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A few weeks ago, our family returned from a twelve day trip to Italy. I used up a lot of Sky Miles and American Express points to plan a trip for our family to celebrate Terri’s 60th birthday. We packed in everything we could into those days while focusing on Rome, Florence, and Venice.

We loved traveling through the country by train. I wish America could figure out an effective rail transportation system like they have. It was easy and economical and much less stressful than renting a car. Believe me, in Italy, no one knows the purpose of a stop sign or traffic light!

Spiritual Lesson #1: Beautiful buildings do not guarantee the presence of the Holy Spirit. We saw countless churches filled with elaborate, beautiful, stunning art, frescos, and mosaics. Many of them are more tourist attractions than churches that exist for the life-giving message of the gospel. Buildings don’t reach people, people reach people. And if everyone thinks they are saved because they were baptized into a church or they were born Catholic (or name your denomination), they have no concept of lostness or the need for salvation.

Spiritual Lesson #2: Mary gets way too much attention. I saw more paintings, frescos, mosaics and marble statues and images of Mary than I did of Jesus. She is not a co-redeemer. She was the virgin mother. Jesus didn’t worship her and neither should we.

Spiritual Lesson #3: Idolatry and the worship of symbols and traditions is not just a problem in the Catholic Church. I saw (supposedly) the chains that held Peter. Of course they were discovered in the third century, but what does that matter? Apparently Peter is buried under the Vatican. I doubt it. I don=t think Peter would have merited burial in the inner city of Rome when he was persecuted and martyred for being part of a sect. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Spiritual Lesson #4: The church used to own the arts. When you walk into these churches and see the artistry and attention to detail in everything, you wonder why we let the devil have the arts.

Spiritual Lesson #5: Outside many of the churches were carvings and sculptures of people, but no one seems to have a clue who many of them were. It’s a reminder that life is fleeting. Those honored in one generation will be forgotten in coming generations.

Spiritual Lesson #6: This was my second trip to Rome. Standing in the Colosseum I was reminded of Rome’s obsession with entertainment, including the murder of Christians as a form of entertainment. America is obsessed with entertainment, and much of it is violent.

Spiritual Lesson #7: Italy has given us many of the great thinkers, artists, and writers of human history. But theirs is a history of the past more than the present. If we don=t invest in future generations, they will wander historic streets of our land with little thought to what happened before they were ever born.

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