The week I graduated from high school, two of my friends and I, crammed our backpacks and bodies into a 1959 VW and drove to Yosemite from our homes in Los Gatos, California. It was a rite of passage of sorts. We would spend the next 10 days hiking and camping in the remotest parts of the park. The trip was filled with stunning scenery, barbequed Spam, and golden trout.
One night, I remember lying in our sleeping bags looking out across Wallace Lake as a brilliant full moon settled between two distant mountain peaks reflecting its bright image across the lake. As young developing romantics, one of my friends said, “This is just not right. We need a girl to share this moment with!”
The backpack trip was filled with many similar expressions of newfound freedom that placed our high school experience squarely in the rearview mirror of life. One of my friends was off to Seattle Pacific University in the fall, the other friend had enlisted in the Marines and I was would soon depart for Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.
About a week into the backpacking adventure, we stepped off the trail to explore a distant vista point in hopes of finding a campsite. It was late in the day. As we arrived at a rocky outcropping, there sat a man who looked to be in his 40’s. He was contemplating the stunning view. He had a bottle of bourbon at his side and a cigar in his mouth. He greeted us and we talked for a moment realizing we would not camp there and interrupt his place of solitude.
We found out he was a high school teacher. Each year, he would hike into the backcountry of Yosemite and spend almost a month camping. Each night after he sat up camp, he would sip a shot of bourbon and smoke a cigar. When the bourbon and cigars were gone, he would head home. I left that encounter realizing we had just met a man who knew how to measure the pleasures of his life. He gave off the impression of peace and contentment.
Many years later when I was a young church planter, I was driving through the Swan Valley in Montana. As I drove south on the Swan Highway, something caught my attention. I turned my head to see a man in a pickup truck emerging from the forest on a dirt road. His pickup truck was filled with a freshly cut load of firewood and atop the firewood was a nice 3-point buck that he just shot. He was heading home with a truck filled with an abundant provision. His image gave me the same feeling as the teacher with his nightly bourbon and cigar in the backcountry of Yosemite.
Maybe what I appreciated most about the two men I described was their sense of reflection. Both appeared to be resting from their labors of life having a Sabbath rest of sorts. My guess would be they were reflecting on goodness. I have found in the places where we can reflect on the goodness of life is where God has things to say to us that cannot be heard anywhere else. We need space in time where we can meet God in a moment of reflection.
The older I get the more important it becomes to find the simple places where I can reflect on the goodness of this life. Where is your simple place? It will be in that place, a state of mind, where you can unwind and breath easy and feel the goodness of God wrap itself around your weariness and your concerns. These simple places provide for us the gift of reflection where the most profound revelations can take place. These simple places are worth discovering because they help reset the tempo of our lives and refocus our limited energy on what matters most.