It’s fixin to be June in Phoenix. Lord help us…
Some of you know that I’m kind of a snob about tomatoes. I mean, I LOVE tomatoes…But by ‘tomato,’ I do not mean those things that come out of a California hot house in January. That is NOT a tomato.
But I can rhapsodize about a real tomato all day long—and the perfect BLT that I make when, on the rarest of occasions, I can lay hands on an actual tomato in the desert. My 4-year-old daughter loves tomatoes too. In fact, she frequently asks for them at the grocery store. I usually say, ‘no, it’s not time for tomatoes.’ Which, 9/10ths of the time, is the dang truth.
So last week, when she spied some on the kitchen counter, she said excitedly, ‘Is it TIME for tomatoes??!’ And when I said yes, she proceeded to eat one whole, on the spot. “I want to eat tomatoes with things for like, a WEEK,’ she said. (As everyone knows, a WEEK, in 4-year-old time, is an eternity…)
Was it a real, Kentucky-grown, July garden tomato? Nah. But it was not too shabby for Arizona. Local and organic, and at least red. Made a decent BLT.
Thing is, for all my vigilance in the seasonal produce department, I often forget that other things have seasons—and off-seasons– too. Every year, in this May-to-June window, I say, “This is it. This is going to be the year when our summer worship attendance doesn’t fall off, and we will maintain all this momentum, and we will build programs, and nothing will slow down at all…And come August, it will be time to start TWO SERVICES!”
And yeah, every year, I make a liar of myself.
Thing is—it’s not such a bad thing to have times of year when things move a little more slowly. I think the key is to focus intention in these off-seasons. For instance—if we are planning a slower pace, an easier schedule, and a simpler rhythm during the summer months…what will we do with that time? What is our goal in slowing down? Are we doing less, so that God can do more? Or are we just getting lazy? Might seem like a fine line, but there is a difference.
The cluster of stories in the 10th chapter of Luke’s gospel—I call it the ‘Hear-do-be’ trifecta—illustrates the seasonal truth of spiritual growth. The connected narratives of the Parable of the Sower, the Good Samaritan, and the Mary/Martha Moment, remind us that there is a right time for everything: there’s a time to hear God’s word and grow in it; there’s a time for DOING, and living out our faith in tangible ways; and, there’s a time to simply be…enjoying life in the presence of God and community.
My challenge to myself this summer–and to my church folks, and to my readers (all 14 of you–yes, we are growing!)– is that we move with intention through this season; and that we use it as an opportunity to BE together in community, even if it’s not the right time to DO all the things that we are excited about doing when real life starts again in the fall. (OK, at least…this is life on the desert calendar. THe rest of you–read this whole business again in January, ‘k?)
So, go on vacation. Cool off at the beach, or in the mountains. But when you’re in town—show up. Be fully present for life in community, and life in the Spirit. Worship. Gather with your women’s/men’s/young adult/youth group, or maybe just your neighbors. Pray. And rest. This season—even with its obvious misery—is a gift. The slower pace and the sacred space remind us that the Spirit’s timing is present in everything.