June 24, 2005 Newsletter

Hallelujah!  It's Summer!  Finally, it's fun in the sun time.  Back when we were suffering through all those soggy Spring days, I thought it would never come.  I realize I probably haven't been paying that much attention down through the years, but this past Spring certainly seems the coolest and wettest I can recall.  So I'm very thankful for the scorching heat.  I love it.  And even though I'm using my vacation time this year for humanitarian missions, I know many of you will make your annual pilgrimage to a place that's also near and dear to my heart . . . the beach!  Here's a piece I wrote there a while back that, hopefully, will remind you of what matters most, not only on vacation trips to the beach but every day of our lives.  Enjoy, and have a wonderfully refreshing summer vacation!

A Gift from the Sea

 By: Rhonda Jones


 I found a perfect seashell on the beach today.  It was of the oliva sayana variety - a "lettered olive".  Looking somewhat like a tightly wrapped cocoon, the beautiful cream-colored folds wrap into a perfect point.  Perfect.  Flawless.

Walking on the beach this afternoon, like I have everyday, I glanced down and there it was tumbling in the surf.  Finding it was quite a surprise, because the North Myrtle Beach strand is not known for shelling.  In fact, most of the shells littering the beach are mere fragments of garden-variety shells crushed in the surf long before human eyes ever see them.  It was indeed the discovery of a treasure.  And, before I knew it, I was scouring the shoreline for another.  I walked along for several minutes more, my head down, eyes transfixed on the broken shards in the sand, straining to find another treasure, imagining every time the sun glinted on something that I had found it.

Then, almost as quickly as I had stumbled upon the perfect seashell, an even more perfect realization occurred to me.  I had walked for several hundred feet with my face stuck in the sand.  I hadn’t even noticed the ocean or seen the gulls and large pelicans fishing for their afternoon meal.  I hadn’t watched the children playing in the surf and the shrimp boats in the distance returning from a long, fruitful day of fishing.  I hadn’t appreciated how beautifully the setting sun glistened across the high tide, and I hadn’t looked into the smiling faces of all God’s children enjoying the day at the beach basking in His glory.  I had not seen any of that, and now the opportunity had passed, because I had my head buried in the sand.

It was then that I realized how alluring the pursuit of treasure can be - how mesmerizing it has been at various times in my lifetime.  I looked up to find countless others, streaming up and down the beach toward me, heads down, eyes on the sand, not seeing where they’d been…where they were…where they were going.  I watched one woman stoop to pick up something.  It was just a sliver of a broken sand dollar!  It wasn’t a treasure at all, only a poor substitute, yet the woman stuffed it into her sack and continued what now seemed to me a futile search.

As I watched the beachcombers continuing to file down the beach, I noticed a man and woman approaching.  They looked like the couples with whom I'm accustomed in the business world where I spend most of my time.  The woman was obviously his dutiful wife.  She looked refined, motherly, conservatively coifed, and well-heeled, obviously the perfect housewife, mother, and hostess material to support the busy business executive.  He looked every bit that part.  Perfect trimmed-twice-a-week-not-a-strand-out-of-place hairstyle, top of the line golfing attire, recently purchased college alma mater sun visor, and the most telling adornment of all . . . the cell phone attached to his ear.  Despite his unmistakable businesslike appearance, I noticed he looked like a fish out of water . . . striding - almost racing - down the beach pretending to be on vacation, conducting business all the while.  I recognized that fašade immediately.  He thinks he's fooling everyone.  I thought.  The only person he's fooling is himself.

His wife wore a visible look of disgust and frustration, and as they approached me she apparently had reached the end of her rope.  Like the collapsing of a dam, the words burst forth from her lips and crashed like the approaching tide upon everyone within earshot.  "Can't you get off that phone?!  We're on vacation!"  The wife admonished, saying the "v" word with great emphasis in an attempt to crack the seemingly impenetrable barrier.  Her husband never even so much as darted his eyes in her direction . . . never missed a beat in his conversation.  I watched as he strode confidently past me, totally oblivious to his suffering mate who had now sank back into her expressionless, numb, empty path behind him.

My newfound awareness left me aghast.  I wanted to shout out to all the poor beachcombers shuffling mindlessly behind one another in the surf.  Wake up!  Lift your heads!  Open your eyes!  What in the world are you doing?  Can't you see that this is your one life?  Can't you see that you're wasting it on poor substitutes for happiness and fulfillment?  For God's sake, and your sake and your families sake, wake up, and stop this madness before it's too late!  The words screamed in my head.

Then, suddenly, a new realization washed over me, and it made me shiver despite the warm sun beating down on my shoulders.  Had I not only moments earlier been stuck in that rut with them . . . shuffling in line behind them?  Had I not succumbed to the allure of earthly treasure?  Why, when I had received the blessing of finding the one perfect shell, had I immediately become so driven to find another and another?  Why did I always need more?  Why could I not be satisfied?  I stood convicted there in the surf, staring into the distant horizon, silently asking the question . . . why . . . listening.  And then the answer floated by softly in the salty air.

"That's the weakness of the flesh.  You want so much, but you actually need so little.  Be thankful for My blessings."  I heard God say in the gentle breeze blowing across the surf.  “I will provide you with all you need.  You don’t have to search aimlessly, clamoring over your brothers and sisters to find your blessings.  Don’t worry.  You're not alone.  I'm here.  I will provide.  Just keep your head up, your face turned toward the sun.  Enjoy where you are . . . each moment.  That’s part of the blessing.”

Thus, I heard God speaking to my heart.  And I did indeed give thanks for all my blessings, as I walked confidently into the setting sun . . . this time not searching but satisfied and with my head held high.