It’s summer. Vacation time, the opportunity to just relax, possibly visit new places, see the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Paris, the Greek Isles, Alaska’s inside passage, Disneyland, even Dollywood, for cryin’ out loud.
You get the idea. Vacation = leaving stress behind. (Unless you are taking a road trip with young children).
But this one is about vacations and faith, or more to the point: Should I go to church on my vacation?
As a preacher’s kid, that was never a question raised when I was growing up. We went.
“It’s always fun to see how other churches worship the Lord,” my mother would say, fixing a sort of distant, other-worldly smile on her face.
Dad? Usually he would just sigh. Not too loudly, though.
Still, I kind of got the impression — a wisp of a hint, mind you, a slight, momentary glassing over of his gaze as he watched the road ahead as he drove — that for just two weekends out of 52 a year, he might like to not be anywhere near a pulpit.
Whatever. We went, wherever we were. But Mom made sure the selection was within the presumed heaven-approved norms: The church we visited had to be Pentecostal at least, if not our particular denomination thereof.
OK, folks, if we do have to attend church on vacation, why not at least see how those other Christians communed with the Almighty?
Baptist? Presbyterian? Methodist? Lutheran? Episcopalian? CATHOLIC?!? Oh, no. After all, they didn’t have the “holyghost.” (Seemingly properly pronounced by the truly faith as one word, referring to Third Person of the Trinity – an expression of God I’ve come to understand in a much broader, denomination-crossing and soul- and mind-blowing aspect than I would have ever dreamed as that child).
Translation: Those others didn’t speak in tongues or “freely” (i.e., shout, dance, and occasionally enter that state of spiritual ecstasy) worship like we did. Thus, others had no “messages” in a “heavenly language” that had to be interpreted (though often into poor, even ungrammatical King James English).
I digress. That all is for another blog.
Well, suffice it to say, when I grew up, married and was on my own, vacations did not usually involve attending Sunday services. Oh, there would be quiet time. Read a Bible passage, thank God for a beautiful day, and then take a hike in the woods, along the beach, contemplatively explore the hoodoos of a red rock desert . . . just being.
You know, I never felt guilty doing that.
The rest of the year, I get up Sunday mornings and head to church with my wife, Barbara. And though you might wonder about this, given my words above, I enjoy it. The hugs and handshakes, the singing, the sermon, the occasional dinners with friends after — the fire of faith re-stoked for another week.
But come vacation, I remember what the Apostle Paul said: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being. . . .” (Acts 17:28). And I decide to explore that aspect of my relationship with Divine, outside a building, even outside the limited framework of what can become, even in a “Charismatic” congregation, routine and ritual.
And the Word doesn’t always come from human lips or from between the leather-bound covers of a volume of scriptures. Sometimes, there are no words for the Word.