The Wood’s Umbrageous Calm

Too much time surrounded by studies, books, projects, and ministry can dull and burden rather than enliven and inspire.

Fresh air is not fresh grace, but the former helps one in seeking the latter. Often they mysteriously partner. Creation and redemption singing together.


I stand alone in the quietness of the pine grove. The hills around this valley setting bring a welcome halt to the noisiness of life from the ridges above. Any sound that manages to find its way down here is muffled by the pine needles above and the bubbling of the small creek beside me. The light of the new day gradually brightens. I feel the stillness.

During the night, snow visited then apparently left quickly. Each flake of the thin blanket must have floated gently downward, for many lay cradled in the waiting boughs of the pines while others decorate the still green ferns low to the ground. Next to me, the tall trunk of a dead pine, riddled with woodpecker holes and limbs long gone, stands bent over, stubbornly holding onto its spot in the grove. Its sagging bark, hanging like loose skin, adds to its imitation of an old man.

The stillness of the valley is broken momentarily by the cry of a pileated woodpecker. Its surreal cry is a mocking one, knowing the burrowed larvae is no match for its searching bill. The sound further awakens me to why I have come here.I sigh and inhale deeply again the crisp, pine-scented air. It is having its restorative effect. Though the burdens do not leave, they do lighten in God’s woods. A memory stirs, bringing back to mind the thoughts of Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students. He first warns about the burden of ministry.

To sit long in one posture poring over a book or driving a quill is in itself a taxing of nature, but add to this a badly ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething cauldron of despair especially in the dim months of fog…Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process; he will make his study a prison and his books the warders of a gaol (jail), while nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy.

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