If I had my way, I would have left this state several months ago.

If I could, I would travel from Illinois to Wisconsin to visit sisters in my FSPA community or go to the Northwoods, where I lived until last August. If I could, I’d go to Iowa in a heartbeat to play with my niece and nephew. We’d wander around the farm and pick berries and feed the chickens, then we’d catch lightning bugs and tell stories next to a fire. In this scene, there are no fears of disease, there are no needs for face masks, there are no concerns about social unrest and injustices — there is only love and joy.

What I am longing for is practically a utopian dream. A simpler time. The freedom for summer adventures and travel. I am certainly longing for a time when all injustices and oppressions have ended, and all are free to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation with the ones they love. It’s the stuff of heaven on earth, practically.

My dreams for blissful summer adventures were instilled in me by past experiences, when I could be comfortable and happy and feel good about the little good I was doing in the world. My dream is the stuff of my destructive white privilege, formed by times when I chose to ignore the sorrow and shrink into my comfort zone made up of false peace and numbed quiet. I can see this now.

Now I can see the long litany of hard times that we all are dealing with: pandemic, racial injustice, political and social unrest, violence, pollution, climate change. Chaos. Pain. Division.

Every system is upset. We all are disturbed, uncomfortable. We are asked to sacrifice our comfort — our utopian summer adventures — for the sake of the common good, for the wellbeing of our neighbors and enemies, for the planet, for the sake of restructuring a society that allows for the safety and flourishing of all people no matter their race, class, gender or status. For the flourishing of all living beings.

We may not be going anywhere, but we have work to do right where we are. God is calling us and we are needed. To do the hard work we need fuel for our fires — energy to keep us hopeful, inspired and acting for change.

Here are 10 summer reads from the Messy Jesus Business archives that could fuel your fires, ignite your actions, inform your choices. These words could companion you in the summer heat, no matter where you are or what you are doing, during these hard times.

On the brink and remaining steady: solid footing in rapid change

A Christian’s guide to discerning the Truth in a post-truth era

Seeking corners of quiet but learning lessons on love instead

Pesty Questions

oh hey, summer! well hello, stranger!

Whitewashed Mary and White Supremacy

The skin I didn’t ask for: Bemoaning my white privilege and the evil of racial violence

The sacred tension of solitude

Casting a vote beyond the political haze

Work and rest