A New Day Part 1

Random Screenshot from Google Images.

Random Screenshot from Google Images.

**Minecraft is my son’s favorite game. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, obviously, but it’s high time I start writing again. Wouldn’t you know it I sat down and had massive writer’s block!! Making a bit of a Minecraft fan-fiction based on some of Jakob and I’s adventures in Minecraft became the solution to bust right through this writer’s block… even if it may not have been the best use of my writing day. At the very least, I know what we’ll use for our bedtime story tonight. ENJOY!**

A New Day Part 1

A New Day

Mountains of blocks extend into the distance promising riches to any adventurer brave enough to scale those jagged peaks. The nearest one has a waterfall that runs into a stream flowing cheerily alongside the spawn point. Cows and pigs swim and drink from the stream, while a squid lazes about in the shallows. Birds sing in the nearby trees, and sunny anticipation swells the heart of two new explorers that have just popped into the land.

Papa looks at Master Jakob with a question on his face. “Which way should we go?”

“I don’t know, Papa. But let’s start chopping down some trees so that we can make some tools and weapons.”

“Good thing we’re right by a forest!”

Each one walks up to a tree and begins punching out the block nearest to them. Then the one above it, and the one above it. Within seconds they have each felled their trees and collected the saplings that have fallen from the leaves. After planting the saplings (because replenishing materials is as replenishing materials does) they split up.

Jakob begins the laborious task of turning raw chunks of oak wood into oak planks and then some of those into sticks. “Is it two blocks on top of each other for sticks? Or beside each other, Papa?”

“The second option would make buttons instead of sticks.” While talking Papa slips in some mud and falls in the water. Spluttering he hollers back, “We want them on top of each other!”

“Ok… but why don’t these crafting tables come with a recipe book or something?”

While he’s working on getting that wood into weapons and tools, Papa is still messing around in the mud trying to chase pigs around the edge of the lake. “Come back here!” Then, to no one in particular, “Why does bacon have to run so quick?!”

Apparently Jakob is done with the tools, because Papa turns around to see Jakob standing on a pile of pork chops with a wooden sword in his hand. “You know, just about anything is better than your fist when you’re trying to get dinner.”

“Yeah, yeah… showoff. Give me one of those, please.”

Seemingly from nowhere Jakob produces a sword on the ground in front of Papa. In quick succession that’s followed by a pickaxe, a shovel, an axe, and a hoe along with another crafting table. “Wow, Jake, you really outdid yourself.”

“Well, I saw a lot of videos on YouTube about surviving the first day. There’s no time for swimming. Now that we have these tools we need to go get enough stone for a furnace to cook our dinner, some wool for beds, and maybe even some coal to cook with. I already got some more wood to make charcoal in case we don’t find any.”

“Man! I was even a boy scout and you’re more prepared than me! Sheesh!”

 

With swords at the ready they head off towards the head of the stream and the waterfall. “Master Jakob, I think we can probably swim up to the top of the mountain on this waterfall. Maybe we’ll see some exposed coal up there. At the very least there’s enough open rock to begin digging out some cobblestone for a house.”

“Great idea!”

Maybe the unintentional practice from chasing the pigs and falling in the stream helped, but it turns out Papa was the better swimmer. At the very least, he was trying harder. “Papa, look! Whheeeeeeee!” After a lot of splishing and splooshing there was a great big splash at the bottom of the waterfall. Jakob’s head came back into view as he yelled up to the top of mountain, “It’s like a giant waterslide! Give it a shot!”

“What happened to that day one stuff??”

“Oh yeah! I’m coming!”

By the time Jakob scales the top of the mountain Papa already has a layer of cobblestone in a ten by ten square leveled off. “I think this is a pretty good size for our house, especially once we go down a couple more layers, but I haven’t found any coal yet.”

“Maybe I should go look for sheep so we can make some beds, and I’ll see if I can find some coal along the way.”

Papa’s face peeks up over the lip of the house foundation. “Capital idea, my son. Good luck!” With that he disappears in the soon-to-be-basement of the house so the only way Jakob knows he is there is the repeated *chink chink* of his pickaxe.

“Don’t go too deep, Papa.” Muttering to himself he turns and heads towards the foothills on the backside of the mountain. Now where would I be if I were a sheep?

He sees another pool of water on this side of mountain and begins heading down to it in case those little wool-factories are getting a drink. On his way towards it his blood goes cold because he hears the deep-throated gurgle of a zombie somewhere nearby. He quickly rotates on his x-axis and finds the coast is clear, but he isn’t free from worry. With a glance up at the position of the sun (Still high, must be about six minutes left in the day), he trots along a little more quickly to the pool of water. Hopefully I left that guy behind…

Luckily the sound of the trickle of water is getting louder and the zombie’s gurgly growl is getting more distant. Sadly, the only animal sounds are coming from the few chicken-ducks that are flopping around the small pool. No bleats here. After filling his inventory with a small stack of chickens he looks off in the distance. It could be snow on a treetop over yonder, but it’s the whitest thing he sees around him. Here goes nothing.

After what seems like too long some bleating finally reaches Jakob’s ears, but the rumbles of a wolf quickly follow. Great! No bones to make it a dog, and no wool if he eats the sheep! He begins sprinting and is just in time to see the fallen sheep pop out of existence, but luckily it left one lonely little cube of wool floating above the ground. The criminal wolf turns its head to Jakob with its tongue lolling like nothing happened. “Listen Wolf, don’t look at me like me like that. If I had a bone you’d already have it.”

Just then another bleat hits his ears and he and the wolf look at each other as though they’re about to begin a race with each other. And they’re off! Jakob begins sprinting, but he can’t outrun the four legged predator. By the time he catches up to it there is only one more floating bit of wool left on the ground. In his frustration he swings his fist at the dog and mistakenly connects… “Oh NO!!!”

Jakob begins sprinting back towards the mountain and the house that Papa should have mostly finished by now, but not before the red eyes of the angry wolf fixate on his back. Pretty soon his vision flashes red as he loses a chicken leg off of his food counter, but it happens again and again. “PAPA!! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!”

His lone voice echoes off the mountains and valleys all around him, but nobody witnesses the wolf defeating him. His vision turns black for a moment, and then the first twinkling stars are in his eyes as he spawns again facing the east.

“Jakob!? What are you doing here?”

Papa’s voice calls out from up above Jakob’s spawn point. He turns and looks up at his Papa on a stack of dirt cubes about twelve blocks high. “Me? What are you doing here? I thought you’d already have the house built and the top of the mountain lit up.”

“Well, it is. Look up there,” Papa replies.

From the spawn point Jake turns and sees a glow emanating from the top of the mountain. “Sheesh! Was that about twenty torches or so?”

“Probably. Maybe more.”

“But then why are you down here,” Jakob implores. “What about all of our stuff?”

Papa took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I got the house all built, as well as a couple of furnaces. I also found a small pocket of coal to start cooking our pork while I worked. After lighting up the top of the mountain and the in and outside of the house I went back down to the basement where the coal was and started building steps down into the mountain thinking I might find some more coal or even some iron. I made a rookie mistake and was cutting out some steps directly underneath me at one point when the floor fell away and I found myself in a pitch black room. I quickly threw down some torches to get some light, but I must have been right by a zombie spawner because they surrounded me. Next thing I knew I was back here on the shore. I didn’t think there was enough time to make more tools and head up to the house, so I just dug out some dirt and made a tower to sit out the night.”

“Oh… well I made a wolf mad when I was looking for sheep. That’s how I ended up here. Do you have any more dirt?” Jakob asks?

“Yep, get up here,” Papa says as he tosses down a partial stack.

Jake comes up level with Papa and they hug each other. “Papa, I guess there’s nothing to do but wait for the sun.”

 

Duck Hunting

Duck Hunting, A leadership principle by Keith Drury.

Image

Re-discovered this piece from a professor of mine. I sure remember my singular form of duck hunting experience, and it was a huge bummer when I missed any. Perhaps that favorite game of yesteryear was a bit of a mis-leading experience when discussing “duck hunting” as a leadership principle.

So often a leader, or anybody with some form of influence, gets their ego hung up on what they’re missing out on. Especially in Christian leadership even one soul won for Christ is a victory, but so many pastors are more concerned with the numbers they missed that day than what they had. Sad but true.

I find this to be true of myself. My ego often got the better of me and let Satan trip me up with thoughts of inferiority when my other thoughts told me I was destined for greatness. I can tell you stories of Duck Hunting gone wrong, and I can back those stories up with personal data of what happens when a leader doesn’t keep their ego in check. Needless to say, I’m glad that I’m much appreciative for what I have these days.

What do you think? Do you focus on the ducks you hit or the ones you missed? Or would you rather talk about the NES game? You can comment here, but I’m sure Coach would be thrilled if you commented directly to him: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633

Thanks!! Go with GOD.

How many times?!

This will be short and sweet.

Numbers 14:10-12 NIV

But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord  appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. The Lord  said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

I’ve been working on daily Bible readings (thank you smart phones with daily reminders), and today this came up. It just got me thinking.

How many times do we expect God to prove Himself (i.e. do absolutely everything for us?) before we finally trust Him? How often do we expect a miracle on our behalf when we’ve already had so many?

And who do we think we are to ungratefully expect these things when simple faith produces more miracles than we can imagine?

This passage, coupled with a recent Sunday school discussion about Ananias and Sapphira just has me thinking about being a bit more grateful, a bit less selfish, and a bit more open to the things He already does and has done for me even though I deserved none of it. Pass it on.

What do you think?

The Great Escape

*You get a cookie if you know the movie*

Tonight, Heather and I started getting addicted to watching a new show on TNT called The Great Escape. It was pretty intense, and we definitely enjoyed a changeup to the Amazing Race format.

But as I lay here in bed (not sleeping… curse you Mountain Dew, and your delicious green-ness!), my mind keeps turning back to this idea of escape… or more specifically, how we ourselves can’t.

There are a few blessed seasons of life where we may not face a ton of temptation, but whether we’re an old saint or somebody new to faith, Satan is always there trying to pull us away from God. He was there in the beginning poisoning our relationship with God in the Garden, he was in the desert trying to mess with God’s own Son, and today he’s still trying ruin the efforts of disciples and followers everywhere. One less soul in Heaven feels like a another notch on the belt for old Lucifer. There is simply no escape from his efforts to ensnare and entrap us. In the Bible, Peter even uses the image of a lion waiting to pounce to help describe Satan’s predatory passion for human failure.

It seems hopeless and perhaps tortuous, trapped like a fish with 100 lures in all directions, each more inviting than the last, but knowing that each could spell a broken relationship with God. The worst case scenario of look, but don’t touch.

What would you say if I told that though there is no escape from temptation (because Satan doesn’t take a vacation day), there is an escape from the pain of the failure and death of giving in to temptations? This is not freedom from consequences, and this is no quick fix that I refer to. No, sometimes we simply must sleep in the bed we’ve made for ourselves, poor decisions included. However, this is a rescue from the death of the wages of our sin. I refer to a healing and a restoration that comes from One who can heal all wounds. It is possible, one day, to know a freedom in your life that results from no longer being a slave to the temptations, choices, and sins that drag us down. This is the result of realizing that the ways of the world do not fulfill you and turning over the control of your life to One who would ask you to live by faith, not sight. Though it sounds like “following” gives you less control than striking your own path, it turns out that following God gives you more freedom (from bondage and pain), more joy (because of this freedom), and more hope (that there is light shining in the midst of your darkness). It can absolutely free you from the destructive patterns that choosing your temptations has gotten you into.

Turning your life over to Jesus Christ is absolutely the most transformative decision you can make. It will not keep Satan from tempting you or turn your life onto easy street, but it may just be the Greatest Escape you’ll ever experience. And the prize is worth far more than $100,000, too.

Time and Chance

11 I have seen something else under the sun:
 The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
 
12 Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come:
 As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so men are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
- Ecclesiastes 9:11-12
 
My grandpa is a great man! He has raised six kids and has too many grandkids and great-grandkids to keep track of. He was a farm boy scouted by pro baseball teams. He was a horseman. He was an insurance salesman. He taught me how to golf. He made me think that if I ever decided to smoke it would be a pipe like him (with Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco only, thank you very much). He doesn’t have a theology degree but knows more about the Bible than I do. He takes care of his family and presides over it well.
 
But like Solomon discovered and recorded in Ecclesiastes, time and chance affect us all, whether we’ve lived a good life, a hard life, a long one, or a short one. The great equalizer, cancer, has caught up with my grandpa. It began as pancreatic cancer, but despite his pancreas being removed it has metastasized and is spreading to his liver and beyond. Time and chance…
 
In the last few years my grandpa and I have grown apart – not through any intention on either of our parts. It just gradually happened. Time and chance…
 
I hope to rectify that. We can’t go golfing, but we can still sit and talk. It almost feels awkward at this point. As though I’m ashamed for what I’ve missed by letting us grow apart. I understand lots of kids grow up and just get involved in their own lives. However, I sure didn’t think I could be that selfish. Shame is a good word. And yet if you’re feeling shame don’t let it control you or dissuade you from doing what you know is right. Time and chance may take their toll too soon, and then you’ll have to live with the compounded shame of never doing anything about your shame in the first place.
 
Life really is too short. Time and chance don’t help the odds. So get out there and do some living!
 
Image

The Ultimate April Fools’ Prank

I’m a huge fan of April Fools’ Day. In fact, I am the type of guy who loves seeing the faces of people who just got pranked. Whether it’s America’s Funniest Home Videos, Punk’d, or Wipeout, seeing people get gotten is a favorite past-time of mine.

One year for Halloween I made a scarecrow and set it on my grandmother’s porch for a week or so before trick-or-treating would happen. Then, on the night of candy collecting I put on the scarecrow’s outfit and placed the candy bowl in my lap. You guessed it! Those grubby little paws would reach in, and I would scream till they reached their cars and drove off! TOO FUNNY!!

This year provides us April Foolers with a very unique opportunity, however. The funnest atheist holiday (as a great friend of mine called it) is combined with one of the holy days of the Liturgical Calendar, or Palm Sunday. I actually asked my pastor what he was planning for Sunday, and he said palm branches… I was floored! He is one of my fellow, prank-loving April Foolers! Perhaps he’s just throwing me off the trail though…

But as I got to chewing on the idea of these two divergent holidays converging this year, a thought occurred to me. Jesus was the greatest April Fooler of them all! I mean, if you’ve ever gotten mixed up in pranks you know how addictive they are. Once someone gets you then you want to turn around and get them back, only bigger! Then it just goes back and forth until somebody’s wife gets fed up with it!

Imagine this: It’s the first Palm Sunday (not that the ancient Jews called it that) and the people are basically coming out in droves for a huge welcoming party that they’re throwing for Jesus. If you close enough you’ll see the Pharisees there in the back. Those sniveling creatures are wringing their hands incessantly because they’re supposed to hold all the religious (and by extension social) power in the community, but here is this upstart on a donkey with the crowds throwing down robes and palms for his mule to walk on. They’re hanging on his every word. The Pharisees are furious.

John 12:19 says, “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’”

So one of them gets the bright idea: “Won’t it be a great idea if we get all these worshippers and partiers to turn on Jesus by the end of the week?”
And another says, “What a great idea! He’ll never see it coming!”
Then a third says, “Maybe we could get them so turned around that they want to kill this one they’re calling the Messiah?”
There are cheers all around and much back-slapping. Well, except for that one guy who spends a little too much time actually living with the Scriptures rather than just proof-texting them, “Wait, guys… won’t that just fit into the prophecies?”
Guy #1 chimes in, “Oh you old so and so! Go back to your studies. Let the big boys make the devious plans.”
Cue snide laughter that goes on for a few seconds more than it should.

By the end of the week, of course, they succeeded. This triumphant entry became a huge defeat for Jesus’ followers and a huge win for the plotting Pharisees and their pharishcemes. From palms to Pilate, Jesus made it all the way into the hands of the Romans and death on a cross.

Ugh! Such arrogance! If only they had listened to this man they hated so much (but what villain ever truly listens to their adversaries??)! They would have heard that for at least a while Jesus had been planning the greatest April Fools’ prank that the world has ever seen! Early in His ministry Jesus went to the Temple before Passover and saw money-changers and merchants in His Father’s house of prayer. With a whip and a fiery spirit He cleared them out, so of course they whimpered about all the money they were going to lose. “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’” (John 2:19).

That right there! That moment! That conversation is when He let them know exactly what He was going to do! But they didn’t believe Him. So they thought for sure their prank would be better. They pulled off something unheard of! They ran one of the first successful political smear campaigns and in less than a week (and without the aid of the internet or John Stewart) got the King of Man a thorny crown.

So I can only imagine the party they were throwing for themselves as the disciples (well, those who hadn’t fled) lowered His body from the cross and laid it in a tomb… their precious Lord… I’m sure the champagne was flowing and the matzo balls were rolling. Like any good prankster, Jesus knew to wait to strike until they least expected it though. I’m sure that one Pharisee was keeping an eye out, the studious one. He tried telling them, but it’s hard to hear the shofar of your own impending doom when the harps of joy and arrogant victory are going strong.

True to His Word, three days after Christ died He took the shaped boulder blocking His grave and rolled it away in a blaze of radiant glory (it was blazingly radiant in my head anyways). From death to life He came forth! Up from the grave He arose! Victorious, powerful, and full of the Spirit He ascended back to life from the underworld with the keys of Hades and of Death in hand. The Temple was rebuilt in three days, just as He promised!

I can’t imagine how the crow tasted as those Pharisees heard the news. The prankers got pranked.

Yes indeed. Christ’s death was the ultimate April Fools’ Joke, because no grave can hold the one who gives life everlasting. May His example be inspiring to you on this Palm Sunday, I mean April Fools’ Day.

 

 

© 2012 by Jeff Brady

Battle at midnight

Warriors fighting
Flaming swords ringing
Angels alighting
God’s praises singing

But when darkness falls
Join battle again
Demons shatter walls
Fill craters with sin

Father God with thee
Christ Jesus inside
Spirit comes swiftly
Sin again denied

Lucifer escapes
The demons go quick
But do not long traipse
Received thou a prick

Thoughts lingered too long
Mind began to drift
God heal the soul’s wrong
Name the seeker Shrift

Tedious onslaught
Yet all must endure
Lest all be for naught
Pursuit of the Pure.

© 2012 by Jeff Brady