European Sampler

Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2022

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By Larry Davies

If you want to see as much of Europe as you can in one trip then read on but if you want to savor the rich experience of immersing yourself in another culture, you may want to skip this column.

Mell and I signed up for a trip package called “European Sampler” and sample we did. Ten days, five Countries, six hotels, 1700 miles by bus and high-speed train, six scenic boat rides, five cultural enrichment meals and approximately 25 to 35 events or stops that allowed just enough time to walk through, say “Wow!” take a picture and get back on the bus. Whew!

Our guide, previously trained as a marine drill sergeant, spoke at least five languages but the words that stuck with me were all in very clear English: Hurry, Hurry! We stop for 20 minutes! The bathrooms are over there, straight on, straight on!

And if you think COVID has gone away, think again. Virtually everyone on the bus was coughing or sneezing and to top it all off, Mell tested positive for COVID and came home sick. Not a pleasant memento but that is the reality of living in the year 2022.

Despite everything, this was the trip of a lifetime, and we feel blessed for the opportunity. Being novice travelers, we wanted a tour where our only obligation was getting there, knowing what time to get on the bus and coming home, so this was our chance to see and experience Europe.

So, what were the highlights?

In the Netherlands, we explored a windmill and saw the carving of wooden shoes. In Germany, there was a boat ride on the Rhine River, featuring castles which once served as toll booths. In Switzerland, we ventured a cable car ride to the top of Mount Pilatus and enjoyed a Swiss dinner which included an interactive and lively show. In France, there was the palace of Versailles and a visit to the Louvre. In Great Britain, we enjoyed dinner in a pub and a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral where we saw an exhibit honoring US servicemen who served in World War II.

Throughout the 10 days, we were led by a knowledgeable and caring guide, a skillful bus driver and surrounded by fellow riders from throughout the United States and Canada. We shared stories, family pictures and endured a few setbacks all with grace and humor. Along the way we collected at least 50 refrigerator magnets, several Christmas ornaments, hundreds of pictures, a cuckoo clock, a few illustrated books, and lots and lots of chocolate treats.

All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to see and enjoy God’s various lands and cultures and at the same time receive needed rest. Psalm 116 – “Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me.” (vs. 7)

Sometimes, you just have to rest!

I know what you’re thinking, “Being a minister is serious business!” Yes it is. I’m often exposed to the most sensitive and tragic moments in a person’s life. Often, when there is an illness, death or marital dispute, I receive the call to listen and offer the wisdom and comfort of God’s presence. 

But over the years, I have struggled with allowing myself the opportunity to rest and suffered for it. God has a wonderful sense of timing and God’s creatures were created to rest as well as work. Even God rested on the seventh day of creation and called it good.  

This is what I’ve learned about rest: Rest can calm your fears. Rest can restore your hope. Rest can ease your pain. Rest can strengthen your resolve. Rest can refocus your energy.

So, whether you take a European Sampler or stay home and take a nap. The ability to rest and recharge your batteries could be an important step for your health, for restoring your relationships with family and friends and especially for restoring your relationship with God.

Now, I need to figure out what to do with 50 refrigerator magnets!