photo 1I knew in advance that I needed what La Jolla Canyon had to offer today. I’ve rarely headed out on a Sabbath Hike with this much anticipation.

It’s been an emotionally draining month. Four weeks ago, we announced that we are moving to a new ministry (see that explained here). I preached my final sermon as a pastor at Grace Baptist Church last weekend. My wife wasn’t able to be there, because she’d had emergency gall bladder surgery the previous Thursday, and complications kept her hospitalized until late Sunday afternoon. To put it lightly, it wasn’t the weekend we had planned.

As I drove onto the church campus for the Saturday services that afternoon, I realized that I was so drained that I was having trouble finding the emotional side of the moment. That’s not like me – I’m a pretty sentimental guy. But 90% of my energy since Tuesday afternoon had gone into caring for my wife, and I’d left her at the hospital an hour earlier awaiting an MRI that would determine the next step in her treatment. It felt odd, and not at all what I had expected.

The services went well (our church is incredibly gracious), and my wife is now home recuperating. In some ways, I guess, so am I.

Today, I needed restoration. Happily, God is really good at that. La Jolla Canyon reminded me today just how good He is.

I’ve been visiting (and blogging about) La Jolla Canyon since a wildfire swept through it almost two years ago (see previous posts here, here, here and here). We finally had some photo 2rain this year in Southern California, and a visit a few weeks ago to a neighboring canyon gave me confidence that La Jolla would finally be thriving. I couldn’t wait to get there today. I expected that it would fill me up.

I wasn’t disappointed. The gray moonscape of the last few hikes was replaced by a carpet of green grass that stretched to the horizon. The ashes of burned-out vegetation are today providing soil to wildflowers of all kinds – pleasing to both the eye and the butterflies that flit about on the cool breeze. I found myself hiking through flowers that came up to my shoulders, and occasionally above my head. It was delightful, so much so that I occasionally laughed out loud as I walked.

IMG_3291On my first hike in La Jolla on a rainy day three years ago, I had the unforgettable experience of drinking rainwater out of a cup-shaped flower. I saw thousands of those flowers today, waiting for rain to fill them up, and maybe another hiker to refresh.

La Jolla Canyon has been restored. And so have I. The refreshment I needed was waiting for me there. The worship was sweet – I played a couple of songs in my Sabbath playlist two or three times so the words could sink into my soul. God met me there, allowing me to enjoy Him in the midst of the nature that He created, restoring me the way it had been restored.

“He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3). He really does. I’m so glad for that. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like, and He occasionally uses means that surprise us. But our souls matter to Him.

They matter enough that Jesus makes this promise: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

I found rest for my soul today. I found the refreshment I needed. And I was restored.

My last preaching weekend at Grace wasn’t what I expected. But my last visit to La Jolla Canyon was exactly what I needed. Yeah, sometimes God surprises us.

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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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11 Responses to Restored

  1. Linda Olson says:

    This was refreshing to read! Thankful God is in the business of making beauty from ashes!

  2. Charity says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Looking at the first 2 photos, the gray moonscape from two years ago and the lush green landscape from this past week, made me think of what it might look like this fall if we have one of our typically long dry summers. Without the nourishment from rain, it may all wither up and turn brown. (I hope it doesn’t.) Such a good reminder for us as Christ followers to seek to be nourished by the water of the Word. May you find places to get your Sabbath rest in Arizona as you continue to pursue the awe and wonder of all God’s goodness in His creation.

  3. sandygarman says:

    Looking forward to reading of your new hiking trails in AZ, and your new adventures. God bless, the Garmans

  4. Ken Royer says:

    God bless you, Mike and Murf, as you follow His leading to the next place of serving. You’ve been very much loved and had a good ministry there in Santa Clarita. We’ll always be interested in your lives and ministries. Thanks for keeping in thouch.

    Murf, we hope and pray you are recovering well. May the Lord’s strength be yours today in the many tasks before you.

    Loving greetings,

    Ken for Mary too

  5. billm17 says:

    Lisa’s nephew and his family live in the Phoenix area. There on our list to visit. Maybe we can make it a twofer and visit Prescott, as well. The last time you left Grace, it was too far to visit. Who knows, maybe some kind of connection here. After all, I was born in La Jolla, CA. Have a safe trip and a wonderful new adventure. I bet there’s a lot of canyons in the Prescott area.

  6. heightsmen says:

    Beautiful Series!

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