Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

My Happy Place

by Jeremy Shaffer

When January of 2020 began, I had such high hopes for the year, especially because this would be the year in which I would get a chance to knock off the item at the very top of my bucket list. My wife and I would get a chance to visit the Holy Land. Being the Bible nerd that I am, I started to do loads of research about the sites we would visit, undertook some geography and topography studies of the Holy Land, and I even created a journal to take with me so that when we visited a site I could write down all my thoughts. This would be the spiritual trip of a lifetime that would allow me to live the Bible. What would it be like to walk the streets of Jerusalem as Jesus did some 2,000 years ago? What would it be like to take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and touch the very waters that Jesus walked upon? What would it be like to see the oasis of Engedi and realize that more than 3500 years ago this was the place that David was hiding out from Saul? What emotions would overcome me (like the ones that I feel as I write this) as I enter the Garden tomb? Of all the places on this earth, surely the Holy Land would be my happy place!

The unexpected events that transpired in March of 2020 took us by complete surprise. We stayed glued to the news of everything COVID hoping and praying that all this would be over before the trip in June of that same year. But it was not long before we received the news that the trip would not be happening this year. We were devastated and we grieved the loss of such a special opportunity that God had provided. I spent weeks constantly asking God the why question. This was not a simple vacation trip; this was a spiritual trip! I believed it would fundamentally enhance my understanding of the Scriptures and draw me into a richer relationship with God. To me, this wasn’t a frivolous pursuit, it was a desire to connect with God on a deeper level. Of all the places on this earth, surely the Holy Land would be my happy place!

The next two months were difficult, to say the least. On the one hand we had to navigate the effects of COVID and on the other hand our hearts were aching for what could have been. Remote learning, remote teaching, and remote “churching” became the new normal for the next few months. Finally, on May 31st, in-person church services at LMBC started back and all of God’s people said, “Amen!” However, little did I know that in just a few short days, God would impart to me a most valuable lesson, one that would answer that burning “why” question. In just a few short days my family and I had planned to visit some beautiful places right in our own backyard, the backyard that we called West Virginia: Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Seneca Rocks, Monongahela National Forest, Spruce Knob, and more. I thought to myself, this will be a great trip but this will not be a “Holy-Land-experience” trip...I was dead wrong!

The phrase “happy place” is often used to describe a place that a person might go to find joy and peace and relaxation. For some people, their happy place is the beach, and it has much to offer: the majestic power of the water on full display, the warm sands of the beach on your feet, the roaring sounds of the winds and waves, the blue horizon that seems endless, the smell of fresh (salty) air, the solitude of an early morning walk. Do you feel like you’re there? For other people, their happy place might be hiking through a grove of massive hemlocks deep in the mountains, breathing in the fresh mountain air; or taking an off-grid trip to that secluded cabin that has been in the family for generations. For other people, their happy place might be in the secluded space of their house, or maybe a porch swing that has become a family heirloom, or maybe an aged Adirondack chair that sits tucked underneath a massive oak tree in the backyard. As peaceful and relaxing and enjoyable as these places might be, I think there is more to this concept of a “happy place” than just a physical space. A happy place should take on a spiritual component, because true happiness is only found in your personal relationship with God. Therefore, we might say that a happy place is a physical location that you visit when you personally desire to experience God on a deeper and more intimate level. Did you know that many characters in the Bible also had happy places?

Maybe you like to hike into the woods or find a secluded place on a mountainside to pray and seek the face of God. Jesus sought out the same happy place (look up Luke 6:12). Maybe you don’t like all the bugs and allergens of being outside and you find that your happy place is in a comfortable chair right next to a window. Daniel sought out the same happy place (look up Daniel 6:10). Maybe you like to wander out your back door and walk to a specific bench in your garden area to get alone with God, Adam walked and talked with God in Eden (look up Genesis 2:8-3:8). Maybe the beach is your happy place, Paul and a group of disciples spent time praying on the beach (look up Acts 21:5). For me personally, my happy place ended up being right in my West Virginia backyard – and it’s a really big backyard! On our most recent trip to the eastern part of West Virginia, we found ourselves on a grassy knoll on top of the highest peak in the state (one of our favorite spots). I found myself sitting on a blanket in the grass as I took in the view of God’s amazing, creative works, hearing only the howling wind. The sun was radiating
a life-giving warmth and energy that was extraordinary. My wife, who was laying on the
blanket beside me, spoke these words to me: “lay back and rest in the Father’s arms.” I laid
back on the blanket, closed my eyes, and felt a sense of peace and love and joy that is only
experienced in the arms of the Father.

Of course, I certainly still want to find a way to take my family to the Holy Land, but in the meantime, God has given me a happy place that is closer to home. Where is your happy place? Do you have one? Have you been searching, even longing for one? Sometimes, per my experience, the elusive search for a happy place is closer than what you might think. A happy place is anywhere that you go to connect with God on a deeper and more intimate level. It’s a place that you go when you need to get away from all the distractions of life so that you can clearly hear His voice. It’s a place where you can be vulnerable and have freedom to cry out to God in your hours of deepest need. It’s a place where God can teach you and conform you into the image of His Son. It’s a place where the constraints of time seem insignificant. It’s a place of safety and compassion and love and grace. Experiencing the feeling of being wrapped up in the arms of the Father is what makes any place a happy place!
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