A British Vet and a Sabbath Heart

I’m finally starting to take after my favorite British veterinarian. That’s a sentence I never dreamed I would type, and a change that I never thought would happen. It’s one of the unexpected benefits of Sabbath, and I didn’t see it coming. It makes me smile.

18929854Years ago, I fell in love with James Herriot’s account of his life as a rural vet in Yorkshire between the two World Wars (the most famous of his books is All Creatures Great and Small). I was amused by his description of the quirky folks he served, and fascinated by his healing skills while using relatively primitive tools. But that isn’t what really grabbed me.

What struck me most about this man was his eagerness to benefit from the natural beauty in which he worked. He would regularly stop to admire the countryside, to appreciate the fragrance of a fresh breeze off the moors, to relax in the grass on a beautiful Spring day. He knew how to stop, look, breathe, and revel in the beauty that surrounded him.

I admired him. And I was jealous of him. Because I wasn’t good at that.

I wanted to be good at it. I REALLY wanted to be good at it. But I didn’t know how to get there. I had important things to do, significant stuff, deadlines to honor (many of them, most of them, self-imposed), which meant that I had to use my time wisely and carefully, productively. Ah, yes, productively.

And occasionally, in the midst of all the busy-ness and stress, I would pick up a Herriot book. And I would yearn for the ability to slow down like him and notice the beauty around me. Maybe some day …

That day began without me realizing it. When I started to practice Sabbath in 2011, I began to develop what Mark Buchanan (in The Rest of God) calls a Sabbath heart. Setting aside a Sabbath day began to grow in me a Sabbath heart, which made me more aware of Sabbath moments throughout the week, which in turn prepared me for my next Sabbath day.

IMG_3541Almost four years later, I am starting to see the benefits (happily, my wife can vouch for that). I’m much more likely than I used to be to pull over and stop the car to admire a beautiful cloud formation in the Arizona sky. I’m much less likely to quote my old motto: “The fun doesn’t start until we get there.”  I more often take the longer way home, because it’s prettier. I’ve been growing roses for years, but I now unnamedtake special joy in their fragrance, in their arrangement, and I love to stop and admire rose gardens I may pass as I walk around town. A beautiful sunset can stop me in my tracks, and give me goosebumps. A hike in the rain, the patter of the raindrops and the fragrance of the moist earth, can put a smile on my face for days.

I can nod my head in ways I couldn’t before when I read in Romans 1:20 that there is truth about God embedded in His creation, “being understood through what has been made.” His fingerprints on His creation reveal truth about Him. I love discovering those buried treasures.

I’m not done yet – far from it. In many ways I’ve just begun. But I’m glad for the change, and I’m eager for more.

I want a Sabbath heart to continue to grow in me, so I can seize the Sabbath moments that come my way. I’d be grateful for your prayers in that direction, and glad if you were to join me on that path.

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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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17 Responses to A British Vet and a Sabbath Heart

  1. Ken Royer says:

    Amen. Thank you for these thoughts.

    Ken Royer

  2. Penny Burch says:

    All creatures great and small is my favorite of the three James Harriot books, I have read and re- read them for years! Yesterday, in the Overgaard sky, the horizon was dark and completely filled with clouds EXCEPT for a portal through which the sun beamed brightly. My friend Debbie and I were walking our dogs. We both stopped and watched the clouds for a moment ….I thought ” this is what it will be like when Jesus returns. Goosebumps for sure☺️ Thank you Pastor Mike for sharing your walks with us.

  3. Charity says:

    This post gives me much hope that I, too can reach a point in life of appreciating all God’s creation in the same way. Oh, that I would grasp and practice the idea of sabbath rest.

    • I’m glad it’s encouraging, Charity. You can do this! Start small, a couple of hours, and fill them with something that gives you life and allows you time for contemplation. I think you’ll soon find yourself eager to expand the time you set aside. I think you would enjoy reading Buchanan’s book, and would find it motivating. I sure have.

  4. billm17 says:

    Sounds good to me Mike. I’ve had moments something like that in my past. Maybe I need to think about doing it again. Maybe if I had stayed in Michigan almost 40 years ago. I would take a cruise into the upper half of “the beautiful peninsula” on my motorcycle; along with my tent, sleeping bag, and my 35mmSLR. I saw the cherry festival in Traverse City, Swam in Lake Michigan, brrrrr, Had fudge on Mackinaw Island, visited my “aunt” near the West Branch river and picked wild blue berries in Lucerene. Other times I even went to the other beautiful upper peninsula. Saw the locks on Canadian border, Tahquamenon Falls and abandoned copper mines and lumber mills. But, it was kind of empty because God wasn’t with me. The He sent me to CA. To meet Lisa, find GBC, and that has made the difference. Now I don’t ride anymore but Yosemite & South Lake Tahoe beckon now that Lisa has retired last week. Thank you dear Lord for watching out for me when I wasn’t really looking and thanks so much Mike for another wonderful reminder.

  5. Cheryl Aguirre says:

    As I read your post Mike, I can hear your voice and I am missing you!! I am so happy that you and Murf and doing so well. Thank you for continuing to teach me through your blog.


  6. Karen F. says:

    Mike, you have many qualities that I appreciate: your humor (one of my favorites), your kindness (even in the midst of a chaotic move), and your ability to encourage. I so enjoy your blogs though I don’t often leave a comment. But I have found this particular post so inspiring and layered in peace. It struck my heart personally as a cheery inspiration. Your level of sabbath rest is something that I look forward to reaching one day. Thanks!

  7. Holly Rogers says:

    The older I get the more I want to enjoy the current moments of life. We are only given the moment we are currently experiencing and we should focus on that as much as possible. The past is the past. The future is in God’s hands. The old Gaither song “we have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand” is a poignant reminder to focus on the beauty and the blessing of “the moment”.

    • Interesting, Holly. I’ve sometimes wondered how much of my evolution toward a more introspective faith is a result of spiritual growth, and how much is simply a result of my getting older and having more of life to look back on. 🙂 Love the Gaither quote. Thanks!

  8. steve kilker says:

    Thanks, Mike for this gentle post. One of the reasons we invested in PMC so long ago was to enjoy God’s creation in a mountain setting. Often we reflect on His wondrous creativity so evidenced in nature. A gift really, on such a grand scale,
    and just for us as we are His only creation that can appreciate it and offer our worship to Him because of it.
    Thanks, Mike…

  9. Mary Royer says:

    Dear Mike:
    Enjoying all your Sabbath posts. This resonated with me for similar reasons. I loved the Harriot books and roses and sunsets and billowy clouds etc. Just enjoying Gods creations all around us is restful and enables great reflection.
    Thanks for your writings. Keep it going.
    Greetings to Murf as well
    Mary and Ken

    Sent from my iPhone


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