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  • Martin Kirkbride

Thought For Today; by Martin Kirkbride

Cancelled Holiday? Our much-looked forward to holiday in Italy next month isn’t going to happen now. Yes, we are disappointed but to be concerned about it would be almost obscene in the context of the present pandemic and the distressing situations many families now find themselves in.

The concept of holidays, and holiday travel, stem directly from the original context of ‘holy days’ and pilgrimage. That gives us a reminder that a holiday may be intended to recharge our physical batteries but that there remains a holy day aspect – the importance of our spiritual journey, a renewing of the mind and recharging of the soul. We all need direction to get us where we need to go. God takes us on a lifelong journey. He promises to be our compass and guide, showing us every step of the path if we will only let Him lead. The Destination: Going on my holiday trip is an exciting adventure in planning. To plan to go anywhere there has to be an end destination It isn’t like in Alice in Wonderland. When Alice comes to a junction in the road that leads in different directions, she asks the Cheshire Cat, “Cheshire-Puss...would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” “ That depends a good deal on where you want to go to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” replied Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” replies the Cat.

If we aren’t clear and confident in journeying towards God and trusting him for our end destination then, to quote the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter which way you go’. The problem with an Alice in Wonderland approach is that actually it does matter – it matters too much not to care.

The Compass: My Satnav is only as accurate or reliable as the information I programme into it. Enter the wrong Grid Reference, misspell a town or street name or make an error in the post-code, and it will obediently take me to the wrong place. It won’t challenge or correct me. The Word of God is an accurate compass. Psalms 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”.

God’s word is an accurate compass that challenges us when we are heading in the wrong direction.

The Path: On a recent trip through France we undertook a challenging walk in the Black Mountains (a small mountain range east of Carcassonne). The path was steep, rough, stony, blocked by boulders, and skirted some sheer drops. In places it was hard to even discern any sort of path. It was very steep and there were few resting places. At times it was tempting to turn back, to give up. But if we didn’t overcome the obstacles, if we didn’t commit to going on, then how else would we ever reach the top? We did reach the top- the view was exhilarating, the sense of achievement was fantastically joyful. In Psalm 16:11 we are reminded of God’s promise: ‘you will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.’ The Guide: Not all my holiday journey planning has been perfect. Several years ago whilst driving to a remote destination in rural France, we got completely lost. This was long before we had a Satnav. I had packed the wrong map - the only map I had in the car didn’t cover the area we found ourselves in. Night closed in, darkness fell, few cars passed on the narrow unlit road. To mix metaphors we were ‘ Jusqu'le ruisseau sans pagaie’ , (* up the creek without a paddle). No clue where to go, no signs or anyone to ask. Eventually we found a village where we were advised to take a very unlikely looking narrow unlit narrow track through a nearby large forest. After several kilometres this unmarked route would then bring us out onto the road we needed to follow. Driving on a forest track late at night was a scary experience – but it restored us back onto the right road.

The well-known words of Psalms 23:3 come to mind, ‘He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake... ...I will fear no evil; He is with me - His rod and staff, they comfort me”.

We can trust our guide with every word, every step, every counsel. He will never steer us in the wrong direction. Relying on our human wisdom, planning and Satnav is not adequate. It might get us to a hotel but it won’t get us to heaven.

Many of us may not have, or be able to afford, a holiday this year but we can have a ‘holy day’ anytime (especially in lockdown). God’s Word will continue to direct and guide us, and spiritually refresh us.

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