Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Snow in July

Grace and greetings.

After the forecasters kept promising rain and snow for the last several weeks, it finally happened. Yesterday was a rainy day, but up in the low 60's. Got to play some softball last night, misty at first, but stayed dry until the game was over. (We got our first win after 4 losses of the 4 week season. I will miss the last couple of games as we leave Barrow for a couple of weeks for vacation.) The snow this morning started out very fine, then grew into large flakes being driven by a fairly strong wind. My wife and I took a drive around after dinner, through the driving snow, into the tundra. The snow was not sticking very much in town, nor on the few miles of dirt roads that we have, but by the evening, it was starting to stick to the grasses in the tundra. In town was just a muddy mess, but such is life in Barrow.

Of course the big news here in Barrow, as well as Alaska, is the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the US Senate. Of course he has been under investigation for several years now, as has been his son, Ben Stevens, one of the leaders in the Alaska State Senate. Of course this is a re-election year for Ted Stevens, and he is, and has been stating his innocence ever since the investigations started. But one of the things that gives the indictments more weight, is that they were filed in Washington D.C. and not here in Alaska. I think that it is just another blow to the Republican Party here in Alaska as they have been indictments, convictions and jail time for Republican State Senators and Representatives. The past Governor, Frank Murkowski, has been tied to many insinuations of wrong doing, but has not been officially indicted or charged. So we will see how this plays out.

In other news, there is the shooting of Church members in Tennessee, because of their social activities on behalf of women and gay/lesbian rights. As of tonight, it sounds like the shooter is being charged with murder in a hate crime. As a pastor of a church, I must admit that there has always a thought in the back of my mind that some radical will take exception to what I have to say, or what the Presbyterian Church (USA) may have to say on any particular social subject. Though the denomination is not as progressive as the Unitarians/Universalist, I too speak out for the rights of women, gays/lesbians and others that the Religious Right as declared deviants; granted, I try not to force my beliefs upon the congregations I serve or upon anybody else for that matter. Yet, as I have said to others in the past concerning the persecution within judging other's worship beliefs: Since the time of Cain and Able we have been killing each other over worship.

In lighter news, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, obtained first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Casey Kotchman, who has been the MVP of the Angels this season. We will see where that takes the Angels. Of course, I am always pulling for the Angels.

I will check in and let you know how my vacation is going. Right now, besides all the above, it has been nice and quiet. Well the sun is trying to come out through the clouds as I come to this end.

Peace and blessings.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Time for a vacation

Grace and greetings.

I have been more sporadic in my writing than I would have liked, but such is life. As of last Sunday, 20 July, was the 30th week of the calendar year, and on Saturday, 19 July, I officiated my 27th funeral of the year. I am tired and ready for my vacation.

The past week in Barrow, the rain has been early and often. It seems as though we received as much rain in the last two weeks as we did all last summer. We were hoping to paint the outside of the church, but the rain saw to it's postponement. Here on the North Slope, we live in a desert, less rain than the Sahara. So, after the wood dries out, and it rains, the wood soaks up all the rain deep into the wood. If we paint over the rain, the paint would just peel off, as it is doing at the moment. We had a group ready to come up from Anchorage to help us, but now it looks like it will be sometime next summer that we will try again.

The last two days have been wonderful, sunny and in the mid 40's. But today the clouds are back, not sure if it is just fog clouds or if the rain is returning. It is suppose to rain all weekend and into next week, (hence the canceling of the painting), which is just as well, since I did not really want to spend my first week of vacation painting the church. I am looking forward just to sit back and do nothing for a little while, but we will see how far that goes. There are still projects that I have not been able to do since we moved in 15 months ago, so I will be doing some of that as well.

We are planning to get off the slope for a couple of weeks, where hopefully I will be able to purchase a digital camera for my blog space.

Hope all is well were ever you happen to be.

Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Grace and greetings.

Last month a person suggested that I read the book "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Relin. It is about a mountain climber who had just failed to climb K2 and got lost on the way back down. He ended up in a village who took him in and nursed him back to health. During his time there, in the midst of a very Muslim country, he noticed that there were no schools for the girls to attend and learn. He promised to return with supplies to build them a school.

The book is the journey Greg Mortenson took from Pakistan to the United States and back again. How he was able to build schools in the most remote villages for the children, first starting in Pakistan, then moving on into Afghanistan. It is almost as if he knew of "Charlie Wilson's War" before anybody else. (After Charlie Wilson was able to supply military aid for Afghanistan, his cries for rebuilding the villages with schools fell on deaf ears). For Mortenson, his pleas and cries fell on many deaf ears as well, but was able to get funding through the extended climbing community.

The book follows Mortenson from 1993 through to post 9/11 era and how he tried to get the attention of our elected officials and present Administration. I admit, by the time I was nearing the end of the book, I was becoming even more angry with our government, and the lack of foresight and humanitarian outreach for the people. Greg Mortenson still travels from his Montana home to Afghanistan and Pakistan every year. He is still building schools for girls in villages where no other United States citizen has been.

I encourage you to read the book or at least Google Greg Mortenson and see the true miracles he has performed this past 15 years and continue to do so. There is a strong movement in trying to get Mortenson nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The library here in Barrow will be discussing the book Friday night for their monthly "Book of the Month". After reading this book, I may have to stick around and find out what is on for next month.

Peace and blessings.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meeting far away from home

Grace and greetings.

This is one of the several welcome signs throughout the Barrow area. It seems strange at the number of people we come half way around to world to meet.

Last week, a visitor came to visit Barrow and walked in for our Sunday morning service. While talking with the person, he said that he was from the Columbus, Ohio area. Upon asking for a further clarification, he was from the area that my wife and I served churches. In fact, the church that he in a member of, the minister serving the church is the husband of the minister who followed me at Condit Presbyterian Church, in Sunbury, Ohio. My wife was called to one of the larger churches in Columbus, while I was called to a small town church. She later ended up leaving the larger church shortly before becoming pregnant with our son who was born at Grant Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

The same week as the visitor, I received an email from a member of another congregation I served in Columbus Junction, Iowa. Like most of Iowa during June, flood waters were rising to take back the flood plains. In the email, I was told that the person who runs the cleaners here in Barrow, is from Columbus Junction. Columbus Junction is a community of less than two thousand as of the last census. When I went over to check it out, it turned out that it was the father of the person who I usually communicate with at the cleaners. As I talked with the daughter, she said that her grandmother still owns property on Main Street.

Of course, one of the best story of people meeting in far away places, I heard during the first wedding I help officiate in Weyauwega, WI. In meeting with the bride and groom we were talking about how they met, and some of the stories there. Me being from Alaska, was interested in hearing that they had met in Alaska the summer before. But what was the story behind the story: the father of the groom came up to visit his son in Alaska and to meet the "new" girlfriend. He was talking to another person who was visiting the State. As they continued to talk, they asked were each other was from. As it turned out, they own adjacent farms to each other in Wisconsin.

Another story is how my wife and I met. Neither of us were suppose to be in Fairbanks, Alaska for a Presbytery meeting, but we were, and we met, and later married. But that is for another post at a later time. Well, it is time for yet another funeral, I think this is number 48 or so since I arrived a year ago last May.

Peace and blessings.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fourth of July weekend

Grace and greetings.

Happy fourth of July, the anniversary where the colonies declared their independence from the British empire. It is usually accompanied with parades and fireworks. Things here are a little different.

This is part of the summer celebration, it is a four day event. They start with games on the third: foot races and egg balance race according to age groups.

Then they finish each of the nights with Anauragauraq (Eskimo Baseball). I think it is more like cricket than baseball as we know it in the United States. They divide up into two teams, and have two bases, or lines. Each person gets the opportunity to hit the ball, then the team that is at bat, can choose to run to the other base or not, everybody, nobody, anybody. The idea of course is to go from one base to the other and back home to score a run. There is a twist here though, as you run from base to base, you can be tagged out or thrown out with the other team throwing the ball at any running team member; but if an out is made, everybody has to switch sides quickly, because the ball is still live, and the team that was just thrown out, can pick the ball up and throw out somebody on the other team before they get to one of the bases safely. It is a game of all ages and abilities. Of course no score is kept, it is just for the it is all for the fun of the game.

On the Fourth, they start the day with a parade at noon, then move on to the Claire Okpeaha Memorial Marathon, three laps around Barrow, which comes out to be about a eight to ten mile race. Then it is on to the "Beauty contests" starting with the Top of the World baby, then Miss Teen, and Miss Top of the World. (I believe each winner goes on to the State competitions to represent the Barrow area). Then it is on to more races, this time gunny sacks for all ages according to age group, the Eskimo Dance and then more Anauragauraq.

On the Fifth, includes, one foot hop, egg toss, rock juggling, Umiaq (tradition skin boat) races, tug of wars and more baseball. On the sixth, ends up with more games during the afternoon: two foot hop, and nail pounding contest.

This is all for fun, smiles and laughter.

Wednesday night, our son wanted to go for a walk and my wife and I joined him as we wandered over to the games. The foot races were only about 75 to 100 yard dashes, so I thought I would wait and see about my age group. As they got up into the "older" ages, the distance became shorter. By the time they got to my age group, 51-55, I thought I would give it a try. Both my wife and son told me not to run because of my bad knees. I won my race, and then won the egg balance as well. In the egg balance, the leader dropped his egg about ten feet from the finish line, allowing me to come across for the win. They paid the first $15, Second $10 and third $5. This was the first time in my twenty year career of running that I got paid to run. I donated the winnings to a boy who needs surgery at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Of course outside of the races, everything remains the same, I had three funerals this week, and another person died on Friday, the Fourth.

I pray all have (had) an wonder-filled, and safe Fourth of July celebrations.

Peace and blessings.