Nurture Your Spiritual Health This Summer
Nurture your Spiritual Health this Summer
For many of us, summer is a time for travel and leisure, a break from the monotony of our work, or a time to hibernate from the heat. For some, summer is a excuse to be lazy in body or in mind. It's especially difficult to actively pursue our health in the blazing Arizona heat. Here's a short list of activities to keep yourself and your faith fresh, even as the heat approaches.
1. Read Well
If you're gonna curl up on the couch, do it with a good book. Give one of these a try: One Thousand Gifts by Ann VosKamp, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan Chittister, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, or Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazerro.
2. Rest Well
In college a friend began practicing Sabbath and I witnessed a renewal of energy and thankfulness in her. I gave it a try, saw amazing results and now I also practice Sabbath as a personal spiritual discipline. I reserve one full day a week during which I set aside my work as a pastor and chaplain. I fill this day with deep breaths, lots of music, unstructured time, reconnecting with friends, reading and other things which restore my sense of peace and joy. If you'd like some guidance on beginning to practice Sabbath in a more intentional way, I recommend seeking the wisdom of Marva Dawn in Keeping Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting.
3. Be Attentive
How many of us know how to quiet the noise of our world so that we can hear the voice and sense the presence of God in our daily lives? In seminary I was introduced to a spiritual discipline called examen, which I continue to practice alone and in groups. Examen is a simple practice of asking two questions: 'what was my most life-giving moment?' and 'what was my most life taking-moment?' You can apply these questions to a day, week, month or year. I practice weekly and record my answers on dated note cards. Immediately after I identify my life-giving and life-taking moments of the week, I pray to give thanks for the consolation God provided and then ask for his guidance in my desolations. As weeks pass, I am able to lay out these cards in a line and read my life like a book. I can see patterns of joy and sorrow and these become tools of discernment in my relationship with God and others. If you are interested in learning more you can meet with me or read Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life which is a beginners guide to examen for individuals and groups.
4. Nurture Friendship
This week I read an article that referred to friendship as a spiritual discipline. I think friendship can be a dynamic way to challenge and nurture our faith, but for it to be a catalyst of spiritual growth we have to approach friendship in a different way than Facebook. When was the last time you approached someone very different from you and asked to hear their story? Do you regularly see people who approach life differently from you and ask, what can I learn from that person? Do you have someone in your life that you care deeply about but with whom you've lost contact? Friendship is one of God's greatest gifts in life, but it takes intentional people who are willing to make sacrifices for one another to make it blossom. Need a little inspiration to reignite your perspective on friendship? Study the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, chapter 15, or examine the friendship of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel. Friendship is far more than our culture says it is!
I've attended Hope for three years and I've noticed a curious thing each summer...people disappear. I know we have a number of winter visitors that return to their summer homes, but we certainly don't have 200! Why has summer become the time when we don't need the fellowship, accountability, encouragement, sanctuary and support of our spiritual family? Why is sunshine or travel a good rational to skip 'church'? There are certainly many places and many ways in which we can worship God and refuel our spiritual tanks for life in the little kingdom, but why is gathering with our spiritual family/corporate worship one of the first things we sacrifice when we have summer fun? I'm not saying don't travel, don't hike, don't raft, don't stay home if you are sick. What I am saying is, in whatever you do and where ever you go, know that God is there and he wants you to share your time, thoughts, struggles and joys with him. (That makes me think of an old song by Larnelle Harris. Check out "I Miss My Time with You" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UpMedIINdg) If you are in town on any Sunday, Hope Covenant Church will have it's doors open and we would love to encourage your faith in Christ. This summer we will be studying the beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew in a series called Blessed.
Praying a blessed summer for all of you,