You have it all taken care of, right?
You have a date with the Big Man scheduled in your Blackberry on recurring for every day. You have a regular prayer time, a routine for reading the Word, a group you meet with either on Sundays or during the week to talk about your relationship with Jesus.
It’s like clockwork. Until you go on summer vacation. And we all know vacation is a temporary thing, but time away from the Lord is bad any way you slice it. And sometimes, on vacation is when you need Him the most.
So, how do you keep up with your relationship with God when you’re on the road, at camp, at a relative’s house or as distant from real life as a foreign country? When everything about your normal schedule is out of whack, how do you stay in sync with Jesus?
In today’s electronic age it’s easier than ever before. You have a Smartphone. You have a laptop or access to a computer at your aunt’s house or hotel lobby. You have a sense of adventure. You’re all set.
Bible reading is a piece of cake online with www.biblegateway.com. You can look up any chapter or verse in almost any translation. Don’t have access to a computer? There’s an App for that – YouVersion – The Bible App – touts more translations than you’ll ever be able to read, bookmarks your spot for you, and has a search engine to help you find any chapter or verse on demand.
Churches are everywhere. So, it’s not your home church. So, it’s a little different. It’s still a group of Christians gathering together to proclaim God’s word, sing His praises and pray to Him. Find one with beautiful stained glass or an interesting history. Focus on the cross and the music and the readings for this week. If you’re out of the country, a church service in another language can still be amazingly spiritual and uplifting. The architecture and history of ancient European churches create a sense of awe, and help you realize how important God has been to generations upon generations.
Now, that you have the actual Word at your fingertips and at least a Sunday service to attend, how do you supplement it with discussion, advice, inspiration? There are so many cool opportunities on the web! Encounter Magazine has The Scene that takes a current event and tackles its relationship to scripture each week. You can download it at http://encounterface2face.com/category/the-scene/ and work through it personally. There are hundreds of churches that have podcasts of their sermons and inspirational speakers have podcasts for more online immersion in Jesus. Find one that meets your needs – male, female, sister, brother, athlete, musician, artist, dancer, bookworm, outgoing, shy, highschooler, homeschooler on-your-way-to-collegegoer -- there’s a website, a blog, a speaker on the internet who speaks directly to your heart via Jesus. Find them on your favorite search engine, plug in and make it part of your day.
You don’t have to stop with scripture and sermons. Download your favorite Christian tunes onto your iPod and an inspirational read onto your Kindle app, iBooks or e-reader for further immersion.
Just like at home where you had a set time of day, you need to commit to a daily date with God on the road. Do you wake up before the rest of the family or stay up past the rest of your crew – this alone time is perfect for you to hang out with Jesus. If your travels give you a little down time every day after lunch, make it then. Do you schedule a daily run? How about right before or after that workout?
But remember wherever you are, your Creator is there within your heart. He’s ready to chat, listen, comfort, encourage or just hang out whether you’re at home or on the road. Jesus wants to be your best friend wherever you go. So, even when you’re in new surroundings, you can still surround yourself with the Lord.
Where are you traveling this summer?
How do you like to incorporate your spirituality with your travels?
Last summer, while checking into our hotel in Dresden, Germany I had the treat of meeting soccer legend, Brandi Chastain. She had her hair pulled into a ponytail was wearing a gray t-shirt, navy blue athletic shorts and cleats. She was kicking a pink Nike soccer ball in the hotel lobby. Yes, in the lobby. She is the woman known for kicking the winning penalty kick to win the U.S. Women’s National team the World Cup in 1999. She was in Dresden to be one of the lead ESPN announcers for the World Cup, speaking to tens of thousands of television viewers for two weeks straight.
When I asked Brandi what advice she had for young people who wanted to be soccer stars, she said,
“Do it everyday. Kick it, pass it, dribble it, every day. When I was young, I kicked the ball against the side of the house for an hour every day. I got to know the ball so well, and how it would bounce off the house and where it would go if I tapped it a certain way and how to kick it back if it came to me a certain way, that when I was on the field, when I was in a game, I never had to think. I knew exactly what to do.”
The same is true for whatever it is you want to achieve in life.
For writers, like me, it means writing something every day. Stephen King says it in his book, On Writing. Anne LaMott says it in Bird by Bird. Do it everyday. That doesn’t have to be writing five chapters of my next novel. It could be a blog or a character sketch or a review of someone else’s work. But each day, I need to be conscious of word choice, descriptions, rhythms and flows of words.
You want to learn how to cook? Chef up a meal every day. It could be scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, but if you do it everyday, you’ll figure out too much salt makes your eggs taste like potato chips and how long to let your grilled cheese sizzle to get the cheese to melt to a perfect gooey consistency.
If you want to get closer to God, read a chapter of the Bible every day and contemplate it. I promise you’ll get closer to Him.
No matter what instrument you play, your instructor will ask you to practice every day. Play your scales. Work on the hardest part of your piece. Soon your ears will know the difference between a C sharp and a B flat. Your fingers will know how to move along the keys of a piano or the frets of a guitar.
If your goal is to become a teacher, explain something to someone every day. It could be how to take care of a tortoise or how to French braid hair or plant pansies, or anything, but the more you practice explaining things to people, the better you’ll be at it. I promise.
So, get going. Today, tomorrow and the day after that – do your thing. As Dr. Seuss said, “You’re off to great places, today is your day.” Today can be your day. You just need to get started.
What can you do on a daily basis to help you achieve your dream?
I’ve been warned.
I’ve been leery.
I’ve read stories about them and have even been charmed by the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist and even more so by Bo, Prosper and Scipio in The Thief Lord.
I’ve had a few close calls – people coming too quickly at me from a strange angle, someone else’s fingers headed towards my husband’s pocket, someone pressing uncomfortably against me in a crowd. But in those instances, I swerved, I ran up to my husband, hugging him and I abruptly turned away, avoiding potential crimes. Today, I witnessed a pick pocket in action.
My family was on maybe our sixty-fourth metro ride since we’ve been in Barcelona this summer. My husband gave me the look and shoved his hands deep in his pockets – our sign to each other to be extra wary of pick pockets, or as our seven-year old calls them, pocket-pickers.
On the subway the group cloistered around a set of the poles people hold onto for balance seemed overly pushy, like they were separating our family. A young lady, quite attractive, headed to another car, and then came back, preening, almost posing for the crowd. I grabbed our two youngest children and plopped into an available seat. Moments later yelling, scuffling, slapping, grabbing.
This group of four twenty-somethingers seemed to be traveling separate, but they weren’t, and they had a system. The girls were distractions and immobilizers. One guy was the living deposit box in the corner. The other guy was the actual pick pocket. He snatched a traveler’s wallet. A random woman on the subway witnessed it, slapped the thief’s hand, the wallet went flying and the skirmish began (an odd foreign coin I couldn’t identify hit me on the eyebrow. I returned it to the victim). In the end the man got back his wallet, but the band of pick pockets got away.
So, if you’re backpacking, touring, traveling and/or vacationing in Europe this summer. Be smart. Be careful.
· Wear a money belt, tucked into your pants or skirt, so that a pick pocket cannot access your stuff. It seems a little weird at first, but I promise it won’t show, unless you’re wearing jeggings. And, you get used to it.
· Do not carry your passport, just a copy of it (keep the original in your apartment or safe at your hotel).
· Do not carry more than 50 Euro at any time, better to lose a little than a lot.
· Wear your backpack as a front pack. Again, not a super fashion statement, but you’ll be glad you have all your stuff at the end of the day.
· Keep your own hands in your pockets, so no one else’s can find their way in.
· AND MOST IMPORTANTLY - be aware of your surroundings – any distraction, fight, performance, drama can be used to divert your attention away from your things.
Enjoy your travels by taking precautions, so you can enjoy the amazing sights, flavors and spectacles around the world.
Laura L. Smith