Grace For The Gamer

maxresdefaultI can’t remember the last time I beat a video game. I can’t even remember the last time I won playing a round of a video game against someone else.

I was reminded of this fact last weekend as my brothers-in-law came to visit. They brought along their XBOX and we played a few rounds of Madden and Fifa. Although I put a few touchdowns and goals on the board by accident, I got schooled by my younger competitors.

You see video games have never been my thing.

Sure, I loved playing my Super Nintendo and Playstation as a kid. But I was never really good at any of the games. Most nights playing video games I’d go to bed angry.

Confession time: In high school I broke 3 Playstation controllers out of rage. There was a period where I was traveling to Best Buy every few months to get a new controller after I had slammed or tossed one of them due to a particularly difficult challenge on “Crash Bandicoot” or “Resident Evil 2″. (I also kicked the door in on my entertainment center one time. #AngerManagement)

It was in part due to my anger issues that I essentially retired from gaming in college. I haven’t owned a new system since I got a PS2 for Christmas back in the early 2000s.

Now, I will occasionally break out my SNES or N64 for some rounds of “Mario Kart or “WWF No Mercy” with a group of friends. And I played a good amount of “Rock Band and “XBOX Kinect” with my youth group kids.

Even then though I had to hold back my temper when I’d screw something up in front of my students. Video games and I just don’t get along.

As a child of the 80s I keep thinking video game skills should be ingrained in my blood. It doesn’t make sense to me why I can’t seem to ever get good at them. I have such a hard time forgiving myself when I fail at them.

Why does something so trivial and fake frustrate me so much?

The truth is most of our frustrations in life are fake. Most of our worries are unfounded.

We all get frustrated by fake things – things that should not matter to us but end up causing us consternation. We all have our stumbling blocks and sins which pop up time and time again.

Each time we fail at a challenge in life we end up getting mad at ourselves. Many of us respond the same way I do when I fail at a video game: we get angry. We want to break something. No matter what difficulty level we’re on we assume we’re going to have start back at the beginning when we screw one thing up. 

Deep within our hearts we know that ultimately that our failures don’t matter to God. There’s no reason to get upset with ourselves when God has already shown us grace. 

Still we get upset when we can’t keep our weaknesses in check. We want to run and turn the game off because we got tripped up by something we should have seen coming.

Here’s the good news: there is grace for every gamer.  

The great thing about video games is they have grace built in. If you die playing “Pac-Man” you can just press the reset button and start over.

The game won’t remember your past mistakes. It won’t penalize you for them. You can have a fresh start. You can pick up right where you left off.

The same happens with God. No matter how many times we’ve failed, no matter how many times we’ve stumbled over the same mistake, God shows us grace. He picks us up from where we fell of the path and puts us right back where we were.

Despite what let ourselves think, God does not penalize us for our past. So why should we punish ourselves? 

The next time you fail at life and you want to smash something out of anger, step back for a moment. Breathe. Hit the reset button. There’s no shame – that’s what it’s there for. 

Travel back into your memory and remember your save point. Then get back in the game. You never know. This might just be the time when you actually beat it.

Show yourself the same kind of grace a video game does.

What’s something fake that sets off your anger? How can you show yourself “video game grace” for your failures today? 

What Would Jesus Watch – 5: Marriage Retreat

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Welcome to “What Would Jesus Watch?”, our summer exploration into the overlooked and underexplored genre of Christian Cinema.

Ever want to spend a weekend camping with the 3 worst couples on Earth? Then have we got the movie for you. We review “Marriage Retreat” on this week’s episode! 

retreatJoin Alex and Kate on the latest episode as they try to counsel the all-star cast of couples who really seem to hate each other including “SNL” alum Victoria Jackson, Tommy Blaze, David A.R. White and Carl Winslow himself Reginald VelJohnson. Along the way they cover every bizarre feature of the “Marriage Retreat” including sweaty foosball games, uncomfortable janitors, confusing sleeping arrangements and the utter disregard for pregnant women. All that plus Prayer Requests, Listener Mail and a list of every plot point that didn’t get resolved on an all new “What Would Jesus Watch”!

If you haven’t seen “Marriage Retreat” before you’ll definitely still be able to enjoy the podcast. But if you’d like to prepare before watching you can check out the trailer below and find the movie on Netflix and other streaming services:

Follow along on Twitter and on Facebook to see what movie we’ll be watching next

Search for Pop God Podcasts on the iPhone Podcast app or in iTunes and Subscribe or listen on Stitcher or listen on Podbean

Share and leave a comment and let us know what you think. Tell us what movies you’d like to see us discuss on future episodes of What Would Jesus Watch!

Monday Morning Music: All Your Favorite Bands

It’s Monday.

Your mind is consumed with all things you have to do for all the things you have due.

After a weekend full of forgetting all your cares, the alarm on your phone reawakens all your troubles.

If only there was a simple solution. If only there was a way to stop worrying about all your problems. If only there was a way to take your mind off of yourself.

Maybe you could use a little Monday Morning Music.

dawes-albumOver the past few years Dawes has been churning out raw and honest music that hearkens back to the glory days of Jackson Browne and other west coast songwriters. While many of their songs tell long and intricate stories, the title track to their latest album tells a simple one.

“All Your Favorite Bands” is just two verses about one friend who wakes up thinking about another friend. With a a smile on his face and sleep in his eye the singer takes a moment to hope his friend is doing well wherever they might be.

The person in the song is not trying to win the heart of someone. They’re just sending up a musical prayer for them – hoping that life is turning out well, that the world is seeing the best version of that friend, and (most importantly) that all their favorite bands are still together.

I wonder what the world would look like if we all took a moment each morning to put our own concerns aside and lift up a similar prayer for our friends and family. 

When I worked at Kohls last year, I was often consumed with self-loathing and despair at my lot in life. Every day I clocked in and immediately became burdened with the weight of my work. Organizing the shelves of shoes each morning was a mind-numbing task.

One morning to pass the time as I straightened each box of shoes on the rack I decided to do something in different. Instead of letting my mind drift into depression, I decided to take some time to pray for someone.

As I worked through my task of straightening the shoe department, I let each shelf represent someone in my life. Whomever popped into my head as I started rearranging a new row I would spend a moment lifting up a simple prayer for.

Something kind of crazy happened on the days when I would do this. The hours at work seemed to sail by so much smoother when I took my mind off myself and focused on others. The waves of fear and doubt and anger subsided momentarily as my mind filled with hope and love optimism for the people in my life.

Worrying about your own problems is exhausting. I think that’s because we’re not supposed to do it in the first place.

Jesus once asked, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” I think instead we are supposed to trust in God’s providence for our own lives and use the energy we would normally spend worrying about ourselves instead on others.

As you head into the office today you will be tempted to let your tasks consume you. Your mind will tell you that you only have time for yourself. Instead of focusing on the work piling up around you, work some time for prayer into your work routine.

The best way to take your mind off your problems is to take a moment and take your mind off your self. 

Sing an unselfish song today. Send up a simple prayer for the next person who randomly pops into your head. You’ll find even a few moments of lifting up thoughts for others will be uplifting for your spirit.

Something so simple as praying for a friend’s favorite band can affect the outlook of your day. You’ll be amazed at how insignificant the voices of your own worries will become when you drown them out with prayer for others.

What’s a way that you can work some time for prayer into your work routine today?

What Would Jesus Watch – 4: God’s Not Dead

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Welcome to “What Would Jesus Watch?”, our summer exploration into the overlooked and underexplored genre of Christian Cinema.

“God’s Not Dead” tells the story of a brave college student defending his faith against a brash professor. Which would actually be an interesting movie – if it wasn’t surrounded by a dozen other plots! 

God's_Not_DeadJoin Alex and Kate on the latest episode as they try to untangle the many interwoven plots and characters and cameos and honestly wonder if this movie was bad as they thought would it be. Along the way they take a stand for Kevin Sorbo and The Duck Dynasty folks, discuss the horrible dating relationships on display and debate the merits of the many faith-based debates. All that plus Prayer Requests for the upcoming sequel “God’s Not Dead 2: He’s Surely Alive” (yes, really) on an all new “What Would Jesus Watch”!

Continue reading

Naked And Unafraid

Discovery ChannelMy parents love this show called “Naked And Afraid.” Ever seen it?

On every episode 2 strangers meet, completely naked, on an abandoned island and try to survive with no supplies and no clothes for 21 days.

To me this show is the height of insanity. I spend the entire time petrified thinking about the extreme discomfort these contestants must be in. I certainly can’t imagine ever “competing” on the show.

Yet “Naked And Afraid” has been going on for 4 seasons. It’s even spawned an entire naked television genre, with “Dating Naked” and other bare-skinned shows populating the cable airwaves.

I used to think “Naked And Afraid” was the craziest show on tv. But I’m starting to wonder if maybe the contestants on this show are onto something.  Continue reading

Why Sunburns Are Actually Pretty Cool

IMG_5429With the July 4th weekend approaching the summer beach and pool season is in full swing. Which means for some of us the summer sunburn season is in full effect.

No matter how much I guard myself, no matter how high the SPF on my sunscreen is, no matter how many times I reapply, I can’t escape the summer without at least one nasty sunburn.

All you fair-skinned folks out there can relate. We don’t tan. We burn.

And any of us who’ve ever had to make an emergency run to the drug store to buy aloe can attest to how quickly a sunburn can ruin a summer trip.

But as this video explains, the cool thing about sunburns is that they allow you to see your immune system in action: Continue reading

What Would Jesus Watch – 3: Christian Mingle – The Movie

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Welcome to “What Would Jesus Watch?”, our summer exploration into the overlooked and underexplored genre of Christian Cinema.

Have you wanted to watch a 90 minute infomercial for a Christian Dating website? Then have we got the movie for you!

On this week’s episode Alex and Kate break down “Christian Mingle – The Movie” and the “click, marry, die, done” dating culture it revolves around. We talk about the film’s bizarre view of Christianity, say a prayer for poor Lacey Chabert, discuss the movie’s hilarious prayer habits and dream about visiting the greatest fictional restaurant of all time.

Plus we share our theories about the purpose of the movie and if the leading man is actually an 8-year-old. And to truly understand the movie Kate goes undercover to create her own Christian Mingle account! All that and more on this episode of Christianity for Dummies…er we mean What Would Jesus Watch!

If you haven’t seen “Christian Mingle – The Movie” before you’ll definitely still be able to enjoy the podcast. But if you’d like to prepare before watching you can check out the trailer below and find the movie on iTunes:

Follow along on Twitter and on Facebook to see what movie we’ll be watching next

Search for What Would Jesus Watch on the iPhone Podcast app or in iTunes and Subscribe or listen on Stitcher

Share and leave a comment and let us know what you think. Tell us what movies you’d like to see us discuss on future episodes of What Would Jesus Watch!

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