This post is part of our 2016 Team Buzz Builder Guest Blogger series. Today we are pleased to introduce you to Dr. Ralph K. Hawkins, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Averett University.

Many of us have a tendency to think of summer as a time to mentally “check out” from our jobs. The kids are out of school, everyone is going on vacation, and even the education programs at the church or synagogue may have shut down for the summer. Although we may not literally have the summer off from our job, maybe to some extent we have shelved it mentally.

My grandfather, who grew up on a hog farm in the hill country of North Alabama, knew, however, that summer is for work. The reason for this, he explained, was that summer days were longer than those of any other season during the year. This made summer particularly conducive to working. And he was serious about this. He helped me get my first summer job when I was fifteen. I worked in the warehouse of a plastics manufacturer, stacking boxes of plastic products on pallets and loading them onto eighteen wheelers when they arrived to pick up shipments. And the warehouse didn’t have any air-conditioning!

This really taught me the value of work and, from that point on, I always looked forward to the school bell that would announce the beginning of summer, because it meant that I could get a summer job and begin producing and earning. I’ll never forget the way my grandfather urged us to make the most of the summer. I can still hear him repeating the old farmers’ saying, “Make hay while the sun shines!”

I always admired my grandfather for his work ethic, and I think he was right about the value of summertime. Here are some tips for making the most of your summer:

  1. Revisit your dreams and goals. Do they still inspire you? Could it be time for a mid-course correction? Or do you just need to break those larger goals down into smaller, incremental goals and get serious about pursuing them? Summer is a terrific time to reevaluate the vision you have for your life and work. I love the timeless wisdom of ancient Israel’s sages, who taught that “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov 29:18).
  2. Carpe Diem! This Latin phrase, usually translated as “seize the day,” could be paraphrased “Make hay while the sun shines.” Don’t let opportunity pass you by. Strike while the iron is hot. Once you’ve identified your dreams and goals, seize every opportunity to make them happen.
  3. Turn off the television. According to data from the Nielsen Company, adults aged 35-49 watch more than 33 hours of TV per week, which works out to nearly 1,600 hours per year. That’s more than two months spent gazing into a screen. How much time does that work out to over the course of a lifetime? And do those hours watching actors and actresses live their dreams get you any closer to yours? In 1,600 hours per year, you could take up a new hobby, earn a technical degree or an advanced degree, change careers, or start a business. You could get involved in your community, join a civic organization, or renew relationships with friends and family. Time’s the most precious thing you have in life; don’t squander it in front of the tube!
  4. Refuel. While the summer is ideal for working hard, it is also important to recognize that hard work takes it out of us. And so it’s vital to take some time during the summer months for physical and mental renewal. Take a break. Get away to the mountains or to the seashore. Start a journal. Get back on a program of healthy diet and exercise. Maintain regular spiritual practices. And renew your relationships with your family.

Summer is not for “checking out,” but for checking in. It’s not for dozing, but for doing. It’s not for watching, but for working. It’s for making hay while the sun shines!

ralph hawkinsDr. Ralph K. Hawkins is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Averett University, in Danville, Virginia. He completed a Doctor of Ministry degree at the School of Theology at the University of the South, in Sewanee, TN, and a Ph.D. in Old Testament at Andrews University. In addition to a number of publications in the history and archaeology of the Old Testament, Hawkins is also the co-author of Leadership Lessons: Avoiding the Pitfalls of King Saul (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013).


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