Prayer Walking: Travel With Purpose

16 October 2013

“A prayer journey is going somewhere – around the corner or around the world – for the primary purpose of intercessory prayer on location, better known as prayer walking.”


From Prayer Walking: A Journey of Faith by Dan R. Crawford and Calvin Miller

Afflicted with an Idea: Lessons from the Wright Brothers

11 March 2013

I never really think about the Wright Brothers when I fly commercially. The only reason I am thinking of them now, as my flight prepares for departure, is that I’m writing an article on them. My mind is still freshly full of the images from the books and DVD I used in my initial research. Now I am heading to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina — the “ground zero” of flight — for an up-close look at where it all began.

Wright Brothers Memorial

Wright Brothers Memorial

Ask any schoolchild in America who the Wright Brothers were and you’ll receive a pat answer along the lines of “They invented the airplane!” Yes, we owe this fantastic mode of transportation we call “airplane” to them; but beyond that, what do we really know about Wilbur and Orville Wright?

Did you know that Wilbur and Orville were lifelong bachelors who didn’t even graduate from high school? Their neighbors and friends were convinced that the eccentric Wright brothers would never amount to much. Little did those acquaintances know that the brothers were “afflicted with an idea,” as Wilbur put it in a letter to his mentor Octave Chanute: they were afflicted with the idea that man could fly.

Many other inventors had attempted to make flying machines. Competition along those lines was pretty fierce in the late 1800s. What made the Wright Brothers succeed where so many others had failed? Four characteristics stood out to me as I discovered more about the Wright’s story.

What made the Wright Brothers different?

They were willing to DREAM. They were crazy enough to think that just because something hadn’t been done before didn’t mean it couldn’t be done.

They were willing to FAIL. And they did — again and again and again, even to the point of putting their own lives in danger. And yet they never gave up, though the temptation to quit nearly overcame them many times.

They were willing to LOOK FOOLISH. You can fail repeatedly in private without anyone knowing. You can experiment in a laboratory hidden away from others and risk little embarrassment at a lack of success. But the Wright Brothers, though they were private people who tried to keep their experiments secret for as long as possible, chose to put themselves “out there.” The people in Kitty Hawk had never seen anything like these well-dressed grown men chasing through the sandy dunes after their gliders. The brothers were misunderstood and ridiculed. But they kept experimenting.

First landing strip, with museum and monument in background

First landing strip, with museum and monument in background

They were willing to KEEP FIGHTING. In the years that followed the first successful flight, the brothers had to fight hard to protect their patent and their reputation. Though it made them unpopular in their latter years, the men (and especially Orville after Wilbur died) had to fight to secure their rightful place in history. The Smithsonian wanted to put one of its own as the inventor of flight; had Orville not fought tooth and nail for recognition of their idea, schoolchildren may be learning about Samuel Langley, not the Wright Brothers, as the inventor of the flying machine. Heritage and legacy are important.


The Wright Brothers took a complicated problem and made great headway with it. Through their willingness to dream, willingness to fail, willingness to look foolish, and willingness to keep fighting, they invented the first successful flying machine and affected the course of history.

Have you ever been “afflicted with an idea”? Ask God to help you have the same single-mindedness the Wright Brothers exhibited in their pursuit of aviation. Your God-inspired idea can change the world!

A “First Class” Start

27 February 2013

Creative writing teachers will tell you that bad experiences make for good stories. It’s true.

And I’ve had my share. The “wisdom” behind posts like Tips For If You Miss Your Flight usually comes from really stupid things I’ve done while traveling — like missing my flight because I’m sitting at the wrong gate or I’m waiting at the gate for a plane that’s going where I need to go and I think it’s my flight but, oh, it’s not my airline. I’ve slept overnight in airport lounges enough times to feel like a supporting cast member in Tom Hank’s movie The Terminal.

But every once in a while an experience falls into your lap that’s too good not to share.

Thanks to my uncle who trains pilots for a major airline, I was flying “non-rev” from Dallas, Texas to Norfolk, Virginia. Flying non-rev is a gamble: sometimes you don’t get a seat and get bumped to the next available flight, sometimes you manage to slip into the last seat available on the plane, usually a middle seat. And sometimes — blessed times — you get to fly First Class.

Yesterday was one of those blessed days. As I sat there in my luxuriously roomy seat watching the other passengers go by, I was trying to look sufficiently calm and composed on the outside while I was doing a happy dance on the inside. Thank you, Uncle Robert, thank you, thank you for your choice to work for the airline and support your family members’ addiction to travel. You are my hero.

I’ve already described in detail the pleasures of flying First Class, and how humbling it is to be given this gift through no merit of my own, symbolic in a way of that Other great gift we’ve been given through no merit of our own. So I’ll limit this post to describing what I had for lunch at 30,000 feet: grilled shrimp and cheesy grits. And they were surprisingly good.

This writers’ retreat week is off to a great start. Bring it on, Lord. I’m ready.

Helping the Greek Economy

25 July 2012

While I’m here, I’ve decided to make an effort to support the Greek economy … primarily by supporting the food industry. 🙂

My first attempt is seen below:

Clockwise from left: black olives (wrinkly kind), Greek yogurt, stuffed grape leaves, and green olives in brine.

These products were all purchased from the local store in the closest village, Agii Apostoli. The descriptions were all in Greek so I relied entirely on the label photos. They all had a Greek flag on their packaging, which I’m assuming means “Made in Greece.” Yum! Everything tastes so good!


Greetings from Greece

25 July 2012

Near village of Agii Apostoli

On Monday, I flew from London to Athens. After 3 1/2 weeks of rain in England with highs barely reaching the 60s and lows in the 40s, I had one desire: warmth!! And Greece delivered. It’s been lovely, with temperatures in the 90s, beautiful, consistent, reliable sunshine but a gentle breeze from the ocean and lots of shade to cool things off.

I flew Aegean Airlines, the largest Greek airline. Flying a non-US airline was something I hadn’t done in a while but I was impressed by the quality of the service (okay, so that’s code for “they served a free hot meal and it was good!”). We arrived an hour late but no one seemed too concerned. Everything is so laid back. No customs forms to fill out and just a short passport control line to get through, separated into EU and non-EU members.

The owner of the villa we’re renting picked me up in her car and we drove about an hour to the village of Agii Apostoli where I’ll be staying for a week with my sister, her husband and my two little nieces. I was pleasantly surprised at the modern infrastructure — nice highways and a subway system — and Amelia, my hostess, said all of that is new since the 2004 Olympics.

I found out a lot of information from Amelia concerning the political and educational system here and Greece, and asked her lots of questions about the political climate since the recent elections. As we drew closer to the ocean, the views grew increasingly dramatic and I’d interrupt her every once in a while with a gasp. What a beautiful country!

Smart Money: Cash Passport

11 July 2012

Sorry, folks. Traveler’s Checks are a thing of the ancient past. They’ve been replaced by debit cards, credit cards and most recently … Cash Passports.

I’d heard about Cash Passports for several years but was skeptical about them: I always felt deep down that it was some kind of scam. However, after reading some positive testimonials, I decided to try one this year for my trip to England.

You can get a Cash Passport at the exchange company Travelex, found in the international terminals of major airports. You put an initial sum on the card (you get the best deal on exchange rates if you go over a certain amount, like $700) then use it as if it were a debit card, either as a swipe card or to withdraw money from ATMs. It’s widely accepted here in England.

So why use a Cash Passport instead of a debit card? Several reasons.

(1) It has a “chip and pin” system which makes it very secure for use in Europe; over here they consider our non-chip US cards (both debit and credit) very unsafe as it’s much easier to steal information from them.

(2) The amount of the card is in British Pounds (you can also choose Euros) so you only have to deal with exchange rates one time, upon purchase of the card at the airport, and the rest of the time you can figure out everything in British Pounds based on the remaining balance on your card.

In my opinion, it beats having to monitor the exchange rates on your checking account as transactions go through, as well as being charged a percentage for each transaction. The advantage of a Cash Passport over a credit card is similar to that of a debit card with the additional advantage that the CP lets you withdraw cash without charge, whereas a credit card would charge for a cash advance.

You can check your balance online (supposedly — I’ve just been keeping a tally of all my expenses) and if it gets lost or stoelen there’s a number you can call immediately to deactivate the card and you’ll be issued a new one with the remaining balance.

Bottom line is that everyone has a different system and preference for how to handle their money abroad. I’ve tried the CP this year and been very pleased with how it’s worked for me. I think I’ll continue using the CP in my travels in the future. You might want to check it out, too!

4th of July in England

4 July 2012

Happy 4th of July!

We would soon be heading out to the Boathouse where our Oxford RAs are preparing for us a dinner to remember. Who would have thought that 236 years after our little revolution, the Brits would be hosting us in a little barbecue to celebrate our Independence Day? Just a little twist of irony.

But not the strangest thing that’s every happened here. I think that award goes to last year’s Oxford program students Trey Ramsey and Alycia Graves teaching the Chinese students how to do the electric slide, after they’d helped us celebrate the 4th of July — a holiday they’d never heard of before.

I love these multicultural interactions. 🙂

Will have photos later!


Sunshine in Oxford

25 June 2012

We had a sunshiny and — get this — warm day here in Oxford for the first day of class and the Welcome Tea. In fact (and this is a first-ever phenomenon for me) I got a little sunburn from sitting in the Hertford College quad for the better part of an hour. Sunburnt. In Oxford.

Yesterday’s lunch was chicken in a white wine sauce with a sort of rice pilaf, snowpeas and carrots. Chocolate cake for dessert.

Chicken in Wine Sauce

Walking back from class today, I made the mistake of taking a shortcut through the Covered Market. I came out on the other side with two flower containers and 3 bouquets of flowers from the discount bin!

Blue Flowers

Lilies in my dorm room


An English Breakfast: The Stuff of Dreams

24 June 2012

Ahhhhh! A traditional English breakfast. The smell wafted up to me on the top floor of Abingdon House as I woke up this morning, my stomach rumbling in anticipation. The fare did not disappoint.

An English Breakfast

Eggs, “bacon,” mushroom, tomato, hash browns, sausage plus toast, croissants, fresh fruit and berries and several options of cereal, juices, milk and coffee. It’s the breakfast of kings. What a great way to start a Sunday morning!

Today’s Highlight: The Grand Cafe

22 June 2012

Already Day Three and it’s going much too quickly. Another thing that’s going quickly is my spending money!! Why is it so much easier to spend British pounds than American dollars? I guess partly because it doesn’t feel like real money.

Tea with my colleague Diane — and yes, that is a winter sweater in June.

Lots of administrative details to deal with today but the highlight of the day was probably tea for three at the Grand Cafe, the oldest coffeehouse in England (established in 1650). Had “cream tea” with my colleague Diane and her son: cream tea consists of delicious scones (nothing like the hockey pucks you get in the States!) with clotted cream, jam and — of course — tea. We had a great time discussing the cultural differences between the British and Americans.

Diane & son Josh at Grand Cafe

Another highlight was getting a pass to the Botanic Garden — my favorite spot in Oxford.

Botanic Gardens, Oxford

Our students arrive tomorrow!

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