With Confidence or Doubt?

Here I sit in a silent room of a nursing home. The sound of an oxygen machine humming behind my grandmother’s seat. She strokes my Grandpa’s hands ever so gently with more love today than when they were first married 66 years ago. Sixty-Six years – got that? 66 Years.

These are the final days of their marriage. Grandpa is in his last hours, possibly days. He never wanted it to end this way – in a nursing home. He always said that if he had to be put in a nursing home, he wanted a gun so that he could end it all. Thankfully we never gave him that gun and 4+ years after being admitted to the nursing home, that chapter is closing.

Also sitting here with us is my brother, Brian. We’ve been sharing memories most of the day. Memories of Grandpa’s stubborn nature. His compulsive neatness. The way he would wash paper plates before trashing them. His ability to fix just about anything. The TV he built (yes – BUILT) in 1977 after retiring from Ford Motor Company which still sits on the dresser in my Grandma’s room at home. The Grandfather Clock he built (yes – BUILT) still chimes in their living room. His quick temper that we now laugh about – Oh was he mad when we drove the pontoon boat over the dock at his summer home in Northern Michigan. His poor hearing – he always thought we were talking about him when he couldn’t hear us. Sometimes we were ūüėČ He loved bowling and golf. After moving to Florida, they purposefully moved to a retirement community with a golf course, bought a golf cart, and were VERY active within their community. They bowled 2-3 times per week on leagues.

When I retire, their lives are the model for my retirement. I don’t want to sit around and wither away – I want to be active and have a purpose in my retirement. Their purpose: Enjoy Life!

The coming moment is one that we all have been expecting for the last year or so. It just seems so surreal that the time is here. Hospice has been called. Relatives have been notified and now we wait.

The wait is hard – we don’t know when that moment will come. The wait is easy – we know that he will be in a much better place. The sadness we will experience is temporary. The memories are permanent.

That better place is really how I can be so comfortable. I’m not POSITIVE of his final destination – Heaven or Hell. (I am confident of mine) I’m not aware of a concrete, solid decision on his part to accept Jesus as his Savior. He grew up in church. He attended church. He served. BUT, those things do not assure you of eternal life.

In Luke 13, Jesus is asked if those who are saved will be few. Jesus answers in verse 24: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

You see – the way to have eternal life is simple and often times overcomplicated. The narrow door spoken of in Luke 13:24 is described in John 3:16. I know, I know, I know that this verse is used over and over again, but it speaks volumes: John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Did you get that? Believe. All you have to do is believe in Jesus and the mission he was sent to Earth to accomplish. That mission? To live a Holy and blameless life and then sacrifice that life upon a cross, taking on the sins of the world and then conquering death 3 days later by rising from the grave to ascend into Heaven where he now intercedes upon our behalf to the Father God. All you have to do is believe that. Period. Done. That is the narrow road.

Will you believe? How will your life end? WITH CONFIDENCE that you are heading to Heaven? Or WITH DOUBT, saying “I hope I’ve done everything I needed to do in order to get Heaven.”

Again I ask, how will your life end? With confidence or with doubt?

If It Seems Too Good To Be True – It Is!

With all of the excitement surrounding the release of Apple’s iPhone 4, April and I decided to sell our iPhones on Craig’s List in order to upgrade. ¬†I sold mine last Thursday for cash to a local buyer. ¬†April, on the other hand, received the following response from her Craig’s List Posting:

Hi, my name is Janet Romanowski and I would like to buy your iPhone.  I am currently at sea.  I will add $100 for shipping.  I am buying this for a Pastor in Nigeria.

Ok – so the whole Nigeria thing was kinda weird BUT being Christians, we thought, “Ok – let’s see where this goes” being that this is for a Pastor.¬† We responded and in follow up email we arranged for payment to be made via PayPal.¬† That’s when we got this email from “PayPal”.¬† It looks real enough, right?¬† Not so fast…

I’ve dealt with PayPal before but this was just too weird to be legit.

  1. The sending email wasn’t from PayPal.com
  2. The link they are asking us to go to ISN’T PayPal’s homepage
  3. There are WAY TOO MANY grammatical errors in this email for it to be coming from PayPal.
  4. Upon calling PayPal – They NEVER ask for a Shipping Number before money is made available in your account.
  5. Upon calling PayPal – there is no department in their organization named “PayPal Account Review Department”

Then we got this email:

You can’t see it here – but this email also came from a Non PayPay account.¬† There are also grammatical errors within the text at the bottom of the mail.¬† Also notice where they want me to send the Tracking Number for the shipment – it’s not to a PayPal account.

The next day we received this email:

While we were excited to help out a “Pastor” in Nigeria, things just didn’t add up.¬† Therefore, we decided just to let this one ride out and not respond.¬† Surprise, surprise, surprise… We haven’t heard from anyone since.

We’ve all heard this said before but I’m going to say it again: If it seems too good to be true, it is!

That being said, we still have an iPhone 3Gs for sale.¬† It has been upgraded to iOS4 and thus can’t be jail-broken or unlocked.¬† If you are interested in it, let me know.¬† If you dig around the blog, you’ll figure out how to contact me (Check out the About Me page).

I hope that this might save someone from getting scammed through Craigslist and PayPal.

Google Apps and Grace Family Church

As the I.T. Director for Grace Family Church, I am charged with determining the best path for us with regards to which technology best suits the needs of our vision, users, congregation, and budget.  Keeping that in mind, I began to look at our current email solution: Microsoft Exchange 2003.

Knowing that Microsoft recently released the 2010 version, immediately I saw we were behind in the technology. ¬†In researching the new version, I saw that the only option to run Exchange 2010 was on a 64-bit capable server. Hmmm… I didn’t have one of those, nor did I have a VT capable server on which I could run Exchange 2010 in a virtual server. ¬†That meant I would need to purchase a new server. ¬†I also would need to purchase all new licensing for Exchange 2010, including new Client Access Licenses. ¬†I know for a non-profit that the cost of the licensing is relatively nothing compared to the public sector, but it is a cost none the less.

Doing a little more research I found that Google gives the Education Edition of their Google Apps product FREE to non profits. ¬†Ok – that got my attention. ¬†What I also liked about Google Apps is that it runs in the “Cloud”. ¬†In other words, it is hosted on Google’s servers, not mine, and therefore reduces some of my day to day overhead. ¬†Since we already run our Church Management System, Fellowship One, in the Cloud, this seemed like a logical step to at least test Google Apps for Grace Family Church.

I am also a part of an close knit organization called The Church IT Roundtable (CITRT). ¬†This organization is made up of Church IT Professionals and volunteers who make up the IT Staff for their respective churches. ¬†On their Wiki Site is a page dedicated strictly to the discussion of Google Apps and it’s pros and cons. ¬†Check it out! By the way, ¬†if you do Church IT in any capacity, YOU NEED to be a part of this group – It’s a FREE and invaluable resource of friendship, advice, and professionalism! ¬†Check out the main page here.

Moving on, the decision was made to move forward with Google Apps. ¬†The setup process is extremely simple and Google even gives you a step by step tutorial within the management interface on how to set it up and get it working properly. ¬†I have been able to do ALL of the setup myself. ¬†Google provides excellent tools to assist you with the migration from Exchange to Google Apps.¬†¬†I am ¬†also using the Google Apps Migration Tool which makes moving users a piece of cake. ¬†The Google Apps Directory Sync Tool also makes it simple to keep your users sync’d between your Microsoft Active Directory and Google Apps. ¬†This blog post of mine explains how I use it and also how I was able to get user passwords to sync too.

What made this move good for us is that we were NOT using all of the features of Microsoft Exchange. ¬†Let me be clear also – Google Apps is not a Microsoft Exchange¬†equivalent. ¬†While I can see this happening in the future (Google is continually improving Google Apps), it’s just not a full replacement yet. ¬†For us the move made sense. ¬†For your church it may not.

What do I like so far?  These are just few things I like.

  1. Google Talk – This is Google’s Instant Messaging (IM) platform which allows for text, video, and voice chats. ¬†All of our users are now on the same IM platform.
  2. Google Sites РThis allows you to create simple websites that can be used for Intranet purposes or even Internet purposes.  I was able to quickly create a Google Apps Tutorial website for my users where they can quickly learn the ins and outs of using Google Apps.
  3. The Web Interface РWhile it may not be the prettiest screen to look at, the interface is extremely functional.  I LOVE the conversation view of email messages.  I am using the keyboard shortcuts to compose new messages, reply, and add labels to messages.
  4. Labels РThis is Google Apps version of Folders in Microsoft Exchange email.  The best part here is that you can easily apply multiple labels to an email message to make it easier to find later.
  5. Calendar – I’m finding the ability to overlay multiple calendars from different places over the top of my calendar extremely helpful. ¬†Calendars are also easily shared between users in order to make overlaying calendars possible.

Also – Google Apps might be a good solution for you if you need to provide email addresses to your volunteers but not give them access to your exchange server. ¬†You can setup your domain on Google apps but not “activate” it for email, docs, talk, etc. ¬†You then add a subdomain to your Google Apps installation where you would create user accounts for your volunteers at an address like stevew@volunteer.church.org. ¬†Just an idea…

Enough of my rambling – I hope you find some of this information helpful or at least somewhat informative. ¬†If you have questions, leave a comment – I’ll do my best to answer you through the comments (smart remarks are welcome too). ¬†Or if you’d like to converse in more depth over the phone, let me know!

LOST: Analyzing The Show

They’re all dead. The rest doesn’t matter.

Connecting with Others – Fellowship One Style

As I was sitting in our monthly Central Florida Fellowship One user group in January (yep – I’m very late in posting this), I was prompted to share what I felt is the meaning of “Fellowship One”.

Fellowship: community of interest.

As I sit in this room I am surrounded by other Fellowship One users, I’m noticing that we are a community of people who have a common interest with a goal of using Fellowship One within our individual ministries to further the cause of Christ.

One: of the same or having a single kind, nature, or condition.

We in this room are all in the same condition. ¬†We’re all saved by the Grace of Jesus Christ. ¬†Also, we are all users of the Church Management system Fellowship One.

Our user group comes together once a month to share, learn, encourage, and uplift one another within our “community of interest” where we are “of the same or having a single kind, nature or condition.”¬† In January we had 2 people from Warehouse 727 in attendance. ¬†They are a church of about 200 people in St. Petersburg, FL and have never really fully embraced Fellowship One and all that it can offer them.

The other churches represented all have a weekly attendance of 2,000 – 5,000 people and are pretty well entrenched in Fellowship One. ¬†What’s cool is that we were able to spend this time pouring our experiences, our findings, our struggles, our roadblocks with the Warehouse 727 crew. ¬†We helped them see that they can’t eat the proverbial elephant all in one bite but that they needed to take a step back and begin with the features that have the most impact on their Church body and then once that happens, they should can take their next “bite”.

Ministry can be a lonely world, and when you are a church of 200, it can be even harder because your resources are limited EXCEPT when you have a Fellowship One User Group at your beckoned call.  Warehouse 727 can now take advantage of the knowledge, experience, and expertise of those of us who have been there and done that so that as they grow, they are prepared to shepherd their people through the use of Fellowship One.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of hosting the Warehouse 727 folks on our campus so that we could further discuss Fellowship One and how it can be used as a ministry tool for them.¬† It’s exciting to share with others the benefits of Fellowship One and even more exciting to see the benefits that Warehouse 727 will reap for the Kingdom because of our time spent together .

That is Fellowship One.

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