Saturday, September 30, 2006

I Finally Have a FISHING Boat

They say three times is a charm, and that’s exactly what it took to turn my Arima into a fishing boat.

I had the boat out on salt water today for just the third time, this trip with my son Doug. The skunk came off the vessel at 1:30pm east of Jeff Head, in 104 feet of water, on a green/silver Coyote spoon trolled behind a flasher some 45-feet beneath the surface on my downrigger.

The fish was an ocean grown Chum salmon, weighing 8+ pounds and measuring just about 30 inches in length.

Chum are the hardest fighting, per pound, of the various species of salmon available in Puget Sound. This guy lived up to his reputation, making three powerful runs, once trying to go deep under the boat, before he finally tired enough for Doug to deftly net him.

I owe getting the fish in to Doug, because while I was focused on something else, he saw my rod tip start to dance and watched as the fish snapped the line off the downrigger clip with a powerful strike. It was he who grabbed the pole and firmly set the hook that then gave me a chance to have a lot of fun while the fish made its runs. Thanks, son.

Chum are said to be the least desirable of the area salmonoids for eating, but Doug wanted to check it out. We filleted a slab and threw it on the barbie after marinating it a bit in his secret salmon sauce.

The fish tasted just fine. Probably due mostly to his tasty marinade. It didn’t hurt that we bled the fish immediately and kept him cool in the fish box till we got him home, where Doug took the above pic. It’s hard to goof up fresh salmon just out of the water.

I love living in the Northwest!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Two More Boat Firsts

Yesterday was another boat first in a couple of ways: a) we took the boat out in a fresh water lake (rather than the salt water of Puget Sound), and b) our dog Buddy went along.

First mate Kay Lynne did just fine in helping me to handle the boat, but as you can see in the photo, Buddy never quite got his sea legs. He did make flawless jumps onto KL’s lap every time we were rocked by speedboat wake waves.

I wanted to get a handle on the trout population at Kitsap Lake near Bremerton. They’re there, but we didn’t have a fish fry for dinner.

This time I just trolled deep, looking for the big ones, but luck wasn’t with us. We did enjoy a couple of hours of gorgeous sunshine, northwest scenery and viewing lakeside homes. One palacious estate had its own seaplane at dockside.

When we pulled the boat out, I asked around for the best baits to use for trout. “Use pop gear and trail some power bait,” one guy offered. “You can’t keep ‘em off your hook!”


But then, I didn’t want the “plants” he was talking about; I was looking for the “big daddies”.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Fresh Perspective Can Be Liberating

Taking a mind trip through my 55+ years as a Christian, I can’t recall a time when there wasn’t some kind of an “onus” on me. I fully realize that, indeed, the “onus(es)” may have been illusory, or even self-induced, but then again I’m not sure.

It all depends on how one looks at things spiritual. I’ll try to explain.

Even though I was fully cognizant that salvation itself was a gift from God, I always felt that I had to hold up “my end of the bargain”.

In grade school, I couldn’t cheat because, even if I got away with it, God was watching. In high school, I needed to carry a Bible among my books “to be a witness”.

In college I needed to develop a solid apologetic for my faith so I could “defend the faith” (not surprisingly, often weakly). After I got married, it was important to “establish a Christian home”. At work, I needed to “act like a Christian” in a supposed effort to be “salt” in the world. After retiring, I needed to figure out how I could possibly still be of any use to God. And on it goes.

Note the (misplaced) emphasis was always on what I had to do.

In contrast, the Lutheran perspective, that my wife and I are richly discovering, maintains that it is the grace of God which frees us to live out our “call” or “vocation” (see last post). What?

Did you say the grace of God FREES us to just live? That’s indeed what Martin Luther – and other reformers – believed and practiced.

This fresh perspective may appear to be semantic or oversimplified. But to me it is revolutionary and liberating.

The emphasis is not on me or I or what I have to do. I am free to just live, with God as my center, in a world that he created and in which he continues to creatively involve himself (read Psalm 104).

I am part of his continuing creative work (as are you). Now, in a fresh way, I am free to immerse myself in it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Free To Live Out Our “Call” – More on "The Centered Life"

Yesterday I again attended our adult Sunday School class on The Centered Life. The concept is gaining clarity and meaning for me.

With God as our center, as Christians we are freed from the need to earn our salvation or justify our existence on earth. The Lutheran tradition suggests that through God’s grace we are freed to live and serve our neighbor.

A 1993 ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) statement on “vocation” maintains that God calls all Christians to a life of vocation. Vocation in this context means “living out one’s call.”

Lutheran thought conceptualizes “vocation” or “the Christian call” as transpiring in FOUR domains: our workplace, our home, our community and our congregation. We spent a lot of the time yesterday massaging the first – the workplace.

Jack Fortin, author of the book of the same title as our class, defines “workplace” as “wherever we spend a significant portion of our time, engaged in activity (whether compensated or not) that produces goods and services, that makes use of our God-given talents and that provides us an opportunity to serve God’s purposes in the world.” Wow. That even includes us retired folks!

Fortin then explains that God calls us in individual ways that often fit our own unique personalities and situations. However, God’s call can take many forms.

Peter the fisherman was called in a whole new direction as a disciple and subsequent apostle. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, was called to live differently in his same occupation. Frederick Buechner thinks our calling lies in “that place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need”.

How, then, should we discern and live out our own call?

That is my ponderance for this week. Lord, give me sensitivity, understanding and the freedom to live it out.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

September Showers Interrupt Piscatorial Fancies

Several days of rain and showers this week have kept my thoughts away from the boat and fishing. Besides, we’re doing the final prep work for new counter tops in the kitchen. But it’s predicted to clear up tomorrow through the weekend, and one never knows what might happen.

Fall weather definitely arrived this week with cooler temperatures along with the moisture, and that means that the water temperatures in nearby lakes will correspondingly drop. I’m anxious to try Kitsap Lake near Bremerton, known mostly for its bass and spiny ray populations.

What’s not as well known is that the Washington DFW at least annually stocks the impoundment with trout of various sizes, including triploids, but the problem is locating them.

The lake is large enough and deep enough to accommodate trout year around, but it is somewhat of a mystery where they go during the warm summer days when jet skis and water skiers abound.

If they go real deep, there is usually less oxygen than needed for sustenance. Somehow they manage to find the right level in the thermocline that is both cool enough (60 degrees or less) and yet contains enough life-sustaining oxygen.

With the water sports enthusiasts finally diverted to other seasonal interests, now may be a perfect opportunity to scout out the trout that made it through the heat of summer and have grown even larger.

For a month or two, as water temps gradually decline, the trout lines need to get wet. The fish will instinctively be foraging for food before the lethargy of a cold-water winter sets in. Maybe I’ll get a chance to give it a try.

Unless the ocean Coho salmon start rounding Point No Point first (check last post).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Is the “Balanced” Life a Myth For Christians?

I attended a new adult Sunday School Class for the first time this week. The subject matter has been on my mind ever since.

Our study is based on the book, The Centered Life, by Jack Fortin, a Lutheran scholar. One of the benefits of joining a church of a new denomination has been and continues to be the exposure to fresh (for me) Christian thinking.

In his book, Fortin points out that most of us futilely seek a “balanced” life. Our new buzz word is “compartmentalization”. We try to walk a tight rope, giving ample time and focus to home, family, work, kids, politics, education and a social life. Is it a wonder most of us live a tension-filled life?

Rather, suggests Fortin, as Christians, we should seek a “centered life” – centered on God, through Christ, who created us. The Church at its best, he feels, is the place where we can find and practice this centering.

Fortin proposes that there are four dimensions to the “centered life”—
· That we are awakened to God’s presence in our life
· That we are called to live our faith in every situation
· That we are set free to contribute our unique gifts to God’s work in the world
· That we are nurtured and supported by a community of faith

For me, this is a nuance in my faith journey that I’m looking forward to not only exploring, but also to hopefully put into practice. I’m looking forward already to Sunday.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bobbing Like A Cork In A Washing Machine

Yesterday my son Doug and I fished for Coho salmon in my recently acquired Arima boat. The story of the day, however, was weather-related, not fish-related.

After launching around 7am at slack tide, we headed some 10 miles from the ramp to Point-No-Point (PNP) at the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula.

The massive amount of sea water that flows into the entire Puget Sound with each incoming tide passes through the channel between the PNP lighthouse and Possession Bar at the south tip of Whidbey Island some four miles to the northeast.

Of course that’s the spot we chose to fish. When the ocean grown salmon come into the Sound from which they make their upriver spawning runs, they have to come through here. Right? Right, IF they are coming. Unfortunately, they’re not migrating quite yet.

But back to the non-fish story. The day started great – fairly calm, not much wind and a slight cloud cover. Nothing out of the ordinary was forecasted.

By 9:30 or so, however, the tide was moving in at close to 10 knots, and a 20 mph wind had come up directly contrary to the tide. When this happens, mother nature is not smiling.

Combine the aforementioned with the incredible rip tides that occur in the area along with the rolling wakes of ocean freighters, and you’ve got liquid mountains of swelling, roiling chop.

It takes every nautical skill you have to man the boat, the downriggers and your lines when the vessel is tossed about like a cork in a washing machine.

In spite of it all, Doug managed to hook an apparently large Chinook that stubbornly stayed down and eventually broke his leader. We took solace in the fact that, had it been a Chinook, we would have had to return it to the water (Kings are not in season there). And he got one dog fish (small pesky shark). We both threw back several shakers (juvenile Chinook).

The boat performed wonderfully, even in the tumultuous waters, despite the fact that it’s only 16-feet long. We never felt unsafe – just a bit queasy at times.

When it finally calmed down in mid-afternoon, I snapped the above photo of Doug with my cell phone (and then made a phone call on my fish-finder :-). We’ll get the Coho next time.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Air Up Here (In the Northwest)

Earlier this evening, as light was fading, I walked out on our front porch and was immediately swathed in our exceptional Northwest air. There is nothing quite like it.

I took a long, deep breath. And I did it again. And again.

Northwest air actually has a wonderful fragrance. It is at once fresh, clean, moist, crisp, cool and is permeated with oxygen and ozone from the forests and seasoned with a perfect tinge of saltiness from Puget Sound.

I believe if you could bottle its bouquet, you could get rich marketing it.

Northwest air is invigorating – right down to your core being. It’s also rejuvenating. Get some exercise while breathing it, and you’ll sleep like a rock and wake up refreshed. It’s also addicting. You can never get enough of it.

As Buddy our dog bounded back up the stairs after refreshing himself, I enjoyed one last deep breath. The air up here creates a pleasurable experience even out of routine things. And I am thankful to be here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fishing for Men and Women

I’ve often wondered about Christ’s suggestion that we should be “fishers of men” (and women, too, of course).

Reason is, I’m a fisher, and “fishing” can often be rather brutal on the target. As beautiful and enticing as the bait or lure may appear, the hook is rather sharp and usually effectively permanent.

Of course we need to acknowledge that “fishing” has changed somewhat from what it was two millennia ago. In Christ’s time, large nets were used as the primary means by which fish were harvested.

Once a school was located (without an electronic fish-finder, interestingly), a net was thrown out, and the fish were gathered onto the shore or into a boat, sometimes even threatening the vessel’s capacity.

What has always caused me wonder is thinking about how we are to carry out this directive with regard to people. How do we locate possible “prey”? Will our targets respond in unison as a school of fish does? What is the modern equivalent of the large, casting nets? And are we to “herd” unsuspecting victims into the kingdom?

Admittedly, the questions are rhetorical. Of course reason tells us that our Lord’s imperative was allegorical rather than literal. And I've so far not even acknowledged a critical ingredient in Christ's proposition.

"Follow me", he urged, "and I will make you fishers of men". If we are true followers of Christ, then we'll likely be living our lives in ways that the Gospel will be seen as being appealing -- or at the least something worth exploring.

I’ll probably reflect on this again sometime when I’m out fishing. Maybe it would be even better if I invited someone along who might be interested in engaging.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bible Study Provokes Thought and (Hopefully) Action

We often think of Jesus as a perfect model. It isn’t often we encounter his humanness.

Last night in our men’s Bible study at church, we discovered a very interesting (and for many of us, overlooked) aspect of Christ’s ministry. Our focus was on the second chapter of Mark’s Gospel where Jesus deals with the Syro-Phoenician woman who wanted help for her demon-filled little daughter.

A Greek woman, she had come down to Tyre where she must have heard Jesus was. Truth be told, Jesus was there trying to avoid the pressing crowds and to get some rest. But the woman would have no part of it. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

In fact, the Matthew account of this incident says that Jesus initially ignored her requests and that the disciples actually asked him to “send her away” because of her loud, distressed cries. The Lord’s apparently stark and harsh response was what astounded us last night.

“First, let the children eat all they want”, Christ told them, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” In Matthew, his response was, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”, which sort of explains what he meant in Mark’s version.

But it also raises a LOT of questions.

Why did Jesus avoid this apparent opportunity to show his power in ministry? Did Jesus really “look down” on Gentiles as is implied? Or does this event simply show his weariness, frustration and humanness? Why didn’t he act immediately? What is going on?

Of course when the woman answered the Lord by saying, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” Jesus responded with wonderful and comforting words. “For such a reply (which exhibited her great faith), you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

The episode ends well, but the trail sure took some interesting turns. We spent quite a bit of time discussing what we can learn from this occurrence. Among many possibilities, the myriad of relationships between faith and works (especially from Luther’s perspective) emerged as a worthy ponderance.

Because we are justified by faith, we should now act accordingly, rather than "resting on our laurels". Faith, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead, says the book of James.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Inaugural Voyage For New (To Me) Arima Boat Gets An A-OK

In my last post, I mentioned that I hoped to get the Arima in the water sometime this weekend. Good thing it was still part of the holiday “weekend” today, as we launched her this morning.

My cousin Joel Narva joined me for the inaugural voyage, and we pronounced it a splashing success at day’s end. We even caught fish, albeit not the kind we were after.

In reality, today’s trip was a bit stressful. Whenever you acquire a used boat, there are a multiplicity of things that need checking out. Hull, main engine, kicker, radio, depth/fish finder, batteries, switches, downriggers and bilge pumps all need scrutiny. Most importantly, how does she handle the waters of Puget Sound?

Just fine, thank you. All systems are a-ok.

We even caught fish – dog fish! (Puget Sound small annoying sharks) Pic at right shows one of three that managed to spoil our fun. I couldn’t figure out why they would hit a salmon lure until we saw half of a “shaker” (a salmon too juvenile to keep) on the hook with the shark. The small Chinook hit first, and the shark took advantage of easy prey.

Above left is Joel manning the tiller handle of the kicker as we trolled through fairly calm waters for about four hours. The best news is that the boat passed the test with flying colors. We’ll get the Coho later when they finally get here. We might have been a tad early for the ocean fish.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Great Time of the Year

The past couple of weeks have been as good as they get for us older folks. And of course the vast majority of it had to do with kids and grandkids.

It began, however, with my finding a highly-desired Arima fishing boat with just about everything on it that I need to fish. Then I got to spend two solid days with my son Gregg, helping drive his new-to-them RV home to Oregon from Colorado.

Then Gregg and Elaine and family came to visit, and to make it even better, our granddaughters were able to stay over for a few days of fun activities after their parents had to return home. And our other son Doug and his wife Jamie came over while all were here, giving us the cherished time with the whole family together.

We finally took the granddaughters home via Amtrak this past Tuesday (note the kid-empty train car above on our return trip), and since then I’ve focused on getting the boat ready to fish. I hope to get it in the water maybe sometime this weekend.

Hope y’all have a great holiday weekend! Why do we NOT work on LABOR DAY? It’s a question for the ages.