Monday, June 10, 2013

Regularly Scheduled Maintenance

Around my house we are big fans of summer and all that goes with it - baseball, softball, swimming, evenings outside and plenty of warm weather!  Of course, it's also that time of year when you break out the mower and weed eater and do your part to keep the town looking nice.

This year I was more than a little annoyed to find out my weed eater was not ready to immediately jump into action.  Instead I had to go into troubleshooting mode and figure out why it kept dying on me.  Why can't things just work like they're supposed to?

Well, they generally do - provided that you keep them in proper working order.  And that's the part that gets tricky.  Regular maintenance is something that is extremely important but not at all urgent.  At least not until it's too late and requires a major fix.

Life is a lot like that, too.  Take your relationships for example.  I think most people would agree that it's important to spend quality time with your spouse, children, other family and friends.  But all the hectic busyness of life - rushing from ball games to school plays to emergency trips to Wal-Mart - wears us out and puts that quality time on the back burner.

How about your personal health?  We've all heard the experts tell us how important daily exercise is - even just 20 minutes a day.  But who's got the time for that?  And then there's healthy eating!  Of course it's better to cook your own food, but that takes more time as well.  And that seems to be the one thing that's in shortest supply.

While these things may seem ideal but impossible, the question we should be asking ourselves is, "Do we have time NOT to do them?"  They're easy to bypass in the moment, but over time the results are a lot worse than neglecting to take care of your weed eater.  Nobody wants to wake up one day to find a mess of broken relationships or bad health.

I admit it's been more difficult than it should, but I'm trying to take my own advice.  First off is getting back in shape.  That 45 minute workout of general cardio and running is rarely something I look forward to, but I know it's better than a bad back or being unable to play sports with my kids.

Speaking of the kids, quality time with them is getting harder and harder to find as well.  As they get older, their schedules are becoming busier than mine!  So a few years ago I took a suggestion from my older brother and began taking a different one of my three kids to Sonic each Friday after school.  We get ice cream and talk about what's going on in their world.  (In the process I've tried nearly all of Sonic's new shakes, even the peanut butter and bacon!)

Spiritually I know I have a tendency to drift if I'm left all alone.  That's why I cherish my church and BSU fellowship.  They keep me grounded in the God's Word and encourage me when I need it.  I definitely don't want to see my life when that is neglected!

Whatever you consider to be those important things in your life, I encourage you to make time for them.  I know how easy they are to skip over when more urgent things come along.  And I guarantee you that those urgent things are going to come!  So make the decision now that these things are even more urgent.  Get them on your calendar.  Get rid of some of those time wasters in your life.  Tell someone else who can help keep you accountable.  Do whatever it takes!

Life requires regularly scheduled maintenance.  Sometimes it's difficult and inconvenient, but it's worth it.  You don't want to discover the consequences when it's neglected.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

For Beginners: How Hero Academy is Like Racquetball

One of the sports I enjoy playing is racquetball.  While there are some die hard players here on campus, I'd really like to play with my friends.  The dilemma that presents is that most of my friends have never played much - or ever!  And who can blame them?  Few kids grew up with a racquetball court in the driveway!

I didn't start playing until I got to college, and I've played off and on for the past 15+ years.*  The result is that I'm not necessarily an incredible player, but I am better than any of my beginner friends.  And I've discovered that if I go all out when I play them, they're probably never coming back.  So instead I make sure only to use easy serves or avoid going for kill shots.

* I decided to put a plus there because there's a great temptation to feel old when I think about how long ago college was.  Luckily working with college students helps keep me young!

The same principle applies to Hero Academy.  I've been playing this game for several months and would love for some of my friends to pick it up.  One of those friends that has started playing is my wife.  She doesn't want me to stomp her every game (pun intended) but she also doesn't want me to take it too easy on her.

It's important that I still play the game semi-seriously or she won't learn some of the more strategic nuances of the game.  And let's face it - the only way you really learn how to play is by playing.  Sure, I can try and explain every little detail I can think of, but we run into two problems there.  First off, I will inevitably forget something.  (And I mean forget, not "forget.")  Second, she's probably not going to remember all the information I blitzed her with anyway.  So instead, she can watch me spawn a Wraith on her freshly defeated character and ask me, "How did you do that?!"*

* One time I defeated a friend's unit with my Shoalin poisoner and then stomped the corpse with bamboo.  I'll never forget his incredulously response: "She can turn people into bamboo?!"

So, the question becomes how do you want to handicap yourself?  Personally, I've taken to only using sword upgrades on my healers.  That allows me to still demonstrate one of the best uses of a fireball (stomping units)* while still having to work hard to deal major damage.  This type of limitation definitely makes it harder to win with the Dark Elves!  I've even learned some new tactics in the process.

One of these priestesses has staff envy.  Her sword upgrade is on the way!

Don't let the pretty blonde hair fool you - this cleric means business!
The ways you could choose to limit yourself are practically endless.  Perhaps you only get to use 4 AP instead of 5.  Maybe you can stomp no more than one enemy unit per turn.  I'd love to hear some other ideas - especially if you've given them a try yourself!  Hero Academy is a great game and more people ought to be playing it.  With the right use of personal handicaps, I think you would be able to get some new friends hooked on this great strategic game!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Maximizing the Ninja Ambulance

My goal is to write some quick tips that might help new players out with the game Hero Academy. I'd also like to help some of my friends improve at the game, so I'm including this for them.

One little nuance I've noticed is the use of the Ninja Ambulance. New players may not realize that, along with being a sneak attacker, the Ninja can also be used to teleport teammates to safety and get them some medical assistance if needed.

In these two screen captures, there is one small setup difference that can really help out your team. Positioning the Ninja within healing range of a Cleric is always a good idea.  The Ninja can use the first action point (AP) to swap places with an injured teammate and use a later AP to return them back to their original position.  That leaves up to three AP for healing that damaged unit. However, if the Cleric is on your sword square, the healing will be more powerful and can be accomplished in fewer AP.

The Ninja on the sword square isn't doing me much good here.

With the Cleric on the sword square, everyone benefits!
The reason this works is because every faction's healer derives their healing ability from their attack power and standing on a sword square increases attack power.  Any healer on a sword tile will dish out more medicine, but this is particularly useful with the Cleric because of the Council's team bonus - Strong Alchemy.  This means she gets to heal her teammates for 300% of her attack rather than the usual 200% that every other faction gets.

A standard Cleric with no upgrades has 200 attack power and therefore can normally heal a teammate 600 health per shot.  Standing on the sword square boosts that up to a whopping 900 health!  Other than your Knight, that's a guaranteed full heal for your team members.  And chances are one shot of 900 health will be enough to get your Knight full -- or very close to it -- leaving him ready to swap spots with the Ninja again and take more of a beating.

All of this means that with just a little planning ahead, your Ninja Ambulance can be more effective, leaving you more AP to attack, fortify or reposition your troops.  And hopefully win the game!

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Task of Every Spiritual Leader

You can't get very far in reading Paul's epistles before it becomes extremely evident that he was a man of prayer. But his prayers weren't simply for himself, he was constantly lifting up the churches he had planted, the people that were being discipled there, as well as their ongoing ministry.

This isn't a new concept for spiritual leaders, as Abraham and Moses had done centuries before. However, there's a statement that Samuel makes about prayer that should jar any of us that strives to lead others, whether in our church or home. 1 Samuel 12:23 says, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you." This puts the responsibility and necessity of prayer in a whole new light.

I think it's especially important to remember the context here as well. Samuel is nearing the end of his days, and he has just rebuked the people for their request of a king. Part of this, of course, included their rejection of his own sons as leaders. I think God's response to Samuel in 8:7 implies that Samuel was deeply hurt by this.

So, in spite of all their sin, rebellion, and rejection, Samuel still had a responsibility to pray for them. It didn't matter what they had done or how he felt about it. It would be sin not to. That truth has not changed. Prayer is still the task of every spiritual leader.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Behind the Scenes of Effective Ministry

Last summer our BSU Bible study was over 2 Corinthians, and I remember reading a commentary that said it was the letter Paul was reluctant to write. That's because Paul has to spend so much time defending himself and his ministry, when he would rather talk to them about the gospel and its implications.

That brings me to my reading this morning, 2 Corinthians 11. There were some people at the church in Corinth that insulted Paul's abilities, questioned his apostleship, doubted his motives, and were jealous of the results of his ministry. They wanted to be seen as somebody even greater than Paul.

So Paul takes a moment to lay out what it really costs to have an effective ministry. In verses 23-33 his experience can almost be summed up in a single word: danger. He faced trials at every single turn. Those who were jealous of the "glamor" of Paul's ministry had no idea what it actually cost. I doubt any of them would strive for those kinds of experiences.

Paul's path was especially wrought with trials (Acts 9:16), but it's still the reality of ministry. It will be challenging and you will not be up to the task apart from the power of Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:9-10). However, it's in those trials that we most depend on Him and take no glory or credit for ourselves. For those desiring to have a great ministry, let your expectation match reality - being deeply used by Jesus will not come cheaply.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Part of my reading this morning was in 1 Samuel 8. It's a rather startling story for a few different reasons. One thing that really interests me is the matter of Samuel's sons. Why were they so different from him? Surely he prayed for them and instructed them in the ways of the Lord, after all he was one of the greatest spiritual leaders Israel would ever have. Furthermore, there's no way he could forget what happened to Eli's sons... I don't have any answers for that.

Today, though, I really want to focus in on the Israelites' request for a king. Of course their big mistake was wanting to be like the nations around them, rather than being different and introducing God to their neighboring countries. But what struck me this morning was their insistence on having a king, even after Samuel told them what a bad deal it would be for them. Their minds were completely made up and no amount of wisdom or reason could change them.

All of this brings me back to a word that I heard Andy Stanley talk about at Catalyst: Focalism. He was preaching out of the story of Jacob and Esau and the selling of Esau's birthright for a bowl of stew. The point is clearly made in this passage as well. Sometimes we get so locked in on what we think we want at that very moment, everything else becomes a blur. In the process we make terrible decisions, trade away our future, compromise our values, and eventually live to regret it.

How can you tell if you're starting to fall victim to focalism? I think that's part of the problem - we often can't! That's why we need to humbly allow others to be involved in our lives. Is there anyone in your life you can be real with? Someone who asks you the tough questions and will be honest with you, even when it hurts? And even more to the point, will you listen to them?

I know some people who are still looking for this relationship but haven't found it. Whether or not you have someone like that, you can always go to the Lord. There's no replacement for a daily time with Him, allowing His Word to bring teaching, rebuking and correcting in your life. It's far better than falling victim to focalism.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


In my quiet time this morning, part of my reading was 2 Corinthians 9. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth and is encouraging them to follow through on their prior commitments to give. In the process, he tells us some incredible things about generosity:
  • If you only have a little, you can still give generously, even if it's not a lot (8:12)
  • Giving should be done voluntarily and cheerfully (v7)
  • God loves a cheerful giver (v7)
  • God blesses us so we can give generously to others in need, not simply for our own benefit (v11)
  • Being generous with our money opens the door for God to bless us in non-monetary ways (v8,10,12)
  • Our generosity will result in God's glory (v11,12,13)
  • Our giving should be our natural response to our experience of God's grace (v14)

When I read this, it's easy for me to think, "I need to be more generous! I'll get right on that." But that's not really the point. I think instead any lack of generosity on our part should lead us to examine our experience and understanding of God's grace given to us in Jesus Christ. While generosity can be a disciplined action, I think the ideal is that it's a natural byproduct of our relationship with God. He has lavished His grace upon us - given generously above and beyond anything we could deserve. Paul calls it His "indescribable gift!"

Have you experienced His grace and mercy in your own life? One simple evidence of that will be an outpouring of generosity to others.