You can do things with the help of a friend that you could never do on your own

Alone you can go faster… but together we can go farther

Pastor Matt, reporting for duty from La Jolla Cove.

I’m an avid open-ocean swimmer and you can often find me at sunrise swimming among the surf and sharks at La Jolla Cove.  This life-giving aquatic ritual has become even more beautiful and powerful as I’ve been adopted by a swim group of retired Navy SEALS, business folks, UCSD researchers and professors affectionately known as “”The Dawn Patrol.”  I wouldn’t swim as often, as far, or as long if I did not have this group to encourage and challenge me.  

“Out to sea” at the half-mile buoy with fellow Dawn Patroller, Jim Poirier

After a month of storms, dangerously high surf producing powerful currents, and generally unfavorable swim conditions, this morning was finally perfect for exploring the open ocean.  As I went to bed last night, hesitation crept into my mind.  I hadn’t swum in a month.  Do I still have what it takes?  It’s not storm-weather, but the surf is still winter-strong, the water is 50-something degrees, and I have to leave the house before much of the city wakes up.  Maybe I’ll take the extra sleep in my warm bed.

As my alarm jolted me awake, the residue of doubt hung in my mind.  I forced my feet onto the floor, made coffee so Florence can wake up to a treat, wrote my son a joke to pack in his lunch box, and grabbed my swim bag as I left the house.  My idea was to get my feet moving in a direction before my mind had time to put up an argument. I’m great at arguing with myself.  I always win… but then again, part of me always loses.  And this time, I packed a wetsuit in case I needed some extra comfort.

As I parked at the Cove, I was still 50-50 about getting into the water.  I thought, “I’ll just bring my bag to the platform, say ‘hi’ to friends and watch the surf.”  And then I was greeted by my friend, Carol.

Carol is a brilliant scientist at UCSD and has an infectious positivity and cheerfulness.  She is one of the toughest members in the group, swimming through the winter with no wetsuit.  She inspires me.

As I was considering sitting this one out, Carol beamed with a wide eyed smile as she exclaimed, “This is a perfect morning, Matt!  Aren’t you so excited to get in the water on a day like this?”  She had no idea of my wavering commitment in that moment.  Carol was all in, without question.

Carol, the enthusiastic encourager of Dawn Patrol on the right.

I processed the nuanced disagreements in my mind.  True, the golden dawn was illuminating the tops of the palm trees like a scene from my dreams… but the air temperature was 40 degrees and the water was not much warmer!  

Carol optimistically continued, “How far do you want to go today?  Look!  The Sea Lions are waiting for us to swim with them!”

Quickly, my objections were forgotten as I was swept away in her enthusiasm.  I donned my goggles and swim cap, leaving the wetsuit in the bag.

I dove into the seemingly icy surf, weaving through a family of playful Sea Lions as the cold water produced the sensation of pins and needles on my hands and feet.  As I pulled my body through the water, I marveled at the sunrise every time I turned my head to take a breath.  Soon, we were joined by the rest of the Dawn Patrol as we reunited outside the surf zone, exclaiming, “What a morning!  I love that we get to do this together.  What a life!”

After exiting the water, I shared with Carol how ambivalent I was about swimming this morning.  I thanked her for her unflinching enthusiasm, joy and encouragement that whisked me into one of my favorite mornings of the year to date.  Without Carol and the Dawn Patrol, I would’ve missed out.  Because of them, I went all-in, literally diving into a sea of joy, connection and beauty… not to mention mental and physical health.

Driving home and preparing for my pastoral workday, I reflected:

You can do things with the help of a friend that you could never do on your own.

Alone you can go faster… but together we can go farther.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint… we need each other along the way if we are going to do amazing things, in a healthy way, for a sustained period of time.

My thoughts migrated to gratitude for the community that is forming at Renew Church.  We’re growing our “buddy system” of life: encouraging, challenging and supporting one another to do beautiful and hard things we might not otherwise endeavor to embark upon.

We’re seeking healing for ourselves and our neighbors.


We’re receiving God’s grace and peace and striving to be ambassadors of that grace wherever we go.


We’re opening ourselves to God’s presence pouring into us as we pour ourselves out into the world.


And as we do this, we’re swimming in a sea of joy, hope and renewal… together.


I encourage you to take your next step today of increasing your connection in the Renew Community.  


Commit to coming on Sundays and welcoming new people as you deepen existing friendships. 


Make a point to make a friend at Renew and invite them for a meal or a walk.

If you haven’t yet, join a community group.  

Join in Know Your Neighbor on first Saturdays 

Visit Renew at North Park Farmers Market third Thursdays.  

We are just getting started, and I’m excited for the growth and adventures we’ll explore together!