Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dave Barnes = new cd = sweetness

As you know, I like music and like to plug music on this blog every once in a while. Well, I just received an email from my old friend Dave Barnes and turns out the man is coming out with a new CD called Me, You and the World. For those of you who don't know Dave Barnes, head over to youtube and check out his hilarious Christmas Video and Valentines Day Video. OK, now that you have watched those and appreciate how hilarious the man can be, check out his music at his myspace account. He has a bit of blue, pop and whatever else thrown in. Actually, my favorites are off his CD Brother Bring the Sun. He writes great lyrics, is top notch live (and hilarious live), and I kind of want to have my first dance at my wedding to be to his song "On a Night Like This"... in fact, the whole album is great, with another standout track being Graces Amazing Hands.

So all this is to say that he is coming out with a new CD. You can buy one copy for $15 by clicking to this link and when you buy one, you get another free for a friend (and a making of DVD). Or you can buy a CD and T-shirt (still with an extra CD and DVD) by clicking to this link. So tell a friend. Enjoy. Just trying to help a solid musician out :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

My Mom is beautiful... looks about 35, right?
Yes, a good portion of their generosity made this picture possible.

Happy Birthday to Mrs. Rule, mother to 7 wonderful kids, Grambie to 5 (soon to be 7) grandkids, and adopted mother to the hundreds of my friends who have eaten a meal cooked by her. If you are in Columbus or have a way to contact her, make sure to make her feel loved today. I got the best Mom a kid could ask for... I love you Mom and miss you.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sign Guy and Giuseppe

My alter ego: Sign Guy. And yes I was embarrassed by this

I figured I would start this out by showing you my alter ego, a character called Sign Guy (name invented by Lauren Roeper). We think Sign Guy would make a great character in a Donald Miller book or some great fiction. I can only imagine what the Italians think: "Did you see Sign Guy's sign today? The balloons are over the top" or "Did you see Sign Guy's beard today? That kid needs to shave." or "Holy smokes, Sign Guy shaved his head (in the future)... do you think he is depressed? Should we go talk to him?"

In much more exciting news, my buddy Giuseppe is such a cool guy (Giuseppe, if you read this, know that I write this because I enjoy hanging out with you). I met him at Villa Mira Fiori because I sat next to him on a bench and he was reading a book in English. One quick conversation later and we were hanging out to talk about tons of questions about God. At first glance, he is an intense guy but that is simply because, unlike me, he thinks quite thoroughly before he speak. Me, I tend to think as a speak, which why I often have to insert my foot into my mouth.

We have been friends, or at least meeting, for a couple months (we are friends now, I am just not sure when we made that transition from acquaintances to friends) and have talked about pretty much the whole span of topics from Old Testament Law to Who is Jesus and can he be trusted. I was pretty stoked that these past few weeks he has got to meet other people involved with Agape Italia and realize that I am not the only "weird" one but that Christ continues to change the lives of those who seek to follow Him. We had a conversation this past Thursday that I wanted to share with y'all.

I have met few people who are seeking Truth as intently as Giuseppe. Thursday night, after dinner at my apartment and a game of Italian Scrabble with another Italian and Joel, we walked to the bus stop together and talked about God and life. He shared with me that he has read Exodus, is almost done with Genesis and John is next on the list... and he is reading them in three translations, 2 in Italian and 1 in English. He has been so captivated in this that he didn't study last week, even though this is the exam month. It is so encouraging to see someone seriously considering the claims of the Bible and making the effort to seek truth. He told me that "If this is a decision I make, tomorrow, in a month, 10 years or never, I want to be sure of the decision I am making." Amen. I think the decision to follow Christ is one we should take seriously and I am excited to be a part of searching for the truth with Giuseppe. We are going to read a chapter together this next week and I will " point out when something is important," as he put it. I am looking forward to learning together with Giuseppe. Pray that God guides us both and praise God for people like Giuseppe, who are encouraging to me and make what I do here in Rome completely worth it.

Much love to you all

Random Links:
Do some good from your computer. Go to this website and help feed people who need good.
This article makes me like George Clooney. I am not one of those celebrity fanatics but even as journalism, this is a great personality profile.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Free music... if you are online

I apologize, I did not do enough legwork this week and could not find free music to download to fit the "Free Music Friday" that I have been trying to get going on this blog. However, I am proud to hit you up with two links that you can listen to FULL ALBUMS... you just cant download them.

JEREMY CASELLA - I bought this CD earlier this year and have rarely heard an indi artist produce such a work of art (and I do not use that term lightly). He fuses folk, orchestra, percussion and even a little electronic to, in his words, "try to create a bit of beauty." I think he succeeds. So go to his website, and on the top right you will see the word RCVRY with a bar underneath it... click on the arrow to right of the bar. Be prepared for beauty. Though I highly recommend buying the whole album, some personal favorite songs are The Space Between Living and Dying (2) and Born Again (9, one of the most beautiful songs I have heard... period).

Jason Feller - Not gonna lie, dont own his CD but I used to listen to this album quite often off his website. The guy has got a cool voice, writes solid songs, and is married to a girl that is a stinking amazing singer (check her stuff out at So click on his name, when you get to his sight, click on Launch Album Player and enjoy.
Sara Bareilles - I couldnt leave you with nothing to download... so click on this, download the first (and only) song available to download. It is catchy, not entirely profound, but enjoyable and worth having as a free download. And who knows, you might like her a lot... (so right after I posted this, I got on iTunes and realized this song is the #2 song download, but this is the demo version... and to think I had discovered her on my own)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Making Me Think

My buddy Ty writes a blog at I encourage you guys to check out his latest post... it is pretty heavy stuff and I think he is a thought provoking writer (he is a med school student but the kid has talent at this writing thing).
Another link I want to let you guys in on is about art and what defines true art. It was pretty fascinating, especially if you consider yourself an artist (I don't consider myself an artist...).

Speaking of art, in my life reading has been a neglected pursuit and is one that I am trying to pick up again. When I was a little kid, I was the dork of my family, my nose always glued to some book (my claim to fame was reading three Hardy Boy's books in one day). I just finished a book called Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman. His writing style is one that is easy to read, yet challenging at the same time. In one of the chapters, he talks about the question of compassion and how we, meaning those who call themselves Christians, should be more compassionate and that comes with recognizing that we don't deserve the grace that God has given us. He talks about confession and how it is a necessary step in having compassion. He quoted a prayer from a guy named John Baillie's book A Diary of Private Prayer as a template for confessional prayer. I thought it was powerful... so here it is.
O Father in Heaven, who didst fashion my limbs to serve Thee and my soul to follow hard after Thee, with sorrow and contrition of heart I acknowledge before thee the faults and failures of the day that is now past...
My failure to be true even to my own accepted standards:
My self-deception in the face of temptation:
My choosing of the worse when I know the better:
O Lord, forgive.
My failure to apply to myself the standards of conduct I demand of others:
My blindness to the suffering of others and my slowness to be taught by my own:
My complacence toward wrongs that do not touch my own case and my over-sensitiveness to those that do:
My slowness to see the good in my fellows and to see the evil in myself:
My hardness of heart towards my neighbors' faults and my readiness to make allowance for my own:
My unwillingness to believe that Thou hast called me to small work and my brother to a great one:
O Lord, forgive.

To end this, two songs lately have been rocking my world. I bought both of them on iTunes this week: "No Sacrifice" by Jason Upton and "Carried to the Table" by Leeland. Check 'em out (the link lets you listen to the song on rhapsody and youtube). The words from "No Sacrifice" begins with "To you I give my life, not just the parts I want to..." How hard this is to do, to not live as a "Christian" and just give the parts to God that are convenient. Let me know what you guys think, I would love to get your thoughts.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cheers (coolest British word, I think)

The Italian contingent from Rome: (L to R, back row)Matt, Me, Jason, Alessandro, Daniele, Chiara, L, Mia (front row L to R) Sara, Andrea, Maria Teresa, Kanda, Ana
A list of favorites: Andy (favorite Englishman), Ana (favorite Peruvian), Me in the back next to Alessandro with the apple

You have taken the time to read my blog, and for that, I say "Cheers". That is perhaps my new favourite word, a by product of a brilliant weekend in Bristol, England. Myself, Matt, Jason, Lauren, Sara and Kanda accompanied 7 of the coolest Italian students you will meet to an Agape Europe conference with students from a ton of other places throughout the EU. It was a memorable trip to say the least, and I think I came away from it learning just as much as our students who we took.

The conference was something that was very different for most of the students. Most of the Italians come from a Roman Catholic upbringing and many are still practicing Catholics from very traditional catholic churches, so the atmosphere of the conference was a little different. It was great to be able to talk out with them what they were thinking and to process through the whole "different but not wrong or better or worse" idea. This got me thinking about a very important principle, or at least I think it is.

At first I was thinking critically, "Are people following the Church and using Jesus as a tool to follow the Church or are they following Jesus." As soon as I thought this, God threw another thought at me, this one convicting to myself; "Am I following Agape (Campus Crusade) leadership and using Jesus as a tool to follow Agape, or am I following Jesus?" Because the truth of the matter is that I often put my "job" as the reason I talk to people about Jesus. If it is, that is terrible. Jesus needs to be the reason that I talk to other about Jesus. I need to follow Jesus and consider if I am truly walking as a disciple of Jesus, and not think so much about "Am I logging hours or earning my paycheck." I think we can all do this within our own walks of life. Jesus is so easily set aside, set on the backburner, and other things become out priority. Even if they are good things (Agape, church), nothing should ever take priority over following Christ.

So that was one realization this weekend. A few other quick hits are that I began to cry as we sang Amazing Grace as the words hit me once again. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." How often I forget about the grace that has rescued me. No, dont give me the crap about "you are not that bad a person." I know what I am, and I know how I have made conscious choices to rebel, to sin, to do what I know to be wrong and in doing so, to turn my back on the one who loved me and gave Himself to die for me. "I remember two things very clearly. I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior," says John Newton in the film Amazing Grace
. "When we've been there, 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun." This is what brought me to tears. One day I will, by his grace, get to stand praising the Lamb of God, side by side with Italians. I long for that day. And by the way, if you haven't seen the movie by the same name, Amazing Grace, I highly recommend it. Albert Finney is incomparable, the story of William Wilberforce is moving, and it is one that leaves the viewer with hope.

There are many more memories from Bristol that I would love to share with you but dont want to take the time to... I apologize. In quick form they include: Jason's bear-ish snoring, the gassy bedroom, chicken curry at midnight, the Oxfam store where I bought a hardcover version of the Lord of the Rings, convincing someone I was 29 and married, soccer and basketball in the church and luggage escapades on the turnstiles. So thanks for reading, I look forward to sharing more with you later. And pray for us, that we might use this conference as a jumping point to continue to impact this campus for Christ.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Free Music... Wednesday

Yes, that is Joel, Matt, Me and Kanda doing O-H-I-O in front of Christopher Columbus's tomb.

Hello dear blog readers, yours truly has found some more music for you. I will not be able to post this Friday because I am headed to Bristol, England with about 14 Italians to a conference where we will talk about how we can make an influence for Jesus... I am quite excited for this opportunity to see my friends here learning more on how to better communicate our faith and I am sure I will be challenged as well. Pray for us if you think about it.

On to that new music. This is an artist named Brooke Waggoner, a young lass who rocks on the keys, yet seems so much more than moody piano-playing music (which I love, but this seems like more). I havent even listened to the whole thing yet, but it was recommended to me by Mat Kearney (may have heard of him? Well truth is I found out on his myspace, but does it really matter if I know Mat Kearney personally? I know people who know him, how about that?)... so check out . One thing is, you have to put in a real email address because they email you a link to download the music, but I think it is worth it. Enjoy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Story Time

One, check out this article at The Rabbit Room. Great article about loss of imagination, the affect of video games, and the fun of playing outside.

Two, story time! Last week, Sara and I paired up to take on Roma Tre for a day (everyone else was there too, but I was talking to people with Sara). We were trying to strike up conversations with groups of people, instead of just individuals, which is my usual modus operandi, and I was a little nervous. Usually I talk to the people that are chillin Han-style (Solo... and yes I stole that joke from "How I Met Your Mother"), but we want to talk to groups of people too because that way we can influence a network and hopefully get the news about this Jesus guy to as many as possible. So after getting shot down by one group (ok, not shot down, but they didnt have much time... ok it was shot down), we spotted the next group.

When I say we spotted, I mean Sara said, "Hey, lets go talk to those guys." 'Those guys' were a group of 5 or so dudes laughing and having a good time and I didn't want to be the nerd Jesus-freak who walks up and breaks up the party. Yet, I felt the tug to and swallowed my pride and said a silent prayer and headed in their direction. I used my usual pick-up line, "Parlate inglese?," and to my chagrin found that I was breaking up a party, apparently of one guy telling... inappropriate stories. However, to my surprise and relief, they welcomed us into the conversation. Well, I guess not into the current conversation but said, "Yea, whats up?"

Diving into spiritual conversation is not always the most comfortable thing in the world but it is amazing how God can use us if we are willing to back out of the way and let him work. After the usual get to know you banter and discovering that one of the guys, Matteo, was a basketball player, I popped the question. No, not to marry me, but I asked him, "So our group, Agape Italia, likes to get to know what students think about spiritual things. Can I ask you guys what you think about those sort of things?" I know, I know, I am real eloquent with my transition, but God works in hearts, not me. Me, Matteo, Sara, and Pietro began to speak, diving in depth about what they think about the church, religion, Jesus, and what it means to be a Christian. It was real encouraging to talk with them, especially Matteo, who plays basketball at a church so he goes to Mass out of respect for the priests that run the games.

Though our conversation did not yield any hit-the-knees-and-repent moments, we did have some good discussion about what it meant to give up control of our lives to Christ and follow him. The question, "Can we follow God and not give up control of our life," is a very real question that I think many people ask and I think many people think the answer is yes. I am not so sure; Jesus doesnt seem to leave many options when he tells people to leave everything and follow Him. So the conversation was terrific and ended with an exchange of numbers. Even cooler though, was that the next day, at a different university, I ran into Matteo and Stefano (another guy in the group of 5). They usually don't visit that university but wanted "a change of scenery" so they headed there for the day to hang out. They recognized me and when we began to talk, it was Stefano who brought up spiritual things. I am so glad that I serve a God who brings about "random" meetings like that and uses it in our lives. I hope to be hanging out with those guys tomorrow, so keep me and them in your prayers. Thanks for reading, much love to you all.

My God is Powerful

A friend sent this news article (click to see) to me, printed in the Columbus Dispatch to me. This is an amazing example of who Jesus is; he is the one who gives hope to the hopeless. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Our God is an awesome God.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pure Entertainment

So for those of you who want me to post something more substantial... it will be coming in a day or two... or maybe even tonight. But this post is pure entertainment. So check out the links, listen to the music, enjoy the pictures and enjoy your Sunday. Much love to you all

- Check out Matt Pond PA at this link. I just heard this band and dig their sound. You can listen to basically the whole CD on their website (streaming), so check it out.
- These guys just posted their whole EP for free streaming on this website. This more I listen to it, the more I am impressed with their solid work, quality lyrics... and oh, did I mention I am friends with them? So check em out, listen to it, support their live shows, and buy their music when they come out with a full album.
I have watching this over and over again, and I am still laughing. Watch it... Charlie Bit Me
A good one from Relevant Magazine about "Christian Art"...let me know what you think
Cool blog about music... they have good recommendations (or so I think so far) and streaming songs to listen to...
I went to Spain for a conference for Agape a week and a half ago. We stopped in Sevilla for 3 days vacation before heading down to Nerja for fun in the sun, learning about what it means to follow Jesus and being refreshed, body and soul. Here is our trip in pictures.

At the top of a really big cathedral
We were a sweet biker gang... dont mess with us
My sweet team
Why lie, I wanna be a rockstar, and this is my pose
Our team and the Istanbul, Turkey team got to hang out together in Sevilla. They are sweet and my team is sweet, so Sevilla couldnt quite handle the combination.
Climbing in Piazza de Spagna (or whatever it is called... Amos is above me)

So I got pulled up on stage with some Flamenco dancers. It was exciting and yet totally embarrassing.
I got to hang out with Jesus one morning for a couple hours with this as my view.
These guys are called the Three Amigos and are in charge of Agape (Campus Crusade) in Western Europe. They are really encouraging and I feel privileged to work for them. And Javier (in red) sound like Dave Barnes (on his videos) when he speaks with his accent
Check out the straight of Gibraltar... I like this shot
Me and ATL Lauren in the caves in Gibraltar
We got to take a day trip to Gibraltar and the monkeys are friendly... so cool
Come on, you think it is funny too
That is Andy upside down and me with my hair in my eyes
Good sunset picture... or at least I think it is
What is a vacation without a cigar with friends

Monday, February 4, 2008

Vatican Tour for my Bro

I made this video for my brothers second grade class... it is my personal tour of the Vatican... not professional, not well polished, but enjoy. And there will be a ton of pictures from Midyear Conference in Nerja, Spain, in the coming days. Much love.