It's a bright freezing day here in Kodiak. The wind is whirling the waters. It's hard passage for the winter fishermen, whose boats can ice and sink. Even in the summers, these waters can be hard passage for us as well!
But come on in anyway. You'll be safe, dry and warm. Though we're sailing treacherous, real waters, I promise a happy ending, and I'm giving away some “Crossing the Waters” .
When I first came to Kodiak so-long ago, when we were young and ready for anything, Duncan told me a story I didn't want to believe. It had happened just a couple of years before I came. It's Dave's story mostly to tell. And he does share his story with many. But here is the heart of it, and the tiny piece I was honored to experience.
Dave and his son Skeeter were winter watchman at a cannery fourteen miles from our island. His father, seventy-one, was living there with him that winter. His father was a Jesus follower who lived as a missionary in the Aleutians in a village of a hundred people, living out Christ among them.
Skeeter was excited his grandfather was there for the season. The two had a special bond. This day was Skeeter’s fourteenth birthday. They took one of the dogs, a black lab, and two rifles to go hunting. It was a calm day. Just a little wind chop on the water. Nothing to even pay attention to.
But hours passed and they didn’t return. Dave found their skiff drifting, with the dog and the rifle still in it, and nothing else. They were gone. They had slipped beneath those quiet black waters, waters without a hint of storm or danger that day.
On this same day, forty years later, I was there on Dave’s fishing boat. I was visiting Dave, doing research for my new book. I had no idea I would be there on that anniversary. We sat together in the wheelhouse, sailing the waters of the bay they had died under, and talked about God, about why bad things happen.
“I don’t know why I lost my son. I’d been looking forward to having a son since I was twelve years old,“ Dave says calmly with his resonant voice. “I have a friend who says it was Satan. Who says every bad thing that happens is from Satan. I don’t believe that.”
Then in a quieter voice he says, “I found my dad’s body the next day. Where we found their skiff, drifting, down there close to the cannery, there’s a patch of forget-me-not’s that bloom on the beach every year. There, just there and nowhere else in that area. That’s a holy place,” he says, as I close my eyes for the tears. We are silent in the wonder and fear of it.
Before I said yes to Duncan, that I would marry him and make this island and its waters my home, this was one of the very first stories Duncan told me. He wanted me to know that this place was dangerous. That people could die here, just like that. Just by falling out of a boat on a calm day. He wanted me to know that living here had a cost. Duncan was right.
But no one warned me about the Christian life, that pledging my whole self to this Jesus would not change my world. That life would still be dangerous. That storms would still come. There are so many storms.
What about the storm of fire? Can we trust him through the pain and loss and storm of fire? Because there was a fire. It started in the kitchen in the early hours of the morning, long before anyone was up. But one person, up in the night, saw the house aflame. And my mother-in-law was inside. I wasn’t there, but others were, her eldest son, a handful of crewmen, her youngest son a mile away. They broke the window to get in. One climbed inside, keeping low to the ground. He could not see for the smoke. He could not find her and he could not breathe. He fell back out of the window, heaving. He tried again in a moment, after his breath came back. He could not find her again, and now he might die too, the flames were closer and no air was left to breathe. He fell out for the last time and the house was nearly gone.
She was a follower of Jesus. She had loved and served him her whole life, without pause or question. Church organist, church everything, generous, always thoughtful. She loved her life out at Bear Island. She loved the wildflowers, the beaches. What peace could be spoken into this storm?
From the start, I knew Jesus as a rescuing God who saved me from my self, from my lonely and loveless life, from my own proud and self-sufficient heart. I believe he is with us in every storm, but how many boats have gone down just in this corner of the sea? How many men and women lost when the flames were not quenched, when the waters were not calmed? Yes, so many saved, but so many lost. Even those who knew Jesus. I know he told it straight and often, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I know that “take up their cross” means to be ready to die. But who can do this?
I think Wanda could. She lived a life of such service and love, I saw it daily: how she died to self. How in that dying she brought life to so many.
Who knows how God will decide to bring us home? I am trying not to fear that death. My greatest fear is that I will refuse the cross and insist on a private self-adoring life, and I won't even know it. That is the death I fear.
There is more to say about this. There is a deeper brighter answer to this question: "Why do bad things happen to good people, to God’s people?" And there is a larger question that lies at the heart of Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas": " What IS Jesus calling us to? And---If we decide to follow Jesus with ALL of our hearts, what should that life look like? " Maybe not what you think. If you haven't made that journey yet, I hope you will.
I do want to send some books out this week. If you are part of a Bible study group or book club and you're considering your next read, I'll send one to your group! Just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know what your group is and where to send it. (I also will come and "visit" your group by Skype!)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. -----Jesus