Winterville United Methodist Church

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

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July 25, 2016 "Ride the Ocean Waves?"

My step-dad worked hard in a textile mill for very little money.  My mom stayed home, took care of my brother and me, and was a dressmaker earning a few extra dollars a week.  Ours was a luxury-free home, but somehow my parents knew the value of regular saving, some of which provided a week-long beach vacation for the family as the mill closed down over the week of the 4th of July.

My brother and I learned to ride the waves on the floats we were able to buy fresh and new almost every year as we arrived at the beach.  Hour by hour we relaxed into the waves as the tides came and went in each day’s time. 

Now I admit to moments of alarm.  After all my dad had drowned while on a fishing trip when I was only a year old!  But despite the alarm buttons that occasionally sounded, I learned to love the waves which seemed to wash all my cares away. 

In the night the “washing” continued!   Our beachfront house rested on stilts. As my brother and I relaxed into our single beds, our bodies still tired from the day’s activity, we could still almost feel the movement of the ocean around our bodies.  The feeling of movement was compounded by the ever-present sound of the waves as the tide came in and crashed beneath the house!

To this day I love to ride the waves.  I suppose I’ve outgrown the need for a float.  My body is enough.  I simply bend over, relax my back, and my whole body is afloat, riding the waves as certainly as on air-filled layers of plastic purchased at the corner gift shop. 

I confess—when I’m out there I still have moments of panic.  I still stand up, look around, check to see if I’ve floated down the beach too far or if I’ve moved out much farther from the shore than I had intended.  I even confess that sometimes I make sure there are persons much farther out in the water than I should any unexpected shark activity begin to take place!  But for the most part I relax.  I can’t think of any other times or places that I am more relaxed than when I’m out in the water, giving my whole body over to the action of the waves!  Faith is a lot like that. 

Things happen to us in our lives, in the lives of our families, and in our churches.  Things sweep over us like unexpected waves higher than our heads.  Our tendency is to allow the alarm buttons to go off, to begin a flurry of activity, to work harder.  Sometimes in our sense of alarm we go in fruitless and unhealthy directions.  We begin to blame someone.  We begin to be angry.  We often turn in every direction other than the one direction where true help always may be found!

What if we relaxed into the waves?  What if we gave up worries that the waves might go over our heads or wash us out to sea?  After all, the lifeguards on the beach always remind us that when the sea begins to take control and to wash us further out in the ocean what we need to do is to go with it!  Swimming against the current, flailing with all our might, and becoming frantic with fear seldom ever help.  But when we relax and go in the direction the current is trying to take us most often we will get deposited in a place of calm—a place that allows us to find our way back to shore! 

What if in all the anxieties of our lives—job stressors, money troubles, strife in our families, stress and strain in the life of our church—we simply learned to turn to God?  What if instead of pushing alarm buttons or working harder or blaming someone or becoming angry we simply gave ourselves—our lives, our families, our churches—over to the loving caress of God, a caress that enfolds us and buoys us like waves upon the ocean! 

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