May is my busiest month as I work to put in our 900 square foot garden and finish reading the last stack of term papers, and as it draws to a close all of my routines change. I move away from teaching and ramp up my reading and writing, I transition from using frozen strawberries in my morning smoothies to cutting fresh rhubarb (no, I promise, try it!), and here in Canada we can finally open our windows. Summer is upon us, and no one appreciates summer like folks here in the frozen north where it’s summer three months a year, and winter lasts from October 1 through the end of April. But to be honest with you, there is one other thing that really stands out as a sign of summer: the pews are empty…at least I think they are since I’m rarely there to notice. Yes, the Daniel-Hughes family is entering our season of church hooky.

    I have taken up the annual task of running our men’s retreat. I began doing this when my wife returned from a women’s retreat with all kinds of fun stories. They drank wine, read books, kept journals, shared, cried, and cried and cried and then shared and cried some more. I deliberately organized our men’s event so as to keep all sincerity and sharing to an absolute minimum. Journals and books are forbidden. We don’t even stay indoors. We hike into the Adirondack mountains to smoke cigars, drink scotch, get bug bites and eat fatty and salty foods without guilt. The friendships are the point, and we drive this point home by refusing to call what we’re doing “fellowship” or “bonding.” I love it, and take pride in running a trip where there is a very real chance that someone ends up needing first aid. But I’m beginning to prattle…the point is that once the annual men’s retreat is over, church is pretty much over for us for the next few months. We’ll be there 3-4 times, off and on, but once my son is out of school, we’re simply not in town during the weekends. The mountains are calling, and as a red blooded American, I’m duty bound to take every opportunity to cross that border and get back into some good old ‘merican wilderness. Sorry pastor, but unless you’re moving the pulpit to Saranac Lake for July, I won’t be seeing you much.

    Here’s our family’s rule-of-thumb/compromise: If we’re in town on Sunday, we’re in church, but if we’re in a tent, or lean-to, or hotel, then we ain’t (see even my vocabulary changes when summer arrives). Now I know what my Pentecostal grandparents and great-grandparents would have thought of this, but I’m asking you dear reader, what do you think.