Friday, September 16, 2011

The Greatest App In The World--Evernote

I have a confession to make. I love the application Evernote. I can't even begin to explain how much I love this app and how using it has greatly enhanced my day to day operations. I am more organized, timely, and I'm remembering things a lot better. I thought I'd write a blog (even though there are plenty out there) on what I use Evernote for and why you should start using it.

What is it?

Evernote is a web-based application used for storing information. Okay, that doesn't sound all that impressive, but what you need to understand is that it is the way Evernote organizes and stores your information that is impressive. Evernote wirelessly syncs your content via the web and allows you to access it from a number of different devices. I have Evernote on my work computer (a PC), my personal laptop (a mac) and on my smart phone (a droid). If I update something on any one of the devices it syncs auto-magically. Evernote also works on tablets, I-pads and I-pods.

Why it's awesome

Evernote helps you remember everything. It also is one of the easiest places to store information in an organized and accessible fashion. On your personal Evernote app, you organize your content based on notebooks, notes and tags. Notebooks are like file cabinet drawers, and the notes are the individual files. Tags are used to help you find information on a certain topic. When I search for, let's say a note I wrote about a ministry event, I simply type one word from the event and I can find the note in Evernote. This is incredible because I've organized every section of my life in Evernote and can access the information anywhere! I always have my phone on me, which means my notes, insights, and anything else I might need is right there. (Here is a screen shot of a typical Evernote account)

How I use Evernote

I thought I'd share some of the ways I use Evernote on a weekly and even daily basis. I hope this paints a picture as to why I love this app so much and why can't stop raving about it.

Sermon Illustrations

I do a lot of speaking, whether it's on Wednesday night for youth group, Sunday morning for a study, or an outside speaking engagement. Evernote now houses my sermon illustrations and also my notes for my messages. I go throughout my day looking for those "illustrations" that will add life to my sermons. Further, I simply like to remember what happens on a daily basis. So much of that is lost if I don't write it down. I have organized my Evernote with a section on References. I have a notebook that is full of illustrations. I organized the individual notes based on topics like Anger, Love, The Church, Community, etc. I then file my illustrations in the correct category. Next time I write a message that has something to do with one of the topics, I find that note and there are my illustrations.

Besides daily stories, I also have a section for quotes including passages in books that I've highlighted (this is especially neat if you have a Kindle since all of your notes and highlights are saved on the world wide web. Just copy and paste your highlights and notes from your Kindle page to your evernote. Bam. Done.)

Evernote also has a web clipper that you can install on your internet browser. This way, if you come across something you like while online be it an article, picture, story, etc., just clip the page and it saves in your Evernote. Again, it does this auto-magically. I have another notebook for online articles, quotes, illustration stories, and spiritual and leadership exercises. They are all stored in one place. Additionally, Evernote also stores pictures, pdf files, and voice notes. All of them are organized neatly and accessible wherever I have the internet or a 3G connection.

Note Taking/Writing

I also use Evernote for taking notes. I take notes in a Moleskin journal and then transfer every note to my Evernote. I still like writing with a pen and plus taking the time to transfer the notes every week gives me a chance to look over what has happened and also to find the appropriate category for the notes. I go through all my notes and find where they go, including notes from staff meetings, discipleship meetings, time with my mentors, etc. If they say it, I put it in Evernote. I've also done this with a number of great authors I've had a chance to listen to as well. I have notes from the Storyline Conference with Donald Miller, insights from Shane Claiborne, Dallas Willard and as of yesterday, Rachel Held Evans. I love that I have a place to store these insights and also a way to find them quickly.

I also use Evernote for my writing. All of my blog posts are stored on Evernote and other writing projets as well. If I have an idea for a new post or an insight I want to write about, it goes on Evernote and I can find it there later. Inspiration is never lost. I also find that with my note taking, I'm more diligent about deadlines and dates, and find myself remembering the important details more often now. This has been great for my personal and professional life.

Although I finished school before I started using Evernote, this is a great resource to use if you're a student. Just make a notebook for a particular class, and then start filing your notes, assignments and projects there.

Event Planning

I plan a lot of events, including camps, retreats and a myriad of other social get-togethers. I now use Evernote to help plan my events. I take notes on the events, plan out the itineraries, and all the important factors like cost, transporation, times and deadlines. If someone has a question about an upcoming event or camp, no longer do I have to search through my computer to find it. I just open the note on my phone. I'm also going to be experimenting with doing all of our camp registration with Evernote too, so I always have a list on me of who has paid and turned in their necessary forms. Parents ask me this all the time, and if I'm not at my computer, I wouldn't know everyone's exact details. With Evernote, I just show them my phone or laptop and all the information is there.

Personal Information

Evernote also keeps track of my important personal information, including receipts, important dates and confirmation numbers. I recently used Evernote to help my wife and I stayed organized during the purchase of a our new home. Every detail that our lender or realtor needed was put on Evernote. Since you can make lists with "check-off boxes" I made a list of all of the necessary paper work and documentation we needed. If something else was discovered in a meeting, I took out my phone and added it to the list. Then, I experienced the great joy of checking it off the list one by one. I also kept a copy of important files like our tax returns, bank statements, etc that we might need at any given time. Using Evernote in this process was incredible. No more bulky folders or lost post-it notes. Everything I needed was online and by my side whenever it was asked for.

My Hobbies and stuff I like

Finally, I use Evernote to take notes on my favorite hobbies. If there is a new song I want to learn on the guitar I put it in my music folder. If there is a movie that I want to see, or even a list of movies that I want to watch eventually, it goes in Evernote. I also created a folder for vacations--places we've been and places we want to go--that we can update every year. I also take notes about my favorite basketball athletes, sort of a rough draft for a fantasy league. And since I like lists I also have my "bucket list," my current reading list including books I want to read, and also notes on future schools where I want to continue my education. I've also included notes on our favorite restaurants, weekly grocery lists and more. The possibilities with Evernote are endless.

Basically, that sums up my Evernote obsession. I've even encouraged the students in our youth group to get Evernote on their phones and i-pods. This way, we can share notes on teaching topics, and if they take notes during a message or Bible study, they have them in a safe and accessible place.

If you're interested in learning how to use Evernote, I recommend you check out Michael Hyatt's blog. He first introduced me to Evernote at the beginning of the year and has written in great detail about

There you go. Give Evernote a try. You won't be sorry. After all, it is the greatest app in the world.

Are there any other Evernote enthusiasts out there? What do you use the app for?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Since this day fell on a Sunday, churches everywhere had an opportunity to reflect on the anniversary of an event that shocked the world. In our worship service this morning, our band did a special musical number by country singer Allen Jackson. The song repeated one line over and over again: "Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?"

It turned out to be not only a good question to ask, but a revealing one as well. We decided to start our small groups off with this question after the service. What followed was an incredible experience for me personally. I was able to sit and listen to my students explain where they were on September 11th, 2001 and also what their thoughts and emotions were on this day that happened so long ago. Most of them were in first or second grade at the time; a few were even younger than that. Most of the comments shared were feelings of confusion, frustration, and grief. I found myself reminiscing as well. In 2001 I was a sophmore in high school, only sixteen at the time. I realized more and more as I listened to our students that this was an event that began to shape our outlook and define much of our perception of the world, especially for some of my students who were just starting out life in 2001.

Needless to say, it was a difficult topic to cover. The events of 9/11 have had a profound effect on everyone of us. Perhaps we longed for justice to be issued. Maybe we mourned for those who lost their lives. Or we applauded the men and women who sacrificially gave of themselves to save others by either running into the burning towers that day, or participating in the aftermath of the conflict. Quite possibly we experienced those three examples and copious amounts more. Trying to process the event, even ten years later is difficult.

Moreover, the events of 9/11 make us deal with a number of emotions--anger, sadness, despair. Undoubtedly, many of us have experienced these, especially those of us who lost a loved one during the attacks.

I was surprised even by some of my own emotions as I traveled back in time to that fateful day and tried to process all that has transpired over the years and even coming to terms with how I feel about it now. I am still unbelievably saddened and astounded at the atrocities that take place in our world. It is hard to wrap my mind around the pain that has been inflicted on so many people during the attacks and the subsequent wars. Events like this solidify an understanding of the very real existence of evil in our world and the way we wage war against the spiritual powers and authorities of this dark world (Ephesians 6:12). This is a sobering reality indeed--to look upon suffering and death and to realize that in many ways we have no control over it. The events of 9/11 and following have changed the world for all of us.

I am encouraged, however, when I realize an important truth in all of this. Even though we live in a world where acts of evil are a daily reality, we have hope. Jesus Christ, our risen lord, offers real change and real peace. He is the final word in all matters. There is no tragedy that is so deep that He is not there in our midst. As Jesus himself said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

As members of His Kingdom, our goal is to live and mimic Christ in every way (Ephesians 5:1). The word translated "mimic" in Ephesians 5 is the word for "shadow." We are to be Christ's shadow in the world, staying that close to Him. His words and deeds become our own.

Equally revealing, our Jesus' own words in the Sermon on the Mount to practice "turning the other cheek" and "loving our enemies." We may never fully understand how one applies this in foreign affairs, war, or when dealing with evil and terrorism. I for one, certainly don't assume to have answers here. Nevertheless, I find solace trusting in what Scripture reveals. Jesus, our King, is the Rider on the White Horse (Revelation 19:11-21. Jesus comes back on a white horse, a king's horse ). He is the Alpha and the Omega--the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). And He is the foundation of all truth and life itself (John 14:6).

It is my prayer and hope that today would be a time of honoring and remembering those who so valiantly gave their lives ten years ago. May it also be a time of praying for all the lives lost on 9/11 and following, including Iraqis, Afghans, Americans, and terrorists. Furthermore, I pray that today would cause us to grieve over the reality of evil and terror that exists everywhere in this world and would cause us to cry out to God. May we seek with all that we are to live the way of Jesus as citizens of his Kingdom first, and may we humbly move forward together in solidarity, striving to honor and glorify our King, awaiting the one-day reality of Heaven on earth.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Super Texts and Super Films

Time is one of those precious commodities that is easy to take for granted. Perhaps this is one of the great faults of our generation: the false notion that we have all the time in the world. We soon learn the ignorance of that statement. Indeed, the clock ticks life away.

Since time is limited and valuable, it goes without saying that how we spend our time is important. This even applies to the books and movies we give our time to. Steve Sample, former president of USC and author of The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership, wrote in detail about the time we give to the books we read in a chapter entitled You Are What You Read. In the chapter he argues a rather obvious point: there are certain old books that will always be better than new books. This might be a shocking statement for a culture and generation that is fixated on the latest and greatest. The latest is certainly not always the greatest, especially in the realm of literature. Winston Churchill was once said, "There is a good saying to the effect that when a new book appears, one should read an old one." Sample agrees with Churchill and brought up what he believes are the classics or super texts that have stood the test of time. These include The Bible, The Iliad, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Plato's Republic, and Dante's Divine Comedy to name a few. Sample argued that these texts have stood the test of time and have thus defined life as we know it. Reading them is essential to our own personal development.

Another interesting concept that Sample brought up was that anytime we choose to read one book, we are also choosing to not read another. This can apply to newspapers, magazines and comic books. Time spent reading these forms of entertainment, is time not spent reading a super text. Sometimes choosing to "not read" a book or magazine is important especially if that means we free up our time to focus on something greater.

This applies aptly to movies as well. Now, I've seen my fair share of pointless, dumb movies. Sometimes you just need to kill two hours with something mind numbingly stupid. It feels good. But there is something to be said of the kind of movies we spend a majority of our time watching. Similarly, as with the super texts, there are also super films--those that have stood the test of time to become classics.

I've been experimenting for the past few summers by choosing a theme or genre of film that I will focus on watching. And thanks to Netflix, this has become extremely convienient. So far my list includes classic horror movies (that I started with my roommate in college), romantic comedies (I am married remember), best picture award winners, and most recently this summer, classic movies, especially ones starring Audrey Hepburn. As with the super texts that are unmatched in sheer greatness and originality, there are also timeless movies, super films that most modern day movies are based on. Call me old fashioned, but I love the simplicity of black and white movies, and how special effects don't get in the way of good acting. If you don't believe me, watch the emotion in Humphrey Bogart's eyes when he looks at the camera in Casablanca, or try and find a actress as timeless and elegant as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. You begin to see how these types of films are immortalized and will never lose relevance. They are the inspiration of present day directors, actors and screen writers.

Choosing to watch a particular movie or read a book means we are choosing to not read or watch another. We make these little choices every day. I challenged one of my students recently in this area. I told her that with every new movie she watches, to balance it out by watching an older film next. We can do the same with the books we read. Even in Christendom we can choose some of our own super texts to balance with new books. Try complementing your regular reading list with the works of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Luther, Wesley and others.

Sample is onto something here. I'm trying to use my time wisely. I hope to do so by choosing to spend more time with the super texts and super films this year. I guess I'm saying, to find inspiration, I'm going to be looking backwards, not forwards. I challenge you to do the same.