Monday, September 28, 2009

Autumn Fishing on the Kenai River in Alaska

After 7.5 years in Soldotna I was appointed to St. John in 1999. That was ten years ago. For the past ten years I have not fished Alaska’s rivers or lakes ONCE! I think that may qualify as a sin. I don’t know. I have no one to blame but myself for not making it a priority. My excuses ranged from being too busy to disliking fighting traffic to get out of the city to a huge distaste for combat fishing!

On Saturday that all changed as Jon and Cindy Dawson invited me on my first float trip on the Kenai River in Cooper Landing. I had second thoughts as I got up at 6 and headed out into the blackness and rain. All along the Seward highway the wind blew and the rain pelted my truck. What am I doing? I wondered aloud.

As I climbed up towards Turnagain Pass dawn had revealed fresh snow on the mountain peaks. Only now as I rose to meet them I wondered if there would be snow in the pass and on the road. The temperature steadily dropped towards the freezing mark. No snow at the pass but the white stuff laid very close to the base of the mountains.

The float trip down the Kenai was nothing like the drive from Anchorage. Clear skies. Crisp autumn day. I love this short period where the golden colors of the forests share the landscape with white peaks jutting into the sky. It was such a gift to my soul to spend 6 hours on the river. Jon and Cindy both caught nice rainbow trout and I could tell that they really wanted me to catch one. Finally at the last stop just before leaving the river I caught a pretty arctic char.

But that wasn’t the most exciting thing. The most amazing event happened as Jon was making his final cast of the day. I had my little video camera rolling. We joked about him catching a fish, and that is what actually happened! You can check out the video here.

So the moral of this story is this. Sometimes we need to ignore all the excuses we use to stay in our comfort zone and keep to our routines. There are fish to be caught, beauty to be absorbed, and souls to be renewed if we’ll only head out into dark and rainy mornings.

Grace and peace,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Trip to Southeast Alaska

What a joy it was for me to get to know the people and places of SE Alaska. I had never been to Sitka or Ketchikan. I experienced the patience of waiting in airplanes and being diverted due to poor weather.
I almost didn't make it due to weather but was able to spend about 5 hours with Pastors Teri and Ev and several lay leaders who shared with enthusiasm the long and rich history of First UMC. They have wonderful stories of ministry in Ketchikan that need to be told. I hope to be able to be with this church on Sunday when I return for charge conference. If you get a chance be sure to ask Ev about their Pigs In Mission program. It's great and easily duplicated in your church.

Pastor Luther Oconer, Marion, and Ilena showed me gracious hospitality. Mike drove Luther and me around Sitka and we all bought some Sitka-made chocolate. Luther and Marion have connected with a few Filipino families and a new ministry has already begun. The best part of my visit to Sitka was playing with Ilena who turns 2 this month.

Northern Light, Juneau
Pastor Kim Poole and her mother hosted me in their home. I met with Northern Light's council and worshipped with them on Sunday. She had us all playing with Legos and teaching us about tithing and God's grace. People are happy to have Kim as their interim pastor.

Douglas Community UMC
I used Kim's car to zip across the bridge to Douglas to catch most of worship at this church. Pastor Imelda Ramos led a baptism for a baby that awed everyone there. After worship I met with their SPRC to talk about future pastoral leadership. Imelda and Bob will move to California next summer where she will pursue her doctor of ministry degree.

Last on this whirlwind tour was worship at Aldersgate for Pastor Judy Shook's celebration of being the "settled" pastor. Previously she had been interim. There were clergy and laity from other churches and I was privileged to preach the homily.

God is certainly present and working through the many hands and hearts of Alaska United Methodists in the Southeast! I am grateful to have this experience.