The other day I was at my friend Jon’s house helping chop up some trees with my chain saw. Even though the season is coming to an end it’s never too soon to start collecting firewood. After about an hour I realized that my chain saw blade had gotten quite dull making it a chore to cut through anything thicker than my wrist. So I changed gears and worked more on clearing off the small branches while Jon came behind me and chopped up the big stuff. Just yesterday I dropped the chain off at another friends so that he could sharpen the blade for the next time I’m out cutting wood.
Now I suppose that I could leave the chain as it is and simply muscle my way through the task of cutting wood, but I’ll be able to move a lot faster and get a lot more done if I simply take the time to sharpen things up. For the last few months I’ve become increasingly convicted of my need to sharpen things up in my work life, so I’ve identified three major areas in my life that need sharpening: 1) Tools (computers, phones, etc.), 2) Digital Resources (facebook contacts, computer files, e-mail, etc., 3) Physical Resources (books, paper filing, etc.). I’m happy to report that I’ve already managed to sharpen the first of these areas to a fine point but the second two still have a ways to go.
The first area that I wanted to focus on was Tools, specifically my computer. I got a new phone (iPhone 5) several months ago and it has definitely improved my productivity significantly but the computer I was using was getting to be a problem, so it was time to sharpen the axe.
Now not everyone can build their own computer, because it does take a certain degree of patience and know how, but for me it really is the only way to go. I ended up spending around $1,100 (way less than a Mac and much more powerful) and built the computer of my dreams (I call it “Beast”). In case you’re interested here is the parts list for “Beast”, keep in mind that I spent a lot of time watching neweggs sales, which helped keep the costs down significantly.
The only thing that I feel like I compromised on with “Beast” was her SSD, but given how expensive those things are right now I’m still very satisfied with how she ended up. I’m already noticing a boost in my productivity and to be honest I just love using this machine . Hopefully the next two sharpening projects (Digital Resources & Physical Resources) go as well as this one did.
Just before I moved to Cool the church decided to move the pastor’s office downstairs next to the main office. The idea was that it would make the pastor more accessible and give him a better feel for what was happening in the day to day operations of the church.
Now for a lot of guys, this would drive them nuts but I’ve found it to be a significant blessing. I try to maintain an open door policy (as much as possible), so if someone needs to stop by and talk I want to be available to them. The only drawback that I’ve noticed is that a lot of the things that I do require a certain level of silence. It’s hard to dig into a technical commentary when the phone is ringing, the copy machine is running and lots of people are chatting just one paper-thin wall away from you.
That’s why I am so thankful for my Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones. Whenever I need silence to read, to pray or just to think I pull out these amazing headphones turn them on and the whole world just seems to disappear. On the rare occasions when I can still hear the noise in the office, I simply turn on some background audio with the Naturespace app on my phone and all of a sudden I’m sitting at the beach with a copy of the New International Greek Testament Commentary in front of me .
If you’re ever in need of silence and find it hard to come by, these noise-canceling headphones are definitely worth a look.
Graceway Media is one of my favorite ministry resources!!! In our image driven society, there is almost no greater sin than having bad PowerPoint slides or bad art in general, which presents a big problem for smaller churches. You see, good art is really expensive! It costs a lot of money to hire artists, to have a media department, etc.
Until I found Graceway Media, I had just taken it upon myself to try to make compelling PowerPoint slides or to try and find decent art on Google Images or any place else that I could scavenge it from; but not anymore!
Graceway Media is an entire website devoted to making killer PowerPoint slides, art, and banners that you can use for sermons, websites, fliers, etc. It’s been a godsend for me and I want to recommend it to any small church who wants to present a more professional look in their presentations, website and other publications.
Here are four reasons why you should consider using Graceway Media for your church.
1) It’s Easy – Downloading the PowerPoint files is a simple process that anyone can do. You’re given several different options for the format that you want for the files in and it even includes information about the fonts that were used, so you can make changes yourself if you want.
2) It’s Inexpensive – A year long subscription costs $250, which is an absolute steal for the product that you’re getting. I have literally downloaded hundreds of slides and I use them for almost every aspect of the ministries art department from fliers, to Sunday morning presentations, to facebook events.
3) It’s Professional – Using professional grade slides like these makes the entire organization appear more professional, because you can tell that someone put a lot of time into these things. With Graceway Media, that someone doesn’t have to be you!
4) It Saves You Time – Because everything is online, you can easily download your files to any computer, manipulate them anywhere and get them quickly. I’ve had a number of occasions where I needed a slide right away. With Graceway Media, I simply login, find a relavent slide, download it and put it on the screen. It really is that easy and it really does save massive amounts of time if your using PowerPoint or Keynote.
Alright, the title to this post may be a bit of an overstatement but I’m sure that you can agree that all Christians and especially all churches should give serious thought to how they are filtering their internet connections. The internet can be a helpful place for checking the weather, catching up on the news, or social networking but it is also a very dangerous place filled with pornography, violence and smut. That’s where Open DNS comes in as a tool for cleaning up your internet connection and helping to protect your family / congregation (if you have a WiFi network at church…or any employees) from some of the worst parts of the internet.
I’ve resisted internet filtering software for a long time, because frankly most of it STINKS! It requires you to install cumbersome programs on your PC that slow things down and require constant attention with updates, passwords, etc. For the most part internet filtering software has been an awful pain for a long time. The beauty of Open DNS is that you don’t have to install any software at all, except for a very small piece that runs completely in the background and doesn’t slow things down at all. For churches and families, this is a godsend because it allows us to offer internet connectivity without having to constantly monitor things. Open DNS just filters everything out for you, without you even having to think about it.
The best way to learn about Open DNS is by going to their website, but here’s the basic idea: Every time you go somewhere on the internet, you use a service called DNS to get there. When you signup for Open DNS (which is only $20/year!!!!), you tell your router to use Open DNS to get to the internet which allows them to filter your content in whatever way you want them to. The great thing is that because all of this happens on your router, every single device that connects to your network is automatically filtered. You only have to set this up once and your completely done with it!!!
I will admit that setting up Open DNS can be a little bit scary, because it requires you to log into your router and change the DNS settings on it. But the great thing is that Open DNS provides step by step directions for exactly how to do that. They also have a very good forums section, FAQ’s and if all else fails buy me dinner and I’ll swing by to see if I can get it going for you .
I don’t know of any better technological investment for a church or a family than the $20/year that Open DNS costs. Like everything, it isn’t perfect but it goes a long way to protecting your kids and your family. Be sure to at least check it out at www.opendns.com.
I wonder how many beautiful moments we miss because we are afraid we will miss them. Instead of living fully in the moment, enjoying the music or the sunrise or the games with our children, we fall into this strange habit of recording it all. We experience the sunrise through the lens of an iPhone instead of just basking in it, we tinker with focus and angles recording quality instead of just enjoying the music. When all is said and done, we’ve recorded an experience that we missed out on, and the replay is just never as good.
The other day I was out with my kids when I noticed something about myself. For some reason I kept feeling an irresistible urge to reach into my pocket, to pull out a small piece of glass and plastic in order to see if it had anything to say to me. There I was surrounded by my loved ones, enjoying an ice cream cone and yet a nagging question occupied my mind, “What is waiting for me inside of this phone?” It’s not even that there was anything pressing on my mind. I wasn’t waiting for a response from anyone. I wasn’t looking for any information in particular. I just wanted to know if there was anything waiting for me.
Life is full of questions. Some questions are important, like “Who will I marry?” Some questions are trivial, like “Who will win American idol?” But all questions have one thing in common, they are not neutral. Questions lead our hearts to different conclusions, which is why a large part of wisdom is learning to ask the right questions of yourself.
I’ve been deeply convicted that instead of asking the question, “What’s waiting for me?” in my digital devices, a far better question for me to ask is “How can I be more present where I’m at right now?” Rather than looking for ways to be distracted by the chirps, buzzes, and sirens of modern technology I should be seeking to ways to be more aware, more thoughtful and more engaged right here and right now.
It’s been about a year since I got my iPad and I have to say that I LOVE IT!!! When I first heard of the iPad it sounded like a really cool toy, something that I would use here or there but not necessarily a power tool for me. After a year with my “toy”, I confess that I was wrong. It’s actually turned into one of the primary tools that I use for biblical studies, general reading, e-mail management, news and entertainment. Here are just a few of the ways that I use my iPad in life and ministry:
Current Events – Since I got my iPad I’ve actually started keeping up with the news through a couple of great apps. I use Editions to collect a daily magazine that I browse through. What’s cool about Editions is that it customizes the magazine for my personal tastes, so it only brings me stories that it thinks I will be interested in. I use The Early Edition to collect Newspaper stories from various newspapers that I like to follow. I use the Fox News app as well as the Bing app to stay up to the minute on what’s going on in the world. I also just started using the Time app, which is a companion to Time Magazine, that gives you even more in depth coverage of the stories that the magazine covers.
Reading Books – I never thought that I would be a big e-book fan, but I have completely fallen in love with them. I definitely have not given up on the traditional book and in a lot ways I do think that "real books" are better than e-books, but for light reading e-books are outstanding! I usually have between 4 and 5 e-books that I’m reading at a time (mainly in kindle format). I also use the iPad to read most all of my magazines.
Bible Study – I still do most of my Bible Study with "real books" on my desk, in my study but I also find myself doing quite a bit of study using the Logos app that gives me access to thousands of my titles wherever I’m at. I’ve been a logos user for many years but ever since I got my iPad, I’ve become much more of a power user. Nothing beats the convenience of going home after work, playing with the kids, getting everyone to bed and then pulling out my iPad and making my way through a technical commentary. What’s even better is that all of the highlighting and note taking that I do on my iPad syncs wirelessly to my desktop, so all of my notes are there right when I need them.
Presentations – I’ve been a PowerPoint user for years, but when Keynote came out for the iPad I had to give it a try and I have to confess that I love it!!! I’m working on a way to use the iPad’s Keynote for a Sunday morning service, but one thing that I already use it for is counseling. I’ve put together a couple of presentations that I use frequently in counseling situations (like Peacemaking and laws of communication), which have turned out beautifully. I will usually face the iPad towards the couple I’m counseling with and use my phone to control the slides as we work our way through the material.
Task Management – I use Awesome Note to do all of my task management, integrating with Evernote on my iPad. This way I have my task list with me, wherever I go.
When the iPad first came out, the question everyone asked was what was it’s purpose. It seemed like a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. Having used it for a year, it’s definitely found a good purpose in my digital life and I’m sure over time I’ll find even more uses for it.