What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

We pulled into the driveway Sunday night. The trip-meter was just shy of 4750 miles. This year we snaked our way through the blue highways of Georgia, rumbled alongside of the Kanawha River in Charleston, West Virginia, motored by miles of Ohio and Illinois corn fields, occasionally raced the four-lane blacktop of our country's interstate system, and enjoyed 68 degree mornings in Wisconsin. We ate in local cafes, caught up with new old friends and savored minutes with our precious family in Memphis.

This trip was long -- and yet very short. Vacations fly by like fence posts along a country road. They disappear like the ribbons of yellow and white that line the highways. Photography helps me capture a few of those precious moments. Taking time to reflect on lessons learned serves a special role as well. As I look back on the last few days, here are a few lessons I've learned (or relearned):

  1. Know what restores you.
  2. I know some folks don't get my love affair with the American automobile. I'm okay with that. I know what it does for me. I appreciate the artistry of a `56 Buick Special, the "futuristic" design of `59 tail fin, the unbridled horsepower of a '69 COPO Camaro, or the way a '65 Mustang or '72 Cutlass Convertible or '69 AMC Javelin can roll back the calendar and serve to replay good memories. This puts fuel in my tank. What does that for you?
  3. Never underestimate the power of your routine.
  4. When I go north, my spiritual disciplines go south. I guess it is the relentless pace that hurts me, or trying to house a night owl and an early bird in the same hotel room, or lugging gear to a new "home" ten nights in a row. Most times I get on the road it seems I leave my life-giving routines in the garage back home. Daily walks, Bible reading and meditation, times for prayer and journaling all seem hard to maintain. Fun is fun, but fun does not necessarily fuel my faith. I need my routine, but it is hard to maintain when I am on the road. I am learning that I have to alter it without letting go of it. That is easier said than done.
  5. When in doubt, ask God to show you His glory.
  6. Thirty-five years ago I had a sign on my office door that read: "Does God seem far way? Guess who moved?"  My faith was flagging on this trip. God seemed far away so I asked the Lord, "Show me your glory." He did. God opened my eyes to his artistry in creation, to his common grace seen in inventions, to his beauty, his majesty, and his power. It was a simple request, but on the day I asked it, God's answer was precious fuel for my empty tank.
  7. Through the ups and downs, there is no one I would rather journey with than Shannan.
  8. Shannan and I have Long Hauled five times on the Hot Rod Power Tour. Each of these road trips has been both a treat and a trial. We love the opportunity to journey the back roads and visit small town America. And we thoroughly enjoy the interesting people we meet, but the Tour is also traffic jams, missed turns, short tempers, spills, scrapes, and detours. Give me any of that if I have Shannan by my side. I love traveling life with my wife.
  9. Lean into God's grace.
  10. When Shannan and I pulled out of Boca, I was out of gas. The previous six months had been delightfully arduous. Sure, my car's tank was full but I was running on empty. I needed to get away and get refueled physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I returned I was refreshed and tired. Spiritually-speaking, I was still not at my best. That evening, as I sat in my bed thinking about the upcoming week, I lamented, "And I'm supposed to preach this Sunday!" I didn't feel ready. Then I opened my Bible to Psalm 36 and read verse five:

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

I am glad that the grace of God extends to hot rod preachers who venture into the heartland of America only to return with a dirty car and a weary heart. God is good like that. You can pull into his rest stop, turn off the lights, and sleep. Your weariness does not diminish his graciousness. Your faithlessness does not lessen his faithfulness.

I am leaning into that. I am leaning into Him.