“I condemn those heinous killings, but…”

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Alan Jacobs:

The first thing I note, at any rate, is a tone of exasperation: I can’t believe I have to say this. But why do you have to say it? Obviously: because if you didn’t, people would think, from the rest of your post or essay, that you don’t have a big problem with the murder of the people who worked at Charlie Hebdo.

Finding the Right Book of Common Prayer for You

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

We put together a quick starter’s guide to finding the right Book of Common Prayer for you. Below, you’ll find descriptions and links that should help you as you consider owning your own BCP, or looking into other helpful liturgical resources.

A quick guide from the staff of our church.

It stops today.

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Patrick Rhone:

It was something Eric Garner said before the choking. It was a statement of defiance. One spoken by a proud man who was tired. Tired of being stopped and harassed for little more reason than being Black in America. A tiredness experienced by far too many who suffer the same. If I were Eric Garner, I would want to be remembered for standing up and saying “It stops today. ” Not for being wrestled to the ground and choked out but for standing tall and proud and asserting my rights as a citizen and a human being. I would want that to be a rallying cry of protest. I would want that to become the song of freedom that brings long sought justice to those being oppressed.

Opionions regarding Eric Garner are all over the board, but one thing we will all agree on is that there is injustice in our land. Today is as good as any for it to stop. How will you do your part?

Race and Justice

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Tim Keller:

These events show again how deeply race shapes the way we see life, understand justice, and relate to one another. In the Old Testament book of Amos, and elsewhere in the Bible, we see that God holds all nations accountable for how they treat the least powerful groups and persons in their societies. As U.S. citizens, we in Redeemer leadership join with many others who, while honoring the members of law enforcement who put their lives on the line each day, nonetheless call for changes to our justice system so that it works more fairly and equitably for everyone. As Christians, we can do two additional things. First, we must pray—that God would bring our nation both peace and justice. Second, those who are not members of racial minorities, and who are therefore not as directly touched by these issues, must refuse to let themselves be unconcerned or too busy to care. We must remember that we were saved by the one who was excluded and crucified outside the gate. We should spend time listening to voices that we may have previously ignored and embracing the call to work for reconciliation and right relationships in our city. In this advent season, we are called to look to the Lord’s coming by an examination of our hearts and in hope for a day when all things will be made new.

Returning the iPhone 6 Plus

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

John Gruber:

If you want something bigger than an iPhone, get the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. It feels more like a new device — a hybrid device class that is bigger than an iPhone but smaller than an iPad Mini — than it feels like a bigger iPhone.

And:

The increased size of the iPhone 6 makes it worse when using it one-handed. But it makes it better when using it two-handed.

Jim Dalrymple:

Of course, the easiest way to use the iPhone 6 Plus is with two hands. My experience with the 6 Plus became much more enjoyable after I gave up trying to see how it worked with one hand and used two. One-handed operation can be done, two-handed is optimal.

Josh Ginter:

The iPhone 6 Plus is my ideal desk phone. I spend the majority of my days working at a desk, which means I have more opportunities to use the phone with both hands. The nature of your life and work may urge you to purchase a one handed phone. If, like me, your phone acts as a text/email/telephone conduit at your desk, you’ll be thankful to know that the 6 Plus excels as a desk phone.

You no doubt picked up the common refrain in reviews of the iPhone 6 Plus: It's fantastic for those who regularly use an iPhone with two hands. I've been using an iPhone 6 Plus for three weeks, and I'm not so sure I'm willing to concede even that much to the Plus.

Screen categories

In the kingdom of Apple, screen size dictates what kind of input device you use. The name of a device is irrelevant. Apple's product lineup is essentially different sizes of beautiful, retina screens. If the screen is small enough to hold, it's touch. If the screen is too big to hold, it's on a desk with a keyboard and mouse.

Touch screen devices are split into two subcategories: one-hand devices or two-hand devices. It's a subtle, but key, distinction. These iPhone 6 Plus reviews are drawing out the tension of a device that doesn't fit strongly into either of those subcategories. Is it a one or two-hand device? As Gruber points out, it feels like a hybrid. We all know that he's being kind. Another word for hybrid is compromise.

Compromises

Most everyone agrees that the iPhone 6 Plus is awkward to use with one hand. Some will say that Reachability eases this problem. No, Reachability adds more friction to using half the iPhone's screen. It's a step backwards.

I think most reviews are being too kind to the new iPhone 6 Plus. Not only is it a poor one-handed device, but it is also a poor two-handed device.

It is still limited by only being able to fit two thumbs. Typing on the iPhone 6 Plus is no faster than the iPhone 5.

Typing with two thumbs is a way to speed up typing on a one-handed device. It is a limitation of the device if typing must be done with two thumbs. If you're going to be typing with two hands on an iOS device, you might as well grab the iPad and use more than just your thumbs, right?

Typing is not the only point of friction for the iPhone 6 Plus. Plenty of apps have buttons at both the bottom and top of the screen, which again, demands two hands. iPad apps welcome two-handed controls. iPhone apps weren't designed with this in mind.

Tweetbot, Mailbox, and Messages are examples of this. Each of these apps have key elements at the bottom of the screen, but also have the Compose button at the top. The 5.5-in screen insists two-handed operation while the apps assume that one-handed operation is the dominant way.

Before buying the iPhone 6 Plus, I already knew it wasn't going to be usable with one hand. What I didn't realize is how much I would not like using it with two hands, either. Several times over, I would set down my iPhone and move to the iPad for typing, reading, or casual gaming.

I realized that I want the iPhone to be the best one-handed device and the iPad to be the best two-handed device.

Is Plus for you?

Not everyone will feel the same way I do. I suspect the iPhone + iPad combination will evolve as a pro solution, much in the same way many heavy users have both a laptop and desktop.

For people who aren't heavy iOS users and don't enjoy having multiple devices to keep track of, maybe the hybrid 5.5-inch device is a great solution. If that's you, you don't glance at your iPhone as much and are content keeping it in a jacket pocket or day bag. You should take inventory of how you use your phone before purchasing the Plus.

  • What pocket do you keep your phone in?
  • Do you use your favorite apps with one or two hands?
  • Are your apps optimized for swipe navigation? (Swiping the edge of the screen to go backwards instead of relying on a dedicated back button.)
  • How much typing do you do on your phone?
  • If you're hoping to also replace your iPad with an iPhone 6 Plus, do your iPad apps also require two-hand typing?

The answers to these questions will help illuminate whether or not the Plus is for you. My guess is that the iPhone 6 Plus will attract casual users who don't have an iPad.

As for me, I want the best device for every situation, not a hybrid which achieves most tasks with mediocrity. Now a 13-inch iPad -- that would be nice.

Appinstructor Fellowship

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Appinstructor is the consulting company I started nearly five years ago. During that time, I've met other former fruit stand workers who do roughly the same thing. That's both a blessing and a curse of the internet. You think you're unique, until you find out there are 5,482 other people in the same boat. "Wow, you're just like me! You left Apple in order to train people on Apple products in the quiet and comfort of their own home! Neat! You like Evernote, OmniFocus, Squarespace, The Talk Show, the AeroPress, Square, Monument Valley, and Reeder, too? We're twinsies!" I digress. 

Not being content with Twitter conversations, I started a Slack group for like-minded Apple consultants. Currently, there are twenty of us in the group. We've talked about how we chose our rate, what's our favorite non-nerd backup solution, why iPhoto can go ahead and just die, what we do for managing client notes, how to troubleshoot wifi the bestest, and doing client work on the weekend. It's a helpful community.

You don't have to be a former Apple employee to get in on this. If you are simply a friendly tech consultant or if you even work at an organization as an IT department of one, we'd love to have you join us. Go ahead and knock on the door: http://appinstructor.com/fellowship

By the way, this is just the beginning. There will be more efforts like this to increase our sharing of knowledge and advice. We're having too much fun to just stop here.

Remotely lock a Mac's screen with Launch Center Pro

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

David Sparks writing at MacSparky describes a way to use an iPhone to remotely sleep a Mac. This is useful for those who sometimes forget to lock their Mac before heading to the water cooler for the latest sportsball chat. David's recipe involves Drafts, Dropbox, and Hazel. Basically, he prescribes writing "Mac Sleep" into Drafts and sharing it to Dropbox. Hazel on the Mac recognizes the new file, and sends the Mac into dreamland.

It works well, but I wasn't satisfied having to actually type a phrase into Drafts every time I wanted to sleep my Mac. Yeah, I'm lazy like that. Lucky for nerds, Launch Center Pro has been updated with a neat feature that reduces the command to just one button. It quickly creates the Dropbox file with the proper name which thereby puts the Mac to sleep. Rather than annotating David's fantastic instructions, I wanted to rewrite the instructions with Launch Center Pro as the centerpiece.

Prepare your Mac

  1. Create a folder in Dropbox. Eg: "/Apps/Launch Center Pro"
  2. Create a Hazel rule for that folder to run an Applescript whenever a file called "Sleep Mac" appears. Also include an action for Hazel to trash the file after the script executes. Here's the script:

tell application "Finder"

    sleep

end tell

Feel free to test the script by creating a TXT file in that folder and name it "Sleep Mac."

Create Launch Center Pro action

  1. Create a new action, and name it something like Sleep Mac. Using the Action Composer, head here: System Actions > In-App Dropbox > New File
  2. Name: Sleep Mac; Text: whatever; Path: [same Dropbox path from above]; Name: Sleep Mac
  3. Tap Done, cute it up with a lovely icon, and tap Done again

You should be all set. If you're like me and find yourself wandering away from your Mac before locking it down, this recipe should ensure your information is protected from prying eyes.

New Job

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Can I share some fun news with you? A couple weeks ago, I accepted a position as "Academic Technology Administrator & Integrationist" at a local Christian private school. I never thought I'd have one job that combines my love for technology and theology, but this one just about nails it. In a nutshell, I'm supporting about a hundred teachers, a few hundred devices, and a lot of parents. We're asking questions about the role of technology in the classroom and home. This is especially fun to do against the backdrop of biblical anthropology, educational processes, and computer science. To phrase it differently, I get to do Appinstructor in the context of a Christian school. I'm pumped.

What about Appinstructor?

Appinstructor is still open for business, I'm still taking appointments, and Scotty is still taking the Birmingham Branch to record levels. The reason why I didn't simply try to restart Appinstructor from scratch here in Minneapolis is because I don't know very many people in this town. When I started Appinstructor in Birmingham in 2010, I left an Apple Store of 100 friendly, former coworkers willing to send me referrals. I had a decent client base from the get-go. A second launch in this town would be a different story.

My role with Appinstructor will be a bit different now. In addition to taking a few appointments here and there, I'll continue to direct Appinstructor's new initiatives and possible expansion into new cities. If anything, my new job at the school will provide a new vantage point for watching the horizon of Appinstructor and the tech industry at large.

What about pastoring?

One of the traditional roles of the deacon is to have one foot in the church and one in the world. In a sense, this new job helps me explore that diaconal calling, as well. I'll continue to preach and assist the staff in seasonal ministries and projects, and one day, I hope to start discerning the possibility of planting a church.

Future

As for this blog, I'm sticking with the original intent: post sermons and tech thoughts. Perhaps now, I'll toss in education and iOS deployment. God knows that once school starts up, I'll have plenty from that department to share, too. Thanks for tuning in.

Community in Christ

Added on by Rick Stawarz.
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This message is based on a sermon originally preached a year ago, Aug 4, 2013, at Christ the King Anglican in Birmingham, AL. It's been altered a bit for the web.

Colossians 3:5-17, ESV:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

John Donne famously said, “No man is an island.” In order for a man (or woman) to thrive, he must rely on the companionship of his sisters and brothers. This is rarely disputed, right? Humanists and religious folk of various stripes tend to agree that in order to live a full life, one must live in concert with other human beings. In light of this universal affirmation, why is community is so stinking difficult to maintain? There are a couple obvious things that come to mind.

First, our suburban-ization of America might be partly to blame. We wake up, drive to work, do stuff, come home, watch TV, and go to bed. The routine lasts for years. I don't know about you, but I have to be super intentional with my neighbors if I want to get to know them. And, these are people who sleep twenty feet from my house.

Second, social networks and technology make deep community hard. They merely reinforce bite-sized conversations and shallow interactions. I have a buddy who has nearly a thousand Facebook friends, but can't think of anyone to stand in his wedding. Social media spreads our relational efforts far, but not deep. Because of this, we are becoming a generation of acquaintances, not life-long friends.

Those are just two obvious things that stand in the way of genuine community. You can probably think of a few more.

Well, I believe this passage from Colossians brings much needed ancient wisdom to our modern ears. Paul may not have had a Twitter account, but he knew a thing or two about building community.

Context of Col 3

If we were to jump straight past the first two chapters of Paul's letter and start in the third chapter, we’d be skipping some pretty critical insights to Paul's encouragement to the Colossians. So instead, let’s take a minute to walk through what Paul has been saying thus far. The church in Colossi has had an outbreak of false teaching. We have clues throughout the book that someone in their midst is undercutting the authority of Jesus and encouraging believers to maintain Jewish law.

Church history has told us many times over that Christian vitality crumbles without a high view of Christ and the free grace he offers. Naturally, Paul felt the need to remind the church about the cosmic power and deep love of the incarnate Son of God.

Current need for this reminder

Before you tell me this isn't something we struggle with today, let me remind you about the propositions swimming around in our society. It's quite common to hear people say that Jesus was merely a wise teacher. He was good, but in no way did he expect to be turned into a prophet, much less the Son of God!

In fact, I was having coffee with a friend a few days ago who told me this very thing. "Jesus would be appalled if he knew people were worshiping him," my friend said. The reason for his protest shouldn't be too surprising. As we'll see in a moment, the divinity of Jesus has tremendous implications. This is why Paul says things like this to the Colossian church:

Jesus is the image of the invisible God.... For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.... He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.... For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Throughout the first two chapters of Colossians, Paul is reminding believers that they have been raised alongside Christ. Our lives have been bought by his blood. We are a people freed from death. Therefore, we ought to act like it.

I realize this is a lot of background before our actual passage at hand, but Paul believed that before one could discuss Christian discipleship and community, it was crucial to have a proper understanding of the the power of Christ.

Clothing of believers

Col 3:5-17 could be split into two sections: What we kill, and What we bring to life.

Put to death

Paul tells believers to put to death what is earthly because the wrath of God is coming. It's hard for us to catch the gravity of his words here. There's a sense of urgency in Paul's tone. He's afraid we don't understand what will happen if we don't heed his advice.

Alexander Maclaren describes it this way. It's like a man working in a factory who's hand gets stuck in one of the machine's rollers and starts pulling him in. He knows that in a matter of seconds, his whole body will be pulled into and crushed by the machine. Frantically, the man, with his other arm, reaches for an ax and takes off the trapped hand. It's by no means pleasant, but there's no other way.

While this is a gruesome illustration, it captures the urgency in which Paul is telling Christians to put to death the vices of sexual immorality, impurity, wonton-ness, evil desire, and covetousness.

It's no wonder the first four of the five sins listed in v. 5 are related to sexual sin. "Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col 3:5). Sin of this sort is particularly hurtful to ourselves. We all know stories of sexual sin slowly creeping into a friend’s life, perhaps even our own, and nearly destroying everyone nearby.

Now, what is the danger from these sins? The wrath of God. This is an odd phrase to see in the New Testament, right? We figure that phrase needs to stay in the Old Testament. It does good for those of us on this side of the cross to remember that God does not change, and his hatred of sin still burns strong. God loves you so much that he desires for you to mature in Christ, which means immediately taking off sin. Paul’s not done.

Do you see that the next grouping of calamities are relational in manner? "Anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self" (Col 3:8-9). Our focus is starting to turn towards the way we relate to each other.

Paul is addressing a small gathering of believers. He knows sins like these will splinter a congregation in no time. It wouldn't be too difficult to find stories of churches getting torn apart by slander and malice, right?

Being renewed in life

Paul continues. "Put off the old self," he says, "and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Col 3:10, 12).

The phrase I want to emphasize here is "being renewed." We hear it throughout the New Testament. In 2 Corinthians, Paul says “our inner self is being renewed day by day.” In other words, becoming more Christlike is a gradual process. This is very comforting to me. Some of us are haunted by sins and vices that we just can't seem to shake. This life is plagued by decades of trying to shed sin. It's been said many times from the church I attend that churches shouldn't be a museum of saints, but a hospital of sinners. In other words, we know that fighting against sin can be a long, arduous battle, which is fought day by day. We are slowly being renewed.

Clothe yourself

Let's now turn our attention to the second half of this passage. And, I’m thrilled to tell you, it’s not as gruesome. Col 3:12–15:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Among Scriptures chosen to be read at weddings, this section is fairly popular, and you can see why. It's one of the most beautiful passages on Christian love in the entire Bible. Here, Paul lists five virtues that should clothe each Christian. You're being redeemed by Christ –- this is what you should look like.

This reminds me of what those in liturgical congregations do during Lent. Historically, Christians don't just give up certain activities, but also take on new ones. In other words, the Holy Spirit scoops out our selfish attributes and fills us with the virtues of Christ. The point is that whenever there’s a void, something needs to fill it. In other words, Paul realizes it's time to find some new clothes.

What are those virtues? Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness (or some translations say gentleness), and patience. These virtues stand in direct opposition to the sins listed before. Do you know what else is interesting about these virtues? They're not things encouraged by culture. If the world had a list of virtues, these wouldn’t be at the top. The world values control of power, manipulation, force, and revenge. Oftentimes, the hero on TV gains victory by manipulation, arrogance, and violence.

Forgiveness

The Christian is told to be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Each of these items deserves to be fleshed out a bit more, but I'd like to focus on what they look like when put into action. Paul decides to show us what it looks like when a Christian is properly dressed. When you are clothed with these attributes of love, you will do two things: bear with one another and forgive others as the Lord has forgiven you.

If you spend enough time with someone, you're going to wound them. It's inevitable. This is why Walter Wangerin, in his book As for Me and My House, says that the most effective way you can show love to someone is by exercising forgiveness. How freeing is it when you come to your friend, express your regret, and actually receive forgiveness? It's liberating! It's as if we can move again. Without forgiveness, we grow cynical and stale.

Christ in Community

This message was originally delivered in a season when our church was promoting the small group ministry. Small groups provide a space for church members to gather in one another's homes for prayer and fellowship. Our church called these "Community Groups." I've recently had several insightful conversations with people about Community Groups. It's our belief that Community Groups are where relationships go deep. At our church, these groups meet about twice a month and are filled with laughter, food, spiritual discussion, and prayer. This is just one example of a place where we can start practicing the the Christian virtues listed by St. Paul, especially patience and forgiveness.

Be forewarned, though; Community Groups are wonderful, but wherever community is practiced, people inevitably get ticked off. We all come to the table with different expectation and agendas. No group of people are exempt from the selfishness that can emerge in community, whether that be inside or outside the church.

But, when believers are purposefully clothing themselves with Christlikeness, they operate differently. They are gentle people who are quick to forgive. They are kind and patient listeners who will humbly console you through dark times and celebrate your victories. Communities become places of healing and growth when Christians act like Christ.

Don't you want to be in a place like that? We are invited into the family of God where we feast together and share life with one another. We are day by day taking off the old self, and wrapping ourselves in the likeness of our savior.


Bibliography

Alfred: quick search of religious texts

Added on by Rick Stawarz.
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Most Mac power users have heard of Alfred. It's a free app that shows a simple search bar used for finding pretty much everything. By default, Alfred will search Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, your address book, email, and any other file on your computer. Don Southard did a wonderful writeup of Alfred about a year ago at MacStories.

Alfred can be extended for even more streamlined productivity, and I wanted to share a couple of my favorite Alfred add ons. The first set has to do with custom web searches. For example, I frequently search the online version of the Book of Common Prayer. With Alfred, I simply type "bcp" into its search bar, and then the phrase I'm looking for, say, "wedding". Alfred will then conduct the search and show me the results, one of which is the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage. Once Alfred is installed on your Mac, just click a link below to add the custom search to your collection.

Another way Alfred can be enhanced is through workflows. There are some simple ones for checking the weather, searching Evernote, and a slew of other things. The ones below don't have anything to do with religious texts, but if you're reading this far, you might as well check them out, right?