Last summer Lisa and I were waiting for a shuttle bus at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport when the Alaska Airlines logo caught my eye. It was the perfect shade of evergreen, which this photo doesn’t capture at all. And the type font, the rugged aura – everything – seemed to capture the cold, crisp drama of the north. Adventure, snow, unspoiled beauty, warm blankets, hot chocolate, and a nice fireplace. In “Surprised By Joy” C. S. Lewis writes about that indescribable pleasure from being immersed in that cold white purity: the sunset spilling over the hills.
Okay. Then we got on the Carnival cruise ship and spent a wondrous seven days seeing, not corporate logos, but God’s mighty handiwork. It brought back to mind these few paragraphs from my yet-unpublished novel, “The Time Portal.”
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Even in the month of June, 2014, it felt amazing to sit on Deck Nine of a cruise ship and have to wear a jacket. We were between meals, but I had a plateful of Carnival’s potato salad resting on my lap. Every few minutes my hand would automatically lift a forkful to my mouth, but I was almost unaware of my own motions. John watched me, bemused, and then returned to the novel tucked into his Kindle Paperwhite.
After five days at sea, my soul felt absolutely bathed by the native beauty of this place. The mountains were still adorned with pure snow banks; the sunsets spilled pink frosting onto the silver oceans cocooning our vessel of dreams. There were occasional splashes in the distance as whales peered out at us and then resumed their own adventures.
My mind kept returning to the concluding theme of my time-travel journeys. What John had said. How could our creative Lord Jesus create such a splendid, elegant place as this Alaskan paradise, and offer it free of charge to mortals such as Mr. and Mrs. Haller, and yet be unable to simply assert his authority and veto the horrors of D-Day or the Holocaust? Every atom of this spectacular and snow-spangled Eden had been fashioned by Jesus’ own intimately focused power; the ripples trailing our boat and the ghostly beauty of the full moon as it rose up from behind ice-blue glaciers were all actively painted masterpieces. God didn’t simply will a generic beauty; he dreamed it and fashioned it and sprayed it into existence one atom at a time with his own words and intent. And yet, even as John and I dined on plates of pineapple and filet mignon and Carnival’s signature melting-chocolate cake, the Middle East was a boiling cauldron of unfixable heartache and rage. Every few weeks, another angry shooter was unloading Glock magazines in school hallways, sick but craving fifteen minutes of fame on Fox News. Even as we were embarking in Seattle, I had gotten one last text message from Roy McDaniel. Mom passed away early this morning, Pastor Lisa. Will wait for you and Mr. H. to return home; she would want you to do the funeral. Please pray for us. My sweet friend Dinah had been struck down by Alzheimer’s, and there wasn’t a thing any doctor or pill or genius from the Mayo Clinic could have done to arrest her slow descent into the shadows of death.
I comforted myself with the assurance that this virginal beauty around us was Jesus’ unstated testimony to the world. “When the saga is completed and I step forward to make all things new, it will always and forever be like THIS.”
John must have noticed that my fork had stopped in mid-air, suspended along with my memories. “You okay, babe?”
“Yeah. Just letting the Lord baptize my thoughts a bit.”
“This is the perfect place for it.”
“Absolutely. It’s very nice.”