By Rev. Mandy Sayers
Pastor, Covenant UMC, Gaithersburg
There’s a little cartoon picture in our study at home of a snake, looking stressed out and panicked, straight as an arrow, precariously “balanced” on the top of a cartoon rock. The caption is “Relax!”
If the snake were to relax, he could rest comfortably on the boulder, but he doesn’t see or trust that it’s there. I wonder how many of us white-knuckle our way through life, stressed out when we don’t need to be, when there’s a net of love and safety underneath us that we don’t see or trust.
Our God encourages us with the assurance of God’s presence: “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you...’” (Isa. 41:10).
Relaxation, like taking Sabbath time, is a countercultural spiritual discipline. My grandparents, who lived in Macon, Ga., and never had air conditioning, knew that in the heat of summer, you had to slow down. You had to put spaces between activities to rest and to cool off, to drink Tab soda and work the crossword puzzle. You didn’t cook in the heat of the day. Time became a sort of cooperative activity with God, where you didn’t fight the natural order – work in the cool of the morning or evening, and rest in the heat of the day.
Summer is a chance to relax — to let go of the control/death grip so many of us use to get through the day. What is God calling you to let go of? In what area of your life is God whispering, “Relax…”? For most of us, I suspect, we tend to work a little too hard, and think that so much depends on us, when in fact, God is God and we are not. Try relaxing and see if the world stops turning. Maybe God is wanting to bless and help and lead and use us and we’re like that cartoon snake — all stressed and stretched out.
Maybe God is whispering, “Summer was MY idea first, you know. I want to fix it. I want to help you. First, though, you just need to relax!”
By Rev. Daryl Williams
Pastor, St. Paul UMC, Oxon Hill
First, I have to get the clothes ready for the day. Then I have to make sure the dog is walked. What? We’re out of poop bags. Gotta add that to the grocery list.
Okay. Time to feed the dog and get the boy off to school. What? Yes, I can pick up the dry cleaning. Wait, I have to get the oil changed in the car. Are the in-laws coming this weekend, or is that next weekend? Have to make sure we clean the “good” guest towels, straighten up the guest room, make sure we have snacks for Dad and that we can pass Mom’s white glove inspection. Then I can get in the car to go to work. Alright, I guess I can get out of bed now and start the day.
For far too many of us, this is a perfect description of life. We start every day with a list that is a mile long, and seems to only get longer. We look at the list and begin to wonder how will it all get done. So we convince ourselves to get up and get at it, but then the next day, 24 hours have passed and the list has changed but it seems just as long. So we take another shot at getting it all done, so that tomorrow the list will at least be a little shorter.
Then the cycle repeats itself leaving us spent, depleted and stressed out.
If this is your life, I want to invite you to do something I had to convince myself to do: RELAX.
We all live in an over active, over scheduled, over stressed world and we have to make the choice to get off the treadmill and relax. Choosing to relax means that everything will not get done, and it also means that everything will not be perfect.
Guess what? That’s okay. The world will not end if you slow down and relax, but you might end early if you don’t.
So this summer, cross everything else off the list and choose some ME time so you can relax.