By Pastor Wayne Zschech
Ever wonder why we call July and August the “dog days of summer?” I did, so I looked it up. According to Google “To the Greeks and Romans, the ‘dog days’ occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.” These “dog days” stretch from July 22 to August 22, which coincidently begin tomorrow as I write this article. And they must have been right because as I write this The Weather Channel has eight of the next ten days at 90 or above! The tension and temperature of race relations in the nation seems at a boiling point. Additionally, the Coronavirus continues to cause fevers in those infected and we are all fearful of the catastrophe that could occur of another surge of cases requiring ICU hospitalizations once schools reopen and students go back to class…or not. Typically August is the month when many go on vacation to rejuvenate before the hustle and bustle of the school year begins in September. But with many travel plans and vacation locations cancelled and closed I imagine many are simply hoping to survive 2020’s dog days of summer.
Yet, I wonder if we might thrive in them? I wonder if with the intensity of the heat and sociological climate of these “dog days” we might instead approach them with a bit of dyslexia and look at them as “God days” of summer, remembering that our Lord promised to be with us always, even when the heat is turned up, until the end of the age. I think about the three captive Israelites from the book of Daniel who were thrown into the fiery furnace for not worshipping the golden statue the King had erected every time they heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble. Instead they would only worship the God of Israel. Remember that one, or at least the Veggie Tales version of Rack, Shack, and Bennie (cute nicknames for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). The furnace was so hot even the jailors who throw them in it are killed by the heat! Yet, when the King looked into the furnace he saw not three men, but four, walking around inside the furnace. Not only were they not burned up like marshmallows over an open fire, but neither was their clothing. Amidst the intense heat and fire of their ordeal the Lord was with them, protecting them, and allowing them to survive the flames, and later to even thrive in their Babylonian captivity.
As we journey through these dog days of summer heat and societal tension we would do well to remember the Lord walks with us as well. And like Rack, Shack, and Bennie, we might also engage in the practice that put them in the furnace in the first place, worshipping the one true God and not the false ones of our day. Here are my three tips for beating the heat and thriving in the dog days of summer.
- Take a Social Media Sabbatical: Take a month off from social media. Instead of worshipping the latest memes and articles posted that raise our blood pressure every time we hear the horn, pipe, harp, triangle, whistle, or whatever sounds our phone notification provides why not just turn it off for a month or at least until August 22. Take a break from Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and see if that changes your general temperament.
- Practice Daily Prayer: Even if it’s praying Martin Luther’s Morning and Evening Blessings it sets the tone for your day and before you go to sleep at night. Here they are.
The Morning Blessing: I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I ask that you would protect me today from sin and all evil, so that my life and actions may please you. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angels be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen. (Then you are to go to your work joyfully)
The Evening Blessing: I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously protected me today. I ask you to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously to protect me tonight. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen. (Then you are to go to sleep quickly and cheerfully)
- Rest, Re-create, and Read: Remember all the summer projects you said you wanted to accomplish (I still have quite a few left on my list for August)? If you haven’t completed them consider paring the list down. Take time for rest each day. Go to bed earlier. Get an extra hour of sleep each night. Give your body and mind a chance to relax. Spend time in re-creation of your mind, body, and spirit with walks, hikes, or biking the neighborhood in the cooler hours of the morning or evening. And read. Read books that challenge your mind, soothe your spirit, and expand your perspective, or just simply make you feel good. It may just change the way you see the world and your part in it come August 23 when the dog days of summer are a little bit behind us.
Blessings to you all in this sizzling season of summer!