I shot a short video of the Astronomical Clock in Prague when we visited a few weeks ago. This thing turned 600 years old (yes, I just said 600 years old) last year. Here’s a little bit about it:

The [Astronomical Clock] is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. [via Wikipedia]

Eastern Europe and the Gospel

Cathedral of St. Vitus

I had the privilege of traveling with my wife last week to Eastern Europe, specifically Czech Republic. It was my first time “overseas”, and Bethany had traveled some in Europe when she got out of high school. Our son stayed home as we thought the travel and time difference would be a bit too much. We missed him greatly, but it was the right move.

The majority of our trip was spent in a town called Malevonice in Czech. Apparently it doesn’t have any meaning in English, so don’t bother trying to figure it out — it’s just a name. It’s a beautiful place and it reminded me a lot Kentucky, mainly because of all the green. The weather was absolutely beautiful. Mostly sunny and in the mid seventies (Fahrenheit), you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time to visit. Even when the clouds rolled in on Friday morning (shown below), it cleared out by noon and we spent the late afternoon playing football, aka soccer.

Hotel Bezruč

You might be wondering what were doing over 6,000 miles from home. We were visiting a missions organization called Josiah Venture. They serve over 11 countries in Eastern Europe and focus on doing youth ministry. Many of our friends have served alongside JV doing summer camps and music tours, so we really wanted to see what they were all about. Our church helped us financially to make the trip over and it was a blessing for Bethany and I to get a better understanding of the work JV is doing. We met some incredible people, ate really good food, and enjoyed attending the JV “Spring Conference” which is for all the missionaries that work with JV across Eastern Europe. All in all there were a total of 207 people attending the conference and it was fun to hear the stories of what God is doing in all of their countries.

Story after story from places like Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia, Albania, etc. shared of great faith and sometimes great hardship for the sake of the Gospel. It really opened my eyes to the global work or God of which I had never really experienced before first hand. These evangelists are doing pioneer missionary work in most of these countries, and some of the work is slow and difficult. I tried to think of the hardest ministry challenge I’ve had in the past year and it probably has something to do with who’s getting the donuts and setting up coffee this week…something meaningless. I wish you could hear the story of God’s work in Slovenia the way I heard it this week, from a teary-eyed missionary as he talked of thousands of people getting to hear the Gospel for the first time at an evangelistic outreach event, and the 10+ years of tireless work they have put in to that country with very little fruit. Or the story of the youth rock choir that was started in a small church in Czech, of which 120 unsaved young people came to be a part of it on the first week it met. There were so many students, and the church was so small (about 20 people in the whole church), that they were asking some to leave because the church couldn’t handle the growth.

Jan Hus Memorial

Bethany and I both felt that just being with these missionaries convicted our hearts of areas in our lives that Christ needs to sanctify, specifically what am I doing with the Truth entrusted to me? It’s one thing to be around good theology (which we are here at home), it’s another thing altogether to apply that theology in practical ways (which I am convicted about) and have the faith to see God work. God is doing a work in my heart right now of which I don’t fully know the ramifications. I can say that no matter what it is, it’s purpose will be to bring God the glory only He deserves. My eyes were opened a little more last week to a world that not only needs to Gospel, but is ready to hear it.

One final story happened after we left to come home. The director of JV, Dave Patty, sent an email to all the conference attendees about something that happened on the train while they were traveling that weekend. Just so you know who he’s talking about, Dr. Erwin Lutzer was the main speaker at the conference and Scott Willis was a special guest. Here’s the account from that email:

On Sunday afternoon Connie and I boarded a train for a quick visit to Prague with Luzters and Willises. Finding their seats, Dr Lutzer and Scott Willis sat down across from two young women who were listening to music on their I-pods. Dr Luzter introduced himself to the gal across from him, found her name was Jana, and asked where she was from. When she said “Moravia”, he replied, “Oh, I’ve just been learning about a group of Moravians who took the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world.”

“What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” she asked.

You can imagine how Luzter enjoyed a question like that! For the next hour and a half he shared that gospel with her. At one point she told how she had fallen off a dock last year onto some rocks, injuring her head, and almost dying. She was in a coma for 12 hours, and experienced leaving her body and looking at herself from across the room.

“I don’t know why I am still alive,” she said.

“Because you are not ready to die”, Lutzer answered. When he asked her if she wanted to pray to receive Christ, she said that she had never prayed before, and asked him to lead her. They did that, right in the train. You could see the change immediately – afterwards she was beaming!

When we all said goodbye to our new sister Jana at the Prague train station she said to Luzter. “Just keep going the same direction. And on behalf of all the people in the world I thank you.”

I have her E-mail contact now and will be working to get her plugged into a fellowship in Prague.

Praise God!!!

Titus Is One

Titus at One Year Old

Hawaii – A Wider Perspective

I think I’ve been a little inspired lately by Jeff Bridges panoramic photos, because for no reason at all I took a bunch of panoramics while we were in Hawaii two weeks ago. And by “a bunch”, I really mean four. Most of these are straight out of the camera, and just stitched together in Photoshop. I’ve added descriptions below each image, and if you want to see the image larger you can just click the photo which will redirect you to my Flickr.

Hanauma Bay, Hawaii
This is in Hananuma Baby. I love the couple in the bottom left getting the classic tourist shot. Everyone in our car was cracking up because the woman kept changing her poses. And we all know it’s the pose that counts.

Hawaii Panoramic
This was just beyond Hanauma Bay. Absolutely stunning to see how blue the water was and to feel the warm wind coming off the water. The power of the waves crashing against the rocks was amazing.

Pearl Harbor Panoramic
This is Pearl Harbor. I shot this from the USS Arizona Memorial center that is across the water from the actual sunken ship. I love American history and this is a must see for any one interested in the subject. Somber place, but the beginning of a long and necessary war. If you look closely, the USS Arizona Memorial is just left of the middle of the image, on the water line (it’s the little white building on the water).

Last but not least, Waikīkī. The famous beach is just as beautiful as people had described it and Bethany and I enjoyed some Starbucks and walked along the water. This particular shot has about 15 photos from left to right.

Best $5 Albums on AmazonMP3 (April)

No, this is not an April fool’s joke. Every month I try to pick the five best albums on AmazonMP3’s 100 $5 albums. This month has definitely got some winners, and here they are. I’ve put my short thoughts below each album:

Augustana - Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt

This rock album is one I come back to often. Augustana has got the goods — no doubt about it.

Leeland - Opposite Way

Good worship record. Leeland usually has solid lyrics and I’m always challenged by his writing.

Owl City - Ocean Eyes

Say what you want about this digital pop, but it’s catchy, and it’s good. I just listened to this album yesterday.

Sigur Ros - Takk…

Icelandic rock music with classical elements. Confused yet? Just listen to them.

Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It

One word: classic. This is your mom’s music and your music rolled in to one.