Vacation Reflections: Love God. Love life. Love one another.

given on Sunday, August 12, 2012 after two weeks off:

 

Several years ago, I created my own belief statement.  I have it as part of my signature on emails.  Over the various studies and readings, I find myself re-affirming these words as my basic foundation:  Love God.  Love Life.  Love One Another.  These words echo various commandments, Bible verses, and rules.  These words are loaded words.

Vacation time is a time to step away from the daily work routine, rest, rejuvenate, and rejoice.  In a manner of speaking, a vacation is a form of Sabbath.  While planning for the remaining months, I began searching the scriptures to understand why one should take a vacation.  What is a Sabbath?  How often does one take Sabbath?

I found a few surprises in the process:  Sabbath is a term primarily used in the Old Testament.  Remember that the ancient Jewish believers began with just 10 rules, the Ten Commandments.  As the priests continued to guide the Jewish people, the rules kept multiplying.  Sabbath was an integral part of the culture, and was used in reference to people needing rest as well as the land needing a Sabbath—every seven years, the land was to rest for a full year.

The New Testament brought a change to these rules.  Sabbath is still important, but it is not a rigid law that ancient Jewish priests enforced.  As our culture evolved to today’s lifestyle, Sabbath is harder to maintain.  No longer is Sunday a protected day for Christian worship and rest.  Yet, in today’s world, taking a vacation once a year is socially accepted and part of the culture’s expectation.

Vacation is a form of Sabbath in our culture.  It is a time we are to rest.  We need to stop and reflect on today’s culture and the value of a vacation.  As I left that Friday morning at 6 am, my mind was still cluttered with all the different responsibilities I was leaving:  school, church, family, pets, garden, and even the floors in the house.

As we left, I discovered that I began thinking about the journey ahead.  I began praying for God’s protection on our trip.  In some biker groups, there are chaplains.  Some are biker groups whose connection is their Christian faith.  So on those first few miles, I realized that a flash prayer was needed.

A flash prayer is a set of words that can be repeated in a few seconds.  The flash prayer is sometimes referred to as a breath prayer.  The words are the same and simply bubble up in a moment and run through your mind.  I began looking for the words while we rode those first few miles.   Then the words were there:  Guide us and protect us, God.

I found myself saying those few words and sometimes adding a few more thoughts along the road.  Admittedly, I found the words surfacing when the conditions called for it, but I also discovered the words popped into my conscious when something wonderful appeared or happened.  The flash prayer became a direct connection to God.

The vacation taught me a lesson.  It taught me that keeping an open conversation with God is a form of loving God.  The prayer was part worship, part assurance, but always a direct line to God.  If I did not love God, I do not think I would have talked to him while on vacation and while riding the bike the conversations could last for miles and miles.

Of course part of vacation is seeing new and different things; and if you look at this world through God’s eyes, you discover how much you love life in all the different forms.  The second part of my belief statement is “Love Life.”

Life is a word that is overflowing with possibilities.  Life is my own years in this world, but life includes everything in this universe.  Life is the earth, the fauna, and the flora.  Life is the sky, both day and night.  Life is the water, the rocks, the soil, and the air.  Life is precious and seeing new and different types of life is a joy.  Each mile is filled with life.  Each view mirrors life.

The vacation provides my life with rest, but it also rejuvenates my passion for all forms of life—except maybe snakes and mice.  Still even snakes and mice in their natural setting are valuable.  And each mile of our journey, life surrounds you.  Life permeates your inner being and coats your outer being.

Here we are in a drought, and as I took in the wonders of life on this earth, the flash prayer connected me to God again:  Guide us and protect us, God, as we travel these miles in your glorious world.

The miles melted away as we saw life in all its finery—the recovering river flood plains, the drought stricken crops burned but beautiful in its golden tones contrasted by the deep, lush green of the soybeans.  As the miles continued, the scenery unfolds to new and unknown images.  The Badlands are really good for those who love life.  The turmoil of cold fronts and hot fronts boiling into twisters above your head slide away and the double rainbow appears to send the clouds on across the border.

As God rode with us, guiding us and protecting us, he unfolded the true glory of life in front of us.  Whether it was taking a turn and seeing the presidents’ faces up above the forest or looking across the valley at the top of Iron Mountain and seeing those faces towering above the invisible visitor center, life was exploding around us and providing a firework display visible in the brightest of sunny days.  How could anyone deny that looking at this world through God’s eyes rejuvenates my belief that I love life?

Still vacation does not necessarily isolate you from the world; sometimes it throws you right into the middle of it.  As Christians we are not separated from people, we are to live in the middle of humanity and love one another.  Going on vacation does not give permission to quit loving one another; yet, the people can press in on you.  People can bring stress and discomfort, but as a Christian who loves God and loves life, it is important to look at the people through God’s eyes, too.

Riding to Sturgis had become a huge curiosity to my family and friends.  They all wanted to know what my reaction would be in Sturgis.  The Sturgis Rally is legendary, frequently featured in various shows, not for the positives but the negatives.  I figured that I had a pretty good idea what to expect, but what I did not expect is that loving one another is a biker trait.

Wherever we rode, there were people—bikers and more bikers.  Bumper to bumper, bikers were riding miles together.  At some points the road was lined with bikers coming and going.  Along mountain roads, where switchback turns were lined with bikes moving along like ants moving in and out of an anthill.  No one lost his or her patience.  No one cut anybody off.  No one screamed at anybody.  No one risked harming one or another.  No one revved up the motors or came to a skidding stop.

The miles were filled with bikers demonstrating behaviors that showed how they valued each other.  Watching the majority of bikers through God’s eyes, I witnessed a harmony of the masses that confirmed the third part of my belief statement—love one another.  I believe that the vacation renewed my faith in mankind:  Love God.  Love life.  Love one another.

The vacation is over, and God was with us all the way.  He opened our eyes so we could see the world through his eyes.  A vacation is for rest, but the renewal of one’s belief in God is priceless.  The sites glowed in the summer sun.  The people glowed in the light of God’s son Jesus.  The next year now looks fresh and exciting.  The vacation was a Sabbath; it was worship.

Thank you, God,

              for guiding us and protecting us

              the many miles we ride. 

         Thank you, God,

              for showing us life’s wonders

              along the roadsides.

         Thank you, God,

              for riders who demonstrate

              no miles separate one from another.

         Thank you, God

               for rest, renewal and rejuvenation

               of a vacation Sabbath.

         Thank you, God,

              for the vacation time

                  that reaffirms my belief statement:

                            Love God,

                             Love life.

                                      Love one

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