Connecting with God through creation in Alaska|
Posted 6/21/2012 Updated 6/21/2012
Commentary by Chaplain (Maj.) Steven Lambert
Rear Detachment, 4/25 ABCT
6/21/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Growing up in deep east Texas amidst the woods of towering pine trees, when we visited my cousins in west Texas, I never understood how they saw beauty in the treeless and seemingly barren west Texas landscape.
Yet they saw beauty all around them in the cotton fields with the horizon stretching for hundreds of miles.
When asked what the far eastern Iraq countryside was like near the Iranian border, where I was deployed for a year, I would reply that it made west Texas and southeastern New Mexico look lush and beautiful by comparison.
At times I was tempted to describe it as the most Godforsaken-land and most barren of all places I had been.
Such description was anything but true, especially the Godforsaken part, given it was the birth place of humanity, the home of Abraham, the land of Babylon and today a place of people of devout faith.
God was and is very much part of the place.
On one of my first visits to one of the many Iraqi border forts, I noticed they had a room set aside for prayer.
I was struck by the incredible quiet of the place and longed to be able to stay there for a few days for prayer far away from the incessant sound of generators back at our combat outpost.
I suddenly understood beauty in a new way amidst the seeming barrenness of the landscape.
Alaska is far away from what most people know as home and what is familiar to them, making it commonly feel like a strange and foreign land to a newcomer.
For all who experienced the snowiest winter on record this year, one can understand the barrenness of Alaska even without going to Nome or many other road-less places in the state.
Yet Alaska is a place of uncommon beauty.
The Bible, especially in the books of Psalms, Isaiah and Romans, talks about creation being an opportunity to experience God's presence with us, notice God's power among us and share in God's grace given to us.
The mountains with their grandeur, the shades of color throughout the evening and early morning on the trees and water, the abundance of life in the forms of animals and all the plants during the short growing season of the north - they all can be experiences of God if we will notice God in creation.
Mountains with their size, altitude, and power give many people a new perspective or cause them to feel closer to God.
For these reasons I especially enjoy the drive to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, driving amongst the mountains and Turnagain Arm, with the internal peace it gives me.
Even the birch leaves blowing in the wind can be an expression of God waving at us with delight.
Throughout the Gospels, we frequently hear of Jesus retreating to the garden at night for a time of renewal and refreshment with God.
The getting away can be a time for silence, solitude and new perspectives on life.
Many people hunt, fish, boat, hike or go ATVing as an opportunity to get away from the business of life, find some internal peace and quiet or gain new perspective.
With the long winters in Alaska, time outside in God's creation is not only helpful for our mental and physical health but also for our spiritual health - as it can help open us to God's presence all around us and the work of God in all things.
As an Alaska resident since 1985 and an avid backpacker, I have experienced the Alaska wilderness as a place to be respected but not feared.
It is a place of renewal and re-creation for many people.
I would contend it is such because it is place where many people reconnect with that which is at the core of their being - God, even if they do not name it as God.
Although summer was a time of a change of pace growing up in Texas, the heat was something to be endured.
Summer in Alaska is truly a time of renewal, the treat or reward after the long winter cold.
If you choose, summer in Alaska can also be a time of experiencing God's constant presence with you - if you will just open your door and walk into the beauty of God surrounding you.