Lessons from a Wildfire #4: Sycamore or Serrano?

IMG_2694Sycamore Canyon has not yet recovered from the wildfire that swept through the coastal mountain range about 18 months ago. The California drought has deprived the area of much-needed rain, and there is little new growth. Ashes continue to dominate the landscape.   There is a kind of beauty to it, but it is a barren beauty.

That’s why the right turn into Serrano Canyon surprised me. This narrow off-shoot from its wider cousin, about a mile from the IMG_2688trailhead, was untouched by the fire. The turn from Sycamore into Serrano takes you from one world into another. Tall, leafy trees provide welcome shade. Insects buzz around hardy wildflowers. The breeze is cooler, the trail is pleasant, and I found myself refreshed by that portion of the hike a couple of weeks ago.

The contrast between the two canyons was striking. And it brought to mind one of my favorite, and most obscure, Bible passages.

Paul wrote a letter from a Roman prison to his friend Philemon about a mutual acquaintance named Onesimus. That letter, just 25 verses long, wound up in the New Testament, snuggled between its better-known neighbors Titus and Hebrews. This little book is rarely mentioned, but it contains one of the most powerful compliments I’ve ever heard – a compliment that I have adopted as one of my life goals.

Paul said this to his friend Philemon: “…the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (verse 7). Read that verse again. Now imagine receiving a letter like that, containing this phrase, from someone like Paul.

And if Philemon understood that Paul’s writing were inspired by God, it would have been even better. Imagine God saying to you, “the hearts of My people have been refreshed through you.”

I SO want to hear that one day! I can’t imagine a greater affirmation, and it became my prayer focus for the rest of that hike. Can I invite you to make it your prayer focus as well?

What would your life be like if you were a regular source of refreshment for the people around you? How would your family life change? What would be different in your relationships at church?

Wouldn’t it be great if “refreshment” were the first word that came to the minds of people who think of you?

This is a high goal, with a very personal starting point. You see, it’s impossible to be Serrano Canyon for others when your own life resembles burned-out Sycamore Canyon. In order to be refreshing, we must first be refreshed.

So here is the question: What is it that refreshes you? What personal spiritual disciplines put spring in your step and a smile on your face? What corporate experiences of worship and service, large group or small group, fill you up to overflowing?

Now, how much time are you committing to those moments? Don’t give them left-over time. Make them your priority. They bring life to your soul, joy to your walk – and they are essential to your ability to become a source of refreshment.

Can you hear God saying it? “The hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Wouldn’t that be amazing?

I want to be Serrano Canyon.  I invite you to join me there.

This is the fourth in a series of posts.  The first three can be found here, here and here.

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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4 Responses to Lessons from a Wildfire #4: Sycamore or Serrano?

  1. Ken Royer says:

    Thanks Mike for these great illustrations.

    We’ll “stay tuned” if we may assist in the matter of which we had talked.

    FYI: Mary and I will be away Oct. 4-11 (Pastor to Missionaries Conf in NC) and Oct. 19-Nov 3 (vacation).


    Ken Royer

  2. Elaine Atterbury says:

    Mike – It took me awhile to spend the moments to read this latest post … And boy am I glad I did! I can’t wait to refresh others with these very words that have refreshed and inspired me 🙂

  3. Charity says:

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts with the care group 2 weeks ago.

  4. Pingback: Restored | Sabbath Thoughts

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