"Summer afternoon--summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." Henry James
Summer is here full swing, and if you're like I am, you are wondering how it arrived so quickly. I write staring out from my front porch at the fullness of the dark green leaves on the maple trees, the large, cotton-ball crowned clouds that are promising a warm rain this evening, and Vicki lounging under the crab apple tree as only a dog can do--not a care in the world. Her only responsibility is to enjoy the day, keep one eye on the neighbor's chickens, and rest up for the excitement of the promised walk we both take in the cool of the evening. In my busyness I envy her. The author John Lubbock wrote in his book The Use of Life that rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day is by no means a waste of time.
Now I doubt Vicki has read John Lubbock, but she certainly understands his premises. Unfortunately for me, I'm someone who has always believed time must be used in constructive endeavors, or that doing something or going somewhere is the only means of relaxation and contentment. I should know better. I vow again not to take these days for granted--nor the freedom to just sit here and enjoy this beautiful summer day.
Too often we fall under the world's pretense that contentment and spiritual well-being can be bought. We swallow hook, line, and sinker the commercialized mindset that for us to feel rested, relaxed, and ready to go back to our never-ending lists of tasks or work requires fun possessions and activities. It never works out that way. All that is really useful to us can be bought will little money; it is only the excessive that is purchased at the cost of contentment. What is really beneficial comes only at the price of our own willingness to be still and accept it. It is offered us as a gift by God. Think about it! We are granted the opportunity to watch the sun rise and set, the clouds sailing along in the sky, the forests and the fields changing colors from youthful greens to mature golds, and the glorious sea all without spending a penny. The birds sing to us for nothing. Wild flowers are free for the picking along the pathways and roadsides. There are no tickets for purchased to enter the magnificent cathedral of the night sky. I can't help but wonder if Vicki already knows that.
Most days in summer, I watch tractors, trucks, combines, and the like speed past on the road out front of my house. It reminds me of how important it can be to sow and reap when the weather is good. It stirs up guilt of my inactivity as my thoughts return to ministry, my calling, my responsibilities, and to all I have to do… wait…let me rephrase that… all I want to do. Here at church momentum is building and I want to capitalize on that momentum. Yet, while reading in the gospel of Mark this morning about the apostles having just returned from their ‘two by two” mission trips, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples at a time when spiritual momentum was building and they too were at their busiest. The twelve have returned after preaching repentance, casting out demons, and healing the sick, and you can sense their excitement. “…they told him all that they had done and taught.” (Mark 6:30). What was Jesus’ response: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (vs.31). It alieves my guilt of idleness somewhat when it dawns on me that Jesus was never, never in a hurry.
Perhaps what I most need to be effective in ministry, spiritually healthy, and to obtain peace of heart and soul never comes in busyness, but grows and strengthens in rest. Dogs are pretty smart. Vicki appears to be trying to teach me something I need to be reminded of. I think I will go lie down in the grass.