Showing posts from 2014

Las Vegas, "Unbroken" & the Arrival of 2015

We spent several days in Las Vegas during the Christmas holidays. Being there helped me reflect on a couple things that are relevant as we turn the page from 2014 to 2015.
Outside the glitz and the slots and the sleaze, Las Vegas is actually a lot like Fresno. It’s the same hardscrabble town in an arid landscape. Both have a major university, thousands of immigrants, a large homeless population, and many success stories built on the back of the local economy. Las Vegas is the country’s 30th largest city, Fresno the 34th. They both face serious social, economic and environmental challenges.
Yet unlike Fresno, Las Vegas has crafted a profitable niche for itself that draws millions of visitors a year. Fresno’s airport served 700,000 passengers in 2013, Las Vegas’ airport 42,000,000 (not a misprint!). Fresno markets itself as being CLOSE to major attractions. Las Vegas is close to major sites as well, but it is a destination in and of itself. It’s a fascinating contrast between two otherw…

Buying "Suspended" Coffee in Naples

A small article in the New York Times twitter feed caught my eye today. Its headline was something about "the Neapolitan tradition of suspended coffee." I read it (a) because I wondered if this was talking about Naples, Italy; and (b) because I wondered what kind of weird suspension coffee drink I had missed during my one and only visit to Naples.
Lo and behold, it was about Naples, Italy. Yes, that's the legendary mob town. Yes, it's the dirty, chaotic, underfunded part of Italy. And yes, it's not where most Americans want to go.
But there's much to enjoy in and near Naples: Pompeii, museums, the Amalfi Coast, and pizza. Oh yes, pizza. It's the supposed birthplace of pizza: simple ingredients, wood-fire cooked, real buffalo mozzarella, and so very wonderful. An article about food in Naples, therefore, grabbed my attention.
Suspended coffee was something I had never heard about. It's a drink that passed my notice. "What is it?" I wondered to…

An Easter Meditation: Mary Magdalene & Today's Tragedies

John 20:11-18 (NRSV) But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to t…

Metrics of Renewal, 4: Seemingly Vibrant Churches in Unexpected Places

Liberec, Czech Republic. Not a highlighted spot on most people's maps. Certainly not a well-known place. But I lived in the Czech Republic for the better part of a decade, and I know its regions and cities. This article tells the tale of one church I encountered that displays all the characteristics of a seemingly vibrant church in an unexpected place.

Communism decimated Czech churches. It's hard to destroy 1100 years of Christianity, and Communism wasn't the only philosophy to mount an assault on belief in the modern age. But Communism managed to finish off an entire generation of believers.

When I moved to Prague, conservative Protestant or "evangelical" churches could claim maybe 50,000 people out of a population of 10 million. And many of those churches were demoralized after discovering that the fall of Communism didn't bring the masses flocking back through their doors. Czech churches certainly needed renewal, but I didn't see much sign of it.

One maj…