Thanks to our friends for supporting us through our recent major move, which brought us back to the ocean. After that break, I resume here with some musings from the beach. A reflection I promised on adventuring will be coming soon, but first, the music that greeted us here.
Please note that references in parentheses (X) refer to books of the Bible unless otherwise noted.
Do You Hear the Song?
I begin my week with a walk on the beach. I can really do this. It’s our first week after a vacation – and the beach is still nearby. We just moved; we live here now: wow! We all have our favorite settings in nature, where we somehow know in the marrow of our being there is something incredibly good going on here, and we love being in this “place.” The beach is this for me: where land and city and sites of human cultures along the coast meet waves of depths calling us to explore as widely as the ocean’s vast horizon. Here, I know… I am living well, in a world of surpassing wonder, where there is always more!
I walk the soft spongy sand, along rising cliffs on one side, louder crashing waters on the other. I walk with simple gladness: I love the beach! I walk to pray, something that happens most powerfully for me in my favorite nature surroundings. I walk in wonder: still-life landmarks of beauty wooed by the song of the surf. I fall into step with the waves’ pounding: mighty drums of rhythms struck by someone beyond. I marvel at this reality defying reason: several steps of water, churning colors of liquid, never flat in this wondrous place. And me in this swirling symphony: warm wetness washing my feet, splashing spray salting my legs… Before I could even try to manufacture it, I am overwhelmed into praise-running in the white splashes with this irresistible melody of joy ringing deep within me.
This song of the surf sings its revelations into me once again. The natural creation around us praises its good life-giving maker. Do you hear the song? I believe all we need to do to experience God’s goodness washing over us through God’s natural creation is to pause – to let the living loving God meet us here, however unexpected or beyond explanation this may be. Do you seek meaning and hope in this world, greater than the confusions of anxiety, crisis, tragedy? I encourage you to stop, notice the creation – palm trees, winter roses, white waves – and let them sing hope anew into your heart.
Now I admit, I am a romantic, and very much so for the beauties of nature. At the same time, the notes and beats of this music ponder higher heights and deeper depths. Before an ultimate triumphant crescendo, even as the waves sing of home, this operatic muse still sails swirling dramas too real to ignore. I know from personal experience and many people I love: some days are like this beach. The tide is high. Sometimes it rolls in with mighty waters of pain and grief, encroaching our safety to entangle us with seaweeds from the deep. These waves are strong. Their roaring foaming mouths threaten to engulf our fragments of tranquility. The swirling surf swells in upon us. And we cannot escape its rhythmic reminder… – but of what exactly? Is there anything more beyond our melancholy days, disturbed nights, wrestling longings?
It is here that we walk a fine line. Between enormous oceans stretching half way around the globe, and expansive lands tenting continental divides, this beach is a reality as thin as a razor’s edge. We often fear overwhelming waves will cut us in two, through our broken heart, splaying our shaking bones upon the pavement of shattered dreams. Yet, I urge us, plea with us, invite us: Walk this line! On the beach of loss and hope, where culture meets nature, one foot on land and one in sea, humanity living and humanity exploring, written between this line, we may yet hear the melody of this world. Here, we can meet our good Creator. And if we let the surf sing and the waves dance their simple joy into our hearts, they will mix God’s new rhythms into our high-tide blues.
The heavens are telling the glory of God!
YHWH is wrapped in light as with a garment.
You set your chambers on the waters.
You ride on the wings of the wind;
you make fire and flame your ministers.
O LORD, how well-displayed are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live…
– Psalms 19; 104 (see NRSV)
Beyond What the Eye Can See
Now let me affirm another point clearly before rushing on. Science studies the natural creation – and this is good: learning all we can from the goodness, wisdom, and glories this creation reveals. In the process, without any necessary conflict, we can hear the creation sing praises to its Creator. If we will notice, nature also points beyond itself – to a Creator so immensely good to make such surpassing marvels. So many of the early modern scientists in Europe concluded their breakthrough scientific treatises by exclaiming praise to our good Creator. As in the expressions of classic Hebrew Psalms, nature sings God’s praises, mountains raising their arms to the heaven, stars shining with light from afar, waters rushing in their flowing dance. Indeed, this creation is so full of goodness this can even motivate us to take care of this world for our grandchildren to see and hear its songs to the Creator (Genesis 1). So we can gaze upon the natural wonders of this world, and hear this creation echoing back the mighty glories of God.
As my feet sift through these sands, I hear the surf dancing six feet high. As one who lives with physical blindness, I have learned to listen deeply into the music around me. The song of the surf changes keys, from the exultant march of its massive crashing symbols at high tide, to the gentle flowing foam of its flutes at low tide, and between, the full deep movements of its cellos and French horns calling me to dive in and ride the waves. Cymbal-waves rise higher than I can stand, to create awesome crashes resounding along their widening wing-span. Flute-waves tease with bubbly smirking splashes, laughing curling swirls in which we introduce our children to the magic of the seashore. Free-flowing cellos and French horns, roly-poly billows of blue-green depths, call us to surf their delightful dance. When at age twenty-two, I came, I saw, this Pacific Ocean, and dove in, I named this “God’s playground.” Now I hear the song again, I still want to play, it still makes me feel alive! And for me, even more than its sights of deep blue and soft gold, these marvels sing in the sounds of the sea.
Similarly, in this world which also points beyond itself, in our hearts which also seek something transcending the material, we can also live by faith, not only by physical sight (2nd Corinthians 5). We can trust in the good God who created us to enjoy life. Even with those who do not believe or feel they do not know how to trust, we can all experience the creation inviting us to embrace its song of God’s goodness. We can marvel in its surpassing glories, so full of wonder they point to a God of sheer beauty and life, and therefore a God of hope…
Readers are also encouraged to explore other posts in this series: Bushes Still Burning.
God so loved the world… God is love!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…
and the tree of life…
at the middle of the great street of the city…
and the leaves of the tree
are for the healing of the cultures.
John 3; 1 John 4; Revelation 21, 22