PrayerMate v3.1.1 Now Available

PrayerMate Logo 1 Today there is a new update to PrayerMate. Mostly it is a minor bug-fix revision:

  • The address book “Quick import” now works properly, and quickly as well. I hadn’t realised quite how broken this was in the previous version, so apologies for that!
  • Cards scheduled by day-of-the-month will display more than once – if you tried setting things up like this and found that they weren’t appearing, this should now be fixed.
  • The first card now says “Coming Up” instead of “Today’s Prayers” to better reflect the fact that they’re not supposed to stay the same all day long. I know that a lot of people still want them to stay the same all day long – I have an idea for how to make this an option in the future, but for now it is what it is.
  • If you want to edit a prayer card whilst praying, you can now press and hold anywhere on the screen (since the redesign you had to press on the grey box, which was potentially quite a small area, depending on how many details you had)
  • I’ve implemented a workaround for a bug in iOS7 which means the keyboard was obscuring the last line of text as you were entering it.
  • For those with a keen eye for detail, I’ve now made it so that all four PIN digit get filled in before the lock screen is dismissed.

That said, there are also a few new features:

Reordering subjects

Each category page now has a “Change subject order” button. This allows you to manually change the order of subjects within a category, as well as automatically sorting the categories either alphabetically or in a random “shuffled” ordering.

There is one final feature here: “auto-shuffle”. If you turn this on for a category, then PrayerMate will keep track of how many subjects in this category you have prayed through. Once you have prayed through every card in the category, it will then shuffle the order of all of the subjects in that category, until the next time you’ve prayed through them all. This is useful for those people who find that things get a bit stale when you always pray for people in the same order.

Design tweaks

In all honesty, there was a real sense of urgency getting the redesign of PrayerMate ready in time for iOS7, since the app did not work at all in iOS7 prior to that update. As a result, there were a few things which I knew were a little less than ideal. In particular, the iPad layout left a lot to be desired. The new update makes a few changes to the layout:

  • The contrast of the text has been increased to improve readability – yes, I know I screwed up on this one
  • I’ve added some extra padding on the iPad
  • Photos have been repositioned to stop the title from floating in the middle of nowhere and looking a little lost
  • In iOS7 it now respects the user font size setting. If you want bigger text, you can now do this through your main iOS settings page
Before Screenshot
Before
After Screenshot
After


Photos in Dropbox imports/exports

When exporting to Dropbox, you now have the option to include photos. Naturally, when importing again you can then also choose to import those photos. It goes without saying that this could use up a lot of bandwidth, so you probably want to make sure you’re on Wi-Fi before using this feature.

What’s next

Syncing

Now that the most serious bugs are addressed, I’m knuckling down to get syncing between devices working. I know that this is an important feature for a lot of users, so it is absolutely my highest priority now. I don’t plan on using iCloud for this, since using iCloud would prevent syncing with any future version of the app running on any non-Apple platforms.

PrayerMate for Android

As an independent developer with a family and a full-time job (which is NOT to develop PrayerMate), it’s hard enough to find time to work on the iOS version of PrayerMate, let alone develop an entirely new version for other platforms such as Android. However, I recognise the vital importance of there being an Android version, and so I have plans under way to get another developer to build it on my behalf. Paying developers requires finance, however, so I’m planning on launching a crowd-funding campaign via Kickstarter to raise the funds needed (unless you fancy writing me a cheque for £2,000 to fund it yourself). If you would like to be kept up to date on progress in this area, please sign up for the PrayerMate newsletter.

Pray for Students Around the World Tomorrow

World Student DayTomorrow IFES has organised World Student Day – a day where they are encouraging people to commit to praying for students in one particular country. Their goal is to sign up 5,000 people to pray – whether you’re a student yourself or not.

Being a student is such a crucial time in one’s life, where there’s real opportunity to grapple with the truths of the gospel. Christian Students have an unprecedented opportunity to share the gospel with those around them, such as they may never have again during their lifetime. Do think about whether you might sign up to pray for one particular country. IFES will then send you a handy fact sheet specific to that country to help you know how to pray.

Handily, the fact sheet is in PDF format, which means that it’s perfect for slotting in to PrayerMate, to help you remember to pray tomorrow. You can download the PDF directly on your iPhone and choose “Open with PrayerMate”, or you can stick it in PrayerMate’s Dropbox folder and import it through the “Advanced Settings” menu (full instructions here). I suggest you create a separate “World Student Day” category on your phone with just the one item in it, and set that category to “Pinned” to guarantee that it’ll show up all day long.

Shortlisted for Christian New Media Awards 2013

144x144 I’m chuffed to bits that PrayerMate has been shortlisted for the Christian New Media Awards 2013 under the “Christian Mobile or Tablet App of the Year” category. What an honour! Thank you SO much to any and all of you who helped make that happen by giving it your nomination.

2013 has been a big year for PrayerMate, that has seen lots of big new features. You can now subscribe to online prayer diaries from over twenty Christian organisations; it’s had a major redesign by the wonderful Dan Gould, including a super-snazzy new logo; you can now easily import lots of items through Dropbox, including PDF attachments; and PrayerMate also celebrated its 3,000th download since it launched back in May 2011.

I still have plenty of ideas for new features in the pipeline, and in many ways it feels like I’m still only just getting started. My prayer is that it will continue prove to be a great tool to help people pray, and that it will do so more and more as it slowly grows and develops.

Medjool: Ruby Date Parsing With Context

The Date.parse method in Ruby on Rails is a really useful little function. Yes, it probably comes with huge overheads, and no, obviously you wouldn’t want to be using it in performance-critical code. But every now and again it’s really ace.

Except for one thing: you can’t provide it with any context whatsoever. “Tuesday” always means next Tuesday, no matter what. “1st” always means 1st of the current month, come what may.

When building the “Quick Import” feature of PrayerMate.net, I needed a little more flexibility than that. The goal was to allow churches to copy & paste their prayer points from their weekly notice sheet, and for the site to just “know” what each date meant. So, for example, if you’ve just parsed a prayer point for “Tuesday”, odds are that when you come across a prayer point for a “Wednesday”, that almost certainly means the day after the Tuesday that you just processed. Date.parse can’t cope with that. That’s why I built Medjool – all the simplicity and flexibility of Date.parse, just with a little more context.

p = Medjool::Parser.new({:now => "2013-09-31".to_date})
p.parse("1st") => 1st October 2013
p.parse("3rd") => 3rd October 2013
p.parse("1st") => 1st November 2013
p.parse("Wednesday") => Wednesday 6th November 2013

I looked into doing this with Chronic, but Chronic is really geared towards Time processing rather than simply Date processing. It also seems pretty buggy when it comes to dates, and gives different results depending on the exact input date format. Medjool, by contrast, ALWAYS delegates parsing to Date.parse, it just then sometimes plays around with the result it gets back to make sure it’s after the previously parsed date, if there was any ambiguity.

The Mixed Blessing of a New iOS Version

As a independent developer of a small app targeting a niche audience, a new version of iOS is a mixed blessing. It is always accompanied by some fantastic new features which will inevitably make my app work better – but at the same time, there are costs associated with upgrading to make use of them. Finding the time to redesign an app from scratch to work nicely with iOS7 is no mean feat when you have a full time job as well. And then there’s that age old dilemma: do I drop support for older iOS versions and devices in order to make the most of the new features? Apple has a way of always making this decision more urgent than it would otherwise be: when the iPhone 5 came out with it’s 4″ screen, you could only target that if you were running a version of XCode that no longer supported the older armv6 devices like the original iPods and iPhones; likewise, you can’t compile arm64 code for the new iPhone 5S if your app still targets iOS5, like mine does.

But according to The Next Web, Apple has made a small but significant change to the App Store which would significantly reduce the stress involved in these decisions: users of outdated iOS versions will apparently now get the option to download older versions of an app which still supports their hardware. This has the potential to be HUGE, and we could well see a surge in developers targeting the latest features since they no longer have to worry about all of the users who will no longer be able to download their app as a result.

Well played Apple.

Update: Simon Maddox has pointed out that this can also prove to be a support nightmare, since out-of-date versions that don’t play nicely with your current APIs are now hanging around forever. But to some extent, this would have been the case anyway – I still have plenty of out-of-date apps running on my iOS5 iPad.

Why we’re wrong to fear opposition

Opposition in the book of Acts

I’ve just recently finished reading reading my way through the book of Acts. A big theme of the book struck me afresh this time, which I’m not sure I’d really noticed in quite the same way before.

Acts is a book filled with examples of opposition to the gospel. The chief priests and religious leaders oppose the early disciples and try to stop them preaching. The Jewish people largely seem to reject their message, often hounding them out of their synagogues. The people of Ephesus even start a riot because they’re so offended by Paul and his gospel. And yet time and time again, we see that the disciples are unfazed by these responses. Indeed, in Chapter 5:41 we read that “the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” They rejoiced that they got to suffer on behalf on Jesus. What on earth is going on?

Opposition is God’s plan

Right near the start of the book and right at the end of the book we have a couple of quotes from the Old Testament that I think help explain this a little. In Chapter 4 we have a quote from Psalm 2:

“Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one”

In Psalm 2 we see the powerful ones of the earth attempting to rise up against God, and what does God do? He laughs. Even the mightiest people on the planet are like puny ants trying to start a fight with the Creator of the Universe, and it is laughable. Peter goes on to say “Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” When the kings of the earth conspire against God, all they end up achieving is bringing God’s purposes to pass.

Then at the end of the book, Paul gives an extended quote from Isaiah 6:

“Go to this people, and say,
You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.”

In other words, God knew that the Jewish people would reject the message of the crucified Messiah Jesus. It wasn’t a surprise to him – it was in his plan all along. Paul concludes: “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” This rejection that we’ve been seeing right through the book of Acts is all part of the master plan to fulfil Jesus’ promise to take the gospel to all Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Not fearing opposition

This encourages me. What is the number one reason I don’t share the gospel with more people? It’s got to be the fear of rejection. But the book of Acts tells me that when opposition happens, God expects it, and indeed God uses it to further his purposes. The Apostle Paul knew with certainty that if he went to Jerusalem, he would be bound hand and foot. But did that stop him going? No! He was compelled to preach the gospel whatever the cost – sometimes even because he knew that the opposition he received would only help him preach the gospel in even more places. When he does finally get arrested in Jerusalem, it allows him the opportunity to go to Rome to speak the gospel before the Emperor himself.

So don’t let the fear of opposition stop you from speaking up about Jesus. Know with conviction that God is in charge, and God is bigger than any opposition we might face. His will is that the gospel will go out to all the earth, and it’s a privilege to get to be part of that work.

Getting more out of PrayerMate with Dropbox

Actually… getting more *IN* to PrayerMate

For many people, one of the things that stops them using PrayerMate more is the challenge of actually getting their prayer points into the app. Typing on a mobile is slow and cumbersome, and perhaps you already have lots of prayers in another system that you wouldn’t want to have to enter all over again.

With the newly released PrayerMate 3.1.0, getting your data into PrayerMate is easier than ever, with a little help from the wonderful Dropbox. Here are three ways that Dropbox can help you.

1. Migrations and backup

One key use of Dropbox is to allow you to backup your PrayerMate data, so that you can import it again later in the case of a lost or reset phone, or migrating it to a second device. Under the app’s main “Settings” menu within PrayerMate (accessible whilst praying), hit the “Export data” / “Export to Dropbox” button. Depending on your device, you may then be given the option to export “via Dropbox” or “via another app” – try “via Dropbox” and if that doesn’t work then try via another app instead (and if you have the Dropbox app installed, this should even come up as one of the options). The first time you use it you’ll be prompted for your Dropbox credentials, and then it will save your entire database into a special folder within your Dropbox called “Apps/PrayerMate” as a .json file with today’s date. You can then import this again later, or on another device, using the “Import from Dropbox” button.

When you import, it will look for existing categories and subjects with the same name and reuse them where possible, so in theory you could import more than once without causing duplication. However, it is not going to prove a very satisfying experience trying to use this to continually keep two devices in sync with each other. I’m working on a proper solution to the syncing issue as a matter of priority.

2. Importing new data

dropbox_import Whilst the first point was all about moving existing data around, Dropbox is also very useful for getting completely new data into PrayerMate. If you place any text file with a “.txt” extension in your “Apps/PrayerMate” Dropbox folder, then you can use that to create a new subject. Hit the “Import data” button under the app’s main “Settings” page, and you should see your .txt file listed. When you tap it, it will then begin the process of creating a new subject with the same name as your .txt file (underscores ‘_’ will be replaced with spaces) and the contents of the text file will be used to populate the description.

In PrayerMate 3.1.0 (iOS only) there’s also now an “Import all” button. Hit this, then choose one of your categories, and it will load in all of the .txt files in the current directory and create one subject for each. You can create sub-folders within your Dropbox, one per category, if you want a little more control – then just use “Import all” within specific sub-folders.

3. Adding PDF attachments

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly being sent prayer letters as PDFs that you read once then promptly forget. Now, if you add them to the “Apps/PrayerMate” folder within your Dropbox, when you hit “Import data” you will see those PDF files listed with a paperclip icon. Once you select the file you want, you’ll be asked to pick one of your subjects, and it will attach that PDF file to that subject. When you’re praying you’ll then see a “PDF” button which you can tap to view it fullscreen.

Aside: Dropbox Android bug

At the time of writing, there is a bug in Dropbox for Android that affects certain people which may stop you authorising PrayerMate to access your Dropbox: the “allow” button is showing as frozen for some people. Dropbox is working on a fix for this, but in the mean time, if this affects you they suggest this:

I have talked with the Dropbox engineers and this issue arises whenever another third party app has an overlay screen on top of the Dropbox app. I would recommend telling your users to disable any other apps that overlay their Android screen so that they can then click through the Dropbox authorization screen.

I hope that clears things up and sorry for any inconvenience this caused.

Sign up to Dropbox here or download PrayerMate here.

Converting a Transparent Background EPS to PNG

I’m going to blog this so that I don’t have to work it out from first principles again every single time I want to convert an EPS file with a transparent background into a PNG whilst preserving that transparency (you can export EPS files to PNG on a Mac simply using Preview, but annoyingly it always gives them a white background).

You’ll need to install ImageMagick (which you can do simply and easily on Mac OS X using Homebrew). Then simply run a command like this on the terminal:

convert -density 400 -colorspace rgb TransaprentBackgroundEPS.eps -transparent white Output.png

The important bit here is that the “-transparent white” bit comes AFTER the name of your EPS file, not before.

The only case where this doesn’t work (which may well be a very important case, depending on the image) is if the image itself has white in it. In those cases the white bits will disappear – as was the case for me with the PrayerMate logo I was trying to convert.

Edit: if you’re having colour issues when going from EPS to PNG, try using “-colorspace srgb” instead

PrayerMate: The Next Generation

PrayerMate LogoFor the past six months I have slowly been chipping away on a major new update to the PrayerMate app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Today I am thrilled to announce that v3.0 is now live on the App Store – and though I say this every time, it really is the most exciting version yet! Here is an overview of the new features you’ll find.

Subscribe to online prayer diaries

uccfUntil now, PrayerMate has focussed on letting you enter your own personal prayer points. Now, in addition to that, you can also browse a gallery of prayer feeds from organisations such as Open Doors, who provide bulletins from the persecuted church around the world; UCCF The Christian Unions; Christians in Sport; Church Society; and a number of local churches. The PrayerMate app will then automatically download new content every time it is published, helping you be faithful in prayer for the organisations you care about.

Any church or organisation can request to be added to the gallery – all you need is an iCal feed (if you’re using Google Calendar) or if that’s not possible, then an RSS feed (as generated by most popular blogging platforms). Alternatively, there is also a new companion website, http://www.prayermate.net/, which makes it incredibly easy for churches to publish their prayer points online by simply copying and pasting from your church bulletin or newsletter.

New features for new users

I’ve made a few tweaks to make it easier for new users to get up and running more quickly: improved default data, including a few tips on using the app; a link to the “getting started” blog post; and a new “Quick add” feature that lets you create lots of subjects in one go by simply selecting entries from your address book. Linking a subject to an address book entry will now also pull in any associated images from that contact.

Send SMS messages whilst praying

Once you have linked a subject to a contact in your address book, you can now send both emails and SMS text messages to that person whilst praying for them by pressing and holding on their card.

Improved Dropbox syncing

Whilst this version of the app does not yet support continually keeping two devices in sync automatically, it does pave the way for that functionality in the next major update (I promise that this is top of my list of priorities!) It does, however, improve the Dropbox import/export functionality so that it no longer duplicates your data each time you use it, but will reuse existing categories and subjects as long as the names have not been altered.

 

And in case you hadn’t noticed it, PrayerMate now also has a shiny new logo, designed by the wonderful Dan Gould.

app_store_badge


If you’ve found PrayerMate helpful, and you live in the UK, please consider nominating it for the Christian New Media Awards so that even more people can hear about it.

Double-Minded

I’ve been thinking lately about the idea of “double-mindedness” in the life of the Christian. What Jesus calls “trying to serve two masters”. Trying to be a faithful Christian, but all the time looking over our shoulder at all the things we’re missing out on, all the opportunities missed, all the ways we could find more success in the eyes of the watching world if only we weren’t so “restricted” by our convictions.

It’s a topic that the New Testament book of James tackles head on, and it’s worth hearing what he has to say on the topic. Here’s how he introduces the idea:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

The double-minded person prays to God for wisdom, but then doesn’t really like what he hears back in return. He doubts that what God recommends will really work out. “Are you sure, God?”

What God says is often very counter-cultural. He values different things to what our friends do. His wisdom is frequently surprising and very often not what we want to hear.

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

When we start to listen to the world, we enter into an internal conflict. We try to live with a foot in both camps. We want to be successful by the world’s standards, whilst still clinging onto God’s truth and God’s priorities. But the world is opposed to God and his truth. The one who lives a life wholy faithful to God will rarely be able to find ultimate success in the eyes of the world. It simply requires too many compromises, too much time and attention invested in the wrong things.

When we start to embrace God’s approval as its own reward, suddenly it matters less what the world thinks of us in the process.

“Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

There is hope for us who fail at this every day. It is never too late for repentance, and indeed the Christian life is one of daily repentance. Daily confessing our failings, including our double-mindedness.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

And so we have to make a choice: will we seek above all to be successful according to the world’s priorities, or will we seek first the kingdom of God? To choose the latter doesn’t necessarily mean some of us won’t also be granted the former. But it does mean to accept the possibility that we will have to forego success in this life, to stop chasing it as the number one purpose of our existence.

Independent Businesses on the Web

At Hubbub, we help small independent shops compete with the supermarkets, because we believe this leads to thriving local communities. There was a great article on A List Apart this week taking that same principle as a metaphor for businesses on the web:

I am happy with my small shopkeeper status. I talk and write about bootstrapping because I want to show other developers that there is a sane and achievable route to launching a product, a route that doesn’t involve chasing funding rounds or becoming beholden to a board of investors. I love the fact that decisions for my product can be made by the two of us, based on the discussions we have with our customers. If we had investors hoping for a return on their investment, it would be a very different product by now, and I don’t think a better one.

I think it is important for those of us succeeding at this to talk about it.

I found the article fascinating on the back of a year working at Hubbub, but also as an independent developer essentially running my own software company on the side. This has been a fantastic year for my PrayerMate app, and in many ways, I feel like I’m only just getting started, with some seriously major updates coming up in the next few months. Being a one-man team has its drawbacks, but I also love being able to build a product that I want to use myself without being beholden to anybody else’s agenda for what features I should be adding, and without the pressure of it being my primary source of income (not that I wouldn’t love to be able to devote more time to it if sales picked up enough!)

Gluten Free Pasties in Cornwall

Where can you find a gluten free pasty in Cornwall?

When you go to Cornwall, it is mandatory that you eat a pasty. That’s just the law.

But what happens if you are wheat or gluten intolerant? Where can you find a gluten free Cornish pasty in Cornwall?

When my wife and I went on honeymoon to the Lizard last year, it just so happened that the first cafe we stumbled upon sold excellent gluten free pasties. It’s called Harbour Lights in Coverack, and they also do gluten free cream teas. Their full gluten free menu can be found on their website. We went back again this summer and they’re still going strong.

Resisting a Prosperity Prayer Life

I had something of a realisation this morning as I was firing off a quick text message to my wife. My first draft read “I hope today isn’t too stressful for you” – as parents of a teeny tiny little baby, there are many reasons why the day might turn out to be pretty hard work. Then I remembered the Bible study we did at church the other week on Ephesians 3:14-21, looking at the apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church. Paul’s prayer could have read “I bow my knees before the Father and pray that he would stop bad stuff happening to you and that your life would be stress-free and straightforward”. Thankfully he didn’t, and what a rebuke to me that has been:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It’s generally fairly easy to spot the more crass forms of the Prosperity Gospel when it rears its head: the idea that if you obey God then he will abundantly bless you right here and now. But I realised that it’s all too easy for the same spirit to creep into our prayers without even realising it. How often do we treat God like a genie whose sole purpose is to make our lives easier?

So what would it mean to resist this kind of “Prosperity Prayer Life”? What would a more Ephesians 3-style prayer look like? In the end I decided to send this to my wife: “I hope you know God’s grace through the challenges of today”. God’s desire isn’t to make our lives as easy as possible. God’s desire is to make us more like Christ, and he will use the struggles and the stresses of each moment to achieve it. Like gold, we are refined through the fire, not by sitting around on a comfy sofa.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that through everything, they might be given supernatural grace to more deeply understand God’s love for them. How much richer our prayer lives would be if we shared that same desire for one another! Next time you’re wondering how you can pray for me, feel free to pray Ephesians 3. It may not be what I would have asked for, but it’s certainly what I need!

If you’re a PrayerMate user, why not create an “Ephesians 3″ index card that appears at the start of each session, reminding you how you could be praying for each of the people that you’ll be praying for that day? To do this, create a new category, make sure that it is “Pinned” so that it appears every session, and change the order of your categories to make sure your new one is at the start of the list. Add a single subject, and perhaps you could copy and paste the passage from Bible Gateway.

A New PrayerMate Mascot?

Goosey, goosey gander,
Wither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man
Who would not say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

Perhaps Goosey should have suggested he buy himself a copy of PrayerMate instead?

Waiting for a baby

It turns out that waiting for a baby to make an appearance in the outside world really is a great analogy for waiting for the return of Jesus. You know it has to happen at some point, but you really have no idea when it’s going to be. You keep getting little signs that it might be imminent, and then it turns out to be a false start. You kind of have to get on with real life, rather than just sitting around all day until it happens. But at the same time, you have to make sure you have your mobile phone on you at all times when you go to work, and you know not to book any foreign holidays any time in the next couple of weeks, and of course you have your hospital bag carefully packed in a corner – in other words, you need to be ready for it to happen at any moment. It’s given me a much better appreciation of the emotions of Romans 8:18-27:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

I’m waiting eagerly for the arrival of Mini-Geers, but how much more should we be waiting eagerly for that moment when Jesus comes back, and those who trust in him will get brand new bodies, freed from our bondage to sin and decay! The Mrs and I are eagerly longing to meet this little person, but how much more should we be longing to meet the one who made them and us!

So, we do our best to wait for it patiently (but boy is it hard!!)

A Habit of Prayer

A good friend of mine who has a real gift for tracking down little-heard-of Christian books that turn out to be total gold dust recently presented my wife and I with a copy of “The Upper Room” by J.C.Ryle, the one-time Bishop of Liverpool (a bishop who believed the gospel – they do exist!!) He had bookmarked a carefully chosen chapter titled “The Duties of Parents”, which so far has been inspiring and daunting in equal measures. One duty in particular stood out as especially germain to this blog: “VI. Train them to a habit of prayer”. Allow me to quote:

Prayer is the very life-breath of true religion. It is one of the first evidences that a man is born again… Prayer was the distinguishing mark of the Lord’s people in the day that there began to be a separation between them and the world. “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4v26).

Prayer is the peculiarity of all real Christians now. They pray,-for they tell God their wants, their feelings, their desires, their fears; and mean what they say. The nominal Christian may repeat prayers, and good prayers too, but he goes no further.

Prayer is the turning-point in a man’s soul. Our ministry is unprofitable, and our labour is vain, till you are brought to your knees. Till then, we have no hope about you.

Prayer is one great secret of spiritual prosperity. When there is much private communion with God, your soul will grow like the grass after rain; when there is little, all will be at a standstill, you will barely keep your soul alive. Show me a growing Christian, a going forward Christian, a strong Christian, a flourishing Christian, and sure am I, he is one that speaks often with his Lord. He asks much, and he has much. He tells Jesus everything, and so he always knows how to act.

Prayer is the mightiest engine God has placed in our hands. It is the best weapon to use in every difficulty, and the surest remedy in every trouble. It is the key that unlocks the treasury of promises, and the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need. It is the silver trumpet God commands us to sound in all our necessity, and it is the cry He has promised always to attend to, even as a loving mother to the voice of her child.

Prayer is the simplest means that man can use in coming to God. It is within reach of all,- the sick, the aged, the infirm, the paralytic, the blind, the poor, the unlearned, -all can pray. It avails you nothing to plead want of memory, and want of learning, and want of books, and want of scholarship in this matter. So long as you have a tongue to tell your soul’s state, you may and ought to pray. Those words, “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4v2), will be a fearful condemnation to many in the day of judgement.

I for one feel really challenged by all that. But also really encouraged that prayer doesn’t have to be this really complicated thing- it’s just a talking to God and asking him for the things we need. Let’s resolve to be people who pray. And if you’ve not tried it already, may I recommend to you a handy little app for iOS called PrayerMate which you might find useful in getting going in a habit of prayer!

A startup that believes in something

Almost a year ago now, I took what felt at the time like a big risk by accepting a job as a web developer at Hubbub, a delivery company with a difference currently based in London. I’m not generally a big fan of risk, and pretty much by definition, when you take a job at a startup you’re not entirely sure if they’re going to sink or swim. That, combined with the horror stories you hear about people burning themselves out working all hours of the day and night for startups, meant that I was a little uncertain whether this was exactly the adventure I wished to embark upon just as I was getting married.

But ten months later, I can honestly say I am so glad I took that chance. There’s all sorts of reasons that Hubbub give you about why it’s an awesome place to work – the free lunches sourced from some really unique shops, the generous staff discount, and not to mention the year’s supply of free bacon you get as a recruitment bonus.

Above all, however, I think there’s one key attribute of Hubbub’s culture that really makes it stand out – it’s a company that really believes in something. The driving force behind Hubbub’s very existence is the belief that local independent shops make our communities a  better place. As the government sets up the Future High Streets Forum, it’s clearly not just us who recognise it either. The local butcher, baker and candlestick maker – they add a richness and a vibrancy to community life that a big, faceless, corporate conglomerate like Tesco could never offer. But the sad reality is that they’re under enormous pressure in today’s economic climate, and Hubbub gives them a real boost by allowing them to pool their resources and extend their reach to people who would love to get there in person if they could, but for whatever reason find it more convenient to do their shopping online.

I’ve worked for companies before where the only thing that ultimately mattered was squeezing every possible penny from our visitors to our site, even if it made their experience worse in the process. I’ve worked for companies where we had a lot of fun doing cool stuff, but which at the end of the day hardly made much of a lasting dent in the universe. There’s something so much more satisfying about going to work and knowing that you’re contributing towards a larger picture, helping make people’s lives a little better and serving a loftier goal than mere profit alone.

As a Christian, and especially as one in the middle of reading Every Good Endeavour by Tim Keller, I know that saving the local high street isn’t the ultimate goal in life. However hard we fight, there will come a day when the high street is gone forever – because I believe this world itself won’t be around for ever either. But as the original job ad that first attracted me to Hubbub stated, a business that helps save the local high street sure beats working for another social cat coupon website.

Our work really matters. We spend a huge proportion of our lives at work. Wouldn’t you much rather devote that time and energy contributing towards something that made the world a little better in the process?

Did I mention that Hubbub is hiring?

Praying daily for a special event with PrayerMate

We’re in the midst of university mission season at the moment here in Britain. Last week was the London-wide UCCF mission, this week it’s Imperial’s turn. It’s not uncommon that you have periods like this where you want to pray for something intensively, and then eventually whatever it is comes to an end and no longer needs that kind of focussed prayer (though of course it’s always worth praying for follow up after a mission!)

I’ve found PrayerMate really useful in my own attempts to pray for some of these missions, and so I thought I’d write up a quick tutorial on how to use it in this way.

Step 1: Creating a prayer card

Before we can do anything else, we need to create a card for our mission week. Tap the “+” button in the top left of the home screen. We’ll give it a name, “Mission Week”, and click the “Tap here to add details…” button as well if you want to type in a fuller description to guide your prayers.

 

Step 2: Praying for it every day

By default, PrayerMate will just show you a subject every few days, after you’ve finished praying through all of the other subjects in the same category. For our intense mission week, focus, we want to temporarily change this.

The easiest way I’ve found is to schedule it to appear every single day of the week:

Selecting week days

Tap the “Scheduling Mode” button, and select “Day of the Week”. When presented with a list of week days, tap each one until it is ticked. PrayerMate prioritises day-of-the-week subjects over those with a “default” scheduling mode, so this will make sure you’re almost guaranteed to see it each day from now on.

 

Step 3: Auto-archiving at the end of the week

Optionally, if you want, you can specify an auto-archive date at the end of the mission week. This will tell PrayerMate to move your subject to the “archive” once that date is reached. It won’t be deleted altogether, but it will mean that this subject won’t appear any more in any new prayer sessions.

Setting an auto-archive date

 

Have you got a tip or trick that’s helped you to pray using PrayerMate? Send it in to prayermate at geero.net or tweet @PrayerMateApp so that it can help other people too.

Announcing PrayerMate 2.1 – Attach PDFs and More

I am thrilled to announce yesterday’s release of PrayerMate 2.1 on the App Store. This is a significant new release with many changes, both visible and under the hood, as well as a significant number of bug fixes. Here’s a run down on some of the new feature:

Attach PDF Prayer Letters to Items

This was actually the idea that first inspired PrayerMate way back when. My inbox often seems full of prayer letters from mission partners, that if I’m totally honest I often just read once and then rarely look at again. Well, now if I open them up on my iPod using Safari, I can use the “Open with…” button to get them into PrayerMate and attach them to one of the items there. In a prayer session, when I get to that item, there’ll be a little envelope icon – tap that and it will open the PDF full screen, and I can zoom in, scroll around, etc. Hopefully in the future you’ll be able to import these from Dropbox too, but that’s a way off yet.

Support for iPhone 5

Inevitably I’ve had a few eager iPhone 5 users wondering when I would support the new bigger screen size, and now here it is. Sadly, because of the way Apple has organised things, this also means dropping support for the oldest (armv6) devices and iOS 3 – things like the original iPhone, as well as the first and second generation iPod Touches. This was a tough call, which is why I have deliberated for so long, but it looks like there are now very few users of these old devices, so if you’re one of them, I’m really sorry but I’m not sure I had much choice.

New “Menu” Card

I was a bit unsure about this one at first, but the more I’ve used it myself the more I’ve come to love this. Now when you start praying, before all of your actual prayer cards, you’ll see a new one labelled “Today’s Prayers”. This will list all of the items that will be prayed for in this new session.

A little tip on this: my wife finds it really helpful to close and reopen PrayerMate in order to take another peek at this card after she’s prayed – so that she knows if she needs to email anybody to get up-to-date information on how she can be praying. She finds it so helpful that I might see if I can incorporate this formally into the app, but we’ll see. If you think that would be useful – do let me know!

Day of the Month Scheduling

PrayerMate has long supported scheduling cards to appear on a certain date or a certain day of the week, and now you can schedule them to appear on certain days of the month as well (e.g. the 1st of every month, or the 15th and 30th).

Integrated Email Support

I’ve added two new features related to email.

The first is to let you email the person you are praying for from within the app. Often when you’re praying  for someone, it makes you really want to get in touch to let them know you were thinking of them. Now if you press and hold on the card, you’ll get an “Email contact” button. This will work for all subjects, but if you’ve explicitly linked it to a contact in your address book then it will be able to pre-fill the email address for you as well.

The second is to let you email the details of an item from within the app to anybody you like. I’ve started using PrayerMate to record my small group’s prayer points each week, and now once you’ve filled in the details, on the edit subject page there’s a button to “Email these details”, so I can send them to everybody in the group. Quick tip: set up a contact “group” in your address book (this needs to be done on Mac OS X / Windows and then synced across, I believe) – this at least let’s you quickly skim through each member of a group and easily select all of their names.

Bug Fixes Galore

But PrayerMate 2.1 wasn’t just all about adding new stuff, it also includes a significant number of little tweaks and bug fixes, largely based on the invaluable feedback of my wonderful users. If you ever experience a glitch, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, or even if you just have a thought about something that would make the app even better – there’s a “Send Feedback” button on the very final page when you’ve finished praying (the one after the blessing) and I read every email I get and I love hearing from people. PrayerMate is also on Twitter now: @PrayerMateApp.

Here are some of the fixes:

  • Fixed a problem on the “Edit details” page that made scrolling and editing impossible in landscape mode
  • When editing details, the cursor now defaults to the top of the card rather than the bottom
  • Restored some missing photos, and make sure they survive updates in the future
  • Addressed some problems with Dropbox import and export

Hubbub is Hiring Web Developers

In case you didn’t know it, London’s most amazing startup, Hubbub, is currently looking for two… yes TWO… web developers.

If you’re a developer who likes people and likes food, Hubbub is an awesome place to work. We let people shop online with local independent retailers, helping support local communities in the process. As an added bonus, that means we tend to have really incredible lunches here each day, with food bought from some really top-notch suppliers.

We use Ruby on Rails, but if your skills are in some other language then don’t panic – as long as you can demonstrate the ability to learn new things quickly, that needn’t be a hindrance (I’d only ever written about one line of Ruby before I started here).

As an added bonus, successful candidates will get a year’s supply of free bacon. And my, what bacon it is! Or maybe you’re not a developer, but you know somebody who is? Well, recommend somebody to us who we go on to hire, and you’ll get a year’s supply of free bacon too!

Full details and instructions on how to apply can be found here.

Shrapnel

When I was about fifteen years old I wrote a little computer game called “Shrapnel”, based on the popular tank game Scorched Earth. Even now, all these years later, I still get the occasional person asking me about it, so this page exists for their benefit. I’ll update it with more content soon.

How much good can a good God do with a healthy dose of Man Flu?

duvet day

If we believe in a good God who is in control of his world, then presumably his promise to “work all things for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28) extends even to man flu. So what good is God able to work in the midst of illness? I can think of at least three:

  1. Illness is good for giving us opportunities to patiently wait in humble dependence on God. Every night it’s the same: will I sleep well tonight? Will I be better tomorrow morning? And every time the answer is ‘no’ we have to practice patiently trusting God. I want to be better straight away, but God has other plans that are bigger than mine, and I must wait until he is ready to make me better.
  2. Illness is good for showing us that we’re not superheroes and we need to stop every now and again. Sometimes it’s easy to overdo it in the short term (even if that’s a six month ‘short term’) and convince yourself that it’s sustainable and you’re doing ok. But then eventually you crash and burn and get stuck in bed for a week, and it can be a good way for your body to say “you are going to stop and rest whether you like it or not”. There’s a famous story (does anybody know where it’s from?) of a busy pastor who never quite managed to take a day of rest each week, and then after a few years ended up with a serious illness that lasted basically as long as all of those skipped rest days strung together.
  3. Illness is good for reminding us that our identity is not in what we can do or how we can serve. Every day you think to yourself “I’ll be well enough tomorrow to fulfill that commitment I made to so-and-so” or “I’ll be well enough by church on Sunday to do the powerpoint”. Then when you’re not, you have to ask other people for help and the body of Christ kicks in to action and everybody rallies round and copes pretty marvellously without you and it turns out you weren’t quite as indispensable as you thought. And that’s ace, because it brings conviction of ways in which you’ve started to define yourself by what you do and the ways in which you serve, and find your value in the contribution you make rather than simply your standing in Christ as a precious child of God. Occasionally having to allow others to serve you rather than trying to do everything for yourself can be humbling in a really helpful way.

That’s as far as I’ve got so far – maybe you’ve got some suggestions of your own?

P.S. Free special bonus treat: Jonathan Edwards’ resolution No. 67: “Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.”

PrayerMate: How to manage the rate at which you pray for things

PrayerMate Logo 1

Somebody emailed me with a great question today about PrayerMate which seems to be quite a common one. They asked:

“Is it possible to prioritise items that you pray for? I have made some things that I pray for every day, but it would be good if I could make other things weekly and other things monthly.”

Getting this kind of thing right in PrayerMate is more an art than a science, but with a bit of tweaking you can usually get it to do what you would like. The key to this is effective use of lists. Assuming you have it set so that you only ever see one or two items per list, then naturally you will pray for subjects from very short lists on a very regular basis, whereas items from a very long list will get prayed for less frequently.

Here’s my setup:

  1. I have one list with just a single subject – the Lord’s Prayer. The key is that I have turned on the “manually set items per session” setting on this list, telling PrayerMate that it should always try to include subjects from this list if it can. This list is also the very first one of my lists, making it the most important. The result is that I always get shown the Lord’s Prayer every single time I pray.
  2. I have another list with about five or six subjects. Again, this list is manually set to show one item per session, so that I know I’ll always get one of those items each time. If I managed to use PrayerMate every day, I’d get to pray for each item on this list roughly once per week.
  3. One of my “friends” lists has about 20-30 subjects in it, and doesn’t have the manual items per session setting turned on. People in here will tend to come up at least once a month, but sometimes a little less often than that.

The ability to manually request a specific number of items from certain lists is very useful, and perhaps not as well explained as it could be. The key is to use it sparingly – if you have too many lists set up in this way then it will start to lose its meaning.

5 Years of the Geero.net Blog

bg5th.jpg

When I went to dig into all of the historical stats for my blog the other day, little did I know that it was at such a well-chosen moment: it turns out that today, Friday 30 November, is exactly five years since I first posted to the Geero.net blog (that post was “And now for something completely different“).

In that time there have been some highs and some lows, some periods of regular posting and some times of hardly posting at all. It’s largely been a real blessing to me to write all this stuff, even if nobody has really read any of it, and I’m thankful to God for the opportunity. If all you want to know is what the most popular posts have been during that time, skip to the end. But for those who are interested in a little more detail, I reckon there were about six eras in the life of Geero.net:

  1. Beginner’s luck (Nov 2007 – Apr 2008) – initially I was mostly posting all of my pent-up ideas about making Bible-teaching computer games. I would write several drafts of each article and post infrequently, but they were probably more interesting posts as a result. Most of these are now found on my separate Old Testament Adventures blog.
  2. Relative obscurity (Apr 2008 – Feb 2009) – by this point I’d run out of interesting ideas about Bible games and was having to make stuff up as I went. Unsurprisingly, nobody really read my blog during this period.
  3. LucasArts nostalgia (Mar 2009 – Jan 2010) – I slightly changed tack at this point and started posting more generally about the Point & Click adventure games that inspired my Bible games, with posts about games like The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. These proved fairly popular amongst a wider audience and brought in a few extra visitors.
  4. Randomness that worked (Feb 2010 – Dec 2012) – somewhat depressingly, the period that brought in most visitors to the blog was filled with totally random posts about some really strange things that weren’t necessarily all that exciting to me. My biggest hit of all time was created during this period, which was very much one of my passions and not too surprising to discover it was well-received: The OTHER Secret of Monkey Island, helped by a massive boost from Hacker News (and a great voice-over by David Hall). But other big hits include West Cornwall Pasty vs the Big Mac and some stuff about programming Unity games on the iPhone. These were mostly good for ongoing Google traffic rather than for regular readers of the blog.
  5. Why Jesus Is My Hero (Jan 2011 – Oct 2011) – I think this was the real high point of the blog, with the most regular readers tuning in for actual blog content rather than random nutritional information. I got into a good rhythm of posting an article on “Why Jesus is My Hero” every Sunday (starting with I’m No Hero). I think I was generally managing to post these at Sunday lunchtimes which seemed to be a good time for various reasons. It’s well known that regularity really helps when trying to build blog traffic, and my experience totally backs that up.
  6. On the wane (Oct 2011 – Oct 2012) – for various personal reasons, blogging fell somewhat lower in my priorities during this period. I was still posting my Why Jesus is My Hero posts right up until June 2012, but I shifted to a Sunday evening pattern which suited me better, but perhaps accounts for the decreased response. In case you were wondering, I finally finished the series this week, with The First and the Last, an article that I had been dying to write ever since I started the series but which I knew had to be the last instalment.

Most Popular Posts

Here’s the bit you’ve all been waiting for – the hall of fame of the Top 10 pages of all time on Geero.net:

  1. The OTHER Secret of Monkey Island – my followup video to the big conspiracy theory The True Secret of Monkey Island
  2. My version of the open source DirectX Exporter for Blender – yes, depressingly boringly. But apparently quite interesting to those who need such a thing.
  3. The Bible Games tab – now it just redirects you to the Old Testament Adventures blog, but once upon-a-time this page used to host details of my game.
  4. West Cornwall Pasty vs the Big Mac – one day after watching Super-sized Me I just really wanted to know how many calories there were in a West Cornwall Pasty, only to discover that that information wasn’t online. So I emailed them and wrote this slightly random post, only for it to turn into one of the most read things on my entire blog. Weird.
  5. Why Programmers Find it So Hard to Be Christians – this was the product of various observations I’ve made over my life, and seemed to strike a chord with some people. I got a lot of emails about this one.
  6. How to Install PythonMagick on OS X – yes, another really depressing entry in the hall of fame. After spending several days trying to overcome problem after problem installing an image manipulation library on my Macbook, I wrote this post listing all of the errors I got and how to solve them. Google loves that kind of thing.
  7. Tips for Taking Over Someone Else’s Code – inspired by my work on the Blender Exporter, this was a fairly general interest article for all programmers, and seemed to be fairly popular.
  8. Programming under the Lordship of Christ – one of the first blog posts I ever wrote, this was about how being a Christian changes the way you work. Even now people still email about this every now and again, and by God’s grace people seem to have found it helpful.
  9. Why Our Best Works are But Filthy Rags – part of a little series I was trying to write on humility, this turns out to be a phrase that people Google for surprisingly frequently.
  10. Why God Is Better Than the Chairman – Thoughts on ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ – some reflections after watching the disappointing movie.

Some of those posts were really random, and aren’t going to make much of an impact on the world. But I hope and pray that one or two of them will have helped even just a few people love and follow Jesus a little better than they did before.

The First and the Last

Why Jesus is My Hero #52 of 52

Whirl-fire

When I started my “Why Jesus is My Hero” series in January 2011, I always knew where it was going to end. To my mind, there could be no more fitting conclusion than Revelation 1:12-18:

“I turned round to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'”

I love John’s description of the awesome Lord Jesus in all of his glory and majesty. It must only have been the most fleeting of glimpses before he fell on his face, and yet time slows down to a crawl as he describes the incredible vision before his eyes in intricate detail – tracing the King of kings from head to toe.

In the busyness of everyday life it’s easy for Jesus to slip in your thinking, becoming just one idea amongst many. John’s vision in Revelation helps remind me how far from the truth such a state of affairs is – Jesus is beyond comparison, the exalted ruler of the universe. He is the First and the Last – there was nobody before him, and there is nobody who shall outlive him. And most glorious of all he is the resurrected lamb of God, the one who was slain and now lives again. He is invincible, having fought with death and emerged victorious. His victory prize: the keys to death and Hades.

So lift your eyes from the mundane concerns of today, just for a moment, and fix them on this glorious saviour. Doesn’t that help give you a little perspective on life? There may be nothing remarkable or majestic about ourselves and our own circumstances, but what a liberating thing it is to serve a master like the Jesus of Revelation. Now there’s somebody I could spend my life worshipping.

Your skills are a gift – how will you use yours?

A few years ago, I read a blog post somewhere bewailing what an injustice it was that Google should hire some of the greatest minds on the planet and then squander that talent by putting them to work on problems like… well, let’s face it… advertising. I’m not sure I was all that persuaded at the time (I’ve always rather fancied working at Google) but the last few months having given me reason to reevaluate my position.

It’s the 21st century now, and whether you like it or not, we live in a world that is built on software. A huge proportion of our lives interact with computer systems at some point or other – whether that’s directly using a website like Facebook on your PC or your phone, whether it’s firing up an app to check the weather forecast, or whether it’s the automated billing system working out how much to charge you for the electricity you’ve used. It’s hard to imagine anyone going long without having their lives affected in some small way by a piece of software.

That means that software developers have the potential to make a huge contribution to people’s quality of life. How much frustration are you caused each day by those little quirks in the way your Word processor works? And what a breath of fresh air it is when you find yourself using a website that “just works”? If you’re a talented developer who has an instinct for what’s going to make a better experience for the end users and the technical know-how to make that happen – well then you’ve been entrusted with a precious gift, the opportunity to bring a little happiness into people’s lives. How are you going to use that gift? What are you going to channel your energies and your talents into?

A few months ago I did something I thought I’d never do – I turned down a further interview with Google to go and work for a little startup company called Hubbub, doing their best to change their little corner of the world by letting people shop online with their local independent shops, allowing the little guy to compete with the big supermarkets. I’m having the time of my life doing exciting work with wonderful people, and helping make people’s lives a little better in the process, all whilst eating amazing lunches from incredible local suppliers – and it’s such a frustration to see how hard we’re finding it to hire extra developers to support us in our work. I reckon Google will survive without two developers they might otherwise have been able to nab – but what a huge difference those two developers would make to Hubbub, and in turn to our passionate and dedicated customers and the independent shops they seek to support.

So go on, I dare you – put your skills to work somewhere where you can make a real difference. Maybe that’s Hubbub, maybe it’s continuing to do what you’re already doing, maybe it’s getting involved in some kind of Open Source project. But whatever you do, remember that your skills are a gift. How will you use yours?

Getting Started With PrayerMate for iOS

A Beginner’s Guide to PrayerMate for iOS

What is PrayerMate?

PrayerMate is an app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that helps you be more faithful in prayer. Enter the people and causes you care about, grouped into lists of your choosing, and every day PrayerMate will pick a selection of these subjects for you to pray through, one at a time.

getting_started

Your first prayer session

The very first time you open PrayerMate, it will create a few default lists for you – my friends, my family, and so on. It will also create a small number of default subjects, for example the Lord’s Prayer. Since you only have a small number of subjects in the system, for now you’ll be shown roughly the same set of subjects every time you run the app – which may get a little repetitive!

Creating new subjects

To get started, I suggest you dive right in and start creating some subjects to pray for. I started off with each member of my family (on the “My family” list), some close friends (on the “My friends” list), and some organisations and countries around the world that I care about (on the “World mission” list). The simplest way to create a new subject is to press the “+” button at the bottom of the screen, select which list you want to add to, then type in a name for your subject (e.g. “Mum & Dad”). When you’re done typing press the “Done” button in the top right.

Now when I open up the app, I’ll still be shown the Lord’s prayer, but I can now swipe it to the left to see my first family member, and swipe again to the left to see one of my friends, then swipe left again to see a world mission item. Each time I swipe to the left I’m telling PrayerMate that I’ve “prayed” for that item, so that next time I fire up the app I’ll be shown a different item from that category instead.

Managing your lists

As well as being able to pray through a selection of items that PrayerMate chooses for you each day, you can also access all of your subjects at any time by pressing the “Lists” button at the very top of the main screen. You can swipe sideways to find a list, or press any entry on the initial “Lists index” to jump straight to a list.

At the bottom of the “Lists index” you will also find some special lists: the archive, your recently prayed subjects, and a “Books” gallery of downloadable prayers.

How items are scheduled

PrayerMate’s default mode is to show you no more than one subject from each of your lists every time you open the app, up to a maximum quota that you set using the “+”/”-” buttons on the first “Coming up” slide. Within each list, it will always show you the item that you prayed for least recently – so over time you’re guaranteed to get through all of the subjects in your list. If you want a bit more control, you can also manually adjust the number of items from each list that you’ll be shown from the settings screen for each list. For example, you might want to pray for one family member each day and three friends. To access a list’s settings menu, tap on to the “Lists” tab at the bottom of the screen, scroll sideways to the list in question, and tap its settings button (it looks like a cog). There you can switch on the “Manually set items per session” setting.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably feel that some of your lists are more important than others – for example, you want to always pray for your family every day, but you mind less about not praying for a world mission item every single time. Switching on the manual items per session setting on a list tells PrayerMate that it should always do its best to show you items from this list. But use it sparingly! It works best if only one or two lists are configured in this way.

Other features

You’ll probably find it helpful to make specific notes against each subject giving you some ideas about what to pray for them. When looking at a prayer subject, press the edit button in the top right (it looks like a pencil in a box) and you can then start typing any text you want to into the largest box that appears (it should say “tap to add details…”).

Many people have said that they find it helps them to pray for people more if they attach a photo to their entry. You can do this by editing a card and then tapping the circle that appears.

PrayerMate also allows you to set an alarm, reminding you to pray at a set time every day. You can do this through the “Reminders” tab at the bottom of the screen. Set a time, and you’ll then get a prompt saying “Time to pray?” at that time each day.

Advanced scheduling

As well as the default scheduling mode described above, PrayerMate also allows you to set some slightly more sophisticated scheduling rules. On a specific subject you can change the scheduling mode, to either default (which you now know about), by date (where you pick a specific date from a calendar on which you want to pray for this subject) and day of the week (where you can choose one or more days of the week on which you want to pray, e.g. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). You can do this by pressing a subject’s settings button (it looks like a cog) and then changing the “Scheduling mode”.

You can also set an ‘auto-archive’ date on subjects. Once this date has passed, your subject will be moved into the archive, so that you’ll no longer be asked to pray for it. You can always get access to archived items at a later stage through the “Archive” menu on the options page.

See also: PrayerMate iOS Frequently Asked Questions

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To get up and running, I’ve created a five step plan.

A video introduction

You may find this handy video that the Chapel Life has put together useful:

PrayerMate App from ChapelOutreach on Vimeo.

How To Use a Multiple Select Field

Multiple select fields are those little boxes that contain a number of options, of which you can choose as many different rows as you like. However, they’re notoriously confusing to use if you’re not sure what you’re doing. As an example of what I’m talking about, have a play with this one, and see if you can figure out how to select just the first and the last option:

If you found that straightforward, then you can probably stop reading, but if you found that a struggle, or if you’ve ever written a web page for people who would have found that non-trivial, then hopefully this short guide will be of some use to you.

Selecting a single row from a multiple select is easy – you just click on the option you want, and it highlights it whilst deselecting any previously selected rows. Almost as easy is selecting a few consecutive rows – click on the first row you’re interesting in, then hold the SHIFT key and click on the last row you’re interested in, and it will select those rows and all of the rows in between.

Where the multiple select field gets a little tricky is if you want to select rows that are not next to each other. To do that, hold the CTRL key (or the command / cmd key if you’re on a Mac) and click on some rows. CTRL-clicking on a row will toggle its selected status – selecting rows that were previously unselected, or deselecting rows that had been selected already. Using CTRL-click allows you to select as many or as few options as you like – including unselecting all of the rows, to say “none of these options” apply. Try it again now, using CTRL-click to select just the first and the last option, and then deselecting them again.

That’s all there is to it, really!

The Most Exciting Version of PrayerMate Yet

Today I am super thrilled to be able to announce PrayerMate 1.4 (Edit: now called 2.0) – a real whopper of a release.

For those who don’t know, PrayerMate is an app for iOS that gives you a little helping hand with your prayer life. You enter details of the people and issues you care about, and then every day it offers you a selection to pray for. They appear as a series of index cards that you can swipe between.

Here’s a run down of what’s new in version 1.4/2.0:

Native iPad Support

You asked for it and now PrayerMate supports it: it’s now a universal app that runs on iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad. All of the same features but just a little bit bigger.

iPadPrayerMateSmall1_4.png

Dropbox Import/Export

You can now export your prayer points to a Dropbox account – keeping them safe as a backup in case anything goes wrong. You can then import those prayer points back later, or onto another device (e.g. your swanky new iPad that is now running PrayerMate!)

Just a few quick details: PrayerMate uses a folder in your Dropbox called “Apps/PrayerMate”. It exports in a format called “JSON”, but you could also pop plain text files in that folder (with a .txt extension) and it will allow you to import individual prayer points.

Photographs

Another much asked-for feature is the ability to attach photos to each subject. You can pick them from any album on your device, and they’ll appear at the top of each card. They can be changed or removed at any time.

Whilst you’re praying, press and hold on a card to get a list of actions. One of these will be “Edit subject”, and you can then tap the “Photo” field to choose an image.

PrayerMateSmall.png

Better Archiving

It’s now much easier to archive prayer points whilst you’re praying without resetting your session. Press and hold on a card to bring up a list of actions, choose the “Archive” action, and the card will fade out, indicating that it has now been moved out of your active list of prayer points. You’ll still be able to find it by searching the archive, but in future it won’t be presented to you as something to pray for.

Tidied Up the Feedback Page

A number of people mentioned that they found it distracting to have all of the feedback/review buttons on the final slide (the one with the blessing). I’ve acted on this by separating them out into a separate page. I’ve also removed the buttons that nobody ever used, and added an extra button to sign up to the PrayerMate email newsletter (which you should join, by the way!)

Get It Here Now

Buy it on the app store this minute – a mere £1.99 ($2.99), a real bargain for so much functionality! It really is great to pray, I hope trust that this version of PrayerMate will continue helping people do so more and more.

Features Overview

  • Intuitive index card interface lets you swipe between the day’s topics
  • Set up your own personal categories and subjects to suit the way you pray
  • Subjects can be entered manually or directly from your address book contacts – no typing necessary!
  • Attach photos to prayer points
  • Import/Export via Dropbox
  • Prayer requests can be scheduled for a certain date or day of the week, or just let PrayerMate pick topics for you
  • Optional daily alarm clock to remind you to pray (iOS 4.0 upwards)
  • PIN code feature for added privacy
  • Built-in help system

The Love That Surpasses Knowledge

How Jesus is My Hero #51 of 52

From my quiet time on Friday – Ephesians 3:14-19:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Greater than any human love is the love of Christ – a love that surpasses knowledge. I think this is an awesome prayer from Paul – that we could be strengthened to know that which is inherently beyond knowing. Even the tiniest little glimpse of Christ’s love is greater than the full extent of human love. And yet wonderfully, graciously, human love does give us a little picture of the greater reality, as we bear God’s image and so reflect a little something of his glory. Here in these verses we see that a human father shows us something of the true Fatherhood of God, and then a few chapters later we see how husband and wife reflect the union of Christ and the church. But these are only tiny glimpses, pale reflections that are as nothing compared to the reality they point us to.

Thoughts of a Christian Software Developer