Bought a Drupal Theme Lately?

If so, you might have used Ubercart unknowingly. Or maybe you did know it and didn't really care. <img src="http://www.bywombats.com/sites/all/modules/smileys/packs/example/smile.png" />

While Ubercart has plenty of blemishes, it's encouraging to see that both <a href="http://www.topnotchthemes.com">Top Notch Themes</a> and the new <a href="http://themeartists.com/">Theme Artists</a> sites have found Ubercart to be a workable solution for peddling their wares. Lyle and I will readily confess our lack of theme mojo, and there are plenty of forum threads pointing out our mistakes to prove it. Now after many months of development and patience from the themers patrolling the forums, Ubercart is at a point where Steph et al from Top Notch are actually comfortable enough to offer <a href="http://www.topnotchthemes.com/browse?filter0%5B%5D=16&filter3=">Drupal themes designed for Ubercart sites</a>. Very cool. <img src="http://www.bywombats.com/sites/all/modules/smileys/packs/example/cool.png" />
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(And believe me, they're not the only ones churning out <a href="http://www.rifftrax.com/rifftrax">great</a> <a href="http://fr.gastronomie.kalys.com/en">looking</a> <a href="http://www.yanickfee.com/shop">Drupal</a> <a href="http://www.transformetrics.com">+</a> <a href="http://www.hjlynn.com/">Ubercart</a> <a href="http://www.samuelowengallery.com/">sites</a>!)

While I know it's not the only way for us to improve (there's plenty of self-learning to do as well), developing an economy around Ubercart where professionals are scrutinizing the code and submitting feedback/patches so they can make better use of Ubercart is a sure plus for the project. At least it's been working well for a little dorm-room diversion we all love called Drupal.

(Another way to improve that I dare not leave out is to reap the benefits of a devoted user community. Many thanks go to <a href="http://freestylesystems.co.uk/">Rich</a> and <a href="http://www.ubercart.org/forum/ubercartorg/4541/new_theme_ubercartorg">ot... donating their time through the forums and IRC to debug our latest look. If you're not aware, Rich also hosts a <a href="http://api.freestylesystems.co.uk/">contributions API</a> running the API module on a wide selection of Drupal contrib modules that you might find handy.)

Grace to Help from the Lord of the Harvest

Tonight was a wonderful night of teaching at the Transformation House. I've been leading lessons through John Piper's book The Passion of the Christ that brings to light many reasons given in Scripture for the suffering and death of Jesus. Lesson 27 teaches that Jesus suffered and died to become a sympathetic and helpful priest. The gist of it is that through his life and death he subjected himself to the same weaknesses, sufferings, and temptations that we face daily because we are human. Accordingly, he is able to sympathize with us in our weakness, because he himself suffered when being tempted.

Of course, this isn't just a theological or intellectual exercise. Knowing that Jesus is sympathetic is supposed to give us confidence to approach him in our times of need. What are those? I'd say any time of temptation, conviction, or suffering. Any time we're tempted to look at ourselves in light of God's Word and allow our failures to overshadow God's grace toward those who believe. Knowing that we'll find sympathy with Jesus instead of a rebuke, we are to approach him with confidence for mercy and for grace to help us make the right decisions or persevere through hardship.

He's also not impotent to help us. He himself endured shame and scorn all the way to the cross, and through the greatest moments of temptation he never wavered. He always trusted God, and he offers strength to us through the same Spirit that empowered him to "walk just as he walked." My prayer is that this gospel, this good news, would encourage and enable the men their to continue working out their transformation before the Lord.

Also, there's a very encouraging brother there named Will (who gave me permission to recount this quick story). He was saved while he was in jail, reading the Bible as a skeptic and not understanding what comfort it offered to him. He couldn't believe it when he found out there were men coming to the jails to teach him just that of their own accord. Now through ministry's like ours through our church, he's still taking advantage of laborers going out to spread God's Word and also reap the harvest that God has prepared. God himself has promised there are people who will receive His Word and be changed by it to "bear fruit." This is truly happening in the lives of Will and many other men through places like the Transformation House.

Will shared with me tonight that he believes one of the greatest prayers we're commanded to pray is that "the Lord of the harvest would send out laborers into his harvest." (Luke 10:2) He marvels at the wisdom and plans of a God who would cause men to freely teach the Bible so that others could come to know God more, and I have to add that I myself am the result of many men and women giving their time and love to teach me the same Word. I'm also humbled by his encouragement and his inclusion of myself and the others from Immanuel in the answer to his prayers. Finally, I'd encourage those of you who believe as I do to consider how you might be joining others in reaping the harvest that God has prepared for us to reap!

Digging into OpenSocial

Well, I've been tossing around the idea of some sort of distributed web application based in a Drupal site for some time now. I first got the idea from Dave Cohen, a Drupal developer I got to spend a little time with in Barcelona. He's heading up the Drupal for Facebook project at drupal.org, so he's basically making my life easier just by doing what he's doing. (He's also the developer of the TAC Lite module which I've used in several different sites.)

Anyways, Facebook's developer system is obscenely difficult. I wish that were an overstatement, but it really seems like they're trying to weed out all those application developers who might be interested. I spent some time working it out to no avail and put those efforts on pause when I got an e-mail from Google letting me into the Orkut Sandbox. Orkut? Sandbox? bwuh?

Orkut is Google's social network. It didn't make it big in the States, but it's big overseas. A sandbox is just a test environment where developers can play around and make messes while testing out their applications. Google spearheaded the OpenSocial movement and has appropriately integrated it on Orkut. This means I've been able to get my feet wet serving up an OpenSocial application from a Drupal module. Much fun.

I've still got some thinking to do to decide what will actually comprise a useful integration. I'm itching to work on this in conjunction with toying with Drupal for Facebook so we can use as much code in both systems as possible. Dave's done a lot of the groundwork, so I'm hoping to benefit from that and lend a hand where I can.

I'll be sure to post when I turn out something useful. Wink

Basketball with Kids and Addicts

I worked a couple extra hours today, because I knew Christina would be home late. After 10 hours at the desk, I needed some fresh air, so I grabbed some Bible study material and went out to walk around the park and read. I saw some kids I know playing basketball (they're both in 8th grade), one of them being the son of a friend of mine from church. I approached to shoot around a little while and found out they had an unexpected guest sharing their court.

Apparently, a man high on drugs and drinking some Olde English (which smells horrid if you don't what it is) had decided to instruct them in some moves. I didn't know what to expect, but I put down my things to join them. He was "teaching" them a good hook shot and showed me how to guard him, and honestly he played a lot better than I expected. In any event, one of the kids, Christian, said he needed to tell me something, and this man (who didn't really respond when I tried to introduce myself) caught on and wouldn't leave him alone. "Just say it right now." "I don't like whispering." "Why are you trying to lie?" These in response to Christian just trying to whisper to me that the man was high. Now he's faced with having to fend off a grown man who could easily turn abusive... you just never know. If I tried to intervene, would that help matters or make them worse? When he drives in for a lay-up, should I try to block him or just try to be polite like the kids and half-heartedly stay out of his way?

I can't believe our children have to grow up tip-toeing around men strung out on crack while they try to shoot some hoops after school. The least I could do was stay until he left (mercifully, after the first game of 21). But this isn't just a chance occurrence. They didn't know to be polite because they've never been bothered by addicts in the park. It's intimidating for me as a grown man. I can't imagine being still a child and having to experience this day after day.

I'll continue to pray for the children's safety and the addicts' salvation, and I certainly invite more men to move into the cities and show boys what it means to be men.

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