My first time at a Disney theme park was in the summer of 1973. My family took a vacation to the Florida resort that summer. It was so exciting, as we rode the monorail from the parking area to the main entrance, the recorded voice welcoming us to the park and giving instructions. As our train passed through the lobby of the Contemporary Resort Hotel, I was in awe of all that I was experiencing...and I wasn't even inside the theme park yet!
On that trip, and a subsequent one years later, we enjoyed experiences there that were mesmerizing to me as a kid, and even intriguing as an adult. Experiences like Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Star Tours, were amazing. It truly does feel like a magical place.
Last Sunday, as my wife and I were returning home from church and having lunch with friends, I did something I seldom do on a Sunday afternoon. I set my GPS to lead us home. We were on the east side the city, and we live on the northwest side. Sometimes interstates can get backed up on Sundays, with summer travelers either heading out for their week of vacation, or going back home. So, I thought Siri would make sure I detoured any standstill traffic and get us home more quickly. About an hour and fifteen minutes later, we were finally arriving at our front door...a trip that typically takes about thirty minutes. The kicker was, there were no traffic jams or heavy-traffic slow-downs. Apparently, I had accidentally set the maps app to avoid highways. I think we explored every back road and country avenue there was between Old Hickory and Ashland City. We saw countryside we had never seen before. What should have been about a thirty-minute trip, ended up being 1 1/2 times longer. A GPS navigation device can be a helpful tool...as a matter of fact, I have become accustomed to using them extensively in my day-to-day work as well as any road trip we take. I follow the directions without much thought, unlike the days when I had to read a paper roadmap. As you can see, sometimes that can be a problem. As a matter of fact, it could be dangerous, if one doesn't remain alert. On at least two occasions, while traveling, I have had the GPS navigation device tell me to go the wrong way on a one-way street. As much as we rely upon navigation technology, we need to be intentional and alert in order to stay on the right path...the one that gets us to where we need to be.
A few years ago, I was taking a long run through the little Arkansas town in which we lived. I was running a route through a neighborhood I had passed through many times on my runs. On this particular day, as I listened to my running playlist on my earbuds, pacing my breathing with each stride, I was enjoying the beautiful weather of the day, the sunshine and the light breeze that was blowing. Just as I passed behind Sequoyah Elementary School, at the intersection of Sequoyah Way and Neptune Drive, I was suddenly inundated with a childhood memory and emotion. It wasn't something I saw or a sound that I heard. I wasn't reminiscing about days gone by. This sudden experience of nostalgia, memory and emotion, came as the result of a smell...yes...a simple odor. That gentle breeze wafted across my path, brining with it the smell of the pine thicket bordering the street. I immediately looked to my right, seeing the pine trees, with the ground covered by a brown carpet of fallen pine needles. In this moment, I was taken back to my elementary school days on the playground behind King Springs Elementary School, in my hometown. I remembered the pine thicket that was a part of that playground and, upon which I had spent many hours playing with my classmates during our daily recess. It was a powerful moment as that smell triggered such vivid memories and happy emotions about those childhood experiences.
The Power of Olfactory Memory
Olfactory memory is memory that is triggered by smells from past experiences. It is said to be one of the most powerful of memory triggers. The reason is easy to explain. In the brain, the senses of sight, sound, and taste go to the thalamus, which is the relay center of the brain. The thalamus sends these messages to the various centers of the brain, including the amygdala (responsible for processing emotion) and the hippocampus (responsible for memory). However, when we experience the sense of smell, the signal bypasses the thalamus and goes to the olfactory bulb, which is directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus. There is no slow down or filtering by the thalamus. This explains why smells can trigger very strong memories and associated emotions. This is why certain aromas at Christmas are so meaningful to us due to being connected with pleasant experiences of our childhood, or, why a widow may sleep with the shirt of her late husband for months after his passing, or a mother becomes nostalgic and wistful when she smells the familiar fragrance of the baby lotion she used when her child was an infant. Olfactory memory is a powerful influence.
The Power of Christ-like Fragrances
It is no coincident that this is the very imagery that God inspired the Apostle Paul to write about as he described our lives as followers of Christ in the letter to the Corinthian church.
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17
Have you ever considered yourself a perfume? A fragrant aroma? As a follower of Christ, that is exactly what you are...or should be. Think about the significance of these words that describe us as a "Christ-like fragrance."
Our Purpose and Influence for the Gospel
On this week's Purposed365 Podcast, Jasman Rolle interviews musician, community youth worker and entrepreneur, Ronald Morrell, Jr. (listen here). Morrell shares about his journey of ministry and purpose through music, church, working with youth and starting and growing a business. He touches on...
The question we need to ask ourselves is..."How do I smell?" We can do a lot to try to smell good...put on lots of cologne, make sure we use deodorant, or just stand downwind from others (haha). However, those efforts only cover up the real odor, or try to redirect it. If we are living in purpose that is centered upon a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ...our Redeemer and King...His Spirit within us will produce an aroma that is pleasing to the Father and will waft over those around us. That aroma will trigger a response that can open the door to their entry into eternal life...making you a fragrant reminder.
A Rested Development
Long before it was an American hit sitcom, or a rap music group, the term "arrested development" was used to describe a condition in which the individual ceases normal psychological development (or is stuck in a particular psychological development stage) due to trauma, lacking some aspect of nurturance, or a chemical addiction. Though no longer used in that manner among psychological professionals, the concept crossed my mind as I thought about the topic of this post. I thought of it as a play on words, but nevertheless, to drive home a point.
In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of the rhythms of life. The final point of that post was the importance of the "Rhythm of Rest and Self-Care." As we consider the drive of living our purpose in life, one of the first considerations is not usually taking a rest. Understandably, our drive and desire to live purposefully may also be a drive to think only of activity and neglect the balance that our lives need. How may our development of a purposeful life be arrested if we neglect our rest?
Jesus gave us the example of a balanced life. He was fully committed to His purpose...the most important mission in all the world. He led a very busy life of ministry leading up to His ultimate sacrifice as Messiah. Yet, he always made sure to find time for rest and for solitude. When God set the example for us in His acts of creation, he established the Sabbath rest. The regular rhythm of rest is what we need...God knows that.
And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the LORD, who had set them apart to be holy.
And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
The Apostle Peter reminds us that a relationship with Jesus actually promotes rest...for the soul.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7
Jesus put it this way...
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 lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
So...what does rest look like for you...daily rest, weekly rest, times of retreat and solitude? These are all important in the rhythm of life. Rest can include many things...each person is unique in how they find rest and refreshment. Think about what it is that is life-giving for you. What is it that, when you have engaged it, you emerge energized, fulfilled and prepared for the challenges of life? Consider some suggestions:
Universal Elements of Rest
For the follower of Christ, there are some elements of rest that can be incorporated into any rest experience we find rejuvenating. Consider how these fit your unique choices.
So, there you have it...my thoughts on the importance of incorporating rest into your life. God, the Father, instructed it; Jesus, His Son, modeled it; and, through His Spirit, enables it. Now, it is our responsibility to plan it. If you do, you will find "a rested development" of a well-balanced life.
How do you find rest in the midst of the busyness of life? What are your favorite modes of rest? Have you experienced the negative effects of a lack of adequate rest? If so, how did you deal with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Like and share the post on social media. We really do want to have a conversation about living our purpose well...sharing your story may be just the thing someone else needs to hear.
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!