Thursday, January 24, 2008

Free Music Friday - The first of hopefully many

Ciao Ragazzi
I realized I never truly gave you all a Christmas Gift. I mean, I realize photo's of me are enough for most, but some of you want something truly special, like free music. And being the generous guy I try to be, I will oblige. Actually, it isn't my generosity, but these talented musicians. So without further ado, I give you... (click on names of musicians to take you to the websites to download the free music)

Andrew Osenga - This musician is one of my favorites. Click on the link to learn about how he created "Letters to the Editor - Volume One", which was actually a pretty cool concept. He is also the guy who wrote the song on the last post. Also, when you download this album, you will see a couple of my pictures on the digital album artwork.
Green River Ordinance - I found these guys on a link from some other random musician, downloaded their album and really enjoyed it. Warning, I dont think it works for some reason on mac computers, but it is solid album. Cool, almost Counting Crows or Snow Patrol or some band like thats sound. Let me know what you think.
The Autumn Film - You need to download this album (your email reference friend will thank you for telling them about it). This band is terrific, both live and on CD; Tifah (the lead singer) has a sweet and the violinist used looped her violin when I saw her live... sweet. Check em out, they are unique and you wont regret it.
Cavashawn - Click on this link, scroll down until you see "free music" and download two of their songs. They are friends of mine from Miami University, got a pretty cool rock sound with other influences worked in. I am excited to hear where they go from here. Great guys, check em out.

All these guys make music to try to put bread on the table, so if you like em, find their music on iTunes or something and buy it.
Second (you didn't think I would do this without a catch or a story, right?), I wanted to let you know of a cool opportunity to give to something tangible. I know some of you may think, "Chris, I dont want to help pay for your Italian "vacation" for a year so what are you talking about?" There is a conference in England in three weeks and PRAISE GOD that seven Italian students from Rome are going! The conference will be to help them grow in their faith and to learn how to share that faith with others. We are only charging a certain amount of money for them to go and so we need to cover the rest of that out of our pockets or yours! So, are you willing to think about giving to this? I wont love you more or less if you give or dont give (heck, I dont even know who reads this thing), but if you are interested, shoot me an email at christopher.rule@gmail.com . Thanks, much love.

And lastly, a story. I played soccer with a bunch of Italians, guys from Madascar and the Philippines, and a couple Americans. And I dont play soccer well. I am sure I looked like a 5 year old running around, chasing the ball and yelling words that are meaningless in any language. Until that fateful moment, when I became the portiere! Whic means goalkeeper. What you dont know is that I am hopelessly ignorant at rules. So at first I didn't know when I could use my hands on our makeshift field, kick the ball out of my hands or when I had to set it on the ground to kick it. After a few miscues, a game of charades with my defenders to figure out some rules (my vocab doesnt include much soccer terminology in English, much less Italian), I had it down pat. I think I was doing pretty good, stopping a couple goals but failing to satisfy one of my attackers, who kept yelling for me to pass it to him (3/4 of the way down the field). Yet we still won the first game 1-0 and I knew I had something right when, after an impressive (yet lucky) save, the guy who kept yelling for told me, "Bravo, portiere, bravo." They carried me off the field on their shoulders, victorious yet again, 1-0. Ok so I made up that last part but it was pretty sweet. And we did win both games 1-0.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stubborn Grace

Click here to download the song that this post is about, courtesy of Andrew Osenga... if you like it, buy his music at AndrewOsenga.com or iTunes

“Oh we of little faith,

oh You of stubborn grace”

The song “We Are The Beggars At The Foot Of God’s Door” by The Normals has been on constant rotation on my iPod this last week, at first simply because of the above stated line. The album Coming to Life by The Normals was one of my favorite albums yet for some reason I never noticed this line, or this line never hit me like it has this past week. The song title is a statement in itself but “we of little faith, oh You of stubborn grace” has been stuck in my mind.

Perhaps it is because the truth of that lyric is becoming more apparent in my life. Here in Rome, where I am supposed to be the missionary working for Agape Italia, the “professional Christian” if you will, I am learning just how much I truly am the one with little faith. A quote I read in “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard says that, “We always live up to our beliefs – or down to them,as the case may be. Nothing else is possible.” How that is true in my life!

This past Thursday, I was on campus, supposed to be initiating conversation with students, and showcased a prime example of my little faith. One guy in particular had caught my eye, and I felt that tug to go talk to him. And so I began to walk in his direction… and walked right past him and around the corner. Ah, I was frustrated with myself and said, “I will not give up, God, I believe you can give me the right words to say as I talk to this guy.” So I turned around and walked back… and right past him again. And a third time. And a fourth. It was a good thing it was in a busy time in the day or he may have wondered, “Why the heck does this kid keep walking past me? Is he lost?” I walked away in failure, wallowing in my self-pity and rationalizing it away by saying, “I am just going to read my Bible for a half hour then talk to others.” And I never did talk to that kid on Thursday.

Which brings me to the “oh You of stubborn grace.” Stubborn grace, how I love that concept. How I have experienced it, constantly experience it every day. Friday, after a day that should have got me fired from my job as “professional Christian,” I was out striking up conversations with my teammate Kanda. We were at the Law Building looking for people to talk to and I noticed a guy sitting alone on a bench, so we went up to talk to him. Only when I said “Ciao” and he looked up did I notice that he was the same guy as the day before.

Stubborn grace. God constantly gives second chances, third chances. Though we give up on ourselves, that stubborn grace is hounding us, drawing us closer to Jesus, meeting us where we are at. We are the disciples who fled, the Israelites that ran to the golden calf, the Peter that can’t bring himself to tell Christ “I agape you.” And Christ meets us where we are at, is the one who loves us too much to let us remain the same. He is the one who gives us the chance to live in the reality of his redemption.

The last verse of the song says:

We have known the pain of loving in a dying world
And our lies have made us angry at the truth
But Cinderellas slipper fits us perfectly
And somehow were made royalty with You,
Oh we of little faith,
Oh You of stubborn grace
We are the beggars at the foot of Gods door
And You have welcomed us in

Amen

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Forza Roma!

I went to my first professional soccer game ever, a terrific match between Torino and AS Roma. To check out highlights, see http://youtube.com/watch?v=bKFPjKeCu3M . I will post pictures later, but let me tell you, it was a sweet experience. Totti is a local hero and didn't start the game but came in in the second half. Within 5 minutes of coming in (score 0-0 at that time), he had assisted on a goal and scored two more. It was insane how loud the stadium got and it was maybe a third of the way full. All in all, a great experience with Roma winning 4-0.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Italian towns and Turkish nights

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Greetings after my lazy break from blogging. Please trust me when I say that I have many ideas to blog, but for now, I am simply going to tell stories from my travels this winter break. But those ideas will come out as coherent ideas that will make you laugh and weep and want to fall in love... either with a girl or Jesus. Or at least thats the hope. But for now, stories.

For those who were not aware (most of you), I had the opportunity to go to Istanbul, Turkey (Constantinople for those who are really old school) for five days and hang out with friends there. Amos, Joel and Kanda accompanied me on this crazy adventure. Because of this trip, I have now been to Asia (Istanbul is half in Europe and half in Asia, separated by water), been hummumified (aka Turkish Baths), and drank more Turkish tea that... ah who am I kidding, it was delicious. Highlights, you ask? Highlights I will give.

We will start out with the first night. We went to a restaurant that one of our friends recommended for the iskender, this amazing Turkish dish. It was hilarious because the waiter kept talking to Amos because Amos is of Filipino descent and so looks like he might be from that area. Amos had no idea what he was saying, but Dan translated some of the gems. The waiter called Amos his blood brother and at one point asked Dan, "Where did you find him?" Hi-stinkin-larious. We hit up a cafe with live music after, where we drank more (you guessed it) tea and danced the night away. Turkish dancing is... unique. Think turkish music with Big Fat Greek Wedding style dancing. Oopa! Check out the video for an idea.

Turkey was cut from a different cloth than Italy. The bazaar, the call to prayer, the spice vendors (so colorful, I loved it), fish markets, SNOW, muslim culture, smell of the sea... it was all so incredibly different than Rome. I went in my first mosque, saw more meerschaum pipes than ever before (really cool, really intricate, really expensive if you get a good one), ate like a king... until the money ran out... and then I still ate well because the bread and doner kebab is amazing and cheap. And I got to experience a Turkish bath. What an experience. A couple things about that. First, you have a towel on the whole time, so dont get any locker room shower ideas in your mind. Second, I had no idea that I had that much dead skin on my. Quite fascinating actually. And third, when they scrub you down and give you a massage, man do they give you a massage if you get the right guy. The guy giving Joel a massage looked like he was wrestling him. Seriously, it was hilarious.

So before adventures in Turkey though, I had adventures throughout italian towns close to Rome. Me, Amos, Kanda and Matt Reis and his brother Adam (who was visiting) went to Orvieto, this little town on side of a cliff. More or less. It is the kind of town that you can walk around the whole town in a day (we did) and it has small town beauty to it. And an amazing view. You have to take this little cable car to the actual city and once there, you are treated to a impressive view of the Italian country side around you. I think more than anything, we enjoyed the silence and break from Rome. And there was an ice rink next to the Duomo so you know it is a classy place. The other place I went was Ostia Antica with Sara and Amos. If you are ever in Rome, I highly recommend Ostia Antica. It was the port city of Rome, but the coastline and trade routes changed and the city was abandoned. So now it is ruins that you are free to explore. Me and Amos wrestled in the palestra (gym) of the main bathhouse. You can go into the ruins, on them, under them... truly a walk through time. Well... thats about it from me... fill you in more on life later. Much love. Leave messages as always. And pray for Rome.
The Rome STINTers in Turkey... and yes that is a Starbucks in Joel's hand.
I loved the fact that Istanbul is on the water.
A great picture to show the clash of cultures in the Hagia Sofia. This was built as a church in the 5th century, converted into a Mosque the Constantinople was conquered and now is a museum. The mosaic of Mary and Jesus was uncovered in restoration after conversion to a museum. Formerly it was painted over because you cant have images in a mosque.
The Blue Mosque, the first functioning mosque I have ever been in
The sweet Turkish cafe where we went dancing

One of my favorite pictures from the Turkey trip... I am the one on the far left
I loved this pic. The sky was... breathtaking.
I dont know if you can tell the amazing view I am looking at.
Orvieto was quiet and beautiful... (amos, kanda, adam reis, matt, me)
The secret garden... I had fun exploring the ruins of old houses
The theatre in Ostia Antica was pretty sweet... we put on our own show "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers..." bonus points if you know what that is from
Standing on an ancient mosaic

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Riots in Rome... sort of

My million dollar car in Rome... Ferrari Enzo... it was cool

Freakiest Picture... But so Cool
Ok did you check out that picture? How terrifying is that?

Let me tell you though, while you recover about my recent riot experience. It started out innocently enough. We stepped off the subway and walked to Piazza del Popolo, only to discover smoke and people throwing lots of stuff. I kept jumping at the explosions, wondering what the heck was going on. Rather than have my ear drums explode (they were already ringing), we sprinted across the Piazza and moved down Via del Corso to Piazza Venezia. Mini explosions and smoke was present as we walked to Venezia but we arrived unscathed. We moved towards a stage set up on one end and were soon caught in the crowd. After being pushed and shoved and having to do a fair bit of shoving back, we changed directions and made it out. Well, 4 of us made it out. The rest were no where to be found and the explosions and smoke were intensifying. We made it to a relatively calm part of the Piazza (no one shoving at least) but seemingly on cue, everyone began yelling and explosions rocked the night. Some were close enough that we felt the air rush across out chest, others exploding in the distance in the sky, smoke drifting across the night. People began to throw bottles a little later but by now, we were swept up in the riot... celebration. HAPPY NEW YEAR, ROMA ITALIA. This was no riot, just ushering in the New Year in Rome, trying to dodge fireworks (my ears really were ringing and we really could feel the air rush by for some of them) and champaign bottles being tossed. What fun, eh? Happy New Year to you all. I am headed to Turkey tomorrow morning so I will post after that trip. And you think I am exaggerating? Check out this video I made with me and Adam, Matt Reis's little brother.

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