Category Archives: church

Church IT RoundTable IRC Chat

A little over three months ago, Jeffrey Thompson announced on ITdiscuss that he had started an IRC channel on Freenode for the Church IT RoundTable folks. I had really just began getting involved and interested in the world of Church IT and since I was already a lurker in #wordpress, I thought I might as well hop in there and chat it up a bit with the guys. It didn’t take long for the “regulars” to form a unique friendship and within just a week or two, these guys had talked me into opening up my personal wallet and traveling to Kansas City for the Fall 2007 RoundTable.

Well, here we sit, the day after Christmas, and the Church IT RoundTable IRC chat is going full-steam ahead. Most of the guys are on vacation, but yet, are still in the chat hanging out. The camaraderie that we have amongst each other is really very cool and we are always helping one another out. Here’s a quick (and by no means fully accurate and exhaustive) rundown of the regulars in the format of “Name – IRC nickname” and a link to their blog where applicable:

Tony only recently started participating after we ribbed him a good bit about it, and Jeffrey supposedly sent him some screen shots of me saying that Tony was too old for IRC, but I really don’t remember saying that – I promise Tony!

In addition to the regulars, we also have occasional appearances from some other Church IT rockstars like Jason Lee (no not that one) and Dean Lisenby. Among this list, there is a vast amount of knowledge that has been gathered through our past experiences. From VMware Server and ESX, storage and backups, networking, programming, web development, Windows stuff, Linux gurus, even a guy who used to do Novell! I can guarantee you that if you have an IT related question, we can help.

In addition to that great group of guys, we also have our own bot. Any IRC’er worth their salt knows a channel can’t be considered legitimate until they have a bot, and Jeffrey has provided us with rtbot (RoundTable BOT). rtbot is funny, witty, insulting, and even helpful from time to time. He provides us with Chuck-isms, weather reports and forecasts, whois information, Google search results, Digg headlines, insults, excuses, and larts. All in all, rtbot is a perfectly good, self-contained reason to be in the channel. He can really help you do your job!

I know by now you’re all just dying to know “How can I get in on all this fun?” – so here’s how. All you need is an internet connection (guess what – if you’re reading this – you probably have that part taken care of already) and an IRC client to connect to irc.freenode.net and join the #citrt channel. I prefer Xchat under Linux, but there is a non-free Windows version if you have $20 to spare. I really do think it’s the best! However, there are loads of others available as well.  Jeffrey listed some other clients for other platforms in that initial post to ITdiscuss and just recently created a really cool screencast that shows you how to download and install Chatzilla for Firefox and get connected to the channel.

I’ll follow up this post sometime soon with some more specific things about what to do once you’re in the channel, such as how to change your nickname and get it registered with freenode so that no one can highjack it and some of the cool things you can do with and to rtbot.

I look forward to seeing you in #citrt!

IT Mission Team

I was perusing some of the blogs on Church IT Planet feed this morning and through Jason Lee’s blog, I landed on this post from Mike Gold about Willow Creek’s IT staff going on a technology-centered mission trip to the Dominican Republic. One of the things they did was install an Asterisk-based phone system! Too cool!

This has my wheels turning now – would it be possible for a bunch of Church IT RoundTable folks to get together and form a team that could go and do something like this? If so, how would we find a place to go and meet a need? I know our friend Andrew Mitry is in some remote place in Africa as we speak on a two-month trip where he is doing some technical things for a Coptic mission there, but how cool would it be to go on trip where we can flex our IT muscle and impact the kingdom?

I do have a heart for missions and I have loved every minute of the past trips I’ve been on, but to have my passion for missions and love for technology to meet in the mission field would just be absolutely amazing.

Our Debt Snowball

It’s quite timely for me to see Dean’s post about being debt-free this morning, as we just made our final payment on our credit card debt last Monday.
BoA Paid off
We still have a little ways to go, but we are highly motivated right now. I’ve been just devouring as much information as I can get my hands on. I’ve been reading Free and Clear by Howard Deyton of Crown Financial Ministries, listening to Crown’s 30-minute daily show, and most recently, getting on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon. I’ve even decided to teach Dave’s Financial Peace University at Crestview starting in January and I am pumped up about it. I can’t wait to get started helping other folks catch the fever to “Live like no one else so that later, they can live like no one else!”

I think listening to the radio programs everyday has been more helpful than anything else. It’s not just hearing the success stories that motivate me though – it’s the utterly depressing stories of people that are so much worse off than we’ve ever thought about being. Bonnie and I are truly blessed. I have a wonderful job that I absolutely love and the fact that I can get paid at all for doing it is still amazing to me, let alone the fact that I can get paid well for it.

If we can stay on track through the Christmas season, we’ll be paying off our cars within the next three or four months and then we’re attacking my student loans. About the time we pay that off, Bonnie’s will come out of deferment and we’ll start cranking on that. On paper, it looks like two years from now – Christmas 2009 – will be a VERY Merry Christmas for us.

Christianity and Wars

The following started out as a reply to Roger’s comment on my post The Truth Hurts, but it got a little lengthy, so I thought I would post it here for everyone to see and comment on. If the subject matters of religion, politics, and war interest you, I’d urge you to go back an read that previous post and all associated comments, then come back here to continue the discussion.

Roger, first of all – thanks for stopping by.

Telling people to leave if they don’t like it was really more tongue-in-cheek than anything else.

You don’t have to like what Bush is doing, and you’re certainly allowed to believe whatever you want about the legality or ethics of it, but even Jesus Christ himself said that such wars are inevitable. I really don’t want to turn this into a debate about religion, but I do want to take the opportunity to spell out what I believe and back it up with some scripture. Have a look at Matthew 24:

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Now I admit, you’ve got my brain working hard this morning with the statement “I think of Christ as a man of peace.” While I almost agree with it on the surface, after thinking for a few minutes, I can’t. I may be wrong, and I’m definitely going to be thinking about this some more, but while our Lord and Savior is the Prince of Peace, I think there are just too many instances in the Bible where God did send Christians out to be offensive and to right something wrong in the world. He even stated in Matthew 10:34 that He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword.

So what would Christ have done? I don’t know, but I like Mike Huckabee’s answer from the CNN/YouTube debate.

In closing, and with all the Christianity-related stuff above aside, I’ll argue to my grave with anyone who disagrees with the fact that Iraq, Afghanistan, the United States, and the rest of the world is a safer place today than it was six years ago. Much safer.

Moscow Article

On a whim last week, I made contact with our local newspaper to talk about our upcoming trip to Russia. A few emails later, I had arrangements made for their new Star Car to come and cover our fund raiser on Saturday as well as an agreement that they would publish a “guest column” talking about our missions work in Friday’s Faith section.

I got my team leader on the phone and explained it all to him and he said he would try to find someone to write it. Deadline was this past Monday, and when I got home from church on Sunday night, no one had emailed me an article. I sat down for about an half-an-hour and hashed out a rough draft and after a few revisions, emailed it on to my contact at the paper. The final version, with a few edits, was published in today’s Shelby Star on page A9 as well as online: Crestview mission team will return to Russia.

So, your’s truly is now a published journalist.

Moscow 2008

I guess now is as good a time as any to let everyone know that Bonnie and I are planning to return to Moscow on another mission trip in the spring of 2008 if everything works out well. The current itinerary has our date of departure as March 20 and we’ll be home on March 31. That means we’re leaving less than five months from today.

We definitely have our work cut out for us as far as fund-raising is concerned. As of this moment, we have 11 confirmed team members, and at least five more are still considering it. One of those five is my dad! I really hope that he feels led to go, because I think it would be awesome to get to work alongside him. Our team leader currently has our goal set at $25,000, but that could easily go up beyond $30,000 if all the others decide to go.

I have no doubt it will happen – but it’s hard to see that far in to the future right now, especially with the holidays fast approaching. We have two events planned already: a yard/bake sale on Saturday, November 3 and our usual Poor Man’s Supper and Auction on Saturday, November 17.

Now, I know I have readers all over the United States, Canada, and probably other parts fo the world as well, so this is where you come in. I know you can’t attend our in-person fund-raising events, but you can still help in a couple of ways. First and foremost – pray. Pray for myself, Bonnie, and our entire team. We know that God has called us to this work and we want to be sure to stay in His will. The second thing you can do is give.[1] The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We don’t want you to donate anything that belongs in your church, but if God has blessed you, please do consider going over and above your tithe and support the work that God is doing in Moscow. If you’d rather give offline, just leave me a note and I’ll get in touch with you. Finally, talk it up! Help me spread the word! The more people we have praying, the better. Also, I’ve setup a Moscow Mission 2008 page on the Crestview website to take online donations. I know a lot of you have blogs, so post a quick note linking back to this page so folks can find this information.

I really hope that most of all, you will be in prayer for us. From our previous two trips, we can tell you that it does make a difference. I’ll be sure to continue posting updates as our plans solidify and as we get closer to departure time.

P.S. – Oh yeah, I selfishly tagged it with CITRT so it would end up in the Planet feed. :-D

[1] All contributions are fully tax-deductible.

RoundTable Asterisk

One of the hottest topics at the whole RoundTable was Asterisk. I lucked out and ended up sitting right next to Andrew Mitry in my room, who also runs Asterisk. We were able to offer some good info to our session I believe and were able to talk to a number of interested individuals during the Topic Bazaar this afternoon. There’s definitely a huge interest for it in the non-profit/charity arena and I think that a consultant could do extremely well catering to this niche market. I probably talked to enough folks today alone to keep me busy for the next six months or longer if I was taking on that kind of work.

So, aside from the interest from all the participants, what does Asterisk have to do with the RoundTable in general?

In my opinion, I think that what may have been the biggest flaw of the entire RoundTable was that we weren’t able to capture all the “run-off” from each of the breakout rooms so that guys from the other rooms can absorb it later. This isn’t a complaint aimed at Clif and his team from COR (who did an AMAZING job at planning this), but it is something that was talked a lot about and I hope that it’s something we can work out technically before the next one. This could actually be a good place to use Asterisk and allow participants to see it in action! Assuming the network infrastructure would support this scenario (really needs to have wired drops), one could run an Asterisk install in a virtual machine from a laptop and connect a couple of good quality SIP phones to it – one in each room. The Aastra’s I use at ESI have a great speakerphone and could do this easily I believe. Then, just run the Monitor() app and they’re recording! This could actually be extended even further. Some random ideas:

  • Folks from outside the physical space can dial in
  • One-way only streaming
  • Inter-room conferencing[1]

I really do have a lot more ideas, but it’s now 12:15 AM here in Central Time and I have to be ready for the shuttle to the airport at 5:30. Who else has thoughts on what we might could do? Let your imagination go wild and leave a comment – chances are, “the answer is yes.”
[1] For the “touch points” that didn’t work at all this time. This would be audio only unless we got some H.323 phones.