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Can beach chairs pass for pews?

By September 4, 2016 7 Comments

by Andrea DeWard

I steered into our driveway near dusk last Sunday, belly still full from ice cream, shoulders still warm from sun.

As the garage door lifted, my son abruptly leaned in from behind me. “Wait,” he exclaimed, his hand on the back of my seat, “We didn’t even go to church today.” His voice waffled between surprised observation and confused question.

“Yup, you’re right, we didn’t,” I replied, a bit of nonchalance flowing from my relaxed beach state.

My daughter teased, “[So-and-so] would say we’re becoming ungodly.” Her tone suggested a slight tweener eye-roll, but my mama ears also caught the underlying edge of hurt caused by other past judgments.

For a moment my thoughts actually did become ungodly as I had a fleeting imaginary conversation with hypothetical critics about judgmentalism and legalism being rather ungodly too, thank you very much.

I quickly shook it from my mind like beach sand from my feet and slipped back into the sandals of my spiritually grounded being. I felt more at peace, more connected with creation and Spirit and self, than I had in a long while.

Lake breeze carried kites of laughter.

Washed up sticks explored shoreline landscapes.

Arms and legs played improvised games without buttons and swipes.

While seven kids snacked and splashed and shrieked around them, two new friends talked about podcasts and books and diversity and education and seasonal depression and jobs and music and insomnia and yes, church.

Later, as middle school sons and friends did their middle school boy things (which is mostly mysterious and apparently hilarious), both mothers stood and cooled in the water with their daughters, talking of school and boyfriends and friends that are boys and media and parenting and girl drama and alcohol and choices and mistakes and lessons and yes, faith and redemption. The Liturgy of Life some call it.

On that final summer Sunday my kids stepped into Sabbath joy, though not into a church. My anxiety settled into Sabbath rest, though not into a pew. Instead, I sank into a beach chair, feet washed by gentle waves. And the glory of God was there.

Psalm 19                                        (NIV)
For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Andrea DeWard is a pastor married to a pastor parenting tweens. With ADD. Now say that really fast 4 times. Exceptionally present in the moment, running late for the next, shining in a crisis, overshadowed by the daily grind. Naturally, the mantra “We have to work at this daily” hangs prominently in our family’s home. I’m an introverted Enneagram 4 who loves being up front speaking to new audiences (one of these things is not like the other?) I write consistently on my iPhone and sporadically on my blog at with the simple guiding principle GoShowLove. Grace abounds.


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