One of the highlights of my week, pre-pandemic, was choir practice every Wednesday night. Not only did I enjoy singing with these beloveds, but also sharing our lives with one another through prayer, laughter, and familiar communing.

Thanks to the technical expertise of our choir director, Jeff, we have continued to meet on-line via Zoom and other social media platforms every week since stay-at-home guidelines were enacted. While we do not sing, we have continued to pray, laugh and fellowship. Seeing the faces and hearing the voices of my dear friends buoys my heart.

Recently, Jeff gave us the following “assignment” for our next virtual gathering:

“I want you to share a story, experience, or anything about how nature past or present that moved you or drew you closer to God. For example: Was there a time in your life when nature or something in nature spoke to you, moved you or ministered to you in some new way? Have you read something about nature recently that spoke to you? Is there a Bible verse or song about nature that speaks to you?”

Here is my response . . .

. . . water . . . more specifically bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, ponds, pools, and oceans.

From the time I was an infant and into adulthood swimming, playing, wading in these liquid lounges has immersed me in God’s presence.

Swimming for me feels like gliding through flowing sunshine where I feel the deepest sense of peace, calm and at-one-ment.

. . . my mother’s brother-in-law and sister—my favorite Aunt Bun–had a small trailer along the Shenandoah River near Charles Town, West Virginia, where family and friends gathered to enjoy the water and each other’s company.

. . . swimming lessons at the YMCA. During one lesson, the lifeguard/instructor jumped in to save me because I came very close to going under.

. . . my paternal grandfather poling a flat-bottomed fishing boat filled with his brood into the middle of the Potomac River near Williamsport, Maryland where we enjoyed cavorting in the cool flowing ripples. On one such occasion, as the story goes, my grandfather dropped me into the river and said, “Swim, you’re a Fridinger.”

. . . paternal family reunions at my Aunt’s house. Being a farmer, my Uncle had huge tractor inner tubes he placed in his relatively large pond. Standing and balancing on the slippery serpents proved to have hilarious results as one after another of my kin (and myself) awkwardly flopped into the water.

It was here that I learned how to squeeze my fists in such a way that water would spurt through like a jet stream.  This eventually led to contests to see who could squirt water the farthest. Granddad usually won.

. . . many, many trips to Ocean City, Maryland and near by Rehoboth, Delaware with my church youth group, parents, and in due course my own sons—well into their adulthood—a beach-going tradition they now carry on with their own families.

I could not and still cannot leave the sandy shores without standing at the ocean’s edge in the early morning stillness, reveling in awe at the vastness of the sea lapping at my feet.

. . . my father teaching his three grandsons how to swim in the Potomac River above Damn Number 5 outside of Shepherdstown, West Virginia where he had bought a retirement home with river front property. A carpenter at heart, my father built a small dock which he ingeniously roped to the bank along with a short ramp from the shore to the jetty. Endless summer days were spent lazily frolicking, jumping, splashing, wading and floating.

I can still hear my sons saying, “Throw me off your shoulders, Granddad.” Taking turns, they would climb on his shoulders—my father would bounce up and down—going under water himself to get the necessary momentum—and releasing them in flight to their cannonball and belly-flop reentries.

Literally drenched and waterlogged, my memories are a fountain of God’s eternal presence wooing me into a deeper and ever-growing awareness of Her Truth, Beauty and Love.

In writing this, I was reminded of the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10: 38-42.

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

“There is need of only one thing,” or, the doing will take care of itself; just be . . .

Present . . . aware . . .