Open Letter to Travelocity

I work for an amazing company, Fuller Theological Seminary. We have the great privilege of working with and for ministry leaders from all over the world. One such leader is a pastor and seminary professor from Myanmar. In order to be the best professor and pastor he can be he has applied for the Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller. 

We were able to find this pastor a full scholarship for this first course here on campus. A generous and gracious church has covered all his expenses: flight, housing, food, tuition, books - it is a really beautiful thing.

So our office has begun making arrangements to bring him to campus. We booked a flight with you, Travelocity, from Myanmar to Los Angeles for him. A few hours after booking the flight we were contacted via email letting us know it was canceled. 

We called you to inquire as to why the flight had been canceled. After one of my colleagues was on hold with your customer service for one hour and thirty four minutes, you informed us that the passengers name was not acceptable. You see, he only has one name. No first name, only a family name. So when booking the ticket we put in "First Name Unknown" and then his Last Name. My colleague inquired "am I not able to use your service if the passenger does not have an American name?" to which your customer service representative replied, "If they do not have a first and last name, the bank will not allow them to book a ticket."

We are paying for his ticket as the accredited graduate school supporting his studies, so I do not understand why the bank should be an issue. We have a copy of his passport verifying he only has one name - why is it that you cannot complete a simple transaction allowing a citizen from Myanmar to use your service to fly to America?

It baffles me that in today's world we still make things so inaccessible to those who do things differently than us. 

So we booked the flight through Expedia. It took approximately 34 seconds and in the amount of time it took me to write you this letter we already got the confirmation of the ticket. I am glad to see that some companies are willing to work with various cliental from around the world. Thank you, Expedia, I will be using you a lot more in the future.



The Significance of Space

Lately I’ve been thinking about the significant of place.

Asking myself questions about where I am at in my journey – looking at how far I have come, asking why I am not further – figuring out what steps I need to take to grow, transform, and awaken my soul.

I got finished reading “Pilgrimage of a Soul” by Phileena Heuertz. And it is a GREAT book. I really related to it in a number of significant ways. But what struck me as she told her story and shared about her journey out of darkness was that much of it took place on a pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago in Spain and during a sabbatical in North Carolina.

Spirituality would be a whole lot easier if we didn’t have to tease it out in our normal routine.

When I think back on my most profound spiritual experiences, they have taken place camping in a tent underneath a waterfall in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland; watching the sunset against the red rocks in Las Vegas, Nevada; or sitting in the presence of a suffering man in a leper colony in Kathmandu, Nepal.

But each time I come back from those experiences, I slip right back into routine at home and get frustrated losing half of all the progress I’ve made. Sometimes it feels like I need to “go away” in order to make any real significant headway in my spiritual growth.

I just started reading the book “The Solace of Fierce Landscapes” by Belden Lane. First of all, amazing. I have only made it through two chapters, so there is only so much I can say about the book at this point – but I am fairly certain I will be encouraging you all to buy it! In the introduction as he begins to talk about mountain and desert landscapes he says, “Growth in the spiritual life requires adopting a conscious ‘habit of being.’ Far too easily do we embrace the illusion that changing places is the simplest way of changing ourselves.”

And that’s exactly it!

As I embark on this journey of awakening and transformation coming out of this long season of darkness I've been in, I can’t help but feel that things would be easier, or at least faster, if I were not in my normal everyday routine. If I were able to just get away for a 4-month sabbatical or go on a pilgrimage across the highlands of Scotland. If I were able to escape all that constantly frustrates me, and drags me down, and causes me to lose my patience, and those things I lust and obsess over. But you can’t ever escape it. And even if you are lucky enough to get a sabbatical or embark on a pilgrimage, you have to come home sometimes. So you have to learn to develop a spirituality that can survive.

I spent just one day at the Center for Action and Contemplation with Fr. Richard Rohr last week and really enjoyed some of the contemplative routines he implemented throughout the day. He started the day with several minutes of centering prayer. Throughout the day a timer was set so every 20 minutes a bell chimed and the whole class stopped for just 5-10 seconds to pause, detach, and center ourselves from wherever our focus was back on God. And our afternoon break was a 30-45 minute contemplative walk around the neighborhood – trying to clear our minds. Fr. Rohr said to us “don’t think, just look” – and this is a very hard practice to learn. But I want to learn. And I need to learn – to begin to implement new routines in my life to nurture my soul in the everyday.

What are some of your favorite routines that help you to detach and reconnect with God in the midst of the chaos?