Spiritfarer’s Platforming Sets it Apart from Other Simulation Games

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Adventure Rules

When it comes to indie titles, I tend to follow the crowd rather than setting trends myself. A lot of the indie titles I have tried ultimately caught my attention due to lots of recommendations from friends or seeing a large number of positive reviews from journalists or influencers. Titles that now rank among some of my favorite games – experiences like Into the Breach, Celeste, and Hades – I jumped on the bandwagon late because I’m so hesitant to pick up indies unless I know they are good first. In this regard Spiritfarer is no different. I vaguely remember seeing a trailer that didn’t particularly impress me in an Indie World presentation, but then hearing nothing but glowing reviews when the game came out. Everyone I knew of who touched it considered it a strong contender for best indie and wanted it to win every Game Awards category where…

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Humility and Pacifism

I’ve struggled with how to write this for quite some time. Even now, I’m not sure I know how to put into words how I’m feeling, or what I’m thinking. But a big part of putting this off for so long, is I wanted to be able to share it publicly. I didn’t know how to do that in a way that was tactful, and didn’t cause people to gossip or speculate. So I’m writing this for just myself, and if I ever want to edit later, I will. The arguments I’m going to attempt to make won’t necessarily be formulated, researched, or exegeted. I’ve never operated that way. They will be my free-flow thoughts on my observations of the world around me, and will include scripture when I remember a passage that applies. This isn’t to imply that I won’t consider the context of passages, just to say that this will not start with me analyzing a specific passage with no conclusion in mind. I will just perhaps mention passages or general scriptural narratives I’ve analyzed in the past and how I believe they apply to what I’m trying to say. I may end up not mentioning scripture at all. Again, this writing is more just a therapeutic exercise for me than anything else. With all those caveats out of the way, I suppose I must go ahead and attempt to start.

I have felt for a while now that there is a deep-seated problem in the church centered around the power that leaders of even the smallest of churches can be enticed by. I’m not saying that it’s every leader, or even that leaders experience it at the same levels. I’m just saying I think it’s a wider spread problem than we realize. I think that it particularly is a problem with conservative evangelicals, but that is perhaps only because my experience has given me abundantly more interaction with this group, seeing as how I am one. While I struggle on where to start, I think I have to start with the doctrine of inerrancy.

It may seem like a strange place. How does the belief that all scripture contains no error lead to people being enticed by power? It’s not that there’s a problem with the doctrine itself, rather the way people approach the doctrine. Churches that drive home the all authoritative, inerrant word of God often neglect the spiritual aspect of the faith. Through this mistake, they create a box in which God’s word lives, and take away it’s living aspect. It becomes treated more like a constitution that one can make arguments out of to prove a point, rather than an experience or conversation with God in which they fall subject to. To summarize, approaching a scripture you believe to be inerrant without the spiritual disciplines of prayer and humility makes it very easy for a person to try and claim God’s authority.

This is not to say that I think that humanity can’t hold authority over other humans. Far from it. Pastors and Elders are leaders to their church, parents are leaders to their children. Outside of Christianity the Government holds authority over its people, even if they are not necessarily Godly leaders, as we read in Romans 13. Teachers can be leaders to students. You get the idea. But there is a huge difference in the limited authority one exercises as a leader, and the authority of God. When we read the scriptures, study them, come to know them, then teach and instruct others on how to follow God, that is the authority of man. When we claim something that we can’t know as a certainty and exercise it as fact while hiding behind the scriptures, we are often times trying to claim the authority of God. I admit that this becomes a murky thing to discern. When is a person using scriptures to further their own personal agenda, and when is it truly what’s being said? When is it truly something we should be encouraging others to follow? I think the first thing to remember about this, is that the convenience or inconvenience of following something is not what determines its truthfulness. Secondly, if we follow the scriptures in prayer and humility this should naturally defend us from this potential pitfall, allow me to explain.

We as humans are sometimes given a very small amount of authority. Jesus had all authority over all creation. He spoke with authority, but he very rarely exercised it. Despite being king of all creation he allowed people to verbally abuse him, challenge him, and even take him to die on a cross. This is not to say that he didn’t teach things that were controversial, or teach them with conviction. But he never felt the need to force anyone to follow them, be annoyed they weren’t following them, or attack them for questioning his authority. He explained them in complete humility. If this is how Jesus acted with all authority in the university, how much moreso should we use humility in whatever small amount of authority may be afforded to us throughout our life? When we read scriptures and teach them this way, as someone who has no agenda, and doesn’t care if people respect or follow us…it becomes infinitely easier to prevent using them as a means of controlling people.

So I mentioned at the beginning that I feel like this is a problem about power. But why do I feel that there is a problem? I’ve explained how I believe that problem to occur, but not what caused me to notice. Well the first answer is at the large scale I just see more and more stories of pastoral sex scandals, abuse, and manipulation. Stories like Paige Patterson just being the tip of the iceberg. But on a smaller scale I’ve experienced it myself. When I was in youth ministry, while I felt completely normal at the time, there were small facets of the evangelical church’s culture that provided opportunities for me to feel superior or above others. This was even in a culture where humility was technically being preached pretty regularly.These opportunities were not overt or obvious, I wasn’t pointing fingers or barking orders. But I felt an entitlement for others to fall suit to my interpretation of scripture or ideals because of my position. There were times where being unable to convey these ideas led to bitterness, resentment, and anger. Admittedly, I’ve struggled with anger in the past. But my best years of being pacifistic and slow to anger were when I was serving at Valley Creek in a position that consumed my day to day, but by contrast I had authority over no one. I was not “licensed” or “ordained” for ministry. I’m not saying that my string of regrettable behavior was caused solely by the culture of ministry, there were a variety of factors. Still, I’m compelled after much thought over the past 2 years that it provided an environment that made my anger and insistence of compliance all the more easy.

Now I can’t say with certainty that every example of anger, abuse, manipulation, or things of the like by a Pastor are caused by the same things I experienced personally. But in an environment that seems to increasingly produce these results I can’t help but consider the possibility. Now that I’m returning to some sense of normalcy and a headspace that I can be proud of, I know that save for a miracle; ministry is not where I need to be. I am not above reproach. But I feel there are countless pastors across our country that struggle with these things, oftentimes on a much more extreme scale than I did, who remain in ministry under the guise of “forgiveness.” Make no mistake about it, forgiveness is an absolutely pivotal part of not just the Christian walk, and it should be a pivotal part of society altogether. But there is a huge difference in forgiving someone, and allowing someone who is not qualified for the role of pastor to continue serving in that role. The Bible makes it very clear that it’s not exactly an easy calling. In the worst circumsances I’ve even seen churches cover up sexual harassment or abuse to maintain peace, maintain order, and maintain normalcy, under the guise of “forgiveness.” So Pastors who are not qualified for the role continue to serve. Because if overnight we discovered that a large portion of our church leadership was not qualified to lead, what would we do? The possibility scares us, so we cover up and excuse sinful behavior. In some scenarios this impulse to cover up is due to simple misled urges to not affect our church’s witness. While I understand the temptation, this is a classic example of what Jesus warns against in his parable of cleaning the cup. We clean the outside for a good appearance while the inside is disgusting and unusable. In worse scenarios I’m sure there are those out there who cover things up because it would affect the financial income of their church. When people’s faith in the church is compromised, people leave, and when people leave, budgets suffer. I don’t think I need to explain why covering up a Pastor’s sins to keep finances up is wrong. When it comes to covering up to protect the church’s witness, allow me to paraphrase a line from Christian satire movie Believe Me: “If something like that shatters your faith, maybe your faith was in the wrong thing to start with.”

I think I’ve more or less fleshed out, and put to paper the thoughts that have been swirling around my head for the past few months. I have no idea if I’ll share this or not. I believe I spoke with enough tact that it could be shared, but we shall see. But in conclusion…I think that the evangelical church has created an environment through their over emphasis and abuse of inerrant scripture, in which Pastors very easily can use it as a wall to hide behind their demands for others, while being in a position that already tempts their egos to get bigger than they ought to be. Rather than humbly and pacifistically proclaiming the word of Christ for people to follow as they choose simply for the love of the Gospel. And I think that the string of bad behavior that follows is oftentimes covered up to maintain normalcy and finances for the churches they lead. I feel this way because of personal experience and general observation. I realize that every situation is different, and these observations aren’t a blanket explanation of the only reality out there. There are plenty of great Pastors running the good race in the evangelical church. But I still feel it is a bigger problem than people realize given the fact that I don’t see enough people talking about it. And most of the people I do see talk about it are doing so from a place of hatred to tear down the church, rather than a place of love to repair it. Let’s repair it.

Olympics in the Multiverse

When I heard that there was an attempt being made to flood MAR10 day 2020 with a blog piece on every mario appearance ever, I was just crazy enough to sign on as a contributor. If you don’t know, MAR10 Day is the “holiday” where Nintendo celebrates all things mustachioed and plumber. If you can’t tell, this is because March 10th abbreviated looks like Mario.

So since I was late to the party, I did end up having a very slim selection on which game that I would end up writing about. However, I did find ONE game left that I had fond memories of. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, the original one. Now as you can imagine, a game in which you have an alien hedgehog clone like Shadow compete in pole-vaulting against a pretty pink princess like Peach does not present obvious opportunities for blogging. Especially when it’s been years since you played the game, but I think I found something that works…a celebration of unity.

Now the game focuses on a concept that is at its core drenched in Unity, and that’s the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games are a sporting even that has brought the world together for years now. It’s the one time every four years where regardless of differences in race, religion, socio-economic status, or otherwise…the countries of the world unite and compete in a way that’s less violent for a change. Joking aside, it is a global spectacle. Political feuds have been put aside multiple times over the years just so we can have a friendly competition instead, and that’s super awesome.

In a way, the Olympics is the perfect setting for the long awaited Mario and Sonic crossover for this very reason. Two worlds that used to be so viscerally opposed to one another, coming together to put their differences aside and have some fun. That’s what the Olympics is about, and it’s also what this game is about. I know it’s tough to remember now, but we all know that in the 90’s Mario and Sonic were the respective mascots of opposing ends in a blood feud for the ages. So just like the countries of the World decide to chill out for a few weeks and just have some races, Mario and Sonic do the same.

The third kind of unity I would like to talk about with this game is the unity games like this bring between gamers, and non-gamers. The “party” or “mini” game genre gets a bad rap. They may not be the immersive experience that many of us crave, but they bring the thrill of overcoming and merriment then invite others to play. Games of this genre can be enjoyed by everyone, they cause tons of fun memories, they cause tons of laughs. Better than all that, they take this thing we love and they give bite-size examples of what we love about it for other people. And that, may be the best unity that Mario and Sonic brings.

Finally I would like to talk about the unity that this collaboration brings to the video game community. I forgot the specific numbers, but an astounding number of contributors all banded together to cover a wide spectrum of Mario games. This was a grand gesture towards the celebration of gaming’s forefather. The collaboration is called #SuperMarioMultiverse and is being hosted by The Well-Red Mage, so thanks to him for putting this together. Check out the statement below for more of the pieces!

Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more:


Sword and Shield Shenanigans: Ep. 1

Yesterday was October 15th, making Pokemon Sword and Shield officially 1 month away. In past years, we have shouted expletives at Game Freak and the Pokemon Company for revealing every single aspect of a game prior to it’s release. In fact, a month before Sun and Moon came out we knew approximately 68 new Pokemon (counting Alolan forms). That’s not even stopping to consider how much light was shed on new storylines, characters, and features, which are a bit harder to measure. As it stands now, we know of 25 new Pokemon for Sword and Shield (counting Galarian forms) 25…instead of 68…that difference is bananas, finally our cries have been heard.

Now obviously it’s always possible that Game Freak is throwing us a curve ball and giving us the smallest new generation of Pokemon ever. Perhaps we know about just as much percentage wise than we did then. But personally I feel a generation of 30-40 new Pokemon is incredibly unlikely, and we can probably expect the standard 70-80 we’ve come to see in the recent games. I even think there’s a chance we get a higher number, as ridding ourselves of the National Dex takes away Game Freak’s fear to hit 1,000. But I’m tampering that expectation, as I don’t want to run away with wild pie in the sky dreams and inevitably set myself up for disappointment.

But all this excitement over the conservative amount of new info for these games got me thinking. What if I just skipped out on any new info they offered for the last month, and instead did a social media blackout? I would go into a new Pokemon game only knowing 25 new Pokemon. I wouldn’t even know ANYTHING my starter would evolve into. This would be the most blind I went into a game since Ruby on the Gameboy Advanced, maybe even more blind than that. That’s exciting to me. One question further, what if I blogged guesses as to what was being revealed during my absence, and then asked my Wife to post them for me? Well that’s just plain fun.

Now that the concept has been set, I’ll ask that you wait until NEXT Wednesday for my predictions on what was revealed in the 10/16/2019 news video. See ya then!

Blogger Blitz, Shipping Wars: Cuisine Collector

Hello there! I hope you’re all ready to welcome me to the world of blogging! My name is T.C. Clockworth, people know me as a Pokémon fanatic! This world is inhabited by all kinds of blogs! For some people, they start blogging to grow a brand. Others start them for self-expression. Myself…I was bored one day and it sounded fun.

As such, I signed up for the Adventure Rules Blogger Blitz, where in this year’s event I will be advocating that N from Pokémon Generation 5 has the best relationship in all of video games…or at least a better relationship than who the other bloggers are advocating for. I’m specifically advocating for the relationship he has with his Pokémon.

My assignment this week is to discuss where N would take his Pokémon for a meal, if he had to go somewhere different for drinks, appetizers, a main course, and dessert. As luck would have it, the world of Pokémon is full of all kinds of treats and cuisines. For this collection, I’ll be assuming N would have access to the entire Pokémon world, because in the games you are easily able to fly to a town at a moment’s notice. Sure, within the game you have to have been there first, and it’s only within the region you’re at, but that’s mostly for game design. Add the fact that if that failed he could order the TM for Teleport online from Kanto, and teach it to his Starmie, Arcanine, or Cloyster, and I think he’d be fine.

To start things off, I can’t think of anywhere better to go for drinks than MooMoo Farms. This charming little piece of land is located on Route 39 of Johto, just north of Olivine City, and is home to one of the most widely consumed beverages in the Pokémon world; Moomoo Milk. This rich, creamy drink not only quenches a Pokémon’s thirst, it also replenishes health. On top of that, it’s obtained from Miltank, so it should only strengthen N’s bond with Pokémon further. The only thing better than drinking MooMoo Milk with your loved ones, would be doing it as you watched the sun gleam across the rolling hills leading to the coast in Olivine City from the comfort of a homey farm. Now that’s a setting and a drink fit for memories that last a lifetime.

Next up, we’ve got to take N and his Pokémon somewhere for an appetizer. I decided to stick with the theme of harvesting our dishes from Pokémon as much as I could. N desires nothing more than to live in peace and harmony with Pokémon, so I imagine when bonding with his own, he wants to be surrounded by these wondrous creatures. As such, the appetizer is fruit salad in treehouses of Fortree City. Located in the Hoenn Region, Fortree City is a community built entirely of tree houses. The nearby routes; 119 and 123, are home to more areas for berry planting than potentially anywhere else on the world. On top of that, 119 is where you find Tropius, a Pokémon known for the delicious fruit it grows from it’s neck. Imagine a bowl for of Oran, Razz, Pecha, and Cherri berries, all mixed up with Tropius fruit. Imagine sharing it using a big spoon as your feet dangled off the ledge of a balcony in the trees, and wild Pokémon played all around. It would truly be sublime.

While I wanted to continue with the nature theme throughout, it’s hard to really find a primary entree being served in caves, woods, and rivers. So I figure, why not bring N back to his home turf for this one? The Striaton City Gym in Unova is home to a world class café ran by 3 brothers. Now while N is initially opposed to battling, the protagonist in Black and White shows him that you can love Pokémon, support them, care for them…and still battle. N learns battling can even be a means of bonding with Pokémon. So as long as this meal takes place after then, and before Cheren takes over the gym, then this seems like a prime location. They could be waited on by the high class staff, enjoy the delicious food, and then bond with one another by challenging the gym. Even if N and his friends decide that the battling is not for them, now that they’re not morally opposed to it they can at least spend time with other trainers and Pokémon enjoying life together.

Finally we’re brought to dessert. If there’s one culinary item in the Pokémon world that’s been obsessed over again and again within the story of the game…it’s the malasada. Hau of the Alola Region is in love with these delectable fried sweet pastries. They come in a variety of flavors to guarantee that there’s something for everyone, and they are proven to improve the relationship a trainer has with their Pokémon. Now THAT’s one magical tropical donut. Never mind the fact that this delicacy will be enjoyed on the sunny beaches of Alola. People travel from all over to visit this region and see oceans reflect the warm sun as far as the eye can go, bordered by the whitest sand you can imagine, that’s sprinkled with lush palm trees. Truly a dessert joined in this diverse piece of nature must be a relaxing way to bond.

So that’s that! These are the locations and foods that I would have N enjoy with his Pokémon on the travelling meal of a lifetime! If this is it for me, I just want to thank Ian for hosting Blogger Blitz, and all of you for reading. But if there’s more to come, I’ll see you soon. Whether that involves Blogger Blitz or not, only time will tell.

Adventure Rules: https://adventurerules.blog/

Just a Man in a Can: Tony Stark’s Journey

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (hereby referred to as the MCU) has been a major part of American culture, and the theater worldwide for over a decade now. The ingenious interweaving of movie franchises created an entertainment experience that combined the spectacle of a movie with the addictiveness of television. When you reach the end of a film, you have to keep watching to see what’s next. It also doesn’t hurt that the movies have mostly been brilliant, averaging around an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s not quite an A, but if you come up to bat 21 times in a row and walk out with a statistic like that, you’re doing pretty well for yourself.

And all of this has been built upon the shoulders of Tony Stark. I hear you loud and clear; “What about Captain America?” and a small portion of you, “What about Thor?” Don’t get me wrong…part of what makes the MCU so great is that it’s built upon the shoulders of many, many, strong characters and personalities, to a much greater extent than your average series. However, at the end of the day there is always a singular A-1, push-come-to-shove main character that a story follows, and for this series that man is Tony Stark. He started it all in 2008, and throughout the years he has been the de-facto lead. You could make a solid case that it’s Captain America, the fact that you could is why I love these movies so much. But I think Tony Stark proves to be a more constant presence.

So when we look at Tony, what has his journey been? What’s the main story thread we’ve been following for the past 11 years, all culminating tomorrow in “Avengers: EndGame” ? The plot in question has been deceptively complex, and deals with a lot of principles that Tony holds close that guides every decision he makes, stemming all the way back to 2008’s “Iron Man.”

When we meet Tony Stark, he is living up to the now cliche moniker of a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. You know the story, Stark survives a terrorist attack and kidnapping at the hands of his own company’s weapons, then creates the Iron Man suit to heroically escape and change his life forever. This is not only the origin of Iron Man…it’s the origin of Tony Stark as we know him today. This is the event that effectively puts into motion and shapes the character arc that we’ve followed all the way to “Avengers: EndGame.” Not only does Tony go through a near-death experience, he discovers that his fortune has been built on the deaths of innocent people. He always figured that he made weapons, but he made them for the good guys so they could stop the bad guys. But all the while, unbeknownst to him, Stark Industries had been selling to anyone and everyone. In his own words he had “become a part of a system that is uncomfortable with zero accountability.” This idea drives Stark through every decision he makes during the course of these films. How does he protect those that he loves? And how can he be absolutely sure that he’s doing the right thing?

“I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them, and I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability.” – Tony Stark, Iron Man, 2008.

Iron Man 2 doesn’t build off of these ideas too heavily, and has the least to do with our overall story. The film itself was mostly to coast and bide time as we waited for The Avengers; but there are still gems to be found. Between Hammer Tech, The US Government, and Ivan…people are still trying to use Tony’s technology for evil. But the main focus is on Tony Stark making the transition from selfish, irresponsible, narcissistic genius with a handful of good ideas; to being a true hero. We see Tony’s self-destructive habits at play here more than any other entry in the MCU. He drives away Pepper, Roadie… basically anyone who cares about him. By the end of the film though, he’s starting to realize his character defects and grow past them, just in time to team up with everyone in 2012’s “The Avengers.”

“My body literally cannot handle the stress, I never know if you’re gonna kill yourself, or wreck the whole company…I quit.” – Pepper Potts.

—– ‘You deserve better, you’ve taken such good care of me, I was in a tough spot and you got me through it.” – Tony Stark, Iron Man 2, 2010.

This is where the story of the MCU seems to truly open up. For the first time in history, the main characters of 4 different films were colliding to show that they were part of a bigger world. For Tony, this became a major part of his journey going forward. This wasn’t just about him being the biggest, baddest, crime fighter in town anymore. He wasn’t just dealing with people who were after his tech. He lived in a world of Hulk, chitauri, and Thor. He saw beings from other worlds invade his home, cause mass destruction, and in the process…he almost died.

“You’re missing the point, there’s no throne. There is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes, and maybe it’s too much for us, but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect the Earth you can be damn well sure we’ll avenge it.” – Tony Stark, The Avengers, 2012.

The trauma and character development that these events would create were left mostly untouched in The Avengers, as we would see them begin to unfurl during Iron Man 3. Tony begins having night terrors and panic attacks. He can’t get what happened in New York out of his mind, and as such becomes obsessed with the safety of his loved ones. Namely, one Pepper Potts, the only woman he’s ever loved. How does he keep the Earth safe? How does he keep Pepper safe? The trouble is, he feels he can’t protect the things he cares about without being Iron Man, and Pepper feels he can’t love her the way he truly needs to as long as he is Iron Man. This leads him to give up the moniker and remove the arc reactor. The trouble is, this doesn’t last for long, and soon he’s right back at it again…still being driven mad at the thought of the Earth being in danger, still looking for solutions that seem put himself in harm’s way and alienate people.

“You experience things, and then they’re over and you still can’t explain them? Gods, aliens, other dimensions, I’m just a man in can. — the threat is imminent, and I have to protect the one thing that I can’t live without…that’s you. (Pepper)” – Tony Stark, Iron Man 3, 2013.

This fear reaches a fever pitch in Age of Ultron. Seeing all of the threats in the universe, and not knowing how to handle it, Tony is scrambling to find an answer. He convinces himself that a legion of super robots with AI would be a perfect, unbiased, police force…but this plan goes horribly awry and Stark creates Ultron. This is the moment that a lot of people point to when they explain why they don’t like Tony, especially in regards to Civil War, and I’ll admit, it certainly wasn’t his finest hour. But I would argue that while this was an asinine mistake, it was one rooted in a story that is incredibly relatable. It was more relatable than what the other characters were going through at this time. When he discovered Stark Industries was dealing to terrorists, he began to realize that humans can’t be trusted to do the right thing. When he faced the chitauri he discovered that there are so many threats in this universe that he can’t even begin to fathom. Every time he tried to stop them as Iron Man, he ended up alienating his loved ones, and risking his life by facing things beyond him. He was the first to say it, this was his EndGame, a safety net that allowed everyone to go home and live a normal life. Ironically, like we would come to see with Thanos, Stark was blinded by his own fears and struggles.

“Banner and I were doing research, that would end the team. Isn’t that the mission? Isn’t that the why we fight? So we can end the fight, so we get to go home?” – Tony Stark, Age of Ultron, 2015.

All of these principles are put to the test against Captain America’s own contrasting values, when the two face off in Civil War. After Ultron and subsequent smaller missions, significant damage has been done by The Avengers in their efforts to save others. Buildings demolished, lives lost, destruction left behind them in their wake. Because of this, the United Nations call for an agreement called the Sokovia Accords. Under this plan, The Avengers would be directed by the United Nations, rather than operating independently. Tony Stark supported this decision, Steve Rogers did not, and thus conflict is born. It’s easy to empathize with why Tony would support the accords so heavily. He knows what a system with no accountability is like, he saw it with Stark Industries. One of his major driving forces was that he wouldn’t hand over the Iron Man tech because he didn’t trust anyone to use it, but now he was questioning if he could even trust himself to use it…so being put in check sounded like a welcome solution. A lot of people gave him flack for pushing for this so hard even though Ultron was his fault, but I feel like those people fail to see how big it was of him. Not only did he admit he was wrong, he looked for a solution to his mistakes. Regardless, because of this conflict, The Avengers would split up.

“There’s no decision making process here. We need to be put in check, whatever form that takes, I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations, we’re boundary-less, we’re no better than the bad guys.” – Tony Stark, Civil War, 2016.

Tony has one more pit stop on his way to the Infinity War. After recruiting Peter Parker in the fight against Captain America, Tony continues to be a sort of father figure to him. He sees Peter put himself in danger when he doesn’t have to, and it concerns him. You could say that Tony sees a lot of himself in Peter. As Peter is constantly risking himself and scaring his loved ones for the greater good. You can tell that Tony is terrified that Peter will become just like him, caring more about his alter ego than the people who care about him, and he just wants him to enjoy being a kid.

“What if someone had died tonight? Different story, right? ‘Cause that’s on you. (Peter) And if you died? I think that’s on me.” – Tony Stark, Spiderman: Homecoming, 2017.

Then everything began to wrap up last year in “The Avengers: Infinity War.” There’s so much action in this flick, that there’s less room for character development, but that doesn’t stop Marvel from beginning to weave some satisfying conclusions to the stories we’ve been following. For Tony, the main things are his parallels to Thanos. They both saw disaster unfurl before their eyes, they both became obsessed with stopping it, and in their pursuit of a solution, they took things way too far. Thanos handles his mission with an even greater level of obsession, and no inkling of regret, hence why he’s a villain and Iron Man is a hero…but the connections are still there. While we see their similarities, we also end up seeing their differences. Thanos was willing to sacrifice his own daughter to see his ideas to fruition, while Tony was haunted by the idea of losing Peter who he thought of like a son in order to accomplish his. All of this is brought to a boil when Peter dissipates in Tony’s arms following the snap of Thanos’ fingers.

“Stark.” -Thanos.

“You know me?” – Tony Stark.

“I do. You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.” – Thanos, Infinity War, 2018.

So now you see the story of Tony Stark before you. Kevin Feige and company have managed to use recurring themes and elements throughout these flicks to paint journeys not just within each film, but from 2008 all the way till now. What’s more impressive is that these themes are consistent and cohesive, rather than a collection of mini-arcs. What’s even more impressive than that, is that they have done this for nearly every character they’ve touched, and used each of these stories that have never ceased to tell a grander story involving all of the characters. This masterful accomplishment has created an action series that doesn’t just wow and impress, it causes you to get lost in the world they’ve made. So what now? How will Tony’s arc end? Will we get a satisfying conclusion to his struggles with protection, integrity, and accountability? I guess we’ll have to watch the EndGame and find out.

A Skeptic’s Argument for Short-Term Missions

I’ve spent most of my life being at best skeptical of, and at worst pissed off by, short-term international mission trips. That’s my confession.

Some of that was potentially fear of the unknown, but most of it was spite towards the attitudes that people passionate about them had showed me.

When I was in college, they would not want to give a lost person the time of day unless they were an international student. They would devalue the role of the domestic pastor, and the necessary discipleship they provide by insisting all Christians are called to go outside their home. And while this was fewer of them, some of them would have this American-Savior complex when going. One of my closest friends grew up the daughter of a pastor in Belize, and churches that visited them on trips would consistently ignore his directions, giving freebies to all the kids no matter when they asked, ignoring his wisdom of the area, and causing damage to the local economy. My disdain for the short term mission trip reached its peak when a friend of mine was told that since all of his mission trips had been domestic, he had never been on an actual mission trip.

So while it’s easy to understand how I grew in this unhealthy frustration, it was still just that…unhealthy frustration. I was letting my feeling towards these events cloud my judgement by focusing more on the errors of the people, than the merits of going to the nations found in scripture.

But a couple of things have happened this year where God has worked to heal that subconscious mindset. One, I’ve dated a wonderful girl, who happens to be passionate about international missions who God has used time and time again to check my ego, and challenge my preconceived notions. Two, through my role as youth minister at Tunnel Hill Baptist Church, I was put in a position where I was needed to go on my first international mission trip. A trip to Brazil. 

And while the first half of this ridiculously long post is to explain my strained relationship with international missions, the second half is to explain where God has challenged me to understand the other side of the story. It’s to show the skeptics like me, that I know are out there, why they can put their resistance aside, and see these trips for what they’re supposed to be. And it’s really just based not in a list of benefits, though there are benefits, but in a change in perspective.

I think the biggest mistake I made in my assessment of these trips, is ironically based in the same faulty thought process I accused missions people of. The major legitimate qualm of short term missions is that Americans come in, do a lot of work that seems helpful but can actually hurt the economy long term, then skedaddle, feeling like they’re God’s gift to Earth. They then leave the people who actually serve these areas powerless, because they can’t offer that year round, so the people they witness to won’t come around unless the Americans are in town. Even when mission trips are done properly, and the teams follow all the instructions of the resident missionary, I felt the insane expenses spent getting down there could be better utilized if used to sponsor that ministry year-round. 

You see the ironic part is, is that while I saw the strategic and financial flaws of these trips, I was still looking at it with a strategic Western mind, rather than a loving people-driven one. I was using the same perspective to fight against missions, as some of these people were using to make them lose their value while on mission. It wasn’t until I went on one myself, and sought advice from Stan Meador, the long term missionary we partner with, that I truly got it.

The true purpose of short term missions can’t be measured or presented, but only experienced. It’s not about meeting the needs of God’s people, though that’s a huge part of it. It’s not about supporting ministries that can’t support themselves, though that’s a huge part of it. At its heart, I believe short term missions are about the fellowship of God’s people, the widening of cultural understanding, the shattering of the boxes we make ourselves live in. To quote Nik Ripken, “Don’t you ever think there’s a free church, and a suffering church…there’s just the church.” A short-term mission trip’s value is not about what was accomplished or if an appropriate amount of money was spent, it’s about if relationships were formed, and if God’s people learned from one another. Our God controls all funds, and while it’s great to be a good steward, we also can’t focus more on money than on his people. When we support a missionary long-term there may be a time where what’s most helpful is to stay home, and support them from afar, and we need to be willing to understand and accept when that is. But just as Paul wrote letters to remain in fellowship with the churches he met, he also often visited them more than once, and not just out of necessity…he longed to see them again. And at the end of the day, the fellowship of God’s people, and the partnership of reaching the lost, will always take priority.