…and in your hair, your beard and your clothes. During this time of year, Amy and I like to take “retreats” up into the mountains and camp. There is nothing particularly rugged about it – just a few days enjoying the outdoors and God’s handiwork. Some folks have beach houses, mountain cabins, or a quiet place on the lake. When we can find two days open on the calendar we like to find a cool place in the mountains to watch the stars go by. No matter the temperatures, we will keep a fire going in the early morning and late evenings. As with all such retreats there comes a time to head back home, sort through our gear and throw our smoke-infused clothes into the wash. In spite of a drenching shower I still emerge wondering if the smell of smoke will follow me into Sunday morning.
Anyone working for the Fire Department will tell you that just one of the many ways a house fire destroys its contents is with smoke damage – it can permeate everything. If you spend much time around a grill or a smoker you can count on walking away smelling like a hamburger or maybe a brisket. Smoke, when left alone, can infiltrate almost anything and leave its distinct smell. Much of the time this is not welcome, but in the case of food it can be a good thing.
Since I have been preaching on the Old Testament last month it is convenient for me to point out that burnt offerings we read about throughout the Hebrew Scriptures are frequently described as a “pleasing odor.” I am pretty certain this had little to do with a culinary preference to smoked mutton on the altar. Rather, it was because God’s people had come together bearing their desire to connect with God and God with them.
Like smoke, our search for God and God’s search for us can get on us and in us in such a way that our very molecules are rearranged. We reflect God, speak of God, meditate on God and talk to God. It can leave a lasting impression. It does require, however, initiative and work. There is preparation combined with expectation that is part of every worship encounter. Of course there are those Holy surprises that come to us in spite of our meticulous plans and strategies.
As summer gives was to fall and the temps slowly reflect the chill in the air, stoke the spiritual fires and offer to God yourself. Ultimately this is a gift not just to God but to others. The seasoning is worth eternity.
Grace and peace,
As a pleasing odor I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. (Ezekiel 20:41)