Come to Athens...!
Another highlight on this trip for me was Greece. We started in Thessoloniki, which was not as beautiful as we had hoped. It's a crowded, busy city and after traveling on two night trains I was just wanted a shower and some peace and quiet. This was not what I had pictured Greece to be like. But we found a hostel and got cleaned up. I would describe the shower as intersting. Four floors down in the basement behind a cell-like padlocked door, you would find the concrete stalls marked "boys <--" and "girls -->." I locked the door behind me. I will say that there were time slots for hot water, but I missed them. Anyway, we ate at Applebees that night, for a taste of home because we wanted good food and we were really feeling ready to go home.
The most exciting part about our beloved Thessoloniki, which John Slott and Will and Mom will find interesting, was backgammon. There was this cool cafe just outside our hostel called The Playroom. In exchange for your ID, you could borrow a backgammon board, Uno cards, etc. Since it rained all the next day, we spent many, many hours playing. Ok, but I really do need some coaching because my win/loss percentages were sorry, and Jeremy can't be that hard to beat... John?
After checking the weather and attempting to escape the rain we boarded a train to Athens. We went there on a last minute whim, even though it was in the opposite direction from our flight out only a few days later. Upon arriving, we learned that all the historic sites in the city were free. Athens showed us warm hospitality in this way! I think Jeremy took at least 100 pictures of every ancient ruin we could find. First we climbed up to the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon. From there we made the rounds to Socrate's cell, a lookout over the city and the sea, the market, the Olympic Stadium, and--after much scruitiny over the map--the Aeropagus, where Paul made his speech to the people of Athens.
That speech was one thing that I mulled over in my mind thoughout the day.
Acts 17: 24-28,
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man, he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determinted the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being."
As I considered the ruins of these ancient temples, the graduer of the pillars and style of the sculputres, I thought of Paul's words, the God of heaven does not live in temples built by hands. The people of Athens throughout history tried to serve their gods, to build great places for them to live, so that they could be near to them. But Paul contrasts God to their gods, telling them, first of all, that there's one God, the creator of heaven and earth. Then he presents the reality of God's presence--He plans every aspect of our lives, so that we will realize how near He actually is to each one of us. The Athenians were trying to get their false gods close to them, Paul explains how much greater God is and how close He is, how much He wants us to reach out to Him. God is good. No other divine being that people have ever made up could compare to Him. He is all powerful yet loves without measure. He is just and merciful. He never gives up on us. He is faithful and true.
And He gives good gifts to His kids, let me explain. The next day we decided to take a half hour ferry ride out to one of the islands. On the way out, we met these two couples from Califonia. They had been to this island before and were going to rent scooters to buzz around. Before we knew it, they handed Jeremy 40 Euros (about US$50), so that we could rent scooters and have a few left over to get something to eat!! What a fun day on a beautiful island. I had never done anything like this before, and I loved it. As we sat there eating lunch by the Aegean Sea, I kept thinking to myself, "how did I get here?" "What am I doing here?" Definetly a good day, and a good time in Greece.