Sunday, March 25, 2012

When It's "Springtime" in Alaska..............

As we were doing research for fun facts about Johnny Cash to present during our tribute shows, we learned that Johnny Horton was a very dear friend.  Performing in Alaska for international crowds, we often have people requesting Johnny Horton's famous song, "North to Alaska".  

A lesser known song (at least to us) that became a part of DannyLee's repertoire last summer is "When It's Springtime in Alaska".  This is also a crowd favorite and singing it through the winter was kind of a joke for us ------until we actually got to springtime and found out that springtime in Alaska isn't like springtime as we hoped it would be.  

Oh, it's warmer, much warmer than the "40-below" of Johnny's song, but as we see the images of spring training on the TV screens at the restaurant and listen to people talk about flowers blooming and high temps from Chicago to Denver, spring still seems far from us.  We have the dates and the "spring-ahead" time change that say it's spring, but the huge drifts and piles of snow that still surround us say otherwise to our winter weary brains.  

There have been a few changes that portend the slow arrival of spring with the appearance of the edge of our picnic table and the steady dripping of melting snow.  We also were somewhat forced to remove the tire chains from our truck although this has been a bit worrisome.  The main roads are clear of ice and snow.  

However, our RV park is still thick with ice and our parking spot is literally a pool of water that refreezes each night to glare ice.  We've been parking sideways to avoid getting stuck in place without the tire chains to help us get out.  Having a tire chain come partially off while driving in town forced that decision in order to avoid an even more dangerous situation with the dry roads.  

The temperatures during the day are creeping up above freezing and going down on the beach at low tide is a favorite activity here.  With the sun beating down and the waves gently rolling up on the black sand beach, it's easy to think "warm thoughts" and forget the ice and snow that had to be traversed just to get down there.  It's a wonderful place to get away from it all and just wander among the tidal pools and rocks.  

Ari loves to go down on the beach to smell all the interesting smells and see all of the other dogs.  Her favorite beach thing is to get out on the clear sand and run in circles as fast as she can go.  The last time we were down there, four eagles came to do slow, lazy circles right over our heads.  My first thought was that I hoped that they weren't considering her as some kind of "prey".  My second thought was even sillier as I wondered at how nasty it would be to be "torpedoed" with eagle poop.  YUCK!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pre-Planning for Pesach (Passover)

In spite of appearances, spring is here calendar-wise and the first consideration to be made at this point in time is Pesach.  It's coming and there's a lot of thought, prayer, planning and preparation to be done before it gets here.  We actually started thinking about it months ago as keeping this feast in particular defines for us how things will go for the rest of the Hebrew year.  

It is said, and I'm sure I've said it in this blog before, if you keep Pesach, there's a good chance that you will follow through and keep the rest of the feasts in the year also.  While in reality, I've seen that this doesn't actually hold true more often than not, at least it's a way to get off to a good start.

Our first consideration is, as always, with our gypsy-lifestyle, where will we be celebrating it and who can we invite to join with us.  The first question is  pretty much settled by our complete lack of fellowship here in our area and the second basically follows along with that.  While that makes us feel very sad, it never serves as an excuse or reason not to observe this very important feast so our plans must be completed.  

Last year, we hosted our first Pesach celebration in our rig with a group that we believe was gathered by FATHER's hand.  With that in mind, we try to make our plans with the consideration that there may be others joining with us that we do not yet see.  We're very much aware of and concerned by the instruction that Pesach is NOT to be used as an outreach to non-believers and should not be eaten in an unworthy manner.  Thus, prayer is a big part of our preparations that HE will guide us in all things concerning this feast.  

An important lesson that we've learned from last year's event is about the food that we feel is to be a part of this meal.  In our earlier Pesach's, lamb was very much the focus that caused me to worry.  We read and re-read the instructions given through Moses in trying to prepare for this feast.  The lamb (or goat) carries the bulk of the instructions and in past years, I've agonized over where to get a lamb (or goat) and how to prepare this according to the instructions given.  

This concern has been so overwhelming to me that it has caused me to completely lose the whole point of Pesach.  I could see this matter becoming so complicated that it would be easier not to host Pesach at all or to even just consider skipping it.  

Fortunately, the lessons of last year's Pesach have put this into a different perspective for me.  Last year, we "jumped through hoops" just trying to find lamb for Pesach in the backwoods of Georgia.  Then, once we had found a place to get lamb, our order ended up being completely changed and instead of a leg of lamb, we ended up with a shoulder (or something like that).  Our plan was to slow roast it on a grill, but that plan got waylaid without access to a proper grill and I ended up having to boil the thing in water before grilling it so it would be edible and this completely goes against "instructions".  

After all that angst and frustration, in the midst of our celebration, it became very clear that the food was not the focus at all.  It was all about coming together to remember and celebrate what YHVH Elohim had done for us in delivering us from "Egypt".  It was interesting to eat lamb and bitter herbs (horseradish and parsley) and unleavened bread.  It was special to read the Scriptures and the Haggadah (Passover script) and to be joined together with our ancestors all the way back to Moses and beyond.  But the very best part of it all, was the joy of coming together with other brethren that had a heart to join in and celebrate HIS appointed feast.  

The food is not the focus and should not be a deterrent to celebrating Pesach.  Some people don't eat lamb or goat for various reasons and the Jewish people prefer to celebrate by eating fish.  Obviously, I wouldn't put bread or leavened cakes on the table since unleavened bread can and should be provided even if it's only through crackers.   I did look at buying a case of matzo bread on the internet, but the cost is very high and shipping things to Alaska could find us eating something more along the lines of matzo "crumbs".  

I did find a meat packer that we can order some lamb from here in our little town so we will try to have that.  I'm not sure that our grill will reappear from it's snowy enclosure in time so cooking it may be difficult, but we'll see how it goes.  We will also have bitter herbs for this year's feast and our simple grape juice along with various vegetables to round out our meal.  

With the food somewhat sorted out, the next concern is to get all of the leaven out of the house and to do our "spring cleaning".  This is always complicated by my bread making.  I try to plan to get to the bottom of a jar of yeast before Pesach comes around, but my best-made plans don't always work out for the best.  With the high cost of such things up here, I hate to throw anything away, especially yeast, but it's important to us to at least try to follow the instructions that Moses gave us.  

We also like to sort through our movies and make sure that there isn't anything in there that our LORD would not want to see.  It's not that we have a real problem in this area, but it's the one thing that we do buy every now and then.  Although, we generally stay within the PG and PG-13 ratings, that doesn't seem to be enough anymore to keep the "junk" out of our house so it's an area we like to keep an eye on.  

We don't have books or magazines anymore so there's nothing to check in that area.  Life is definitely easier when you live in a very small space.  

This year, our attention has been directed to Yeshua's observance of Pesach that is recorded in the Gospel accounts.  After HE and HIS talmidin ate the Passover meal, they moved to the Garden to keep watch and pray.  Yeshua was dismayed with HIS disciples' inability to stay awake and keep watch with HIM.  HE asked for them to stay awake and pray for at least an hour and as they fell asleep, HE continued to keep watch alone.  

We are prayerfully considering this year's observance from that perspective and we are planning to make this an all night prayer watch.  If there are others that will be joining with us on this night, it is our hope that they will be willing to enter into that commitment also.  If not, we will try to do our best to stand alone with HIM for HIS Word says "where two or more are gathered, I will be with you".  May our flesh be willing!  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Drip, Drip, Driiiippp........

Hmmm..................what's that strange sound?  Could it be??  

The sound of melting snow!!  

Hooray!!  It appears that winter is finally loosing it's frigid grasp upon us and spring is on it's way!!  

Of course, here in Alaska, there's little incentive to grasp at such straws with the snow still piled up above the windows, but the human spirit is often too easily moved by such things after a long, seemingly endless time of snowfall upon snow mounds, ice and freezing temps that shook us to the core.  

Yet, here we are, still very much alive and unscathed by the frosty months behind us (not counting a few bruises here and there).  Looking forward, our first winter in Alaska appeared impossible.  Looking back, it seems like a miracle that we made it through.  It wasn't easy, but using the lessons we learned coming up here to take life one day at a time, it was doable.