Wally was in running shorts. Goose flesh raised the hair on his legs into a close resemblance to a scouring pad.
Gaff smiled at the thought, but only said, “Didn’t expect it to be so cold today, did you?”
The other man didn’t look up. He was preoccupied with wiping away a sheen of sweat from his arms with Gaff’s towel. A nod and a grim expression were his only answer. Then he mumbled, “Was thinking about my sermon for Sunday when I saw you down here.”
Gaff chuckled, “Jogging for Jesus, were you?”
The right reverend Wally jerked his head toward Gaff and spat out an indictment, “That is blasphemy!”
Gaff shrugged. Wally was in no trifling mood today. “Didn’t mean to offend.” He checked the tip of his rod for a sign and then nodded to Mother Water. He added quietly, “Are you saying Jesus didn’t have a sense of humor?”
This last did not escape the attention of his visitor. “Jesus was a holy man, deserving of great respect. And you and that Mother Water crap… My sermon this Sunday is about pantheism…you are one of the worst.” At this, he wound the towel around his body and plopped down on the cooler beside Gaff.
Gaff tried vainly to hide his grin. “Pantheism, hunh?”
“All this New Age garbage about the planet being alive and us being a part of it… and all a part of God. Hogwash!”
Gaff’s eyebrows shot up. “New age, hunh? You saying the indigenous peoples were born yesterday?” He shut his eyes, ready for the explosion. No disappointment there. A chuckle… so predictable.
Wally sputtered, “You talking about the Mayans? That’s all over the media. That and 2012 and the end of the world. Well, you know…”
Gaff’s laugh stopped Wally mid-sentence and that was hard to do. “Do I ever mention the end of the world or that it’s scheduled for any particular date?”
Wally shook his head in the negative. Gaff saw him about to take off in full rant and cut him off.
“Does it really matter whether we call the Supreme Being Mother Water or YHWH or George? As long as we teach people to live according to the Way of Love, I don’t see that the name really matters.”
The sputtering started.
Gaff chuckled. “In fact, atheism is all right by me as long as the person treats others with respect and love. Call yourself whatever you want as long you respond with love in every situation.”
“What are you talking about, you crazy old man? You can only be saved in Jesus’ name!”
Gaff slipped the next in as Wally took a breath. “Don’t see how you could not believe in a Supreme Being when you look at this paradise.” He gestured to the beach and the ocean in front of them. “It’s easiest to love people when you see the good in them and you’ll remember there’s only one letter difference between good and God. So if you can see the good in everyone on the planet, then you must see the God in them.” He glanced at the tip of his rod to see it sway gently with the movement of the waves. Then he cut his eyes to see that Wally was somewhat mollified by his last words. Still, Wally was looking for something to fight.
Gaff returned his eyes to Mother Water with a silent prayer of gratitude. “We’ve had this talk before. If we teach people to come out of love and to be happy in their lives, it doesn’t matter where we do it. You stay in your pulpit and I’ll catch the ones you miss… or who miss you.”
Wally pulled the towel tighter. “You mean the ones that go to the beach instead of to church on Sunday?”
Gaff nodded while he searched the water for jumping fish. He jerked his chin in that direction. “A lot of folks find great solace in that ocean. They don’t think that it’s God, only that being near is curative.”
Wally was still frowning, but his expression was softening.
Gaff nodded at something in his head. “So what if I give it a name or look at it while I talk to the Divine? As long as love travels both ways along that connection, isn’t that enough? Or do you feel that God will only listen if He’s addressed by His formal name? And only if He’s giving you a formal reception in a house built to glorify Him?”
“Well, well… There is only one God.”
“We agree on that. Only our definition differs. I’d say that the one God is everywhere and that we can chat with Him anywhere.”
Wally’s face was rouging.
Gaff wanted to press his advantage. “Tibetans string prayer flags up in high mountain passes so those prayers can be taken around the world by the wind. Is that bad? Should they keep their flags in some temple?”
Just then, he heard Priscilla’s voice coming from the walkway over the dunes. “Hallo!” she sang out.
Wally turned toward the walkway. “Priscilla.” It was a statement.
She plopped on the sand when she reached Gaff’s spot. She waved some index cards, smiling. “They’re getting easier now even though I have to practice all the time.”
Wally reached for the cards. “What are these?”
Priscilla cut her eyes toward Gaff before answering. “I’m doing the lessons in a workbook to change the way I think.”
Wally read from the the top card. “Love holds no grievances.” He looked at Priscilla with an unspoken question.
She took the cards from him and shuffled through them. “That’s number 68, but number 46 is ‘God is the Love in which I forgive.’ And 47 is ‘God is the strength in which I trust.’ There’s one for every day so that I eventually will feel only love. I’m learning to see the blessings and the lessons that people bring me rather than thinking they want to hurt me.”
Wally looked suspicious. “What is this book you’re talking about?”
She glanced at Gaff, for support maybe? “A Course in Miracles.”
Wally sputtered a bit, but Priscilla continued. “I’ve learned how to change my fears into understanding. When someone wants me to feel fear, I understand that he wants love only he doesn’t know how to ask. When I feel that fear it’s because I don’t feel loved.”
Gaff grinned. “Or because you feel alone. When you remember that God is with you, you have no fear… you know you’ve got the best team.”
Priscilla read from another card. “I am sustained by the Love of God.” She looked from Gaff to Wally. “Lesson 50.”
The three sat silent in the breeze off the ocean, feeling the Love of God in that stirring.
Under his breath, Gaff thanked Mother Water for all her wisdom. “Before you got here, Wally and I were talking about the different ways of learning that God exists in every part of the Universe. In this minute I can feel that God is right here on the beach with us.”
Wally nodded, but a deep furrow in his brow indicated that he was still looking for something to fuss about in what Gaff said. Finding none, he smiled. “Is it George… or Mother Water today?”
Gaff laughed from the core of his being and Priscilla looked in confusion from one man to another.
[TO BE CONTINUED]