Travelling the World for the Glory of God (Part 1)

This week, my husband and I have started packing for our eagerly awaited holiday to the USA. I have been finalising our itinerary, buying last minute supplies, and attempting to work out what on earth to pack. As each day has passed, excitement has built with the realisation that this holiday is almost upon us. This anticipation has been far more enthusiastically expressed by myself than my husband (who says he is ‘looking forward to it’ but won’t really be excited until we are going), so in an attempt to share my joy, I frequently ask the question ‘what are the top 5 things you are looking forward to in the trip?’. In asking this, and hearing my husband’s responses, it has made me conscious of the reasons why I am so excited for this time away, and has consequently caused me to reflect on some ways we should be intentional in seeking to use our time on holidays to serve and glorify God.

Over two posts, we will look at five ways we can be intentional in glorifying God as we travel or go on holiday:
1. Time spent enjoying God’s creation
2. Time spent reflecting
3. Time spent resting
4. Time spent in communion with the Lord
5. Time spent serving

1. Time spent enjoying God’s creation

One of my very favourite reasons to choose to travel overseas when I can is the opportunity to see different parts of God’s creation. He has  designed such incredible beauty and diversity, from large natural wonders, to the plants and wildlife, to flavours of food. And God wants us to enjoy his creation, to appreciate it knowing that he has created it for us to delight in, see his character in, and praise him for.

What’s more, when we are travelling we too have the opportunity to use God’s gift of creativity ourselves. In trying to take the perfect instagram shot, we can do so to display God’s character, rather than for achieving maximum number of likes. Or in taking a travel diary, we can try to capture some of the beauty we see around us, remembering that all this reflects the beauty of the Creator. When travelling, be intentional to thank God for his gifts, be in awe of the God who created the awe-inspiring features of the world and find joy in God’s creation.

2. Time spent reflecting

One of my frequent responses to what I have most been looking forward to about our holiday has been along the lines of ‘I am just looking forward to getting away’. Now there is nothing wrong with my home life; I love my church, have some great friends, and enjoy having the opportunity to love and serve those around me. But there is something about leaving everything at home behind – no appointments or events, no tasks to achieve, no distractions – that clears your mind. It is a mental (and in some cases emotional) rest, which provides the space to reflect on the previous weeks and months, and to begin to plan for life when you get back home.

Three key areas I think are useful to reflect on are:
– Where God has been at work in your life
– How you have been going in your Christian walk
– What or where is God calling you to
(being conscious of the Holy Spirit’s prompting and convicting)

Reflecting on these things can require some intentional time put aside, or prompts or notes to remind yourself, but are well worth utilising the opportunity to do so – and aid the feeling of returning home feeling refreshed and ready to enter into the next season.

3. Time Spent Resting

God has made it quite clear that we need rest. He sets the example for us in Genesis, resting after creating the world, (Gen 2:2-3) commands the Israelites to take one day a week for rest as a sabbath (Exodus 20:8-10) and then Jesus emphasises that our rest is found in him (Matt 11:28-29). And what’s more, we spend a third of our lives asleep in order to function when we are awake – our bodies need rest. And what a good opportunity to do so when on holidays! Of course all of the previous points  we have discussed so far contribute to that rest we find in Jesus when we are on holiday, but we can also find additional physical and mental rest in the holiday itself.

Naturally, people will plan holidays that they find restful. Whilst we tried going on a cruise, and loved aspects of it, it cemented in us that we are ‘doers’ when on holidays. We love to sight-see and explore cities; more than a day or two sitting by the beach and we will get bored, hence our upcoming trip is full of activities and sights to see so that we find the most rest in it. And rest might look different for different people; whilst I love to cook, for my husband, resting is not having to cook or clean, so when away, we will prioritize eating out at some nice restaurants so that he doesn’t need to cook or wash up.

Whilst all this may sound selfish, it is important for us to take time to rest due to it being a part of the way God has designed us. And we should celebrate, we should thank and praise God that we can find that rest in such an enjoyable way. In addition, by resting, we prepare ourselves to be able to serve others when we return home. We can rest selflessly, by viewing it a means to enable us to continue the good works God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10).

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Heart Questions: A Privileged Role in the Kingdom

You are not needed by God. I am not needed by God. God is all powerful and all sovereign, He is perfect in his character and has always been, long before the creation of the Earth. Yet here we are, living out our lives to share the gospel  and make disciples, spending each day aiming to glorify God in all we do, pursuing knowing Jesus and make Jesus known. We do this despite not being needed. Why?

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Reflecting on The Judgmental Heart

No one really enjoys sharing their weaknesses, let alone their sins. Even if we understand the great benefit that can come through sharing and confession to others (for both ourselves, our fellowship, and even for others learning from our mistakes), it can feel humiliating. We are often ashamed of our sin, discouraged by our failings, and now more than ever through social media, we can really portray ourselves how we want to be seen, having it all together in a ‘perfect’ life – so why would we want to tarnish that by sharing how short of the mark we fall?
As I explored a bit in my first reflective post Reflecting on Reflecting, I think that vulnerability and, alongside it, openness and authenticity is a vital part of Christian growth and community, so I want to share with you one (or some!) of my recent  failings and what I have been reflecting on it.

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Reflecting on Christian Labels and Unity in Christ

Just recently as I have been reading a few different blogs and articles, and some of the social media responses to these, I have been struck by how quickly we as Christians can be to prescribe labels to ourselves and to each other, even if they are not accurate. Labels are often shaped by our denominations or theological standing, such as being ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative,’ or ‘Pentecostal’ or reformed’. Admittedly, the majority of what I have seen has been a fight against being ‘legalistic’, whilst also being very defensive of ‘grace-covering-all’- but I have no doubt that the name-calling and labeling goes both ways, and that judgement is often handed out on those who do not fit into the ‘good-Christian’ image.

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Heart Questions: Putting Jesus’ Words into Practice

On the very last page of my Bible, I am slowly developing a list of questions—mostly ones that I come across in my reading, but some which come about through reflecting. I call these ‘heart questions;’ they are ones which I ask to my heart, in a very broad sense, ‘how am I going at this area of life?’ I also use it as a method to remember things I have been struck or convicted by in past reading to ensure I continue to focus on and invest in pursuing Christ and growing in His likeness. They are not questions based on spiritual disciplines (e.g. ‘How have I been going at reading my Bible?’ ‘Am I praying every day?’), but are rather the practical, fruitful outworking of these things; they are an indication of being in a posture allowing the transformation of the Holy Spirit. This might be something along the lines of, “Am I aware of God’s peace in my day to day life?” “Does my life demonstrate to others that I have complete trust in God,” etc. As I was spending time with God recently, I came across another of these questions to add to my list, and thought that putting together such a list could also be helpful for others as a reference to prompt prayer or reflection, or for considering ways to be growing in greater obedience to God. I will compile them into a page (which you can access from the home page), and plan to include a link to the short post I write about them when they are first added to provide a bit more context to the questions.

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Reflecting on Reflecting

In my very first year of med school, one of our first assignments was to write an academic essay on reflective essays. I don’t know who first thought this was a good idea, but I recall it as a pretty awful time. However, since then, I have become aware of the importance of reflection as a discipline of spiritual growth, or any sort of growth, and ironically it has caused me to reflect a fair bit on reflection itself. In a recent post in the series on being in a ‘reading rut’, I wrote a post focussed on meditating, which is the active reflection on God’s Word. In this post, I am looking at reflection in a broader sense; reflecting on situations, relationships, ideas and concepts; the process of thinking deeply and mentally working things out, contemplating things of importance. In this sense, reflection is not something that comes particularly naturally to me; my brain doesn’t float to thinking through important and meaningful topics, unless they seem to be having a prominent emotional impact on me and I can’t help but dwell on them. My train of thought seems to have many stations it stops at, and changes route frequently. And in addition, I am often unaware of the reflective process that has taken place when I reach conclusions about things.

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