“He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3)
Every June, when school lets out, we let out a collective sigh of relief that the school year is done. The kids revel in the loosened daily schedule and baulk at the domestic chores which continue to exist. For a short time, there is the illusion that time stands still. Then, as surely as the temperature rises every summer, the realization sets in that this pause in the year is actually no pause at all, and that if we do not plan, schedule, and aggressively pursue our goals for the summer, the time will go by and we will have achieved nothing, no matter how excellent our intentions and desires were. As a child, I remember feeling that summer vacation was forever long. As an adult I realize how short two months actually is and how limited are the resources of time, energy and money with which the children’s summer dreams are facilitated.
From my point of view there are two events which flank our summer experience. The first is the jellyfish that appear on our beaches right around the same week that school gets out. It always strikes me as ironic that just when we are more available to go swimming and the weather is warmer, these wiggly creatures arrive en-masse to the Mediterranean beaches on the Western coast of Israel. Perhaps they are seeking refuge from the heat just as we are. The second event is school supplies shopping. This iconic shopping trip is something I adored as a child, but abhor as a mom. Along with the report card, the children receive school supplies lists from the school to prepare for the next grade, and from the moment the kids finish they are asking “when can we go school supplies shopping?” I guess they are blessed in their ignorance ~ of the financial burden and the logistical burden the task entails. We, the parents, are the ones who carry the burden of clearing out the old and unusable supplies and judging what must be bought and what can be done without.
Thus we have a summer pendulum with boredom and complaint on one end and delight and gratitude on the other. It is our task to juggle our response to the two, giving as is our desire, and guiding as is needed, shepherding the kids through the pastures and valleys that summer is. And, spoiler alert: this need for shepherding is universal; it’s not just a child’s need. The Psalmist tells us famously in Psalm 23 that the Lord is our shepherd. This passage has been the inspiration for the teaching unit we are doing with our shabbat school class since returning to meet corporately. After all the uncertainty of last year we were inspired to do a “refresher course” with the kids of who God is. He is our shepherd. He is always with us. He fulfils His promises. It is priceless to see the kids discussing God and wrapping their sweet minds around the theological yet so very fundamental concepts.
One of the lessons we did was Psalm 23:5 “He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.” We talked about God providing for us as a shepherd provides pasture for grazing and water for his sheep. As we discussed the passage a new revelation came to us. Our “enemies” can also be things we struggle with inside of us – complaint, disappointment, fear, insecurity, anxiety, lack of faith, jealousy, doubt, etc.
Weathering the summer, literally and physically is the task at hand. Some of our families will travel abroad to find retreat from the hectic Israeli lifestyle. Some will vacation here in the land. One pillar of our summertime here at Tents of Mercy will not happen this summer again, in light of Covid travelling restrictions, and that is our Network Camp. The children are heartbroken, as are we. To miss this amazing experience two summers in a row is a big blow. The camp serves children from at least 4 congregations, and often includes guest participants from additional congregations. Founded by Katya Morrision of blessed memory, the Reshet Camp is facilitated by precious volunteers and our own devoted children’s ministry team. For over a decade the camp has provided generations of kids with a fun-filled, scripture-themed, chaotic, yummy, messy, wonderful week where the kids play and learn and grow in Faith and Friendship.
We cannot make up for the loss of not having the sleep-away camp, but we are planning a series of fun days to provide some of the same elements physical recreation and spiritual inspiration for our children before the next school year starts. We are also in the process of revamping aspects of our weekly children’s ministry to accommodate the changing times and seasons. Additionally, we will be conducting a fall outreach in conjunction with the Municipality for needy families and immigrants to supplement their basic school supplies with some of the more costly items.
A shepherd knows how to guide his flock through times of drought and changing seasons. We have experienced this first hand during this season. But the Good Shepherd corrects and protects and retrieves his sheep when necessary from dangerous places. We are taking these summer months as a community to put our focus back on the Shepherd, to listen to His voice, to trust His guidance and to activate our Faith that He knows us by name and will provide sustenance for us.
We pray & encourage you to take the time mindfully to do the things that would restore your soul in Him!