Sunday, October 28, 2007

How many Andrea's are there in Rome?

This has nothing to do with me in Rome, but it is my niece, and she is adorable (Leeny, hope you don't mind me putting her on my blog)

The reason for the title of this post is because in the past week I have probably met 15...ok more like 7 or 8 Andrea's. Before you start thinking, "oooo Chris is trying to pick up girls in Rome," Andrea is the Italian version of Andrew. And most of them are pretty cool kids.

Before I dive into this week, go to and click to go to the pumpkin for the Frumkin Family entry... it is my friend and c-ruleinrome consistent blog commenter Greg's nephew. So vote for him and hook a little kid up.
Also, check out this short story .... great stuff coming out of the Rabbit Room, so check it out.

As for life in Rome, well it goes on crazy hectic fast but fun. This past week was wild as we tried to evaluate how our first week went and how to move forward. One of the things we decided was to not have La Bella Vita this week and instead have a student party where we had fun but also sought to get into spiritual conversations. So, to find out how that party went on Friday, keep reading... as I describe the events leading up to that.

Ever have a conversation that you walk away from and think, what just happened? I had a number of those this week; some were good "what just happened" and others were in a "did I make any sense there?" One thing I am continuing to learn is how I need trust God more in presenting the Gospel. I struck up a conversation with a guy named Max this week because he was reading a English music magazine. He liked to listen to Christian hard rock because he said he likes that music and their songs have a positive message. We talked about the Gospel but I am pretty sure I butchered it in my attempt to communicate what I wanted to communicate. I think it is easy for me to get so caught up in the goal and the excitement that I don't listen very well (either to what God is saying or the person I was talking to). The least I can do is trust God to use our conversation. I am glad he is in control in the end and I am not.

One conversation that went terrific was with Maria-Vittoria and Ricardo, two Physics students. Great people, fun to talk to, both agnostic. I asked Ricardo at one point why he was agnostic. He responded, "I searched for God for a couple of years and couldn't find him, so I don't know if he exists." He said he would need a physical manifestation of God to believe, as would Maria-Vittoria. Kanda (who I was sharing with) asked that if you saw a physical manifestation, would you believe it or would you just try to explain how it could happen naturally? Great question, and Maria said she would probably try to explain it away. Good honesty, even if it is sad to me. But then she hit me up with this money question. "Why do you believe what you believe?" And you know what? I didn't have an immediate answer. What I would have liked to say (but didn't) is because it is too real to me. I have read enough about Jesus, seen His work in others lives, that I am absolutely convinced that Jesus is real. For me, when it gets down to it, if I didn't follow Jesus, it would be a choice. I dont think there will never be a point where I will say Jesus doesn't exist and isn't the Son of God and one with God; it is a choice of will I follow or not, not is He who He says or not. I think that is the question that it ends up boiling down to. Will you follow or not? If you have questions about this, please email me.

Some of the most exciting conversation I have had have been with people who don't speak English very well. Both with a these two guys Daniele and Simone and with another two guys Ricardo and Andrea: man, our conversations were so amazing but a lot of it was trying to figure out what the other person was saying. Someone watching us would probably scratch their head, confused by the mixture of languages and hand motions. And believe me, after such a conversation, you use hand motions like life is a game of charades. Both conversations with these guys went great. Daniele and Simone were friendly enough to grab cafe with us, talk about life and decisions, and the Gospel. Me and Joel are hopefully going to meet up with them this week. Ricardo and Andrea came to our party on Friday.... which leads in to the party.

First of all, let me surprise you all and say that I hate hosting parties. I hate that first half-hour. I feel like a kid on his first date, desperately trying to impress yet feeling as if there is a squirrel running around inside (dont ask why a squirrel, but butterflies are boring). So I was pacing the apartment at the stroke of 7:30 (when our party began), wanting to escape somewhere, anywhere but there. Yet, faithless though I am, our party was soon rocking. Seriously, the turnout was much higher than I expected. Highlights included Matt Reis belting out opera for Andrea (another Andrea that I invited), talking to Ricardo and Andrea (different than the one I just mentioned) for a couple of hours about their slice of Paradise and a short film that we watched, and finally leaving at midnight to go to bed, exhausted. It was so encouraging to have so many people there and to get to meet so many more Italians.

Some final thoughts (because I am exhausted right now)... I think I have the gift of tongues. I say that jokingly yet half serious because of the fact that I had some conversations entirely in Italian last week. I don't know exactly how it happens but God constantly brings to mind what I have learned when I am talking with students. If you tested me right now, I would probably fail, but this past week, it was fun. Also, I was walking home today thinking about the dilemma of this blog... how personal do I get? How vulnerable do I make myself for all you readers? So here is what I was thinking about that prompted these thoughts... sin sucks. Serious, it is sometimes and all-or-nothing throw down battle with Satan. He doesn't want me telling people about Jesus and he doesn't want me living the way Jesus wants. So he fights for my mind, my thoughts, my actions. So pray for me with that. Also, one thing I have realized (over and over and over again), when I don't connect with God, something is missing and I turn to other things. For me, when I don't connect with God I either want a relationship or want some other thing to fill that void. It isn't even necessarily a relationship with a specific girl, it is simply wanting someone to fill that void that I should be filling with God. I don't recommend that... fill the void with God, it is much more satisfying.

Thanks for reading, much love to you all, and thanks so much to Jeremy and Katie who sent a package and Matt and Megan and Mom who have sent letters. Love you guys, you made me feel loved.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Two Kinds of Christians (read and you will find out)

My favorite Englishman, Andy Dixon came to visit us in Rome. This is Matt, Lauren, Andy, Kanda, Sara and Amos at the Vatican

Life certainly has taken a turn into the fast lane. Up until this past week, I felt like I was cruising along here in The Eternal City but this past week, the speedometer went from a Vespa to a Ferrari (like the cherry red Ferrari I passed jogging yesterday... it was beautiful... but I digress). You see, for Italian students at La Sapienza, the school year did not start until last week; for us, last week was go time. We hit up campus for the first time and what a wild ride it has been.

The madness began with preparation; 3,000 fliers and 100 posters for English Club and 10,000 fliers and 40 posters for La Bella Vita, our weekly meeting. Amos and Joel did an amazing job planning LBV, with this past week's topic being Cambiare Il Mondo (change the w
orld). So Monday, after Italian lessons in the morning, we went onto campus. With La Sapienza, there are two campus's; Villa Mira Fiori is more or less the language campus and Citta Universitaria is everything else... more or less. Monday I stayed at the Villa because that is wehre we will be having English Club on mondays. For the first hour I put up flier for the first hour because I was too scared to go out and start talking to people. Sometimes the truth looks pretty weak when you write it out. Well, now you know it, sometimes my fear gets the best of me.

At 1:00, Sara and I set up the English Club sign and stood by it, doing our best to look friendly and inviting and probably succeeding (at least for me) at looking nervous and timid. Still, I got into two conversations that went absolutely no where (seriously, I am highly uneducated at Italian politics and Che Guevara). Then I met Filipo and Daniele (the first of many Daniele's I have met and am sure will meet). Both approached the English Club sign together as if it were a suspicious package at th
e airport; take a look, talk to each other, take a few steps closer and look, whisper more to each other until I finally said, "Ciao, parle inglese?" We got to talking about what English Club would be, Daniele bought me a cafe (translated shot of espresso), and we talked for an hour or so. Didnt really share the gospel per se, but we had great conversation and I hope to meet more with them this week.

The last story of that day was Alessandro. By the end of the day, everyone else had gone to Citta so I was all by my lonesome at Villa Mira Fiori and I was, well, slightly feeling alone. I knew I needed to find an Italian to chat with, but I didnt want to initiate... so I did everything I could to procrastinate while praying for God to lead me to someone. He pointed out Alessandro, sitting about 20 yards away from me. I can always tell it's a God tug because my heart beats faster, I get butterflies in my stomach and know what God wants me to do. So after much internal arguing, I went over to talk with him. I introduced myself told him what I was there for and asked if we could talk. He said he was an atheist. "Thats cool, can we still talk?" I asked. The conversation didnt start out so good; I tried to use a survey and to the first question his answer was, "Thats tough... next question?" But his answer to the second question, What is
the worst thing a Christian has done to you?, surprised me. And I quote: "Well, there are two kinds of Christians. There are the ones who actually follow the teaching of Jesus and those who just say they are Christian, like a cover. I dont think that the real Christians really do the really bad stuff. If you are following Jesus, you wont." Wow. I was floored. We continued to talk and 20 minutes later he gave me what I take as one of the best compliments I have ever received in my life: "You, I am pretty sure you are a real Christian."

Crazy stuff like this leaves me feeling so undeserving. I went into the day scared. I went into that conversation reluctant, dragging my feet, wanting some way out. I came out of it marveling at how big God is, how he can use someone like me to get into a meaningful conversation with someone who views, atheism, are diametrically opposed to mine. I love how God can do that. The rest of the week was a lot like that first day. Me, being scared and reluctant and constantly praying for God to help me, and God answering with good conversations. They weren't always great; I met two g
uys we will call my "F-word friends" because that was every other word, I met guys who weren't interested in talking, who only wanted to talk politics, who couldn't speak any English (though my Italian is rapidly improving... I love it). We experienced a disappointing first meeting where only 6 or 7 Italians came. But I can honestly say every day I would have at least one conversation that reaffirmed, "I am made for this. We are made for this." If you call yourself a Christian, a real Christian, the Bible says we are "Christ's ambassadors." This is what you are made for, to bring the King glory. I will get off my pulpit, but before I do, take time to really wonder what it means to be a Christian. I dont have it all down. I am FAR from it... I think being here makes me realize how much I doubt, how scared I get, how little my view of God is... but it has also helped me begin to see who God is, just how big he is. I am excited to learn more.

Life here in Italy is great, exciting, becoming normal.
The weather is changing quite rapidly to Autumn and I desperately want to play a good game of tackle football. I still fall in love all over again with this weather, with the idea of seasons changing and Thanksgiving around the corner, hoping for fires at night yet coming home to a cold apartment of great guys, and walking around at night in sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I look forward to filling in you all in more. As always, comments are appreciated, emails appreciated, and Mom, congrats on figuring out on how to access a blog. Love you. Much love to you all.

Last Friday we had a dinner at one of the staff couples here, Alan and Tina Lyle's place. This is their darling daughter Becca, who was one of the cutest girls I have ever met (behind my nieces of course) with Amos and Lauren. We had a terrific supper of salad, BBQ chicken, Parmesan potatoes... oh it was glorious.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Giving... and cheating

I promised my facebook group that I would have a blog post by the end of today, fully intending to fulfill that promise with a well-thought out blog about the Gospel and a copy of my October prayer letter. That will have to come later because it is 12:30, I haven't even started my Italian homework and still am not done with my prayer letter. Life goes fast, eh? But, as I try to be a man of my word, here is my post. If you want something funny, click on the link to Matt Mikalatos on your right... he is hilarious.

I am listening to a mix I made for my family and one of the songs on it always hits me hard. It is called "I'll Give" by Smalltown Poets. Now I feel like posting song lyrics are cheating for a blog post, but since it is late, I promised and this was on the first CD I ever owned, I call it far. Here are the lyrics that challenged me... check it out

"Yesterday I lived for me
and I was so alone as I could be
then I saw you and how you give yourself away

and I want to live for you today

I'll give and I'll hold nothing back

My love is a lot like me

wanting nothing less than everything

but I know your the only love thats true
and only giving makes me close to you

I'll give and I'll hold nothing back"

Thanks for checking this out, more on giving and the Gospel later. For now, I ask for your prayers this coming week. It will be an intense one as we go onto campus full time for the first time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Long Overdue... and just plain Long

Dear wonderful blog readers,
I apologize that this post is so incredibly long overdue. To make up for it, I will try to make this post incredibly long. But, like that wonderful holiday that just passed (Canadian Thanksgiving), it will hopefully be a proverbial feast for your minds. I have, quite literally, been jotting down notes on what I want to write this week as I post my blog and as a result, I have way too much to say. I will pick out the "tasty" morsels and hopefully make it worth your time reading.
Our first team picture in Rome (L to R: Kanda, Matt, Amos, Joel, Sara, Lauren, Yours Truly)

First of all, life in Italy! This past week was a wonderful week of actually being legitimately busy. I have struggled at times, feeling as if I am not earning my paycheck while I am here but this last week was great. We did so much planning and we welcomed our final team member, Kanda Strohl to Rome. It is so good to finally have our whole team here and it has been great for
me, because Kanda and I are working together on planning English Club. English Club is a tool to reach Italian students; we plan discussions on various topics and invite students to come and practice their English. The first four weeks topics are Free Time Fun, Conflict, Trust and Relationships. The questions that English Club asks all lead towards spiritual conversation, which opens the door to tell students about the Way, the Truth and the Life. I truly do believe Jesus is a message worth sharing and I am excited to see how God uses English Club to communicate Truth. The other committee I am a part of is Evangelism Strategy; this is a fancy way of saying we think of ways to best reach the campus with the message of Jesus. Joel and I have been hard at work designing surveys and coming up with a game plan.

Life as a person in Italy is great too (not just as someone working for Campus Crusade). My cooking skills aren't quite Mama Rule-esque yet, but I do believe the outcome of the various dishes I have made proves that I have her blood running through my veins. We don't eat out that much but when we do, it is sampling what the Italians call Pizza: in English we call it pizza :) But pizza here is quite different than in the States; same basic principle but thinner and with more unusual ingredients. We have a great pizza place about 100 meters from our front door. We also have a wonderful cafe/pasticceria (bakery) half a block away. Me, Joel, Matt and Amos (usually me and Joel) often spend from 8-9 at Bar Agostini, sipping cappuccino, eating chambella (basically a rockin' donut) and feasting on what God's Word has to say to us while listening to our iPod. Talk about a great way to start off the day.

We have been working hard at language learning the Italian language as well. Our old tutor, Alessandro, had to leave the country for a prior commitment and was replaced with a new tutor named Alessandro as well. We have three lessons a week, for two hours a lesson. The lesson, which is done mostly in Italian, leaves me feeling like someone took a boxing glove and punched my head for an hour. It doesn't so much hurt as it has a dull ache. Which is why I need to practice even more. But I claim the little victories, like having a conversation with a little old lady named Natalina at church in all Italian... I understood everything said and she understood me for the first minute... and then was lost again.
Love this picture of L (Lauren) and Me, sitting in the street with Il Coloseo in the background
Other things that have been going through my head over the past week include trying to listen to God, new Italian friends, "in the news", my aversion to spending money, wonderful free music websites, prank calls and missing home... I will proceed to write about them in that order, so skip around to what you want to read.

One of the big things I have been trying to do lately is figure out what it means to listen to God. I know God wants to speak to me because I am his child but I still havent quite figured out what it means to listen. I get so caught up in life that I dont see God working through life. And let's be honest, it is pretty easy to look around at the proverbial wind and waves of life and cry out like the disciples, "Lord, dont you care if our lives go down the drain?" (Chris Rule Paraphrase Version). So this week I was at Bar Agostini, with my cappuccino and chambella and was praying for a number of things and then stopped and prayed, "Lord, teach me to listen." Then I stopped. And waited. And tried to listen to what God was saying to my heart.

Usually when I do this, my mind goes 1,000,000 km/hour (trying to get around to this European metric system) and I think about everything from the weird dream I had to the sprinkles on my donut. This time was different. I was looking around as I sat at the table outside and noticed a little girl walking across the street, holding her Daddy's hand. She was probably no older than 2 and seemed to be still trying to figure out the walking thing. She was taking those so-big-I-will-probably-fall steps but because she was holding on to Dad and he was holding her hand, she stayed upright. Then I noticed a little guy, a little older than my nephew, so probably around 4, walking with his Dad. He was walking fine but wasn't holding onto his Dad's hand so he was looking around and wandering towards whatever he looked at. His Dad kept stopping and having to call him back. I felt like God was saying I am that kid. I can spiritually "walk" fine on my own, but if I am not holding my Heavenly Fathers hand, I wander all over the place. This doesn't always even mean blatant sin but it is where I shouldnt be; I am not following my Father. He continually stops, calls me back to following Him. I want to be like the other little kid. I want to take steps in my walk with God that are too big for me. I want to believe God for things that are much larger than what I can do by myself. If I am holding onto my Heavenly Father's hand, then somehow that step that should leave me falling on my face instead ends with my Daddy catching me and helping me take another step.

I cant really think of any transition except for I thought that was cool and I think Italians are cool too. So I have been meeting some Italians and hanging out. This past week I hung out with Francesco and Matt (my housemate, not italian but can bust out killer opera in Italian). Francesco is brilliant; just graduated, knows more about motorcross and motorcycle racing than anyone I have ever met and knows the history of Rome like the back of his hand. We were hanging out at The Spanish Steps and these random (read not-so-intelligent) American tourists asked if "these are the steps they are supposed to go see?" Francesco gave them a history lesson on it, which reminds me of how precious little I know about American history. Sad. The other guy we hung out with was Mario. He lives in Frascati, where we went to hang out with him for a day. Little town outside of Rome, and he knows it's history fairly well too. Kid has a killer sense of humor, although he didnt like Lord of the Rings, which was hard to get over. Cool guys, I cant wait to meet more of them.

For your IN THE NEWS segment of the blog, I read an article about a marathon running that recently set the world record, running the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 4 minutes and 26 seconds. His mile pace? Oh not too fast only running 4 minute 45 second miles FOR THE ENTIRE MARATHON. Absolutely incredible. I think the fastest mile I ever ran was around 6 minutes. The other in the news event was a group of students who came up with their own pledge of allegiance because they are upset that "Under God" is in the pledge. Doesn't really bother me that they are upset, I guess that is what America is all about, freedom. However, I thought it was interesting that their new pledge starts "
I pledge allegiance to the flag and my constitutional rights with which it comes." I mean, that is wonderful and all but (and I know I am not original in bringing this up) we always talk about rights and never about responsibilities. People are so concerned that they should get what they deserve that giving gets lost in the shuffle. Just a thought, something to promote discussion/thought.

One of the great things about this year is that I (hopefully) will learn about myself. One of the things I have already learned is how averse to spending money on myself I am. Food is maybe an exception (and music definitely is), but when it comes to buying for me, I am pretty stingy. I (once again, hopefully) dont think that is true about giving gifts but we were at the one mall in Rome, buying stuff for the apartment and went into a clothes store, H&M. Nice store, reasonable priced, great looking clothes... and I couldnt bring myself to try on anything or buy anything. I just done need any clothes so I cant buy it. Thought it was interesting. So I thought I would share.

For those of you who have made it this far reading this blog, here is a reward. Go to or just click on this, "Live Music Archive" and hopefully it will work. It is an unbelievable collection of live music from a ton of terrific artists. I recommend checking out Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Dave Barnes, Matisyaho, and Bela Fleck to start... or find your own because there is a TON of music there. And it is free. And legal. I think.

Last and maybe least, I must tell you of a wonderful prank call I pulled on my brother Dani (otherwise known as Dani Jon = DJ). DJ is a wonderful brother, I idolized him in High School because he was (and is) terrific at basketball and football, is funny, a great 2nd grade teacher, and has got SOUL. I love him. Which is why I had to prank him. I called and left a message on his answering machine as Hank, a State Farm agent who is letting him know that his insurance wasn't paid on his car... for the last three months. He called back and Amos, my roommate, answered, "State Farm Insurance, this is Amos." DJ asked for Hank, we played a little background music, then I picked up, "This is Hank." What proceeded was pure brilliance on my part. Not to toot my own horn but you cant blame DJ for falling for it. After a couple minutes (yes we kept it going for a while), I laughed and told him it was me. He responded with endearing terms of love, thanking me for loving him enough to prank call him (read: he called me names because he is too far away to hit me). I loved it. We had a great convo. I miss my family and close friends. I realized for the first time this week that I am not coming back for a year. I am ok with it, dont get me wrong, and it is great to talk and get emails, but I miss them... and probably will no matter where life takes me.

So thats all folks. Thanks for reading and praying and posting on here, for emails and prayer requests. I love you all and am praying. Until next time, God Bless.