Go Ahead. Smell a Pine Tree.

IMG_1133I usually glance up and down the trail before I do it, because it looks, I don’t know, kinda weird (ya think?). But it’s rare that I take a mountain trail without at least once sticking my nose into the crevice of the bark of a pine tree in search of its unique fragrance.  It doesn’t smell like pine – that comes from the needles and the sap.  The bark fragrance smells to me like vanilla.  Others describe it as cinnamon, or fresh-baked cookies. Ever since an outdoorsy friend told me about it (thanks, Paul), it’s become a regular a part of my hikes. Yeah, it’s strange. But it’s worth it (and if you don’t believe me, here’s a link to an NPR article that vouches for me – with a picture that looks as crazy as mine).

If I hadn’t learned how to rest, I never would have discovered the vanilla fragrance of pine bark. And my life would have been poorer for it.

On a snowy mountain Sabbath Hike this afternoon (the pics are from that hike), I spent time thanking the Lord for the benefits of over 6 years of regular, intentional, contemplative, Christ-centered rest.  Included on that list was a host of experiences that I would have missed if I had never embraced this gift.  I didn’t see many of these benefits coming, because like the fragrance of bark, I didn’t even know they existed.  I had no idea what I was missing.

When I rest, I notice the fingerprints of God in my world. I take time to connect the dots of my life, to tie together the often-frazzled strings that drift in the wake of my hectic schedule. I slow down long enough to feel the breeze on the back of my neck, and to hear the music that God built into His creation. I walk with Him, enjoy Him, think big thoughts of Him, bring the tough questions to Him.

None of this happens when I’m on the hamster wheel.  You know what that wheel is like.  Lots of running, lots of energy expended, but little sense of progress. Plenty of sweat, but only occasional (and usually temporary) satisfaction.

I’m so glad that Jesus invites us to step off the hamster wheel.  After His disciples returned all excited about the great impact they had made when He sent them out two by two, Jesus didn’t send them back out right away to “seize the moment,” to leverage the earlier successes, to take things to the next level.  No, He told them to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

“Come with me … by yourselves … to a quiet place … and get some rest.” These are the words of Jesus.

IMG_1109Do we dare to claim them as our own?  For a long time, I didn’t.  They were for the far-distant past, or the far-distant future. They were a nice theory, something I was supposed to look forward to, some day.

Now, I look forward to them next week. And every week after that one. Because I’ve recognized that He created us for a healthy cycle of work and rest. I finally learned that rest is a gift, not an obligation, and that good things happen when I embrace it.

So go ahead.  Go with Him to a quiet place. Get some rest. Connect the dots. Think big thoughts.

And while you’re at it, stick your nose into the bark of a tree.  You never know what you’ll find.

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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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12 Responses to Go Ahead. Smell a Pine Tree.

  1. Ken Coleman says:

    Thank you Pastor Mike for your wonderful post. Susan and I are on the beach in Mexico and making sure we have our rest and quiet time to be with Him. We are so fortunate to enjoy this magnificent world that He created. And our quiet time is still helping us to deal the loss of our son. God truly gets us through one day at s time.

    We pray that God continues to bless you in all you do.

  2. Rebecca Plotner says:

    I love it! I will have to be careful because the “trees” on my hikes here in Tucson are actually Saguaro cacti! I will have to very carefully place my nose between the spines! I do love the way the wind whistles through when I take a quiet moment stop and listen on a breezy day. God and I have a great time communicating on our hikes as well!

  3. Laura Davis says:

    Thanks for a really good one here, Mike! We have enjoyed sniffing Jeffrey pines for many years, thanks to my Eagle Scout husband-and its not at all weird. It is one of those woodsy secrets most people miss and the Creator has left for us to discover. We have to slow down so as not to miss these small but really special things.

  4. Charity S. Silvers says:

    You learn something new everyday. Now I’ll have to find a pine tree to smell! Thanks for sharing your encouraging thoughts, Mike!

  5. Robin Douglas says:

    Us hamsters need your encouragement; thanks again for sharing.

  6. Sam Erdman says:

    Amen brother. Thanks for the posts, keep it up. Miss you at Grace…

  7. Pingback: Casual First of February Friday | Paracletos

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