Summer traditionally offers a time-out. For the young, it signals a break from studies. For adults, it promises downtime from packed schedules at work and at home. For all of us, the days of August can be times for spiritual practices.
Having grown up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Fred), and Vermillion, South Dakota (Mary Ann), we each have fond memories of August pleasures: picnics with grilled hamburgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes; trips to a Lake Michigan beach to hear the roar of the waves; teaching swimming lessons at the community pool in the morning and practicing with the swim team in the evening; sitting in the backyard all afternoon with a book; or gazing at the night sky full of stars.
Looking back on those Augusts, our hearts overflow with gratitude to God for such fond memories. But what of today's pleasures? The month's leisurely pace is perfect for certain kinds of spiritual practice. Here are some ways you can rest in the love of God and savor the presence of the Spirit this August.
• Walk in the glory of God. Set aside time each day to commune with God while you walk outside. Slow down your steps to take in the wonders all around you. In appreciation of the beauty of the Creation, say the short prayer: "Glory be to God."
• Float. In a poem titled "Avowal," Denise Levertov connects floating in the water with one's face to the sky with the feeling of being held up by the Holy One's all-surrounding grace. When you float in the ocean, a lake, or the pool, reflect upon how divine support carries you through every day.
• Offer blessing prayers. Celtic Christians were keenly aware of "the long hand of God" in their lives and said blessings over the signs of this presence. Say blessing prayers for summer's gifts the sun, rain, flowers, grasses, and breezes.
• Feel the Spirit. When you are at your lowest ebb in the August swelter, your vitality can always be fanned to life again by standing in front of a fan or an air conditioner. When you are cooling off in this manner, remember the Spirit who always is near to revitalize you.
• Commune with Animals. St. Francis of Assisi held animals in such high regard that he addressed them as brothers and sisters. Summertime is an ideal season to be present with wild animals. Watching them closely, we become aware of the diversity of the Creation, a sign of God's generosity.
• Talk to God. Mythologist Michael Meade notes that one of the great pleasures he experienced as a young boy was sitting in a tree and talking with God. You're never too old for such dialogue and what better place to carry on this conversation than in the lap of a great green being.
• Take Naps. Edward Hays, a Roman Catholic priest and prolific devotional author, believes that naps are a form of prayer because they are a time when we let go of the management of our lives and surrender completely to the Lord of the Universe. Now is the perfect time for what he calls "Napping Prayers."