Comic Con Perk

The number one Comic Con perk? If you’re ultra famous, all you need is a simple mask to completely blend in.

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And if you’re already known for living your adult life in your own personal fantasy world, come as you are. No one will think twice.

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Wait. OK, well, maybe they’d know who you are, Lady Gaga.

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My Sermon Preparation Process

How I Use iPhone Apps to Study The Bible and Prepare to Speak

I share the following workflow for three reasons. The first is that I get a lot of requests about how I prepare my messages, and people seem genuinely helped when I explain my methods. The second is that it speaks to study in general; not everyone is a pastor or teacher, but everyone, especially Christians, should be students of scripture and of life.

The third is that I believe I’m in the cross-over generation from print Bibles to digital Bibles, at least in leading and developing first world nations. This is important. I grew up reading my Gideon hotel-stolen NKJV until it needed rebinding, and my leather-bound NIV Rainbow Study Bible. But as I traveled more (specifically flying), the sheer weight and size of my Bibles and notebooks became an impediment. As the iPhone, and then iPad made it easier to chose how I could pack, my study habits also started to change. They became more efficient, and therefore more powerful.

Superior tools allow a craftsman to do better work. The generation behind me often finds digital sterile and cold, some might even say “un-anointed.” But the generation coming after me needs to be even more immersed in the written Word. I’m sure there may have been similar despondency when people could actually bring a Bible into their home for the first time. “But how will we know what it means if the priest isn’t here to teach us?” Or how about the glaring hurdle of having to learn how to read?

The point is, if there are new tools available to us that proliferate the accessibility of scripture and allow us to understand more than ever before, we need to champion them, if nothing more than for the sake of those coming after us.

When preparing a sermon for a church service, I first have to begin where I want to end: my audience (their needs and contextual appetites), my time frame (if I’m at New Life, we have four services each with a 20-25 minute window for the message; if I’m at EDEN school in France, I look at 3-hour blocks), and obviously my goal (what I want them leaving with). Without these, I tend to ramble, over prepare, and think more about what I want to say than what God wants to say. Remember, constraints can either limit you or serve you—the choice is entirely yours.

All of my messages begin (and mostly end) on my iPhone. It’s always with me, so convenience is key. It’s also the place I do my largest amount of Bible reading. I use four different apps for different reasons.

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Bible by YouVersion: This is the easiest and simplest app to read from for me. The social connectivity attributes are nice, but not really the reason I’m there. When I need to copy and paste scriptures, this app places them in my clipboard with the reference in parentheses at the bottom. I have it loaded with ESV, NKJV, NIV, KJV and NLT.

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PocketSword by CrossWire: This is the mojo, the magic sauce Bible app for me. I use it for one thing: Greek and Hebrew (Strongs modules) in the KJV (the only version they appear in). When I want to research and break down the words (something all good teachers and preachers need to be in the practice of), PocketSword is my go-to app.

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Lumina by Bible Studies Foundation: This NET translation of the Bible comes hyperlinked with 60,000 translation notes created by 25 translation scholars from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Great for digging a little deeper into those hard-to-understand passages.

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Bible+ by Olive Tree: I tend to make most of my in-Bible notes and highlights in this app as it “feels” the most like reading my favorite print Bibles. I typically read out of the ESV here. Pasting copied sections strips out the references, so if I want to grab something I like, I jump back to YouVersion.

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The other reading app I use most (paired beside Evernote, which I’ll hit next) is Kindle for iOS. In here I’m gleaning from whatever non-fiction or essays (PDFs) I’ve downloaded. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have enough time to extract everything out of the Bible that you need, so you better eat from the hands of others who’ve used their entire lives to share something worth digesting.

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Since I’m one of those preachers who believes that everything needs to be rooted and end up in the written Word, most all of my ideas launch out of verses that speak to my life experiences, world happenings and what I believe God is trying to say to people (my audience, in particular).

As a result, when I’m reading in one of my Bible apps, I’m bound to open Evernote within moments. Evernote is my catch-all of choice. From pics and drawings to links and syncing, it’s my jam, and arguably the best on the market.

I have an “Academics” stack that contains most all of my more heady content, and within, my “Messages” notebook. I allow this notebook to be very fluid. It not only contains finished content, but also “content in process.” Or as my Dad uses in his three ring binders, his “Sermons Working” tab.

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Here’s a shot from a message I preached last Sunday at L’Eglise Sans Frontiers in Longuyon, France:

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When I’m traveling or under time constraints, I preach right out of Evernote from my iPad or iPhone. But if I have time, there’s one extra step that I take. Fair warning: this is for geeks, nerds, designers and people with any level of OCD.

I import my content from Evernote into InDesign to create a good looking PDF.

I learned from designer Nathan Davis to value the added step of creating a beautiful looking PDF as it has a way of internalizing the content more thoroughly. This added process, while sometimes time consuming, is a great way of embedding the message deeper into my gut where it moves from notes I have to read verbatim to a message I can proclaim intuitively. And when I need to transition from teaching to preaching while onstage, this key component is essential.

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My father, Peter, taught (and challenged) me to love scripture. And he still prepares his messages using his wonderful leather-bound Bible and 8″ three-ring notebooks filled with his handwriting. What he passed on, however, we’re not his methods, but his love for God’s Word. Regardless of how you learn, study, preach or teach, make sure that you’re more focused on imparting than on your process: few people will remember how you did it, but everyone will remember what you did.

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Measure What You Ingest

Can you recount ten notable headlines of news articles that you’ve read over the last thirty days?

Probably not.

Don’t worry, neither can I.

But can you recall a point that moved you in a book from the last ten years?

You probably can.

That’s because reading intentional long-form works tend to have a far more lasting effect on our lives than reading any of the day’s gossip columns. If this is true for me as I suspect it is for you, it means that we must be more deliberate than ever before about what we’re ingesting on a regular basis.

Making behavior decisions in the present based on what we know will help us in the future is the very essence of wise judgement.

Here are a few things I do to make sure I’m consuming content that I know helps and not dilutes my perspective:

Use YouTube Videos as Podcasts. Whatever your hobby or profession is, there’s probably someone online who’s said something that you need to know. And while podcasts are plentiful, YouTube trends higher on people’s scope. So I stock pile recommendations that people send me, most notable sermons, tutorials or songs, and play them through my headphones when I have down time, especially during travel. The key here it that you don’t always need to see it to receive it. Hearing them talk is just as essential to the process of learning, and often allows us to retain more information in certain contexts.

Stay Addicted, Just Change The Drug. If you find yourself addicted to reading materials on your mobile device, then leverage your new addiction, don’t despise it. This means putting your Kindle app right next to your favorite news aggregate app. Or better yet, place the pop-culture apps further back in your screen pages and keep your Kindle/iBooks app up front. This visual reminder helps promote long-form works of value while keeping the dreaded pop-web-surfing monster at bay.

Value Authentic Communication First. If you’re a Christian, and you’re tempted to read your email or check social media first, make sure that your Bible app is close. I’d much rather hear what God has to say to me to start my day than what people do. Emails are important and, to an extent, so is social media; they’re just not the most important. It’s the myriad of other voices in my email and social media accounts that tend to side track me. Kick things off right: hear from God first.

What ways have you disciplined yourself to intentionally digest wholesome content while skirting the frivolous?

New good habits are hard to form, but they become just as powerful as old bad ones. Only more so: because they help instead of hinder you.

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How I Use (And Don’t Use) Social Media

Before social media became a thing, we had email chat rooms, brought to you by America Online. I still remember my dad using a “street address and mail box” analogy to help me understand what a URL and @ symbol were, all to the static-laden interlude between hitting “connect” and hearing the famous words of one of my wife’s favorite movies.

(Bet that voice actor wishes he had taken the royalty option instead of the studio fee).

Where I once felt the rush of talking to an AOL user in a chat room, I now freely post text and images of my life before the better part of 2 billion people.

What happened?

Like everything, technology moves forward, which means feasibility, accessibility and integration does too. In short, things just get easier and more interesting.

After a few years of playing with all of the connectivity apps out there, here are the ones I use daily and why.

Instagram

Instagram is my go-to social media app for me. It’s what I like. Promoting family, adventure, music, life. It encapsulates the essence of a picture being worth a thousand words, and shamelessly ignores the trappings that have made Facebook the mess it is today.

Since 65% of humans are visual learners, its a seamless way to capitalize on our natural predisposition. I can scroll through dozens of images in a minute, learning what my friends or favorite retailers are doing, leave a comment if I want, or just double-tap the image (“like”) to let them know I was here.

Posting a picture a day has become a habit I love, because it forces me to look at my day with extreme visual appreciation. It’s helped me be intentional with valuing my contexts, and therefore, it’s made me a more appreciative person. And it’s brought me closer to considering other people’s joys and heartaches. It’s the closest thing I can handle to having God’s timeless and instant access to all of humanity.

Twitter

Twitter used to be my go-to platform (which now auto-populates from my Instagram posts, accounting for 90% of my Twitter activity). Twitter was especially attractive to me as I tired of Facebook’s decay to non-user commercialism and the irrational commentary from people who felt everyone should read their obscure opinions (which added little value to society). Twitter has, in large part, salvaged that, though it’s recent popularity in commenting on TV drama and pop culture is wearing on me (thus why I follow so few people).

The limitation to 140 characters means intelligent humans must be thoughtful about anything we say, and likewise limits the praising or ranting abilities of anyone commenting back. This makes for short, cunning dialog that doesn’t require much time. And even if someone says something unintelligent, they can’t say it for very long.

Facebook

The only thing I use Facebook for anymore is posting links to what you’re reading right now. If I didn’t get thousands of click-throughs every week because of it, I wouldn’t bother. But enough people still faithfully use Facebook to make meaningful connections that I recognize the value of publicizing my work there.

Facebook was a great idea, but between the maintenance it required (friend request management, comments, private messages, and the incessant app-blocking if you don’t want your page to look like a billboard for FarmVille), as well as the presumed familiarity if you’re a public figure, turned me off to the site’s time-sucking irrationality. I once had a Facebook follower get mad at me because I failed to write him when his wife died suddenly. I was genuinely grieved for this poor man, but astonished that Facebook had elevated presumptive intimacy to such extraordinary levels.

Everything Else

While there are plenty of other cool apps out there, most either seem like repeats (Google+ repeating Facebook) or irrelevant (LinkedIn, since I don’t need any more work, and don’t want to be linked anymore than I already am). The only other platform I tend to spend a lot of time cultivating is this one right here: my blog. I’ve made it a point to always respond to every comment.

In the end, my advice is to find one or two platforms that inspire you to be a better person without enticing you to disengage from the world around you, trading reality for life-lived-from-a-screen. Social media is a powerful tool, and it’s uses are only in their infancy, but tools should never trump people.

Live life with your eyes open, looking straight ahead, knowing that the most valuable connections are made with the people right in from of you.

ch:

Making Time for Creating

Tonight, my dear friend Wayne Thomas Batson arrives at our home for a three day writing weekend that we call a Writer’s Bootcamp. We’ve been conducting these annually for the past nine years. Usually, we write, talk, write, eat, drink, write, use the bathroom (separately), talk, write, and then pass out, only to awake the next morning and do it all over again, with the goal of pounding out as many words as is inhumanly possible.

One thing that I’ve learned about the creation process is that it requires me to be intentional. When I was younger, making things just seemed to “happen.” I had loads of free time, and proximity to all sorts of amazing tools. And loads of free time.

(Did I mention free time?)

Today, as creative a soul as I am, producing tangible art—whether books, records or designs—only happens when I make time for them.

Here are three tips that’ve helped me:

Book It

Appointments are typically for people, not for “making things.” While people got premium space on my calendar apps—complete with descriptions, reminders and a courtesy text message if I’m running late—projects normally didn’t. Somehow I treated it as a second class activity.

If we really want to be intentional about creating, we need to treat time frames for our creative disciplines like appointments with people. Schedule the time on your calendar, write a description about what you want to accomplish in that time frame, and set up alerts if you’re late (treating them like text messages that say “You’re late! Get in here for your meeting!”).

Guard It

Merely setting planned time aside for your creative activities, whether professional or pastime, isn’t enough. I would never entertain ducking out of an intense marriage counseling session to help someone with the office printer. But I’m OK with stopping a design session to help someone tape up a box?

No.

All those those people and their tasks are important, just not right now.

Once you’ve scheduled time, keep yourself accountable to it by telling any interruptions to your creative appointment, “I’m sorry, but I’m in a meeting.” Most everything can wait.

Guarding these times includes turning OFF your mobile phone and restricting browser usage (if you need it open at all) to pertinent tasks only. TV, music (if it’s a distraction) and company can also be things that breach your guard.

End On a Cliffhanger

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my novel writing career was ending my day’s work when I’d finished a section that had a natural finale.

Big mistake.

Don’t end when it seems right, end when it seems wrong. Call it a day right in the middle of your favorite scene. Favorite color choice. Favorite chorus. Call the session when you’re truly inspired. This not only means that you’ll resume your progress sooner, but ensures that you’ll start back up with zeal. You’ll be eager instead of reticent.

What are some things you do to schedule, guard and inspire your creative disciplines?

Happy creating,

ch:

Why You Should Be Reading Books On Your Phone If You’re Not Already

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I remember thinking the same thing you probably are when someone suggested it to me too.

There’s no way I’m reading a book on my iPhone. That’s insane.

Somehow, my brain instantly categorized this preposterous notion as on par with fishing for King Salmon with a toothpick and dental floss.

Not happening.

And what was my main reason against it?

That’s too much to read on so small a screen.

Somehow, I saw my brain melting as it tried to cope with all the text. There’s just no way to stay focused over that long a period. Is there?

That’s about the time that reality set in, and I asked myself just how much do I read on my iPhone in a day anyway? The truth—as you might imagine—is that I read on it a whole heck of a lot. And chances are, you probably do too.

I read blog posts, weather alerts, headlines, news articles and product reviews. I read text messages, emails, phone numbers and addresses. I read instructions, quotations and statistics. I read comments, tweets, status updates and pins. Not to mention, I wrote on it a ton (this post not withstanding).

Come to think of it, I hardly use my iPhone to call anyone. All I really do is read on it.

So if reading a book on my iPhone is technically feasible—which it is, given Amazon’s Kindle reader (which I much prefer over iBooks)—than I asked myself the second most obvious question: why on earth would I want to?

The answer to this one, of course, is simple.

Because it’s with me. Constantly.

I’m not sure how your perfect reading scenario looks, but mine goes something like this:

I’m sitting in an overstuffed leather chair beside a crackling fireplace in my massive library. I have my favorite pair of slippers on, my grandfather’s pipe, a warm sweater, and mahogany table with a Tiffany desk lamp warming the pages of my favorite tome with soft incandescent light. I’m like my own personal PBS special.

And how often does this happen?

Uh. Never.

Why? Because I can hardly remember the last time I had twenty uninterrupted minutes all to myself. It’s not because I don’t want it, or think it’s important; but with the beautiful family I have, as well as the amazing church, businesses and relationships I live to foster, such “ease” is not apart of the season I’m in. And honestly, nor should it be.

And yet there is still the quite-necessary requirement that I must read in order to better myself and those who’ll be touched by my life.

Why read on your phone? While you may not have the perfect time frame or the perfect environment, you do have the perfect convenience. And that’s your phone.

It’s always with you, always remembers where you left off, and is always full of your favorite books. Sure, there’s no trumping your hardcover library collection, but that’s not the point. Your phone is your instant-access entry point into the pros that you never have to leave on the proverbial shelf.

As a result, you’ll read more. If you’re always waiting for the perfect scenario, then you’ll keep putting off reading those books you know you should be reading “when the time is right.” Guess what? If you’re really a doer, the cold hard truth is that the time is never going to be right, what with those long rainy nights curled up in the bay window with your cat. But there is time while you sit there getting your oil changed, while you’re in the waiting room, on the walk back to your office, while you wait for your lunch appointment to show up, when you’re standing at the bus stop, elevator, subway, flight, carriage ride.

Wait, strike that. You should never read during a carriage ride.

The point is, reading on your phone can finally kill the procrastinator in you once and for all. (It’s even a great device to write on).

So go on. Download a book and give it a try. Yes, the first few swipes on that tiny screen may frustrate you or even infuriate you. But chances are, once you get past the physiological aversions to it, reading on your phone may just become your next overstuffed leather chair.

ch:

PS :: If you need a book to start with, my book The Sky Riders is only $0.99 on Kindle right now.

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(While not exactly my description above, I randomly found this image on Pinterest after published my post).

A Letter From Your Man (Harry’s Christmas Man-Gift Idea)

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To My Lady,

Christmas is coming. I’m not reminding you; that’d be stupid. I’m just reminding myself to try and make your life easier.

Here’s why:

You always say how hard I am to shop for. But let’s be honest, we both know that’s because the toys I like start at around $1,650.00 for the entry level kit, and usually include some sort of metallic finish or carbon fiber frame.

But how can you blame me?

I like well-design things. (One reason I like you).

I like things that work. (One reason I dislike ObamaCare).

And I like things that are going to be around for a long time if I treat them well. (Another reason I like you and dislike ObamaCare).

Since my gift expectations are so high, I’m making your job a lot easier. I’m asking you to spend $15.00 on me.

Sticker shock, I know.

Just breathe.

Here’s the deal. I found out about Harry’s. Swedish steel, NYC design, German engineering, Hong Kong manufacturing. And it’s for my face, which is really a gift for you, if you think about it.

Harry’s is to shaving what the P-51 Mustang is to aviation. Agile, timeless and beautiful. And unlike the P-51, it includes free-shipping. (Shipping a real P-51 to our house is about $15,000.00).

I love you and your shopping prowess. But in this case, I’ve done the work for you, which means you can spend more time on your beautiful self. You’re welcome.

With smooth love,

• Your Man

PS :: Christopher helped me write this letter, so make sure to use his referral links when purchasing for me so he can get 4 free blades. He’s worth it. And he gave up his Gillette shaving systems because Harry’s is so much better.

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Up To Date

The hiatus in posting has been due to the following, which might be of interest to you if you enjoy this sort of summary. If not, please go to the next blog on your reading list as you might get bored.

+ Outlining and chapter 1 start of “Raising Thendara,” book 2 of The Sky Riders.

+ Funding release for the final stage of Sprig Studios. And as a result: final design review, hardware shopping (notably a brand new ProTools HDX system), and initiation of legal contracts.

+ Preparation for a 6-school Bullying Prevention Campaign (beginning tomorrow) through Campus Impressions, New Life’s Non-Religious Education Department.

+ Brainstorming and writing with my team the script for New Life’s upcoming theatre/musical “A Watertown Christmas.”

+ Writing and finalizing demos for Jennifer’s upcoming jazz record. Something between a cross of Adele and Norah Jones, but uniquely my wife’s brand.

+ Set design and branding package for the next 3 message series at New Life.

+ Design of a new restaurant franchise. Opening Oswego, NY 2014.

+ Design of a new restaurant franchise. Potential development and opening in Greece, NY 2014.

+ Outlining new non-fiction book, “The Creatives,” a coaching guide to using the arts in the next century.

+ Outlining new non-fiction book, “Volume,” insights into hearing God’s voice in a modern world.

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TSR Fan Art

This permanent page is dedicated to all the amazing artists out there who love Aria-Prime as much as I do. These are their works, representational of their dreams of the far-off world above the cloud-floor.

If you’re an artist and have an image you’d like to submit, please email it to me here. There is no guarantee your art will be posted, there is no financial compensation for your submission if it is posted, and you maintain 100% copyright of your work, giving me the rights to publish it here on this page.

Fly or die,

ch:

1 Banth by Caleb B

Reading Small, Thinking Big

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Reading a novel on an iPhone is ludicrous.

Or so I thought.

Until I had a revelation. The same kind of revelation I had when choosing between two physically-large books for a flight, because taking both was simply too much for my carry on. So I put the Kindle app on my iPad and took both. And a few dozen others.

Making the jump from paper to screen for my book reading was manageable. Large visual surface (actually, the iPad has more real estate than most book pages), and even an unexpected perk: no book light needed at night. But still, reading a novel via the Kindle app on my iPhone? It can’t be done.

Until I realized that I read thousands of words every day on my iPhone.

Texts, emails, articles, research, PDFs, Tweets, Facebook, posts, status updates, recipes, directions, lyrics. In fact, I read more on my iPhone than I make phone calls. Conservatively 100 to 1.

So why couldn’t I read a 100,000 word novel on my iPhone?

Because…because…

Once I realized I’ve already read enough text on my iPhone to fill dozens and dozens of books, the argument was over.

And I read a novel.

In the mean time, I found out I’m not alone. In fact, Henrik Berggren, CEO of Readmill, recently presented his findings at a conference in Malmö, Sweden, showing that not only are mobile smart phones the most preferred book reading device in 2013, but they also keep us more engaged in our reading.

“It is not only that they are spending more time reading the books because the screen is smaller. Even taking into account screen size, smartphone users read more often, they finish more books in general, they start more books, they share more quotes, and they write more comments,” says Berggren. “This paints a very clear picture that the people that are most engaged with their books are the people who read on their phones.”

They always say that the best camera is the one you have on you. Which has quickly become the smart phone. Likewise, it would appear the that the “best reading device” is following suit.

Not there yet? Don’t worry.

You will be.

Because my analytics tell me half of my readers are viewing this on their mobile devices right now.

ch:

God Is Logical

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There’s an underlying assumption in modern academia which precludes discussion about the existence of God or faith’s role in science that divine invention or interjection is, as Spock would put it, illogical.

Intellectual Christians are growing louder—perhaps because they’ve grown weary of their ideology being thrown under the bus, and perhaps because technology has given them the means to connect globally—speaking outside of the illustrious Ivy League halls of Liberalism, finding a forum with which to present meaningful evidence.

To such clear, concise thinkers, I raise my proverbial glass and toast you. After all, (William) Ockham’s razor is in your favor, concluding that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The body of evidence should always shift in favor of a superior body begetting a sub-ferior derivative. Unless, of course, academia has permission to adjust the thermodynamic law of entropy as well.

What I’m excited to see, if competing interests will allow it—as they still hold sway, at least for the time being—is a meaningful dialog where science and faith exist in the same breath. For if they don’t have it, the rest of us will. Maybe not as eloquently as some, but we’ll have it. Brash. Bold. Beautiful. Faith always places superior pressure on systems extracted from its own nature, science being one of them. Cantankerous, yes, loud, also. But the discussion will be had.

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”

• Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Principia (1687)

Among the living, one of my favorite intellectuals is the incomparable Ravi Zacharias whom I had the pleasure of first hearing at Cornell University in the early 1990′s. And of the deceased, a thinker who passed away the year before I was born, the great Kurt Gödel.

Another, what I might call a pop-scholar, who I admire for his sometimes verbose but articulate examination of the scientific world is Dr. William Lane Craig. I haven’t found a single man I ever agreed with in totality, least of all myself, and save only Christ; Lane is no exception. I always encourage my audience to do their own research and their own reasoning. But Lane’s recent (and well done) video presentation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument is compelling, to say the least.

As mankind receives more enlightenment from the mind of the Lord, my hope is that the knowledge will be accompanied by an increasing humility toward and acknowledgment of the source and nature of its origin.

Argue well, argue wisely, argue graciously,

ch:

Freebies: TSR Banners and Wallpaper

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Who doesn’t like free stuff?

I thought it’d be fun to give away some desktop wallpapers, which incorporate some of my drawings from my notebooks with the book’s graphic design. The result is 5 different wallpapers that you can dress up your computer with to show your Kili-Boranna spirit.

And if you want to go a step further and tag your blog or website, you’ll also find a full range of banners (including HTML code for the true geeks among you).

Check it all out here.

If you want a wallpaper or banner that you don’t see, let me know. I might be able to make it for you.

Thanks for all your support in prepping for this book’s launch into the skies above Aria-Prime.

Fly or die,

ch: