Saturday, March 31, 2012


It’s that time of the year again. The time when the days grow longer (MUCH longer, 6 minutes per day added daylight), the snow turns disgustingly black, garbage appears from beneath the snow, the parking lots become a treacherous mess, and everything smells like poop. Yup, it’s that time of the year—“Break-up”.

Panorama of the street. The 6 foot tall snow berms are hard as a rock and black as coal.
Break-up describes the idea that ice and snow are melting (250,000 tons of snow or around 500 million pounds to be exact). For the average citizen, this means that all of the snow cover is now turning to slush, and mini rivers flow EVERYWHERE. All of the debris that has accumulated over the winter (who wants to go outside at 40 below to clean up the yard?) is now coming to the surface. For those of us who have dogs, and God-forbid, dog teams, this presents a special problem!

There are always surprises! One may discover, surfacing, their neighbors' mail, the missing mitten their grandchild lost, dog bones that were the subject of much barking, pacing, etc., children's toys, and assorted articles of missing clothing, etc., etc. Pick-up trucks are a special menace, as many Alaskans use these to store their trash. When the trash carrying pick-up is on its way to the dump station, lots of debris can fly out. There are many surprises as to what can emerge and plant itself in one's yard.
You are looking at a snow pile...with trash
A melting ice covered parking lot reveals many things

Parking lots are like washboards with a foot of ice here, dry pavement there, puddles which appear only inches deep until one drives through them revealing two feet in depth. There is one particularly bad pothole near Fred Meyer. Do not be deceived to think it is but a “puddle” this is the death of a car’s alignment!
With puddles EVERYWHERE it’s the time when children and adults get out their “Breakup boots”. My “breakup boots” are a cute pair of bogs. They are seriously the best boot ever. Good for snow, good for rain, good for life.

Check out the size of those ice ruts!
Parking lot, this giant puddle was over a foot and a half deep. a parking lot
 Children are admonished not to enter through the front door. They must come into the side entry, the Artic entry, or the attached garage (for those of us to be so fortunate), to take off all offending footware and clothing before they enter civilization. This takes special reminding, but mothers and grandma's are very good at this! Spare sets of dry and clean clothing are kept on hand this time of year!

Dogs are not allowed in the house until they have "dried off". This means that they are shut in the garage, howls of protestation abound, until they are deemed by the lady of the house as safe to enter and recline on the carpet. A thorough toweling is a pre-requisite to entering a civilized home.

There is a river under the ice
Melting ice water flows down the downspout and under the very ground (ice) I walk on.
This puddle may or may not have altered the alignment on my car. YIKES!
This is why you need breakup boots at all times!
A special thrill is the breakup of the river ice. A friend has a break-up party each year. I’m told they all gather on the banks of the inlet for a special party. Ice chunks go floating by. There is a tinkling sound. They barbecue sausages, slug down some beer or wine, place out beach chairs on the banks of the river, and enjoy.

Breakup season is here but I await spring. Spring, like fall, is one of Alaska's shorter seasons. Its length depends on what part of the state you're in; in Anchorage, it often begins in late April when the first carefully nurtured crocuses appear and ends in early June when the lilacs bloom. But for now I am enjoying the many hours of daylight and warmer temps (today 39*F for a high).

Sledding anyone?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ice Fishing

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)

After a long weekend at the high school retreat I was feeling rather exhausted and ready for bed, but not before heading out for an afternoon on Mirror Lake with my internship congregation for their annual Ice Fishing Day.

Each year in March ORLC members, and friends head out for an afternoon on the lake. This year Greg headed up the event as he too was fatigued from a Boy Scout trip the night previous. None the less the Holy Spirit granted energy and a beautiful day.

Working on my tan while awaiting some fish
There was no cloud in sight and it was a balmy 30˚F. The crew had set up camp in the middle of Mirror Lake. Greg brought tables complete with hot dogs, coffee, hot chocolate, chips, cookies, crackers, candy and the like. What’s the saying? Where two or three Lutherans are gathered there will be food? Haha.

Len is just chillin' (no pun intended)

We started out fairly close together with several holes within a 100 foot radius. Then the younger kids left and came back explaining that the fish were in a different area (I love the rationale or children). So Greg left and drilled several more holes.

Digging out the newly formed ice after 15 minutes with the pole in.

In order to get to the ice, one must shovel off the 2 feet or so of snow that blankets the ice. Once to the ice the drill reaches another 3-4 feet down corresponding to the depth of the ice. The men even had to put on the ice auger extender because it was so thick. No falling in worries here.

John and Ernie with the auger extension on...looking for water not continued ice, it's thick!
That's 3 feet of ice right there

Here fishy, fishy, fishy
Rick walking back with Jacob from a far away fishing spot.
We had over 20 people show up throughout the four hour afternoon span. I even got sun burn on my nose. It was great. I was not cold as wearing black snow pants attracted the sun above and reflection from the pure white abyss all around me and the snow covered mountains that surrounded the lake.

We did not catch any fish, but that did not matter. The kids lost interest and headed sledding on the shoreline, and eventually we had a full on snowball fight. It was great fun to be had by all.
Pulling her brother in the sled. Cute!
Love this picture-Scotty in snowshoes getting tired of waiting for a fish. Patience of a saint right there.
On a side note (as I continue to learn the Alaskan terminology one does not say "Fishing Pole" is called a "Fishing rod". Just as one does not say "Snowmobile"'s called a "Snowmachine". Little things, that separate the visitors from the Alaskans. I will never be true Alaskan Native but I can try as my heart wishes I were :)

Such unique experiences I am blessed to have here in Alaska. Where else would a congregation go ice fishing? Where else does a congregation go hiking under the moon and northern lights? Where else does a congregation bring their K-9 companions to worship? Alaska, I fall in love with you more each day.

G.P.S (God’s Positioning System)

This past weekend was the High School “All Alaska” gathering. Youth from Homer, AK to Palmer, AK gathered at LaVerne Griffin Retreat Center. The theme for the gathering was GPS (God’s Positioning System). Our theme verse for the weekend was based on Jeremiah 29:11-12 “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.’”

Preparations for this gathering began last fall and really picked up over the past two months. For those who have not worked in ministry, you will never know the great detail in planning and preparation that goes into just a weekend.

This retreat was not without roadblocks as three weeks ago complications with our originally booked camp arose and we had to find a place to go last minute. I personally placed 32 phone calls and literally got the only place in Alaska left to host it. God works in mysterious ways because this camp was perfect and we liked it so much that we intend on using it for a summer spiritual retreat called Kaleidoscope instead of the camp we have used years previous.

The students arrived and we started with mixers led by yours truly. Instead of the "traditional" mixers I opted for something new. Have you ever heard of Minute to Win It? If not they are a DCE's best friend. Students did all kinds of crazy things. Shooting marbles through a pool noodle, unrolling toilet paper rolls with just hands, relay of cotton balls using only one's nose covered in Vaseline, stacking up cups, stacking dice on a Popsicle stick held by ones mouth, catching ping-pongs balls in a bucket attached to one's head, and head bobbing a pedometer to count 125 steps. These were some of 30 some tasks that brought the group together and was certainly a memorable time.
"Stack a perfect pyramid and take it down using 36 cups, in 60 seconds"

Somewhere in there cups led to the cup game. The kids became pretty good at it. By the 7th time through in the video below they got it solid...until people started speeding up when it all fell apart. It was still fun

Throughout the weekend we had three sessions each focusing on one of the letters in the acronym G.P.S. While the title of the retreat was “God’s Positioning System”, we decided to take it one step further and study our Gifts that God has given (G), the People God has place in our lives that make up the body of Christ and what part we play (P), and how we can Serve with our gifts to people around us (S).

I was in-charge of the session on gifts. I had the students take a spiritual gift inventory. For most of them this was the first time they had done such a thing. The questionnaire I used had 110 questions and had 22 spiritual gifts as the outcome. My personal top three were Serving, Helps and Exhortation (Encouraging).

I got to use a clip from Lord of the Rings—the Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo and his companions are leaving the Woods of Lorien. As they depart, the Lady of the Wood, Galadriel, and the other elves give each of the heroes a special gift to help them on their journey.
Bible Study
Getting in the Word
The following two sessions were led by the other two DCE’s at the retreat. Larry the DCE from Anchorage talked about the people in our lives and how we are a part of the body of Christ. It’s good for us to recognize where we are gifted as well as where we are not. Part of being the Body of Christ is surrounding ourselves with others who can pick up in areas we maybe are not so gifted in.

The third session was led by Gretchen who spoke of how we can apply our spiritual gifts to serve others. We talked about ways to serve in the church and positions that we may hear but do not know what they do (ie: Elders, trustees, alter guild etc). We also talked about how we wear many “hats” in life (Daugher, intern, friend, fiancĂ©e, sister etc) and how we are able to arise and serve in those different roles.
Creating "hats" one for each role we play

DCE Jamie also wears many hats...she looks ready to ride a camel through the desert
I only made 3 "hats" because otherwise I would have been working all day

In addition to the three main sessions I was in charge of the game. In lieu of the GPS theme I made the students go out on a scavenger hunt to get from one destination to the next. They went around camp using Bible verses as their clues. For example I use Matthew 14:22-33, where Jesus walks on water, for them to get to the lake which was frozen, and thus they could walk on water. I used John 6:1-14 where Jesus feeds the 5000 to lead them to the Dining Hall. Additionally Psalm 100 which speaks of entering the gates with thanksgiving and praise which led them to the camp entrance gate and sign. There were 15 clues in all with the final clue "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Leading them to the chapel at the foot of the cross. Of course I added some rhyming hints if the bible passages didn’t make complete sense. But it was a good way to require the students to use their bibles to look up passages, and have fun running around camp while doing so.

We also did service projects since we spoke of how to serve with gifts. We made 35 birthday bags for my internship congregation's food pantry, and we also packaged 100lbs of rice for LSSA (Lutheran Social Services of Alaska). The kids had a good time and it was fun too.

Working together, 35 birthday bags is a lot
Bagging rice

I love it! A room filled with servants

Each evening we also had a campfire--who wouldn't with 5 feet of snow and sub-zero temps. Funny story about temperatures. During free time on Saturday it was nice. I am not Alaska native and I agree it was super nice sweatshirt was 27*F. The boys wanted to go sledding. We told them to get their snow gear on. 10 minutes later they come back in t-shirts exclaiming "It's hot". I agree with that statement it's just funny because only Alaskan's would run around in t-shirts, some even shorts at 27*F.

The fire had lots of "spit" fits because of the birch wood
Jamie was telling an intense story...with intense gestures
Roasting marshmallows 

At the closing worship ceremony we (the three DCE's) prayed over each student as the presented a note card which they had written their top 3 spiritual gifts. We then gave them a compass with the theme verse from the week as a commissioning and a reminder that while the compass can help you find North, God will always point you in the right direction as He positions you in His grand plan.

Compass each student recieved

The group-minus a few