Summer in the Church Year is that luxuriously relaxing season that The Church Year calls “Ordinary Time” or the “Season after Pentecost.” The paraments on pulpit and altar are green, the pastors’ vestments are green — and week after week we see as much green in church as we see outdoors. This “ordinary time” is a time without any major Church Year festivals — instead, it’s a time to relax, slow down, and grow spiritually. I love this season.
Instead of being marked by major religious festivals, most of us “mark” this season by The Fourth of July, vacations, day trips to the beach or mountains, family visits, and Labor Day. Each of these “secular markers” can provide an opportunity to examine how our faith intersects with our “ordinary life.”
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, was first observed in this country in 1777. This day celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams wrote, “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parades, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illumination from one end of this continent to the other, from this tome forward forevermore.”
Samuel West wrote: “Unlimited submission and obedience is due to none but God alone … To suppose that he has given a set of men power to require obedience to that which is unreasonable, cruel and unjust is robbing the Deity of his justice and goodness …”
Frederick Douglass wrote: What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year the gross injustice to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license …”
Jeremiah wrote: “Pray to God for the good of the land in which you dwell. Work for the good of the cities in which you live. Pray to God on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too.” (29:7)
Emma Lazarus wrote the cry of invitation inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
As you celebrate Independence Day, remember two things: First, that unlimited loyalty is due only to God, and not to our nation. Second, that our legitimate patriotism requires us continually to call our nation back to those life-supporting reasons for which it was founded.
- At your family or group gathering, read the Declaration of Independence and talk about what it means for us and others.
- Discuss the statements of Adams, West, Douglass and Jeremiah.
- Talk about why your ancestors came to America. Compare their reasons with why people are coming now.
- Try not to catch your hair on fire with the sparklers.
- Pray for America. God has promised: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
Have a July 4 Parade —
- Decorate everything that has wheels with red, white & blue crepe-paper, streamers, ribbons, etc
- Have each person who is going to be in the parade choose a patriot to represent. Make suitable costumes deom crepe paper, construction paper, old grown-up clothes (Possible characters: George Washington, Betsy ross, Uncle Sam, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Paul Revere, Martha Washington, a bugler, a drummer, etc)
- Include the family pets.
- After the parade have everyone join in singing “God Bless America” (God bless America, land that I love / Stand beside her and guide her/ Through the night with the light from above / From the mountains / to the prairies / to the oceans bright with foam / God bless America, my home sweet home / God bless America, my home sweet home)
- Talk about what it means to pray “God bless America”
- Tell your children about the members of your family who have served in America’s military. Talk to your children about the cost of freedom and the meaning of duty.
- Give a present to our land by planting a tree (or bush — etc)
- Make a “Happy Birthday Smerica” cake. Sing “Happy Birthday, America”; have Dad tell the story of how our country was founded and the meaning of the Declaration of Independence (Or the significant fact about whatever patriotic day is being celebrated.)
I have a friend who had her kids make Christmas presents at the shore every summer, using plaster of Paris. Now that the children are all grown and gone, she does it herself. The shells at the shore are a reminder of baptism; and the sun above is a reminder of the risen Son.
You will need:
- 1 box of plaster of Paris (available from paint and hardware stores)
- Containers of fresh water (salt water will not work)
- Empty coffee can or plastic ice cream pail
- Paint stirring sticks
- Paper cup
- Paper clips or hair pins for making hangers.
Scoop out a design at least 2″ deep in the wet sand. (Be sure the tide won’t be coming in for at least 2 hours.) Connecting areas between designs should also be at least 2″ wide. This will be your mold.
- You can also have your children make deep footprints or handprints to serve as molds.
- You could also make a mold in the sand using a sand toy such as a plastic fish or crab.
Decorate your sand-mold with bits of shell, rocks, and other natural objects you collect on the beach.
When your mold is complete, mix the plaster of Paris in the coffee can. Be sure not to overstir as this will make the mixture set up too quickly and weakens the final product.
Immediately pour the mixture into your sand mold, spreading it evenly to all areas with a stick, if necessary.
Let the plaster stand until it is semi-soft. Then poke two paper clips or hairpins into the top of the back of your project to make hangers. Allow the plaster to harden 1 – 1 ½ hours, depending on the size of your project. When it is cool and hard, dig away the sand and remove your project.
Take a picture of your children holding their creations before you go home.
Work was always part of God’s plan for us. The first thing God gave to Adam was a job: to name all living things and to tend the garden. Work was a gift and was intended to be a joy.
Volunteer to Usher as a Family — “Deep summer” is a wonderful time to do that! And Children make terrific ushers! They love doing it! Why not call the church office and volunteer your family to serve as ushers. Talk to Pastor Mandy and she will make sure that you are put in touch with our head usher.
Paint the Family Car this Summer:
You will need:
- clean soft paintbrushes
- empty bucket
- soap and water (to put in the bucket that you will use to “paint” the car)
- a painter’s cap for each child (Optional)
Let the children “paint” the sides and tires of the car. (This is a good time to talk about baptism, repentance & forgiveness, being “washed in the blood of the Lamb”, Noah’s Ark, The Crossing of the Red Sea.)
Painting the sidewalk is also fun.
Especially for Families to Do With an Older Neighbor:
- Mail unexpected notes or cards — valentines, Easter Cards, school pictures, etc
- Invite your older friend to your birthday party. Make sure he or she has a hat to wear and a horn to blow like everyone else
- Drop by for a brief visit when you are out riding your bike.
- Volunteer to sweep the driveway, run an errand, water the lawn, pull some weeds
- Take over some brownies or cookies
When a Friend is Sick: Give “Leaves of Love”:
- On posterboard, draw a large tree with bare limbs only.
- Cut out 10-20 leaves from green or multicolored construction paper — make them large enough to write on.
- Have friends & family members write a brief get-well note on a leaf. Glue the leaves to the tree.
- Take the tree to your sick friend.
Prayers for Travelers / Vacationers:
- O God, whose glory fills the whole creation and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve us/those who travel. Surround us/them with Your loving care. Protect us/them from every danger. And bring us/them in safety to our/their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
- Loving Father, our beginning and our end, You kept Abraham and Sarah in safety throughout the days of their pilgrimage, you led to children of Israel through the Red Sea, and by a star You led the magi to the infant Jesus. Protect and guide us [or names of those who are traveling] as we set out to travel. Make our ways safe and our homecomings joyful, and bring us at last to our heavenly home, where You dwell in glory with our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
On Labor Day, talk about how work was always part of God’s plan for people:
- The first thing God gave Adam was a job: to name all living things and to take care of the garden. Work was a gift and was intended to be a joy.
- Look up some of the Bible Verses about work: Psalms 19:16; John 9:4; 1 Corinthians 3:9; Haggai 2:4; Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Timothy 2:15 (all verses are from the NIV). Especially, talk about John 9:4′ 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Timothy 2:15.
- Talk with your children about the gift that work is to your life & the joy we find in contributing to other person’s lives through our faithful work. Discuss the jobs that each person in the family does to make the home run smoothly and to make family life better for everyone.
- Talk about what your ancestors did for their life’s work. Talk about the “famous and infamous” workers in your family history. Talk about the times in your own family’s history when the need for work changed the course of their lives. Talk about what the children of your family are thinking they might do as their life’s work. Thank God for the wide opportunity for work available to us today. Thank Him for each person’s gifts and skills, and for the chance to expressthem in the work we do, whetherthat work receives a paycheck or not.
To get ready for Labor Day, you could make banners or “post-it” stickers for the fridge and mirrors in your home to celebrate God’s plan for work. Some scriptures you could quote include:
- The firmament showeth His handiwork. (Psalm 19:6)
- We must do the work of Him who sent me. (John 9:4)
- We are workers together with God. (1 Cor 3:9)
- Be strong … and work, for I am with you. (Hag 2:4)
- He is the Rock. His work is perfect. (Deut 32:4)
- Be a worker who does not need to be ashamed. (2 Tim 2:15)
(And now would be a great time to teach your children how to use a concordance!)
Take time to appreciate the gift of work. Tell someone else how much you appreciate your job — tell this to the person who usually just hears you complaining about your job.
Thank the people in your family (or at the retirement center) how much you appreciate all that they do to make life together run smoothly.
Thank God for giving you the health, strength and intelligence to do your job.
At the Labor Day picnic, require as an admission fee to the picnic table, the recitation of one memorized quote about work. Some of my favorites include:
- Blessed is he who has found his work. (Carlyle)
- See-saw, Margery Daw, Jacky shall have a new master; Jacky must have but a penny a day, because he can’t work any faster. (Mother Goose)
- When she is by I leave my work, (I love her so sincerely) My master comes like any Turk and bangs me most severely. (Henry Carey)
- A little work, a little play. ‘Twill keep us going. And so, good-day. (George Louis Palmella)
- Then, of course there are always quotes like “You can take this job and shove it” — but they aren’t necessarily in the spirit of this exercise.
Make a game of a family research project: See who can find out the most about what your living relatives do for their life’s work. Then see who can find out the most about what your ancestors did for their life’s work.
Interview older family members and ask information about any stories they may know about what your family did to get through the Great Depression.
Make a list of times in history when the need for work changed your family’s history.
Interview the young people and ask what they think they might like to do as their life work. Then ask them what they are doing now to prepare themselves for that work as an adult. List vocations that are available today that did not exist two generations ago.
Thank God for the wide opportunity for work available to us today. Thank Him for each person’s specialness and the chance to express that uniqueness in the work we do.
This summer, may the “Ordinary Time” of the Church Year fill your “ordinary days” with a deep sense of God’s presence. May God fill your heart with affection for those around you and may your spirit be renewed