Monday, 8 February 2016

Geekpriest - Roderick Vonhogen - Confessions of a New Media Pioneer

Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer
Roderick Vonhogen
Servant Books a division of
Franciscan Media
ISBN 9781616366773

Father Roderick came recommended to be by a friend who is a recent convert, but this book completely blew me away. Father Roderick's faith, his passion for new media and his commitment to living for Christ Jesus is inspiring. A few times I found myself unable to put the book down, even though I should have and saying to myself just one more section. This book is filled with stories, personal struggles, and a plethora of geekdom knowledge and experience. I highlighted over thirty passages in a book of just 164 pages. I have already recommended it to a few friends.

Going back and writing about his time in secondary school, attending an event with the pope in the Netherlands he states: "When the pope lifted the consecrated Host to show it to the crowd, it suddenly dawned on me that this had to be the secret of John Paul II's strength and calmness. It was God's own love, offered to us in the Body and Blood of Christ. Now I understood why the pope was unfazed by all the criticism around him: He was filled with God's love, even for those who attacked him so aggressively." And meeting the pope and writing about all the opposition to his visit even by Catholics Father goes on to say "John Paul II became the most influential superhero in my life. But if I truly wanted to follow his example, I would need to take a few more steps." He was changes but he knew that was not enough he knew he needed to grow he says "First of all, I thought, if God truly exists, if everything I hear in church is not just a metaphor or a fairy tale but reality, then I must get in touch with God. I knew that the best way to do that was to pray. But how on earth did that work?" And so began the journey that he is still on today. He struggles and strives to know Christ and to make him known. You could almost say that Father Roderick's motto is "With abundant grace comes great responsibility." And again later while he was a seminarian he had the opportunity to meet the pope and the man who would become pope he says "Looking back, it still feels surreal that, as a young seminarian, I had the chance to personally meet John Paul II and the man who would succeed him in 2005 as Pope Benedict XVI. We all need role models to inspire us, and these two men of God became my role models for life." And what Role models they were and how they helped to shape not only his call to the priesthood but his call to using the web as a ministry.

Father Roderick has a Superhero Checklist, this section was incredibly powerful, drawing from the comic book world he makes parallels to spiritual development and finding our personal vocation:

Superhero Checklist
Seek Solitude
Study and Read
Discover Your Strengths
Acknowledge your weaknesses.
Be Humble
Listen to your friends
Expect trouble
Do not be Afraid
Be faithful and persevere.

This whole section I read over a few times on being humble he writes "It's an attitude Jesus himself asks of his followers on multiple occasions. Life is not about honor and prestige; it is about becoming a servant to others, about humility in all you do because everything you are and the talents you have received have been given to you as a gift. Finding your calling in life ultimately comes down to finding the answer to the question: "How can I help?"" and in the section on be not afraid he says "Jesus kept saying to his friends and followers, "Fear not!" The essence of faith is abandoning fear and beginning to trust again: trusting yourself, trusting others, trusting God." Even if we can only learn to live these two we will have a much greater and better impact on our world. In summarizing this chapter Father says "Discerning your calling in life is one of the most important things you can do to find true happiness. Happiness ultimately never depends on material possessions, or even on success in life. It stems from the inner knowledge that you are who God wants you to be, that you are doing what he wants you to do." We can all learn from the examples in Father Roderick's life and the examples he draws from the stories that have shaped the world, Tolkien, Star Wars, and many more are the tools he uses to draw out the truth of the faith.

There is an amazing section in the book called The Disney examination of conscience. It was an excellent little piece of advice. I will be honest and say that I love the sacrament of reconciliation and I love the liturgy. Even when I have attended mass in languages I did not understand I have always felt the presence of God in service. Father Roderick states: "Liturgy is, in many ways, a ritualized form of storytelling as well. Every time we leave the worries of our daily lives and enter a church or a cathedral, we are transported to another world, a place where stories, songs, images, colors, and rituals all lead us to discover the hidden mystery of our world: the love of God that transcends liturgy itself and becomes something that can change the way we live in the present and give direction to the future." That is what makes mass so amazing.

Quoting from one of his teachers on using new media as a tool for the Catholic church he says "Our Church has the most beautiful message in the world, but who is going to notice it if we do such a lousy job presenting our message in the media?" I must admit I am a little late to the pod cast party. Only really having started to listen to some of them in the last 6 months. I was always the blog or book guy. But some of the Catholic podcasts I have discovered are amazing and going back and listening to old series by Father Roderick or those he mentions gives a lot of great food for the spirit and the mind.

Father Roderick has a section on his physical transformation called From Couch Potato to Marathon Runner. Highlighting how he made some changes and then started podcasting on that as well. He also found the healthier he got his body the healthier his spirit became. He says "At the same time, I had noticed how much my new running passion had started to positively affect my spiritual life and my working discipline. What if I were to record a podcast about these topics- something about the connection between body, mind, and soul, about how to get physically healthy, but also about how to maintain a healthy spiritual life? The series Health and Holiness was born." He says "The show had two overarching goals: a reflection on how to live a healthy and balanced life, and a question that was perhaps even more important: how to live a holy life." And again he has a list:

Runner's Tips for Wannabe Saints
Running a marathon begins with running the first mile.
You'll never finish if you don't set a goal.
Progress is made by training and constantly pushing your boundaries.
Be sure you have the right equipment.
Follow a training schedule.
Seek advice from other runners.
Don't overdo it.
Don't give up too quickly.
Stay hydrated and pay attention to what you eat.
Enjoy the process!

This was another section of the book that I read through a few times. There are so many gems of advice in this section! But a few of my picks are "In the same way, holiness begins with the resolution to become holy. You have to take the first step. Start reserving time in your life to live with God. Make it a firm appointment in your agenda if you are busy." And "Your spiritual progress can also benefit from good advice. Find a spiritual director, and share your journey with friends, either in your local community or perhaps even via the Internet. Sharing your spiritual struggles and progress can help others, and it will benefit you, too. And don't forget the saints! They have shown that it is possible to live a holy life. Read about their lives and take advantage of their experience!" He also declares "Your spiritual life requires a similar balance. Develop reasonable habits. Don't expect to pray for hours every day, or to be constantly, 100 percent focused on God and ready to receive the most beautiful mystical experiences. You might disappoint yourself if you can't keep it up. Take small steps first, and let the Holy Spirit guide the process." One of the most important to me is "In your spiritual life, good nutrition and hydration are just as important. Here I'm not just referring to the prayer books you take with you to the chapel. We are constantly consuming information and entertainment, but just like junk food can have nefarious consequences for our health, so can junk media. Without becoming overly scrupulous, ask yourself whether or not a book, a movie, a video game, or other forms of entertainment are really enriching your life. Good content can enrich your spiritual life; trash media can hamper it. Be picky- it's for your own good!" With advice like that how could you not give this book a try?

The final list is the book is:

Seven Things Pope Francis Taught Me
1. It's Not About You
2. Be Humble
3. Don't forget the poor.
4. Never despair.
5. Don't pursue what you don't need.
6. Protect others in friendship.
7. Reach out to the world and reach for the sky.

So to end the same was he does in the book what are you waiting for!

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Friday, 5 February 2016

Jason Alba - Pluralsight Jibber Jobber, Author and more

Jason Alba - Pluralsight Jibber Jobber, Author and more

Last year I wrote a review of Pluralsight and as much as I love learning new technology this past year and especially the past few months my focus has been on non-technical skills. One of the authors I was most impressed with was Jason Alba. Jason seems to create about one new course a month for Pluralsight, he is the creator and founder of and the author of a number of books.

I am very impressed with Jason's presenting style. He is engaging, entertaining and honest. His courses are great. I have listened to all of his current offering at least once and a number of them more than once. Currently he has 26 courses available on Pluralsight:

Presenting to the Boss(es)  
Prioritizing Tasks and Managing Time for Greater Productivity  
Working and Communicating with Different Personalities  
How to Be a Great Mentor: Get More out of Mentoring  
How to Be a Great Mentee: Get More Out of Mentoring  
How to Get Your Next Promotion  
Creating and Leading Effective Teams for Managers  
Working on a Team  
Marketing and Selling Your Own Products and Services  
Customer Service for Software Developers: Delighting Customers  
Resumes and Self-marketing for Software Developers  
Becoming a Better Listener
LinkedIn: Proactive Strategies
LinkedIn Strategy: Optimize Your Profile  
Management 101  
Leadership: Getting Started  
Effective Phone Skills  
Onboard Yourself: What to Do After You Land Your Dream Job  
Designing a Killer Job Search Strategy
Developing a Killer Personal Brand
Relationship Management and Tracking for Your Career
Writing and Marketing a Book  
Career Management 2.0  
Effective Email Communication  
Informational Interviews  
LinkedIn Fundamentals

Jason's courses range from 1 hour 8 minutes to 2 hours 47 minute currently. He teaches on a wide range of skills and competencies that will help you grow, but not just in your abilities at work these skills can transfer to all areas of your life.

And one of the greatest things is that if you are not a Pluralsight subscriber you can get free trial subscription currently up to 10 days or 200 minutes of learning. And all of Jason's courses come in under that 200 minute mark. But I will warn you once you start learning with Jason or Pluralsight you won't want to stop you might become hooked and want a subscription so you can continue your learning. You have nothing to lose just go to Pluralsight click on Sign Up and choose the free trial option. Give it a try you will not be disappointed.

Books by Jason Alba:
51 Alternatives to a Real Job
I'm on Linkedin -- Now What: A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Linkedin
I'm on Facebook--Now What: How to Get Personal, Business, and Professional Value from Facebook
Storytelling About Your Brand Online & Offline: A Compelling Guide to Discovering Your Story
Vault Career Guide to Accounting: Get the Inside Scoop on Careers in Accounting
I've Landed My Dream Job--Now What: How to Achieve Success in the First 30 Days in a New Job
Launchpad: Your Career Search Strategy Guide

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Popular brain games - which one is right for you?

Popular brain games - which one is right for you?

The focus this month through the Fitness center at work and the wellness committee is Brain Health so with the triFit focus this month being on brain health we decided to highlight some brain training options. After watching a miniseries on brain health, Redesign My Brain, and the focus on improvement of brain health I decided to give brain games and training a try, both for the benefits of neuroplasticity and overall brain health. I tried dozens of brain games and websites.

Each of my top three picks have a free option with limited access; sometimes there is also a time limit on the free access.

Here are my top three brain game picks.

This is my top pick and the only one that I unlocked for a year of unlimited access of the pro plan.
Pros and cons:

  • Four free games a day with the free membership and six games a day with the pro plan. 
  • A new game is added into the mix every month
  • You can create specific training plans for goals such as improved creativity, memory etc.
  • It's only available as a mobile app.

Pros and cons

  • It's available on the Web or as a mobile app.
  • There's a good mix of  games and training
  • The cost is reasonable for the pro plan. 
  • There's unlimited use of th free plan
  • The user interface is slower than other games'

Fit Brains - by Rosetta Stone
Pros and cons
  • It's available on the Web or as a mobile app Nice clean crisp interface
  • It's very pricey 
  • The free trial is only available for a limited time

I used each of the above three months I made the leap and bought a 1 year subscription for Peak. And I think it is fantastic. Inside the Peak application there are also a number of advance training plans currently available:

Memory Training
Attention Training
Emotional Management
Creative Thinking
Working Memory Part 1
Working Memory Part 2
Sports Cognition Training

I have purchased a number of these advanced plans and do not regret it. When I started using these applications about 10 months ago my brain score was in the low 400's. This is today's score. Below that a comparison to the average for my age range. And finally a Sample of today's workout.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Messy & Foolish - Matthew Warner

Messy & Foolish
Matthew Warner
Beacon Publishing
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781942611547

This book packs a huge punch in a short number of pages! The hard cover comes in at 79 pages and ebook at 49. I believe I first heard about this book through The Dynamic Catholic Institute, but I cannot remember if it was a tweet, email or Facebook link. But however I stumbled across it I am very thankful. I am currently working through a list of Catholic books to read this year, and this was the first one I finished.

The sections in this book are:

INTRODUCTION: The Problem (and the Goal)
It's time to make a mess
What needs to change

PART ONE: On Messes (and Thinking Differently about Them)
Messes can be good
How to make a good mess
The work of an artist
Where it all breaks down
Where the mess must start

PART TWO: On Foolishness (and What It Looks Like)
Why be a fool? A fool's heart
What we need
The radical life
Time to dance

PART THREE: On Evangelizing the World (When and How to Do It)
When you can start
So how do we do it?
The most foolish act of all

What's next?

This book stirs a lot up in our hearts and in our imaginations. The more if it I read the more excited I got. The book begins with: "There were no pews or seats, only cold, wet sand. But that wasn't going to stop three million energetic young people from celebrating Mass that day on Copacabana Beach in Brazil.
"Go!" said Pope Francis. "You have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community."" Talking about World Youth Day 2013 and the commission that Pope Francis gave to the youth present. He also quote Pope Francis in There were no pews or seats, only cold, wet sand. But that wasn't going to stop three million energetic young people from celebrating Mass that day on Copacabana Beach in Brazil. "Go!" said Pope Francis. "You have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community." And that is the premise of this book. We are called to be fools for Christ and to make a mess in the world. And through the rest of the book Matthew gives some guidance in how to go about that!

In the chapter on it being time to make a mess Matthew states: "Sure, we can point to many bright spots worth celebrating within the Church today, but the bleeding continues. None have yet reversed the mass exodus of modern man from church. We're in the midst of an identity crisis. We've forgotten we were made to live courageously." First he outlines some of the problems and then he goes on to challenge us to look at our own lives and mission and make changes to fufill the commission. He also declares "Are you ready to start a new era of evangelization unlike the world has ever seen? Good. Now let's get started.
Pope Francis was right. It's time to make a mess. It's time to change the world. And we are just the fools to do it." So will you take the rick, pick up the book and read it, but don't just put it on a shelf when you are done learn to live it!

Next he goes on to outline what needs to change. "Christianity has a very specific vision for how we should see the world and ourselves - a vision of man fully alive. But modern minds are skeptical. They don't take us seriously." And only we can do that by our witness but not specifically what we say but by what we do. Matthew says "Sure, we need inspirational leadership. We need solid teaching. Our organizations need to be more professional. We need to do community and fellowship better." And one of the most impacting statements in the book for me was "The truth is that the function of every no in Christianity is to provide us the freedom to say yes to something better, something corresponding positive points rather than the negative - when we talk about our faith in terms of what we are for rather than what we are against. This is an approach referred to as "affirmative orthodoxy." And it's an important lesson, but it's not enough." And "In other words, instead of talking about how beautiful the faith is, let's show the world its beauty. Instead of insisting how good the Church is, let's be good. Instead of lecturing about truth, let's live a life transformed by it." The only real lasting witness we will have is our own lives.

Matthew declares: "We forget that being a true Christian is not really about having the right opinions; it's about having the right heart - which is a very different thing. An orthodox life is not the mental challenge of staying between the lines, but an exercise in wildly overflowing the boundaries of the heart. Jesus' love is not measured and controlled. It is total and wild." Can we learn to live a strong passionate faith from a heart flowing with the power of the Holy Spirit? Again quoting Pope Francis: "Pope Francis points out that "the Church grows by attraction, not proselytizing." 6 The beauty in the Church is irresistible. The problem is that our sin distorts it. The saints learn to magnify that beauty through their love and humility, rather than distort it with proselytizing and pride. We need saints. And not just saints of the past - your sainthood." We need to be saints, saints in the world, living and working and serving.

There is an interesting quote from Peter Kreeft that really got me thinking "Can you imagine what twelve more Mother Teresas would do for this world? If twelve more people gave Christ 100 percent of their hearts 100 percent of the time and held nothing back, absolutely nothing?" Can you imagine how the world would be turned upside down? Later Matthew says: "We're scared to let go of our need to succeed. We're scared of not getting credit. We're scared of not getting the honor and power that come with whatever career path we're on. We're scared of missing an opportunity. We're scared of having our struggles and achievements go unacknowledged. We're scared of not maximizing our potential and our productivity. We're scared of being alone." So are you going to let your fears win, or will you open yourself up to the Holy Spirit and learn to be Jesus's hands and feet in the world.

This book will defiantly challenge you. All you have to lose is your frustrations, disappointments, and focus on self, And you have the whole world to gain and to serve! Will you try?

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Saturday, 30 January 2016

A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading

A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading

Over the years I have read some absolutely incredible books on living my faith. A mix of Catholic and non-Catholic authors. I have been reading a number of great books but keep jumping around and have numerous books on the go currently. I usually have very focused reading for Advent 2015 and Plans for Lent 2016, but I thought I would build out more of a plan for the year. So it will be a year of reading intentionally. I have just gone through my Kindle, Kobo and Google Play book apps to see what I have on the go or have and want to read. These are the books that are my goal for getting through this year. So in alphabetical order here are the books I plan to make it through this year:

21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage, The - Allen Hunt
A Man Cleansed by God - John E. Beahm
Be A Man - Fr. Larry Richards
Be Holy A Catholics Guide to the Spiritual Life
Beautiful Mercy - Dynamic Catholic
Behold The Man - Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
Book of Courage, The - Matthew Kelly
Catholic Book of Character, The - Fr. Edward Garesche
Catholics Wake Up - Jesse Romero
Christian Self-Mastery - Vasil W. Maturin
Church Militant Field Manual - Richard Heilman
Father The Family Protector - James B. Stenson
Four Signs of A Dynamic Catholic, The - Matthew Kelly
God Who Loves, The - Shane Kapler
God's World and Our Place In It - Fulton J. Sheen
Here and Now - Amy Welborn
Joseph of Nazareth - Federico Suarez
Life's Greatest Lesson - Allen Hunt
Light Along My Path - Jack Wintz
Live Well Today - Fr. Thomas Dailey
Nine Words - Allen Hunt
Seven Saints for Seven Virtues - Jean M. Heimann
Sign of the Cross, The - St. Francis de Sales
The Joy Of the Gospel - Pope Francis
This Tremendous Lover - Eugene Boylan
World's First Love, The - Fulton J. Sheen

I am sure some others will get added over the year but the goal is to get through at least these, but not just to read them to apply them and live the principles. I am part way through a number of these but it will work out to about a book every 2 weeks to get through the list.

(Note: Books marked in Blue are read but net reviewed yet will add links to reviews as I get them posted.)

A List that grows out of this year's readings and recommendations:
A Friar's Tale - John Collins
How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming Into the Catholic Church - Kevin Lowry
A Shepherd in Combat Boots - William Maher
Your Life in the Holy Spirit - Dr. Alan Schreck
Truth Be Told - Mark Hart    

Related Articles:
Advent Reading 2012
Thinking About Lent 2015
Advent 2015 Reading Plan

Other Article or Books on Lent:
Lent 2014 Some Reflections
Reconciled to God Daily Lenten Devotions - Amy Welborn
Magnificat Lenten Companion 2012
Lenten Preparation 2007
Holy Week Reflections 2007
Lent Readings 2006
The Way of the Cross Part II - Reviews of 5 more version
The Way of the Cross Part I - Reviews of 5 different versions