I need to re-post this reminder of how to keep summer from slipping into nothing much at all.
The American summer is a child’s season.
It is not designed, it seems, for grownups who associate the smell of sunscreen with skin cancer prevention, or worry about watermelon seeds falling on the carpet. Perhaps our educational system sets the rhythm of our bodies at the time we enter kindergarten, where children, like Pavlov’s dogs, follow their conditional reflexes right to the swimming pool every June 1st. The impulse to earn A’s or do chores for mother gets squashed like so many blades of grass crushed under the Slip-n-slide.
I thought I was a grownup, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve been a public school teacher for a long time now, and except for the four years preceding kindergarten (when life is one continuous recess), I’ve never missed a summer vacation. But there’s a familiar paradox that hits me right about now every year when my mind and body prepares for the summer shift. Man is not designed for extended vacations, despite what my childish heart years for. The more discretionary time we have, the less we get done. The longer the Honeymoon package to Maui, the more we yearn for home. The more late nights we option, the fewer meaningful hours we have left in the day.
In another post, I speculated that idleness is not the same as play. Play is the happy interval between other meaningful tasks—not a lifestyle of indolence. Lots of free time equals lots of me-time, and that’s a dangerous way to live despite the culture’s portrait of carefree summers. Show me a man with unlimited free time, and I’ll bet my cherry Popsicle that after awhile he’ll show signs of an existential crisis. Who am I? Why am I here? What matters most? When the Bible examines a man’s free time (in language vastly different from our own), it’s connected to solitude, prayer, and renewal—all designed to equip him for the mission ahead. It’s not designed for hedonism, and in large doses it can ironically ruin a man’s industriousness when he has the most freedom to get busy.
So here are ten unorthodox summer doorways that can lead you to God.1. Get up early as often as you can.
It’s an old-fashioned notion, I know, but getting up early tells your body that something important is waiting for you with the sunrise. Sleeping until noon tells your body that today is disposable. It’s a big, fat lie. And don’t use the excuse that you’re just “a night person.” Most self-proclaimed Night People just want to watch lousy television and drink beer while no one’s looking.2. Send your electronic gadgets on a vacation.
The sky is waiting for your admiration and it’s impossible while you’re gazing into a screen. If your willpower is too weak, put every handheld gadget in a big plastic baggie and hand it over to someone for a day or two. You must be deliberate about this.3. Give your skin a brand new experience.
Don’t think me strange quite yet. If our skin is the primary connection to the physical world, then find a new way to interact with your environment. Float your palms on quiet lake water. Hang your face out of the window of a moving car. Lie down on a hot granite rock in your swimsuit. Rub paint on a canvas with your fingers.4. Spend time with your community’s poorest.
You’re not going on a missions trip this summer? Your hometown is desperate for your talents. If you don’t know where to start, call a friend and pray together for an open door. Before you say “amen,” you will get an answer.5. Write a handwritten letter.
There is an elderly family member right this moment whose heart would rise up upon discovering a letter of love in his mailbox. Do it today and mail it before five o’clock or it might not happen.6. Read an entire book of the Bible in several days.
We are a culture addicted to tweets, but God’s Word works best in big, contextual chunks. Commit to a book or more.7. Make love slowly.
Your husband or wife needs this. A covenant love requires serious attention.8. Eat fresh things.
Wherever you live, fresh things are waiting to be eaten. Get rid of the colorful cardboard boxes in your freezer and pantry and find out who is selling roots, leaves, fruits, bulbs, fresh fish, green plants, speckled eggs, pasta, or herbs. If you have children, let them handle and smell this food so they don’t forget that God—not Kraft—gives them sustenance.9. Nurture a child.
Many of you aren’t parents. This doesn’t matter. The summer is filled with children who need hands and faces and smiles and wisdom. Plan an outing with a niece or nephew. Sign up for a Vacation Bible School. Play hoops with the adolescent next door. Relieve a single mother for an afternoon and double your ministry.10. Pray in a new way.
If you haven’t prayed in awhile, except for obligatory mealtime gratitude or night-night kisses, get serious about your prayer life. This might mean praying out loud and alone, or it might mean hunkering down under a tree and begging for God’s forgiveness. Prayer is sacred, life-changing, powerful, not ritualistic or trivial.
Most adults make very poor children. If you’re a grownup, set your alarm tomorrow morning and do what grownups do. It doesn’t take much to be an accidental sluggard, just a little too much time. (Come to think of it, even a busy man can be a sluggard.) The antidote isn’t guilt or martyrdom or self-pity, but a steady, abiding lifestyle of love and self-discipline. To get there, you need the Holy Sprit’s conviction, some meaningful relationships, the impetus to get out of bed sooner, some actual footsteps toward a God-honoring cause.The summer’s underway. I’d better get busy.