July 18, 2012
As summer rolls into August, we know that we are entering the home stretch of the holiday season. Most of us really enjoy our summer holidays, particularly when the weather co-operates. Earlier this summer it seemed like summer was never going to start. Then suddenly it felt too hot but people didn’t want to complain because we were so grateful to see the sunshine. There is something about a sunny day that can help with a sunny personality. That is why so many people move to California. But good weather alone does not guarantee the summer pause that refreshes.
I remember when I first went to Hawaii. The weather, surfing, swimming, and sights were great. The only problem with Hawaii was that I was there. I brought with myself that same sense of emptiness, that something was missing from my life. Last year, when I once again visited Hawaii, I happened to stumble upon a bagpipe ceremony for a person who had died tragically young. Just a few feet from a beautiful Hawaiian beach, I was reminded that all the beauty of creation doesn’t ultimately satisfy our inner longings. I love the beauty of creation particularly on a beautiful summer day, but the beauty of creation is meant to point beyond itself to the beauty of its Creator.
I come from a long line of overfunctioners and hard workers. Sometimes people in my family of origin have neglected the summer pause that refreshes. Sometimes they have attempted to keep going in their own strength. Sooner or later the body gets its revenge. Either we enter into the pause that refreshes or our body will force us to stop, sometimes in a rather shocking way. The Creator of this amazing world designed our bodies so that they worked best if we took pauses that refresh. That is why healthy people take regular days off. That is why summer holidays are so vital to our health. The Good Book calls the pause that refreshes the Sabbath. Similarly academics call their pause that refreshes a sabbatical. No one can function at their best on a 24/7 basis.
Because of our workaholic culture, some people do summer holidays with the same frenetic intensity, leaving them more exhausted than they started. They never pause to reflect, to enjoy, to observe, and to renew. No wonder that so many people half-jokingly say that they need a holiday just to recover from their holiday. What if in the final portion of the summer holidays, we actually rested? The heart of the Hebrew word ‘sabbath’ is ‘rest’. The Great Physician once said ‘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.’ So often our souls are weary, burdened, and restless. What if this summer we embraced the pause that refreshes? What if during this holiday season we actually rested? What if this summer we allowed the beauty of creation to point us back to the author of creation? My prayer for those reading this article is that we would each become deeply refreshed and renewed in our body, soul, and spirit.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector, BSW, MDiv, DMin
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-an article for the August 2012 Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
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August 17, 2009
By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
Baden-Powell, the founder of the world-wide Scouting movement, preferred to learn his lessons from nature rather from a classroom. B.P. was not an academic success. His school reports read:
1) Classics: Seems to me to take very little interest in his work
2) Mathematics: Has to all intent given up the study of mathematics
3) Science: Pays not the slightest attention, except in one week at the beginning of the quarter
4) French: Could do well, but has become very lazy; often sleeps in school.
Baden-Powell was a bit of a loner in school, somewhat reserved though never unpopular. Given a choice, he preferred the solitary pursuits of exploring the woods round the Charterhouse school in Surrey, England. There he learnt how to snare rabbits and cook them in secret with a smokeless fire, how to use an axe, how to creep silently through the bush, how to hide his tracks, how to identify the different kinds of animals and plants, and how to climb a tree and hide from the school authorities. B.P. said that it was in those woods that he gained most of what helped him later in life to find the joy of living.
It is no wonder that years later Baden-Powell that the object in Scouting “was to wean (the boys) from indoors and to make the outdoors attractive to them.” B.P. described Scouting as a school of the outdoors. Scouting, said B.P., was not a science, nor a military code. Rather “it is a jolly game in the outdoors, where boy-men can go adventuring together as older and younger brother, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness.”
As Scouting was first developing, B.P said to his adult leaders: “… give your boys all you can of woodcraft and Nature study…The Nature study should be a real close touch with Nature, far beyond the academic dipping into the subject which passes under the name in school. Collecting, whether of plants or bugs, and investigation, whether of beasts or birds, are all-absorbing studies for the boy and mighty good for him.”
Why was Baden-Powell so exciting about Nature study and Outdoor camping? Because B.P. saw it as a “golden chance to bring the boy to God through the direct appeal of Nature and her store of wonders.” Nature study for B.P. was a character-building, and spiritual exercise. Nature study, said B.P., “gives the best means of opening out the minds and thoughts of boys, and at the same time…gives them the power of appreciating beauty in Nature and consequently in art…” Nature study helped “the realization of God, the Creator, through His wonderous work, and the active performance of His will in service for others.”
I believe that Baden-Powell might have really enjoyed living on the North Shore with its unforgettable beauty of mountain, forests, and sea. B.P. would have reminded us that “the mystery of the sea and the heavens, and the fascination of the colouring of the scene, and the modelling of the scene” all point to God’s handiwork. Baden-Powell saw all of nature as gifts from God. We all teach our children to say “thank you” for birthday and Christmas presents. How much more should we say “thank you” for God’s gifts of nature? B.P. said “We teach the boy that a gift is not his till he has expressed his gratitude for it. His attitude to God is, therefore, thankfulness for benefits received; and his method for expressing this is through service, in behalf of God, to his fellow-men.
To Baden-Powell, the question was not what can I get from life, but what can I give in life. When dealing with conflicts in the Scouting movement, B.P. recommended that people “…ask themselves the simple question, `What would Christ have done under the circumstances?’ and be guided accordingly”.
In a last message found among B.P.’s papers after he had died, he said: “Dear Scouts,…I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness doesn’t come from being rich, not merely from being successful in your career, not by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man. Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it…”
My prayer is that we too, like Baden-Powell, may be filled with gratitude to God our Creator for the wonderful gift of Nature.