Crossing the Waters

Storming God's Peace (and Books to Send)

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!


(photos by Carol Scott)

(photos by Carol Scott)

carol scott--noah storm skiff.jpg


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 ( 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
Dave and I at Harvester Island this last fall. 

Dave and I at Harvester Island this last fall. 

Kids on a Stormy Sea (video): Growing Young, Growing Old

My kids have grown up in skiffs, on the Alaskan ocean, surrounded by fish, kelp and rolling water. (Hold on to something stable while you watch this!)





Coming in from fishing at 11:30 pm.

Coming in from fishing at 11:30 pm.

Noah, 10, coming in from a huge storm.

Noah, 10, coming in from a huge storm.

It has not all been good. They will tell you of unending kelp in the nets, of too many fish and not enough fish, of mending net in the rain, of huge seas, of lost meals and sleep. But most of them come back. For at least part of the summer fishing season. For now.


They have grown up in the skiff. A girl became a fisherwoman. Boys became fishermen. And me? Some days, after 38 seasons out here, I think this life has turned this young woman old.    


But God will not allow it. Not yet, at least. The day I landed on the island for my 36th season, something happened.   I saw a furious splashing out by the reef in front of our house. A pod of orcas hunting down sea lions, maybe?

“Micah! Abraham! Come quick!” They run to the window with me, watching strange flippers emerge then a huge dark body leapt out of the water.

“What is it?” the boys ask together. Then I know.

“It’s a pod of fin whales. They’re lunge feeding!”

My eyes are fixated on their antics. I almost can’t believe it. Fin whales are sober whales. They don’t cavort or frolic like humpbacks. They’re massive, second only to the blue whale, and they haul their heft with great solemnity about the oceans. They know what life is about. They migrate to this bay again and again every summer, like me. They’ve seen it all. And, we have too. 


But now—there are fresh herring darting into the bay. Now it is nearly summer. Now they give up their old habits and indulge in what’s called lunge feeding. I’ve read about it but never seen it. They’re feeding on their sides, skimming and scooping up schools of herring, their usually invisible flippers flapping and slapping the water.

We watch with binoculars as they rise and roll, flushing the waters with their spinning and lunging, mixing water and whale and air into a wondrous froth. Why merely sink and dive when they can spin and skim their thirty-ton bodies up onto the lovely surface and net whole schools of tasty fish?

And there we are, laughing, witnessing their perfect feast, and who knows what else is possible in this watery world?  (Click to Tweet)



All the next day my steps are light with joy. I remember G. K. Chesterton’s words:

"It is possible that God says every morning to the sun, 'Do it again,' and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike. It may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we are."


Is it possible that already I am young again, full of hope for the season ahead? The waters that threaten us, that wear us out and down, also inspire and launch the worlds’ heaviest creatures into the air—can it be?  (Click to Tweet)


But it is. And I think again of the gathering of waters, the mikveh, the Hebrew word for that moment in Genesis when God called out all the waters above and below into a single massive body, the seas. The same word, mikveh (literally meaning “collection”), came to be used of every gathering of water that cleansed and purified. A convert to Judaism would immerse himself into the mikveh, a special pool of water for that very purpose, waters that were sometimes called “the womb of the world.”

As the convert came up out of the waters, he emerged new, as a child, now separated from his own pagan past. He was called “a little child just born,” or “a child of one day.”

I am a “child of one day” this day, the spume of the whale washing over me. I am converted from the wear of age and time and so many trips and seasons and fear and doubt out here—made young again by delight. And it is easy to think of God creating the oceans right now. It is easy to think of Jesus right now. So many times I am looking for Him, for that man who has both rescued me in such particular ways, and who remains yet so far off, so invisible that I am blinded with longing and frustration.

But this first day my eyes are open. As I launch off into the pages of this book, Crossing the Waters, I will show everywhere I have found him here, in these waters, and in the waters of the gospels. 

And you, too, are you ready to be made young again?

God is waiting to fill you with delight!!



(Adapted from Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas)

(And writing this, thinking of you all, already fills me with delight!)



Will You Cross the Waters with Me?

Dear Friends,

 Do you know how it feels when you’ve been rehearsing for months? You stand trembling at the edge of the stage, just out of the bright lights. You hope you know your part. And suddenly there’s your cue-----you run into the lights, heart knotted, stomach flipping . .. .


Or---do you know how it feels when you’ve prayed for a baby for years, and now she’s ready to enter the world? But you’re not ready. You can hardly face the contractions, the panting, the tearing of flesh . . . ??


 Or ---do you know how it feels when you start a new ministry? You know you heard God call. You pray God will be honored. You’ve poured all your resources into this venture and now at your Grand Opening, you hope people will come---but what if they don’t?

  Though this is my tenth book, that’s how I feel right now. Because---Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas is finally birthed into the world this week: 

And I’m a bit of a mess, I confess. (Despite the happy-face trailer above . . . ) I’ve spent three years writing this, and almost 40 years living it. The pages are full of storms and saltwater and blood and doubt and questions and yes, Jesus. He shows up there as He has in my life---in surprising, even shocking ways.


bloody hands.JPG

 And I know He'll keep showing up. But I’m scared. (Lord, forgive my lack of faith!) More than a million books release EVERY year. And people read fewer books, buy fewer books. This is the writer’s burden, to write her heart and soul out not knowing, not ever knowing if anyone will see, hear, listen to those words.

 But some have. Mostly reviewers so far. And they've been kind and generous:


"This book is a rare gift. It pulses with story and theology, with lived suffering and quiet joy, with vast mysteries and a strong Savior. The question is not if you can put it down—because that will be hard—but if you have the good sense first to pick it up, and read."

Mark Galli

Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today



"Before reading Crossing the Waters, I didn’t yet realize that the guide I most needed to steer me through turbulent waters was one whose hands smell of finger kelp. With insight, wisdom, and a deep connection to the maritime world from which Jesus plucked his first followers, Leslie Leyland Fields blesses readers who want to see the Word, and see Jesus, with fresh eyes."

 ---Margot Starbuck

    Speaker and author of The Girl in the Orange Dress




"The disciples could often be found battling rough seas, storms, and empty nets. As an Alaskan fisherman for nearly four decades, Leslie Leyland Fields brings unique insight to the disciples’ experiences with Jesus—and how we, too, can learn to trust and follow the Savior."

----Jim Daly
     President of Focus on the Family


Here's where the book will take us!

 Excerpt from the Introduction:

 . . .  This trip through the Gospels will be different than others. It’s an immersive on-the-ground, in- the-water experience, just as it should be because the Gospels are anything but dry. They are dramatic, wild—and wet, set in a rich maritime culture on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I understand something about this world; it’s not so far from my own. In the midst of all these waters and words and worlds, I’ve been brought startlingly near to this man who claimed to be God. I want to bring you closer to see and experience for yourself.
So here’s where we’re going. Think of it as one giant float trip. I’ll take you from whatever fields, cities, or neighborhoods you live in, and we’ll cross to my Alaskan waters. We’ll ride through a season of commercial fishing in this wild corner of the world. I want you to see, smell, and taste the waters here as I (try to) follow Jesus. We’ll cross the waters to Israel as well, where I hiked the “Gospel Trail” around the Sea of Galilee and went out fishing with Galilean fishermen. And we’ll step out on a new journey through the Gospels, dipping into some of the wettest, stormiest, strangest events of those three years.“Come, follow me,” Jesus beckoned to the astonished fishermen, and he beckons to us as well all these centuries later.
We’ll follow him, then, through those waters: the Jordan River, where he sunk under river waters and rose like a dove, and the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where he strode atop the waves of a storm, broke two small fish into a feast for thousands, filled a net to breaking when no fish could be found, shouted down a storm from a sinking boat. Where he fed his friends a meal of grilled fish, commanding them to “feed my sheep”. . .before disappearing into heaven. I promise you a trip unlike any other.
But I have to warn you. Travel is risky, especially in Alaska, and especially in the Gospels. Storms come up, you have only oars against the sea, there are too many in the boat, everyone argues, and you can’t keep the water out. Will we get to the other side safely, our minds clearer, our eyes and ears fixed on Jesus? I’m as nervous as you are as I step into the boat, because I know there will be fear, high seas, and spume along the way. Maybe even some whales will breach beside us. But I also know what came after those crossings—people were healed, parties broke out, the sightless walked straight, the starving ate fish that never ran out, and twelve common men (finally) grew confident and fearless.
Maybe some of this will happen for us as well.


Would you tell me what happened for you when you  Crossed the Waters, submerged and rose again?



SO Gratefully,