In just a few days, I’ll be heading to Ocean Isle Beach, North Caroline for nine days of glorious vacation with the most important people in the world, my family. Can’t wait. It’s about as close to heaven as one can get on earth.
I start my day at the crack of dawn, walking to the point of the island with my loving wife Sandra and my faithful companion, Ginger. At this time of the year, once we reach the point, I set this four-year-old Golden Doodle loose, free to galivant all her little dog heart desires. Back and forth, tail wagging. Ginger sort of looks at me like she is saying, “This is about as close to heaven as one can get on earth.”
For the next 2-4 hours, Sandy and I walk the shallows of the inland waters searching for shells. All kinds of shells, but my favorite are the giant cockle shells that I collect and give away to remind people of their baptism. Folks, baptism is one of the greatest gifts given to humanity. Through these waters, we are reminded over and over again that each of us is a child of Most High and Living God. You are special! You are forgiven! You are loved!
These reminders are not easy to find. Some days I find none, other days I find a bunch. Seldom are these treasures just lying in the open, most are still in the water, covered partially by sand. It’s funny, because if my sister, Donna, goes to the point with us, she takes her Golden Doodle, and that dog is actually a pretty good shell finder. You’ve heard of “bird dogs,” My sister has a “shell dog.” Can’t teach my dog to help.
My success in finding shells determines how long I’m at the point. On a good day, I’ve been known to spend the entire morning. Following our morning adventure, Sandy and I make the long walk back to condo, with one tired puppy. I place the shells in a big bucket of bleach, have a bite, and then grab my fishing poles and truck back to beach—the biggest baptismal font on earth—where I do what I love best—fish. Here is where I have the best conversations with my Heavenly Father, with my feet in the water, a pole in my hand, looking out at the greatness of God. About as close to heaven as one can get on earth.
I like to compare my fishing skills to my style of ministry. After all, most of Jesus’ disciples were fisherman and Jesus did tell them he would make them fishers of people. So, I use basically the same methods of catching fish and simply apply them to fishing for people. Some of the old timers rely upon the charts and only fish at peak hours and perfect conditions. I will throw in a line no matter what the time or conditions. There are always fish in the ocean, and they can always be caught. That’s why fishing, why ministry requires patience, lots of it. A person can stand with a pole in their hand for hours and not catch a single fish, but all of sudden a small school swims by and bam. You’ve got to be patient and ready, just like in ministry. Plus, I am a very simplistic fisherman. I travel light. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was cracking up watching a father and his son make that long hard walk to the beach.
They had one of those big ole wagons with huge rubber tires. I thought dad might have a heart attack trying to navigate all their gear down those 15 steps. They’ve got eight poles, three tackle boxes, and a big cooler filled with five different kinds of bait. They lined those eight poles up and watched at a distance to see what happens. They simply waited for that fish to catch or hook itself. Then they would reel it in as fast as they could.
Me, I’ve got one single Wal-Mart rod and reel, a bucket to hold the fish, a little tackle box that looks like it belongs to a nine-year old, and one kind of bait—shrimp. Sure, there are certain fish that prefer certain baits more than others, but all fish eat shrimp. I keep the line tight, with my finger on that single line. I don’t wait to see what happens, I wait and feel what happens. When fish even smell that shrimp, I’m ready. When they do bite, they are caught, guaranteed. That particular day, I ended up giving 6 nice pompano, 2 massive blues and 8 fat whiting to that father and son, who had only caught two small fish with their eight poles and five baits.
Well, I am also a very simplistic minister. I travel light. The Cross is the only gear I need to carry to any fishing hole. The life/death and resurrection of Jesus is capable of reeling in any and all species of people, any shape, size or color. The only bait I use is the Word of God and the Sacraments of Jesus Christ. That’s it. All people are hungry for the Gospel. We don’t need all the gimmicks and different baits to be fishers of people. However, we can’t sit back and just wait for people to be hooked by the gospel on their own, we have to have a feel for those who are interested in the bait. At the right time, when you feel a nibble, have the Cross of Christ at your fingertips and hook them the Good News, bringing them in at their own pace. That’s how I fish for people. Patiently and one at a time, using the best bait possible, the Holy Word of God and the Sacraments, the mysteries of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
This is the kind of stuff I think about with my feet in the water, pole in my hand, just looking out at the greatness of God.
My, how times flies… I’ve just spent close to eight hours on the beach and now it’s time to get cleaned up and eat supper. Here’s where the craziness begins, because you never now what is going to happen when the Trexler clan gathers for a good meal, and trust me, we eat good on vacation, a feast every night. Following dinner, we might go to a movie, shop, play put-put, or cards, but I guarantee when our heads hit those pillows at night, we are a tired, yet grateful family. And guess what? Tomorrow, we get to do it all over again, for eight more days. God is Good!
Sandy and I would like to thank all of you for giving us the opportunity and the financial means to take a much-needed vacation. Truly, this is about as close to heaven as one can get on earth. When we return, I’ll be rested and ready to get that line back in the water and return to my passion, fishing for people.
In Christian Love,
Pastor David Trexler