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10 Lessons from Alaska about God's Character... and Ours

10 Lessons from Alaska about God's Character... and Ours

My husband and I just returned from an awe-inspiring trip to Alaska, compliments of some very loving people. May I share with you in picture and in words some of the lessons from Alaska God showed me–about his character and ours?

Most lessons I “re-learned” rather than learned. God is faithful to remind us of his character, often in unexpected ways. I hope these reflections will encourage you today and remind you, too, of God’s “bigness.”

1. The footprints of God’s faithfulness are everywhere

From beginning to end of any journey to any destination, you can track his creation, his character, and his creativity. I found this particularly true in Alaska.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard” (Psalms 19:1-2 NIV).

2. Words can’t describe the majesty of God

Beautiful? Awesome? Magnificent? Wonderful? How about Breathtaking?

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalms 8:1, NIV).

3. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16, NIV)

God still cares about the details of our lives. And yes, God is still Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.

The night before we left, I tripped over the garden edging while watering. Pain shot through my right foot in the exact place where I had fallen eight years before while on a mission trip in Peru. An x-ray had shown a possible hairline fracture back then, but no follow-up was recommended. My husband prayed for me there in a small Peruvian ER, and I had no more problems with that foot the rest of the mission trip. 

Back to the present. The pain from the fall left, and I didn’t think too much more about it until we had finished packing our bags and gone to bed. About 1:00 a.m., I awoke from incessant tossing and turning. And then I realized why. My foot was throbbing. When I finally got up and tried to walk on it, I had to hobble to the living room. I applied ice to my foot, then settled down on the couch. The ice helped briefly, but an hour later I tried to get up again, still unable to sleep. This time I couldn’t stand at all. The pain was excruciating.

My initial thought? "It’s broken!" I prayed on and off for several hours, asking for God’s healing. I fought conflicting visions of having to cancel the trip entirely, or being wheeled around to every port on the cruise and throughout the ship. Forget hiking even on a short walk or trying to do our river float trip.

Daylight finally dawned with no sleep and no improvement, my foot still throbbing. I knew it was time to get to the ER for an x-ray. My husband couldn’t hear my “help” cries, so I managed to drag myself back to the bedroom, where he was just getting up. Just like in Peru, he prayed the desire of our hearts, asking fervently for God’s intervention, then leaving the outcome to God. We iced my foot again.

A few minutes later, I tried to stand up briefly to get something just beyond my reach. No pain. Carefully, slowly, I began to take a few steps. Nothing. No pain. No soreness. And no explanation – except God chose to heal it and answer our simple cry.

And while I “re-learned” this lesson about the God-Who-Heals while still in Texas, not Alaska, I had no soreness or foot problems the rest of the trip. We probably walked an average of 3-5 miles a day. Praise the Lord!

4. Occasional sabbaticals from technology (especially computers and phones) are beneficial

A 12-day break refreshed our spirits and sharpened our focus on simple things, especially on the attributes of God and his creation. Breaks from social media can lessen our subtle desires for affirmation and accomplishment, because no matter how hard we try to avoid that, those temptations do creep in.

(We did manage to see one of the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball championship games while away, however. Go, Mavs!) 

“He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul” (Psalms 23:2-3, NIV). 

5. God’s creativity allows us to use our talents anywhere–even in the woods of Alaska.

While floating down the Talkeetna River in Denali State Park, we discovered a man who proved that.

A gentle and jovial soul, he walked out of the woods and took his place on the end of a huge log, just as we floated by. We paused long enough to listen to his entertaining and original banjo tunes. Then he exited the same way. Our guide told us this musician appeared one day and started crooning his tunes to the river floaters only a couple of times of day–just because he wanted to help people enjoy their ride. No one pays him, though the rafting company (of its own accord) does leave a tip jar for him inside their store.

God uses people everywhere. Whether we’re on a mission trip, or just “on mission” for God wherever we go, we can testify to the goodness and greatness of God. Without exception on our entire trip, no one argued with us as we declared out loud reverently, “God sure makes beautiful stuff, doesn’t He?”

By the way, whether you’re a teen or a senior, or somewhere in between, opportunities are available for you to work and serve in places like Denali State Park. In fact, someone told us they were eager to employ “mature” summer workers (hmmm...). Whether you volunteer in soup kitchens, teach overseas, or work in summer resort areas, God will use your creative talents to honor him.

6. God has always provided for all of his creation

He is Elohim (Creator) and he is Jehovah-Jireh (Our Provider). The woods and mountain trails of Alaska, like so many places, are filled with needed provision for both man and animal. Through nature and river rafting guides we learned of trees and plants like the spruce, fireweed, skunk cabbage, and so many other wild sources that yielded fruit, food, and medicine.

"Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food'" (Genesis 1:29-30, NIV).

7. Trees grow upside-down and sideways in Alaska. But the ones that grow by rivers of water are the ones that will prosper

Same with believers (watch out for beavers, though!). Staying close to the Source - Jesus - will help us yield fruit in season.

"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers" (Psalms 1:2-3, NIV). 

8. You just can’t get enough of God’s beauty

Yes, I also learned that I’m a photo-holic. 725 pictures later, those photos showed only a minuscule fraction of what God has prepared for His children.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV).

9. God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End

Even our best attempts to preserve beautiful places like Alaska will eventually end. But though this earth is passing away, while we’re here, we can thoroughly enjoy and give thanks for what God has given us.

"In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13, NIV).

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea" (Revelation 21:1, NIV).

10. He is the Light of the World. Be diligent in the Light while you can

I had hoped to capture an Alaska sunrise and sunset, but it was a little difficult. In the interior of Alaska in Denali Park, sunset was around 12:10 a.m. Sunrise broke through about 3:15 a.m. Summer nights are short in Alaska, but winters reverse the hours. Kids leave for school in the dark and come home in the dark. This picture is the closest I could get – a premature sunset as seen through a hotel window – sometime about 11:25 P.M., I think.

We will not always have the opportunity to be lights in the world and to share the light of Jesus with others. “Night” comes for all of us: as we age, as we come nearer to the time for our own deaths, or when Christ will return someday.

Alaska’s strange daylight and dark patterns remind me to stay faithful and keep sharing as long as God gives me breath.

"As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:4-5, NIV).

Prayer for Today

Lord, how we praise you for the beauty of your creation. Teach us daily about your character, and fill us with a passion that gives light to others and bears witness of you all our days. You are awesome and beyond comparison!

What about you? Where have you seen God at work? In what places have you seen the majesty of God’s creation? What leassons is He teaching you about His character? Please share with us in the comments below.

Rebecca Barlow Jordan is an inspirational author, speaker, and passionate follower of Jesus who loves to encourage others heart to heart. She has written 11 books and over 1700 other articles, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. Her daily devotional Daily in Your Presence is available for delivery through Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Rebecca at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.
This article originally appeared in two parts on Rebecca's blog. Used with permission.
All photo credits Rebecca Barlow Jordan.

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Publication date: June 23, 2011