Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Image (left side): Decorative urn with title for the book of Acts in Codex Alexandrinus.
I took this photo Sunday after church of me with my friend Bonnie Beach. It was twenty years ago this summer that I first met Bonnie Beach. We worked together for 13 of those years. She taught my oldest daughter Hannah in preschool and later became my ministry assistant when I served an SBC church in Charlottesville. She now does the bulletin each week at CRBC as part of her member duties. Bonnie has been a blessing to me and my family in many ways (not the least of which is that she takes care of our dog when we're out of town!). She is a kind and generous friend with a servant's heart who has been like a sister to me. We also greatly appreciate her husband John, a graduate, as he tells it, of O.I.C. and the school of hard knocks, who's always been ready to lend me a hand when I've needed his expert counsel for home projects. I am blessed and thankful.
For God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Jesus begins, “For God so loved….”
God. This is the God of the Bible. The God of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob. The jealous God who will not yield his glory to another. The God who
in the beginning made the heaven and the earth. This is not some amorphous God,
some life force. This is Jehovah.
So. This is the adverb houto.
I think there is a natural tendency to take the English word in the sense of
“so much” or “to such a great degree.” We get the picture of love overflowing
from God’s heart. But the word can also mean, “in such a manner” or “in such a
Loved. The verb here is agapaomai,
from the noun agape. This is the
distinct word for Christian love. It can describe the love a Christian husband
is to have for his wife (cf. Eph 5:25). It is the word Paul uses in his great
love chapter: 1 Corinthians 13, when he says that love suffers long (is
patient), is kind, does not envy, does not vaunt itself, is not puffed up, does
not behave unseemly, does not seek its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no
evil, does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth (vv. 4-6). This is
the word Jesus uses in the new commandment, when he tells the disciples to love
one another and the term John uses when he says, “Beloved, let us love one
another….” (1 John 4:7-8). God is himself love. He is the definition of love,
the standard of love.
The God of the Bible is a God of love. We sometimes criticize
mushy-gushy evangelicals for talking of God’s love and not his wrath, but we
can become just as unbalanced if we speak only of his wrath and neglect his
After breakfast we took a walk through Kostopil, taking in
the local scenes. Many of the houses are neat and colorful. I observed that
Eastern Europeans have distinct aesthetic sensibilities that do not necessarily
match up with Western ones, especially with regard to symmetry and color
schemes. The houses do not have grass yards, but vegetable patches, fruit
trees, and flower gardens. This perpetuates a tradition from the Soviet era (or
beyond) when home food production was a necessity.
Images: Houses in Kostopil.
We took a tour of Hannah’s school (Number 6). Like many
schools, it has undergone a summer cleaning and the rooms were covered with a fresh
coat of paint. The lobby had patriotic pictures of students with arms and dressed
in camo, as well as a memorial to the 2014 uprising.
Images: Inside School No. 6, Kostopil.
We caught a bus to the city center where we had lunch at
Hannah’s favorite pizza place, visited the central Orthodox church, and did
some shopping for her apartment. After supper, we walked back to the city
center, strolled by the river and then got some ice cream. The town center has
a monument to the Ukranian poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861). Hannah says this
is the norm in each Ukrainian town. It is busy on a warm Friday night with
young folk and families milling about, sitting on park benches, talking, socializing,
and eating ice cream. We ran into and chatted with a young family from Hannah’s
church. By late evening we were back at her apartment where I did some work on
fall semester class syllabi and Llew and Hannah watched a movie online.
Image: the Shevchenko memorial in central Kostopil.
Saturday, August 12
After breakfast we caught a bus to the outskirts of town to
the “quarry” a local swimming hole. It was hot and scores of others had the
same idea. Just about every space on the “beach” was filled. We met a young Christian
couple and their children, who heard us speaking English. She is a Polish
teacher and he works in an evangelical men’s rehab ministry for recovering
alcoholics. Sweet people. They gave us a ride back to town in their van.
Image: At the quarry.
After a shower we walked over to meet and have tea with
the host family with whom Hannah lived when she first moved to town.
Image: With Hannah's host family, Kostopil.
Ukraine is seven hours ahead of east coast time. By the time
we got back to Hannah’s apartment that evening and checked our email and the web
we discovered the riots and violence that had transpired in Charlottesville
that day. Sad.
Sunday, August 13
We headed into town early and walked through the outdoors
bazaar, where everything seemed to be for sale, from clothes, to food, to
flowers, to used power-tools. In conversation with some locals at church later that
day I learned the bazaar had been going for about 10 years and did not operate
in the communist era.
Images: Passing through the bazaar on our way to church.
From there we went over to the river where Hannah’s church, Word
of Life Baptist Church, was holding its annual baptism service. The service
last from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm. 21 persons were baptized and the Lord’s Supper
was served. I was asked to give a greeting, so I offered a few words from
Hebrews 13:1-2, 24-25. My message was interpreted by the pastor’s wife, nine
months pregnant, and who had begun having contractions that morning. After
service a tasty lunch was served to the assembly which had been catered by a
man from Belarus, and fellowship ensued. We got to meet many of Hannah’s
friends and some of her students from the school and English clubs. I was also
approached by a man (not a church member) who is part of an anti-Russia militia
who wanted to talk politics. He told me he had talked on skype once with
Senator McCain. With the pastor’s translation help, I tried to talk to him
about Christians loving their nations but having their true citizenship in
heaven. He did not seem much interested. An older woman named Alexandra, also
not a believer, approached and asked me to pray for her as she suffers with
breast cancer. I did.
Images: Scenes from Sunday baptismal service.
We got back to Hannah’s apartment about 4:00 pm, packed out bags
and caught a bus to the city of Lviv. This is a beautiful city, formerly
Polish, and largely untouched by damage in WW2. We checked into our hostel and
walked to the city center where we grabbed supper at a patio restaurant that
served breakfast food. It was downright chilly, but they provided blankets for
patrons. The English menu was confusing. I ordered a drip coffee but it came in
a wine glass so I got a cappuccino instead. Llew ordered “hot chocolate” which turned
out to be a cup of hot chocolate sauce. It was delicious!
Images: Sunday evening at the hostel and restaurant in Lviv.
Monday, August 14
We had breakfast at the Lviv branch of Lviv Croissants and
explored the central square, including the Opera House and the Shevchenko
statue, before catching tram Number 9 to the train station and taking the noon
train to Krakow, Poland. We reached Krakow around 6:00 pm. At the border
crossing you could see a near immediate difference in tidiness and orderliness
on the Polish side.
Image: Shevchenko memorial, Lviv.
Image: Opera House, Lviv.
From the train station, we took a ten-minute walk to our
hostel, dropped off our bags in our room, and took a ten-minute walk up
Copernicus Street to the city center.
The first thing we encountered in the city square was a festive
crowd, a blast of music from a stage, and the sights and smells drifting
from scores of pierogi stands. Yes, it was the annual pierogi festival. We
loaded up with meat, potato, cabbage, as well as chocolate banana, strawberry,
and raspberry-honey pierogis. Tasty! From there we walked through the square,
taking in the sites, people-watching, and sites. By the fountain, we listened to
the famed trumpet tune with the closing broken note from the towers of the
church of St. Mary. We headed back to our hostel about 10:00 pm to go to bed.
Images: Pierogi festival, central Krakow.
Image: Towers of St. Mary's church, Krakow.
Tuesday, August 15
Before we arrived, we did not know that August 15 was a major
holiday in Poland, the feast of Mary’s Assumption. Though most of the country
was closed, Krakow’s city center was open and lively.
We met an English walking tour group at the Barbican, the old
fortified gateway to the city, for a two and a half hour tour of the old city.
Our guide, a young, out-of-work history teacher did a nice job.
He pointed out that Poland was founded in 966 and Krakow in 1257. The Germans occupied Krakow, which had a significant German population, in WW2 and did some redesigns to the city center. The city was spared destruction in the war and retains many of its medieval streets and buildings.
We walked from the Barbican back through the square. The guide told us the story of the trumpeter of Krakow, having been hit by an enemy arrow as he played a warning note, was a legend created by American author Eric Kelly in his 1929 Newberry award winning children’s book, though the hourly trumpet call was indeed a tradition from the middle ages to report fires, attacks, etc.
The guide took us by the cloth hall and pointed out the knife posted over the entrance to warn thieves of the consequences of stealing.
From there we walked to the Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364, the oldest university in Poland. Noteworthy alumni include Copernicus (1473-1543) and Pope John Paul II (1920-2005). We watched the clock with moving figures in the university courtyard and then walked through the “professors’ garden” with memorials to various teachers, including a number who were sent to concentration camps during the Nazi occupation of the city. From there we walked to the Copernicus statue and then through the park past the “pope’s window” where JP2 greeted crowds who gathered to see him when he visited Krakow in the communist era. The guide told us that there are over a 1,000 monuments to JP2 in Poland and over 30 in Krakow.
From there we walked to the baroque church of Peter and Paul, alongside the church of St. Andrew, the oldest in Krakow. Then, it was up the oldest medieval street in Europe to the castle hill, where we explored the castle complex, palaces, and cathedral, ending the tour at an overlook over the Vistula River.
Image: Gathering for the walking tour at the Barbicon.
Image: The knifc suspended over the entrance to the cloth hall.
Image: In the couryard of Poland's oldest university.
Image: Copernicus statue.
Image: The "Pope" window, Krakow.
Image: Up the medieval street to the castle.
Image: The cathedral in the castle complex.
Image: A memorial to JP2.
Image: Overlooking the Vistula River.
From there we had lunch at a restaurant in the castle area
and walked back through the city. At a bookstore, I picked up a copy of
dissident philosopher Leskek Kolakowski’s selected essays Is God Happy? We got ice cream, toured St. Mary’s church, shopped,
and took in more sites in the city center. We ended the day with supper at a
Lebanese restaurant on the square and then walked to the train station where we
caught a 10:00 pm overnight train back to Lviv, spending the night in a triple
bunk sleeper cabin, awoken at the border to check out passports.
Image: On the train back to Lviv.
Wednesday, August 16
We reached Lviv at c. 7 am, stored our bags in a train
station locker and took bus 31 into the city center (the ride cost 4 UH). We
toured the Latin Cathedral (Polish church) before sitting down for a great
breakfast at one of Hannah’s favorite cafes. From there we went to the city
center to join an English walking tour. We got started with the tour but
dropped out after about an hour to explore on our own. We watched a Ukranian
team filming a musical scene in the town hall square. We watched the Lviv
trumpeter play his tune from the city hall (a tradition begun in 2011, probably
borrowed from Krakow,, but not a bad tourish ploy!) and then payed 20 UH to
climb to the top of the city hall building for spectacular views of the city.
On the way down we ran into one of Hannah’s students from Kostopil and her
mother. We noted a display by the city hall noting the 500th
anniversary of the Reformation. From there we toured an amazing coffee company
where coffee is ground and packaged on site and donned helmets to explore its
cavernous underground where coffee is served and prepared with torch flames.
Then it was on to a chocolate company where we each picked a few pieces of chocolate
(mango was so good!) and climbed to the roof top tables to enjoy our purchases.
Lviv is a great city to visit. I predict it will be a major tourist destination
of Americans/Westerners once things settle down in Ukraine.
Images: Scenes in Lviv.
From there we visited an outdoor marketplace and then an outdoor
bookmarket. We had a late afternoon meal at a Georgian restaurant before
heading back to the train station to retrieve our bags and board an overnight
train to Kiev.
Images: The Lviv outdoorbook market with Putin "momentos"
Thursday, August 17
We arrived in Kiev at c. 4 am and took a half hour cab ride to
the airport, checked our luggage, said our farewells to Hannah, and entered
security to catch our 7 am plane to Vienna. It was sad to part from Hannah, but
we had had a great time and are proud of what she was been able to do and
accomplish in Ukraine, a country she now loves. We will see her back stateside
soon. From Vienna we headed to Zurich and from there to Washington, Dulles. Our
plane landed an hour early at 2:30 pm at Dulles. Hard to believe we had started
the day arriving on a train in Kiev. The other Riddle children met us at the
airport and we were back home to North Garden by 6:00 pm.
Image: In the Kiev airport: "We meet to part, but part to meet"