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How to Not Look Like an American Tourist in Europe

My sister on a Belgian parkbench

I don’t really like being a tourist. At least I try to avoid the term, even if I am travelling and taking pictures of commonly visited sights in foreign countries. I guess the main thing is that I want to experience the culture more, speak the language, and get deeper than the superficial experience enjoyed by most other tourists. So when I went to Europe, I naturally wanted to try to blend in as much as I could. I did some preparation before the trip, but much of what I now know I discovered in my travels. If you are planning to go to Europe and you too want to avoid looking like a tourist, this post is for you! Here are some things that I’ve learned: Read More

The Last Mile of the Way

You never know when you’ll see someone for the last time. When Mr. Fred Russell squeezed my hand a month ago at Southern Oaks Assisted Living and said “Now, don’t forget to come back!”, I had no idea that it was the last time we would see each other in this life. Today as I sat among his friends and family at his funeral, I couldn’t help but think of things I wish I could have told him before he left: how much he meant to me, what a great example of Christian love he was, etc. I wish I had taken time to get to know him better—as it was, I only learned about his younger days when I read his obituary, and realized that he and I had a love of camping in common.

But as much as I will miss brother Fred, and as much as I wish I had done more while he was still here, I am not sad. As the preacher remarked at the funeral, “He was a Christian, and you can’t top that!” Even though he’s finished the last mile of the way, he was faithful in his life, and by the grace of God he will receive his reward, and I will see him again.

Even though we can be certain about our reception after death, life is still uncertain, and no one knows when it will end. I don’t mean to be morbid, but each interaction with a person may be your last. Knowing that, shouldn’t we be more encouraging, more loving, more focused on others? Encouragement is not something that should be put off. Opportunities come and go, and some may make an eternal difference. Also, I believe that every interaction either brings people closer to God or pulls them away, even if in the slightest degree. That’s something I want to try to keep in the forefront of my mind, so that I can try to do better to make sure my life does bring people closer to God.

We only have so much time allotted to us, but opportunities abound. Let’s take advantage of them before they slip away.

Walk in Integrity

“John could hardly believe what just happened, but there was the evidence right in front of him: where before he had just had one copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, now there were two, exactly identical. He picked up the second volume and paged through it, noticing that it contained the exact words that he had just finished reading in the first book—every line, every page number, every chapter heading was exactly the same! He had bought the first book at a store just the day before, and had finished it that afternoon. And how did he come by this second copy, you ask? Why, he simply uttered Geminio! and it appeared. He tried it again, and there lay on his desk three identical copies of his favourite book. ‘I’ll try once more,’ he whispered, and after saying that magical word, he then had four of the same book.

“You can scarcely imagine how overjoyed this boy was at his new discovery. Not only did he learn that he had magical powers, but now he could share with his friends this book that he had found so much delight in! He gave the three surplus copies to his closest friends, Harold, Jean, and Frederick, but it wasn’t long before all his schoolmates learned of his power in duplication, and had requested copies of their own. But how great was their astonishment when they took their new Harry Potter books home and found that they, too, possessed that same spell-casting ability! Before long these magically-produced books were spreading like an epidemic, and book publishers began wondering if things weren’t getting a little out of hand…”

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From Ailenroc’s Book, by Cornelia Alexander

A poor stonecutter, at his work one day,
Was grieved to see a rich man pass that way—
A rich man, in his costly garments dressed,
His proud heart beating ‘neath a silken vest.
“O, would that I were rich!” the poor man said,
“That I might take my ease on silken bed,
Or walk abroad in garments soft and fine,
And menial labor nevermore be mine.”
An angel heard him, and, in pity true,
Said: “Thus it shall be granted unto you.”

Joy thrilled his heart. A rich man now was he;
His gloating eyes his grand possessions see.
In ‘broidered, silken robes his limbs he dressed;
On soft and perfumed couch he took his rest;
But—lo!—on looking forth one balmy day,
He saw the mighty emperor pass that way,
The haughty ruler of a goodly land,
Whose word was law, whose nod a high command;
Slaves ran to wait on him at beck and call,
And held aloft the golden parasol.
“Ah!” said the man, and spurned his silken bed,
“I would that I were emperor, that o’er my head
That great and golden parasol be spread.”
While yet he breathed his bold, aspiring prayer,
“Thy wish is granted,” echoed in the air.
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Thought for the Day

Today was a singing day in chapel, something that I really enjoy and wish were done more often. A song was led that I had never before heard, number 320 in Praise for the Lord: “If I Have Wounded Any Soul.” It is a song in the form of a prayer, and is asking for forgiveness of sins. The first two verses ask forgiveness for various sins that may have been committed unwittingly:

If I have wounded any soul today
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way,
Dear Lord, forgive.

As I sang, reading the words and music and directing this prayer towards God, I was somewhat surprised when we came to verse three. The first line made sense, but at first I was puzzled by the second line until it was further explained by the third:

If I have been perverse or hard or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in Thy fold,
When Thou hast given me some fort to hold,
Dear Lord, forgive.

It is not inherently wrong to long for eternity with God, but I believe the song is speaking of those times that we become frustrated with our terrestrial existence and would rather forsake the spiritual work given to us and fly away home before it’s time.

Thinking about this makes me think of an analogy that could be made with finals week. Only one more week remains before school is out for Christmas break, but despite this it has been difficult for me to find motivation to study and work on my projects, since I am longing for it all to be over with already. Although it is unlikely in my case, it is possible that with that mindset, one could neglect their studies in the final weeks of the semester and end up with less-than-satisfactory grades because they spent too much time dreaming about the bliss of Christmas break.

Likewise, if we spend all our time here on earth daydreaming about how beautiful heaven must be, we may not even get there because we neglected to do those things that God has given us to do in order to attain our goal.

So, this is the thought for the day: Let’s get to work! Heaven will certainly be wonderful, and let’s be sure that we are servants and laborers on this earth so that we can enjoy that grandeur someday.