Kingdom life, like summer, is not worried. You should bask in sheer abundance of God’s goodness.
Winter is when we walk by faith, not sight. God is good, all the time, but winter is when that truth is a conviction we nurture, not an experience we savor. In winter, the goodness of God is our creeed, true always, seen or unseen, recited regardless of present feelings. In summer, it’s our testimony, true because it’s obvious, and deeply felt. Summer is when we walk in the light-we can see, every step, that God is good, and near, and for me. And it’s not that that you take any of that for granted; you just don’t turn your nose up at it.
You bask in it.
As a pastor, I love to help people to enjoy, without apology or guilt, a summer of the heart. For some reason, most of us, even those of us (like me) with pagan roots, carry a residue of Protestant angst that makes us feel guilty if we feel good. This is odd, given that we follow a Savior who is borderline obsessed that His joy fill us to overflowing. Odd, given we worship a king whose first miracle-archè ho sèmion, in the Greek, which could be rendered “greatest miracle”-was turn turn water into wine, for no other reason that the party might go on. Odd, given that we take our ethical cues largely from the apostle who wrote, “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! … Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 3:1, 4:4)
Joy is our birthright. Joy is the sign of the Messiah’s presence, the wine at His banqueting table. Joy is the savor and the aroma of heaven itself. Jesus didn’t let His disciples fast during His time with Him any more than He would encourage fasting at a friend’s wedding. It would be bad manners, Jesus said, not to mention poor timing. It would be strange, and laughable, and regrettable, like dressing for Antarctica to visit the Bahamas.
I have a photo of Cheryl and me on the night I turned forty, almost a decade ago. We are standing on a beach in Mexico, as the setting sun melts gold into sky and sea. We are thin and smiling and relaxed. Cheryl was in an evening gown she sewed just for this moment, to surprise me with. She has a string of pearls she borrowed from her mother around her neck. I don’t look bad myself. In a moment, I remember, we’ll go in to the restaurant and eat a seafood dinner to celebrate my birthday and, two days belated, our fifteenth aniversary.
It was an amazing season in our lives: my first book was out in six months, and we were just starting a building program in our church to accommodate rapid growth. Our children were young enough that they still loved being with us (as opposed to now: loving us, but preferred to be with friends). They were sad when we were away in Mexico but thrilled they could spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa. (Several years later, when we visited Mexico again, they were happy that we were away but miffed that Grandma and Grandpa were brought in to take care of them.)
It was summertime of the heart for us. Many times since then, I’ve looked at that photo and rejoiced that in that season we simply basked in God’s goodness, without guilt or apology. We took the season for what it was, a brief preview of the kingdom in all its fullness. It didn’t last, not in that distillate form we tasted then, but it beckoned that time when the kingdom of our God will be the kingdoms of the earth, and for that alone it’s a memory worth keeping alive.
As I spoke about it the last chapter, I try not to idealize memories, try not to make them sirens of nostalgia. But I do derive residual joy from them, savoring them like a faint lingering fragrance of a garden I once walked in. (pages 128-129)
Nearly 50 years of age, it is tuff for me to pick just one of my favorite memories spanning from my childhood to now. Sifting through, I could go with my incredible story of how I met my future bride of 25 years. Or I could go with the birth of my two children, or I could tell you about the night my physical birthday and my spiritual birthday collided, or I could go with the afternoon I received my set-apartness to go and serve God even though the way it happened still takes me by surprise. However, with all of those good things that happened in my life, I chose to focus in on one dinner that I had with one of my best friends, at the time.
Just starting Christian college down in Lakeland, Florida, where this is the land called “The Sunshine State,” where one experiences full and sunny days but because of the humidity one gets a brief but ever potent downpour of rain falling down on you every afternoon three quarters of the year. Here I was, in the middle of Florida, just starting college, and I was all alone. A few days past praying that I would find a true friend. Then came along Mark Macri. He was a college year or two ahead of me but are two personalities meshed.
Fast forward a year, and we cemented our time together as best friends. Our time together was irreplaceable, and to celebrate our friendship we decided to go out and eat. I remember it well, and I’m sure that he does as well, not for the food (although the food was par excellencè) but a comment I made at the start of our order. Ragazzi’s Italian Restaurant was the name posted outside. He and I hadn’t taken in the notice of the date. It was the date of all dates where couples would take their dates. In America, that date has a special name for it; it is called “Valentine’s Day.” And for it being Valentine’s Day, I realized just as we were about to order that, indeed, it was February 14th (“Valentine’s Day”), and since the new sexual revolution was experiencing a resurgence (where men with men [gay] or women with women [lesbians]) would have a grand ol’ time flaunting there sexual exploits. But soon we forgot about it, and just kept on going and having a good evening as the time we had there at Ragazzi’s was excellent beyond words.
Now, I want you to think of a time where the kingdom of God was brought down to earth, just for a moment or two where you along with your companions were not worried, but you and any of your companions take delight in basking in God’s goodness. Maybe you want to share it with somebody simply because it is to joyous to keep it to yourself? Maybe you can comment and say how wonderful things are in that certain time of your life, where you basked in the glory of God’s goodness? Maybe…🤔
Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger
Kingdom living is not hurried. It luxuriates in the sheer abundance of God’s watchcare. In summertime you begin to live in the way A.W. Tozer describes: “Those who are in Christ share with [God] all the riches of limitless time and endless years. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves. For those outside of Christ, time is a devouring beast; before the sons of the New Creation, time crouches and purrs, and licks their hands” (Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer).
In The Rest of God, my book on the gift of Sabbath, I note that it is often in stillness that we discover, anew, God’s bignessand goodness. “Be still and that I am God.” In our busyness, we often miss God: the whirlwind of our doing becomes a smoke screen for evasion. Endless busyness is earwax against God’s voice and a blindfold to God’s presence. God grows mute in the din of our shouting, remote in the blur of our rushing. But stillness reawakens our wonder and attention, and allows us to become freshly present with God, keenly attuned to His speaking.
We see this played out in the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary. Martha’s failing was not in commitment to hard work-that’s commendable, and good news for those of us who like eating and clean houses. Her failing is that her drivenness has struck her deaf and blind, so that she can neither see nor hear Jesus when He’s sitting right in front of her. Sabbath rest is a way of rendering ourselves still, but not in the way of slumber: still in the way a fox when he crouches to catch a rabbit, or still in the way of a birdwatcher when she espies some rare breed of cockatoo perched nearby. Sabbath, in this way, provides an intersection with eternity. It is an earthly practice of a heavenly reality. It trains us in rhythms of kingdom life. Hebrews 4 says that heaven is the true Sabbath, so all our intervening Sabbaths are preparation for and anticipation of that.
But here’s the irony: winter, for all it’s enforced silence and stillness and waiting, is seldom restful. It is often toilsome, or tedious, or both. Summer, by contrast, is typically active and restful altogether. We feel deeply alive and deeply relaxed. It is the season par excellence for repose-to take our pose again, this time in a posture of ease and gratitude. The Bible tells us not to be anxious about anything. Not to be anxious. That’s a spiritual discipline needed most in seasons of darkness but rarely cultivated there: it’s only tested and proven there. Peace-Shalom, the presence of God so vivid and real that anxiety doesn’t stand a chance around it-is summer‘s birthright but winter’s lifeblood. So in the summer of the heart, when God seems most visible and available, learn the rhythm, the action and inaction, that avails you most in His presence. “Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Recently, I took a week of summer holidays (vacation) with my wife and my youngest daughter. Our oldest daughter joined us for the last couple of days. Our son, alas, had to work (though I took him surfing in Tofino the following week, to make it up to him).
We went to Whistler, a playground for children and grown-ups alike, and on a grand scale: a mountain over a mile high where, even in July, skiers schuss the glaciers and, lower down, cyclists on bicycles with more springs and pistons than a cotton gin swoop down switchbacks. There are lakes by the dozen, and icy rivers teeming with fish, and golf courses sprawling every which way. Paved trails for walking or cycling spiderweb it all together. There’s a township at the mountain’s base on a Swiss alpine village, with brick streets and awninged shops and restaurants with ample patio seating. The children’s play areas are made from river driftwood, artfully fitted like a marshwiggle’s teepee and darkly lacquered. Every day, we chose a new activity. We brought our bikes, and fishing rods, and walking shoes, and several good books, and a few good movies. We tramped up craggy snowy mountains, walked along wild swift rivers, and swam and kayaked and fly-fished in lakes. We slept on grassy banks. We read and read and read. We picnicked on beaches. We returned to our condominium, showered up, and made a late dinner, and then we read some more, or watched an old movie, or played a game, or went to bed early so that we could wake early, or not.
I hadn’t been that active in a year. Yet I hadn’t been that rested in a year. When I returned to work, the first few days everyone commented on how relaxed I looked.
This was the best part: I wasn’t striving for a deeper relationship with my wife, or with my daughters, or with God. I was just taking time to enjoy those relationships, and they got deeper in spite of that. Or, maybe, because of that.
The summer of the heart is like this. It’s a time for activity; why not start something new, attempt something hitherto avoided because you didn’t have the time, the spunk, the pluck? But there is little striving in such activity, strenuous as it is. You’re not in a rush, not trying to prove anything, win anything, finish anything. It’s just that the day is long, and you’re alive, and feel younger than you look. O happy day.
One simple application: I renovate my spiritual practices most often during my heart’s summertimes. I experiment with prayer techniques, for example, or try new ways to read the Scriptures. Most Mondays throughout the year, I hide away for a few hours in the afternoon to pray, read, reflect, journal. It’s a restorative practice. I don’t tamper with it-where I go, how I spend my time-when my heart is beleaguered. Then, I need the tried and the true. I need a secret garden, one sure safe place in a world of dubious advice and treacherous ground. But when my heart’s in summer, I play with this practice. I go to different places. I try new ways of meeting God. I tinker with the tried and true, and sometimes make wholesale changes. Some work, some don’t. In summer, it doesn’t matter much. There’s nothing to lose. It’s no more wasteful than trying a different flavor of ice cream-mango cherry coconut, say-and finding that you don’t like it quite as much as vanilla. But then again, it just might be the world’s best secret (pages 125-128).
Ever since I joined the ranks of being a TRUE LIFE CHRISTIAN, I have gone through many seasons of the soul. When I was less than the age of 18, however, I experienced spiritual training during my summertime of the soul, some intense, others not; it all depended on the one who was doing the training and my receptivity to take what I have learned and put it into practice. On occasion, though, I experienced wintertime of the soul like the time I needed glasses when my plan was to enlist in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot, or the time I developed type 1 diabetes of which there is no cure, or the time I broke my right-sided tibia and fibia (the lower portion of the leg) just days before I was to get my driver’s license. Those were some tough times, times that I had questioned God on what He was doing with my life.
Yet this is supposed to be about kingdom living is not hurried. How do I spend the summertimes of my heart? I’m glad you asked.
Have you ever felt in summertime the cold wind of late fall or early winter? Well, up here in New England, you sometimes get that. But I’m talking in the spiritual seasons of summer and winter, because, unlike physical seasons, it isn’t uncommon for one to experience bliss and then a phone call later has the power to put you into the dead of winter where your bereft of anything, questioning God what He is doing with your life. Those wintertime events in the midst of spiritual summer have shaped my personal and spiritual life, since it caused me to rely on God evermore.
The summertimes of my heart has seen failures and successes. For instance, I used to read the Bible everytime before work. It is not that hard because I worked 2nd shift, but now it is harder since I work first shift which means I have to intentionally carve out time. I miss reading whole swatches of the Bible. Going back a decade or two, I remember reading The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible composed by Moses edited by over a thousand people throughout the time when the Bible was first canonized. And living in America, the Northeast, in the state of New Hampshire where we have the motto on our driver’s license plates “Live Free Or Die,” the King James Version is all we had in the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s. However, I wanted to see what various versions of the same core Bible to see if I could gather any insight into His Word granted by the Holy Spirit. So I got my mother to buy me the New King James Version. I wasn’t satisfied with that, so in a few years, I experimented with the New International Version, followed by the Amplified Version, followed by the Tynsdale and the New Revised Standard Version Bible. I remember reading the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and one of my favorite translations-the New Century Version, because it explains the Bible for ordinary people where you don’t have to have a theology degree to get something out of it. Then I got audiobooks where I could hear the inflection across every page of the Holy Bible. Again, some were excellent, and others, not so much.
Yet, if I didn’t have these summertime of the heart experiences, I would just like to say that I would not have been as well versed in the Scripture as I am today. It has given me Scripture in a different but whole new light. Each time I read or listen to Scripture, I become wiser and richer for the information I get out of reading and listening which my prayer was to be as wise as Solomon without the same outcome. Thus, I have to remember, God’s wisdom put to action through the physical life of the believer, can lead to saving grace if you put your whole trust in Him, and trust He knows what He is doing especially in times of one’s life where you wish to take control of your life back.
Now, how about you? Is there something that you could do differently when you’re in the summertimes of the heart? For kingdom living is not hurried.
Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger
“… It’s our responsibility as Christians to make the effort to know our friends and family well enough to understand their nature of their denial. When they are resisting on the basis of evidence, let’s examine the facts together and assess which of the explanations are most reasonable. When they are resisting for other reasons, let’s be sensitive enough to ask the kind of questions that will help us understand where they are coming from before we overwhelm them with the evidence we’re so eager to share. Don’t expect them to respond to your ‘reasoned’ arguments when the evidence was not that important to them anyway.”~J. Warner Wallace
On Today’s Issues Hosted By Tim Wildman: They Discuss “The Insanity Of God” With Nik Ripken On The Phone (True Life Christians Are Willing To Be Persecuted For Jesus Christ)
What do we do in summer?
First, most: enjoy.
Warm up and rest up. Frolic with childlike abandon. Wrestle with the dog. Visit people we haven’t seen all year, or longer. Take holidays (vacations)-holy days, times of Sabbath renewal, touching earth and breathing heaven. Response: rest until our pose of anxious weariness gives way to one of limber readiness, until our two speeds of rushing and crashing becomes a seamless rhythm of receiving and giving.
Lie in the sun.
Sleep in the shade.
Read in a hammock.
Do this in the most earthy and ordinary ways. Summer is a time for enjoying God and others, without reserve and without apology. It is a time of rediscovering the sheer pleasure of simply being alive: waking early or sleeping late, wading lake shores or tenting in rain forests, talking under starlight or staring silently, for hours, at clouds. Likewise, the summer of the heart is marked by leisure and pleasure, a kind of holy hedonism. We strive for nothing and yet have everything. We relish abundance without needing to hoard it or feel guilty about it. We heed the counsel that Scripture gives to rich people: don’t trust in your wealth, which is so uncertain, but trust in God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 *TNIV).
In the summer of the heart, we get that: abundance isn’t for trusting in; it’s for enjoying.
But there are a few opportunities, even necessitates, of summertime.
THE RHYTHMS OF KINGDOM LIVING
The people of God are already, the Bible says, citizens of heaven. Our heavenly citizenship doesn’t get transferred upon death, like a widow’s pension, but is established the moment we turn and follow Jesus. Part of our apprenticeship in Jesus, then, is learning to live the kingdom life even now, especially now, that we’re not home. If summer is equated with the fullness of the kingdom, we should pay close attention to the activities-inactivities- of summertime. That, indeed, is a major clue to what it means to do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. (pages 124-125)
One summer I went to visit one of my best friends. Years before, we had been in a grocery store for approximately 4 years where she told me things that that you don’t ordinarily tell another workmate; however, she sensed I was more mature than any guy that she knew, up to that point, and because I asked knowing that if she began to let me in, I would have a friend for life. And she did.
Back to that summer, I went to visit her. Though we had been separated for years, we came back together like we never missed a beat of togetherness. Turning our eyes to spiritual things, what I just explained of us coming together after being separated for years, was pure joy, just like our Father in heaven when all of us True Life Christians finally come home to our glorious, undeserved and unworthy place in heaven alongside our Father, the Son (our new husband), and the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, I had to leave my best friend’s place after only what seemed like a few hours, but once we’re in heaven, True Life Christians will never have to leave for all of eternity God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. That’s pure joy in the eternity of summer with the Godhead!
~Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger
This counsel was drilled into us at an early age: “Look both ways before you cross the street.” It’s wise, deep, versatile. It served me well for a whole lifetime. I failed to heed it just once, at age six. I just learned to ride a bike, and coming to my first intersection, I sailed straight through. I never looked either way.
I nearly became a hood ornament. The driver of a big bulky car caught me in its sweet spot. The impact folded my bike like newspaper and sent me tumbling across the car’s entire length, landing me in a heap at the tailgate. I ended up in the hospital, bruises everywhere, a mild concussion. The pudding, the coloring book and a day off from school made it almost worth the while.
Still, I learned in my bones the sagacity of that counsel. “Look both ways before you cross the road.” I never since done otherwise.
But does the counsel apply elsewhere? Is it also a metaphor for life? Should I, should you, always look both ways-to the past, to the future-before crossing the street, before stepping into a new place?
Memory is a gift. It makes maps of human terrain-our emotional and intellectual and spiritual and social worlds. It tells us where we are, and where we need to go to get someplace else. Philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” Much of the Holy Spirit’s work is to remind us of Jesus and His ways.
But memory is also a trap. It makes fetishes of some things, taboo of others. It woos and terrifies us too easily, dictating our future with an authority it’s rarely earned. I know scads of people whose hurts from the past foreclose the risks that they need to take to get to the other side. I know many people whose idealizing of the past has turned them bitter in the present and wary of the future.
They’re stuck. That is not memory’s best work. It’s memory gone rancid, memory turned maggoty.
Take a moment and be still before God. Ask Him to search you and know your heart. Ask Him to show you any area where your stuck-where, for fears of dangers on the road, you refuse to cross it, or where, missing something you once had, you long to go back. Ask Him to help you identify the memory (or memories) that controls that. Then interrogate that memory. Is it really telling you the truth? Does it wield a power greater than it should? Is it the last word?
I had a habit of aloofness that was hurting the people I love. I dug down to the memories that drove this-this experience of growing up in a town where stepping into another’s personal space meant a fight. It was never a gesture of friendship or intimacy. So I learned to keep my distance, avoid eye contact, give short answers.
It was keeping me from crossing the street. But once I hauled it into the witness stand those memories and cross-examined them, they proved contradictory, full of lies, trafficking in rumors.
So I rejected their testimony.
And now I hug a lot, and look people in the eye, and give long answers.
There’s a lot of room created from kicking one bad memory out. (pages 122-123)
This chapter of Spiritual Rhythm is on summer, where Mark Buchanan offers a striking similarity between physical summer and spiritual summer, where things are free spirited and light. Then you come across a little segment of spiritual summer (that has always been there) you want to keep hidden away. Maybe by willfully ignoring that aspect of your personality, something deeper or lighter (that person that you don’t like to see) that part of you that if you had let it see the light of day are scared that it will overtake you and change the mind of those that you influence for the bad. Most of us care what other people think, and you just want that piece of your personality to go away so you can enjoy the rest of summer. We all have this sinful trait in us since Adam and Eve devoured that delicious yet sinful fruit.
There is actually a catch 22 involved in this part of summer; it is called ignorance. Ignorance is good some of the time as I have claimed ignorance when there was situations in my life where I was “blissfully ignorant.” However, ignorance can be mosty bad, especially when you don’t want to see a flaw in your own personality. So you protect “it” whatever deep flaw you have in yourself.
I have a tendency to reflect on what I did especially after a major incident, and this was no exception. I came back after a walk I took to calm myself down and beginning to reflect, I stopped cold-turkey from watching wrestling. The fi
I thought I was “blissfully ignorant” when I began to watch wrestling in the early to mid 1980’s. It seemed innocent enough, and it didn’t have an effect on my personality, or so I thought. My watching of it had subtly grown through the years until one night, I got into a heated argument with three of my close friends. They even said that my watching of wrestling had grown to an unhealthy level. I couldn’t see where they were coming from until that night when I saw, for the first time, when I saw wrestling as not good for me.
Don’t let the involvement of free willed, largely care free, experience of your spiritual summer bite you with some flaw in your personality, thinking you’ve, by some happen chance, it’s not going to appear when all along you know it’s there- hidden in a corner until it rises once again. Throughout my life, I’ve found this useful, “Looking Both Ways Before You Cross.” I know that all of us who weren’t born in a Divine way struggle with this. Please do me a favor and like, comment, or do both on this particular post. 😇
Darren Beattie, The Soul Blogger