This morning I'm writing from my aunt and uncle's beautiful backyard in sunny California. I arrived in Sacramento last night with just a laptop bag and a small suitcase, one that I knew would fit in the carry-on compartment of my plane.

As I packed for this trip, I did my best to accommodate the ever-tightening airline regulations. For this particular flight, I would have been charged to check any luggage, so I traveled light. That meant leaving certain luxuries at home. A book I had been reading didn't fit in my laptop bag. A blow dryer was out of the question because of its size, and all of my shampoo, hair gel, and other liquids had to fit into a small zip-lock bag.

Why am I sharing this? Certainly not because I am suffering hardship! One suitcase is plenty for a week. But packing for my short journey made me reflect on Hebrews 11, where the Bible describes a multitude of faithful people that God commended. God describes Noah, who had to fit his whole family, animals, and food on an ark for several months. Abram "when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents . . . " By faith, Moses left Egypt, the land where he was born and educated. By faith David spent years fleeing from Saul. On two occasions, he could have ended his sojourn by killing Saul, but he respected the Lord's anointing on Saul and spared his life.

These stories give me hope and courage. As I travel, I am in very good company! I know my circumstances are not as difficult as these heroes of the faith, as I have the luxury of airplanes and e-mail. I also have another advantage over the ancients. Hebrews 11:13 says that "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance." Later, the writer states

"And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised. . . whose weakness was turned to strength; . . . They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated . . . They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."

So, what was it that God had planned for them and for us? Hebrews 12: 2 states "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 1 Peter 2:24a-25 says "[Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness . . . For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

So the ultimate example of a hard journey was the one that Jesus took to the cross. He died for the joy of seeing us live in righteousness. Through the grace of God, I can join the ancient believers in saying that together, God has made us his flock. We travel, but we do not travel aimlessly. The good Shepherd guides our every step.

And so, I leave you with a song that has been running through my head a lot lately:

"What it feels like" by FFH

So this is what if feels like to walk the wilderness.
This is what if feels like to come undone.
This is what if feels like to lose my confidence
unsure of anything or anyone.
So this is what if feels like to walk the desert sand.
This is what if feels like to hear my name.
To be scared to death 'cause I'm all alone
but feel love and peace just the same.
And this may not be the road I would choose for me
but it still feels right somehow.
'Cause I have never felt you as close to me as I do right now.
So this is what if feels like to be led .