Monday, April 25, 2005

RSS Revisited

After my original post on RSS Feeds I've come across some more links and information which may help explain a bit more how this all works. One of the best descriptions comes from a blog I've been following for a few years now on how to heal a church Website. His description is pretty good, so heck out his article and Heal Your Church Web Site.

He references the United Church of Canada's description on RSS feeds, which is also a good place to start.

That's it, short and sweet today. But this is definitely worth looking into if you're having a hard time keeping up with all the blogs you try and follow.


Saturday, April 23, 2005

Green Day and My Chemical Romance

Last night I was blessed to go to a Green Day concert last night in Norfolk, VA. For those of you not familiar with the area, it's about 4 hours drive from where I live in Northern Virginia. Well, 4 hours give or take, since we did the trip each way in about 3 1/2 hours.

Anyway, I went down to Norfolk with three teenagers (Christine, Kim & Tina) who took the day off of school to go see the concert. We left about 1 pm and got to Norfolk about 4:20. Had an incident with a Shell store clerk (that's another story/tirade on people respecting others instead of making themselves and their companies look bad). Then drove around and checked out Norfolk. It's pretty nice, reminded me a lot of Baltimore.

Anyway, the concert was great but a bit loud. I am definitely getting old, my next concert I'll definitely be bringing ear plugs (unless it's a band concert at River Bend or something). The most interesting part to me was the opening band, My Chemical Romance. As Christine put it, they had a very limited vocabulary, every few words they threw in f*ck and f*ing. But one thing stuck with me which I really liked.

They first called out to all the girls in the audience, getting them to scream out proud. Then the lead singer said "If someone comes up to you before a concert that may look like us (but not be nearly as good dressers) and say they'll get you to a backstage party if you show them your [chest] (they used a more crass word) spit in their f*ing face and tell them they're f*ing a**holes, since you're worth far more than that!" I got to say, that along with some of the lyrics to their songs (what I could understand) really did move me. Here were guys playing to an audience of people from about 8 years old to 50 (seriously huge age range, but Green Day's been around for 14 years).

so, at the moment I'll close here. A whole lot happened and I could write tons. But I'll just save them for a couple different entries. At the moment the question I can ask is simply this:

We all have an impact on someone else's lives. Whether it is through parents leading our children, god-parents leading kids, aunts and uncles leading their nephews and nieces, leading lots of teenagers or most important, how we lead our friends. All conversations we have with others are our way of leading, even if you're leading by saying very little, you're still helping mold the relationship and communication.

So, my question for you is, how do you lead these others. Do you share the good things in your life with those around you? Do you lead these people toward God in your communications? You don't have to spout "God is great" in all your conversations. Sometimes leading people to God is as simple as not saying negative things about others. Sometimes it's just smiling at someone as you pass them in the hall.

How are you spreading god's message? I certainly hope I'm doing a decent job.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Why Church Is The Best

Lately I've been feeling kind of blah about life. Church has been good, not necessarily great but good. Work has been just ok, busy and fun, but it feels more and more like we're on a sinking ship. Rachel's amazing, but been fussy a bit lately as well. So, all in all life is good and kind of blah.

All that changed tonight. I was in a meeting at church (which was going far better than I'd expected) and got two phone calls which I couldn't answer. So, like nice people they left messages. A little while later I got an IM from some of the youth group members explaining the calls, that they were wishing me a happy anniversary (it's tomorrow, 3 years and going great).

Well, on the way home I was finally able to listen to the calls. I have to tell you, I was so happy and moved it actually brought tears to my eyes. Here's how it went (I wish I could record it), oh, and it's important to note I have the nickname of Bob for an unexplained reason with some youth group members:

Call number one at 7:44
Jessica: Hi Bob, it's Jessica. Um, I just wanted to wish you Happy Anniversary and, yeah. That's what I'm talking about tomorrow, Happy anniversary tomorrow. And, and here's Tegan.
Tegan: Hi Bob, Happy Anniversary tomorrow. Bye.
Liz: Hi Bob it's Liz, Happy Anniversary tomorrow, what they said. And that's it. Here's Bean.
Bean: Hi Bob, Bye Bob.
Liz: OK, Bye Bob, see you later.

And the second call at 7:45:
Taylor: Hi Bob, this is Taylor. And they all hung up so I gave you another message. Happy Anniversary tomorrow.
Margaret: I'm here too.
Taylor: And, and Margaret says hi. Ok, Happy Anniversary for tomorrow. Ok, bye.

I heard this, and all their excitement and everything just came through. Here's a room full of people I never would have met without church, friends who think about others' anniversaries and want to just let me know they're thinking of me and my family.

Just hearing this was amazing to me, and brightened my day and life. It's going to keep me smiling for quite a while. I mean, when's the last time 6 people all got on the phone together and called you to simply say "hi, we're all thinking of you. Congratulations for being who you are?" That doesn't even cover the friends at the meeting tonight who congratulated me and whom I just got to talk with.

Anyway, both of my tirades on fairness and entitlement have completely dropped from my mind. So, I'll have to get there some other time.

Tonight I'll simply pray you have friends who are as amazing as those I've made at church.


Friday, April 15, 2005

A New Template and Fairness

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see I changed my template. The other one just seemed kind of dark. I have a ton of others, but I'm giving this one a shot for now. Any thoughts?

And on fairness. I've been thinking about this lately, and am still thinking. So, we'll call it a teaser for when I come up with anything. Do you have any thoughts on being fair to others?


Thursday, April 14, 2005

What to Write, What to Write...

It's been a while since I've added a new post. That's actually for a few reasons. One was that I was sick over the past week. And for some reason everything I wrote just sounded incoherent or seemed to ramble. So I decided not to inflict my ramblings on others and kept pretty quiet.

Another reason has just been the hectic pace of life. Coordinating youth group activities, planning for my cousin to come for a week, taking care of Rachel and having a home life plus a little work in there really cuts into time to do the blog. Now, I COULD make the time. But I obviously haven't which leads into my next reason for not blogging.

I've had a hard time coming up with things to write about. We discussed confession in youth group two weeks ago, and trust/broken relationships last week. And for some reason I just haven't come up with anything else to write about those topics. The confession was a great talk leading into what it really takes to confess. And relationships? I can talk for hours on relationships, it's the one area in life I have the most stories. Helps that I see everything as a relationship (right now I'm enjoying a VERY close relationship with an orange Fanta).

So, for the moment I'm just waiting for some inspiration to strike. Any ideas how to get that spark moving?

Otherwise the only new information in my personal life is that our daughter Rachel is beginning to balance on her own for a few seconds and her first tooth came in earlier this week! Plus I've figured out how to take JoA from my TiVo and save it onto DVD or the computer, making youth group much easier :)


Friday, April 08, 2005

Jamaica in the Springtime

It's finally beginning to feel like Spring! Or at least the way I like it to feel. With some day's 80 degrees, others 60's - 70's. It's great weather where you can dress comfortably and not feel like you're going to melt. I'm generally not a huge fan of the super hot, but also not of the freezing cold if I'm stuck in it. Some football games are downright miserable, feeling like my toes will fall off.

It's times like these when we leave the windows open during the night, and through the day. For me this is a good and a bad thing. I like to sleep in the cold generally. I think 70 degrees is just too warm to sleep in. But, at the same time it feels good to have the breeze come in and to hear the sounds outside.

All this boils down to my title. I spent a week in Jamaica on a mission trip. We stayed in a convent which had no windows. The evenings get cool and the days are warm, but comfortable. It's like that all year round, though not quite as muggy as Florida. So who needs windows?

Opening the windows in early spring reminds me a lot of Jamaica. The sound of cars, sirens and nature all happening at the same time. The breeze as it cools down right when the temperature begins to feel to hot. Leaving the doors open, and just walking around outside to enjoy God's greatness.

While I could never return to Jamaica for a vacation, with all the inequities to the poor, I savor the memories of the nights and the people I helped just in one week. It makes me look forward to our mission trip to Montana later this summer.

So, what memories does Spring bring to your mind? What do you absolutely love to do when the weather accommodates (maybe I'll steal some ideas and do them myself)?


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Being Sick

Well, I've bee nsick for the past two days. Really bad yesterday, exhausted, fever, all that good stuff. Today was a bit better. Then I get to church and Rob says "You're sick AGAIN"?

That got me to thinking. How often do people normally get sick? For me it was a pretty good winter season, getting sick about 3 times. Normally its about 4 - 6 times. This compared with Rob who's sick oh once a year at most. Must be all that outdoor time he gets.

Anyway, I know I get sick more often when I'm feeling a bit down about life, work, whatever. And it's been a pretty good year for me.

So anyway, how often do you get sick a year?


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Feed Frenzy

I've been thinking a lot about one of the greatest things to come about since blogs, RSS feeds. Actually RSS feeds (Sometimes called Atom feeds) came out long before blogs did, in 1997. I'm not going to go much into the history, for that you can see the link at my favorite information site Wikipedia.

But I do think still far to few people know about RSS feeds. For instance, I know Rob is going to read this and all of a sudden search the web at sites like Feeds4All for any and every feed he can find. Trust me, he did it with Blogs, these are sure to follow. He's probably doing it even now, without even knowing what they're good for yet!

In case you haven't seen them, there are little orange XML icons all over the Web that look like this XML. It's kind of like a Where's Waldo of Web sites. If you look really closely you'll see one on the bottom right of my blog. Try it out and click it... I can wait...

Okay, that was certainly fun. All you saw was a bunch of junk. It's actually formatted XML (a programming language for displaying data) which an RSS Feed reader knows how to read and display to you legibly. Lots of sites have their data stored in a database, and use these XML links so that you can view their information when it changes, and without having to use a Web browser.

Here's how I use the Feeds. I have the XML link for someone's blog pasted into my RSS reader. Then every hour it checks the site to see if anything new was posted, downloads the new content, and notifies me that it's there. So I copy Rob's RSS feed link and paste it into my RSS reader. Then within an hour of any time he puts up a new post (about twice a day, it's insane) I get a message. So I don't have to visit his site every day or anything.

Now, for many blogs the blogger needs to enable Atom feeds. For blogger I have a tab where I have to say yes to allowing Atom feeds.

But it's not just for blogs. Check out the Washington Post site, on the bottom of the page is an RSS Feeds link. Adding any feeds from this page will give you updates of new news articles as soon as they are posted to the Web site.

I don't want this to go too much longer. So here are a few links with information on RSS feeds over the Wikipedia info.
And some RSS readers. I use intraVnews, since it integrates with outlook and looks like I'm receiving e-mail, but you have to pay, and use Outlook so I wouldn't recommend it for everyone.
  • intraVnews
  • RssReader - My second favorite, since it's free and easy
  • Pluck - Highly rated, integrates with IE and lets you access your feeds over the Web (and free)
  • sharpReader - Yet another free reader
Just after I wrote this I recevied an update from with information about blogging and RSS feeds. This guy is a little hard to understand, but the information is great. Check it out at Power Downloader. I personally think the PowerBlog Personal Client is a great idea, letting you write your blog without having to be online. I'm checking it out now.

Some people have said RSS feeds will be the death of e-mail. While I don't agree with that, most of those newsletters and articles you get e-mailed to you every day can actually be retrieved with RSS. So you have things groups intelligently, instead of just one more thing to file from your Inbox. I love it, now if only I could have less than 20 news feeds at once!

Happy reading!


Sunday, April 03, 2005

A brief history of the word Catholic

My post on the pope brought up a very interesting question. That regarding the word Catholic with a capital "C" and catholic with a little "c". Thankfully people far smarter than myself know all about religious history. The questions raised were along the lines of aren't we all part of the Catholic church, just different types (Anglican, Roman and Orthodox)? Here's the answer I received from Greg Strong, a man whom everyone agrees is quite knowledgeable...

Great! You have sparked the great schisms (break-ups) in the church again! But seriously, what can I say clearly and accurately in a short space on the use of the word "Catholic"? Let me attempt something. I hope it is helpful to you.

While the church from the very start began to show some local variations, differences and tensions, and even "break-offs" due to heresies in particular groups, there is a sense in which all those who accepted the Scriptures and the early church's creeds and councils were "catholic." Note the lowercase "c." The word "catholic" in this sense came from Greek words meaning "according to the whole." Sometimes people speak of it as synonymous with the word "universal," but in the early church I think they had somewhat different emphases. "Catholic" referred more to the sense of that which was accepted or believed according to the whole church. "Universal" referred more to the sense of the church being everywhere or being worldwide in scope.

It is in this lowercase "c" sense of catholic that Protestants (Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.) can confess in the Nicene Creed that we believe and participate in "one holy catholic and apostolic Church." We are catholic in this sense. We accept and believe in the faith of Jesus Christ as found in the Scriptures and the great creeds and councils of the early church. It is at least in this sense, too, that the Orthodox (i.e., Eastern Orthodox -- e.g., Russian, Greek, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, and so on) confess the catholic Church and participate in it.

Over the centuries, though, the churches in the West and the churches in the East began to drift apart (for a lot of complex reasons). Those in the West began to think of themselves as Catholics with their spiritual and organizational center in Rome. Those in the East began to think of themselves as Orthodox with their spiritual and organizational center in Constantinople -- that is, in Constantinople to some extent (the Eastern Orthodox regional and local churches are not as centrally organized as the Catholic Church in the West; they have a different approach to their relationships with each other).

Around 1000 A.D. the East and West split in what is called the "Great Schism." Then you really had a Roman Catholic Church in the West and Eastern Orthodox churches (regional and local) in the East. This is "Catholic" with a capital "C." By this point at least, it would have been unlikely for an Eastern Orthodox church person to think of himself or herself as Catholic, but he or she would still have confessed in the creed, for example, to being catholic. In the West everyone who was a member of a Christian church was a Catholic in the Roman Catholic sense, and was also one who confessed in the creed, for example, to being catholic (in the earlier sense). Though I think it is likely that Roman Catholics started at some point (either before the schism, during it, or after it; I don't know when) to blur the distinction between capital "C" Catholic and lowercase "c" catholic, with the effect that Roman "Catholic" and "catholic" tended to be one and the same, more or less precisely.

The situation changed further in the 1500s when the Reformation fractured the Roman Catholic Church. Then churches that were not Roman Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox could still confess "the one holy catholic and apostolic Church" and consider themselves catholic in that earlier sense of catholic with a lowercase "c," but not Catholic with a capital "C," because to them that meant the Roman Catholic Church. Hence, Protestants distinguished Roman Catholic and catholic.

So I think it would be tricky to speak of "Catholics of the Anglican Tradition" or "Catholics of the Roman tradition" or "Catholics of the Orthodox tradition." I think a lot of Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox might find that inaccurate at best. But Anglicans would think of themselves as catholic but not Catholic; Roman Catholics would think of themselves as Catholic (and might not see any distinction between Catholic and catholic); and Orthodox would also think of themselves as catholic but not Catholic.

So, this is long and quite detailed. But it was a good explanation on why we use the word catholic in the Apostle's Creed and the word Catholic.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Pope John Paul II

As many of you must know by now, Pope John Paul II is gravely ill and getting worse as this day goes on. Not a lot of people know this, but I actually did get the chance to see the pope in Baltimore while I was in college. I was relatively close and got to see him in the pope-mo-bile (as our priest called it, he was Catholic, so it isn't blasphemous, right?).

Anyway, what follows with this is that it was in college that I really came to a personal relationship with Christ. Up until that point I prayed to God, talked to Him and believed He was here for me and the world. In college I made the next step of really walking around and sometimes feeling Jesus' hand in mine when I needed it, his shoulder when I needed to cry, his voice when I needed advice and (most often) his ear when I needed to vent.

Because I was attending a Catholic college, their faith and life centered around God and the pope. It was interesting to see, with the pope being so integral in their daily lives and in worship. We Episcopalian's put our faith in communities of bishops for leadership, but it's different with the pope. When he opens his mouth and speaks, he is speaking the word of God. Not just every now and then, but every time, it's God's voice. What an awesome honor and responsibility.

Since College every article I've read about the pope brings me back to those times where I found Jesus as more than God, but also as a friend. It also reminds me that God does communicate with all of us, and does great works through us as individuals. I mean, there really is a person on this Earth with a direct line to God, leading me to believe that since he does communicate with one of us, he communicates with all of us.

The outcome for Pope John Paul II is in God’s hands now, and he has lived a life I (and many people) can only hope to live as fully. Please take some time today to keep the pope in your prayers, and hopefully to take some time to openly pray for him. While some of us may not be Catholics, we are all part of “one church”, and his influence has impacted my life and the life of all faiths.


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