Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day of Pentecost

Grace and greetings.

I had been writing a blog all week long in my head, but never getting it down in print. The last several days have been emotional rollercoaster. Thursday, snow returned, leaving us with a light blanket of snow which melted by the end of the day. But I also received notice of a death in an Anchorage hospital of a church member who had suffered several strokes. Before his last stroke, he was seen throughout town in one of his two wheelchairs; one motorized that he was able to zip along with; the other he pushed himself backward with his one good foot.

Then Thursday afternoon, a couple from Chicago came to Barrow for the day, and had arraigned for me to renew their wedding vows for their 30th anniversary. This was the first time that I had officiated a service for rededication of vows.

Then on Saturday morning, the community of Barrow woke up to the news of a high school couple whose relationship was not working out; the young man shot his ex-girl friend and then shot himself. He died of his wounds, and she is currently in Anchorage; last I heard was on life support. (Monday afternoon: I have since found out that she did pass away yesterday.)

Saturday night, snow returned, as if to blanket our sorrow and pain with several inches of the white stuff. We went out to dinner to celebrate Kim's birthday, then came home to watch "Gandhi."

Most of the snow is gone as I type, but the pain is still there from yesterday's shootings. But God's spirit continues to flow down upon us, and through us. Here is my meditation from this evening....

“Pray the Spirit”
Romans 8.22-27

On the evening of Pentecost, we gather to worship and pray together. In this passage, Paul starts off that the whole creation is groaning in labor pains. The whole creation, everything in creation is before God, praying. All life, all animals, all mountains, and valleys, beaches and streams are lifting prayers and praises up to God. We join our voices with all of Creation in our worship of the Lord our God. Even those times where we do not know where our next step should be, we worship God.

Yesterday brought out the pain and anguish of prayers that could not find any answers. Prayers that mothers remembered the birthing pains they went through for life, to see life taken from them. Questions continue to be asked, and it seems as though no answers are coming. We know that we are God’s children; we know that God has blessed us and continues to call us forth for adoption to redeem us. But as we hold our dying loved ones in our arms, we continue to lift up our prayers, hoping against hope that God will answer our cries. Paul writes, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

We come before God, knowing that God will be able to use our grief to bring us into God’s light and love. There is a book that has been out for the last couple of years now that many people have read; it is “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young. The story is that of a father, and family that has lost their youngest daughter to a rapist and murderer. Though her body has never been found, they did find the remains of her cloths, blood stained; but still they hold out for hope. The book tells of the story of the father, Mackenzie, and how he has dealt with the great loss through his depression that he names “the Great Sadness.” Four years after his daughter’s disappearance, Mackenzie is given a note to meet God at the Shack where his daughter’s cloths were found. The story goes on to report about his time and meeting with God. Of course, as in all good books, there are twists and turns, guilt and redemption. Some questions are answered, many other questions remain.

In the Romans passage, we read that as the whole creation in pain, and yet continues to lift up prayers and praise to God. We read that even in the times it is the hardest for us to pray, even when we are in our own Great Sadness, God’s Spirit, comes to pray for us, and intercedes for us even when we can do nothing more than sigh. Along with the Great Sadness, there is the Great Nevertheless; though odds seem to be against us, nevertheless God comes out victorious in the end. Even when the disciples were faced with the death of Jesus, and lost all hope, nevertheless, God brought Jesus back from the dead, and promised the same for us.

This is the day of Pentecost, the day that the Spirit fell upon the Disciples and spread throughout the land and the ages. The Spirit of God continues to come to us, praying for us, lifting up our voices for us, even in those times when we can find no voice of our own. Though we walk through our valleys of shadow and death; as we experience our own Great Sadness; nevertheless, God comes through in the end, God DOES Triumph.

God is here; God is with us; God is here with us always. Alleluia and Amen.
Peace and blessings.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Still Around

Grace and greetings.

Things are still happening here in Barrow, we are alive and kicking. I am preparing for another funeral and thought I would sent a post while I have the internet connection. Last night and earlier this morning I was having trouble, yet again, with my internet connection. Someday I would like to get a real connection for the church.
Here is my meditation from last night.

“God’s Promise”
I John 5.6-13

In the court of law we are sworn in to “Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” In the letter from I John, we hear that God has testified to the truth about the relationship between Jesus and God. Not only is there human testimony, but God’s testimony as well. “This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify: The Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater: For this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son.” (Verses 6-9)

God comes before us to testify on Jesus’ behalf, and we the jury, are called on to believe the testimony of God. God comes to us throughout history continuing to speak to the human situation and call us back into relationship with God. All along the way, God gives us divine witnesses along with the human witnesses. Jesus comes along to “drink the same dirty water, walk the same dusty roads, and sleeps in the same fragile tents as human witnesses. That witness is very often indistinguishable from other human witnesses.” (Feasting on the Word; year B, volume 2, page 538.) We continue to read throughout scripture how God’s testimony mingled with human testimony, side by side, together.

Therein lies the paradox that we are called to hear and believe. God comes to us, in the lowly places, and not with trumpets blasting, “here is the word of God…” God continues to come in the midst of our lives to give witness, but are we able to give the ear to hear, and the heart to believe? Many people would prefer that God would silence all other voices, in fact many try to do this on their own; but God continues to come to us, quietly, in our own dusty roads, drinking the same dirty water and sleeping in the same fragile tents as we do. Jesus lives with us, walking with us, drinking with us, sleeping with us, and still giving testimony to us about God, and God gives testimony back concerning Jesus. It is like a comment about the Trinity: “God laughs with Jesus, who sings with the Spirit, back and forth, as they are one.”

As we read in this letter by “the elder,” he does not so much speak to us, but sings with us, in the hope that sooner or later we will recall the tune and melody of our own heartbeats to a rhythm long forgotten but not completely lost, that we too may sing along. In the world of sin and grace, we come to hear God’s call, God’s testimony to the truth. God calls us to join in to be witnesses of the truth; that we too may sing with God; sing to the Creator, who sings with the Son and the Spirit, reminding us of the tune that continues to beat in our hearts. Hear God’s song so we may sing along, giving witness to all that may hear us.
Peace and blessings.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Grace and greetings.

A few people have written me concerning Kim and Sam, so I thought I would answer here too since I brought them up in earlier writings.

The story, "The Miracle Boy," though was written earlier this year for a writing class, took place last year at the end of March and beginning of April 2008. Sam is doing better, he still has his days as well, but he will be finishing up the school year with finals next week. Then he will return this coming fall to finish up the two credits he is short from graduating. He is not sure where he will go, but he knows that he wants to go to college. His plan is to live at home for a year or so to save some money before going off to the big cities. He will probably continue his education with classes out at the two year college here in Barrow. Sam started taking Driver's Education out at the college last night and it will run for about five weeks, two nights a week.

Kim is slowly over coming her pulled two teeth and dry socket. After everything is healed, about six months to a year, they will put in permanent bridges. As for her Social Security Disability hearing, the Judge has postponed the hearing for two months so we can find legal representation. We will meet again July 8th, this time in Anchorage. Otherwise, she is still trying to do things without getting sick again, either with the pneumonia or falling down as she still has the weakness in her right side.

My own depression cycle is starting to lift. This morning I am feeling and thinking clearer than the last several days. Time will tell. Of course, one of the problems of living in the Arctic is the availability of services. The counselors over at the Mental Health have gone from missing one clinician, to now they are down four. There is only one clinician for the North Slope at the moment, with another person helping out when she can. The North Slope is made up of eight villages, with the geographical size of the State of Minnesota. Each of the clinicians would take a week in one of the villages and spend three weeks here in Barrow. Now they are down to just the one. Of course when we ask if there is any body coming in the near future, they can not say anything, which means probably not. The loss of the last two clinicians was especially hard on Kim and I, for they were the people we were seeing. It is much harder on Kim, because she has so few that she can trust right now.

Well, I have to go and get Sam to school.

Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here in Barrow

Grace and greetings.

A friend recently wrote asking a variety of questions, maybe some of them can be brought out again. How did I end up here? How long will I stay?

I moved to Anchorage between my junior and senior year in high school. (She knew this part of the story, since she was one of the friends I left behind in Whittier, California). I had asked my father if I could move back to finish high school in Huntington Beach. He told me to give Alaska six weeks; and I stayed for 13 years. We spent the last twenty years throughout the United States; serving churches from Northern New York to Ohio, Montana, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania and Washington. In December 2006, I came to Barrow to interview for the position of Senior Pastor. Since my wife spent her internship here, we knew somewhat of what to expect. I did not really think that I would take the position, but as time went along, so did the my hearing of God's spirit.

We have been here for two years now; my "contract" is worded that after three years the congregation will pay for the moving expenses back to Seattle. It cost the church $25,000 to move us up here, so that is a powerful incentive to try and make it for another year. My contract does not have an end date, per se, so who knows.

I know that I am called here, but like many places that are so isolated, it is hard at times. Last week we were in Fairbanks, which is 500 miles to the south of us, and there are many trees there. Here in Barrow, we are 450 miles north of the tree line, so no trees. We are still in the throws of winter as it snows outside; that can drain the spirit. At the moment, my spirit is draining.

Where and when do we go from here? My only answer is that is up to God. Right now, consider that not many people can last up here for that long. You have to be called to the place in order to stay, and thrive. With the economy were it is at the moment, it is probably good to have a safe place to be. I love the people here, and I know that I have been a positive influence for many people in the community, not just in the church.

So, I take it one day at a time. If I were offered a dream position elsewhere, would I take it? Today maybe, tomorrow, probably not.

Peace and blessings.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Grace and greetings.

We arrived back from Fairbanks Tuesday evening; I was tired, angry, frustrated and depressed. Kim made the quick remark that I was already missing those "sticky up things." That is what we jokingly call trees when ever we go somewhere off the North Slope. As I thought about it, the statement made sense. The only "trees" that we have here, are our "palm trees." The trees are made of driftwood with strips of baleen nailed to the top of them.

I have not thought about it before, but I guess I do miss trees. The nearest trees are over four hundred miles to the south of us. Most of the portion of Alaska that is within the Arctic Circle are above the tree line. For me, I guess it was something that I did not think about until after the fact. Most of the people in the polar parts of the world comment that they did not notice they missed the sun until after it had returned. I guess my missing the trees are the same, I did not realize that I missed them until I left them behind again.

We are hoping to make it back down to Anchorage this summer, then I will get to see some of those "sticky things" again, and I will appreciate them a little more.

Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Miracle Boy

Grace and greetings.

Below is a paper that I recently wrote for my creative writing class. I wanted to share it with a few others, but was having trouble emailing it, so I am posting it here on my blog. This is a story of my son, Samuel. I hope that it raises some of the issues that we deal with up here on the North Slope.

"The Miracle Boy"
D. Ian MacInnes-Green

He was sitting on the plane to go down to Anchorage along with everybody else on the sold out flight. Everybody was excited about the possibility of the Girl’s Basketball team heading off to the State Tournament. It seemed that everybody noticed him as well. Ten hours before, he was contemplating suicide, the risk was high. But now he was calm a collected. He talked with some of the other passengers, but mostly it was a quiet trip for him and the officer that was escorting him to an Anchorage facility. The officer held the literal keys to his freedom; for he had hand cuffs on his wrist and shackles on his ankles. He was not thinking too much about being a miracle boy at that moment….

Not quite twenty years earlier, his parents were talking about having children. They wanted to have children but were not in a rush to have them. They knew that they needed to be financially secure to have children, but they never were financially secure.

His mother has always had a problem with the medical profession; they would keep telling her that all her problems were in her head. When, in some cases years later, she was able to prove that it was her physical body that betrayed her, not her mental ability. So when conception was still difficult, the doctors said to keep trying. The fact that all her life she had problems with her menstrual cycle was of no consequence to the doctors. Finally, after three years and several doctors, one doctor admitted that she had endometriosis, a problem where the endometrial particles were not completely flushed out of her system each month, and they built up tissue outside of the vaginal area. The doctors performed several laparoscopies to try and clear things out, but it did not work. It was not until she had a laparotomy that the medical world found out that she had stage four (out of five) endometriosis. Once her tubes and other reproductive organs were cleaned out, she was able to conceive. It happened a month after the surgery, not intentional, but it happened.

Because of the issues associated with the endometriosis the pregnancy was watched very carefully. The last several months she was limited to light duty, but not quite complete bed rest. The boy’s parents were excited and nervous. They would watch with excitement as they felt him move around in the womb. It reminded them of a dolphin, so they would call him “fin” for short.

The parents had planned to have the delivery as holistic as possible. They had two friends to go through the Lamaze training with them in case the father was not available to be there. As the boy’s parents were both ministers, the father’s position would sometime take him away. The parents tried to make all the “right” plans for the birth.

Then the day arrived for the Miracle Baby to be welcomed into the world. Early in the morning of that eventful day, the water broke. The mother woke up, thinking that she had wet the bed. She woke up her husband to confirm that her water had indeed broken. Since it was only 2:00 o’clock in the morning, she called the doctor on call, and was told not to worry, and come in to the office later that morning. They changed the sheets to the bed, where as the husband promptly went back to sleep. The mother-to-be could do no such thing. In fact, she became angry and resentful of her spouse to so calmly go back to sleep. So she stayed awake, sitting there nervous, worrying about every small detail, include that fact that she could not go back to sleep herself.

The expectant parents arrived at the doctor’s office shortly after they opened. It was soon confirmed that her water had indeed broken and the baby was on its way. The parents were admitted to the local hospital that the doctor worked with, and they waited.

Part of the problem already was that there were no birth contractions to speak of, so the medical staff hooked her up with medication to help bring on the contractions. AND THEY CAME. She had been on the medication for about five hours, but she still had not dilated beyond a couple of centimeters. (The mother needs to be dilated at least ten centimeters in order for the baby to pass through the birthing canal.) One of the partners who had gone through the Lamaze training with them was a nurse, and this just happened to be her day off, so she was able to be there with them.

The prenatal doctor came in and said that the medications were not working in bringing about the birth. It was time to prepare for a cesarean section; the couple asked for a few more hours. The time finally came: it was closing in on the magic hour of 24 hours since the water broke and she had not dilated beyond the two centimeters, it was time for surgery. The parents finally agreed, signed the papers so that the surgery could take place. At 11:01 PM (23:01 on a 24 hour clock), on this particular Tuesday night, the Miracle Boy was born.

If there was anything constant in the boy’s life, it was change. By the time that he was in his third year of high school, he had lived in eight different states, ten different communities, fourteen different houses, and ten different schools. He could no longer trust that any friends that he made, he would be able to keep. There was one time in his early years, when he made an observation and question to his father, “It is September, are we moving?” That particular September, no they were not moving; but there were too many other September moves throughout his short life.

Finally, when he started high school, he thought that he found a place where he belonged. He made friends that seemed like they would last. The school itself was an alternative school that was geared to the personality and understanding that he needed. Then his father was offered a position far away, in a small isolated village inside the Arctic Circle in Alaska.

He moved with his parents to the village up north, he gave it a try, but he just did not feel like he fit in anywhere in this “new home.” He had lived through too many changes, too many times to move, no real stability. This time he thought he would make one more move; this would be his choice, his decision. He would end the torture that had happened all his life; it would end here and now.

He really wanted to end his life, but ended up being helped out of the situation. The people who were trying to help, including his father, took him to the local hospital, where he agreed to go to the hospital in Anchorage. In the village, they have no humane way to handle anybody who is suicidal except to “arrest” them, put them in police custody, until the person is “transported” to the Anchorage facility. In the case involving the Miracle Boy, this meant flying down on a crowded, overbooked plane, with a majority of classmates and their families to travel with him. Only, he was handcuffed and shackled for his “safety”, the “safety” of the officer escorting him down, and the “safety” of the rest of the passengers. But by the time the flight had actually happened, he was not longer suicidal or even thinking in those terms.

Since that flight, and the three week stay in the hospital that followed, he has found a new lease on life. He has started making friends, this time not worrying about who was going to move first. He is looking to graduate from high school and go on to college. But right now, it is just one day at a time. Even though his parents do not always agree with the decisions that he makes, he is still, and always will be, their Miracle Boy.

Peace and blessings.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday Afternoon

Grace and greetings.

It is another Saturday afternoon, and I am fighting to do a tail spin into a depression. Just like the weather outside, it is overcast and cold, just another depressing day. I am sure that I will be over it soon. Blah, blah, blah...

The picture on the left was taken in basically the same spot as the one I posted on Tuesday. We have lost a lot of snow, but still more to go. Like most of Alaska, spring is usually more about melting snow and showing the dirt, mud and trash that is all around.

Kim had two teeth pulled last week, and she is still down and out. She went back to the dentist yesterday, only to find out that she had a "dry socket." Sam is sitting and watching Disney channel, working on the intellectual part of his life...yeah right. Sam has decided not to try and graduate this school year, so will return in August with two credits to go. In the meantime, he has shocked everybody by deciding to go out for football. He has survived his first three days of conditioning; without understanding anything about the game, they (the coaches) have put him on the defensive line. At 250 pounds, he still has some weight behind him for the others to push around. I am sure once he gets into a physical routine, he will drop 20 or so pounds. We will see how this plays out.

Kim and I leave for Fairbanks tomorrow night so we can meet with Social Security Disability. We have been waiting five years for this hearing, and now the company hired by the Board of Pensions said Kim does not fit their definition of "physical disability;" so the dropped her last month. So we go to the hearing representing ourselves. Of course SSI Disability is TOTAL DISABILITY; meaning can the person sweep the floor? Can the person flip hamburgers at McDonald's? Our reply for the last one is that we do not have McDonald's up here in Barrow. Yeah, that will fly like a lead balloon too. Anyway, that is were we are at the moment.

Peace and blessings.