Thursday, June 11, 2020

Masks & a Close Call at Sea - Santa Barbara Island 2002

The story - rescue off Santa Barbara Island

We were at sea in an open inflatable dinghy.  A stiff breeze pushing 8 foot waves was blowing us onto the rocky shore of an uninhabited island 50 miles off Southern California.  Our motor was useless, drowned.  Steve's rowing was just keeping us off the rocks.  We were soaked through, hypothermia was setting in. Sunset, lost, unlikely to survive the night.

This is my story of being genuinely, improbably rescued. I did several things wrong to get into the predicament. I did one unusual thing right.  I was carrying a waterproof handheld marine radio.  In ten years working on the water, I never saw another person carrying one.  Everyone carries a phone now.  Not 20 years ago.  Besides, we were way out of cellphone range.

Why did I have the radio?  Sailing is risky, the ocean is deadly,  People fall overboard.  I promised Julie I would take every precaution to come home.  I never fell overboard, the situation I imagined, but the radio saved my life nevertheless.  I have an appreciation of my own risk profile.  I tend to push the envelope.  So I tend to take precautions.

This happened in 2002.  Marc Hughston and I wrote about it several years later.  Marc skippered the boat that rescued me.  The story is what the link above points to.  If my website stays up, the link will work.  If not, you missed the best story I have.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Channeling God

I attend Trinity Lutheran Church in Nampa almost every Sunday.  I rely on my wonderful Pastor Meggan Manlove. I perform alongside her as an assistant minister.  I respect and value her counsel.  Just being around her makes me feel better.  Early on at Trinity, five years ago, I had an intense, recurring experience of impostor complex.  I thought I did not really believe in God.  But I did, nevertheless.  I was raised Lutheran and fell away in my twenties, came back 50 years later. What I write about God has only an indirect relationship to the indescribable corpus of my own faith.  I have faith, I believe you have faith as well.  That is enough for me to occasionally channel God for the benefit of someone who really needs God's comfort.  Enough to do the right thing.

I see no objective evidence for God's existence.  I have no personal relationship with Her.  But I detect a sense of humor in the natural world.  I am perfectly willing to have God be so immense and clever that we can never detect Him objectively.  This would also be pretty funny.  I do not believe God sources either evil or good.  Actually, I think the God we approach through religion may exist only as ideas in our heads.  Such an existence can be quite effective and very real.  God may speak to you, counsel you.  I never suspected that until very recently.
The universe is a thing of unparalleled beauty and complexity.  There may even be other self-aware life, but the setup does not allow us to know,  I think if God is the creator, he worked with the available materials.  He cannot violate physics any more than we can.  Consciousness and power at God magnitude may well be real, but way beyond what we can experience.

So, wisdom.  Yes, after 74 years of experience I have learned a great deal.  I know to my satisfaction that education and money does not make people's lives more satisfying.  I know that philosophy has no answers, only more questions.  I know what it feels like to live peacefully, to treat others both badly and well.  Hurting others does not feel good.  I must have people in my life or the rails disappear.  The problem with wisdom is that no one listens, much less believes, anything I say.

I am indebted to my parents and I cannot repay them. I can only clear the debt by treating others as well as they treated me.  I suspect this gift - repayment cycle has been repeated many times by my ancestors.  The repayment is always one or two generations later.  I realize that my birth families had a lot of ability to project me into a similar family through Lutheran social services.  I was not just lucky or fortunate.  I was an inconvenient baby and they mailed me to a forwarding address.  It worked as well as they might have wished and prayed.
So I spend quite a bit of my time in repayment.  I take care of Julie and others around me.  I take care of myself.  I channel God when the opportunity presents itself.  I comfort others at their life's end.  I remind them of the power and promise of their faith.  I help people relax into their ever-after.

The atmosphere I was brought up in worked, the social structure worked.  Not much actually works well in the world on any scale larger than the congregation.  It would be completely stupid to abandon this system simply because I cannot locate God or do not understand her ways.  Bible stories are consistent enough.  They do not need to be freighted with the significance theology piles on them to be both true and useful.  They need no inspiration to serve their function.  They very effectively glue communities of people together who are better for it.
Humans are barely ten thousand years past the widespread adoption of agriculture.  This is nothing, an eye-blink in the 100 million year history of our species.  Agriculture may not have been a good thing, but here we are,  We are far too primitive to live successfully without belief in God.

Some of this from an Email 7/12/16

A Practicing Lutheran, notes

Email 7/11/16
Just figured out why I have become so much dumber as I have moved into Trinity leadership.The only experience I have as an adult Lutheran is what we have shared the last few years.  I seem to be pretty Lutheran, but as a young man visiting the future.  My Lutheran experience did not grow since the sixties.  I missed everything.  So much is not obvious to me. I have trouble with the sequence of the service.  I can do all the parts, but I do not know how they follow each other until I completely diagram it out  I came close to discovering the equivalence of stewardship with generosity, but it never kicked into place.  Now I see why you (PM) wonder who I am addressing and why I write these long flowing bizarre essays revealing the depth to which I do not understand the adult Lutheran mind.

I write these long pieces for myself as a way of understanding "Lutheran"   I perceive that if I think things through very carefully, and writing is how I do that, some kind person will read all this stuff that makes no sense to them and explain the part I am missing.

My adult mind went down different paths and does not know what adult faith feels like.  If my parents had not done such a peachy job of socializing me it would have been much harder to be accepted at Trinity.  I have the look, the voice, know hymns, the creed, the Luther story, lots of theology I treat sort of like serious myth.  I stopped thinking about the disconnect in my mind and floated on autopilot to get this far. 

The adult Lutheran part of me is just missing except from what I have learned recently.  The feeling part of me is like a visitor from the past, whipped 50 years into the future. It is so confusing because I turn out to enjoy theology in retirement.  I will probably become able to describe every heresy that ever was.  For me, the path Latin Christianity followed, the segment we belong to,  was only one out of thousands of other paths that were also traveled by groups of people since Christ.  I see no evidence God ever set anyone straight if they had the wrong idea.  There are no nudges that I can find.  All just people with the usual competency and behavior.

Of course, I feel the creed is absolutely how things are.  God is so much larger we cannot grasp him at all.

You will have to burn only half of me.  :) :)

If I had seen "Extravagant Generosity" six months ago we might have been spared my dissection of stewardship from an outsider's perspective.  Thank God for Robert.  Harry G. is one of my faith heroes.

I may be useful at some point ministering to the fallen away, the worn out, those who no longer see any point in church.  I would advise young Christians to take a much longer view of faith through their lives, which is impossible for them, The sacrament has great power. A young member asked me point blank if I believed the Christian story a couple of years ago and I replied in the affirmative,  If people can hold on to some glimmer of faith and keep showing up Sundays, the horrible ways one can be abandoned by life might be tolerable.  Poor, weak faith is some kind of norm for people who write about it.  Faith cannot be so weak that we must believe ourselves accursed hypocrites, that we must stay away forever because we are not genuine enough, because we are impostors,  It is survivable to simultaneously believe and not believe.  Faith is sneaky and can become real while you are not paying close attention,  Practice is the operative concept.  Faith practice.

On Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 9:48 PM, David Sheriff <> wrote:
Thank God for both of you.  I could never have stayed with church without the two of you.  I am truly where I belong as long as I do  not insult someone's beliefs too aggressively and drive them away.  I now know to stay quiet and bottle up my reforming, problem-solving self on matters of faith, particularly not being able to understand the faith of others.

I have been concerned with the stewardship posting because I do not know how to recreate other's faith.  Empathy requires us to feel what the other feels,to literally re-create their point of view internally, to walk in their shoes.  I have limits there.  I will help as you wish, but I can never steer.  I have faith, even strong faith, but it is not the faith my parents had.  They tried so hard to get me to see as an adult.  I had to exhaust every other possible source of meaning before giving up and returning home spiritually.  I may be big-time internally conflicted for the rest of my life.  I understand love, though, and that may be enough.  I can compartmentalize pretty well and ride herd on my disbelief by doing so.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Why just lie there and take it?  Why is paralyzing fear women's dominant response to male aggression?  Why, so often, don't women fight back harder? Do our instincts value survival so highly that men mostly get away with rape? Ugh.  Men are violent.

Generally speaking, women will bear, love and raise any child that grows within them?   Is emotionally shattering submission the ugly price of propelling the species through pestilence, war and famine?  Is women's self-respect not genetically conserved? 

The classic pattern of conquest is to kill the men and children and impregnate the women.  Women tend to survive, to bear the children of their conquerors. Ghengis Kahn's genes are the most ubiquitous in populations today.

I don't like this idea. Misogyny is never excusable. Inter-gender violence is abhorrent.  Restricting women's roles in the 21st century is wrongheaded. But how did we arrived at society's wicked, perverse gender preferences?  Why is the problem so widespread?  Why are we in this unholy mess?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Surviving Dryness

Summer 2018

I have only recently experienced, on any consistent basis, complete physical hydration.  
Not only have I been consistently taking in less water than my body requires (for years), 
I have essentially denied the possibility that something as simple and obvious as drinking enough
fluid might alleviate a number of physical and mental symptoms I have been willing to brush off 
as collateral, age-related damage.  I have been operationally and conceptually clueless with all of 
the evidence and medical opinion staring me full in the face. The depth of my blinded dysfunctionality 
may take a while for you to fully appreciate. I feel completely poleaxed, but otherwise thrilled.

I can only describe how this feels using explicitly religious, supra-luminal imagery.  It feels miraculous, 
entire universes of unsuspected possibility unfurl before me. Which gives you a feel for the craziness 
lurking just out of sight.     

In retrospect, the exquisitely sensitive, completely automatic systems controlling water balance in 
my body started malfunctioning a decade ago. I have probably drifted along a liter or two short 
ever since.

Dehydration can be the perfect, slippery green sinkhole that swallows up your particular life. 
It is completely self-blinding; mental acuity goes first when hydration falls. Dehydration in the 
elderly is a matter of subtlety, of varying degree, of perception, opinion, mood, judgement; 
not an agreed-upon concretion from the peer-reviewed, double blind tested, evidence-based 
medicine world. I have talked over my more dramatic close calls with very competent, caring 
doctors for a long time and no effective prescriptions have been forthcoming. "Stay hydrated." 
How would I know what that means? Over the years I learned what I feel like just before I pass out, 
never what it feels like to be fully hydrated. Not until very recently.

Chronic dehydration masquerades as many of the age-related mileposts we come to accept 
during our return to dust. It's all there in my case: crankiness, constipation, mental lapse of every 
flavor, flash rages, loud talking, ADD, depression, bizarre incompetence, dry mouth, scratchy eyes, 
dizziness, whiteouts. Plenty enough to recognize if a miracle drops.

If escape was obvious or easy, if we could consciously re-achieve homoeostasis when the original 
systems wear out, perhaps I would have, given enough time. But no, not that.

One ordinary day for no special reason not long ago God decides to call my bluff, drops a scale 
from my eye, gives me a clue, and utterly demolishes every excuse. And the tears will not stop 
flowing, all that wetness in such dry places, tears of gratitude, of humiliation, of joy, of sheer 
nakedness, of promise where there are no promises, of time when time has run out.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Latter Day Saint

So now I'm going to go Mormon.  Surprising only if you have not been following along. 

7/3/17 Email:

Various family and loved ones.

I hold that all religious truth is subjective. We are judged by God alone.  No two people experience God in exactly the same way.  I am done with arguing creeds and doctrine except in the privacy of my heart.  I am open to people, not to ideology.

 If any live the Christian behavior James described. I will consider them "of God" as their lives proclaim.  The local LDS people I know are of God by this standard and by many others.  I am completely certain the Christ they worship is the very same Christ I was raised to worship and worship now.  It is, after all, The Church of Jesus Christ, really.  I expect to join the Saints as fully as I can for the love and sake of my nearest children and grandchildren.  This move would be impossible except for a very generous gift of faith from the Holy Spirit which bridges all contradiction.

On a daily basis we can only act locally and must choose from what is possible locally. I forsake none of my current Christian brothers and sisters, pastor or congregation.   This is a "both-and" choice, not an "either-or" choice.

I consider that no sect or religion has exclusive access to God.  Emnity for those we consider in error is simply hateful behavior no matter how anyone reaches that conclusion.  Hate is evidence for the existence of Satan.  I have not considered him real for many years but you are welcome to your experience.

I judge none of you and love all of you. I pray you not judge me and I know some have and others will.  I must act in my interest and as God permits me to do. Everyone must take responsibility for their own soul.

I do not love you all equally as might be the ideal, but I love you and can not lie about such matters.  I hope to set no example except for service.  This was not a competition and everyone of good will wins.

I will care for Julie because that is who I am.  That behavior was cemented as I watched my parents care for each other and for the dear ones they could care for.  I expect to spend what life remains caring for others as I am capable.  The LDS organization is particularly well organized in this regard, as in many other ways.  I expect my abilities will be fruitfully applied and I will serve as God would have me.

We will be fine.  This is not a call for help.   It is a prayer for peace.  You may forward this as your heart advises.

In the Risen Christ,


8/24/17  The more I learn the scarier converting to Mormonism becomes.

Edward and me.

Do I have the alpha male thing?  I have led, managed, administrated and inspired folks.  Blazing forward, earned my keep.  Don't follow well for very long.  Both loyal and occasionally not.  Very trustworthy.  Capable of serious betrayal and living with it.  I will die with plenty of secrets.  Very good at getting people to trust and teach me.  Can pick brains, which requires the full opposite of dominance.  Simultaneously firstborn and a younger brother, can switch modes instantly.  I would have been a good double agent.

Bought Julie a tiny Chih tzu pup purebred with papers.  Neither of us with much real dog experience.  Bought what the breeder showed us without seeing both parents.  Much later learned the trick to buying promising pound animals.  Good ones go fast.  Put in your name while the animal is still in isolation, waiting for an owner who may never show.  Takes persistence as does any good thing.  Never did that.  Too late smart.  We die with so much experience and capability.

Named the pup Edward after my father's older brother and not his favorite. An obscure trick on the dead.  I have a fondness for scrappy, independent animals.  A little like my first wife, Tweet.  I came by the skill sort of honestly.  Owned a toucan just like the fruit loops bird for half a dozen years.   Simultaneously had multiple sneaky cats.  The bird can defend himself during the day.  The cats attack at night when the bird is blind.  Panics the bird even in a big strong cage.  The bird needs its own room with a door.

That long beak is quite a weapon and the toucan knows how to attack anything it can see.  Wild birds are always feisty with each other unless they're mates.  You do not want to watch ducks breed if you don't enjoy violence.

If you're standing in a doorway with a big bird flying toward you, stop.  The bird can tuck in it's wings and fly through narrow gaps.  If you move, the bird cannot correct in time and collision results.  So I learned how to deal with animals generally, on their terms.  I understand how they think.

But babies, puppies, are different.  I have so little experience with babies.  Babies, and puppies, cannot be allowed to have their own way, must learn to be submissive.  I did not know that when Edward came along.  Julie was damaged in ways I did not appreciate.  So Edward never got potty trained.  Ignoring the problem always makes it worse.  In that way Edward became my problem.

Must finish this story another time.