I have a weekly zoom meeting with women from all over the nation. We always begin with a weather check. Yesterday, after the Texas weather report, they asked how in the world we were coping here with no rain and day after day of 100 plus degree temperatures. I said, We’ve been beaten down into acceptance. The heat will do that to you, won’t it? It has a way of zapping you of all energy and fight.
I’ve noticed a few summer-scorcher coping mechanisms that I’ve developed this summer and realized they are also simple spiritual truths. You know all of these too but maybe a reminder would do us all some good.
These are good spiritual truths for whenever life is uncomfortable, messy and out of your control.
Turn your grumbling into gratitude. I worked with a pastor once who thought it would be great to do a whole sermon series on not complaining. I began complaining right when he announced it. He made us all wear bracelets with a not complaining Bible verse and actually wanted us to practice what we preached. The church staff started disguising complaints with an introduction, I’m not complaining, I’m just saying… He ended up buying us t-shirts that said I’m just saying…because we said it so much. To silently complain about that, I never wore the t-shirt.
What can I say? Complaining is one of my superpowers. I’m good at it, I can do it with imagery and feeling. I can go on and on.
I have noticed, though, during this out-of-control summer of scorch in Texas, that my grumbling only makes it worse. It only highlights the misery. I’ve become more mindful of the simple spiritual truth that gratitude is much more freeing.
I was with a small group of people yesterday as the temperatures were skyrocketing toward 100 degrees. We were standing outside in the shade of a church building. A humid wind blew around us and we actually said out loud, doesn’t this feel nice? We all had surprised smiling faces for a minute.
Shift your grumbling into gratitude. See what happens.
The next truth comes on the heels of that one. Savor the gifts. Zoom in on the smallest thing long enough to really take it in. I think this technique takes gratitude to the next level. Savoring means you really see it, feel it and give God thanks for it.
One afternoon recently I was with our 18-month-old grandson, killing a bit of time in a very hot, brightly sunny, mostly concrete place. We noticed a sprinkler running and I could see that it was getting the sidewalk a little wet. I took him by the hand, and we stood together in the mist of that sprinkler. I told him, Just feel the water. As the cool water misted over him, he lifted his face, closed his eyes and smiled. I’m going to hold in my heart the image of that little wet smiling face as the definition of savoring.
I know some of you are going through some really hard things. However, no matter the level of pain or crisis, there is always something to savor: a momentary respite from pain, a good memory that comes your way, a friend who texts or calls, the surprise of a meal delivered or fresh flowers or a card in the mail.
Scorched? Savor something.
Notice who has it worse than you. We are surrounded by people who work outside all day. We have neighbors with no air conditioning. Around our globe, people have trouble getting fresh water.
When we are complaining about the heat as we move from air-conditioned cars to our air-conditioned homes, maybe it is time to really see our neighbors in need.
Refocus your misery by helping somebody else. This is such a simple basic spiritual teaching yet when you are hurting, you can’t see it.
I knew a woman in her 80’s who ended up in a nursing home and she felt like it was not her choice. For weeks she stayed in bed, curled up with the covers over her head. When I visited, she complained about the injustice of it all and told me in detail how terrible the place was. She refused to go down to the dining room for meals and wouldn’t eat what they brought her. She snapped at everyone who entered her room.
I do not know what happened, maybe it was God. One day my friend realized there were others there who had it worse than her. She got up and made it her mission to connect the residents and alleviate loneliness in her corner of the world. She chose to be a day brightener for others. She carried on a vibrant ministry there at the nursing home until she died peacefully in her sleep one night.
Hate the heat? Buy an ac unit for someone in need. Deliver cups of cold water to the construction workers next door. Give away fans. Help somebody.
Believe in a future of hope. Our God never leaves us hopeless. As much as I hate marketers who prematurely push the next season upon us, I’ve seen something lately that has stirred my hope. I’ve only seen it once or twice…a blurb about fall decor here or there and an advertisement for a pumpkin spice latte on the way.
I found myself saying, Wow, they actually think fall is coming.
It is a simple spiritual teaching: Take hope where you can. Believe. That’s the simple scorching truth.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. Go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com for more blogs, upcoming speaking events and to sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle monthly email resuming September 1.