Worship In Virtual Reality

vrworshipSince I have received the Oculus Go VR headset, I have explored many things with this technology. One of the things that has been greatly enhanced is my time of personal devotion and worship time with God. The VR goggles have taken my experience to a new level. When I have the VR headset on, it dramatically cuts down on distractions and totally immerses me in whatever I am doing. Let me share with you some of my experiences using the Oculus Go in VR worship time.

The first app I downloaded was the VR Church: The Bible app. It’s okay but it has a few quirks to it. The main issue is that the app has a place where you can set up a custom plan to read the Bible. Unfortunately, I have found that after I select a plan and start it that the actual Bible reading text doesn’t appear. I can, however, go directly to the Bible section and read it. There are a couple of meditation Bible readings in the app that are nice to go through but they need to update it with more. It is a nice app but it needs to be improved. I keep hoping for updates to this app.

Reading the Bible (or any digital book) with the Oculus Go is very cool. There are a couple of book reading apps such as Virtual Book Viewer or ImmersionVR where you can import a Bible and you can adjust the size to what is comfortable for your eyes. For me, it is much better than paper or even my iPad. The ImmersionVR reader app is a bit different because you can turn the pages by simply moving your head as well as setting some calm background music while you are reading.

There is an app call AltspaceVR where you can customize your personal avatar and transport to different rooms and events. One of the rooms is the VR Church Prayer Room. You can teleport your avatar to the room and watch the International House of Prayer. I think this is a church that conducts worship 24/7.  Yeah, it’s a little different but what’s even more interesting is that you can also attend a virtual church service.

What’s Virtual Reality Church like?

The first 30 minutes are somewhat formal with worship music, prayer, and a sermon. The rest of the time is very informal with discussion and hanging out. At the beginning, a VR pastor will welcome everyone. Then you can listen to worship music for a few minutes. During this time, you can sing, pray, meditate, or simply take it all in by enjoying the worship music. After the worship music, they share a few announcements. Then a VR pastor will give a short interactive sermon. Sermons are designed to encourage your spiritual journey. At the end of the sermon, attendees are encouraged attendees to meet each other and discuss the sermon. They say this is a great opportunity to ask questions, make new friends, or simply hang out.  That may be true but I would caution anyone about “hanging out” online.  I think this virtual church is a good idea but I’m not sure about meeting people there.

Virtual church can’t replace going to a real church but I think it’s a novel idea.  I would still be cautious about it.

Probably the most amazing features of using the Oculus Go for my personal worship time is that I can watch my favorite preachers or Christian music artists on the web or YouTube in what is comparable to watching them on 30-foot screen. It is pretty amazing.  In my most recent personal VR worship time, I watched music videos by TobyMac and Micah Tyler.  I visited the AltspaceVR prayer room to check out what was going on at the International House of Prayer then I went to the Virtual Book Viewer and read another chapter in the Bible.  Other times, I have watched Bible studies and various videos on Bible issues I have questions about. In addition to the worship time, I can also visit the Holy Land and as well as some beautiful places on Earth.

Yeah, this version of worship and personal devotion time sounds a little gimmicky but it has really been an amazing experience for me. I hope developers will create more content for this technology.

Some things I would like to see in VR worship would be:

  • An app with a selection of video praise and worship songs with the lyrics.
  • I would like to see some contemporary Christian music artists shoot some music videos in 360 degree video.
  • It would be nice to have a selection of 360 degree photos of churches where you can sit and meditate.

I love the VR technology and think there could be some awesome things added for personal worship time.  It’s already a pretty awesome experience.  I have enjoyed it so far and looked forward to more time spent in the VR worship.

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“Well you’re gonna get paid back…”

backpaySince being directly affected by the “partial” government shutdown, I have been furloughed and will miss my second paycheck this Friday.  I have heard people who are not affected and have no clue what it is like make the comment:  “Well you’re gonna get paid back…”

Clueless.

Yes, we are supposed to get paid back but you still have to pay the bills when they are due and contrary to what they are saying, you can’t negotiate with your bills to wait or delay payment with everyone.  Coming up I have the water bill, mortgage, HOA fees, electric bill and car payment due.  The only “break” they are giving government employees affected by the shutdown is the normal “grace period” you would get anyway.  No special treatment or circumstances because of the government shutdown.  Even my credit union said that they would not give me a break of my credit card bill.  “After the 10 day grace period, it will be sent to collections and affect your credit report.” is what the customer service lady told me.

Nobody tells you about this on the news.

“So, take out a loan?”

Okay, when you apply for a loan they want to know if you are getting a paycheck.  See how easy it is to get a loan then.  If you do apply for a loan then how are you going to pay the first loan payment?

Nobody tells you about this.

And if you do get a loan, how much are you going to get?  With no end to the government shutdown in sight, you are just taking a wild guess on that amount.

The comments that government officials make on the news shows how they have absolutely no clue on what is going on here.  How could they?  They are getting paid.  Most of them are rich and have more assets than the 800,000 that are being held hostage.

One of these brilliant millionaires suggested that we barter with our landlord to pay the rent.  Are you serious?  We don’t all have landlords and this isn’t feasible for those of us with mortgages.  What century are they living in?

Today Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says that he doesn’t understand why furloughed workers are using food banks.  This is a joke right?  He doesn’t understand?  How could he when he’s getting his paycheck?  He went on to say that it should be no problem for us to get a loan and while we might have to pay a little bit of interest.  Little bit?  Let me see, maybe he considers 10-12 percent a “little bit” but when your paycheck is being withheld, even when we get paid back, we are going to have to pay MORE than we are getting back to repay this loan.  They aren’t paying us back with interest.  So why are furloughed workers going to food banks?  When you are in this situation, you have to do what you have to do to survive this crisis.  If the bill collector refuses to give you a break on your bill then you pay it if you can out of your grocery money and take advantage of whatever is out there.

White House Economic Adviser, Kevin Hassett, suggested last week that we are better off because we don’t have to use our vacation days.

Let me assure you that this has been no vacation.  On the days when I haven’t been called to work, I have sat at home because I don’t want to go out and spend any money.  It’s a solitary confinement as I stress about how I am going to pay the bills when the money runs out.  No, it isn’t a vacation and I definitely don’t feel like I am better off.

Call your elected officials?   That’s what they tell us to do.  Do you know what you get?  You won’t talk to your Congressman or Senator, you get an intern who takes the call and gives you the canned statement they have been told to say.

So what else is happening during the shutdown?  I can’t contribute to my retirement and I can’t pay my health insurance payments.

And when we do get paid back, we will get taxed MORE.

I certainly don’t feel like a patriot.

Government Shutdown Book Sale

Although writing is mostly a “hobby” for me, I am directly affected by the Government shutdown so without a paycheck from my day job, I am promoting my books today with a sale.  Today all of my books are on sale as well as my last book “Passing Toward The Prize” is currently discounted.  If you would like to support me and get something in return for it, please click on one of the book links to purchase one of my books.

“Passing Toward The Prize” is a good book for church groups to read.  It has a very realistic story and deals with today’s issues faced by teens.  I would encourage pastors to purchase several for their congregation.

Any support you can provide would be appreciated.

PassingTowardThePrize_bookcover

Coach Turner leaned forward and looked directly at Colton.

“Look here Preston. You have to decide if you are going to be a leader or a quitter. A leader FINDS a way to lead. A quitter doesn’t bother to try. It’s easy to quit. Don’t pick the easy way.”

This is not the way Colton thought his high school football days would turn out for him. He is in the Class of ’82 at Tompkins County High School in the small town of Tompkinsville, Georgia. His father moves them to a new church in Savannah, Georgia. He misses his friends and his girlfriend, Belle, who are now hundreds of miles away. Colton also finds himself on a football team that clearly does not want him there.

Starting over and dealing with these changes are difficult for any age but for a 15-year-old preacher’s kid, it adds to the challenges he faces. He is not immune to the consequences of sin and the need for forgiveness. Colton will have to trust God that all things will work together for good.

If you loved “Facing the Giants” and “Remember the Titans” you will root for Colton Preston.

Paperback:  $9.99  Kindle Edition:  $4.99

Click here to purchase Passing Toward The Prize

KnightofRedemption_BookCover

A princess needs to be rescued.
A knight needs to have his confidence restored.
A kingdom to be united.
The harmony of the three kingdoms of Alphania, Memphilla and Winthrop are threatened by the evil Aldair who is driven by his lust for power and will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
The land needs a hero.
A mysterious dragon holds the key that will dramatically change life for everyone.
Knight of Redemption is a medieval, action romance that will take you through the adventures of Cashton and Crystaline. Cashton, a former knight from Alphania, fled when Aldair seized power of the kingdom. Cashton is pressed into action when Crystaline is captured. He must choose to be the hero he was destined to be and rescue Crystaline from Aldair as well as confront a dragon. Will his confidence be shattered or will love restore him to the man he always wanted to be?

Paperback:  $9.99  Kindle Edition:  $2.99

Click here to purchase Knight of Redemption

GideonForce_BookCover

Gideon Force is an elite tactical unit led by Commander Gabriel Morrison called to help missionaries around the world by rescuing them from persecution they face from radical groups and governments. The unit is equipped with a futuristic military-style armada to assist them in their mission. Members of the Force are hand-picked by God to serve their fellow man in protecting those who are called to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kindle Edition Only:  99 cents

Click here to purchase Gideon Force

Football Season To Continue After Super Bowl With AAF

aaf
Steve Spurrier, Aaron Murray, Trent Richardson and Nick Novak are players set to lead the new Alliance of American Football

It looks like the new Alliance of American Football (AAF) will become a reality as the league’s eight teams are currently in training camps as they prepare to kickoff their inaugural seasons on the Sunday after the Super Bowl.

The Atlanta Legends, Orlando Apollos, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, Arizona Hotshots, San Diego Fleet, San Antonio Commanders and Salt Lake Stallions will launch this new league.

I’m not sure what kind of quality football that the AAF is going to offer football fans. Judging by the Twitter posts, most of the videos are of players showing off their dance moves. This makes me skeptical about the actual quality of play. I also wonder if fans will show up to outdoor stadiums during February and March

Week 1 games will be played on February 9 & 10. Atlanta will open their season at Orlando, San Diego at San Antonio, Memphis at Birmingham and Salt Lake will play at Arizona.

When I look at the rosters of the teams, I really don’t see a lot of people that I recognize. Here are some of the notable players that are listed for each team:

  • Arizona Hot Shots
    • Coach Rick Neuheisel
    • QB Trevor Knight (College: Oklahoma, Texas A&M Pro: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons)
  • Atlanta Legends
    • Coach Kevin Coyle
    • QB Aaron Murray (College: Georgia Pro:  Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams
    • QB Matt Simms (College: Tennessee Pro: New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons)
    • WR Stephen Hill (College: Georgia Tech Pro: New York Jets, Carolina Panthers)
  • Birmingham Iron
    • Coach Tim Lewis
    • QB Blake Sims (College:  Alabama Pro: Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
    • QB Scott Tolzien (College:  Wisconsin Pro:  San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts)
    • RB Trent Richardson (College:  Alabama Pro:  Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens)
    • CB JaCorey Shepherd (College:  Kansas Pro:  Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers)
    • K Nick Novak (College:  Maryland Pro:  Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers)
  • Memphis Express
    • Coach Mike Singletary
    • QB Christian Hackenberg (College:  Penn State Pro:  New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals)
    • QB Zach Mettenberger (College: LSU Pro:  Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers)
    • RB Zac Stacy (College:  Vanderbilt Pro:  St. Louis Rams, New York Jets)
    • WR Chris Givens (College:  Wake Forest Pro:  St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles)
  • Orlando Apollos
    • Coach Steve Spurrier
    • QB Garrett Gilbert (College:  Texas, SMU Pro:  St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers)
    • QB Stephen Morris (College:  Miami Pro:  Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans)
    • WR Frankie Hammond (College:  Florida Pro:  Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets)
    • DB Will Hill (College:  Florida Pro:  New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens)
  • San Antonio Commanders
    • Coach Mike Riley
    • RB David Cobb (College:  Minnesota Pro:  Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears)
    • RB Daryl Richardson (College:  Abilene Christian Pro:  St. Louis Rams, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts)
  • Salt Lake Stallions
    • Coach Dennis Erickson
    • QB B.J. Daniels (College:  South Florida Pro:  San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons)
    • QB Garrett Grayson (College:  Colorado State Pro:  New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos)
    • RB Matt Asiata (College:  Utah Pro:  Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions)
  • San Diego Fleet
    • Coach Mike Martz
    • QB Josh Johnson (College:  San Diego Pro:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders)
    • RB Bishop Sankey (College:  Washington Pro:  Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings)

This new league has the potential for filling the void of football when the Super Bowl ends but we will have to wait and see what kind of quality of product these teams will put on the field.  While the league won’t directly compete with the National Football League (NFL), the survival will depend on how well they are received by football fans – especially in the eight cities which will have AAF teams.  Many of the cities have been the victim of past failed leagues and could be more apprehensive in embracing yet another football team.  I think the league did a good job putting teams in San Diego and Atlanta which San Diego losing the Chargers and Atlanta desperate for a consistent winner.

If nothing else, the AAF could partner with the NFL in becoming a developmental league while former players could use it as a way back into the league.  If the AAF takes hold, they would do well to become a true developmental league and place franchises in markets without NFL franchises.

They need to get off to a good start with the new re-creation of the XFL set to be their competition in 2020.

Scaredy Cat Faith

I have that scared feeling in the pit of my stomach right now. I hate this feeling. Because of the Government shutdown, I have not received a paycheck and I have been stressing about paying the bills. After being turned down from a bank for a loan to hold us through, I felt myself cracking under the pressure. Instead of giving into the panic I was feeling, I got alone with God and He calmed me down.

I’m still scared but I’m believing God is going to get us through this situation. Faith isn’t always about feeling but about believing. Although I still have that scared feeling in my stomach, I am still believing.

Someone once said that the Bible says “fear not” 365 times which is one for everyday. That’s a good thing because I certainly need to be reminded of that every day.

The Bible says faith is the substance of things hoped for but the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1). That has always been a cute little Bible verse until you have to live it and you are not seeing how things are going to work out. There are some that I have heard say that you can’t have fear and faith together. Okay, so can you introduce me please to this race of super humans because that just doesn’t exist in the real world. I have learned that with believing in God that you many times you have to do it with the fear.

I can have all the faith possible but still feel that scared feeling in my stomach. We have to have a scaredy cat faith. We believe but do so while holding down the fear inside and keep it from overcoming us.

I am scared right now but I believe God will help me through it and make a way. I have also learned that having faith doesn’t mean I can just sit back and do nothing. I still need to look for where God is leading in this situation. He’s not likely going to drop a bag of money on my head but He might lead me to the right person at the right time. I don’t know how He is going to do it but I do know it isn’t faith to curl up on the floor and worry about it. I want to be in position where God will make a way. God wants us to go forward in faith, not sit down and wait for it.

Having faith isn’t easy and sounds nice when you are not facing a crisis. It’s easy to have faith when you are standing in church singing praise and worship choruses off the screen. When you have to walk by faith and go through something is where you make it happen. The bumps and knocks in life aren’t comfortable but the reality of living by faith.

Somehow God will see us through this time. I really hope it’s sooner than later but I’m taking it one day at a time while looking for the opportunities that God could open for me. I’m not into religious cliches. I’m into results.

So how do you have faith when you have that scaredy cat feeling?

  1. Talk to God – a LOT. This is the time you need to ramp up your communication with God.
  2. Be silent. Also take some time to be quiet. These are the times He can calm your soul and the troubling waters inside of you.
  3. Read His promises. Get a list of faith building Bible verses.
  4. Listen to encouraging music. There are some awesome songs out there that will keep you encouraged.

Let me tell you, this isn’t easy. Believing God when you’re scared is no fun. These will be times that will try you and push you to your breaking point. Just keep with it and do it while being afraid.

The No-Pay Payday

payThis is a strange day for me.  It is usually the day I get a paycheck from my Government employer but with the current “partial” (it’s not-so-partial when it directly affects you) shutdown, nothing will be deposited into my bank account.  So, I have been scrambling.  When I left work for the Christmas holidays, I had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen.  We always assume (yeah I know what it means to assume) that cooler heads would prevail and everything would get worked out.  Today I turn on the news and they still say “no end in sight” and that after this weekend, this will be the longest government shutdown in history.

To add insult to injury, my supervisor called and asked me to report to work on Monday to support some of my “essential” co-workers who have been working during the shutdown.

Right now my bills need to be paid.  I’m not okay with this.  I am not on strike and I am not voluntarily sacrificing for funding for this wall.  I just want to work and pay my bills.  The suggestion that we should “barter” with our landlord is yet another example of how politicians are out of touch with reality.  Even if I could barter with my landlord (which I don’t have one) how am I supposed to pay my other bills.  Not many of them are understanding.  Sure, they might defer payment or give you an extension but many times this is still reflected on your credit score.  Getting a loan?  Yeah, try that one when you apply and you AREN’T GETTING A PAYCHECK.  Duh.  Is anyone home?  With the end of the shutdown nowhere in sight, how are you going to make the first payment on the loan if you get one in the first place?

I don’t like being in this position.

Get another job?  That would work if I wasn’t being called back into work and how long am I supposed to work another job?  What other employer is going to agree to hire you when you return to your normal job when the government re-opens?

Someone said to contact my congressman.  I did.  Three days ago.  No response.  None.  Zip.   He’s still getting a paycheck.

I have read people’s comments who say they are willing to make the sacrifice for the funding to build the wall.  I am not.  I did not asked to be held hostage in this negotiation.  It is ridiculous to suggest that I should.  As I have told others, I work for the American people, not a political party.  In fact, we aren’t even allowed to identify with any political party or do our jobs with any political favoritism.

I see reports that government workers are protesting and picketing the White House.  Yeah, that will show them.  Ineffective.  I read where lawsuits are being filed for making us work while not being paid during the shutdown.  Yeah, let’s see how successful that will be.  Point is….no one cares.  Our employer certainly doesn’t care.  If this were a private company and the owner refused to pay their employees until he got what he wanted, people would be livid about it.  The only people livid today are my fellow 800,000 workers missing a paycheck today.

I’m not asking for sympathy.  I know most people don’t really give a damn.  I’m just pretty mad about this – especially today.

Wowed By The Oculus Go

oculus go2Christmas has passed now and it seems that I was on Santa’s nice list this year because I got a pretty awesome gift.  Santa (via my wife) got me the Oculus Go Virtual Reality headset.  It was totally unexpected and definitely the “wow” gift of this Christmas.  Let me tell you about this awesome high tech toy.

Oculus Go is a standalone virtual reality headset which does not need to be connected to a phone or PC.  It is a very immersive entertainment device.  You can watch movies, play games, browse the Internet and many other things.  Just today I orbited Mars, watched some scenes from “The Greatest Showman” and played arcade basketball.  When I talk about this being an immersive device, you feel like you are in it and not just watching it.  There is nothing that compares to it.  Thanks to YouTubeVR you can also view thousands of videos in 180 degree or 360 degree video.  Even when it isn’t filmed for a VR device, watching standard video clips are still pretty good as it is like watching them on your own 30-foot screen.  The crystal clear optics and state-of-the-art 3D graphics makes the Oculus Go feel more like a personal theater.

The device comes with a nifty controller that you can use with one hand so you can navigate through apps and games.  It is very comfortable to use.

The audio is really better than you would expect with very good quality.  You really don’t need headphones unless you don’t want to disturb people around you.  Although you can’t connect headphones with Bluetooth, you can use a short 3.5 mm cable to connect without getting tangled up with any cables.

Some of the things I have done so far with the headset is watch a bowl game on ESPN, played a virtual mystery game (which ended up scaring me pretty badly), checking Facebook, using a meditation app to virtually sit next to a waterfall or in front of a fireplace.  There are so many uses for this headset that I am sure I haven’t even come close to all the capabilities of this amazing high tech device.

The only thing that is a downer is the battery life which is about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  In reality, it is probably a good thing so you can give your eyes a rest from the headset and it’s still long enough to watch a movie or play your fill of games.  I hope that my cable service provider will eventually be available so I can stream my TV to it as well.

The Oculus Pro is a little pricey but you do get what you pay for and the quality it worth it.  The 32GB model is $199 and the 64GB headset is $249.

I have been very impressed with the Oculus Go and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a personal VR headset.  It has been an exciting device to use.  I didn’t ask for it but I’m really glad that “Santa” brought it.  I’m eager to go get it right now after finishing this blog.  In fact, I wish I could use the headset to write this blog.

If you are looking for me, you will find me in the virtual world.