Saturday evenings at home are preparation for the Sabbath, and once all is ready for Sunday Mike likes to spend the final hour of his day soaking in a warm tub thinking through his message for the next morning.
So Saturday nights in Turkey are no exception. By God’s grace, the most unique hotel we’ve been blessed with in Turkey was in Pamukkale this past weekend. Pamukkale is often featured in travel brochures for its famous white travertine cliffs, and our hotel was built over a natural hot spring where Turks have come for centuries to benefit from what they believe are the restorative properties of the mud and mineral water there.
Sounds funny but it’s true: Mike sat in the lovely warm yellow mud this past Saturday night and thought of what he would share with our congregation if he were teaching the following morning. These are some of the themes he was musing about that have emerged so far from our Turkish education:
Everything old becomes new again. Mike has recorded many photos of plants blooming in the crevices of ancient ruins – green tendrils of life springing up around cracked Corinthian columns, purple thistles as tall as a man, coral-colored anemones thriving in the most unlikely places. We think of the two churches back home that we’ve been privileged to serve in the past 21 years – Osterville Baptist on the Cape and FBC Wheaton. Between them, these vibrant fellowships have thrived for over 300 years. Each has preserved memories of their founding in the 1800’s, yet they’ve not parked themselves in the 19th century but have moved on to meet the needs of God’s children today.
Wait a (historical) minute, and things will change. It’s easy to get agitated about politics and the antics of newsmakers because they dramatically affect our daily lives. But when you view current events through the lens of ancient history, you realize that today’s politicians and trendsetters will very soon pass away. How many Americans can name all 44 presidents? Fourth-graders maybe. The rest of us don’t even remember all their names. Nothing will last forever except for Christ, His Kingdom, and the immortal souls of people.
Technology has been a blessing and a curse. In the 21st century we can work at an impossibly rapid rate, but western culture in particular lacks the patience that we see exhibited each day in the lands where the Word was written.
Mike and I are grateful for computer technology in particular. I’m typing his thoughts on a laptop, after all, and the tiny webcam on this Toshiba netbook provided the great satisfaction last week of sharing our oldest son Adam’s 28th birthday with him. From 8,000 miles away, we were able to watch Adam open our gift in his apartment in California, and he carried his laptop over to the frig to proudly display the layer cake his beautiful wife Liz baked for him. Without Skype and this little three pound piece of metal and microprocessors, we would have missed the fun. For two people who didn’t even own typewriters in college, this is amazing. A blessing.
But we see the dark side, too; it’s a discipline to relax when technology makes it possible to work 24/7. If the ancient world had computers, would they have had the patience to carve pillars that would last for thousands of years? The other night we watched a Turkish woman hand-weaving a woolen rug which will take months to complete. She’ll never finish if she’s tempted to check her Facebook account as often as I do!
So, is it true that everything old will become new again? Civilizations collapse, crumble, decay. Governments fall and new ones can rise in a day. But there is one thing that will last forever: the human soul. Yours, mine, our neighbors’. No one who once is ever truly ceases to be.
“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said. “Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” John 11: 25-26