Simple Gospel: Album Review

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If you’re looking for an intimate worship experience, then this is the album for you.

Simple Gospel” represents the newest effort of the United Pursuit family, born out of a group of believers who gathered together in what they named The Banks House to worship God together. “Live at the Banks House” remains a stirring and memorable testimony of those humble beginnings.

With “Simple Gospel”, the United family seeks to share the testimony of the years between. The album also expresses a common desire to not over complicate relationship with God. You know, keep it simple.

The album builds with stirring crescendos, draws in with memorable melodies, touches the spirit with expressions of truth, and inspires the coordinated and uncoordinated alike to bop with the faster songs or sway to a slow tune. “Let it Happen” and “Never Going Back” among others are definitely being added to the JHOP set list!

I highly recommend setting  aside some time to soak in this album. Whether you’re painting, dancing, reading the Word, or just laying on the couch, this album is an excellent accompaniment to anyone’s quiet time, and music library.

 

Rome, Italy

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Rome is likely to be magical any time of the year, but I think I lucked out in particular by going during Christmas.  As is often the case with me, I stayed with a good friend, an Italian I had met senior year of college while representing the Italian department as its only major that year (You’re welcome, Bryn Mawr).

If you can find an Italian family for Christmas, especially one with mid-Italy/southern Italy roots, I highly recommend getting yourself a dinner invitation.

For my friend’s family, all mid-south Italians, Christmas is serious, regardless of the fact that they didn’t actually believe in Christ. Their manger scene alone was enough to make me rethink my paltry-by-comparison Christmas traditions. You know, like actually celebrating Jesus…

Anyway, we went through a litany of fish and seafood dishes, boiled hen, fried zucchini flowers, pasta dishes, a special ricotta cake from the Jewish quarter, breakfast pastries called maritozzi, various traditional fruit cakes, chocolate bars, marshmallow bars, and many, many, bottles of wine. The wine was imported from their favorite southern winemaker, of course.

My friend was so happy to get his mom’s cooking (he had just come back from his time abroad in Philadelphia) that he ate too much and got sick. Fortunately I had more self control.

Rome is gorgeous, and because it is further south, it can be quite warm even in December. During Christmas everything is lit up, there are Christmas trees set up by the Colosseum, and the city has an almost magical air. Transportation sucks, though. We ended up doing a fair bit of walking because it was easier than trying to do the trains, but it’s worth the view. Plus, while all the typical attractions are worth seeing, walking the city allows for a little spice and adventure that you might otherwise miss. My favorite was coming across a guy giving out free hugs. I had always wanted to meet one of those people! I was skeptical at first, but it turns out he was a good hugger and was quite the gentleman.

It’s also fun to see the various people in Roman soldier outfits ready to pose in pictures with you for your euros.

Rome in and of itself is a museum, so between the amazing sites just there as you walk down the street and the free concert the day after Christmas, I was quite fine not paying to go to museums.

Tips:

  • Be prepared to walk. That means proper footwear, protection, and hydration.
  • Again, Rome is further south. That means in the summer months you’ll be in the 90’s and 100 degree weather. Choose spring, early summer, fall or even winter travel times if this weather will prove difficult.
  • Have fun! Rome is an amazing city to just wander, eat well, and just get lost in the romance of it all.

Kruje, Albania

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If you’re like me and one of your best buddies is Albanian and has a car, getting around Albania will be pretty easy. If for some odd reason that isn’t the case, there are buses between most cities. I went by car from Tirana to get to lovely, historic Kruje.

The site of Albania’s battle for independence against the Ottoman invaders, Kruje is a place of national pride for Albania, despite them having lost the war. In Kruje you can find the museum honoring Skanderberg, the national hero who organized Albania’s flailing forces in this their most successful bid for freedom.

Though taken captive and raised among the Ottoman troops, Skanderberg never forgot his roots, instead taking what he learned and returning to Albania to better organize the fight for freedom. I’d make him a national hero too…

Entrance here is about 2 lek, and it affords some incredible views when you go outside at the upper levels.

Kruje is basically a mountain so you have to walk uphill to get to the museum. It’s worth it though, because you pass through a market of handmade items and trust me, it’s amazing. In one shop I met one of the last people who still make sheep’s wool items by hand. I played a traditional instrument I can’t remember the name of, and looked at countless hand embroidered, woven, and carved items.

If all this isn’t amazing enough, you can continue driving up the road past the part of town with the shops and museums, and get to the top of the mountain. Here there is a seating area for outdoor picnicking, shepherds grazing their flock (And apparently people making movies about it. Still don’t know what that was about…), plants you can pick fresh for the ever popular “mountain tea”, and an absolutely stunning view of lakes and rolling landscape while you’re at it.

Albania makes good on its reputation for a land flowing with water, because if you walk down the staircase next to the picnic area and turn into a creepy cavernous little place where you go down some more steps into utterly cold dankness (that’s totally a word…), you’ll find a pipe that lets out fresh spring water. It tastes amazing, and after romping around in the hot sun all day it feels amazing too. Bring a couple of empty water bottles!

Just be prepared to walk up all those steps on your way back.

Tips:

  • The walk up to the museum through the market is really smooth and uneven cobblestone, uphill. Make sure you have comfy shoes with good tread.
  • Because of the elevation, it’s a good idea to bring a sweater and be aware of any health issues this might cause.
  • The market is all cash, and all worth it. Prices are generally fair and not much bartering is needed.