Wednesday, March 29, 2006


If, as philosophers have surmised, life consists of sturm und drang, here at the beach it seems to me the sturm of life is usually calmly taken along with its drang, but with relatively less urgency and a few grains of salt; recent news stories rarely appear to excite, or even rankle, these laid-back shore dwellers. Personally, however, as important news stories break on our informational shores, which they seem to do with greater frequency now, the less I understand or know, and the less secure I actually am of my position--and the more aroused and upset I can become about it; many of my neighbors must, beneath those cool exteriors, feel quite the same way.

But yesterday’s earth-shaking issues have apparently already become old and familiar; it is as if all their concerns quickly enter a limbo of out-of-date news-flashes, even when Christianity itself comes under fire! I suspect, however, if I should start a rumor that alien body-snatchers, many millennia ahead of us scientifically but incidentally lacking the skill to replace their own bodies are at work in the neighborhood, I could almost guarantee unruly mobs of peasants carrying oaken cudgels, haying-forks, pine-tar torches and sporting surly scowls, all in very short order, (perhaps with me amongst them).

It has occurred to me, however, that I may be only visualizing reactions like those followers of Artemis, “Artemis of the Ephesians,” (Acts:19, 2-41), about whom riots regarding The Way broke out. What confusion, what alarms, violent reactions and urgencies to violence among the roistering crowds around the town square and on into the theater. These were people who had heard or fancied threats to their belief system and to what they saw as the sanctity and financial advantages of their preeminent goddess. How powerful then were the calm directives given by an ordinary city clerk urging legal assembly in place of rioting. Thus, words and reason seemed, momentarily, to stand up for faith in the Word; as in Psalm 46 (10): “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth…The Lord Almighty is with us;”. One is presented there who is slow to anger and abounding in love--in this way the words of Paul finally were recorded in The Word.

But now I can’t decide whether my neighbors know something of which I had lost sight, or whether they just don’t pay much attention to the news.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Have we not had enough of spring already, even after my last writing? I can’t seem to let it alone, but the reasons are far from clear. I am no fan of weather reports, I don’t usually find them either interesting or particularly believable, but three national surveys agreed that of the entire country, our area is today most spring-like. And to cap that I noticed for the first time this year there were a couple of gondolas out in the bay practicing their gala trips through local canals. The outside air confirmed the reports; warm and balmy, with perfumed breezes and greening plants—the whole nine yards. That is, until I met that downhearted fellow.’

He spoke to me as follows: This dawn found me reviewing my entire life—without one redeeming feature coming in with the sorry tide. This being the time of rebirth and change, I faced the prospect of a daunting task: give it up as a bad job or begin to redo the whole mess from scratch—I fell so low in spirits that some words of Isaiah came to mind, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud” (57:20). The man certainly knew his Bible, but had apparently set it aside some time ago for other pursuits.

Isaiah is my favorite OT book; so literate, so incisively insightful, so painfully true. However, now that he thought of it, written therein is--”I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15). Off handedly I asked him what he thought should be the occupation of the contrite--he also asked himself: One word only came; repentance! It was then that the vision of an insurmountable task began to lose some of its impossible dimensions. While he still looked at an entire life of mistaken, often selfish, hurtful actions, where even its purposes were poor choices, and most everything came out plain bad, a choice to change everything might not be entirely out of the question—anything he does now can only be an improvement! Already so wrong, if change is his game, he couldn’t go wrong for going right. Besides, Isaiah says he is not doing it alone.

He seemed a happier man, and I reflected that if winter has indeed come and gone, can spring be not far behind--in fact, staring us in the face?

Sunday, March 19, 2006


After a couple of fairly rainy days, this morning a few kayaks and sculls are energetically making their way across the bay. Patches of warm, bright sunshine countered by short and sharp gusts from the sea keep a few early walkers moving briskly along too. Our perpetual little sailboats cluster like white puff-balls over the blue-green water, but wind flurries strike and cause them to flitter like early spring butterflies on stubby white wings. In fact, the calendar insists that spring is about one week ahead of us.

The balance of this day, however, surely bodes little comfort out of doors unless one is addicted to raw edged, windblown walks, and the thunder-storms that are predicted in the area; winds hereabouts tend to increase after lunch time, although today a wayward breeze here and there is scented vaguely of lifted spirits. As early as Genesis 1:14 God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years…”. In Leviticus 26:3,4 He said, “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit”.

With notable exceptions that has usually been the case, and the lights in the sky are giving their signs. I don’t know how careful or obedient any one has been; unusual warmth at earth’s extremities and melting polar ice-caps suggest to some a reckoning might be somewhere down the road, and we are advised to count our blessings only after the harvest is in the barn. Signs aside, we are blessed by a forgiving Father who knows both our foibles and our hearts—and if it comes to that, a new earth and a new Heaven will be mighty fine—dare I hope for new sailboats too?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Passing by the new building site has been almost a daily event for several months. Each phase of the construction was duly inspected; razing of the old structure, the framing of wood and steel, the plumbing and wall-boarding, wire and tar-paper, stucco and plaster, glazing, and more to come. The crews usually wave to me from across the street and when the second-story roof was set in place the waving was even more celebratory than usual. Perhaps this camaraderie was partly due to the fact that as I lurched by with my walker I frequently assured them if they needed any help they could call on me.

The new structure is squeezed into a row of similar small apartment houses facing the bay and the morning sun. It is mostly of the Modern style, or perhaps because of Spanish type details here and there it could be called Moderne. In any case, with its straight and angular lines the rounded tops of two large windows and the entry-door insures that it will feel at home with its older, more venerable neighbors. Speaking of neighbors a young woman who lives nearby informed me that she grew up in the house that was demolished. Her grandmother had owned it for years and finally sold the property to renovators. I wonder now if that woman ever thought about what had been left in the rubble--or the layers under the latest rubble. What about the wells of Abraham or Jacob, built over older wells, or like Tells and digs of Egypt, and the whited sepulchers of old, what of dormant blessings

“…because of the Shepherd, the Rock
Of Israel,
Because of your father’s God, who
Helps you,…”.

I suddenly wanted to know, too late, what relic or lost art lay under the older structure. It is rumored that the Chumash of early California were no great shakes at building houses and the Clam-diggers, or the Wailiki were reportedly uninterested in architecture, but the centuries must be made of more than that. It occurred to me that soon the bright new place would be lost in the obscurity of its rows of counterparts along all the streets—in all the towns around, hiding perhaps forever what had been there before. Is it like that with people? Each one of us may indeed cover over ancestral lives that are now lost, but surely only in earthly rubble are things of value hidden. Fortunately no child of God is lost in eternity. The newcomer is welcome to stay too.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Until recently, here at the beach little kids seemed like visitors from another planet, but that has changed. I began to realize how completely happy those tots could be—when the weather is warm they develop a peculiarity--at, or anywhere near the sand and water, they suddenly grow springs in their legs, leaping, dancing and running faster than any battery-powered bunnies could do. They laugh, scream, squeal and splash; they gaze with wide-eyed joy and wonder at seeing things for the very first time. They somehow make the familiar beach scene much more fun. I do not consider myself to be the playful type, but perhaps rather like Paul in 1st Corinthians, (9:22, 23), I tried to join in and become all things to all men—or in this case, to all little kids. Now that the weather is cooler they come bundled up and are usually pushed in strollers; since I miss the squeals and the laughs, I make faces at them.

As they wheel past my seat on the low wall, putting them momentarily almost eye-level with me, my “Crazy Willie” face usually gets their attention. I smile broadly right away and get back a smile, a laugh, or at least a look of round-eyed wonder. Encouraged by this I find that noises help and my little tea- pot routine with “Tip me over, pour me out” is sure fire. Anything for a laugh, I say. Voices work too; not only do I get a “frog” in my throat, I occasionally get a “dog” in it as I bark at them. Some times it is a “horse”, I have a “bird” in my throat when I “swallow”, and the “swoop and soar” may leave me “sore”. The kids often lean out of their buggies, looking back at me--and we wave. If all else fails I can go into my “man being hanged” routine as a last resort.
I have noticed, however, that during the recent week more and more “stroller pushers” are going by me from across the street. I get a rare wave or a smile but that’s about all. Perhaps it has become clear that I am no virtuoso—or my audience has become jaded with the same old material. Public fame being what it is, fickle and short-lived, I will just have to find another gig—or maybe add tap-dancing to my repertoire.