When you travel as I do, you don’t always get to choose your ride! I found this old truck on a Christmas Tree farm, just out the front door from the home I was staying in near Orlando. No, we didn’t take a ride in it; we just had some fun with it.
I got home early this morning from ten days in Florida after a long flight home, from Miami to Chicago to LA and then a car ride home to Thousand Oaks. What a long day it was too! I started that morning with the folks at Hope4Life in a delightful breakfast that was part communion service, part debriefing my time there, part question/answer session, and part dance-a-thon. I got to the airport around 2:00, and it was a long flight home—delayed flights, misplaced luggage, mega-traffic congestion of cars at LAX. It just kept going until I hit the pillow after midnight here, which was 3:00 am on Florida time. So, I am recovering today.
But I’m also reflecting. This trip began a week ago Thursday with a dinner in an artisan pizza place with two dear brothers. It unfolded the next day at a men’s Bible study that Zooms out to India and Kenya as well. Then it was off to a late breakfast with some of those men, and finally, a group of couples got together that night to talk about living loved. Saturday was a chance to take a small group through Transformational Love, that new framework I’ve been playing with, and then to lunch with some of those folks, including a family I know well from Maine who just happened to be in the area on vacation, and their twenty-four-year-old daughter heard on the podcast that I was there.
From there, I went north to New Port Richey and hung out with a family I could only spend a few hours with two years before. The next day I shared with their congregation about Transformational Love. Tuesday was off to Clermont and a whole new set of people, many of whom deeply engaged in helping the poor and downtrodden find help and hope. We carried on conversations around a campfire in the woods, on my four-mile walks in the morning, and finished at an Italian restaurant where we’re talking through that framework again. On Thursday, I found myself with an old friend as he drove me north to St. Augustine for another fire-pit conversation and then the next day down to Miami for a weekend with those at Hope4Life, a ministry helping people discover the power of love to heal the broken places in our souls.
My life is so rich because of the people I know and the opportunities I have to come alongside part of their journey and see if there are ways I might be able to encourage them or help them process God’s work in them. In that, I am always encouraged as well and receive wisdom from others. I can’t believe I get to do this, that so many people will go to such trouble to prepare places for me to come and open the door for others to gather with us, and that people open their hearts so widely to me and God’s work in their hearts. I am grateful to all of you who made this trip through Florida such a blessed time.
The hard part, however, is in the departing. It seems I’m constantly leaving people God connects my heart to, even if only for a few days or an evening. Looking back over this trip, I smile at the old friendships I got to jump into again and the new friendships that took root. It’s never easy to leave, except in knowing that each day I’m getting closer to going home to Sara.
For sixteen months of this pandemic, Sara and I got to be together every day. She gives up a lot in my going, and it is always good to get back home to Sara’s presence and some much-needed rest and refreshing this week. We got some grandkids coming to overnight with us tomorrow, and, of course, there will be Thanksgiving later in the week. My life is rich and full in so many ways, even though it is not without its tragedies and challenges.
“Set your mind on things above,” Paul wrote in Ephesians. There is always much to complain and be frustrated about, but there’s even more to be grateful for when you see his hand guiding you through life, and you savor the people he’s put in your life with whom you can share in his love. I hope all of you have a week filled with opportunities for thanksgiving, whether or not it’s a holiday in your country this week. It is good for our hearts to focus on those things that bring us joy, not those that seek to pull us down.