As some of you know, Terri and I just returned from a vacation in Europe. We spent 9 days in Scotland visiting with friends we made 5 years ago during a pulpit exchange. It was wonderful renewing friendships, catching up on what God has been doing in lives, hearing of the joys and sorrows that come as those who journey through life on this planet. Terri even regained a bit of her Scottish accent (after all, she discovered she was 17% Scottish).
Following our time in Scotland we travelled to Croatia. Neither of us had ever been to Croatia. Not knowing a soul, we had the blessing of some anonymity as we explored the beauty of creation and the history of civilization.
Here are some of the impression that came to us as we processed our time away.
- Old dogs (me) can learn new tricks (driving, food preferences, sleeping locations, etc.).
- You can learn to drive on the right-side (our passenger’s side) of the car.
- There is a logic to roundabouts (or as they call them, ‘rotors’ or rotaries).
- The Europeans we met and observed, in general, appeared more physically fit than many in America.
- There is concern about the diminishing number of people attending church. We knew about Scotland, but, the concern exists in Croatia a country that is 82% Catholic.
- The Europeans we met seemed very connected to their extended family. We saw this 5 years ago. It was confirmed this visit in both Scotland and Croatia. It is one of the things we appreciate about the Sheridan, Wyoming community.
- The Europeans we met love Americans…they may not understand our fascination with guns, our health care, or our politics, but they do love the people they have met.
- There is a great deal of beauty to be seen. The landscapes of Scotland continue to inspire us and the incredible colors of the Adriatic left deep impressions.
- The list could go on….
Two other impressions I want to develop in greater depth. First,
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5 (NIV)
The enduring love of God is something we talk about. It is part of our faith. Many of us have experienced it personally in some way, shape, or form. But, let’s face it, even at 300 years into our existence as a nation, America is young. In the Sanctuary at the Parish Church in Dunbar, there is a memorial to the town mayor from the early 14th century. There has been a church at the present site of their sanctuary for over 1000 years. Throughout the 1000+ year history of that church there have been people who have gathered to glorify God, follow Jesus Christ, and be his light in that community. The enduring nature of God’s presence and God’s love made an impression on me. “Forever” is a long, long time.
The second impression revolves around the durability of God’s people. When in Split, Croatia, we stayed in a Bed and Breakfast just inside the fortress walls of Diocletian’s Palace. Diocletian was a Roman Emperor who ruled near the end of the 3rd century and then retired to Split in the first decade of the 4th. He was the last persecutor of the Christian Church martyring thousands of those hated saints. Around the time of his death (315), a new leader came on the Roman scene, Constantine. Through his experience of having a vision of the Cross of Christ leading him into victory, the religious climate within the Roman Empire changed and the persecution of Christians ended.
Martyrdom did not end the Christian Church. It solidified that in which they believed. “You might be able to take my life, but you cannot steal my heart.” “You might end my days, but you can’t rob me of my eternity.” 1700 years later we were sleeping peacefully in the palace of the one who centuries before might well have been signing our execution papers. There is an old mausoleum in Diocletian’s palace. The man had it built for himself so his place in history could be memorialized. It is now the Cathedral of St. Domnius and is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world. Who won?
The faithfulness of God and the durability of God’s people through good times and bad made a lasting impression on this pastor as he roamed the streets of a small portion of Europe. My prayer is that those impressions will be living realities for each of us today.