My snow shovels are hanging along the wall of the shed, forgotten for the moment. The rain we prayed for has fallen over much of the province, diminishing the threat of wildfires.
The short summer months allow us to enjoy some R&R. They also provide a grand opportunity for us to reach families through programs for their children. It can be a hectic time for 'outward bound' churches.
Amid all the activities that you have planned, here are a few 'time and experience' tested tips from Papa Al to help you capitalize on this glorious season.
Hug a Tree – Deliberately set aside time each day to enjoy some aspect of Nature. Don't let the beauty of God's creation slip by. Louis Armstrong was correct when he said, "What a wonderful world!" Shakespeare wrote, 'Summer's lease hath all too short a date.' Find that place on the outskirts of your frantic pace where the silence is disturbed only by the sounds of the rustle of the wind, the songs of a thousand birds, and the croak of frogs. In places like this, as close to Eden as possible, God often reveals His presence and speaks peace to the 'inner person.' You rob yourself of a degree of intimacy with God if you deny yourself this simple pleasure.
Catch some Rays – You need the sun. It is the number one source of natural, rejuvenating Vitamin D. It is much more effective when it comes from the heavens instead of a synthetic pill. The sun is a source of energy, life, and vitality. I like to think of my body as a solar panel absorbing that energy and storing it up for the gloomy months ahead. But remember, in this case, we can get too much of a good thing. Our friendly star can also become our painful enemy. Go out into the sunshine armed with sunscreen and plenty of hydration.
Favour Your Family – A contemplative retired pastor once said, "I never once regretted that I did not spend more time in the office, but I have often bemoaned the fact that I did not spend more time with my family." If you are married, it starts with your life partner. In what ways can you bless your spouse this summer so that what you have done together will become treasured memories? A dear pastor friend of mine was driving home from the church office, mind occupied by the various problems he had to solve. He was also feeling somewhat guilty of depriving his wife of quality time. He sensed God speaking clearly to him, saying, "You look after your bride; I will look after mine." That same intentional time investment needs to carry over to your children. They are fancy-free and footloose for two months. The importance of your call to ministry should never trump the quality time you devote to your kids. They deserve more than the leftovers. Carve out appreciable sections of time to dedicate completely to your spouse and kids this summer. The investment of time in your family need not be pricey, but it is priceless. Church business will still be there in September; after all, God is in charge of His Church.
Party with Friends – There is nothing wrong with good wholesome fun. Fire up the BBQ, and buy some 'ginger peach' soda at Superstore. Share food, share life, and share some recreational activities with friends. We really do need each other. We need to laugh more. The paradox of human response is that we can both lament and laugh at the same time. There is nothing more stimulating and encouraging than sitting around a smokey old fire and sharing stories with one another.
Roll out on Sunday Morning – wherever you choose to vacation, you will have access to some expression of the assembled family of God on the Lord's Day. Find a place to attend. Consistent attendance provides an anchor point for your family and firmly establishes it as a priority in their lives. Why not step away from your denomination and experience how others worship outside of your tribe? The family of God is diverse and fascinating. Exposure to God's people in new and varied expressions of faith is educational and enlightening. Furthermore, you can relax knowing you are not the one orchestrating the service. You may even get some sermon ideas for the future.
Well, I sure hope that helps. I will check up with you in the Fall to see how you've done. If you want to hear stories of how I blew it, almost blew it, and occasionally hit a 'home run' during summer ministry seasons, I am always open to a coffee and a conversation, and I have decades' worth of stories I am dying to tell.
Happy summer, everyone. Be blessed in every way.