Saturday, February 18, 2006


It was an odd sight. We were walking in the late afternoon along the beach when I saw a seal just sitting on the beach, alone. The tide was out and he (or she) was sitting there looking out to sea, when a pickup truck with a hydraulic rear lift-gate drove up. A guy got out, lowered the gate, on which sat a large cage. He then grabbed this long pole with a net and slowly and carefully approached the seal from its backside and captured the it. The seal was not a bit happy. It made some distressed sounds, new to my midwestern ears, as he dragged it a couple of yards to the cage. What was going on? It looked fairly cruel and brutal? What wrong was the seal doing on an ocaen beach? Was this a no-seal beach or something? Had the seal violated some sort of Santa Barabara beach-code? He (or she) wasn't harming anyone.
So I approached the guy and asked "What's going on? What are you doing?" He told me he was with the marine center and was on a routine patrol to pick up sick or injured seals. He asked me to help load the seal into the cage (which the seal did not like at all!). Then he told me that the seal's behavior and lethargy indicated something was wrong, probably sick. And if left alone, he (or she) would be prey to other animals and would die. He was taking it to a marine hospital where the seal would be examined, treated and released back into the ocean where it was supposed to live and thrive.
So his capturing net was not all that bad or cruel, but rather life-giving. That picture I snapped has made me think about Jesus the Good Shepherd of lost sheep (read: seals) who seeks us out and "captures us"; sometimes(or often) against our wills, to bring us back to safety.
Sometimes he captures me when I get lost in my churchy routines and pastoral roles with a song or poem or fleeting sight on the street of a homeless person. He captures my heart from its desire for seductive and sedentary comfort and treats me with his life-giving word and releases me back into the ocean where I am meant to thrive.
But I still hate being captured because I don't like nets around me. I don't like not being in control. I don't like having my movements and options constricted and confined. But if I'm not captured by Jesus, I will die on the beach at the hands of predators. So, capture me again Jesus!


At 6:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a voice from your very distant past--as in Karen from Muskegon and so many years ago. My mother sent me a link to your blog, and I've been reading since. With these entries, I remember why, even as a child, I very much enjoyed your messages and your spiritual perspective. I thought I'd comment to say "hi" and let you know that I am now reading, and I have thought of you and your family often in my travels down life's road.

At 8:51 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Thanks Karen. I'm glad you have good memories of our years together in Muskegon. Let me know what you are up to these days and what you are studying and doing.
Peace to you all,

At 10:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My life has been so amazing the last few years...I am truly blessed. I think the biggest, most exciting event was finding my birth family during a trip back to South Korea last year. But of course, I'll have to fill you in on all the exciting details of the last ... nearly 14 years. Has it really been that long? Feel free to drop me an email at
and I'll do my best to catch you up. I hope your family is doing well.

At 9:54 AM , Blogger jane said...

Neat story and great analogy. Btw, I had a stint in SB (a year at Westmont).


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