Finally, I am finding words. What happened in this most intense week of my life? Come and see.
Here’s what didn’t happen. We didn’t see whales this time—the first Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop workshop ever without whales. Nor did we see Kodiak bears, though we tried. But we saw a squid. Small, nearly translucent, with neon eyes and a weird affinity for us. He played around our boots for 15 minutes. We held him in the cradle of our hands.
I never know what’s going to happen this week when 22 writers from everywhere gather on our fish camp island in Alaska. We first met on Saturday, sitting in a circle, telling 2 minutes of our story. We did not know each other. I asked, “Why have you come so far? What are you looking for?” Before we even began, there were tears and raw hearts. I wondered, what will God do here?
It wasn’t a simple or easy week. One of our beloved crewmen was injured by a chainsaw (Incredibly, a float plane was nearby so he could be whisked to the hospital. He is well and healed now.) A film crew was there filming the classes—-which stressed me out. One day we shot three sessions consecutively, ending with headaches, exhausted. We had some crises in the kitchen so everyone had to cook. We ran out of veggies. Did I sleep that week?
And the aftermath? The 28 sets of sheets, the 15 rooms to be cleaned and closed up for the winter . . .
But it was an extravagant week.
I know so many of you who want to come. But it’s far. And it costs. But I want you to know,
You don’t have to fly to a far north island in Alaska to live this way. You don’t have to fly in a float plane, walk in wilderness, ride in skiffs, to know this same joy.
Two thousand years ago a man said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.”
The man who promised this was mostly homeless, born into an oppressed minority, despised by the religious authorities, distrusted by his family, misunderstood by even his closest friends, marked for death by his many enemies. And yet---he lived extravagantly, generously, sacrificially, joyfully, abundantly.
Have you heard this?
“Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
What IS this abundant life?
It IS a life of more. Not Joel-Osteen “more.” Not bigger houses, fancier cars, better job, more expensive clothes “more.” “More” meaning a life beyond our lonely single selves. Meaning a life bound up, twined into the lives of others. “More” includes, yes, exhaustion, Yes, risk. Yes, wounding and betrayal. Yes, grief. Yes, failure. All of it. But it means, more than anything, MORE of one another. And MORE of God. And with this “more,” in the company of friends and God, a little squid playing in our hands is as wondrous as a whale.
This is the fullest life I know. We can live like this wherever we are, every single day.
Will you try—-and tell me about it?
(Who’s coming for the next HIWW? Here:)