It’s earlish here in Paris and the weather is gorgeous. We have had a terrific stretch of good weather since we arrived on Thursday. According to the locals it has only just changed as it has been quite rainy and cool till now, so we are thankful for that.
This is RTW 3 and we are actually stuck in traffic aboard a bus that is taking us toward Luxembourg and on to the boat for our cruise after touring the American cemetery including Patton’s grave.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to tour the Palace at Versailles and see the opulence contained therein. This was a hunting lodge for kings Louis the XIII, XIV, and XV. Ultimately here is where the royals were carted back to Paris from after showing showing utter obliviousness and even contempt for the starving masses. Looking around and hearing the stories of the unbridled narcissism, it is not hard to understand why the lost their heads.
Paris in the spring was one of the “pillars” of our ‘Round The World journey Cynthia and I began dreaming and praying about 15 years ago. There is so much history here, all over Europe, really. We in the U.S. of A. really don’t have much of a concept of “old”. Being in the antique jewelry and collectables business, I am dealing with things that are vintage an antique all the time. Actually some of my staff, painfully, uses my age as the benchmark breakoff between vintage and antique; if it’s older than me it must be antique- ouch.
The reality is here, that anything 100 years or less old is just the junk they throw in closets, 2-3-400 years old is where they start paying attention. In fact nothing in the Louvre is less than 170 years old. But oh my, what beauty is contained there!
As we enjoyed hundreds of years of art and the representations of beauty and important events in beautiful ways, I was reminded of how much beauty matters. It wasn’t just at the museum, it was at the palace of Versailles, the Arc de Trimophe,
the Eiffel Tower, all over this city really. The statues, the boulevards, the dozens of museums, Beauty Matters.
Buy why? We are taught from early on that beauty is only skin deep, that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. While these things are true, beauty causes us to pause, causes us to smile, it can take our breath away, it can even bring a tear to our eye. Most of all though it should cause us to look up, to think about the Creator.
Even though most of the beauty we saw this week was man made, I firmly believe it is God above that gifted those artisans with the vision and creativity and skill to render the beautiful.
Finding beauty is easy in a place like Paris, but I believe beauty surrounds us everywhere. I sell jewelry and gemstones that I find beautiful. What is the beauty that matters to you?
I Love a Bargain
Our hotel is in the shadow of the Great Pyramids and once again we have been overwhelmed by the new experiences.
But first a couple of disclaimers: There are quite a few new people on this list thanks to a funding campaign a good friend of mine sponsored on one of my Facebook groups. As I consider many of my new readers I am struck by their diversity. There are agnostics and atheists, Buddhists, Hindus and Jews, some Muslims and even a few Presbyterians. All joining with us in bringing clean water to Kenya.
So I apologize in advance to my non-Christian friends if this is too Christian and I apologize to my Christian friends if it is not Christian enough.
I’ve never hidden my Christianity but neither will I use it as a blunt instrument, that is not the message of Christ.
The second disclaimer is that in an effort to bring some of the new folks up to speed I will be reiterating a few things I have previously shared.
These trips for my wife and I are a party for our senses, sight and sound, hearing and touch, along with smell.
Our flight over seas included a brief layover in Zurich. When we de-planed I was hit with a smell that brought me back almost 40 years. It is amazing how powerful a smell can be to trigger memories. The alps were part of the trip my parents took me on when I graduated high school. I didn’t realize at the time how special the sweet alpine scent was.
We also had a newly married flight attendant that listened intently to our story about the genesis of our RTW trip. She even came back later to make sure she had the correct name of Wild at Heart, the book by John Eldridge that was the catalyst behind Cynthia and my trips so many years ago.
We are well into RTW part deux. The second leg of our Round The World 30th anniversary trip we started dreaming of and saving for 15 years ago. These are trips that are from our bucket lists of places to see before we die. Because of the health issues each of my siblings are dealing with the trips have added another layer of poignancy to us.
This leg is going to include Egypt and Israel with an overnight stop in Toronto on the way home. The first three days of this trip, and the reason for the quick turn around from our last one is a Christian prayer conference in Egypt. Let that sink in for a moment.
There are nearly 8,000 people here in the middle of the desert, 90% of which are local Egyptians, fervently worshiping The Lord. The Lord of the Old AND New Testament.
There have been many bold and profound proclamations. I confess that I can be skeptical of people speaking prophecy claiming to come straight from the Lord. However there is a continual reference to Isaiah 19. The first half of this passage is pretty damning for Egypt in the form of a curse from the Lord. Think Israel exile, biblical proportions. But the second part of the passage includes a very profound blessing that stretches from Egypt through Israel all the way to Assyria (through modern day Turkey).
I do believe that nothing that is happening now is a surprise to God politically, socially, etc. I also believe that before the Arab revolution in 2011 a gathering like this would not have been possible. I just saw with my own eyes 7000 Egyptians, most of them under 30 fired up and empowered to share the gospel in their homes and schools.
I realize there are 20 million people here in Cairo that are decidedly not fired up about the gospel, but then I think about what Jesus was able to do with 11 who were fired up and empowered by Him!
Do I think the change will take place overnight, of course not, but I certainly saw enough to make me watch expectantly here.
Today we are doing some traveling around Cairo and surrounding areas and I will share about that later.
Oh yeah, the bargain, as a jeweler it probably comes as no surprise that I love a bargain. Cynthia has recently been drinking coffee, I mean like she went 55 years without touching the stuff, and I was right there with her. She has started drinking some coffee drinks, granted the sweeter ones. Well that is morphing into the less sweet ones and she wanted one at the conference. I decided “while in Egypt ….”, so I ordered myself a cappuccino as well.
It was 1.10 US for both.
I had to doctor it up a little but I drank it and didn’t die and, by golly, I sure stayed awake. I don’t necessarily like the stuff but at .55 a cup I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go into a Starbucks again.
Meanwhile I encourage you to watch expectantly God is certainly working!
This is the spot where some really cool pictures would be if I could get the stupid things to upload. :-/ Hopefully next time.
After seven very adventurous days on the Viking Sea, we waved goodbye to the ship in Barcelona. Now we have a couple of days to explore on our own including the Sagrada Di Familia as well as walking and biking through this beautiful and historic city.
We saw multitudes of ruins on both sides of the Mediterranean
which left us impressed by how far and influential the Roman Empire was.
I think everyone of us, as we move through life, has notions of how things that we haven’t seen are, or at least should be.
Sometimes those notions are dead wrong.
The Aurora Borealis while striking was very different than we have seen in books and on TV. More like bright smoke rather than neon colors that makes Times Square look like a couple of strands of Christmas lights.
Not all cruise ships have itineraries built around drinking and milking the last dollar out of you. Kudos to Viking. Although the whole pace was slower and we both wondered if perhaps we were getting old as this style greatly appealed to us. There were many quiet places on the ship and most of the on board activities were geared towards learning more about the ports we were getting ready to visit.
The people in Algiers were incredibly friendly. We had great apprehension about both of our North African destinations, Algiers and Tunis. Perhaps we were skewed by the media and the rampant anti-Islamic feelings. Perhaps it was the idea that we were traveling to a place where there is a very different standard for safety and regulation. Any OSHA inspector would have curled ups in the fetal position, paralyzed by the breadth of violations that are OK there.
Many of the notions or prejudices about Algeria were soon dispelled as we were welcomed onto our bus by Fady, our guide and self appointed Algerian ambassador. He was at once funny and passionate and LOVED his country. We went to the park there where I was struck by how many dads were there with their children. Seventy five percent of the population in Algeria is under the age of 35. Meaning tons of young families. It seemed they were all in the park that day.
Every one of them had a quick smile for us and easily a dozen times someone said to me “Welcome to Algeria”. The teenagers wanted pictures with us and never once was there a sense of hostility or even uncomfortableness. Fady went on to explain how terrorists are practicing the opposite of Islam. They are enemies to Islam just like to us. It was very eyeopening.
Finally the last misconception that was blown up for me was in Barcelona. As someone who deals in the decorative arts for a living, the term Gaudy has always been synonymous with kitsch, with ugly, overdone for me. We got a chance to walk through the house renovated by Antonio Gaudi ( whom the style was named after) for senior Batllo. Gaudi’s very religious upbringing instilled in him the idea that the only thing that was perfect was God and things made by God.
Consequently virtually all of his creations were reflections of things he saw in nature, no straight lines, organic themes, natural lighting and on and on. He was never content as he was constantly striving for perfection. Most of his creations were tweaked and fiddled with all the way through the end. Constantly changing becoming ever more complex.
He was trying to point us all toward God, not fill every imaginable space with something for the sake of busyness as it seems in the artwork that shares his name.
As I reflect on this trip, my take away is that the best way to learn something about someone or some place, is you have to spend time with them or in it.
There is a very low hanging Christian application here that I am going to trust you will be able to apply on your own.
Thanks for coming along on this first leg of the RTW with us and sharing the adventure, praying for many more to come.
The Batllo House by Gaudi
Tourist or Traveler
As we set sail from Cagliari, Sardinia Italy, it is midday with a calm and glistening sea. This is our third port in the next leg of our RTW and this particular trip.
We have enjoyed the beauty and history of Malta with settlements that date to thousands of years before Christ. We had a long and exhausting but incredibly informative tour of Tunis, the capitol and main port of Tunisia in North Africa. Today it was the very large Italian island of Sardinia where we had a less than enthusiastic guide which we bailed on halfway through the tour.
It was at that point that we went from tourist to travelers.
Several months ago I saw a post from, of all people, Ashton Kutcher. It was simple vignettes of the difference of being a tourist or a traveler. I think there is even a #touristortraveler hashtag out there.
To be honest a couple stung a little bit; the purchase of souvenirs, being in controlled and sanitary environments, and most of all maybe the necessity of having the electronics at hand —which by the way i’m communicating on right now, so….
Both Cynthia and I are fairly experienced travelers and I don’t really take the idea of being tourists as a compliment. Not that its a bad thing but I know there is the idea of the “ugly Americans” (which we’ve met a few) that we want to shake.
But there are several of the traveler charachteristics that we pretty well nail. Both Cynthia and I love to be off the beaten path. Although in Tunisia and again in Algeria tomorrow we will take no small comfort in being with a group. The photos that I take attempt to capture the beauty and personality of the places we visit. It’s less about making sure either of us is in the panorama.
As we broke away from the group today we were inside the castle at the top of the hill above the port of Cagliari. We meandered down the impossibly narrow cobblestone single-lane streets, beautiful multicolored facades rising on each side of us, dodging cars all the way. We would take a jog to the left then a little a veer the the right and down a set of steps then into an alley that even the cares couldn’t navigate. Truly letting whim and gravity guide us. No real idea of where we were going or any agenda in mind.
The road less traveled.
We found a great little coffee shop where no one spoke English and got a couple of lattes. We stopped at a little off-the-beaten-path shop and found a couple of unique things for my sister.
It was traveling, getting to know where we were and the people we met as well as spending time with each other. A favorite experience for us.
Again this reminds me of our relationship with God. I think He wants us more as travelers to Him, with Him; not tourists. Not to follow the crowd on Sunday, although important that is not how we get into relationship with Him. That’s tourist Christianity.
He wants us to KNOW Him. Find His nooks and crannies, learn His language, take your time.
Are you a tourist or a traveler??
I have been ambivalent about posting while Cynthia and I are on this trip; on the one hand I don’t want to seem like a braggart and say “Hey! look where we are going now!!” -not really my style, which you can discern from my lack of Facebook posts. Alternatively I have been repeatedly encouraged by the folks who actually open these emails; that they actually like what I write.
With that meager encouragement in mind I will share a few things from our stay at the Kakslauttanen resort in Finland.
This is the first leg in our Round the World (RTW) journey celebrating our 30 years of marriage.
It was selected because of the timing. Please know that neither Cynthia or myself would, in other circumstances, choose to go 250 kilometers above the Arctic Circle…in February. However, seeing the Northern Lights was at the top of both of our travel bucket lists.
The best viewing time for the aurora is through mid March (this was a robust year for the lights because of increased sun activity) and, well, Finland north of the Arctic Circle just sounded like an adventure, especially in a glass igloo.
As we landed in Ivalo, Finland and deplaned onto the tarmac, I noted two things, it was really cold (about 10F) and it was snowing. What a surprise; cold and snowing in the Arctic winter.
The website had promised approximately 1 out of 2 days of aurora viewing, not guaranteed mind you, but still we were undaunted.
Day two dawned with our reindeer sleigh ride with Gustov the reindeer and it was very sedate and enjoyable, and more snow. In a semi ironic twist of culinary fate we enjoyed reindeer filets that evening-they were delicious. I’m fairly certain this one was not named though.
Day 3, more snow. We spent most of our time in the igloo wondering if the clouds were ever going to lift. At the same time we were both grateful for the quiet.
Day 4: our final chance for the lights dawned with more snow and overcast. At this point we had decided that not seeing the lights wouldn’t mean the trip was a failure. We decided to go to the town nearby with the unpronounceable name (most of them here are). While we were enjoying our bear burger-also delicious- we noticed the sun peeking out of the clouds.
By the time we were finished the entire sky was clear and I just had a feeling…
While it was not going to be a deal breaker, we were both expectant and hopeful as this was going to be our only chance to witness this glorious phenomena.
We set our beds just so and waited expectantly. After 4 days of having to dress and bundle just to go have a meal or do anything outside we were rewarded when a soft column of light arose on the northern horizon. It grew and arced and rippled and faded and grew again, lasting for a couple of hours. It was quite grand. Not exactly as you see in the photos though, apparently the vibrancy of the colors you see in photographs is achieved through filters and lengthy exposures.
It still filled you with a sense of wonder and awe, it was quite dramatic. As Cynthia and I discussed the next day, it was absolutely worth it. It was worth it just to be together, one on one- no distractions, but seeing the Aurora made it all the more special.
In many ways this is like our relationship with God. We have this grand expectation, this desire of our heart, and we wait expectantly, patiently, sometimes not so patiently. When we finally give ourselves over to the idea that the joy is to be in relationship with God, one on one-no distractions, THATS when HE says, that was worth it.
I look forward to sharing more with you later in the trip.
Fifteen years ago I was doing a book study with my men’s small group on “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge. One of the ice breaking questions was: ” If you had 3 months and unlimited income, what would you do?” My answer came fairly quickly.
I would go around the world with my wife.
I mentioned this to Cynthia when I got home, and she quickly went through her mental calendar and calculated that in our 30th anniversary year, Hannah would be at college and both the boys would be finished with school and (hopefully) living their own lives. As if it were engraved in stone, and while we certainly didn’t have unlimited income, we began saving and praying.
This May marks our 30th anniversary! While planning, we have realized that it is logistically difficult to navigate a linear, around-the-world trip, so we have chosen to break it up into 6 to 7 bucket-list type trips over the next year or so. As you can imagine much excitement and anticipation have been present in our household.
I have heard told from a variety of people that 2016 was kind of a crappy year and they were glad it was over. Well, to be honest, 2017 has already kicked us in the teeth a few times. Two of my siblings are dealing with significant health issues and my other one just lost her husband unexpectedly.
I mentioned to my wife the old mantra, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” She reminded me that this is not actually Biblical. In fact, at times, God might give us more than we can handle so we have to rely on Him and can’t take credit for doing it on our own.
As such we have been relying on Him heavily and are feeling led to plan one of our trips to include Kenya to do a few water purification installations with Fountains of Hope, as well as again bring the message of hope from Revive and Restore Ministries; teaching women who they are in Christ as well as teaching leaders in Kenya how to present this message among themselves.
As always these are big, fun, challenging and stretching trips. They are full of laughter and new relationships, as well as sights and experiences most have never seen or had before. In short, ………
In addition to the great work and relationships we will forge, we are planning to take a couple of days trip to Masai Mara. The wildebeest will be migrating and we will have a chance to go to the place where they cross the river, you know, where the videos of them occasionally getting eaten by a crocodile are filmed. I told you it would be an adventure!
If you are interested in participating in this adventure in any way, (i.e. coming along, joining us in prayer, and/or helping financially, please get ahold of either Cynthia or myself. We look forward to hearing from you! firstname.lastname@example.org 317-506-0777 email@example.com 317-506-8488.
To be clear, we are trying to raise 18,000.00 which is ALL for ministry related expenses, NOT to help fund Cynthia’s and my bucket list. We already have one generous donor who has committed 6000.00 We are praying for some more.
The approximate dates are July 4-16th and the approximate cost is $2,999.00 to join us.
Adventure truly awaits!
This day dawned here as perfect as you can imaging; birds singing (less horns than usual blaring), 70 degrees, and only a whisper of breeze with wispy clouds in the sky. As this is our departure day, of course our thoughts are turned to reflection.
One of the common themes as we have said our goodbyes over the last couple of days is “please don’t leave”. Even the hotel owners are sorry to see us go. At the Dorothy home last night there were many tears as the girls sang us more songs and we had heartfelt words from Elias and some of the girls.
It was great to see the big chicken coup project that we helped seed was almost complete. It will be able to house up to 900 chickens and is another step to self- sufficiency for the Dorothy Home.
Fearless co-leaders surveying the savannah
– Brian McCall