Archive for July, 2011

LifeProof case review

Posted in Technology on July 21, 2011 by jaymallow

Perhaps it’s because I bought my new iPhone due to the fact that I dropped my old iPhone 3g and cracked the screen. Perhaps also the fact that the iPhone 4, while looking definitely sleek and sexy, seems so fragile. (Seriously you almost think those beautiful glass screens would crack just by looking at them) But I’m practically paranoid when it comes to protecting my iPhone. (The $350 price tag probably has something to do with that as well) So from minute one my iPhone has been encased in OtterBox’s Defender case, except for brief moments when switching to my armband case for running. While I appreciated a little piece of mind, and the Defender case definitely worked on multiple droppings, I still wasn’t all that happy with the set up. For one the OtterBox feels like you militarized your iPhone. Being in the military that’s not so much a bad thing, but it makes the thinnest iPhone to date an ugly black brick.
Thanks to my incessant love of all things geeky and case related, I stumbled upon a case made by a company called LifeProof. The claims they make about their cases are almost unbelievable- Mil-Spec (something OtterBox doesn’t even claim), dust and dirt PROOF, and ultimately WATERPROOF. Yes you read right, this company claims that you can drop their case repeatedly on concrete from a height of six feet, bury it in sand, then go shoot underwater movies with your iPhone.(Basically they’re claiming to be the GLOCK of iPhone cases) Sounds either too good to be true, or complete BS right? So I trolled around looking for videos related to this case. Some COULD have been faked, (not saying they were) but careful editing and an underwater camera could have pulled off some videos. The one that sold me however was a YouTube video of a guy dropping his LifeProof encased iPhone into a 24oz mug of beer. It was shot with the iPhone. Looking out of the amber colored glass sold me. Enough for me to spend another $70 bucks for another case anyway.
Just a quick note on the ordering process as I experienced it. It is very obvious that this is a new company getting it’s legs underneath it. I placed a pre-order, then two weeks later was contacted that I could now order my case. I then put in the order and they took over a month to process that order. Perhaps that’s just the way things are done online now but I have to admit that having an outstanding charge on my credit card for over a month was a bit disconcerting. In any case it took some time from “pre-order” to delivery. Though I will say that when they did finally fulfill the order it was delivered quickly. (Two business days by Priority Mail for free)

The Unboxing:

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I have to say the packaging is impressive. It kind of screams, “PLEEAAASSSEE Apple put us in your store?” Believe it or not that’s a good thing. Any company that has the confidence in it’s product to do some real, professional graphic design knows it has a product to sell. The packaging also speaks to the permanence and financial backing of the company. This doesn’t look like a company that won’t be here a month from now because they folded.

First impressions:
The case itself is thin and lightweight. It seems to belie the “shockproof” capability it purports. The plastic is neither smooth, hard, nor shiny, nor soft and rubbery but an interesting blend. (smooth and pliable but grip-able) The clear plastic screen protector feels a little on the thick side but definitely isn’t flimsy. The thing you notice when pulling the two front and back pieces apart is that it isn’t easy. This is a case that you are supposed to leave on.

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Inside you’ll note on the left the prominent seal going around the case. On the right note the films covering the speakers and camera ports. (The mesh is supposed to be Gore-Tex) I read a LifeProof Q and A about the lack of some kind of felt or soft material for the backing. Supposedly they rejected this idea as it muffles sound and really doesn’t supply any protection. The response indicated that a securely sealed backing won’t scratch the surface and that their material won’t harm the back surface of the iPhone anyway. (We’ll see but it makes sense. If the back of the case doesn’t move in relation to the front then there shouldn’t be scratches)

I can attest that after installation the bottom opening for the charge/synch cable works with Apple’s cables. Beyond that you might want to buy an extender. (which LifeProof also sells) Another note is that the hinge is a metallic one similar to a watch spring/hinge adding to the durability of the mechanism. (ie it’s not just plastic) I can also attest that the volume and mute buttons on the side work perfectly. (And I own a Verizon iPhone) The latter (mute) being a surprise and actually a bonus for quick muting.

The big surprise was the inclusion of this:

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What you see there my friends is an audio adaptor for the case that is also “LifeProof”. Supposedly this renders the headphone port also impervious to the elements. (Though LifeProof doesn’t recommend swimming with it, they’ve got another adaptor for that.) I was surprised because no mention was made of this little device in my ordering. Such as, “Case includes…” On one hand I’m impressed that something that this company sells on it’s website is included in the case.(It would be easier and sneakier to make people buy it.) On the other hand I have to admit that if I had unknowingly bought this accessory for twenty bucks and then learned that it was included I would have been a bit miffed. Oh and another positive, you see that drum looking thing in the middle of the wire? That’s a device to hold the plug for the audio port along with a spare plug. Which given the fact that the plug is tiny, and conceivably easily lost, is well… thoughtful. All that said, after checking the adapter is almost absolutely necessary with this case. Perhaps with the factory Apple headphones (which I don’t use) the audio opening will still work. Otherwise you absolutely HAVE to use the adaptor. The opening for the audio is just too deep and narrow. Yet still on the plus side for LifeProof the adaptor is gold plated and seems to be quality made.

Comparison:

Here are a few shots of the case side by side with the OtterBox just for comparison. You’ll note that the LifeProof case is longer but noticeably thinner.

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Conclusion:

Perhaps this is the most resounding endorsement I could give this case- I dropped it (and my iPhone) in the toilet. No seriously. I just walked in, took a deep breath, and let go. …And nothing happened. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happened. I fished it out, dried it off, and… nothing happened. Now will I go scuba diving with this case? NO. But the fact that my phone survived what any phone would be absolutely fried doing is worth the money this case costs. While I would love some sort of belt clip as I’m not a “pocket” wearer of the iPhone I’ll make do. (There are many “generic” belt case options) Even more I look forward to LifeProof’s swim/armband. (As a member of the military I look forward to being able to strap my iPhone on my forearm and make like Sam Fisher) Time will tell if this case over time will continue to live up to the lofty claims LifeProof has made but for now I’m not taking it off.

Thoughts about the issues confronting Sovereign Grace ministries with C.J. Maheney’s stepping down

Posted in Devotions on July 11, 2011 by jaymallow

When I read C.J. and Dave Harvey’s letters both announcing/affirming C.J.’s stepping down from leadership and announcing an independent review of both C.J. and Soveriegn Grace’s leadership I was somewhat surprised but not totally surprised. I wasn’t surprised at C.J.’s humility and desire to redress whatever wrongs may have occurred, but I also wasn’t surprised that it has come to this. Perhaps it is because I grew up in a different denomination. Perhaps also because I’ve been on the inside of other Christian organizations that have had similar issues the day where things “got serious” seemed coming to me. I more than anyone don’t want to engage in “gossip”, however I believe that helpful and meaningful dialogue can occur as we think about how it came to this.

First off I want to take you back ten years or so ago. In my mind and I’m pretty sure for many this felt like a “golden time” in Sovereign Grace Ministries. The “movement” was still new, the churches small, and I know for myself it felt as if something unique and different was occurring. I remember one special thing in particular, we called them Celebrations. Each year regional churches would gather for fellowship and instruction.(and late night shenanigans but let’s not go there) Here’s the thing that Celebrations highlight about the leadership of SGM during that time- it worked. Both C.J.’s leadership and the model of church governance that SGM adopted worked well with few smaller churches that could be personally cared for by “apostles” and even C.J. himself. The inclusion of Celebrations also provided a sense of care and community within the larger Ministry. However over time the ministry grew to the point that continuing Celebrations was quite frankly impractical.
What developed throughout the “Celebration” era was a method of governance that at it’s core was relational. On the surface this actually seems both workable and preferable, that leaders with strong relational ties would be able to speak into each others lives and keep each other accountable. That a “relational” “apostle” could govern and disciple pastors under his care and himself be cared for through both the pastors under him and “apostles” beside him. Yet as the organization and churches therein grew the “relational” ideal actually developed into a hierarchical almost “catholic” system of church governance.
It is in fact ironic that an organization that describes itself as being “essentially reformed” would adopt a view of pastoral authority and church polity that mirrors the church that the reformers ultimately rebelled against and rejected. (Also telling that absolutely NO other American church that labels itself as being both “evangelical” and “reformed” subscribes to Sovereign Graces views on church polity) One only has to look at history to see the many opportunities for abuse and inefficiency in dealing with disciplinary oversight endemic in the “apostleship” model. These examples are evident and require only a quick perusing of past church abuses. However, there is another perhaps initially unseen side effect of a “relational” authority structure, namely that all issues of discipleship, discipline, theology, and even church and personnel management become “personal”. All issues are moved into one on one relationships and become needlessly “confidential”. Lets say “apostle” A is called in to counsel and mediate an issue between “Pastor” B and “Member” C. Because “A” and “B” are “personally” communicating they can feel the freedom to speak about and even make decisions about “Member” C without feeling the need to involve that individual because “A” and “B” are “relating” primarily with each other (this conversation is of course “private” and “confidential”). Then having made decisions they (“A” and “B”) then turn to “relate” to “C” providing “personal” care. This can (and does) cause an environment where practically everything becomes “confidential” (because it’s “personal”) and raises the probability of offense by making every issue a personal one and every interaction personal as well. This is glaringly evidenced by the fact that SGM has absolutely NO mechanism for impartial and impersonal internal review and is forced to look outside the ministry for these things. It simply isn’t in the organizations “DNA”.
This “relational” model also makes accountability and discipline difficult because there is no way to evaluate a leaders leadership outside of their personal character. It is a common Christian organizational fault to promote and equate those with excellent character as if they are also are gifted and able to lead. Let me be clear, those who are called to lead SHOULD have excellent character, but just because someone is a “good guy” doesn’t mean he can lead. Even more, a person who can lead in smaller areas (such as a family or small group) does not AUTOMATICALLY posses the ability to lead in larger ones. The “relational” ideal falters in evaluation and oversight as those who are raised to leadership often are “promoted” because of a sympathy of personality or character with a particular leader rather than evidenced leadership skills or potential.(This isn’t a problem with just the church. EVERY leader in ANY circumstance prefers to “clone” himself) This is compounded when that “gifting” is then affirmed by a greater centralized authority. (ie. the Pastors College) Now both the ones who initially promoted the candidate AND those who supposedly have “tested” that candidate’s “gifting” now have a vested PERSONAL interest in that candidate’s success. To disqualify a prospective pastor is to acknowledge that BOTH local pastor and pastoral teams AND the pastor’s college where in error in evaluating this individual’s gifting. Both the local and Ministerial levels have a vested interest in the success of the candidate. This can lead to evaluations that gloss over leadership decisions and instead focus on the “intent” or “heart” of the candidate. Thus to challenge the leadership of a pastoral candidate is to not only challenge HIS personal character, but the “intent” and “heart” of the pastor, pastoral team, and organization that affirmed him to office. Moreover because the new pastor owes his livelihood to both an individual (most often a local senior pastor) AND the “system” there can be a reluctance to challenge either within a new tenable position.
I could go on but my hope is that those with discernment and wisdom will “read between the lines” and see what I’m getting at. At the core of the present SGM “crises” is a failure of doctrine. SGM in my opinion simply has a flawed ideal of scriptural authority. (To read my perspective and scriptural backing read Reformers Duty pt.1 and 2) However I personally want to end this on a note of hope and challenge to my friends:
1: This is an evidence of God’s grace and mercy to both the leaders and Sovereign Grace ministries as a whole.
Rom 1 clearly teaches that a clear sign of being under the wrath of God is that He leaves you alone. I personally have been involved in a ministry that at one time could fill colosseums. Now that ministry struggles to find a church to promote it’s “conferences”. God is more than willing to let false movements “die on the vine” only to later be pruned and thrown into the fire. The one’s He cares for He prunes.
2: The “pruning” seems to only have begun: To my fellow brothers and sisters in SGM I can only say this- I believe it will get worse. Sin will be revealed and I would challenge each and every one of you to hold those who are in leadership accountable to fully expose and confess sin. For some of you it will be too much. However, you must look and grieve and forgive.(“blanket” forgiveness is vague and does not lead to reconciliation) For others it won’t be enough.You’re temptation will be to want to know every detail and be dissatisfied with any outcome. For you faith in the sovereign providence of God and His hand in both the past, present and future needs to guide you.
3. Rejoice that over the last ten years the Gospel has gone forth and is in evidenced in “clay pots” Ministry wide: Everyone is fallible. Everyone is a quick drop away from being broken. “Hero’s” are just as flawed and sinful and cracked and fragile as anyone else. What is amazing, what is glorious, is that God even uses these vessels to cause His Holy Spirit to ignite a flame in others. Mourn the fragility, praise the majesty.
4: Pray for a “teachable” spirit movement wide: I would add in pray for discernment for whatever ministry is called in to speak into this current situation. (I’m personally nominating the PCA, but the RPC or even the Southern Baptist Convention would offer great perspective, governance and instruction in this current situation) But whatever the case I believe change and reorientation is coming within SGM. Some will naturally resist believing that nothing has been wrong and nothing should be changed. Still others will look back to that “golden time” and want to somehow turn the clock back. Others will demand too much too soon and not see a process of both instruction, repentance and reconciliation. But I believe ALL will be challenged to grow in unique ways. More so as implications and theologies begin to shift and be sharpened by those who are hopefully wise and experienced outside brothers in the greater body of Christ. Humility is needed both with leaders and laity as SGM moves into a new era.
I for one look forward to seeing what God has in store for so many I hold dear and one day look forward to rejoining.