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Since welcoming my second son, I’ve spent hours driving around aimlessly. On days when he refuses to nap in my arms or in a carrier or in a stroller, his car seat becomes the golden ticket, and I strap us both in and hit the road.

Sometimes, these trips enable me to run errands, like picking up groceries. But more often, I don’t have anywhere particular I need to go, and so I create a game out of seeing if I can find my way home after getting a little lost.

The best part of this game is that it forces me to pay close attention to the world outside my car windows, which isn’t something I typically do when I’m relying on Google Maps. I take note of passing stores, restaurants and street signs, on the off chance they could one day guide me home.

Last month, I found myself playing the game without meaning to after I took a wrong turn while leaving my older son’s gymnastics class. I stayed calm and focused on my surroundings, and I was delighted to stumble on a faith-related surprise.

The Hindu Temple had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vibe, since it was obscured by large trees along a quiet country road. I actually blinked several times after seeing it, because I couldn’t imagine how it had ended up there.

Now, as I’m driving my baby around, I often purposely pass by that unexpected house of worship. It reminds me of the importance of paying attention to the world and of how fun it is to make faith-related discoveries when I least expect to.

Now that I’m back from maternity leave, I’ll be on the hunt for those discoveries not just when I’m in my car, but also when I’m reading the news of the day or scrolling through my social media feeds. I’ll let myself get a little lost in research adventures, in hopes that something surprising and memorable will pop up.

Those of us who belong to the Religion News Association often joke that “religion is always in the room” waiting to be noticed. This summer, I realized that it’s often along the road, too.

Fresh off the press

What Coco Gauff prayed for before her big U.S. Open win

Term of the week: Abaya

An abaya is a long, loose-fitting dress worn by some Muslim women for religious reasons. It’s at the center of a controversy in France, where government officials have long tried to restrict religious expression in the public square, including in public schools.

“Since 2004, students have not been able to wear ‘ostentatious’ symbols that have a clear religious meaning, like Catholic crosses, Jewish skullcaps or Muslim head scarves, in middle and high schools,” The New York Times reported, noting that the government made it clear this summer that abayas were also not allowed.

Around 300 Muslim girls wore abayas to class on the first day of the school year this month to protest France’s interference with religious activity. Sixty-seven of them refused to change when asked and were, therefore, sent home, according to The Guardian.

What I’m reading ...

Perry Bacon Jr. does not have a church at the moment. What he does have are dreams about what his future church could look like and how it could help his family thrive. “Many Americans, including me, were once part of churches that were essential parts of our lives. It’s strange to me that America, particularly its left-leaning cohort, is abandoning this institution, as opposed to reinventing to align with our 2023 values,” he recently wrote for The Washington Post.

Japanese law allows for the forced dissolution of a religious organization that’s found to gravely endanger public welfare. This policy has been enacted just twice in the country’s history, but it could soon be used a third time in order to resolve the government’s concerns about a group accused of engaging in harmful fundraising practices, according to The Guardian.

Mexico is one of the world’s most Catholic countries. It follows, then, that Mexican baseball teams generally feature several Catholic players. The New York Times recently wrote about some of these players and the pilgrimage they often make when they play in Mexico City.

Don’t miss my colleague Jennifer Graham’s beautiful article about churches that are struggling to stay open and what their communities will lose when they’re gone.

Odds and ends

Here’s a religion-sports crossover tweet for the ages.

Last month, I was thrilled to learn that I’m in the running for a reporting award from Religion News Association. Congratulations to my fellow nominees!

Last but not least, thanks for the well wishes during my maternity leave. It was so lovely to spend the summer with my new little boy and his sweet older brother.