Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
 Walter Albritton
 March 3, 2013

 Captured by the eternal magnetism of the sea

    Something about the sea captured my heart when I was young. My parents could not afford vacations when I was a boy. Finally during my teen years Dad found the money to take our family to Panama City for a week in the summer. I fell in love with the sea while our family relaxed in a rented house at a place called "The Oaks" and played in the Gulf during the day.
    To explain that love is difficult. I have never had a desire to set sail for distant lands. So it was not riding the sea that caught my fancy. Nor did I care that much about fishing though I have enjoyed deep-sea fishing a few times. Swimming was fun for awhile but I gave that up years ago.
    Did I catch John Masefield's "Sea Fever"? Perhaps. That may partially explain my fascination with the sea. Year after year, for more than 60 years, I have said in Masefield's words "I must go down to the sea again, to the lovely sea and the sky." Like the poet I have yearned to see "white clouds" and "sea-gulls flying." So once again last week my wife and I made our annual journey to Orange Beach to see the sea once more.
    Do we get in it? No, February is not a good month for that. We just enjoy looking at the crystal blue water. There is something about the vastness of it, the unlimited power of it, and the incredible majesty of it that takes my breath away. Men have no control over the sea; it relentlessly does what it wishes to do without any human assistance. It is there doing what it has always done and while it is dangerous it is also incredibly useful -- and beautiful to behold.
    This time, for a few days, the sea was rough and angry. We had never seen the waves come storming in with such force. Dark clouds, heavy rain, thunder and lightning bolts made us close the blinds in our beachside condo. Perhaps it was such a day that inspired Carl Sandburg to pen these lines:
                        "The sea speaks
                        And only the stormy hearts
                        Know what it says:
                        It is the face
                        of a rough mother speaking."
    Stormy or placid the sea has a certain magnetism about it.  It beckons me to come to its shore again and again, there to relax and let my soul catch up with my body. The sea has the power to inspire new ideas, new dreams and visions. Admiring its marvelous rhythm I reflect on my life and reviewing my priorities I am moved to pray. The sea has a way of inspiring its admirers to pray. The Navy hymn is but one example:
                    "Eternal Father, Strong to save,
                    Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
                    Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
                    Its own appointed limits keep;
                    O hear us when we cry to thee,
                    for those in peril on the sea."
    Then there is my favorite "sea" prayer that has found its way to many wall plaques: "Oh Lord, thy sea is so wide and my boat is so small."
    Towns expand and grow. Land changes as the population grows. New construction of homes and businesses make it difficult to recognize once familiar locales. But the sea remains, its boundaries unaffected by the beehive of activity on the shore. I like that about it -- its remarkable dependability.
    Jacques Cousteau once said, "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds on its net of wonder forever." I don't think the sea has cast a spell on me but I do admit that its magnetism is quite irresistible. Whatever the reasons, I love the sea -- and even more the One who created it for our good. + + +