Report from 40 Below (and some kind of miracle)

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We’re in Tok, Alaska tonight. It’s -35. But our car temp hit an even lower number this morning. (see below) The radio station in Whitehorse, where we stopped last night, kept issuing Extreme Cold Warnings. Yes, we are driving the Alaska Highway in the coldest week of the winter. (That was not part of the plan. Do you know how long you can walk briskly at -36 before you go numb, even with double and triple layers? Ten minutes.)

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The sun did not rise until 10:30 and it set by 3:00. Yet such beauty in those few hours! It is magical country, this, and I am glad to see it in the winter. I have been as breathless as the air is still. And such silence. We have been nearly alone in it. All day today we passed maybe 10 cars.

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But we are worn out from these miles and so is our car. We have two divots in our windshield. It’s stressful driving on snowy, icy roads, yet still needing to make time because the daylight hours are short and we MUST make our next destination. We are trying not to think about breaking down or sliding off the road. The margins are thin. We are leaning toward home—-hoping to walk through our front door in 3 days. (And I am praying, “Please, Lord, calm the waters for that infamous 12 hour ferry ride to Kodiak??)

But we have not been alone. I must tell you about a little miracle that happened along the way.

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I was driving. We were passing through Fort Nelson and we needed gas. I pulled into a Husky station but then saw it was “full service.” Thinking the gas would be more expensive, I was just about to pull away when Duncan said, “Oh never mind. Let’s just get gas here.”

Duncan got out and began to fill the tank. A young man approached, ‘Hey, how are you?” Duncan tried to wave him off, but he persisted. A minute later I hear, “What’s this in your tire?”

Duncan and I come over and stand beside him, peering. I could hardly see it, but there was indeed something red, jammed between the tire and the rim. What on earth?

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We gaped for a moment, puzzled, then he said, “I’d get that checked if I were you. There’s a tire shop right over there” and he pointed.

What if the tire shop wasn’t open? What if we had to wait for hours? It would be dark soon and we’d miss covering all those miles. We had to try. The shop was open. And——-they had room for us just at that moment. They gestured us on through the sliding door into their warm bay.

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The young man popped our tire off effortlessly and came back with a sideways smile holding out something in his hand.

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A pen. And it was no mystery where it came from. The guy at the Tire-Rama in Spokane who mounted our new tires wasn’t paying attention. A pen fell from his pocket while working. That pen lay in the bead of our front tire for 1200 miles, 1200 frozen miles over bumps, ice, sharp corners, from Spokane, Washington to Fort Nelson, British Columbia.

I know what could have happened. What maybe should have happened with a pen in our tire. The tire should have leaked. It might have blown out anywhere along those miles. Two days ago we passed a car beside the highway. On it’s side, half-crushed with the roof off. They had to cut off the roof to extricate the people.

Every day as we have been driving, we are reading to one another. We’re both doing the One Year Bible this year, so we’re reading in Genesis, in Matthew, in the Psalms. About the God who uttered the world into beautiful molecular existence and sighed, “Very Good” when it was done.. About the God who saves and protects. About the God who dared to enter this fractured world as an infant, come to rescue us. And while we are reading, our tires whirling on ice and snow in the frigid wilderness, somehow the compromised tire holds. Somehow the bead holds. Improbably the tire holds. Then I pull into a full service station—a place I would never have chosen—-where an attendant saw what we never would have seen.

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I have been rescued and delivered so many times in this lifetime, over tens of thousands of miles of travel around the world, in a tiny boat alone at sea in a winter storm, at gun point in Guatemala and everywhere in between. And so have you, no matter where you live or where you’ve traveled. And we have no idea how many more times we’ve been saved from disaster without even knowing it.

Dear friend and reader, Do not doubt that your life has purpose. Do not doubt that you are alive because God desires it so. He has good work still for you to do. And He has so much of his own goodness and wonder to delight you with even on this side of heaven.

Are you watching? Are you seeing?

What a Very Good year lies ahead of us! Yes our cars are overloaded. Yes the roads are sometimes lonely and long. Yes, we are driving through tumultuous political times. Yes, we are all riding on compromised tires! But we’re all headed home.

And we SHALL arrive.

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(But maybe calm the seas just a little on the ferry?)

(Yes, this is our ferry arriving in Kodiak a few years ago.)

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