School’s out… what are you going to do with your summer?
Most of us will be going away, or at least taking time off, sometime over the next couple of months. The temptation is to cram it full of sight-seeing and time with friends, or to catch-up with everything that needs to be done. Our default approach is to rest is essentially to create a different kind of busyness for ourselves.
There are two problems with this.
The first is obvious – we don’t necessarily feel rested from our holidays. Instead we run around crazily getting everything finished before we go… have a fun but frenetic time off, and then a mad catch-up when we return to every-day life.
The second problem takes the more subtle form of a missed opportunity.
The sad reality is that away from the structures, meetings and rhythms of the working week, school, and term-time busyness of church, many of us end up spending less time with God rather than more. Rather than deepening our relationship we him, we often choose (whether consciously or not) to parcel up God with our “normal” daily lives, leaving him behind when we go away, rest or take time out.
Now obviously there are summer camps and festivals designed to do just the reverse, and these are a huge blessing. But sometimes they have such full programmes, or place such an emphasise on us being led by others in our pursuit of God’s presence, that we risk coming back exhausted, or with a heightened sense which we then cannot sustain ourselves.
Are we really using our rest in the best way?
We’d like to share the following ideas for centering your rest on seeking God. Not as a definitive how-to guide, or list of burdensome to-dos, but as the beginning of an invitation to rest in his presence this summer.
In doing so, we pray that the Creator of work and rest will bring you the best refreshment and rejuvenation possible – and that you will discover a new and life-giving way of spending your time off with him.
1. Start, and dedicate, your rest consciously – often we rush straight into holiday, with our heads still full of to do lists, worries and schedules. Instead, consider pausing and giving to God these things.
One way to do this is to go to the sea, a river or a lake. Write any remaining worries or concerns on rocks or stones (a whiteboard marker works well for this) and make a pile of them. Take one at a time, pray about it, then throw it into the water to symbolise giving your burden. Walk away lighter.
2. Make space – its so easy to have loads of good intentions and then find that the week has suddenly run away with you. Consciously avoid this by intentionally blocking out time, each day if you can, to spend with God. It will take effort to do this initially, as your mind will argue that you need a “break”… but you’ll find if you can do it, you will truly find the “break” you are looking for.
3. Change your times and patterns of devotion – structure and rhythm can be really helpful for helping us devote time to consciously praying, worshipping and reading our Bibles during busy days and weeks. However, holidays give you the opportunity to try something a bit different, whether that’s spending time with God at a different point in the day (e.g. at midnight under the stars!) or in a different way (e.g. whilst climbing a hill, thanking him for being the sure foundation under your feet, or meditating on psalm 121 as you look out over a mountain view).
4. Read or discuss something different together – use the extra time you have with friends or family to all read the same piece of Scripture (or a thought-provoking book) and then discuss the key themes together over meals, on walks, or as you relax in the sun. We’ve found things like looking at just the “red words” of the Bible (the words spoken by Jesus) a challenge and a blessing on holiday.
If you’ve got a young family, think about what you could all talk about together – perhaps choosing favourite Bible stories and why? Perhaps you could each take time to represent a characteristic of God that means something special to you (e.g. by writing a psalm-like prayer or drawing a picture) and then share why its so special to you.
5. Don’t be afraid to make it fun or relaxing – you could write out prayers in the sand, pick up shells and stones and write prayers for different people back home on them, listen to worship music or a podcast sermon while sitting in the sun … or finding any other way that you can to consciously bring God into your holiday activities.
6. Consider trying a new style of worship or prayer – one of the great things about holiday is that it brings a sense of freedom from the usual daily routine. What’s new and fresh for you? Writing; painting; praying through the Psalms; consciously thanking God for what’s around you; listening to a worship CD and just resting in God’s presence; journalling…
7. Consider a different focus – ask God if there should be a particular focus to your devotional times this holiday. Is there a new issue that he’s been laying on your heart recently? Maybe this extra time gives you the chance to research and pray? Take a look at our resource Creative ideas for bringing outward focus to personal devotions if you’d like some ideas to help with how.
If you’re away, you could spend some of your time praying for the place or country where you are staying? Or if you’re holidaying at home, for your neighbours.
8. Think about taking some time to review and get re-envisioned before you go back – God is the God of every day, not just holidays. It’s tempting to use rest as an escape , but try to take some time to review how things have been going, to ask God if there are areas of your life that need to be re-focused, and to make sure you remember anything he has spoken to you, or shown you, that you want to take back to life-proper.
May you find true rest this summer – in his presence.