How Road Trips Teach Me to Trust Jesus

As I approach this season of pilgrimage, Scripture offers me a theology of travel.
COURTNEY ELLIS

How Road Trips Teach Me to Trust Jesus

My husband, Daryl, experiences more wanderlust than I do. He grew up in Southern California, traveling across the valley for high school basketball games, taking class field trips up the coastline, and loading up the church van for missions to Tijuana. On our family Sabbath, it’s Daryl who takes us out on the roads of Orange County. When I ask where we’re headed, he smiles and nearly always says, “I’m not sure. Let’s just have an adventure.”

In particular, our trips to visit extended family bring out the differences in our travel methods. I plan ahead while Daryl enjoys serendipity; I prepare for every eventuality while he prefers to throw a few diapers and a bag of tortilla chips in the car and hope for the best. But since my husband’s side of the family lives in Los Angeles—a thriving metropolis with all manner of convenience stores and restaurants—I’m learning to hang loose on these local treks.

As these drives to LA become more common, God is faithfully teaching me that my rigid, planned-up-to-the-minute travel method isn’t always the best one. In fact, the biblical model for following Jesus is much more Spirit-led than plotted in advance. It isn’t that preparation isn’t necessary or helpful, it’s that openness to the Spirit of God is more important still. “The wind blows where it wills,” Jesus tells Nicodemus in John’s gospel.

Paul’s journeys were continually interrupted by storms, bandits, imprisonments, and mobs, and once, when he made it all the way to the outskirts of the province of Asia, the Spirit of God turned him away at the last minute. Perhaps that’s why when God speaks to individuals in Scripture, his first call is often for them to step out in faith, to follow a new and previously unsought path. Much of the time God doesn’t even give the destination. The command is simple (and, if you’re a homebody like me, perhaps a little unsettling): “Go,” he says. “Go.”

God uses this word with Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. “Go,” he says to Jonah. Simeon is “moved by the Spirit” to go to the temple, where he welcomes and blesses the infant Jesus. “Get up,” an angel says to Joseph in a dream, warning him to flee from King Herod’s murderous rage and go to Egypt.

As pilgrim people, we, too, are called to travel with our eyes open to the work of the Lord in the world around us. As N. T. Wright puts it, “A pilgrim is someone who goes on a journey in the hope of encountering God or meeting him in a new way.” Whether we fly across the country or simply drive an hour to visit a friend, travel provides us with a unique opportunity to experience God anew by approaching our journey not just as travelers but pilgrims—people on the lookout for God at work and opportunities to join him.

Jesus was the ultimate pilgrim, after all, leaving his heavenly climes to not only visit with but live among humanity. He faced all the usual obstacles to comfort that plague us when we travel—difficulty in finding food and shelter, misreading the vibe of a particular place, and having to rely on the hospitality and grace of strangers, family, and friends. “Foxes have dens,” Jesus said, “and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus leans into this discomfort, telling his disciples to “take nothing for the journey.” He invites us to do likewise. (Though, to be fair, none of the disciples was toting a two-year-old. Surely then even Jesus would have advised bringing an extra snack or two.) Away from our usual environment, at the mercy of the road or the airlines or the weather or the host home, we are given the opportunity to see the world with new eyes: to receive welcome, to develop compassion, to grow in faith and trust that God will care for us throughout the journey and see us safely home at its end.

In my upcoming summer travels, I want to practice Christlike pilgrimage, watching for God as our family journeys, looking for opportunities to love those in my path with the love of Christ, and doing my best to accept discomfort and even disaster as means of discipleship and grace.

I also need to seek ways to slow down and listen—something that doesn’t come naturally to me. One of the lessons God offers to us in travel is to find peace amid the storm, to leave behind the intensity of our work lives and schedules and family pandemonium and settle into the quieter days of travel. As Carlo Carretto puts it, “That is the truth we must learn through faith: to wait on God. And this attitude of mind is not easy. This ‘waiting,’ this ‘not making plans,’ this ‘searching the heavens,’ this ‘being silent’ is one of the most important things we have to learn.”

This insight comes home to me every time I visit my parents in the northern woods of Wisconsin, where I’m cut off from the busyness of my normal life. My parents’ internet is spotty; my cellphone works only intermittently; the last time I heard a siren of any kind was at the town Fourth of July parade half a decade ago.

Back home, Daryl and I often fall asleep watching The West Wing or The Office in an effort to still our ping-ponging thoughts. Here, however, any digital streaming takes literal hours to download, so we simply don’t. At night we open the windows to hear the oak and maple leaves blow in the wind, falling asleep with books on our chests. When we spend these days in the quiet of the northern forests, it’s as if Jesus stands at the helm of our proverbial boats during the storm of the usual daily grind—ministry, school, appointments, errands, household chores—and says, “Peace. Be still.”

In these pilgrimage moments, I’m ever so slowly learning to listen. I’m learning, too, that the journey, provision, and destination all belong to God.

Courtney Ellis is a pastor and speaker and the author, most recently, of Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents (June 2019, Rose Publishing). She lives in Southern California with her husband, Daryl, and their three kids. Find her on TwitterFacebook, or her blog.

This essay was adapted from Almost Holy Mama by Courtney Ellis. Copyright (c) 2019 by Courtney Ellis. Published by Rose Publishing, Peabody, MA. hendricksonrose.com

 

Original here

A Pilgrimage to Secure Boundaries

by Jack Hayford

 

“Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever…Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14b-15, 17)

This was the first time that I have ever referred to one of our trips to the Holy Land as a “pilgrimage,” but it was just that—a mandate from the Lord to go and pray in Israel. We were a group under God’s hands, joining in prayer with multitudes also praying for the peace of Jerusalem. We knew somehow that our actions in the invisible realm were pivotal, invoking through prayer the rule of God Almighty. Never have I felt involved in a more significant venture. Believers and secular people alike in Israel were deeply moved by our visit.

We went with a sense of mission to exercise the practice of prophetic prayer, literally moving through the land to touch the North, South, East, and West. As a prayer team, we built altars at each of these boundaries of the nation, where we lifted up key issues to be proclaimed over the land. These are the same issues that need to be raised up over your life—kingdom principles that apply to all of us.

In the South, we built the Altar of TRUTH (Psalm 119:165), praying that Israel will honor the Word; that the Word be made alive—a veil removed to see more than words; to see truth: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

In the East, we built the Altar of LIFE (Ezekiel 37:9,14), praying that there would come an outpouring of the Spirit according to Zechariah 12:10: “I will pour on Israel the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they will look upon Me whom they pierced.”

In the North, we built the Altar of WORSHIP (Zechariah 14:16-18), praying in intercession that all who worship the Lord now in spirit and in truth would become a token invoking further grace, including breaking the drought in this land.

In the West, we built the Altar of PRAISE (Psalm 113:1-3), praying praise to drive back the darkness; praise for what has begun; and praise that Israel’s boundaries not only be secured but expanded in her mission to mankind.

I gained three convictions from this divinely appointed visit to Israel. First, the Spirit of prophecy is ready to come upon people who will rise in faith, obey with action, and work with discernment. Second, the Spirit of life is breathing with force ready to break down walls and bring salvation. Finally, the Spirit of harvest is calling for prayer warriors who will resist the Adversary and contend for God’s boundaries of intended blessing.

More than ever, there’s reason for us as the people of the Lord to let our hearts be quickened with anticipation and stirred with a sense of accountable duty. We are called to occupy until Jesus comes, and that responsibility centers on intercessory prayer and a faithful life of service that shows the love of God in everything we do. As the world faces uncertainty, let us march forward in full confidence that He has called us to action in prayer that will result in the securing and expansion of boundaries of intended blessing in our world and in each of our lives.

Original here