The smell of the sea and other phenomena

Very recently a friend posted pictures of his family at the beach. The accompanying comment was that this was to be their last trip to the beach before leaving a costal community to move to a high desert, inter-mountain community. Earlier this summer another friend – a seminary student – commented that her son told her that when they moved from seminary he wanted to live someplace where it snowed. While I’ll never understand the latter (sorry my friend), I can most vividly relate to the former (again, sorry my friend).

We never fully recognize our surroundings: we cannot know how they affect us until we experience change. I came to this understanding over the course of my ministry where I have lived at the edge of the Texas hill country, the automotive capital of the US and now that high desert, intermountain city of the Northwest. My childhood to early adulthood was lived on the southern coast of the US.

My friend’s pictures of the beach were meant to be a portrait of his family enjoying the sand, frolicking in the water and taking in the Atlantic Ocean one last time. However I found myself less focused on the people in the pictures and more on the background. I sat in a city that is dry, almost humidity free, and hundreds of miles from the nearest Ocean with my senses overpowered by smell of the sea, the feeling and taste of the warm salt water and heaviness of humidity filling my very being.

It is a phenomenon that I’ve had before. I need to fill my lungs with salt air in order to be or at least feel complete. I recognize when there is no more “saltiness” left in me. It is in those moments when I need a “fix” of the smell of the sea. I fully understand the place where my friend’s son is. He grew up with snow and he needs a “fix.” Each of us needs a “fix” at times.

Where do we get our “fix” in faith? What places, events, and people evoke the powerful memories of the senses and mind in your life of faith? Did you attend summer camp? Were you at the General Assembly meeting? Did you participate in a conference or even a local church’s Vacation Bible School? Do these bring back pleasant memories and experiences that will sustain you for the coming year?

Many of our churches are preparing for the fall schedule – different worship times, new academic year in Sunday School or Christian Education programs, stewardship campaigns, and the arrival of new staff. May you continue to find the “fix” you need in these opportunities.

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