18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. – Mark 4:18-19 (ESV)
Throughout the year I have the privilege of meeting people from many different places at varying stages of their spiritual journey. During many conversations there is a recurring theme of the individual not having enough time to engage in their relationship with God. This often results in frustration that leads to inactivity. This leaves the individual feeling (rightly so) inactive in the life of the Kingdom.
Jesus addresses this in His parable about the farmer sowing seeds. In the verses above Jesus is explaining the meaning of the seed thrown among the thorns. This metaphor is explained as being the persons initial excitement about God that is quickly snuffed out by life. Unfortunately, this adequately describes many of the individuals I counsel. They want God, but only in a proportionate way. They want a God who fits into their schedule rather than a God who is worthy of us falling into His schedule. Instead of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance, they often find themselves unfruitful all together.
Therefore, it is my desire to offer a new perspective on summer vacation for students and adults a like. I have spoken with or read about how bored students are during the summer. These are the very same students who are complaining that they feel far from God and dont have time for Him during the school year!!! Perhaps, we can begin to view our down time a bit differently? Rather than sitting all day playing video games, talking on the phone, going to the mall, watching TV, Myspace-ing, Xanga-ing, LiveJournal-ing, FaceBook-ing, IM-ing, etc. maybe we can invest our time and energy into a growing relationship with Jesus?
What if you begin to view your summer vacation as a gift? What if you no longer view your relationship with God as a job? What if you begin to truly value Jesus as our prize? How would that change the way we live our lives and order our days during the summer?
I have received several E-mails and messages from students who went to camp this summer who just a few weeks later are complaining that they cannot feel God. When I ask them what they have been doing to grow in their relationship with Jesus they usually respond, I go to church, or Nothing. You may be reading this right now and feeling the same way. Let me encourage you!
Here are a few simple ways for you to not waste the summer:
1. Grab a Few Friends and Spend the Next 5 Weeks Studying 1 John. This book of the Bible is 5 chapters in length and you can study 1 chapter a week together. Meet together at Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Sonic, or someones house and learn with each other.
2. Read a Proverb a Day. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs and 30 to 31 days per month. So, for instance, today is June 30th, so you would read Proverb 30 and on July 1st you would read Proverb 1. Easy, but a great way to grow in Gods wisdom!
3. Get a Group of Friends Together to Serve Others. This can be random acts of kindness, caring for the poor or elderly, or volunteering somewhere. Putting our faith into action is a great way to grow! (See James 1:27)
4. Have a day of Alone Time. That is a simple way of saying a day of solitude. Turn off the computer, the cell phone, and all other distracting electronic devices and grab your Bible and a journal. You can either go outside (if you wont completely fry yourself) or stay inside. Take a day to be alone with Jesus, listening to Him, and talking with Him. An old dead guy said, A person who has no solitude, cannot truly experience community, and a person who has no community cannot have fruitful solitude (Paraphrased from Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen).
5. Read a Smaller Book of the Bible in One Sitting. There are times when sitting down and ingesting a larger amount of Scripture is healthy for our soul. Perhaps you could sit down and read Galatians or Ephesians in one sitting. It shouldnt take more than 30 minutes, but will be very beneficial. You can ask some simple questions of the Text:
a. What does it say?
b. What does it mean?
c. How does it apply?
These are only a few suggestions of how you can view your summer as a gift to grow closer to Jesus. Developing some spiritual disciplines when you have the time will make it far more likely for you to continue them when school or work starts up again. Dont waste your summer vacation on things that are temporary. If you find yourself bored or even if youre not, use this time to grow closer to Jesus. That is where you will find the most satisfaction!
Let me know how I might encourage you in this!