About Richie

Christian, father, husband, minister, Airman, blogger.

Ministry Tech – Part 1

Let me start by saying am not an Apple hater! If you like Apple products, that’s great, keep using them. But they’re just not for me. Having said that, I don’t hate on you, Mr/Mrs Apple user, so please don’t hate on me for my preferences. This series of posts is not intended to bash on Apple, simply to highlight the tools that I use on the platforms that I choose to run.

At the Office

I’ll start with the tools I use in the office, both at work and at home.

Hardware

Computer: Dell Inspiron 5765 
It’s reasonably priced and has all the power I need for my day to day work. It comes installed with Windows 10 Home, which I promptly removed and replaced, but more on that later. At the office I connect it to a larger external monitor as my primary display and the laptop becomes my secondary. It sits on a stand and I also use an external keyboard and mouse. At home I just use it as is, with the addition of a wireless mouse – I dislike touchpads.

Operating System: Xubuntu 16.04 LTS (Linux)
I’m not an Apple user, but I don’t use Windows either. Xubuntu is what’s called a Linux distro (distribution), a “flavor” of Linux. Its actually based on another distro called Ubuntu, but it uses Xfce as its user interface instead of Unity that comes installed with Ubuntu, which I strongly dislike. I find Xubuntu to be extremely light weight and fast. Where Windows has always been clunky and unreliable, your mileage may vary.

Software

Using Linux does mean having to find replacements for more common applications on Windows or iOS, but that doesn’t mean they’re not as powerful, oftentimes they’re on par if not better than the more mainstream.

Most software on Linux is open source (free) just like the operating system itself is. Again, don’t let that word “free” fool you, they’re still very powerful. There are packages out there that cost, but by and large they will be open source. The developers would certainly appreciate donations if you find their software beneficial.

Bible Software: Xiphos
I like Xiphos because its just a solid performing software with great support from the developer. Its based on the Sword Project’s module system. Most of the library you can access through the Sword Project is public domain, so the materials are older and not as vast as you can get through Logos or Accordance. I have several Bible translation modules installed, all in synced tabs in the main pane of the program. When you move from tab to tab, the tabs stay synced to the same passage. Strong’s Greek and Hebrew displays in a small pane to the lower right on my “standard” translations while I usually have Clarke’s Commentary on the right side bar. You can configure the support panes based on the translation, so when I’m using the ESVS (ESV w/Strong’s Numbers) the right pane shows a larger version of Strong’s Greek/Hebrew instead of Clarke’s.

Productivity: Google Apps / Google Drive
I use Google Apps for pretty much everything document related. Its all based in Google Drive, so everything I write in Google Docs: devotionals, lessons, sermons, papers for school, etc, are all automatically saved in Google Drive. This is awesome when I’m co-teaching a class or work with other folks on material like camp or VBS, because sharing is ridiculously easy in Google Drive. I also use Google Slides for my presentations for Bible classes and sermons. Google Sheets is comparable to Excel. Importing from and exporting to other formats is great in Google Apps as well. I have exported Slides to PPT several times for sermons and only had to make minor tweaks. I generally export to PDF for school work.

There are other office type programs out there than run on the system rather than online in a browser like Google Apps. Libre Office is probably the biggest one.

Graphics: Inkscape and Gimp
Inkscape is a vector drawing program, similar to Adobe Illustrator. I use Inkscape a lot, like, a lot a lot. I use it for my presentations in Google Slides, for graphics on my congregation’s Facebook and Instagram pages, for activity flyers, for the graphics on this site, and more.

Gimp is a raster drawing program, similar to Adobe Photoshop. Most of what graphics work I do is in Inkscape, but it doesn’t print well, so I usually end up exporting to PNG from Inkscape and opening it in Gimp to print. Gimp is also far better for editing photos than Inkscape.

Desktop Publishing: Scribus
Scribus is a desktop publishing program, similar to Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher. I have been able to do most printing from Gimp, but I did design our new contact/connection cards in Scribus. I just exported them to PDF and sent them to the local printer and everything turned out great.

Those are really the big ones you’d have to get used to in a switch to a Linux environment. There are other things I use that are either the same or very similar to Windows/iOS, or are Linux specific tools that I prefer to use over the ones included in the distro I’m using.

Here are some odds and ends I use that should be familiar to most people: Google Chrome, Firefox (occasionally), Thunderbird (email), Google Earth, Audacity, VLC, FileZilla (FTP), etc.

Next time we’ll look at mobile devices and apps. 

How big is a Mustard Seed?

Moses grew up as a prince in the then world power of Egypt. He ran away after he killed an Egyptian slave master in defense of a Hebrew slave. Moses settled in Midian, became a shepherd, and started a family. One day he was called by God to go back to Egypt and lead his fellow Hebrews to freedom in Canaan. Moses came up with several excuses why he couldn’t do what God had asked: “they won’t believe me”, “they won’t listen to me”, “I’m not a good public speaker”, and so on. But a question Moses asked God is interesting. He asked, “Who am I?” It seems that Moses didn’t think he had what it would take to do what God called him to do. He lacked faith in himself, he lacked self-esteem, he seemed to feel like he wasn’t worthy to take on the task. But mostly, he lacked faith in God.

But look at Elijah. Elijah took on 450 so called prophets of the false god Baal in a battle of faith on Mount Carmel. He was so bold and courageous that he mocked the prophets, and their god, when they were unable to bring supernatural fire down to burn their sacrifice. When it came to Elijah’s turn, he prayed to God to bring fire from heaven and show who the one true God was. He didn’t just hope or think that God would respond, he knew it. He knew it and believed it with every fiber of his being! He had a mountain of faith in God’s power, and God delivered in a spectacular way.

Who do you feel like most days? Do you feel like you can’t do what Jesus asks of us and share his good news? Do you lack the faith to change the world?

When some followers of Jesus couldn’t cast a demon out of a boy, they asked Him why. He told them they lacked faith. Then He said that if they only had faith the size of a mustard seed they could move mountains. Did you read that, they could move mountains!

We don’t need to lead a nation to freedom, face down idolatrous hordes, slay a giant, or build a boat to change the world. We only need faith the size of a mustard seed.

How do we grow our faith? Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Rome that faith is built by hearing God’s Word preached. We need to worship and study to grow our faith. Solomon prayed for wisdom, we also need to spend time in prayer and be asking for the Spirit to strengthen our faith. Pray for ourselves, pray for each other, pray for the church, just pray!

What could you do with faith the size of a mustard seed?

Hats off to you, technology!

So, as I’m sure you know that working full time and having a family makes it hard to go to school at the same time. Well, I’m currently behind a few weeks (like, 5) and need to catch up quickly before I run out of time!

I’m getting to the point, I promise! This week was spring break for our kiddos. We went to Montgomery, AL and Panama City, FL to see family and friends. Each way was about a 10ish hour drive, we broke each into 2 days. I drove from Texas to Montgomery, then down to Panama City. While there, the preacher at the congregation my in-laws go to asked if my wife does all the driving now. I was a little confused and told him no, I do most of the driving. He said when he was in school his wife did the driving so he could read for his classes. Duh! She drove home.

OK, here’s the technology part. I go to an online school that uses Blackboard for assignments and I prefer e-books, so I use the Kindle app on my tablet to read. Well, you need internet for either of those to work! So, I used my phone as a WiFi hotspot, connected my tablet to it and did about 4 weeks of reading for one of my classes in 2 days. I took the quizzes for 3 of those weeks at the hotel we stayed in last night.

I could never imagine having this kind of connectivity when I was a kid! My kids are in the back seat watching DVDs while playing on their own tablets. I got to stare out the window for 8+ hours at a time when I was a kid.

Anyway, that’s my mini weekend take away. Technology.

Any of you have fun stories about technology in school or ministry (or whatever)?

Jonah, a Rusty Gate, and Me

The Biblical account of Jonah has some crazy action! Jonah ran from God, got tossed overboard in a storm, swallowed by a giant fish, vomited out onto land, then finally preached God’s message in a very dangerous city, in a very dangerous country. The people living the city were so vile, that God had planned to destroy them if they didn’t change their ways! Jonah delivered the message to them and God’s transforming word did its work and they repented! God decided not to destroy them, and this made Jonah happy that he finally performed his God given duties. Right? No!

In fact, “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” (Jonah 4:1) Jonah had a lot of things going into the mission field of Nineveh. He had God on his side, he had a life saving, soul preserving message from God. Through Jonah, God saved many souls on that day! But Jonah was also missing a few things. Things like: compassion, grace, empathy, and love!

In 1 Corinthians 13:1 Paul wrote, “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.”  Jonah spoke with more than human eloquence and angelic ecstasy, he spoke with the authority and might of God! But he did not love. Paul would go on to write, “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” Jonah did end up doing what he was told, he preached God’s life saving message and saved many souls, but he gained nothing. He was spiritually bankrupt! Because he did not love.

Are we any different? I can also go the ends of the earth, or the end of my street, and spread to gospel because it’s what I’m “supposed to do”. But just like a smile that never reaches my eyes, if the gospel never reaches my heart, I don’t benefit at all from the work I do! That’s called going through the motions. The people I teach may end up obeying the gospel and become saved, but if I don’t love them as I teach and preach, I will be lost!

So today, as I labor in God’s Kingdom, I need to evaluate myself. Every word I say, every action I take, every decision that I make, every thought I think… are they done with love?

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Don’t be a clanging cymbal, noisy gong, or a creaking rusty gate! Speak the truth and love (Ephesians 4:15)! 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Have a great week!

Get up, Bambi!

get_up_bambi

There’s a scene from Walt Disney’s 1942 classic, Bambi, where the titular young deer is laying down tired, wounded, and alone as a wildfire races toward him. The Great Prince of the Forest, and Bambi’s father, calls out to him, “Get up, Bambi! Get up! You must get up!” Bambi’s father could see what he couldn’t see for himself, the imminent danger he was in and that he would certainly die if he didn’t pick himself up off the ground and move.

1 Kings 19 shows us a picture of the prophet Elijah. He had just won a great victory in a spiritual battle with the prophets of Baal, a false Canaanite god. Queen Jezebel, the evil wife of King Ahab, heard about the defeat of her prophets and chased after Elijah to kill him! Tired, scared, and seemingly alone, Elijah took up residence in a cave in the wilderness and laid down, for good. God came to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah explained that he was tired and that he was the only person in Israel that was still loyal to him. God told Elijah that there were at least 7,000 Israelites who were still loyal to their God, and he gave Elijah a list of things to do, including to train Elisha, his replacement. God basically said get up, Elijah! Get up!

We as Christians are also warned of dangers around us. Paul warns us of false teachers, who want to destroy us from the inside. Peter warns us about the devil, who stalks us, hunting to find a person who he can devour! We may want lay down under the pressure and strain of spiritual battle, feeling wounded, lost, and alone. But we are never alone. Just like Elijah, there are those who are loyal to our God, our Christian family who we can lean on and they can lean on us. We have Jesus who we can cast our cares onto, we have the Spirit who guides us and makes intercession for us, and we have the Father who forgives us and watches over us.

So get up, Christian! Get up! You must get up! There is work to do, let’s go together and do it!

The Update Blog

Well, its been some time since my last blog post! A lot has changed since November of 2015. Allow me to fill you in…

If you read my previous entry about life changes ahead, those changes did indeed happen! God has blessed my family and I with the opportunity to work with the Westside Church of Christ in Alvin, TX. I have been the full-time Family Life and Youth Minister since April of 2016. Aside from the challenges of moving across the country, renting then buying a house, and getting to know teenagers who didn’t want to see their old youth minister leave, things are great! We love the congregation and don’t plan to leave until they throw us out!

I have separated from active duty service in the Air Force and have joined the AF Reserve. I opted to go back into aircraft maintenance. I travel about 6 hours to attend drill, but I decided to do that rather than retrain again (6 months in technical training) to go into a new job closer to home.

I’m still plugging away at my bachelor’s degree of Bible/Ministry at Amridge University. I’m almost there, if all goes well I should finish my coursework this fall and graduate spring of 2018! Next will be my master’s in professional counseling.

Next order of business, I’m thinking of changing my blog name to something more descriptive. I hope that my followers won’t have to update their links or re-follow me, I’ll have to to some more research about that.

I hope to be posting more blogs soon, maybe not weekly, but more regularly.

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend!