Every month ChristianAudio.com gives away a free audio book.  This month the book is The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies.  It’s about our ever connected culture and it’s effect on our spiritual lives.  Here’s the description from the site:

Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by advances in digital technology. We rely upon computers, cell phones, and the Internet for communication, commerce, and entertainment. Yet even though we live in this “instant message” culture, many of us feel disconnected, and we question if all this technology is really good for our souls.

In a manner that’s accessible, thoughtful, and biblical, author Tim Challies addresses questions such as:
• How has life—and faith—changed now that everyone is available all the time through mobile phones?
• How does our constant connection to these digital devices affect our families and our church communities?
• What does it mean that almost two billion humans are connected by the Internet … with hundreds of millions more coming online each year?

Providing the reader with a framework they can apply to any technology, Tim Challies explains how and why our society has become reliant on digital technology, what it means for our lives, and how it impacts the Christian faith.

I haven’t started it yet, but it sounds like it should be an interesting listen.  As someone who surrounds himself with technology, I’m interested to see what Challies has to say.

And if you have never tried an audio book I high recommend it.  I love listening to them in the car, at the gym, doing yardwork, or just about anywhere else.  I don’t always have time to read as much as I would like, and audio books help me multitask.

Check it out, I’d love to hear what you think.

Bill Hybles challenged me to “Read for 30 minutes a day.” Well, I was in the room when we said that and it challenged me. Reading helps me be a better thinker, reading challenges my position with other’s thoughts, reading get’s me away from TV, and “I don’t know what I don’t know.” A professor once said, “you need to read a lot and read from experts in the field, they ask questions you never thought to ask and give you answers you never knew you didn’t know.” I probably do not have to convince you that reading is a good thing. I actually do not enjoy “sitting down with a good book,” I have to make this happen in my life. Here are a few tech resources that help reading become less painful for me.

Twitter: Spending 30 minutes reading tweets really does not count but sometimes you get a good nugget to chew on. I am a fan of TweetDeck and Hootsuite.

Books: I stick with Kindle because that is where I started my ebooks collection and I can read them on any of my devices. If you have Kindle books then all your notes and highlights are stored here. Chime in below with your favorite features from your Kindle, Nook, iBook, or other eReader.

Articles: I love downloading and reading PDF files with iAnnotate PDF. If you have an iPad and read a lot of PDF documents this app is more than a reader. Click the link and look at it’s features. It is kind of pricey at $9.99 but this app is outstanding!

News: I rarely pick up a news paper, in fact most of my news come when my favorite TV program is interrupted by a breaking news. If I am looking for news I get it from an app on my iPad like Fox News, CNN, USA Today or apps like Zite, Flipboard, and Pulse News that download news and blog feeds.

Blogs: Google Reader is my favorite feed reader for collecting and reading a lot of blogs (the “J” and “K” keys are your friend!) But if you want to take notes and send them to friends try Awesome Highlighter (It is currently down, but keep checking the link…it’s a cool free tool). And I am currently going crazy with Instapaper, it takes away the clutter and stores your tagged posts for reading later. Create a free account and if you want to go the extra mile check out the app, it isn’t free but it is wroth the expense. Zite, Flipboard, and Pulse News apps have an Instapaper button, sending stories to your account for some follow-up or later reading.

 

I loved this. Happy Friday Everyone. Enjoy.

It was only a matter of time before someone did this.

I can’t wait for this thing to be over.

Do you use countdown videos?  Have you ever wanted to make your own? The fine people over at Digitalstache have now made it super easy, and it’s FREE: Ready, Set, Go!

From their site:

Do you love countdown videos? Do you dream in descending digits? Can you grow mustache? Well check out the newest addition to the Digital Stache Gameshow Family: Ready, Set, Go! Ready, Set, Go! gives you 6 themes to choose from and let’s you set the countdown (or up), from one second to an hour! But here is the best part: we’re giving it away. That’s right, for an unlimited time, Ready, Set, Go! Is absolutely free! So download your copy today!

Download your free copy while you can.

Ready, Set, Go!

Every time we have been gearing up for some fundraiser or another, I think (at the last minute), “It sure would be convenient if we could take credit card donations/payments easily. A couple weeks later I have the same thought about registrations for camp. Each time I remember my research into the cost of machine with the receipt paper, the percentage off each sale it takes as well as the per transaction fee and decide it is not worth the hassle.

Then I stumbled upon Square.

Square is simple. From the little one inch by one inch plastic reader that plugs into the headphone jack on your phone (iOS or android) to the flat 2.75% fee per swipe to the super-straightforward, free app there is one word to describe it: simple.

Did I mention cheap? All you have to do to get the reader is give them basic accounting information and they mail it, at no charge, to your home or office a couple days later. How do they make money? Most places charge variable rate fee from 2.5%-5% per transaction and a $0.15 per transaction fee. Some level the percentage to three or three and a half, but square is cheap and simple. 2.75% per card swipe transaction.

The Square app is super easy to use. All you do is download the app, plug in the dongle, log in and you are ready to take a payment. To do that, you enter the amount and an optional description (we put the budget line item and the event) and swipe their card. They are then taken to a signature screen where they can sign with a finger or stylus if you have one. When they press the continue button, they are prompted to enter a cell number or email address where the app immediately sends a link to a receipt for the transaction. The money is then deposited (one lump sum deposit per day) into whichever account you provide.

You then have access to all that data (minus the full card number) in their clean, user friendly site which will allow you to download it in excel format with a ton of data attached to each transaction.

A couple of weeks ago I was stopped on Sunday morning on my way to the youth area by a member who said that he was sorry that he had not yet brought me his donation for a fundraiser.  He never has his checkbook at church.  I told him that I could take a credit card, and he was relieved.  I plugged in the square dongle, opened the app, swiped his card and it was done.  Brilliant.

Simple, cheap and brilliant, but not perfect. If you want to use this for multiple ministries, it may get difficult. You will have to sort through all the transactions to figure out which one went to which ministry. It would be nice if they could have sub-accounts to break things out easily.

Overall, I am telling everyone I meet to stop whatever they are doing, go to the Square website and start making life easier for them and their members.

A friend of mine showed this to me and I thought it could make a great display in your youth room.  I might want to gather up a couple old computers or laptops and create a cool art piece for your stage or room.  Sounds crazy but I bet if you put the word out you could find some old machines to use.  Watch the video, it’s pretty cool.

Best part, the software is free.
Check it out: Junkyard Jumbotron

Many of you liked the digital nativity video from Christmas.  Igniter video has now done one for Easter.

If you want to use it for your services, you can pick it up HERE.

Description from their site:

Throughout the course of his public ministry, Jesus knew both the adoration and desertion of the crowds. Today, just as 2,000 years ago, the gospel asks a question that demands an answer: Will we follow? This video illustrates this truth through the dynamic lens of a 21st-century social network.

Enjoy!

 

I recently discovered this interesting Google Labs project called Google Ngram Viewier that piggy backs on the data Google is collecting via Google books.  You probably already know that Google books is is not only adding new texts, but scanning (and OCRing) all the books currently available in print at massive libraries all over the world.  You can imagine the interesting types of things you could do with that massive data set.  When you combine all the world’s digitized books with a google algorhythm and their massive amounts of processing power, you get Ngram Viewer.

It is pretty basic right now.  You put in a list of terms separated by commas, and it gives you a line graph showing how popular those words were in print from 1500 on (or any subset of years).  Turning our attention towards our graph of Heaven and hell from 1800-2000, we can see that, with a few exceptions, heaven was firmly in the lead until it took a turn around 1930 from which point hell has been on the rise and not looking back.

I look forward to seeing the interesting sets of terms you come up with!

Want a Sneak Peek at the newest issue of Group Magazine?  The new issues isn’t out yet, but here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming soon.  Unfortunately I heard of too many people the “I Just Got Fired” applies too.

If you don’t subscribe yet, now’s a great time to sign up: Group Magazine Subscription.  In addition to the great content like posted above, you get tons of ministry ideas and help.  And for the techie in you, every issue has a great column from Brandon Early, whom contributes to this blog. I highly recommend it.