Time for family Time for friends Time for fun Time for flowers Time for fiddling Time for fellowship
The other day, a group of cousins spent a few hours with each other. Many of them had not seen each other in years – if not decades. What makes a family special? It is the relaxed nature of strangers coming together and sharing a special bond that is really unexplainable. It feels like an old shoe. The comfortable pair stay in the closet even when worn and tattered. Make time for family. Go the extra mile(s). It is worth it!
Often, friends feel like family, or dare say, better than family. Family is not chosen – friends are. Friends can be from childhood, or they can be someone who met a few weeks ago. Having friends surround you with love is necessary for life. Friends support and encourage. Friends are there when you need to talk or just sit still. Sure, friends come and go. Hang on to the ones who are uplifting. Let go of ones who aren’t.
Summertime is the perfect time to have fun. What is fun? Fun is something you do that brings you joy and delight. Sometimes it is going beyond a comfort zone and trying something new. Visiting an amusement park, playing a game, sharing dinner with a sibling, floating in a pool. Fun creates laughter. Having fun is essential. It is vital for health and happiness.
Summertime is a time for flowers so vibrant and lush. Leaves variegated and velvety soft. Or leaves that are prickly and stiff. Roses and hibiscus that bloom week after week. Or, how about the Schefflera? Schefflera, grow outside in Florida – who knew? Flowers are like friends. They are uplifting. They can brighten an otherwise dismal day.
Fiddling is something you do that you usually don’t have time to do. It can be riding a bike. Writing a short story. It can be puttering around the house, organizing, cleaning, or fixing. Fiddling also reminds me of a friend of mine who is really a professional fiddler (you know the music kind!) and violinist. He makes it all look so easy. And fun? Fun is having a preschool teacher dance the Irish jig played by a professional fiddler in front of an audience of senior citizens.
Growing up in a Christian home, fellowship was a common word that referred to the coffee hour after church service. For me, the fellowship has taken on a much deeper spiritual meaning. Fellowship is a gathering of friends and sharing an experience. Whether it be a homemade fish and rice dinner, a dinner at a restaurant of salmon and mashed sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of ginger, or touring an unfamiliar town. Fellowship is sharing deep thoughts. It is getting to know someone just a bit better. What better time to have fellowship than summertime?
Time to splash Time to sip Time to sing Time for solitude
What better place to splash than in a gorgeous built-in pool with a waterfall?
There is something spiritual about a waterfall. Hearing water cascading down a tiled and glass blocked wall sounds like rain falling on a hot summer day. The dripping sound is very calming. Does water calm you? It sure calms me. Oceans, pools, lakes, rivers – you name it – if there is water – there is calm. Yet, where there is a pool, there is bound to be splashing! Splashing water with hands and feet takes me back to childhood. Splashing seems to wipe years away in an instant. So, the next time you are in a pool – go ahead and make a splash!
Splashing brings out child-like qualities.
Sipping a beverage in the summertime is different than the rest of the year. Do you agree? In summer, whether it is sipping iced tea, lemonade, or a favorite alcoholic beverage, summer makes it sweeter. Maybe it is the casualness of the outdoors? The warm summer breezes? Or the flip-flops? Whatever it is, sipping a glass of ½ ice tea, ½ lemonade, with a splash of limeade – sure is my favorite! Sipping reminds me of savoring. Savoring a piece of pie or the last spoonful of ice cream. Sipping is slow. It is a way of saying, slow down! But, after sipping, I feel rejuvenated. Do you?
I come from a very musical family. Both of my brothers were in the high school band. My brother Bob, was a music teacher for decades. My sister played the piano, as did both of my parents. In addition, my dad sang in the church choir and often performed solos. I, however, did not really inherit the “musical” gene. Although I sure love to sing, I’m not really good at all. Yet, my heart overflows with joy, and I sing anyway, especially in the shower. For me, singing is expressing joy. Joy of love. Joy of life. I really try to embrace joy and bury the sorrow. The sorrow of a failed marriage. The sorrow of an estranged/alienated son. Maybe the singing is just my way of expressing sorrow – the deep sadness that I live with every day. For me, it is a choice. I can choose to cry. Or, I can choose to sing. I decide to sing because singing soothes my soul. So go ahead – sing a tune and see how you feel. Do you feel better?
Solitude is spending time with yourself. It is a time to just “be.” How often do we really do that in this busy, instant messaging world? I think of Jesus. Jesus often went off to pray, leaving his disciples. Maybe Jesus needed solitude to think or to refresh. Or to reenergize. Or, perhaps, Jesus needed time to speak to God. In The Word Among Us, Father Mitch Pacwa, writes an article entitled, Jesus Sets Out Alone to Pray, where Father Pacwa announces, “We’re Invited to Join Jesus in His Secret Place of Prayer.” What do you need solitude for? As humans, we all need solitude. Time to getaway. Time to unplug. Time to “be.”
Enjoy the rest of the summer! Life is a life-long learning experience.
Artwork: Tropical Holiday Hawaii Beach by Robin Wethe Altman
Time to refresh Time to renew Time to reflect Time to repent
What better place to refresh than a beach?
Growing up in NJ, where the shore was an hour away, it could take up to three hours to get there because of traffic. And, of course, once you arrived, you needed to pay for parking and pay to go on the beach. No free beach in NJ. That is if you can find a public beach. Many beaches are private and require a “badge.” In NC, it is entirely different. Free public beach access that is clearly visible. Plenty of free parking nearby. What a joy to be able to enjoy an hour or so at the beach without the hassle!
Renewing our minds every once in a while, is good medicine for our souls. How do you renew? I renew by stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new.
Growing up in a non-denominational evangelical home environment, the Church was the center point. All seemed to revolve around Church. Church was on Sunday. That is what we did—Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. and Church service at 10:45 a.m. Then, sometimes, fellowship hour after Church. Then home for Sunday dinner. Maybe a ride in the car. Then, rest time. Then a lite supper and then back to Church for evening service.
Wednesday evening was Prayer Meeting, and I remember my dad faithfully going. Then Thursday evening was choir rehearsal which my father participated in as well. Thursday was also Pioneer Girls, similar to Girl Scouts, which I participated in for many years. Youth group at Church plus a regional youth group, Youth for Christ, were activities held at various times throughout the years that I regularly attended. I do remember one summer attending a bible study that was at 7:00 a.m. I woke up, grabbed some juice, and rode my bike up to Church. It really wasn’t that far – about 1 mile.
When I was a bit older, the regional group expanded my horizons to meet other kids in nearby towns. I appreciated learning more about different churches; yet, I felt a tug to be more involved in my neighborhood. My parents discouraged me from community activities. And strongly encouraged Church-sponsored events and outgoings with “church kids.” I also vaguely remember one summer going away to camp at a Christian Camp named Camp Cherith. That is where I learned to do archery, shoot a rifle (BB’s), and horseback ride. Reflecting on my childhood, I felt that I was in a bubble; I could only do activities that were Church related. I thought that I missed out on friendships with those who were unlike me.
My first experience with discrimination was when my parents did not support my friendship with a little girl up the block named Charlotte. She was Jewish. I don’t know why my parents were afraid of people who were unlike them. I was five. It had a lasting impact on me and my life. It was then when my first questions started about religion, faith, and Christian love. I still wonder if Charlotte knew why I couldn’t be her friend.
There were lots of rules growing up. No playing on Sunday. No bike riding on Sunday. No going to school dances. No going to movies. No playing cards. I felt deprived. I felt like a freak. I’m sure being bullied by a girl named Debby in junior high school didn’t help either. I was so scared, and I don’t really know why. Perhaps, I’ll never know.
What exactly is repenting? And what do we need to repent from? First, repenting requires acknowledging a wrongdoing or a regret. Who in this world has not done something they have regretted? Not me – for sure! Then, repenting requires coming to peace with the regret. For me, repenting is freeing. Once you have come to terms with a situation, and only then, can you then move forward. At the University of Ozarks, their mission is “to live life fully,” and you can only do that after you have reflected, repented, refreshed and renewed. Not necessarily in that order.
Enjoy the rest of the summer! Life is a life-long learning experience.
Much of it has to do with the gratitude I have in my heart for life itself and where I am today. It is the realization that this love comes from God. Agape love is divine love – a pure love between humans and their Creator. A Christ-like love can only exist within the context of faith. An illustration of agape love is in John 3:16.
It is this agape love that lives within each of us. And, it is up to us to know what to do with it. We show others this love through simple actions. A warm smile. A hug. A thank you. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to think of how you can offer your love to others each and every day.
Valentine’s Day is often thought of as a holiday for lovers. It is so much more than that. In my mid-twenties, I was not in a romantic relationship on Valentine’s Day; so, my friend Wendy and I decided to go to Atlantic City for the weekend. Wendy had a friend who had a condo in Brigantine, actually an island, the city right over Atlantic City’s breezeway. The closest casino at the time was Trump’s Castle. So, off we went. I remember the inside of the casino looking majestic and castle-like. It was quite stunning. The point in this story is that Wendy and I had a great time. It was a time and place where I realized that I didn’t have to be in a romantic relationship to enjoy the love in the air on Valentine’s Day. So, for this Valentine’s Day in 2021, I wish all of you agape love. The love that will never fail. The love of our divine Creator.
An alien in a foreign land… Where all that is around feels unfamiliar.New. Yet, in some ways, strangely old. Seeking to find the comfort of an old shoe or bathrobe. Lying in bed as the world goes by. Feeling frozen in time. Short of breath. Not knowing where your children are or if they are safe.
An alien in a foreign land… Writing, speaking to unknown faces. New. Yet, in some ways, strangely old. Meeting strangers, small talk, and dining in restaurants. Wondering if this person will call you again. Feeling anxious. Short of breath. Not knowing what tomorrow will hold.
An alien in a foreign land… Opening the door to online yesterday in person today. New. Yet, in some ways, strangely old. Conversing deeply about life and sharing freshly brewed coffee. Embarking on a new relationship, perhaps. Feeling excited. Short of breath. Not knowing where it will go.
An alien in a foreign land… Letting go and letting God direct your life. New. Yet, in some ways, strangely old. Following God’s call to a new foreign land. Stumbling and falling along the way. Feeling hesitant. Short of breath. Not knowing where it will lead.
An alien in a foreign land… Friendly faces are fresh and welcoming. New. Yet, in some ways, strangely old. Sharing time and talents and learning in a new workplace. Making a difference in people’s lives. Feeling humbled. Short of breath. Not knowing the impact for years to come.
An alien in a foreign land… Casting out pebbles to see where they land. New. Yet, in some ways, strangely old. Exploring new places and seeking adventures along the way. Filling with anticipation. Feeling thrilled. Short of breath Not knowing where the landing will be.
May God mourn with us the lives that have been taken, Provide us with comfort and care, Instill community in all of us of near and far. Revive us, O Lord… Mark us by your Holy Spirit, Speak to us and make it clear, So we can fulfill the mission you have set.
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12 & 13
You enjoy holiday shopping. Don’t you? You aim to select the perfect gift for a loved one. Best of all, you love giving the gift and watching it be unwrapped. All you want is to see the joy and excitement. Lately, I’ve been thinking about gift-giving. I used to think that it more suitable to give than to receive. Yet, in John 1:12 & 13, we see that it is much better to receive than to give. God has a way of turning our thinking upside down. In this passage,we see that our faith isn’t enough. We need to also receive. Receive God. Receive salvation. It is free for you and me. So, you may ask, how do I know if I am a child of God? Your logical mind may agree that there is a God. What does your heart say? It is the heart that causes your behavior to gradually change over time. When you strive to be Christ-like in your daily life, you become a child a God through your acceptance of God’s love.
The world is changing moment by moment at warp speed. Yet, in this chaos, you can experience a quieter, gentler YOU. It is within you. You can call it the Holy Spirit, or you can call it inner wisdom. You can call it what you want to call it. It is the peace of floating in a tube on a lake. It is the movement of ants in a garden. It is the swaying of a pecan tree. It is listening. It is THE moment. Rob Bell would call this “presence.” What do you call it?
The pandemic may cause you to pause.
What would it look like if? Are these thoughts gifts – gifts of potential?
The potential to connect with people differently.
To care for the sick.
To feed the hungry
To give to the poor.
To lend a helping hand.
To have a listening ear.
A shoulder to cry on.
To love more deeply and profoundly.
To give more grace.
To forgive more easily.
The possibility of exploring the unknown – the depths of your own soul.
The question is not are you IN or are you OUT. The question is, are you YOU?