5 ways to unplug from your cellphone

Cell phones are a blessing and a curse. There’s a reason blackberry early on earned the nickname “crackberry”. I have…

Cell phones are a blessing and a curse. There’s a reason blackberry early on earned the nickname “crackberry”. I have lately been experiment and cataloging ways that I can live a less connected life while still being engaged online and offline. Here’s a few tips if you are looking for ways to unplug a bit from your electronic companion.

Buy a camera

When you are at a family event, out in nature or enjoying a nice meal you often want to document it with photos. The problem with using your smartphone is that there are so many distractions. Notifications, feeds, tempting unread message counts all vie for our attention and threaten to pull is away from being present the minute we pull out our phone to ale a picture. What’s to be done? Buy a camera. Not only will you find yourself able to take a photo quickly and return to being present, your photos will be better too.

Charge your phone when you get home

This is a habit I am still working on. When you get home put your phone in its charger and walk away. Not only will you be more present and get more done at home, you’ll also have a fully charged phone when you actually need it.

Turn off notifications

This one can be uncomfortable. I know I always struggle with the thought, “but what if the next notification is really important.” The fact of the matter is though that it’s almost always not. Notifications from most apps do not improve your quality of life at all. They’re just a stupid way that app makers use to vie for our attention. The great thing about this tip is that you can do it in stages. I just went through my phone and turned off notifications on 21 apps. I’ll probably go back through again In a couple weeks and cull some more.

Subscribe to what you want

Have you ever found yourself browsing YouTube and watching 30, 40 or 50 minutes of content that was really not that interesting or helpful? To combat this, subscribe to great content creators and then limit yourself to just watching what they publish. You won’t waste a bunch of time on crap.

Delete apps

I decided a few months ago that I didn’t really need Facebook on my phone. It was a huge time saver. I do check my notifications on Facebook desktop every once in a while. But I actually have to sit down, type in the url and go to the site. A quick tap on my phone was just too easy.

So there’s five ways I’ve found helpful in living a more unplugged life. What are yours?

Photo credit:  www.japanexperterna.se

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September 3, 2015 @ 6:06 pm Trackback URL No Comments on 5 ways to unplug from your cellphone

New Things, A Sprained Ankle and Fighting Off Mediocrity

This post is going to take a little bit of explaining…First thing you need to know: My wife and I…

This post is going to take a little bit of explaining…First thing you need to know: My wife and I have recently taken to watching Casey Neistat’s daily vlog. In his vlog, he often appears riding various electric devices, scooters, skateboard and bikes through busy New York City. He does an excellent job of making it look exciting and fun.

Second thing you need to know: I’ve been doing a lot of searching the last few years trying to find my niche in life while starting a family with my wife which now includes a 4 year old and 1 year old. This search has been spiritual, moral, existential and very practical. Through the business of raising kids and my exploring and searching about what makes life tick I have committed to trying new things.

Third thing you need to know: I consider myself fairly coordinated. I never had a problem being at least mediocre at every sport in school. I snowboard, ski, mountain bike etc. I have not, however, ever taken up skateboarding.

These three facts, obviously led me to a very simple and logical decision. Buy a longboard. A venn diagram of how this works would look like this

Buy A Longboard Venn Diagram

So, I promptly went online did several days of research on longboards, as I do with any new thing I am trying, and selected a made in the USA longboard from. The board arrived later that week. My wife sent me a photo at work when it arrived in the mail.

Needless to say I couldn’t wait to get home. I cruised around the neighborhood for a couple of days. I felt awkward. And it was wonderful. For the first time in a while I felt as though I was tackling something truly new. Something that wasn’t natural. This wasn’t just an iteration off of something I already knew. This was a new skill. I had a few less than graceful moments, but it wasn’t the end of the world. No serious injuries other than my pride. Quite honestly my pride didn’t even take much of a hit. How many of my friends are learning how to skateboard for the first time at 29?

Then came today. Friday. I decided that I had tooled around my neighborhood enough and I wanted to use my board as a mode of transportation. I rode my board down my driveway to my van and packed it in the back as I headed off to work. My grand plan? Skating over my lunch break to the local grocery store near my office and, most importantly, channeling my inner Casey Neistat.

Well, in the word’s of Dr. Suess, “We didn’t quite do, and we didn’t quite die. But we sure did get worsted poor longboard and I.” To tell you the truth I’m not sure what exactly happened. But, I pulled out my longboard hopped on and next thing I knew I was laying face-up on the grass next to my office parking lot in a cold sweat with an incredible amount of pain shooting through my ankle. I ended up spending my lunch break driving home to grab a stack of ice packs out of my freezer and down some ibuprofen in order to try to quell the large amount of pain and swelling that was occurring around my sprained ankle.

So, I write this line Friday night sitting in my bed, swapping ice packs every half an hour. Am I frustrated that my weekend will be less active than hoped? Yes. Was it worth it? Completely! Let me explain. It wasn’t worth it because I became the best longboard artist this side of the Mississippi in a week. I wasn’t worth it because I was super successful. It was worth it because I tried. I lived. I frankly, got off my butt and did something. Sure, I could have just contented myself with watching Casey whizz around NYC. That would have been safer for sure. But, it would have also been very mediocre.

Mediocre is boring.

It is better to have tried and failed. It is better to have tried and been injured, than to be too afraid to try at all. In our world of insurance policies, risk management and safety gear galore, I think we could do with a little more risk. A little more injury. A little more living.

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August 12, 2015 @ 6:02 pm Trackback URL No Comments on New Things, A Sprained Ankle and Fighting Off Mediocrity

Grace, Sin, and the Kingdom

I read a blog post by Stephan over at Sacred Tension, please go over and read the full article here…

I read a blog post by Stephan over at Sacred Tension, please go over and read the full article here http://sacredtension.com/2014/01/30/what-if-im-wrong-about-homosexuality/. I won’t try to to paraphrase what he is saying because the topic of grace and sin is one that it so polarizing that the nuances of what someone says about them are often lost. So please go read the article before reading further.

Hmm this is a tough one. Can God’s ever pursuing love reach anyone? Absolutely. But Paul also admonishes us to not use grace as a license to keep on sinning. I think when we look at the entire flow of scripture, we see that grace is not a proverbial “get out of jail free card.” The term grace itself is sometimes unhelpful in the English language because we often associate it with looking past an evil or overlooking it. That’s why I have tried to personally re-frame things, when thinking about God’s pursuit of us, in the terms of love instead of grace. Love, it seems to me, is more clear in the English language to communicate wanting the best for another.

Love, does not, necessarily look past all wrongs. In fact love actively works in oppositions to wrongs. It works to right wrongs. In my understanding of God’s kingdom being worked out, the main action taking place is the righting of wrongs through love.

When we look at accounts of “judgment day” in scripture there is something interesting going on. In the account of the sheep and goats, one of Jesus’ most descriptive accounts of judgement, we hear the discussion centering around what people did not what they believed. The goats are found saying “when Lord?” it’s not that they failed to acknowledge Jesus as Lord that causes Jesus to send them away. No, instead it is that their actions were not congruent with the kingdom and what Jesus wants people doing. As Keith Green poetically pointed out in his musical version of the Sheep and Goats, “The only difference between the sheep and goats, according to the Scriptures, is what they did and didn’t do.”

This may be startling to some. Especially those, like me, that have heard “grace alone” all of their lives. I always wonder why I don’t hear more teaching out of books like James. I love James. He speaks in such plain language about the inter-working of faith and deeds, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

It seems to me that perhaps some of the hesitation to address the fact that what we do is intertwined with us being included in the Kingdom of God comes from the fact that the responsibility that it introduces is pointed squarely at ourselves. If we accept the fact that our actions matter, we can no longer point the finger at others, who, have not given the mental ascent needed to be bestowed with God’s grace. No, instead we must look inward at our own actions to see if they line up with what God’s kingdom is about. This can be, as I know from personal experience, an uncomfortable task.

Photo by nowakowskimarcin1 (Pixabay)

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September 27, 2014 @ 2:05 am Trackback URL 2 Comments on Grace, Sin, and the Kingdom

A Living Eucharist

In Rob Bell and Don Golden’s book “Jesus Wants to Save Christians: Learning to Read a Dangerous Book” the root…

In Rob Bell and Don Golden’s book “Jesus Wants to Save Christians: Learning to Read a Dangerous Book” the root words of “Eucharist” are identified as coming from the Greek for good and gift:

“The Greek word for thankful is from the verb eucharizomai – the Greek for eu, which means “well” or “good,” and the word charizomai, which means ‘to grant or give.’It’s from this word that we get the English word Eucharist, the ‘good gift.’ Jesus is God’s good gift to the world.”[ref]Bell, Rob, and Don Golden. Jesus wants to save Christians: a manifesto for the church in exile. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan :, 2008.[/ref]

I’m not an expert in Greek, so I cannot argue the merits of this root meaning insight, but I think the idea holds true with or without it. Jesus is indeed God’s good gift to the world. This is generally accepted among almost all Jesus followers.

Unfortunately, I think we often fail to take this line of thinking to its next logical out-working. If we are Christ’s body, Christ’s ambassadors, Christ’s spokespeople, then, we are also God’s good gift to the world. This is why Paul can say with confidence, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” ~ 2 Cor 4:10

But what does being a Eucharist to the world mean? Does it mean that we tell people that Jesus died for their sins? Does it mean that we help people develop a relationship with Jesus so that they can go to heaven?

Thinking about about Jesus being a good gift to the world, takes me back to the idea of incarnation itself:

If the incarnation does not have a profound affect on our lives now then the act of God becoming man seems to hold much less value.

If God were simply looking for a “spiritual” transformation, then a God-man coming among us is unneeded. All that is needed is God’s grace, which needs no human form to be enacted. If, however, Christ came to earth to affect his kingdom here and now, then the incarnation is a first fruits, an initial taste of God’s kingdom advancing here and now. As the recipients then, of this Eucharist, we have the honor, obligation and duty to carry this Eucharist into the world that it may have a world-changing effect now.

This means that we are not concerned as Jesus followers with spreading a religion. We are concerned with being a good gift to the world, a Eucharist, poured out for those around us. “Carrying around the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed.” We, “fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.” (Col 1:24) When Jesus sent out the 12 in Luke 9 he sends them to proclaim the Kingdom of God. And what sign accompanies this proclamation? Is it an explanation of the law and gospel? Is it a passionate cry for people to turn from their sins? No. It is the simple command to heal the sick. To bring right to a wrong that sin has brought on the world.

This is how Jesus taught His disciples to advance His kingdom. When did we ever get the idea that it had more to do with mental assent to a set of theological ideas and less to do with God’s Kingdom happening now in real life? Julian, an emperor of Rome at approximately A.D. 360 observed this, “For it is disgraceful when… the impious Galileans [the name given by Julian to Christians] support our poor in addition to their own; everyone is able to see that our coreligionists are in want of aid from us.”[ref]Chinnock, Edward James. A few notes on Julian and a translation of his public letters. London: D. Nutt, 1901, 76.[/ref]May we, a Church that is a Eucharist to our world, live up to the reputation that our early brothers in the Roman Empire had. May we take our discipleship out of our heads and put it into our hands and our feet and be a “Good Gift” to our world.

Photo Credits: Untitled by digao3000d – Attribution 3.0

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January 30, 2014 @ 7:39 am Trackback URL No Comments on A Living Eucharist

Rethinking Church Structure: A Connectivist Approach

Church structure, or any structure for that matter, is absolutely fascinating to me. I love thinking about how things relate…

Church structure, or any structure for that matter, is absolutely fascinating to me. I love thinking about how things relate to each other and how to make those relationships better. As many of you know I have a professional background in education. In education there is a recently developed and popularized learning theory called connectivism. I won’t wander off into an in depth explanation, but the basis of the theory is that learning happens in the connections between thing, ideas, people etc. This mimics the way we understand that the brain work with its connections or synapses.

With this as background, I began thinking about how the local church is structured and functions. I came up with a few diagrams to illustrate my thought process.

Connectivist Church-01

This first diagram shows a traditional church structure. There are all sorts of “ministries” or “boards” or “teams” or whatever a particular church chooses to call them. The overarching structure that everything functions in however, is the local church. Go outside of the local church and you are kind of in a no man’s land without a lot of guidance or direction. Depending on the denomination you may even be labeled as a liberal or not staying true to the teachings of the church if you do things outside of this circle.

Members are usually advised that the best way to serve God and each other is by joining some of these “teams” or “ministries” in the church. Perhaps if you are a musician, you join the worship team which is made up of people varying musical talent, some great, some not so great. Or perhaps you aren’t sure what to do so your pastor suggests you should be on the “cafe team” that makes coffee after the services. You don’t even like coffee, but you figure how hard can making coffee be? We’ve all drunk some of that coffee haven’t we?:P

This system has some inherent weaknesses. First of all, if a “ministry” or “team” doesn’t exist that matches a person’s giftings, they either have to start it from scratch or do something else. If they wish to start it from scratch they will most likely have to work through some leadership structure that may or may not help them. In many cases the leadership structure may even hinder them because the pastor(s) or board have too much on their plate already. Or, they simply don’t want to give up control of how the church runs. And in most churches if the pastor isn’t behind it, it just doesn’t happen.

Second, because there are many necessary ministries and a very finite number of people in most average sized churches, many “teams” are going to be staffed with untalented or under-qualified people. This is why you find pastors who are horrible at counseling people trying to give people advice, or people who don’t even really like kids teaching Sunday school, or people playing guitar on the worship team that would really benefit from knowing more than three chords. In the end, I believe this church structure often yields a top heavy institution that is ineffectual at doing anything well.

Connectivist Church-02

Here’s my alternative thought. What if we thought of the local church as an organism that serves as a launching point or community through which people can move out and accomplish all sorts of kingdom related work? Who says that all the teaching in a church needs to come from a pastor who may or may not be gifted in teaching? And who says that every church needs to try to produce the greatest worship experiences for it’s members?

What I envision is a church that connects people with the best of what is happening in its community and world. Coming back to the connectivist idea then, the value of the local church then does not reside in it’s institutional programs and systems. Instead its value is found mainly in the connections it fosters between people, , resources, organizations, companies, the environment, governments and all sorts of things. In fact I would argue that ideally in this model the local church ceases to be an institution and becomes a living organism that is constantly reacting, reshaping, and finding new ways to affect change based on the environment in which it exists and the hundreds of thousands connections it represents.

Connectivist Church-03

The really exciting thing for me is when I took this drawing one step further. Just like in education, having a connectivist approach to the church allows these separate organisms known as local churches to start to interact and add value and meaning to each other. For example, perhaps one local group of believers doesn’t have any really talented musicians, what is standing in the way of that community partnering with another community that has really talented musicians? Or what if a community has some really talented teachers, in the connectivist approach, what is stopping them from offering teaching sessions to other local church communities? The wonderful answer is really nothing.

So why doesn’t this happen more? Here are few ideas:

  • We are afraid of doctrinal differences and have not learned how to deal with them as believers.
  • The “value” of the pastor goes down and there may not be a justification for it being a full time position.
  • It takes more work on the part of believers. The ministries of the church cannot be simply handed off to professionals to organize and execute. Everyone has to be engaged and involved.
  • We have a lot of language that gets in the way. We think about “going to church”, becoming “members of a church”, “switching churches” etc. Instead we need to thinking about “being church”, “doing church” and “connecting with believers.”
  • We as humans like defined limits. The traditional church structure allows for very defined limits and “approved activities.” But I do not think it allows for a full expression of the Body of Christ.

I’m really excited to continue thinking along these lines and test out these ideas. Feel free to leave comments and thoughts below.

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January 7, 2014 @ 7:24 am Trackback URL 2 Comments on Rethinking Church Structure: A Connectivist Approach

Swap Youtube Videos Dynamically with Jquery

So, I recently was working on a project where I needed to swap between multiple youtube videos embeded on a…

So, I recently was working on a project where I needed to swap between multiple youtube videos embeded on a page but I wanted it to appear as though they were all playing in the same player. As always the multi-tool of web design known as Jquery came in handy. Here is a walk through of the code to achieve this effect.

First we need to make a button that will switch the video url. You will notice that we assign the href to the ID of the youtube video we want to switch to and the class is assigned to vid_button. We’ll use both of these later.

<a href="gGrDMVk2isc" class="vid_button">
 Course Structure
 </a>

Next we’ll set up the container for the youtube video. The id on the div is important as that is how we will swap out the videos in jquery.

<div id="video_container">
 <iframe width="738" height="450" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/vOnCRWUsSGA?wmode=transparent&rel=0&theme=light&color=white&autoplay=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen ></iframe>
 </div>

Now for the jquery. The first thing that we need to do is grab a click from a button. The link above looks for a click from any element with the class vid_button.

$('.vid_button').click( function(e){

This line prevents the link from performing it’s default action so we don’t get redirects to the href in our anchor tag.

e.preventDefault();

Next we grab the href of the anchor tag and set it to a variable called URL

var URL = $(this).attr('href');

Finally, we are going to set a var called htm and then replace the html in the element with id of video_container. This is what actually performs the swap. You will notice, that we are using the URL variable that we set above to change the id for the youtube embed.

var htm = '<iframe width="738" height="450" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/' + URL + '?wmode=transparent&rel=0&theme=light&color=white&autoplay=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen ></iframe>';
 $('#video_container').html(htm);

That’s all there is to it. Here is the complete code.

<script type="text/javascript">
 $(document).ready(function(){
$('.vid_button').click( function(e){
 e.preventDefault();
 var URL = $(this).attr('href');
 var htm = '<iframe width="738" height="450" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/' + URL + '?wmode=transparent&rel=0&theme=light&color=white&autoplay=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen ></iframe>';
$('#video_container').html(htm);
return false;
 });
 });
 </script>
<a href="gGrDMVk2isc" class="vid_button">
 Swap Videos
 </a>
<div style="float:right; position:absolute; left:170px;" id="video_container">
 <iframe width="738" height="450" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/vOnCRWUsSGA?wmode=transparent&rel=0&theme=light&color=white&autoplay=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen ></iframe>
 </div>
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March 30, 2012 @ 6:15 pm Trackback URL 9 Comments on Swap Youtube Videos Dynamically with Jquery