droplets

28 03 2015

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Things, little things, can get my thoughts deeply stimulated.

Part of what I am is a philosopher.  One who thinks about reasons for existence.  Not having all the answers can frustrate… if we allow it to. 

This morning life teaches me again through snow melting.  Dripping.  Sometimes in chunks, and sometimes in tiny little drops. But the force of gravity cannot be overcome by the composition of oxygen and hydrogen:  It must leave its state of being, change and move on to the next step in purpose.

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We can get so caught up in meaning for existence, purpose of life, where we will be and what on earth we are doing on earth.  Guilt is a burglar. Sometimes hijacking our peace at the traffic lights, when the thoughts come piercing with the shattered glass and take away every achievement and every bit of structure we think we cling to. Guilt may also come in the dark hours, clothed in dimness to blend in with the night when we try to sleep, and will quietly grasp away our precious memories of success, one by one. It might also be that Guilt arrives with several of his hooligan friends, like Self-Pity, Pride and  Comparison, and storm at our fragile burglar bars of defensiveness, beating us back into foetal balls of self-loathing and dismay.

Guilt sounds like a rather unpleasant creature.  And he is.  He is not to be invited in, to hang around and to make himself at home. 

Philosophical thoughts can sometimes tend too much towards the Guilt –like crowd.  Just as a parent encourages a child to choose friends carefully, so we should coax our thoughts to choose the areas they want to hang around in oh so very carefully.  Sticking in the company of Guilt, Comparison and What-ifs will lead to rather unpleasant behaviour, so choose mental company wisely.

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Each of these little drops we saw falling had, and still has, purpose. 

There is a time to stick together. Various constellations of sticking together. 

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But every single droplet, in every place, is destined to travel.  To move from ice to steam to liquid. To move from earth to sky. To perhaps lie in a muddy puddle somewhere for a while, experiencing the intimacy of mud and dirt and filthy splatters.  Also, I am certain, every droplet of water is also destined to be part of the crashing of waves upon a shore, majesty of grandeur as a symphony of many droplets united to sing splendour and power to those who will hear it. 

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We are called to move.  Flexibly, generously, graciously.

Not to grip too closely to the frozen states which lead to rigidity and fruitlessness.

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We are to flow.  Sometimes over rocks, quickly and tumultuously.  But, even then, there is purpose. 

Water is a carrier.  Of all things life. Of all things life-giving.

Rocky sections introduce more air. Freedom. Space to play. Gather more sun-rays. To sing another tune.

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And water never gets so caught up in thinking about its purpose that it does not live its purpose.

So often we get so stuck on what we are doing, that we forget we are all about BEING. Actions flow out of who we are, not being flowing out of what we do. 

Water flows, moves, drips, gathers, lets go because it is simply water.

And I know that water is not composed of the huge part that leads us to overthink and contemplate: the soul and the mind.  But if we let those parts hang around with friends like Overthought, PURPOSE and Achieve then soon they open the doors for their other friends: Comparison, Despair, and Guilt love to join in with that crowd too.

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What makes water so amazing to look at is really how the Light falls on it.  How it captures and reflects Light.

A Rainbow

And then it is not all about the water.

It is time for us to turn away from panicking about if we are being water enough,where we are meant to be water and how we are meant to be water and instead just BE what we are created to be: plain water, just reflecting.  

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We are created in the image of the Great Creator.  His Spirit wishes to dwell in us. Move in us. Lead us through all the changes that life brings.

He promises that He will never abandon us.  No matter where the streams lead.  No matter what ferocious storms the water droplets are forced to pound through.  The character of water, its true composition of two hydrogen and one oxygen atom can never ever be altered.  We cannot change from being created in His image. Formed for relationship with Him. Being changed from one kind of glory to another, if we will allow His Spirit to have His perfect way in our lives.

If we are living to serve God daily, then we are His purpose. Our successes and failures mean nothing.  They are all simply part of a journey where we are being transformed. Sometimes coldly iced into one place.  Sometimes as temporary as steam. And always as various aspects of water in different places: lakes, little puddles on a dirty jungle road somewhere unknown, falling over majestic well-beloved waterfalls, never remaining still for too long, for then we are only rancid.

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Proverbs 25:13

Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time
is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
he refreshes the spirit of his master. (NIV)

May we bring refreshment, reflecting glimmeringly the One who created us.  And may we move easily wherever He sends us.  We are the work of His hands, not our own making. 





the passport of kindness

26 03 2015

We have had a wild go of things in the last few weeks.  We have both fought against various bugs and have felt the frustration of bodies not cooperating as we would wish.  There has been the constant struggle Deon faces: not having work, being bored, finding useful things to do… these strain the spirit.

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We are constantly aware that we are outsiders.  I made several mistakes with my school kids yesterday because I simply do not grasp language well enough.  I know that I act differently to others, because I am not familiar with all the nuances of what is acceptably Swedish. We expect these mistakes and apologise where we are really wrong. 

But I will not apologise for all things and I am being challenged deeply on a spiritual level around issues of culture.  Those who have moved around a bit know of the rigours of culture shock, reverse culture shock and the discomfort of being in a strange world.

On Sunday afternoon the world lost the physical presence of a gem of a person.  I was lying shivering with a fever, crouched over a toilet bowl for a lot of the day.  My heart was anxious as I had been called for further tests after an initial exam showed that there may be cause for concern in my body.  I was far too scared to read too much of Kara’s departure, because it just seemed a little too close to my own situation, although I had been following Kara Tippetts for some time. 

Those who knew Kara and have spoken of her this week, have testified greatly to her kindness and a life lived with grace.  Her final message to her blog readers asked for people to continue living in kindness, to Kara’s family and to others.  What a legacy: to go beyond herself while in great discomfort, to think of others. 

(Go read some of her writing :  Mundane faithfulness.  Amazing stuff!)

Pondering Kara’s story this week has resonated with some thoughts I have:

1.  This life is temporary.  Eternity is eternal.    We are not citizens of this earth and its culture should not become too comfortable to us.

My culture is not Swedish.  It is not South African.  It is a higgeldy downright mess of earthly connections, as I feel no rootedness to any geographical place right now.  But that is fine.  Because if we get so attached to a culture on this earth that we cannot loosen ourselves from it, we cannot be ready for a heavenly culture that is completely beyond the limits of human thought. 

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2. Eternal Kingdom values are very very different to earthy principles. 

Besides reading the Bible, I am reading books by David Platt, Floyd Mc Clung, Andrew Snaden and others who are challenging the idea of values.  If we truly seek to follow Jesus we soon discover that His ways and culture overturned all expectations of others while He walked this earth and the expectation was that His followers should not hold on to principles this world calls successful to mark their success.  While there were thousands who followed Jesus, He focused His attention on 12 individuals, pouring His life into them for 3 years.  While the world says that you should demand your rights, Jesus said to turn the other cheek, not gather riches on earth and that His followers were to expect difficulties in this life.

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3.  Cruelty tears down.  Kindness builds.

There is no great honour in being a teacher.  Even a good one.  It must be among the most humbling of professions.  There will always be disastrous lessons.  There will always be the one child who says it exactly as she feels it.  And those are not kind words!  They sting! 

Working with teenagers, tweens, young children (and whatever other age-formulas mind-fundis have yet to develop) gives a reasonable indication of the times, media and world we live in.  Perhaps because I teach English in a world where most people get their English pumped to them via American TV, computer games and music, I am surrounded by kids who think that crass language and mean talk is common, acceptable and normal. 

Swear words fly about, “Yo’ Mamma” comments are common and kids look at me strangely if I disapprove. 

It is a sad world, if I see it that way. 

And this is where counter-culture thinking is going to have to be my way of making it through the murkiness of modern media dependency.

The counter-culture roots of my faith stem from a Saviour who loved me in my sinfulness.  While we were still sinners Christ died for us.  (Romans 5v8)      He draws us to Him with KINDNESS.  (Romans 2:4, Hosea 11:4)

I grieve when I am surrounded by mean.  It is a world culture. 

We noticed it in Uganda ( cruelty) , see it played out often in South Africa, hear the meanness from across the world in every single news report. 

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So this is where I become a revolutionary.  And it will take all the energy I can muster up.

Going against the mean culture of this world, unkind tendencies of children, inward-looking ideologies of most people in Most Places… it is not easy. 

The Book of Romans tells us that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. I want to love with a kindness that nurtures a hard heart to desire to be soft. God is the only one able to transform someone else’s heart, but if I live a life submitted to Him, then His love will be reflected through me.

— Kara Tippetts, Big Love

This blog, full of the kind heart of Kara, has been part of my meditations this week too.

Kindness matters

Our hearts are changed by undeserved love of a gentle redeemer who makes our bad into something useful for His kingdom.  My longing is to see more and more people wish to live that kindness to others so that the violent, moody world becomes one awash with looking for ways to surprise with tenderness and respond with grace. 

This would be a radical passport to hold.  Beyond any culture, going past any borders. 

Are there others who seek to join me in this revolution of graciousness? 

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still intrigued by icy things. still glad for sunny things.

8 03 2015

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This last week has been “Sportlov” in Sweden:  a week dedicated to all things winter sports.  So all the tv channels we have are full of winter sporting events.  And town is full of vehicles loaded with snowmobiles and skis, headed to or from the mountains (fjell) nearby.  It has been great to have a week off school, charging batteries, catching up on sleep and trying to shake off the flu symptoms still bothering us.  We have not been sporting this lov: we are still overwhelmed by how many options of skis, skates and scooters there are, how crazy people get about it all, and how painful blue marks on skin can be if inflicted through such activities. 

We have been looking on in wonder. 

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This was at a ski relay competition over the WWW (Vilhelmina Winter Weekend) a few weeks ago.  those kids are small!   Those skis are long! Those poles go all over!  Those kids do not fall!   I feel embarrassed at my inabilities. 

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One of the big events in Sweden over this whole week is the Vasaloppet.  The main event is a ski ultra race of about 90km. 

My brother and his wife, and her father and brother, participated this year.  I am so amazingly proud of them!  45km of moving forward nonstop over snow, using rather abnormal body motions… these guys rock! 

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Our school puts on its own mini-Vasa every year.  The younger kids participate in races, and some endurance testing, though it is considerably shorter than 90km. or even 45km. 

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Some of these kids were obviously born with skis on.  They show great finesse and ability.  But others get stuck in there, persevere and give it their best, despite it not being as natural as walking or, well, walking. 

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See the knee-meets-ground position there?  And they get up again and go on.  Brilliant! 

So, it was a day of seeing snow scooters dash off across the lake to check that all was good.  Kids stood waiting for final results.  The wind was chilly, and it took perseverance not to simply call it quits.

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But there were those who passionately cheered, and there was the trophy waiting at the end.  So children kept on going.  And the day worked out well!

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So besides for seeing sporty skiing sights, we have been intrigued by the new selection of sculptures we see every morning.  Some of this week’s displays:

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Wind-blown wonder icicles.

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The continental-almost world form.  (I was amazed at how close to the real shapes South America and India are!)

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Pine-cone bird feeder ice installation.

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Corrugation icicle art works.

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The joy on these blue-sky-and-sunshine days is wonderful!  I am learning that we need to capture the icicles early in the day, as the sun now actually WARMS things.  So we have a daily melt and a nightly freeze.  Temperatures go up to about 3 Degrees Celsius in the day, and down to about –5 at night.  If we do have snow falls, that snow quite quickly melts from the roof.  (Except where it still lies thick and heavy, the mass of cold keeping the new falls frozen too).

One of the great joys of this week was something we do not often see.

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With the sun glistening off the edges of shining frost, there was a slight wind blowing through the branches.  Freshly fallen snow was almost drizzling from the trees, falling like diamonds from the sky.  It was not easy to capture on camera but I got a bit of it here.

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Like drops of glory from the heavens, these shows brought such appreciation for the little things to us. 

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And when the sun shines brightly enough we brave a walk.  Out on the ice.  With the sun shining on our faces. 

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But there are still snow showers!  With flakes that get caught in our furry visitors’ tails. 

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And the variable shadows change quickly.  From days where Deon wails at the weather:“Make it STOP!” to brilliant days, like today, where we could even eat our meals out on the patio.

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Notice.  I used to laugh at Swedish guests who visited when we were small, and sat in this position in the sun.  I am sorry, older Swedes.  I fully understand it now.  Really I do.  The sun is a treasure.  LOVELY when he is around! 

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So, yes.  We find the ice fascinating.  But are glad at every sign of impending spring and sunshine which teases us.