American Reflections

My wife and I took a cross-country trip in 2002 as part of home-schooling our two daughters (12 & 13) and partly as vacation. We also took a foster daughter (17) and my wife’s mother. This was my end of trip reflection that I thought I might use as the basis for a pastor’s letter, but never did. (Jan. 28, 2002)

My family and I just came back from three weeks traveling out west. Our purpose was to rest a bit, visit Gay’s brother in California, and to give the girls the ultimate educational field trip. We went through 16 different states and spent a day in Mexico’s Baja California region as well.

As is often the case, I found myself being educated probably more than the girls.

  • I learned that looking down from the top of the St. Louis Arch makes my knees quiver.
  • I learned that you know nothing about waiting and the need for patience until you try to drive back into the United States in this post-Sept. 11th era.
  • I learned that it is silly to take along three or four “fun” books to read in your quiet times when you have 6700 miles to go with five others all staying in the same hotel room with you every night.
  • Oh yeah, I also learned the names of parts of a car such as spindles, races, bearings, motor mounts, and axles… and I learned that every one of them can break without warning or provocation… whether I know their name or not.
  • I also learned how evil and sinful mankind can be, as we stopped in Las Vegas and were bombarded by the worst of humanity’s vileness, vulgarity, greed, drunkenness, and lust, (and this was at 6:00 in the evening!).
  • I saw the evidence of evil again in Oklahoma City at the bombing memorial and I came face to face with the evil and hatred possible even in us as Americans towards each other.

But I also, once again, learned how great God is. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God,” but places like the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, the Mojave National Preserve, the Utah buttes, the Texas plains, the Malibu beach in California, the High Plains of Kansas, the Colorado Rockies, and each day’s new and glorious sunrises and sunsets, just showed me in new ways how colorful and creative and imaginative and detailed our Creator is, and was, and will continue to be.

As we faced mile after mile, and hundreds of rest areas and almost two dozen nights in hotels and motels, I found myself seeing God at work in the “drawing together” of our family. We did homework together, we talked, we hunted for license plates from different states, we asked questions, we swam together, we got “lost” together (I still think I could have found my way out). We shopped together (OK… They shopped and I “hung out”). We toured museums, memorials, and national parks, a tea factory, the Gaither resource center, the Focus on the Family ministry center, three different car repair garages, visited old friends, sang together in a nursing home in Arkansas, visited churches in Texas and Missouri, and spent a day with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.

We saw God’s hand leading us as we found that we were in the right spot at the right time again and again. Each of the three times we had car troubles, we found ourselves close to someone who could help us, with a place to stay nearby.

Several times we found ourselves at the right spot to be an encouragement for someone else who needed someone to pray for them and with them. We arrived in Texas on the very day that a special speaker was coming in and holding special services at our friend’s church.

Throughout Scripture, God instructs His people to take time away from their regular daily activities. Weekly Sabbath days of rest and occasional extended Jubilees and personal retreats are ideas found in God’s Word. These times help us to regain our focus and recapture the sense of what is important as we not only serve God in our workplaces, but also in our families and in the wider ministry setting of His world.

How will your family use rest, Sabbath, and vacation to regain your connection to each other and to our amazing God?

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Another post recalling that trip can be found here: October 1, 2008.

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