Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Wednesday
Sep262012

ALASKA SURPRISES

Alaska is a different planet.  My son and I spent twelve glorious days there at the end of August.  See my Facebook page for Alaska photos:  

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4345815176217.164687.1612669508&type=1&l=faf0a9fe03

Example of Alaska's difference:  Early one evening I was driving on a hilly suburban street in Anchorage, rounded a corner and there on the edge of asphalt was a mother moose nursing her young'un.  My camera was in the trunk.  I eased the car past her, and the calf ran up a driveway.  I drove up the block and around a bend, stopped the car, got out the camera, turned the car around, turned off the engine and coasted back down the hill.  Both mother and calf were gone.  But I had seen my first moose.

I heard that particularly in winter, moose walk the streets of Anchorage, including main intersections. And they populate the suburbs on Holloween, forcing trick-or-treaters to detour.

Anchorage, by the way, is not on another planet.  It's a conventional U.S. city.  Both in Anchorage and Fairbanks, my son and I remarked how much the cities looked like Omaha.

On a Clear Day --

However, on a clear day from both Anchorage and Fairbanks, you can see Denali.  (Mt. McKinley)  That's about the same as being able to see Indianapolis from both Chicago and Cincinnati.  Of course, you'd need a structure in Indianapolis nearly four miles high.  At over 20,320 feet Mt. McKinley tops Rainier and other peaks in the Lower 48 by some six thousand feet.

We took a six hour bus ride in Denali National Park – and saw lots and lots of terrain.  And occasional wildlife. We also saw Denali – a grey shadow in the distance – but that was still amazing.  It's a shy peak.  We were there on one of the 11 days in the past 75 when Denali was visible.

Winter Athletics

Another planetary difference:  The Eskimos and Native Americans have their own games and their own annual Olympics.  We were introduced to their sports at the Native American Heritage Center outside Anchorage.

Consider:  Alaskan winters are long. dark, and cold.  Historically, Alaskan Native Americans have been largely confined their dwellings for half of the year.  Yet to be effective hunters in summer, they need to be coordinated, muscular, and limber.  Thus, they couldn't hibernate and wait for spring to come.  They had to keep fit and develop their skills.

We saw an exhibition of their fitness games at the Heritage Center.  A teenage girl sat with her hands on the floor, with her hands and arms she lifted her whole body and teetered on her arms.  Then, she tensed and kicked a ball three feet over her head.

An older boy, reached to the floor with one hand, jumped so his whole body was balanced on that hand, tensed, and kicked a ball eight feet off the floor.

Amazing athletic feats – more challenging and difficult that many Olympic events.

Native Alaskans recognize their great athletic heritage, so they hold the Eskimo/Indian Olympic Games every winter in Fairbanks.  You can see videos of these events on their website –

http://www.weio.org/                                                          Be sure to click on the Videos.

Elusive Wildlife

A third difference is the wildlife.

We spent a day on a cruise ship out of Seward touring the Kenai Fjords National Park.  We sailed out of Resurrection Bay into the North Pacific – world's longest stretch of open water – it runs from Kenai Peninsula to Antarctica.  We saw lots of sea life:  Humpback whales, sea otters, sea lions, orcas, puffins, and lots more. We saw the Holgate Glacier calve.  A big iceberg?  No.  A shower of crushed ice.

And here the difference between my son's camera and mine is relevant.  He has a recent iPod.  I have a decade-old Olympia digital.  He has a capacity of 2,000 exposures; mine has 128.  When we push the triggers, his shutter opens immediately.  My shutter opens nearly a second later.  (And in the NBA, in ¾ of a second, they score three points.)

We saw several orcas and humpback whales breaching.  No big thing.  They rose out of the water for a moment and then went under.  No wild leaps into the air.  My son took several shots.  I got one of a whale's back.  The rest of the time, I only got photos of the Pacific Ocean.  (He didn't understand why I wasn't thrilled to see whales for the first time in my life.  Wasn't much to see.)

Another Alaskan difference?  The geography.  The glaciers are in the southern half of the state.  The northern quarter above the Brooks Range is a desert.

Sizes are staggering.  Alaska is one-fifth of the total land area in the United States.  Imposed on the lower 48, Ketchikan is in Florida, Attu in California, and Point Barrow in Minnesota, almost at the Canadian border. 

The Malaspina Glacier in southeastern Alaska is larger than Rhode Island.  Alaska doesn't have counties; it has boroughs, and the borough of Fairbanks is larger than New Jersey.

My son was our driver, and he drove over 2,000 miles in 12 days.  We didn't plan on it, but we drove most of the major highways in the state, including 86 miles on the Alcan Highway.  Yes, we saw some bears in Denali National Park.  He saw two Moose while playing disc golf in Anchorage.  But, we looked in vain for wildlife on most of our trip.

He had a more thorough experience of Alaska than I did.  During our trip I had a damaged right knee and walked with a cane.  (The condition has since been remedied through arthroscopic surgery.)  So, I couldn't hike; he could.  Thus, he spent a wonderful hour and a half on the Matanuska Glacier, 103 miles out of Anchorage, while I sat in the car and read Michener's Alaska.

He also played disc golf at the Fairbanks Open.  Finished third.  I was proud of him.  He could have taken first if three of his long puts had dropped in.  Because of playing disc golf, he had long conversations with Alaskans – an experience I mostly missed.

Other Alaskan differences –

On winter evenings, they regularly have the Northern Lights, the aurora borealis.

Fairbanks claims to be the friendliest city in the United States.  Maybe it is.

And Alaska's population is sparse, mighty sparse.  Big as the state is, it has only one area code, 907.

And Alaska has the most beautiful state flag in the Nation. Designed in 1927 by 13 year-old Benny Benson, an Aleut orphan in the seventh grade, it became the official state flag in 1959 when Alaska was admitted to the Union.  The flag demonstrates the State's motto:  "North to the Future."

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We saw Alaska under ideal conditions at the end of August.  The weather was mostly sunny, with afternoon temperatures in the 70's and nighttimes in the 50's.  The early-summer mosquito plague was gone.

Would I go back again?  Anytime?  In a heartbeat.

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The Alaskan trip had an unexpected side benefit:

My three adult children are sometimes brutally frank with me.  For example, my older daughter once said, "Dad, do you realize that after you drink a cup of coffee, your breath smells putrid?"  Such information is essential, but only family members have the kindness to say so.

During the Alaska trip, my son gave me major education.  He let me know in detail how I bug him and bore him.  He doesn't like my yarns and certainly not my interests in history. literature, or spiritual experience.  He also pointed out that my behavior with others is also often rude, because I tend to monopolize the conversation.  And when I tell stories, I add too much detail.

He's quite willing, however, to hear about my life history, struggles, problems, and concerns. So, I'm readjusting.  And, of course, he's a great help – because most people, including my family in Shoreline – mostly share his views.  So, David has shown how I need to focus on others and their interests, not on myself and my ideas.  Thank You, Jesus, for sending David as an angel.

And as for my interests and ideas?  That's why I write this blog.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2012 by Jack Towe

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