Friday, September 15, 2017

Unauthorized - A New TOS Review!

As a part of the crew I am always joyous when the item we get to review is something for the whole family. That was definitely the case with the newest board game by Chara Games called Unauthorized! As soon as it arrived my children tried to start playing with it right away ... even before reading the rules, which I'm kind of a stickler for doing. I also wanted to try and play the game with adults so I could get a handle on how to play. I'm a little slow when it comes to new games so I was a little cautious.

But I really had no reason to be. The game has a simple premise and easy enough rules to follow. You even have 2 cards that have the rules that can be kept on the table during play. The game is designed for 6 -12 players with an age range of 12+.  My son is only 8.5 and my youngest daughter turns 12 tomorrow. They both were able to play by themselves after a little bit of instruction.  I'll get back to that a little later.
Inside this red sturdy box are the 2 reference cards I mentioned, 1 dealer card (that rotates around with the dealer of each round), 12 Role cards (most have a male and female depiction of the role), and 97 experience cards. The amount of experience cards each player gets is determined by the number of players. There are a required number of specific roles as well - pastor, police, and neutrals.  When you have 6 - 8 players you have 1 pastor and 2 police and the rest are neutral. At 10 players you have 2 of both the pastor and police and the rest are neutral.
The cards are thick and glossy and feel well made. After shuffling they did stay a little bent for the rest of the game. But now that they've been back in the box it's not as noticeable. Oh and I forgot to tell you that among the all red or all green experience cards there are wild cards. You can determine how you play them. First strategy could be to play your wild cards so that you clearly state your loyalty. Another strategy would be to keep them so you can play them when your loyalty is questioned by the police. Both are valid strategies.

Now the main goal of the game is to 'sway people's loyalty.'  So the pastor gets all green cards; the police get all red cards; and the blue neutral people get a mixed up batch. Whatever you have most of is your "loyalty" so if you have 6 green and 1 red card you would be FOR the Church. If you have 5 red and 2 green cards you would be FOR the State. The interesting part is when you have 3 and 4 so basically neutral.
The game says it should take about 30 minutes to complete. It has 4 rounds to each game and in each round each player has 2 things to do -- a card action and a player turn. This is when it gets fun ... and tricky. You need to play to your loyalty and try to 'convert' others to your side. But as I said earlier you could be entirely neutral and your loyalty could change with each of the 4 rounds!!! Exciting, isn't it?? We thought so as well. State wins in a tie or if all those loyal to the church are in prison. Church wins with a majority of players loyal to them and at least 1 NOT in prison.
Such a great way to talk about and in a way "experience" (and I do use this term loosely) what it would be like to live in a location that has an underground church. We were so excited to try and play the very first time we did so with only 4 players. Yes, I know it says we should use 6, but my husband was like a kid on Christmas and wanted to 'make it work' so we took it on our double date at a friends house. Needless to say, it didn't work. It was just really difficult. But my husband said we should try one time with just neutrals ... so we did. He called it "straight up street evangelism."

Then we played a time where both the men were 2 players and us girls were just ourselves so that we had 6 roles on the board. We gave one man the police and another the pastor and then they each had a neutral. That game went well after they could remember who they were playing with which hand ... which is why this game would be best played with at least 6.

The next time we played, was when a friend was in town visiting and my kids were all super excited because that meant we had 6 people and we could play Unauthorized!! Their friend was so gracious to join in on the game. We let me son be the pastor since he's the youngest. All he had to do was try to make others turn "green". He caught on super fast and the next time decided he would be able to play the police. For ease of explaining and letting him play 'on his own' we thought the police and pastor roles would be best if you are playing with kiddos who are under that 12yo range. My daughter (who turned 12 TODAY!!!) was able to play a regular role card for a 'neutral' player.
We did have to play a few games in a row for them to really get the gist, but they have begged to play the game again and again.  We had hoped that if family had to come over during Hurricane Irma that we'd be able to play with a larger crowd, but we were not effected as much as we anticipated so they never came over. However, we do have this game out and about so it could be played at any time.  Since we have 5 in our family, we have been able to play it a few other times with dad playing 2 people and my son being either pastor or police who have the easier "roles". But the more we play the easier it is becoming for him. I expect he'll be playing a regular role very soon.
Chara Games
This game as been tons of fun and we can't wait to play with our church small group very soon ... they are just getting started again for the fall. I know that we will be using this a lot more over the years. Make sure you check out all the other reviews from the Crew by clicking the link below. You can also find Chara Games and more about Unauthorized and other games at their Facebook page or on Twitter!

Unauthorized {Chara Games Reviews}

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Math: A Different Approach

The Greeks studied mathematics not solely for its 'usefulness', but also for it's inherent properties and beauty.  This builds strong logical reasoning abilities, creativity, and strengthens ones ability to see the disconnectedness of ideas.

This does not mean that there are no uses for math, nor that we should not study them.  What it shows us, is that if we study the inherent properties of math (both numbers and shapes) it is easier to understand the applications.

As a long time math teacher, the biggest problem I have seen is that students are taught various procedures to solve different problems.  A better approach, the way I was taught and teach, is to start with numbers and their relationships -- how to manipulate them, both 'arithmetically' and 'algebraically', and how to visualize them using graphs, etc.  Once these techniques and ideas are internalized, and connections begin to be noticed, applications can be introduced.  The beginnings of the necessary critical thinking skills needed for the STEAM fields start here.

Having worked with pre-engineering students, the hardest thing for them to see is, which mathematical object 'lives' behind each particular application.  This requires VERY critical thinking.  If this can be determined, it then becomes a simple task of applying the right technique.  This is also very important for students of the Social Sciences.  All of the same ideas and techniques can be applied to the data collected in all of these subjects, all while looking for the mathematical connections.

So, what if we taught math as the interaction of numbers with each other?
Instead of teaching with applications, what if we allowed numbers to have a life of their own?

As a Christian, I think it is great that we can use the conceptual tools of math to help us understand God's creation.  But, isn't it so much more beautiful to see that these tools have their own inherent properties and relationships, that are beyond the need for an application?  This gives us a glimpse at the fact that there are truths that are external to our perceptions.  Understanding this allows us to more easily grasp the idea of an eternal God.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Is There Anything Better Than Candy? -- A New TOS Review!!

Ummm ... yes, probably. ;) 

But the latest review product we had the opportunity to work with was from Let the Little Children Come. This cute little pumpkin is a great child evangelism tool called Is There Anything Better Than Candy? Box Tract. And it's the perfect time of year to see all things pumpkin ... the snap of the crisp, fall air; the smell of apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg rising from the kitchen; and thought of pumpkin drinks and pies filling my dreams.
Let the Little Children Come

One thing that our family doesn't participate in is Halloween. But if we did these sweet little pumpkin treat box tracts would be on the top of our list to purchase as hand outs. Who doesn't want to share the Gospel with children? And what better way to do that then with these Halloween tracts? None that I can think of.

The pumpkins come flat in a package of 20 for just $15.95 (and discounts for bulk orders of 11 sets or more.) They are made of 6 petals each having a brief part of the Gospel story. It tells us that Jesus came to earth to take on our sins and die in our stead so that we could have eternal life with Him in Heaven.
Let the Little Children Come Halloween Tract

Once you punch out the petals you are ready to assemble. The assembly instructions are printed on the paper you punch it out from so anyone can put these together. They are big enough to fill with little candies (like kisses or those little candy bars or truffles), but my kids came up with some of their own ideas as well. One of my children thought they could make little bracelets and then add a cross on to it and stick it inside the pumpkin. My other child said we could add a special Bible verse in with the cross bracelet. My son thought we could even fit in a gift card or some other snacks (like pretzels or Cheez-its).

Now since we don't "do" Halloween I asked my children to come up with other ways they thought that we could use these pumpkin tracts. They came up with the following ideas:

  • as a place setting decoration for a fall gathering or Thanksgiving
  • as neighbor gifts in the fall/autumn season
  • inside our homeless bags that we prep and hand out whenever we can
  • at a homeless shelter (like the homeless potluck we try to attend regularly) or at a soup kitchen 
  • as thank you gifts to the mailman/lady, trash pick up people, or other regular workers
You could also use them as a gift for the children in your small group or missional community group; Sunday School class; fall festivals; Trunk or Treats; Teal Pumpkin gatherings; hand outs to children at yard sales (which we may have another of those to help raise money for our move); nursing homes, and so much more. 

As we were putting our 3 together my middle daughter read all the petals of the Gospel story. As soon as she had finished she mentioned that she'd like to give a few to the kids in our neighborhood and a little girl they met at the swimming pool. That little girl came to her very first VBS this summer with my daughter. She wants to make sure that the little girl knows that Jesus will be with her when she prays the prayer on petal #6. This is the TRUE reason for these little pumpkin Halloween tracts. To help spread the Gospel in a soft yet meaningful way.

While we were putting them together one of my son's petals ripped off. I couldn't really tell if it was because he was too rough when popping it out of the paper or because the stem part had a bit of a perforation. Either way, they are pretty easy to put together and clearly look like a little pumpkin. 
I think this should be petal #1.
I do have a little issue with the placement of the petals. Once you put the pumpkin together, the last petal is #6, which would then be the "first" to be opened. I think the first petal to be opened should be #1. My eldest daughter thinks that the stems are 'meant to be torn open' so that when it undoes all the petals and their numbers will be clearly seen. The first petal is the one that answers the question on the outside of the pumpkin ... Is there anything better than candy? And of course the answer is YES!

All in all these are cute, cost effective, treat boxes that can help you share the Gospel with children of all ages. Be sure to check out Let the Little Children Come to purchase these Halloween tracts and much more. You can also find them on Facebook.
And later in the year I'll be reviewing some of their other products used for witnessing. Don't forget to also check out how others used or will be using these little pumpkins by clicking the link below. 
Is There Anything Better Than Candy?  {Let The Little Children Come Reviews}

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Depression vs. Courage


In Webster's 1828 dictionary a few of the definitions are:

1. The act of pressing down; or the state of being pressed down; a low state.
2. A hollow; a sinking or falling in of a surface; or a forcing inwards; as roughness consisting in little protuberances and depressions; the depression of the skull.
3. The act of humbling; abasement; as the depression of pride; the depression of the nobility.
4. A sinking of the spirits; dejection; a state of sadness; want of courage or animation; as depression of the mind.
5. A low state of strength; a state of body succeeding debility in the formation of disease.

Another definitions says that it is inexplicable sadness; irrational.

Now to contrast let's see what

Courage is:

Bravery; intrepidity; that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits; valor; boldness; resolution. 
It is a constituent part of fortitude; but fortitude implies patience to bear continued suffering.

Did you read that last sentence? Fortitude implies that we have patience to bear or hold up against the continued suffering.  So even though we are being pressed down against and feel in a low state we need to bravely walk through our suffering. But not alone.

This past Sunday our pastor taught on how we could get help for depression. He pointed out that in Jonah 4:1 - 11 we see that Jonah himself was struggling with depression.  He was clearly suffering and we can see this in his dialogue with the Lord in the later part of verse 2 and then in vs. 3. "... for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore no, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die then to live."  Do you hear the dichotomy of his plea? Isn't this irrational behavior?

The biggest thing is that we need to adjust the root of the problem, not just the circumstances. "Not forgiving others is like drinking poison and thinking the other person will feel those results." (I think this is a quote of Charles Stanley, but it is also a direct quote from my pastor's sermon.)

Once we adjust the root of depression we can get to true healing and walk in the courage that we are commanded to walk with in Deuteronomy 31:6a - "Be strong and courageous."

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