What I’m Learning This Summer

(Written last summer, but very good thoughts to reflect on as we look forward to this summer!)

Even though Phoenix can get too hot, my family and I enjoy the summer months for several reasons. My wife Toni teaches piano ten month out of the year but takes June and July off to spend some extra time with her husband (that would be me) and our sons. During those two short months I take the bulk of my vacation time off so we can have some special times together. All of us are “crazy busy” during the majority of the school year. My sons (Jonathan, Jeremy and Joshua) are at a fun age – 16, 14 and 12. They’re all involved in school, church, sports, music, etc….When the end of school comes around they are as needy of a break as Toni and I are.

We’ve enjoyed two “get-a-ways” this summer. We spent a week in Show Low right after school ended and another in San Francisco last week. In a few more weeks we’ll enjoy Sedona for 3 days (My boys call it Sedo-nut because of some of the people that live there!). Often on our trips, I get to preach at a sister church and the rest of the family will play instruments or sing. Then we try to enjoy some sights and fun times as a family.

Because we live in the desert, my family loves the beach; especially when the weather is like 60 and the ocean is cold. Call us nuts, but we’ll be the weird family picking up sea shells, making sand castles and sticking our feet in the pacific when nobody and I mean nobody is on the sand. And even though traveling together can sometimes be stressful, overall these family times are something of a break and a blessing to me personally. I love these family times. I’m trying to hold on to the memories. Before long life will capture the boys and they’ll be off making there own way. Of course besides salvation and Toni, they will always be the most special gift God has granted to me. Before our marriage, my heart’s desire was three sons. Amazingly God gave us three sons.

In addition to my time off with the family, I take an additional two weeks up in the AZ White Mountains to be with our church kids up at camp; one week with the teens and another with the juniors. Grand View Camp is presently using a beautiful property in Alpine, AZ. At 7,000 feet it’s cool, it’s quiet, and it’s almost heavenly! The mountains here are majestic.  I always spend ample time just in quiet prayer, Bible-reading, reflection and writing.

Every year I experience a spiritual and an emotional “repair and tune-up” in the midst of the aspen and pine. Ministry is exhilarating but at times a leader can take a beating both physically as well as emotionally in the “ebb and flow” of God’s work. On top of that basic fact is my personality. I’m a bit of a driver. I drive myself pretty hard over the course of the ministry calendar and so these summer months that allow a lull in our pace is important. The result of these times away has been fruitful times of physical rest and a definite shot in the arm by way of spiritual/emotional refreshment. These seasons of rest humanly speaking may add years to my earthly ministry as well as the strengthening of my relationship with my wife and children. The Scriptures are fairly clear about the importance of allowing ourselves “rest.” The problem with most of us in ministry is we work on Sunday and we too often don’t make up for the residual need for rest.

It never fails. Each summer as I’m quiet, God speaks to me through His Word. The message is not audible but it is clear. Here’s what I’m learning (or re-learning) this summer.

1.  Jesus wants me to be real in my private and public walk – Luke 12:1-3

This summer I’m continuing my sermon series through Luke. We are in chapter 12. The end of chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12, Jesus speaks to the issue of hypocrisy and fear. On this first point God is reminding me of the importance of being real and genuine in my walk. What will hypocrisy do to those that live with me and serve with me? What will hypocrisy do in my own spirit if I allow it to be unchecked? Too often I come to the summer months and I’ve been trying to make “this work” or “that work” in ministry of life. Instead of asking God to empower, I pull up my sleeves and do it myself. This always eventually results in hypocrisy and burn-out at some level. It becomes a result of “flesh” instead of “God’s Spirit.” Faithfulness in prayer goes a long way in helping here!

2.   Jesus wants me to trust and fear God….not man – Luke 12:4-6

Too many times I come to the summer months tired because of illegitimate fears of life challenges, ministry conflict or personal finances. God has promised to take care of us. We are His children. Why would He abandon His children? He will not let leave us un-cared for. A middle part of this trust in God is a certain view of this life. Luke records the words of Jesus in verse 4 when he asks, “Why worry about people that can only take your life?” It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t hold on too tight to this life….the life to come is the one that has ultimate significance.” He builds on that in the next verse and clearly states the issue to be concerned with is not the loss of physical life but eternal life. Lord willing in a few short months I’ll be ministering to the underground church in Asia. These dear saints live with this reality on a regular basis. We should too!

3.   Jesus wants me to trust that His time-table is better than mine! – James 5:7-8, 11

I have a day-timer. I’ve been using this personal calendar system sense the early 90’s. Often times God surprises me by upsetting what I had in mind by way of personal or ministry plans and schedules. I love this passage in James. Over the span of just a few verses, James reminds us that we need to be patient, not only for the coming of the Lord, but also for His will as He works that out in our lives. God’s timing is different than ours usually for one of at least four reasons: (1) His predestined plan is ultimately better for His kingdom than what we have in our day-timer (Eph 1:11); (2) Sometimes God allows Satan and his evil-helpers to fight against us (Eph 6:12; Daniel 10); (3) Sometimes God delays providing what we need until the last second to teach us a lesson about His character (Gen 22:6-19); and (4) Sometimes God wants to provide a better alternative than the options we know about (Gen 24:12-27).

4.   Jesus wants me to enjoy the blessings that God has already given me by way of work, life, marriage, children and ministry – Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

How many times have I missed the miracle of the moment or the blessing of the hour because I’m too busy wanting to push for more? How many gifts of God have I snubbed because I’m not content to simply say “Thank you.” As I reflect on all that I have spiritually, in ministry, in fellowship, in family, God is reminding me to enjoy these good gifts. They all come from our Father’s hand. A connected issue to this would be contentment. When I’m grateful, I’m content!

 

So, as I sit in the lawn-4000 (This is what I call my lawn chair) up at a cool 7000 feet and reflect on what God is reminding me this summer, I’m grateful once again for His mercy.

Praise God for His mercy! I pray that you too will find some time this summer to quietly step aside, enjoy God’s gifts and blessings that all of us have, and come apart…..before you come apart!

Straight Ahead!

Your friend,

JT

 

 

 

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