Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Vacation: Co-incidences or God-incedences?

Van Gogh's "Sower"
You gotta love summer!  School children certainly know how to rejoice at the arrival of summer vacation.  But even for those of us who are on twelve-month schedules, isn't it nice to have those change-of-pace experiences which come with summer?

Maybe it's cookouts with neighbors or family reunions; perhaps it's a weekend away or traveling through a new part of the country.  Regardless of where summer leads us, it tends to be a time for connecting with people and places and events that are outside of our regular workaday routine.

For a 9-5 office-jockey kind of person, I've been blessed with a fantastically frantic month of June: From a 25th college reunion (as Bob Sieger put it so well, "It seems like yesterday, but it was long ago..."!), to a rare out-of-town meeting for work, from an incredible family celebration of my mother's 70th birthday, to an imminent reunion with my wife's family on the east coast, this summer has led me literally all over the map. 

I've been struck by the seemingly chance encounters, the apparently random conversations, and the otherwise unusual opportunities which these summer excursions have brought about.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • St. Joseph: While checking out of a hotel, the woman at the desk asked what kind of pin I had on the lapel of my jacket.  I said, "It's St. Joseph; he's a good friend of mine."  She replied, "Who isn't he a good friend of?!?" And then she proceeded to share the story of her recent trip to Rome, and the overwhelming experience of being in St. Peter's square for one of Pope Francis' Wednesday audiences.  Wow!
  • People-Watching 101: Killing a couple hours in the chaotic Dallas airport made me feel like I was watching the whole world go by.  With every age, race, and ethnicity rushing here and there, I couldn't help but wonder what the Lord's perspective is on all of this commotion--not to mention where he might be present in the crowds.  Thinking of Matthew 25 made me wonder, "When did we see you crying, Lord, or lost or frustrated and late?  When did we see you tired or lonely or confused?"
  • A Family Photo: When the 26 members of my immediate family gathered around my mom for a birthday-palooza photo, we asked a nearby woman to take the picture.  After she patiently snapped multiple shots with various cameras, she looked over and quietly said, "Your family is so blessed."  It's not that I don't try to appreciate this each day, but somehow it felt like the Holy Spirit was speaking through her right at me.  Amen, sister!
Of course, summer has also put me in positions where I didn't seem to have as good a response as I'd like to some of the awkward or pointed questions that inevitably arise when talking with strangers or reconnecting with old friends. After having given it my best shot in the moment, I found myself a number of times rehearsing what I could have and should have said, hoping I won't be so caught off guard next time.   But mostly I found myself praying that what I said may have planted some kind of seed for the future.

So do you think that summer just happens, or that it happens for a reason?  In other words, do you believe in co-incidences or in God-incidences--that somehow God providentially unfolds the events of our daily lives?  A certain materialistic view of the world alleges that everything happens randomly or by chance.  A sacramental world-view, however, opens us to the possibility that invisible spiritual realities make themselves visible in and through the physical world.  Each person, each sunrise, each creature has the potential to mediate the beauty and presence of the Creator.  Any given moment can bring us closer to our Savior.

As we continue celebrating summer 2013, let's watch and listen for the ways that the Lord sneaks up beside us when we are out of our regular routines. Let's look at our summertime plans and our supposedly random encounters as moments of grace--both as opportunities to see the Lord's light shining through different everyday occurrences, and as moments of Christian witness when we can help spread the Word on our personal journey.

Trust me, it's no coincidence that each of us has the summer plans we do, so let's make the most of them--for the greater glory of God!


P.S.  Remember through Independence Day, and consider taking action in defense of religious liberty by calling your U.S. Senators to ask for support for the new Health Care Conscience Rights Act (202-224-3121).