I have fond memories of sitting and writing in certain places (even if I don’t always remember exactly what I was writing at the time), such as at the trail junction in The Bowl, or in Plainview on the way home from the Amarillo Marathon, or in Veranna, Mexico, or on the dock in Granbury, or at a metal table in the garden in Italy. I’ve often traveled to workshops with Cyndi (as in, Santa Fe or Durango) knowing I’ll benefit from writing in a new place, even if I’m still writing at a table in a fast food restaurant.
I have different thoughts when I’m in different places. Even a Whataburger off Greenville in Dallas affects me differently than a Whataburger in Midland. It’s true despite the fact both locations have identical booths and identical tables and identical food.
I know if I go somewhere different, away from my regular haunts, I’ll notice different things and think different thoughts. I have a formula: ΔPL + ΔPA = ΔPE, meaning a change in place plus change in pace equals change in perspective. It works for me even when the new place is not exotic or far away. The smallest changes in pace and place can trigger my imagination.
Part of what I’m doing when I travel is learning how to pay attention. Variety and change of scenery are important, but exotic change is not necessary. Even the most ordinary experience in a different place changes the way I think. It wakes me up. I pay attention.
Annie Murphy Paul wrote (The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain), “All of us think differently depending on where we are … The field of cognitive science commonly compares the human brain to a computer, but the influence of place reveals a major limitation of this analogy: while a laptop works the same way whether it’s being used at the office or while we’re sitting in a park, the brain is deeply affected by the setting in which it operates.”
One place where I go seeking change is an annual retreat called Base Camp Gathering with The Noble Heart Ministries at Bear Trap Ranch, in the Rocky Mountains near Colorado Springs. I’ve attended this event every fall since 2012, and this week I’m going again.
I always go to Base Camp with a heart full of questions about life and ministry and what to do next. Remarkably, even though I don’t come home with something as tangible as a bullet-point list of action items, I always leave with a sense of what to do next.
The questions on my mind this year are about ministry and timing. What should my teaching ministry and men’s ministry look like during the next few years?
And now that I’m well on my way to recovery from ankle surgery in June, I’m looking forward to more time on my bike and more time on the mountain trails. What do either of those look like in my life of teaching and mentoring?
Erwin McManus wrote (in Wide Awake), “You can’t just sit back and hope that the life you long for will simply come to you.” One of the things I do to seek that life I long for, the life God has for me, is to retreat into the mountains with men I love and respect. I’m ready for this change in my pace at a change in my place. I’m praying for a change in my perspective.
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“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”