Christy Stroud Posts

The Aetherlight Bible: Combining God’s Word with Gaming

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Where does God’s Word fit in a gaming world? “Right in the middle of it!” says Tyndale House Publishers and Scarlet City Studios. The two organizations have formed an exciting partnership to bring the gospel story to young gamers. Tyndale’s new Aetherlight Bible releases this summer and is built around themes from the new action-adventure online game The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance.

“Tyndale House grew out of the efforts of Dr. Kenneth Taylor as he worked to make God’s Word accessible to his children,” said Blaine A. Smith, associate publisher at Tyndale House Publishers. “For over fifty years, Tyndale has been focused on providing innovative ways for people to connect to God’s Word. This new partnership with Scarlet City Studios enables us to engage children in a game environment with the truth of Scripture. We are excited to join with Scarlet City Studios to create this Bible and help parents engage with their kids in an environment they understand.”

 The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance is the first digital engagement experience of its kind. The Entertainment Software Association reports that 59 percent of Americans play video games and more than 50 percent of US households have at least two gaming consoles. In only four years the gaming industry has seen an increase in sales of more than 200 percent. The Aetherlight game aims to help young people see their stories in the context of God’s story via a world that is grounded in the biblical narrative. The companion Bible will help families build upon the bridge between the game’s allegory and the words of Scripture. Through different media forms, Tyndale House Publishers and Scarlet City Studios are bringing God’s Word into this unique market.

The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance is more than a game,” said Tim Cleary, Scarlet City Studios’ Aetherlight world builder. “It’s an immersive experience that, carefully balancing theology and theatrics, brings to life the biblical narrative for a digital generation. It connects Scripture and real-life application through the world of Aethasia as a high-quality, state-of-the-art game that allows players to experience the mission of God in Scripture for themselves. It’s fantastic, then, to be able to offer a physical, tactile Bible to match this rich experience.”

The Aetherlight Bible pairs the timeless truth of the Bible with full-color inserts, unique footnotes, and exclusive game art. Connecting the dots between the game’s allegory and the grand narrative of Scripture, The Aetherlight Bible will help young people engage with God’s story in a fresh way and encourage them to explore their own part in the adventure.

The clear and easy-to-understand New Living Translation is perfectly matched to the needs of young readers. Alongside unique game-based content, it allows young people to immerse themselves in this story, seeing the echoes of Scripture in their Aethasian adventures, and draws an online generation back into the Word.

Join the Resistance today, and play the online game at www.theaetherlight.com.

Be sure to look for the Aetherlight companion Bible in stores and online this summer!

About Scarlet City Studios: http://www.scarletcitystudios.com/
Scarlet City Studios was established in 2012 with the sole intention of bridging the cultural, historical, and pedagogical gap between the contemporary world of preteens and the world of the Bible by advancing biblical engagement through interactive media, learning frameworks, and creative transmedia products. Scarlet City’s unique framework is based on the principles of faith, hope, and love—telling great stories, nurturing genuine innovation, and fostering real encounters.

5 Things Nurses Wish Their Patients Knew

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It’s National Nurses Appreciation Week. Today we have a guest post from novelist Carre Armstrong Gardner who in addition to writing, is also a nurse. In this guest post, Carre provides some practical advice that nurses wish their patients knew. 

With insurance companies calling the shots on reimbursement and dictating how long a physician spends with each patient, doctors have never been busier. A primary care provider or specialist sees between 15 and 50 patients every day. Office visits can feel rushed. Details fall through cracks. In spite of everyone’s best intentions, you may not be getting the best care you could. Talking to a nurse can help. Because we have more time to spend with patients, we often see patterns that doctors miss—things we wish our patients knew. I asked nurses across a spectrum of health care disciplines the question, “If there were one thing you could tell patients, what would it be?” Here are their top five answers:

  1. Everyone thinks their doctor is the best.

Lynn H. needed her gall bladder out. “My surgeon is the best,” she assured her sister Kaitlyn, who is a nurse, over lunch. “Everyone says he’s the guy to go to.” A year and three hospitalizations later, Lynn is still dealing with complications of what should have been a straightforward surgery. Is this her surgeon’s fault? Not necessarily. But it does raise the question: How do you really know your doctor is good? The truth is that when most people say their doctor is “good,” this only means they like their doctor. He’s personable, or she seems professional.  But when considering a provider, there is objective data you should be considering as well. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (ncqa.org) is an organization that measures, analyzes, and seeks to improve the way providers meet certain quality standards and performance measures. The Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute’s Bridges to Excellence (hci3.org) is another program that identifies and offers incentives to health care providers who meet certain standards of excellence. Both publish data about how providers measure up. Recently I looked up my own PCP’s ratings and was surprised by what I discovered. His numbers weren’t as high as others in my city. Looks like it’s time to take my colleagues’ advice and do a little informed shopping around.

  1. Tell us everything, even the embarrassing stuff.

Hedging information about your health could have serious implications. The nurses I spoke with who take health histories from patients about to undergo surgery said they routinely find that men who take drugs for erectile dysfunction leave them off their list of medications. Why? Because they’re embarrassed to tell a female nurse or because they don’t think it’s important. But if you’ve taken a phosphodiesterase inhibitor like Viagra (sildenafil) or Cialis (tadalafil) up to three days before your surgery, and you develop postoperative chest pain, and we give you nitroglycerin, it could kill you. And we can’t know you’re taking these drugs unless you’ve included them in your medication history. We also need to know how much you really drink on a daily basis. The standard “two drinks a day”—the amount heavy drinkers most often report—won’t give us a heads-up about what’s happening if you start to detox in the hospital. Alcohol withdrawal seizures can kill you. There are medications we can give you to prevent them, but first we have to know the truth about your drinking history. And now is no time to fudge the truth about your weight, either: it’s the guideline our hospital pharmacy uses to make sure you’re getting the proper dose of medications. So set your embarrassment aside for now and keep yourself safe.

  1. Your doctor should be addressing your weight.

This answer came from nurses who work in primary care practices. Studies are conclusive: losing weight is the single most significant factor in managing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea. If you’re taking medication or using a CPAP machine for any of those diseases and your doctor is not taking you to task about being overweight, then she is not doing her job. Of course, physicians can’t force patients to lose weight. And anyone who’s fought the discouraging battle of the bulge knows that taking off extra inches is easier said than done. But you don’t have to boil the ocean: losing just 10 pounds can significantly improve your health and decrease the amount of medication you need. Less medication means fewer side effects, and it makes for happier patients and providers.

  1. Advocate for yourself or find someone who can.

When it comes to health care, you have to advocate for yourself. A good place to start is by knowing your own health history. Make a list of all your medications, including dosages, and all past surgeries and hospitalizations, and carry it in your wallet. Think ahead about what you will say and do if a provider recommends something you disagree with or don’t feel you know enough about. Many older patients, raised in an era when good manners dictated that they not question authority figures like physicians, can be reluctant to object to anything their doctor suggests. Hospital providers almost all have stories of patients who experienced chest pain but didn’t tell anyone until hours later because they didn’t want to bother the nurses. When you’re ill or in the hospital, it can be hard to speak up for yourself or to question providers. At times like this, it’s helpful to have another person present, someone who doesn’t feel the same compunction over raising concerns about your care. Plan to bring a trusted spouse or partner, adult sibling, or child with you to your next appointment, or to have them present in the hospital when the doctor makes rounds. Your advocate can ask questions you might be uncomfortable raising. They can request information you feel you may not be getting and can explore options and alternatives with your doctors and nurses on your behalf.

  1. Don’t let your child visit Grandma in the hospital.

Few things raise a hospital nurse’s blood pressure like seeing a small child rolling around on the floor of a patient’s room. In spite of our excellent housekeepers with their phalanx of bactericidal cleaning products, hospitals are still not good places for children to visit. MRSA, VRE, and CRE are a few of the multidrug-resistant organisms, or “superbugs,” that people can pick up in hospitals. These bacteria, which respond to very few antibiotics, can cause serious health problems. In the very young, the very old, and the debilitated, they can be deadly. Keep in mind that although your hospitalized loved one may not have any of these diseases, others in the hospital do, and you don’t want your child leaving the visit with something he didn’t come in with. So although it may cheer Grandma up to see her grandchildren, think of how terrible she’d feel if that visit made her grandchildren sick. Ask about your hospital’s age guidelines for visitors, and stick to them.

Even if you’re doing the best you can to manage your health care, chances are there’s room for improvement. Nurses can be good sources of advice on how you can do better. From choosing your providers carefully to keeping your hospital visitors safe, small changes can make a big difference in how you get and keep yourself healthy.

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sm978-1-4143-8816-8Carre Armstrong Gardner is a registered professional nurse. In 23 years of practice, she has worked in cardiology, oncology, medical-surgical, orthopedics, critical care, and addiction medicine. She currently works as a perianesthesia nurse in Portland, Maine. Carre is also the author of three novels, the most recent one being They Danced On (available July 1, 2016; Tyndale House). Learn more at carregardner.com.

Living In-Between

Today we have a guest post from Nancy Ortberg, author of Seeing in the Dark. 

Living in-between is hard work. It’s much simpler to make a choice, color it black or white, draw a line. But even though this living in-between is more difficult, it’s better. Definitely better.

What lies in the in-between is nuance, richness, and meaning. It’s only in the in-between that we can live in color, with heartaches and joys combining hues.

My friends Paul and Ellen lost their twenty-one-year-old son to a drug overdose. Six days after his son’s funeral, Paul called me. I asked him how he was doing, and he said that the day before had been his first day back at the office.

“I was pretty much good for nothing those few hours I was there,” he said.

“Completely understandable,” I told him.

He said, “It’s getting harder. The shock and adrenaline are wearing off, and people need to get back to their lives. The reality is setting in that we are living life without Matty.”

He went on to tell me about four kids who, since Matt’s funeral, had come forward to family or friends to admit that they, too, were struggling with addiction. The rehab center where Matt spent the final nineteen days of his life was overwhelmed by the financial contributions that had poured in, and the staff came to Paul and Ellen to ask how they wanted those donations spent.

“Scholarships,” they said. “Assistance for kids who need this help but can’t afford it. We’re clinging to the hope that we might be able to save one kid.”

That’s living in-between. The sorrow I heard in Paul’s voice about how it was getting harder, followed by the lilt a few seconds later as he described the impact of his son’s death—the ripples and repercussions, the redemption at some level.

My guess is that Paul and Ellen will be living in-between till the day they die. Their hearts and minds being pulled in such opposing directions, often in the same moment. Rending. Wrenching.

Living in-between forces us to recognize that grief is largely a nonlinear process. There isn’t a neat, clean, stair-stepped process that delivers us whole at the end. It meanders, twists, turns, and stalls. Denial, bargaining, and anger turn us around like the spin-dry cycle. Depression invades all the stages. And acceptance? It shows up at some levels, maybe; but in the deepest parts of grief, no.

Time gets all mixed up, and here and there, then and now are barely decipherable. The smallest thing can trigger a memory, and there we are, squarely in the past. The smallest thing can thrust us back to the present with a whiplash-like sensation, and the future becomes almost unbearable to imagine.

Recently, when some friends of ours went through the sudden loss of their child (as Paul puts it, “a club no one wants to be in”), I wrote to Paul. “Tell me,” I said, “what to tell them.” I think it is those who have gone through it and are going through it who become our teachers in how to help others.

Here’s what Paul said in response:

Words can never express the loss this family has suffered—remember that. Sometimes just being with them is more healing than words.

Comfort will come from unexpected places and people; those you expect the most from may be the least involved in your grief.

Forgive those who disappoint you; embrace deeply those who hold you and give you hope, even in the smallest ways.

You will have many people share their story of addiction and/or depression. Listen to them; they have already walked this road.

People will walk alongside you on this journey, but at the end of the day, no one can walk it for you.

Take time with your grief. The second year is tougher than the first.

People will allow you three to six months to grieve, and then they go back to their lives.

Talk about your loss; frequently use the name of the one you lost. Do not be afraid to cry a lot and in public.

Let people know it’s okay to laugh around you and tell stories; you will be blessed, and they will be more comfortable.

Say yes to every invitation you get so people will keep you involved in life.

Look at pictures and videos only when you want to. Don’t overdo it.

Psalm 116:15 has been like a balm to me: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (nkjv).

Chris Tomlin’s song lyrics, especially “I Will Rise,” have blessed me beyond anything I could ever have expected.

The “unexpected visitor” of grief will appear when you least expect it. It is okay; God is bigger and greater.

These are holy words, formed from a broken heart that is clinging to God. I took to heart Paul’s first sentence and sent the rest on to my friend, who was deeply blessed by them.

Paul and Ellen are halfway through their second year of grieving the death of their son Matty. Their second Christmas without him is rapidly approaching. During this time Paul has gotten to know other parents who have been through this unthinkable journey of losing a child. Seeing some of them years down the road from the loss, he can glimpse a kind of hope and healing that he longs for.

The temptation is, knowing that he has experienced some semblance of healing, wanting to leapfrog to that less painful point in the future. But, as he knows, through is the only way.

Nancy Ortberg is the Director of Leadership Development at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, in Northern California, and the author of Seeing in the Dark: Finding God’s Light in the Most Unexpected Places and Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands, Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership.  A highly sought-after speaker, Nancy has been a featured presenter at the Catalyst and Orange conferences, and has been a regular contributor to Rev! Magazine.  She and her husband, John, live in the Bay Area and have three grown children: Laura, Mallory, and Johnny.

Paris, Terror, and Christ

It has been a little over a week since the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and the city is still working to heal from this tragedy. Pastor Dimas Salaberrios was in Europe at the time of the attacks with his family and when he heard what happened, flew to Paris to minister to the hurting there. Today’s post is his personal account of what he saw and did during his time in Paris 

Pop, pop, pop! People shouted hysterically—mostly in French—and I heard the word gun. I snatched up my four-year-old daughter and made a run for it. I was in the middle of a human stampede in Paris with five hundred terrified people. Several people fell to the ground, causing others to fall, and my daughter and I kissed the cement in rapid succession. One thought filled my mind. Did we come to Paris to die?

Just hours before, I had been in Milan, Italy, on my Street God book tour. We turned on the television to see footage of the deadliest European terrorist attack since the Madrid commuter train bombings. My wife, Tiffany, and I looked at each other and agreed, “The best place for Christians to be now is in Paris.” We jumped on the overnight train with our two girls, ages four and eight, and woke up in Paris. The atmosphere was jumpy, and everyone was on high alert. You could sense that more attacks were probably planned.

The people on Paris’s streets looked broken but also different from the mourners I’d seen after 9/11 or this summer’s church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. I sensed a lot of hopelessness and confusion from people who mourned without turning to God. The church seemed visibly absent. I remembered the words of the eighteenth-century French philosopher Denis Diderot, who proudly stated, “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

Bill Devlin, my co-pastor at Infinity Bible Church in the South Bronx, had caught a flight out of JFK to meet me on the ground the morning of our arrival. As soon as we met up, we decided to go to the locations of the terrorist strikes. While on the train, God provided two guides for us—young adult brothers, one dressed like an athlete and the other dressed in business casual attire. They had candles and invited us to follow them to the Bataclan, the concert hall where over eighty people were killed and many people were critically injured.

Once there, we witnessed one of the saddest scenes in my memory. I looked at Pastor Bill Devlin, and we decided to minister to the brokenhearted at our own risk. We announced that we were pastors from America who had flown in to show support and to pray for the people of France. I then kicked off the prayer. A man violently objected, saying, “Prayer must be private in France,” but I kept praying and the crowd silenced him, telling him, “Today it must be public.” The presence of God showed up, and people started to weep. A number of people hugged us and clapped their hands in appreciation for that time of prayer. Several people told us how the prayer helped them release some of their sorrow.

God sent two more guides—a sweet girl named Fanny, who had tears in her eyes, and Victoria, who had a gentleness about her. Both were in their twenties and told us that they had danced at Bataclan. They were broken and asked if we would accompany them to the next site, where two nearby cafés had been attacked. Over five hundred people were mourning there. We had no idea that things were about to get crazy.

My daughters, Dallas and Skylar, knelt down to light candles. A small commotion brewed when someone pointed out that the edge of my four-year-old’s dress was being charred by the lit candles. I quickly picked Skylar up, extinguishing the bit that was smoking. Suddenly, the sound of pops could be heard, which is when I heard someone shout about a gun. I looked up and saw a throng of people running toward us when Tiffany shouted, “Run, Dimas, run!”

I swooped Skylar up in my arms and turned and ran as fast as I could. I quickly realized we were in the middle of a stampede as hundreds of people reacted in sheer panic. Some people slipped and fell across the memorials that had been erected. Skylar and I were shoved, and I placed my arm out to shield her as we hit the ground hard. My hand was stomped on, and my knee was badly bruised. As blood poured out of both, we bounced up quickly, knowing we could get trampled at any moment. A kind elderly woman yelled to us in French, motioning for us to come into her house right away! Tiffany was right behind us. We hurried into the refuge of her home. Only then did we realize that our precious eight-year-old had become separated from us in the melee.

Tiffany and I ran back onto the streets, frightfully calling out Dallas’s name. Other kind Parisians motioned for us to come into their homes as police in riot gear and assault rifles had quickly arrived on the scene. Guns were pointing everywhere, including on us. My hands were open as I tried to communicate that we had lost our daughter. Police and soldiers yelled for everyone to go inside.  It pained Tiffany and me to take cover inside the elderly woman’s home without knowing the whereabouts of our daughter. Tiffany’s eyes filled with tears. With a surreal peace that could only come from God at such a devastating moment, I reassured my wife that Dallas must be with Pastor Bill. Minutes later, my cell phone rang. Pastor Bill relieved all our fears when he told us that he had Dallas! As it turned out, our eight-year-old had been the quickest of us all, jetting out of danger by crouching and hiding between two parked cars. Then a young woman rushed to her aid, placing her body over Dallas’s to protect her.

Pastor Bill hadn’t been as fortunate. He had been shoved before stumbling into the candles of the memorial. Candle wax covered his shoes and pants. As he ran for cover, he caught a glimpse of Dallas and the young woman shielding her behind the SUV. Tiffany and I praised God and hugged each other. We had experienced just a taste of the horror that had gripped these very streets just two nights ago. Thankfully the pops we heard turned out to be firecrackers.

We went out the next afternoon to the Place de la Republique, where we again prayed for and comforted the people of Paris. My hope was encouraged as I witnessed firsthand how faith can spread there, particularly among young people. Every time our team stopped to pray, people flocked around us in awe as they wondered what we were doing. They commented on our courage in singling ourselves out by praying publicly, which annihilated the gripping fear that threatened to overtake them. Christianity is so silent, so invisible in most people’s daily routine that, quite honestly, the younger generation doesn’t even know what it looks like. When we told them that we were forming a huddle of prayer so we could ask Jesus Christ to help us, they joined in eagerly. They told us that they sensed a power and peace during the prayers. God showed up with an unusual sweet presence in those prayer huddles. One time, I felt God’s presence so strongly that when I looked up into the sky, I thought the sun was going to conquer the Paris clouds.

I pray that, just like after 9/11, the churches in Paris would step out on a branch like Zaccheus did, taking a chance and seeing Jesus show up.

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Dimas Salaberrios is a former drug boss from New York City who turned his life around and is now pastor of Infinity Bible Church in the South Bronx. He is the president of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York and has been credited with eliminating homicides in one of the toughest housing projects in the South Bronx. Dimas shares his story and more strategies for transforming the drug and gang culture in his book, Street God. Learn more at streetgodbook.com.

Dimas also did an interview on FOX & Friends live from Paris. Watch that interview here.

Taking the Next Step When We Cannot See

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what you should do as your next step in life? Whether it be changing your career, deciding to volunteer in a new ministry or organization, or choosing whether or not to purchase that new car, sometimes I wish God would just put up a big sign saying, “Do this! It’s the better choice for you.” God occasionally works that way, but more often than not, we find ourselves having to make decisions when we cannot fully see what the outcome will be. In today’s guest post, Nancy Ortberg the joy that can be found through seeing in the dark. 

The references in the Bible to light in dark places are numerous. From Genesis to Revelation, light penetrates the darkness in bold and soothing ways. In the beginning, while the darkness hovered, God exploded the world into flourishing with “Let there be light.” Light is offered as relief for dark paths and unknown futures. God’s face is described as light; his garments are a wrapping of light. God’s people are called the “light of the world.” God’s light is so powerful in us that it can’t help but leak out. Light is there—a synonym for truth and a name for Jesus. And not just a light, but the Light of the World.2 God knows we need some.

Just as numerous are the Bible’s references about the way we see in imperfect and incomplete ways, like a mirror that reflects and distorts an image at the same time. “How faint the whisper we hear of him!” Job says (Job 26:14).

And yet we are called to this journey of faith, with eyes that cannot properly focus and light that reveals only the next step. We are compelled to take that next step with merely a tug in our souls rather than the clear path we long for. We get a glimpse when what we want is a panoramic view.

What’s a person to do?

Take the next step, I suppose. At least that’s how it has worked—not just for me, but for most of the Christ followers I know, and as I emerged from the cave system that day, I realized that this is how it has been for Christ followers through the centuries.

Courage is putting one foot in front of the other when all you can see is a faint outline of the future. Or facing that future when it looks not at all how you’d imagined. It’s having the humility to admit a wrong turn, the resilience to try again, and the grace to not let it crush you.

Faith is a funny word—it implies a gap, but we are looking to do away with that gap. We are looking for answers carved in stone, and we get a word. We are searching for certainty, and we get mystery and reflection. We think we would be safe in certainty, and yet it eludes us. We want enormous floods of light, and we get a flicker.

A majestic scene in nature stirs something deep within us that cannot be explained by factor analysis. And the things that can be explained do not grip us at the same level. We have such hopes for our lives and our loved ones; then a tragedy hits, and nothing is ever the same. Yet over time, joy and hope and beauty raise a tiny tendril of faith back into our lives, and we cannot explain it. We are seeing in the dark.

Perhaps that is most of what our faith journey is. Scripture seems to be full of stories of that ilk—of people who took the next step when they were trembling in the shadows. Yet somewhere between when we read those stories and when we are left to imagine them, they take on a quality of assuredness that is simply not there. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s people have been asked to take the next step when they cannot see the next step. That’s the invitation you and I have been given as well.

Nancy Ortberg is the Director of Leadership Development at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, in Northern California, and the author of Seeing in the Dark: Finding God’s Light in the Most Unexpected Places and Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands, Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership.  A highly sought-after speaker, Nancy has been a featured presenter at the Catalyst and Orange conferences, and has been a regular contributor to Rev! Magazine.  She and her husband, John, live in the Bay Area and have three grown children: Laura, Mallory, and Johnny.