Historical Greece

On Wednesday night this weary pilgrim set foot on American soil once again. Our last two days in Greece were taking in the Acropolis, Areopagus and the Parthenon. Through our amazing bible teachers and the Spirit teaching, the Word comes alive in Acts 17. Probably the most emotional moment for me of the trip was standing on Mars Hill where Paul gave his talk to the Council of Philosophers in v 19-31. Read the text on your own, then look at the pictures below. Two minutes of his talk are in Greek on the side of the hill, but tradition shows that no public speaking person could speak more than six minutes or they were called a babbler. We often think he went on and on and on, but we know he was respectful as a missionary. However, he also spoke truth with boldness.

Verse 24 he talks about man-made temples, with the Parthenon standing tall and majestic on the hill to his side – Very emotional moment.

Always good to be home, now for the processing and resting!!

two minutes of Paul’s teaching in Acts 17
The Parthenon – which would become a Christian Church 500 years after Paul was here
Mars Hill (Greek word is Areopagus)
Our Ridge team along with Pastor Tom from Altoona and our Greek Pilgrim Tour guide.

Storms in the Sea

I guess if you’re going to spend 10 days studying John and Paul you just as well have some experiences that help you relate closely to them. We spent two days on the Aegean Sea aboard a small cruise ship with raging storms that kept us from going to Patmos. Many people aboard were sick, fortunately, only one of our Pilgrim Tours guests got sick. I thought about Paul as he was shipwrecked to Malta, except he was on a much tinier boat than what we were! It was not a fun day, however we did take a side excursion before landing in Athens when storms settled for a few hours on Santorini and the weather there was beautiful so that was a treat.

We landed in Greece Athens, and there’s much to write about with that! A city that is now 99% Christian where Record numbers of Muslims are converting to Christianity. I will write more about that soon.

Farewell Turkey

Today we leave the city of Kuşadası where the ancient city of Ephesus lies, and head via cruise ship to Patmos and Crete. Sadly the weather is predicted to be rainy for the next several days so there won’t be much sitting in the ship deck enjoying sunny weather! Our sight seeing will be done under an umbrella.

A few details about Turkey as we leave this country. Average yearly income is $10,000 US. Their political leader is a prime minister and they have 7 political parties with AK as the primary political party; and CHP the primary oppositional party. Interestingly the day we arrived (Sunday) was their Election Day.

Unemployment is around 18%. Tourism is their primary industry. Eastern Turkey grows grain and fruit. Lots of apricots and pistachios grown. Also saw lots of strawberry fields, olives and oranges.

Most of the tension occurs in SE Turkey near Iran. It’s very rugged there so it’s easy for terrorists to hide and there’s no visible border apparent. However, as a whole this country is very peaceful. Crime rate is low, people consume very little alcohol (although they smoke like crazy)! I felt totally safe walking outside by myself last night.  

Notice the color coordinated hilltop
Turkish tea – always in a tulip glass
Turkish rug weaver

Our Roots

The last few days have been a flurry of activity. My focus today is on the amazing city of Ephesus-one of my favorite books of the Bible. To see the massive city ruins from the street houses to the Roman bath houses, to the huge Library, and the theater, you’re mind can almost see the people from the city as Paul spread the gospel in the early church. Ephesus, you might remember, is where the riot broke out because the silversmith Demetrius was upset that the people were going to quit buying idols of Artemis and start worshiping God and ruin his business. Our devotions near the library were such a highlight. PT (Pastor Tom from Adventurelife) has such a way of bringing the stories to life with his passion and Spirit led teaching). Oh that I can remember just some of this rich history that takes us back to our roots of Christianity and the early church in the New Testament.

The library in Ephesus – third largest library of antiquity

The streets of the town with their homes
Baptistry in St. John’s Basilica, where John is buried
The day ended stopping by a Turkish rug shop where craftswomen spend months making just one rug. The silk and wool is all hand died, sometimes over 1200 knots per square inch in a rug. They are beautiful – and a dying art.

Turkish Tales

Catch up time! Alot of driving the last three days and poor internet. How in the world did the disciples and Jesus travel by foot or by mule or horse from place to place over this rugged terrain?

Our only stop Monday was the ruins of the ancient city of Troy. A little Greek mythology: people still question whether this is true or not. The Trojans inside the wall of Troy allowed a huge Trojan horse to be taken inside the wall of Troy by the Greeks. The people of Troy thought the horse was a peace offering but quite the opposite. Soldiers inside the Trojan horse climbed out of the horse once inside the walls to victory.

It was fascinating to see these ruins from a city whose earliest remnants are from 2500 bc. Yes bc. In one area there are remains of sacrificial wells where bodies were sacrificed. It was a solumn moment to envision the sights, sounds, and smells of what happened in this place all those years ago and I found myself grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus to end sacrificial offerings.

Tuesday we journeyed to Pergamum and then to Thyatira. as we listened to the teachings in both of these places my prayer was simple. God, may I not settle and look to others to satisfy me. I worship You and You alone.

Today we started the morning at Smyrna. Unbelievable ruins here with the huge basilica, then on to Sardis where we reflected on how easy it is to compromise and justify and let worldly things take over. We also went to Philadelphia and finally settled into a cool Turkish thermal spa. Pictures aren’t uploading yet due to poor WiFi everywhere. And my brain is full! Hopefully photos soon. Praising God for no sickness and good sleep. The Turkish people remind me of the Greeks. So friendly. Very impoverished. Average household income is only $10,000 US yearly. My massage – only $38 US.

Bustling Istanbul

Today we had a mix of Greek Orthodox, Roman, Ottoman, and modern-day Islam. We started with a tour of the Archaeological Museum where we saw tons of artifacts, including mosaic remnants depicting times of King Nebuchadnezzar, the Idol of the Unknown God we read about in Acts 17 and tablets of the Treaty of Kadesh. This treaty is the oldest known peace treaty. We also went to the famed Blue Mosque where Muslims were praying, and we had to take off our shoes and women cover their heads out of respect. The day ended with St. Sophia church. It was a Christian church, then was overtaken by Muslims, and eventually turned into a museum. Crazy beautiful gold mosaic tiles and marble, more marble and yet more marble.

It’s interesting being around this many Muslims. On the long airplane trip here, during one of my many strolls down the plane aisles I ended up in two lengthy conversations with a young Muslim man named Abdul who was heading home to Ammon from Houston. I love how the Lord leads—the first time we talked was all surface but the second time we talked for 30 minutes with him asking some interesting questions. Questions like “so as a Christian if your children do not follow your faith like you think they should are they still your child?” And then another conversation that led me to telling him about the Holy Spirit and His role in our lives. Spiritual conversations that occur randomly and remind me that our openness to being alert to what’s going on around us can lead to seeds planted in others. Seeds planted; waiting for the Spirit to water and grow. So grateful for faith in Jesus that We can pray to Him whenever and however we want, and that He hears His children whenever and however we pray to Him.

Muslims in prayer. Men and women are always separated.
St Sophia
Beautiful tile mosaic of Jesus

Long Day Ahead

Today’s the day 9 of us from Des Moines will head out; spend 5 hours laying over in Houston; and then on to Istanbul. I’ve traveled plenty of times abroad but no matter how many tricks I learn, sleeping on the plane is elusive SO, I’ve got my Amazon movies downloaded, my headphones, two pillows, a couple of great books to read, Spotify playlist, and before you know it by 10 pm tomorrow night we should be landing in Istanbul. Love all the prayers – see you in Istanbul!

Thank You Google Translate

In most countries I’ve traveled I’ve had the pleasure of being able to travel with my daughter Nicole who knows enough foreign language, and of course, is fluent in Spanish, so I never have to worry about the language. Actually, I have gotten rather lazy! As I sat this morning and tried to focus on a couple of Turkish words I praise God for my brain, but I also realize that it is difficult for me to focus. They say that people who are musical off and pick up languages more quickly. I’m not sure that’s the case but I’m gonna go with that. So here goes, my goal is to learn at least 10 words over the next few days. And when all else fails, I praise God for Google Translate! No longer the need to carry a book in your backpack. Love it!

Study Time

Study Time

Love our homework time in preparation for the trip to Turkey and Athens. So much to learn, and hard to imagine what life was like in Paul’s time as he spent time in missionary trips to these areas. I’m praying God will open my eyes and give me fresh revelation by His Spirit as I walk the land where Paul taught with such zeal and conviction.

I wonder if Paul had doubts about his calling like I do? Did he question? Did he feel inadequate? When we read his writings in the NT we see such profound boldness and faith. Much of my life has been spent feeling inadequate, but the Lord is calling me into a new boldness in the season ahead. Parrhesia, the Greek word for bold means “A divine enablement that comes to ordinary and unprofessional people exceeding spiritual power and authority… it’s a result of being filled with the Spirit.”

I am walking in boldness into the season ahead, with a dependence on God’s Spirit to lead the way. I’m reminded of the song “Oceans”, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the water, wherever you would call me.” Dependent on Him.

One Week and Counting

Last fall I wasn’t really looking for any sort of new adventure to add to my bucket list. Chuck and I had started making plans for what to do in 2019; and there were a few things we were looking at. When Pastor Tom from AdventureLife came into our church with the opportunity to take a study tour I was immediately intrigued. I’ve always loved his enthusiasm and passion; and as we started discussing it and praying about it, I decided to take a bold step and say yes. I was hopeful a friend or two would be able to join me. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and although I’m an extrovert this trip is outside my comfort zone. Still, I know the Lord has much to teach me as I join eight others on this trip. Lots of studying the past two months. In the midst of my studying I was able to prepare a message for the Ridge that was timely and Spirit-led. And as someone who loves studying about Paul, I’m expectant of learning so much on this trip. Visiting many of the places Paul preached at will be such a memorable experience I have no doubt.

As the time ticks, I pray for the Spirit’s leading and the Lord’s protection against illness and crazy travel delays as we count down to leaving March 29. We’ll connect in Houston (with a five hour layover unfortunately), and then on to Istanbul, Turkey. My goal is to post photos and journal the trip here.