The car was a mess. I didn’t notice it so much as we were driving. It only hit me when we stopped after five days on the road. The front of the car was covered with dead insects. I should have known. The day before I thought it was raining. The splat, splat, splat on the windshield was coming regularly as we drove through Wyoming. It wasn’t rain. It was a steady stream of bugs.

I’ve always wanted to take a cross-country trip since my friends, Dick and Cynthia, did it years ago. This past week it became a reality. My daughter, Sarah, was moving to Seattle, Wash. I traveled with her, her boyfriend, Chris, and my friend, Ray, from coast to coast, over 3,100 miles. In total, we drove through 15 states in six days. I was living the dream.

I channeled my best Clark Griswold, Chevy Chase’s character in the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” as we mapped out the route along Interstate 90. We stopped at the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn., visited the Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minn., and stood in awe at the foot of Mount Rushmore in Keystone, S.D. I couldn’t stop smiling through it all.

The trip was amazing. I never really appreciated how beautiful our country is. The song, “America, the Beautiful” kept coming to mind. The sunsets took our breath away. The majestic fields of corn and soy bean covered the countryside in the Midwest. The sky went on forever and the clouds seemed to touch the hills in Montana. The sloping hills and majestic landscape in Idaho were awe inspiring. Did I mention the mountains? And then to step foot in the Pacific Ocean was a real thrill for this East Coast boy.

Yet for all the breathtaking moments we experienced along the way, I couldn’t help but think about the toll it took on our car. The grime, dust and bug debris reminded me that it had been a long journey, and that despite the good times, there was a price that had been paid. It was easy to overlook it as we rolled along the highway.

The same is true of life. All of us get banged up along the way. We can’t help but be affected by the messiness and the collateral damage of living in a fallen world. You can roll along and not even realize how much it has affected you until you stop and take inventory of where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

Just as a good car wash can put the shine back on your vehicle, attending worship can do the same thing for your soul. It gives you an opportunity to reconnect with Christ and to be cleansed and renewed for life’s journey. There is nothing like singing a hymn or praise song to awaken your spirit. Listening to the Word, spoken and preached, reminds us all that God loves us.

So enjoy the ride but don’t skip out on worship as you travel along. Invite God along and take time to be refreshed. You will be renewed and it will add to the experience and bless you again and again.

The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.

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