XAG / The Redemption Project

Apprehensive? Not exactly

I've been reading Douglas Bass's blog, Apprehension, initially because his blogroll link to my blog showed up on my Technorati list.

It's been a pleasant surprise. Douglas is "assistant professor in the Graduate Programs in Software at the University of St. Thomas." I checked out the Certificate programs with some interest, and I found one that I would enjoy having, given the time. A task like that is indeed daunting, especially with my current full-time job and other life responsibilities. Plus, St. Paul is geographically distant (I didn't check on the distance learning option).

Douglas covers a range of topics, including computing (like the sudoku puzzle - neat!), Christianity, higher education, and combinations of the same. But, above all, the title and theme is "Apprehension," not the negative emotion, but that kind mentioned by Paul in Philippians 3:12-13:

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I will definitely be visiting again. You can check out Douglas's smooth-sounding voice in his podcast, "Belief Seeking Understanding." You can subscribe to his podcast here. You can subscribe to Apprehension here.

Contest for faith-based orgs

Contest for faith-based orgs. The Faith and Service Technical Education Network (FASTEN) is hosting a new contest for congregations and faith-based organizations. The “Partners in Transformation” awards program will give $5,000 to ten FBOs who bring about tangible, positive results for kids, families, or neighborhoods while working with groups outside the faith community (schools, police, HUD, Chamber of Commerce, etc.). FASTEN will publish a report highlighting the ten winning programs and distribute it to hundreds of private charitable foundations. Get your contest application here.... [World Magazine Blog]

Prayer Channel Request for Comment (RFC)

Hey, everybody! Er, um, that is, anybody?

I'm looking for some input on the Prayer Channel prayer request XML syndication format.

Glenn Slaven has already taken the lead with an initial suggestion. I added two cents worth.

Please leave a comment on the format, alternatives, or other collaboration ideas.

Congratulations Glenn, Mom, and heir

Glenn Slaven has an heir. He told me so when he apologized for his slow reply on one of the most personally meaningful threads that has been generated from blogs4God.com thus far. On a whim, I deleted my blog and reposted it on the techBlogs section, with Dean's blessing. As a result, I thanked him with some Amazon referral links and got mentioned. So Dean kindly gave me a front-page mention along with the promise of an autograph of the 'other book' that I will probably take him up on, especially if I'm ever in his neck of the woods. (I mean that Dean, really, if you don't mind, I'd love to visit some time.) As close as I could tell, Dean lives somewhere near the Redland Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland. But that's hard to tell given the ease with which a person can collaborate on a web project (like the USA-Austrailia connection mentioned in this post--read on!).

Somehow, in all of that hubbub, Glenn Slaven read my archives and contacted me with some real interest about the Prayer Channel idea that was buried in a long series of back links from my recent description of relisting on b4g. I was amazed at how God can use "whims and coincidences" when we're mourning over his invisible workings. You know, like "God, where are you?"

So, exactly nine months to the day from the Prayer Channel post (see the birth significance here?), Glenn contacted me with this (excerpted) statement:

I was wandering through your archives last week & came across your post 'A conversation at Dean' (http://www.xagronaut.com/categories/xagTheRedemptionProject/2003/02/16.html#a209) where you mentioned the concept of a Prayer Channel.

I was wondering if this idea had been taken any further? The reason I ask is because I think it's a brilliant idea & I've been toying around with some XML and PHP this weekend to see what I could come up with. It's all fairly simplistic at this point, but i've got the beginnings of an XML syntax: http://glenn.bluemountains.net.au/dev/prayer/xml.php?orgid=1

To be incredibly honest, I hadn't yet done anything further. I still had the domain name ready, but gasp!--I hadn't put up the first bit of content. And, yes, it still is only an index page with a link to the post on my weblog. Correction: I just updated the index page to link to some sample XML files that embody my exchanges with Glenn so far. I may also use Radio's category feature to create a custom blog for the site. Update: I did use Radio's category feature, and you can visit PrayerChannel.com to get the basic content now. There's some lag while Radio upstreams the new content, so please be patient and check back periodically over the next couple of days if there is a problem. I was getting a 403 error just a bit ago.

I appreciate Glenn's enthusiasm, initiative, and history. Glenn lives and works in Austrailia with Voice of the Martyrs, Austrailia, and other ministries.

He just emailed me apologizing for not replying quickly to my latest suggestion at revision. Something about "Yada, yada, yada...New baby...Yada, yada, yada." Dude, talk about "real life trumps blogging/coding/whatever!" I totally understand. Congratulations, Glenn, "Mom," and heir!

Thinking in Pivot Points and Pivot Portals

When thinking about the whole "six degrees of separation" and my imagined "evangelistic data conspiracy," I have often wondered what the application space looks like between a local web geek going to a local church and the mission field, both foreign and domestic. I have come to the conclusion that there is no single application that connects everyone from cushy suburbia (please forgive any generalizations about audience here--only wear the shoe if it fits) to Africa, Asia, the 10/40 window, etc., etc. Oh, and let's not forget our own back yard with homeless ministries, helping widows and children, visiting prisoners, helping those with disabilities, etc., etc.

So without being able to come up with a single application (other than your typical contact and appointment manager--yawn) that crosses all these boundaries, it does seem that some patterns exist. These patterns (not at all exhaustively listed here) can be observed, predicted, and leveraged in the march along the evangelistic journey.

Here they are:

  • People are generally tied to geography.
  • People in the same geography can still live in isolation.
  • Portals are web sites organized around a common theme that present many types of information in one place for the purpose at hand.
  • Every person has his or her own "context" which overlaps and inter-rotates with other contexts.
  • This inter-rotation can be seen as pivoting.
  • The focus of the pivoting could be thought of as a "pivot point."
  • A "pivot portal" (yes, I'm coining a term, here--cue the band) could be thought of as a website that focuses on key points of inter-rotation.
  • Websites, portals or otherwise, that focus on commonality, either through geography or other theme, can bring otherwise isolated people together, providing opportunities for who knows what? (Hopefully progress, right?).
  • Are you beginning to see a "pattern?"

    Here are a few "pivot points":

  • You (personal information, how you relate to your world)
  • Family (2.5 kids, a dog, and an SUV, again generalizing--sorry)
  • Church (Mean Dean Peters has plenty to say about this on a regular basis)
  • Trade organization (Not like the WTO, rather a group of people with a common occupation--the Greek word homotechnos, meaning "same trade" in Acts 18:3 might clue you in here.)
  • Geographic region (Neil Cox in Indianapolis with his neck-of-the-city-reaching-movement knows something about this)
  • Ministry focus (pastors, children's ministries, etc.)
  • You see the pattern? Any number of websites could be constructed to facilitate and improve communications in any of these areas.

    What are the obstacles?

  • Fragmentation (We work in isolation on identical goals only varying in result domains (read "places"))
  • Lack of real personal relationships (We're no longer impressed with just any .com that comes along, so let's start with real people we know and build our tools around the people we know.)
  • Lack of time (Mean Dean has addressed this as well)
  • Lack of knowledge (when people work in isolation, they fail to benefit from others' strengths and knowledge)
  • What's the solution?

  • Extend real relationships
  • End isolation by introducing our personal networks to each other (more "inter-rotation")
  • Look for patterns: application patterns, collaboration patterns.
  • Think in applications
  • Provide open reference implentations of pattern applications for adoption and/or imitation
  • Connect pattern applications at the edges (key phrase here--"open at the edges") by means of web services and data formats (i.e., XML)
  • Let the connections between the six-points-from-here-to-yonder remain in God's hands
  • So, Dean is still waiting for my audition. I'm working on that. I'm giving serious thought to the long-term lamenting about my unfulfilled intentions that have been recorded in my weblog for the last year+. Well, with God's help, I am committed to doing something about it. Even to the point of making it a priorty like never before. Ouch!

    Amen and Ouch both

    Words to live by:

    Paul brings the church back to reality by reminding them that Paul and Apollos are merely servants of the Lord who are fulfilling their responsibilities of Christian service. Paul was the planter and Apollos was the one who watered. Then Paul declares that God is the one who gives the growth. Resoundingly Paul trumpets the truth in verse 7: "I am nothing and Apollos is nothing. God is everything! He is the one who brings the growth!"

    It might be wise for every minister and every layperson to daily read these words and be reminded who is in charge.

    We are nothing, and God is everything. This work of the church is not about me; it's all about God and His Kingdom. My focus should be upon serving King Jesus. In order to do this successfully, I am going to have to get myself off the throne so that Christ may be glorified.

    More cool ministry ideas

    Thanks to Dean for mentioning this post about a cool ministry idea.  I can't take credit for the idea.  The only thing I can take credit for is posting it, which is pretty standard for bloggers anyway.

    The credit must go to the wonderful weblog called Kingdom Come.  It's slogan is "Exploring the Christian experience across continents and denominations."  I certainly identify with the title: it smacks of a longing for unity that reaches beyond labels and manmade traditions.  I hope to uncover more gems like this one as I read KC in the future.  You can subscribe to the RSS feed for the Kingdom Come weblog.

    While I'm posting about cool ministry ideas, Joni Eareckson Tada's ministry has created an outreach program called Wheels for the World that refurbishes wheelchairs for distribution to needful disabled persons around the globe, using the caring hands of prison inmates to do it.

    Heres a quote from another article about WFTW:

    RESTORATION: The second division of Wheels for the World is restoration. Searching for new and effective ways to restore wheelchairs is an on-going process. In 1996, the idea to use inmates to restore wheelchairs was suggested. In 1997, we opened our first wheelchair restoration center in a prison in Buena Vista, Colorado. Since that time, we have opened four other centers, two state run facilities and two in partnership with Corrections Corporation of America. This program has won praise from both the inmates and prison officials as contributing to the rehabilitation of prison inmates.

    How's that for cool?

    Cool ministry idea

    Australia: What if the prophecy is true?. We're putting together a mission team from our church to go to Mexico and build houses there. As a fundraiser, we decided to do a charity screening of The Matrix Reloaded, in co-operation with Greater Union Castle Hill. They have several packages available, based on the size of the cinema. [Kingdom Come]

    So, maybe there could be some controversy over movie choice for the less-than-open-minded, but as I see it, this is a very progressive idea that bridges modern culture with practical Christian outreach.  Kudos!

    Saving Face and Fixing The PA System (Can You Hear Me Now?)

    Thanks to Daniel at wyclif.net. for pointing out some broken links that I had on the home page.  And of course they would have to be links to my feature stories, the XAG principle and Techumenical Movement/ Evangelistic Serendipity.  Go figure.

    Daniel linked to a site called King's Meadow by Dr. George Grant lists some great scriptures in line with the XAG principle.
    "...every Christian is uniquely gifted to serve in the dispersal of grace and mercy to the whole of culture (1 Peter 4:10)."
    "It is the task of mature Christians in every vocation to train others around them—especially the coming generations—to do good works and to fulfill their unique callings with beauty, integrity, and passion (Ephesians 2; Titus 2)."

    Thanks for visiting, helping me save face, and adding my site to your "lollodex."  I hope it will be worth it at least for a while.

    Narnia and more

    As often happens, a Google search leads me into unexpected places.  While searching for a particular USA Today online article, I found another one entitled, "'Narnia' won't write off Christian values."  C.S. Lewis was "the 20th century's most revered Christian apologist" and authored other works such as The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity, a book that Chuck Colson credits as being influential in his conversion to Christ.

    "...in hindsight it becomes startlingly clear that this tweedy, pipe-smoking scholar was not only a clever author of children's tales and a keen apologist, but also a true prophet for our postmodern age. Lewis might seem an unlikely candidate for the role, not being a theologian but an English professor, and what's more, a convert late in life. What was it that made him such a keen observer of cultural and intellectual trends?

    "For me, the question has intense personal significance. Twenty-five years ago, my friend Tom Phillips read me "The Great Sin," a chapter in Lewis's Mere Christianity dealing with pride. The words pierced the heart of this White House hatchet man, and the book became instrumental in my conversion.

    "The ministry of Prison Fellowship is likewise indebted to Lewis."

    While the controversy and the article from USA Today are a bit dated (2001), the article does talk about the following important issues:

  • What makes "Christian" literature "Christian?"  The Chronicles of Narnia series is written in allegory, but contains a clear Christian message behind the story.
  • Should spin-offs of older classic works be produced?  If so, what responsibility is there to remain true to the original, both in style and in message?
  • Focus on the Family has recently announced the availability the of the Chronicles of Narnia in a dramatized audio form.  It will be available after April 15, 2003.

    A thorough list of C.S. Lewis' works on Amazon.com is available here.

    Syndicate content