Amber’s Laugh

Amber wed

This is a little snippet I recorded of Amber laughing. She was watching Walker, Texas Ranger’s wedding episode for the millionth time. 😉 She watched it every morning when she woke up. It helped her start her day.

Anyway, I wanted to post a video here that I made last night with this laugh in it. It had pictures and I used the song by Joe Cocker, You Are So Beautiful, because it fit the time frame perfectly and it is the perfect tribute to her. It’s how we feel about her.

So, if you want to see it, I posted a link on Twitter. I also have it uploaded onto Facebook, which is where the Twitter link will take you. I’m still figuring out what I can do with this blog, so, I may have just missed how I can do it. If I find a way I will put it here. Love and blessings to all of you.

My girl had an amazing, contagious laugh that we will never forget. 🙂

Gary Con IV

Just returned from Gary Con IV yesterday. I had mixed feelings about attending this year, since last year, our daughter passed away the day after Gary Con. Part of me didn’t want to attend at all. But, the other part of me (the part that won :)) wanted to be surrounded by friends and gamers for comfort and fun. Sometimes fun heals.

And, what can be more fun than gaming in the festive atmosphere of a gaming convention? And, to be honest, Gary Con is probably our favorite convention in so many ways. Here are some highlights about Gary Con in general and about this year’s Gary Con specifically.

• It honors Gary Gygax, set up to pay tribute to his memory by his children.

• Industry legends not only attend, but are accessible to fans. I mean, how great is it to game with Tom Wham, have a beer with Frank Mentzer, or get lost in character stories with Ernie Gygax? It is a rarified atmosphere unlike any other gaming experience.

• convention centers around gaming. That is its focus — it’s just rooms and rooms full of tables and gaming. It’s not comics, media, sci fi, anime, etc. It is a convention for GAMERS, and that’s what I am.

Sure, there is a dealer’s room, and there is an artist’s corner, and yes, Jolly was there with KODT goodness, but, the focus was on playing games. Some of the highlights for me this year was watching a table of young boys probably 8 years old to 11, playing AD&D for almost an entire day and having a complete blast. Their enthusiasm for the game, their full engagement in the game, their interaction with each other, the creativity of the game master and his skill at making the game vibrant for those boys, was just so encouraging. It was also great to have young fans come up to our booth excited about having played Hackmaster and wanting autographs. 🙂 They are the future of our industry and hobby.

Another highlight was just hanging out with very good friends. Craig Zipse came up from Georgia and he is a very special friend that everyone likes because of his friendly disposition, kindness and love of gaming. Geekpreacher, aka, Derek White brought his brother in law Joel and his friend Redd up from Tennessee, and we enjoyed spending time with them as well. We were gratified that not only did they grace us with their presence, but they worked their tails off helping us get our booth up to Lake Geneva and setting it up for us Wednesday night.

Also, we got to see our good friends Travis and Tracy Primmer and their son Del. Even though they live close by, we don’t get to see them and talk as much as we’d like. Gary Con is a good place to relax and touch bases with people.

I got to play in a demo of Aces and Eights, a game I love not just because our company publishes it. They were playing a gunfight and I came in late. I made a bare-bones character and named her Killer Jane. Paper buildings were set up along a western street and paper minis were in use. Since I couldn’t really reach the playing area, I tossed my paper mini into the fray. The thing sailed gracefully across the roof of the bank and landed behind another player, putting my character into play perfectly.

I immediately shot at the cowpoke I had landed behind, aiming for the crotch as I imagined my crazy character being a woman who had it in for men in general. Since I was behind him, I ended up shooting him in the rear-end. It was pretty funny.

He turned his mini around, and we closed for more close in shooting. He aims for my neck, misses. I aim for his crotch and hit his chest instead. We close, until we’re face to face. In the final simultaneous shoot out, I blast his character’s crotch and he, missing my character’s neck, shoots her in the face so that we both fall over unconscious. It doesn’t get much better than that. 😉

Got to play in a Hackmaster game with our D-Team and friends, and ended up suffering a crit and nearly dying again. Seems like every Gary Con I lose a character. This time, I was lucky and got to -2 hit points before being given first aid, and so, I’m happy about that.

I watched Jolly and Craig play a cool jousting game. Craig’s skill at jousting was too much for poor Jolly. In fact, Craig ended up being one of the top jousters of Gary Con IV with that performance.

Got to play one of our favorite board games, Dice Town, in the bar Friday night with Travis, Craig, and Luke Gygax. Luke trounced us, but we didn’t mind too much. We’ll get him next year. 😉

One of the highlights of my time was sitting down with Ernie Gygax and hearing the stories of his player characters, ones he used to play test with his dad back when he was a kid. I would elaborate here, but we’re planning on running stories of gaming legends and their favorite characters in KODT, so I don’t want to spoil it.

If you ever get the chance to come to Lake Geneva (a really beautiful place) some day for Gary Con, I recommend you do it. There’s nothing better for gamers than to gather in Gary’s hometown and toss the dice.

Masters

My dog snuggling with me as I write.

I have spoiled my dog. But, I don’t care. She’s my beloved pet, and I like it when she sits beside me as I eat and I hand her a bite now and then. I like to see the sweet look on her face as she takes the morsel from my hand and enjoys it. It gives me pleasure to see her happy.

A year and a half ago, or so, she was a stray in a shelter and she didn’t get such treatment. She didn’t know what it was like to have tidbits shared with her in love. She didn’t know what it was like to snuggle on a couch with a human and have her ears rubbed. She didn’t know the joy of tugging with a toy from her master’s hand and romping in the back yard with security.

Now, she does.

Just now, as I was sharing with her from my hand I got to thinking about God – how God provides for us and gives to us – how he spoils us by giving us more than we need, and how He enjoys giving to us. And, he likes gratitude.

When I give my dog a treat, I get a grateful tail wag, or maybe a lick on the hand. She doesn’t ignore me as I give to her, she doesn’t turn her back on me and say I don’t exist or that I don’t love her. I mean, she can’t talk anyway, but you know what I mean. There is something upsetting about giving to a pet who doesn’t appreciate it or worse yet, bites the hand that feeds it. But, we do so to God so often.

Now, my dog knows the reality and the joy of having a relationship with me. She receives shelter, food, love, affection, joy, stimulation, protection, and more from me. She gives back what seems to be very little, but it’s enough for me because I know she gives all she can out of gratitude and love. She gives affection, companionship, gratitude, joy and love.

But, when she was in the shelter, she and the other dogs there, didn’t know the love of a human like she does now. She hadn’t come into contact with the loving hand. So, she and her fellow “inmates” likely didn’t believe or understand that such relationship with humans as masters existed.

They remind me of people who haven’t experienced God’s love, penned up by sin, circumstances or rebellious spirits. They reject the notion that He even exists, sometimes. Or, they scratch out their living thinking that’s all there is and they become satisfied with it, not imagining that there is more to life. They may roam the streets, digging in garbage and believing that they are living the real free life without anyone to tell them what to do or how to eat. They fight with other dogs, they splash in puddles and chase cats and think that’s all there is. At night, they shiver in the cold and try to find somewhere safe to sleep. They face dangers and loneliness.

Some get found and find out that there is more to life than they knew before. Some never do. Some are too damaged to easily accept love when it is offered. Some overcome their traumas and the bad habits they’ve developed out on the streets. Some refuse. They become bitter and dangerous.

I know my mind is meandering here. I know that this is not a perfect analogy by any means. But, it’s where my mind wandered moments ago and I thought I’d write it down just in case there was some meaning in the middle of my clumsy expressions.

The thing is, the thing I think about a lot is that just because we can’t understand everything about God, just because we haven’t found ways to pin him down and prove to the world that he is real, doesn’t mean he isn’t. He is beyond analyzing and our meager methods of discovering truth. Yet, to those who are fed from His Almighty Hand, he’s very real, very loving and the source of every good thing.

I simply wish everyone could know Him that way – as a true, loving master, who longs for a loving relationship with us, and who gives and gives until it hurts, just to see the joy on our faces when we receive what he offers and to hear us say, “Thank you.”

Defining God

I saw a movie last night called Immortals. It was a pretty bad movie all around, lots of CGI, but boring and disjointed in plot and even appearance. But, what really got to me was their depiction of gods. I was suddenly aware, and very thankful, that some peoples’ idea of god are not true.

You see, we were made in God’s image. We don’t make God in our own. Those that do suffer. They end up really worshipping themselves and their own ideas. God does not need people to define Him. He is who He is – or as He put it “I AM that I AM.”

So, let’s not forget who is in charge — the loving God who is slow to anger, abounding in mercy, freely gives, but needs nothing, yet yearns for relationship with those he loves, the creator, the sustainer, the almighty, all powerful, yet respectful, gracious, and holy GOD.

I know it might not be fashionable anymore to talk about God or care about Him. Or, maybe it’s too fashionable in certain circles, like Republican campaigns, so that His name is muddied and used. But, God is not one to be mocked forever. Though He is patient, He also demands respect and deserves it too.

Sometimes, I think we get so hung up on ourselves that we let pride get in the way of real happiness. Loving God, and letting Him be who He is, without trying to mold or shape Him, is really a joyful way to live. Because, in relationship with Him, He asks us to give Him all things. That might sound selfish or scary, but, it is actually freeing and peaceful beyond belief. Giving Him my failures, my weaknesses, my anger, my pain, my sin, I get all things from Him. I get love that never leaves or wanes, joy in the midst of pain, peace even in sadness, and His strength.

I wouldn’t trade my relationship with God for anything. I’m so glad that He doesn’t need me to tell Him who He is. I’m so glad He is outside of myself, a real person, who wants to know me, who adopts me into His family and makes me one of His own. I can think of nothing better because all of the comforts of this world crumble away when push comes to shove. His comfort never fades and it’s real, immovable and loving. I hope everyone can know the true God — the one who waits for them to say, “I want to know you.”

 

Faith Reasons

As I was driving to meet with my friends for our weekly cell group meeting, which is a Bible study at Panera Breads in Arlington Height, IL, I got to thinking. Now, this drive is a bit long for me, some 27 miles or so, so I have time to listen to music and think, etc. I enjoy it. Usually.

But, last night, I was in such thought that I completely missed a turn and ended up a little lost. Eventually, I got to the right spot, but, it was a bit more of a trial than usual. What I was thinking about was these thoughts:

I am not a a Christian because I want to argue about evolution.

I am not a Christian because I want to lord my righteousness over other people and make them feel like dirt.

I am not a Christian because I want to tell homosexuals that they’re going to hell.

I am not a Christian because I want to protest for unborn babies, though I do care about them.

I am not even a Christian because I want to be a “good girl.”

I am a Christian because I need God. I need Him to clean up my messes, to take away the sins that I fall into and cling to without thought. I am a Christian because instead of condemning me for my weaknesses and sins, God sent his Son to forgive me and offer me His love.

That’s it. And, it should be that for all Christians. Christianity is not about political power. It is not a country club for the squeaky clean to pat themselves on the back and look down their noses at others. It is a hospital for the wounded and dying. It is the bloody arms of Christ spread out to catch the stumbling, filthy little lambs who’ve been playing in the sewer. It’s grace poured out for all — straight or gay, black or white, rich or poor.

So why do Christians thump their chests and get so political? Why do they make some groups of people feel completely unwelcome? Why do they insist that the wounded clean themselves up before coming to the Healer? If they could, they wouldn’t need him.

It breaks my heart that there are those who love God, who want to be a part of Him and long for a place in His kingdom, and yet they feel they can never belong. Their hearts break because they feel forced to give up on God because He can’t possibly love them. They weep because they can’t change who they are and yet they aren’t accepted by God, at least that’s what they believe.

And, I wonder why should it be that way? Why do we make it so hard for the people who need God the most to find Him? I do not believe Jesus ever intended for Christians to be politicized and strident. I don’t think that is our calling. I think we are supposed to be making disciples. We’re supposed to be saying, “Come, follow Jesus” not “vote like we tell you.”

It’s all well and good to stand up for Christian principles, but then I even wonder why? Why is it important for us to wrangle our nation into this idea that we have of the perfect society? We’re never going to get that on Earth and we know it. Why act like that’s the ultimate goal then?

Have we forgotten what we’re here for? We’re here to be like Jesus, to be His hands and feet and heart. We’re here to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to humble ourselves like Christ did, who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant… Each of us should think of others as better than ourselves… Remember those words in Philippians? They’re still true now.

I’m calling on Christians to open up their hearts and arms and humble themselves before God. Holiness is all well and good, but it’s not something you brag about and force on others. Hearts have to be changed before lives are. We can’t legislate a change of heart. We have to love people to do that.

Jesus came and lived with us to help us. We shouldn’t be trying to isolate ourselves from “the masses” out of fear of being “tainted.” Jesus didn’t do that. Why do we think we have to? Don’t we trust God enough to know He’ll keep us safe?

I hope these ramblings, and this outpouring of my heart, is taken in the spirit by which it has been given to me — in understanding and maybe some conviction. I have also been convicted here. Don’t get me wrong. I am far from perfect. But, God is working in my life and I hope he works in yours.