Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Summer With a Purpose

To some extent, it feels like here in Central Minnesota we skipped right over spring and landed smack dab in the middle of summer.  I can't complain a bit, even if our air conditioner isn't working at the moment.  There are few temporal things I love more than seeing my garden grow and the heat we've had lately has kicked that into gear.  I also love seeing the look of sheer joy on my kids' faces as they swing or go down the slide.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Along with gardens and playgrounds, summer also brings with it a whole host of events that have a way of filling up our calendars. There are BBQs, weddings, graduations, family reunions, sporting events, summer camps, and trips to the pool or zoo.  There are so many options of things to be involved with, in fact, that by the time September comes around, a lot of us find ourselves saying, "Where did the summer go?!"

This isn't something that is unique to summer, but before summer gets into full tilt, this is a good time to decide as a family how you want this summer to be.  In other words, what are your family priorities?  What are the things you want to make sure you have time to do?  What steps will you take to make sure your summer is one of purpose rather than one that passes you by?

In her book, Dot Complicated; Untangling Our Wired World, Randi Zuckerberg describes how in the midst of all the demands that come her way on a daily basis, she has found that each day she has to choose what she will focus on.  And she's narrowed that broader list down to five categories: work, sleep, family, friends, fitness, and has learned that each day, only three can truly be priorities.  Otherwise, she says, the day is a scramble, everything is left feeling half-done, and no one feels very fulfilled at the end of it.  Her motto has become: "Work. Sleep. Family. Friends. Fitness. Pick Three," and, she says, she repeats it often.

I think Randi is on to something: in order to live a purposeful life, we have to make what are sometimes difficult decisions as to what will get done and what will not.  However, at the same time, one of the things that is not on Randi's list is faith.  On the one hand, I'm okay with faith not being on the list, as long as we see faith as part of all we do and God as above and in everything else in our lives.

But on the other hand, as people of faith, I think we also need to be intentional about making practicing faith a priority...during the school year, in the summer, all year round.  It's not that in order to follow Jesus you need to attend worship every Sunday, but it is up to us to help our kids see that faith isn't just something we do if we have time for it.

The thing is, though prioritizing your family's schedule can be quite a challenge, it's also part of the awesome responsibility we have as parents. It's something we get to do, and when we include our kids in the conversation, it helps them develop skills to do the same thing in their lives over time as well.

In case you are looking for a way to celebrate your identity as a family and consider how you might live out your faith and prioritize your plans for this summer, the following activity (adapted from one found at vibrantfaithathome.org) is a place to start.

Family Shield Activity Plan

1. Before you begin, gather a family picture and print a template of a shield, like the one you can find here.

2. Say this prayer aloud to begin: God of new beginnings, we thank you for the gifts of hope, joy, peace, and love that you give to us in Jesus. As we begin the summer season, help us share these gifts with one another and the world. In Jesus' name, amen.

3. Brainstorm together a few goals for living your faith this summer. These questions might help you get started:
  • What is most important to us this summer?
  • How could we enhance our family prayer life?
  • How can we spend more play time together?
  • How could we improve our outreach and service to others?
  • Who are some people we want to share time with this summer?
4.  Consider what God is calling you to do. Decide on two or three ideas together.

5. Place the family photo in the center of the shield. Draw or write your family name above or below the photo.

6. In the upper right portion of the shield, write or draw pictures that answer the question: "This summer as a family we HOPE to..."(this will reflect what you decided in step 2)

7. In the upper left portion, write or draw pictures that answer the question: "With JOY as a family, we will achieve our goals by..."

8. In the lower right portion, name the ways you will hold one another accountable by answering this question: "With LOVE in our hearts, we promise to help one another keep our goals by..."

9. In the lower left portion, write or draw something that represents PEACE, for it is with peace that we are able to live in the present moment and see that God walks with us always.

10. Have each family sign the shield and put it in a place where everyone can see it.

11. Close by asking each person to name their favorite part of the shield and the hope it represents.  Say the Lord's Prayer together:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

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