the landscape of Greece is quite mesmerizing. diverse in elevation and foliage, i found myself stunned by the many cliffs that plunged upwards towards the sky, as well as the water that sparkled so cleanly under the sun.
the pictures above are all views from Kavala, one of the picturesque waterfront towns that i visited today.
i have discovered a strong affinity for frappe. Greek coffee not at all similar to the Starbucks version, it is created with a foamy top. Alp explained that if there is no foam, the coffee has been ruined. the foam denotes an absence of bitterness. most take it with light sugar, no milk. i take it with no sugar, milk. it has one very large ice cube in it. each time i request my frappe without sugar, the individual behind the counter does a double take. “no sugar?” “yes, no sugar.” “you are sure? no sugar?” i nod. “no sugar.”
i make up for the lack of sugar in my coffee by eating things like baklava and pastries and chocolate.
onwards to Philippi, where Paul started a church that boasted the first baptized European convert: a woman named Lydia.
this woman is mentioned in the Bible, in the book of Acts, chapter 16, verses 11-15.
[one who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God.
the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. and after she was baptized.
i sat next to the river and wrote emphatically in my journal, very enthusiastic about two things:
1. Lydia was a woman. i know that sounds simplistic, but to me it is very significant. in an era in which women were not allowed to be legal citizens and were considered to be of lesser importance, it’s very evident that Jesus does not hold this to be true. women matter greatly throughout the story of the Bible, and Paul baptized the first member of his church . . . a woman . . . in recognition of this.
2. Lydia was a maker of purple cloth. that means she was a businesswoman, and she was creative. i like that Paul spoke of eternal matters with a woman who was independent and an artist. and, she got it. i think that Lydia and i would’ve been friends.
not far from the site of Lydia’s church lay the ancient ruins of Philippi.
perhaps after seeing so many powerful ancient cities reduced to ruins, i should be getting used to it. but i haven’t.
[it rained briefly, and felt like home. except for the stifling hot humidity before and after]
[i realized that i haven’t gotten any humans in my photos. here is one purposefully taken with lots of people from my trip in it.
solid, kindhearted people. i like all of them]
[many thanks for my friend Amy for taking this photo of me]
one of the conversations that i had with Maria, our guide, centered around earthquakes.
some of you may know the story:
Paul and Silas [his traveling buddy] were hanging out in Philippi [Macedonia it’s called as well] and there was a slave girl who was possessed. she requested healing and Paul prayed over her. God set her free! but her master was very unhappy. apparently he used her affiliation with the spiritual realm as his own personal crystal ball, making money off of others with her fortune-telling abilities.
because of this anger, he demanded that Paul and Silas be put into prison. and they were.
[experts are 90% certain that this is the prison Paul was held in.
it was a small hole hewn out of the side of the hill, and was about the size of a modern elevator]
while incarcerated in this tiny space, Paul and Silas began to sing. i’m sure they weren’t singing because they were stoked on their scenario, but out of simple joy in the goodness of God’s faithfulness. after all, they had just celebrated with Lydia and she got dunked in the river.
and then the earthquake hit.
Maria told me that earthquakes are common in the area. typically one or two each year, around 4 or so on the richter scale. once every two years, a bigger one hits, around 6 or 7 on the richter scale.
so not that uncommon.
but nonetheless, supernatural in this instance. Paul and Silas looked and the prison doors were opened [i’m guessing they weren’t actual doors, but some opening that was stopped by a “door” fashioned of rock or wood].
the jailer was stressed [obviously, he just failed at his job via natural disaster], and drew his sword to end it all, knowing that he would never be able to explain this one away. but Paul saw him and talked him down. he used some mighty impressive de-escalation skills to pray with his jailer, and he ended up deciding that Jesus was for him. oh, and he was baptized. and his whole family got on board.
Paul simply spoke the truth: Jesus really is quite revolutionary.
eventually, Paul was kindly requested by scary military dudes to leave the city. he said goodbye to Lydia and left.
[this whole story can be found in the Bible, in the book of Acts, chapter 16 verses 16-40].
compelling, isn’t it. the city of Philippi fell victim to several large earthquakes, eventually succumbing to a massive one which led to the entire city being abandoned.
the power that can set free also has the ability to destroy.
[not to get too deep . . . but i spent about 10 journal pages reflecting on this concept as it relates to my own life].
the Bible is coming to life before my eyes as i walk around Greece. ancient history suddenly has life and breath and a pulse.
before dinner, i walked through an ornate cathedral in downtown Thessaloniki. finding a seat, the service began with tonal chanting in a language i desperately wish i could understand. candles were lit and seats were sparsely filled. i closed my eyes and opened my ears, sinking into a meditative state.
despite the fact that i could not actively participate in the service mentally, i found myself spiritually enraptured.
with my eyes closed, i could hear the resounding acoustics of the chanting words swirling around me. my heartbeat quickened in my ears as i prayed, recognizing that the beauty of this place was a facsimile, however small, of the immense glory of God.
[photos always fail to capture the true essence of places like this]
it is 10:30am and i am sitting in the Thessaloniki airport, waiting for my flight to Rome by way of Athens.
it’s morning here, so it’s the middle of the night for all my lovely people back in the Seattle area. i hope that you are sleeping well.
the trio of British men [approximately the ages of my father] sitting nearby are providing endless entertainment. they are laughing at each other’s comments in a way that causes me to grin widely, which might look odd as i am simply tapping away on my keyboard.
i hope you have a lovely Wednesday! talk to you soon.