10 Things You Can Do to Make this a Summer of the Soul
Summer is heating up, is your faith?
Summer is the perfect time to make plans to take better care of yourself.
This summer, plan to tend to the garden of your soul. Whether you are outside playing in the pool with your favorite children or inside soaking up the air conditioning, you can be tending to your spiritual care.
Imagine how you might feel come fall if you invest in your spiritual life now by infusing those activities with a dash of faith?
- Discover the power of scripture. The Bible is truly the best book you can get into. Haven’t opened yours in awhile? There’s no shame in that, but there’s no time like the present to reconnect with the power of God’s living word. Start at the beginning, in Psalms, the Gospels, or the letters of Paul…wherever you start is exactly the right place.
- Plan to add faith-based books to your summer reading list. Ideas: Books on theology, Methodism, the Apostle Paul, one of the desert fathers or mothers like Julian of Norwich, a theologian like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a topic book on evangelism or discipleship, a book on spiritual disciplines like prayer, or books on spiritual gardening, enneagrams, or the art of the labyrinth. Need a recommendation? Swing by and ask your pastor.
- Not a book reader? Try a book via audio, or try podcasts. There are great selections on Audible. Pastor Tiffany recommends the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Another great way to tap into a wealth of information and grow in your faith is through podcasts. Find them on all sorts of Christian topics. Need help or guidance? Stop by the church office and let Pastor Tiffany or Tate give you some great recommendations and/or get you set up.
- Make morning prayer a pre-breakfast must. Before the heat gets overwhelming outside, enjoy sitting on your front porch or in your back yard. Starting the morning with prayer is a great habit to form. It gives our day and our lives perspective. It’s an opportunity to begin by giving God thanks for your waking and end by asking God to guide your steps and words throughout the day.
- Be aware of God. While you’re outside, instead of focusing on the things that must be done, take time to be aware of the new bloom in the garden or the blue bird playing in your tree. Slow down and notice the goodness of God all around you. Smile when the kids next door are giggling. Smile when you witness kindness at the grocery store. Smile when you see the elderly couple flirting with one another. Smile when you hear the child screaming in the restaurant…smile because the presence of that child means hope for a better tomorrow. And please, smile at that child’s parent who is striving to be the very best they can be. Your smile of understanding and compassion will do so much for them.
- Practice the gift and spiritual discipline of being present. Being fully present in our lives is a great way to show our thanksgiving to God and our love to others. Open your table. This summer, invite friends, family, and neighbors over to sit with you at your table. Put the phones away, not down, away. Share a meal together and share your stories. Get to know your dear ones better. Listen more than you talk, look people in their eyes, and genuinely care about what they are saying. Put the phone down and witness life before you, don’t just watch it through a camera on your phone. See it with those beautiful eyes God gave you. The world needs more relationships, more presence, and more authentic face-to-face connection. Let it begin with us.
- Be in mission to your community. Summer can be whatever we’d like it to be. It will be as relaxing or as hectic as we make it. And regardless of our obligations, there is always time available to put someone else first. Never been to a Community Dinner? Commit to participating throughout the summer. Want to help feed school children during the summer months? Help make lunches with the church for Mission Shawnee on Wednesday mornings. Shawnee is home to many non-profit organizations you can plug into as well as the mission work of the church. Happy people are giving people.
- Change the channel. Have you ever thought about cutting down on the hours you watch tv? Summer is the best time to do that. Unplug from the news and turn up the music. Play your soul music! What’s that? The music that makes you dance, tap your toes, sing at the top of your lungs, brings back joyful memories, and makes you feel alive! Having a difficult day? Change the channel to one of our local Christian radio stations for some inspiring and worshipful songs during the week. Try FM channels 88.7 the House FM, or 88.9 KLOVE, or The Message Ch. 63 on SiriusXM Radio.
- Consider forgiveness. There is no better time like the present to revisit forgiveness. Summer is a great season to considering forgiveness once again. What unforgiveness are you still holding on to? Does resentment still have a home in your heart? Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone whose forgiveness you need to ask for? Make a goal that by the end of the summer you’ve sought forgiveness and reconciliation with at least one person. Pick up the phone. Write the letter. Have the conversation. Need help? Visit with Pastor Tiffany and she will help you work through whatever the Holy Spirit is calling you to work on. You don’t have to face it alone, your pastor is here to help guide you. You don’t have to have the faith of Paul to give or receive forgiveness, you just have to have a willing heart. PS…start by asking God to help you forgive yourself for that thing you keep beating yourself up about. God has already forgiven you.
- Live a God first life. We are called to put God as our very first priority. Yes, before our spouse. Yes, before our children. Yes, before anything or anyone else. Living a God first life means God is our source, our foundation, our rock, and our redeemer. We will be a better partner, parent, friend, employee, boss, when we start with God. This summer, make a commitment to start each week with worship. Yes, your pastor wants you in worship. That should be a given. Living a God first life means we put time with God as a priority for ourselves, our most important relationships, and our families. Being in worship opens up our hearts and our minds. Hearing the word of God connects us with someone beyond ourselves. Reconnecting with our faith community reminds me we are not on this journey alone. This summer, put God first and start each week with us. On vacation? Find the nearest UMC or church that stands out to you. Bring a bulletin back and share with Pastor Tiffany. Make worship a habit this summer and find out how much better your soul feels. No more excuses! Before long, you’ll feel strange when you do miss.
Rev. Dr. Tiffany Nagel Monroe