Here is the world. You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time, you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.
Our float plane’s pontoons land softly on Uyak Bay.
We slide by her, the Harvester tree I long to see each time I come.
I’m fixated. Can’t stop watching her limbs spread wide open to the elements.
What draws me? Why do I photograph her more than any other fixture on this Alaskan island I’ve visited four times before?
Perhaps because she stands alone on a sheer cliff with crumbling edges, rooted in rock. Perhaps because she weathers brutal Shelikof storms, watches young eagles soar, waits on the promise of rainbows.
I wonder what God, our God who planted and nurtures and sustains the Harvester Tree, will teach me this year.
We came from assorted states—weary and worn, full and grateful. We come from assorted United States states—North Carolina, Texas, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska. And a dear gentle bear of a Canadian who made me laugh with his “eh?”. And a now-Californian with a South African accent and warm, red hair as lovely as her personality. God captivated me with all His diverse beauty.
On our first full day, a Sunday, we sat in a holy circle—a circle of sinners saved by God’s grace alone.
We passed the elements, one to another.
We broke the bread.
We sipped the wine.
We spoke the meaningful, life-giving words.
The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ shed for you.
I choked back my gratitude tears so I wouldn’t choke on the bread dipped in wine.
There we were—a diverse bunch on an isolated, wilderness island on the edge of a continent.
Men and women. Younger and older. Graduate degrees and no degrees. Introverts and extroverts. A pastor and a prison administrator. Published and unpublished. And, based on several conversations, some who most likely vote Democrat and some who most likely vote Republican. The tangled mess of us.
How would we be together, on a remote island, for eight days, in the cultural climate we find ourselves these days, after THAT election? When we stand and walk and talk more divided than ever?
How would we think and feel and speak about each other? With all our differences. We Christians.
Would we have grace and embrace? Would we judge and move away?
I don’t know inner thoughts and feelings. I don’t know conversations to which I wasn’t privy.
But I do know that all on the island were kind. All were loving. All were respectful.
I’ll take the outer—the kind and loving and respectful. I’ll take these three, these days.
If inner thoughts are other, I’ll leave others to God.
I’ll still say what I think as I feel led by our Lord. But I’ve come to the point where I know none of us have a monopoly on truth.
Only Jesus is The Truth. Only Jesus is The Way. Only Jesus is The Life.
My calling is to love all, no matter the mistaken. Just as God loves all, no matter our sin. Our Holy Communion reminds me. God sent His Son to save ALL from sin.
My call is to live and speak His truth, always humbly (Micah 6:8; James 4:6-7), only as the Holy Spirit leads me, knowing I know only in part just as others know only in part (1 Corinthians 13:12). And my call is to listen and love well. To listen and love as Christ.
Because perfect love—the perfect love found only in Jesus Christ—casts out all our fears (1 John 4:18).
This year, I hoped for an example of differing people, all proclaiming Christians. I hoped, on the edge of our continent, on the edge of world war in our hearts, we could commune together and live together for just one week, realizing and appreciating our God-given differences.
For God made us all. All different. All one body. In Christ. Broken and bled. For all.
None of us were knit together by God. None of us were made to be isolated or elevated.
God created all to glorify Him. God wants us all to be free of tyranny—of all our enemy who uses to divide, conquer and separate us from each other.
I don’t know who left Harvester Island with critical, fear-based thoughts or grace-filled, embracing thoughts. But I do hope and pray, that either way, God will keep healing us and binding us together so we might be His force for good in our beautiful yet broken world.
May our words, thoughts, and deeds reflect His great love and truth—the Holy One who bled and died and rose again, for all of us. To set us free indeed.
Thankful for the holy harvest.