Fairly Spiritual: Cruise provides needed break, food for thought

Last week I took an unpaid sabbatical from my column. I figured a break from my weekly writing might clear your mental palate.

I’d like to thank the three of you who noticed my absence. However, I must dissuade my critics from premature celebration. The plain truth is I have no plans of quitting.

Like it or not, it is my sincere desire to be your literary speed bump until my editor forces me off the page. For the most part I think my job at the Auburn Reporter is recession proof, primarily because my column pays the equivalent of what I would earn operating a poorly run lemonade stand at the end of a dead end road. Sometimes, instead of receiving a check, they give me a bag of shiny new quarters. By the way, did I mention I love my editor Mark Klaas (particularly if he allowed that last sentence to be published).

All kidding aside, here is some more kidding. The real reason I was delinquent in producing last week’s column was that my wife and I received the gracious gift of a free cruise. Last week we had the privilege of sailing the open seas near and around Vancouver Island. It was truly a memorable excursion, worth its weight in … weight gain.

It is not a surprise only a couple letters distinguish the word “cruise” from “cuisine.” A cruise is really just one big excuse to stay at the dinner table. Acceptable food consumption practices don’t hold water when floating on water. Instead, international waters require international smorgasbords. In fact (and when I say fact I frequently mean fiction), the reason cruise ships stop in port cities is for the primary purpose of replenishing waning food supplies.

A cruise ship without food! One can only imagine the dire consequences if one of these floating seafood sea vessels were ever stricken with a temporary lobster shortage. Slightly famished passengers panicking over prime rib rationing. With no dessert in site, the more able bodied would swim for shore in search of créme bruleé and other emergency confections. By the way, this is the original reason castaways referred to unknown islands as “deserted.”

The groan of my last pun reminds me of the stomach troubles that can accompany even the most seasoned cruiser. If one does not pace their digestive track, they are bound to refer to their cabin as “the room of reckoning.” It is an unwritten law that the ship’s swaying will intensify in direct proportion to over consumption.

Mind you, there are more things to do on a cruise ship than just eat. Other activities include planning what to eat, deciding when to eat and trying to forget how much you’ve just eaten. Some people also play shuffleboard. Few people know this but the original game of shuffleboard used plates full of food instead of pucks. Giant buffet dishes were slid to passengers unable or unwilling to get up from their deck chairs. To avoid embarrassment, points were awarded for accuracy.

I must admit it was a surreal time to be on a cruise. Our week of cruising was also the same week when all the world’s 401Ks almost got KO’d. Consequently, our cruising was filled with contrast. On one hand we were experiencing the luxury of a free gift, on the other hand we were contemplating the devastating effects of a stock market collapse.

I just couldn’t shake the disconcerting thought that when the world ends, someone is going to be on a cruise.

As a pastor, I perpetually run the risk of turning every misfortune into a glib sermon illustration.

I think there is great danger in immediately trying to turn a trauma into a lesson. There are certainly lessons to be learned from our current financial chaos, but that sermon seems fit for another day. Instead, I just want to send up a simple prayer.

“Father, please be with my friends who are genuinely struggling through these trying financial times. Give them peace that passes understanding. Remind them of your everlasting love. Keep them from despair and the futility of perpetual worry. Lift them to a vantage point where they can breathe deep and know with confidence that it is good to be alive. Amen.”

Doug Bursch is the pastor of Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at the Riverside High School Theater. He can be reached at www.yesevergreen.org or evergreenlife@mac.com.