Monday, March 28, 2011

Cool Apps for Ministry

There are several iPhone/iPad applications that I have used in support of my work as a Youth Ministry work. Since I have published articles about other apps that I like/use on my iPad, I thought I would share a few of my ministry-related apps as well so that others might benefit from their use.

BibleReader (by Olive Tree)
There are a lot of bibles available for iDevices. Olive Tree has been around for a very long time offering electronic bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, and study guides. I prefer this 'reader application' which is Free. The reader supports note taking, bookmarks, text searching, side-by-side viewing, complete font color/size controls, and display options. It also has integration with the EverNote web site/application for storing your notes for external uses.

Costs are incurred depending upon which resources you wish to download -- some bibles are free while others are still copyrighted. The good thing about this app and the company is that they offer lots of content, various translations including Hebrew and Greek.

iBCP $4.99
For Episcopalians, you can now have the complete Book of Common Prayer on your iDevice. Complete with the ability to bookmark sections, adjust font sizes, and cut-n-paste.

Lectionary for iPad $.99
This is a great resource for the standard or revised Common Lectionary for most Christian denominations, containing the complete three-year lectionary as well as the Daily Office. You can adjust the font size and background colors for ease reading.

Hymnal EH $6.99
There are a full collection of 'Hymnal apps' contains the top 250 hymns from the Hymnal -- music and lyrics -- and includes an organ recording of each hymn so you could play it as accompaniment. There are individual apps for Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian denominations as well as a 'general hymnal'.

Gospel Harmony $.99
Three of the four Gospels in the Bible are called the Synoptic Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Most of the stories and events in Jesus' life are found in all three of these Gospels. The Gospel of John also contains some of those same events but told from a different perspective. This app will show you the events and stories of Jesus' life as they appear in each Gospel "side-by-side" so you can read and experience them the way each writer recorded it.

Catholic Calendar
This is a Free app that will display the complete church calendar from the past through the year 2300. You can search by date or keyword, making it easy to find out when Easter falls or when a particular feast or Saint's Day is scheduled.

iPause $1.99
Need to relax and center yourself but cannot find a nearby Labyrinth? Then this is your app! Labyrinths have been used as an instrument for meditation and prayer for millennia. Now you can find that peace from the convenience of your iDevice.

Leading Ideas
This is a Methodist resource but is applicable to any parish ministry. It includes articles published by various authors, pastors, ministry leaders on a wide range of topics pertinent to church life and practice. It is a good resource for suggestions and ideas that might spark some creative solutions for your ministry.

Other apps
The following two applications are not specifically related to ministry but they are helpful 'support tools':

This is a free web service that offers online storage, management, and sharing of notes, email, audio recordings, and photos which can be accessed from any web browser or mobile device including iDevices, Android, Windows Mobile, and other smartphones. There are apps for each of these devices as well as an app designed for Macintosh and Windows computers.

In addition to being a great way to take notes during meetings and such (where the app keeps a local copy as well as storing it online), it is also able to share your content with others via email. And, if you are using the BibleReader app I mentioned earlier, all your notes entered within that app are synchronized with your EverNote account.

This is another free web service that offers 'cloud storage' of any kind of file you may wish to access from anywhere you have Internet access. Because the iPhone/iPad does not support USB/flash drives, the easiest way to 'carry your files around' is to place them on 'the cloud' in a secured space. It is a great way to store and share PDFs, Word and Excel documents, Presentations, photographs, etc. Many apps on mobile devices like the iPad support the ability to open and save documents to Box.Net.

This service also allows you to designate others to be able to access specific folders/files if you choose, giving them either View or Edit privileges.

Well, there ya go! Obviously, there are tons of websites that provide content and resources for your ministries, and most of those are accessible using your Safari web browser (or a browser like Perfect Browser).

If you know of other awesome/helpful apps for ministry leaders, please post a comment below. I love learning about new resources!

Note: I have not been approached by any of these companies to promote their products and I am not being compensated in anyway. Just wanted to be clear on that point.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More iPad 2 stuff -- Check out the "Just Because" Podcast!

So there I was, March 11th, in 40+ degree weather, waiting in a line with 400 other people for the new iPad 2. Luckily, I was around 60th in line so I was assured of getting what I wanted -- a 64gb 3G White iPad. Two and half hours later, I had two iPads in a white Apple bag and driving home to get them set up for me and my wife.

It has been two weeks and I have not been disappointed. The new iPad is fast, lightweight, and cool. Even my wife, who was not really sure she would use an iPad, is now using it regularly and enjoying the mobility and power that it offers.

So of course, I am willing to extol the praises of the latest Apple device to anyone who shows an interest. Well, the hosts of the podcast "Just Because" asked me if I would join them to discuss all things "iPad 2" on their show. Being the gentleman that I am, I had to accept! :)

The podcast should be online by March 27th. We discuss all the reasons for getting an iPad, what apps are helpful, and how the device can help you get work done as well as be entertained. You can go to their web site to listen/download the podcast, or, you can download/subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or your favorite pod catcher application.

In a previous post, I outlined what is new/different with the iPad 2. I also posted an article on iPad Killer Apps. So I invite you to read those articles if you are interested in learning more. I won't write all the stuff we talked about because it would be more entertaining and interesting if you just listened to the show.

However, I thought it might be helpful for me to outline all the applications that I have on my iPad right now so that you might have a list to work from. I am going to keep this just a 'list' rather than long explanations of what they all do. (There are so many web sites out there about iPad apps that I figure you can find all those details on your own.)

Not all of these apps might be useful to you but hopefully there are a few 'diamonds in the rough' that will elicit an 'oh sweet!' response.

Applications I use


FaceBook - FaceBook's Social Networking client
Skype - Audio & Video Conferencing
FaceTime - Apple's Video Conferencing service
Osfoora HD - Twitter Client
Friendly for FaceBook - 3rd party FaceBook client
IM+ - Multi-platform Instant Messenger (AOL, MSN, Google, etc)
HeyTell - Push-to-Talk Messenger (remember Nextel?)

News and Publications

CNN - Cable Network News (text, audio, and video)
NPR - National Public Radio Audio & Articles
WGNTV - Articles & Video
PBS - Video
USA Today - Digital Newspaper
The Daily - Digital Newspaper, Video, Photos
AP Mobile - Text articles from the Associated Press
People - Digital versions of People Magazine
Zinio - Digital Magazine aggregator
TED - Business related video presentations
Mashable - Online Tech news publisher
Flipboard - News/Twitter/FaceBook aggregator
Pulse - News/Twitter/FaceBook aggregator
Twit TV - Tech news broadcaster in audio and video
Kindle - Amazon Kindle Book Reader
Instapaper - Solution for 'saving' web pages for offline reading

Office and Business

Office2 HD - Editor for Microsoft Word and Excel documents
QuickOffice - Editor for MS Word, Excel, & Powerpoint docs
Numbers - Apple's spreadsheet application (reads Excel docs)
Keynote - Apple's presentation application (reads Powerpoint)
PocketCloud - Remote Desktop client for RDS, VNC, & VMWare
WebEx - To participate in online WebEx presentations
GoToMeeting - To participate in online presentations
WhitePages - White and Yellow page search/reverse searching
PDFReader Pro - Excellent PDF Reader
ToDo - Appigo Task Manager with online sync feature
Evernote - Online & Local Notetaking application
MaxJournal - Daily journaling app with security
BlogPress/WordPress - Blog Management and Publication
Perfect Browser - Browser alternative with browser emulation
FTP On The Go - FTP Protocol for file transfer

Cloud Storage

Box.Net - Free and Premium online storage
DropBox - Free online storage
GoogleDocs - Free online storage for Google users
MobileMe - this will likely be a free service in the near future


Weather Channel - Excellent for weather info w/maps & video
FlightTrack - flight information & real-time tracking, airport info
Kayak - Airline, Hotel search and booking tool
Google Earth - App to view any location on the globe
GPS Drive HD - Verbal turn-by-turn driving directions
Beat the Traffic - Traffic information for local streets & highways
HopStop - local Bus and Train schedules
Goby - search for events, restaurants etc


Dictionary - Dictionary, Thesaurus, etc
Wikipanion - Wiki search client
Epicurious - thousands of recipes
Ancestry - client for to research family tree info
Star Walk - amazing star gazing tool
Epocrates - Physician Desk Reference information for medications

eCommerce and Finance

Groupon - online coupons and deals for local businesses
Living Social - online coupons and deals for local businesses
Amazon - excellent online store application
Best Buy - buy whatever Best Buy sells online
eBay - Nice eBay client for searching and bidding on items
Apple Store - If Apple sells it, you can buy it with this
CraigsPro - Craigs List client
Mint - Quicken's free financial management tool
Paypal - Manage your Paypal accounts


Audible - audiobook manager and storefront
Fandango - movie information, trailers, and ticket purchasing
IMDB - all things TV and Movie related, nice implementation
ABC - view the TV shows being displayed on
Hulu Plus - view videos from Hulu (subscription service)
VEVO - Music Video player
VLC - Can play many video formats including Flash videos
LiveStream - onilne streaming video service
UStream - online streaming video service, allows broadcasting - viewer for many 'old school' TV programs
iMovie - edit and author movies
DC Comics - Comic book purchase and viewer
PluggedIn - movie reviewing service by Focus on the Family
NetFlix - watch NetFlix on demand videos (with an account)

Music and Audio

Pocket Tunes - listen to radio broadcasts worldwide
SiriusXM - listen to live broadcasting if you have this service
Digi Drums - play the digital drums
Piano DX - play the piano
GarageBand - fantastic music authoring tool
Djay - mix, tempo match, and scratch as a live DJ


Photo Transfer App - copy photos/video bet computer & iDevices
Photogene - photo editing software


Angry Birds
Solitaire City - multiple version of Solitaire
Jeopardy - Jeopardy (single player or network)
Wheel HD - Wheel of Fortune (single player or network)
Cut the Rope
Doodlehang - Hangman game
Pinball HD
fritz - nice chess game
NFS Shift - cool interactive racing game

Accessories of interest

There are many options that Apple and other vendors offer to extend the capabilities of the iPad. Here are a few ot them:

Apple Smart Cover - provides protection for the display screen and will automatically turn the iPad 2 off when it covers the screen. it also converts in a stand for horizontal viewing or for slight elevation for easy typing.

Bluetooth devices - there are several external keyboards, mice, speakers, and headsets which will connect to the iPad via Bluetooth wireless technology.

Cases - starting April there will be a bunch of new cases released for the new iPad which will support the new cameras, offer built-in bluetooth keyboards, etc. Cases are very individualistic so pick one that will work for you, fit your use of the device, and of course match your favorite color and fabric preferences.

Digital AV Adapter - this will allow you to connect the iPad to an HDMI device for full 1080P display of movies and other content. It will also provide 5.1 surround sound audio output.

Component Video cable - for those without HDMI devices, you can connect the iPad via the RGB Component cable.

Composite Video cable - this is the most basic method for connecting an iPad to a TV or other display device. It is not HD but the display will be crisp enough.

VGA Adapter - this is what you need if you plan on using the iPad for business presentations via an LCD Projector. Very nice to have!

Camera Connection Kit - for photographers who want to connect their digital SLR camera to the iPad, this is the device for you. It will allow you to view, copy, and delete photos from your camera (or SD card) as long as they are stored in a folder named 'DCIM'.

If you are looking for a fully functional and magical tablet that can really free your mind and increase your productivity as a reasonable price, then I encourage you to consider the new iPad 2.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Prayer -- God's "Wireless"

Prayer and Music are two ways that I communicate with God. Finding ways to stay in contact with the Holy is important. It gives me a way to share my joys and concerns; it helps me feel close to the Creator; and it helps me create a space where the Creator can speak to me.

So how does it work? Well, I think it works differently for each person. Some people are very verbal, others are very movement oriented, while others are very visual. I think personal Prayer is just that -- personal -- and you have to find the approach that puts you in touch with the Holy Spirit living within your heart and the Creator.

How do you start?

There are as many ways to pray as there are ways to communicate. One might even call prayer "God's own Wireless Network" that connects all humanity to Him. Hmmm, does that mean "4G" could mean "For God"?

I have a friend in a "Christian Journey" discussion group who shared that his prayer life is anchored by the phrase "Thank You, Lord". He has experienced some tough situations in his life and has come to a profound sense of gratitude for the life he has been given, and the gifts that each new day brings. He wakes up giving thanks, he gives thanks throughout the day, and at the end of the day, he gives thanks again.

Another friend shared that for her, music plays a huge role in her connectedness with God. Singing hymns and listening to Christian music open a window into her soul and lets God's Love shine in. Singing the words of those songs is a prayer offering for her.

Tolstoy has a great story about prayer. It is about a Bishop who meets with three Hermits isolated on a small island. He asks them how they pray and they responded by raising their faces to the sky and saying "Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us." The Bishop, determined to teach them the right way to pray, spent all day teaching the three old men The Lord's Prayer. I won't tell you the ending, but suffice to say that the Bishop realized that the three old men were already praying the 'right way' -- the way that was meaningful to them.

For me, I just start talking. Many times, I pray out loud, especially during my long commute to/from work. There is something concrete and 'real' when I speak my thoughts to God. I feel like I am making commitments, taking my sharing seriously, putting feelings and thoughts 'out there' for Him to fully digest. And music is huge for me -- whether I am singing or listening -- I feel like I am in the midst of 'holy space' between me and my Lord.

Some examples of Prayer

There is no formula to praying. You just say what is on your heart. But like lyrics to a song, there are many sources of prayers that can help you form the thoughts you wish to express. There are several prayers that are meaningful to me, for various reasons. I will share a few of them here.

Prayer of Humble Access (humility before God)
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.

The Doxology (praising)
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (focusing on my mission)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Serenity Prayer (to help me cope with life)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.


So take some time during this Lenten season, to take time for prayer. Lent is a particularly appropriate time to be a bit more thoughtful and contemplative. Maybe you can start off each morning with the following prayer called The Morning Resolve:

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.

In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God my Father, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Find your special way of connecting with The Holy One and strike up a conversation. God is like the switchboard operator who is always on the other end of the line, just waiting for you to pick up the phone on the other end. He is patient; he never hangs up.

And His Wireless Network never drops a call.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The iPad 2 -- so what's the big deal!?

So there I was, sitting at a table with some friends beside me and several other friends on a Skype conference call.  Why? Because we were all excited about the latest Apple announcement: the new iPad 2 is coming!  On March 11th! And you better get your chairs, blankets (here in Chicago at least), and snackage ready to stand in line (at 5PM no less)!

So why should I consider such a crazy thing!  I already have -- and LOVE -- my 3G iPad.  It does so much stuff I sold my NetBook and rarely have to use my personal laptop for my computing needs.  So is it worth it to go through all the inconvenience to have the new iPad in my twitchy little fingers on March 11th?  Do I just order it online using my existing iPad and let them deliver it (free shipping) several days later?

I mean, "What's the Big Deal?"

Those of you who know me personally are probably already saying, "Dude, you know you want it so just go ahead and get it."  In fact, one of my friends responded by saying "Do it! You're only young once!"  (I am 50 years old, LOL).

So I guess since I am apparently very young still, I might be taking my friend Ken's advice.  Not to mention that my wife would love to have my 1st generation iPad.  But why would I want to make another technology investment (i.e. lay out the cash) for this thing?

I use my iPad for a lot of work activities.  When I say 'work', I mean not only my full-time IT job, but all the work I do with youth ministry, theater tech, blogging, and just the regular stuff we all do daily (finances, communications, office automation, etc.).  It gets LOTS of use and I push it to the limit.  And of course, I use it to unwind after doing all that work stuff -- music, videos, streaming video, news, online shopping, games, photography, and keeping track of my family tree.  It even helps me with my Klingon Language training (no snickering in the back row!).

So why the iPad 2?  Because I can do all of that stuff faster and hopefully more efficently.  I can also do more things that today are either not possible or require jumping through multiple hoops to accomplish. And the lighter weight and thinner form factor will delay my eventual carpal tunnel problems.  (And yes, because it is cool!)

Here are some of the features that I see are most beneficial to me (your mileage may vary):
  1. The faster A5 Chip.  I cannot stress how important having a faster processor is.  Having a dual-core CPU will allow me to use some of the newer features of the iPad that require more muscle.  And it will make my current tasks flow much faster.  I hate delays in app execution and I anticipate this will be signficantly reduced.  Fast = Good!
  2. Ligher and Thinner.  The new iPad will be 15% lighter and about 33% thinner than its predecessor.  In fact, it will be thinner than the iPhone 4.  While this will mean I have to buy a new case (the wife inherits my current cool cases), the ability to handle the device for longer periods without fatigue or awkwardness will be an advantage.  I carry the iPad around practically everywhere I go so this is important to me.
  3. Front and Rear Cameras.  I utilize online conferencing frequently to communicate with friends, family, as well as church workers, my youth group, and so many others.  Having the ability to conduct two-way video conferencing via Skype (and now FaceTime) will be huge for me.  I will no longer have to use my laptop for those calls, making me more flexible regarding when/where I can collaborate with others.  The 5 megapixel HD rear camera will be nice for photography, and now I can take the shot and edit it (avoiding my current process of taking the picture with the iPhone and then transferring it over to the iPad for better viewing and editing).
  4. Faster Graphics.  This will make video and gaming applications run more smoothly and with greater rendered detail.  While gaming is not a primary use, it will be nice!
  5. Gryoscope.  This addition to the hardware will make the iPad respond better to orientation changes and to gaming behavior.  It will also work along with the accelerometer for more accurate precision and sensitivity for those apps as well as location-based services/applications.
  6. 65,000 iPad-specific Apps:  This is a big thing for making the choice for going for the iPad rather than another tablet device.  No tablet is worth much if the apps that meet your various needs do not exist.  And in my opinion, iOS is the best mobile/tablet operating system currently on the market.  (Android is cool, but it ain't iOS yet.)
I won't lie:  I really want a white iPad this time too.  So I appreciate having the choice.  And while you will be able to also choose between a 3G model using AT&T or Verizon, I will probably take the AT&T version because it supports the ability for 3G use in countries outside the USA.  And the AT&T data network is faster than Verizon's -- as long as the network is available.  I am a bit disappointed that the iPad 2 does not support 4G.

So I guess I am going to have to deal with the lines at 5PM on the 11th (or figure out some other ingenious method for getting my iPad 2 on Friday).

Or, maybe I will calm my 'instant gratification' urges and just buy it online (and lay in the fetal position in the bedroom until the UPS guy shows up).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living out your Passion

I have been a Youth Leader in parishes for over 20 years and have served as a Youth Minister in my current Diocese for at least 10 of those years. Working with middle and high school youth is my passion and a calling to which I have tried to be faithful throughout my life. It is fulfilling and heartwarming in a way that I cannot even begin to explain. But when I am in the midst of it, my soul rejoices and I know I am doing what God wants for my life.

In the 1970s, I was encouraged to be active in my church by my mother: participating in youth group events, serving at the Altar, working at the church's Well Child Clinic on Saturdays, and attending youth rallies. As a Junior, I served on a 'Program Group on Youth" in my Diocese as a Youth Deanery Representative, where we planned all the diocesan-level youth events (retreats, summer programs, dances) and coordinated youth participation during the annual Diocesan Convention in Los Angeles. I was also doing Basic Catechism for youth at a Los Angeles Juvenile Detention facility.

It was an exciting, amazing time for me. I was filled with a sense of God's presence and was developing a strong personal relationship with my Savior. I was also struggling with discernment over what my purpose and future would look like. I discussed feelings about pursuing ordination with my priest and friends but I wasn't sure how that would fit in with my other interests and skills (like computer science, foreign languages, photography, music, etc.). But it was clear even as a high schooler, that my faith would always play a major role in my life and that God had a plan for me -- even if I did not really understand what it was yet.

And I am still on that faith journey. I have served in many capacities over the years, working as a youth leader in various Christian churches/denominations, serving in soup kitchens, being a camp counselor at a Christian Camp, and serving on any number of commissions and committees at both local and diocesan levels. But the one consistent thread in my life has been working with young people of all ages, hopefully helping them to experience God in a meaningful way.

This past weekend, I just spent last Friday through Sunday serving on a ministry team for a high school youth retreat called Happening whose theme was "Joy" (Isaiah 12:3). The leader of a Happening is a high school student (usually a senior) we call the 'rector'. The 'rector' builds a team made up of an 'observing rector', two adult mentors, two spiritual directors (priests/deacons), and a staff of other high school students and adults serving in various capacities necessary to make the retreat a success. I served as one of the mentors.

The retreat gathered over 50 youth and adults together to take a journey of discovery, looking for Christ and how He works in our lives. We remove the 'masks' we usually wear during the day to reveal the beauty of our true selves -- the 'self' that Jesus knows and loves. We took time to Embrace the Joy of Smiling.

Experiencing God in a real, tangible way is a powerful thing. This weekend was fabulous and I got to share it with youth who are gifted, joyful, and amazing. It was truly a blessed event for everyone there and concluded with a worship service celebrated by one of our Bishops. My heart was soaring!

I share all of this just to say that for each of us, God has a plan for our lives. That plan will be revealed through prayer, listening, and discernment -- usually through the witness and insights from friends, family, and others that God puts in your path. And when you find your call, your passion, you have to go for it! You have to respond. I found mine. You can find yours.

Go Live your Passion!