God of the City

” and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”  Acts 1:8

Our first day in Israel was such a moving experience for me and I feel I can say this for all of the team.  The Gospel was sent out from this very place, and we get to be a small piece of the movement to bring it back to Jerusalem!  I am so thankful that we are able to stay in the Old City of Jerusalem – there is so much history of our Savior right here.  In fact, the Austrian Hospice is located on Via Delorosa.  This means ” the road of pain” and it is the very street that Jesus Christ carried his cross to his death.

As we walk the narrow cobblestone streets, I am trying to take in all that is around me.  We walked to the Western Wall yesterday morning and saw the Temple Mount.  This is the place that Jewish people come to pray and it was once known as the Wailing Wall – they also believe that no matter where they are, their prayers come first to the wall and then go up to God.  There is a tradition of writing prayers on a piece of paper and sticking it in the wall.

Next, we saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  For a moment, I felt like I was on the set of Indiana Jones!  The church was very dark and parts were underground with lots of twists and turns.  Many Christians believe this is the place of Golgotha – the location of the crucifixion and resurrection.  There are sections owned by the Roman Catholic Church and some by the Greek Orthodox church.  Mike pointed out an old piece of a Roman column that was once part of a Roman temple and mentioned that this gives possible proof that this could be the location because the Romans tried to stamp out Christianity and would have built a temple over a place that Christians gathered to worship.

Our highlight of the day was definitely visiting the Garden Tomb.  This is another possible site of the crucifixion and resurrection and honestly, the Spirit was all over this beautiful garden!  Scripture tells us that Jesus was buried outside the City, and this location was the spot once known for executions.  There is a huge face of a skull in the rock which some believe it the true Golgotha, or place of the skull.  The garden was once a beautiful vineyard and as we walked and listened to our guide talk about Jesus, my heart was smiling.  Seeing the tomb was an experience hard to describe.  There was a very different feeling here than at the other site.  I had a chance to go inside alone and look at the burial plot.  As I stood there speechless, I noticed the sign on the door that said ” He is not here, He is risen”.  Amen!  I was overwhelmed with tears and for a moment even lost my breath.  I don’t know if this is the spot or not, but my heart was so moved for my Savior that I like to believe it was!

Our last stop of the day was The Mount of Olives where we enjoyed fresh fruit and beautiful scenery.  As sunset approached, we looked out over the city of Jerusalem and our team prayed together.  One of the songs we will be singing this week is God of the City.  If you come to Green Hills Church, then you will recognize this song.  I can not tell you how moved I have been over the lyrics and how much hope it gives me as I look out on a beautiful city that doesn’t recognize its Lord.  3% of Israel is Christian.  This is why we are here – to proclaim the good news and tell of our wonderful Jesus!

 

Take a moment and listen to this beautiful song.  I hope it blesses you today!

Christ is All,

Tabitha

Some Pictures of Jerusalem

Our first day in Israel

Hi friends!! After nearly two days of travel, we are in Israel. We journeyed from Nashville to Chicago to Poland, and after a 8 hour layover in Warsaw (where we got to see the city and eat cool food) we made the last trek to the Holy Land. Everything has been smooth and I can literally feel the Lord’s hand over top of us, underneath us, and cupped around our sides–this is His trip, His city, His people, and we are honored to be His servants.

Until Thursday, we are in Old City Jerusalem. Our hotel, or “Austrian Hospice” is delightful! Complete old architecture, big windows, breeze from those windows for AC, really tiny showers, a wide spread rooftop accessible to us to hang out on over looking the city, olives and tuna included on the breakfast buffet, and very loud roosters to wake us in the morning. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we wouldn’t change a thing.

We are learning and experiencing so much!! The area we are staying in is a mix of Jewish and Muslim people, maybe with a few Christians here and there (Israel is only 3% Christian in its entirety). However, this is unique to this part of the city because most of it is segregated and problems arise when one group enters the other’s territory. Jerusalem is a divided city–but no matter what the state now, we know one day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess. Please pray with us for this land!!!

Today we went first to the Western Wall, AKA the Wailing Wall.  The Jewish people believe all of their prayers arrive at the wall before they make it to the ears of God. Directly behind the wall stands the Temple Mount which now supports the dome of the rock. It is here that Solomon’s Temple once stood but is now under Muslim control. This is the major point of contention between Israel and Palestine. We then ventured to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is presumed by many Christians to be the place of Jesus’ death and resurrection. While the decor was grand, there was a solomn feel in the air. After that we experienced what became, to many of us, the most moving part of the day: The Garden Tomb. This is different location that gives biblically based reason to believe was the place our Savior died and rose again. It was so peaceful and quiet and you could feel His presence walking with us through the glory of the garden. Seeing a real tomb that is probably the very one our Lord conquered is something unforgettable. It was intense and heavy but grace overcame us and filled us with gratefulness and joy. The truth that really matters is what happened, not where it happened but there was certainly significance in what we saw today. We had a near-perfect evening on the Mount of Olives with our guide, Aaron. We ate fresh fruit from the local market, prayed together, worshipped together, and started preparing for the rest of the week..preparation for telling people about the One who shines light into the dark places and makes new creations out of …well, all of us. We will keep you updated! Thank you for reading and praying for the mission of this trip!

Love,

Calla

Wandering in Chicago

I love to wander a strange city. There is something about being immersed in a vast urban jungle surrounded by throngs of strangers. The annonomity that crowded streets and unknown arenas are a perfect platform to find a respite from the rat race of everyday life.
So when my wife Tabitha had to do continuing ed for her degree in Chicago I got really excited. While she has been in class I have been on a spiritual retreat in an unlikely location, downtown Chicago.

It has been very fun so far. I spent my morning reading my Bible and journaling in a quiet part near Lake Michigan. This afternoon I going to just wander the Magnificent mile. It’s been refreshing to refocus and reconnect with God.

Back in Nashvegas

Wow.

We are back.  Back in the blessed United States.  We had such a good time but we had such a hectic 24 hours on our way home.   Sorry I didnt blog the last couple of days.  We stopped in Positano which is off the Almafi coast and didnt have internet there and then made a quick journey back to Rome to get on a plane and head back to Nashville.  

Our stop in Positano was a pretty hairy adventure.  We took an overnight train from Cinque Terra that started at 1:37 at night.   We had to leave Vernazza at 11:30 to go to a slightly larger town called La Spieza.  That was fine except for the fact that La Spieza got a little shade after midnight.  Tab and I hung out with some very silent families who were visibly trying to ignore the sleeping homeless people sleeping on the train platform.  But it was worth the discomfort to sleep overnight on the train all the way down to Naples.  Our train was pretty cool.  We had our own little bedroom on it that had a locking door and a guy who watched over us as we slept.  He also woke us up with hot coffee when we were about an hour away from Naples.  

The trip to Positano was pretty scenic except for the time we were in Naples.  Rick Steves warns about Naples because it is known for its thieves and pickpockets.  Over 1/3rd of the city’s adult male population is unemployed which leads to rampant petty crime.  With great apprehension we rode the rickety subway called the Circumvensuvia to the town of Sorrento.  From there, we took a bus over the mountains to Sorrento.  We stayed at a really cool Pensione called Pensione Maria Lousia.  Our host, Carlo Milo, was amazing.  He was so hospitable.  Our room had a balcony that overlooked the Mediterranean.    You can check them out here:  http://www.pensionemarialuisa.com/.  

If you ever get to go to Positano, you will find that the city is really quaint and built on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  Think Cinque Terra on a much larger scale.  Both on the size of the town and the size of the scenery.  It is the town that Robert Downey Jr. and Marissa Tomei go to in the movie Only You.  It is very beautiful.  But it is very steep.  We counted 414 steps from our Pensione to the beach.  

One of the coolest things was we bought sandwiches that evening from a local deli and ate them overlooking the sea.  Believe it or not, we finally got tired of pizza.  As we were heading down we heard this guy singing in a deep baritone from up around the corner.  We thought we were going to be crashing a private concert but it was just some random guy just bringing it.  He had one of the most incredible voices we have ever heard.  We just camped out right there and ate our sandwiches, watched the sea and listened to an amazing free concert.

We left Positano the next day by boat to go to Salerno.  We found out there that there is a Trenitalia train station in Salerno.  It is right across the street from the docks.  The trip that way is cheaper, shorter and safer.  The views from the boat are really beautiful.

Our trip back was pretty uneventful.  We went out one more time to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon when we got back to Rome.  Tabitha bought some cool shoes and we went to bed.  

The next morning at 6 AM Rome time, 11 PM Nashville time we got up to head home.  It was such a long flight.  We were up about 24 hours straight, minus some small naps on the plane.  It feels so good to be home though and in our own beds.  

Here are some pics of Positano.  

 

Jet lag is seeping in and I am about to crash.  I am going to post some more pictures tomorrow.  I have to edit them down in size and I just hit a wall.  Its great to be home though!

Vernazza on the Rocks

Tabitha and I are sunning ourselves on some rocks at the pretty little town of Vernazza in Cinque Terra. It has definitely lived up to it’s advance billing. The sights, atmosphere, food and hikes have been the best in Italy. This has been my favorite place so far. If you come to Italy you have to spend 2 days in Vernazza.

Yesterday we took a scenic hike on the coastline. All 5 towns are connected by a scenic and litter free hike. The hike between Vernazza and Monterosso is the hardest but by far the most beautiful. Between the rocky ocean views and the lush mountainside you will fall in love with the area.

The food is great too. Our favorite has been at the Pirata. Luca and Maximo, the owners are histerically funny and have unbelievable food. Their deserts and breakfasts are the best we have had here. If you want to find them go away from town behind the train station. They are on the right after the bank. I am posting a picture below They also have rooms to rent for pretty reasonable rates. If interested Email them at [email protected]

Also if you want a room closer in town you can get a private room with a bathroom like we did through a local resident. This was pretty cheap too. We paid 60 e a night. The room was simple but clean and comfortable. The lady who set it up was the very nice Monica Lecari. She speaks English so she connects people with local rooms We stayed at her sister’s Carmella’s room. Monica also owns and runs the Castello restaurant which has stunning views. Monica’s info is [email protected]

We have had so much fun here. I went cliff diving into the ocean yesterday near the castle. That was fun but I got scraped up trying to climb the rock by barnacles. It was so worth it.

The people are so nice here. It is sad that there are no evangelical Bible teaching churches here. I have some ideas about how to help here that are percolating in my brain. I will share them in the next post.

We are sad we are leaving Vernazza but we are excited to head down to Positano on the Almafi coast. We are taking an overnight train to Naples and then taking a boat to Positano. We have a sleeper car so we are going to get a great nights sleep while we travel. The only downer is it leaves at 1:30 AM.

Here are some pics of Vernazza. I can post some better ones from our camera when we get to a real computer. These are just from my iPhone. Thanks for commenting on how good they look Heather! We miss you Green Hills Church and our family and friends. Thanks for praying for us!

En Route to Cinque Terra

We are leaving Venice and headed to Cinque Terra, a quaint collection of fishing villages on the Mediterranian sea. We had a great time in Venice. Apparently I lost my last post in cyberspace. Cell coverage was really spotty in Venice.

Venice was very beautiful. We had a really picturesque room at the Casa D’ Arte, about 100 yards off of the Accademia bridge. It was quite the adventure getting to our pensions though. We were given the wrong directions and we to a hotel that was shut down. Amazingly someone answered our repeated buzzing of the bell and gave us a different address. We spent the next 30 minutes trying to find our way through the labyrinth they call Venice. We were hot, tired and frustated. We were absolutely miserable. We finally found our lodgings more through sheer luck than anything else. That was the most uncertain we have been about this trip to date. We didn’t know if we were going to find a place to sleep that night. God was really watching out for us.

We had a lot of fun in Venice. St. Mark’s square is very beautiful. The Basillica is very ornate and it looks like it was influenced by eastern architecture. The best part are the classical concerts that are performed nightly in front of the cafes. There dueling orchestras. It’s a surreal scene. I don’t recommend sitting at a cafe to listen. They charge a hefty cover to sit. You can hear just fine standing nearby. We made the mistake of sitting down. We paid 15 euro in top of our coffee for that dubious privilege.

That was one downer. The Venetians are masters of scamming tourists. They have been a tourist city for hundreds of years and are great at it.

Our highlights from Venice were St. Marks, watching the grand canal by the Rialto Bridge, exploring back streets at night and meeting up with a family friend called Mark Crooks.

Mark has been a missionary in Venice for 5 years. He started a church planting movement in Venezuela. He move to Venice after handing his church to guys he had trained in Venezuela.
He shared how hard it is to share the gospel in Venice. There are no evangelical churches on the Island. On the mainland the church he inherited had been around for 30 years and has under 20 people in it. There is a resistance to the gospel in Italy. This country needs more workers for the harvest.

Thanks for praying for us here. We are excited for our next stop in the trip. It is supposed to be really beautiful.

Made it to Florence

Quick update. We made it to Florence. This place is amazing. Even cooler than Rome. The Dwomo, a huge intricate Renaissance church, took our breath away. It was so huge and full of color. Tabitha actually stopped walking when she saw it.

We are in the Uffuzi museum right now about half way through but nned to take a break. Saw some Da Vinci’s and a ton of Michelangelo’s. We have been using Rick Steves’ audio tours courtesy of iTunes. It’s an amazing free resourse. We will see the David later on today at the Academia museum. Our hotel hooked us up with reservations. Another Rick Steves tip. If you want to know the best tool for this journey it was buying Rick’s book.

We are both a bit tired. We got up at 5:15 to grab a train to Florence. The Eurostar is so fast. The only problem we had was that all the train departure signs glitched out. So we wandered around the train station for 30 nerve wracking minutes until we found the right train. This has been such an adventure to figure things out as we go.

I will try to post pictures later if our hotel has wifi.

1st day in Italy!

We hit the ground running our first day here. It was an adventure from the start. With no guide, no local contacts and no clue about how to speak Italian. My wife and I are having the adventure of a lifetime. We left Nashville with only a pair of backpacks, a camera and our mad survival skills. This is a rambling, running account of our adventure from my iPhone. I just hope I don’t get a cramp in it thumb. So I apologize for spelling errors on the front end.

When we got here we were surprised at be crazy lines to get through emmigration. There was no markings. Just a snarl of 1000 peope hoping they were in a line. Twice we thought we were in line only to find out cruelly 20 minutes later that we were not.

We had an adventure getting to the hotel. We are staying bear the Vatican so being savvy travelers we saved 40 dollars by taking the train to the train station from the airport and then hopping the metro. Getting around Rome is pretty easy apparently. The only funny thing was the one we had with some strangers that were hogging 3 extra seats by placing their luggage on them,on the train. They were upset when we asked to sit with them. So we opted to stand instead. No wonder we Americans get a bad rap.

The rest of the day has been on the go. We went to the Vatican museum and saw the Sistene Chapel. Truly amazing. I cannot fathom Michelangelo’s talent. Saint Peter’s Basilica was unbelievable too. I have never seen anything that huge or that beautiful. I am grateful it started the reformation. What a way to start out reform with a bang.
We will have pic’s and video up later. Didn’t take any with the phone. Sorry. Gonna crash now. We got about 3 hours sleep on the plane. Tab is out like a light. Hopefully we will check out the Spanish steps tonight! Peace!

Piazza Novonna

I am blogging from a cafe 20 feet from the fountain in the Piazza Novona. The fountain the guy almost gets drowned in during ‘Angels and Demons’. The pizza here was amazing. Tab and I have had an amazing day. We went on a bus tour of Rome that allowed us to hop on and off at will. The bus was a red double decker with an open top. So touristy but awesome. With our Roma pass we had a big discount.

So we stopped and toured the Trevi fountain, the Colosseum, and the Pamtheon. We walked by the Palatine and the Roman forum but were too tired to spend and hour running around inside the complex.

The highlight so far was hanging out in the Colosseum. That was amazing. I love the Patheon too. That building is indescribable. It’s 2200 years old and huge.

Hopefully we will hit the Spanish steps again tonight. We went there for pizza last night and that was so fun. It’s a huge hangout. If you have any ideas of cool places to go let me know. Also if you want to say hi while we are here go ahead and leave us a comment.

Here are some pics I took with my phone. Better ones from the camera are forthcoming.

Tour of Italy

My wife and I are going to go on a whirlwind tour of Italy today!  We are so excited.  We have always wanted to do something like this and this opportunity dropped in our laps.  I will be posting some entries from there so stay tuned for pictures and a running commentary.  We will be visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terra, the Isle of Capri and Positano.  I am so excited!