Vitamin Sea

*Isak Dinesen was right.

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.

I recently tested this theory, and the results were positively conclusive.

A tough workout, a good cry, a long soak in the sea… Chances are, one’s the remedy for what ails you (and me).

(Given the choice, I’ll take the beach. But you Crossfit freaks… You do you.)

There’s just something about the sea. It’s at once soothing and spellbinding. Its beauty hypnotizes and heals. Tides rise and fall, and the waves change color with the changing skies. The surface is windswept, wild. The ocean roars, unleashing its fury… and then, after a time, it’s lulled once again into reverent calm.

Dazzling like diamonds.

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Below the surface, the sea teems with the most exotic creatures: sea urchins and sea turtles, anemones and octopi, oysters and eels, jellyfish and starfish and humpbacks and hammerheads. Fish shaped like lions and horses and spiders and bats. . . and patterned like leopards and tigers and zebras. Oh my!

Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans) swimming over reef, 20 feet deep, Red Sea

(In case anyone’s wondering, snorkeling in Belize is indeed on my bucket list. And I’d gladly travel this afternoon, since we’re currently enduring subzero temperatures and dangerous wind chills in the Midwest. And – adding insult to injury – we just got a fresh dump of snow. Anybody want to share their miles? Anyone? Buehler?)

Nearly anywhere in the world, a walk along the seashore will bestow exquisite gifts.

Reverie.

Reflection.

Rumination.

Revelation.

Our hopes crest and crash like waves, only to rise again… lifted by some hidden grace.

The water beckons and few can resist. We wade in, stepping gingerly, tasting sea spray.

Out of the blue, a rogue wave tosses us headlong. We scramble to find our footing, regain balance, break the surface… breathe.

And occasionally we get stung. (Who knew there was something lurking beneath the surface, tentacles laced with poison?)

The sea mirrors life itself…

Ebb and flow. Tumult and tranquility.

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It whispers its backstory.

A Spirit hovers. The waters obey. They are drawn, poured, gathered, stilled.

Vibrant with life. Voicing love divine.

Vast and deep.

Something about the sea summons wonder and worship.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky…

(Lyrics from “The Love of God” by MercyMe.)

Yes, it’s true.

The breadth and beauty of the sea reflect a loving and brilliant Artist, Author, Botanist, Biologist, Chemist…Creator.

And may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it.

And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.

~ Ephesians 3:18-19 (TLB)

The sea is magnificent and a little mysterious.  It is powerful, unpredictable, sublime and serene all at once.  It invites us to glimpse the glory of the One who first imagined it.

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In his book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis unveils Almighty God in the character of Aslan, the lion king of an otherworldly place called Narnia. A young girl named Lucy inquires about meeting Aslan but worries that he might not be safe, and a native Narnian responds this way:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is good. Like the ocean He created. Good, but not always safe. Worthy of our fear and awe.  Alluring… and sometimes angry. Inviting us to great adventure and gifting us with hidden treasure. Breathtaking and captivating and utterly terrifying too. Full of countless secrets yet undiscovered.

The ocean beckons. Wander, wade, soak, splash. Stroll along the shore. Walk and talk with the One who cups the waters… and calms the storms.

Let the sea spray work wonders.

Let the Healer cure what ails you.

Let the skies proclaim God’s glory.

Stay salty, friends. (It’s good for you… body and soul.)

Wendy

P.S. If – like me – you’re presently suffering a miserably cold, dreary winter in some landlocked northern state, I highly recommend you take in the surfcam views of places like Perth, Portofino, Palawan, or Phuket. Click here or there to catch some waves. (You’re welcome.)

 

*Isak Dinesen is the pen name for Karen Blixen, who wrote (and lived) Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast. From now on, I will be using the pen name Vivienne Cross. Just FYI.

 

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Bullet-Proofing

Another week in America. Another massacre.

(File that in the category of things I never – in my wildest and worst nightmares – imagined saying/thinking/writing.)

A deranged gunman opens fire in a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks.

Bullets fly.

People die.

And the attacker pauses to post on social media before killing himself. (More on that later.)

Our reactions are wide-ranging… and telling. From unmoved to outraged, heartsick to dumbstruck.

Here we go again.

Sudden death. And then a tidal wave of emotions: apathy (another mass shooting today… and… by the way, did you pick up the dry cleaning?) to anger… to anguish.

Who can answer the locked-and-loaded questions? Who can make sense of the senseless?

Who can stop the hell-bent?

Immediately following the bloodshed, the same refrain. Pundits pontificate. Politicians posture. Parents press for solutions… and scramble to protect their young.

Praying desperate prayers…

Deliver us from evil.

Taking necessary precautions…

Baby-proofing. Bullet-proofing.

How on God’s green earth did we get here?

There’s no denying that danger lurks… darkness lingers. In malls and movie theaters, neighborhoods and nightclubs.

We aren’t safe anywhere. Even in school. Even in synagogue. (Homeland security? Is there even such a thing?)

Maybe I’m an idealist (or a loon), but I think there’s a lot we can/should/must do.

NOW.

I’m no policy expert, but it seems fairly obvious that these things should top our “to do” list:

  • Ban manufacture and sale of assault weapons, bump stocks and extended magazines. Stat.
  • Require a waiting period prior to all gun purchases. Thirty days seems reasonable. Enough time for law enforcement to do background checks, hotheads to cool off, and suicidal/homicidal impulses to pass. (If it takes 6-8 weeks to get a passport, why should anybody complain about waiting 4 weeks for a weapon?)
  • Impose a minimum age requirement of 21 for gun ownership and possession (with exceptions for active duty military personnel).
  • Implement a more effective red-flagging system. Mental health professionals, physicians and educators – who are already “mandatory reporters” anyway – submit critical information directly to law enforcement when they suspect someone may have violent impulses or intent to harm. Immediate risk assessment follows.
  • Create a database to compile these and other “at-risk” reports. If someone appears to be mentally unstable and potentially violent, a concerned family member/ friend/neighbor can call a hotline or file an online report. (Similar to a DCFS report for child abuse.) If three such reports are received, law enforcement responds (computer search, mental-health assessment, weapons inventory, etc.).
  • Bolster investigative units specializing in online/social media threats. Develop algorithms for identifying cases of cyber-radicalization and home-grown terrorism.
  • Provide active shooter training for every professional currently required to be first aid/CPR certified. (School administrators, health care workers, etc.)

In this latest attack, the shooter (described by acquaintances as a “hothead” with an “explosive temper”) had been reported to police during a domestic disturbance last April. Finding him “somewhat irate” and “irrational,” law enforcement officials called in a crisis intervention team and mental health specialist. Despite concerns about his agitated behavior (and possible PTSD related to prior military service – including deployment to Afghanistan in 2011), the young man was cleared.

If he had been held on a 5150 order, he would have been taken into custody for 72 hours and – under California law – would have been prohibited from owning or possessing firearms thereafter.

And maybe, just maybe, a dozen people who were alive and well on Wednesday afternoon would still be living and breathing. At least a little longer.

I doubt any of the folks in the Borderline Bar and Grill Wednesday night thought it might be their last. Most of the victims were young, their whole lives ahead of them.

But the truth is – even with a vest, shield and tactical gear – the only part of us that’s bulletproof is our soul.

For man is but a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. ~ Psalm 144:4 

Our bodies break. Our minds fail. Our hearts stop. But our souls, they endure. Even when wildfires ravage and storms batter and bullets rain, our souls survive.

My great comfort in these trying and troubled times is this:

It is well with my soul. 

And my desperate prayer is that it be well with yours too. Because every SOS is ultimately… a plea to God.

Save Our Souls.

I don’t know when or where terror will strike next. Or whether I might soon be “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” unaware of someone armed-and-dangerous nearby. (Because as the gunman so eerily wrote in his mid-massacre social media post: “Yeah… I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’ or ‘keep you in my thoughts…’ Every time… and wonder why these keep happening.”)

I understand the sheer exasperation and disgust of those who keep hearing “thoughts and prayers” but not a single solution.

(Or more importantly, action… protection… prevention.)

So to all the victims’ families and everyone who’s shell-shocked, grief-stricken, frightened or furious tonight, I offer not only my thoughts and prayers… but action points.

Because…

… With faith… If it doesn’t cause us to do something, it’s dead. ~ James 2:17

Please keep praying. (Frankly, I’m stunned by anyone – talking to you, Cuomo – who suggests prayer makes no difference. Without prayer Chris, things would be a HELL of a lot worse.)

And yes, let’s take action too.

Don’t let evil overcome you. Overcome evil by doing good. ~ Romans 12:21

For God’s sake, let’s do something.

Call your elected officials, thank a first-responder, donate blood, hug your kid.

And never ever forget…

Love. Will. Win.

Wendy

P.S. On this Veteran’s Day (as we ponder how to best protect our people and our nation), a simple and sincere “thanks” to our vets seems woefully insufficient. But today and every day, I’m grateful to the brave men and women who’ve served in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. May God bless you and keep you. And may it be well with your soul.