May 28, 2009

a break from your break (before it even begins)

I have a wild plan. It's one that I'm excited and nervous to take part in, but it's one I dare you to take on as well. I challenge you to explore it with me for a moment...

Welcome to summer.

Even as you read that, what comes to mind?

Sunshine? The ice cream man? Sweet watermelon? The smell of fresh cut lawn? Barefoot living?

We can set a season by the calendar, or we can set it by our senses. Either way, we somehow know that we're on the verge of something "new" and "different" that is actually quite familiar.

We see kids in the streets more. Road trips on a budget get planned. The constant smell of burgers hangs in the air.

This year my family began to do what we often do as a household - we started to fill up our portable pool. It's one of those cheap ones that is still a decent size for at least 4-6 kids to play in, and we usually put it in our front yard as a way to enjoy "free entertainment." As you might expect from being in storage during the cold months, though, it had some unexpected holes in it that needed to be addressed.

We found this to be true of our "Slip & Slide" as well. My wife set it up for the neighborhood kids to play on, only to find that within a few slips and slides the seams were actually coming apart on the bottom. The kids did their best to be patient, but it was obvious we needed more help than the orange duct tape we had on hand.

Both of these situations reminded me of how often when a season changes we realize our need to patch up the holes in our lives. Some people vow that they will lose weight to fit into their swimsuit; others promise that it's "time" to get those household projects done, once and for all; many see the upcoming seasons as a time to deepen relationships; and then there are those books we'd like to read to grow in our learning and understanding of life.

Whether you gel with any of those categories, I want to challenge you to consider how you're starting to think of your summer this year. Our lives are about more than our interests, which is a concept that runs against the grain of how the world thinks. We use a phrase like "summer vacation" for a healthy reason (Sabbath) and end up thinking the whole point of June, July, and August is "nothing."

I dare you to think larger than this and consider how your perspective ripples into the people around you. Some of the things I'm committing to do every week that I'd like to throw your way:
  • Spending an hour a week enlarging how I see life.
    • Imagine that a book of insights and truths was at your disposal that contained the "obvious secrets" of the universe. Within that one book were several books, showing several stories that were really One Story - a Story that you were a part of that started when time began, and "started again" when time ended. What would you do with such a book? Might it not be worth reading at least an hour a week, all so that it might read you?

    • Practically: I am committing to read and study the Bible at least an hour a week - roughly 15 minutes a day - all summer long.

  • Spending an hour a week enlarging my community with my Creator and others.
    • If you considered the pace of life, would you say you are more likely to drift away from people you need to be around more or that you have a lot of extra time on hand to be with everyone you want to be with? Consider those inside and outside your household - if and when you spend that time with them, do you find it easy to take part in powerfully engaging things together or do you find yourself "winded" before you even begin? And does that sense of backward drift play into you making it important enough to happen anyway? Like exercise, are you willing to see through the initial energy it will cost you to get to a much healthier place where you actually feel more energetic?

      What if there was a way to prioritize and jump start that sense of community, as well as give you something to rally around that involved you but was also "larger" than you?

    • Practically: I am committing to take part in a worship gathering with others for at least an hour a week, all summer long.

  • Spending an hour a week enlarging the souls of people around me.

    • Wouldn't you agree that people are looking for hope? Not the kind we make up in our heads to pacify the moment, but real hope that lasts and challenges us to live life in the way we were created and offers us a peace even when the chaos doesn't go away. What if that was all possible and we could realize we are not here by accident?

      Jesus Christ offers that hope, including the promise of heaven down the road but likewise the potential of an abundant life today. If I've found that hope, shouldn't I let it spill out and intentionally offer it to the people around me? Isn't their eternal gain more important than my momentary discomfort or awkwardness in sharing it?

    • Practically: I am committing to intentionally connect with others and invite them into an intentional connection with Jesus, at least an hour a week - roughly 15 minutes a day - all summer long.

  • Spending an hour a week enlarging the capacity of others' needs to be met.

    • So many of us know on a regular basis what it means to not be able to be in all the places we feel we need to be at the same time. We give away all of our energy on a selection of things, which means that others things suffer. What if I could help in some small way that actually felt like a larger way?

      Might I be able to come alongside of someone's goals for themselves, their family, their work, and the stuff happening around their household? Could I look for ways that I could care for and serve my "neighbors"—the people I rub shoulders with as I do life? Is it possible to make minutes in my day matter for people who feel that they don’t?

    • Practically : I am committing to intentionally serve others in some way that benefits them and not me, at least an hour a week - roughly 15 minutes a day - all summer long.
You know, I'm normally a list-setting guy like this. If I truly believe what it is I say I believe, though, then isn't it hypocritical for me to do nothing about it? It may mean I show more hospitality than I normally do, that I set my alarm when I'd rather sleep in, or that I look up people who drain me and intentionally hang out with them. Whatever the case, I hope I'm not alone in pursuing these very powerful steps that will not only enlarge my life but the lives of others around me.

Are you in?

You may not need to scratch out whatever is on your calendar already, but you will need to do it through a more intentional set of eyes? Eyes that don't say, "How can I relax from everything?" but instead "How can I maximize what is happening around me, in the people around me, for something greater than what is happening around me?" For all you know, the way your life reflects the Light of the world may very well be the break in the clouds others have been praying for... and when they see it real in you, they become willing to take their first steps forward into a life that is no longer about consuming, retiring, and dying.

Don't just fix the holes in your life with duct tape - let it all become remade... a NEW creation.

I can think of no better way to make your summer count than by making it not about yourself but about something and Someone that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

I dare you to think about such things.

And again I ask... are you in?

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Jesus, Matthew 10:39)


David Moss said...

Okay, you got me. I'm in. I better find someone else nearby to be "in" with me as well so I stay "in". When I look at your really is a way to stay connected to God - to live into Him each day - and I know I need to be "in" that space. I am a little jealous tho - we haven't been able to break out the slip-n-slide in Minnesota yet...

Tony Myles said...

I'm definitely in. :)

I'm sure most of our church is, too. I'm working on a way to track this for encouragement and will be sure to let you know.