 30 minute 2 player card game where your decisions can vary the speed & direction of the game. This Mafia-themed recruiting romp is a sweet variation on the current deck-building card game wave we’re all experiencing (and which I am not particularly enamored of.)Fresco
Possibly the best marriage of theme & game mechanisms since Thebes… and a worker placement game that doesn’t make me want to run screaming from the room. (Fresco is, by the way, the most Euro-y game on my list. I’m not hating the Euros – but some of the highly touted new stuff leaves me cold.) I also like the way the included expansions can vary the complexity without damaging the purity of the base game.
The Glaziers expansion goes 2 for 3 with one expansion feeling completely unnecessary (the Wishing Well) while the other two add some very interesting twists to the game.
Memoir 44: Breakthrough/Winter Wars
OK, so the actual game came out in 2004… but the two expansions released for Memoir ’44 this year took the game in a new direction – a real breakthrough! (Yes, the pun was intended – mea culpa.)
With the Breakthrough expansion maps, Jacques David and Richard Borg (and Days of Wonder) managed to create an expansion that added tactical and strategic depth to Memoir ’44 without adding undue complexity. By adding a Breakthrough Command deck to the Winter Wars expansion, they added more fluid movement to compliment the expanded playing area – an excellent combination. (Happily, the rest of the expansion is also quite good.)
Rivals for Catan
As a long-time fan of the original game (The Settlers of Catan Card Game), I was pretty excited when I read that Klaus Teuber was rebooting the card game to both streamline the game play & the playing time. The big question was, of course, could he do it successfully? In other words, could he keep the sprawling “build your kingdom” feel of the original game while smoothing out the rough edges of the design?
The answer is “yes.”
Simply put, I think The Rivals for Catan is a splendid re-design of a game I liked a lot but seldom got to play. By reducing the playing time & streamlining the rules, the game is not only more playable for those of us who enjoy it but also easier to teach to new players.
What the rest of them said.
Seriously, I like the game a lot, but I am not wasting precious mental energy trying to come up with a new way to describe/praise the thing.
- Hey Waiter!
- Pocket Battles (Orcs vs Elves)
- The theme of appropriate rest in ministry came up a lot - I especially liked Kim Trobee's image of the oxygen mask on an airplane - "put on your own oxygen mask before helping others." She suggested that too often we Christians help others before tending to our own spiritual walk & end up passing out, no use to the people we're helping and/or ourselves!
- Kevin Queen talked about giving the gift of a "non-anxious presence" in the midst of crisis... and my mind immediately jumped to some of the difficult situations I deal with in the lives of my congregation: death, tragedy, legal troubles, etc. He, however, was suggesting that leaders can give this "non-anxious presence" (peace) in the midst of church conflict & change... which seems obvious but yesterday was like a light bulb clicked on over my head.
- DC Curry pushed hard on an important question: "Is who we say we are who we are being?" That's a question we have to face here at NewLife - an excellent way of evaluating if our stated vision lines up with our strategy.
- That vision/strategy dichotomy showed up a lot of places - which isn't really a surprise in a leadership conference. Jeff Brodie spoke about leadership misalignment happening NOT because of disagreement on vision but instead because of disagreement on strategy - it's not where we're headed but how we get there that can cause major problems.
- Dan Reiland talked about investing in volunteers & staff through leadership development - something I really struggle with. I like his ideas but am really unsure how to implement them here in Easton.
- I was really moved by Mark Meyer's talk on "safe is the enemy of great". Our desire to 'be nice", to make "can't do" lists to keep bad stuff from happening, and to stay busy enough not to actually have to chase vision keeps us from making a real & meaningful Kingdom impact.
- Finally, on a humorous note, Bill Hybels should get royalties for the character/chemistry/competency hiring rubric - lost count of how many folks mentioned it during the conference. (Some added an extra "C" - commitment or call... but at the heart, it's straight from Willow Creek.)
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
A pumpkin farmer was strolling through his rows of beautiful green leaves. At the beginning of the season, the acorn size pumpkins were beginning to add dots to the landscape. When he glanced down he noticed a clear glass jar and curiosity got the best of him. He brought the jar over to one of his pumpkin buds, slipped the small pumpkin inside and left it sitting there in the field. Months later, with the experiment long forgotten, the farmer walked his land with great satisfaction as large beautiful pumpkins covered the patch. Startled, he noticed the glass jar totally intact, yet completely filled up with that little pumpkin that grew inside. It was hard not to notice how the thin glass barrier defined the shape of the orange mass within. The pumpkin was only one third of the size it should have been. The problem for this little pumpkin is the same problem for most churches today. Rather than growing to their full potential based on their unique DNA, they conform to the shape of external molds or models. These “glass jars” create invisible barriers for growth and predetermine the shape of community for churches across the country. Visionary leadership today seems to be about more “jar-sharing” than about DNA-discovering. Therefore, it’s time to redeem vision by recasting it. We must rethink what it means to be visionary- to see it in a different light. Missional leaders can “break the mold” one church at a time by leading their people into God’s unparalleled future for their church.As promised, challenging thought: have the Five Purposes (Purpose-Driven Church) become a glass jar for my church? this story is from the amazing FREE resource, the Church Unique Visual Summary
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
- He's wrong. (Seriously, the guy is more than a couple of bricks short of a full load, theologically speaking.)
- However the world ends, it won't be on a timetable that we can consult.
With those things out of the way, I want to suggest that those of you who are interested in a detailed look at Harold Camping, his heretical (meaning unbiblical) teachings & his predictions can check out Alpha & Omega Ministries excellent collection of links & resources on the subject.Harold Camping has done this before, by the way... back in 1994, he predicted that the Rapture would occur in, well, 1994. Since it didn't, he monkeyed with his theology to come up with the May 21, 2011 date - based primarily on interpreting the Bible as one giant allegorical puzzle. I don't want to get into the details of Camping's prediction - they're the usual mess of numerology, Scripture-twisting & outright nonsense. (And, if you're so inclined, the website referenced above can break it down for you.) Nor do I want to deal (right now) with his other heretical teachings: the rejection of the church, the Trinity & the reality of hell. Instead, I'll like to excerpt a bit from an excellent article by Dr. David Reagan on the Lamb & Lion Ministries website entitled "Harold Camping: The Madness of Date-Setting."
The Ultimate Challenge
All date-setters have to deal with Matthew 24:36 where Jesus, speaking of His return, said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."
Camping dismisses this statement as being no longer true. He says it all changed in September of 1994 when the Holy Spirit began to be poured out and new revelations concerning the end times began to be given to true believers. He argues this is in fulfillment of a promise given in Ecclesiastes 8:5 where it states that "a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure."
Once again, Camping just fishes around for some words to substantiate an unrelated point. Ecclesiastes 8:5 is specifically talking about being obedient to political leaders. It says that a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure to obey a royal command. The fact that it is so specific is the reason that Camping only quotes the last half of the verse.
Camping also quotes Daniel 12:4 & 9. These verses state that certain end time prophecies will not be understood until the time comes for them to be fulfilled. This is certainly true with regard to prophecies that depend upon historical developments (like the re-establishment of Israel). The verses also relate to prophecies that rely on modern technology (like the whole world looking upon the dead bodies of the two witnesses in Jerusalem). But these verses certainly do not apply to Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:36 where He stated without reservation that no one can know the date of His return.
Camping also points to 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 which says that the Lord will return "like a thief in the night," but not as such for "brethren" who are "sons of light and sons of day." Camping argues that these verses mean that true believers can know the date of the Lord's return. But that is not the meaning of this passage. Instead, it simply means that believers can know the season of the Lord's return (and not the date) because we have been given signs to watch for.
Camping is not the first to play this number/Scripture manipulation game - I remember well Edgar Whisenant & his book "88 Reasons the Rapture Will Occur in 1988." (I worked at a Christian bookstore that year & we actually got cussed out by a lady who was angry that we weren't carrying the book - she accused my manager of "having the blood of the unsaved on his hands" for not warning them about the Rapture... that never happened.) For another perspective on this year from an author I respect, read Jason Boyett's op-ed piece in the Washington Post, "Harold Camping & the apocalypse of my youth."Sadly, he won't be the last. We want so badly to know what's going to happen - to feel like we have a handle on things & events. What we really want (if we're wise enough & honest enough to admit to ourselves) is to "be like God." The quote, btw, is from the advice of a certain silver-tongued serpent in Genesis 3:4-5... and we all remember how well that turned out.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Would Jesus have used social media... twitter, facebook, and other... is there any biblical principle that gives us a hint? other than the obvious low-hanging fruit of twitter being based on following?I thought my answer might be of interest to a couple of you... of course, I took the opportunity to clean up my dashed-off response and make it sound more erudite before releasing it into the wild. Would Jesus have used social media? Hmm... maybe that's not the best way to ask the question. (It's kind of like asking "would Jesus have bombed Hiroshima?" - it's not an option He had living in 1st century Palestine and trying to answer the question is simply an adventure in speculation.) How about this instead: Q: In light of Paul's clear Biblical admonition in 1 Corinthians 9:22 to "become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some," what are some reasons we SHOULDN'T use social media to spread the good news of Jesus Christ? A: I can think of three pretty quickly...
- addiction - some people are unable to use social media without it consuming their "real" lives... that could be as obvious as the temptation of porn or as subtle as the gnawing suck of time spent hidden behind a computer screen
- wrong context - if the community you're trying to reach isn't using it, don't waste your time... though this is becoming less & less of an issue as more & more well-seasoned adults (isn't that PC?) are using Facebook & Skype to connect with distant family members & friends
- cool factor - using social media (whatever site is the "cutting edge" this week) BECAUSE it's the hip new thing is oopidstay... use it because it helps you do what you're called to do - "cool" is such a fleeting & elusive thing to be chasing
Monday, May 02, 2011
Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.Proverbs 24:17 is a favorite of those who are appalled by the celebration at the death of bin Laden... though I haven't seen any of those folks reference the full couplet (vv. 17-18) which imply that the wrath of God is an implicit part of the fall of the enemy. So, while I think people referencing this have a point (the drunken street parties over what amounts to an execution are hard to take), I believe that simply dropping 24:17 into a discussion as a theological bomb may not reflect the whole picture of Scripture. Proverbs 24:15 (ESV)
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.This is the proverb quoted by the "it's time to party" folks... and it seems a pretty clear support of what we want to hear. However, there are some Bible scholars who believe that the verse refers to right living and the recoil that sinners have from that choice. (I'm not agreeing with them, mind you - just pointing out an alternate opinion.) Deuteronomy 16:20 (ESV)
Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.I think the middle way in this discussion is to focus on justice, as evidenced by a number of thoughtful Tweets last night:
- don't celebrate death, celebrate justice (derekwebb)
- I do not rejoice at the death of an enemy but I do rejoice when justice is done. Justice, and only justice. (russellpage)
- Friends, it's ok & good 2 celebrte justice. much diff than celebratng death. justice points 2 our hope that evil will NOT have the last word (ScottHodge)
- I wonder what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have to say about this. (Couldn't find adequate material after a quick Internet search this morning - but in case you're unaware, he was a German pastor/theologian who was on the edges of the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944.)
- I'm glad that we've brought someone to justice who financed & fought for the mass murder of not only Americans but citizens of the world (as evidenced by the embassy bombings in Africa).
- On a very pragmatic level, the operation that would have been necessary to capture bin Laden alive & then the resources needed to put him on trial would have been monstrous.
- I fear that we're going to see a lot of political hay-making off this over the next few weeks & months... already, individuals & organizations are rushing to interpret these events as either a validation of ongoing U.S. policy or as a repudiation of our failed policies. While I understand why someone might choose to do that, my base reaction is a hearty "Pipe down already!"
- In our debates involving Scripture, it's important to remember & reference Romans 13:1-5 & Acts 5:1-11 as well as the more commonly quoted O.T. passages.
- Let's pray together that Bin Laden's death is a blow to religious terrorism, not a fuel source. (JenHatmaker)
- Lord, may we see peace. May the world be more free so the gospel may be preached w/o restriction. Use this for your agenda." (edstetzer)