Top Five Snakes in the Bible

It was a chilly spring day as Jan and I were hiking in the woods not far from our home in Connecticut. Then we saw it: a blue and black snake in the middle of the trail. It was so cold; the cold-blooded snake was barely moving. Jan stooped down. “Can I touch it?” I wasn’t sure. I had never seen a snake precisely like this one. The diamond head looked like a poisonous rattler, but it had round eyes. The dangerous snakes I had seen had “squinty” eyes. I took my camera out and snapped several pictures; then, I moved close to try for a dramatic close-up. Jan reached out and touched its tail. That’s when I knew it wasn’t a friendly garden snake. As fast as lightning, it struck my lens, and Jan jumped so high the neighboring airport picked her up on radar. Here is my list of the top five snakes in the Bible.

5 – Brood of Vipers (Matthew chapters 3 and 23)

The fifth snake in our top five list isn’t a snake at all. It’s worse! John the Baptist and Jesus shared the same message in their preaching: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” They also loathed hypocrites whom they both called “You brood of vipers.”

4 – The Snake in the Parable (Matthew 7:10)

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” A rock can resemble a biscuit (please, no comments about my baking!), and both fish and snakes have scales. The point Jesus is making is, God is a good Father and gives us good things. The Lord isn’t the source of the bad things in our lives!

3 – The Snake that Bit the Apostle (Acts 28:4)

A poisonous viper latches onto Paul’s hand as he makes a fire for the survivors of a shipwreck (Acts 28:4). Everyone expects him to die, but they have a new respect for him when he doesn’t. “The trouble for biblical interpreters today is, there are no poisonous snakes on Malta. So where did this snake come from, and how did the Maltese know the viper was deadly? According to The Times of Malta (February 19, 2014), the Islanders have several explanations.

One is that Paul’s preaching caused all the venomous creatures on the island to lose their venom. Another theory is the snake was the Leopard snake, Zamenis situla, which is venomous in southern Europe but not on Malta.” A third theory is the poisonous vipers on Malta have since gone extinct. The best explanation is, “The notorious horned viper, Vipera ammodytes is deadly and inhabits southern Europe and Turkey. It has been known to hitch a ride on ships and is an excellent swimmer, or it could have ridden one of the planks from Paul’s ship to shore. The islanders, who often traded with the mainland, would have instantly recognized the viper by its horns and reacted as Luke recorded in Acts.”

2 – Nehustan: The Bronze Serpent

The people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died (Numbers 21:4 – 6).

As a cure, the Lord had Moses make a bronze serpent and lift it up. When people were bitten, they could look to the serpent and be healed. Centuries later, that bronze serpent became an idol and had to be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).

1 – The Serpent in the Garden

Without a doubt, the most famous serpent of all deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3). It was the devil incarnate.

Our blue snake turned out to be an Eastern Diamond Back, but my advice is still the same. Give serpents – especially talking snakes – a wide berth!

“You Can’t Have Any Fun!”

Last weekend Jan “kidnapped” me away to Julian, California (and not just because apple is my favorite kind of pie). We had a wonderful time, ate too much and enjoyed bird watching. Julian is a bird watcher’s paradise, and we were richly rewarded.

It was time to come home on Monday, but rather than follow the direct path back through Ramona or even the scenic route through Alpine, we decided to head home via Temecula. It was a beautiful day for a drive. The road took us through Warner Springs and to the little airport. The runway was lined with sailplanes (gliders).

The memories came flooding back as we pulled over and watched. When I obeyed the Gospel at age 14, my friends were completely underwhelmed. “Christians are boring,” was the general sentiment. “You can’t do anything. You can’t have any fun.” Their logic bothered me. First, I never understood how making foolish choices like getting stoned in an old van after the football game could be classified as “fun,” and second, I was sure they had never met the Jesus I knew. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Of course, there are Christians who are playing the “waiting game.” They endure this life with firm resolution while they wait for joy in heaven to come. Likewise, I know Christians who are trying to convince themselves that being miserable is, in fact, fun, and they are actively trying to spread their miserable Gospel to everyone. On the other hand, I see the true Gospel as liberating. I genuinely believe this is my Father’s world, and I want to satiate myself with Life. I want to be truly alive. I do not believe in the spectator life any more than I believe in spectator Christianity.

So the week I obeyed the Gospel, I started on a quest. I took on two paper routes and found a job working at a local pasture/airport. On the weekends, we pinned up the cows and used the field for towing gliders and making parachute jumps. My job was to hook up the lines from the tow planes to the sailplanes and then run along, holding up the glider’s wing until it was going fast enough to balance on its one wheel. I did all this in exchange for flying lessons at the end of the day.

Later that fall, the instructor stepped out of the sailplane, and before I had time to think about it, I was bounding down the runway behind the tow plane all by myself. It was way too quiet up there without the instructor shouting at me from the backseat, but there I was, high above and watching the world spread out below.

I went on to have many other adventures — mountain-climbing, sailing, scuba diving, skiing – the list is 43 years long, and I only truly regret the year I devoted to playing golf. (Missing a putt can nearly cost you your soul!)

Jan and I watched the planes taking off and landing. Then she smiled, handed me the leather flying jacket she bought me for Christmas, and I found myself strapped into the front seat of a Schweizer 2-32 (the same type of sailplane I soloed in more than four decades before). Left, right, then left again, we were wagging the rudder to signal the tow plane we were ready to go. Before I had time to think about it, we were airborne. I was a kid again, but some things never change: this is still my Father’s world!

A Foothold for the Devil

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26 – 27).

I attended Junior High outside of New Orleans. There were only seven of us who were “age-appropriate” in my class. Ours was the only Junior High I know about with a student parking lot! Two nineteen-year-olds were drafted out of my seventh-grade class. It was bizarre, and I was beaten up almost every day because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. When I saw wrong-doing – even at that young age – I had to say something. “It’s against the rules to smoke!” POW. “Don’t use the Lord’s name in vain!” POW accompanied by a few expletives. “Leave her alone!” POW. I was pretty much a 90-pound punching bag, and it made me angry.

I hated PE class. “Coach” didn’t have a degree, but he was a lifeguard in the summer, which must have qualified him to teach physical education. He would gather us around and read from the National Inquirer. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, so I ran laps every day to “cool off.” I have to thank him because later, I became a long-distance runner in High School, and my stamina carried me up many mountains when my family moved to Seattle.

So, I have always wrestled with anger. Perhaps that’s why I am a preacher. When I see injustice, it makes me angry. I can’t just ignore evil. I have to say something.

On the other hand, as I’ve gained a few silver hairs, I’ve learned to recognize there are stages to anger. Anger isn’t a sin. It is how we express our anger that gets us into trouble. There are some things we must become angry about. In this passage, Ephesians 4:26, 27, Paul literally says, “Become angry.” This is the only place in the New Testament where the word parorgismous (παροργισμός), “provoke you to anger” is used. There is a difference between becoming angry and seeking vengeance. Vengeance is sinful!

There is a great temptation to treasure our anger, and that is why the apostle gives us two warnings: First, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Be very careful. There is something attractive about anger. It makes us feel alive. Making a judgment makes us feel superior. We become passionate, and so there is always a temptation to cling to our anger.

Second: “Don’t give the devil a foothold.” Anger escalates. Satan invites us not only to take an eye for an eye but to add some interest to the bill. “He hurt me, so I’m going to make him really pay.” No. Take comfort in the words of Jesus:

 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10 – 12)

Welcome Home

Church of Christ Groton, Connecticut
Church of Christ
Groton, Connecticut

We’ve come over 3,000 miles to settle into our new home on the Atlantic Coast of New England and the contrasts to San Diego are startling. The sun sets over the Pacific, but it rises over the Atlantic. Someone described Southern California as a “parking lot that moves at 70 miles per hour.” Rush hour on route 12 which runs in front of the church in Groton, Connecticut and our home, means four cars at the stop light turning into the Navy base. There are some obvious differences: San Diego rarely (if ever) sees snow. In fact, people there are startled by rain. Just after we unloaded the U-Haul truck into the parsonage, we had over a foot of snow to celebrate our arrival. Perhaps it’s the contrast to the dazzling, white, blanket of snow, but I’ve never seen such blue skies as those we have seen in the past two weeks in Connecticut.

On the other hand, some things remain the same. That’s the beauty of being a part of God’s Family. Wherever you go in the world, you are home. I remember many years ago when I was a young soldier away from home for the first time. I was stationed in Berlin, Germany and the first thing I did when I arrived was search out the church. It was different. Instead of calling themselves the “Church of Christ,” they chose to call themselves the “Gemeinde Kristi.” (The German word for “Church” is too formal and cold to describe the fellowship we enjoy.) Likewise, the little group of believers met in a large, two-story home instead of a formal building surrounded by a parking lot.

On that first Saturday, when I nervously knocked on the door, I was met by a wonderful, round-faced, white-haired woman, Marianne, who didn’t speak a word of English. That was okay because I didn’t speak nearly enough German to carry on a conversation. All she knew was that I was an American believer and that made me family. She welcomed me into her home, served me cookies and tea and showed me the family photo albums chatting away (in German) as if I was a long- lost cousin – and I was!

Jan and Dixie and I have come to work with the church in Groton, Connecticut. It’s much, much smaller than the church in San Diego and they don’t have nearly the staff (just me) or the finances that Canyon View enjoyed, but what impresses us isn’t what they lack – it’s what they have!

Our truck was met by Sue who had stocked the pantry and the fridge and even gave us enough home-made chicken noodle soup to eat on for a week! The next morning people just kept coming and coming and coming and carrying in our boxes and belongings. The woodshed in back was packed with firewood for the stove and Wednesday night after services (which consisted of a delightful meal accompanied by stories and songs and prayer) the men packed into our living room to demonstrate their fire-building skills in our wood stove. Everyone had advice and suggestions on how to get the most heat and survive a New England winter. Then right on cue, the snow began to fall.

Can you imagine what it felt like to sit in my chair in the living room with my feet propped up on an ottoman with a hot cup of coffee and a good book by the fire? Outside the bay window everything was buried under new fallen snow, but we were snug and even Phoebe our old cat was curled up by the warmth of the woodstove.

So, what does this little dynamo of a congregation have? First, leadership. I believe “A congregation is no stronger than her leaders” and we have two amazing Shepherds. Notice I didn’t say “managers” or “visionaries” (although they are that too.) Biblical leaders – call them elders or overseers, presbyters or pastors – are first concerned about people and their souls. Deacons can take care of the physical stuff, budgets and buildings, but Shepherds are called to care for souls. On the Judgment Day, the Shepherds won’t be questioned about paint chips and carpet samples. The Great Shepherd will want to know what happened to His lambs.

Murray and Dorothea are retired after serving twenty-years with East European Mission in Vienna. Murray’s ancestors helped settle Connecticut and their love for this area is obvious. We don’t say much about the role of an elder’s wife, but Dorothea is exemplary. She and Murray work together in a beautiful way as a team.

Our other elder, Jim and his wife Denise, are perfect for the mission of this congregation. We are located just across the street from the main entrance to the Navy’s submarine base and Jim is a former submarine officer. He shares the responsibilities for leading singing and teaches the Sunday morning Adult Bible School class. I’ve never known an elder more loved by the children than Jim. Likewise, I’ve known churches where Paul’s admonition that elders be “able to teach” is brushed aside, but both Jim and Murray are excellent teachers.

There is one more imperative quality for an elder in my opinion and that’s having a heart for hospitality. Elders who open their homes understand how important that virtue is for church growth. Again, it’s an easy quality to dismiss, but damnable when it is lacking. I know it sounds trivial, but Jan and I were truly impressed when Jim and Denise opened their home to the entire congregation for their fourteenth Super Bowl party! There were TVs everywhere and food and drink and laughter and stories and Jan and I knew we had found a new home in Connecticut.

It takes more than just good leaders to have a dynamic congregation. It takes brothers and sisters with Nehemiah’s “will to work” and judging by how our new family welcomed us, Groton feels like home!

Leaders, family, and a love of the Lord: I’m excited about our future together.

Interesting Times

WoodsThere is an old blessing/curse: “May you live in interesting times.” This past week has certainly been “interesting.” As many of you already know, Jan and I have resigned from our work at Canyon View and we are moving on. The house is nearly empty now. There has been a flurry of packing and saying “Good bye” to dear friends. I wish we would have had time to visit everyone, but that just wasn’t possible.

If you have read my book, Changing Tacks: Lessons I’ve Learned from an Old Wooden Boat, you know about our amazing calling to minister in San Diego (Shameless plug but it’s available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.) We were ready to work here forever, if that was God’s Will, but sometimes God drags us “kicking and screaming” someplace else.

The Apostle Paul loved nothing more than preaching and teaching and evangelizing for Jesus. That’s something every faithful minister understands. Paul would have continued walking around the world and doing what he loved, but God needed him to stop and write half the New Testament and the only way He could do that was by chaining him to a Roman guard. Think about it. God dragged Paul “kicking and screaming” into his most enduring ministry through what appeared to be something awful, so Jan and I are excited to discover what God has planned for us next. In the meantime we are moving back to Washington State, to our little cabin on a tiny island. There, while I am searching for a new pulpit, I plan to finish a couple of books I just haven’t had time to work on.

It’s hard to say good-bye, but we have received such an outpouring of love. I’d just like to share a few of them because they remind me why I became a minister in the first place:

Dear Jan & Jan,

We’re sad to hear that you are leaving San Diego, and we are so very grateful to have known you here. John, your sermons are grounded in truth and have helped us grow as Christians. Jan, your friendly face was always a comfort when we saw you. Your dedication to MOPS [Mothers Of PreSchoolers] is incredible too! The 2 of you have a heart for people that is so evident. Thank You for your ministry. Thank you for your hard work at Canyon View…

A MOPS Mom

John and Jan

Thank you for your dedication to Canyon View and excellent teaching. You brought stability to the pulpit, when we really needed it.

A Former Elder

“… You two were extremely important in [our] lives. …  I know God brings us all together for reasons we may not know at the time, but I am sure that without your mentorship as a Christian couple, [my husband] would likely not yet be saved and we may not be married. …”

A Young Couple

John, when I first had the privilege to hear you preach at Canyon View Church of Christ, I felt as though I had been swept away across oceans and unknown lands, until I was sitting at the feet of Peter or Paul, or perhaps – Jesus. … You made me feel like I was right there. … I felt like the people around me at church had shared the movement of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through your sermon.

A Middle-Aged Couple

To J & J.

  • Sailed in
  • Sowed Wisdom, Love & Compassion
  • Sailed Out
  • Left behind great treasures

A Senior Saint

Dear John & Jan,

Words cannot express the sadness I feel at the thought of no longer having you near. Who do we call when we must visit the ER? Who will comfort us (as only you can) when tragedy strikes? Who can preach those intriguing sermons? 

A Senior Couple

John, Jan and Dixie,

When I started coming to Canyon View, the way you, John, spoke to me of God touched my soul and encouraged me to live a better life, in HIS light

A Young Mother

After reading just some of these letters, you might begin to understand why I love ministry so. Finally, most touching of all, were the coloring pages and the hugs the children gave us when we left. There will always be a place in my heart for Canyon View.

I will try to make regular posts and share pictures of the exciting journey we are beginning.

Blessings!

John & Jan McKeel

Our little cabin on Center Island, Washington
Our little cabin on Center Island, Washington

Lectureship Report

N.T. Wright and John McKeel
N.T. Wright and John McKeel

The 73rd annual Pepperdine Bible Lectureship is over, but it was a wonderful experience. It was great to see old friends and make new friends. We heard some amazing speakers, listened to some incredible teachers and I was totally surprised by the response to my class.

When Friday came, I was full of trepidation. My class, “Five Minutes on the Back of a Napkin: A Visual Approach to Sharing the Gospel,” was scheduled after lunch on the last day of the lectureship. Many people have to leave early to catch flights home. Likewise, the hour after lunch is the most challenging time of day for a teacher since everyone is full and probably looking for a pillow rather than another class to attend. On top of all that, my class was located in the back of a building and scheduled to run at the same time famous Bible scholar, N.T. Wright was teaching in Smother’s Theater! I really doubted anyone would show up, but, by the time class began the room was at double capacity. There were students sitting on the floor, standing in the aisles and dragging chairs up in the hall. I was amazed and gratified!

In the coming weeks, I’ll try to post more sections from the class for people to follow along with. Meanwhile, I need to catch up on my sleep and massage aching muscles — the Pepperdine campus is laid out vertically. There are 139 steps from the field house to the plaza and I can’t tell you how many times we climbed them, but it was so very worth it!

The 73rd Annual Pepperdine Bible Lectureship

John guiding in Bavaria 1975
John guiding in Bavaria 1975

This Friday, May 6th, I will be teaching a class, “Five Minutes on the Back of a Napkin: A Visual Approach to Sharing the Gospel,” at the 73rd Annual Pepperdine Bible Lectureship in Malibu, California. Sharing the Good News shouldn’t be a program. We don’t need to learn a “sales pitch” or use some kind of gimmick to share the Gospel. When my daughter was born, I had to tell someone the good news. It was 3:00 in the morning! So I went to Denny’s and burst through the doors shouting, “It’s a girl!” Everyone shared my joy and someone bought my breakfast!

Do you remember the story of the Triumphal Entry (Luke 19:28-43)? When the religious leaders tried to tell Jesus to quiet the Master’s joyous celebration,  “He answered, ‘ I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Likewise, Jesus used this principle with the Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). When the man was cured, he asked to go with Jesus, but the Lord said, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.”

The apostles used this principle with the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-22). When the politicians told the apostles not to talk about Jesus anymore, they replied they couldn’t help but speak.

You know your own story of how God saved you, but what many people struggle with is a framework. Where do I begin? What do I need to say? That’s what this class is all about. If you happen to be at the lectureship, I hope you’ll join me. Meanwhile, several people have asked me to share more about sharing the gospel on the back of a napkin. Stay tuned!

Caught Red-handed

Have you ever been caught with your hand in the cookie jar? There was no doubt you were guilty, but still you denied it? Waiting for Christmas is an unbearable time for kids. While my younger brother and I were growing up, I remember there was still a week to go when we discovered where mom and dad hid the presents. They were on the top shelf of their closet – way out of reach for us, but the knowledge that they were there, right there above our heads was just too much.

Then, one day, mom and dad left the house to visit the neighbors next door. It was our big chance! We quickly assembled our tiny tot wicker chairs, I climbed up to the clothes rod and did a pull up. As my brother held the contraption together, I was able to describe the treasures that were above us. “A cowboy six gun and holster set and it has the pop out darringer belt buckle!” “A Fort Apache play set!” The list went on treasure after childhood treasure. Then we heard the front door open.

Mom and dad were home and there was no escape! Always a quick thinker, I jumped down and told Mike to close the closet door. We sat on our chairs in the dark listening to our parents calling our names. Suddenly the closet door slid open and there we were: two innocent angels.

Dad looked down and asked the obvious question, “What are you boys doing?”

We were guilty and there was no denying it, but still we tried. “Just sitting.”

Mom joined dad and it was all they could do not to breakout laughing, but we needed to be taught a lesson. “Hmm. You’ve been looking at the presents haven’t you?”

“No dad, honest!” I lied. He saw right through me.

“Well, we’ll just have to take them all back to the store.”

“No! No!” Not that! How awful. We were just about to receive everything we dreamed about for Christmas and now they were going back! It was too much. Mom and dad took the presents down from the shelf and packed them up in bags. It was too much! The punishment was too severe.

Fortunately the toys magically appeared beneath the tree on Christmas morning any way, but I learned an important lesson that I’ll never forget: Post a guard on the front porch!

10 Days in Brighton, UK (part 2)

Jan on the steps of her rented flat.
Jan on the steps of her rented flat.

I’ve just returned from spending 10 days with my wife Jan, our daughter Heather and granddaughter India in Brighton, England. Jan is there to take care of them while Heather has surgery. Last week I shared my adventures from the first five days. Here is my account of the last five.

Day Six

The rain is back today with a vengeance, but you don’t notice it so much because of the freezing wind … I left Jan and Dixie wrapped up in their beds and made my way to the Brighton Marina today. (That must come as a big surprise!) Only a sailor would brave the weather just to visit a chandlery 10,000 miles from home.

I had a nice lunch of cod watching the waves crashing over the sea wall. Very, very nasty out there! Visited the lifeboat station (volunteer Coast Guard) and bought some mugs to support a great cause. Then I walked along the beach. Needless to say I had the whole place to myself except for a couple of muggers hiding under the Brighton Pier.

This must be the best beach in the world! Not a grain of sand anywhere. Just piles of pebbles the size of your fist.

For dinner tonight we ordered Turkish Take-Away (shish-kabobs delivered to your door). I can’t understand why no one wants to walk down to the corner pub with me. Not for the beer (yuk) — for the hot chocolate! You could never do that in America without turning in your Man-card: “Two guys walk into a bar and order a hot chocolate…” Here: no problem.

Day Seven

India&Heather
India & Heather (and Little Ed the green dinosaur)

Winston Churchill said about the Brits and the Yanks, “We are two people separated by a common language.” The biggest change I’ve discovered since I turned 60 has been the loss of my hearing. I really need to get hearing aids. Combine that with the accents over hear and I might as well be deaf. Even when I can understand the words, I often don’t understand the meaning. Sweaters are jumpers and desserts are puddings. (And you thought a pudding was a dessert — silly American.)

While Jan and Dixie are doing much better (still coughing and sneezing and staying home), I can feel the Black Death knocking at my door. I was able to forage for food (and toilet paper) this morning, but I’m staying close to home tonight. Pass the OJ and tissues!

 

Day Eight

Hooray! The sun came out today and all three of us are up and feeling better (Jan, Dixie, and I). Unfortunately, little India began vomiting in the night — projectile vomiting actually. We spent the afternoon washing clothes, drapes, carpet, bedding and body parts. I am convinced the amount of sputum is inversely proportional to the age of the spewee. The other amazing thing is how they can be sick one moment and be laughing and jumping the next. Ahh to be two again.

Day Nine

Tonight Jan and I enjoyed English food at the pub around the corner. After her illness, Jan needed something bland and English food certainly fits the bill. I had “bangers and mash” (sausages and mashed potatoes) and Jan had something that was listed as a cheese-burger. Hey, not all English food is bad. I really like shish-kabobs (pronounced “kababs”) oh wait! That’s Turkish. I love their Thai food … oh wait …. Okay I love Krispy Kremes, KFC, Papa John’s Pizza, McDonalds and Starbucks. All of them are available within walking distance. Oh, I refused to go into a shop that was offering “Cornish Pasties” — I’m a Christian after all — until someone explained they’re pronounced “Pah-sties” and are a meat filled pastry served in the southwestern part of England. Not bad! And then Heather made the most wonderful Irish Stew — oh wait that’s Irish… It’s all so confusing.

Day Ten

Okay, I couldn’t resist one last post before I fly home. The sun is shining, my coffee is hot and little India is playing here at the kitchen table.

It’s been a good visit, but not at all what we planned. I’m glad I was here to help get everyone through the flu. I just hope I don’t bring it back to the states with me in the morning!

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in church on Sunday!

Lewes, Sussex, UK
Lewes, Sussex, UK

10 Days in Brighton, UK (part 1)

John&Jan in LewesJan has been living in Brighton, England since September to take care of our two granddaughter, India, while our daughter Heather has surgery. She will probably be there through January, so I went for a ten-day visit. Here is my trip report.

Day One

First full day in Brighton. I thought I was doing well with jet lag until tonight (strange bed etc.). Woke up at midnight and I’m having a hard time falling back asleep. It was a “blustery day” today but so wonderful to be here.

Jan made breakfast. The English have a slice of toast and coffee, but Jan knows how much I love the “most important meal of the day.” Then we took a double decker bus into town and walked in the wind and rain. Finished the day by picking India up from pre-school and pushing the pram home (uphill).

Jan has rented a couple of rooms in a home for us to stay in. It gets dark early (5:00) so to stay awake Jan and I walked up the lane to a little British pub (lots of dark wood) and I had “bangers and mash” (sausages with mashed potatoes, gravy and peas) and tried to drink a beer like the everyone else. I don’t think I’ve done that since Army Basic Training forty-years ago. The taste hadn’t changed so I changed to Diet Pepsi. It’s brown fuzzy water for this Yank!

Day Two

No rain or wind today but it’s still cool and overcast. Dixie visited the doctor and spent the day in bed resting while Jan, Heather, India and I walked to the beach and went shopping. The shops in the lane were amazing. I really enjoyed browsing the old bookstores. We bought some wool hats and had a wonderful time. India’s new phrase is “Papa’s mustache…” I also discovered we both like olives and gelato (don’t ask).

Day Three

Went to the village of Lewes today. The clouds broke up for a little while and gave me a chance to take some pictures. They have old stuff here. I visited a bookshop from the 16th century and the first castle built after the Norman conquest! I love the “downs” — the rolling hills just north of the coast although I wonder why they didn’t call them the “ups”?

DSC_5835
India in the Toy Store

Papa made a mistake and took India to a little toy shop. I know they have old stuff in Lewes but people did look at the Yank hauling around a giant, green rubber dinosaur through the town (or is it a dragon?) The thing was so big, we buckled it into the seat beside India in the car and Jan and I took the train back to Brighton! Granddaughters smile and Papa gives them whatever they want. It’s a law of nature…

Day Four

My two impressions of Sussex so far are: they have old stuff and it rains a lot. Today it poured so hard we stayed in. It seemed like a good day for laundry. English washing machines are quite small and the instructions are written in German. Ours has an option for “drying” but I think it actually just makes the wet clothes steam. Thus the custom is to spread your clothes throughout the house and wait for summer when they will finally be dry. Since your clothes will be instantly wet when you walk outside, it really doesn’t matter if they are dry or just warm feeling does it?

I do like the fact that you don’t have to turn in your “man card” if you order hot chocolate instead of coffee here. Sweet Rolls are called either “Swirlies” or “Chelsea’s Buns.” That sounds a bit off-color to me so I just order a croissant.

Day Five

Today is “Remembrance Day” in Great Britain (like our Memorial Day/Veterans Day) and I must say I was impressed. At exactly 11:00 everyone stops for 60 seconds and remembers those who have gone before. I happened to be in the local 7-10 food store when an announcement came over the intercom calling all the employees to the front. I was checking out, but when 11:00 struck, we stopped and everyone froze wherever they were and waited. It was most impressive except for the old bat who used that opportunity to by pass all the lines. I guess you have them everywhere.

Jan and Dixie are both quite ill now and spent the day confined to their beds. It was the first blue sky day we’ve had so I made lunch and then took the bus into town to explore on my own. Not much to report but I still can’t figure out how that mermaid got tattooed on my … just kidding.

To be continued…