Friday, July 31, 2009


And then there's Bobo. You've already met him, but here's my favorite picture of him.

He looks to me just exactly like a cat should. When I think of a cat, I think of a black and white ... cat. He's just the perfect ... cat.

He got his name because when he was a kitten, his white whiskers were really short and it looked like a little white bowtie on his face. "Bow" turned easily into "Bobo". He's the most gregarious cat I've ever known. (Although I think my friend Angie's cat Kenzy just might be moreso.) The Fisherman specifically picked him out from among all those kittens running around (see The Square Backed Cat, below or here). His reason? Because as soon as The Fisherman sat down, this little black and white dude came blazing across the room right to him. He turned out to be an EXCELLENT choice. Good instincts, Hon.

This cat is just so much fun. Before we let them live inside all the time we used to keep them in their own little shed attached to the mobile home we lived in while building the house. We fenced off half of the space underneath the mobile home and put a kitty door in the shed along with some windows. They stayed out there summer and winter and were able to go "outside" safely. We'd bring them in to visit in the evening and sometimes we'd even let them out during the day while we worked. We kept a close eye on them because it's basically wilderness out here and they'd be lost forever in the blink of an eye. We'd also bring them into the house while we were building. Being outside or in the house was new and exciting for them, especially Bobo. He used to go on little sprints. He would all of a sudden RACE off down the path, or up a tree, or to some other part of the house. Then, almost the instant he stopped, we'd hear this terrific bellow. It was as if he'd raced off on his adventure and got scared as soon as he got there. It was so cute. He still bellows loudly when he wants something, usually attention. Sometimes, it seems he's just in the mood to talk.

Almost without fail he is sitting outside the bedroom door waiting for us when we get up. And if we sleep too late, he lets us know it. He meows loudly (kind of reminds me of kids waking up their parents on Christmas morning) and he takes his paw to the underside of the door, pulling and pushing it trying to get in. This morning I must have not slept too long in his mind because I opened the bedroom door to find both cats sitting quietly there waiting for me. What a nice greeting.

Bobo's favorite time is when we eat in front of the TV. He immediately jumps up to the back of the chair and starts to beg. If allowed (and sometimes he is) he will sneak his way down till his front paws are on my shoulder and his face right next to mine. This cat is so full of spunk he will actually lunge at a forkfull of food on it's way to my mouth! Sometimes, (OK, I admit it, it's usually when I play with him and tease him) he will take his paw and make little swipes at the fork. If we (teasing him again) quickly move the fork closer to him, you ought to see him lunge! And he will eat just about anything. He is quite the begger. Lest you think it's only me who is the sucker, he does this to The Fisherman, too.

I'll have to get some of our pre-digital photos scanned so I can post them. We have pictures of him actually clinging with his front paws to a cereal bowl The Fisherman is trying to move out of his reach. He also loves getting into usually forbidden places. Like the bedroom. (You see, I'm actually allergic to cats. I know, I know...don't even say it.) Or, say, the linen cabinet.

Actually, this is usually Mama's favorite forbidden place. Bobo surprised me this morning by climbing in there so I grabbed my camera. Isn't he cute, getting his cat hair all over my towels?
The Fisherman is so good with cats. He knows how to give them treats. Sometimes he'll pick up Bobo and just hold him up to see things from a different perspective. Oh, Bobo loves this! His head bobs up and down as he checks out these new and strange sights. He sniffs in the air and stretches his face closer to the wonders of the house from six feet up.

Yep, he's a great cat.

The Square Backed Cat

Aside from our black and white cat, Bobo, we also have Mama Kitty. When we went "cat shopping" we went to a woman's house who had a total of 11 cats and kittens running around. She had two mamas each with litters. Of course, in the presence of 9 kittens, you can't just come home with one. No, we came home with three. And one of the mamas. The natural identifying phrase we used for her simply became her name, Mama Kitty, although The Fisherman prefers to call her Mama Cat. Lots of times, I just call her Mama....sounds strange when I step out of myself to hear it. But she knows her name and sometimes comes when called.

We have always marveled at how when Mama Kitty sits, her back goes square. I caught a silhouette of her sitting in the window at sunset tonight. She is our square backed cat.

(You can't see me.)

She's also a lover. She had declared our photo shoot a wrap by jumping down and walking away so I sat down to browse through the pictures on my camera. As I did, I felt the gentlest soft tapping on my arm. It was Mama standing up a little behind me, reaching up with her paw to get my attention. She was begging me to pet her. It was the sweetest little touch. Sometimes her claws aren't so gentle, but tonight it was just so soft and cute.

The Fisherman took a great close up of Mama Kitty and has it on his website here. (Sorry, but for some reason I can't get a specific link to the specific page she's on. You'll find her under Misc. Animals.)

P.S. Two of those initial kittens we came home with are now being thoroughly loved by The Fisherman's mom. Along with another kitten my sister-in-law found and begged us to take home from Phoenix when she heard we'd just gotten 3 kittens and a mama. Yes, at one time we had 5 cats. It didn't last long, though, as within a year or two we'd given Lloyd (Bobo's brother), Frank (the stray), and Kitty Girl (another clever name) to The Fisherman's mom. She renamed them except for Frank. Love that name for a cat! The Fisherman named him. I think it's so funny. Of course, seeing how I have to add "Kitty" to most every name, I call him Frankitty. And sometimes I call him "Frankitty Frank Frank Frank".

Yeh, I get pretty stupid with animals.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Morning Pages

I took an artist's inspiration class at church one semester. We went through the book The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. It is a book for re-discovering your creativity, helping artists of all kinds (painters, sculptors, writers, actors, etc.) get past their creative blocks.

In it she prescribes what she calls "Morning Pages", an assignment to write three pages every morning in a journal. It must be handwritten (she explains her reasons in the book but I can't remember now) but it doesn't matter what you write. It is "stream of consciousness writing", which means that you write whatever you're thinking. No pressure; just write. It doesn't have to be pretty, make sense or even stay on the lines. Just write. Even if you have to write, "I can't think of anything to write. Why can't I think of anything to write? I hate assignments. Three pages! What the heck am I going to write about? I hear a fly buzzing outside. Is it hot outside?" Just write whatever you're thinking. Eventually the writing of your immediate thoughts will lead you somewhere. I've been very surprised at some of the places my Morning Pages have taken me.

It's not hard for me to write in a journal. I love writing. However, in the past I tended to write only when I had something specific to write about. It could have been an activity or event, a conversation, a problem, a question for God, a prayer for someone or myself. Because I was not in the habit of writing every day, I would often get backlogged with things. And then it would get so cumbersome and intimidating to catch up that I would put it off even longer. Next thing I knew, it'd been 6 months since I wrote anything.

Morning Pages took away all the perfectionist standards I placed on my journalling. Doesn't have to make sense? I can do that. Doesn't have to be neat? I can do that. Doesn't have to be spelled right? I can do that. I didn't realize I was defeating myself so much with subliminal perfectionism but once I received an assignment to let go of it and some here's-how-it-looks instruction on how to let go of it, whew, what freedom! I'm sure you would suspect...I often write more than three pages. (No surprise there, Vicky Verbose!)

So I began doing my Morning Pages faithfully while I was in the class. I've been doing them for a few years now. I sometimes have spells where I don't write faithfully for a period of time. Sometimes they're a vital part of my life but I don't do them everyday; sometimes I don't do them in the morning. But, I do find that the morning is the very best time because I am not yet swamped by the day's responsibilities.

Writing three pages a day, I've discovered, serves to unclutter my mind. I didn't realize how much clutter was occupying my mind until after I'd been writing consistently for a couple weeks. No wonder I was burdened and unfocused, with so much stuff lingering around in my head and heart. Writing brought it out. Whether it was compounded stress from multiple tasks or projects, stimulus overload, backed up emotions gone unidentified and unresolved because I'd been too busy, or whatever...Morning Pages helped me get cleaned out. More than once over the years, after a spell away from them, I have found myself all cluttered up again. I know I need to get back to my Morning Pages.

Writing daily, especially in a stream of consciousness manner, has also opened my eyes to my surroundings more. While in the past I would have held myself to a strict flow of content, now I freely interrupt my own sentences to write something like - "Oh! A squirrel just climbed up the porch steps, looked right at me and then casually went his way to the end of the porch. How fun!" It has opened my eyes and caused me to live more observantly and reflectively. Instead of only noticing with a brief enjoyment and then quickly resuming the order of things at hand, now I stop. I look. I enjoy. I take it in and find it worthy of not only interrupting my previous focus but also worthy of writing about. It is such a pleasure, such a relaxing, refreshing pleasure, to see and enjoy more moments like these in my life. It's what Ken Gire's book, Seeing What Is Sacred (that I mentioned a couple days ago), is all about. Morning Pages help me live more reflectively.

Sometimes I just write about events and "daily diary" kind of things. But sometimes my writing leads me to surprising places and really profound, helpful things I had no idea were stirring around inside me. Questions get brought up I hadn't noticed or articulated before. Sometimes answers are even heard. My Morning Pages are a running blend of talking to myself and talking to God. As He is an integral part of my life, I am keenly aware of His presence and influence in my Morning Pages. They are as much a dialogue between us as they are me getting my thoughts out on paper. The uncluttering process helps make me more receptive to His voice as He "speaks" to me. Not audibly, of course, but with His Spirit residing in the heart of every believer, He speaks internally. Often times there is so much noise going on inside (noise, clutter, there are many descriptive words for our frequent and common condition) that we cannot make out what it is we need to hear. Decluttering with Morning Pages helps me hear Him.

When Mom grew seriously ill and passed away last spring, I didn't have much time or energy to write. Compounded stresses and emotions joined forces to beat me up pretty badly during that time. I knew I had to get back to my Morning Pages. This blog actually helped me begin writing them again. I took my journal to Alaska with me, like usual. But this time I kept it up front, right next to my feet, instead of in my bag in the back. Because I intended to blog about our trip, I wanted to keep it handy, be more observant, and be more diligent about recording multiple factors of the trip. I grabbed it often when I'd see something special (like there wasn't something special EVERYwhere up there!) We experienced SO much. The next noteworthy thing tended to come so quickly on the heels of the last, I found I actually forgot stuff we'd experienced just a week or a few days before. Had I not written these spontaneous things down as blog fodder, they may still be lost in the background of my memory. Things like the way the grassy hills of Montana looked as they gradually grew into rugged snow capped mountains, and how they made me feel. Or funny street names, or quaint little towns we zipped through, books I found in stores that I want to buy someday, or the funky bathroom at the lodge on the long and lonely Cassiar Hwy in Canada. (Yeh, and like forgetting to blog about the earthquake we experienced, and planting Mom's flower seeds on our property, and driving the backhoe!)

So, I'm back with my Morning Pages. Notice how I keep saying "my" Morning Pages? Saying simply Morning Pages doesn't cut it. They're very personal. They're not just generic morning pages, they are my morning pages.

Maybe you'll create your Morning Pages, too. cute is this? Now I'm typing and using the mouse in competition with my sweet black and white cat who is purring loudly and repeatedly cuddling up against my arms and hand as I try to type, looking for loves. I luv dat puddy!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

3 Posts Today, Scroll Down

Well, four, if you count this one. Just a note to remind you to be sure and scroll down to the bottom of today's posts and read them in order from bottom to top. (Why do I always type scrool instead of scroll?)

Delight - Today at Church

I have been reading the book, Seeing What Is Sacred, by Ken Gire. He talks about living a "reflective life", one in which your heart, mind, eyes and ears are sensitive to "God moments" (my phrasing not his) in everyday life. This has been very important to me over the years, a source of rich blessing and growing intimacy with God. This morning I prayed for my husband to have such a blessing today as he sits, most likely, in the cold hard rain ALL day - again - out on the lake in Alaska.

Today, I went to the same church as last Sunday. During the worship songs, I was surprised to find my prayer for my husband had come back on me and I experienced a really neat God moment. I call them "gifts", specifically from God, specifically for me. Again, I felt compelled to write it down. If people notice me at all there, they're probably wondering, Who is this woman who's always writing in church? Is she taking notes on the worship songs???

Here's what I wrote.

Singing, "lead me to Your heart, Lord," I see it. There's Your heart right there! There at the front of the church where barefoot little girls dance and run with banners, ribbons, and silky flags. Twirling, laughing, awkwardly attempting to make their ribbons dance to the music.

I watch them. They are like us all. Some flail wrecklessly. Some move gracefully. Some meticulously try to untangle a twist. Some inadvertantly hurt others. Some just full out run. Some stand with ribbon in hand closely watching others.

I am so full of delight watching them. Is this how You look upon us? With delight and joy at the preciousness of our lives made in Your image? You delight in us! You delight when we play freely. When we twirl and dance with the beauties of life which You've provided for us. Though we do it awkwardly and imperfectly, and according to our own individual personalities, and we sometimes hurt each other, You delight in our joy. In our un-selfconscious innocent enjoyment.

I loved seeing that whole scene as a picture of God and us. God and me. The children were experiencing such delight that it reminded me of how freely I want to delight in God's presence, how truly delightful He is, and how much more I want to know and understand that. And my delighted watching of them spoke to me of God's great delight in us. Believing that brings me into closer intimacy with Him and it sheds away layers of shame and insecurity I can feel in His presence. It enables me to experience His love.

A very sweet gift today.

A Photo For You

After that long post, you guys need a photo. This is one I took from the highway about 4 miles north of our place and aways west. I loved this enormous feather-like cloud rising out from behind the hills and stretching toward me across the sky.

Church Shopping - Part 2

I visited a church last Sunday and again today. It's one The Fisherman and I have been to together and he has visited it a couple times on his own. I was amazed to find that there were a lot of things about it that reminded me of Open Door Fellowship (aka, very special church I've been at for 30 years, as mentioned in Church Shopping - Part 1). Last Sunday was an atypical service in that the "message" was actually several different people sharing what the church and their "home group" means to them. A couple times a year, Open Door does this as well. I have often wondered, as I've heard people sharing about when they walked into their first Sunday morning at ODF, what they observe, sense, and feel in so doing. Having been there for so long, I don't know what it's like for someone new to walk into that "environment of grace." I have a sense now.

I was actually compelled to write down some of the things I was pleased to observe about this church. Here they are:

- Shorts

- Jeans

- People free to bring a drink into the sanctuary

- Stepping on a chair to get into the row so as not to disturb the person on the end who was standing for the singing

- After the songs ended, the worship leader said, "Let's give our thanks to the Lord" and then was quiet. From the congregation came a handful of random "Thank You, Lord, for..." comments. Just a few, say 5 or 6. And then they continued on with the rest of the service.

- Teasing from the "pulpit" (actually a music stand)

- Teasing back from the audience

- The acknowledgement and brief honoring of a church member whose photo was in the newspaper

- "If you're visiting today, please do not feel obligated to put anything in the offering plate."

- (I love this one!) At the front of the church they had all kinds of banners, flags, and ribbons on sticks and rings for the children to freely play and dance with during the music.

- They had just come off of their Vacation Bible School week where they had all kinds of water toys, including water slides. The guy who's been the acting interim pastor/preacher until the newly hired guy arrives was both teased and praised for "sacrificing his body for those kids" by going down the much-too-short-for-an-adult slide. And he told of one boy who said to him at VBS, "This is the funnest church EVER!"

- One sharer related something she said to someone when she had been new at the church. She was both relieved and intimidated at that time because, as she put it "...there's all this intimacy...and, you guys know each others' stuff." She also used words like "safe" and the phrase, "a hospital for our souls."

- Another sharer commented how glad he was to see they really worship there, not just "sing three songs and sit down."

- Another explained that he was really hurting when he first found his way into this church and he was met with obvious "acceptance" and "a lack of judgment". He also commented that it was at a time when the church itself was hurting and grieving the loss of their pastor's wife, and yet the fellowship was still "speaking life and blessing".

- One obviously well respected, well liked, and exuberant woman shared that it was at this church that she finally "learned what it was like to be safe with other people" and "to be transparent with other Christians." She also said some things I'm not very experienced or, I admit, comfortable with. She said it was also the place where she learned to "hear a word" and "hear a prophecy."

-She went on to encourage everyone to get into a home group where this relational intimacy and safety can be developed. In her bold, funny, enthusiastic way she said the following things:
"If you're not in a home group....well, I won't make you raise your hand. That would be the Baptist thing to do. But I AM tempted."

"Home Groups are safe places. Not many people have that in their lives. If you're a woman who works in an office, you tell me how many of those other women you can trust?"

and "I don't care how old or young you are, you should join a Home Group. If you're older than dirt, join a home group!" Everyone was laughing at her comical manner.

When she was done, before the next sharer was introduced by the interim pastor, he took the microphone and said, "First, I'd like to apologize to the following groups: Baptists, women, particularly women who work in offices, and people who are older than dirt." I loved it!

-Eventually it was the pastor's turn to share. He said when he first came to that church, it was like "water to his weary soul," that he "didn't want to be graded on performance," and "wanted a place where he could grow, and breathe, and spread out." He also shared about it being a safe place, a place where there's respect for each other's sacred journeys. (That word "sacred" is one of my favorite words of late, so I loved hearing it.)

What I Took Away From My Visit
What I sensed from my visit and took away with me was that this is a group of people that really love each other, that are comfortable with each other, that are there for each other, that extend grace to each other, that know how to have fun together, that VALUE each other and value fun with each other. I could see it and feel it. They are serious about following Jesus. They are serious about loving God, knowing His love for them, growing in intimate relationship with Him and with each other. They are serious about prayer and serious about worship. And they are determined to enjoy God's grace and extend it to each other.

I liked it a lot. It reminds me of home, ODF.

We do have a couple concerns that give us pause, however. One thing about this church that concerns us is that they have no elders. They have a leadership group that in some ways is not biblical. And their "by-laws" state they are a pastor led church. But it seems like SUCH a great church! Do we pass it up because they have an unbiblical form of leadership or do we dive in to become part of the family in spite of that? They also lean toward the charismatic side, though it is barely evident in their worship service. How much we might encounter upon getting involved on deeper levels, I don't know.

It's hard to choose a new church when you're so used to another one which almost fits like an old shoe. The old one is not a perfect fit, but because it's so fitting in most aspects, it's easy to forgive what faults you see. But with a new one, it's different. There's that apprehension of newness because you don't exactly know how the fit will take shape. Will this thing I see now rub me a blister or be of little consequence? You just don't know. Having been at one place for nearly 30 years, I still don't quite know how to discern these things. We are in the process of deciding what things are "non-negotiables". How much grace are we going to give them? How much grace should we give? (I think this is a very potent question, pivotal actually.) Now that we'll be back living in the same household, let alone the same town, we will be picking up the process together as we search for a place to worship, belong and serve.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Alaska Photos 9

OK, I know you've all been waiting with bated breath for photos of...

Well, wait no more. Here they are. We buried 'er good!

The Cold Hard Fact. (The wet squishy fact?)

The Ugliness.

The Humiliation.

Unfortunately, I don't have the disk that shows us redeeming our wounded pride by ingeniously using materials at hand, such as trees and stumps, to extricate the poor diesel beast from the clutches of Alaska's defrosting earth. Alas, you'll have to wait again. Don't cry.

Remember I wrote about our evening on Fly Bob's trailer porch and how our old friend Mike stopped by to pick up his gun from Fly Bob, and how Mike was only there about 5 minutes but he's the one that spotted the bear sneaking up on us through the woods at the edge of the lodge property? Well, here's the bear. And he was a big boy, too!

(That's one of the rental cabins and it's porch, not Fly Bob's porch.)

Here's the next door dog, Kenai, barking up a storm at the nonchalant grizzly.

Years ago I began taking pictures of animal tracks we'd see along the way. The Fisherman suggested I put my foot in the photo to add some perspective to the size of the prints.
Good idea, smarty.

Here's a giant bear track we found on our property, right on the road.

That little two-pointed indentation right next to the toe of The Fisherman's shoe, I believe is the print of a tiny moose calf. We got a two-fer!

To give even more of an idea of how big this bear print was, I put my foot parallel to it and it's almost as wide as my foot is long! (I wear a size 6.5 to 7.) I'm very glad we didn't see this track's maker.

We also saw a giant moose track. It's the biggest one I've ever seen.

The horizontal impressions at the bottom are the moose's "dew claw", so to speak.

I really love coming across animal tracks. But I must say, while it's exciting to know that these big, beautiful and intimidating creatures walk our very own land, it's also kind of unsettling. Especially as regards the bears. A couple weeks ago, The Fisherman was at the cabin working. He took some time out to go up to the loft and lay down on the bed. He glanced out the window at the forest ground below, and saw a black bear walk quietly on through. I imagine this will be a fairly common occurance for us whenever the time comes that we spend extended periods of time living on our land up there. Everybody in Alaska has a bear story. We don't even live there and we have a couple already.

Duh-Huh! Dopey, Dopey Me

My little picture posting problem last night? The non-responsive Add Image command? I'm embarrassed to say...(Insert mental image of Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail at the moment she admits to Tom Hanks that the guy she's crazy about is someone she doesn't actually know) actually did respond. The pop-up window where you proceed on to browse and select images, well, it did pop up. It's just that it popped up BEHIND my full New Post screen. I had no idea it was lurking behind there. I just kept clicking the button, saying "Hello!?" to the computer. I didn't notice it's tab in the task bar at the bottom of my screen either. That is, until I closed out of everything else and I said, "What the...?" again. What kind of pop up window pops up behind things??? And why did it arbitrarily do it just that one time?

Plus, it was late. And I was tired. And concerned about how much electricity I'd been using. Yeh, yeh, that's it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What the...?

So, like I said, I'm sitting here working on my blog and lo and behold, I learned how to convert my photos into Low Resolution JPEGs so it won't take me 6 minutes per picture to post! WooHoo! Thank you, Shayne, one of Rusty's fishing clients and a fellow photographer. She sent Rusty an email with some photos of him driving the boat (Thank you, Shayne!) and I was brazen enough to write back and ask her how to make a low res jpeg copy. She was kind enough to reply and teach me. Here is a link to her photo website called Myths and Legends, where she displays photos from England, Ireland, Scotland, and now Alaska.

And at last I have some disks of Rusty's photos that I've been waiting for in order to post some of them here. I successfully reduced and uploaded three photos to a post I have saved in my Drafts. I reduced several more and went to include them in the post ...and nothing happened. Nothing happens when I click on the "Add Image" icon in the Blogger program. Dang! And I was on a roll, too. I haven't a clue what happened. I don't think I've used up all the photo space available to me, but with such large photo files, perhaps I have. Now it's an urgent priority (as opposed to casually on my To Do List like it was 10 minutes ago) to go through ALL my previously posted photos (ugh!) to reduce and re-post them.

Hang in there with me!


I'm sitting at my computer in our loft, working on my blog, with a small open window in front of my makeshift desk. Various moths are clinging to the screen...and all of a sudden, a BAT makes a brief appearance fluttering at it like he wants to come in. Thank You, God, for window screens!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Elk Tonight

I've waited 11 years to see elk right on our property. Well, actually I did see some cross our driveway in front of me one dark night when I was coming home from work. But I'd never, you know, REALLY seen them. Until tonight.

There is a small cluster of them, about 8-10, that have been hanging around the last couple days/nights. There's an elk trail that comes downhill going south to north and it passes right in front of my mother-in-law's old house next door. We have become friends with the new owners and they had me over for dinner last night. We enjoyed sitting on the porch looking out on the meadow and seeing the elk pass through.

Tonight I heard them from my porch (which is much more wooded). They were calling to each other with the gentle mews of mothers and calves. They were grazing to the west instead of in the meadow to the east. I went inside and got my camera. I also changed out of my bright turquoise shirt into a dusty green t-shirt of The Fisherman's. With my green Cabela's shorts, it was as "camo" as I could get. The ground was damp and therefore very cooperative in the quiet department. I snuck about halfway up our property and kept listening. Then, I saw some movement. Ooohh, it was so exciting! Here's what I got:

It's obvious they had spotted me. They went back to grazing but I eventually made them nervous and they trotted away from me up the road. I love their little blond elk butts.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Church Shopping - Part 1

The Fisherman and I have lived up here for 11 years. We've attended three different churches and visited about four more over the years. We've had a tough time finding a place that is a full fit. We've settled in places for anywhere from 5 months to almost 5 years. When you come from a very special church, a big church in a big city, that you've been at for 30 years, it's difficult to find a good fit in a small town. I imagine Open Door Fellowship will always be home to us. Our roots go deep there; our history is long there.

We attended for almost five years a church that I also worked for. I made lots of friends in women's ministries and I loved serving that church as their secretary. To this day feel like it was the best job I've ever had. (Yes, actually beating out being secretary at Open Door, oddly enough.) It was such a perfect fit for me job wise. I have never felt better used given my skills, talents, gifts and abilities. I have never felt more comfortable doing a job. It's where I truly learned that being a church secretary is "not just a job - it's a ministry." Yet there were always some uncomfortable, even troubling, things for us there. When I moved to Phx to take care of Mom, we kind of knew that "era" was complete for us. Now that I'm back on the mountain, I will visit the people I grew to love there, but it won't be our church home.

There are a few things that stand out strongly in our efforts to find a new church home. Things that, so far, have made it difficult to find a church to align ourselves with and a place to call home. In no particular order, they are:

1.) The music. We come from a church that has always been gifted with an abundance of musical talent. They really know how to rock! And that's what we love. Hardly a Sunday goes by when I'm at ODF that I don't stop singing for a moment and marvel at the huge fullness of the singing. It absolutely FILLS the sanctuary and I simply cannot help but imagine this is what heaven is like. And most of the songs are ones that are currently playing on the radio. Most churches we've been to up here range from a little to way behind the times when it comes to the style and songs they sing. And they all seem to be afraid to turn the volume up. The result? Wimpy singing. I remember at our last church, there was the occasional Sunday (in five years!) that they turned the volume up for the band. People really sang! You have to when the music is louder. The Fisherman and I were like, "Finally!!" It was beautiful. Well, it never failed that come Monday morning the pastor would mention how someone had complained about it being way too loud and he had to speak with the worship team about toning it down. I tell you, sometimes my heart just sank with hopeless disappointment. It's just so not what we're used to, what is beautiful to us, and what takes us to worship.

2.) Charismatic or Traditional. There seem to be a lot of charismatic churches in small towns. Maybe it's not disproportionate as compared to a big city, but it sure seems so to me. I've noticed it in Alaska, too. We are not of the charismatic inclination and are not comfortable when it's over-emphasized in a church body. We steer clear of the ones clearly of this bent. We are not of a traditional inclination either - that of a traditional church subject to the gigantic governmental organism of their denomination. I guess, what I'm trying NOT to say is that it seems like there is a choice between dryness and raging flood waters. That said, there actually are a lot of nice churches up here, full of committed people who are learning, growing, and loving within their church families. I think there are some churches that may be charismatic but don't seem to be saturated in it and distracted by it. It's just that so far, it's hard to find one that fits us. I think depth is the appropriate word. We are looking for depth of teaching, worship, relationships, and so on.

3.) Church government. The biblical guidelines for church government are that a church should be elder led. I see elders as kind of like the Dads of the church family. They are the head of the family. Their role is one of teaching, prayer, leadership and oversight. They are to be the guiding influence on the flock and the protectors of the flock. Much like a shepherd is charged with the overall well being of his flock. We have found a number of churches up here that do not have elders. They are pastor led churches. It's unwise to let all the influence rest with one man. God knew this; that's why the Bible calls for elders. The plurality of leadership not only is a safeguard and a checks and balances system for maintaining a God-honoring, doctrinally sound church, it also requires that the leadership work in relationship with one another. In relationships is where God does all His work in us. The Bible talks about each Christian having at least one "spiritual gift" given to them by God for use in building up the church body. We all need each other. I need to be on the receiving end of your gifts and you need to be on the receiving end of mine. We are to submit to one another's gifts/strengths and not try to function independently of one another. If we as a collective whole are supposed to function interdependently using our various gifts, it's natural that the leadership of the church should function likewise. The elders' relationships with each other and working together for one purpose serves as model and example for the rest of us. It is part of their leading.

4.) Grace or Performance. We come from a church that has a fantastic handle on the fact that, as Christians, we are not under a performance mantle but rather a mantle of grace. God is NOT standing there tapping His foot at us waiting for us to measure up. WE CAN'T! That's the whole message of the Cross. Yet we live in a world where we better measure up, or else we won't get that job, will get punished, will lose friends, will get passed over for that promotion, won't win the race, won't get the girl, won't get asked out, and on and on. When it comes to God, we can NOT measure up. That's why He sent Jesus - who DID measure up - to take our place in the consequences of NOT measuring up. He did it on the cross. ("He came to pay a debt He did not owe because I owed a debt I could not pay.") Believing that puts us in perfect standing with God...never more to be judged, with regards to eternity or His love, based on our performance and behavior. So why do SO many churches preach performance??? The last two times I have been to one particular church, the emphasis was all about performance. How can you serve better? What can you do to be a better Christian? Yes, God has designed that we serve each other (i.e., the gifts paragraph above under church government). But our target should not be improving our behavior. Our target is knowing God, knowing His love for us, and in turn loving Him. Our target is God Himself, not what we can/must/should do for Him. It's hard to find a church that grasps and embodies the Bible's message of grace.

To be continued.....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thunder & Lightening

Heaven: Where thunder will always rumble nicely in the distance.
Hell: Where thunder horrifically crashes nearly simultaneously upon seeing the flash of lightening.

Today: a 30 minute exercise in trusting God despite fear.

Yikes, that was close! I'll be checking the woods to the south of us for smoke for a couple days. But it sure has brought a nice cool breeze in the aftermath. The temperatures dropped a good 20 degrees. My neighbor noted a 30 degree drop on his thermometer.

I have a lightening story for you. But first, here's a little background. When we were building our house, once we came into July, the monsoons came and we could set our watch by the daily rain. We'd get up around 6:00 a.m. and start working. Every day around 1:00 p.m. it would start to rain. We planned our work and rest by it. We'd head inside the antique mobile home we were living in, fix some lunch and then usually take a nap. (It's hard work building your own house. Especially when there's just two of you.) Around 4:00 we'd head back out to work some more, usually quitting around 7:00 or so. That summer, I think we lived off ham sandwiches for lunch and cheese crisps for dinner. We were exhausted. We got hooked up with satellite early on. We didn't have a phone or running water, but we had satellite. In the evening we'd put gas in the generator and watch some news and then a movie, often having to stop mid-way to refill the inexpensive generator.

As construction advanced, we began taking our afternoon siesta in the basement where it remained a nice 65 degrees. At first we had to climb down a ladder, before The Fisherman built the stairs. We even hauled the dogs down with us. One afternoon the rains brought a thunderstorm right over us. We were all asleep when we heard the LOUDEST crash of thunder either of us had ever heard. Waking from a sound sleep, we were disoriented and totally freaked out. It was so loud The Fisherman actually thought a plane had crashed into our house.

Months later we had gotten to know our neighbors who are both teachers and spent their summers at their cabin to the west of us. Great people. We were over at their house for dinner one night, it must have been that Fall, and we got to talking about lightening. Fred said, "Boy, there was one strike last summer that I was just sure had to have hit your house! I watched it and, man, it looked like it was close! Right where your house is!" Oh yeah? We remember that one, too.

So, I'm thinkin' our house has been hit by lightening. Once is enough, thank you. Today was the next closest I've experienced here. Let me just say: I. Don't. Like it!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alaska Photos 8 - Misc

I saw this photo collage in the Safeway in Soldotna. Seems they had a super cold day one winter which brought some unwanted customers seeking shelter from the cold.

When you think about it, I'm sure just by walking up they opened the automatic doors. It's a wonder they didn't just walk right in.

With so much daylight, plants tend to grow pretty darn big in Alaska. Note the moose and caribou antlers.

in Ninilchik, about 50 miles from our property. Very historic.

Behind the church is the water of the Cook Inlet. Across the water about 50 miles is Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubht. Both are 10,000 foot volcanoes of which you can see all 10,000 feet because you're at sea level. They are beautiful snow covered mountains. This is Iliamna.

For some reason I totally love this photo. It's so simple with so little in it.

I asked the meaning of the special cross, which was everywhere. To the standard cross, they have added a bar above the crossbeam, signifying the placard placed above Jesus' head stating that He is the King of the Jews. The bar across the bottom represents the foot rest believed to have been what His feet were nailed to. It also represents the two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus. The side tilted downward represents the thief who continued to mock Him to the very end of his life. The side tilted upward represents the thief who came to saving faith and who later that day met Jesus in heaven.

I love this photo, too. I love the sparkling water, the pink Fireweed, and the sunspot reflection.

I stopped to take the photo for another reason though. I took it because it's.....

Dave's Creek. My brother's name.

Alaska Photos 7


Rusty scooping.

Watch your toes, Hon.

Our friend, Jerry, is doing the scooping here. They would take time out to scoop with the backhoe and loosen up a huge pile of gravel. Later on they used the bucket to pick up loads of gravel for spreading on the road.

Jerry the Pro

Ta-da! Done!
At least that half anyway. Next year, the rest.

The Squishy Spot
We think there might be some bad clay underneath this section. We're waiting to see how it firms up (or doesn't) over the summer. It may never work right and could cause us problems forever. We might have to dig it all up and start over in that spot. Not only the 18 inches of gravel we just installed, but we may need to dig up a bunch of the ground underneath and replace it. We have no idea what's under there that's not under the other portions of the road.

The Squishy Spot's location in the grand scheme of The Road.

Well, half of the grand scheme because it's about half way between our access road and the cabin.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Most Beautiful Wedding Dress

I just have to share with you what I think is the most beautiful wedding dress I've ever seen. Tastes change over the years, but for now, this one is my favorite. And what a beautiful bride, too. My friend, Linda's, blog posts about a California wedding she recently went to. It's the daughter of some church friends. Scroll through her post to see the bride and groom. She also links to the bride's site where she then links to their wedding slideshow. Then, Linda posts another link to her own daughter's site so you can see her photos of this bride's brother's wedding, which was also beautiful. The same photographer did both weddings and she does a beautiful, creative job.

Links! Links! Links! You could spend all day going down rabbit trails on the internet. Or should that be lynx trails? Regardless, the internet is an amazing tool and what a way to connect. And share beautiful wedding dresses. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Alaska Photos 6

We put up tongue and groove interior boards on part of two walls.

Here's to show you not only what a mess the cabin is during construction, but also how small it is. That's the same window as in the first photo.

The cabin is a mere 16x20. 20 long and 16 wide. Our loft is 10 feet deep by 16 feet wide - just enough for some beds, a nightstand or small dresser, perhaps a chair. We'll be putting two twin beds up there that we can put together or take apart.
We couldn't wait to put some of The Fisherman's photos up on the new walls. Doesn't it look nice?! It may be small but we're excited to make it beautiful. This is the front; you can see "our view" through the window a little bit. I planted Mom's Forget-Me-Not seeds to the left and down the road a little bit. The road (driveway) runs between the cabin and the end of the dirt showing in this photo.

Note again the size...the door is all the way on the right side of the front wall and the window is the same one as in the photo above.

We've been noticing that 16x20 seems to be a very common size of Alaska cabin. It must be because it's manageable to build by yourself as The Fisherman did. But, much as I would like something bigger, we're very happy and grateful to have a cabin at all. We debated about where to put a bathroom, The Fisherman not wanting to take up too much interior room (I see his point) and me not wanting to sacrifice a real bathroom. He finally came up with the brilliant idea of putting a door in the back wall and adding on a bathroom of any size we choose! Excellent! In the meantime...we have plans for an outhouse and I don't know about showers. We'll probably first put in a shower but take "jug showers" until we get a water collection/delivery system up and running. Just like we did here in Arizona.

This is actually where we got the truck stuck. Right in that little curve before the hill. It's all nice and smooth because we scraped over it with the backhoe after digging out.

Here's a shot looking north. It shows the Typar road fabric we laid down first.

I was sitting on the edge of the road when I took these photos. For this next one, all I did was turn directly west. That's how dense the woods are! Those trees are on our neighbor's property. The nice strip of grassy earth in front of the trees that looks like you could drive on it is the road that was there when we bought our land. An unsanctioned road that turned out to be 75% on our neighbor's property. He made us move it. So The Fisherman had to rip a new road through our property right alongside the old road. You can see the stake with the pink tape marking the property line. Although, I think we had to move the stake more onto the guy's property so we wouldn't run over it with the backhoe.

Now I'm looking south. Oh, nevermind the 4 foot table resting up against a stump in the background there. It's as far as we got with it until later that day when we took it to the cabin around the bend and up a hill.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Soap In A Parka

Two years ago in Alaska I came across a very cute idea called Soap In A Parka. It's a home made bar of soap inside a felted wool covering. (OK, I don't know why but Blogger turned my pictures sideways. Sorry.)

How they do this, apparently seamlessly, I don't know. But I think it's so cute. It has it's own built in exfoliant. Last year I saw them in several shops. I passed them up because they are quite expensive ($13.00!) but later regretted not getting some as gifts. I then began looking for them everywhere I shopped and *poof* I hardly ever saw them again. The once or twice I did, the fragrance selection was not to my liking. I came home empty handed. This year, I was in a store in Seward and found only a handful of them. I picked out the best of the fragrances, still not thrilled, and bought one.

I'm a bit confused because the front label lists a company name and the back label lists a different company name. Huh? Maybe the soap is made by one company and the parka is added by another? I'm thinkin' that's the answer.
Also, I haven't tried it yet. I'll let you know when I do.

There are lots of handmade soaps for sale in Alaska gift shops. Among the most successful is a brand called Denali Dreams. I prefer glycerin soaps because they don't have the harshness and drying tendencies that standard soaps have, but I'm quite impressed with their little-venture-turned-big.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Alaska Photos 5


The Sled Dog Behind the Mask

I LOVE this dog's face! I commented to the owner's wife about what a beautiful and striking dog this is, and that he looked like he should have some thespian-type name. She said she had wanted to name him Phantom, after Phantom of the Opera, but his name became Othelo. I like it.

This is what a summer time sled dog ride looks like.
And this is what a "dog truck" looks like.

In my posts from Alaska I mentioned Fly Bob, so named because he is a fly tier and there was a need to distinguish him from another Bob. Here he is with the pride of his collection. And a fancy fly, too. I mean beer.

Some others
And with the whole winter's worth of flies....some 4000. Three winters ago he tied 8000.

Fly Bob told us a great story. He said last fall he had been out fishing on the river and was walking back to his truck with his catch. An SUV was pulling out of the parking lot and a little girl was frantically waving at him trying to get his attention. She rolled her window down and hollered with all her might, "HI, SANTA!" Bob said it was the cutest thing he'd ever seen.

I love taking photos of the eagles on the beach. They are beautiful It's amazing to be in their presence.

Bald Eagle or Headless Eagle?

Ah, there's his head...just barely .

Flaps up. Landing gear down. Love it!

This is just to give you an idea of how many were hanging around. Lots of the birds in this photo are seagulls but there are plenty of eagles, too.

We watched the steam plume rising from Mt. Redoubt all the while we were on the beach with the eagles. This was shot at about 11pm. It was actually much lighter out than this. The camera tends to dramatize sunsets, but hey, I'm not complaining.