Monday, December 31, 2007

Pictures from Christmas!

These are all pictures from our trip to stay at the Lillistrand's for Christmas, near Florence. We had an amazing time, renting the apartment next to Agape Italia's country director's apartment! The Lillistrands adopted us as family for those days, letting us participate with them for dinners and even bought us little gifts. It was a terrific experience, having a surrogate family for that time, enjoying and relaxing in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. I have nothing to profound to write, just lots of pictures. Have no fear though, I am working on profound posts...maybe. Hope to share more with yall soon. Enjoy, Happy New Years... and check out . I found him yesterday and think I really enjoy his stuff.
You are supposed to rub his snout for good luck... I thought I would bite it.
The people I got to tour Florence with (Nicole, Joel, Matt, Emily, Me, Amos)
I am proud of taking this picture. That is the only surviving bridge in Florence from WWII
Florence was lovely... good view from Piazza del Michaelangelo
I took the typical holding-up-the-tower picture, but thought I would try to kick it over... and looks like I am booting some old guy in the behind.
It really is quite amazing how much it leans
My surrogate Christmas family (Kanda, Charmaine, Greg, Sara, L, Joel, Sophie, Amos, Ryan, Matt, Debbie, Me)
That vineyard behind me has been producing wine for 1000 years... I was in a cool place for Christmas.
Bilbo the dog was cute, had a great name, and loved me.
Joel's OSU pj's and my OSU santa hat represented well.
Chilling, eating at the Lillistrands... they were amazing.
Sophie is darling (here she is burying Amos in books)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

This film (Once) looks brilliant and I want to see it. If anyone has seen it, let me know what you thought. I post this website because it has a free download on it (right below the music player) of the song off of the movie that I am in love with. Check it out, download it, enjoy, and dont ever say I never gave you anything :) Much love

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pipe Adventures

This may disappoint some of you, but I occasionally smoke a pipe. It started when I bought my first pipe in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was this really cool, ornately carved pipe and I always thought smoking a pipe was kind of classy, in an old man sort of way. And one of my heroes from when I was a little kid smokes a pipe occasionally, so I bought one so I could occasionally smoke with him. When I say occasionally, I mean maybe once a month I will smoke. Anyway, long story short, I now own a pipe from Russia, Macedonia and Italy. Any country I have lived in for longer than two weeks.

What is the point of this story, you ask? Well I am getting there. Because I occasionally smoke, I enjoy looking at pipe stores here in Rome. I had yet to find a good one here in Rome until last night. Matt had noticed some cool pipes in a Tabacchi store window near the Pantheon and so we decided to go check it out. We found the shop and entered and I asked (our entire encounter was in Italian), I think, "Do y'all have pipe's here?"

The lady behind the counter asked me to follow her into the next room and pointed downstairs and said wait and disappeared behind another counter, saying something about a key. I was confused. Matt was confused. Amos was confused. Did she want us to go downstairs? She reappeared and motioned for us to follow her downstairs. We went down into this room with a bunch of locked doors, one of which she unlocked and we followed her in. And my jaw hit the floor.

The room was full of pipes. And when I say full, I mean quite literally, the room was full of pipe and pipe accessories. I was in awe. The price range went from 40 Euro to over 175. I found long stem Gandalf-esque pipes; there were classic pipes, Sherlock Holmes pipes, fold-up pipes, glass pipes, wood, leather... something for everyone, I guess. We felt like celebrities, being allowed in the secret, locked, room full of 1000's of Euro worth of pipes. And that it all I got. Just wanted to share that story and the accompanying picture with you. I will post about how Christmas and Pisa and Florence were later. Hope you enjoy and can appreciate the amazingness of this room with me.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh yea, more Christmas gifts...

Check it out. The Autumn Film. Rocking band, good people, free music. And they are great (I got to see them live...5 times)... so go this link, download their FREE 4 song EP, and support them with your money later. Click on the first link for their website (you can listen to a couple of their songs there without downloading anything) and the second link to go straight to the free download page. Much love
The Autumn Film - 4 song EP for Free

Merry Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas from the Rule Family. This is a blast-from-the-past photo that I just got of my family when I was... I dont know, around 6 years old. I am the cute kid in the front right. Enjoy this and the rest of the post.
So this isnt really my thoughts on Christmas or Christmas Eve but it is Christmas Eve here in Rome right now (12:46 as I begin this). For todays freebee, check out this video on you tube You may not enjoy it but I thought it was beautiful and thought the idea was really cool, like the music was a journey through memory.

In other news, here is something I wrote a little while ago. I didnt post it when I wrote it because I was still hoping to hear from and see if they would post it (they still havent told me yes or no, just that they would read it and get back to me). So here it is for you, my few faithful. Much Love. Merry Christmas. Christ is born.

God Loves That Guy

“God loves that guy.”

These four simple words have been hitting me with all the subtlety of a baseball bat to the head for the last twenty-four hours.

“God loves that guy.” The chorus to a song off a new CD by Andy Gullahorn was the catalyst to something that had been bothering for a couple days. Let me explain by starting from the beginning.

It usually takes me a while to pick up when God is speaking to me, so it often takes a couple swings for his truth to sink in. The first swing was a book I am reading, “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard, which is rocking my boat on some assumptions I have had for quite some time about living the Christian life. There are no new truths revealed in the book, just old truths told in a new way. In a part I recently read, he says

“In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he gives an awesome list of those who, continuing in their evil, cannot “inherit the kingdom,”: “fornicators idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, active homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers” (6:10). Then he adds, “And such were some of you, but you were cleansed, made hold and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

If I, as a recovering sinner myself, accept Jesus’ good news, I can go to the mass murderer and say, “You can be blessed in the kingdom of the heavens. There is forgiveness that knows no limits. To the pederast and the perpetrator of incest. To the worshiper of Satan. To those who rob the aged and weak. To the cheat and the liar, the bloodsucker and the vengeful: Blessed! Blessed! Blessed! As they flee into the arms of The Kingdom Among Us.”

This didn’t really sink in on me. I guess it is “Christian theology” that I have always heard, that everyone can be forgiven. So I read it, thought “cool” and kept reading. Granted, this blessing comes with the condition to “flee into the arms of The Kingdom Among Us,” but of course it is available for all who turn from their own ways. That is what I have always been taught.

The second swing was the recent shooting in a church in Colorado. Here is Rome, Italy, I can be out of the loop of American happenings so the first I heard of the shootings was in email from a friend. He sent an article on the woman who took the shooter down and who saved the day. And he added some angry (albeit sarcastic, I later learned) words for the gunman at the end of his email.

It upset me. I thought, “How can he not forgive this guy if Jesus offered forgiveness to the very men who nailed him to the cross.” So I sat in my own self-righteous tower and stewed over how to best respond to my friend, how to “correct him.” I am sure the part of me that I usually keep hidden was saying, “If only my friend could learn the true meaning of God’s love. If only he could learn to forgive as Christ forgave, like I have learned.”

Then I listened to the song by Andy Gullahorn. And he wrote about a suicide bomber. The family deserter. And followed each story by “God loves that guy.” Simple words yet I couldn’t shake them.

And it became personal. What if that suicide bomber killed my brothers, my parents? What if that guy that deserted his family was my dad? What if that shooter had been in my church, killed my best friends? I stopped all the theorizing about “God loves the rapist and the murderer” and made it personal. Would I still want God to love that guy?

And the sad truth was, I probably wouldn’t. I talked to a friend who doesn’t believe in God earlier this week about forgiveness and boldly told him, “I would try to forgive anyone for anything.” Later, I talked with my Christian friends about how I would punch a guy in the face for trying to inappropriately touch a friend of mine on the bus. No, God doesn’t ever condone sin, yet God offers forgiveness to the sinner if they will turn.

“God loves that guy.”

I still can’t shake it. And my bastion of self-righteousness is beginning to crumble. God loves that guy. And I… well I have a hard loving people. Yet I am called to do that. If I call myself a Christian, a follower of Jesus, then I am forced to pay attention when he says, “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt 6:15)”

If I refuse to forgive, I refuse to acknowledge my need for forgiveness. My common need for a savior. Because according to the standards set by Jesus, I am “that guy.” I am a liar, a thief (stole from my sister in elementary school), a cheat (tests in high school), an adulterer (Matt 5:26 doesn’t let me off the hook easy), a murderer (Matt 5:21-22). How can I refuse forgiveness when I myself am in desperate need?

Forgiveness isn’t natural. Yet it is to what we are called (Ephesians 4:32).

“God loves that guy.” God loves me. Simple, childlike though it may be, there is probably more profound truth to the old song “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” than I will ever know. I want to learn to love like that.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Gift to You... Pictures

Here is my Christmas present to you... pictures of me. Enjoy. More will probably come soon. Merry Christmas!
The lady who took this was old... and didnt know how to operate a camera... hence the great pic. But it captures me and Juan and Andrea (in Santa suit), two of my best Italian friends here. Andrea is hilarious... was running around most of the day in the Santa suit. Hilarious.
Yes, I really am in Rome, not just sitting in my basement sending out letters and writing fake blogs.
Alan read the Christmas story at the staff party... it was great.
Joel probably got better pictures at the staff party, with his fancy camera
But the kids loved me (look at the love in their faces :)
Our friend Ana cooked us the biggest meal I have ever eaten (with maybe the exception of Christmas/Thanksgiving feasts). It was incredible, good Peruvian food.
With a number of courses... it was good and Matt was my model for the pics (and he didnt eat that whole thing)
Every shop in Rome has Christmas stuff in the windows. This was quite impressive

Christmas Thoughts

One, I HAVE INTERNET! Amen, praise Him. What this means is that I will hopefully have some high quality posts during this Christmas season. What an amazing time of the year, yea? For how much I love Ohio in December and miss it, I really do enjoy Rome at this time of year. It seems like every side street has lights draped over the street, courtesy of local shop owners. A million fake stars in this polluted city where you can hardly see the real stars is really quite a lovely thing. The air is crisp and cold (rare I am told for Rome at this time) and there are Christmas markets set up in just about every piazza, including my home turf of Piazza Bologna. Besides Christmas shopping for other there, I have bought myself sour peach candies and a crepe with Nutella that reminded me of Palacinki (anyone who has been to Macedonia, can I get an Amen!). I was going to try to write something profound here for Christmas but instead decided that can wait a little while. Instead, I want to share with you what someone else wrote about Christmas.... Linford from Over the Rhine wrote this and I thought this part was brilliant. For the entire essay, check out . But for the part that I love, here 'tis.

"And what brings me back are a few simple truth's that rings me like a bell still. While the Buddha suggests that we empty ourselves from all love, thereby freeing ourself from all that can cause pain, subsequently finding rest, this baby in the barn grows up and argues that we should love everybody, including ourselves, our neighbors and yes, even our enemies, and the ensuing pain will work on us in the same manner as a sculptors chisel on marble. And perhaps, ultimately, the answer to every moral and ethical question can be found in the simple mysterious words of the baby in the barn who grew to be a man: Love the creator of the universe with everything you can muster, and your neighbor as yourself. "

I would love to copy the entire essay for you because it is absolutely brilliant writing but just check it out on his website... thanks. More to come later. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Still Dont Have Internet

I still dont have internet, so for a brief break, here is a brilliant Christmas Mix. In addition to this mix, I highly recommend a couple complete Christmas CD's. Michael W. Smith's "Christmastime", Amy Grant "Home for Christmas", Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God", and MercyMe "The Christmas Sessions" and Over the Rhines "The Darkest Night of the Year" are at the top of my list. What am I missing here... fill me in in the comment section. I know I left some classics out... tell me what HAD to be included that I didnt.

1. All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
2. Winter Wonderland/White Christmas - Mercy Me
3. Angels We Have Heard on High - Relient K
4. Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
5. Silent Night - MercyMe
6. Christmastime - Michael W. Smith
7. I Celebrate the Day - Relient K
8. Emmanuel - Amy Grant
9. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear - MercyMe
10. Christmas Canon Rock - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
11. All Is Well - Michael W. Smith
12. Labor of Love - Andrew Peterson
13. Rocking Around the Christmas Tree - MercyMe
14. O Holy Night - David Phelps (amazing version, trust me)
15. Behold the Lamb of God - Andrew Peterson
16. Theme of My Song - Andrew Peterson (the two go together)
17. I Heard the Bells - MercyMe
18. Silent Night (duet) - Over The Rhine
19. The Night Before Christmas - Amy Grant
20. Mary Did You Know - Clay Aiken

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

That Guy

Go to this address and scroll down one post to the one entitled That Guy (Dec 12)... click on the song (That Guy - Andy Gullahorn). Listen to it. I didn't have tears in my eyes but man, it is good. Simple. Profound. Do it, hope you won't regret it. I don't think you will.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Love and Marriage (not for me, in general)

Prayerfully, quite soon I will have internet in my apartment. And when I do, you are in for a treat, dear reader. Because I have a lot of ideas and stories to tell. But for now, I was asked this question in an email by a dear, trusted mentor of mine. "Why is marriage (or some kind of relationship with the opposite sex) the main theme of music , literature , and movies, yet so little Scripture focuses on this....Scripture talks about what we need to give instead of utopian dreams of what we are going to get. What is it that Scripture does talk more about ? What should our priorities really be??" ... So this is my response to this... enjoy and respond with your own ideas.

I have had the chance to think (very briefly and writing this blog is a way of me processing through this) about marriage, priorities, and what the Bible says about all this. I think that music, literature, and movies all hit on this theme of marriage because a lost (and found) world is looking for love. The closest example that we can come up with of love (and don't tell me Jesus didn't talk A LOT about love) is marriage or sacrifice. If a movie doesn't hit on marriage (or often the case, simply sex and "commitment"), it often has the main character make a sacrifice.

Scripture is a story of redemptive love, of a God redeeming us from our fallen state and uniting in a relationship with us… perhaps there is something redemptive about marriage. About taking two individuals whose first care is themselves and having them make a commitment to caring about someone else more than themselves. A little redemption is often found in self-sacrifice. Perhaps this is part of the reason Christ refers to the church as his bride. He showed the ultimate in love of putting us above himself… "for the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many."

As a single guy, all too often I hope that love will be found in a relationship with a girl/marriage. I think there is some truth to the cliché saying that "you will find her when you least expect it, when you stop looking." If I stop looking for love in the arms of a girl and start finding the love I need where it can only be found, in the arms of Jesus, then I can begin to understand true love. Instead of a love that is a roller coaster ride because we humans are fallible, I can find a constant love in a constant God.

Do I think that scripture talks more about what we need to give instead of utopian dreams of what we are going to get? Yes. But for Mr. A and other married couples, they probably understand that marriage and love is about what we can give, not what we get. Yes, getting figures into the equation and we are always excited to get, probably more often than we are to serve. But the more that we learn about serving and the more like Christ we become, the more of a joy it is to give. Our priorities should be in learning to love like Christ… I think that marriage is often a byproduct of learning to love… and through marriage we often learn to love more.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

More to come later

Sorry I havent posted in a while. What can I say, life is busy and I am delinquent from time to time. Expect something this weekend... so for the few of you who read this, I will try to make it solid, well worth the wait. In the mean time, happy December. Weird that it is almost Christmas. And for the completely random side-story, I got a package from my sister today with a hand-turkey made by my nephew (and two from my two nieces) that said below it, "The turkey is sad because he is going to get eated!" I loved it. Ciao ciao faithful readers. Until next time.