Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is March a Rough Month for Alaskans?

Last week was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for me.  I am so glad Holy Week is here!  How I need to see my fragile life in the larger context of our salvation story of Jesus' final days on earth and resurrection.

Being a systems person and a visionary I am always tempted to look at the bigger picture.  After 21 winters in Alaska I feel qualified somewhat to speak on the effects of these long winters.  I am wondering if March isn't one of the hardest months for Alaskans.  The cumulative effect of months of cold, darkness, snow, and ice is wearing us down.  The increased light is awakening our internal seasonal rhythms and drawing us outside with new energy to tackle projects, dig into the earth, and become more active.  But alas, this is what lurks outside my house today!

It clearly is not spring here.  All this is to say that I wonder how much of a factor this reality is for our churches in Alaska.  I have been here long enough to see significant conflict in just about all of our churches.  One thing I learned while serving our Soldotna UMC is not to engage in soul searching visioning during the winter.  With lower amounts of energy, seasonal affective disorder, and isolation from family we seem destined to become crabbier at this time.

My ultimate point is this.  Whenever our lay and clergy leaders face increased stress, anxiety, or conflict, think about the environmental effects that Alaska may contribute to our dis-ease.  Seeing the bigger picture may help us realize that we're in this Great Land together, the amazing beauty as well as the tough challenges.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


As we approach another Choose Respect rally season in Alaska our thoughts turn to the thousands of Alaskan families who regularly experience anger and violence.  Gordon MacDonald* tells this story.
   A Nigerian woman who is a physician at a great teaching hospital in the United States came out of the crowd to say something kind about the lecture I had just given. She introduced herself using an American name. "What's your African name" I asked. She immediately gave it to me, several syllables long with a musical sound to it. "What does the name mean?" I wondered. 

   She answered, "It means 'Child who takes the anger away.'"

 When I inquired as to why she would have been given this name, she said, "My parents had been forbidden by their parents to marry. But they loved each other so much that they defied the family opinions and married anyway. For several years they were ostracized from both their families. Then my mother became pregnant with me. And when the grandparents held me in their arms for the first time, the walls of hostility came down. I became the one who swept the anger away. And that's the name my mother and father gave me."

This could be another name for Jesus.  Oh, how our world thirsts for an end to the anger that does violence to women, children, and men.  Many families in our communities and even in our churches need to learn new ways of being family together.   

O God, how we yearn for those holy moments, like when holding a baby for the first time, you soften our hearts and melt away the anger.  

Grace and peace,


   * Citation: Gordon MacDonald, author, speaker, Leadership      editor-at-large, Leadership Weekly (11-6-02)