Over the past few months Barby and I have had the privilege of spending time in countries that were new to us: Thailand, Denmark, and Morocco. Each time - months in advance of the trip - we would get hold of the Lonely Planet book and pore over its pages as we planned what we would do and see together.
As I look back now the same thing happened each time.
Before we entered the specific country those Lonely Planet books were tough going. The names of cities and streets and sites were hard work because the Thai and Danish and Arabic languages were so foreign to us - and some of those maps were hard to read!
But once in the country and experiencing it first-hand and, even more, once we had left the country and collecting our memories, then flicking through those Lonely Planet guides and noting all that we had seen and done was so much fun. The books came alive because the information they contained was so much more familiar to us.
I wonder whether we value the familiar enough in our churches today.
For example, preachers can place themselves under this burden to come up with something profound and new every week - when reminding people of the familiar truth that sweeps across the scriptures may well be what is needed most. Sometimes people need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed. They can benefit so much from hearing again what they already know...
Or, alternatively, consider those who 'lead' worship services and the excitement they can convey when it comes time to teach the congregation a new song. This excitement is not always shared by the congregation who seem to give themselves the most to the songs they know the best. It is worth remembering. Yesterday I just loved singing the familiar "Faithful One" and even "I love you Lord and I lift my voice" (in a youth service!).
In times of uncertainty - which is a bit like entering a new country - let's breed a deeper contentment among the people of God by drawing on the familiar more often. Lets allow our engagement with word and worship to be like reading a Lonely Planet book that is alive with excited 'been there, done that' memories and 'been there, seen that' images - and not mired so often in language that is so foreign.