I am so tired. I feel like I have been walking through the longest day ever! It is like the sun has not set in days...wait...oh, yeah! The sun has not set in days! Just the other day I watched a neighbor work in the garden at 11:30 PM in the broad sunlight. I saw kids riding their bikes down the road out of the front window. It was simply surreal. My watch must be lying. But it also said I had walked 18000 steps, so I am sticking (and depending on) its truthfulness.
Alaska is beautiful. I cannot describe the beauty. Many have tried before me to capture the vastness of the scope of the landscape and the wonder of the wilderness that exists here...think John Muir and Jack London. But, if you have not seen it, any description will fall short. That does not mean I am not going to try, however. My drive to Girdwood from Anchorage consisted of a scenic drive that almost resulted in my demise on several occasions as I tried to take in the snow-capped mountain ranges surrounding me, the Alaskan Railway running beside me, and the ocean view out the passenger window. Signs told me to watch for Mountain Sheep, Moose, and, yes, Killer Whales. The Bear signs were not here, but don't worry, they would come later. The drive was 45 minutes and possibly, other than watching Alicia walk down the aisle and my kids being born, was the most beautiful 45 minutes of my life. I was in Alaska and I was amazed.
Minutes after pulling into Girdwood I saw a car pulling over to the side of the road. The passenger door was flinging open and a lady egressing from the car before it had completely stopped. She ran ten yards down the road and looked out over a clearing. Quickly, she lifted her camera and started snapping pictures. I stopped my car as quickly as possible and went back to the location where she stood. Her husband and kids stood with her. They were smiling, laughing, and sharing high fives with one another and, even me as I walked up. I asked what they had seen. You guessed it. A grizzly mama and her two cubs walking through the clearing. They had made it through the clearing and into the woods beside us. As she pointed to the woods showing me where they had walked, she realized where her car was, quickly gathered her family, and rushed back to their car. She shared another high five with her husband before jumping back in the passenger seat. I looked over the clearing for a moment, then looked at the woods, then bolted to the car.
I was given a wonderful tour by wonderful people and throughout the day continued to meet people that comprised a community of faith in Girdwood. One thing that was clear to me in my meetings with these folks. They already cared about me, Alicia, and the girls and their genuine concern, generosity, and willingness to provide assistance was overwhelmingly comforting. Girdwood Chapel is a beautiful facility and I cannot believe I will have the privilege of holding service there each week. Any of you planning weddings better give me a call! Seriously. This place rocks! It took a lot of commitment, sweat, and tears to build this place of worship. I had the opportunity to set foot into the building alone and sit in the stillness of the morning. God is there. The Spirit is alive and the energy is bubbling. It is holy ground and I am honored to tend to it.
I suppose it is important to consider that I was here for a reason. I was here to complete the necessary steps to be able to begin my service in Alaska. I was here to meet the board and meet the other Alaskan clergy and, hopefully, be accepted into their ranks. I found nothing but open-hearts and pure hospitality among all those I met. I was treated like they had known me for ages and was received warmly into group discussions and received lovingly into their conference. For goodness sake, I was welcomed into a home by folks who did not know me at all and given a comfortable bed and a cell phone (totally a long story there...not really long just embarrassing...not going to happen). They even made waffles for breakfast! I felt part of the group quickly and unequivocally. In riding this high, there had to be a kick in the teeth, right? No. Wrong. It only got better.
Today, I knelt before the Alaska Missionary Conference Clergy and Lay Leaders as the Superintendent, the Bishop, and Secretary of UMC Global Ministries laid their hands on me. I was confirmed with the responsibility to carry God's word to the people of Alaska and to the ends of the earth. I am sure I will stumble and even fall in this work. How can I not? I am new and unfamiliar with the people, the land, and the needs of the people. I have to balance work life, ministry, and family in a new way. I am going to come up short more than once. But, I am confident I am not alone. The Holy Spirit is in this. Jesus is wrapping the family in His arms. God has got my back.
Yep. I am good. But, I do need to get a new phone...