an outrage

8 07 2016

Yes, it has been particularly silent from this space.  There is a great deal that has been happening, but often far too overwhelming to capture in mere words.  With time, the stories will emerge. 


But for today, there is an anger -  this is a prophetic rant.  So if that will put you off, stop reading now. 


My facebook feed this morning showed outrage from several influential American spiritual voices.  The racial violence involving police has become amazingly disturbing this past week.  There are many voices strongly against the turmoil. 

It is awful.  Alton Stirling. Philando Castille.  As of this writing, 5 police officers dead.  It is a tragedy and an outrage. 


I totally get that this is outrageous, and is an issue that needs to be resolved. 

Nobody does outrage quite like the Americans.


But I am looking for some outrage in this area of the world.  And I do not see it.  So I will stir it up. 

I just heard this week, that in the next town north from us, in the last short while, ELEVEN young people have taken their lives. 

STORUMAN is about 60km north from our town.  There  is a population of 2300 or so in this area.  and ELEVEN young people, between the ages of 16 and 24 have taken their lives in the last short while. 


But what strikes me as very strange is that around me I do not see the same level of emotional frustration as one sees in America.  Or in South Africa. 

I have been attending a Christian conference about 100km over from Storuman.  Granted, I have not been at every session, and I have not attended prayer sessions.  But I have not ONCE heard from the platform some from of righteous anger, or any voice at all, against this disaster. 

I had not heard about the devastation in this in my town from my circle of Christian friends.  Man, if this was among people from the other expat communities where I have lived, the lines would be buzzing. 

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So I will express my outrage. 

I am outraged at an enemy that so lightly gets away with his lies, stealing and destroying of lives that are precious.  Each one of them. 


I am outraged that I have not prayed enough for the young people of Lappland, of our northern areas of Sweden. 

I am outraged that suicide is seen as the solution to take.  (This I express very empathetically because it is a challenge that I struggle with myself). 

I am outraged that so many precious young lives have been stolen without outright spiritual war being declared. 

I am outraged that young people from our town, from local places, have not already banded together and have spent time rallying people to go pray.  To make meals for families.  To join in the churches from that town, and pray, and weep, and mourn, and be the body of Christ that is called to bear one another’s burdens. 

I am outraged that it has taken so long for this news to get to me. Why are there not outraged facebook posts from people here?  It has taken seconds for the lines to spark in America.  But because it is suicide, because these issues are supposed to be more sensitive, it has taken weeks for the news to be heard.    If this had been spoken of earlier, there might well have been lives saved. 

So I speak now. 

I pray out, in Jesus’ mighty name, for an end to the spiritual forces raging in the town of Storuman, and I speak an end to every lie of the enemy.  I speak the TRUTH of hope, grace and mercy for every lie of death and hopelessness.  I speak out the grace, comfort and LOVE that there is in Jesus. 

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May we be a voice for the voiceless, and make a way in the wilderness. 

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Oh church of Sweden, please.  Take up the place that God has called you to, to be the BODY and the love that He longs to use to reach out to a world that is, literally, dying. 


freedom to look again

8 04 2016

Perhaps it is just the slightest whisper of Spring in the air.

DSCN1136 (Small) Thick layers of white snow are revealing multiple shades of colours below, and there are a few suggestions of green grass, if you bend down and really take a look. 

Sometimes I just need to remind myself to stop and take a new look. 

The winter is vicious. 

That is really what it feels like to one from the fiery heat of Africa. 

Long months of darkness, layers and layers of clothing that take a while to get into, and out of, then into again, and out of again, cold that stings one’s cheeks. 

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But, sometimes, I remember to look at where we live and truly relish it all. 

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It is a world where little children and big children can caper on water for several months a year.

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A world where white takes on a multitude of hues, and is valued simply for it not being grey.

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It is a world where being alone must gain new significance.  There is space to find a new depth, a new height and new value in silences and stillness.  

DSCN1162 (Small) This is not a world for wimps.  Although one may feel weak, and it seems like there are uncountable others who are broken all around; just going on through the Winter is a worthy accomplishment. 

And what we consider brokenness is perhaps not broken at all.  

Winter is necessarily a time of rest. 

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What if we all really need to enter winter with gratitude and expectation? 

This 2016 world is increasingly full of busy.  Winter provides the chance to sit with a blanket over the knees, hot tea in hand and mull.

It gives a chance to consider things in new ways.

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And I have so appreciated a chance to look at this remarkable, almost-Polar world with new eyes. 

There are small details to relish. 

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And the large vistas are just Oh, so magnificent. 

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I must admit, while in the middle of the thick of winter and its darkness this way of thinking does not come easily. 

But when the melting has begun, when the gleams of sun are high enough to carry marginal heat; then thoughts begin to warm slightly too. 

And eyes lose the hard layers of ice of winter. 

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It may be time to look with the eyes of Spring. 

Even if the Winter has been just about intolerable, it is necessary.  And the Light will yet come, with all its glory, and allow new ways of perceiving. 

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abraded carvings

1 04 2016

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We took a drive today. 


Yes, this is worth noting.  It is not something we have done often up in these northern parts.  The crazy differences in driving conditions, environment, unfamiliarity with so much, adventure+risk fatigue… just meant that this was the first time we had ventured out so far towards the mountains not that far from our town.

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It was glorious. 

The sun was shining, ice on the waters is beginning to melt and the mountains were boasting of God’s creativity. 

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There was so much to take in as we drove, and I relished the little details as well as the big canvas of splendour around us. 

The thousands of  ice sculptures on the sides of the road particularly drew my attention on this drive.

At this time in the year, that snow piled up on the edges of roads is filthy.  It has been scraped, dumped with sand (they don’t use salt to keep roads clear up here),mixed and jumbled, driven over. 

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While we were driving this reminded me of some crazy experiences I had in the ocean when I was young.  We loved sea holidays and swimming through the waves.  I never was a great swimmer, and struggled to judge the timing of waves.  And there is not one person who braved the seas  who was not caught up and sand-washed by the waves around the coast lines of South Africa.

There were a few occasions that I just got it all wrong.  I may or may not have had a chance to gulp some air (mixed with salty water) before being churned and turned, scraped along the gravelly bottom, twisted and seethed through writhing waters, only to be dumped in shallower waters with a costume full of  gravel-tailings and a nose dripping with sandy brine. 

Sometimes the waves would roll me around and around and around so that the sand rubbed hard and I did not know which way was up.

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For only a short while of the year, and sometimes they exist for only hours, these abstractions line the roads. 

I was fascinated.  No two sculptures can be the same.  Some are larger and more stylish.  Some are small, mucky and really ugly. 

But on days like today there is something really enchanting about each one. 

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Between all the muck, dirt and bits picked up along the way, these carvings shine. 

The multitude of little parts together glisten and sparkle. 

While looking for good words to describe the phenomenon that causes these carvings, the word “abrade” made such sense. 


scrape or wear away by friction or erosion.

"it was a landscape slowly abraded by a fine, stinging dust"

wear away/down,
wear, erode, scrape away, corrode, eat away at, gnaw away at, bite into, scour, rasp, strip, flay

This has been our experience over the last several months.  The winter, with its long darkness, freezing snows, and gnawing endlessness really wears through the soul  (especially for those so used to African sunshine).  The relentless brokenness that we see all around us tears into me.

It has been especially difficult for Deon:  he has tried new wood techniques that have proved to be far more challenging to sell than imagined.  Each disappointment sent another whirl of eroding grains, tearing away at his sense of purpose and value. 

There have been many grey, sombre, miserable days. There were a few gleams of diamonds if the moon shone, but it was not like this kind of day.  

DSCN1074 (Small)This kind of day, where it is difficult NOT to see the radiance all about.

Between all of the mess in the world, the uncertainty in South Africa, the challenges of not being able to travel because of documents held up in the process, the desperation to see spiritual captives set free in this place, the tests seem relentless.  Winds carrying a mass of scouring particles swirl about us. 

This should not ever be seen as a surprise for a believer.

 There is a purpose:  to gleam in the reflection of the Great Light of I Am.  To shine back at Him, and reflect His light to a world in need of encouragement. 

"But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” (Job 23:10) 

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january moments

24 01 2016

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Inspired by

January, by John Updike

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The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

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Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.

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The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

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The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

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sometimes I need to just remember to look

17 01 2016


In the winter, when  I am at school, I don’t often get to see our home in the light. 

Today we went for a walk and I almost had to pinch myself. 

This is where we live!  We get  THIS beauty as a gift every day when the sun shines! 

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so, that name thing again

16 01 2016

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Sometimes, the fact that I am a philosopher and thinker can keep my thoughts so busy.  There is a bit of a rant here, a dilemma I am dealing with.  If there are any answers from people, I would love them! 


A name is something that is so deeply PERSONal.  It is who we are.  I love thinking that while my being was developing inside my mother, Mommy and Daddy were talking about what my identity would be. 

I imagine some of the conversations with these discussions:  Maternal grandparents are Swedish, with particular ways of saying sounds.  So it must be something they are comfortable with.  We live in South Africa, with such a range of people, and there are strong divisions between English and Afrikaans, but still we want a name that makes sense to all of them.  Names have meaning.  Then, both teachers, rule out all the names of the crazy kids whose names bring to mind unpleasant memories…

Dad and Mom decided on Karen.  A name popular in the sixties, I read.  From Danish heritage.  I love that.  My name comes from Scandinavia, where God has brought us again.  Not quite the Swedish spelling, but said in the same way as in Sweden. 

It is a strong sounding name.  Not fancy.  There are no decent sounding shortened versions.  Simple.  We had several Karens and Karins in my classes at school growing up, all with the same Germanic- European way of saying the name – Karen.  I liked that I was not the only one, that I was like others, and that we sometimes made it fun by all answering at once when teachers called us. 

The meaning of my name is something I cherish deeply.  The name means “pure”.  Nothing fancier than that.  But there is SO MUCH to that meaning.  Pure in heart.  Pure in intention. No dirt mixed in.

So, this is me.  I have a face that is perfect for radio, a reason I do not often take selfies.    A little bit flustered, loving a chance to smile, pure me. 

Karen Wanale   

A name is identity, and it is something that I have spent several hours thinking about, teaching about.      It is something that I have tried to learn as quickly as possible when working with a new group of people, because it is one of the surest ways to show real connection with a person. 

What I am dealing with right now, is that people here in Sweden so often call me British or American versions of my name, or other pronunciations that are not ME.  I have tried to correct the kids, and adults… and it goes back to ‘Keren’ or ‘Carryn’ very soon. 

It is great to come home to Deon, who calls me ‘my girl’, or Karen.  I especially love it when my Daddy speaks my name.  He has a particular pronunciation, with a bit of the emphasis on an e sound.  It is personal,  his special connection with me. 

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This is a conundrum for me and has my mind playing. 

One area of thought is the bluntness with which God’s name is tossed around in the world these days.  The Bible is full of verses which speak of the value of each one’s name, but especially of the sanctity of the name of Jesus.  The holiness of God, Elohim and His name.  How many times a day do we here people tossing about these names, as if they do not carry the weight of all authority in the world?  

*Oh my god* still jolts at my heart, and I correct the children often:  is that MY God, or yours you so easily mention?  Does He mean something to you too? 

Then, another direction of thought is with identity.  I identify myself as an African, with Swedish heritage.  When my name is said as if I am American or British, does that change who I am?  There is so much that we have had to change coming to Sweden- the ways are just SO different.  having to give up my name, when it IS Swedish seems an odd thing to have to sacrifice. 

But then, so much of my meditation now is also given to Jesus.  Who gave up EVERYTHING He was, all that He had, to come live as a stranger and foreigner among people so that He could save them.  He gave up the name of Son, King and LORD.  To become ‘raving mad’ (John 10:20) ,Servant, and Son of Man.   Is a name that important to hold on to? 

And then,  the enemy loves to keep our minds busy with lesser things, so that we do not focus on the MAIN things we are called to.  He loves to keep us busy with self.  It is something that so burdens me, because when there is so much focus on self we cannot live with the real calling we all have, to go beyond self, to others.  To LOVE .  To SERVE.  To BE His, and not the self. 


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It  thrills me to know that God has a new name waiting for me.  To know He calls me by name, as His word promises, is a deep blessing to my soul.   Or, as some other friends have done, should I change my name entirely for Sweden?  My Zulu name, Thandiwe, is even more difficult to pronounce in Sweden!  But the meaning of that name is so precious to me too – she who is loved. A Zulu name would really confuse people! 

What I have been trying to focus on is JESUS.  Songs about His name, the power of His name, the value of what His name offers us flow through me at various times of the day.  In the age of focus on rights, He has reminded me of this:  The Bible speaks of no rights we have at all.  We give up all our rights, if we are to be like Jesus (Phil 2:4-8) to receive the ONLY right mentioned in the Bible.  But what a right of identity THAT is!  John 1: 12 – I can be called God’s CHILD!  (It may be a bit confusing to use that name, along with all God’s other children around here though!) 

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It would encourage me to hear any insights you have.  Or to share stories around names, what they mean, and how your name has been a tool to change a life, perhaps? 

what in all this mess?

22 12 2015

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We are struck with a sense of the complete brokenness of people here.  We went to the Second hand store and had cake and coffee, our treat once a week or so – going out to eat is luxury!    All over there are signs of buying and spending culture, but it does not bring joy. The shelves of the Second hand store are packed with objects  bought as  last year’s great Christmas designs, but they are out of fashion for this year. We hear of those who hate the loneliness of this season. DSCN9831 (Small)

   We stood behind people in the supermarket where they were reeling under the effect of alcohol, which is the go-to escape of choice here.    There are so very many broken people but they do not see it.

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Then I have been so amazed at the thought that our amazing Saviour was EVERYTHING.  The Creator of everything, King of all majesty.  He came into all this mess of humanity, as one of US. In the most helpless state of all (that helplessness appeals to me right now, I feel like I can get nothing right).

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He came, not able to lift His own head.  Dependent on a young girl to clean His pee and poop.  He was not able to do a thing for himself as a person, for several years.  (Humans need to need each other!  We cannot be too independent that we repel the efforts of others). 

Jesus felt all the agonies we grow up with at all of our life stages. He *got* the frustrations of little ones forming identities.  He understands the frustrations of teenagers, caught somewhere between freedom and dependence.  This Saviour knows all the temptations we feel – He is not some cosmic being expecting obedience without knowing what that feels like.  And why He made it to work that way. 

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He was willing to do it all… for us.  The amazement and awe of One willing to do that for us… that grabs at my thoughts right now.   Into the mess of all the dirty, struggle, travels from a safe home to an unwelcome stable full of manure … He came. 

All the crap of this world now cannot disturb Him! 

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14 The Word became human and lived among us. We saw his glory. It was the glory that the Father shares with his only Son, a glory full of kindness and truth.  (John 1) 

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We pray that in all the mess of your various questions right now, that you would SEE His glory.  The glory the Father shares with His Son.  A glory FULL of kindness and truth.  

We pray that your Christmas time would be a time when Jesus comes again, and again, and again into your messes.  May He bring His light and glory so that you would be convinced of His kindness to you, personally. 

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