Our first full day at the beach was a Sunday, and–tired as I was–I walked two and a half miles down the strand to where I knew a small flock of the faithful would be gathered. It was low tide, but the strong surf had dropped an endless deposit of shells, small smooth stones, and sea glass. The going was slow, but I savored each step–letting the ocean lap my ankles and bending to pick a shell up now and then to slip it in my pocket. But as time slid away and the sun rose higher over the blue, I began to panic that I wouldn’t make it in time. I bore down more firmly in the sand, willing my bare feet to move faster. For some reason unknown to me, I felt almost desperate to be with other believers as we began our holiday. When I finally arrived at the place where those neat rows of white chairs sat waiting in the sand…that slow-moving journey made the worship all the more sweet. When I returned to our little nest for the week, I pulled this out of my journal from a 2011 beach trip. Worship with me? Under the deep blue sky, beside the deep blue sea?
My boys sleep in this morning but I wander down the beach to where the white cross stands tall. There, a flock has gathered to worship on the shore. It’s a wonder to see: beach chairs and flip-flops, babies and retrievers, the ocean lapping the sand.
The preacher gives some opening words. He tells us that Shallotte Presbyterian Church has been holding these beach services for 45 years. I sigh and we sing our opening hymn: Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty. It’s one I know, straight from our pews back home but the words have never sounded sweeter—the voices of the saints lifted high on the wind and carried over the sea; the music of the waves the accompaniment.
As the preacher reads the Scripture, ten pelicans—all in a row—drift on the wind above us. I close my eyes. He preaches on Matthew 14:22-32.
…Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear…
When the preacher reads these words, the roar of the waves brings them to life. I gaze out over the ocean and feel the fear of the disciples. The sea is glass this morning and waves ride along it’s pane like living creatures. The sky is cotton candy—its pinks and blues pulled thin, melting into the horizon. How to tame such beauty?
My Lord knew this beauty well.
After the service, people pick up their chairs and walk back down the beach to where they came from. I don’t’ want it to end, so I sit in the sand under that cross and lose myself in the ocean for a time.
I am pulled with the surf, down to the water’s edge. The sand is hard here—pressed firm by the ocean. I find a razor shell and carve prayers into her cool—watch the ocean fold over the names of people I love and carry them out to sea.
When dawn breaks,
the sea glistens—
promise of a
wink in my eye. I
dip below her surface;
watch tiny surf swimmers
furtively dart away and
pull out silver coins,
porous porcelain, pearly
cups long abandoned—
of life once lived in
How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us: