Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Rome Pictures 4: St. Peter's Basilica

Here's Aubrey in front of the largest church in the world, St. Peter's Basilica. Our church could fit in the foyer of this place. Not only is it huge, its art is magnificent. Michealangelo's Pieta (Mary with dead Jesus) is in the front part of the church. And the dome (seen to the left of Aubrey's head) is breathtaking.
A cool view of the "square" from the cupola of the dome. Apparently Peter was killed somewhere in this square. I think it looks kinda like the pinchers of a beetle or Predator.
This is Aubrey on top of the cupola. As you can tell, she is enjoying it. And I thought this was cool: the shadow of the church over the city.
Around the square there were the stations of the cross. This is station number 7, Jesus Falls a Second Time.
And what's this? It's on the wall right outside the church. Is it a bee or is it a fly? And what's it doing on the wall. I didn't see any other reliefs like it.
I kissed St. Peter's toe. Because that's what you do.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Rome Pictures 3: Coliseum

This is from across the street. This place is so large that it's hard to get a picture of the entire structure. It was amazing to be here.
I'm standing on stones that were laid in the days of Caesar Augustus. Pretty amazing stuff. The wall behind me actually extended all the way around the original arena.Here's Aubrey inside the Coliseum. If the arena was in it's original state, there would be stands on top of the gaps where her head is, and stands above the tiny people in the background. It's pretty amazing to think that they even rigged up a way to give shade to the crowd on really hot days.
This is the chamber area below the original floor of the coliseum. This is where they kept the animals and gladiators. The picture makes it look so small, and it was smaller than I imagined, but bigger than this picture. The acoustics in the place were great. We could hear people's conversations from across the way.The catholic church puts crosses like this one (if you can make it out) everywhere in Rome, somehow signifying the triumph of the church. Somewhat annoying, but cool at the same time. We actually found out that they have a service here every year to remember the martyrs who died here.

Rome Pictures 2

More pictures from Rome!

Here's Aubrey in front of Constantine's Arch. That's the coliseum on the right. This arch was huge. It seems that the Romans loved the arch, because there were all sorts of arches everywhere.

Another arch...this is Tiberius' Arch. He had it built by some Jews to signify his victory over their rebellion. Some kind of punishment, huh? Having to build a monument signifying your own defeat.

And this is a picture of the courtyard of Vestal Virgins. The virgins (whom the Romans held in high esteem and did quite nasty things to them if they found out they weren't virgins) got to tend the ever burning fire in the Vestal Temple. If a virgin made it through life without being "violated" they would make a statue of her and put her in this courtyard. Those buildings in the background are part of Palantine Hill, where the emperors lived...the emperors had to "watch over" the virgins...

Rome Pictures 1

Well, here starts the picture highlights of our trip...

Here's Aubrey at the "Major Port". This is apparently what greeted many of the people who came into Rome in it's heyday. A wall extends off of it that used to surround the city, but now only parts of it stand.
Okay, I knew that Catholics took Mary seriously, but I didn't know how seriously. Seriously, we saw Madonna con Bambino (Mary with Child) pictures everywhere. This one is just on the side of the street. Both of our hotels had pictures set into the wall... Whew, the cars were small. This was probably the smallest one we saw. Three wheels, plastic, as short as a moped and ready to roll.
Can you say "Fiat"! These were small cars everywhere...and we stayed right across from a dealership.There were large historic churches everywhere. This is the first one we came across. I forget the name, but it was beautiful...and huge.

Each church had a trove of beautiful art. This is the dove of the Spirit in the top of a cupola in the church pictured above. Aubrey really liked this one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Indispensable obedience

Obedience is indispensable. Not to a static code, however helpful it may be at times. But obedience to God, who is present with us in every situation and is speaking to us all the time. Every obedience, however small (if any obedience is every small) quickens our sensitivity to him and our capacity to understand him and so makes more real our sense of his presence.

Albert Edward Day
The Captivating Presence

Friday, January 20, 2006

Return from Italy

Well, Aubrey and I arrived safely to Newark last night at 8 PM EST (that's 2 AM in Italy) and got back to our house at 11 PM (that's 5 AM in Italy). So we're a little tired today.

But we loved our time in Italy.

I'll post more about it when I have time. We created a journal of our experience, so I'll just borrow some of that for here with some pictures. But I'll give you a preview.

Some of my favorite sites:

1. The view from the top of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Wow!
2. The amount of people sporting euro trash mullets. I actually saw a person with the razor stripes in his hair. Awesome!
3. Feeding the pidgeons in St. Mark's Square in Venice. Those things are a riot! of course, I got poop all over me, but what fun it was.

Allright, you all are great!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Now everybody do the church hop...

NYTimes wrote an interesting article about how teens are often attending more than one church.

Check it out here: Church Mixer 101. You need a free membership. If you don't want to get it, I'll post the whole article as a blog entry. Just read the entry below this.

I know that we have many students attending our church from other churches. I'd be interested to see who does it the other way.

I think this is a good and a bad thing. Good because it shows that teens understand that the kingdom of God is not limited to one place and can be experienced in a variety of ways. Bad because it doesn't encourage commitment to a particular community.

The article

From NYtimes.com...their copywrite

December 30, 2005
Teenagers Mix Churches for Faith That Fits
COLORADO SPRINGS - At 11 a.m. on a recent Sunday, Emily Hoogenboom, 14, was at church, her second that morning.

First, she had dutifully sat through a staid worship at Forest Ridge Community Church, which she attends with her family. Now she was with her 17-year-old friend and 4,000 other worshippers at an evangelical megachurch listening to six singers, backed by a band and a swaying choir of 250 people.

Like Emily, a number of Christians are regularly attending different churches in the course of a week or a month, picking and choosing among programs and services, to satisfy social and spiritual needs. They are comfortable participating in multiple churches.

The practice is particularly pronounced among young people, sociologists of religion say. Everyone in a family may attend one church for a service on Sunday, but the children then go their own way to youth groups, for example.

In a survey of 13- to 17-year-olds conducted from 2002 through 2003, the National Study of Youth and Religion found that 16 percent of respondents participated in more than one religious congregation. Four percent attend youth groups outside their congregations.

Some critics, particularly conservative evangelicals and the ministers of various denominations, decry such practices as a consumerist approach to faith.

But sociologists say it is a growing practice, a reflection of how Americans today are less attached to a historical, family denomination.

Parents also want their children to have an "authentic" relationship to faith, and "if you don't choose it, it's not authentic for you," said Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina and director of the survey on youth and religion.

Emily and her parents, who are evangelical Christians, say her decision to attend the megachurch, New Life, reveals the strength of her faith and the profoundly individual spiritual course each believer follows.

"I saw that my parents' relationship to Christ and my relationship to Jesus Christ were different, and my kids aren't going to relate to Jesus Christ the same way we do," said Emily's mother, Tracy Hoogenboom, 49. "And that's to be expected because Jesus Christ is your own personal lord and savior."

It remains unclear how many Christians attend several churches regularly. Most young people who go outside their family church are Protestants, from mainline denominations and evangelical churches alike. Some are from mixed-religion marriages, Mr. Smith said, but many go simply because a second church appeals to them.

"We see it all the time, everywhere," said Jose Zayas, director of teenage evangelism for Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group based in Colorado Springs. "They gravitate to where they feel a connection. They're more pragmatic than their parents' generation. They look at what works for them. I think it's healthy."

At New Life, led by Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the youth group sessions feel like rock concerts: T-shirts are on sale outside and bands are onstage, grinding their way through screaming songs of praise for Christ while teenagers dance before them. Friends often lead other teenagers to new churches, sociologists and adolescents themselves said.

Though Emily's family had attended New Life when she was in grade school, she visited the church again in junior high at the invitation of a friend, largely because, Emily said, she was unhappy with the popular but catty girl she had become. She stayed because the youth pastor's sermons made sense to her.

"That was just the biggest thing for me: that you don't have to be perfect, that God loves you not for what you do and for this body that we have only for a short time, but for your heart and soul and who you are inside," Emily said of what she had heard.

"Every time I went to church," she continued, "I felt God loved me, that I don't have to worry about sin because he forgives me. So I looked forward to going back. I don't really understand all of it. But I have the passion to learn more."

Many children in evangelical families also see the example their parents have set, leaving the denominations they grew up in to embrace evangelical Christianity as young adults.

"I left the church of my upbringing to find Christ on my own," said Chad Wight, whose 15-year-old daughter, Hannah, attends Pulpit Rock Church here with her family but also goes to a youth group at Woodmen Valley Chapel, both nondenominational evangelical churches.

Mr. Wight said his family looked for a church that would nourish his children.

"Their spiritual health is really important right now," Mr. Wight said, "and if they continue their walk with the Lord, that's crucial."

Parents largely accept their children's choices, as long as the other churches espouse a similar theology, said Nancy L. Eiesland, associate professor of sociology of religion at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. "Many of them are happy their kids will go to anything in their teenage years," Ms. Eiesland said.

As a hub of evangelical Christianity, Colorado Springs offers many churches that preach similar doctrines, like the inerrancy of the Bible and the need for a personal relationship with Christ. But here and elsewhere, many Christians, especially members of the clergy, take commitment to a particular church seriously.

"If families spread their loyalties around, it's been my experience that they don't benefit as well as they could," said Peter Beringer, a youth pastor at Pulpit Rock Church, which has about 1,000 adults in attendance every Sunday. "They don't seem to have relationships in the church that are as deep. From what I have seen of students who have done this, they find it easier to disengage and be the kid on the fringes."

Hannah Wight, a soft-spoken girl who deliberates over her words, stands by her choice. She said she felt more connected to Woodmen Valley after attending a series there that helped young people discern their "spiritual gifts," like the desire to serve.

"The message spoke to me a lot," Hannah said. As for attending two churches, she said, "It's not hard for me at all because I feel like my needs are being fulfilled."

Still, her parents said, people note Hannah's less-than-regular appearances at the family's primary church, Pulpit Rock. And her 13-year-old brother, Brian, does not understand her decision.

"I will defend her when necessary, but over all I'm on their side," Brian said, referring to how others at Pulpit Rock have reacted to Hannah's choice. "I don't know why she has to make things inconvenient for the rest of us or why she picked that church when she has been going to Pulpit Rock as long as the rest of us."

Emily Hoogenboom said she went to Forest Ridge largely out of respect for her parents, whose friends founded it about five years ago. But when Emily steps into New Life, she embraces a second family. Other youths come and hug her. They hug all the time, boys and girls showing affection for one another without risking trouble.

One Wednesday evening, boys in thrift-store jackets and porkpie hats, pale Goth devotees, and petite girls with the same mascara, lip gloss and tight, flared jeans, about 250 teenagers in all, streamed into New Life for their youth group. By the hall entrance, Chad Fritzsche, 17, and Esther Saforo, 15, two of Emily's friends who also attend New Life on their own, were playing guitar and singing songs they had written.

The youth pastor, Brent Parsley, entered on a sleigh dressed as a hip-hop Santa. "I'm going to break it down for you, Clarence," Mr. Parsley told an actor in the Christmas play. "Christmas ain't about presents, yo! The true meaning of Christmas is my main man: J.C."

The crowd shrieked. At this unbuttoned church, teenagers channel the roiling passions typical of their age into devotion. And Mr. Parsley egged them on. He told them in an overcaffeinated tempo that God had much in store for them. Reading Biblical excerpts on his P.D.A., he reminded them that David was young when he slew Goliath and that Mary was probably quite young when she bore Jesus. He said: "God loves to use young people. I want all of us to live our lives as if God had something extraordinary planned for us."

The music began again. The young people ran toward the stage, but Emily went by herself to the aisle behind her seat. In the darkened hall, she was freer than she had been on Sunday. The band played a simple rock song, and everybody shouted the lyrics over and over: "Bless the Lord with all that's in me. Bless the Lord. May kingdoms fall and rulers crawl before your throne."

Emily threw her head back and sang and sang. Then she fell to her knees. Bent forward at the waist, rocking, she sang into her curled body what others shouted to the rafters: "I want to give you all of me. I'm giving you all of me."

Dave's Music

I have a friend named Dave. He plays music sometimes. Sometimes he puts his music on the net. Sometimes I listen to it. You can too.

Go to his site: daveapplegate.

Two great songs there.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


So i listened to Ray Vander Laan today. Check him out at Follow the Rabbi.

He talked about the first thing you notice about a disciple is her hootzvah. That's hebrew for persistence and faith.

Elijah was a person of hootzvah. Jesus was a person of hootzvah.

May I be a person of hootzvah in all I do.


My friend Larry found my site.

He's going to work with middle school guys. I think he'll be great.

Italy in...

2 days.

Aubrey and I leave in two days.

Rome for three days. Venice for three other days.

Can't wait to see the Vatican and walk the streets of Rome.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Martial Arts Hops
Check it out!

Here's a video we did at retreat. Some serious talent, I think.

...to be continued...

Well, we got back from our Sr. Hi Winter Retreat yesterday.

Probably the best I've ever been a part of. Definite sense of people wanting to continue in the steps of our Rabbi Jesus.

Brad, our speaker, spoke on what it means for us to be disciples of Rabbi Jesus. And the kids got it. In our small groups after the sermons, the students really seemed to be getting it and encouraging their friends to get it.

My prayer is that now the students will continue to get it. And that they will continue the story of Christ in their own lives.

Quick Highlights:

1. Great conversations in our small group.
2. The wrestling names: Papa Rupp and Turd Burglar being the funniest.
3. The hike to the top of some mountain with 16 students.
4. Tubing with Evan and pretending we were drinking latte's while on the tube.
5. Bryce's split ride down the slope, where he stuck out his legs and held them with his hands the whole way down.
6. The conversations with kids after some of the lessons.
7. Herb snoring all night. Kept me up to 5 on Friday.
8. The warm fuzzy line (place to put encouraging notes) was sagging because it had so much encouragement.
9. All the teens got along. No serious fights or squabbles. That was huge!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Music and Memories

Aubrey gave me the new Dave Matthews Band CD for Christmas. Nice.

I was worried at first, because it wasn't the same sound he had in the past, but he's really matured well.

One of my favorite lines...from Old Dirt Hill is "the first time I kissed you I lost my legs". No, not very profound, but it is reminiscent of my story with Aubrey. Ah the joy of memories and how music can bring them back.

Monday, January 02, 2006



It's 2006.

My 25th year on this planet.

My 3rd year of marriage to the most beautiful woman.

My 3rd year of paid ministry.

They say burnout is supposed to happen around this time.

I hope not for me.

Here's to life to the fullest in 2006!