Monthly Archives: January 2011

Church prayer chain options

In the old days we used a calling list. One person initiated the prayer chain by calling, say, two people. Those two people called two more people each, and in a fairly short time the prayer request had been distributed throughout the church.

However, by the time the prayer request got repeated and discussed four or five times there’s no telling what the poor soul at the bottom of the list actually prayed about! I guess the Lord knew and he could easily sort actual prayer need from the extra material that had been added along the way.

Then, we got a nifty unit called a “Phone Tree.” Our folks loved it, and still do. I keep it in my office. When there’s a prayer request I record it and send it out. Everyone receives the same message. I’m also the “gatekeeper” of it. When the prayer need is for the immediate church family, and depending on how pressing the need is, I put out a prayer line right away. Otherwise, I collect the requests and try to not initiate a prayer line more than, at most, once a day. Generally, it works out that they are sent out maybe three days a week.

When I’m going to be away for an extended time, I used to pass the machine on to someone else who handled the requests. Finally, I decided to go with one of the newer on line services for that. A couple of people in the church have the information on initiating a phone tree using the service and it works great. We use “Call ’em all” as our backup. Anyone with a phone and the log in information can initiate a prayer line and it practically delivers all the messages at one time, rather than working through a list as our Phone Tree does. Still, the Phone Tree works great and it’s already paid for, so we use Call ’em All only as a back up.

A few years ago I asked folks if they’ed be interested in an email version of our prayer line and several said “yes.” I created an email group for our Prayer Line and removed their numbers from the Phone List. It works pretty good. I go to the computer and compose an email and then read the text from the email into the Phone Tree. I send the email and start the Phone Tree at the same time.

These days I’m thinking of adding a Twitter prayer line to the mix. Some of our real prayer warriors haven’t a clue about Twitter, but, know what? Some of our prayer warriors do…and they use texting and Twitter all the time. When I recently got my new Droid X I found out that there were at least 2 other people in the church with the same smartphone…both men in their 50’s. “Talking with your thumbs” isn’t just for teens!

One nice thing about all this is that we don’t need to be a member of a telephone prayer chain, or get calls from a Phone Tree or through Call ’em All or receive prayer request tweets to pray. God is the ultimate Communicator and he hears our prayers without the help of any technology at all!

Church prayer chain options

In the old days we used a calling list. One person initiated the prayer chain by calling, say, two people. Those two people called two more people each, and in a fairly short time the prayer request had been distributed throughout the church.

However, by the time the prayer request got repeated and discussed four or five times there’s no telling what the poor soul at the bottom of the list actually prayed about! I guess the Lord knew and he could easily sort actual prayer need from the extra material that had been added along the way.

Then, we got a nifty unit called a “Phone Tree.” Our folks loved it, and still do. I keep it in my office. When there’s a prayer request I record it and send it out. Everyone receives the same message. I’m also the “gatekeeper” of it. When the prayer need is for the immediate church family, and depending on how pressing the need is, I put out a prayer line right away. Otherwise, I collect the requests and try to not initiate a prayer line more than, at most, once a day. Generally, it works out that they are sent out maybe three days a week.

When I’m going to be away for an extended time, I used to pass the machine on to someone else who handled the requests. Finally, I decided to go with one of the newer on line services for that. A couple of people in the church have the information on initiating a phone tree using the service and it works great. We use “Call ’em all” as our backup. Anyone with a phone and the log in information can initiate a prayer line and it practically delivers all the messages at one time, rather than working through a list as our Phone Tree does. Still, the Phone Tree works great and it’s already paid for, so we use Call ’em All only as a back up.

A few years ago I asked folks if they’ed be interested in an email version of our prayer line and several said “yes.” I created an email group for our Prayer Line and removed their numbers from the Phone List. It works pretty good. I go to the computer and compose an email and then read the text from the email into the Phone Tree. I send the email and start the Phone Tree at the same time.

These days I’m thinking of adding a Twitter prayer line to the mix. Some of our real prayer warriors haven’t a clue about Twitter, but, know what? Some of our prayer warriors do…and they use texting and Twitter all the time. When I recently got my new Droid X I found out that there were at least 2 other people in the church with the same smartphone…both men in their 50’s. “Talking with your thumbs” isn’t just for teens!

One nice thing about all this is that we don’t need to be a member of a telephone prayer chain, or get calls from a Phone Tree or through Call ’em All or receive prayer request tweets to pray. God is the ultimate Communicator and he hears our prayers without the help of any technology at all!

Thinking about knowing God’s Will

First, I think what I’d call the “broader will” of God is spelled out quite clearly in Scripture. We’re to love one another, seek justice, be compassionate, etc. I like Oswald Chambers’ emphasis on God’s will being that we be more and more like his Son, Jesus.

Second, I think God’s will is sometimes quite specific. Just about anyone in our tradition who is in the ministry is here because we believe we are “called” to this life. That’s way beyond just being like Jesus and pretty specific. One key here believing that God is perfectly capable of communicating to us. His will isn’t hidden or obscured like a riddle we have to untangle. If he wants us to do something he makes it clear to us.

Third, I think God is the God of Second Chances. If we do reject some specific call that doesn’t mean we’re destined to a life of spiritual failure or some kind of second-rate Christianity. I don’t think anything God calls us to is “second best.”

Fourth, if we don’t sense God leading us in some specific way…like when choosing between two different job offers, I think it’s an indication that he’s leaving the decision up to us. After all, this is the God who brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them….apparently, there was no “right or wrong” name and the Lord was interested in seeing what a creature with free will would decide. Of course, some decisions carry with them moral overtones. In that case, we’re back to the first point. Otherwise, and most of the time in fact, I think we’re free to choose.

Printing a better Google Calendar using WinCalendar

The other day I heard from the creator of WinCalendar. He’d read my multistep work-around for printing a nicer looking Google Calendar and he graciously offered me a license for his software. WinCalendar isn’t free but, on the other hand, it isn’t a work around either. Once its installed opening a fully editable version of your Google Calendar in Word or Excel is just a couple of clicks away. On my Office 2010, the software added a new WinCalendar tab. Configuration is straight forward, and once done, clicking on the new tab and then picking “Calendar Maker” makes the magic happen. Within a few seconds there’s a Google Calendar ready to edit or print. It looks much better than what I get if I use the Google Calendar print option which offers no editing capabilities at all, truncates the events, and uses a too-small font.

Now, the initial installation for me had a few rough spots, 95% of which had little to do with WinCalendar. My Microsoft Word complained about security (something well described in the WinCalendar documentation). However, I had some problems importing all day events that repeat each year, like birthdays and anniversaries. I told the guys from Sapro Systems, makers of WinCalendar, about it and within a day they updated their program so it would properly handle those events. Later on I realized that the main cause of the problem was the manner in which I imported the data into the Google Calendar in the first place, inadvertently creating, I think, a non-standard format. I think the quick response with no “it’s not our fault” attitude from WinCalendar was quite good.

At this point I think my work around for printing a better Google Calendar is okay, but for most church and school secretaries and others who generally do the real work in printing newsletters, etc. that include calendars the WinCalendar approach is the way to go. The Sapro Systems folks also tell me that they offer discounted prices to churches and other non-profits. Check it out at WinCalendar.com.

Check out these Google Calendar related posts. 

Doing a mail merge from Google Contacts in Gmail

This post has been updated…check it out here.

I’ve used Outlook for a long time and because of that I’ve always used PDAs and later on Smartphones running Windows systems so I could use the syncing capabilities between the device and my computer. However, the times are changing and I’ve finally made the move to an Android Smartphone. I’m happy with the phone but using Outlook is now rather unhandy. Once I got the calendar issues sorted out I moved my attention to printing mail labels, something that’s quite easy to do using Microsoft Word/Outlook. Still, if I want to be able to update someone’s mailing address when I’m out of the office and have it be automatically synced for doing a mail merge in Word, I need to find a non-Outlook based solution. I think I have it and it’s just one step more than what I did before.

  1. In contacts on the Android or in my associated Gmail account, I make sure everyone on the mail list is in a mail list group.
  2. Note: There’s a bug in the Gmail contacts that causes problems with the address field.  If new contacts are entered on the Android this works…if entered through the website using a computer it doesn’t work.
  3. Then, in Gmail, I go to Contacts, click on “More Actions” and then “Export” – then I pick the mail list group using the Outlook, CSV format.
  4. Let the file open in Excel, the delete all columns except for First Name, Last Name, Home Street, Home City, Home State, Home Postal Code
  5. Save the file as CSV – remember the location of it
  6. Open Word (I’m working in Office 2010 so other versions may be somewhat different)
  7. Click on the mailings tab, then “Start mail merge” then pick the wizard
  8. From here Word will take you by the hand for the actual creation of the labels

Exporting a Google Calendar for a nicer print job

I’ve been working on exporting a Google Calendar so it can be printed. I know Google Calendar has a print option, but the results are anything but satisfactory. The events are truncated and the font is pitifully small. Also, it’s impossible to format items.

Note: this method has been updated….read it here.

Anyway, here’s my work around solution.

1. Download and install Mozilla Sunbird.
2. Go to your Google Calendar…under “My Calendars” click on settings
3. Export the calendar to your computer and then unzip the file
4. Open Mozilla Sunbird and drag the .ics file into it
5. Click on View, then select month
6. Edit the events to suit
7. Click on File, Page Setup, switch to landscape
8. Click on Print, insert a title if you want, change to the monthly grid layout
9. Print it

You now have a nicer looking printed calendar than you have if you print directly from Google Calendar.

Note: If all this sounds too complicated check out my post on WinCalendar.

Check out these Google Calendar related posts.

Office 2003 menu for Office 2010

Some of my Microsoft Office applications were 10 years out of date so a few months ago I decided to take the plunge and update to Office 2010.  I can tell it’s better but why Microsoft decided to dump their menu for these programs is beyond me.  I’ve spent a lot of time searching for some basic commands.  I’ve even, for the sake of office time, saved the document to the older format and moved it to my desktop computer which hasn’t been upgraded yet, and finished it there.  I had one Powerpoint presentation all finished except that I wanted the slide numbers to show.  After 5 minutes of trying to do it, I saved the presentation, opened it on my desktop in an older version of Powerpoint, turned on page numbering, saved it and walked away.

Finally I got the bright idea that out here on the internet somewhere, someone must have written an add on that restores the old menu.  Sure enough, there is.  It’s called UBitMenu and it’s a free download for private use.  Now, let me mention that I’ve not thoroughly tested this, but it appears to be just what the doctor ordered.  It adds the “classic menu” to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.  Check it out here. Once installed, you’ll see a “menu” tab.  Click on it, and you’ll feel right at home again.

Also, I’ll mention that I’ve always liked the Windows 95 start menu.  When XP came out it had the built in option to turn that menu on rather than the “new and improved” XP version.   Then, when Windows 7 came out (I really like it, by the way) it had the Vista menu only.  Off I went to the internet and, once again, I found the problem solved, it’s called Classic Shell and it does just its name implies: it restores the Classic Menu option.

Review of the Nook e-reader from Barnes and Noble

Here’s a report on the Nook WIFI Jackie got for Christmas.

The start was a bit rocky. Apparently, a lot of people got Nooks for Christmas. Some of the stuff that we thought wasn’t working was due to the B&N Nook website being swamped. We thought we had some settings wrong or that there was a problem with her unit but it was just that their website wasn’t responding properly.

In fact, she went by a B&N store a few days after Christmas and the “pro” there remarked that everyone was having trouble because of the over burdened website.

Another reason for the rocky start is that, while the Nook handles “Overdrive” books and audio-books from the library, the setup is far from intuitive. My feeling is that, while the capability is there, B&N really wants people to BUY books from them and not borrow books from the library or download free books from Google books or the like.

I spent a lot of time digging through the FAQ on the library website and then found a really good Youtube on the topic. (Just do a search for youtube, Nook, Adobe Digital Editions). It’s not hard but it I don’t think anyone would ever figure it out without spending some time searching the internet.

Beyond that, when we decided to try an audio book from the library, we ended up having to use yet another program, Overdrive, to check out the book and transfer it to the Nook.

Happily, once Adobe Digital Editions is installed, it handles the free, public domain books as well as the books on loan from the library.

Buying a book from B&N is easy enough, although you do have to go online and establish an account with them, including putting a credit card on file. She’s bought one book that way, and it “showed up” on her Nook a few hours after the purchase (again, if not for a slow web server I think it would have gotten there almost instantly).

So, here’s the deal:

  1. Buying a book from B&N: done directly from the Nook, pretty easy once an account is set up.
  2. Borrowing a book from the library: has to be done via a computer running Adobe Digital Editions (Adobe account and library card required) and then transferred to the Nook
  3. Borrowing an audio book from the library: has to be done via a computer running Overdrive and then transferred to the Nook
  4. Getting a free, public domain book from Google Books, etc.: has to be done via a computer and then handled by Adobe Digital Editions for transfer to the Nook

Now, the other side of it. Jackie loves reading from the Nook. The screen is great and it’s easy to use. It also plays audio files, music or books. We’ve already bought her a cable that lets her plug it directly into her car’s sound system. She’s looking forward to using it on her daily commute.