Though I was not born there, I have spent a lot of my time in the South. I was in New Orleans by age seven, lived in Alabama from the time I was nine, and went to college in Virginia (never mind that Alabamans considered that “up north”) and remained in that fair Commonwealth until going to seminary. After one year in Baltimore, I spent five years in Rome, which is decidedly the South – just the south of a different continent. Even here in Maryland we are well south of the Mason-Dixon line, though some days I get edgy about being on this side of the Potomac. More time in Rome has broken up even that.
One common observation about Southerners is that they do everything slower. Though this is often cited pejoratively, I think the great wisdom of that has been revealed in these recent days of heat. Especially when the power was out and not a breath of chill was to be found, we all learned that speed and motion only increase the heat, and the sweat, and the discomfort. So why rush?
Without the God-like power of a thermostat, we become more attentive to the little gifts as we can find them: a wisp of a breeze, a patch of shade, a splashing fountain. A shaded bench on which to sit, with a light breeze coming off the ocean, the lake, or even the nearby fountain, is delight itself. Having found that spot, who would be in a hurry?
Now, I do admit that one of the things I do in the summer is work around the house. Without the frenetic level of phones bleating and doorbells ringing, classes to teach and meetings to meet, the rectory is little more like a home and less like a train station, so summer is when I rearrange, clean out, sort, discard, reconsider and re-purpose. Thanks to the marvel of climate control, I can pretend that I am in some brisk, labor-encouraging northern clime.
No doubt you have similar summer projects. But really, I think most of you are with me when I say I like to use the summer time to move a little slower, be less rushed, and soak in the good things that the season brings, whether that be beach time or fresh peaches. All the best bits of summer come when we stop hurrying. If you find yourself nodding, your inner Southerner’s slow grin is showing.
Please allow me to add to the list one more “slow” summer sweetness to savor: prayer. Churches and chapels have a well-earned reputation for being cool, and even dimly lit: just what you are seeking. Ours even has a new compressor for the air conditioner – instant cool breeze! There are plenty of places to sit, and no rush to move on. Churches everywhere – downtown and at the beach, in the mountains and along the roads -- are open, and the tabernacle holds the One who is so eager for some slow time with you. We all know which place is associated with fire and unrelenting heat, so to peer into the face of Him who reigns in Heaven must be cool!
Next Sunday evening we have Adoration in the church from six to ten. Come then, or anytime, to escape the heat of the day; cool off with the fresh breeze of the One who makes all things new. You have no fear of skin damage from the Sun that Never Sets, Jesus Christ. Experience the warmth that does not increase the heat. Learn the wisdom of the South: This summer, slow down – and pray.