opening ceremonies…how did the formerly oppressed feel?



first off, i must say that the Sochi opening ceremonies were some of my favorite and most memorable ever.  the imaging projected on the floor and how the performers interacted with it was stunning.  from the ship sailing in to the army marching into st. petersburg, it was a quite impressive opening to a somewhat controversial olympic games.

but, as they made the transition from world war II (which i thought was classy), i found myself wondering how they would deal with the communist era.  with many former soviet countries (from estonia to kazakhstan) and others who suffered behind the iron curtain (from czech to albania) in attendance, i wondered what they were thinking as they saw the hammer and sickle hanging above their heads once again.  or in reality, what their parents thought, for most of these competitors never lived under communism, never experienced the oppression and hopelessness.  as slovenes and georgians sat in their apartments and watched on tv, what did they feel? what were their thoughts as the the term “hipster” was plastered on the event floor and hip looking teenagers danced around celebrating the 60s in russia.  did my former czech neighbors think about the morning they woke up to the sound of tanks rolling into their town?

so, i went to Facebook to ask the question:
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as you can see…crickets.

i even wrote the question in czech:
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there were more “likes”, but still nothing!

i eventually got two direct messages from two czech friends and both commented on how they didn’t feel right about posting on my wall.  its been over twenty years since communism fell and yet the wounds are still fresh enough (or the fear strong enough) to not feel comfortable writing publicly.

now, to be fair, the olympics aren’t a time to dwell on the failures of our past.  certainly, we wouldn’t expect acknowledging hiroshima or vietnam the next time we host in america.  but, still, with it being the first time that russia has hosted an olympics in 34 years and with so many former communistic states in attendance, i couldn’t help but wonder.

the answers (or lack there of) that i received were probably the most surprising to me.  granted the generation that really lived under communism doesn’t have a huge Facebook presence, but the fact that the two friends who did respond didn’t feel comfortable responding publicly, says a lot.

top apps of 2013

i’ve been dragging my feet a bit on my “tops” lists of 2013, but i figure if i finish them by the end of january i should be ok! ;)

top iPhone apps of 2013

i realize that i didn’t venture into too many new apps this year, but here are a few of my faves from those that i did.

six | haze
haze is a beautifully designed weather app…the colors are awesome and the design is simple and elegant.

cost: $2.99 (but i didn’t pay this much!)


five | whitagram
ever wonder how people post a non-square picture on instagram? i don’t know how others do it, but this is how i do it.  whitagram allows you to post a vertical or horizontal picture on a white background and then upload it to instagram.

cost: free


four | Game of Thrones Companion
if you are reading Game of Thrones and aren’t a savant, then you’ve certainly had a hard time remembering the different characters: who they are, what house their from, what they did in previous books, etc.  GoTC helps to keep all of this straight.  the best part about the app is that you have the ability to select what books you’ve already read and it will filter out the spoilers about each character. a must have if you’re reading the series!

cost: $2.99 (i paid $0.99, but i’d definitely consider $2.99 its that helpful!)


three | OKDOTHIS
OKDOTHIS is an app created by photographer Jeremy Cowart.  its more than a photo sharing app, but is more of a community sharing app.  users can select different ‘dos’ that they can do which heightens creativity in photography.  users also have the opportunity to create their own ‘dos’ that the rest of the community can participate in.  while it hasn’t quite taken off like i anticipated, there is a growing community and the recently added ‘do of the day’ is going to greatly heighten usage.

cost: free (but i paid for it…)


two | VSCOCam
this is probably the best photography app on iPhone.  simple to use, great design, beautiful filters, and the ability to alter the photos with a simple sliding scale.

cost: free


one | group me
groupme isn’t the most innovative app.  it isn’t the most exciting app.  but it has been the app that has had the greatest effect in helping deepen community among our missional community.  its really only a group text messaging app.  its had great effect because not everyone in our community owns iPhones (gasp!), so this allows us to easily communicate cross platform.  initially, we thought it would just be a way to communicate important information, but its actually taken life of its own and is now the primary way we communicate with one another important (and even non-essential) information. 

cost: free

top 8_tv shows

four of last year’s six top shows return with four newcomers to the list!

Marvel Agents of SHIELD
i’m a sucker for all Marvel stuff, so it was natural that i’d love this show.  i wish there were more superhero cameos, but it has the feel of a Marvel flick with everything including the special scene at the end of every episode.

we love this show.  in an era where there aren’t many shows that i feel like i HAVE to see when it comes out, this remains one of them.  continues to be excellent.

the only thing other than Marvel that i’m guarenteed to watch when it comes out is anything by Stephen King.  under the dome as been surprisingly good although i have no idea how they are going to continue as a series when the book is a finite number of pages!

the mindy project
i didn’t particularly like her as kelly kapoor on the office, but emily started watching this show and i watched one episode and laughed a ton.  the depiction of her christian boyfriend in season two is pretty funny and worth watching.

brooklyn nine-nine
i was super skeptical about this show (even though i love andy samberg).  i didn’t even set out to watch it, but caught a few minutes of it one night before new girl and laughed a ton.  andy samberg is even better than expected and that supporting cast is dynamic and unique.  a must watch!

new girl
we still love this show.  schmidt is still the best part of this show.  still a must watch…too bad it comes on while we’re putting titus down.

sons of anarchy
this was my middle of the night with titus show the first few months of his life.  its a little too violent to watch with him now, so i still haven’t finished this season, but on the rare occasion i’m alone, this is what gets put on first…or second if i have an episode of…

the walking dead
its really not about zombies.  its about human struggle.  human conflict.  zombies.  human nature.  perseverance of humanity.  zombies.  depravity of the human heart.  zombies.


we have another child due five weeks from today.  if i have to be up at night with him what should i watch? breaking bad?
something else?

top 11_instagram photos




i loved creating this instaSurprise for Emily.  i’d always wanted to get her away during a time when she thought she was working.  the actual trip wasn’t as great as we’d hoped, but the intstagram part of it was awesome!

future home?_portland, oregon
its amazing to think how much has changed since i took this picture.  its maybe more amazing that this is still one of my favorite instas of the year.  there is a lot of sadness and heartbreak that we aren’t moving to portland right now, but contentment and peace in knowing that we’re definitely supposed to be in phoenix!

hot air_glendale, arizona
nothing too special about this.  out in the northwest valley (by em’s parent’s house) they launch hot air balloons.  caught them just before takeoff!

love the composition and coloring of this pic…plus that sweet face!

pier_san diego
i love pics that are in color, but look black and white! this is one from san diego this summer.

nothing spectacular about this picture, but i am always struck by the equal cuteness and sadness of this pic.  as he grows at such a rapid rate, every day is a day closer to when this is the pic of him heading off to college.  gotta savor every moment while we have them!

beauty_portland, oregon
love this beautiful woman…little did we know, but there was a little baby growing in her belly at that time!


someone commented on this that it looked like it could be an advertisement.  this is kid is so photogenic and beautiful!

pockets_prescott, arizona
this kid just gets cuter everyday.  this was one of the first days he discovered his pockets.  glad i captured this!

toss_south mountain, arizona
this was during our photoshoot last week with kha.  he captured many great moments, but this one was all iPhone.  i have a ton of these pics with titus, but few have this great of a setting.

hold_san diego
titus stars in many of these pictures.  i’m blessed to get to spend lots of time with him.  every time he holds my hand i experience the weight of my task as a father.  this little man, this developing boy, this kid who is observing everything and is soaking it in, is entrusting his life to me.  yes, his physical life, but even more importantly the shaping of who he is becoming, his emotional strength, his understanding of the Story he is living in, and the shaping of his character.  i never hold that hand without also realizing how much more i hold.

one year in america

at the time i’m writing this, one year ago today, emily, titus and i had just arrived in america, after leaving europe (our home for the past 7plus years).  our hearts were filled with both sadness and anticipation of what God was going to do in and through us as we pursued church planting.

as we fast-forward one year to today, not much has changed.  there is still a sadness that creeps in now and again when we think of our dear friends in czech and the country that we love, yet great anticipation of how God is going to use us.

i write this post as a way of reflecting on our year here and the themes that have been prevelent.

this is most visibly seen in titus.  when i look at pictures of how small he was when we flew last year and compare him to the little, talkative boy that we have running around our house, i am amazed.  but, of course there has been growth in emily and i too.  a better understanding of who we are, both individually and as a couple, a clearer sense of what we’re called to, and a deeper knowledge of the Lord and His goodness.

i was talking with one of my friends and former czech missionary a couple of weeks ago and i confessed to him my judgmental view of him when he moved back to the states.  you see, i saw him move back to the states and struggle to find a ministry.  i would look at him and say, “he’s totally skilled and capable.  why can’t he find a place?” now a year later, and we’ve postponed the church plant, are working little jobs to make ends meet, and i’m probably going to have to get a full-time job soon.  in talking to him i realized that if i were looking at myself from a distance, i would be judging myself!

the adjusting back to america has been different than we thought.  i think we expected to have some challenges, but never guessed that one of the challenges would be needing to wait before we planted the church.  this has been particularly hard on me.  for my thirty-five years of life, I’ve always had a goal to work towards, either finishing school (high school, ASU, then seminary), then raising support and preparing to move to Czech, then organizing camps in Czech, then moving back to the states. While we still have ahead of us the goal of planting a church, its just a bit far off to really work towards it.  this waiting and being has caused me to really rest and abide in Christ.  its also helped me to do ministry in my everyday life with neighbors.

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i’ve preached more this year than the rest of my life combined.  its been great to be in the regular preaching rotation, to gain confidence, and be around guys who offer correction and affirmation which helps me to improve in my preaching.

before we decided to move back, i had a conversation with chris, our pastor, and told him one of the things i’m not looking forward to about moving to america, is being caught up in all of the theological divisions and distinctions that drive a wedge between the american Church.  he said, one of the best parts of being in a church plant is that he doesn’t have to deal with all of that.

its interesting, because in the last year being a part of a theological cohort that chris helps run, i’ve read more theology than i did the entire time i was in Czech.  this has been far better than i expected.  i have had some long-held assumptions challenged, some others confirmed, but i feel like my understanding of the word of God and his mission for the world has grown exponentially.

if you’re interested, here are a few books that have made an impact in the past year:
The Drama of Scriptures_Goheen & Bartholomew
Foolishness to the Greeks_Lesslie Newbigin
The King Jesus Gospel_Scot McKnight
Church in the Making_Ben Arment (strictly church-planting)

one of the first things that came into my mind when we made the decision to move back to america was of owning a boat.  i love the lake and waterskiing.  i always hoped i would own a boat.  but for that to be the first thing i thought about scared me.  it made me worried that we’d get sucked into the american dream.  but being connected at missio dei and the theological cohort has continued to solidify some of my critiques of western christianity and cause us to be even more gospel-focused in this country.  its still hard when confronted with the american idols and our hearts longing to worship them, but remembering the truths of the gospel and the truths we learned in Czech has helped to keep us (mostly) gospel-focused.


there are certainly other themes, both big and small, that could be written about, but i’ll leave it at this for now.