Sarajevo is an unusual city. It is a place where east meets west as the old town area that hails from the days of the Ottoman Empire merges with a section of the city that is distinctly Viennese. Sarajevo is a melting pot of cultures and religions with Orthodox and Catholic churches within a couple of hundred yards of a synagogue and a mosque. But Sarajevo has a chequered history as a city that has known many troubles, as well as times of peace.

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Sarajevo viewed from an old Ottoman fort on a hill overlooking the city

Trouble abounds in our world. While we cannot avoid it we certainly don’t expect it to besiege us for four years, which is how long the city of Sarajevo was under siege during the Bosnian war of the early 1990s. I have no idea how the people of Sarajevo survived such hardship, but they did. Life is not a bed of roses. We will enjoy good times, but also there will be times of varying degrees of difficulty. Regardless of the good times and the bad most of us dream of something better, yet strangely most of us are more proficient at complaining than we are at appreciation.

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While much has been rebuilt in the 21 years since the war, much has not, and some things have gone for ever.

For instance, it is easy for me to complain about all the travelling that I do. I could start with ten flights and seven different hotels in the last four weeks. Two of those flights were for a trip to Belfast for a funeral, but the rest were all work. The pleasure went out of travel a long time ago for me, yet my recent work trips were a blessing in many different ways. Meeting up with Russian colleagues from Moscow in St Petersburg was good, even if their desire to go sightseeing after work meant being on a boat on the River Neva at two in the morning! Work also provided a welcome distraction from on-going problems that have been causing deep pain to the team of elders I am part of at church. I think God knew what he was doing when He filled my diary for the last four weeks.

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The Austrian section of Sarajevo looking back to the old town of Ottoman days.

And so it is that everywhere I go I find those little reminders from God. Reminders about Him being strong and me needing His strength, rather than anything I might muster without Him. Then there are the reminders that whatever the problem God has a solution, but that His solutions are very different to anything I might think up. And most importantly the reminder to seek God in everything, and to receive the blessings He sends our way even in the smallest and most unusual of things or events. Because if I focus on seeking God, and if I aim to see God in everything, then perhaps my ability to trust Him might just increase a little.

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Souvenirs from the Bosnian war

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121 NIV)

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