Salty fall morning

I’m blaming the “active hurricane season” for the hot weather we had, up until last Tuesday when the morning greeted us in the upper 40s. The crispness of fall makes for nostalgia thoughts and the promise of smoky cold nights, clear sparkling  starry night skies. Fall and winter are sleepy months, softly darker, shorter days, a time to recollect and stop. To rest.

It is also when doggies can go back to the beach. I think rescue dogs Lily and Lulu tolerate the sand and salt for me. And I don’t go on the beach when they are not allowed. Because this is a touristy area dogs are forbidden from April 1 to September 30.  So we relish the 6 months we can play in the sand. Or I do.

Picture1022171442_1.jpgLily enjoying the cool sand

There are fewer people on the beaches now as the days get shorter and the water is cooler. Though we did see another sunrise wedding last week. Two weddings actually. And birthday parties.

The surf is still roiling, frothy, staunchly angry from those tropical disturbances I guess. Enough so Lulu is not at all happy about getting her paws wet so she stays up on dry sand. That’s where any passerby might stop to speak, or offer a gentle pet while she demurely wags her tail grateful for the kindness.

Picture1022171441_1.jpgLulu leading the way

And we pick up the odd shell, smoothed and shined up by the churning sea.Picture1022171439_1.jpg



This is awkward, because I am not often asked to help with things. Maybe people can just tell I am a klutz by nature, or shy, or I am just that good at not being visible. Whatever, somehow I was noticed and asked to help at my church altar guild.

There is an abbey near Charleston that offers silent prayer retreats where I have gone a few times to regroup my life. I love going there, it is in a beautiful setting on the Cooper River, it is actually the former plantation where Clare Boothe Luce lived as a married woman. Her library is still there. So each morning there is a mass and different retreatants are asked to bring the gifts. This one time I was given the carafe of wine. Terrified, I gingerly carried this beautiful symbol, slowly and thankfully without incident.

So this  should encourage me, and when the chair of the guild told me to decant the pitchers of water and wine I did so, she was at the moment out of the building discussing I supposed something with the priest, I chose a bottle she had been given by a member of the congregation, not the usual label.

Upon her return she exclaimed and laughed uncomfortably, explaining she had not intended it to be used this Sunday, how so many would complain, and had I tasted it? No, I hadn’t, so she poured off some in an empty plastic water bottle, drank a little and made a face like someone who ate a lemon. She shoved the bottle at me, “Here, you try this,” so I did.

It burned like fire.

Now understand no one ever gets more than a taste of wine at the communion rail, but with this wine that’s more than enough. Holy Spirit’s fire is rivaled by this wine. I understood why Native Americans called whiskey fire water. So I offered to pour it back. She totally ignored me! Chattering away, clearly to herself about looking forward to the expressions of everyone as they drank this wine, what the priest would think… and she told me to put the water and wine decanters by the altar.

She showed me how to dress the altar table for the service, how to prepare the chalices, how to fill the candles with oil and the sanctuary lamp and check the wicks. We put the host wafers in the paten, the priest’s wafer in the larger chalice one, placed everything on the altar.

And then we were finished. She collected her things, directed me to the fellowship hall to help her fill the coffee maker tanks with water for after service. Looking at me pointedly as we prepared to leave she mentioned she also had another lady in mind to help with the altar guild.

I think I might have been fired on my first day!



earthly good

Several years ago I had the privilege of visiting Israel with an Israeli-based organization. I was there 10 days and the tour guide soaked us in Jewish history as well as showing us holy sites where Jesus lived and taught like the church at Cana, Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee, Jerusalem and Golgotha. At times overwhelming, the people in my group and I shared this experience with awe, reverence and humble hearts.

But there was one traveler who seemed to be most interested in attracting the attention of a female traveler. No particular one, just a female.

He seemed a pleasant enough sort, persistent but nice. He was from Colorado and insinuated himself gently but intentionally enough as to remind me of a movie I’d seen a while before, “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels” with Michael Caine and Steve Martin. It’s a funny film about a couple of con men, I recommend it. (Sigourney Weaver had a movie about two women cons, “Heartbreakers”, also funny).

Anyway, on the flight back to New York I was walking the kinks out of my legs and he offered a cup of coffee. We chatted a short while and he asked which church I attended. At the time I thought it an odd question so I replied I wasn’t really consistently attending and he thought that was ok, most people were too religious to be of any earthly good.

I paused a moment. I’d heard this expression all my life, basically from ne’er-do-wells trying to convince nice people to let their hair down (also heard Luke 12:19 used this way, to which I’d respond with Luke 12:20!).

Proverbs 16:3-9 basically gives advice on living in a way that is pleasing to God. That if you “commit your work to the Lord, your plans will be established”. I’d always heard “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” I’d also heard that we can control our thoughts and thus control our attitudes not just in ourselves and what we do but toward others. The first commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, spirit and soul” and the second: “Love your neighbor…” So what we do really needs to include mindfulness of God, and being considerate, thoughtful and loving of our neighbor who, for a literal person like myself I have to remind me that this is not whomever lives next door or down the street, but anyone. God created each of us, everywhere. So this means any and everyone.

So I wonder when I do or say things, and I have always had an unbridled tongue and an undisciplined mind to my occasional deep regret, the impression or ripples they make. I can’t dwell on this, my little brain hasn’t the capacity. But I offer a prayer asking forgiveness where I have offended, asking encouragement where I have actually done some good. I say done some good because I know there is “no one good but God alone.”

In many cases we’ll never know what kind of mark we have left. I just remember to use my powers for good, or ask God if He will. This doesn’t give me license to do as I please and just assume God will fix everything, clean up my mess. This makes me ultimately responsible for everything I do or say and to remember that no matter how awful the memory or the feeling brought by that memory or the lack of forgiveness from or for whomever, I am forgiven.

I have said this before but I need to know it again. God sent a Savior, His Son. For me, for you, forever.

I pray to be used for His good, His glory.




Prov. 16:3, 23:7; Luke 10:27, 18:19