Project 52 #45: Rhythms of Praise

Ocean tides, they rise and fall,

Rolling waves, they know their bounds,

As earth spins round,

In dance with moon,

At the voice of Creator God,

At the voice of our God.

And all the earth, it sings,

All the earth, lifts up its praise,

Glory,

Glory,

Glory to Creator God.

“Do you not fear me? declares the LORD. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.” (Jeremiah 5:22)

Project 52 #36: A Tale of Four Fishing Trips

I am no stranger to fishing as a native of Minnesota’s northern lake country, and my grandpa made sure I knew how to bait my own hook and tie a good fish line knot before I was ten. If you had asked, I would have told you I grew up in a place where fishing was a big deal.

Alaska, however, has opened up a whole new world of fishing for me. I realize now that fishing was, for all its popularity, still considered by myself and many of my Minnesota friends to be merely a recreational hobby that fostered a great tourism industry, a way to relax on weekends, and a lot of meaning in life for retirees. Here, it’s all those things, but also much more than that. For many people in Alaska, it’s literally a way of life. They take their fishing seriously because it’s legitimately how they fill their freezers and pantry shelves, and feed their family for the year. The best part, of course, is that it actually IS as fun as it is rewarding—and so I present a few tales of discovering that for myself.

Tale #1: Someone told us the salmon were running along an easily accessible beach on their way to the river. Climb down the bank, cast out and you can catch salmon right from the shore, they said. I had never fished in the ocean. I had never fished by myself. But, I’d been dying to catch more fish, and I knew I’d be driving right by that very beach on the way to a dentist appointment. The way it was described to me, it seemed easy enough. I decided to try it.

Let it be noted that this was a very last minute idea and literally all I did was throw a pole in the back of the car before I left in a hurry for my appointment. I definitely didn’t dress for fishing (something I noted wryly as I clambered awkwardly down the steep bank), and I brought no net, pliers, or fishing tackle. I stopped in town to pick up an extra lure, just for good measure, dubiously guessing which one might be appropriate based on it’s popularity (the one that was nearly sold out ought to be a good one, right?).

But what I lack in planning ahead, (waders would have been nice) I assure you I make up for in determination. I nearly lost two lures to the rocks, but saved them by wading out across the sharp barnacles in my stocking feet.

I could see the fish jumping a few yards out, but I was struggling to cast out far enough and having lost one lure and gotten wet over my knees rescuing the two others, my enthusiasm was dwindling. I’ll give it ten more minutes, I decided. A few minutes later, I had a fish on the beach.

There was no one there to witness my success but God and the seagulls. It was not very big, too small to keep. But it was my first of it’s kind, and I had caught it all by myself. I snapped a quick picture, then slipped it gently back in to the salty waves to go back and grow bigger.

Tale #1 will stand in somewhat interesting contrast to Tale #2.

A few days later, I went fishing again. This time I had waders, but more crucially, this time I had a pair of fishing guides, some dear friends who had been regaling us all year with tales of fishing the Klawock River during the salmon run. When word came that the fish had arrived, Zach insisted on staying home with the kids so I could go.

My first clue of what was to come was when we had to work to find a parking place amidst a long row of vehicles, a rather unusual problem for here. From there, we grabbed our gear and took the short hike down through the forest to the river bank. The first thing I noted in amazement as we came out into the open was that the flowing water was literally boiling with fish. The second was that the banks were lined with fishermen, nearly shoulder to shoulder. There were large, beautiful coho salmon being landed at a constant rate, people graciously moving aside as needed in an unspoken code of fishing etiquette. Everyone was intently focused and in high spirits.

This was not so much a place as it was an event. I was excited and intimidated all at once. I was timid to cast out, afraid that I, in my inexperience, was going to hook some hapless fellow human in the eye. And so, of course, being timid, I caught nothing at first.

Now, I’m just going to say right here that it’s fantastic and tremendously character building to learn by trial and error and teach yourself.

However, it’s infinitely better if you just have a Glen and Rose.

They were the best teachers, tirelessly demonstrating the techniques to me as they proceeded to smoothly land a limit each in short order, kindly critiquing and patiently coaching my faltering rooky efforts. Glen taught me how to tie their home-cured fish egg bait on my hook in such a way as to survive a vigorous cast, and then Rose showed me how to cast it out there like I meant it. When I finally got a fish on my line, they coached that beautiful big fighting silver all the way up out of the river and into my delighted possession, rejoicing with me in the prize. And, as a sign of true friendship, they waited for me to catch my entire limit myself when they could have probably caught it themselves in half the amount of time.

I am still smiling at the memory of this day, even now as I write this. And here we are, in all our water soaked, fish slimed and scaled glory.

Tale #3: One sunny Saturday morning, Tim and Rita invited me to go out in their boat for my very first chance to try ocean fishing. Susanna came along, which is a good thing, since she was the only Ender in the boat to catch anything. I got not even so much as a bite, which, I assure you, is no reflection on my fishing guides’ expertise. But, as my grandpa used to say, a true fisherman must learn to enjoy the trying as much as the catching. And I was truly grateful for the chance to try.

It was a bit choppier than we expected, so we couldn’t get out to Tim’s favorite halibut spot, and I had to work intentionally to ward off seasickness. But I loved getting to see the mouth of the bay for the first time. Thorne Bay is long and narrow, and curves around before it opens up into Clarence Strait, so even though I’ve been out on it in a kayak or a friend’s skiff a few times, I had never been quite far enough to see the big water around the corner. It was beautiful to see how the mountains met the sea out there, and the way the waves crashed on the rocks. I learned how to bait a double hook with herring for halibut, an entirely different technique from the egg bait I’d learned to tie on for salmon earlier in the week. We cheered when someone landed a flounder and laughed when our lines got tangled in the flurry of pulling it in. I thought I caught a mega halibut, only to discover with great disappointment that I’d merely caught “the whole world” (aka, the very much immovable bottom of the sea). Back at the docks, I recovered from a light case of sea legs, then took Susanna’s cod home to become fish tacos for supper.

Tale #4: “Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.” (John 21:5-13)

(Just in case you needed proof that the love of a good fishing tale is entirely Biblical.)

I am so grateful to all the various friends here who have generously given of their time to teach us how and where to fish the waters of our island home—and I’m looking forward to many more fishing tales (and fish) ahead next year!

Project 52 #25: Swimming With Jellyfish

There are some capsules of time that are just sheer beauty and wonder. They’re the kind you always remember, the kind where you don’t even have to close your eyes to remember…

the wonder and delight of tiptoeing along through the water with the jellyfish swirling magically around you and purple starfish at your feet…

the way the waves of a passing cruise ship wanted to lift your feet right off the sand…

that exhilarating moment of plunging all the way in and listening to your children laugh in delight and come piling in after you…

the way your body tingled when you came up out of the cold ocean into the hot sunshine of a rare southeast Alaskan heatwave, and the way that feeling lasted for hours afterwards…

or the way the beach peas were trailing wild over the bleached driftwood when the sun sank to the treetops and you clambered down the pebbly bank to go home.

I think that those of us who live in the places where summer is fleeting are less likely to take it for granted. In some ways, I am grateful that it’s fleeting, because the beauty of it isn’t lost on me and I am not afraid to stop and savor it before the days slip through my fingers like sand, give way to autumn and winter, and are gone forever.

P.S. Yep, we’re swimming in our clothes. When you feel like swimming, but didn’t think to bring your swimsuit, one of the great delights and freedoms of life is that you don’t have to let that stop you.

Also—the clear jellies pictured here are lovely and harmless, but don’t worry—we kept our eyes open for the stinging varieties!

“There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (Psalm 4:6-7)

Project 52 #20: Summer Approaching

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storehouse or barn; yet God feeds them. How much more valuable you are than the birds!

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!

And do not be concerned about what you will eat or drink. Do not worry about it. For the Gentiles of the world strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added unto you.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves with purses that will not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:22-34)

I’m just going to leave this passage here, because I think it speaks for itself quite well without any commentary from me. But I will say that I was both convicted and encouraged. I hope you are, too.

About the photos: Spring is starting to transition to summer here, our view of the sunset has completely shifted from one side of the bay to the other, and we are doing our best to soak it up, sometimes literally.

I’m not really sure if the ocean ever warms up, but that definitely hasn’t kept people from going swimming!

Someone learned to ride her bike literally overnight, and is about as wild and crazy and pleased about it as she looks in the picture.

And we said yes to a dog. Please send help.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #15: Pebbly Beach

This was a beautiful, restful place to end a very, very busy Easter week. The morning had been wonderful, with the Christians of our community uniting in a truly joyous celebration of the resurrection. An outdoor sunrise service at the park, a fabulous brunch potluck, an indoor service with the beautiful ending of a baptism, dinner with friends, a community egg hunt, all of it so good—but now, we were tired.

I needed the sound of the waves more than I realized. Picking my way along the beach in search of colors and shapes and forms of life, a slow and silent pastime, was incredibly restful and rejuvenating. Far out, flashing rich brown against the blue, two sea lions were traveling south, and up the shore a few friends gathered peacefully around a crackling fire of driftwood, contentedly watching the sun turn the snowy peaks across the strait pink as it sank in the west.

I suspect that’s why Jesus’ disciples, too, headed to the sea after all the drama of the events leading up to His death and resurrection. Being human, I can only imagine how stimulated and drained and emotionally exhausted they were after the incredible lows and highs of the previous week. They did what we all do when we are spent—they went back to the familiar things, to the soothing rhythm of the wind and the waves, and the things they could do without thinking too hard, like fishing. Maybe for some of them, time alone and in the outdoors was what they needed to sort their thoughts out (there had to be a crazy amount of them running through their heads after the week they’d just been through!) and make sense of it all. I know I’m like that.

Today, I was grateful to be reminded that HE PAID IT ALL and IT IS FINISHED.

“But Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:37)

No more striving of mankind necessary. Hallelujah!

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #14: Control Creek

I read the entire book of Joshua this week, and I love the way it’s bookended.

It begins with this powerful commission from God directly to Joshua:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)

It ends with Joshua passing a similar commission on to the children of Israel before his death:

“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed…

…Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 23:14, 24:14-15)

What a great way to begin and end a ministry!

About the photos: This is the creek that runs into Balls Lake, looking beautiful on a sunny day. The berries were amazingly still clinging from fall, and tiny bit of thin ice at the marshy edges was there to remind us that it’s still EARLY spring. We took a short family hike here one afternoon, and then I joined a group of friends to go around the whole lake later in the week. We had such a great time laughing and visiting as we went, and even spotted three of my old friends, the trumpeter swans (who wouldn’t let us get close). Their distinctive call brings back so many sweet memories!

In other news, my camera battery charger got misplaced, so it’s phone photography for a while until I can find it or replace it!

Project 52 #12: Huckleberry Blossoms

The last time we took a walk along Gravelly Creek, it was a winter wonderland.

But in the golden hour of this glorious clear spring day, when the last rays of the sunshine were slanting low along the singing water and through the stately cedars, I saw the huckleberry bushes in all their fairytale spring glory for the first time.

Even this tiny spider (normally not one of my favorite creatures!) on her web seemed ethereal and lovely, like gossamer lace amidst a thousand shimmering translucent bells dancing along the shadowed forest floor. Perhaps the fact that the sun pierces here so infrequently was what made it all so magical.

This week I’ve been reading through the book of Deuteronomy, and I had a couple thoughts about it.

First, the long lists of laws and sacrifices can seem burdensome (and praise God, those sacrifices are no longer necessary now that we are covered by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus!), however if you were to sit down and read through the current laws of your state or country, you’d likely feel the same way or worse. Like: wow, that’s a lot. How am I supposed to remember all that?! Even the laws strictly concerning driving are overwhelming when you’re trying to take a driver’s test!

But some of those lists of detailed rules were really only there for clarification, and for the benefit of those who would keep the order and judge between cases, the “law enforcement”, if you will. Ultimately, all those laws pointed directly back to the basic principles of the ten commandments, which in turn, as Jesus pointed out, are summed up in two, of which one is ultimately the greatest. So it was really quite simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind (and your neighbor as yourself).

Second, the call to holiness is not a burden, it’s an honor. Just read these two parallel passages and think about the language of privilege used in them:

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:2)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #11: Fish Egg Weather

And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)

I was thinking about this passage in light of being a mother this week, and also with the other children God has placed in my life—my children’s friends, the kids I babysit, the kids we meet at church and community activities and the grocery store.

Would my interaction with any of these little ones change if I was really, truly taking this to heart? Would yours? Something to think about.

About the photos: I’m sorry if how I titled this post made you think you were getting pictures of fish eggs, and now you are disappointed. Perhaps that will happen eventually, but for now, let me introduce those of you who aren’t from southeast Alaska to what is locally known as “fish egg weather”. It is the time of early spring which coincides with the herring spawn, and is known for crazy weather switches all in one day. You know, those rain turns to snow turns to sunshine kind of days. We have morning rainbows, followed by the first flocks of spring robins arriving in mid-morning snowstorms, followed by a beautiful afternoon of sunshine. (That was a true story, by the way.) It’s very confusing, but also very hopeful because it is the Beginning of Spring.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Looking for the Light

The longest darkest nights of winter are here.

Growing up in Minnesota, I’ve always known the contrast of short days of winter to the long ones of summer, but here in southeast Alaska the difference is even greater. While we certainly didn’t move up to the Arctic circle where the days dwindle down to almost nothing, we have indeed moved north, and this is the time of year when we realize it most. The arc of the sun across the sky is shallow, a big blazing ball always in your eyes, rolling in a low arc over the mountains across the bay. This week, on winter solstice, the sun rose at 8:17 AM and set at 3:18 PM. An all-day snowstorm obscured the light even further.

Mankind’s yearning for light is especially distinct at this time of the year.

I was thinking about this as we walked out onto the marina on Sunday night, a group of Christmas carolers with clouds of breath hovering about us in the frosty air. My eyes instinctively sought the points of light as we peered down the docks, looking for the houseboat windows that glowed, signaling that their occupants were home. Around the bay, festive lights twinkled, outlining roof edges and trees in windows. Far above us, pinpricks of starlight formed constellations, and a gentle glow in the east signaled the impending rise of the moon. Someone answered our knock, and headlamps shone down on song sheets. We sang about light:

“Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face,

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth, Jesus Lord at Thy birth.”

Light posts glowed periodically along the marina as we walked back to shore, guiding us safely down the solid boards of the dock and away from the dark icy ocean at its edges. The church was waiting down the street, the cross a lighted beacon and the windows glowing with the promise of hot drinks and cookies awaiting us inside. The door opened and light flooded warmly across the street, beckoning us in.

We were created to love light, and it is at this time of year that I understand the most clearly why Isaiah, Zechariah and John described the coming of Christ this way:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. For behold, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2)

“…because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will visit us from on high, to shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

The figurative darkness of our souls was once deeper than the darkest Arctic night, yet Jesus came into this world as LIGHT,

brighter than the floodlights down at the barge docks when they’re unloading at night,

brighter than the three story LED cross down the bay on our neighbor’s house,

yes, brighter even than the noonday sun fully unleashed—

and the darkness fled. There is no more reason to walk fearful in the shadows of sin and impending death, blindly groping, peering, stumbling…

because He came.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Twelve-Mile Arm

The weather was so beautiful during the last week of October, we decided at the very last minute to take the kids on a little overnight “cabining” adventure. The Tongass National Forest is home to several remote rustic cabins that you can rent, and we’ve been eager to check some of them out. We chose this one on a sea estuary called Twelve Mile Arm because it’s one that you can hike into, versus the many that can only be reached by boat or floatplane, and it was just right for us!

Accomplishment #1: We found the place, which was about an hour and half away drive from Thorne Bay, without getting lost.

Accomplishment #2: No one twisted an ankle packing all our gear down the trail in the dark, with no small thanks to the loan of Joel’s wheelbarrow and Jason’s flashlights.

We roasted the classic hotdogs and s’mores, read bedtime stories by flashlight, and the kids slept like logs on those hard bunks in their sleeping bags (don’t ask about dad and mom!). The little wood stove kept the place cozy and someone had left a nice pile of firewood for us to use. The next morning, we did simple things like sit on the porch while sipping hot coffee and poke around along the shoreline for treasures (including the remains of someone’s hunt, as pictured below!). The inlet was like glass, which made for some fabulous kayaking. I saw a jellyfish, and we all saw a pine marten. South-bound geese were flocking up and calling loudly across the water, and it was incredibly peaceful.

We were so grateful for the chance to slow down and spend some time together while experiencing this place for a short but sweet 24 hours!

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2)