High tides and sea breezes
On the way to 5 Senses to Prayer Book 2 - #21
It’s just been another long weekend here in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. The following weekend is not officially a long weekend but the Tuesday is Waitangi Day many workplaces are encouraging workers to take the Monday off. It’s still summer and after the non-existent summer we had last year, and years of covid, it seems everyone around here can’t get enough of hitting the beaches and taking some time out.
We live on a narrow part of Whangaparāoa Peninsula, an very short walk to Big Manly Beach and a short walk of similar distance but it’s up and over the hill to Little Manly Beach. Within easy walking distance from our home are five other beaches, Arkles Bay Beach, Matakatia Beach, Tindalls Beach, Stanmore Bay Beach and Little Swan Beach. It’s a beautiful part of the country to live, and for almost forty years of my life it was where I came to holiday, until we moved to live here permanently in 2008. The urge to go on holiday every summer, remains and we head ‘to the beach’ and drive to Awhitu Peninsula for some rest and relaxation at Grahams Beach.
I’m not sure if it is an Aucklandism or in wider use around the Aotearaoa New Zealand, but people around here say ‘at the beach,’ in a way that means, “I’m unplugging and having a rest.” For some people this involve day trips to the beach, while others pack the tent, hire a cabin, rent a house or stay with friends to experience longer duration of days ‘at the beach’. The idea that anyone having a summer holiday in my part of the country would stay near a beach is assumed. Head to the east coast, west coast, or travel only a little way north or south beyond Auckland’s boundaries and you’ll find even more beaches. Going to a beach is accessible. Work colleagues will ask upon returning to work, “Did you go to the beach?” They don’t mean, “Did you go to the beach for a swim on your vacation?” Instead what they’re asking is “Did you get to go away and have a rest?”
My daughter was corresponding with a colleague in the USA and sent her a few photos of our summer break ‘at the beach’. The photos were of the house where we stayed, the cat playing in the sunshine in some grass, and the pizza oven. No sign of sand or sea in any photo. They talked of a project my daughter had been working on ‘at the beach’. Her colleague was clearly trying to visualise her working with her laptop sitting on the sand. She was also quite confused about the words, ‘at the beach’ when the locations of the photos which didn’t show a beach and weren’t of our home which is also as she knew, ‘at a beach’.
In the course of conversation, my daughter spoke about how upon coming home from the beach, she’d met friends for fish and chips, ‘at the beach.’ You can almost hear the questions from her colleague; “Which beach? The one where you live or where you go on vacation? And do you mean you met them at an actual beach or did they come to the house to eat? Was it the beach where you were staying or the beach where you live? Do you mean coming home from holiday or home to your house after having a swim?”
It’s interesting how sometimes we need an outside perspective to see something we hadn’t seen before. We get stuck in the groove of what is familiar to us. Our unconscious biases are everpresent whether we think they are or not. Our thoughts and belief systems are influence by what we already know and hold dear, even when we think we are being open. Our responses and actions are motivated by our world view which is shaped in turn by the depth and breadth of our experiences and the world around us.
Prayer is a marvellous way of taking stock and pausing. Experiential prayer expands our boundaries in a different way to prayers that are word-based. It allows us to use our senses to get a different perspective. When we open ourselves up to navigating our prayers through our sense of smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight, we shift away from a thoughts-first approach. This kind of praying allows us to take notice in a way that brings fresh understandings.
Our world today is messy and confusing. There is much grief and hurt and anger amongst people everywhere. Division is rife. Talk of unity can feel like an empty goal when the actions of so many lead us in ways that are oppositional and destructive. We are living in times when turning to God in prayer is the only way we can process for ourselves what it means to be peace loving people.
I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.
John 16:33 (CEV)
Today’s prayers are summery prayers. There are three of them and I’ve based them all on being near beaches. For those who find this a novelty rather than a common experience, I invite you to bring your outside perspective to these prayers. If you don’t live near a beach, or if the weather chases you indoors, I found a couple of YouTube videos to help you get to a beach. Here’s a 1min video with the sound of gentle waves breaking on my home beach, Big Manly Beach or a 12min video of silent drone footage of the water at Grahams Beach where I go to get away.
I have another week off my construction job this week. It’s another week of holiday but this time I’m not ‘going to the beach’. I have a few chores to do around home and some writing to complete as well as some guests coming from the USA to visit us for a couple of days. We’ll be heading to various beaches for picnics, swims and walks. There’s beaches to show them on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. We’re also planning a trip to one of my favourite beaches in the region on Tāwharanui Peninsula and we hope to take a trip to Tiritiri-Matangi Island too.
It’s beach season for me whether at home or away.
Wherever you are in the world, and whatever season you’re in, may our Creator God be with you.
On the journey
Sea Breeze Prayer
Sense of Smell – Adoration & Praise (AP.SM.6)
On a windy day at a beach, you can stick out your tongue and taste the salt in the air. You can smell the salt. There is something majesty and awe-inspiring about the sea. It can be wild, thunderous and unpredictable, while at other times it appears soothing, calm and tranquil. If you live near the sea, or, if you have opportunity to visit the sea, stand looking at the waves, smelling the salt in the air, considering how God is like the sea, majestic and awesome, yet soothing and calm. Pray a prayer of adoration and praise to God.
Further suggestions and adaptations on using this prayer
If you live near a beach this prayer can be part of your regular prayer routine. Maybe this is a prayer you pray each time you walk along the beach or just occasionally. It may be a prayer you can share with others who visit with you. If you don’t live near a beach but have the chance of taking a holiday at a beach location, take some time to pause and reflect and enjoy this prayer.
This prayer could work as part of a camp or retreat near a beach. You could either gather as a group on the beach and pray together or invite people sometime over the day or weekend to walk along the beach and take time to pray by themselves a prayer of adoration and praise to God.
Getting ready checklist
· Beach access
Visual Images - Static, Projected, Live Props