Traveling and Spirituality

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Today we’re traveling to Chicago. This trip is partly celebration of our anniversary and partly an investment in our spiritual formation. The first few days, Letty and I will explore the “Windy City,” visit a couple of museums, and sample some of Chicago’s best pizza (which we love). The last few days we’ll be in spiritual retreat with my Transforming Community (along with my colleague, Kathleen Acker) and learning from Ruth Haley Barton. We anticipate a great trip!

And that’s what I want to focus on today: taking a trip, traveling. Many of us enjoy traveling and taking trips. All of us have great expectations of how these trips will go: we assume everything will go as planned, that we will have a great time, and that we will come back refreshed and renewed. And a lot of the time, things go the way we expect. But there are those times when the unexpected happens during travel (delays, incidents, accidents, unrealized expectations). When that happens, do we get de-railed and defeated? Or do we see the greater design of God behind the unexpected?

Here are a few Whole Life Worship ideas to keep in mind when we travel:

1. Hold expectations lightly. This is true for any situation in life, but more so when we travel. Believe it or not, we have expectations for everything when we travel: that we’ll get through security with no hassles, that we will have a less-than full flight and have a row to ourselves, that our rental car will be clean and roomy, that our GPS will get us to our destination in the fastest way. Chances are, not everything will go according to plan. But behind the “best laid plans of mice and men” is the Sovereign God we worship. So in spite of delays, disappointments, and unmet expectations, we trust that God is guiding us in the best way possible. This not only lowers our blood pressure, but it helps us to be aware of the next principle.

2. Look for opportunities. When God gives us a “left turn” from our expectations, He may be preparing us for an opportunity. Ask the question, “God, what are you trying to show me?” as you face an unmet expectation or surprise. Then look. On our flight to an earlier retreat this year, I noticed my colleague Kathleen initiating a conversation with the person she sat next to. As I overheard her conversation (I’m a terrible eavesdropper!) I could tell God was moving them to a significant discussion. Kathleen also goes out of her way to build relationship with the flight attendants, encouraging them and engaging them in conversation. She was making the most of her opportunities. I thought of Paul’s admonition to the Colossian church, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Col 4:5-6). Her example inspired me to make the most of the opportunities God gave me by initiating conversation with others on the return flight.

3. Adapt Spiritual Rhythms. The one thing travel will usually do is disrupt your spiritual rhythms of solitude, Bible reading, prayer, maybe even your Sabbath. I encourage you to adapt your rhythm to your travel schedule. If you are flying – and you are not engaged in an “opportunity” – you might consider putting on the headphones, listen to some reflective music, and have a personal time with Jesus at 30,000 feet. Or as you are driving to your destination, pull over and spend five minutes in silent prayer. Or as you wait in the airport terminal, instead of playing a game on your iPhone, read and reflect on a passage of Scripture. It might not be your “prime time,” but engaging in spiritual rhythms on a travel day can make a huge difference.

I write this, not only to encourage you, but to also prepare myself as I travel this day. Please pray for us as we travel this evening to “Chi-town” via Denver. I also want to thank my dear friends, Benjamin and Susan Fudge who, along with Letty, gave me some good thoughts for this blog (while Jacuzzi-ing in Temecula).

What helps you maintain your spirituality as your travel?

#ruthhaleybarton #transformingcommunity #wholelifeworship

One thought on “Traveling and Spirituality

  1. Blessings as you travel and on all your time away! May God bless you both richly, beyond your own expectations, as you give Him the space to show Himself.

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