Monday, March 27, 2006

Two Very Late Nights Later

Boy am I tired. Elyssa came into my room this AM and announced she wasn't going to stop talking until I went down and played Pokemon with her. I showed her how to play gameboy games in the SNES (kicking it old school, those games are much easier for young kids to manage). I obliged but let me tell you I was dragging my butt!

Last night at 3AM I finished my first draft of the paper due on Tuesday. My wonderful wife is proofing it as I type. I am pretty sure I've exhausted my text though - at least exhausted it from a narrative analysis perspective. It was the Johannine Anointing at Bethany text which is really quite rich when you dig into it. It challenged me on what was important in worship as well as how we judge the actions of others in worship. Some of what is powerful about the text is what is suspiciously absent (like anyone else defending Mary).

We farmed off Chelsea to the neighbour (she has a 3 year old at home as well) and Elyssa is in school for the afternoon. It is time to re-assemble our house after a brutal marathon of paper writing.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Submerging into the paper

I just grabbed my resources, organized my workspace and decided to clear up my email so I can work undistracted for a while on my final paper of the semester. I am about to dig into the account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus for burial. I've worked through the text doing a hackish translation (capitalizing on other peoples work of course - my Greek is still pretty weak). Read the text that frames the approach of this narrative analysis (point of view through narrative elements). Meditated on the passage, I think I am pretty familiar with the bit of text I am working with. Now I just need to outline the paper and write.

This is how I work. I tend to do a lot of prep and procrastination. But once I start typing the usually the juices flow and all is good. So why is it so stressful to start?

I think life is full of things that are like papers. Lots of projects that affect your own view of yourself. Yes, it is about self-image. I grew up being told I didn't do many things right - and even though it has been many years since I realized how deeply that scarred me I still am not fully healed. Each paper or major project carries with it the possibility of someone telling me I can't do it right. Even though I am a straight A student and have had some success with writing, it is always a risk. There is always that possibility of failing that stands like a troll guarding the bridge to completion. That is why I don't like taking on projects at home like hanging curtain rods and painting walls. Sure I do them, but usually with much agony and pain. And when my wife suggests someone else help then my fears are realized and my pain is real - that is usually when I end up doing the jobs I hate the most.

Well it is time to defeat that troll again. See you all on the other side of the bridge!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Deep Poker Thoughts

A friend of mine pointed me to this blog entry, and then we proceeded to have a bit of a discussion with some other friends about Christians playing poker. It is interesting as they suggested maybe hockey and bridge as alternatives for relationship building. Not sure if they have seen Christians play hockey - but give a Christian a stick and they act like the devil. But nonetheless it is a great question: should Christians play poker?

First off I am not a proponent of gambling. I think there is a world of difference between obsessively playing a game that is designed to make the house rich spending money that should be spent on the essentials in life. So you aren't going to get me advocating gambling even as a pasttime. But is poker exclusively gambling?

We have friendly non-cash games at our house. They are loads of fun. You play for bragging rights. But not everyone gets that - some people want money involved to make the game worthwhile??? Even little bits of money??? I am a gamer at heart so I love strategy and I love winning - so I have a bit of trouble understanding that mentality. My dad is like that - he can't play a serious game of poker unless it is for money. So I don't end up playing with gamblers.

But there is a lot of buzz about games like Texas Hold-em and Omaha. And rightly so these are games that mix skill and luck in perfect proportions. Games that you can really connect with emotionally and play with your whole heart. Plus they are all the rage on TV right now (thank you Hockey Strike!) and this has a certain allure - what other game can a fat man win and be treated like an olympic hero? Not many. So that means it has fad status.

Let's see - easy to learn, lots of opportunities to play, unlikely heros, great mix of skill and luck. What is not to love? Well there is that attachment to gambling.

Here is the rub. Most gambling games favour the house. But in poker the house only takes a rake - and if you are playing at home a rake is, I'm pretty sure, illegal. So that puts poker in a slightly different class of games, in my mind anyway. So buying into a tournament for $20 is about the same as paying $35 to buy into a D&D minis tournament (pay for sealed boosters) where I might win other boosters that you know the cost of my entry paid for. What is the difference?

One other thought is, we all know that some folks are going to get addicted to poker. There are even disturbing ads on TV right now about this. My thought is, as a Christian, do I want to abandon folks to that? Or would I rather be there as someone who isn't completely alien to the game but through Christ is able to help others overcome addictions and personal problems that lead to addictions? Yeah, I want to be there. I want to know that there are Christians in that world ready to share the light of Christ where it is needed. I think that is important. Protesting on the sidelines is the last thing I want to see Christians do, addicted to poker is also the last thing I want to see them do (if you are addicted then let's chat, I might be able to help). Here's an idea - look for opportunities to pray for those you play with, I do and it is pretty cool.

My final word on poker is, "shuffle up and deal!"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Exciting Phone Call

Friday I got a call from Christian Week wanting to run the article I wrote for the Resonate Journal in their next edition! That is so cool. I am pretty darn stoked.

I am behind on a lot of things these days, I have to play catch-up this week and get through this last paper (not including the take-home for Modern Church History). Should be an interesting week. We have a games night this coming Kinship so I don't really have to prepare anything for that one. That is a nice break. I haven't even finished the first chapter for my Lenten reading project - just no time. But today I should get back up to date on my lectional readings so I can prepare my Monday message for the Freedom Group. One of these days I'm actually going to get organized in a way that works for me.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wizard's Finally published a scenario!

I have my first official DDM scenario up on the Wizards of the Coast website! So cool. I started going after this about a year ago, so it is very nice to reach my goal. I even have a contract to write more scenarios for them.

On the CanGames front, we are starting to get some of the ducks lined up for the games. Prizes and trophies, that is going to be very very cool. I left two slots without DDM because I had heard another group wanted to run DDM as well (three groups running DDM when we started only last year there! That is awesome.) I'm sure we'll have some pickup games in there if they are a no show though.

My paper on Zinzendorf was handed in yesterday. What a monster to research. It seems like the people God chooses are often pretty wacky. Part of that is being unable to completely think in the context in which Zinzendorf arrives on the scene. That is an issue with anyone studying history. I'm just glad that one is done, I hope I do well on the paper.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Last year in September I started a series about Jesus and History. I promised three parts and delivered two. This is that missing third part, just like Jesus I trust it will be worth the wait.

In our first instalment, Jesus-Yesterday I spoke of how the incarnation of Jesus set a trajectory of forgiveness for us today. Often we think about Jesus work as being completed, and in a very real sense Jesus’ mission was fulfilled in the cross and resurrection. But this inbreaking into history was the beginning of something new, not the end.

In our second instalment, Jesus-Today, I talked about recognizing the imminent work of Jesus. Jesus is at work all around us, drawing folks to the Father and revealing the Kingdom of God. This is something we don’t tend to meditate on enough; in fact we tend to overemphasize Jesus’ relationship to the end of history.

Now my intention was not to make you wait this long for the third instalment, but as I am writing this I cannot help but be struck by how appropriate that is. All of our hope is tied into Jesus – and yes our hope is that at the end of all things we will be with Jesus.

In light of the pain that is often our experience of the immediate world around us, it is easy to see why we would choose to focus on this hope. But the big problem with a focus on an eschatological hope is that we can’t really prove it. Just read the gospel of John and look for what is the actual catalyst for change in lives, over and over it is the presence of Jesus that evokes greater and more specific confessions of faith. By focusing on the hope that is to come we are just deferring hope, something the Bible rightly tells us makes our hearts sick.

Rather, our eternal hope must spring from the realized immediate hope of our encounter of Jesus Christ. So waiting for this message you likely gave up, thinking it was a great idea but Frank is a new blogger and bound to let a few things fall to the wayside. So too in waiting for the return of Christ many have given up.

This is exactly the reason I started this little series. My heart is to see a people who are confident in whom they know (present) so that they will trust Jesus with all that is to come (future). Didn’t Paul say something along those lines (2 Timothy 1:12).

So be encouraged, Christ has come. Jesus made the way for us to live in the forgiveness of God. Christ is here. Jesus promised to be with us even unto the end of days, He will never leave nor forsake us. And Christ will come again. Our hope is bolstered by our hearts assurance that the one who faithfully working in us today is the same one who will come at the culmination of all things. Praise be to Jesus, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Paper Crunch

Still working on my Zinzendorf paper for next week. I have exactly one week to finish it - the outline is good and I've got my intro banged out. But each time I dig in I just want to grab some more context. History work is like that for me - I never feel adequately prepared for the job. I'm sure it will be ok though, I like the subject. I am hoping to use one story of the young Zinzendorf to frame all of the rest of the paper. It is an incident when he is 8 years old and the ideas of the "athiests" are trying to overtake his mind. It has a lot of potential. I've read so much that I can't remember which source had the first version of that story, doh! I'll find it though.

Kinship was really great tonight. We had some folks drop in, it is always nice to have someone new in the mix. I've also found out that there are some more people planning to come hang out with us - that is exciting. It has been slower to build momentum in this new location.

Better get back to work.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

DDM in Montreal

50 people showed up to throw down on the battle maps! What an awesome turnout - WTG JM aka Blackguard! There are details on Blackguard's forum. I managed to go 4-2 in the swiss rounds! Not bad as everyone scoffed at my choice of Snig in my band.

The two rares I pulled were Snig and Dragon Totem Hero (one I was not familiar with). I also pulled a Brass Samurai which is a must in this format (even though I only set up whirlwind once - these folks were good). I had no really good hitters so I needed Snig's speed to get terrain points if my cougar couldn't get there in time. That cougar is worth it's weight in gold!

I tried to max out my band with two shield wall soldiers to block. A Hobgoblin archer courtesy of Snig. A quaggoth slave which is definitely worth the points! And finally a frost dwarf (one of my favourite minis in the set, too bad it is CE a faction I almost never play), which is a decent hitter with 40 hp. I always like to have more activations and it paid off.

I did the best on the Dragon shrine map, each time I ended up on the fire resist side, and the one time I faced a meph pyro I scooted the cougar off to get acid resistance and tile points for my band. That worked really well. I did the worst on the broken demongate map (which ironically is the one I chose - took me so long to build my band that I picked my map in too much of a hurry). I really kicked butt on the teleport map - so sweet. I routed a Warbound impaler to clench the game.

I faced several Hill Giant bands and the Hill Giants didn't perform as well as I would have expected. The Combat medic was worth it's weight in gold though. I so deliberated over putting her in my party, in retrospect I probably should have. Once combat gets heavy though it is hard to fire off a sacred healing and not help out the enemy as well. Snig was great for charging and his ride by attack meant I almost always got to hit an enemy each turn. Where did his ranged attack go? My hobgoblin archer (free with snig) managed to consistantly knock 5 or 10 points of the enemy (I rolled at least 3 crits with him).

All in all it was a long but extremely fun day.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sweet, Sweet Mini Love

War Drums is here!!!!

Picked up my case at 11AM, bought a single Starter too, so I would have a chance to review the maps. Overall this is a great set, I think Underdark set the bar a bit too high, but not every set will shine in the same way. Here is the breakdown for the number cruchers:

WarTroll Boxes (4)
Arcane Ballista (meh), Axe Soldier (nice), Combat Medic (better than the preview which looked like one of Santa's helpers), Sacred Watcher (Very nice), Sand Giant, 2X Shieldwall soldier (nice), warforged body guard, warforged captain, 2X warforged scout (this thing is tiny), 2X warpriest of Moradin, halfling slinger (nice), hunting cougar (meh), lion of talisid (I don't really like the paint job on this one), wood elf ranger (ncie), aspect of Hextor (impressive), goblin blackblade (nice and skirmish potential), hobgoblin archer, large duergar (nice), skeletal Legionnaire (best skeleton yet!), terror wight (oh yeah baby, love that one), blood host berserker (very nice), derro (who is that guy's barber?), frost dwarf (very nice), horde zombie (nice), howling orc (orcs, yawn - this one is a bit creepy), king obould many-arrows (has no ranged attack despite the name???), orc mauler, quaggoth slave, torglodyte thug (nice).

Hextor Boxes (4)
Arcanix Guard, Combat Medic, Elemental Wall (ok), Sacred Watcher, Brass Samurai (nice), halfling slinger, hunting cougar, lion of talisid, Mephling pyromancer (one was kissing the ground), Steelheart Archer (very nice), wood elf ranger (ncie), flameskull (too bad I only got one, this little guy rocks!), 2X goblin blackblade, goblin underboss (ohhhh so sweet!), hobgoblin archer, large duergar, 2X skeletal Legionnaire (still the best skeleton yet!), terror wight, war troll (wow!), chimera (one of the best skulpts in the set), derro, hill giant barbarian (very nice), hill giant chieftain (he's going to rip his own belly open with that belt???), horde zombie, howling orc, orc mauler, orc wardrummer (why is this a rare?), quaggoth slave, tiefling blademaster (nice), torglodyte thug.

Warpriest Boxes (4)
2X Arcanix Guard, 2X Axe Soldier (oh I like this one), Elemental Wall, Shieldwall Soldier, Warforged Bodyguard, Brass Samurai, halfling slinger, hunting cougar, Mephling pyromancer, Steelheart Archer (very nice), wemic barbarian (very nice), wood elf ranger, goblin underboss, hobgoblin archer, inspired lieutenant (nice), karnathi zombie (this is a sweet zombie!), Khumat (great sculpt but I don't need 2), terror wight, blood ghost berserker, derro, fiendish girallon (always thought this was a silly monster), frost dwarf (so cool!), horde zombie, howling orc, ogre war hulk (better than I expected), orc mauler, quaggoth slave, tiefling blademaster, torglodyte thug, warduke (that is one big person! nice mini).

Starter (1)
Khumat, Sacred Watcher, Fiendish Girallon, Tiefling blademaster, Arcanix guard, halfling slinger, woodelf ranger, skeleton legionnaire, derro, howling ord (still creepy), orc mauler, torglodyte thug.

Tomorrow we head to Montreal for the Release tournament. Should be an awesome day of gaming. There are eight of us travelling from Ottawa for the event! Last I heard there were 47 registered. Should be a massive day of battle!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This Lenten Season

I am actually excited about Lent this year. It has only been a few years since I've started to really pay attention to the Church calendar. This is the first year I am going to seriously give up something that I really enjoy – for forty days! I thought a lot about this. It has to be something that I will miss, and something that is really a pleasure I take in life. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that online poker, something I really enjoy, is the thing I should sacrifice this season.

I have been playing with a great group of free rollers (meaning we play games we don’t pay to get into) at Poker Pots Poker League. We have a great chat room at PalTalk and a really active online forum as well. I love the community even more than the poker – so I asked them to help me in this spiritual exercise. You know, if they see me on the tables to give me the old ‘what for’!

It will be good for me, my personality is that I like to throw myself into things for seasons and then I tend to lose some of my excitement about them. I have found over the years that once I’m past that initial ‘craze’ I can really enjoy something and not overdose on it. Online poker is one of those things that I have overdosed a bit – but the novelty is still strong so this is a real sacrifice for me. But all around, a good thing.

I am also participating in an online interactive exercise using Miroslav Volf’s ‘Free of Charge’. This is an effort started in the Emergent UK community; I am looking forward to reading and sharing with other Emergent authors and bloggers around the globe. Volf is someone I have been looking for an excuse to read for a long time, I have scanned ‘After Our Likeness’ and want to sit down and really dig into that one. Anyone Moltmann recommends is going to perk my ears up.

I have encouraged my community at Freedom Vineyard also to give up something for this Lenten season. My hope is that we will be reminded, even if just a little, of the sacrifice Christ has made to give us the freedom we so enjoy. Today we begin at the place of repentance – as we rest into this next 40 days my prayer is that Salvation will shine in our midst!