Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Every year, at Christmas, my grandmother purchases tickets to the Paper Mill Playhouse for Calie and me, my siblings, and cousins. She picks the day and the show, months in advance, that forces all of us to “prioritize” this date and put it on the calendar. We all have busy lives and jam-packed schedules, young kids, and countless other things to do. We all love each other and get along; but rare are the moments when our schedules align so that we can all get together at the same time. But because this gift is from Grandma, we make sure this night happens. No excuses. Everyone shows up. Thus, this past Sunday evening, all 15 of us headed to Millburn to see ‘Rent.’ But first we were off to our traditional pre-show dinner. Halfway through dinner, we received the call that the show had been canceled. No joke. Seriously. With only about 75 minutes before showtime, they had to cancel the evening show due to a rampant illness amongst the cast. So much for “the show must go on!”
My grandmother, who called and broke the news to us all, was heartbroken. You could hear the tears through the phone. But the thing of it was, none of us really cared. Sure, it would have been great to see the show. But at the end of the day, we were more than abundantly enjoying the family time together. The show may not have gone on, but our night still did. We poured another glass of wine and decided there was now plenty of room in both our stomachs and our evening schedules to order dessert. We had nowhere else to be! We wouldn’t let something, completely outside of our control and unable to be changed, stop us from a good time. Anyone else in the restaurant could have told you that. We were loud, laughing, and enjoying every minute of our “forced” time together.
I share this with you, simply as encouragement to take time to have fun and laugh with those you love this summer. We can jam-pack our summer schedules with baseball games, household projects, and all sorts of other things. It’s easy to always be on-the-go. The last two nights our All-Star baseball season has been washed out. Though bummed in the moment, it did allow for consecutive nights of family dinners—all together and all at the same time. Sometimes, it is in the rainy or rent-free days of life that allow us to reconnect, recharge and we find the best memories being made.
“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawnmower is broken.” (James Dent)
Once a month, I go over to The Oaks at Denville, a senior living community, to lead chapel service for them. We probably average about 15 residents at the service. However, in recent months, and again Tuesday, our turnout has taken a hit. Why? Because they have other events and activities scheduled at the same time. Shopping Excursions to Acme. Various presentations. Blood pressure checks. Probably the occasional cutthroat Bingo game. Yesterday, it was a “live” concert with the Jersey Chicks. Walking past the auditorium, which is right next to the chapel, there were about 30 seniors in that room, oddly engaged in and entertained by a karaoke-esque rendition of Shania Twain’s “I Feel Like a Woman.” No joke!
Yes indeed, no matter your age, there are always a plethora of other things fighting for your time and attention. This is the devil’s way of subtly and sneakily pulling you away from time with the Lord. This deception often ramps up during this time of the year. Hence, the old adage, “If the Devil can’t make you bad; he’ll make you busy.” Summertime is a classic time to take a break from church. Summer arrives and we get so excited for all of the fun things that we have planned. There are vacations, graduation parties, favorite fishing holes, daytrips to the shore, BBQ’s, and the ever-busy schedules of our children and grandchildren. Then there are the doctors’ appointments, days we are not feeling well, or mornings we simply want to sleep in. Good and necessary things, but things that can quickly—although unintentionally—take their place atop our priority list. Nevertheless, it’s not a time to take a break from God. After all, the Devil and his army never take time off from trying to ruin your lives. He is always looking for an opportune time to break in on the unsuspecting, compromising or distant believer through isolation, doubt, apathy, or relentless negativity. We can’t get lazy!
Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. Vacations, holidays and summer camping with the family are all good, important and valuable things to do. But don’t take the whole summer off from church attendance, worship, prayer and Bible reading! The Bible says: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24-25, NLT). In other words, God expects us to meet together, He wants us to meet together, so we can encourage and bless one another. We should never take an extended vacation away from being in church. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Of course you have to say that because you’re a pastor.” But that’s not actually why I say it. It’s not some sense of self-preservation. I say it because there is no more important place that we can be than in the same place where God has promised to be and where He promises to distribute His gifts. It is here you will hear of His relentless love and freeing forgiveness, His empowering grace and strengthening hope.
Have fun this summer.
Enjoy the outdoors.
Travel to see friends and family.
Explore the world.
Go play Bingo and sing some Shania Twain.
Just don’t take a vacation from God. He loves you more than you can imagine and wants to keep fueling your life with His good gifts.
“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)
“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him.” (Psalm 22:27)
Pastor Steve Vera