There is a certain thing that can happen in a one-night concert in an auditorium or arena, and Bill and I have been sharing such evenings with beautiful people all over the world for more than fifty years. We have seen many a cold sports center or city auditorium turned into a cathedral by the presence of the Lord.
But there is something quite different that can happen when a group of seekers travel together on a ship for a whole week, bumping into each other over breakfast, experiencing a salmon bake in the pine woods by a cold spring-fed stream, or being reduced to silence by the intimidation of a glacier. Or how about smelling the pristine waters where blue icebergs float by just a few feet away carrying a family of seals?
Some of my most memorable conversations have “just happened” in a little Russian Orthodox church in Sitka or while standing at the ship’s rail listening to the once-in-a-lifetime sound of a glacier “calving.”
I have to admit that Alaska is my favorite trip. Maybe that is because I grew up in Michigan where there were logging villages in the Upper Peninsula and cold rivers where the Coho salmon climbed the “ladders” to fight their way upstream. I guess that may have been where I learned to love people who are willing to swim upstream against the current of common opinion. I love the hardiness of people toughened and tempered by weather and sometimes the struggle to conquer the elements and survive.
This summer, cruising the intercoastal waterway in Alaska, I especially loved being surprised by a waterfall as the ship sailed round a bend of an emerald green mountain, or seeing a pod of orcas playing like children in the icy waters. Most of all I loved both the solitude and community—the quiet moments by myself to listen to the “still small voice,” as well as the accidental chance to have coffee with old friends I’d never met.
For whatever reason, there is a certain thing that happens when the Family of God gets away from the plastic pressures of dulling routine to sail to a place where we are once more reminded what God had in mind when he created the beautiful, unspoiled wilderness and gave it to us to enjoy and preserve. Fill that ship with music celebrating the wonders of not only God’s creation, but the marvel of a God who walks with us (or in this case, sails with us) through the oceans of our lives, and something so memorable happens that it continues to inform years of landlocked days back home.