Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter - The Greatest Day in History

The week of Passover started with Christ’s highly celebrated entrance into the city of Jerusalem.  A culmination of three years of ministry, Christ came to the city of Prophets with one purpose in mind: To conquer all that’s evil and free us all from slavery and death.
During the first week of Easter (circa 30 AD) showed so much promise for the young Christians.  They got to personally know the King of the Universe.   So many of them believed that Christ was entering the city to free them from the terrible Roman occupation.  They thought that Christ was ready to start His kingdom on earth. 

Enter Good Friday.  His trial, the unmerciful beatings, the humiliation and ultimate death on the cross.   In a span of less than a week that all changed.  One of Jesus’ closest brothers, Simon Peter, denied Him three times.  Judas Iscariot was personally responsible for betraying Jesus, then he hung himself.  All the disciples ran for their lives, except John and the Mary’s. 

Christ’s entire flock must have been in total disbelief.  No prophet of old had ever done the things He did.  His love transcended the rich and the poor.  He fed thousands with a few loaves and fish.  He raised Lazarus from the dead.  He calmed storms, both physical and personal ones.  Even demons that He exorcised proclaimed Him the Son of God.

I could imagine that the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter had to be longest day of their lives.  The pain would have be unimaginable.  Then dawn broke on Sunday morning…

Luke 24:1-6 explains what happens next, "Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the aromatic spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood beside them in dazzling attire. The women were terribly frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised!"

All their pain, all their suffering ended at that moment.  Overwhelming fear turned to ecstasy.  He did it.  HE DID IT! 

The following hours Christ appeared to His brothers and sisters in many different ways.  I'm sure many were excited (beyond belief) that He was alive again. 

What does means?  His resurrection CRUSHED death.  His resurrection SMASHED the chains of slavery to sin.  His resurrection CHANGED the world forever. 

Go forward believing that we can live our lives knowing that no power, no one person and no force can separate us from God.  Trust with 100% confidence that Christ is willing to walk the walk with us.  He will never abandon us.  He will follow us to the ends of the earth and be with us to the end of time. 

Now with Christ's death and resurrection, the end of our life's marathon will culminate with a permanent home in paradise we call...Heaven.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

One of the pinnacle moments within the Christian faith occurred on Good Friday.  Marking the culmination of three years of ministry, highlighted by the Passover (and thus freedom from the ultimate death), Christ was crucified on a cross. 

Many will argue who was ultimately responsible for Christ’s death.  In my opinion, that point is relevant and serves no purpose.  What matters to us was Christ, a living, breathing God, sacrificed Himself for us. 

Think about that statement for a moment.

Other gods, all false idols, want us to bear the responsibility.  They desire us to put them in the limelight, follow their words or even worship them.  Some of these false gods are unworthy people that spout lies and twist the truth to suit their whims.  Some desire our money, our bodies and others have even more sinister desires.

Christ took the low road.  He walked the walk with us.  He bled when we bleed.  He hurt when we hurt.  He cried when we wept.  He is a God that was willing to bear the weight of the world on His shoulders.  He refused to take the easy way out. 

Christ has the power to do whatever He so chooses.  He and His Father set this all in motion the moment Adam and Eve succumbed to original sin.  Christ is all powerful.  So powerful in fact, that forgiveness of sin didn’t need a sacrifice.  Christ has the power to choose another way. 

He didn’t. 

Christ and His Father actions speak volumes.  They make statements.  Some we never see.  Some that have an everlasting effect on the world. 

An all-powerful God, who created the universe in 6 days, decided that if He died for us.  We, a feeble, broken, faithless race, would find hope, joy, love and ultimate salvation by His sacrifice.  A sacrifice that has a permanent lasting effect on the universe.  We know that we have a future beyond our failings.  A future that extends beyond death.  A future that no one can take from us. 

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, nothing can separate us from God.  Not distance from our home, not pain, not suffering, not even death can keep us from Him.  The Father gave all authority to Christ.  With that authority He freed us from sin and death by willingly sacrificing Himself on the cross, almost two thousand years ago. 

Why?  So we can spend eternity in heaven free from all the pains of this world with Him…forevermore. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Leveraging Live Tiles in your Windows Phone 8 App

There’s no question that Live Tiles are one of the marquee features of Windows Phone 8.  Live Tiles are a clear differentiator to the current UIs of iOS and Android.  They give the user instant knowledge to what’s going on and enables them to setup their home screen with a configuration that matches his/her busy life. 

As a developer, using this innovative technology can be difficult at first.  We aren’t used to promoting knowledge in this manner and because it’s new, we may not know exactly what and how to use it.  So I’ll take a few moments to explain what a developer can and can’t do:

1.  You have 3 different sizes of Live Tiles.  See below. 
Size 2x4

Size 2x2
Size 1x1


Given these three sizes, it's important to know that your app may be running in any one of these modes at any given time. In my example, the stock photos app supports all three sizes quite nicely.  Being a photo application that displays my recent pictures, it makes sense that users will typically set it up in a 2x4 or 2x2 configuration.  My Night Time Clock app on the other hand makes sense to be setup in a 1x1 or 2x2 configuration. 

2.  Now that you are aware of all the various configurations, you need to decide what information you want to present when in each mode.  One thing to note, if your app is sized to 1x1, your options are minimal and standard implementations only show a number next to the app icon.  If a number/counter doesn't apply then you shouldn't force anything else unless you present information appropriately given the small size.

There are two primary methods (there is a third that I'll talk about soon) of showing information while using Live Tiles.  You can update a counter on a Live Tile like the (great) Weave application does.  This is a very nice and simple feature to notify your users that something has changed.  It doesn't take up a lot of space while giving you a feel that something new awaits the user.
The second option involves a second Live Tile, that can contain up to 9 images.  Live Tiles are actually double sided and allows the developer to create alternate content that's refreshed every hour.  This is a local refresh that doesn't require an internet connection, which is nice for users on restricted data plans.  If you want your application to update more often than an hour, like a clock application, you need to incorporate option 3 below. 
3.  The third option requires some web infrastructure and gives the developer push notifications that can be presented to the user.  This method offers the most flexibility and enables dynamic content to be displayed on the tile. 
Applications that use this method can be weather, stock, social networking, sports, news and other apps.  The Weave app (above) is using both the numeric counter and the push notifications.  The image of Wolverine is pushed from a web server.
Hopefully this guide will serve as a starting point to building incredible WinPh8 applications.  If you are looking for more information, you can browse the Windows Phone Developer documentation here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Week continues...

The Jewish rite of Passover, also celebrated by Christians and Muslims worldwide, happens to be iconic tale of freedom from slavery.  As many of you know, the story of the Jews enslavement by the Egyptians marks a low point in the Hebrew history.  Until God empowers Moses to speak before the Pharaoh to set His people free. During this confrontation, Pharaoh exclaims he's god and after ten horrific plagues he finally relents. 

Passover signifies the last plague, when the angel of death descended upon Egypt to kill everyone's first born.  Yet, God gave the Jews a reprieve.  He instructed Moses to tell them to put lamb's blood on their doorways.  When the angel came through, the angel would pass over the Jewish homes and only afflict death to the Egyptians.

The act of placing the lamb's blood on the doors worked only this time.  The Jews were enslaved six more times, culminating with the horrific acts in WWII. 

Given all of that, it's interesting to see the similarities to the plight of Christ. It's the only documented time that the people of Israel gave public praise to the King.  Christ rode into the city on a colt showing extreme humility. 

Christ came to Jerusalem knowing full well that the Passover feast would end in a sacrificial lamb shedding his blood.  The difference, Christ's blood would be shed on the cross and permanently free all of us from slavery to death and sin. 

His journey didn't end on the cross.  Three days later, Christ rose from the dead, breaking the shackles that were placed upon humanity's hands at the time of Original Sin.  Now we can move forward knowing that all of our struggles, pains and shortcomings can be overcome by the Blood of the Lamb, who sacrificed Himself on the cross nearly two thousand years for the forgiveness of all sins, now and forevermore.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First day of spring

Today is the first day of spring. By now, all your New Years resolutions are in the past, Easter is around the corner and you're probably wondering what's new on the upcoming horizon. Spring is clearly a metaphor for a new beginning.

Spring represents an opportunity to move forward in life and leave behind the cold, stark history behind.  As many of you struggle with various afflictions (health, financial, emotional and mental), understand that Christ continues to pour a living love into our broken, dark lives. 

We might not notice it at first.  Sometimes it can be so subtle, like a friend who calls you out of the blue.  Or a family member that gives you an extra long hug. Look and be aware of the signs, they are everywhere. 

Sometimes Christ's love slams our hearts!  Maybe your spouse 'springs' a surprise gift on you.  Dinner suddenly appears on the table, kids listen and go to bed on time.  Coworkers, bosses get along and you get to leave work a half an hour early. 

We are fast approaching the greatest day in human history.  A day that marks the Resurrection of Christ.  Christmas and all other holiday's pale in comparison.  Just like the cherry blossoms of DC burst full of life, Christ's death on the cross guarantees life everlasting.  A life where all your afflictions, all your tears are wiped clean...forever.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Microsoft Surface Tablets Sales

The media outlets have made the recent news of Microsoft Surface sales sound like it's doom and gloom for the infant device.  If you haven't heard, there have been 1.1 million Surface RT and 400,000 Surface Pro tablets sold since their release in 10/12 and 2/13 respectively. 

Let me first explain the difference between RT and the Pro device.  I'll have to admit that until the RT device was released, I really didn't understand what the differences were between the two tablets. 

Besides the obviously horrid name, Windows 8 RT (which stands for Run-Time) runs applications from the Microsoft Store, including a modified version of Microsoft Office 2013.  Microsoft has been plagued by backward capability and RT was intended to break the mold and usher in a new, more secure and flexible platform.

Pro tablets do everything RT tablets do, plus it supports all applications that can run on Windows 7.  You get the flexibility of full screen (a la Metro) apps and you can install all your legacy applications, games, tools, etc.

Microsoft controlled the release of the product for numerous reasons.  They need their channel partners to survive in order for them to continue to sell software licenses, which is their primary business model.  They are slowly expanding their markets to include other countries, retail outlets and distribution channels.  We are seeing a steady and controlled pace to bringing this innovative solution to market. 

So what does 1.5 million Surface tablets translate to?  Another billion dollar a year business for Microsoft.  That puts Surface in the same category as Windows, Office, Xbox, SharePoint and other mega Microsoft business divisions.  Not bad for a tablet that's been on sale for 6 and 1 month respectively. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Prequel to Holy Week

As we approach the upcoming, and early Easter celebration this year, I'm reminded once again about the overflowing grace the Lord God bestows upon us.  Grace, being defined as God's love that surrounds us and occurs before (and after) all of our decisions, is a powerful testament to God.  Think about it.  God loves us 'before' we know anything, we know him and is persistent.  Thus, even after we sin and fall, He's still there loving us, caring for us.

God's love emanates all around us.  We feeble minded humans struggle to understand what affect this grace and love have in our lives.  We challenge those constructs easily when things go awry.  We wonder why children suffer and die of diseases, hunger, abuse and neglect.  We say only bad things happen to good people and bad people get away with everything.

We see the poor being outcast in our society.  Our youth grow up with addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex and so much more.  Our elderly are discarded, useless people who drive slow, can't see and only get in our way of a normal life. 

Through it all, God's grace remains constant.  We find it so easy to forget all the wonderful good that's happened.  Like those wonderful hours spent with our children as they grow up.  Their first words, the first time they call us 'daddy' or 'mommy'.  We forget how our parents sacrificed their lives for us.  How they work their hands to the bone so we can get a chance a better life.  And seeing us succeed, even if it's just a bit better than their successes, can bring an tremendous sense of satisfaction that they did the right things. 

Grace enables us to see the bridge that Christ paved with his broken body.  Grace shows the lines of the road painted with Christ's blood. And the finish line, won with His triumph over death.  That's what grace is all about.  No matter how hard or terrible your life is, was or going to be, Christ is right there next to you.  Walking the walk with you, surrounding you with His love when we need it the most. 

He's ready to carry your burdens on His back and place His yoke on us because it's light enough for us to bear.  That's God's Grace.