Saturday Six-Pack (42)

Welcome to the weekend and to the Six-Pack. Below is the latest installment of best-of pieces I’ve recently read online. You know the routine: Most are faith-focused or ministry-minded; others are covered under the banner of who-knows-what!

If you need direction, begin with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move out from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) The Beauty of Ambiguity
Paul Young, author of “The Shack”, posted this on his blog five years ago. Today, I direct you that way.

2) What a Coffin Maker Can Teach Us (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Joel Miller posted in reference to a three-minute video, which features Marcus Daly reflecting on his work of coffin-making. There is something profound here that is worth your time.

3) Common Fault Lines in Maintaining an Evangelical Approach to Homosexuality (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
In this TGC piece, Kevin DeYoung attempts to identify some of the ways that Evangelicals get into trouble in their efforts to voice their views on homosexuality. I greatly appreciate the nuanced nature of this contribution.

4) Heaven is Real: A Doctor’s Experience with the Afterlife
In case this topic intrigues you but you’d prefer not to commit the hours necessary to read an entire book, Newsweek featured this piece on neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander and his remarkable account.

5) 13 Things Americans Do That the Rest of the World Finds Bizarre
Enjoy this piece (by Business Insider) sent to me by one of my American friends. Then create your own list of ones that weren‘t covered!

6) Leaving Westboro Baptist Church
A regular reader sent me this one–thanks Dave. Give a listen to this CBC interview of how two former members of the infamous church became friends with a prominent Jewish blogger via Twitter. No joke!

There you have it. May your weekend be full of awareness and enjoyment of the God who already fills it with Himself and every good thing.  Blessings on you, my friends.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff with a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]

Three iPhone Apps You Should Consider

The old adage encourages, “Shake what your mama gave you!”

Beyond the mamas and the shaking lies a sentiment about using what you are given.  But what if what has been given is not all that it could be?

This is the question for many iPhone owners: Which of those preloaded apps could be improved upon? Which upgrades are worth the change?

Here are three moves that I am glad I made:

1) Camera
One of the most significant upgrades from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S revolves around its photographic capabilities.  That said, why not push that progress even further?  My experience at trying to do this revolves around two apps:

This is one of the most highly-reviewed apps in both the official App Store and in other sources I have read.  One review I read said that Tap Tap Tap, the app’s developer is so skilled at advancing the photography of iDevices that Apple frequently incorporates their developments into later releases of their own stuff.  What’s that quote about that the highest form of flattery?

If you plan to use your phone for any form of image-capturing, spend the buck on this one.  Seven million people are already on the wagon!

Camera Awesome
If I didn’t already use Camera+, this would likely be my next choice.  For the cheapies out there, this one rings in at the optimal price of FREE.  I am not a huge fan of the generic “awesomize” feature, though if you are looking for a mindless way to improve most photos in a single click, this may meet your desire.  Something I DO like is that Camera Awesome allows you to toggle over to video mode, whereas my app of choice, Camera+, leaves you stuck in strictly-stills mode.

2) Calendar
Initially using the built-in Calendar on my 4S, I had no real issues with the app.  More than anything, it was the multitude of alternative calendar apps available that got me to wondering how many different ways there were to design a digital calendar.  Make no mistake, there are MANY, my friends!

After some online homework, I settled on Week Calendar, primarily because I agree with their premise that the primary look that most of use in day-timers or agendas is… wait for it… a WEEK.  Surprisingly, this feature is not available on many of the calendar apps.  With some minor tweaking of the settings, one can craft this app into exactly what you need to stay organized, without having any unnecessary features cluttering up the process.  I have continued to check out other apps but have settled quite happily on Week Calendar.

If you want other alternatives, you could start with investigating Calvetica Calendar or QuickCal Mobile, to name but two of the options out there.

3) Twitter
My Twitter frequency and  usage increased markedly when I purchased my iPhone.  For starters, Twitter is just a lot more enjoyable to use on my phone, so much so that I seldom even check it on my computer anymore.  A couple reasons come to mind: 1) I love being able to rifle through the latest tweets when I just have a minute or two to spare.  Those quick peeks, spread through the day, allow me to stay on top of the pile, quickly starring favourites for later, and never feeling much burden in the task of keeping up.  2) Tweetbot.

Like my journey with Calendar, I had no real beefs with the pre-loaded official Twitter app, aside from wanting the ability to schedule and disperse tweets over time.  The search for that feature led me to Tweetbot, which does NOT possess that feature at all!  (If Tweetbot ever adds the ability to schedule tweets, they will have perfected this creation.)  However, if there is a better app for my Twitter-life than Tweetbot, I have yet to find it.  The cheapskate in me balked at paying a couple bucks for an app to replace  the  free-and-not-obviously-flawed Twitter app.  The rest of me has never looked back since growing accustomed to the sleek design and smooth usability of Tweetbot.  If you’re looking to enhance your Twitter experience, join the Tweetbot team.  You will not be disappointed.

How about you?  Any “app upgrades” that you would deem most worthy?  Any moves you made that you ended up undoing afterward?

Comment below to share.  I would love to learn from you.


Saturday Six-Pack (1)

Welcome to the weekend, and thanks for spending some time “Wandering & Wondering”.

This is the inaugural “Saturday Six-Pack” post, an effort to share some of the best things I’ve read online from the past week or so.  Typically, these articles will be faith-focused or ministry-geared, but I reserve the right to live up to the “disorderly pile of who-knows-what” tagline at the top of this page!

In this edition:

1) Destruction: God’s Alien Work
Lisa Dye contributes this Lent devotional, focusing on the wrecking role of God’s work in our lives at times.  Creator?  Certainly.  Provider?  Sure.  Demolition foreman?  Sometimes.

2) Nostalgia: The Enemy of Faith
It’s one thing to value our past, in which we idealize memories and idolize heroes.  But Collin Hansen pushes us to take another look for the warts.  As an example, he provides this look at two recently released books, among the first scholarly treatments of great 20th-century evangelical leaders John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, wildly inspiring while being as imperfect as any of us.

3) The Intolerance of Tolerance
Is the tolerance that our society so values all that it’s cracked up to be?  Don Carson doesn’t think so.

4) How Do You Disciple New Believers?
For all the things involved in helping new Christians grow, Justin Buzzard says that we must get this part clear: “Discipleship is truth transferred through relationship.”

5) The State of the Church in Canada
The Gospel Coalition is holding a Canada Conference on this topic in late May.  While the event is being held nowhere near my home, this post contains information that will interest anyone working or worshiping in Canadian churches.

6) What People Gave Up for Lent 2012
Christianity Today offers this intriguing peek into this year’s Lent-related habits of Christians through some serious Twitter observation.  Somewhat serious, somewhat sarcastic, this short piece will cause a few smiles and a few shocks.

Have a great weekend, friends–renew yourself and reverence God.

Top Five Use-Everyday iPhone Apps

In my last post, I expressed my affection for my new iPhone.

Today I want to share five apps that I use every single day.  As far as this user is concerned, these are must-haves.

1) Things
This is the Cadillac of my app collection, costing me a whopping $10. That value, however, has been quickly returned.  Things, slick to operate and a pleasure to use, serves me multiple times per day as my daytimer, to-do list, project planner, and general note-taker.  It lends itself particularly well to anyone attempting to implement “Getting Things Done” order into their lives, though it is easily accessible for anyone unfamiliar with that particular system.

2) Evernote
This may be the most valuable, free app available anywhere.  As a note-taking and organizing system,  Evernote comes with nearly infinite possibilities.  If you have any need for “catching” information, sources, ideas from the vast flow of ideas that most of us live within, then Evernote is your tool.  Upon starting an account, one can feel overwhelmed at where to even begin.  But there are numerous great blogs on how to effectively use Evernote.  Several bouts of late-night reading have helped me hone my system to something quite usable.  As starting points of learning, you might be served well HERE or HERE or HERE.  As well, Evernote runs a blog that often contains helpful bits on how to best use their program.  If you want a steady stream of Evernote tidbits, follow @michaelhyatt on Twitter.  He’s been a great source in trying to craft a fruitful Evernote system.

The thing that truly sets Evernote apart is its search capabilities.  It’s one thing to have a giant bucket to collect things in; it is quite another to have the ability to locate a given “piece” with nothing more than a keyword or two.  Evernote provides this cataloging ability.  I’ve had Evernote on my computer for nearly a year, but teamed up with the iPhone’s camera and dictation capabilities, the chore of inputting such data, the essential first step to any collection system, just became a lot more fun and a lot more simple.

Evernote is quite simply one of the very best apps out there.  If you’re not already using it, you might be soon!

3) Twitter
I don’t know why, but I think keeping up on Twitter is just more fun on my iPhone than it ever was on my computer.  For that reason alone, this app gets frequent use.  In my exploration of the app world, I have researched a number of alternative options to the comes-with-the-phone Twitter app.  While intrigued by a few of them, I have yet to pull any triggers on paid apps.  If anyone out there has opinions on superior apps to Twitter’s own, I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

4) Buffer
Speaking of Twitter, this freebie can significantly enhance the tweeting experience. It allows you to schedule your tweets throughout the day, in an effort to avoid flooding your followers or to maximize prime times within your Twitter universe. There are limitations on what Buffer‘s free service can provide, so diehard tweeters may wish to explore the paid options.  But for some, myself included at the moment, this app is pretty sweet.  If you sensed a tone of hesitation in my previous sentence, it is because I am still exploring for any superior alternatives to Buffer, specifically more flexibility in number of tweet “slots” each day AND more freedom on the time selection process.

5) AppAdvice
When I first got my iPhone, I flipped through several months worth of MacWorld back issues at the library.  Much of that was in the quest to read app reviews and locate those that might be most useful to me.  For a couple bucks, I now have just such a resource, updated frequently, on my phone with me.  AppAdvice is a joy to the geek within me.  Some of you may wish to buy a coffee with your toonie, but me, I’ve got AppAdvice–a bargain for any app-freak.

What apps do you use everyday? 

Please add to my list by commenting below.  I’d love to learn more.