getting really acquainted with this snow stuff

24 01 2015

Sorry for those who know this stuff and are tired of snow… but as Africans we still find this mass of white a novelty.

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So, yes.  We try to capture images of the snow as it is falling.    Especially on days when the flakes fall thick, quickly and pure white curtains from above.

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and we try (without a macro lens) to grasp the delicate perfection of snow flakes.  The wonder at each magnificently formed sliver has not yet become humdrum for me.  Each of the millions of bits that fall down each day is unique, yet each is, like all others,  shaped like a star, tiny arms reaching out to grab other bits down on their journey to the earth.  And although they lie on the ground, walked over and crushed beneath vehicles, they glisten and glow. Each flake reveals that even when their job is done, and they lie pounded flat, they still reflect light and bring smiles to faces who are willing to look for the beauty and the light. 

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I still find the beautiful little wooden sheds, barns and stugas (small cottages) incredibly photogenic and almost each one simply begs to be snapped.

And then the snow continues to fall.  And lies thick on every surface.

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But this does not stop people from going out and enjoying the outdoors!  Oh no!  We live in the kingdom of the Vikings.  And all here do as the Vikings do.

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Vikings  (even ones from the UK!) load up wheelbarrows with reindeer skins and axes, and some good coffee and cake.  Even some Marshmallow, as modern Vikings can seize at grocery stores…

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And the Vikings make coffee from snow, melted over the fire. 

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And they play a bit in the soft, loose powder snow and try to feel what it is that causes great joy in children seeking out the joy of playing in the snow over and over and over again. 

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And there are smiles for all as we enjoy that we are such complex creatures… who have military style rucksacks, axes on the waist and camo flasks,  to bring our plush heart-friends along to sit on reindeer skins on a snowy day.

Another amazing feature Deon and I have been enjoying the last few weeks is spectacular ‘laser’ shows in the darkness. The crystals hanging in the air are caught in the beams of car lights and vertical beams move about in the darkness,  long thin spectres of gleam shining over the forests.

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I don’t know if it was this phenomenon that caused an awesome spectacle yesterday:  The pure beam like a spotlight below the sun yesterday.  I like to think it is God’s pure glory coming down to remind us He reaches down to touch the earth with His grace.

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Deon’s image from our house was even more captivating: the rainbow on the edge shining out promise along with the glory… just wow.

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So, I apologise.  You will still be getting snowy photos in this blog for a while.  The amazing beauty has not yet bored us.  We don’t always enjoy having to dress in several layers, and the practicalities of living with it are not always fun.  But the beauty of this world, still so new to us,, fills us with joy, awe and wonder continually. 

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learning about repentance from one who does not repent

13 01 2015

This blog is so difficult to write and I know that there is possibility for all kinds of venting.  But I write this as one who seeks justice and freedom for all.  Even for the worst of sinners.

After this weekend I have to work really hard on not getting bitter towards this man.  If you do not recognise the face, that is the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.  My voice joins thousands of others who are disappointed in his leadership.  But I do not want to join several others in Zuma bashing, as gripping a pass-time  as that is. 

 

I have been meditating on repentance and forgiveness for ages now, and relish in the power of complete forgiveness and release brought by the blood of Jesus.  It saddens me to see those who live under burdens of guilt, condemnation and remorse because it is not God’s intention for anybody. 

I really do not believe that Zuma can live in that freedom as things are now.  Here are some lessons his words can be used for to show how living with blaming others and not repenting  keeps a person in chains. 

 

Lesson #1 

Wrong does not go away when you deny it. 

Zuma has denied that he is responsible for additions and changes to his personal home,Nkandla,  which have cost over R240 million, which is about $23 million.  That money has all come from tax payers, and none of it was paid by himself.  The number of lies, cover-ups and stories that have come out of this are laughable… Comedians in SA really do not need to work too hard to come up with material. 

There are several other wrongs Zuma has denied.  I do not wish to list them all.  

Luke 8:17 – For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all. (NLT)

A secret thing cannot be covered forever.  I still remember my mother’s tone of voice each time she quoted Numbers 32:23 – “Beware! Your sins will find you out!” when I was a naughty child.   And they always did.  Even if I denied it, lied about it and tried to hide it, a sin is a sin and it will come out. 

Lesson #2 

You do not find forgiveness when you blame others

 

What has me on this rant is anger at specific comments made at the 103rd birthday celebrations of SA ruling party, the ANC this weekend. 

“Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival in Cape Town was the beginning of all South Africa’s problems.”

He has been blaming Apartheid for the present government’s woes.

According to Zuma, corruption is a problem of the West. 

And then the specific blame shifting:  After a dreadful breech of SA security so that a plane load of friends could arrive at South Africa’s top military airbase, Zuma made others take his blame.  This has happened on other occasions too.

Is there anybody else who hears echoes of Adam?  “This  (1) woman (2) YOU gave me…”   blame others, but do not accept wrong for your own faults. 

Oh man,  sin can not be hidden by blame!  The light will shine! 

John 3 : 19f 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (NLT)

God sees.  We can all be certain that although it seems like people get away with dreadful deeds now, God is far more concerned about eternity ( which, can I just mention, is REAAAAAALLLY long) and He cannot be fooled by denials or by blame. 

 

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Lesson #3 

The cure

What I really want to talk about, which is so much more exciting than Zuma, is the liberation and freedom that comes from true repentance and experiencing forgiveness in Christ.. 

We could all join along in Zuma-hatred, but we are all sinners in need of grace ourselves.  So I pray this freedom for each one reading these words, but mostly I pray that Mr Zuma, you may find the complete, mind-blowing, body-rejoicing, liberating freedom that comes from being free.

Psalm 32:1 : Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (NIV)

WOW!  That does not speak of condemnation and a huge stick-wielding judge!  That is a loving, redeeming Blesser at work! 

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And as if the message was not enough the first time, it is repeated under new covenant mercy:

Romans 4: 7, 8 "Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin." (NLT)

That is so amazing!!! No matter how big, or how small we think they are, the LORD clears them all and removes them from sight. 

Roman 2:4 points out that God’s GOODNESS leads us to repentance.  He longs for all to come to find forgiveness.   (2 Peter 3:9)

How do we get there?  We admit our sins to him.  Openly, speak them out to God.  (He will not be shocked by the wrong.  As mentioned before, He has seen it all anyway!) It has been suggested that we should be as specific as we can – by knowingly speaking out each sin it gives us a reminder that we have repented and we are free.

The enemy seeks to pursue people with accusations.  (Do you know that is what ‘Satan’ means? Accuser?  It is his name and nature to accuse us of wrong and to keep us under GUILT).  Know that God’s Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, leading us to REPENTANCE, the accuser condemns us, to keep us feeling guilty.  The Holy Spirit is specific, so that we can repent of a particular thing.  The accuser keeps it vague, so that you can feel like a failure  (you are such a liar, you are a thief, etc)    See John 16:8, Rev 12:10

The value of the blood of Jesus far outweighs the bad of sin.  Jesus has paid the price by dying on the cross so that we can live in His love and open relationship with Him.

 

I can remember very clearly praying with two dear precious ladies one evening as part of missions training.  We had written a list and went through it, praying, confessing and weeping over wrong.  The feeling of joy, lightness and freedom afterward is indescribable!  We are created to walk in close relationship with the Spirit, quickly acknowledging wrong and knowing that God seeks to remove our sins as far as the east is from the west.

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1 John 1:8,9

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV)

So, those who , like Zuma do not admit wrong, there is not a prosperous future ahead. And you are missing out on the greatest liberty available to man: absolute redemption from sins.  

Prov 28:13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

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a KIND of revolution

10 01 2015

So.  Apparently people here wondered if I am a terrorist.

 

Ja, let me explain.  If you have an unusual (unSwedish) name and seek the names of people working at the local grocery store then you could be suspicious…

I have grown up with being kind and nice to  others.  And I am really taken with the idea of Random Acts of Kindness .  You know, doing nice things fore people when they really don’t expect it.  These wonderfully kind things have often given me the oomph I need to keep on going.  So I like to encourage others to do that for others.

 

I am only now beginning to realise that not all people, or groups of people, think the same. 

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For Art, I wanted to get the children to create Mail art.  And they did BEAUTIFUL work!  Really great! 

And then share the mail art.  It was a challenge to get beyond sending a letter to somebody the kids would know. 

How my own terrorist alert came about:  I sent a facebook message to our local grocery store, asking for a list of names of those who work there.  The list was sent, but then a day or so later our Rector received a worried call from the  store manager… my foreign name… seeking identities of workers… could I be trusted´or am I a threat? 

Our junior group wrote short notes to each worker at the local store, thanking them for their work and wishing them a great Christmas. 

Simple, colourful, and hopefully something to bring encouragement and hope.

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Our high school kids did totally gorgeous envelopes, and wrote letters for the older folks at the home for older people in town.  I had to stand and write down all the names from the board up on the wall at the entrance (?!) (Maybe a bit like a terrorist?) because I could not find a person to help give me the names…  I would love to think how a person’s face would light up to receive a letter with this beautiful art on it, and receive unexpected wishes. 

My mom mentioned on their flight back to SA they thanked an air hostess who was working hard to keep all the travellers content and taken care of.  The hostess was rather surprised: it was the second time ever that somebody had sincerely thanked her. 

These are just a few examples.   And I woke up this morning thinking of random acts of kindness-terrorists.   We have again been affected this week by the dreadful acts of terrorists in Paris, and there is no doubting the fear and anguish they bring to others.

Here is a definition of terrorism:

Terrorism is not new and even though it has been used since the early times of recorded history, it can be relatively hard to define terrorism.
Terrorism has been described variously as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination.

http://www.terrorism-research.com/

 

How about if we REVOLUTIONISE this idea, and overcome evil with good?  How about if we outkind the nasty people in the world, outlove the unloving, and infiltrate every part of the world with KIND?

Look at the definition above and change it to random acts of kindness:

Be tactical and strategic.        Look for people who need kind.  See those who feel unappreciated and share some love.  A smile, a kind word, and maybe things.  But always begin with LOVE.

A holy duty.    Yes, it is.   Eph 4:32 says it:  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Other verses say it too.  Not is a way that can be interpreted as an option. 

a justified reaction to oppression  – Terror is NOT the way to deal with oppression.  LOVE is.  It is the only way to counter unkindness of any form.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12. 

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The truth, I believe, is that we ARE all Charlie. And how we react is a really important step in changing the direction of the world for the future.  But we can also be the revolutionaries bringing about change.  Not the kind that brings fear and insecurity.  But the kind of love-revolutionaries, where, little by little the world is brought to its knees to see how GOOD God is, how loving our Saviour is and how He seeks us out to cover us in love. 

I love the radical change this lady brings to her world.  Such a small thing that can change a person’s day, EVERY DAY… and I am sure the whole community is better for it.

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And others FEEL the thanks.  The message was posted on facebook by our grocery store: “1000tack alla barn för alla fina julbrev / julkort som vi fått! Ni kan inte ana hur glada vi är för denna stor hög med julpost Strandskolan Vilhelmina Sweden Många kramar & önskan om en God Jul från oss — at Varuhuset ICA Tallen.”   a translation for you: “1000 thanks all children for all the lovely Christmas letters / Christmas cards we received ! You can not imagine how excited we are for this big pile of Julpost Strandskolan Wilhelmina Sweden Many hugs and wishes for a Merry Christmas from us .”

So.  Using tactics of planned kindness, and impromptu gentleness too,  what can we do to make this world better for all?  Leave tracks of love all over the hearts of people you meet every day.   Let us leave a heritage of grace, rather than a real reputation of being a terrorist! 

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the joy of sharing special spaces

6 01 2015

We had to get used to new spaces the last few years.  Often.  Between all the getting used to it is often fun.  We love finding that great coffee spot, the wonderful view of wild space that is ‘ours’ or commenting on how areas where we regularly move about change throughout the year. 

It has been sad not being able to share our spaces with family the last few years.  We often had to move just before a visit was possible.  BUT…

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we just had a lovely time with my parents coming to visit us here in Vilhelmina!  Although my mom knows a good deal of Sweden, this little area was unfamiliar, and so we got to do some exploring together. 

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It was obviously interesting to feel new weather extremes together.  Walking on water (a bit iced up!)  is always a great  introduction to a cold world, for a sun loving African!  And we had a good amount of snow.  It went down to about –32Celcius while they were here, which was new for us too.  It feels a lot like –15 except that breathing in cold air goes straight to lungs and freezes any snot hovering in the nostrils immediately.

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Mom had some great fun cow-moo-nicating with some bovine buddies.  We had to take my dad along to some friends who have ‘broon coos’, a favourite of my Scottish dad. 

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Of course there were some really great family-building moments, that we cherish together…

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This was at a gorgeous little chocolate maker in town… really brilliant chocolates and coffee on a cool day!

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One of Mom’s big wishes was to see the Northern lights.  WOW!  Did God delight in His children with special shows over the time they were here.  They got to see the lights 4 times!  One time was particularly remarkable, even making it to national Swedish news for the splendour of the show! 

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We are stunned by the awesomeness of a great God each time we see Him giving us this showy gift. 

1-2 God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
3-4 Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere. (Psalm 19:1-4, The Message)

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We had some very special moments over Christmas with Sandrew and other wonderful friends.  Retelling of snowmobile experiences, laughing together and talking were all such great moments! 

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We did a long roadtrip down to our southern relatives.  It was fun to see new parts of the country and experience some more wonderful sunrises, as only the north of Sweden can deliver. 

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Goodbyes are never fun, and 2 weeks went by far too quickly.  Now it is getting back to all the normal bits that make up life in Norrland!

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So… if you haven’t read between the lines, here it is plainly: we love sharing our space with visitors!  We have a lot to show you and share with you, and life is not dull at all. Give us a bit of time to plan and we can do something great.  Pray for good Norrssken (northern lights) shows in the winter months, and you will get snowy scenes after December.  But we hear the summers are remarkably beautiful too…

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