Due to improvement work on a railway underpass on Highway 278 coming into Amory, MS, I have had to find an alternate route to my office at First Presbyterian Church. I tried the recommended detour once, but it seemed roundabout and too time-consuming. I looked at the local map and found a way into downtown that made more sense.

The route takes me through a part of Amory I had never seen, making it not only the road less traveled, but the road never traveled. Now that I must drive it two days a week on my commute, I’m seeing churches, industries, homes, and businesses I would not have encountered in the usual course of my work and contacts as interim pastor of the church. So I’m getting to know the town in a much more complete way.

As I drove down the new (to me) connector street into town, I began to think about the value of stepping out of our comfort zones now and again or exploring parts of ourselves we have not taken time or energy to cultivate. I was forced by the circumstance of road work to take a new route. Do you or I need to be pushed, cajoled or forced into a fresh approach or returning to an activity we love that we have abandoned or might we choose to do so willingly?

The first day I took my chosen detour, I heard an interview on Acoustic Cafe, an NPR show, with John Oates. You may know that he was and is half of the classic rock/R&B duo Hall and Oates. Turns out he has an acoustic, roots music side that was in fact his love before the duo was formed. His latest solo effort, 1000 Miles of Life, sees his return to that sort of music, featuring legendary players like Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas. I never cared for Hall and Oates, but the cuts played on Acoustic Cafe were extraordinary, and indeed revealed another side of John Oates. He pursued this project because he wanted to return to the kind of music he had loved since he was a teen.

Hearing about Oates’ interest in making the music he loves on the same day I began to drive the alternate route felt like a message from God. It couldn’t be coincidence. The word was: travel some new paths, reflect on what you love and go do that, step out of your comfort zone and see what treasures and wonders new territory may hold.

Interesting, too, that the very same week, I had written a devotional for the local hospice on “walking” a finger labyrinth. We do that with our non-dominant hand, again to push us out of our comfort zones and discover something about the fresh wayschartres-labyrinth1 God may want to work in our lives.

I’ve tried “walking”  those paper labyrinths with my left hand. It’s hard and tiring. But also satisfying. Maybe that’s the way it always is when we take an alternate route.

© 2010 Tom Cheatham