Another Summer Mix

June 20, 2007

I have definitely enjoyed listening to my summer mix so far this summer. Whether I am working around the house, writing a blog, cleaning a parking lot, or cruising through town on a sunny day, those tunes just seem to hit the spot every time. If I had to add one more song to the mix right now, I would probably add “Dance Tonight”—the new song from Paul McCartney. Lyrically and musically this song is so simple, but it will have you dancing around your house tonight before you know it.

Speaking of songs for the summer, I have recently started going through another set that I am enjoying immensely. This year I have been reading through the Bible with a reading plan from Compass Bible Church. By following this plan, I will spend most of the summer reading through the book of Psalms—a collection of 150 amazing, God-entranced songs. Check out some of the greatest hits.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Psalm 1:1-2

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
Psalm 23:1

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
Psalm 34:8,10

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”
Psalm 63:1,3

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”
Psalm 73:28

“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”
Psalm 92:4

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Psalm 119:105

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Psalm 136:1

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
Psalm 150:6

Whether you were planning on it or not, you should go through Psalms this summer. Even if you already have a reading plan, try adding one Psalm into the mix each day. Or even choose a Psalm for the week, read it each day, and meditate on it throughout your week.

Some Psalms may be short, but they are loaded. I spent a whole semester trying to wrap my head around Psalm 131, and it’s only three verse long.

Meditate on the word this summer, remembering what the first Psalm says about the man who does this: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Summer Mix

June 17, 2007

Do you ever wish your life had a soundtrack? I do, and sometimes I feel compelled to make one. A couple summers ago, I made a playlist called “Soundtrack for the Summer” and compiling such a mix has quickly become a summer tradition of mine. So here is my Soundtrack for Summer ’07.

1. No Two Ways About It—Jeff Golub. While this particular song has no words, it’s smooth mixture of electric and classical guitar with jazzy keys and drums clearly says Southern California summer.

2. Everything’s Right—Matt Wertz. “Nostalgia’s thick as the August air.” This song gets in the mix on pure nostalgia. I had never heard this song before out IBEX Year End Show, but now it reminds me of all the good times I had with the SPO’7 crew in Israel.

3. Taylor—Jack Johnson. I remember listening to this song with my brother Billy as we washed his car on the front lawn on an early summer Saturday. I said, “I think we just found the song of the summer.” Jack Johnson’s music is summer, and you can’t have a summer mix without it.

4. Closer—Travis. My Tuesday back in the States, Travis released it’s first new album since my junior year of high school. This was the first song I heard from the album, and as soon as I heard the acoustic guitar intro, I knew Travis was back to making great music.

5. Ever Closer—Godsong. This song is short, simple, serene, Scriptural, sweet and definitely on my summer mix. I listened to this song over and over at the end of IBEX as I prepared to come back to the States. You should check it out.

6. Stop This Train—John Mayer. I think I have put this song in every playlist I have made since I bought this album in December…seriously.

7. Put Your Records On—Corinne Bailey Rae My friends Beth and Esther introduced me to this song. I did not think much of it at first listen, but when I found myself whistling the tune days later, I downloaded it and added it to my Summer Mix.

8. The Power of Love—Huey Lewis & The News. I’m not sure what it is—the sweet guitar parts, the happy lyrics, or the thought of Marty McFly in a life preserve—but this song is just straight up fun. Something peppy, something snappy…

9. Jerusalem—Matisyahu. I spent the last three and half months living about ten miles from Jerusalem with IBEX. This was kind of like our theme song.

10. This Side of Your Life—Reilly. My old Bible teacher pointed this song out to me and told me it reminded him of me. That’s funny because this song definitely reminds me of him.

11. The Heart of Life—John Mayer. This is another one of those Mayer tunes that inevitably finds its way into my playlists.

12. Clinging to the Cross—Tim Hughes. My first Sunday back in the States, I was introduced to this song at True North—the high school group at Compass Bible Church. “Even darkness is as light to you, my Lord/So light the way and lead me home.”

13. Talk of the Town—Jack Johnson. Whenever I hear this song, I seriously thank God for music. I think it’s impossible to listen to this song and not be relaxed.

14. Only Wanna Be With You—Hootie and the Blowfish. I have to admit this song is a little bit old school, but I’ve always been able to empathize with the line “I’m such a baby ‘cause the Dolphins make me cry.”

15. Saved by Grace—Shane & Shane. I started listening to these guys more while I was in Israel. They have great vocals, talented guitar parts, and very Scriptural lyrics. This song is one of their best.

16. Under the Moonlight—Travis. Another great song from a new great album by Travis.

17. Your Smiling Face—James Taylor. On my first day at home in Summer ’04, I went to Best Buy and bought James Taylor’s “Best Of” CD, and that album quickly became the soundtrack for that summer.

18. Good Vibrations—Beach Boys. Come on, now, you can’t get more summer than the Beach Boys.

19. Don’t Stop Believin’—Journey. Somehow this song got a lot of playtime at Survival Camp last summer, and somehow it ended up in this year’s summer playlist.

20. Lead of Love—Caedmon’s Call. Whether I’m looking back at the last four years, the last four months, the last four weeks, or even the last four days, it’s clear to see that God has been lovingly leading me down paths I did not expect to travel to make me more like himself. And I’m excited how he is going to continue to do that this summer.

Wonders of the World

June 16, 2007

The Egypt Chronicles, Part 3

When I say Egypt, what is the first thing you picture in your head? If you were a Sunday school all-star, you might be picturing frogs jumping out of your computer screen right now. But if not, the pyramids are probably floating in your head. Somehow these monuments have come to symbolize the historic civilization that has lived along the Nile River since the beginning of history, and it was to these ancient wonders that our Egyptian adventure brought us next.

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We spent our time at the pyramids exploring and taking pictures.

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Honestly, this guy has been sitting in the sun for 3500 years, he could use a little shade.

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Whitney thought he was kind of cute.

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This guy was pretty friendly and wanted me to take a picture of him. We then left before he could try to sell us anything.

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Getting a picture on a camel at the pyramids is a must if you go to Egypt.

The whole area that houses the Sphinx and the pyramids is crawling with locals hoping to take advantage of rich tourists. Each ten steps you take you are offered a camel ride while others will offer you water or some cheap trinket. Interestingly enough, very few locals will actually guess that you are American. They are more likely to think that you are Australian or English. This misidentification results from a lack of American tourists in Egypt.

We paid the extra cost to go inside one of the bigger pyramids, and the interior was surprisingly simple. A single shaft descends into the pyramid before ascending to the burial chamber. Unlike other tombs we would see in Egypt, these walls were without paintings or carvings. The temperature inside the pyramid was also surprisingly high, so we did not stay long. At one point in the narrow shaft, I thought to myself, “I really hope this thing doesn’t collapse.” I quickly realized that the pyramids have been there for 3500 years, so they would probably hold for five more minutes.

On our way out of the pyramids we asked one guy for a camel ride. We asked how much it would cost, and he said, “No problem.” Apparently we had not quite learned our lesson yet. We quickly took pictures and then offered the man a rate we had got from other camel operators nearby. However, he did not find the rate so fair and went ballistic, so PC and I spent the next few minutes explaining how we were not going to give him the ridiculous amount of money he was asking. We ended up giving him a little more than he had planned, but this still did not make him too happy.

As we were leaving the pyramids, we were trying to decide whether we wanted to try and go farther South to more pyramids or back into the city for the Antiquities Museum. We got a taxi and decided to return to the city. Our taxi driver had heard us talking about the other pyramids, so every few minutes he offered to take us there the next day. Whenever he offered, I told him that we were catching a train that night and would be in Luxor the next. Each time, he said, “No problem.”

We arrived at the museum with little difficulty and were excited to enter and see what our Rough Guide called “the finest display of its kind in the world.” This museum is excellent because of the quality of its artifacts, not the brilliance of its presentation. Many of the artifacts lack labels that explain what they are, and some of the ones that are labeled are only hand-written. However, we had both our Rough Guide and small booklet from our professor that pointed out the highlights, so we felt confident in proceeding without a guide. One item of significance to us who were studying in the Holy Land was the Merneptah Stele, which clearly refers to Israel. Here we are in front of the museum.

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The most impressive display at the Egytian Antiquities Museum is clearly King Tutankhamun’s gold. When Egyptian pharaohs died, they were not simply buried in a casket at a cemetery; they were laid to rest in elaborate tombs that were loaded with treasure. However, as these tombs were discovered, they were all empty—they had been robbed. Only one tomb was found in its original condition, and that tomb was King Tut’s. He was buried in a sarcophagus, which was placed inside another sarcophagus, which was placed inside of yet another sarcophagus. These sarcophagi were then placed inside of a box inside of a box inside of a box. Did I mention that all these boxes and sarcophagi were made of solid gold? And these things are only the being of the opulence of the dead king. Certainly the most impressive artifact is the burial mask, which would have been placed over the corpses face. You can still see the brilliant colors that were painted on this mask thousands of years ago.

By the time we left the museum, night was approaching. We spent the evening eating at T.G.I. Friday’s with some fellow IBEXers and getting to the train station. It was hard to believe that that very morning we had awoken in a hostel room in Israel. Since then we had traversed the Sinai, crossed under the Suez Canal, seen the Nile River, haggled with taxi drivers and camel owners, been inside a pyramid, and seen King Tut’s gold. What a day it had been! But this was only our first of seven days in Egypt.

No Problem

June 8, 2007

The Egypt Chronicles, Part 2

Most of the guys in the hostel room were awake before the alarm went off at 4:45 AM. We did not need a clock to wake us up; excitement for a new day of adventure had already done that.

Four taxis were waiting outside the Beit Ha’Arava Hostel to take us to the Egyptian Border. We moved through the border with no difficulty, and within an hour we were in a new country—Egypt. Here is my group, ready to take on anything Egypt might throw at us.

Our first task inside Egypt was to find a way to Cairo, which is about a six hour drive from Taba, the border town we were now in. Since it was only 5AM, our transportation options were quite limited. We found a small fleet of old mini-vans, and hired two of them to take the sixteen of us to Cairo. Each van came with a driver and a security guard. These guards wore suits and were packing some serious equipment. They both carried a small machine gun on their belt.

Our two vans comprised a small caravan that moved through the desert that Saturday morning. Even with no scenery that drive was new and interesting. Every so often, we would stop at military checkpoints. The soldiers were always quite curious when they discovered we were Americans and occasionally decided to send along another car to escort our caravan. Here you can see our two vans and the escort car at a stop along the way.

Eventually, we arrived in Cairo, and nothing in my life had prepared me for Cairo traffic. Many of the roads do not even have painted lanes; cars just converge into the mix at whatever speed they wish. Once we did safely arrive at the Ramses Train Station, my group bought tickets for the 10 PM train to Luxor that night. After this was accomplished, we hurried off to see what everyone goes to Egypt to see—the Pyramids.

We bartered with our first Egyptian taxi with ease and were almost at the Pyramids when we began discussing what we wanted to do there. Abi mentioned that she might want to ride a camel. Immediately, our taxi driver said, “You want to ride camel? I get you camel?” This is when our day really started to get interesting. Our driver turned the taxi around and started driving down some crowded alleys before stopping outside one shop. We could see some camels close by, and we could tell that we were not far from the pyramids.

A friendly, English speaking Egyptian greeted us with a smile. We tried to explain that we just wanted to go to the pyramids. He said we could ride the camels there in two minutes. However, we wanted to get to the pyramids before riding camels, and we were also looking for a place to eat lunch by the pyramids. We then tried to explain that we were looking for food, and he said he could give us falafel. The way he talked, he almost made it sounds like he was offering to give us lunch for free. PC tried to verify this, and he responded with something like, “No problem.”

This was the first of many instances that would teach us an important lesson: Whenever someone says, “No problem,” you’ve got a big problem.

He ushered us into a back room in his shop that was filled with nice furniture and perfume bottles. Some friendly Egyptian women were in the shop and asked us our names. Before long, one of them brought us mixings to make falafels. We ate what they gave us, but we were still very unsure if this guy was just very nice or if he was trying to get as much of our money as he could. On top of all this, we are still not certain what is safe to eat and what is not. Here we are, eating the questionable Egytpian grub.

Before long, we realized we needed to get out of this place and get to the pyramids, so we got up and started walking through the shop. We thought our host had been nice, so we thought we would give him a small tip. However, when our host saw us leaving, he was quite confused and tried to charge us for the food. Since we has understood that it was free, PC handed him the small tip (1 Egyptian pound), and we walked off. As we walked quickly away from the store and toward the pyramids, we were all in disbelief at what had happened. We were also not sure if the Egyptian mafia was now chasing us or not. We had so much to learn about foreign ways.

However, as we left the alley and turned the corner, we were met by a picture that we had all seen many times in books and movies, but now we were beholding it with our own eyes. We had arrived at the gates of the Giza pyramids.

I have immensely enjoyed the second half of this week. On Wednesday, I visited my grandpa and uncle in Santa Barbara. Thursday, Generations (my Bible Study) had a small crowd, so after the sermon we just went around the room and got caught up with everybody. That led to Friday and golfing with two of my fellow Generites. We hit up the muni for a twilight rate and raced the sun to squeeze in 18. Saturday, I got to see both my brothers, their wives, and my super-cute nephew as I traveled to the OC to celebrate my cousins’ college graduation. Today, I enjoyed church, tutoring, and an extended time of reading and journaling outside Jamba Juice.

Through the message at Bible Study and some things I have been reading in the Bible and other books (like Humility by C.J. Mahaney), I have been thinking about the Gospel this weekend, and the effect it should have on my daily life.

First, the Gospel should produce tangible joy in my life. Each day I should be happy because of what God has done through the work of Christ. I should rejoice that “It is finished!” This joy should affect my attitude when I get out of bed and my interaction with people throughout the day.

Second, the Gospel should devastate any pride that I might have. Mahaney quotes John Stott as saying this: “Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size life the cross.” When we realize that we have been saved by grace through faith and that even that faith is a gift of God, we have nothing to be proud about.

Have a great week! Fire up those Summer iTunes playlists.