White and Nerdy

November 25, 2010

I spent half the day upgrading to Snow Leopard and a loading a few new programs so I thought I would take a few minutes and share some of the apps (both desktop and mobile) that make my world go round on the off chance you give a rip. I’m a mac guy and so for the most part I use the apps they provide where possible, Mail, Safari, iTunes… I’m also into Google so Calendar, Docs, Reader, and gmail are on my list. Here are some of the others. Unfortunately I’m to lazy to link to all their websites. Fortunately you know how to Google things.

Tweetdeck: This is my twitter client of choice. I hear good things about others too but it does what I want. I hate having to open Safari just to use twitter so this is a good solution for me. It allows you to group your feeds into columns so you can have friends in one, celebrities in another, mentioned of your favourite team in the other, etc. My set up is simple: Everything, DM’s, Mentions of me, mentions of @deepwaterchurch. There is an Iphone version as well. They don’t really sync but they look the same and feel familiar. It’s free.

Things: This is my app of choice for GTD style workflow management. It’s very expensive and not without it’s weaknesses, particularly in how it uses tags and areas (backwards in my opinion). That said it’s very powerful and customizable and syncs beautifully with it’s iPhone counterpart giving me constant updated access to what I have to get done. Not sure I could live without it now.

Evernote: I always have a bunch of stuff I need to keep track off. Things that don’t require a full on document but that aren’t a thing I need to do: Ideas, questions, agendas for upcoming meetings, etc. Evernote is my solution. Allows me to keep tons of notes in pretty much any format – text, image, video. I’m just getting into it but I have been eyeing it for a while. I had to update my OS to run the desktop version. Speaking of versions – there are desk top, mobile , and online versions that all sync seamlessly with each other. Beautiful and free.

Dropbox: It’s basically an sharable online disk. Everyone knows about it because it’s awesome and free.

ProPresenter: Is the media projection software we use at Deep Water. It’s nothing short of incredible. If you are a Mac user in church wold with use for such a program you know about it. It was built for churches but it so powerful that it is getting used in other applications as well. If you need something more powerful and less linear than Power Point or Keynote check it out. It ain’t cheap.

iPhone Apps (all of these are free or really cheap)

MobileRSS: Quick and easy RSS client for iPhone that syncs nicely with Google Reader.

Your Chain!: Super simple app. It’s a calendar where you can cross off days. I use it to track days when I got in my walk.

HiFutureSelf: An app that sends you pop up reminders in the future. Great for stuff you need to remember at a certain time but don’t want in your calendar. Last week I set it to tell me something I needed to announce at the end of church. Worked like a charm.

PrayerPartner: Great little app for tracking prayer requests so you can remember to pray for all that stuff you wanted to remember to pray for.

Metro: This is how I get my news on.

Atmospherique: One of the few weather apps that pulls it’s info from environment Canada.

Accountable: Cool little program I use with my accountability partner. Gives you an editable set of questions to answer each week (or whatever interval you want) and then emails them to your partner.

Radiant: Let’s end with something fun. I have been addicted to this space invaders type game for weeks now. Super simple and old school. Love it.

What are the great apps and programs you use everyday?

Advertisements

“You guys do some pretty different stuff, do you ever get any flack from for it? That question, or one along the same lines, is one I get asked every so often. I got asked it twice this week. Both times in radio interviews. One on News 95.7 and the other for a project by a student at NSCC. It’s a valid question. My usual answer is no, not really. That changed today.

Here are some of the things we have been up to recently:

-An ad campaign that on the one hand used sexual innuendo and on the other hand implied a biblical view of sex.

-Appeared on the afore mentioned radio show and being very clear about the centrality of Christ.

-Played a song by Nirvana (not know for their Christian faith) in our worship gathering.

-Preached sermons saying that *gasp* telling other people about Jesus and inviting them to follow Him was a very good thing.

-Had a 3rd Birthday Party with a “Birthday Party at McDonald’s” theme including 200 McDonald’s cheeseburgers, tons of decorations, and by far the hugest crowd we have ever had.

-Sending a missions team to Haiti despite a serious cholera outbreak and the fact that it is hurricane season.

-Announced that next week at church someone is getting a tattooed live while I preach.

I got some flack from someone today for one of these things. Guess which one?

Guide to Choosing a Major World Religion for Bacon Lovers

Religion —– Bacon? — Reason
Judaism —– No —— Not kosher
Islam ——- No —— Not halal
Buddhism — No —— Might be your uncle
Hinduism — No —— Might be your god
Christianity — Yes —– Jesus died for us

What I Said

August 14, 2010

*Thanks for asking Tim

So I’m back from BYF and I still can’t fully express how amazing the weekend was. I’m not sure I have ever had such a strong sense of anointing (to use a good churchy word) on my preaching. The old timers were amazing and I came home feeling totally drained but amazingly encouraged. Here is the quick breakdown of what I said to them.

FRIDAY NIGHT
I preached from Revelation 3 about the church in Laodicea and what happens when “love has left the building.” Following Jesus is more about what you want than what you have. Better to be a person who loves Jesus deeply and has long way to go then look like a great Christian on the outside but not have any real passion for Christ. I challenged them to let God give them a fresh passion for Him.

SATURDAY MORNING
We looked at the John 17:14-18 which is often summarized “Be in the world but not of it.” I said that the difference between “in” and “of” is not a difference of location and relationships but of who we are. It’s not about forming Christian ghettos and only being friends with christians it’s about allowing Jesus to make us more like Him. Then I brought it full circle to say that, based on the example of Jesus, you can’t follow Jesus without having friends who don’t follow Jesus. To illustrate all this I put cornflakes in water and rocks in water. The cornflakes fall all to pieces and become goo because they take on the water. The rocks stay just the same because they are solid. I challenged them to be rock solid Christians not religious flakes.

SATURDAY NIGHT
I spoke from 2 Timothy 2 where Paul talks about how what was given to him he gave to Timothy who in turn needs to hand it down to others who will hand it down to others. I spoke as an ambassador from the younger generation coming into leadership to the older generation handing off the baton. I told them we needed them to hand down their:
Effort: Keep serving, no one on scripture retires and no one is better positioned to reach the growing population of seniors then them.
Experience: Tell us stories of the God who is not just the way it was. Tell us the stories of lives changed and sinners set free that will build our faith for what God really can do. Remind us of just how big this thing called the Kingdom is and what’s really worth worrying about (and in the process you will remind yourself).
Example: I asked them to remember when they were younger who the “dear old saints” were. They listed off stacks of amazing followers of Jesus. I looked them in the eyes and told them they were our dear old saints and they needed to step up to it and embrace that role. I have to admit things got pretty intense right there and I think a lightbulb went on for most of them. I said we needed their example that holiness works over the long haul, that a marriage can last form the alter to the casket, and that you can get sweeter and more Christ-like with age instead of just crotchety. I told them they needed to take initiative to build relationships with younger people in their churches and live out an example of sainthood in front of them. Amazing, astounding, breakthrough, night.

SUNDAY MORNING
I spoke on “Why God Waits” out of the story or Lazarus.
He waits for His glory to be revealed. God’s glory is His presence and power made obvious. Jesus waited for Lazarus to die so that when He raised him it would make His power and presence more obvious. Basically God loves a good story.
He waits because he sees things as they really are. There is no “to late” for God. What we see as the end He sees as the middle. This doesn’t mean we won’t go through hard times it just means Jesus can always make His power and presence obvious in the end. In fact if we want to see His glory we need to be ready to suffer. Everyone wants a resurrection but nobody wants to die.
He waits to give room for our faith. Not faith that He will do what we want but faith that he will find a way to bring glory to himself through it. Resurrection was a raw deal for Lazarus but it was the way Jesus brought glory to himself. Sometimes God’s glory is best served by how he intervenes and sometimes it is best served by the way he helps us to endure (see Paul and his thorn in the flesh).
I challenged them to a radical commitment to the Glory of God.

Amazing weekend and something I definitely hope I get the chance to do again.

What Would You Say?

July 30, 2010

The Gig:
A week from today I will be starting one of my most interesting speaking gigs to date. I will be speaking at the annual Best Years Fellowship retreat at Beulah camp. For the uninitiated that is the annual gathering of the 55+ crew of the Atlantic District of the Wesleyan Church (ME, NB, NS, PE, NL). It’s an honour to be asked to speak to any group but this one comes with a unique dynamic which I think boils down broadly into who will be there and who won’t.

Who Will Be There:
Everyone there will be older than me. Most people there will have been following Jesus longer than I have been alive. Many folks will have known me since childhood (like my parents for example). There will be a bunch of people there who are probably more like Jesus than I will ever be and know Him better than I ever will. There will also be some folks there who are carnal grumps who quit following Jesus actively years ago but were to proud to do anything about it. There will be some there who have been examples and inspirations to me and who have encouraged me more then they will ever know. A very interesting group indeed and I have put a fair amount of prayer and thought into what I should share with them and I feel like God has given me clear direction.

Who Will Not Be There:
All that said I think I feel as great a responsibility to who won’t be there. The younger folks on our district. I feel a little bit like I have been elected to serve as an ambassador between my generation (say 35 and under) and theirs (55+). And in fact I will have some very clear opportunities to do this during the weekend. I will be preaching four times and sharing in a panel discussion of sorts so I’ll have a chance to share some of my thoughts but what about those of you who won’t be there?

Younger members of the Atlantic District family (and others if you want) what do you want the old timers to know? What would you tell them if you had the chance?

If you would prefer not to share your thoughts in the comment section you can email them to me confidentially at theajthomas at gmail dot com.

The Hospital

June 25, 2010

There once was a hospital that had 10 patients and one doctor. These patients had been cured of a horrible, terminal disease. They had walked into the Hospitals little ER and collapsed but slowly, over time, with good care and good medicine they had made a full recovery. They grew stronger and got well but they loved the hospital and the other patients were like family to them and so they said, “let’s stay here and run the hospital together.”

And so they did. They did rounds together, took their medicine together, and went to see the doctor together. They chipped in to buy some new equipment for the hospital and to fix up the grounds. Over time they came to believe that they were the best little hospital around.

Until one day the old doctor retired and the new doctor who replaced him said: “My dear patients, you who are healthy and strong, we have a problem. The sign out front says ‘hospital’ yet there are no sick people here. I propose we begin to treat the sick.” All the patients said “here, here” and clapped their hands and they told the stories of how they had been treated when they were sick and of the old doctor who helped them and of the medicine that had made them well.

It was decided that the first step was to re-open the ER as it had been closed due to lack of use and so a group of patients was designated to run it. They dusted the equipment and cleaned the floors and turned on the lights and waited but no one came. And so they thought, maybe we need paint the walls a brighter colour or purchase some new equipment but then they remembered that this was the very ER they had wandered into, the one where they had been brought back to health, and so they left it as it was because they did not know how the new paint or more modern equipment would work but they new that the ER had been very effective for them just like this.

Eventually the patients decided that the problem must be the doctor. Perhaps he did not have a good reputation among the sick, perhaps he only cared about the sick and not the patients, whatever the reason he was deemed and problem and so he was asked to leave and a new doctor was brought in.

They liked this new doctor because he was very focused on helping the sick and yet he seemed to truly care for the patients. One day the doctor said “My dear patients, you who are healthy and strong, we have a problem. The sign out front says ‘hospital’ yet there are no sick people here. I propose we begin to treat the sick.” All the patients said “here, here” and clapped their hands and they told the stories of how they had been treated when they were sick and of the old doctor who helped them and of the medicine that had made them well.

And so the doctor said “if we are to care for the sick we will need new equipment” but the patients said “But this equipment is not broken and it worked just fine on us, and besides, we don’t have the money.”

And the doctor said “we only have ten beds, we will either need to buy more or some of you who have become healthy will have to give up yours” but the patients said “ but we love these beds, and we bought these beds, and besides, why be a patient if you don’t have your own bed. And if we add more beds some of us may end up sharing a room with sick people and we may not be in the same room as our dear friends any longer and besides, we don’t have the money.”

And the doctor said “we could serve the sick better with an additional doctor, perhaps a pediatrician to care for the young” but the patients said “if we have a pediatrician we may have kids all over the hospital they may make messes and touch things they are not supposed to, and interrupt our sleep, and besides, we don’t have the money.”

And so nothing changed until one day, a very ill man came stumbling in to the old ER. As the doctor prepared the medicine the sick man confessed, “I have crippling fear of needles.” That’s ok” The doctor assured him “you can take the medicine by pill” but as the doctor prepared the dose the patients called him aside and said “you can’t give him a pill, he must receive his medicine by injection.” “But” the doctor said “pill or needle, it doesn’t really matter, so long as he receives the medicine.” But the patients were adamant and the sick man was sent away untreated.

Many years passed yet another new doctor gathered the patients together and said “My dear patients, you who are healthy and strong, we have a problem. We are a hospital and yet it has been years since we last treated anyone who was sick. We must take steps to remedy this immediately.” All the patients said “here, here” and clapped their hands and they told the stories of how they had been treated when they were sick and of the old doctor who helped them and of the medicine that had made them well.

Then one patient said “but we are now old, to old to help the sick ourselves but I know of a hospital in a far away country where they treat many sick. The sick there are more sick that the sick here and if they die they will be even more dead than the dead here and when they give the medicine they do it with pills because people there don’t like needles. I propose we send them our money and supplies and let them treat the sick. We will wish them well and put pictures of their doctors up on our walls so it will feel like we are treating the sick”

And so it went for quite some time. They told the stories of how they got well, and spent many hours together in the cafeteria, and when one had a rough day the others were all there to cheer him up. Doctors came and doctors went but the patients remained the same and although the hospital was very dated they decided not to fix it up to much because they had grown used to it that way and besides, they didn’t have the money. Slowly they closed the ER and the maternity ward and although there were still patients and doctors no sick people were ever treated.

And then one day the government inspector came. He met with the patients and the doctor. He looked at the records and reviewed the schedules. And after a thorough examination he gave his assessment that this was a fine nursing home indeed.

Challenged

May 22, 2010

Disclaimer: The following thoughts are my own ramblings not some sort of official strategy statement on behalf of Deep Water.

Although challenges are universal in leading a church we don’t all have the same ones and we don’t all face them at the same time. These are the challenges I expect Deep Water to face in the next 12-18 months.

The Facility Challenge
It would be in keeping with trends thus far to predict that we will have outgrown the theatre within the time frame we are discussing. What I mean by that is that we will probably have more people coming than the theatre can comfortably fit. There are several relatively easy ways to deal with this, at least in the short term. More immediately relevant is the fact that we have pretty much already outgrown some of our kids ministry space. We will need to figure out a better location/arrangement for our nursery and possibly our pre-school program. The options are limited. It’s going to be a challenge. And while we are at it – the usage of the Abbey is steadily increasing. I think we will have that space maxed out in this time frame.

The Resource Challenge
We are at a time where the vision opportunities are outstripping the financial resources. There will be a challenge to generate more funds, to cut corners where we can, to make strategic decisions about what to give funding priority too and to trust God to provide for the things he calls us too.

The Focus Challenge
This may be the biggest of the bunch. As we are growing there are more and more voices calling us to add this or do more of that. They aren’t bad things but they will blur our focus and dilute our energy. That said there are components of our strategy that need to be implemented and tweaked. It will be a challenge to know what to add, what to say no to and to have the conviction to stand our ground on those decisions and be ok with not everyone getting it. As we move forward we will actually need to increase the intensity of focus not relax it. Some folks will find this hard. Some of them will decide to go somewhere else.

The Personnel Challenge
This is two sided. We will need to continue to recruit, train, and develop top notch volunteer leaders. This may be a special challenge for us because while all churches wrestle with the spiritual and leadership maturity of their volunteers we else wrestle, to a greater extent I think, with the basic life maturity of some of our people. We don’t have years of experience to fall back on.
The other side of this comes with staffing. We could definitely keep another full time staff member busy (shoot I could keep a few of them busy) but finding the funds and the right people is a definite challenge.

The Leadership Challenge
And on this one I mean me personally. This has been a stretching experience for me since day one but we are currently in and will continue to be in a season where I really need to continue to grow like crazy because of the increased demands on me. Of course that’s also the very reason it will be hard to grow. Hitting the balance of knowing when to focus on doing vs learning vs knowing I’m out of my gifts and letting it ride will be a real challenge.

Yup, it’s going to be challenging. If you are the praying sort please remember me and Deep Water and if you have any brilliant ideas I’m all ears.

Warning: this post is amazingly biased towards apple, I know many people aren’t into Apple. It’s ok, we don’t need to fight.

I think Apple is brilliant. I seriously do. Although much can and has been said about their specific products I want to point out a few things I love about their philosophy. I’ll allow you to make your own conclusions about how they apply to life and leadership.

Apple Is Content With Being the Best
On the surface that seems like a funny thing to say but many people and organizations get awesome and then ruin it by doing what it takes to get big.

Apple Understands That Vibe Matters
Call it culture or style or hip-factor but Apple knows that that intangible feeling that goes along with stuff is almost as important as the stuff it does. It’s not just what happens but how you feel while it does. Many a non-Apple user look at this aspect of Apple and say “I just don’t get it” and we Apple users respond “we know.”

Apple Puts Quality Over Price.
Cheaper is seldom better unless you are looking at something disposable. I’m going to over-spiritualize here but Jesus said “you love what cost you the most.” Could it be that Apples high prices (and commensurate quality) are part of why Apple users love them? You paid a lot of money for an awesome thing so you love it. This seems to be a good time to talk about my friend who is a full time professional computer tech. He has education and 15 years experience with PC’s. He works on PC’s all day. At home he uses Apple. I asked him why and he said “I spend so much time fixing these things that at home I wanted something that works.”

Apple Refuses to Let Other People Hijack Their Vision
Steve Jobs knows what he wants to do and he does it. People whine, people nay say, people demand, and he just goes on doing what he wants. I love that. Great case in point is flash. Apple is focused in a way few other organizations have the tenacity to be. It boarders on arrogance but it works.

Apple Knows Best
This is related to the above. Apple does what they think they should and gives us what they think we need even if it’s not what we actually wanted at the time. I don’t think they start their creative process by asking “what do folks want” or “what will people buy” or “what’s hot right now.” They ask “what would be awesome? They removed floppy drives. Every one freaked out and then everyone else removed them too. They make themselves the only source for apps for the iphone because they want to insure quality. Everyone freaks out and then goes and buys apps. They say no porn on the iphone and everyone freaks out and then uses their iPhone to tweat about it. Some people hate this but I love the way Steve comes down from the mountain and says here, trust me. And at this point I do.

Apple Takes Risks
This is another one in the “amazing ability to ignore the critics category.” Apple does stuff people think is crazy or even stupid. Let’s make people pay for all the music they have been downloading for free. Crazy but it worked. Let’s make an iphone that is huge and not a phone. Just a few weeks ago everyone was laughing at that. Check the sales on the ipad.

Apple Embraces the Primacy of Simplicity
Apple will sacrifice sacred cows like “customization” or “openness” in order to preserve simplicity. They understand that it doesn’t matter what something does, what matters is what I can make it do and those are almost never the same unless you keep things clear and simple. This article claims to be about the iphone being cool but that last few paragraphs hit the truer note – it’s about it being simple.

Apple Knows That Everything Communicates
Ok, ok. I can’t get through this without bringing up design. Everything I said about simplicity… when you look at an Apple product it screams that. Less buttons, smoother lines, less and less ugly ports. How things appear communicates a lot about what they are and Apple knows people always judge a book by it’s cover.

What would you add?

Why I Hate Cars

April 9, 2010

The simple answer is because they hate me. All parts of the car hate me (except the seat, we generally get along) but for the sake of time let’s look at the tires.

Back in November it became apparent we needed new front tires. So we went to the mechanic. We found out that the absolute least expensive (yes we called around, yes we tried that super cheap place where you got the awesome deal) tires we could get were still in the $200 a pop range because our car has low profile tires. They were “performance” tires which means they were great in water but crap in snow. They were the ones closest to what we could not afford so we had to go with them.

In December the tire pressure light came on. We took it to the garage where we got the tires and they said the valve stem was shot and put on a new one. The light stayed on because we needed the a special stem with the sensor. So we had to take it to the dealer and have that stem put in.

In late March the tire pressure light came on again. We took it in again, it was the stem again, we had to get the fancy sensor again.

That night the light came on again so we took it back. Turns out the brain trust at the garage had just under inflated it. I should mention that since we recently moved all these trips to the garage and to the dealer involve about a half hour of travel each way.

Today I was headed out of town. I was going to Sackville NB to grab supper with my good friend Andrew Benson and then to see my good friend Jonny Smith preform the absolutely mind-blowing Sr Recital that is the culmination of years and years of hard work. It he were going to stand on stage and fart I would go see him because I love him but he is a phenomenal musician who will no doubt have to go around after the recital and help people pick up their jaws. Did I mention I love him? Did I mention this is his one and only Sr. recital? Did I mention he’s awesome? Did I mention how excited I was to go? Ok, just wanted to make sure. Now we can keep going.

So just as I was leaving town (Hammond’s Plains to be specific) I heard and thunk, the car started to feel funny, I looked down and my old friend the check pressure light was on. This is nothing new. Traffic was pretty think so I drove a bit further (maybe 2k), the car really did feel funny though so I drove into the next parking lot. The tire was sitting on the rim.

I proceeded (in the pouring rain no less) to dig out the jack and the spare and and to get down on the wet pavement and see what I could do. I’m not mechanic but I’ve changed a tire before. It took me quite some time to sort out the jack and get the new fangeled tire iron off. The hub cap was another issue. It came off but it will never be the same. Then I proceeded to jack up the car. Just as the tire was getting off the ground the jack folded like Kenny Rogers does when he knows not to hold them. Crap.

So now I had to call roadside assistance. I sat in my car and snuggled with my own rage for warmth. The roadside guys came and got the spare on. I called my friend Denn (good guy) for a recommendation on a garage in the area. I had been ahead of schedule, there was still hope.

I headed into Civic Pride Auto (good guys) and the fella there took a look at the tire and his diagnosis was… wait for it… the valve stem. To be specific the valve stem had been improperly installed and may have had some threads stripped so…

I headed over to Dartmouth to the dealer (not as good guys but you can sort of work with them if you are willing to be a jerk) and they took a look at it. Surprise, surprise. They deemed that the issue was the tire itself and claimed it had lost it’s seal (or some such thing) around the tire in 3 places. I’m guessing that happened when the stem failed catastrophically and the rim came crashing down onto the tire and chewed it all up but like I said, I’m no mechanic. I could have argued with them but why do it there when I had a perfectly good brick wall at home to bang my head against.

These guys are not my original dealer. I drive a Saturn so my dealer doesn’t exist. They are however where I am supposed to take my car for warrantee work. They don’t have tires that fit my car. Hmmmmm.

So I headed out to Mighty Auto (good guys) in Cole Harbour to the place we bought the current tires from. Dinner with Andrew was never going to happen but with a little luck I might still make the recital.

They didn’t have anything in stock. The dream was now dead! Can’t say how much this disappointed me…

They also said that they might not be able to get the exact same model in for me. Which means I may have to buy two new tires because it’s not good for them to be mismatched on the same axle. We will see on monday but at this point I am bracing myself for the likelihood that I am going to have to replace two tires that are only 5 months old. Two tires of the sort where even the cheap ones are expensive.

I hate cars. 13 more months before I am free of the money sucking, dream crushing, frustration generating, festering, hunk of pain and anguish that is my car. I hate cars, but hey – they started it.

I Need Jesus

March 22, 2010

Well I thought I would wrap up this little trip down memory lane with the song that wrapped up the album (there was one more on the album but it’s a tad depressing and self indulgent so we shan’t bother). It’s sort of out of place among the others but for philosophical reasons couldn’t include it on a worship recording and through it was good enough to capture so here it is. I recommend going into this song with a simple Trinitarian theology or you will get all fetched up on a couple of the heretical lines. The violin is by one Chris Stephen’s and added a nice it of sonic depth to the piece. Enjoy:

I Need Jesus