Friday, November 12, 2004



One day in the early autumn of 1984, if you'd have been standing at the end
of Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, you'd have seen a man walk past with a
five-gallon plastic bucket full of unidentified stuff. That was me on my
way to the beach with what I thought was the solution to a problem: a
plastic sheet and some sticks. I wrapped the plastic around the sticks
after I pounded them into the beach, and then started filling the resulting
cylindric form with sand. I wanted to make a sand sculpture with equipment
that could be carried easily.

It didn't work. The plastic wasn't strong enough. I couldn't see anything
wrong with the principle of a flexible cylindric form, but I'd chosen the
wrong materials. A couple of weeks later, had you been standing there
again, you'd have seen me walk past with the same bucket, but with a roll
of ugly mustard yellow material on my shoulder.

This was supposed to work in the same way: wrap the reinforced material
around tall stakes, and pack sand in the cylindric form. I'd used boards as
a form but they're hard to carry. The new form worked, as far as holding
the sand while I packed it, but as soon as I removed the form half the pile
of sand fell over. I carved the remnant and analyzed the failure.

I thought the most likely cause was settling of the sand underneath my
packed cylindric pile. Before I set up the form the next time, I poured
water onto the beach and stomped it until it was firm. Then I set up the
form and filled it. The pile I made that day was the first successful one
done with a flexible form. Part of the sculpture fell off when I carved it
too thin but that was a different kind of problem.

I'd not thought about the weight of a sand sculpture until that first one
fell. Wet, compacted sand is dense and puts a great load on what's
underneath it. A solid foundation is necessary. Modern technique is to make
a raised foundation, or sokkel, for the sculpture because this gets it
above the waste sand produced in carving. It takes time to make this
foundation, and it has to be done right. Even castles made largely of air
need something solid to support them.

I told my sister about my Weblog. Until this, I'd not said anything about
my restored relationship with the Living God. "Note that you may very well
not like it," I wrote.

She responded the next evening, writing "Well this is interesting. At the
time in my life when I have reached a new low of respect for christianity
and those who call themselves christians, my own brother has become one.
Ain't that just a kick in the head." She went on from there to tell me all
the reasons she didn't like Christians.

Well, she has good reason. As Lu has noted in some of her recent Blog
entries, the modern church is in a sad state. I told my sister some of my
thoughts on this subject in a message that the Holy Spirit helped me to
write in a way that was, I hoped, truthful but not excessively

I sent a copy to Lu. She wrote back:

"Thanks for sharing this with me! Your answer to your sister is great.
Well-thought out, well-articulated, humble and honest. Not to mention very
insightful. I think you are right. You have a gift of discernment -- and a
highly tuned shit-detector. :)" And at the end, she wrote "I'm proud of
you, bro. I see so much of Jesus in you. I see His fingerprints all over

In 1972 I gave my sister good reason to dislike Christians. Coming from a
family that was based on rules and duty, it was easy for me to assume that
a Christian's life was run the same way. The church I was in at the time
reinforced this idea. Push hard. Make yourself do it. Happiness might come
someday but that's not why you're here. You can be happy after the work is
all done. Eventually I couldn't ignore the alarms my bullshit detector
gave, and then the whole thing collapsed of its own weight.

No foundation. What's the difference between a Christian who is God's
working enemy, and one who shows Jesus' fingerprints? What's the difference
between a sculpture standing proud and glowing in the sunset, and a loose
heap of sand? Time, experience, care, practice, and in the case of the
Christian, God's loving attention.

You walk into a church. Maybe you're looking for answers, and you feel as
if you've found some there. You hang around, and then you start to get
dragged into all kinds of activities. You can barely spell "Jesus," but
you're being required to deal with words like "proselytize" and "community"
and weird permutations of faith and works. You've come in with your fair
share of fear, and now you're handed more because you know that if you
don't do all these things God will be upset and you might find yourself
back out on the streetcorner, alone and cold.

Choose your religion. Being based on people, they all do the same thing.
They trade in fear.

Only God's perfect love can cast out fear. That's the only reason Lu can
see the hallmarks of Jesus in my life. His love is a gift that He has
rained steadily enough into me that it's beginning to show.

Grass can split a concrete sidewalk. Oak trees rend granite mountains.
Water cut the Grand Canyon. What's your image of power? Dynamite? An atom
bomb? Or a gentle rain of blessing? The others work, oh yes, but the
results aren't really anything you'd want to live with, unless such
destruction is all you know. That's why God has a hard time getting through
to people.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?