For he shall not often reflect on the days of his life; because God occupies him with the joy of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:20 WEB)
Growing up in the USA I enjoyed reading about foreign lands. In particular I was fascinated with Europe and castles. Knights, dragons, kings, queens and even serfs garnered my interest and curiosity. However, I never figured I would never have a chance to visit, much less live in, Europe. I was wrong. My first experience in Europe was the result of a test run to meet my prospective new supervisor and consider a transfer from Guam to the continent.
After thirteen years in the tropics the thought of spending three weeks in the cold north brought shivers to my heart. I was scheduled to fly to Vienna and from there help with an installation project in Central Asia. The staff in Austria told me winter was arriving so I might need warm clothes.
I purchased some warm boots from Wal Mart, and dug through my closet for long sleeves shirts and a jacket. None were found. I brought my plight to my colleagues. Fortunately a recent arrival on the island offered his jacket to keep me warm and another offered a couple long sleeve shirts.
A hodge podge of clothes filled my suitcase as I headed through the USA to Europe for a new experience. Dropped into Austria, knowing only two words of German, I was on my own the first day to forage for food and get my bearings. Since I arrived on Saturday and everything closed at noon I had plenty of time to wander through the little town of Perchtoldsdorf.
Wandering by a 14th century church and tower, from the time of a Turkish invasion, and visiting the local park was relaxing. I was too uncertain to venture into the local restaurants. Without an understanding of food names, numbers or even civil greetings I kept to myself and ate some pretzels from a local shop.
The next day a couple from the mission picked me up at the hotel and took me to church. I was treated to an English church service. Lunch in their apartment was followed by another walk about Perchtoldsdorf.
The streets, buildings and sights were something right out of a history book or a travel documentary. Everything looked old. Everything was old! In fact, most of the impressive structures dated back before the US was even a fledgling colony of England.
Next, we drove a few kilometers to the area of Mödling. Winding our way, on the edge of town, we entered a park surrounding my first castle. There before my eyes was a dream come true. It was my first sight of Liechtenstein Castle.
It was spectacular! Built on top of a rock outcropping and rising majestically, it sported turrets, stone balconies and guard towers. My imagination ran wild. I never thought I would visit anything like this in my life, much less look forward to living nearby.
I walked about the walls touching them now and again to be sure it wasn’t a dream. Eric thought I was a bit touched myself. Since it was late in the year the castle was closed to visitors. After moving to Austria I learned most castles were closed from November until Easter because of the winter season. But that day it didn’t matter because the castle was there, I could touch it, I could conjure up tales of knights, ladies and battles. I could stand and look out over the valley below as many others did years before I arrived.
From the base of the castle we had a beautiful view of the Vienna valley. Later, after we moved to an apartment nearby, I would enter the castle, climb to the highest turret and enjoy an even larger view of the plains to the East and the Vienna Woods to the west.
My collection of photos of the castle has grown over the years. My wife and I affectionately refer to it is “our” castle. Living only five minute away from “our” castle we enjoy taking our guests for a visit. Over the years we’ve visit many castles in Austria and surrounding countries.
Each time I visit a new castle I am again amazed at the uniqueness of the individual structures. Reading the history of the rulers, owners, and peasants, fascinates me with each new castle. Each new story reveals some way these magnificent structures played a part in my life by shaping history.
Unfortunately I can’t say the same eagerness always existed when I opened the Word of God. It should have. Each Biblical visit revealed some new facet of God and his work in my life. Every page opened new visions of eternity and God’s grace. When I take time to look, consider and appreciate God’s revelation I am always amazed.
Now, when I read of God’s care and interaction with his creation, if I am tempted to rush to get through with the passage I stop and think. What is new, what is fascinating, how does it relate to my life or those I know personally or the world in general. Then as God speaks through the Word I am encouraged, strengthened and brought closer to the throne of grace.
Maybe we all need to visit a castle or two, or some other place which fascinates us and encourages our imagination. Then, our minds can reflect on the reality of God’s Word and the work of the Spirit in our lives today.