A visit to Paris was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. I wish I could share with you the ecstasy of being in the City of Love and enjoying crepes and gelato and beautiful architecture and art daily. The neighborhoods in Paris are themselves artistic. The food, impeccable. The people and resilient city are a joy to behold. And to do all this with my wife and daughter was a priceless experience.
“Paris has many nicknames, but its most famous is ‘La Ville-Lumière’ (literally, ‘The City of Light’), a name it owes both to its fame as a center of education and ideas as well as its early adoption of street lighting” reads the travel brochure description.
However, words don’t do the city of Paris justice. I have heard beautiful descriptions of the cathedrals, the museums, the quaint and attractive city streets and magnificent architecture, much of it bordering the Seine River. But the real thing surpassed my fondest expectations.
One of our excursions during our ten-day stay in the Paris was a visit to Versailles. The train ride was lovely yet uneventful, and the station is a short 5-minute walk to the chateau itself. I am so glad now that we decide to take this tour.
The Palace of Versailles is a royal château in the quaint little city and a short ride from Paris. Louis XIII came to Versailles for his first hunting trip. The palace was once the hunting lodge for the king but is now open as a museum and a very popular tourist attraction. Every luxury imaginable was used in abundance. No expense was spared both inside and out. They say that orange trees outline a myriad of formal gardens at Versailles, once the epicenter of French royal power. The Versailles gardens alone took 40 years to complete. These expressions showed a deep respect for the king.
We get the chance to adore and honor our King much more frequently right here in our own communities. We need not travel the world to express this sentiment. More on that in a moment.
Yet, while we were there in Paris, France’s capital, we enjoyed a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy, and culture. Its 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Beyond such landmarks as the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and of course the Eiffel Tower, the city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, one of the most luxurious and fashionable streets in the world thanks to the presence of virtually every major global fashion house.
Our hotel was not far from the Arc de Triomphe, which is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. We stayed near this monument and explored much of the cityscape from this central feature, which honors those men and women who fought for France.
One can stand atop the Arc de Triomphe and bask in the beauty of this memorial to veterans and others who have been so instrumental in forming that beloved country. Words fall far short of describing the magnitude of this experience. I have taken photos, written anecdotes, and logged an itinerary during this adventure.
But it all is just a reminder to me of the rapture and beauty we felt among these good people, their cherished monuments, and beautiful city. This experience has become a memorable and cherished event which has been logged for me among my most treasured memories. Too lavish of praise? I think not.
The significance of this to me is that some of life’s choices experiences occur in a chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity. Other opportunities-of-a- lifetime can be found in the realm of everyday life experiences. It is the latter of these choices that I would like to discuss today.
11 And He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith He will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of His people. The hymns and good music buoy us up until we can savor and sing forever the song of redeeming love.
Just one example that stands out to me is the preparation and expense that we may go to have a wonderful experience. Months of planning, hosts of participants, recommendations, and seeking the best advice are all part of the preparations. With the expense, time off work, and scheduling around other events, the sacrifice may be very significant. And I would be the first to agree that family experiences of this caliber are worth it, but I would also point out that the most meaningful experiences in life are all around us every day waiting to be discovered and appreciated.
Realizing and appreciating that truth is the beginning of the wealth of joy just waiting to be found. When my father would listen to Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up tears would stream down his cheeks as he listened to that song, and I knew he was considering those beautiful words in the context of his source of strength through the Savior Jesus Christ. Why is that significant? Because when we view the world through the lenses of appreciation and gratitude for the Savior of mankind, everything takes on new meaning.
Let me provide an example. As I share these words with you, there are hundreds of homes in California that have been destroyed by fire. The neighborhood where my wife grew up is today unrecognizable. Thousands have had their homes, businesses, and livelihoods destroyed because this tragic fire that took everything in its wake, and rolling hills and beautiful homes and well-manicured landscapes and yards are all gone. Where is the hope? How can these people and communities recover?
Instead of happy lyrics and melody of a song, rather than fun and games and constant laughing of children, in place of skipping home from school coming home from work to family and a warm, comfortable home, there is hopelessness, sadness, loss, and misery. These feelings are shared by both the afflicted and the witnesses of these tragic circumstances from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
Devastation is everywhere. I don’t claim to understand or appreciate the tremendous loss and heartbreak this has caused. These feelings are beyond my personal experience or capacity to comprehend. But I know Someone who can and does acknowledge the recent sorrow, loss, anguish, and heartbreak. And for me, that hope is what I latch on to at times like these.
Not only does God understand, but He weeps with us. That is the kind of being that He is. He loves each one of us, and he understands our heartbreak. In fact more than that, he has experienced our sorrows, loss, and afflictions of all kinds, so that he can raise us up and give us an eternal gift beyond our fondest imagination.
The scripture story of Martha comforts me. After her brother died and the Lord was not there to prevent this tragedy. Nevertheless, he came to and wept with the distraught, then he raised Lazarus from the dead. What was lost had been found. The pain and sorrow were replaced with joy and gladness.
“Among the realities, we face as children of God living in a fallen world is that some days are difficult, days when our faith and our fortitude are tested. These challenges may come from a lack in us, a lack in others, or just a lack in life, but whatever the reason, we find these excuses can rob us of the songs we so much want to sing.“
And the hope and joy He gave to Mary and Martha and all those that mourned the loss of their friend and brother is the same hope and joy He offers to us in the time of our trials. He can and will remove our pains and suffering if we let Him. He knows them all because He had borne them for us.
Among many great gifts you will receive or give this Christmas, the gift from the Father of His Son is by far the supreme favor that we can or will ever receive. With His stripes, we are healed. For God so loved the world that he gave His Only Begotten Son. When we have nothing left to hold on to, we have Him. And for the time being—every day through every trial—we can adore and honor Him.
He is the King of kings. And because He lives, we too can live in peace and happiness despite the uncertainties of our day.
Glory to God for the gift of His Son.
The greatest gift is the Lamb of God who taketh away all our sins and our sorrows.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.