Saturday, August 27, 2011

As Summer Ends: a test of the spirit

The summer heat of 2011 for many of us, particularly in Oklahoma, has been a major player in our lives. Some of us lived through the old record year of 1980, and the near record back in '99, so--in some respects--so, what else is new? What follows is a revised version of a column I wrote for the El Reno Tribune, August 1, 1999.

Heat can be a test for our spirit. To say that heat is a big part of our experience these days is an understatement. Even those fortunate enough to have A/C in their homes and cars are not always able to escape summer's oppression. But, what of those who have to rely on open windows, fans and occasional breezes for relief? Sometimes out of necessity, the virtue of long-suffering patience is the only answer.

There is, of course, the spiritual wisdom that suggests we learn the difference between things we can change and the things we cannot. Fortified with such knowledge, we can then change what can be accept with serenity the things beyond our control. So, the dog days of August--to say nothing of the record-breaking July and the looming heat is still with us September--can become a divine gift to us. The gift, however, is nevertheless a test.

The test is about the focus of our attention. Is it me and how awful I feel that becomes the center of my world? Or can I realize that, yes, it is hot as it always is in summer, then simply adjust without self-centered comment or complaint?

Proverbs 11:25 reminds us those who confer benefits will be amply enriched; those who refresh others will also be refreshed themselves. When our focus becomes our neighbor, then the symbolic cool cup of water in my name takes on a much larger perspective. How can we relieve the heat's oppression? Is there a stranger attacked by the heat, waiting for me to come along as a Good Samaritan? Or do I, too, beg the question with one of my own: But who is my neighbor?

So, yes, the summer heat is a divine gift, albeit a test as well. Will someone have a taste of resting in verdant pastures because of me? Will my drop in the bucket help the horn of Africa. What is it I have learned about human solidarity during this long, hot summer?

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