Lawnchairs, capris, sandals, ponytailsâ€¦thatâ€™s me. I admit it, Iâ€™m a summertime slacker or I want to be. I enjoy sitting in the sun with my sunscreen on, going out for over-priced gourmet ice cream and trying to avoid every routine and chore I can.
However, there is a price to pay for too much slacking off. Suddenly there are weeds in the garden, dirty dishes in the sink and a few extra pounds from too much ice cream and not enough exercise.
Sometimes I get the urge to take a summertime break from my spiritual habits as well. Suddenly the extra few minutes of sleep are dragging me away from my morning devotions and the tree-lined trails call me from a Sunday morning in church.
I know there is a price to pay for spiritual slacking too. The less time I spend in specific, planned time with the Lord, the more disconnected I am with my Best Friend. The resulting feelings of discontent, anxiety and loss of focus could be blamed on too much sun exposure, but I know better.
Keeping up my attendance in church is sometimes a challenge as well. We had a particularly good service this past Sunday but already you could see the cottage crowd was absent. I know there will be a few weeks when Iâ€™ll be absent due to vacation, but I need to keep church in my summer as well.
When we are asked to â€˜not forsake the assembling of yourselves togetherâ€™ in the scripture, I always used to take that as a command, something like â€˜do not killâ€™. But many of Godâ€™s commands in the Word are followed by a promise, for example, we are told to honor our parents so we may live a long and healthy life.
It suddenly occurred to me that there is more to this â€˜assemblingâ€™ than just doing it because it is good for us to be with the family of God. I truly believe that a greater Spiritual process is at work when we attend a service of worshippers. When God says He dwells in the midst of His praises, He truly does. When He says that where two or three are gathered, He is there, He truly is. And when He says that if He is lifted up He will draw all people to Himself, He really and truly does.
Corporate worship is so much more than me sharing my heart with my Lord along with a bunch of other people. It is the family of God united in one purpose lifting praise to the Almighty God, allowing Him to enter their midst and walk among them, moving and touching lives in an even more powerful way.
Maybe part of the group worship experience is that I am encouraged to take my eyes off of myself. In my private time with the Lord it is so easy to make it all about me. My needs, my wants, my hurt and my whining; oh and if I have a few seconds left, bless my family and my dog.
When I am in a service where the body is invited to come forward for special prayer, I suddenly realize that there are many others I can pray for, and maybe my needs arenâ€™t that huge after all. When I am encouraged in song to remember the death and sacrifice of Jesus, I recognize how self-focused my prayers have become, when I am supposed to be in conversation with the One Who died for me. When the Pastor exhorts me to get deeper in the Word and become more reliant on God, I become aware of how much growing I still need to do.
Yet, with all this realization of how far I have to go, I am also encouraged by His strength, His purpose and His power in my life. There is something about feeling the move of His Spirit and the incredible sense of His presence in His House that cannot be felt anywhere else. Â Buoyed by the Word, song, prayer and corporate worship of a group of believers, I can once again face my week.
I need that encouragement to face another Monday and to begin my week by thanking God for the sunshine, the flowers, and all the lovely parts of Summer. Maybe this year I can learn to let go of the stresses and unnecessary routines for awhile, and turn my summer slacking into summer relaxing, but still hanging on to that which is good. Enjoying a closer relationship with the Lord of every season. And perhaps an occasional ice cream cone.