First class altitude with gratitude

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a world-class traveler. Air travel is my least favorite mode of transportation but it sure beats walking.

Recently, I flew to Michigan to speak at a conference. I am not saying the airlines do not know what they are doing, they don’t, I am just not going to say it. My experience is that they regularly book the flights just a little bit too close to each other. I had to fly from Muskegon to Detroit in order to go to Orlando.

I arrived at the Muskegon airport early enough and everything seemed to go just fine. I inquired about the timetable and was assured everything was on schedule, despite the rainy weather condition.

We all were assembled to get onto the plane when we received word that the flight had been canceled due to weather. This little bit of news set up a real ruckus among my fellow travelers.

We lined up at the ticket counter and every one was groaning and complaining and as if in one orchestrated moment all the cell phones clicked open and people were desperately trying to solve their problem. So many around me were grouching and complaining that I decided my cranky disposition was not needed. I reserved it for some more convenient time.

I was the last one in line and when I got to the woman behind the counter I cheerfully said, “Do whatever you have to to get me to Orlando. I don’t mind.” Then I said as an afterthought, “You’re doing a great job under these circumstances.” And flashed one of my famous smiles.

She sighed rather deeply, volleyed my smile back to me, then mouthed the words, “I’ll put you in first class.”

I smiled back not realizing what she had done for me. I had seen the first class section in airplanes but I had never actually experienced first-class. I always wondered what goes on behind those curtains in first-class but never knew personally.

The airport in Muskegon bussed us to the Grand Rapids Airport where we caught the plane taking us to Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. It was there that I was to discover the excellencies of first-class flying.

I boarded the airplane and was directed to my seat in first class. I was in for the treat of my life.

When I sat down I found my seat and discovered much to my amazement that the seat was wider than my posterior. I could actually sit down in the seat with room enough to relax. But the time the plane took off nobody had taken the seat next to me. I had the whole row to myself.

I did what anybody else would have done in similar circumstances. I took off my shoes, stretched out my feet and wiggled my toes. Aaah, the luxury of first-class.

When the plane reached its flying altitude the flight attendant with a cart stopped by my seat and said, “Ravioli or chicken?”

I was not sure what the attendant was talking about and assumed it was one of those newfangled games they play in first class. Not knowing what to say, I said the first intelligent thing that came to my mind. “Huh?”

“Would you like a ravioli or a chicken dinner?”

I was delightfully shocked. They served dinner in first class. Who would have thought of it?

Being on the safe side I responded by indicating I wanted the chicken dinner. You never can go wrong with chicken. Ravioli, on the other hand, is a different story.

The flight attendant began to prepare my chicken dinner right in front of me. I was amazed. What he set before me was unexpected. There was a real plate and a real glass and, you are not going to believe this, but a real napkin. Wrapped in that real napkin was a set of real silverware. Not some of the plastic stuff they got back in the regular section.

However, my dilemma was beginning to show itself. Evidently, in first class dining there is a different utensil for each food group. For example, there was a fork for the salad, another fork for the meat, and still another fork for the vegetables. I did not know which fork was which but I was much too delighted with the whole affair to ponder the culinary etiquette of first-class dining.

I tried very hard not to use the vegetable fork in my salad. I did not know what would happen if I did, but who wants to take such a chance when you are a first-time flyer in first class.

And the dessert…

I will not say that the chocolate delight on my dessert plate was heavenly but I’m sure I was the envy of every angel in heaven.

For a smidgen of a second, I did feel sorry for those flying regular class.

As I leaned back in my luxurious first-class seat, a verse Scripture came to my mind. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 KJV).

I did not deserve first-class. I didn’t even need it. But my Heavenly Father just gave it to me as a surprise. Reveling in my experience, I mused to myself, next to His “only begotten Son,” I must be his favorite son.

James Snyder – Since 1997, Rev. James L. Snyder has written a weekly religion/humour column, “Out To Pastor,” syndicated to over 100 newspapers and many websites. The Rev. Snyder is an award winning author whose writings have appeared in more than eighty periodicals including GUIDEPOSTS. In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer, Snyder’s first book, won the Reader’s Choice Award in 1992 by Christianity Today. Snyder has authored and edited 30 books altogether.

Half the fun is getting there

I come from a long time of travelers. As far back as written records go, my ancestors loved to travel: from Germany to the United States and then throughout the United States and back into other countries before coming home again.

Hopefully some of our journeys can inspire you in creating memorable family treks of your own.

Some of our family favorites are Namesake Trips, Foreign Lands in Domestic Places and our Big and Unusual Journeys.

Namesake Trips

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs 22:1 (NIV)

Namesake Trips are trips you take as a family to visit cities that have the same name as a member of your family. For our family, one journey was to Hayden, Arizona, a small suburb of Phoenix that has the same middle name as our son, Andrew. With our daughter, Kayleigh, we have had many options of places to visit that have her same middle name “Elizabeth” such as Elizabeth City, North Carolina and Elizabeth, Illinois or Elizabeth, Colorado to name a few.

Namesake Trips have a few family guidelines for our family. The spelling has to be exact; even though I have been tempted to steer journeys in favor of visiting the “windy city” (Chicago, Illinois) in honor of my name, Wendy, which means “wanderer”. The name of the city to visit can be the same as your first, middle or last name. The journey can be worldwide. If you have a uniquely spelled name – like our daughters, Kaile and Kayleigh, both pronounced “Kaylee” – exceptions can be made to visit a street with the same name such as “Kaile Lane” in Escondido, California.

We have even planned a variation of a Namesake Trip for our family, scheduled for the year Kayleigh turns 10, to visit Scotland and Ireland to see Ceili dancing (Ireland) and then Ceilidh dancing (Scotland) in their traditional settings in honor of our daughters’ common name and pronunciation, Kayleigh and Kaile.

By searching out same-name places, we are showing our children firsthand that a great name really is to be desired both in people and in vacationing spots, and we are not only honoring our children in the present but giving them a connection to something began in the past.

Foreign Lands in Domestic Places

May He give the blessing [He gave to] Abraham to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land He gave to Abraham, in which you are a sojourner.

Genesis 28:4 (AMP)

Foreign Lands in Domestic Places

These trips involve visiting places locally that have the same name as cities abroad that one day you would like to visit as a family.

For example, although you may not be able to visit Paris, France this year, the trip to Paris, Texas or Paris, Kentucky may be manageable for your group. Although the Parisian sites vary from city to city, your family will enjoy sipping lattes and eating croissants together regardless of what city of Paris you are in.

Your imagination is the only thing that is limiting on these trip as you can take “props” like art canvases and paint with you as you and your family paint landscape scenes in Venice, Florida (instead of Venice, Italy) or you search out souvenir windmills from Holland, Michigan as you visit their annual Tulip Festival or ask the locals where the best bratwurst is in Frankfurt, Kentucky instead of Frankfurt, Germany.

Making ourselves, a sojourner, or a stranger, in a domestic land lets us show our children more of God’s awesome promises to us of giving us blessings: including the blessings of travel, home and each other, regardless of where we are in life.

Big and Unusual Journeys

I am as a wonder and surprise to many, but You are my strong refuge.

Psalm 71:7 (AMP)

As the name implies these family journeys involve traveling to and seeing the sites normally not seen. Some examples are the many places that feature the “World’s Largest Things” (www.worldslargestthings.com), or catching up to the Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum called the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things as it moves throughout various cities in the United States featuring miniature versions of the World’s Largest Things.

From the “World’s Tallest Man” in Alton, Illinois, a life-size tribute to Robert Wadlow, a native son of Alton, who was 8 feet 11.1 inches tall at the time of his death to the “World’s Largest Can of Fruit Cocktail” in Sunnydale, California, Big and Unusual Journeys are definitely journeys that our family and yours can remember fondly for a lifetime.

If you don’t know where to start in creating Big and Unusual Journeys, our family has had wonderful help and received useful information from Kathy Weiser, owner and editor of Legends of America (www.legendsofamerica.com) to plan trips to see ghost towns, discover more about historical people, and investigate folklore and legends across the United States and into Canada.

Some times as Mom/Dad we cringe thinking about traveling in a car “that long” with kids, or we anticipate every possible scenario imaginable of “what can go wrong, will go wrong”, and we miss out on the journeys because we avoid them or put them off to inevitably there is no time left and our children are grown and on their own.

I love to use this quote by Babs Hoffman to combat any obstacles to traveling with my family:

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road

and enjoy the journey.

So whether you fly, drive, sail, travel by rail, or hike a trail, family trips are fundamentally fun and half the fun is just getting there. Family journeys are foundational to leaving a lasting legacy as your children and grandchildren remember “the trip when…”

Time to unpack your luggage and travel light

Dear God Tracker,

Time to Unpack Your Luggage and Travel Light

It was raining when we packed up on the last day of a family camping trip to the Welsh mountains. I was cold and not a little irritable as I helped bundle three dripping wet tents into their bags. But what bothered me more than this was the myriad smaller items that needed to be packed: 5 blow-up mattresses, bedding and sleeping bags, camping tables and chairs, gas burners, plates, cups, cutlery, left-over bottles of cool drink, bags of food, fruit, shoes, clothes suitcases… Somehow, we managed to pack it all in the two cars on the way to the mountains but now, in the rain, it seemed I was packing the mountains into the two cars.

“I wish we’d not packed the kitchen sink,” I moaned. “Next time – if there is a next time – we’ll travel light!”

Isn’t it funny how we lug too many things with us when we travel? Perhaps you’re better at packing than I am but I seem to always pack more for a trip than I actually need. Life’s a bit like that. We all tend to collect so much baggage over the years, which simply weighs us down in our quest to track God’s purposes. For instance, every confrontation we encounter results in an offence, aggression or hurt that we simply stuff deeper down into our life’s holdall. Eventually the bag becomes so heavy and overloaded that we need to haul another down from the loft to accommodate our disappointments, anxieties and insecurities.

I think Jesus had this principle in mind when he sent the twelve out on a missionary trip in Matthew 10. In verses 9 and 10 we read he says, “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff.” Obviously Jesus was speaking from a practical point of view but I think the principle he was making is that God would provide all that his disciples needed for the journey. The same principle applies for the journey of your life. There is no need for you or me to pack all those sad emotions into the suitcases of our lives and lug hurtful memories around with us anymore. We simply do not need them for the journey! Dear God Tracker, it’s time to unpack your luggage and travel light!

If you find your life’s suitcase is overloaded and bogging you down. Take Christ’s advice when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matt 11:28 & 30). Why not take a moment right now to pop open your suitcase and unload everything that you have horded over the years, onto his caring shoulders.

God-tracking is travelling light.

South African born, Dudley Anderson began writing for radio in 1994. Now resident in the United Kingdom, he currently writes a weekly e-mail devotional called, trACker, which developed out of a radio show he once produced called, On-Track. On-Track was heard by millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa. trACker is published through www.godtracker.co.uk and has been running since July 2003. It reaches hundreds of people worldwide via e-mail and online blogs. In 2015 Dudley compiled the first in a series of devotional books comprising a selection of 52 of these weekly devotional thoughts entitled, God-tracking Through the Year – year one.