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The other day, I got back from Chennai after a wonderful conference. I had done a little shopping, and was mighty pleased with the brand new Samsonite Skywheeler I had gotten at a good discount – that was until I tried opening the number lock and it wouldn’t budge. I had followed instructions and set the code correctly, but for whatever reason, it just would not open. Breaking the “unbreakable” exterior was not an option given how much it cost besides being a virtual impossibility, so my best bet was to try & get the zips out of the lock with minimal damage. It took me quite by surprise when after a few moments of pushing & tugging, one zip came loose without breaking anything, and it wasn’t long before I got the other zip out as well – all with absolutely no damage to the suitcase. Even so, for the record, let me say that I fully intend to use only my TSA baggage locks in future!

The incident made me wonder if Samsonite was really as safe and durable as we imagine it is. When I shared my concerns on Facebook, a friend commented that perhaps I had a special talent, and that took me back to a childhood memory I had of opening a magnetic lock (I solemnly swear that this is true and my sister can verify it if you don’t completely believe it). We used to have a lock that used a particular kind of magnet to open it. Back then it must have been the coolest thing that had taken my Dad’s fancy and it was quite by accident that I discovered I could actually open the lock using my thumb instead of the magnet. Others tried doing the same, but it didn’t quite work. Magic? Yeah, sure! It became a trick I put on for show for everyone and even remember my sister asking me to open the lock once when we wanted to get something out of a meat safe and didn’t have the key. I don’t, however, remember doing that ever again.

As I pondered those bygone years and events, I began to sense something in my spirit. I asked the question I often ask of God, “What are you trying to teach me through this? What do you want me to learn?” The answer was plain and clear to me. I needed to remember that I was a “lock breaker”. Yes. As much as I may have a “talent” for breaking open locks in the physical, the same is truer in the spiritual. I was both challenged and emboldened when I realized that. After all, isn’t that what many of us are commissioned to:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Isaiah 61:1 NLT; Matt. 18:18 NIV, Emphasis added)

Even as I write this, I believe if you are reading this, it is not by accident. So be reminded and challenged to step out in boldness and faith, and go break some locks!

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This is a list of my favourite free social networking applications and recommendations for those who have a Mac and a Blackberry, and primarily use Facebook and Twitter (and possibly Tumblr) for social networking.

For Blackberry:
1. Facebook for Blackberry
facebook-logoFor now you can update status, see your friends’ latest status updates and comment on them right from the app, view latest highlights, receive real time notifications, upload photos directly from your Blackberry, sync your Facebook friends list, their profile pictures and contact info with your Blackberry address book, add friends, post on friends’ walls, send messages to friends, view friends’ profiles and their photo albums right in the app…!!! New features expected soon – can’t wait!

2. UberTwitter
_berTwitter_logoHaving tried Twitter Berry and reviewed several other similar apps, I settled for UberTwitter which totally rocks! Most other Twitter Beta apps for Blackberry take up a lot of space and slow your mobile down. They also take forever to load updates. UberTwitter does none of that. It is clean, easily installed, does not hang, does not slow down your system, has lots of preference settings that make it more user friendly, and you get notified every time you get a reply, direct message or are retweeted. You can also use multiple accounts using the same application.

3. Viigo
75X75_Viigo_LogoViigo is part of the Blackberry World application, but can also be installed separately. I must say that Viigo is rather slow and can take ages to load stuff. However, what I like about it is that you can receive all kinds of News & RSS feeds straight to your Blackberry and tweet them straight out of the Viigo app. Some of the standard services you can receive are News & RSS, Weather, Audio & Podcasts, Social Networks, Flights & Travel. Depending on your needs you can add services like WES 2009, CFL, Sports, Business & Finance, Local Interest, Shopping, Deals, Entertainment, Politics… and a whole lot of individual channels within each of these. For Social Networking, the sites that are supported are Twitter, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Laconi.ca.

For Mac:
1. Seesmic Desktop
SeesmicDesktopThis is my personal reccommedation for anyone who needs a desktop app that allows simultaneous posts to both Facebook and Twitter. Any review will suggest TweeDeck and Seesmic to you. Both of these use Adobe Air. I’ve tried TweetDeck and still have it installed, but prefer Seesmic for its simplicity. Besides, TweetDeck can only receive a certain number of updates per hour, while Seesmic doesn’t seem to have any such issues. I also like the single column capability of Seesmic, which receives feed from both Facebook and Twitter. The menu can also be adjusted to a slimmer width using just icons, and that works perfectly for me. Connectivity to both Facebook and Twitter is good, and the adding of accounts simple. It has all the regular features of adding URL and short URL, adding image and shrinking text. The only features Seesmic does not have compared to TweetDeck are probably TweetDeck Recommends, TwitScoop, 12Seconds and StockTwits – none of which I personally require. Seesmic Desktop’s brighter gray colour is also somewhat more appealing to me than TweetDeck’s harsh black.

2. Facebook Notifications
Desktop NotificationsThis new desktop application was rolled out only last week, and is still in its experimental stages, but is still a cool one. The application sits in your Mac toolbar and notifies you of updates using Growl. As of now, you can update your status directly from the application, and all other features open the respective window in your browser for you to proceed. These features include news feed, your profile, compose message, notifications and inbox. Used in tandem with Seesmic, I think it’s the perfect way to keep track of updates on Facebook without actually being online in Facebook.

3. Posty
postyIf you use both Twitter (or Jaiku or FriendFeed) and Tumblr, Posty is a desktop app that allows you to post to both. I haven’t used it much, having discontinued my use of Tumblr, but from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty cool.

4. Tumblenote Dashboard Widget
30415This dashboard widget works way better than Posty or any other desktop app for Tumblr and does not take up space. With it, you can post Text, Quote, Link, Chat, Video and Photo directly to your Tumblelog without having to open a browser window.

Twitterrific and Tweetie are probably the other two desktop applications for Twitter alone that I would recommend. I am aware that there are many, many more applications for different kinds of phones and computers. The best advice I can offer is to read reviews online, try what seems most suitable to you and then choose for yourself. One man’s food could very well be another man’s poison, so these are just my favourites. All the best finding what works for you. I just hope my suggestions have been somewhat helpful in that process.

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Warning: This post might challenge your thoughts, commitment and decisions. Read at your own RISK.

A couple of days ago I posted this to my Facebook status:

“Will I ever have to jump off a cliff? …will God ever ask me to jump off a cliff?” – Missy, The Shack. What if God asked you to jump off a cliff? Would you? Good questions to ask. Difficult ones to answer. Of course, “jumping off a cliff” might translate into different things to different people, depending on their circumstances.

I have begun to read The Shack, apparently a book that has evoked many a debate. Seeing that people had much to say about it’s controversial content, I decided to read it with an open mind and slowly plough through it, taking time to chew the cud on every thought rather than just read it cover to cover. The quote above was the first of many interesting thoughts that I paused to ponder over.

I wonder how often we expect God to ask us to jump off a cliff, to take a risk. Not very often, I must admit. As far as most of us are concerned, we content ourselves with thoughts and songs of assurance of our safety and God’s protection over us – good things, no doubt, and very necessary. Here are a few lyrics I can think of immediately:

“I’m so secure, you’re here with me…

So close I believe, You’re holding me now

In Your hands I belong

You’ll never let me go…”

“Safe am I, safe am I

In the hollow of His hand

Sheltered o’er, sheltered o’er

With His love forever more

No foe can harm me

No fear alarm me

For He keeps both day and night.”

Often times I sing these songs to myself when I need assurance of God’s protection over me. It’s very comforting to know and feel that God has engraved me in the palms of His hands. But then, as I ponder over these thoughts, I also wonder about the practicalities of being in God’s hands and Him never letting go. I mean, doesn’t He have a zillion other things to do with His hands? Like fishing someone out of deep water or miry clay… or reaching out to touch and heal someone with leprosy… or holding his hands out against a storm… or breaking loaves of bread… or getting nailed to a cross??? These are just instances found in the Bible… and man, if I am to be in God’s hands with Him never letting go all the while, I really don’t think I would be as comfortable or “safe and secure” as one would imagine! Think about it! It’s going to get pretty uncomfortable for me… by placing myself in His hands, I am also making myself vulnerable to circumstances and situations that He chooses to use His hands for… and that undoubtedly means many great risks. Is that something I am willing to put myself through? Ha! Who would imagine that “security” in God’s dictionary is more often than not spelled R-I-S-K??? Are you even sure you want to be held so close in His hands right now? 🙂

I think it’s high time anyone who is serious about their commitment to Christ evaluate all that it truly involves and choose for himself/herself the road he/she will take. That is my challenge to anyone who might read this post.

I say this having faced my share of “risk” and having jumped off a cliff not too long ago. For me, it translated into leaving my comfort zone and stepping out into new territory without any idea as to how things would go or what the future held for me. For sure, it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, and not everyone understood why I had to do what I had to do. I know that to date, some think I made a big mistake and may even be angry with me or hold ill feelings against me for the choices I made. Others who could see to the heart of the issues knew better and have supported me and prayed for me all along. For a long while I did not want to face the rest of humanity, save a handful of near and dear, for fear of what they would think or say and the questions I would be asked. If anything, my situation seemed to only go from bad to worse. In fact, at one point, every step I had climbed up to that point and every strong pillar in my life began to crumble and fall, so much so that I had no where else to reach out and cling on to for dear life but above.

P1010703

P1010704However, looking back, I can now see that God honoured me for the decision I made to do what He asked me to do unquestioningly. I don’t want to boast about my deeds, but God’s faithfulness to me despite my many mistakes and shortcomings. All it required was my obedience no matter what, and He worked all things (including those mistakes and shortcomings) out for my good although I could not see or know that then.

I can also testify that being in God’s hands has been as thrilling as a roller coaster ride, if not more. You never know what to expect, what God will ask you to do next, where He will send you, and whom or what you will have to encounter. If you’re an adventurous person, I’d say it’s the real deal!

Christine Caine from Hillsong Australia has been doing a series on “Stop Acting Like a Christian & Be One!” at LifeChurch. A lot of challenging thoughts, and this week’s challenge has been to be willing to take that risk, to step out of your comfort zone and be willing to go where God sends you and do what He asks you to do – no matter what it takes. She shared about how many times she herself has merely escaped bomb blasts and terrorist attacks with the kind of work she is involved in. Not quite what any of us think is part of our “calling” – something we prefer to leave to others with that kind of calling to do. “As for me, I’ll just sit here behind this desk… sure, I can pray for those who face such risks… isn’t that the best thing I can do?” Well, I hate to say that if God has truly called you, it is NOT without risk. There is always something we are asked to do that we are not quite comfortable doing… it’s a daily choice we make for ourselves, either to walk in obedience to Him or weave our own ways of folly and miss out on the wonderful things He has in store for us.

I remember vaguely reading this story about a guy who went rock climbing and as night came, lost his grip and fell. He hung on to his rope for many hours in the dark, always fearing the worst and praying God would somehow save him. To his surprise, He heard God audibly tell him to let go of the rope. “What??? You can’t be serious!” was his response, and he continued to hang on to the rope that would likely snap and give way to his weight any moment. And so he hung that way in fear and dread, almost freezing himself to death, not to mention starvation, all night long. When dawn finally broke, he looked around to see if he could find a way to safety, and much to his amazement, he found that he was hanging a mere 3 feet off the ground! If only he had listened to God’s voice and let go of the rope, he would most certainly have foregone the nightlong torture he had put himself through. How foolish he had been to discredit God’s voice and choose his own folly instead!

I’ll wrap up with that thought. I don’t know which person reading this post today might be standing atop a cliff, with God asking you to jump off. Like I mentioned in my Facebook status, it might translate to different people into different things, depending on their circumstances and situations. If you’re that person atop the cliff today, what would you do? Are you willing to take that leap of faith in obedience?

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