It was our first visit to the beautiful city of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. Our hotel was adorned with a beautiful stone facade leading to a modern lobby replete with marble flooring, pillars, and granite counters. It was breathtaking and transported us to the glory years of this ancient Italian kingdom. We were not in Kansas any longer!
“Signore. Please enjoy our special wine and cheese tasting we have set up for your arrival.” The host motioned to the stone stairway which led to a private tasting in the wine cellar. My wife and I eagerly traced the circuitous path as the familiar scents of wine and cheese guided us to our destination. We were greeted with a resplendent spread of local cheeses, wines, and Tuscan salumi adorned with honey and pine nuts. We were encouraged to try all of the offerings, many of which had a familiar flavor but not appearance. One creamy spread intrigued me as I layered it onto a crusty slice of bread. “Buono!” I declared. “What is this?”
“I don’t know how to say it in English. We call it lardo.”
“Lardo.” I said the word out loud several times. “Lardo..lardo…wait! Lardo? You mean lard? Is this fat?”
“Si! Fat. Lardo!”
I was eating raw pig’s fat! We were definitely not in Kansas!
My wife and I relished our experience in Siena. As the adage states, “When in Rome…” and wherever we travel, we attempt to immerse ourselves in the local customs and food traditions. We are not Italian but the experiences allow us to feel welcomed and part of the culture. Something similar happened to me the first time I attended a Christian church when I was an adult. Growing up in an Episcopalian school, there were mandatory weekly chapel services and religion classes. There were rules and restrictions. Although the school attempted to inculcate me with this culture, it felt forced and it left me with a negative impression of Christianity. By the time I graduated from high school and entered college, I was an atheist. But even though I left God, He never left me. He brought me together with a classmate, a strong man of faith in God. Through the example of his life, I was immersed in what it means to live the life of a Christian. When I experienced the true fellowship of Christianity, I knew it was different from my preconceived notions and experiences growing up. God’s Word was being explained and actively lived out. I saw how it was vitally relevant for my life.
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 (NLT)
After a year of regular fellowship with this brother, I confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I completely immersed myself in the Chistian Church and was welcomed by a new family of brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ.
I was not in Kansas any longer. I had been welcomed into God’s Kingdom!
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.