Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Pageant, a Feast, a Funeral and a Wedding

Grace and greetings.

A pageant, a feast, a funeral and a wedding; that is how we will be finishing out the year 2007 at Utqiagvik Presbyterian Church. In a way, it is almost like the scripture reading tonight, (Matthew 2.13-23), they had the pageantry of Jesus’ birth, the feast of visitors, the funeral of the Slaughter of Innocents and the celebration of returning to home land.

In the midst of the Christmas story, of joy and excitement, we come upon the story of Herod killing the innocent children just because of his fear of being replaced as King. How sad it is that the realm of Christ was misunderstood then as much as it is now. We read of the horrors of children being killed, and move on with Jesus as he and his family move to Egypt and back again. And yet the horrors of war and other atrocities come across our computer and/or television screens and we mourn for those who died, then quickly check the sports page to make sure the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys both lost. (I guess it is kind of hard since they are two different sports with different seasons, but I can always dream).

But just like the funeral last week, death is a part of life. It is a part that we do not always understand, so we fear it. We are sad when it happens, we will miss the person who died, if we knew them, and then go on with our morning coffee. Hopefully there are days and events that make us want to stop and demand justice for the people who have died, whether by the hands of somebody else or death itself. In the story of Herod and the slaughter, we want justice and revenge. In the case of the wars going on throughout the world, we want the leaders to be held accountable for the actions of the armies they control. Just like following World War II and the wars where we hold trials for “Crimes against Humanity”; but isn’t war a crime against humanity in of itself?

Then we hear the words of Jesus, to love and forgive. Forgive the Slaughter of the Innocents? Whether the slaughter was two thousand years ago or earlier this morning? We are called to love and forgive so that we may come to the wedding feast and celebrate.

When it is hard to forgive somebody because of a cruel statement, how much harder is it to forgive somebody who is responsible for the death of millions? We are not called to judge, only God gets to do the judging. We are called to love and forgive, to speak out and act to protect…but to carry forth judgments of punishment of hell, that is for God. Nobody said that following God’s path was easy.

May you have a very blessed New Year.

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunday evening

Grace and greetings.

It is the night before Christmas Eve. Anticipation of tomorrow and Christmas day runs through our very selves, and yet, we each approach Christmas differently. We all have different experiences with the Christmas season, and they affect how we see the Christmas holiday. Most of us experience the highs of the season, but yet still experience the lows of expectations not met. Sometimes maybe we are expecting too much of this one day or time of the year.

I have the usual memories of childhood that most probably go through; the anticipation, the expectation, guessing what the gifts are, imagining what I could do with them. I remember one year I got a running suit, and I thought the suit was going to make me a better and faster runner, of course it had no impact upon my ability to run.

This will be my 51st Christmas; some I would love to relive again, and others I have long forgotten. But I keep coming back to one Christmas scene in my mind, and I replay it every year that I can: I think it was our first winter in Anchorage, I went to the candlelight service at Immanuel and came home in the quiet. When I got home, everybody else was already in bed asleep. As per our family tradition, the Christmas tree lights were only lights in the house along with the full moon outside. I sat down on the couch, and I just sat. I sat looking at the tree, and out the big picture window we had in the living room. Something in the dark and quiet was comforting. I sat there praying and talking to God, saying Happy Birthday once again. I find that is the Christmas memory that I think of the most; just sitting quietly with only the lights from the Christmas tree. Each year, I find myself repeating the scene.

Christmas is a time of relationships, of joy, and renewal. For many people, joy comes being with and around others. For this introvert, I find the renewal of spirit in the quiet place, where I spend some quality time with myself and God. I do not get caught up in the expectation of the commercialism of the season, just being “present” with God and myself is my greatest gift of all.
So I wish for you, that you are present with your God and family during this Christmas day, for that is the true reason of this Season, that God is born again anew in you.

Peace and blessings.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cold Front Hits the Arctic Coast

Grace and greetings.

Just like throughout much of the northern part of the United States and Canada, it is turning deadly cold here as well. In the last two days, the weather has dropped to -50 below, and that is BEFORE considering in the wind chill. This afternoon, I was one of the lucky ones to get the church's Ford Expedition to start. Fortunately, the breeze that we have is not that strong, around 5 to 10 m/p/h; but even that slow breeze drops the temperature fast.

But life still goes on here in Barrow. Tomorrow we will be having a funeral and burial. As I have commented before, the family is responsible for digging the grave, preparing the body, and the burial. I ask for prayers for the family that nobody is hurt or injured in the bitter cold during the burial.

The last couple of days, even the church feels cold, with the new boilers working overtime to keep the church above freezing.

Well it is time to get back with the Christmas Pageant practice; Merry Christmas to all.

Peace and blessings.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winter has arrived...

Grace and greetings.

Yes, it is December, and Christmas is next week, though I am still having a hard time believing it. The church is busy trying to get the Christmas Pageant ready, which open to the whole congregation to participate rather than just the Sunday School. This year it started out late because of several different situations happening at the same time, so there is a rush to get it done by Monday night.

Then there is the Christmas Feast, which is just like the Thanksgiving Feast, only for Christmas . There is the setting up of the materials, covering the floor again, and getting the people lined up.

As if that is not enough to do, we will be having a funeral this weekend to confuse the other activities as well.

The temperature has dropped as well. This week it has been averaging around -22 degrees. Fortunately, there has been only a light breeze to go with the cold, when the wind picks up, of course the wind chill will drop far below the present heat wave.

Hope all is well, and your Christmas is fantastic if I do not make anymore entries between now and then.

Peace and blessings.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mid-December already?

Grace and greetings.

Here it is December 13th already, and I am still wondering what happened to October and November. Though winter has set in here on the North Slope, I still have a hard time believing how fast this year is going by, Faster and faster every year.

I know I am in trouble already, as today is my baby brother's 44th birthday, I have purchased only one Christmas present. Though it seems that the way to buy Christmas presents now is over the Internet, I am still way behind on my gift giving.

Anyway, Happy Birthday little bro.

Peace and blessings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Busted boiler and broken pipes

Grace and greetings.

After causing problems for the last couple of months, and spewing glycol every couple of weeks, the boiler for the Christian Education wing finally gave up and died completely. The church had been running on one boiler for so long, nobody remembered when the other one died, and was to be replaced. So on Saturday night we decided to replace the boiler completely, (what other choice did we really have?). Of course finding two boilers was going to be the question. We were told that it could take any where from one to six weeks to the the situation fixed. With the outside temperature ranging from 5 to 20 degrees we had to worry about the water pipes freezing and busting. So we shut down the water, which included the only bathrooms in the entire building and prayed for the best.

Monday morning we were told that two boilers were found in Anchorage, and would be sent up as soon as possible, it all depended on when the airlines could get the space to ship them up. We notified the different people who rent office space in the building, from city, state and federal agencies, to let them know that the heat and water were all gone. We made it through the first week okay, with the hope that the boilers would be here soon.

They arrived Friday, and the workers from Barrow Mechanical worked all day Saturday to install the boilers. We had heat for Sunday, but still no water. Somebody donated a honey bucket to be used for Sunday School while waiting for the water to be turned on. The water company came by on Sunday afternoon to reinstall the water gauges and turn the water back showers to people and our new boilers as the water pipes upstairs had frozen over the week. Monday morning, Barrow Mechanical was back on the scene and by yesterday afternoon, the water problem had been fixed, the bathrooms were working and we had heat for the workers in the offices. The honey bucket was picked up this afternoon, so all is well....until Barrow Mechanical gets back with us with the bill.

Well, we have a new heating system for the Christian Education Building and hopefully water and heat for the cold weather to come, January, February and March.

With prayers of a safe and warm holiday season for all of you,

Peace and blessings.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Open Seas

Grace and greetings.

There are discussions taking place through out the world pointing to Barrow and the North Polar Ice Cap as their proof. Some are saying that there is global warming and it is affecting the area as well as the world. The two seas that meet at Point Barrow, Beaufort Sea to the east and Chukchi Sea to the west; they are part of the other bodies of water that make up the Arctic Ocean. With the winds and currents as high as they have been this winter, and winters of the past several years, the waters are still open as of today. There have been times where it looks like it will freeze over, but the winds and currents break it up.

The other side of the argument is that this is how the cycles of Nature go. There are times of cold, and times of warmth. Eighteen (18) years ago, Barrow made world news because three bowhead whales were trapped in the frozen over seas and leads were cut in the ice to get the whales to open water. That took place in late September and early October. Now the whales would have no problem getting back to the Pacific Ocean. I was talking with somebody the other night who said he remembered in the 60's and 70's there would already be four to seven feet of frozen ice out in front of Barrow in December. I also spoke with someone earlier this year who remembers swimming in the lakes and ocean growing up as a child, during the summer of course!

Several people have commented on how mild the winters have been of the last several years. Of decades past, December is usually around zero degrees Fahrenheit, but now it is around 20 degrees above zero. So the debate continues...

Anyway, I wanted to get another blog posted this week, two in two days, Oh wow...

I pray all is well with you and your families.

Peace and blessings.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It Has Been a While

Grace and Greetings.

It has been a while since my last post, so I thought I had better get something up.

To answer the major question on everybody's minds, yes the sun has now set for the year. Though it set on November 18th, we still get some light for a couple of hours at the moment, but I am sure that will be gone too here soon.

The weather has not been that bad here, averaging between 15-25 degrees above. The fun is not the temperature itself, but the wind chill, with winds up to about 30 miles an hour. There was one day last week that got down to -15 then add the 15 mile an hour wind, and it was cold.

Thanksgiving here is a little different as well. The majority of the people gather at the church for a service on Thanksgiving day, then they have a feast. The feast is all traditional foods, starting with duck or caribou soup; fried bread; Eskimo ice cream, (whipped caribou fat with some meat in it); muktuk and of course the whale meat from the hunts earlier in the year. The whole church is prepared three days before the feast by having plastic sheets and cardboard covering ALL the floor space; people cook at home and then come to the church early in the morning and get ready to share the feast with all that show up. The service started at about noon, the feast started about one, and they were through serving people about 4:30. By 7 pm you would never had known that the feast had happened, except for the particular smells that come with the prepared food.

We will be having another feast this Christmas, but that involves a week long celebration between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Until next time, hopefully it will be MUCH sooner, thank you for sharing your time with me.

Peace and Blessings.