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. 

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)?

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!

Refugees – The Re-Mix

Ok, unless you literally live under a proverbial rock you know about the middle eastern refugees who are seeking asylum in other eastern countries as well as in the United States. I must confess that I, as a father, a husband, and as an American, am very concerned with the idea of 10,000 refugees flooding into our country. I have absolutely no problem with humanitarian needs being met. My concern is with the undoubtedly hidden threats that will also be coming into our backyards along with the innocents. Every fiber of my being is screaming that we most certainly should not let them into our personal safe haven (which isn’t really all that safe, but I guess it is relative to where they are coming from)! But, I’ve really done some thinking and soul searching and have had to check that line of thinking.

27d739139a09b15c31dd2abe57ea10dcLet me throw this thought at you, from a family leadership prospective. Say a group in our country that is considered to be radical, but relatively peaceful, say the Westboro Baptist “Church”, started murdering non-Christian and Christian alike for not believing in their particular brand of hatred. Not only locally, but their movement began to spread. They attack and acquire weaponry and equipment from National Guard and Homeland Security facilities and go on the march straight to your state/city/town/neighborhood/backyard/house. You take your family and run. Lets say, for the sake of my illustration, that you run to Iraq where Islam is a stable form of government and the majority of the population is made up of moderate Muslims. But they don’t let you in with your precious family because you or the people with you could be radical Christian terrorists. You know that you and yours are innocent! But they still don’t want to let you in because of the perceived threat.

Does this scenario give you pause? Did you stop and think about what those monsters would do to your wife? To your children? Or to you? All you want to do is keep your family safe from all harm. But you can’t get away.

This is not meant to try to make you change your mind about national or personal security, or to downplay the very real threat, and I have no budgetary scheme to pay for the aid these people would need, but just to think about it in another light. I must tell you, that as I write this and realize how hard hearted I have been thus far, my heart is breaking for those innocent families who just want a place to live peacefully. Please join me in prayer for the men, women, and children who are caught up in the hateful schemes of evil men.

Life Changes Ahead!

I’m currently enlisted in the US Air Force, my plan was to serve my 20 years while completing my bachelor’s degree in Bible/Ministry and a companion master’s then retire. After retirement I wanted to go into youth ministry or teach Bible at a Christian school. Well, after many prayers and discussions with my wife and family, I have decided to start applying for open positions and if hired, join the Air National Guard or AF Reserve. I’ll then focus on my ministry and completing my education.

I’m looking for a medium sized Church of Christ in the South Eastern United States (SC, NC, GA, AL, TN, FL Panhandle). Please shoot me an email if you have any leads! And feel free to download a copy of my resume.

More importantly, I would like y’all to pray for me and my family as we look to making a huge change in our lives.

Thank you!