Sunday, December 11, 2016


As I wrote this, I was on the last leg of an 18-day around-the-world trip.  It started with a preaching invitation in Hawaii, continued with a visit to family in Taipei.  And then, I said, "Why not come home headed west?" 
It has been an intentional prayerful journey - an idea that my spiritual director tossed out. As I have flown, I have prayed in 22 time zones so far. For friends, for peace, for justice, for courageous people seeking to live faithfully in their context.

For me praying is an eyes-open/ears-open endeavor. The following experiences occurred over the last two weeks.

1. Walking up upon a fisherman mending nets by the sea on the north coast of Taiwan.  Likely a foreigner, he was far from home. This leathery and foreboding character suddenly looked up at me and smiled as bright as the sun and said Hi. And in that moment I looked in the eyes of a guy who really would have dropped his nets in a flash to follow Jesus.  Deeply touching.

2. After reading Julian of Norwich on the first long day of flying, I was haunted by an old gospel hymn for over a week as I walked alien streets:  "But I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day."  This song was written centuries after Julian's life but the connection between it and her witness lingering in me were clear.

3. Arriving in the Dubai Airport right around 6 am for the first call to prayer on the airport announcement system.  And then finding three chapels.  All empty. Muslim, Taoist/Buddhist and Christian. Obviously the Muslims had the better room so I prayed there briefly. Shoes off of course, standing timidly in the back of an empty mosque.

4. Countless rich conversations and simple interactions. With people from all over the planet. And not a few from DC. (I live in a town full of travelers.)  Kindness, respect for others, good humor, generosity and common humanity stretch everywhere, and far beyond the Christian frontiers.  We are truly a global family despite our cultural peculiarities from region to region.

And the whole world seems to find amazing agreement on one thing at the moment: that the 2016 American political conversation has become a circus.  They read all the lurid stories with fascination.  They sympathize and wish us the best.  

I cannot say it is a moment that inspires any sense of national pride as a traveler abroad.  Yet even still, It feels good to come home, even if it is to a country arguably crazier than any I've ever come home to before.

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