Choosing Risk

December 29th, 2005

for Christmas, and I’ve been devouring it. So far it has been extremely challenging and inspiring. Networking, or reaching out, as Ferrazzi calls it, is not my strongest attribute, and I’ve recognized my need in this area for a long time. This book is inspiring me to become a better relationship builder.

My favorite quote from the book (so far), on page 51:

The choice isn’t between success and failure; it’s between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity.

Follow-up to Lighttpd Proxy

December 29th, 2005

So. My problem with Lighttpd’s mod_proxy turned out to be in Rails’ url_for and redirect_to methods. Whenever my application would call redirect_to (I have a lot of redirects that happen after submitting a form) the redirect_to method would dutifully append the application’s current port to the URL. In my case the URL would go from to Not what I wanted.

The solution is incredibly simple. But what did you expect? It’s rails.

I opened my ApplicationController and added the following code:

  def default_url_options(options)
    { :host => }

That’s it! Now all requests will automatically be routed to port 80.

Lighttpd Proxy

December 28th, 2005

Anyone else run into this problem using proxy.server with Lighttpd?

My goal is to have a Lighttpd process listening on port 80, which will then route requests for my websites to other Lighttpd processes running on different ports. I know this is easy with Apache and mod_proxy, but I’m trying to cut out Apache and use only Lighttpd. Here are two examples of how it’s done with Apache.

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Most churches see the web as an expense – some necessary drudgery that has to be done but takes up valuable resources – like cleaning the bathroom. But the reality is that people are increasingly turning to the Internet for information – even (especially) about faith and church.

Churches need to begin to see their websites as an investment rather than an expense. The Internet gives churches a voice in ways that have never before been possible. Even a single small church today can have a potential impact on thousands of people anywhere in the world through their website.

Churches need to invest in good content. This means that throwing up an “About Us” page and service times is not enough. People are hungry for current information. They want to read why you believe what you believe. They want to see that the church is alive.

One of the most popular pages on my church’s website is the “Investigate the Faith” section. Every week they post up Sunday’s sermon in MP3 format, so there is always something fresh. They’re also starting to update their CrossConnector site, so now they even have current missions information available. It’s all relevant and useful. That’s what’s most important.

We need to begin to think of the Internet as an investment in evangelism, where the church website becomes not just a medium for the simple transmittal of information, but a vehicle for evangelism and teaching.

This post was adapted from a comment I posted in the Godbit discussion forums.

For anyone trying to upload files with their Rails applications, Sebastian Kanthak’s FileColumn plugin is a godsend.

Switchtower Shell Gotcha

December 27th, 2005

Last week I was setting up the wonderful Switchtower to deploy CrossConnector. But for the life of me, I couldn’t get it to work. It kept giving me an inexplicable runtime error whenever I would run rake deploy.

I combed over my setup for hours, trying to find that little missing piece of the puzzle. Was it my configuration? My deployment recipe? Was I using the wrong version of something?

Finally, in desperation, I contacted Jamis Buck, the author of Switchtower. Jamis got back to me within a few minutes with a very helpful tip: check your UNIX shell. Apparently the POSIX conditional syntax used by the Switchtower commands is incompatible with TCSH and certain other shells. Turns out I was using TCSH. I switched my shell to BASH and all of a sudden everything worked – amazing!

So the gotcha is: if you’re getting a runtime error with Switchtower, try changing your shell to BASH or some other shell that supports POSIX commands.

Bye Bye Tables

December 23rd, 2005

Five great reasons why
designing with tables is not a great idea.

When I first started designing for the web, I learned that the easiest way to lay out web pages was with tables. It really made sense back then. If you think about it, tables give you nice, structured columns that are really easy to work with in a visual web page layout program like Dreamweaver, FrontPage, or even PageMill (which was my first web page layout program).

That was a long time ago – before Wi-Fi,, and even before Google, if you can remember such a time. Most importantly, that was before CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) was widely adopted, and before the makers of web browsers agreed on how they would render the web pages that people visit. Those were the days when Tables (with a capital T) were the way of the Web.

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My Little Secret

December 23rd, 2005

Since I got scolded by Carson over at for keeping this to myself, I’d better tell you my dirty little secret.

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How I Fixed the Comment Form

December 22nd, 2005

For the longest time I was having trouble with my comment form. Whenever someone would try to post a comment Typo (the blog engine that runs this site) would eat the comment. Actually, the comment would get posted, but it would look like it got eaten. This resulted in a lot of double comments as people tried to get their comment to post.

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Godbit Desktop Wallpapers

December 22nd, 2005

Check out the cool new desktop backgrounds from Godbit. My favorite is number 3.

Comment Form Woes

December 22nd, 2005

Yes, this is still the Art of Mission blog.

I’ve switched the theme back to the default Azure theme for a while so that I can figure out what’s wrong with my comment form. For some reason, when you submit a comment on my Art of Mission theme, it doesn’t show up right away. It looks like something went wrong, so the natural tendency is to press the Submit button again, which just results in a duplicate comment.

I think this is an issue with my particular theme on the Typo blog engine. When I get it figured out I’ll post a little article explaining how I fixed it, just incase anyone else runs into the same troubles.

Our Photographer

December 21st, 2005

If you need a good photographer, check out Romeo Gil.

Romeo did our wedding just over a year ago (shame on me for taking so long to let you know about our favorite photographer), and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our pictures. We barely knew he was there, but he made the most amazing pictures for us. His setup is all digital, so in addition to the prints we got everything on CD, which makes it easy to share them. Speaking of sharing, .

Romeo also did our engagement pictures at our favorite beach – Leo Carillo beach in Malibu, California. That was a lot of fun, although the water in Malibu is cold any time of year. I posted our for you to see on Flickr also. Enjoy!

From Rick Warren’s, via Church Marketing Sucks, comes this extremely timely and relevant article.

Churches need to wake up and join the rest of us here in reality. The Internet is not a passing fad any more than is a church building. In fact, if you’re like me and many people my age, if your church has a crummy website, there’s a good chance I may completely write you off forever.

The list:

  1. Your target audience for church growth is Internet-savvy.
  2. Your Web site will be your “first impression” for many people.
  3. If you’re not on the Web, you don’t exist to many people.
  4. Seekers will visit your Web site before attending your services.
  5. A whole generation exists that will seek “religion” online.
  6. The Web site is too critical to be run by a volunteer.
  7. You can’t afford a cheap site.
  8. People are viewing your current Web site right now.

Go take a look at 8 things pastors need to know about e-ministry by Terrell Sanders.

Hearst Castle

December 20th, 2005

Over the weekend we went to Hearst Castle, in Cambria, CA. Really amazing – this guy imported all types of artwork from all over Europe to build what he called his “ranch”. The home of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, the castle is really a wonderful piece of architecture, and has survived several major earthquakes. But what amazed me was the volume of artwork, sculptures, and tapestries all around the property. The three “guest cottages” (which are bigger than your average home, and way nicer) were my favorite though – very cozy and warm, in contrast to the huge and cold-feeling Gothic and Renaissance style of the big house. We only made it around the common areas and the bottom floor of the castle, which in itself was really magnificent. Eventually I’d really like to take the upstairs tour and see more of the house, including “the Gothic Room”, Mr. Hurst’s private quarters.

Ruby on Rails 1.0

December 14th, 2005

Ruby on Rails 1.0 is finally here! I’m constantly amazed at the little things that make this framework great. From the plain-english feel of the Ruby language to the well-thought-out helpers and easy database integration, Rails is a giant after only 15 months.


December 12th, 2005

36 Parables

December 12th, 2005

Go check out 36 Parables, a collection of short films based on the parables of Christ. My friend Stewart Redwine and his new company have just opened for business, and their first DVD is available for sale starting today!

These short films are a great way to breathe new life into those great old stories that Jesus told. The “Yellow” DVD is the first of many, and tells three stories – Buen Vecino, based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Buried Talent, based on the Parable of the Talents, and Found, based on the Parable of the Lost Coin.

I had an opportunity to preview Found, and I think you’ll like it. As a neat bonus, each film has an accompanying Bible study that you can download for free.

36 Parables

Church Marketing Report

December 10th, 2005

The Church Marketing Report has lots of very interesting tidbits. I was mostly interested in learning about how churches use the web to communicate. Head on over to Church Marketing Sucks to check it out.

Should Churches be Blogging?

December 8th, 2005

Church Marketing Sucks has an interesting report on church blogging activity. My interesting take-away from their report is that, even though it is a small percentage of people whose churches have blogs, those that do seem fairly enthusiastic about it. After all, what better way to keep in touch with your members than with a blog. It’s personal, it gives people a chance to have their voice heard, and blogs are a great forum for education and discussion.

There’s still that 66% that don’t have a blog yet. What they need is a Functional Blog

A Solution

CrossConnector was developed to address many of these issues. CrossConnector is a website designed to help missionaries, churches, and mission agencies to plan, manage, and organize ministry and missionary work. The system offers simple tools for messaging, scheduling, and collaboration that are specifically designed around the needs of Christian missionaries and ministry workers. In addition to management tools, CrossConnector provides a public space, much like a blog, where anyone in the world can view, search, and respond to the ministry’s projects, messages, and files.

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Here's to the Crazy Ones

December 6th, 2005

Creating Passionate Users is one of my favorite blogs. Yesterday’s article Being Brave is Tricky really struck a cord with me. As risk-averse as I am (and I seem to be getting more so as I get older), this is something that I like to keep in the back of my mind. Make sure to read down to the bottom – some folks have left great quotes in the comments.

The System

Some very good attempts have been made to set up communication systems for missionaries, including agency-sponsored newsletters for which the missionaries contribute articles and news updates, church and agency websites where missionaries can post their information, and printed brochures, magazines, and catalogs. Some missionaries even maintain their own blogs. While these attempts to set up missionary communication systems have for the most part been good, they fall short in several areas.

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Apart from the inherent difficulties in missionary communication, not everyone who is a missionary is a naturally great communicator (including myself). Most of those who can communicate well have learned the art of communication through necessity and experience. There is no widely accepted standard by which effective missionary communication is measured. When it comes to communicating, missionaries for the most part are on their own.

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An excerpt from a paper I wrote for my recent communications class at Biola.

The Difficulties of Modern Missionary Communication

In the world today there are more people to evangelize, more missionaries on the move originating from more churches, more agencies, and more countries than ever before. Clearly, we’ve entered into a new era of missionary work. This massive increase in the scope of missionary work requires new ways of thinking about how the work is done, and especially about how to communicate.

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Countdown to CrossConnector

December 1st, 2005

Countdown to CrossConnector

This is the month! In just under a month CrossConnector will officially open for business. More to come…

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