Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

St. Herman of Alaska

Today,  the Lectionary tells me, is the Saint’s Day for Herman of Alaska, and here is the prayer they give:

Holy God, we bless your Name for Herman, joyful North Star of Christ’s Church, who brought the Good News of Christ’s love to your people in Alaska; and we pray that, following his example and admonition, we may love you, God, above all; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, throughout all ages. Amen.

 

I love that these ikons show Saint Herman in a cold and snowy land, not too far from where I grew up. No, I am not Orthodox, nor Catholic, and I can appreciate the spirit and sacrifice it took to leave his homeland to come serve, and eventually die, far away from home.

 

 

Herman of Alaska (born 1756 or 1760 in Serpukhov, Russia – died December 13 or November 15, 1837 on Spruce Island, Alaska) was one of the first Eastern Orthodox missionaries to the New World, and is considered by Orthodox Christians to be the patron saint of the Americas. 

Herman was born in the town of Serpukhov near Moscow around 1756. Herman is his name in monasticism; his birth name is unknown. At 16, he entered the Russian Orthodox monastic life at the Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage near St. Petersburg. Eventually he was tonsured a monk, though he was never ordained to the priesthood. A request was made for a mission into the Alaskan territory. Herman was selected to go, along with seven other monks.

Herman and the other monks arrived on Kodiak Island on September 24, 1794. The monks converted the native Aleuts, and as time progressed they found themselves protecting the natives from exploitation and abuse. Because of this moral stance the monks themselves were abused, arrested and physically threatened. In time, enduring hardship, inclement weather, illness and more, Herman stood as the only remainder from the original band of missionaries, the others either being martyred for their faith, dying of natural causes or returning to Russia.

Herman eventually built a hermitage on Spruce Island, about a mile and a quarter from Kodiak Island. A small chapel was built as well, along with a school and guest house. The local people would visit him often. He devoted his life to prayer and to performing those services he could do as a simple monk who had not been ordained to the priesthood.

He died on November 15, 1837, but was not buried on Spruce Island until December 13 because a priest could not come to serve the funeral, and was forgotten until the first investigation of his life in 1867 by Bishop Peter of Alaska. He was named a saint by the Orthodox Church in America on 9 August 1970.

August 9, 2017 Posted by | Alaska, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith | Leave a comment

Tale of Three Cities

Summer is hard for me in Pensacola. We keep busy; I do my water aerobics and two days a week now, I am taking little grand daughter to her swim lessons. Occasionally, we get a day with lower humidity, or a day with deep dark clouds and thunder, and dramatic lightning, and the temperatures will cool some, for a while.

It is hot. Thank God for air conditioning, but it is hot when we wake up and last night it didn’t even get into the seventies (F). It is just the summer weather pattern.

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But this morning, as I was putting up my greetings to all my Moslem friends in Jordan, in Qatar, in Kuwait and around the world, I remembered just how hot the summers were in Kuwait:

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Not even a chance of clouds or rain to break the heat!

 

And then I think of my growing up in Alaska, where 70 degrees (F) was a heat wave:

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I’m feeling cooler just looking at those temperatures 🙂

July 7, 2016 Posted by | Alaska, Kuwait, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

It’s a First World Problem . . .

I grew up stockpiling.

“Winter is coming” is nothing new when you grow up in Alaska. As soon as the catalogs came in, we ordered snowsuits so they would arrive before winter. Being a child, I don’t understand exactly why everything had to be in place before winter struck, but I think it had something to do with shipping channels being unpassable.

It was good preparation for my years of life overseas. Even living in Germany in the 1960’s, there were things we brought with us – shoes, madras, chocolate chips – things we could only get in the USA. As the years went by, and we hauled huge suitcases back and forth from Germany to university and back (the airlines were so much more generous in their luggage policies then), and then, as a young wife, back and forth to our postings in Germany and the Middle East.

 

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I remember one Ramadan in Tunisia, where suddenly, there was no heavy cream. There were no eggs! I learned to buy ahead, to stockpile; it’s been a lifetime habit.

Where is this going, you are asking?

Maybe I’ve been in one place too long. Maybe I am starting to lose my fine edge, my compulsion to be prepared.

I had a group in last week, a group I entertain two or three times a year. It’s not a big deal, I write out my plans, make sure I have what I need, I execute the plan.

Part of the plan, this time, was a large tray full of lunch meats and cheeses, and little buns to make sandwiches. As I was putting out all the food, I found the perfect small crystal bowl for the mayonnaise.

But there was no mayonnaise. Not in my refrigerator. Not in my (well-stocked) pantry. No matter how much I looked, there was no mayonnaise.

I didn’t even have time to be horrified; I had people arriving. I put out mustards, and pickle relish, and butter, and a bowl of sour cream and no one asked about mayonnaise.

Later, I was telling AdventureMan how I’d been caught short. I have a pantry full of  sixteen different little jars of mustard, many jars of peanut butter and cans of tuna and tomato sauce. If there’s a remote chance I will need something, it is in my pantry. There are times I find myself shopping and thinking “Oh! I always need coffee! (or tea, or chili powder, or chutney or . . . ) and when I get it home, I discover I already have a goodly supply. I don’t NEED more.

But how could I run short of mayonnaise?

AdventureMan just grinned. “It’s a first world problem,” he said.

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping | 4 Comments

Whaling and Bear Watching Out of Tofino

We are enjoying perfect weather, not a given when you are in the Pacific Northwest, and not a given on any coastline or any vacation. The mornings may dawn a little grey and foggy, but it all burns off – this week, anyway – and we are having wonderful afternoons.

I don’t even bother trying to shoot whale any more. I have one photo of a marvelous whale tale from our first trip back to Alaska and this time the boat was rocking and rolling and mostly all we would see were backs breaching and spouts. Do you really want to see the place where two seconds ago there was a whale? Hmmm, no, I didn’t think so 🙂

In calmer waters, we also saw otter, seal, sea lions and lots of birds.

The next day, on the bear watch, we also took lots of photos, and I won’t show you all of them because again, as the boat rolls, that perfect shot of the mother bear and the baby bear walking down the beach cuts off the mother bear’s snout, and the next one, the mother shows up fine but the baby is indistinguishable from the shadow in which he is playing . . . or the bear on the beach, you know 40 photos of the bear’s backside as he sucks a clam for one good photo of the bear (without his legs cut off). Wildlife photographers make their money by spending hours, days and months to get those calendar shots, and then being in just the right place at just the right time.

And it is so much fun just to go watch, and to try to get those good shots 🙂

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Do you see the little bear? He’s over to the left, in the grass; Mama Bear is looking at him.

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Now you get to see him! (And Mama’s nose is cut off, dammit!)

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BestAvailableMamaBaby

 

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He’s digging and eating clams. He is in heaven, full belly, lots of clams.

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Seeing an eagle; good luck!

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May 17, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

This is Edmonds

We’ve heard it so many times since we’ve arrived:

“You’ve arrived just in time for the best weather of the year!”

And it is true. Flying into Seattle, we saw every mountain, the air is crystal clear, the sun is out, and there are calming breezes and near 80 Degree (F) temperatures. The major secondary highway, Highway 99, is closed because there is a huge highway building program (YAYYY! Invest in infrastructure!) going on, and everyone warns us the traffic on I-5 going north will be hell. Because there are two of us, we can use the HOV (high occupancy) lanes, and we zoom straight north. The traffic isn’t the worst I have ever seen and we hit Edmonds in record time.

We are starving. We stop for a bite at Ivar’s, check in, and pick up my Mom to get her a new phone.

This is Edmonds. People are different here. Mom (in her wheelchair) and I have to wait, but not for long, and the specialist who deals with us is so kind. He talks to MOM, not me. Have you ever noticed when people are in a wheelchair some people treat them like they are invisible? I didn’t notice until Mom started using a wheelchair, and I had to remind people to talk to HER, not to me. Tyler, the telephone guy, talked to her, and walked her through her options. By the time we left – not with a phone, because the one she needs wasn’t in – she had a new friend. She has his card. She can call him to ask when the new phones are in, and she can call him with questions. He was genuinely kind, and treated her like a queen. This is Edmonds.

Of course, we are still on Central time, so wide awake at 0630. We hit breakfast around seven, thinking that since this is Saturday, we will have it mostly to ourselves, only to find that the breakfast room is full of athletically garbed people filling canteens, heading for mountains, boats, ferries, Saturday markets – when the weather is this fine, people take advantage of it! I’d forgotten – this is Edmonds.

We hit the Fred Meyers and Trader Joes, stocking up for our road trip into Vancouver Island, then hit one our our favorite treats – The Edmonds Market. I thought it opened at nine, but at none, the place is packed.

I am a great fan of Dale Chihuly, the Seattle artist who specializes in spectacular pieces in glass. His vision is unbounded; once he filled the canals in Venice with his art pieces. Seattle has a huge Chihuly museum, and houses his studios. These are not Chihuly, but Seattle gives birth to a lot of people unafraid to try their hand at artistic pursuits. If I weren’t traveling, I would buy this piece in a heartbeat. It’s cool laciness reminds me of seafoam as the waves hit the shore:

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I wouldn’t buy this, but I appreciate its spirit!

 

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Metalworks for sale, including Edmonds Salmons 🙂

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Rhubarb is in season! Rhubarb was one of the few plants I can remember flourishing in the cool growing seasons in Alaska, and it is a unique taste I love.

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This is Edmonds version of a bread line. This artisanal baker has the most delicious looking full grain loaves, and people get there early to line up to buy his wares.

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The Museum volunteers always have a central tent where they can sell their wares to support the Edmonds museum. Up the street is another volunteer, signing up volunteers for the annual Edmonds Arts Fest, almost always on Father’s Day weekend, in June.

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The normally usual good prices for flowers are hiked, as everyone is buying bouquets for their Mothers!

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It’s an Edmonds kind of day 🙂

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fund Raising, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | | Leave a comment

Eighty degrees on December 27th

(Intermission from the Morocco Trip)

 

It’s two days after Christmas and on my way home from church this morning, my temperature guage showed 80 degrees F. My roses are blooming.

 

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Please, winter, please come. This Alaska girl is eager for a little winter.

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Alaska, Pensacola, Weather | 3 Comments

Pensacola’s Pelican Tribute to Native Americans

We’re on our way to lunch at Portobello, the restaurant in the old jail, when AdventureMan says “Look at that Pelican!” and I had just spotted it at the same time. It is fabulous. It is on the corner at the Wentworth Museum and is a tribute to our First Nation inhabitants. It reminds me of Alaska, where the Haida art was mostly black and white, with just a tiny accent of red here and there, or occasionally a tiny bit of blue. I love this Pelican 🙂

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Different businesses and organizations in Pensacola sponsor Pelicans, and each one is different. At the main intersection at Garden and Palafox, the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines have Pelicans stationed. Local artists make the pelicans vibrant and unique. Love the pelicans, but I love this one at the Wentworth most of all.

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Fund Raising, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues | 2 Comments

Celebration at the Seville

“I think we ended up exactly where we were meant to be,” AdventureMan said as we drove away, and I love him for thinking that, and saying that. I think so, too.

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It’s been an amazing week.

I’m tempted to say, about so many of the subjects, “I don’t have a dog in that fight,” and yet, somehow, I do.

Our Supreme Court is been so greatly conservative that I had no hopes that so many decisions would come down on the side of what I consider human dignity.

We have great medical coverage, thanks to what is truly socialized medicine – life time medical care through career military service coupled with the medicare that United States citizens receive when we turn 65. So when people complain about “socialized medicine,” I just laugh and say I love my socialized medicine. It pays almost all my medical bills.

So why does it matter to me that others have affordable health care?

I worked with the homeless for a year, with homeless families. It was a program; we provided housing, some food, and counseling, and guided our residents into degree programs, assistance programs that would lead them to an ability to self-sustain.

What I learned, over and over, was stunning. Many women with children are one man away from homelessness. Women with children are exceedingly vulnerable. When a child gets sick, unless you are protected by family, the child cannot go to day care and Mama has to stay away from work to take care of them. Too many absences and that job disappears. No insurance, and the costs are those hugely exaggerated sums you see on your reconciliation sheets your insurance sends – what the cost is, what insurance pays, what your share is. IF you have insurance, your insurance company has negotiated the costs, and those costs are considerably less than if you don’t have insurance. The least able to pay are charged the most. Is that fair? I thank God for affordable care, so that all people have access to decent health care for themselves, and for their children.

It was teetering on the balance. Which way would the Supreme Court decide on this technicality? By the grace of God, the majority opinion was that law is tough enough to write and often mis-written and corrected before the ultimate wording is finalized. This was no exception; it needed refinement but the intent was clear. Affordable care is the law.

The poor and the minorities are not to be discriminated against in housing, either, the Supreme Court decided. Again, it’s not my fight, no one has ever discriminated against us, except for being military (and the implication was that military was riff raff). The significance here was that even if the discrimination was not clearly intentional, if it was discrimination, it was not allowed. It levels the field; makes life more fair for all of us.

And last. That people who want to marry will have the dignity of that right. That those people will have the same legal rights, rights that guarantee inheritance, rights that guarantee access to the partner that becomes hospitalized, rights to make legal decisions as a legal married couple. Again, AdventureMan and I, one man and one woman, are married, so we don’t have a dog in the fight – except that as human beings, we want the laws to be fair, and humane, and applicable to all. We have no say over how we are wired or who we love, and, as we see it, no right to restrict others from what we have chosen for ourselves.

We’ve had a great day. We went to early service, where Father Goldsborough spoke as a Southerner, and how his views have changed, and how he believes that if the Confederate flag is a cause of grief and horror to those whose family were once enslaved, that that flag should be retired. Yes, keep it as history, display it in museums, but not as a part of a public, governmental display. He is a courageous man.

And while I agree that it is time for the flag to be retired, the flag is just a symbol.

It is a kid that killed the bible study participants in South Carolina. It was a kid with a powerful GUN. So why are we not talking about gun control? I have the feeling that a lot of people are willing to pull down the Confederate flag in hopes that it will keep the attention off the fact that people with problems who have access to guns are the problem. Sure, you can kill with a knife, or a car, or a hundred other ways, but nothing beats a gun for killing efficiently, and no gun beats an automatic weapon for super efficient killing.

I headed straight for the commissary to do some weekly grocery shopping, while AdventureMan spent time in the garden. I got the groceries unloaded, and dinner started. AdventureMan came in and invited me to lunch at my favorite place, Five Sisters.

When we got to Five Sisters, every table was full and lines and groups of people were scattered around waiting. We headed to the Fish House for some fish and grits, but it was the same story. So we headed for Saville, where we found a parking place and while it was crowded, very crowded, we got a place in the Palace Bar, which we like anyway, and we liked that it was away from the music and we could talk.

After we ordered, I said “I think we are in the middle of a celebration,” and he agreed. We were surrounded by a very large group of guys about our age, but we had to guess they were gay, and they were all very celebratory. In fact, much of the restaurant was moving from table to table, hugging and exchanging greetings and congratulations.

The last time I remember feeling this way was in Alaska, last year, for The Celebration, where all the tribes gather to share culture and dances.

On our way out, I leaned over and said “Congratulations! We wish you happiness!” and they thanked us and we left.

Except, LOL, I had dropped my sunglasses, and we had to go back in. “Stop, stop!” our friends at the next table asked us, and thanked us again for our ‘kind words.’ But they needed to talk. It wasn’t about the right to get married, they explained, each jumping over the other in speech in eagerness to explain, “it is about legal rights in hospitals” said one “the right to be who we are” said another. These were men about my age, and they needed to be heard. I told them that I remember Juneau, Alaska, and I don’t remember any gay people. I said there must have been, but I never knew of any, and one man said “that was me! Imagine growing up knowing you are seriously different, that you like boys and not girls, and who do you talk to? There was NO-ONE!”

These guys had been married for varying amounts of time, but this weeks Supreme Court decision eliminated the anxiety that things could change, that a change in president could signal a cascade of change in state laws and the hard-won battles would have to be fought again. “The only person left in my family who would have the right to say whether to take me off life-support or not is a person who would likely say “pull the plug!” and my husband would have no say at all, before this decision!” one said, and the husband added “and she could keep me out of his hospital room, even though we’ve been married for years!”

I would have loved to hear more, but this was their celebration. It was like one huge wedding celebration, so much love, so much happiness, so much joy.

“I can be who I am!” one said to me, with such emotion. “I can be who I am!”

I almost cried with joy for him, for all of them. They have seen such change, from living their lives in hiding to being able to live legally, freely, as who they are. We were moved by their joy, moved beyond words. We felt so honored to have been able to share a little of their joy, even though – this isn’t our dog, this isn’t our fight, it isn’t our win.

Except, except that as human beings, maybe it all IS our dog, and is our fight. Maybe it is our win. Maybe, as Jesus says, we are all connected, we are all meant to love one another, and as weird as we are, as eccentric, as different, maybe we are all meant to love one another and to live in peace with one another. Maybe the dignity of every human being is relevant to my own . . .

It’s a heady thought for a celebratory Sunday.

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Aging, Alaska, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions | 4 Comments

The Nomadic Life: Our Journey to the American SouthWest

We still get restless. AdventureMan still gets calls asking him to come check something out, even goes back to Doha now and then, and I visit family. But we get so restless. We need the stimulation and challenge of other ways of seeing things, other ways of thinking, new sights, new smells, new adventures. There are so many places I have never seen!

Some people are just wired that way. I can remember, even as a young girl, being at the Juneau Airport, smelling that aviation fuel smell, and wishing I were going somewhere. It’s just the way I’m wired. I still love the smell of aviation fuel.

I am so lucky to be married to a man who indulges me. AdventureMan isn’t wired precisely the same; he is better at growing roots than I am, but he still likes to shake things up a little when it’s all same same same, day after day.

We’ve both had to adjust. I grew up in a family where when we were going, say from Germany to Italy for a vacation, we got up early and went, as AdventureMan so colorfully puts it, “balls to the walls” driving 12, 13 hours until we dropped from exhaustion. We were just intent on getting there. AdventureMan’s family traveled in shorter segments. It’s taken us about 40 years to find a happy medium. He has adjusted to sharing the driving with me. I’m a good driver, and I love driving. He goes to sleep, and I can drive for hours, it’s sort of a zen thing.

So off we went. We put over 6,500 on my two year old car, more than doubling the total mileage. It was a wondrous and joyful journey, full of surprises, full of delights, and with a couple days of truly awful driving.

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We packed too much. When you are going someplace every couple days, you really don’t need a lot of clothing. I worked out of a large duffel; I would put what I needed for the next day or couple of days in a smaller bag to carry into the hotels.

At our church, we collect toiletries for the homeless population in Pensacola and the recovery population. I came back with a lot of toiletries 🙂

Our first day was to Beaumont, TX. No particular reason to stop in Beaumont, it was just a good place to stop en route to where we were going, which was The National Butterfly Center and the National Birding Center, both of which happen to be in Mission, TX. Mission is right on the border, on the Rio Grande, and I have never seen the Rio Grande before and wanted to see it.

When lunchtime came, we were just passing Baton Rouge, where one of our very favorite restaurants, Al Basha, serves mouthwatering Arabic food. It’s just off I-10, we can see it from the road and what a great way to start our journey. But as we enter, every table is filled!

No worries, the waiter hurries over and leads us to a table way in the back, against the wall, which happens to be my favorite place. They have stuffed vegetables on the menu, which AdventureMan orders in a heartbeat, and of course, too much food comes.

We first became acquainted with stuffed vegetables long ago, living in Amman, Jordan, where it was a very common dish, served to family and to guests alike. Later, living in Kuwait, my friends knew how much AdventureMan loved stuffed vegetables and would make extra for him when they were preparing food for family or gatherings. What great memories this lunch brought back!

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Louisiana is a quirky state, a state we like a lot. At a gas station near Lafayette, we saw three restaurants and an antique shop, including one with Lebanese food.

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By the time we got to Beaumont, it was nearly dinner time. Beaumont is an oil refining town, and the hotel was full of men working in the refineries or about to be hired to work in the refineries. It was a very male populated environment. I went to the pool, but there was a large group of men sitting out on the patio by the pool, and I didn’t stay long, I wasn’t comfortable. It reminded me of the Middle East. I don’t like being oogled.

We were still so full from our Al Basha lunch that we found a local supermarket and got salads for dinner. It was a great first day on the road.

April 9, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Cultural, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Germany, Jordan, Kuwait, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

John the Baptist and Brood of Vipers

It is a rainy, chilly morning in Pensacola.

Even as I write those words, I smile. Our grandson inherited my cold genes through his father. By cold genes, I mean we are more comfortable being cool than hot. We sleep cool. We need less clothing to stay warm. He told his Baba, AdventureMan, that “chilly is not cold” because he didn’t want to wear long pants, he prefers shorts.

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(There are a lot of images of John the Baptist, but this one made me grin; he looks a little Rastafarian, and I hadn’t thought of him as so long haired and skinny, but he was living in the wilderness and eating locusts and honey . . . )

I can still feel the air grow still as the British Ambassador to Kuwait read a very odd scripture about John the Baptist. It was odd because while it talked about John, it was unfamiliar to me. At the end, he said “A reading from the holy Qu’ran” and I was astonished for two reasons. First, I didn’t know that the Muslims recognized John the Baptist (they do, he is called Yahya Yahanna, and they have a beautiful tomb to him in the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, where many visit and pray) and second, I didn’t know I belonged to a church that would allow the Qu’ran to be read as Holy Scripture.

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Life is long, and full of surprises. I love it. I think the ability to be surprised, and to ponder those quick flickers of perspective keeps us young in heart, and young in spirit.

Today, John speaks to us, each and every one. The true path is coming, the word of God embodied in a human being, born a tiny baby, a human baby, God come down into flesh. (My Muslim friends are quivering with fear at this point, waiting for me to be struck down for such blasphemy. They don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, but that he was a messenger, like Mohammed. They also believe Jesus will be the judge at the end of times.)

Life among the Moslems. Bible study with the Baptist. My very Mormon friends. My own very Episcopalian faith. All these influences – and my Alaskan heritage – mashed together with smatterings of others, have gone into making me a very odd sort of Christian.

I’m OK with that.

Luke 3:1-9

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler* of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler* of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler* of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | , , , , , | 2 Comments