Thursday, August 19, 2010


This weekend my son, Andrew, is visiting Istanbul (photograph borrowed from the Internet). If you've never been, it's one of those transcendent places that should be on everyone's bucket list.

I last visited "Constantinople" in 1975, part of a month-long tour of Turkey. As we crossed the Bosphorus, spanning Europe and Asia, the ancient city made an indelible impression that I've never forgotten. The experience may have been 35 years ago, but I remember the moment vividly

I was on a decrepit bus with 37 others. We toured Europe, Turkey and Israel over three months, including a few weeks behind the iron curtain (Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia and the U.S.S.R). It was the "field trip" portion of a Bible-school I attended in the U.K. (At right, Andrew).

We had participants from England, Ireland, the USA, Scandinavia, South Africa and India. There were some curious dynamics at play that made for some bizarre circumstances, including leadership that verged on the dictatorial and some religious extremism. But the experience helped me to clarify my own faith, and I made some lasting friendships that literally changed the course of my life...

... And the places we saw! How I wish that I'd been a photographer back then.

The history in Istanbul is amazing, with distinctive architecture and stories from centuries of cultural upheaval. Early Christianity, Constantine, "Christian" empire, Crusades, Islam, Ottomans, Turks.... Istanbul is not just a city where "East meets West", it's the historical fault line where religious and cultural tectonic plates grate incessantly, causing seismic upheaval and tremors felt throughout the globe.

So what?
So here's my point, and it's especially directed to my North American readers. Know your world; understand its history; think things through; don't fall into the trap of isolationism or fail to understand the currents that run deep through history.

You don't contain a volcano by plugging up the hole where an eruption is either pending or spent. There's a vast ocean of highly pressurized magma down there, and it simply won't go away.

Likewise, you don't build a new city on top of a caldera and then dare the earth to move.

Enjoy Istanbul, Andrew. And, friends, let's open ourselves out to learn more about this amazing world and the people who share it with us. I don't know about you, but I still have much to learn.

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