A Wedding and a Prison

My son’s wedding is over (Was that a dream? No, just a beautiful answer to lifelong prayers. Photos coming soon! But---for now, these photos we shot between events)


 Four of the groomsmen were my sons!

Four of the groomsmen were my sons!

 How many times have Noah and I danced together? This is the first time. How long did we practice before rockin' out to Guns 'N Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine?" 15 seconds! But it was a great success!! (Meaning, I didn't crush his foot or fall!)

How many times have Noah and I danced together? This is the first time. How long did we practice before rockin' out to Guns 'N Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine?" 15 seconds! But it was a great success!! (Meaning, I didn't crush his foot or fall!)

 Noah and my beautiful, amazing new daughter-in-law, Lizzie Fields!

Noah and my beautiful, amazing new daughter-in-law, Lizzie Fields!


These two weeks in California have been life changing. Yes, the wedding! My own family gathered together with much rejoicing--and two God-serving families now joined together with SO much joy! And if this isn't enough-----the prison visit. Some of you wrote to say you’ll be stepping out in new ministries this year. That makes me very very glad. There is no more amazing adventure than the risky beautiful walk of faith! 


And now I've awakened to discover it's nearly Christmas! In my next post, I'm doing two exciting things: I'm giving away 10 Crossing the Waters books to those who need them. (It's SO much fun to do this!) And---I'm posting a remarkable interview with the inimitable Luci Shaw filmed this fall during the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop. It's a don't-miss post. Coming next!









Going Back to Prison

Everyone in this prison is a felon. I try to remember that but I can’t when I look at the faces of these women. I am hoping to see someone from my last visit 8 months ago. But I do not know them. Some of them look no older than 18. A few are over 60. One is pregnant. Some are mothers with three children. Some are beautiful, even in their baggy uniforms and their white socks and sandals.


But the first class is hard. The women are sitting in a computer classroom. I am standing. They turn their office swivel chairs to me, standing in the front, but it is 9 a.m. and I am a stranger to them. Some look at me with curiosity, a few smile, some look blank, a few look wary. I know before I start there will not be enough time. They will not have enough time to see who I am, to be comfortable with me, to get over my intensity, the way I speak, the way I use my hands, my own me-ness that takes some getting used to.


I start. I talk about forgiveness. I ask them questions. I tell my story about forgiving my father from my last book. I tell the gospel through the story of the Prodigal Son. Some are with me. They know the story. They nod their heads. I stand there forever, it feels, spilling blood and truth, waving and risking everything. They listen. They do not turn away. A few ask questions.


One woman, with blue eyes full of tears, asks, ‘What do I do about my daughter? She was 6 when I first got here. She’s 30 now and I’ve never met her. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”

 Another woman says, “I know I need to forgive both my mother and my father, cause they left me, but I don’t know them. All I know is that My mother is crazy, and my father is too, but I don’t know anything about their lives.”

I lead them in a writing exercise, an empathy building exercise. Everyone participates. When they are done writing, I ask them to read their pieces to one another, but they shake their heads. I look at them and see: they do not want their masks to fall. They are not ready.


women prisoner--wary.jpg


 When the class is done, two hours later, I leave discouraged. Did these women hear, really hear what was offered to them---complete forgiveness, a new start, the invitation to real freedom?


I don’t know. My heart is heavy.


For the next class, I am escorted by two women chaplains, one a friend from the last time I was here. We are sent to a tiny room, a closet of a room. 14 of us sit on dirty plastic chairs. We are nearly thigh to thigh. This closet is designated as a program room. The prison is crowded. They are expanding, and bringing in more prisoners from other overcrowded prisons. Some of the women are close enough for me to touch. But I cannot touch them. It is always a prison rule.


I start. “Hi, I’m Leslie. Would you all tell me your names before we start. I probably won’t remember, but I’d love to know who you are.”


“Hey Leslie, “ the woman on my left calls out. “You got lipstick on your teeth,” she points. “That’s gonna bug the heck outta me and distract me.”


I laugh. “Yeah, that would bug me too.” I use the sleeve of my sweater then turn and bare my teeth at her. “Did I get it?”


“Nope. Still there.”


I try again, then show her my teeth. “That’s good enough,” she says.


“Thanks,” I say to her, sincerely. “That’s what friends do.”


Then we start. And within five minutes I know----these women are open. (I decide I’m going to make sure I have lipstick on my teeth every time I speak.) I put my notes away. I talk, they listen. They talk, I listen. There are stories of abuse, molestation, abandonment, violent husbands. One woman with a house full of children and a husband who didn’t support them---took to stealing to provide for her family. Stories of drugs, mental illness. Fifteen minutes in someone reaches for a roll of toilet paper (we’re sitting in a supply closet) and passes it around, there are so many tears. I am not following my notes---we are speaking about the ways we lock other people up in our own prisons, the ways anger and hate destroy us. How we want revenge on the ones who ruined our lives, but we know revenge will kill us.  And we are nodding our heads at one another, listening to every word.


We write using my empathy exercise. This group wants to share their pieces with one another. After they read, the your-lipstick-is-on-your-teeth woman, my true friend, tells us all how it broke through her anger, her lifelong anger and helped her see her true issue. They all say how much they needed to hear each other’s stories and how they want to hear more.


“But I can’t forgive myself,” one woman says.  I stop. I look at her beautiful face, this woman who could have been a model. I don’t know why she is here, but who doesn’t know about the dark terrible force of guilt and hate, how it rages hardest against our own fragile selves? Who doesn’t know how desperately unworthy we are to be given any good thing from a Holy God? Who does not struggle to believe that the God of all Gods has stooped to our tiny sordid lives and so loved us he chose to die in our guilty stead? Who does not wonder at the craziness of criminals set free, the dirty named clean, the prodigals forgiven and welcomed home as precious daughters? How can anything this good be true?


I know. I know. I turn to her. “I hope we never get over the wonder of that. Our unworthiness---and His mercy. But you have to believe that it’s true. You have to believe that God IS that good.”


My time is nearly up now. I don’t want to leave. The older woman with many children asks me, pleading, “Can we pray?”  Another woman says, “I want church. We don’t get church enough here.”  The woman beside her says, “We need it. But no one comes.” The others chorus agreement.


My chaplain friend sitting beside me says to all of them, “Pray for volunteers to come. We need more. A lot more. But we don’t have them.”


The older woman asks again, “Can we pray?”


So I pray. We pray in this tight circle, knees practically touching and I cry and I pray. I pray for God's mercy upon us all, I pray for us to be freed through Christ, for us to pass on God's forgiveness to the ones who deserve it least, for heaven to break upon us right now. I pray for the Holy Spirit to wake up his people and send them here. I pray and I am not stopping, I have not stopped because all of this is a prayer, a prayer for them, and a prayer for you. I think of Jesus on the shore of the lake, commissioning Peter to “feed my sheep. Take care of my lambs.” That’s what we’ve all been sent out to do. And the lambs and the sheep in this fold are starving, begging to be fed. On the outside, where we live, most people are running away from real food. Even in Christian venues where I speak, there’s often little appetite for God. But in there, so many are starving. How can we turn away?


If your church has a prison or jail ministry already, would you consider being part of it? It won’t be a sacrifice; it will be a joy. If you’re far from a prison or jail, you can still be involved through Prison Fellowship

or through Kairos Prison Ministry.

You have been fed so much. Won’t you feed others?


That’s my story this week. So many of you prayed for me and for those women. Your prayers were answered SO powerfully and SO beautifully. You were a part of the healing and the heaven that broke out in that closet room. Thank you!!! If you think of it, would you keep praying for these precious women, our sisters in Christ?

My 5 Minute Recipe to Turn You into a Brilliant Cook!

It’s Thanksgiving this week and no one is more surprised than me about it.  

 I’ve flown to California for my son's wedding----and since we flew all those thousands of miles from Kodiak, by golly, we’re going to stay awhile! In the preparations for the wedding and the trip (and elections), I am only now realizing, “It’s Thanksgiving?” All my children are driving or flying in as well. There are also two birthdays the day before (mine and my lovely surprise child son born on my 45th birthday.)



I’m so sorry to say that I’m not going to be penitent or confessional or holy in any way here today. It’s been a long, unholy season these last months and I’m ready not only for some giving-of-thanks and for a wedding, but for a little leaven of levity. A little less gravity. And yes, I’ll take some gravy with that gratitude too.


I’m here today to help make us thankful, so, thankful. And to help us all feel confident in our culinary expertise. If you’re feeling a little shaky about the upcoming feast---about baking the turkey, maybe. About which kind of stuffing to make. If you’re nervous about your pie crusts, or creating a beautiful table, read and watch on! By the time you're done, you'll be gleefully running to the kitchen happy and thankful for whatever you have planned. 


Now, just because it's Thanksgiving, why should you be stuck with Turkey? There are so many tempting alternatives. Here are several sure to lure you away from hallowed tradition: 


What is it? you may rightfully ask. Of course, it's Lamb Meatloaf baked in Mini-pumpkins. Now that says "thanks!" all over it!


Or, on that special feast day, you can lead your dear guests, who have traveled for hours in heavy traffic, into your dining room and seat them around your table. You bow your heads to  celebrate the many gifts of God, and then you serve them this-----


 The source recommends that you "Plop  them on each guest's plate for an individually sized main course they can enjoy one bite at a time."  It looks like maybe they'll get two bites out of these?

The source recommends that you "Plop  them on each guest's plate for an individually sized main course they can enjoy one bite at a time."  It looks like maybe they'll get two bites out of these?


Or (from the same legit source) what about Butternut Squash Lasagna, made extra special with chestnuts and gorgonzola? (I nominate this for the entree on the Day of Atonement)   


One more alternative. We do love to  mish-mash our food traditions, don't we? Then why not this:


Yes, of course: Thanksgiving Sushi.


Perhaps you’ve decided to stick with turkey after all. Good choice! But still, you have a flare for experimentation and creativity. You have a reputation to maintain! Consider these original approaches to the holiday bird:


Since turkey is famously dry, why not embrace this natural feature and go one step further?



Yes, Turkey Jerky! 


And for those who can't imagine any kind of feast without bacon, there's always this:



But if that feels too indulgent, scale back with one of these sophisticated creations:



Now that we have the main course covered, let's move on to savory side dishes!


Sweet potatoes are a must. So are marshmellows. Why subvert this ancient tradition now?


Cranberries, too, of course, must make an appearance. But the fancy table also requires candles---yet often there's not room for both. Poof! Solved!



There must be green vegetables, of course. There's always the beloved Green Bean Casserole, but some prefer their greens suspended. Looking as little like a vegetable as possible. For these people, Paula Deen has created "Geriatric Salad"


(The green is achieved naturally, by real asparagus and celery. Nothing fake for us!


Then there's always the question about stuffing. So  many choices! You've heard of cornbread stuffing, well, there's something even more American: Popcorn stuffing! (yes, for real. But becuase I'm a real friend, I'm not sending you to the recipe.


 Looks normal enough, but don't let that fool you!

Looks normal enough, but don't let that fool you!



Finally----Dessert! For those who just can’t get enough turkey in on this special day, why not extend its reach all the way to the final course? We begin with none other than---naturally----The Turkey Cake!


Here's the actual fine print:

Warning: This dish is not recommended for people who require an inch of space between food groups. It’s a savory layer cake composed of an entire turkey dinner: ground turkey filling, mashed potato “icing,” with stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and more. before you begin, you’ll need to make the mashed potatoescranberry saucesausage stuffing, and gravy before you begin; the sweet potatoes can be made ahead as well. Rewarm everything except the cranberry sauce just prior to assembling the cake, so it’s all easy to spread.

That's cheating, of course. To turn a main dish into a fabulous (non)dessert. Better the REAL turkey cake,


which is made out of 3 cake mixes, filled with candy corn and fondant "stuffing."

(Which do you prefer? A turkey cake with real turkey for the main dish or a turkey cake with real cake and fake turkey for dessert? Ugh, so many decisions!!)

There is one final option in this category, an offering that brilliantly resolves the dilemma above, enabling you to finish off your sacred meal with the class and elegance it deserves: 

 The TurDunkin',  brined in Dunkin' Donuts coolattas, stuffed with munchkins and served with coffee gravy and mashed hash browns.

The TurDunkin', brined in Dunkin' Donuts coolattas, stuffed with munchkins and served with coffee gravy and mashed hash browns.

I am so much more thankful now after this tour. And so much more confident. Don't you know how good a cook you are now? My best most obvious culinary advice? "Don't try so hard." Don't showboat. Most of all, be Thankful! Whatever you prepare, if you cook it with joy, it will be a lovely meal that celebrates God’s goodness, his faithfulness, His daily outpouring of always bread and often cake.

Dear Friends, May you all Eat, Feast, Love one another, and be filled with thanks and praise!

 With many thanks and much love, Leslie


Two Invitations You Cannot Refuse (I Hope!!)

I'm inviting you here---far up north here. You don't have to put on raingear or climb in a skiff. Just come as you are . . . (A hot drink, though, might be nice as you visit!)


How has your week gone, friend? I have an idea. For SO many of us, these post-election days have been a week of rain, storm, despair and----hope. I have spoken with friends in mourning, worried about the future of our country. We have all seen too much hate this week----I have received doses myself through last week's call to confession and repentance (I deleted the cursing comments). But I have also talked with friends rejoicing this week, full of hope for our country.

Hope is good. But my hope is not in the Republicans soon to move into the White House. My hopes are for the Church, for the ongoing inbreaking of Christ's kingdom among us. This most of all.

But this doesn't mean I am sitting with hands folded in prayer. We worked hard this season to place my husband into politics. Our state is in crisis. We will be bankrupt in one short year. We think we lost his race, but we still don’t know. We’re down by 93 votes, but there are 750 absentee ballots still to come in. We will find out the day before Thanksgiving, which is also my birthday!! We are trying to sleep . .. 


How perfect then that this week the moon comes close. This morning I awoke early in moon shadow, heaven’s eye brilliant through the window, lighting the winter morning dark. How could we forget? How could any of us forget?



We fixate on each other---fallen so-very-human angry on-all-night fellow human beings-----us. We watch our TV screens, our crimes, one another, and we are filled with fear. We watch us instead of God.

Here is my first invitation: steal into the mountains and sea of my island right now. Be hushed and quiet for a few minutes. 

 Inhale the breath of my ocean neighborhood:


And let your soul be still. 

 Look around you:

 "For the earth itself is full of His tender love . .."










And Listen:

"Let everyone in all the world stand in awe of him! 

With a breath he can scatter the plans of all the nations who oppose him, but his own plan stands forever."











The eyes of the Lord are watching over those who fear him, who rely upon his steady love.

He will keep them from death even in times of famine! 




"We depend upon the Lord alone to save us. Only he can help us; he protects us like a shield. No wonder we are happy in the Lord!

For we are trusting him. We trust his holy name. 

Yes, Lord, let your constant love surround us, for our hopes are in you alone.




And if you’ve made it this far, I have one more invitation for you. I KNOW you can't all make it up to my Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop next year with Phillip Yancey, but maybe you can get to Florida for a few days??


  Here's my spiel: 

Are you starting to write, in the middle of a writing project, or near the end? AND---will you be ready to shed the winter blues come January? (That’s a huge YES from me!!) We are gathering in Florida, on the beach, for a writer’s retreat: The New Smyrna Beach Writer’s Retreat. I’ll be teaching each day and leading us in reading, writing exercises, workshops, worship, and walks on the beach (and writing on the beach!). It will be a Glorious time of joyous fellowship and learning for beginners to advanced writers. It’s affordable ($425 for 4 full days of teaching and lunch. Lodging is not included, but lodging nearby is very inexpensive. Some rental condos are less than $75/night.)  Write me for more details. Leslieleylandfields@gmail.com .  I have about 5 spaces left! (And, you have to know, teaching is my great PASSION! Might I see you there?)


 May Christ's peace be with you this week, dear friends!!

13 Confessions of a Sinful Voter



 In this election week, whether you personally feel like you won or lost-------please don't stay there. We have too much work to do as a nation and as a Church. May these words of confession and repentance close the gaps between us and bring healing to us all.



1. Let us have compassion for one another, for we have all suffered through an unprecedented and interminable season of scandals, corruption, and assaults.




2. Let us acknowledge there is no one righteous, no, not one. We have all gone astray, we have all turned each one to his own way.




3. Let us confess our own complicity in the uncivil discourse that has polluted our political process and that we allowed to invade even our tables and our homes.





4. Let us confess to harboring negative thoughts toward others; Let us ask forgiveness for all the times we have believed ourselves more intelligent, more informed, more faithful than those who have voted differently than us.



5. Let us admit that at times we have seen others, even family members and neighbors as a kind of enemy, and we have not loved them.


6. Let us repent of caring more about the advancement of the government of this world than the advancement of the kingdom of God.


7. Let us confess we have given in to fear rather than faith, allowing ourselves to believe doomsday rhetoric rather than standing firmly on our sovereign God, who rules the hearts of princes, whose counsel and purposes stand firm.


8. Let us attest that we have been more passive than we ought, looking to our government and politicians to do the good that we ourselves could do in our own neighborhoods and communities.



9. Let us believe that whatever course of action we chose on election day, that all have wrestled with their conscience, and all have done their best to seek God and act with integrity.



10. Let us remember that God calls all of us to unity in diversity, that the body of Christ itself is composed of vastly different members, all of whom are needed for the body to be healthy and whole.



11. Let us recognize we share a common enemy and it is not a political party, a government or a person. Our true enemy is sin and death, and Jesus decisively won that battle 2,000 years ago.


12. Let us recommit ourselves to upholding the law and to praying for those in authority over us, for they are God’s representatives, whether they know God or not.

13. Let us remember that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, not persecution or famine or sword or poverty or presidents nor demons nor all the powers of hell, nor anything else in all creation.

For the Kingdom is His,

the Power is His

the Glory is His

Forever, world and time






Would you add your own confession and prayer to these? 






When God's Love Isn't Enough

What a week! For you too, probably?


 Here are my little laments:


My hard drive crashed again two days ago. Can lightening strike twice in the same year? Of course, though,  “It’s very unusual,” says my computer guy with a frown. I've been limping along on a borrowed computer . . . (which is why I am posting late this week)


Last night someone spewed hate and political poison all over me and I couldn’t escape. . . 


This last week of our local elections, the competing side has gone dirty and is slandering my husband every day in the local paper . ..

 (While on local politics, here is my husband's one minute ad: watch for my son on the piano!)



So—-just normal everyday life. And in the midst of it, before we all go and cast our votes and further rend this nation---

 in the midst of all this, my daily reading takes me here. Of all places----Here: (And it must be read  s l o w l y   with music!)


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  
NO!! In ALL these things                (starvation, persecution, nakedness)       
we are MORE
 than conquerors through him
who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, 
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of
God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
BUT. Please Listen.

WE can separate ourselves from his love!!


We CAN!! We can refuse it! We seldom do it outright. Come with me and I’ll show you what I mean.


We’re going to go where the gospels take us, where Crossing the Waters takes us, to those moments around the fire when Jesus forgave Peter. Here’s the scene:




That’s what we do.

 It's ugly when we turn from God.

When we're too busy, 

(or when politics take us over . . . )


God’s love isn’t enough. We have to receive it, value it, walk in it, return it, breathe it back.


Nothing that happens this week or next----no matter who becomes president of this country---NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ.




Except us.  


Do you love me?

Lord, you Know that I love you!

Take care of my sheep. 

This week, of all weeks, shall we do this, together?







5 Giveaways & Why Your Sin Makes You Perfect


Two weeks until the election . . . but let us talk of happy things today----like the five copies of Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas that I'm giving away this week! (More below). Happy things like majestic mountains----and the mess that we are. Even without the election.

Are you, too, a stressed-out mess?

I spent yesterday in a half fetal position, crabbed fingers on the keyboard, hacking out an essay due that day.  Did I even see my sons or husband? I didn’t even read God’s word, which is Life itself to me (hence the fetal position . …) Oh yes, I did make a pretty curry for dinner—and we sat and ate together---my one redeeming moment of the day!


 Aren't we a perfect family? Yes, we looked just like this!! (not)

Aren't we a perfect family? Yes, we looked just like this!! (not)


But I fall short every day. I wallow in anxiety. I beat myself up. What kind of follower of Christ am I, anyway? And you, what kind of follower are you? Aren’t we more meander-ers than followers? Aren’t we more wander-ers than followers? What a pathetic entourage we make! How can God possibly want us, anyway?  

Dear friends, this is not the voice of the enemy. This is the voice of truth in my (our) inmost being. But it’s not the only voice. In these moments and hours of flagellating honesty, I remember those guys out in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. Something happens there that keeps me going, that turns my mess and yours into perfection. Shall we go there for a moment? (Adapted from Crossing the Waters)


It’s a lost night. An empty night. All through the hours of dark these four men are working the nets. But by morning they haven’t caught a single minnow. How perfect, Peter thinks with a twist of his lips. These empty nets mirror my own soul: vacant.



But a man shows up, and tells the discouraged fishermen to throw their net on the wrong side of the boat at the wrong time of day. And you remember what happens---all those fish! (I’ve seen this myself, how a fishing net can explode out of the water with fish!) 

Simon can’t contain himself. His fishiest wildest dreams have come true!! He throws himself at the nets, arm and shoulder deep into fish now as he scoops them, writhing, into the boat. His mind is working as fast as his arms. He’d build onto his house! He’d be someone people knew about. Maybe he’d get a better seat in the synagogue. This is all he’s ever wanted----just one boatload of fish! And it wasn’t just about him. It was about his family, too. He wanted that money for his wife, for his children.

But suddenly Simon Peter stops. He looks up at this man in the boat with him, who is smiling widely. Simon’s mouth falls open. How did this rabbi know this was his biggest dream?

His heart is so full and tight he knows it will split, like the nets. He steps toward Jesus and falls, his body now in the mass of thrashing fish. You must go!” He is crying. He’s fallen in more fish than he’s ever caught and he hates these fish now. This man. Who is he, then? How did he see that school of musht there when nobody else did?

Simon knew himself as a master fisherman. He knew this lake, the way the fish moved during the various seasons. Can it be possible that this man is master over these elements instead of him? Or—maybe he sent the fish? That couldn’t be possible. And then, he has a worse thought: Surely he didn’t create those fish? Simon’s gut goes tight and he suddenly sees into his own shrunken heart.


The darkness of his own heart overwhelms him. The truest words he knows spill out: ““Go, leave me, Lord! I’m full of sin! Please, go!”  Simon must send Jesus away. He is too unworthy for his attention, for even his Presence.

And here is what you cannot miss: These terrified words of confession are exactly what qualifies him to be a disciple. (Click to tweet)  He doesn’t have to be a brilliant student of the Torah. He doesn’t have to be a happy man or even a good man. He doesn’t even have to be a successful fisherman. In fact, his work that night was utterly futile. All he needs is to see Jesus, to truly see him. After that, all he needs is to know his need. (Click to tweet)


Then the comfort and invitation comes, “Don’t be afraid. Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”


Jesus is going to plant His Church, his very body through these scaly fishermen, and it begins here, with those truest words, “I’m a sinful man! I’m a sinful woman!”


You got a dark sinful heart and you know it? Welcome in, brother! Come on down, sister! Join this boatload of outlaws! Seeing your sin makes you perfect for God. (Click to tweet) But you have to say Yes to the next part---


“Don’t be afraid. Come, follow after me!”



Don’t waste your sin,  your shame, your bouts of self-loathing! 

Let it lead you to the One who is ready to fill you with Himself---which means with

crazy inexplicable fishy unending

gorgeous perfect

always-there abundance!!


"Come, follow me!"


 I’ve got 5 copies of Crossing the Waters to give away! But I need your help! It’s hard to be heard and seen in this noisy, busy world. If you know some people who you think would love the message and hope of this book and this blog (and we’re just getting started!), would you share this blog with them? Everyone who signs up three people or more for the blog, I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a book. (Would you all leave your email address when you comment below so I can reach you?)


One more? I’ll send on a book to anyone with 10 friends who would love to join us “here” each week in Alaska. Send me their emails to me (with their permission!) at leslieleylandfields@gmail.com

(Am I sounding cheesy? I hope not. I’m trying to say, “Come, join us as we follow Jesus together!”)







Near Death by Chocolate & The Wildest Beach in the World

Chocolate, ahh, food of the gods! There I was in a chocolate-makers kitchen in a tiny town in Alaska, nestled beneath snowed mountains,  the kitchen of a real chocolatier who makes 17 kinds of truffles. Can heaven come any closer than Belgian dark chocolate blended with Alaskan berries—salmonberry, nagoognberry, cranberry, cloudberry, blueberry---enrobed in white chocolate, or combined with a champaign reduction filling? For breakfast?


Cocoa’s botanical name is theobroma, meaning “food of the gods” and that morning, just yesterday, my feet touched Mount Olympus as I nibbled the samples he kept pressing upon me. Then two more were given to take home. But it soon became lunch and there I was in my hotel room, hungry, and didn’t those last two truffles just sing out my name over and over! (Yes, with a lisp. It’s hard to sing “Leslie” when you’re made of melty chocolate.)


And all was well for a few hours, which was perfect since my husband and I were hosting a “Meet and Greet the Candidate” event in Cordova. Smiling, shaking hands, taking photos, answering questions for two hours, and just as it ends, it happens. We are at a book reading now, the first time I’ve sat since morning, and it begins. The heart palpitations, then the aching pain in the shoulder radiating down my arm, the headache, the sudden fatigue. I am so sick. I have to go lie down. Right now.

I stumble out of the reading, holding my arm.  

If it were the first time, I might have thought---heart attack? But then I remembered----the chocolate.  

 I know I will not die. I will be sick for a couple of days, but it will, in some ways, be worth it. (Oh those truffles were SOOO good!!)

But how could I forget this? How many times has this happened? Over the years, I’ve even missed a plane or two, unable to travel after one bite too many. Clearly I am more mortal than most mortals, far too week for the theobroma, the botanical name for cocoa, literally “food of the gods.” The darker the chocolate, the more the theobroma.  Some people have been rushed to the ER for a heart attack----and undergone expensive invasive tests not knowing their candy was to blame.  I resolve (again) to limit myself to milk chocolate (and M+M's) to remember my fragile mortality.



But who likes limits? We fallen creatures don’t want any limits or boundaries. We think. Two days before, in a smaller even more remote village, Yakutat, I walked on the longest beach I’ve ever seen, an expanse that goes on for two hundred miles.  Duncan and I walked for awhile on its fine sand, the only people around for many miles. Limitless.


I was nervous. I could not decide if it was beautiful or desolate or both. But even in the unceasing hiss of the surf, the coastline felt abandoned. Spruce trees littered the sand, In the vastness of it all, I felt a disturbing vacancy. Where was God? How far away He seemed this whole week. In the face of such force---those unrelenting waves across the Gulf of Alaska---Where are you, God?


 Then I remember these words of Anthony Bloom,


 God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him.  We complain that He does not make Himself present to us for the few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and a half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer, ‘I am busy, I am sorry,’ or when we do not answer at all because we do not even hear the knock at the door of our heart, of our minds, of our conscience, of our life.  So there is a situation in which we have no right to complain of the absence of God, because we are a great deal more absent than He ever is.


 And is this not true? “We are a great deal more absent than He ever is.”


Could I really not see Him here? I looked again with my camera and I saw myself . . . 






I saw myself in that blank desolate beach . .. .

 And then I saw the frightening limitless God who breaks upon my wreckage unceasingly.


I don’t fear Him enough.



And we are now told by astronomers that there are 3 trillion galaxies out there above that endless ocean. And this number is too small, because God never ends and perhaps neither does his creation. 

I stood on that vast beach, overwhelmed by its length and vacancy.  

I do not fear this Infinite God enough.

That night of too much chocolate, I stood heart-sick below the starry infinite hosts of heaven for eating too much of the “food of the gods.” 


This is the truth about me, about us. How fragile we are, how minute in the face of the Eternal. How much we absent ourselves from God, from God who like that ocean never stops visiting us, never stops breaking upon us, never stops pulling us, one wave at a time, into his own endless sea. 

How does he not tire of pursuing me?

How does he not tire of washing me clean?

How does he not tire of beating my weak mortal heart?


I neither fear nor love this God enough . . . 

 Can I start again?

Can you start again?



And so can you.

Under the Jordan, Under the Ocean

We are going under the water today in Israel, and in Alaska. Have you been underwater? Here’s what I saw.


I watch, fascinated, as the white-robed pilgrims inch into the water. After they are dunked, they rise, step out of the Jordan river, and one by one, they swoon and are caught by two men ready for the fall. Each one is swept up, carried and laid out on the ground in a neat row. What are they seeing and feeling?



     Before I left for Israel, Duncan asked me, “Are you going to get re-baptized?"  “Of course not!’ I retorted. I was baptized at seventeen in the Suncook River, a slow, silty river that curved through the mill town where I went to high school. My pastor was there, and others from my youth group. I was wearing a white robe, and I walked out into the water and sunk under the river, and it was done. I did not faint or swoon or see heaven open, but I was asking for just as much. I wanted my old life and my old heart washed away. I lived in a house without heat, without a future, without hope. I died in that house a long time ago, until I heard of this man Jesus. He saved my life. I would follow him, I decided, even into the river. Dripping with brown river water, I was starting life again—with him. I was no longer alone.

But that was forty years ago. Maybe I needed to do it again. Maybe I would see heaven open, or feel God’s Spirit overtake me. Maybe I could get it here—more of God, like these pilgrims. Maybe this is my chance!

I stand by the river’s edge, paralyzed with indecision. I don’t even see the two women beside me until they speak.

“Would you take our photo standing in the river?” The women, in red, look hopeful.

“Sure!” I smile, glad for the interruption. “Where are you from?”


“Wow, that’s wonderful!”

They hand me their camera, a pocket-sized digital. We find an empty piece of river beach.

“How about there?”

    The women, middle-aged and maybe sisters, step into the brackish water. “Oeeeuuww, that’s cold!” they squeal, rolling up their jeans further.”

I’m angling with the camera, but can’t get the composition just right. “Can you take one more step out so I can get more of the river?”

“Ohhh no, it’s too cold!”

We all laugh, and I snap a few of them beaming, heads together, feet in the water.

“Where do you fellowship?” they ask me when I am done.

“In Kodiak, Alaska.”

“No, what kind of church?”

I think a minute, then decide to keep it simple. “I go to a Baptist church.”

“Oh, I am Methodist!” says one of the women.

“I am Presbyterian!”

“All part of the body of Christ!” I say, giving the first my arm as she steps out of the river.

 “Oh yes indeed!” she answers back, the other adding, “Amen, sister!” behind her.

We grin at each other like conspirators before we turn away.

I walk through a group of Koreans, while a busload of Africans wearing batik collect at the river. Every tongue and tribe is here today it seems. I cannot stop trembling.



    I see one spot open on a bench near the railings. I sit down next to a seventy-ish man dressed all in white. We begin to talk. He is off a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, he tells me. He is German. In just seconds, he confesses to me, “I don’t beleef in any of this hocus-pocus.” He waves his hand as the praise music fills our ears. “It’s ridiculous. How can there be a god? What are you going to tell me about Hitler, eh? And the tsunami that killed all those people. No, with that kind of evil, there’s no god. I beleef in the stars.”

I listen, mildly surprised at first, but I remember, too, what happened those many years ago, that even then in the midst of all the waterworks of new birth, the Sadducees and Pharisees were there, glowering, doubting, suspicious. Who was this man daring to act like some kind of prophet? What kind of audacity was this, to dress like a madman and announce the arrival of “the kingdom of heaven”?

 And I remember this: Not all who follow, not all who gather at the river go under the water. Some only stand on the edges to watch. Some follow to gape and carp. Some follow to destroy. It is not so different now.


But what a world this river has made! An obscure man whom people knew only as a carpenter from a nearby village, itself known for nothing, walked the shores of this unremarkable river and submitted himself to a loony man in animal skin to be shoved under water—and two thousand years later, churches, families, tribes from all nations still come across continents to fall into these waters. They come to confess, to sink, to rise, to swoon, to watch, believing that all can be cleansed under this water, that reconciliation between enemies is possible, that foreigners can be made a family, that no matter what they’ve done, God will forgive them. There are even benches here for unbelief.

What is the power of this water and this place? And is it only present in this river and the Sea that feeds it? No. The Jewish people consider the ocean also as a mikveh, the very first gathering of the waters, and so, too, holy in some way.




        Half the world away, we stumble in from our saltwater, drenched, fatigued, but we keep going back, we keep launching our boats onto and under the waters.



And I will come back to this river, I decide, when the hike is over. I must come back. Maybe after hiking all the way around the lake I will want to be baptized again?

What do I know as I leave this place?


Wherever there is water, the thirsty and the dirty are there.

Once you go under the water, you’re never the same.


 The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee


Have you been under the water too? 

What would you say to those here who have not yet been?



(Adapted from Crossing the Waters) 

A Party for Words & Laying Down My Idol

This is a perfect day for laying down an idol. It’s not a hurricane here in Kodiak. It’s only blowing 45 mph for the next 2-3 days, with 5 inches of rain forecast, most of it hurling sideways today. It’s nasty, but normal-nasty, and it suits my mood entirely.  I’m giving it up. Not chocolate or sugar, though I should definitely give those up too. This is something more. Something I thought I couldn’t live without. Ever.

But first, I threw myself a party! Celebrating the release of Crossing the Waters, because it was my tenth book. (Whew!)  Here's a 5 minutes intro to the book---how I wrote it, why . ..



It was Sunday night, the night of the debate.

At exactly the same hour, while Clinton and Trump were hurling insults, I was reading to a house full of friends the chapter when Jesus shows up on the beach and forgives Peter.  In that same hour, While the two (un)presidential candidates are calling each other "evil," threatening jail, interrupting and spewing hostility, we see 12 men sitting around a fire eating bread and roasted fish. We hear Peter forgiven of his betrayals. His lies. Jesus does not stop there. Peter and all the men, despite their weakness, their very small human faith, are commissioned to take this great news gospel into the entire world. To bring words of hope and restoration and peace-with-God to all men and women.  What sweet sweet words of healing and truth they are to speak. Words that bring life. And the world will be changed because of it. I have been changed because of it.




I will never stop loving words, especially words of redemption, but maybe I am done with books? For the first time in my life I am ready to say this. The unthinkable. I am ready to lay down the writing of books, because perhaps it is my idol? The thing I worship. The thing I think I can’t be without, do without. The thing that makes me who I am . . . .



Right now, I am supposed to be outlining my next book. Just as I rise each morning to race to complete all my daily writing assignments, book endorsements and radio interviews for Crossing the Waters, I have been asked repeatedly (but kindly) to devise my next book, to turn in the title and outline. Now. To begin again. (And---I have another book half-written right now being shopped around to publishers.)

This is what is required of writers. If we wait too long between books, readers will forget us and no one will want our books. We’ll be obsolete, invisible. We’ll disappear. Everyone Who Knows tells us this.


And that’s okay. Finally, I can say this. Right now I see so clearly, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”  Jesus was so present with me through the writing of Crossing. But I have nothing to say without hearing from God. I have no words apart from Him. I have nothing to give you of my own. I am bankrupt, empty, dry, hollow, silent without Him. 

So I wait.

Hands open.

And maybe words will be given, and maybe words will be withheld.

Maybe I’ve written my last book.

I do not know.

One thing I know. That commission that Jesus gave to Peter, to all those men around that fire—that commission to “feed my sheep.” To “take care of my lambs”---that was to us as well. The apostle Paul tells us again, in even clearer language what we’re here on this earth for, what our lives are about:


“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.”


This is my job, my lifelong task---and yours: “the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”


It is our joy to do this, but I don’t know what form this will take for me next.


Maybe you don’t know either.


Shall we seek the Lord together? Shall we open our hands and let go of the things we are grasping onto so tightly, as if they will save us? Even our talents, our gifts, our desires, even when used rightly for the kingdom, have we placed our trust in THOSE gifts rather than the giver of the gift?

I need to make sure. 



Maybe I need to let go for a little while. 


Maybe something new is coming.


Maybe we need a Sabbath rest.


Maybe we need time around the fire with Jesus: Do you love me?


That’s where I’ll be. 

Shall we pray for one another?









Kids on a Stormy Sea (video): Growing Young, Growing Old

My kids have grown up in skiffs, on the Alaskan ocean, surrounded by fish, kelp and rolling water. (Hold on to something stable while you watch this!)





 Coming in from fishing at 11:30 pm.

Coming in from fishing at 11:30 pm.

 Noah, 10, coming in from a huge storm.

Noah, 10, coming in from a huge storm.

It has not all been good. They will tell you of unending kelp in the nets, of too many fish and not enough fish, of mending net in the rain, of huge seas, of lost meals and sleep. But most of them come back. For at least part of the summer fishing season. For now.


They have grown up in the skiff. A girl became a fisherwoman. Boys became fishermen. And me? Some days, after 38 seasons out here, I think this life has turned this young woman old.    


But God will not allow it. Not yet, at least. The day I landed on the island for my 36th season, something happened.   I saw a furious splashing out by the reef in front of our house. A pod of orcas hunting down sea lions, maybe?

“Micah! Abraham! Come quick!” They run to the window with me, watching strange flippers emerge then a huge dark body leapt out of the water.

“What is it?” the boys ask together. Then I know.

“It’s a pod of fin whales. They’re lunge feeding!”

My eyes are fixated on their antics. I almost can’t believe it. Fin whales are sober whales. They don’t cavort or frolic like humpbacks. They’re massive, second only to the blue whale, and they haul their heft with great solemnity about the oceans. They know what life is about. They migrate to this bay again and again every summer, like me. They’ve seen it all. And, we have too. 


But now—there are fresh herring darting into the bay. Now it is nearly summer. Now they give up their old habits and indulge in what’s called lunge feeding. I’ve read about it but never seen it. They’re feeding on their sides, skimming and scooping up schools of herring, their usually invisible flippers flapping and slapping the water.

We watch with binoculars as they rise and roll, flushing the waters with their spinning and lunging, mixing water and whale and air into a wondrous froth. Why merely sink and dive when they can spin and skim their thirty-ton bodies up onto the lovely surface and net whole schools of tasty fish?

And there we are, laughing, witnessing their perfect feast, and who knows what else is possible in this watery world?  (Click to Tweet)



All the next day my steps are light with joy. I remember G. K. Chesterton’s words:

"It is possible that God says every morning to the sun, 'Do it again,' and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike. It may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we are."


Is it possible that already I am young again, full of hope for the season ahead? The waters that threaten us, that wear us out and down, also inspire and launch the worlds’ heaviest creatures into the air—can it be?  (Click to Tweet)





But it is. And I think again of the gathering of waters, the mikveh, the Hebrew word for that moment in Genesis when God called out all the waters above and below into a single massive body, the seas. The same word, mikveh (literally meaning “collection”), came to be used of every gathering of water that cleansed and purified. A convert to Judaism would immerse himself into the mikveh, a special pool of water for that very purpose, waters that were sometimes called “the womb of the world.”

As the convert came up out of the waters, he emerged new, as a child, now separated from his own pagan past. He was called “a little child just born,” or “a child of one day.”

I am a “child of one day” this day, the spume of the whale washing over me. I am converted from the wear of age and time and so many trips and seasons and fear and doubt out here—made young again by delight. And it is easy to think of God creating the oceans right now. It is easy to think of Jesus right now. So many times I am looking for Him, for that man who has both rescued me in such particular ways, and who remains yet so far off, so invisible that I am blinded with longing and frustration.

But this first day my eyes are open. As I launch off into the pages of this book, Crossing the Waters, I will show everywhere I have found him here, in these waters, and in the waters of the gospels. 

And you, too, are you ready to be made young again?

God is waiting to fill you with delight!!



(Adapted from Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas)

(And writing this, thinking of you all, already fills me with delight!)



After the Debate: Beauty and Truth Still Win!

Friends, I’m going to start not with politics, but with beauty, because that’s how God began the world: with sheer wondrous beauty, and it surrounds us still. This world is real, present, miraculous, still unfolding. Don’t forget this in the midst of our human messes.





But there’s another kind of beauty: the beauty of truth. I want to speak truth about Monday night’s debate. (Even if you didn’t watch it, no matter. This is still about all of us.) Who won that night? That debate was the most unsettling peculiar even ugly presidential debate in the history of our country. The lamentable human condition was in full display on that stage, just as it has throughout this election season. But listen, the Scriptures are littered with this same condition! I recognize it, because I’ve got it too, and maybe you? Maybe all of us?



Remember the mother? The mother of two fishermen, James and John, who was ready to do anything for her sons! Anything! Even fall to her knees and plead for their promotion. Not just any promotion. A heavenly promotion! Kudos to her for her extraordinary faith, in believing what others did not yet---that Jesus was just who he said he was, and he WOULD reign over ALL! But I cringe at the rest because I understand it too. “When you come into your kingdom, please let my sons sit at your right and your left, in places of honor? Of course. She wants her sons to be great! (Don't we all?)

Remember, too, the day that twelve men walked a dusty road, arguing? They were famous. They could touch a broken leg and heal it, they could pray over an afflicted woman and stop her hemorrhage. They could restore a little boy’s hand, burnt in a fire, back to wholeness. They could even touch a dead body and lift it to life, on occasion. Big stuff. Crowds followed them. They were wildly popular. People hushed when they spoke, cheered when they healed.

They kept a record, each one of them, secretly: how many healings, how many exorcisms, how many hands shaken and babies kissed and cripples running races. But they couldn’t keep it quiet.

“So, how many you got there, John, buddy? I’ve had three raisings from the dead. Not to brag or anything, but that’s pretty great, I’d say. ”

         “Really? I took a poll in that last city and I’m definitely on top. They wanted to make me mayor!”

“Mayor! That’s nothing!” scoffed Andrew. “The Zealots want to make me president! I cured a whole colony of lepers!”

And so it went.

In their bickering and bragging, they even forgot about Israel, which was why they got into this campaign in the first place. They were all looking for a Messiah who would set Rome on fire, who would rout their political and religious oppressors and restore Israel to power and supremacy again. “Make Israel Great Again!” That was what they signed on for.



But, full of miraculous healings, pride and applause, even that heady slogan was lost. Ultimately, it came down to them. To each one of them vying against the other.

Aspiring to “Greatness” does that.  

When such words and debates fail, there are other tactics.  When Jesus healed and fed a whole mountainside of people out of one tiny lunch basket, someone had an idea. He got up and whispered to another, who grabbed another into their circle and soon a whole mob of them knew what to do. They would capture Jesus and make him a business offer he couldn’t refuse---he would be their king!! But they had a plan B too. If he refused, they would FORCE him to be their king!  THEY would be the king-makers! They’d make this miracle-man feed them; they’d make him overthrow their enemies. Yes! Israel would be great again!




They were wrong about everything each of those days. Jesus didn’t come to do any of that. The power Jesus granted was the power to forgive, the power to humble the proud, the power to be as pure-hearted and dependent upon God as a child. The little girl or boy he pulled into their midst made that clear. Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus didn’t end there. He clarified what aspect of that child we need to emulate: “ . . . whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

And later, "Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant."

But people didn’t want to hear that. Nor do we want to hear that now. We want our leaders to be "Strong Men," "Mighty Women," with strength and power in their fists and voices.


 I tell you, I don’t care about living in a country that’s “great,” particularly when it’s been downgraded to mean Clinton’s “values” and Trump’s economic prowess rather than the moral or ethical good. Nor do I want a president who crows about his or her own greatness and accomplishments. A “great” president of the “greatest country on earth” is less likely to seek God for wisdom, to listen to the people who elected him or her, to listen to the sage counsel of others.

But I’m not giving up hope. I pray that whoever is elected, under the incalculable weight of responsibility, will change and become like that little child----lowly and utterly dependent upon God.

And I pray for us that we too would change and become like little children who are known not by our aspirations to “greatness” but by our servant-hearted goodness, no matter who’s in power.

If we can do that, then we all win. And maybe our nation could again be called “America, the Beautiful and Good.”



Friends, who do you think won?

And---what did I miss in this?

Will You Cross the Waters with Me?

Dear Friends,

 Do you know how it feels when you’ve been rehearsing for months? You stand trembling at the edge of the stage, just out of the bright lights. You hope you know your part. And suddenly there’s your cue-----you run into the lights, heart knotted, stomach flipping . .. .


Or---do you know how it feels when you’ve prayed for a baby for years, and now she’s ready to enter the world? But you’re not ready. You can hardly face the contractions, the panting, the tearing of flesh . . . ??


 Or ---do you know how it feels when you start a new ministry? You know you heard God call. You pray God will be honored. You’ve poured all your resources into this venture and now at your Grand Opening, you hope people will come---but what if they don’t?

  Though this is my tenth book, that’s how I feel right now. Because---Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas is finally birthed into the world this week: 

And I’m a bit of a mess, I confess. (Despite the happy-face trailer above . . . ) I’ve spent three years writing this, and almost 40 years living it. The pages are full of storms and saltwater and blood and doubt and questions and yes, Jesus. He shows up there as He has in my life---in surprising, even shocking ways.


bloody hands.JPG

 And I know He'll keep showing up. But I’m scared. (Lord, forgive my lack of faith!) More than a million books release EVERY year. And people read fewer books, buy fewer books. This is the writer’s burden, to write her heart and soul out not knowing, not ever knowing if anyone will see, hear, listen to those words.

 But some have. Mostly reviewers so far. And they've been kind and generous:


"This book is a rare gift. It pulses with story and theology, with lived suffering and quiet joy, with vast mysteries and a strong Savior. The question is not if you can put it down—because that will be hard—but if you have the good sense first to pick it up, and read."

Mark Galli

Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today



"Before reading Crossing the Waters, I didn’t yet realize that the guide I most needed to steer me through turbulent waters was one whose hands smell of finger kelp. With insight, wisdom, and a deep connection to the maritime world from which Jesus plucked his first followers, Leslie Leyland Fields blesses readers who want to see the Word, and see Jesus, with fresh eyes."

 ---Margot Starbuck

    Speaker and author of The Girl in the Orange Dress




"The disciples could often be found battling rough seas, storms, and empty nets. As an Alaskan fisherman for nearly four decades, Leslie Leyland Fields brings unique insight to the disciples’ experiences with Jesus—and how we, too, can learn to trust and follow the Savior."

----Jim Daly
     President of Focus on the Family


Here's where the book will take us!

 Excerpt from the Introduction:

 . . .  This trip through the Gospels will be different than others. It’s an immersive on-the-ground, in- the-water experience, just as it should be because the Gospels are anything but dry. They are dramatic, wild—and wet, set in a rich maritime culture on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I understand something about this world; it’s not so far from my own. In the midst of all these waters and words and worlds, I’ve been brought startlingly near to this man who claimed to be God. I want to bring you closer to see and experience for yourself.