Thursday, November 27, 2008


“We are all living to be beautiful and it is crushing us.” JAmmons

Here in Italy, I live in a culture obsessed with beauty. I often greet girls “Ciao Bella” (hello beautiful) or even from time to time, greet the guys “Ciao bello.” Bella is used to describe just about everything, from a day to a meal to a time with friends. And yes, Italian fashion is much more beautiful that the States. I don’t know if I have every rocked a sweatshirt here in public, as least not when I am on campus.

This obsession with beauty isn’t completely a bad thing. They appreciate aesthetics, appreciate and value the ability to create something valuable, and in this way I can often ap
preciate what God has created even more. But as Jeff said, “it is crushing us.” What we become obsessed with controls our life and when we base our worth on whether or not we are beautiful, it has the same potential to control and devalue us.

Because it isn’t true beauty that we are measuring. It is a synthetic beauty, a beauty that is superficial and fades with time. Whether that is the emaciated “beauty” of fashion models, the rugged good looks of the latest Hollywood star, or even the beauty of a priceless work of art. The model will gain weight and wrinkles, the actor eventually will lose his muscular physique, and the work of art, unless carefully maintained, will deteriorate.

Though I think people are quick to say we do, we rarely appreciate t
he beauty of the woman who has lived and loved for 95 years, like my Grandma. Or the beauty of wrinkles permanently ironed on the face of a woman because her smile has brought love to hundreds (Jane A). Or the emaciated beauty of a man who has worn himself down serving his people, like Ghandi. We may admire these people, envy their accomplishments, but rarely do we call it beautiful. Or the patched up quilt, broken down building, worn out pews, or beat up Bible, all that tell more stories that a shiny new car.

But that is just beauty around us. Aesthetic beauty. Even the pursuit of that, though not inherently wrong or bad, will leave us feeling empty. Bethany Dillon penned a song that says “I want to be beautiful, to make you stand in awe, look inside my heart and be amazed. I want to hear you say who I am is quite enough, just want to be worthy of love and beautiful.” While I think that this song was written focused on women, I think even guys, at the core, want to be “worthy of love.” We want to be worth it and the way that too often we seek to be worthy is to be beautiful. Or to have great accomplishments. Or to stand out about the rest.

The tragic, sad, beautiful thing is that we are not enough in ours
elves. But we are worthy of love. We are because He said we are. Because you are God’s creation, you are worthy of love. At the end of the song, she says “You make me beautiful, you make me stand in awe, you step inside my heart and I am amazed. I love to hear you say who I am is quite enough, you make me worthy of love and beautiful.” I think there is a telling difference, a shift of focus, from me to you.

In this culture of beauty, I want to share this message with others here. That they are worthy of love simply because He, the Creator of the Universe, has loved them. And because He offered His Son to make a relationship with Him possible. And when we realize t
his, it enables us to truly love others. “We love because He first loved us.” When we realize this truth, the chains fall off. We can live in freedom. We can live in His beauty.

People I am thankful for

There are hundreds of pictures I could upload here. My friends and family, you guys know who you are. I love you all. Praise God from whom all blessing flow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My dream.... and unrelated photos of Paestum

I was looking through some old things I had written and saved on my computer, old memories and journal entries. I came across this, from a dream I had last year. When I reread it, it was still a powerful experience for me. So I thought I would share it with you all...

"I just had the most amazing dream I have ever had in my life. I was walking along the top of a building, I don’t know where, I don’t know why. I had just managed to con my way out of passing out fliers for a homeless ministry and I was walking back and it was around Christmas time. For some reason, I saw two musicians I knew and was kind of following them because they were mildly famous in my eyes. I followed them to the edge of a building where they stood watching three other musicians playing guitars for some audience over the edge of the building. I climbed up to the edge and looked over and was stunned by what I saw.

It was a huge tower/building of made of cardboard boxes and abandoned trash and empty barrels and who knows what else. It was crawling with children. I don’t know why, but it was tons and tons of street children. I was horrified as they were playing that every once in a while, one or two would fall off. These were destitute children, no where to go but play on their mound of trash, no hope in sight. There were some other people watching and one of them reached out and grabbed. Then they pulled and I saw they had grabbed one of the children who had jumped towards our side. A couple more children realized that they could jump to our building, to safety and started running and jumping across the divide. People on my side started coming to the edge, holding out hands, trying to help those that were jumping to safety. I got on my belly and edged my way to the side, stretching out my arm to try to help catch whoever jumped. But then what brought me to tears (in my dream) was that someone from our side ran and jumped into their building. Just dove into the midst of their trash to help them. We were on the safe side, trying to pull those kids in danger to our side, to catch them, and this guy just dove right into their trash tower to help. I then woke up. I don’t know what this means but it seems like a picture of Jesus to me. A picture of what I should be like. Living in my “safe side”, seeing those who unknowingly are falling off the edge of their “trash tower”. No hope. Yet someone needs to run and dive into their trash tower, not just lean over and help them as they jump."

Below are some pics I took from a trip to Salerno two weeks ago to visit Amanda... enjoy

The girls got funky up top the Greek ruins at Paestum
Were we supposed to be in the temple? Probably not, but no one complained too loudly

Yes, that temple behind us is real.
Take a guess at who is the real Italian. Hint: It is the guy who is actually dressed fashionably in the middle.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"No One Knows Their Name"

This past summer, a friend and I were talking about her work in Central America at a convent with a group of nuns who served the poor in that area. The way she spoke of their simple life was in a beautiful way that made me envious of the little that they had. They truly connected with God in a way that wasn’t distracted by the many things that we need in this modern world. And I think in a lot of ways, they are probably more fulfilled than most but most of us are too scared to give up what we have for the risk of something less. To scared to truly “die to self” as Jesus calls us to do. But that is another conversation…

The thing that she told me that has often come to mind this year was that, “No one knows their name.” For every Mother Teresa that the world venerates, there are thousands of people like these nuns that labor for the sake of the Gospel, that labor with all of Christ’s love, and no one will ever know who they are. Instead we hear the horror stories of those who work “in the name of God” because they sell more papers; those who abuse their position and use God for selfish means. But these women, who in all likelihood don’t even consider what they have left compared to what they have gained, labor on in obscurity.

Why? Their stories should be told, we should hold them up as shining examples of what it means to follow Christ. But that even more important, in my own life, is that it bothers me that people don’t know these women. Because the honest truth is, it bothers me, not because I think of their stories and how they should be told, but because I think of how I want my story to be told. Selfish, I know, but honest.

Because, sad though it is to admit it, I want people to know who I am. I, too often, give in to this desire for “fame and fortune.” No, I am not trying to work my way to the top of the corporate ladder and make my millions and willing to step on everyone in the process. No, I am not actively seeking fame (unless you count this blog). But I do want to be known. I often desire for people to tell me, “Well done.” And I think this desire, though not inherently bad, is often just as selfish as they guy climbing the corporate ladder. Far too often I care about the opinions of others more than I care about whether I am following God closely.

I want to be a sellout. Sold out for the cause of Christ. I want to be so committed to the cause of Christ that it won’t matter to me if no one knows who I am. I want to be listening to God so closely that I am willing to work in a place where I see no results for years and years, if that is what God has called me to do. But I am not there yet. I know, I know, Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs says that we all need affirmation, but I want to be working for the “Well done, good and faithful servant,” the one opinion that truly counts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Italian Student Protests... and American issues

For those who dont know, there have been some intense protests here in Rome (and all across Italy) because of recently passed laws/referendum. The result that students are especially angered about is that cost of university is very likely go up, too high for a number of students here. Some of the other parts of the laws and changes being made dont seem so bad. But to educate yourself, check out these two articles below. And the pictures below were taken by Sam and I was there at this one. At La Sapienza's main campus, a number of the science faculties (majors) were taken over by students, who closed them down for a time being. A number of the protests were like the pictures, while some of them were classes held in public squares or things like that. An intense, interesting atmosphere to be sure, one to pray that God uses in some way (I dont know how) to reach students for himself.
A Case for Change - published in The Economist
Student Protests Paralyse Rome - published on, a great website for Italian news.

In other news, I am cautiously hopeful for Barack Obama's presidency. I will pray for him, for the United States of America, but this is something I feel pretty strongly about. I hope this blog never gets political, but here is a rare (hopefully) foray into that. Obama is endorsing something called the Freedom of Choice Act. I disagree with that. To see what the Freedom of Choice Act is, click HERE. Quite specifically, the thing that gets me especially angry with this bill is that it proposes that "a government may not interfere [with a womans right] to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman." While this may sound reasonable to some (this is not intended to be a pro-choice/pro-life argument and forum but I am willing to take this risk), this means that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act will be repealed. This is a heinous act, sanctioned murder in my eyes. I use strong words because I feel like it is necessary to defend the defenseless and a baby ("a pregnancy after viability" at the very least) qualifies. So if you want to do something about this, go to Ok, I am off my soapbox but I dont apologize for making this statement. I realize that for many, if not most, women who have had abortions, it was not an easy choice and there are many who still experience emotional pain from this. This isnt an attack on a person(s), please dont take it as that. But this is a strong stand against this bill, against the action of abortion, especially into the second and third trimester. My brother was born in the second trimester and was supposed to have a whole host of medical problems... he survived and is great (Praise God!)... so this is personal for me too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Venice by Photo

Two weekends ago I went to Venice... this is my journey in pictures. To truly see it time-wise, start at the bottom and scroll to this picture a the top

I am thankful for the pic... and that I didnt fall in...
I had to step out onto this thing... what fun, eh?
I love the Roma STINT Team
Enjoying cappucino along the Grand Canal... capuccino but nothing to eat
Check out the moon over the Grand Canal
My team showing their back...err...better side

The dudes I get to live with in Roma
My own private concert... until I was kicked out
Oh yea, that is my team in the crazy boots... L-to-R Kanda, Sam, Ella, Jenny, Brian, Kerry, Giacomo, April
Flooded but beautiful
Me and Giacomo Campobello in flooded Piazza di San Marco
Can you find Jenny, Kerry, Sam, Jimmy, Brian and April? And the crazy people in yellow boots?
Notice how the water is over the banks?
The girls, looking sweet as ever
Waking up is hard to do... unless you are on a sweet boat in flooded Venice (Venezia)
To start, we all piled into this 9 passenger van with Giacomo as driver

Monday, November 3, 2008


I am not a big fan of the election. I think it is a tough choice and I am not going to try to promote one candidate or the other. But I ran across this article and think it is well written and I wanted to give y'all this quick quote and the link to check out the rest if you want. And dont worry, more on my life will come later this week. I got lots to share :)

I’ll cut right to the chase: ultimately our problems will not be solved by the right man (or woman) in the White House. It simply doesn’t work that way. We live in a democracy, a representative form of government, where it’s as much if not more our responsibility to love and take care of our neighbors than our politician’s responsibility. Real and lasting change comes from knowing and loving the folks who live in the houses that sit next to ours rather than saving all of our longing and hope for the voting booth." - Derek Webb
Check out the entire article here..

And for a preview of what is to come about my life... check this
Me and a guy named Giacamo Campobello in Venezia!