Sunday, July 11, 2010

God’s Sense of Humor | Look at us!

Homer, Alaska is the halibut fishing capital of the world, some of those caught weighing up to 730 lbs, 8’ long. They are one of God’s strange creations, at birth having an eye on each side of the head and swimming like a salmon. After about 6 months, one eye migrates to the other side and the color changes on the stationary-eyed side to disguise it from predators. God does have a sense of humor, doesn’t he? Look at some of us!

Now docked out on Homer Spit, there are “some of us” strange looking creatures disembarking to have a look-see – each of us “created in His image,” mind you. All rushing to have our pictures taken along side one of these bottom-feeding behemoths as they hang there on the weighing hooks (above). It’s really quite a funny sight if you stop and think about it, almost laughable. Which one has the Toni? Remember that commercial?

Makes me wonder, did God have these images in mind when creating us? Or did we screw it up somewhere along the way? For example, were “comb overs” included in His creation plan (See sample above)? What about makeup, liposuction and BOTOX? Or did He have a balanced diet, exercise and aging gracefully in mind? “Smile, Honey!” Get the picture? Standing next to this strange looking fish: Shorts, skinny white legs, pot belly hanging over, hair sprouting out the ears and extreme comb over – “Created in God’s image?”

The name, halibut, is derived from haly (holy) butt (flat fish) because of its popularity as a delicacy on Catholic Holy Days. I’ll leave the exegesis on this bit of knowledge to someone cleverer than I am. Go ahead, let your imagination run wild. There must be a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

Next port is Kodiak, where “there are more than 2,000 resident Kodiak bears on the island. North America’s largest carnivores and the world’s largest bear species, Kodiaks can be more than 10 feet tall, can weigh more than 1,200 pounds and are part of the Grizzly family; another of God’s strange creations. God does have a sense of humor, doesn’t he? Again, look at some of us.

Back on board, the Lakers are playing the Phoenix Suns again for the Western Conference Championship, watching it in the Sports Bar, Lorna Luft and entourage there whooping it up. Basketball is a strange game, isn’t it, grown, seemingly intelligent men running up and down this 94’ by 50’ court for 60 minutes (which takes 3 hours) trying to put a ball through a rim 10’ high and 18” in diameter? And they are paid millions for doing so! Can you believe this LeBron James thing? King James, Chosen One, really?

Ever look closely at these revered, athlete behemoths? Talk about strange creations. Take Shaquille O’Neal for example: 7-foot, one-inch tall, 360 pounds, size 23 shoe, shaved head and fully inked torso. Stand him up next to one of those Halibut fish or Kodiak bears. Get the picture?

Even stranger, stand my 5-foot, six-inch, 150 pound frame, receding hairline (no comb over yet), size 7 shoe and lily white, flabby torso next to his. Get the picture? I’ll bet I could take him in a game of Horse, though (ever watch Shaq shoot free throws?). David against Goliath!

Compare myself to David? Maybe not! He must have been the exception. There aren’t many of us who could sing, as he did, “ I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works… (Ps 134:14). The word ‘wonderfully” means: unique, set apart, uniquely marvelous, each and every one of us a very individual creation. Ah, maybe so!

Still, anyway you look at it God does have a great sense of humor. Take an honest peak in the mirror if you don’t believe me.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Among Goliaths | Standing Out!

Anchorage, Alaska, not a cloud in the sky, Denali (“high place”), also known as Mt. McKinley, towering majestically in the distance, the Goliath of North American summits (20,320 feet). We’re told that temperatures at the top can dip below 100°F.

Ours is the first ship sailing into Anchorage after dredging of the harbor, coming in and leaving with the high tide very critical. Cameras and politicians everywhere, and I didn’t even bring my uniform. Commissioner Who? As a once high-placed Commissioner liked to say, “Upon retirement, I went from “Who’s Who!” to “Who’s He?” In hindsight, with all the uniforms on board (lots of gold braid), wearing mine, oozing velvet, might have brought preferential treatment (“high place”). Next time.

Speaking of uniform, there’s a Catholic priest aboard, conducting daily mass, high collar and all. He stands about 6’ 3’, very conspicuous, towering majestically above me. After a few days, high collar or naught, he is recognizable and very approachable, always a kind word (“Who’s Who”). Interestingly, I’m magnetically drawn toward attending his mass, conflicted about my Protestantism for the moment.

There’s also a Protestant service, but only on Sunday’s, the minister with no identifiable costume, invisible, blending in with the rest of us. They all pretty much look alike don’t they? – Dignified, severe expression, high forehead, thick glasses, pudgy around the middle and a long sleeved white shirt buttoned to the collar. I think I’ve spotted him, kind of looks like a Salvation Army Officer in civvies. The uniform does wonders for some, doesn’t it? Transforming, majestic, regal and imposing.

The Divisional Leaders in Alaska, Majors Doug and Sherry Tollerud, give us a grand tour, which includes a look-see at their magnificent camp, 700 some acres surrounding a gorgeous lake in Wasilla, they in uniform and we in civvies (Pictured above). I’ll let your imagination take over from there – what’s the plural of moose? Anyway can't see them, standing just out of the frame. By the way, Sarah Palin is one of their neighbors – “You betcha!”

Had to get back on board for the Los Angeles Lakers Playoff Game against the Phoenix Suns, a few 7’ plus Goliaths among them. Forget the Alaskan grandeur for a moment, got to be there in spirit with my buddy, Jack Nicholson, the Goliath of Academy Award winning actors.

Forget Jack, sitting in the lounge physically with us watching the game is Lorna Luft (daughter of Judy Garland), bedecked in Lakers uniform regalia (Pictured above, a little out of focus, forgive me). No question where she stands, vocally, ceremonially or otherwise. Lifting her hands high, she proclaims, “He (Kobe) is Lord (of basketball)! And here I sit, unceremoniously, in civvies. You get the picture. The game ended dramatically with the Lakers scoring in the last second to win, high fives all around. Lorna, upon leaving, places her hand on Doris’ shoulder and says, “I’ve got to go back to my room and take a Valium after that!”

Lorna performed the next evening, reminiscing about her two-year run on Broadway in Guys and Dolls, playing the lead female role, uniform, bonnet and all. In her remarks, she referenced this show as the Goliath of all Broadway Musicals. The lights dim, the orchestra strikes an opening credenza and she sings a medley of songs from the show. At its conclusion, I want to jump up and shout, “We’re Salvation Army Officers; that musical was about us!”

Alas! We sit there diminutively, quietly subdued in our civvies (Let your imagination run). Were we dressed in Salvation Army WARdrobe regalia, we would undoubtedly tower majestically above the crowd (“high place”), conspicuously, recognizable and approachable – buttons popping, high fives flailing.

Hmmm? Isn’t there a Biblical story somewhere about a light and a bushel? Exegetically, is TSA uniform a light or a bushel? Or maybe both depending? Standing out like a sore thumb. Or standing out, above the crowd.

“Once you're watching every move that I make
You gotta believe that I got what it takes
To stand out, above the crowd…” (Disney: “Stand Out)

There goes that love/hate relationship again.

PS Read the previous posts on this Alaskan Cruise travelogue, if you haven't already.