TexasTo all my Texan friends: I apologize in advance for anything I say that may sound as if I don’t like Texas or Texans. Please bear with me. I love Texans and any state that provides two new birds per day for my life list is an awesome place!

Starbucks on the Right

The first time I drove through a Texas city, I saw a Starbucks off the freeway. “Perfect!” I thought. “I need a late afternoon pick-me-up. I’ll just swing off at the next exit, grab a coffee, and be on my way again in no time.” Wrong.

I exited the freeway onto this strange set of four lanes all going in the same direction. The Starbucks slid by on my right before I could make it across the four busy lanes, so I opted to turn left. Normally, turning left to duck under the freeway and turn in at some business to get headed in the right direction wouldn’t pose a problem. In Texas, it doesn’t work that way.

Within five minutes I knew I’d have to resort to Siri to get me out of the snarl. “Find next Starbucks,” I told her. She responded with instructions to get back on the freeway going in the opposite direction I wanted to go.

I followed her instructions—or so I thought. But no, evidently, that four-lane one-way thing that runs parallel to the freeway has the same name as the freeway, but it also has another name on the road sign above the stop light.

Hopelessly Confused

TexasAnd don’t get me started on the left-hand turn lanes. I angered many a local in my ten days in Texas by inadvertently choosing the wrong one. Evidently, if one wants to get back on the freeway (the real one, not the frontage one that goes by the same name), one takes the innermost left-hand turn lane. This special U-turn lane provides the best access to the freeway going in the opposite direction. The other one will get you there, too, but, well, I can’t explain. If you’ve never driven in Texas, you wouldn’t understand until you experienced a few of them yourself.

Back to my search for Starbucks. After ten minutes, I still hadn’t reached the promised land. My heart raced like I’d had a double-double super caffeinated macchiato, and I didn’t think I’d fall asleep or feel drowsy any time soon. I had made it back on the freeway headed in the right direction, though.

Bless those Texan road engineers. I felt sorry for the businesses along the freeways. How many other people attempted to reach a Texas roadside business only to give up in frustration. Shoot, if I lived in Texas, I’d probably just quit drinking coffee and order everything else exclusively from Amazon.

Other peculiarities caught my eye, as well. For example, whilst driving down a two-lane highway I noticed a strange, three-foot wide no-man’s land in the middle of the road. I couldn’t decide its purpose—a bike lane? A turn lane for really thin vehicles? The guy painting the lines forgot to remove the construction cones before he laid down the yellow stripes? Who knows. Bless those Texans, they must have a logical reason.

Those Texan Toll Roads

TexasTry mapping a route with Siri between point A and B in Texas without using toll roads and you’ll find yourself in another snarl. I armed myself with a big jar of pennies and a pile of ones, because in Oklahoma (my only other toll road experience) I’d run into the “We don’t accept any bills over twenty” and the “toss your change in the hopper” kind of toll booths.

Planning ahead didn’t work for me, though. Texas doesn’t accept pennies. I held up traffic at a toll booth for five minutes whilst searching for enough change to pay the $1.75 in coins. The drivers piled up behind me started to roar their big Texan truck engines (my Prius couldn’t roar back). I ended up using five pennies anyway.

I decided to go through the manned toll booth the next time. Only to discover that Texas has a whole new kind of toll booth. More of a “we’ve-suckered-you-on-to-this-toll-road-but-you-can-only-get-off-if-you-have-our-special-window-tag variety.” They’ll happily take your photo as you pass under the toll ticker and send you a big bill (or send you to prison if you pass under too many times). I just wanted to go to Starbucks.

Despite my love of solitary driving, I surely would have welcomed a Texan driving assistant to help me navigate the quirks of Texas roadways.

Denominational Tangles

Driving in a state of confusion for ten days made me think about church. What must visitors feel like when they walk through the doors? Does someone greet them and walk them through the traffic patterns? Do they feel frustrated because everyone seems to know how to navigate the service, the vocabulary, and the customs without a hitch or a wrong turn?

Have you thought about how visitors feel when they walk through your church doors? Click To Tweet

Every denomination has different routines and procedures that make sense to those accustomed to attending. But what do visitors feel like? I grew up in a church that passed around little cups for communion. Imagine my shock when I visited a friend’s church and they passed a big goblet around (and yes, everyone sipped from the same goblet).

The roads in Texas have the same purpose as the roads in Arizona—to get people from point A to point B. Likewise, regardless of our denominations, churches all have the same purpose—to bring people into a personal relationship with Jesus.

The next time a stranger shows up at my church, I plan on helping them through the tangle—and it starts with a smile and a conversation. After all, I wouldn’t want them to feel like an out-of-towner on a Houston freeway!

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8 Comments

  1. What a great analogy, and point about churches! It’s up to all of us to fill in the blanks between the front door greeters and the sanctuary ushers. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. This made me laugh out loud! Thank you for your sense of humor and joy even in the midst of irritation and confusion. And for the reminders about making sure I help others know the one important truth when they come to my church.

  3. Good thoughts Anita. I’m not so fond of “seeker” churches because I believe church is for those that know him, but I do believe that church should not make visitors feel uncomfortable. Personally, I do not like a church that does a “meet and greet.” I often find myself standing alone while those around me visit. Funny story about communion. Especially when the kids were little, we’d sit up front so their view wasn’t obstructed. Once we visited a church as we were travelling that did communion in a way that was different (I don’t remember exactly how now, it was several years ago). We were the first they called on to the table…we never, ever sit in a front pew when we’re visiting a church for the first time.

  4. Excellent application, Anita. I try to notice new folks at our church and to view our church-ese, our funny, quirky routines and rituals through the eyes of the uninitiated. Sounds like your drive in Texas was a good reminder of all the things we take for granted as “normal.”
    Michele Morin recently posted…My Piece of the ElephantMy Profile

  5. If I ever go to Texas I will take note not to drive- that doesn’t sound like fun at all! I love the link you make with church. When I first moved away from home to be involved in youth work at a new church, the vicar’s wife told me to sit with her at the first service and said she’d show me what to do. I wondered why, but after a service of sung liturgy, going up to kneel at a rail to receive communion and a really random bit where people walked halfway up the aisle to do the Gospel reading with people holding candles and everyone turning to face them, I was so glad there was someone to point me in the right direction! The church I’m in now is very different but it reminds me to look out for others who might feel the same.
    Lesley recently posted…The Power Of Life And DeathMy Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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