No doubt this is the best time to be in our fair city. People love Lake Michigan, the beach and the relatively cool temperatures for summer. I often feel very blessed to live in a place where people travel many miles to vacation.
There are so many great things to do in the summer. The beach has to be my No. 1 place to be, that’s for sure. But I also love eating outside in the fresh air. Whether it’s barbecuing on the grill on the deck at home, a picnic in the park or relaxing at an outdoor table at one of our local eateries — it’s the best!
Come to think of it, probably the best thing about summer is just plain being outside. God’s beautiful creation is on full display. The blue skies, the warm sunshine and all the different shades of green make for a divine artistic masterpiece. The air is fresh and clean, and whether you’re camping, playing golf or watching a ball game, it’s just wonderful being outside.
Jesus, too, loved being outside. Many of his greatest teachings were given outside. The Beatitudes — which contain such inspiring statements as, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy; blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; and blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” — were all spoken before a crowd of people outside. And then there was the time when again a large crowd of people had come to see and hear Jesus, and he ended up feeding all 5,000 of them!
Another great activity in the summer is going to outdoor concerts. Many of them are held in parks, but we have one of the best venues right here in Grand Haven in the Waterfront Stadium. And this year the waterfront has a new look, and it’s great. Be sure not to miss it this summer.
One of the best opportunities at the waterfront is the free concerts on Sunday evenings. Worship on the Waterfront, sponsored by First Reformed Church, has well-known Christian song artists featured every Sunday night during the summer. You can’t beat that!
Right along those lines, many of our churches have outdoor services in the summer, usually followed up by a picnic where no one goes away hungry. Certainly Jesus would be at home at these outdoor gatherings. In fact, when you look at the Gospels which tell about his ministry, Jesus spent much more time preaching and teaching outside than he did in the temple or synagogues.
You can almost picture Jesus outside speaking to the crowds as he looks around at his natural surroundings and says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” And then after that he goes on: “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:26, 28)
Jesus was so good at that — looking at the natural phenomena of this world and using them to illustrate something about God. With the above two references, obviously he wants to point out God’s loving care not only for nature, but for us human beings, as well.
So, here’s my advice to you: Get out and enjoy the great out of doors! Go swimming, go for a walk in the woods, go camping, do some yard work, have a picnic. Do something outside. Don’t miss out on all the beauty around us. These beautiful summer days are past all too quickly.
And while you are outside, just take some time to observe and look carefully at its beauty. Besides enjoying the day’s physical attractiveness, you may also come away with a greater appreciation for the God who created it all. The psalm writer certainly felt that way when he penned these words: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
You may have guessed it by now, but I am writing the words to this column outside. It’s a beautiful day and I am thoroughly enjoying it. And, as I sit out here on my front porch, the words of a great hymn just came to me. It goes like this:
“This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears; All nature sings and round me rings, the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas. His hands the wonders wrought.”
So, get yourself outside and enjoy the beauty all around us!
— The Rev. John Koedyker is the pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.