Life is Better at the Beach

Lamentations 3:22-24 

  22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.

For the next several weeks we are going to work with the theme of Summertime at the Beach — Life is better at the beach and we will see just what this means to the wholeness of our lives and the keys to our happiness coupled with our spiritual growth.

Our senses tell us summer is here again when we see the sun set only just before bedtime, and those fields of rippling clover and rising corn; when we smell the freshly mown grass, those shimmering beds of roses and daisies and dancing daffodils, when we hear the chirping of the crickets and the songbirds and the unrestrained laughter of school children in the streets. Some of us are still savoring the memories of homemade ice cream on sliced peaches, and lemonade, and freshly picked strawberries. Those tastes won’t go away. And we just want to climb a tree and dive daringly into a creek or go swimming in the lake; or play with our country cousins in an un-umpired game of Softball; or win a game of horseshoes against our Uncle George, who hated losing anything.

Shakespeare wrote “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He highlighted “summers in a sea of glory!” He reckoned no tune to be as “sweet as summer.” Robert Browning observed, “Wanting is what? (It’s) summer.” Jesus described how life for His followers would be watching for the sign that “summer is nigh!”

What’s so entrancing about summer? Well, there’s summer sunshine. Noah’s flood is over with, the Lord God pledged that “while the earth remained, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). The psalmist (Psalms 74:17) thanked God: “Thou hast set all the borders of the earth; thou hast made summer and winter.”

Ah! Summertime and the living is easy, fish are jumping, and the cotton is high! — let’s listen to the memorable music by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong —

For me as a child and young teenager, summertime included long hot drives in an un-airconditioned car packed with my parents and brother to the pristine beaches at Stone Harbor NJ. It was a great time. I learned how to body surf without getting flipped by the waves. I also learned that you did have to be careful in the sun – you could not get the tan that the Beach Boys had in just one day. And then there was the fresh fish and crabs that were so plentiful that the prices were very low. Have times changed.

As time changed, our trips to the beach diminished. Work and family obligations changed summer trips to Stone Harbor. Many times, we are not able to get to the beach and maybe you also were not able to go – a broken dream, but I trust that we all have fond memories of the times that we were at the beach — with the sand and sun and water – whether it be by a lake or a river or by the bay or ocean. Most of our memories are deeply embedded in our mind and especially at summertime we begin to reflect on our lives and take a memorable trip down memory lane.

Ann and I have been privileged to stand at the shorelines – on the beach – on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is an awesome and spectacular experience. The vastness is overwhelming. We could only see to the horizon – about 3 miles when we are on the shore – elevate to 100 feet and you can see almost 12 miles — amazing and wonderful.

Let’s reminisce about life at the beach – No alarm clocks to awaken us – because we do not have to go to work. No crazy agendas — that drives our day’s schedule. The sound of the waves – constantly – the smell of the salt air. Connecting with family and children as we all played in the surf and collected a myriad of seashells that lined the beach – especially after a storm. The peace and serenity of the scene — not quite possible at Ocean City now. I have a picture of my great-grandfather in Ocean City sitting in the sand with his children – and he was in a three-piece suit. Times have changed!

Why do we long for quietness and stillness and rest? Do we long for it more as we get older? I do. It’s not a sign of laziness — it is a sign of contemplation. In Lamentations today we read — They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Think about the early morning at the beach — you are walking along the beach – just barely touching the warm salt water. You are holding hands with the love of your life – it is peaceful – and the sun is rising. Seabirds are diving for fish – a line of pelicans are flying in formation, and all is well. “New every morning” — and the living is lazy! Ah! Summertime!

When I was 13 years old, I was hired as a camp counselor intern at Broad Creek Boy Scout Camp in Darlington Maryland. I had no idea as to what I was getting into, but I knew that a season on the lake, in the outdoors, with a bunch of kids would be a fun.

Little did I know about God and God’s wonderful creation – but I quickly learned. I didn’t know, how spending time in creation, while also daily connecting with other Scouts and leaders– could put my heart into its first true summer it had ever known. Those weeks at camp, I never was so tired and yet so alive. I didn’t know what I was doing, so, somehow, I was praying – but didn’t even know it. I had to pray, constantly, that I wouldn’t mess up and maybe even help somebody. I began to hear the words of God in creation clearer and clear terms of amazement – I was being prepped for more to come.

I grew as an early teenager at the Broad Creek Scout Camp — God’s creation – the magnificence and complexity continued to thrill me as I learned more about God and a developing of a deeper heart of understanding of God’s grace and promise to me and to other people.  

As we let our heart wander during summer, we can relive memories and that can be beautiful, but also, we can come with baggage:  Nostalgia. It’s a part of summer— ‘part of the lure of summer is a strange tint of melancholy.’

Every summer since that first one at camp has had this tint, for me. I guess that’s only normal– mountain top periods of faith by their nature affects us and sticks with us. It’s like we taste what heaven is about, then go rummaging in a storage closet, among the clutter of keepsakes and pictures, hoping to get back to that place. We remember many times during the summer that it wasn’t always idyllic and care free — there were times of stress and pain. – which tend to over shadow our fond memories.

And yet, writes Mark Buchanan, “Summer doesn’t so much evoke a ‘back there’ experience. But it jolts and ‘up there’ one. Calling us not back to a garden we once enjoyed and then lost—- but to a city we’ve yet to visit and barely imagined.”

New every morning! Says Lamentations.  A foretaste of the feast to come, a kingdom that is now but not yet. That’s summer.So, we ask ourselves again, when we have a moment at the beach what are we to do, when we are blessed to find ourselves at that sacred time?  Enjoy. Play. Rest. Enjoy God and others, without reserve and without apology.

Many of us carry a residue of Puritan angst, that makes us feel guilty when we feel good. Yet, we have a Savior whose first miracle was to turn water into wine for no greater reason than that the party might go on. The apostle Paul—whom we read so much of in the New Testament—wrote, “Finally my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” 

Someday, the glimpses of this time could be like snapshots in time whose residual joy gives us an extra charge, perhaps when we need it most, in a hearts winter. Enjoy Summer.   Don’t rush! Ever feel like in the calendar season of summer, you rush to fit it all in while the weather is fine? Reunions and weddings and parties and vacations. In the summertime — when all is flowing with our connection to God and the Spirit—that can be a temptation too. To fit it all in. To say yes to everything we are asked of, whether we are called to it or not. In those moments, God’s command is towards Sabbath, to ‘be still and know’; to let a two-letter word be your salvation: ‘n-o’. In the summer, let yourself slow down, put less on the calendar, and enjoy the peace, shalom, in which the presence of God is so vivid and real that anxiety doesn’t stand a chance. ‘That peace is summer’s birthright and winters lifeblood.’ Slow down. Soak in a summer of the heart. 

So, this summer what can we do to experience the blessings of summer? How about take your shoes off and walk in the wet grass in the morning? How about rushing outside and getting soaking wet during a thunderstorm? Regardless of our age? How about getting up earlier to just savor the sunrise from you chair—trying not to plan your day. God’s grace is in all of this.

In the middle of October last year, Ann and I took several days and go to the beach at Ocean City. One early morning the love of my life and I walked arm in arm along the warm saltwater beach with a 4-point cane adding balance. We celebrated God’s healing power and celebrated the life that we had been given. Oh, how I miss that now!

Summertime and the living is lazy!

Thanks be to God!