Summer Fades Fast

aarts_copyright_2015_tiger_lillies_01Okay, so the summer solstice has officially arrived, but we Pennsylvanians know that the season is technically half over for us. Summer kicks off June 21st with Fall not officially beginning until September 23rd. However, by September, the vacations are wrapping up, kids are getting ready to start a new school year, lawn furniture gets put away and leaf rakes are readied to assist in the grand harvest of brilliant deciduous tree foliage.

Summer here starts cold in May and usually ends with a last blast of steady heat during the dog days of August. Indian summer in November is hit or miss, but even the occasional day or two in the low 70s for some Decembers cannot compare to the sunshine, warmth and muggy nights of July and much of August.

The photo with this newsletter is of tiger lilies that my neighbor planted. These are a short variety in full bloom. Seeing the long-stemmed tiger lilies in bloom along the roadsides is a marker of the passage of time for me, reminding me that one more Pennsylvania summer is about half over regardless of what the calendar says.

I like seeing the beautiful blooms, but I am not a fan of having such a persistent reminder of the waning of my favorite season. Another neighbor has a batch of the tall tiger lilies growing at the corner of his house. The first time I notice them in bloom each year gives me a little gnaw in my gut, reminding me that bulky coats and heavy gloves will soon migrate from the upstairs closet to the downstairs coat hooks sooner than I would like. Actually, my vote is for perpetual summer. Well, let me adjust that statement a bit. I do like the colors of fall and the other sights and scents of the season. I could tolerate October for a month or two and even some snow for Christmas and New Year’s Day, but the second day of January would need to go back to at least early June weather for me to be happy.

If my wife and I were wealthy, we could follow summer around the globe, but it just would not be like summers at home. I cannot control the seasons no matter how much my bones would like me to as the years tick on by. Still, I have always wanted to visit Australia, and it is summer there when it is winter here. I remember my first experience with warmth in other places when it was cold back here in PA. When I was a much younger man, I was swimming in Lake Lanier in Georgia while it was snowing back home. I had called my mom to see what the weather was like in PA,  and she told me it was snowing. I think that experience had an effect on me that never left. Direct experience is much better than just hearing about something others are experiencing.

I commented to a lady recently about enjoying the warm sunny days that had arrived in Pennsylvania, and she told me how she can hardly wait for winter to come back. I think she might be from another planet. Even avid skiers hurry back to the giant fireplace in the ski lodge after a day on the slopes. And, those Arctic Plunge folks do not make a day of swimming the Pittsburgh rivers when they take their annual dip. Also, I have never met people who enjoy putting on parkas, snow boots and thermally insulated gloves just to not feel the bite of frigid air on their hurried walks to their cars where they have to brush off snow and scrape off ice, and then allow the car to run for 20 minutes to get them warm for the daily commute. I have met a few die-hard summer aficionados around here who wear shorts in January, eschewing the common sense need for a coat and hat. Of course, they have just plain gone crazy. The rest of us know that, but we commend them on their courage to bare their knees to the bite of winter as we try not to make eye contact with them at the Post Office. They remind me of late-to-leave robins or those occasional trees that refuse to give up their leaves when their relatives have all gone to sleep for the winter.

Still, no matter what season you enjoy the most, it does not last forever. Sure, there are some temperate regions on the planet that might be better suited to our warmth-loving temperaments, but all seasons change. As one fades another begins. This fact applies to our very lives. I have heard death described in poetic prose, comparing it to the coldness and stillness of winter. Yet, that is nowhere near the truth. The bible tells us how followers of Jesus who are absent from the body are present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Our bodies will eventually die as sure as summer fades in Pennsylvania. And, no matter how much we may want to stick around, there will come that day we find ourselves standing before God, giving an account (Hebrews 9:27). Those of us under the grace of faith in the blood of Jesus are acquitted of the sins that should have us facing the Second Death (eternal separation from God in a place of punishment). The works done by Christians do not save them, but they all will be tried to see what was done in the right spirit (1 Corinthians 3:9-19). Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that our salvation is God’s gift. It is not earned. However, the bible is clear that those under grace are to bear proper fruit and do proper works (Matthew 7, James 2:14-20).

As Christians, we are living in the summer of life no matter what our chronological age happens to be. It is independent of the current conditions of our bodies and even the fragile states of our biological minds. Being under grace we are to fulfill the Great Commission of sharing the Gospel everywhere with everyone and to make use of what we have been given to profit the Kingdom of God. No, not the acquisition of things, but the free giving of what we receive when we are empowered by the Holy Ghost.

The other day I commented to my wife that everyone has something to give. My wife and I do not have much, but we try to be faithful with what we have. I mentioned how we might be able to give a little thing to be a little help to someone in need while another with greater means can give something more. I spoke of how even a homeless man with one of those little packages of six peanut butter crackers can give a portion to a fellow homeless person. Read about the talents where the point is to use what you got even if it seems like it is not much (Matthew 25:13-30). That is still a hard thing for me to hold onto because sometimes I feel like I do not have very much to offer at all.

First, all of this is grounded on your faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, and believing in him for your Salvation. The rest is what you are going to do with the time you have left. Pray every morning when you get up, asking the Lord what his will is for you for that day. Be open to the Holy Spirit leading you throughout the day. Be wise in the sharing of resources God has given you (whether they are tangible things, abilities or even time), but be fully obedient when you know the Lord is telling you to do something. Easing the burden of another is open for all of us to one degree or another. There is always someone worse off. All of them need to know the Gospel you know (how Jesus saved you), and everyone could use a little help with something. And remember that Jesus said in Mark 9:41, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” Even something as small as a cup of cold water means something when given in the proper spirit.

Life as summer fades faster than we think. Be busy about the Lord’s work until he comes for all of us together with that shout from heaven and the voice of the Archangel, or until he calls us home one at a time.