Summer is typically the time we think about taking vacations. School is out, the weather is nice and warm, and so for many it’s a good time to take a week or so to travel. But often, a vacation is not about getting away, or going somewhere, we are simply glad to take a break! It’s a chance to stop; a suspension of our regular duties provides a chance to catch our breath, to relax for a while.
This is good! God, in His infinite wisdom did not create us to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lord has given us a daily cycle of day and night so we can daily work and rest; and He has commanded a weekly cycle of 6 days to labor, and the 7th to rest and worship. And, by His gracious providence, we live in a time when it is typical to plan and take a vacation. Please do not forget how blessed we are when we can anticipate having sufficient resources to not work for a week or more!
Give thanks to God for His many blessings – His beautiful creation as well as the freedom and time to enjoy it, family and friends to visit, and the opportunity to pause from our normal schedule. Summer is the season when it is easy to be outside, pray that God would open your eyes even wider to His wonderful creation. And rejoice when you observe folks tending and being good stewards of what God has made. How neat to see a big bunch of Black-eyed Susans or a big Butterfly bush; to see and hear a hummingbird or watch a water strider; to catch a crayfish or touch an Eastern box turtle; to walk through fresh cut grass or taste fresh picked sweet corn.
Whether your summer is busy or boring take (or make) the time to look around and see God’s good work all around us. Perhaps the best way to keep those memories is with a journal. Many of my own summer vacation memories are kept fresh by reading the diary my Mom wrote and looking at the pictures my Dad took of our camping trips. Summer vacations are excellent times to try your hand at journaling, but don’t just observe and reflect upon the beauty of creation, jot down your thoughts about the beauty of redemption. Look around and see God at work redeeming hearts and lives and attitudes. Give thanks for God’s blessing of His grace in relationships.
The reality of living in a fallen world is that sometimes vacation times are very stressful. We are ‘cooped up’ with people we can normally avoid or at least get away from occasionally! But now we are stuck with them, sometimes crammed in the back seat of a car for hours on end, sometimes it is just spending more time with them than we usually do. Here is the opportunity to know grace and show grace! Here is where we fight against the temptation to believe and act as if our wants, our comfort, our plans RULE—instead, we humble ourselves and serve those around us. Rather than viewing others as obstacles to our enjoyment, we derive joy from serving them. This is a heart-struggle, but one that we can pray for wisdom and grace and help to win.
So write about the struggle, add prayer requests to your vacation diary. Like the Psalms, you can reveal your heart and be helped by writing out your prayers. And in this way, you may find that your vacation journey has actually benefitted your spiritual journey!
If you haven’t filled your reading list up for the summer, there are several wonderful, helpful published journals easily available. Two classics would be The Journals of Jim Elliot and The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. Or you might look at the journals of either George Whitefield or George Muller. Just suggestions to get you started! (If you are not familiar with those names, feel free to google them or talk to me.)
If you take a vacation this summer, enjoy God’s good creation and God’s good grace. I pray you find refreshment for both your body and your soul.
P.S. – Please do not vacate church when you are on vacation! Even when you are away from home, be intentional in finding a good, Gospel preaching church wherever you are. Be eager to worship with God’s people, even if you don’t know them by name.