What does it mean to be human? Appreantly, not a heartbeat.

As I grow older, I realize that some day there will be things that the next generation do that I just won't understand. My guess is that it will start with embedding chips in their hands, so they can just wave at the cash register. My assumption is that by then end of my life, I will know people who have communication devices in their brains, so they can talk to their friends without even speaking.

But that's just life in the head of a futurist. And then, every now and then, reality is far more compelling than simply dreaming.

There are currently at least three living, breathing, human beings in the world who don't have a heartbeart. Instead, they have a constant flow of blood, streaming through their brains.

Chips, implants, or metal skeletons all seem cool and awesome and all that. But when you mess with blood? It's always about the blood.

How much of life is based upon that steady rhythm of a heartbeat? How many lovers rest their ear to the heartbeat of their spouse? How many parents await the first heartbeat of their unborn child? And, simply practically, how important is your heartbeat while exercising?

Suddenly, there is no need for a heartbeat. You are moving, up, alert, living life. Climbing stairs or sleeping, it's all the same. Running or reading, a constant flow of blood throughout your body.

But no pulse.

This technology... astounding. The fact that it can save lives... so thankful. But wow... does it shatter pretty much ever romantic inkling we have about life and the heart.

But, it's still all about the blood.

Helping the church understand the digital revolution

originally written for BP News

Being born in 1980, I've had the pleasant experience of being one of the oldest members of the rising generation. I am a true digital native, but had just enough years of life without the Internet to remember what life was like before it.

Of course, I also was teaching my elementary school teachers how to put the discs in CD-ROM trays, back when they first came out. I've hoped that my life and skills would be able to be used to help spread the Gospel through technology and help disciple the church in the new digital generation.

A while back I received a package in the mail -- a signed copy of "Viral" by author Leonard Sweet. In "Viral," Leonard Sweet manages to accurately describe, analyze and embrace the shift in our culture. Where as I simply know it as reality, Sweet manages to articulate the cultural and spiritual changes happening in America due to the digital revolution. Using the acronym of TGIF (standing for Twitter, Google, iPhone and Facebook), Sweet manages to summarize so many things I've wanted to say to the church, but never quite knew how. All this in right around 200 pages.

In 2010, B&H Publishing Group released "NetCasters," by Craig von Buseck. Von Buseck is ministries director of CBN.com, home of the Christian Broadcasting Network. In his book, von Buseck shares stories of people who are effectively and passionately using the Internet to spread the Gospel. From podcasting to creating movements like the Internet Evangelism Day, there are stories ripe for sharing about how people are using digital tools every day to share the Good News.

At a tech conference a few years back, I met Gabe Taviano. Gabe was experimenting with a group centered at DigitalDisciples.net -- a way for people to organize for study and discipleship both online and in real life through digital means. And for this group it wasn't only about education and bible study -- it was about true relationship and accountability. It was about embracing the connections that suddenly were possible due to the advent of digital tools.

In Sweet's "Viral," it becomes increasingly evident that the tools we use -- the medium we use -- shapes us just as much as the media does. Sweet talks about how culturally we have moved from thinking as a larger family unit in society to thinking as a smaller, individual unit. But that now, with our ever-connected lives, a new societal unit is forming: our network.

How intense is it that by being disconnected from those around us we are even more connected to those further from us?

Books like "Viral" and "NetCasters" are vital resources for the church. It's not that we "need" to embrace technology for the spreading of the Gospel -- it's that my generation simply doesn't understand a message that doesn't involve interaction through technology. For us, it's no longer a sit and listen, tune in and watch. We are in relationship with everything; we create, interact, and destroy things on a daily basis. And we are desperate to find Good News in all that we do.

The books are available to explain. The tools are there to be used. The message is ready to be shared.

Reading Len Sweet's Viral: Conclusion

So, to wrap up, this book is awesome. Simply put, Len gets it and - as a bridge moving from a "Gutenberger" mindset to a "Googler" mindset - he writes, explains, and encourages with authority and passion. Full of both parables and truth, Len has created the book that every pastor and spiritual mentor needs to read in order to understand the culture and real life mindset of the rising generation.

This book makes me feel exposed. For someone to so thoroughly understand how technology has infiltrated our lives and culture in order to change a generation - and us to not even realize we've been changed - is simply a testimony to Len's wisdom. It's my generational nature to want to rebel and say he doesn't get it... but that would clearly be a lie. Len understands the rising generation better that I do.

Better yet, he interweaves the impact of this cultural change with what it means for the Church and our understanding of Christ. And unlike so many who think that ruin is around the corner, Len sees how we are simply getting closer to sharing life and telling stories in the ways that Christ did. That we are on the verge of a spiritual renaissance not simple because of the tools we now have at our disposal, but how they are fully integrated in our secular and spiritual lives.

In his closing chapter, Len says: TGIF evangelsim is, in its purest form, discipleship: a recognition of being part of a body bigger than ourselves and an organic way of behaving within it.

I'm honored to call Len a mentor. I hope you'll give him a few hours to speak into your life as well.

Viral, by Leonard Sweet, is available March 16, 2012 from Waterbook Press.

 

Reading Len Sweet's Viral

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Should you buy a PlayStation Vita? If you're a hardcore gamer, you know the answer is yes.

There is one generalization about me that I really can't argue... I'm an XBOX fanboy. There's typically zero thought process that goes into my decision making when I choose what platform to get a game on, if it's between the Wii, PS3, or the XBOX.  Of course it's going to be on the XBOX.

And then I bought a PS Vita... and it's really messing with my head. It's one of those things where you don't realize what you really think until you say it. As I was recording the following video, just pontificating about how much I like the system, I realized something: I wasn't thinking about it as a handheld. This thing is compartive to a full on console.

 

It really started with playing Marvel vs Capcom 3. Now, I've got it on the XBOX 360. And I have a beautiful HDTV. But playing that game on this little device... I could swear the graphics look better on this tiny device. Not "as good as." No, "better." Now, my rational brain tells me that's not true... the screen isn't even actually HD quality... but it's so smooth and pretty. Then I played WipeOut 2048, which I also own on the PS3. This one, I KNOW looks better on the PS Vita.

And I can play against people who are playing WipeOut 2048 on the PS3.

After a week of play, the simple verdict is that if you're a hardcore gamer, you need to be buying a PlayStation Vita. The true test will be in how many new and innovative games come out for it... but I'm finding myself curious about some of the Sony-centric franchises out there all of sudden. I know I won't get to play Gears of War or Halo on this device... but I've already spent more hours with WipeOut than most of the games I own on the 3DS... or the PSP for that matter. And Lumines keeps on sucking me in for an hour of play here and there...

Sony's got a winner in our hands. Let's just hope the support keeps up and they can iron out the bugs. If so, I might just have to be considering whether to buy games for the XBOX 360 or the PS Vita in the near future...

Video Review of Resurrection iWitness by Doug Powell (Print Edition)

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend at a technology company when publishers are going move the industry forward - when were we going to start experimenting and putting innovative content out digitall first and THEN move it to print if it's successful. My response? B&H is doing it this March.

Last year I got to be a part of the team that decided to publish Doug Powell's Resurrection iWitness as an iPad app. And yes, I blogged about it.

Today, for the first time, I got my hands on the print edition. It's awesome, and totally interactive. Simply put, I don't know that there is a better product out there to help someone take their first steps into the apologetics world. But, more importantly, this thing serves as a deep and engaging evangelistic tool. It's huge, but it gets attention. And it's so beautifully designed without losing any of the deep evidence it carries throughout... this is a dream product to get to be a part of.

You can order the print edition of Resurrection iWitness from Amazon or Barnes & Noble today.

 

Reading Len Sweet's Viral: Part 5

As you dive deeper into Leonard Sweet's Viral, it's clear that he begins to trust you with his deeper thoughts. The connections to his acronym of TGiF get looser, but the metaphors get richer. It's as if he's thinking: you stuck with me this far, lets get past the flavor and into the meat.

In these two chapters, Sweet is at his best, interweaving theological understanding, describing cultural change, and giving historical anectdotes to enrich the reader's understanding. In short, I simply cannot do justice to describing these chapters. Who else could manage to make a connection to the technological "cloud" that's all the buzz and the theological cloud of witnesses?

This section is quote hard to cover, because it is solidly built upon having been on an intellectual journey with Len as he's gotten here. In short, the idea here is that we are becoming a fully connected community through social meda, like Facebook. Connections are no longer hierarchal - believers can choose to spread the Gospel together or they can choose to disect theology in order to prove their superior ideology. Connections can lead to real relationships, fostering discipleship and trust, or they can just become stagnant acknowlegement of each other's existense.

And every day, in every way, the world is changing. It's our choice if we utilize these tools to grow closer or build barriers. Of course, that's just my summarization; there is so much more richness here that you truly need to taste for yourself.

Words I underlined from this section:

- Long before The Cloud was even imagined, we were given cloud power. It's called the "great cloud of witnesses," the "communion of saints," the solidarity of souls, the wisdom of ancients.

- How many fires will you kindle today with the flint of faith? How many will you douse with a wet blanket of reluctance and dead doctrine?

- Perhaps we need a mercy default where we cringe when criticizing others, where we get quickly tired of finding fault, and where we focus more on what we can learn from people we disgree with than what divides us.

- It is hard to see how anyone can stir up a spiritual firestorm in the culture without being struck by bolts of Facebook ligtning. Can you imagine doing ministry the last five hundred years and getting with "Sorry, I don't do books"? Can you imagine doing ministry in the next five years and getting away with "Sorry, I don't do Facebook"?

- In a Facebook world full of social friends, maybe we need face-to-face personal friends all the more, not less. Maybe the more we use Facebook, the more we hunger for face time and even in-your-face connections.

- Jesus's life illustrates that the sweet spot is not in the middle, but in holding both extremes together. The goal is not to balance competing opposites, but to make opposites dance with one another.

- Ideas - especially contrasting ones - apper in several places at once. They're in the air and they breed virally. The key is to create a feedback loop that can shape their development.

- The democratic notion that every person is born with common sense that can be trust and put to use is of relatively recent vintage. in fact, the notion of individual common sense is dependent on the acceptance of the concept of "individuals" existing.

- If the unit of the premodern world was the family, and the unit of the Gutenberg world was the individual, the unit of the TGIF world is the network. At ist best, this means a rediscovery of our being-in-common, the sense of the village square or town commons.

- We had a dry well not because the was no water, but beacuse the water had not been drawn.

How to perform a hard reset on your PlayStation Vita

If you're like me, you were super excited to open up your new PlayStation Vita, crack open a new title, and never stop playing.

Of course, things happen that get in the way. Like not being able to get past the AT&T setup screen. And you device just sits there, bricked. I couldn't even turn it off - nothing responded. So, my first hour or so with the PS Vita was all about troubeshooting the device, trying to get it fixed.

Here's how to perform a hard reset on your PlayStaion Vita:

1) Plug the Vita into the power charger (not a computer or PS3, it must be the power adaptor).

2) Hold down the power button for a full 15 seconds. Your PS Vita will now shut off, and you can reset it as you need!

Just a little PSA from me to you!

My PlayStation Vita Hill Social Club visit in NYC

Today I got to visit the PlayStation Vita Hill Social Club here in NYC. And I know it's just marketing, but I'm happy to see Sony doing things right. I'll admit... what they're doing is incredibly expensive. And risky. But... it was incredible. The device was nice. Getting to play the games early was cool. And the environment is exactly what every guy wants his man cave to look like.

There are eight Vita Hill Social Clubs around the United States: click here to check if there's one near you. It's basically a nice little set up with PS Vitas and PS3s set up all around the room. When you get there you register for a chance to win a Vita (I think they're giving away one per day), and then you go play. No sales pressure (though, of course, you can preorder one from them... it looked like Best Buy was handling the transaction). Stay until they close, and they offer you free drinks and snacks.

I was ony there for about an hour, but while I was there a few adults came and went, but most of the visitors were kids... I'm guessing early teens. But, here's where everything got a touch intense for me:

It was clear to me that the star of this particular Vita Hill wasn't the PS Vitas. Yes, the kids were playing the games. Yes, people were getting to experience the system's new features (still love the touchscreen on the back). The star here was an employee named Roy.

Roy knew the kids names, and they new him. Roy was the first stranger I've met that could instantly keep up with me in a conversation about gaming. Roy talked about the PlayStation brand not as a money-making business, but as a genuine way to build community - and communities.

We had to ride the subway to get to the locale (my first time on a NYC subway!). It's a full 3 miles from Times Square. I really have no idea where we were... so I asked why they chose this location. Roy told me that they could have been closer to Broadway, but that would have been too touristy, and that's not what they wanted. They genuinely wanted to create community, a place where people would come once and then come a second time and bring friends. And, because they had someone like Roy working there... even within one hour... I could see that it worked.

I know this sounds crazy, but somehow by creating an innovative and incredibly expensive marketing project of setting up social clubs across that country, Sony has managed to be a positive influence in this New York communities. I dont know a thing about the neighborhood, but I know I saw kids playing and enjoying life together in a non-destructive way. They weren't on the streets, they weren't getting into trouble. They were just hanging out.

I left that place not simply excited for the Vita that would be shipping soon to my house, but excited about the very idea and concept of a Vita Social Club. Excited that Sony wasn't just investing in creating a brand, but in building communities.

It does make me wonder what the world would look like if more giant corporations invested in creating and developing community for our kids. And it makes me wonder what it would be like if there were more people in the world like Roy, who clearly loved his job, loved his company, and loved being friendly and helping create community. We need more Vita Hills and more Roys in this world.

Sony, you've got the attention of an XBOX fanboy. Keep working it.

P.S. If anyone from Sony ever reads this, hire Roy full time in your marketing/social media department. He's making a difference for your brand that is unmeasurable.

 

Reading Len Sweet's Viral: Part 4

The worst thing about this section can be summed up very easily: way too short.

It's so short that I almost don't want to get too deep into it, because I'd rather you just read it. Ironically, this section was also jard for me to pull quotes from, because the section is dependant upon the reader following Len's train of throught. If I were involved in Len's publishing plans, I would release this section as a stand alone ebook; it's the right size for a little short, effectively communicates his idea, and is a message that desperately needs to be heard.

This is the "I" in TGiF: the i stands for iPhone. You can tell that Len had a passionate message to get to here, because he almost completely jumps over the connection to Apple, the tech company. There is a ton that he could have done to set up the technology side of this section, but he didn't really need to. In effect, it's almost like this:

We all know Apple got it right. And we all know how they did it. Great, let's go with that and move on to the deep stuff.

Just as this whole section completely resonates with me, it may be the hardest for people that are struggling with the digital change to get through. A quote from the section:

- We have forgotten that autobiography is a nineteenth-century term. Earlier centuries were not preoccupied with individuality or interior life. When they told life stories, it was not to explore their selfhood but for didactic or propaedeutic purposes

Too easily and quickly, our culture tends to think that the way things are is the way they have always been. Culture is evolving so quickly now that we forget things are new. We forget that there was a time before cell phones. That there was a time color tv. Seriously... that concept just sounds like a fantasy land to me. My mind has almost completely erased the idea of having to watch TV at a specific time... I got my first TiVo in college and with the advent of Netflix and Hulu, I can't imagine making a schedule around when TV shows air.

Len is going way back with this quote, that autobiography is a new term. Even newer is the concept of churches having business meetings. That's the thing that blows my mind... something that was so integral to my home church was really something new created because the "leaders" of the modern church were often businessmen... since, you know, being in charge of a business in the secular world meant you'd make a good leader in the church world. But I digress...

In short, Len's message is this:

We need to stop slicing and dicing the message of the Gospel. Instead of inspecting and tearing about detail by detail, we need to take the message whole. We need to approach God, faith, and the Scriptures as an apple, bite into it whole.

Use caution when reading this chapter. It will disrupt you. It will cause you to think. And then maybe you can take a big bite.

Things I underlined this time:

- In fact, cell-phone technology has played a major role in reducing the number people who live on less than a dollar a day from 29 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2004.

- Almost one-third of entertainment dollars are spent on video games.

- For the last two decades, when more people were playing increasingly violent video games, violent crime in USAmerica and the European Union decilined, in contrast to what the critics predicted.

- Gamers don't procrastinate and overplan before they go on a "world saving mission."

- Dedicated Apple users have brain activity that mimics that of religious piety.

- Even the Bible got partitioned and became a sum of its chapters and verses, not the summit of experiences and relations between its stories and songs, histories, and letters.

- In a holistic and imaginative reading of the Scriptures, surprising interconnections and unexpected parallels are constantly being discovered. You miss those insights and connections when you piece out the Bible as if you were seperating an orange.

- Albert Einstein liked to say that if you can't solve a problem, make it bigger, not smaller.

- We cut it up into manageable bites called chapter and verse, and this became the alien template on which we feasted on the Word. But the Bible wasn't written in chapters and verses.

- The whole brained life has its challenges and challengers. But if you want the whole Truth, you invest in it, no matter the cost. Lifting up mere truths can kill the spirit. But lifting up of Truth draws us to God and gives life to the soul.

- My burden in this book is for Gutenbergers to release the reins of power so that Googlers will not be forced to find God outside the orange world of partitioned faith. It is time to unite the two so long divided - for oranage to be wed with apple.

How the PS Vita is changing my perception about the Playstation 3

So... I spend about 95% of my gaming time on the XBOX 360. I own a PS3 for the key games that are creative and exxclusive (LittleBigPlanet), but for the most part my decacto gaming system in the XBOX. Whenever there is a game I'm intereted in that's out on both systems, there's no question that I'm going to buy the XBOX 360 version.

Today, I realized that all changed.

Gotham City Imposters is a fun little game that you can download and do battles while dressing up as Batman or the Joker. It's out on XBOX and PS3. But, next week... I get the PS Vita.

The PS Vita and the PS3 will be able to talk to each other. If you own the same game on the console and on the mobile, for select games you'll be able to pick up and play the same game save on both devices. There will be games that allow the PS Vita to play against tPS3 players online. This is the gaming connectivity I've been hoping for between the XBOX 360 and WIndows Phone 7.... but I've had my phone for over a year and the closes we've gotten is scanning animal tags for Kinectimals.

Here's the crazy thing for me and my buying habits: there is no announced Gotham City Imposters for the PS Vita yet. It may or may not ever come out. But the fact that it might come... that alone give me pause. A few weeks ago, I wouldn't have given any consideration to buying the game on the PS3. To be honest, I likely wouldn't have turned my PS3 on. But now..?

I've been told I'm not the typical customer for anything; that I'm a bleeding edge customer. An early adopter. I don't think that's really true... I think I just know enough to know what to expect out of the companies I give my money and entertainment sense to. So for there to be this dramatic shift in my thinking tells me that Sony is on to something here.

Tonight, I played the Gotham City Imposters demo on the XBOX. But for the first time since I ever got the PS3, I was actually wondering how it would play on the PS3. Could I talk any of my friends into getting it on that system? Which friends list has more people that would play this game with me?

I honestly don't think I have ever considered that before.

Sony - you're doing some things right for once. You're creating community. The Vita is the device that will keep me connected and interested in your wares. Go deep with the integration. Find me some new experiences that I can only have in your ecosystem. You've got my attention.

Don't screw it up.

A first look at Kinect for Windows

Today, my Kinect for Windows device finally came in the mail - hooray! There's nothing quite like getting a device that you simply know will change the world showing up at your doorstep.

Kinect for Windows is a slightly altered device from the Kinect for Xbox. All I know about the differences are:

1) My Xbox's Kinect says XBOX 360 on the front of it, but my Kinect for Windows device says KINECT on the front of it

2) The Kinect for Windows device has an improved firmware, which allows for "Near Mode." Now, to be honest, when I first ordered the new device I was expecting that near mode meant there was going to be a cooler, better lens in the device. Turns out that's not the case... it's just an improved firmware. It's truly amazing what those Microsoft guys can do via code.

So, should you rush out and buy a Kinect for Windows..? In short... no. This device is in limited supply, for a very good reason. There's nothing to really do with it right now except develop software. That's right... there's no apps out yet that I can find. Nothing from Microsoft. And the box doesn't even come with a disk; the only thing you can do right now is download the SDK. And if you're not a developer type... well, you'll have a cool looking device from the future. But there's no real use for it right now.

However, and this is just me taking a wild stab in the dark, Microsoft has gotten really good at supporting developers early so that when things are ready (i.e. Windows 8), there will be software and tools out there for consumer to use.

My hunch is that Windows 8 will fully support the Kinect for Windows device. And when it does, develoers will have had a device sitting on their desktops for months, ready to unleash all kinds of awesome to the unassuming public.

That's my hunch... and my hope. Can't wait to see it come true!

Learn more about developing for the device via KinectForWindows.com. You can order your own magical bar of awesome from the future via Amazon.

Books of Magic: How Timothy Hunter helped change my life

Inspiriation can come in many forms. A few years ago while at a comic convention, I was able to snag an original page from a comic I read growing up, Books of Magic.

Being able to purchase this page was like stiking gold for me... because I distinctly remembered it.

Now, to be fair, a mind raised on comic books is a unique mind indeed. My brain is trained for long, but constantly shifting narratives. If you were to ask me tomorrow what happened in a comic book I read last week, I would have an incredibly hard time tell you anything... even to the point of not knowing exactly what books I read, let alone what happened in them. The moment I pick up a new issue, however, I know exactly what happened last month. And all the 20 years of history that's in my head since I've been reading.

So, seeing this page... instantly I knew the gist of the story. But more important was something that, admittedly, doesn't happen nearly enough for me: I felt (and still feel) a deep emotional tie to this specific page.

I remember being 16 and this page literally changing my life.

Being 16 means going through the whole puberty thing. Dealing with emotions and sexual awareness. And dating. And when you grew up as the chubby kid, you end up thinking that there is no greater feeling than having a girl like your body enough to want to make out. And, thus, you quickly equate making out with self worth.

So when you're reading a comic book and the hero, Tim Hunter, is going through puberty and relationships just like you... and you're sad because he isn't with the one he's supposed to be with...

But then Tim reconnects with Leah. A succubus. A girl whose entire existence is to entice mean with sexuality. For a teenage boy? Seeing his hero Timothy Hunter get a chance with the hot girl, the popular girl, the one you know would be fun to make out with... I have to admit. In my head, at that age of 16, I couldn't wait to see what would happen.

And then I read this page.

From this page, from Tim's journal:

Leah just kissed me again. I don't think she meant anything by it. She was just trying to cause an accident. It must not be easy, being a girl and a succubus at the same time.

She still wears the same perfume. If it is perfume, and not just her. Maybe succubi don't have to wear perfume, they just make you dizzy naturally... Or supernaturally. I don't know. Whatever.

Molly doesn't wear perfume.

I still remember the feeling, the emotion: caught. Here I was, excited for Tim's new romance. Excited to see the hot, sexy girl walk into this narrative. But in that moment, with those four words came a surprising amount of emotional weight for me.

Molly doesn't wear perfume.

It's not about the glitz, the glamour, the short skirts, the sway of the hips or the perfume. It's about love. And even there, sitting next to her... my hero knew who he truly loved. I already knew all that. I already knew to look for love, not sex. But seeing this finctional hero of mine struggle through it all too... somehow it gave me the courage I needed at the age of 16.

Changed my life, this page did.

Begin reading Tim's story with the first volume of Books of Magic.

 

 

An uneven playing field in the Apple iOS App Store

Eaerlier tonight, my friend Antoine (a great guy who has a passion for spreading the Gospel via mobile devices) and one of the patriarchs of Christian computer, Kevin, had a brief exchange on twitter:

 RT : to all my bible app dev friends, please tell me u dont do this //I wouldn't be surprised;

https://twitter.com/#!/mobileminmag/status/166719391889768448

The article Kevin linked to is about a company who sells services to have bots (i.e. not real people, just programmed computers), go through and download your app in iTunes.

I don't think that any of my peers in the business would ever stoop to such schenanigans. One of the things that I have loved about working in the Christian tech industry is that, ultimately, we all have the same goal: to help speard the Gospel and offer resources that might help disciple the Church. We all have different ways of marketing and innovating and - as such - we get to reach a larger audience.

For some, setting up an agreement with someone to ensure you're going to get into the top 25 apps makes total sense and is a marketing strategy. And, to be honest, it's a very successful one.

There are so many apps out there now that finding a way to get people to even know you're out there is nigh impossible. Even with all the marketing we do for MyStudyBible.com, in the past week I've mentioned our mobile site to a few different Christian techies... and they had no clue it even existed (feel free to visit it on your phone now at MyStudyBible.com or, if you have an HTML5 compatible browser, on your desktop at MyStudyBible.com/mobile). The simple fact of the matter is, getting people to even know you exist is getting harder and harder.

But getting into that cherished Top 25 list... well, that's magic. It propels you to success, just in the same way that if you can crack the New York Times bestseller's list, magical things suddenly happen. Very few get to rise to that top position in their respective categories... it's a great feeling when you do.

The allure - and potential profit - is simply to great to ignore for some people. And, when you consider that this is for free apps, which are usually just marketing vessels for some transaction anyways... it would make sense for people to game the system in order to get their apps up there.

This issue brings into play so many issues and ideas around the app marketplace. Its a reminder of how young and immature this market really is... and how many issues Apple has no real need to fix since they have been king of the hill since the day they struck gold with the iPhone.

As a consumer, I hate being tricked that the supposed "best" apps were nothing more than paid placement. If I was Apple, I would be livid that apps which weren't good enough to peak on their own became the supposed "top" apps their platform had to offer. And as a developer, I am so frustrated that there isn't any legit way to get my wares an ad placement or sponsored status in their store.

Does this mean the model of the best-of-the-best rising to the top is broken? I don't think so. It just means that someone gamed the system. Here's to hoping that Apple makes it an even playing field for us all once again.

Reading Leonard Sweet's Viral: Part 3

As I've been reading Leonard Sweet's Viral, I've also been reading In the Plex, which is basically a history of Google. So, coming to the Google section, I was eager to see how Len would handle Google's place in the spiritual world.

I think I struggled with this section because much of it crafted as a warning for us digital natives. And, of course, being who I am I naturally rebel. I want to shout out "but look at all the good things! Look what Google can do for us!"

A, literally, life-changing quote from a different book, "Made to Stick," by Chip Heath and Dan Heath:

...imagine what it’s like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song. This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.
 
I think this section would have benefitted from presuming that people didn't already see the great things Google can do for the Church. The shift from Twitter being such a blessing for the Kingdom to two chapters on the blind spots that us digital natives need to watch out for was a bit stark. Sometimes, it what seems obvious to us may be an undiscovered country for others. Len's message in this section is essential, and true, and challenging to me. But, in truth, I would have loved to see him come back with some thoughts on what can the church do now, now that it has a world of information a few keywords away.
 
That being said...
 
Wow. Len nails it with the potential blind spots. The core message here is that we need to embrace images and emotions, not rely soley on facts and figures. My favorite quote from the book so far is in this chapter:
 
- The Bible is not a text but a telling, a series of diviine stores enriched by one another and reborn when they are retold.
 
That's the Bible that I read, the discoveries I love to connect. Whenever I teach the Word, I find that the most memorable and applicable moments are when new connections are made in scripture. That is just one of the many reasons living in a Google age can be so powerful for the church... we have the ability to discover connections like never before (cue plug for MyStudyBible.com, a project I work on, where we're able to automatically feed information relevant to whatever verse you're reading).
 
This section ends with an passionate - borderling desperate (in a good way!) - please for Googlers/digital natives to embrace poetry. Not to just read and study it... but to have it written on our hearts and minds. To have poetry be a part of our vernacular. Being a digital native, I know what the problem is. We don't memorize... we don't need to. Because of Google, everything is a search bar away. And that's the problem, one that Len accurately articulates.
 
Poetry is the antidote to search term knowledge. Poetry is the one thing that a search engine can't help us understand better; poetry requires a life engine. It requires heart ache and joy and color and breathe and silence. Poetry neccessitates heart, the one thing that Google's millions of servers will never have.
 
Len is right to warn us: digital natives, we must not lose story or images or life. We must not lose heart if we want to share the Good News of love. Or, even more so, if we want to love. Google's serach engine simply won't help there. As Len says:
 
- Google nudges me to see the flame where I'd oterh wise be blind even to the glow.
 
Google helps us in all manner or ways... but we still are ones who bring the passion and the faith. And the story.
 
A few other quotes I underlined from this section:
 
- In the postmodern erea, there is no debate about the name of the world's unrivaled know-it-all: it's Google.
 
- [Googlers] are not idle dreamers; they act on visions and turn ideas and possibilities into reality.
 
- The way forward is less one of daisy-strewn paths of scientific progress than tempting paths of pathologies masquerading as "Way forward" and road-bombs of ruin lurking aroud every turn.
 
- The great god Google is not God. But Google may very well be consulted as much as the gods were in premodern times.
 
- We've come a long wasy from the days of Duke Humfry, who donated more than five hundred books to Oxford University between 1439 and 1444. Oxford fixed each book in place by chains, so valuable was each volume.
 
- Jesus is all about metahpor and sotry, not a list or a formula. Think about his teaching method. He used metaphors, paradox, parables, and stories, and - at times - even seeming nonsense to convery the deepest and most precious trusts ever communicataed. And not just a couple of times, as if by accident, but time and again.
 
- It would be like asking Emily Dickinson to write an instruction manual for assembling a bicycle.
 
- Jesus was crucified not for being a bad theologian, but for being a compelling communicator of God's kingdom and extremely good at telling stories that subverted establishment law and order.
 
- To read the Bible for knowledge is tiresome. To read the Bible as docudrama is boring. To read the Bible as a book of rules is deadening. But to read the Bible as a love letter from a Friend, and to meet that Friend in the text of Scripture, is to pack your bags for a lifelong journey.
 
- Jesus is interactive. If he is just talking to himself, what's the point?
 
- The problem with some of the people who most strenuously defend the Bible's honor is that they never really "read" it. Instead, the reference it.
 
- Googlers can't just sit there and read or watch. They are wired to participate: tweet, blog, post, text, twitpic, and a lot more.
 
- What happens when we focus more on the properties and principles of religion than the poetry of religion?
 
- The more our home pages keep us up-to-the-second on what is happening, and our pundits and blogs keep us up-to-date on what officially happened, the more we need to be poets. It is poetry that tells us what actually happened or what ought to have happened.
 
- The more we read words and then throw away what we read like peanut shells, the more we need to be poets.
 
- In fact, the Vietnamese and Chinese have the same proverb that makes an appeal to poetry as the final authority: "And there's a poem to prove it too."
 

When is it ok for your spouse to sleep with someone else?

It was the closing question a few weeks ago, when hanging out with friends:

"When is it ok for your spouse to sleep with someone else?"

Having had an hour of discussion on the topic already, we all knew the answer. The question, by that time, had become rehtorical. But in that turn of phrase, everything we had just talked about became more real. Sometimes, we have to say the words, verbalize the thoughts, and put things into their proper context in order to really grasp the truth inherant in a situation.

So... when is it ok for your spouse to sleep with someone else?

You see, our group had been discussion the lives of Abram and Sarai, two key figures in the Jewish and Christain faith. Abram could be famous for any number of things: for having his own elite fighting force, for being the first recorded circumcision, or for having the intestinal fortitude to negotiate with God. But Abram is most famous for being the father of the Israelite nation, with offspring as numerous as the sand in the desert.

(silly YouTube video for humor's sake... because this post gets pretty serious.)

In the book of Genesis, we start Abram's story at the age of 75. From the beginning, God directly communicates with Abram and tells him he will make a nation from Abram and that Abram's offspring will inherit land. In other words, even though he didn't have any children yet, he was going to have some.

In Genesis 11:17 we get introduced to Abram. 15 verses lates, he is travelling to Egypt with his wife, Sarai - who at this time was 66. And here is where it gets weird. Abram think that his 66 year old wife is so smoking hot that when the Egyptians see her, they will kill him to take her. So he decides to tell them she is his sister, and leave out the whole "wife" thing.

12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me but let you live. [Genesis 12:12 HCSB] http://msb.to/Gn12:12

So, because she isn't married, the Egyptians take her to Pharoh. Where she becomes a part of his harem. And Pharoh liked her so much, that he gave Abramn donkeys, slaves, and camels.

Now... I get it. I didn't live back them. I'm not a big giant scholar and don't fully understand what all is going on here. But I find it hard to believe that this sort of thing was (a) acceptable or (b) made Sarai happy. I really don't think my wife would be very happy if I said:

"Hey Ashley... you are so beautiful that men are going to kill me to get you. So instead, let's pretend we're not married and I'll take a bunch of gifts in exchange for you sleeping in another man's household.."

Of course, Pharoh gave Sarai back to Abram after he figured it all out, and our story continues. God tells Abram he'll have offspring twice more. But Sarai isn't getting any younger... and tell Abram to sleep with her slave, Hagar, so that she can give him a son.

I mean, really, there's got to be something going on here culturally that just doesn't click with me. I guess this was just ok back then. And she does get pregnant.

Fast forward another 13 years, and Abram is now 99. God renames him Abraham, and renames Sarai to Sarah. And God must have been a bit frustrated, because this time He gets very specific:

15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name. 16 I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” [Genesis 17:15-16 HCSB] http://msb.to/Gn17:15

And guess what happens, a few verses later?

1 From there Abraham traveled to the region of the •Negev and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he lived in Gerar, 2 Abraham said about his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar had Sarah brought to him. [Genesis 20:1-2 HCSB] http://msb.to/Gn20:1

Again, Abraham!?! By this time in our group's discussion, I think we all had lost it. Emotionally, walking the lives of these characters, everything simply had to be a wreck. To be so close with God that He literally swings by to say hello while he's on his way to destroy a few towns, yet so far from understanding the plan God has.

I mean... yes, hindsight is 20/20. We know the end of the story, so we can look and tell Abraham to just hold on! God said he's going to give you offspring from Sarah - He said so in direct communication with you! It's kind of not possible for that to happen if you're dead... so you don't have to offer your somking hot 90 year old wife to a stranger you just met.

I really, really hope that Sarah's love language was a strong "words of affirmation." I mean, clearly, Abraham thought she was just something else in the looks department and had a strange way of telling her so.

At the age of 90, Sarah gets pregnant from Abraham, and their son's name is Isaac. And from there the story goes on to the building of the Jewish race, Abraham's many sons.

But what a way to get there. God constantly communicating with you to trust Him - that He has a plan to make a whole nation from your offspring. Yet being so scared for your own life that you would rather avoid an awkard (and, sure, potentially dangerous) situation by thinking that letting your spouse sleep with a stranger is the answer.

Let's be clear: letting your spouse sleep with someone else is not a good idea. In this story, it results in plagues and barren wombs.

To be so close to God's plan for your life... but to bumbling around in fear, misunderstanding, disappointment... whatever it was that Abraham was going though. It was mind boggling to us. We are so often completely desparate for any kind of confirmation from God. We say we would be so dramatically changed if we heard just an audible whisper from God. One small token of affirmation.

And Abram, a man who got to have full conversations with God, thinks the best decision is to give his wife to other men. Sarah, a woman who got to have a full conversation with God, to laugh at his audacity to give her a child at such an old age, thought it best at one point to take matters into her own hands by trying to build Abram's lineage through her own slave.

Faith, no matter what proof or reassurance we have, still take faith.

So there we are in our little community group, having spent an hour talking about Abraham's life. We're talking about our lives, sharing how we can pray for one another. And one lady in our group mentions struggling with a decision - a decision that she feels confident God is pointing her in one specific direction.

"When is it ok for your spouse to sleep with someone else?"

When is it ok to ignore God's best? When is it ok with to take the safest road for yourself, no matter the real and long-term consquences? When is it ok take take matters into your own hands and try to make your own, misguided future?

But here's what I love about this story. Here is where I get so in awe of our God, so amazed by His love, and so humbled by how little grace I have to give out.

He still followed through with His promise. He still gave Abraham and Sarah a child, even after she laughed. Even after they tried to make their own way. Even after Abraham wanted safety.

God still loved. He made good on His promises. It's the only way He knows how to be.

And, just in case I didn't make it clear: it's not ok for your spouse to sleep with somone else. You already know that. It's not ok to sleep with someone who isn't your spouse. You already know that, too.

But there is a God who is full of grace. Know that, seek Him out. You'll be amazed at His love every single day.

Windows 8 could change desktop world

originally written for BP News

 

In the past few years, technology companies have moved to making big events out of product and feature announcements. Apple, Facebook, and Google all host major events -- often streamed online -- announcing new cool things. And most of the time, the never-before-seen products are "available today!" As such, it makes looking into the future of the technology and consumer electronics fields a bit of guesswork. If you have your finger on the pulse of what's going on you can make some educated guesses, but there is seldom an opportunity to look ahead and see what's really coming down the pike.

But 2012 is shaping up to be a bit different, as the major story of the year is already known: Microsoft will be releasing Windows 8. According to online stat tracking site Hitslink.com, in December 2011, 84.85 percent of all web traffic in the world came from a Windows Operating System (followed by 5.85 percent for Mac OSX and 4 percent for iOS#). No matter your preferred tech company of choice, when Microsoft introduces a new version of its operating system, we tech folk simply have to take note and see what the future holds for us in regards to what the common technology consumer will be using.

Microsoft is still holding many of the fine details about Windows 8 fairly secret, telling the story of the new features in a very controlled fashion. Last year Microsoft released a free developer preview of Windows 8, giving anyone who wanted one a chance to play with the new operating system. There is also a developer blog from Microsoft that has been trickling out information over time. So, is Windows 8 best for your church computers? Your home computers? Should you upgrade? Having gotten to play with the OS for a few months now, here are a few things you need to know about Windows 8 as you get ready for it:

1) Windows 8 is intentionally designed to be speedy and snappy. When I installed it on my five-year-old budget computer, I saw an amazing performance increase. What used to be a turn-on-the-computer-and-go-do-chores boot-up situation became a competition between Windows booting up and the monitor warming up. Literally, it would be at the sign-on screen before my monitor was ready to display it. You aren't going to have any problems running Windows 8.

2) If you want to experience the way the you will be interacting with Windows 8, give a Windows Phone or the XBOX 360 a trial run. Both are already using what Microsoft is calling the "Metro UI", consisting of constantly updated squares to launch apps and display information. It's as easy as it sounds. I've also installed Windows 8 on a tablet device, and the possibilities for this operating system to work smoothly on tablets is simply amazing. If Microsoft's hardware partners can get their tablets to a low enough price to compete with the iPad, it could be a very interesting holiday season this year.

3) Stop saying "software" and say hello to "apps." It appears that the aisle of boxed software in your local store may finally go away, as Microsoft will be pushing their Windows Marketplace. Just like Apple's App Store for Mac and iOS, developers will be able to use a digital store to distribute their apps to consumers. Simply click the button to buy, and it will start downloading.

4) Everything will be based on your Windows log-in. Just like if you sign in to Google Docs and all your settings are there, you will actually sign in to your Windows Live account when using Windows 8. You get to customize which settings carry over from device to device -- from simple things like display options and browser bookmarks to app settings and customizing your keyboard. In other words, if you want, every Windows 8 machine will be customized just the way you like it when you log in.

5) Microsoft is looking at all kinds of input supports. Of course there is the traditional mouse, keyboard and touch screen inputs, but there is a whole host of sensors that developers have access to for tablet devices. Microsoft recently talked about tablets being required to have an accelerometer, magnetometer and gyro sensor in the device. However, there will also be operating system level support for near-field communication devices, so you can do things like simply tap your credit card on the device to pay for things online. And, just this past week, there have been rumors of prototype devices with a Kinect sensor built in for voice control and body gestures.

Windows 8 is shaping up to be the big tech story of 2012. Of course, there may be plenty of announcements that Apple, Google, Facebook and the others are all holding on to, waiting for the right time to announce. No matter what, we've got a fun year of tech news and excitement ahead!

Questions - A Spoken Word

i am so good at asking questions
you see, my inquiring a bout the meaning
of things is just an expression
of my disbelief in things unseen.
i don't have all the answers and i
never will. Its just that every
thing you have said simply can't be true.
Some where there is a flaw. and well my
pride just can't take being wrong. So if he
is my God, won't he answer me too?

I need answers. Not just some kind of
blind faith to fol low. I need some thing
to cling to. An anchor. I need love.
I need to know i am loved. Some thing.
And He says i am loved but -- your closest
friends the ones who knew you best
abandoned you, denied you, left you to die.
How is that your kind of love? They chose
to deny you. And what does that say
was their devotion to you -- a lie?

I have so many questions for you.
Like how am i supposed to believe
that a young little girl knew how to
raise the one true God? How could she give
birth to the creator? What could she
teach the omniscient? How does any of
it make sense? And your first big sign was
to turn water to wine? I can't believe the small things...
Struggle with the love things.
And I need real answers because!

I am human. OK.
May be I don't need all the answers.
May be i just need to read some more.
But if I'm going to follow we're
going to have to get one thing clear.
There is one thing I will never
under stand. One thing that will never be
under stood. If i give up my fears
I follow you believe all you've done...
I still have this question: Why love me?

 

written for Mosaic Nashville

Reading Leonard Sweet's Viral: Part 2

I first joined Twitter on May 24th, 2007. According to Twopcharts, that puts me at ahead of 98.85% of all other users. However, I didn't really expect or plan on using it. Nope, I had thought the future of "micro-blogging" was Pownce. Which didn't even make it past December 2008.

So, a few years later, while having a meal with my wife and Leonard Sweet, we talked about Twitter being the modern village green. That, back the day, human lives would intersect while going about their daily business. That in the market square, doing life things, we would bump into each other and conversation - and life - would happen. And here, in 2012, chapter 5 of Len's new book, Viral, I get to see how one conversation helped change Len's outlook on Twitter, social media, and how it can be used to further the Kingdom.

The only problem I've had with the book so far is share awe and wonder; Len is literally writing a perfect book on how the spiritual, social, and ditial are colliding in our culture. And that, in doing so, we are better served to share the Gospel, follow Christ, and live as the Church.

So yeah, I'm loving this book. Some day we'll look back and think... really? We need a book for that? To tell us all these very basic things - that using social media to foster community actually needed to be thought about? But until that day, this book is desperately needed by the church.

Part 2 of the book is specifically about Twitter, the "T" in Len's TGIF. A few quotes from this section that resonated with me:

- Twitter's categorical imperative is one of follwership, not the fast track to leadership, which is so inherent in our culture. In Twitterdom, you are who you follow.

- For the last fifty years the church has made a fetish of a word that is hard to find even once in the New Testament ("leader") and has ignored a word that is found hundreds of times (mathetes or "follower," "disciple"). Leadership is, at best, a function. Follwership is an identity.

- Twitter is a daily reminder that events big and small don't rise and fall on leadership, but on follwership.

- If you can't say it in less than 140 characters, you can't say it in a way that can connect with a Google world. The first task of a missionary is to learn the language. No missionary has a future in missions who is clueless of the culture they're in.

- Retweeting Jesus is spreading the virus of the gospel.

- Twitter is made for hermits. It enables me to shut myself off without shutting anything or anybody out. It enables me to simulaneously give myself away and never stop hiding.

- In the future, the ultimate status will not be those who are famous, but those mysterious type who manage to maintain some anonymity and mystery.

- Twitter is my semiotics petri dish, my labratory for ministry, the place where I sink probes into the culture to find out what God is up to.

- This is the new scorecard for a TGIF world: not the power of your statistics, but the resonance of your story. Resonance is voice authenticated by lifestyle.

- Poet Samuel Butler (1612-1680) touted the ability to name a cat the tue test of the human imagination.

 

One of the amazing things about Len is how is writing style is perfectly suited for having a printed book in a Google world. As someone who works in the publishing world, there is a great mystery ahead as to what kinds of content people will or will not pay for, when there is so much good content available for free. The key is making long format text communicate not only meaningful and relevant ideas, but to do so in a way that both book readers and txters can engage with. I don't think I've ready any books in recent years that have more quoteable - or tweetable - phrases in them than this book.

Well done, Len.