When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
One of the many gifts of summer is the length of days, light that greets us in the early morning and extends well into the evening hours. For most of us, that extension of day coincides with some shift in schedule. For some the shift is dramatic; for others less so, but to whatever degree our routines shift, we’re given the opportunity to consciously begin the summer by setting our intention for it.
Setting our intention simply involves asking a few purposeful questions, “What do I most hope to experience or accomplish in the months ahead?” Or, “What is my life, or what is God asking of me now?” Or, “What parts of life or relationship or vocation are in need of particular attention?” The great Jewish mystic Abraham Joshua Heschel writes of sabbath as the time each week to mend our tattered souls. I often think of summer that way–what in my world feels tattered and needs tending?
Of course the work of care-taking, compassion, hospitality and justice is ongoing, and summer is often a time of intentional service, boundary-crossing, and deeper engagement in ways of love. In some professions and stages of life, summer is the busiest of times. Thus our intentions can take many forms. What matters, I think, is the act of setting intention, a conscious engagement with our lives so that when the season ends we can look back knowing that we were fully present, open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and striving to grow in our capacity to receive and offer the love of Jesus.
At a gathering last Sunday, I asked those present to give voice to some of their summer intentions. Many spoke of their desire to renew or deepen connections with family; others spoke of their need for rest and renewal; still others mentioned a longing to be more intentional in prayer or service. And books to read, vacations to look forward to, and even the ability to drift without being scheduled from morning to night.
I reminded them of Presiding Bishop Curry’s invitation to every Episcopalian to adopt of rule of life, The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus Centered Life. One way to explore the intentions we might set for ourselves is to review the practices and determine which one or ones God may be inviting us to focus on this summer.
I commend to everyone Presiding Bishop Curry’s new Way of Love podcast that, over the next 8 weeks, will highlight each practice and how we are transformed by adopting an intentional rule of life. In the first episode, Bishop Curry likens spiritual practices to the training and discipline that first responders regularly undergo so that they can immediately and often heroically respond to crisis situations. Spiritual practices, he says, such as prayer, Scripture study, and blessing help us to live in a context greater than our egos, more readily attuned and responsive to the sacrificial love of Jesus.
Spiritual practices aren’t things to check off a “to do” list in order to move on to other things. They are the foundation upon which an intentional life in Christ is built. So this summer, consider where Jesus may be inviting you to set an intention, mend your tattered soul, or practice love in a particular way, and thus be fully present to God’s presence in you in this season.