Don’t Ever Give Up the Ship

By Colonel Dennis Phillips – 

When was the last time you visited the Chief Secretary’s office? What? Never, you say? Well, come on down (or up or over–whatever) and, as they say in parts of the Midwest, “sit a spell.” It can get lonely at the top (or, near the top) and I am always glad to welcome visitors into my office. (I can hear Lisa and Donalee–the women in the outer office…you know, the ones who really make this place hum–when they read this. They will come into my office in tandem suggesting that, in the future, I think these grand invitations through a little more carefully. Posing a scenario of reality, they’ll ask me what I want them to do when a few thousand of you take me up on this invitation.) Actually, I am counting on you arriving one by one, maybe two by two, and the truth is, all three of us will be very glad to greet you.

You’ll notice that while my office is basic, even plain–with its original ’70s furniture and personal mementos–there is something absolutely extraordinary about it…the south wall. That wall is filled with windows looking southward over the exotic blue of the Pacific Ocean toward Santa Catalina Island (“26 miles across the sea”). And, as another song from the ’50s-’60s era reminds us, “on a clear day, you can see forever.” (Of course, on other days you cannot see the sea at all.) But on most days, the sight is breathtaking. Even after six months, it never fails to wow me with its awesome and ever changing beauty. At least once or twice a day–admittedly sometimes more–I take an “ocean view” break. Oh, please don’t think I’m twittering away my time. Quite the opposite, for such a break (come on, cut me some slack here, they only last about 60 seconds) provides mental, physical and spiritual renewal to energize the rest of the day or until the next “ocean view” break, whichever comes first.

Even as I write this, I am taking such a break and looking out upon the sun’s hypnotizing reflections bouncing off the relatively mild waves. Today, all you can see is blue, blue, blue. No, there is a dot, a “something” else out on the water…wait, let me pick up my binoculars. Yes, it’s a boat, a sailboat, in fact–casually “breezing along with the breeze.” One singular vessel amid hundreds of square miles, skidding atop those mild waves. And during this “ocean view” break, I’m so poignantly reminded of the little verse so carefully cross stitched and framed by my wife for my seafaring brother. It reads, “Oh, Lord. Your ocean is so big and my boat is so small.”

While some may see in this little phrase one’s smallness or minuteness, even one’s insignificance, I cannot help but see the wonder and magnitude of God’s love and grace. Listen carefully, do you hear (as I do) the strains of “O Boundless Salvation, deep ocean of love” immediately followed by the last verse of “O Love of God” which was found scribbled on the wall of a cell in an insane asylum after the death of its occupant, a presumed lunatic, who wrote: “Could we with ink the ocean fill, Or were the skies of parchment made./Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade./To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole/Though stretched from sky to sky.”

Oh, come and gaze out this window and ponder the awesomeness of God’s love and grace, and you need not wait for a visit to my office to do so, for it is available wherever you are. Some who are reading this may be dealing with bereavement, others are possibly facing life threatening illnesses, while yet others are walking through one of life’s dark valleys of despair, loneliness or seeming hopelessness. My prayer is that you will get hold of yourself and remember that he who created you (“began a good work in you”) will never leave, abandon nor forsake you. Draw from this limitless ocean whose flow knows no end. “His love has no limit/His grace has no measure/His power no boundary known unto men./For out of his infinite riches in glory/He giveth and giveth and giveth again.”

Don’t ever give up the ship.

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