Posted by: davidlarkin | December 6, 2011

The Sea Ranch

On November 5, 2011, while walking for exercise, I thought of a former pastor of a large church we attended for seven years, from 2000 through 2007.  Call him Pastor John.  When I got home from the walk, I sent him this email:

Pastor John:

I was walking today listening to Matthew’s gospel on my iPod, and I thought of you. We attended your church for nearly seven years.  I still listen to your doctrines of grace series on my iPod once a year or so. About nine or ten years ago you spoke in your sermon about vacationing at the Sea Ranch in Northern California. In 2002 I read a short poem, “Afternoon Walk: Sea Ranch” in Poetry Magazine, and I meant to send it to you. I forgot. I remembered today, found it in my archives, and hope it is God’s timing. I lived in Carmel, CA in the late 80s and drove by the Sea Ranch several times driving up Highway 1, looking out over the ice plants at the sea as I drove by. The poem moved me and I only drove by the Sea Ranch. Here is the poem, and I have attached it as PDF in case you like it and want to share it.


In memory of E.L.G.

Late light, uneven mole-gnawed meadow,
gullies, freshets, falls, whose start and speckle
Hopkins would have loved – and you – you too,
who loved the sheen and shade, the forest dapple
where grass meets cypress just beyond the house –
you’d praise the mushroom-sprout, the chilly glisten
as the hedgerow folds into the solstice
and suddenly the last crisp leaves unfasten . . .

This time of year, this place, light dims at the pace
of a long late afternoon walk, light seems to slow
and sorrow as the meadow turns its face
into your unlived season, the winter hollow
where only a steep sky, in quarter inches,
adjusts descending sun, ascending branches.


October/November 2002

The “Hopkins” reference is surely to Gerald Manley Hopkins and his memorable nature poems written in 1877, of which this is his most famous:


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


The first poem in the email that I had forgotten to send him for 9 years describes the memory of walking through the Sea Ranch, a Northern California resort on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, with a deceased loved one, likely the poet’s spouse.

A few days later I was at Starbucks and noticed a younger man reading a book by R. C. Sproul, a favorite Christian theologian and writer.  He was also writing in a notebook.  I struck up a conversation, telling him how much I admired R. C. Sproul, and that Sproul’s book Chosen by God was one of my favorite books — a clear and concise discussion of predestination and Calvinism.  He said it was also one of his.  We were both Calvinists.  [As I see it, John Calvin adopts the doctrine of election and predestination first articulated by the Apostle Paul in his letters, and then by  St. Augustine.  Calvin relies on Scripture and Augustine, and states the doctrine so well, that his name was attached to the Biblical doctrine.  Martin Luther also accepted the Augustinian view of predestination and election].

The young man said he was a pastor of a church nearby, that he had come to Calvinism gradually, having been educated at an Arminian seminary, and was now a Presbyterian pastor, in the same denomination as Sproul.   Calvinists believe that God alone saves people — He chooses His elect before the foundation of the world, his grace is irresistible and once a person is saved, he will persevere.  Arminians believe that God, and man through the grace of God, and his free will, chooses God, that therefore God elects believers who choose Him, His grace is not irresistible, man can resist, and that once saved, a believer can fall away and lose his salvation.

I told him that I had come to agree with Calvinism over time in the late 90s, and that I became firm in that doctrine from the teaching of Pastor John, to whom I wrote the email above.  He said he was a good friend of Pastor John.  Then, he told me that Pastor John’s wife had died a week ago.  I had not heard about her death.

I was shocked to hear this.  I had just sent Pastor John a poem about walking at the Sea Ranch with a deceased loved one within a week after his wife had died, a dear loved one with whom he had surely walked at the Sea Ranch.  I hope that God wanted Pastor John to have that poem now, and that it was a blessing to him in his grief, and something he could refer to in the years ahead to recall fond memories.   If it was as I hope, then surely it was God’s timing for me to remember to send it to him after 9 years!


Here is a link to a subsequent post where I explain why God’s grace must be irresistible if we believe the Bible.

Why Must God’s Saving Grace Be Irresistible


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