The men stacked rocks to make a crude rectangular windbreak, and then turned their longboat upside down on top to create a roof for their shelter. This shelter became home for the men of the Greely Expedition during the winter of 1883-84. Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely and his 24 men had abandoned their camp on the shore of Lady Franklin Bay, on the north-eastern coast of Ellesmere Island, and traveled by boat and ice floe to Cape Sabine, where they hoped to find a cache of supplies. Tragically, they only found a few weeks of food, and a note detailing the failed attempts to reach them. One by one, the members of the expedition succumbed to the elements and their own hunger, leaving only seven of the original team to be rescued the following spring. They had been trapped in the Arctic for three and a half years.

Words can be tricky things. Over the past few weeks—months, really—it’s become increasingly clear to me that our words don’t always mean what we want them to mean. When I was doing carpentry work, I put things together with wood and glue and nails, and there was an appropriate way to do each project—the appropriate wood, the appropriate fastener, and so on. Plywood worked well in some settings, solid wood in others. Framing nails were needed for one job, and finish brads for another. Sometimes we’d try to get by with material or fasteners that weren’t quite right, and the results were usually less than the best, and we’d have to go back and do it right.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to share this week. When I was in Atlanta for an Urban Ministries class last January, our conversations were understandably laced with the language of racial injustice. We had the opportunity to visit Martin Luther King Jr’s old church, and the National Historic Park associated with his civil rights work. In Atlanta; with its history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and red-lining policies that prevented black Americans from purchasing homes; racism inevitably falls along certain lines. The city of Atlanta, along with many regions of the American South, has engaged in a centuries-long struggle to become what Martin Luther King Jr envisioned as “The Beloved Community,” in which—as he famously stated in his “I Have A Dream” speech—people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Often, I’d rather talk about geology than current events, and that’s even more true these days. So, a geology story to begin with, which begins in January of the year 1700. Near the end of the month, on the eastern coast of Japan, large waves began to make their way ashore. The flooding damaged buildings, washed out rice paddies, started fires and swamped boats. Now, because Japan is in a seismically active area, people were well aware of earthquakes and the waves that often followed. Even the word we use to identify these waves is a Japanese word: a compound of the words for harbor—tsu—and the word for waves—nami.

Samuel was not happy. The leaders of the people had gathered and had demanded that Samuel find them a king. In 1 Samuel 8, Samuel had tried to pass the leadership of the tribes over to his sons, but they turned out to be less than ideal leaders. The text says that they “…did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” So, perhaps it wasn’t that unreasonable for the elders of Israel to start looking at other models.