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Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's All O.K.

    I have been a Youth Pastor since 2005 and it has been the best position I have ever held in my life.  However, over the past several months I have been going through the process of resigning my position.  I will still be involved in the Youth Group and even more with the Young Adult group at my church.  My final Sunday as a Pastor will be in the next couple weeks but the Youth Group has been aware this day was coming for a couple months now and they have been going through this process with me.
     I have had many conversations about my leaving with the teens and have received many nice comments and I have appreciated them all.  But this morning a conversation I had really made it all very real.
     A young girl asked, as we were about to begin Sunday School, when I was leaving.  I told her that I was going to be the Youth Pastor a few more weeks but I wasn't leaving.  So she asked when I was moving.  I told her that I wasn't moving.  A little confused, she qualified her question and asked if I was still going to be attending our church.  I responded that yes, I was still going to be a part of the church.  To this she settled into her seat and said, "Oh, that's ok then." And with that it was done.
     To realize that your presence attributes to the "o.k.ness" of a young person's life is a truly life changing thing. It is a humbling thing. It is something that until that moment I hadn't really understood.  Well, I am not sure I still fully understand it but it will be something I will never forget for as long as I live.  Deserved or not, in someone's life it's all o.k. because I am around.  Wow. What else is there to say? It's all o.k. And I am forever thankful for that.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Top Ten List For 2010

      This year I decided to make my own Top Ten List.  I see them all the time and some of them are good but some are a waste of time.  Mainly because they are just a copy of most of the other lists.  So I wanted to make something different.  These are ten of my favorite things for this year.  I hope you give some of them a try and maybe, just maybe they will become one of your favorite things for 2011. (These are in no particular order)


I have always enjoyed spicy or hot foods but I am also one for bold flavors so most of the time, hot sauces have left me wanting. And not just wanting of a cold glass of water. Rather, I was left wanting flavor. I found the source of this problem was in the main ingrediant for most hot sauces...vinegar. Vinegar is powerful and runs rough shot over the other flavors trying desparately not to completely become buried in it's wake. And this is where Tapatio shines. It is void of vinegar and therefore lets the flavors burst through with their own pleasure-giving heat. In small quantities it is not super hot but it seems to increase exponentially in intensity with each additional drop. And it tastes and smells great. 

     How do I use Tapatio? I have put it into chili to give it a little kick without the vinegar side affects or mostly on top of tacos, burritos, enchiladas or tostadas. And it is the perfect compliment to Tamales. Tapatio is a great sauce, so much so that it garnered its own music video by an LA rapper named Red Cloud. Check it out and then go to the market and buy some!


Take the spreadable nature of peanut butter, the wonderful sweetness of cocoa and just a little (actually theres a lot, they put 55 hazelnuts in each jar!) nutty goodness of hazelnuts and you have Nutella (pronounce 'NEW-tell-ah'). I first had it in Florida as a part of a Strawberry Bannana Crepe and I fell in love immediately. It is a little creamier than most peanut butters but it still us the perfect substitute for peanut butter if you are a person with peanut allergies. If you are not, like me, then it is simply perfect. 

     How do I use Nutella? I spread it on breads or bagels or even any sweet crackers. and of course it is amazing on crepes and pancakes. If you like chocolate, and who doesn't, you will like Nutella. Its as simple as that!

King Of Shaves Azor

If you have followed me on Twitter or Facebook for any length of time I am sure you have seen me mention King of Shaves a time or two. I apparently have a lot of explaining to do. King Of Shaves is a British wet shave company who fairly recently introduced a razor to go along with its fantastic and unique shaving "software". (In the shaving world "software" refers to the products such as gels, creams and oils) This year I was fortunate to connect with Diane Wood, a rep for KoS out of NYC through Twitter. Consequently I was priviledged to attain the Azor razor and coupled with KoS' excellent gels, oils and hybrids I experienced the best shave of my life. All my top end razors (and I had them ALL) went to the back of the drawer and the Azor became my new best freind. Why? For a number of reasons. The Azor is light. Its not as light as a disposable but it is much lighter than the battery powered competition. In fact, it may be lighter than the battery itself. At first this was odd because for me weight denoted quality but after a few uses I realized that was a myth. The light weight of the Azor brings an ease of use that I didnt know I was missing. They do have an semi-alloy version now that provides slightly more weight but doesn't hinder the benefits of it being a lighter razor.               
      Another highly touted feature is what KoS coins as "Bendology Technology". To this I scoffed. Every razor I had in the drawer had a flexible head. And the Azor's seemed so stiff as to cause flaying of skin as opposed to comfort. But once again I was ill-informed. What I mistook for stiffness was actually the perfect tension that the others completely lacked which allowed the Azor to lay properly flat against my skin with the appropriate pressure to give me the closest and most even shave ever without a hint of razor burn. Wow, who knew "Bendology" was so important?!? The Azor also has a unique design which allows me to see what I am shaving so I shave where I want to shave and don't shave where I don't want to shave.  And lastly, the cost is much less than it's competitors while the blades last longer. This is cool. 

     How do I use the Azor? I have to shave daily and so I use the Azor daily in the shower to shave and to acheive baby smooth skin that isn't dried out and that never is in fear of razor burn. My "problem areas" are no longer a problem. And for the first time in my life I am actually excited to shave in the morning rather than the dread I felt before. Currently, only a few of the "software" items are available in the USA.  You can find them at Target and CVS.  In 2011, KoS plans to introduce it's entire line in the USA so watch for that!  But for now, you can purchase the Azor at their online shop.  
     The King of Shaves Azor is truly the King of Razors and there is one that is perfect for you...even if you are a woman. :)

     This app has been THE best app I have used on my Blackberry.  The basic concept is that as a person who is typically on the go and may at any moment throughout the "going" of any particular day need to make a note of an idea, phone number, future appointment, copy a web link and even log a picture, video or record a vocal melody, I need somewhere to put all that stuff in my phone. Now, I can hear you saying, "my smart phone can do all those things." And I wouldn't disagree. However, they would be spread out over many apps and locales inside your phone and they certainly wouldn't be waiting for you on your computer when you got back to the office or your home.  But when I do all of those things, not only will they be in one place on my phone but they will be waiting for me on my laptop and desktop.  I use Evernote.  From Evernote I can take notes, but I can do so much more than that.  I can take a photo and attach notes to it. I can make a voice note and upload any file.  I can also attach tags to all of these items so they are completely searchable in the future.  
     How do I use Evernote? Here is one tiny example: This Christmas I was determined to get the items my wife had put on her Christmas list.  That may sound like a simple task, but my wife's list is compiled by showing me the items as we happen through random stores on other errands. I'm a guy. No way I am remembering any of those items. But with Evernote I can. Each time she would point out something I would open up Evernote on my Blackberry and select "Snapshot" which then automatically opens my camera. I would snap the photo and it then opens up in Evernote.  I can then title it, make a note, and even tag it. Then I select to save the note and it is uploaded.  Immediately I can view it again on my phone or I can open it on my laptop.  I tagged them all and the day I went shopping, I merged all those tagged notes together and opened it on my Blackberry. Now I had a list of everything she ever pointed out to me over all those weeks. And not just a list but a photo of each item, where it could be found and other info.  And when I am on my computer using Evernote, I don't even have to save it.  It assumes that if I began a note or edited an older one that I would want it saved and it saves it automatically and uploads it without needing to be told.           Evernote can do so much more than that and I have only scratched the surface of its capabilities and there are still a few things that could be improved but even so, this is an app I could not live without. In fact, I typed this entire post with the links and photos in Evernote on my Blackberry! So get it!

     Poynt is an app for your smart phone that allows you to search for businesses, people, restaurants, gas stations, movies and even weather.  I realize that doesn't sound terribly exciting and it is pretty basic but Poynt does it as perfectly as any other app out there.  It can use your phone's built in GPS or use cell-site location (if you are on Verizon who stupidly blocks you from using your own GPS unless approved by them) to focus your searches automatically or it will allow you to type in a location different from where you currently are.  This speeds up the search process immensely.  And once you find what you are looking for the options you have are amazing.  
     You can browse their website if it is available, call it's phone number, save the location for later, map it using whatever gps app you want, add it to you address book or email it and even tweet it.  Poynt connects seamlessly to your phone, your mapping or gps apps, your browsers, etc. Again, I thought this app was just a simple thing that, you know, was nice to have but whatever. That is until I switched phones and didn't have it for about a week.  I didn't realize how often I turned to Poynt to point me in the right direction.  I found that I could NOT live without this app. Finding the same information using other means is such a chore. 
     How do I use Poynt?  Every time I need to call a business but don't have the number, I open up Poynt.  I click on Businesses, type in the name or type of business and a list pops up almost immediately.  It tells me the name of the business and how far it is from my current location.  And I can call that business right from the app with only two clicks.  And I won't even go into the Gas Stations with gas prices or the Movies with reviews and even a synopsis with the option to purchase a ticket. If you have a smart phone and ever leave your living room, you need Poynt.

     There are many Twitter apps for your smart phone and computer and I have tried most of them.  Ubertwitter conquers all.  It has a great yet simple interface and it does almost everything you want to do with Twitter.  It is easy to attach a photo or a video to your tweet and you can even access your camera from the app itself which is very nice.  You can find trending topics and even have multiple accounts accessible in a few clicks. Dealing with your followers is pretty limited but other than that you can rule the Twitter universe directly from your smart phone using Ubertwitter.  

     How do I use Ubertwitter?  If you asked people that I know, they may claim that I seem to always be on Facebook. But the truth is that I am rarely on Facebook.  But I am on Ubertwitter and I have Ubertwitter linked to my Facebook page so that whatever I tweet updates my Facebook status automatically including photos and videos.  What would I do without my Ubertwitter? Well, my Facebook page would be a very lonely place, I tell you that!  If you are on Twitter and use a smart phone, try out Ubertwitter, I think you'll fall in love.
Opera Unite 
     I have written about the Opera Browser before here and about Opera Unite here.  I have not written about Opera Mini though it is a mobile browser that I use everyday on my Blackberry.  But for this list I wanted to write specifically about Opera Unite again because it is a feature of the Opera Browser that no other browser can boast.  Most of the cool things you may like about another browser was probably stolen from the Opera browser.  The others have come up with scant little on their own.  But none of them have anything that compares with Opera Unite yet.  The very basic concept of Opera Unite is that it enables you to use your desktop or laptop as a server.  This means that you no longer have to rely on a website to host and share your photos, music, videos, or any other file. You don't need to upload anything to the Web because your friends can just come right to your computer and view the files and then download them, full sized, directly from your computer.  The possibilities are endless. 
     How do I use Opera Unite?  I want to highlight two ways that I am using Opera Unite almost daily.  First is personal.  I have set up Opera Unite to stream my entire iTunes library to any computer in the world.  It is password protected so I am the only one who can log in and use it but this means that no matter where I am in the world and no matter what computer I am using, if I have internet access, I can listen to any song from my library instantly and in real time.  It has been fantastic for me.  The other way I use Opera Unite is for the Church where I work.  We did not have a website that could provide streaming of the sermons each week so I set up Opera Unite to be accessed through a link on our home page.  People could listen to a sermon in real time any time of the day or night just by clicking the link, and selecting which sermon to play.  And all our sound engineers had to do was save the recorded sermon into the proper folder.  Super easy and super fast. This just scratches the surface of what Opera Unite can do for you.  It is a wonderful thing and my hope is that it continues to be developed to be even more sleek and more powerful. I think connecting to the mobile web is key so we will see what 2011 holds for Opera Unite.  Try it out and if you need help, don't hesitate to ask. :)
     I like peanut butter as much as the next guy but sometimes you want something different.  Something that is a little more exciting. And that something is Sunbutter.  Ooooohhhh, Sunbutter is wonderful, in fact, I dare say that I enjoy it more than peanut butter now.  Which is great news for me and even better news for those who are allergic to peanuts.  This is the best alternative for the peanut allergy not just because its an adequate substitute but in my opinion, it is actually better.  
     How do I use Sunbutter? I use it just the same as I would use peanut butter.  On bread, or toast or a bagel, Sunbutter is something you need to try before you die.  You know that bucket list thing? Yeah, Sunbutter better be on it.         
     And that best part is that it is made right here in North Dakota. Granted, it's Fargo, but still it's North Dakota...kinda. ;-)

     180s claim to fame is the main proprietor of ear warmers.  These are not to be mistaken with ear muffs that go over the top of one's head but rather ear warmers that wraps around the back of the head.  But that is not why they are on my list.       Last year while shopping at TJ Maxx, I came across a glove that was more unique than any glove I had ever seen.  The design was modern and unique.  
    It had two very interesting features that I had not seen before.  The first one that caught my eye was a small dot of additional fabric on the thumb and pointer finger of each glove.  I couldn't quite grasp what they were for.  The other feature was a little more obvious.  It was a valve in the backhand of the glove covered by a magnetic flap.  One would open this flap and place one's mouth over the valve and exhale.  The warm breath would fill the glove, making your hands wonderfully toasty instantly.  That was cool.  I hopped on my Opera Mini browser on my Blackberry and searched for the glove and discovered that the small dots of fabric were material that allowed the electricity of the human body to travel through it, thus allowing the wearer to use touch screens without removing his/her gloves.  Very cool.  I bought them.  They were too small for me so they became the property of my youngest son, who they were too big for and who didn't own any electronic device with a touch screen. But no matter, he would grow into them and who knew what he would own by that time.  They were too cool to pass up.  So this year, with a gift certificate I got for coaching soccer, I found myself a pair of these awesome gloves.  They have a fantastic design, match my coat perfectly even down to the fabric used and they work great with my Blackberry.  I even purchased a pair for my brother for Christmas.  
     I love companies like 180s.  They take the time to come up with fantastic innovations but they don't just throw it into a normal, run of the mill product, no, they design a product worthy of the innovations.  There are lots of imitators out there but none can compare with the class and quality of 180s.  
     How do I use my 180s?  I wear them of course but I USE them by being able to answer a quick text or read a new email as I am walking to or from the car or even out on the slopes, riding the ski lift to the top. So the next time you need a new glove, try them out.  You will be happy and you will be the envy of all your freinds who's hands are freezing while yours are nice and toasty and look great as well.

     I realize there is  quite a bit of food in this list but I just can't help it.  It is one of my dilemmas.  I really like to eat but I despise cooking.  Hence, things like spreads and breakfast cereals are important to me. And in the breakfast cereal category, there is no equal to Kashi.  Kashi is a natural, whole foods type of company. But that is not why I eat their products.  Normally, when you hear the word "natural" or "organic" it may as well say "tastes like lark's vomit" on the label.      However, Kashi has somehow come up with a way to take natural and organic foods and make them taste outstanding. Every product I have eaten from Kashi, from it's breakfast cereals to it's bars has been a wonderful experience.  I have been eating Kashi for years and it really wasn't on the radar to be included here but I bought a new cereal from them just the other day that was so fantastic that I opened up Evernote and made some changes just to fit them in.  It's called Strawberry Fields which is annoying as I don't care for the Beatles at all but that's not why I liked the cereal.  I love fruit in cereals and usually the ones that work best are raisins and dates because of the process they go through to be able to sit in a cardboard box for weeks and still taste amazing.  But when it comes to other fruits such as are found in Strawberry Fields specifically Strawberries and Raspberries, it is tough to maintain the freshness and taste because usually they are dried.  But Kashi freeze dries these fruits and they come out looking and tasting like the real things.  Combine that with the sweetness of the rice and whole wheat flakes and this cereal is not just something to eat because that's what you have for breakfast, it is something to look forward to.  Something that you eat for lunch just because it's that good, like I did today!  
     How do I use Kashi? Well, I eat it.  I'm sure there are much more creative things to do with it but then, again, I don't cook.  Try some, you won't be disappointed.

     Thank you for reading my Top Ten List.  Feel free to share it with others and comment of course!



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