- Bridgewater United Methodist Church published a newsletterReadThursday Thoughts
August 11, 2022
Do you are any of your family members follow an almanac? My maternal grandmother and great-grandmother followed it closely. In the almanac, there are certain days for doing chores like planting, pruning, canning, cutting hair, butchering, etc. It has charts for the lunar cycles and seasonal trivia. It notifies its readers of the beginning and ending dates of seasons and special days of the year. For instance, Dog Days starts July 3 and ends August 11 each year. Typically these are the hottest, most humid, and unpleasant days on the calendar. There are lots of old wives' tales about Dog Days. Sirius, the dog star, is prominent in the night sky at this time of year. It was believed in folklore, that the dog star and the sun colluded to cause the hottest time of the year. During this time, legend tells us that it is a time of bad luck, fevers, and lethargy. Dogs are more likely to bite, snakes go blind and strike out wildly during this time and the morning dew is poisonous to open wounds.
There are some explanations for some of these tales, but I won't go into the details here. One thing I have noticed is that this is a time of the summer doldrums. It has been a hot summer for sure. Thankfully it has not been too dry where we are but I still feel the summer lethargy. Gardeners notice that annuals are looking a bit stressed and worn out. They need pruning and feeding to get ready to look nice again when the weather cools a little. The Japanese beetles have eaten holes in the leaves of their favorite plants, and the deer have devoured the hosta leaves leaving just stalks. Rabbits have feasted on the green beans, and a groundhog is seen carrying off the largest, reddest tomato in the garden. Squash bugs have killed the zucchini and are working on the pumpkins. Crabgrass is taking over the lawn, and the roses have black spot—again. Gardeners often exclaim at the time of the summer, "I am done! I am tired, hot, and disappointed!" Just to be clear, not all these things happened all at once to my garden but I hear it from other gardeners. Can't you empathize?
Does this describe our spiritual life sometimes? Do we get tired and disappointed in our Christian journey? Are we lethargic and feel heavy and burdened? Is that space in our lives parched and filled with weeds? It happens to all of us. But we need to be very careful about letting our souls get weary for then we invite corrupt things to enter our lives. The verse that comes instantly to mind is 1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
We need to be alert to those times when we start to feel the tug of lethargy and apathy. Jesus knew we would need to be revived at times. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
It is not just us who feel far away from God, Mary Magdalene felt alone in the garden when she found Jesus' body missing. Moses felt distant from God when the people were complaining on the wilderness journey. Job most certainly had to feel estranged from God when everyone and everything he had been taken from him. And Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned and snake-bitten to name a few events in his life in his quest to take the Good News to all he could. In Romans 8:31b Paul writes, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
Just as our bodies need time to heal after an illness, trauma, or surgery, so do our souls need a healing time after a traumatic experience. Even the wear and tear of everyday life can weaken our spiritual selves. One of the most comforting Psalms for me is 121. Verse 1-2 reassures me as I look all around me, "I lift up my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
We can count on God not to abandon us. We are promised in Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in a time of trouble." Because of these promises, we can grow and learn from the parched times in our lives. "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31.
When we are knocked down, pulled by opposing forces, and feel empty, tired, and in need of refreshment, we have been promised a new start, a place to rest and renew. Dog Days end today. Now is the time to look forward to a slight change in the seasons, possibly. A time to leave aggravations behind. It is time to go thru my garden catalogs and find the one offering spring bulbs for sale. Maybe I will order some new daffodils and start planning for a new fresh garden right now! I'll just check with the almanac to see the best days to plant this fall!