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Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve 2010

The sun is setting on the last day of 2010.  I feel content.  The year that has gone has been a special year for us with incredible travel experiences, time to nurture our marriage in a variety of ways and the love and warmth of our home, dog and church here in Stockholm.  We have no big plans for tonight as most of our friends are out of town and Doug's leg is still on the tender side.  He has begun to walk without the cast and we're hoping to see progress each day, but it's slow.  We'll cook dinner at home, enjoy an early drink with some friends and likely wander out to the streets to watch the multitude of fireworks being blown off.  Tanner hates this night so we'll snuggle him up in his crate, pack towels around him to try to muffle the explosions and hope that he doesn't completely freak out from the noise.
I recently went back through this blog to view what I found worthy of writing about.  It was great fun for me to review the photos, spark the memories and consider some of more thoughtful things that I wrote about.  There were so many amazing things that unfolded in our life this year, I just feel filled with joy and peace today.
Books always play such a large role in my life and so I'd like to share with you the books that I feel should really be read!  My favorite read from the year was Little Bee.  Thoughtful, provocative, stirring, this story of a Nigerian refugee trying to make it in England tears at your heart and causes you to consider how we could make life easier for people who are seeking to create something new and special for themselves.  Mennonite in A Little Black Dress was very meaningful for me as I watched a young woman wrestle with her strict Mennonite upbringing, seek to break free from it, make some sad choices in life and ultimately find solace with the community in which she was raised.  If you grew up in a religious environment and have struggled to find a new way of having faith while cherishing your childhood learning, you will greatly appreciate this read.  Same Kind of Different As Me is a stunning portrayal of how three totally disconnected lives connect to change one another forever.  It's a true story and I loved it.  Wait 'Til Next Year delighted me because of the resonance I felt with my own life.  Change the author's Brooklyn, Dodgers for my California Angels and the stories are pretty similar.  Except the Angels didn't win the World Series until 2002!  My Life in France by Julia Child held deep surprises as it is a story that is much more complex than I thought.  I suppose because I am an American living overseas, I resonated with much of what she shared and getting a glimpse of the ex-patriot lifestyle post WWII was also very special.  On a lighter note, Lunch in Paris is another account of an American seeking to adjust to life in Paris with her French husband and includes wonderful recipes at the end of each chapter to boot!  I'm sure there were many, many more but this gives you a peek at what held my rapt attention!  I am going to take the plunge and get a Kindle electronic reader and I do look forward to being able to get books at the touch of a button and not having to lug them across the ocean with me on my journeys!
Of course, the year had some hard things as well and the hard things were really hard.  3 family members struggling with various stages of different types of cancer, and another struggling with the effects from an unexpected stroke have been a source of deep concern and sadness for us.  These concerns are present with us every day and cause the future to feel fragile and precious.  We live far away from our beloved families and yet feel we are living into God's calling for us here in Stockholm as well.  We are grateful that we have resources that allow us trips back and opportunities to talk on the phone, connect electronically, and just generally keep in touch as best we can when continents divide.  Uncertainty in the future looms, and yet, we take joy that in this present moment, there are reasons to rejoice and be thankful.  And so we try to do just that.
And so dear readers of this blog, wherever you are in life, I pray that in the midst of that which is hard and painful, you too will find joy in the calling that God has granted you and that you will find the grace to live into His calling for you in spite of the things that wear you down.
I wish you a Blessed and Happy New Year filled with comfort for your pain and anticipation for the joy that will inevitably unfold in the coming months.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

Because we live in a foreign country and are surrounded by a church community who are also largely comprised of people living in a foreign country, most of us don't have extended family living nearby.  The lack of extended family can make the holidays a bit lonely as long celebrated traditions are sometimes impossible to continue.  This reality led us to have an Open House at our house on Christmas Day from the first Christmas we were here, December 1998.  It likely seems utterly strange to those of you who are surrounded by family and gatherings on Christmas day to consider going to an Open House at the Pastors' house on Christmas day.  But for about 90-100 people who found themselves in Stockholm, they were glad we did!  This also solves the dilemma of how to make sure everyone has a place to go on Christmas.  We just invite them to our house for the big bash!
I scored these adorable plates at Ikea way back in November!
It continues to be something we love to do and we are grateful that people continue to enjoy it!  We make all the food ourselves, kind of our Christmas gift to the congregation.  Our buffet is largely appetizers, American style, with the influence of Southern California kick thrown in.  The meatballs are spicy, the salsa is hot, the Mexican layer dip is a fan favorite.  We serve homemade Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies and homemade toffee alongside of clementines and store bought pepparkakor on the sweets table.  The specialty of the house is the homemade hot apple cider and liters of it go down on a cold winter's night!A few folks from church showed up early to help us with the final food prep and to get the "home theater" set up in our extra bedroom.  Toy Story 3 was showing and the kids (and some adults) just love piling in there to watch!  Right at 18.00 the doorbell rang and in poured the guests.  It is so much fun to have a house full of people who are delighted to be together.
The food was plentiful, although I could've had one more gravad lax, another cream cheese crab ball and I think next year I need to note that we need 3 batches of Mexican Layer dip! Santa was adorable this year and the children delighted in the sweets he handed out! 
Our music director, Rigael, AKA Santa Claus!
Everyone was out the door by 21.00 and the house was reasonably clean and tidy by 22.00 thanks to Lucy who comes in and keeps the kitchen clean all night!  It is such a joy to sit down with a glass of wine after everyone has left, open the gifts that people bring by and reflect on the season.  Another Advent and Christmas has come and gone.  But the memories and sweetness of the season will linger for a long time to come.  The only thing left to do is make notes on the food amounts and make my shopping list for next year.  It makes life a lot easier when the amounts are fresh in your mind!
So, I guess it's time to say our final Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.  Even though it's all over now, we can still be Merry, Christ is in our midst and we can still have a good night!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve Sermon: Hachnasat Orchim

     This Christmas I’ve been thinking a lot about hospitality and what it means to pursue an open, welcoming and warm way of being.  Writer Lauren Winner explains that “In the Jewish tradition, hospitality has a special name:  Hachnasat Orchim.  In Hebrew, this literally means ‘the bringing in of guests’.  In the Old Testament, we see that more than once God instructs his people to welcome the stranger for they were once strangers.”  We see that providing hospitality is not really an option for the Jewish people and is even seen as more important than prayer.  The root of the value of hospitality comes from God himself, for God has offered hospitality to all of humanity by establishing a home for all.  To practice hospitality is to respond with gratitude to the God who made a home for us.  Additionally, just as the invitation to make our home with God means giving our lives to him, the invitation that we extend to one another when we offer hospitality is not simply an invitation to come into our lives or sit at our table, rather it is an invitation to enter our lives as well.  God sending Jesus into our world is an amazing act of hospitality, for through this action, we are invited into a warm and welcoming relationship with God himself.  We are invited to a transformed life through the salvation that the baby Jesus will ultimately bring to us.
My thoughts have been on hospitality quite a lot because as I pondered what things are important to me during this Advent and Christmas seasons, I realized that acts of hospitality are important to me, things like decorating our house and having people over. 
The table set for a Fika with friends.
Of course, when Doug broke his leg just before the first of advent, I was concerned about how the season would unfold.  Would we be able to do the things that we usually do?  How would I get the house decorated without Doug’s help?  Would I be able to shop and bake and cook the foods that I enjoy?  Could we still invite the groups of people in that we always love having?  Would I have enough time and energy to get everything done knowing that my right hand man was down to one left leg? 
     All of these concerns led me to think about the role of hospitality, that is, of creating a warm and welcoming place for people, and how important that tradition is for me in celebrating the season.  And now on Christmas Eve, I can say that for the most part, with a bit of help from many friends, I’ve been able to enjoy most of our traditions, and we’re ready to welcome you to our Open House tomorrow evening so please, come on over and enjoy the fun.
     But if I am going to be totally honest with you tonight, there have also been a few times when it has felt like too much, that I am not going to make it and I’ve even wondered why I feel such a compulsion to invite people over, make things from scratch and make my house look all cozy for Christmas.  Yes, at times, it has felt exhausting.
    And then last week, Doug and I were watching a cute television show called The Middle.  It is about a typical American family just trying to do life together.  This episode was all about getting ready for Christmas and the mother was totally stressed out about getting everything done.  She says to her husband, “It’s Christmas, it’s the most stressful holiday of the year.”  To which her cool and calm husband replies, “Don’t worry, I”ll take care of everything this year.”  She proceeded to laugh at him and announce, “You have no idea what it involves.  There is shopping, wrapping, baking, visiting, and decorating.”  He calmly says, “I’ll make lists.  I have this covered.”  We had to pause the recording because we could see our lives beginning to unfold before us!  The show hit even closer to home as the dad began to accomplish the Christmas “to do” list, things like putting up the tree and building the snowman.  But the wife, instead of being happy, was sad because she loves putting up the tree and building the snowman.  This went on and on…the dad seeking to be helpful to get some things off the mom’s list, the mom being sad because everything he did, was her favorite thing to do at Christmas.  To add insult to injury, some of the time he did things in a manner that was totally different than the wife’s! This really set her on edge!  Doug and I were laughing about this because it’s a bit like us.  I need help but I hate to miss out on something.  I want things to be just so, but sometimes it’s hard to find the time and the energy to make it just so. 
But the other night I was interested in baking so I said to Doug, “I’m going to go make some candy and bake some cookies.” 
Homemade pumpkin bread, chocolate chip cookies and toffee.
Doug replies, “Why?  Can’t you just buy all that stuff?”  "Well, of course I can buy it but what’s fun and special about that?"  To which Doug replies, “Yeah, but it seems to stress you out so much.”  And it does, a little, but I also know that deep down inside of me, it brings me great joy too. And there it was, the great paradox of Christmas: hospitality brings me great joy and it is stressful.  At that moment I realized that the key to making it all work is in making sure the stress does not overpower the joy.
     At the end of the TV show, the parents conclude that yes, Christmas is hard.  There’s no two ways about it, it’s stressful, but then the celebrations begin and it’s great and wonderful and the best Christmas ever.  The mom says, “It’s like giving birth, you forget all the pain and you can’t wait to do it again.”   And I have to agree with this.  Sure, it would be easier to not decorate the house and it would be a lot less stressful to buy everything from the store already prepared, and the house would surely stay cleaner if no one ever came over, but then we’d miss out on spending time with the teenagers getting to know them a little bit better and taking delight in their consuming 6 liters of homemade hot cider and over 50 home baked cookies.  And what a treat it was to see what a vibrant and lovely group our young adults are.  And well, Christmas in Stockholm wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have the Christmas party on Christmas day.  Yes, it’s stressful to provide hospitality sometimes, but always, when you bring joy to others through your efforts, it’s never regrettable.  And that’s why making room for the things that add stress but also bring incredible joy to our lives and to others is part of our calling as God’s people.  For what greater way is there to show others the love of God than to reach out for them with tangible expressions of love? 
     I think the theme of hospitality holds center stage at Christmas.  Could it be that by practicing hospitality, which at Christmas might include decorating, and making foods from scratch and having more than the usual amount of people in for a visit, we are positioning ourselves to undertake the ultimate act of hospitality, which is to welcome Jesus more fully into our lives?  Here, the juxtaposition of stress and joy come full circle because welcoming Jesus into our lives more fully is surely a bit stressful but it is also filled with unspeakable joy.  And maybe it is by welcoming others into our lives that we are most able to welcome Jesus because through welcoming others into our lives, we are able to display God’s love to them in tangible ways…ways that perhaps they’ve never seen or experienced before.  And isn’t having the ability to show another person the love of God the ultimate act of hospitality? 
     In my humble opinion, I think the supreme act of hospitality was exhibited by Mary as she allowed her body to become a dwelling place for the Son of God.  Mary is being asked to assume an important role in God’s plan.  She is being asked to provide a dwelling place for the Son of God, to create a hospitable environment, with her body, so that God could become incarnate through her.  Many books about pregnancy have been written with a primary focus on helping women create a hospitable dwelling place for the child that is developing in their womb.  The responsibility of carrying a baby to term is enormous.  Everything the mother eats, her habits, her life style, the amount of stress she exposes herself to, the kind of risks she takes, every choice she makes has a profound effect on the child she’s carrying.  Mary is not exempt from this reality.  On a strictly biological level, Mary was called to create a healthy dwelling place for God’s son, our savior, to be nurtured into a full term baby that would be born and subsequently change our lives forever.  And as joyous as this experience was for Mary, it is likely that it was filled with stress as well.  I’m sure, at times, it just felt exhausting.  But Mary was able to allow the joy to overcome the stress and decided that birthing the baby, in spite of all the hardship, all the pain, all the sacrifice, all the stress was worth it…because then the world would have a savior and she wanted to do her part in allowing that plan to unfold.  God sending his son into the world is the greatest gift of love.  Mary’s allowing God to use her as dwelling place for the most high delivered that act of love to us.  Now we are called to carry on the ministry of hospitality in order to continue to reveal the love of God in Christ to others.  And Jesus-style love is the opposite of the world's power-based, accomplishment-equals-importance viewpoint. Christian love means putting the other person first, seeking the other person's well being regardless of what it costs.  But don’t be fooled, it does cost.  But the challenge is in making sure that the cost never outweighs the joy and we do this by keeping our eyes on what God has done for us instead of what we are doing for others.
     Author Henrietta Mears writes, “Love when you expect no love in return. Do good without expecting thanks. Lend when you do not hope for a return. This will make us act like the sons and daughters of the Most High.”   And isn’t mostly what we want at Christmas is to have the opportunity to act like sons and daughters of the Most High.
     Author and Clergyman Henry Van Dyke asks these questions: “Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open?”  He then says, “If so, you are ready to keep Christmas.”  I agree with this old poem because all of the things he mentions are acts of love and hospitality that point us to the love and hospitality that God offers to us through Jesus.  And don’t we get to a place where hospitality becomes a deep seated desire rather than a nagging obligation through practicing it, either with those whom we love and treasure or with strangers who are in need of tangible evidence of God’s love?
       Friends…throughout this Christmas season, my thoughts have turned to the ministry of hospitality because I love practicing it but admittedly, at times, it also causes stress.  But I have intentionally sought to allow the joy to overcome the stress through understanding that one of the finest ways to reveal the love of God in Christ is by giving others tangible ways to feel welcomed and loved.  And the energy to show others the love of God comes through experiencing the love of God as well.  I feel inspired to continue to be a warm and welcoming presence because I’ve been the grateful recipient of warm and welcoming hospitality as well.  As a church, I think we practice Hachnasat Orchim: The ministry of the bringing in the guests very well.  I am blessed and encouraged on a regular basis by the warmth and the love that our community exhibits to one another.  What I am most blessed by however, is knowing that our love for one another is a reflection of God’s love for us, a love that calls us to love him with whole lives and then reflect that love to others around us.
     Perhaps the greater question for us this Christmas Eve is how willing we are to invite Jesus to dwell more fully in our lives.  Mary showed a willingness to allow the Son of the most high to inhabit her life, no matter the stress, no matter the cost.  We know there was pain but we also know there was unspeakable joy.  And so are we ready to allow Jesus to dwell more fully in our lives…to allow him not just a seat at our table but full entrĂ©e into every aspect of our being?
     One of the more profound realities of Jesus being born in a simple, dirty, common stable is that it shows us that He will come to us in whatever state we find our lives.  We don’t have to have spotless lives in order for Jesus to come into them.  To the contrary, he’s interested in joining us no matter what the condition of our lives.  It’s a bit like learning the art of balancing the stress and the joy of having people in.  If we do it right, is not an imposition, because we are not meant to rearrange our lives for our guests.  We are meant to invite our guests into our lives as we are and for them to bring their lives, as they are.  So if the house isn’t spotless or there are dishes in the sink, so what…the company will be warm and the welcome appreciated.  The same if true for Jesus…whatever messiness your life is mired in at the moment, no matter what loose ends are making you a bit unnerved, no matter how untidy your relationships may be, Jesus says, it’s OK, I want to come into your life, just as you are, and bring salvation, comfort, and peace. 
     Our days of preparation are over.  What’s done is done, what’s not is not.  We are ready for Hachnasat Orchim, the inviting in of the guests. Are you also ready to ask Jesus Christ to come into your life, just the way you are, so you can share in the warmth and the welcome that God has given to us?  Remember, the root of the value of hospitality comes from God himself, for God has offered hospitality to all of humanity by establishing a home for all through the giving of his Son Jesus Christ. The invitation has been issued.  Say yes to God’s hospitality.  Say yes and invite Jesus to come and join you on your life journey.  Then you will be able to experience the unspeakable joy that overcomes even the greatest of stressors.  Amen.
And this was the blessing that with which I ended the service:
 God grant you the light at Christmas which is faith
The warmth of Christmas which is love
The radiance of Christmas which is purity
The righteousness of Christmas which is justice
The belief in Christmas which is truth
The all of Christmas which is Christ.

Christmas Eve

We hold our service at 16.00 and always look forward to sharing in a beautiful time together.  
The main sanctuary beginning to fill in.
This year, we decided to hold the service in the large sanctuary upstairs, where the Swedes have their worship services, because they have their service at 11.00 so it was open.  The big sanctuary has a huge ceiling and is beautiful when all the candles are lit so it was a great opportunity for us to create something special.  The choir sang, a sweet Ugandan family lit the Christ Candle, the music was beautiful and traditional, the readings well spoken and I enjoyed bringing a message about hospitality at Christmas.  It was a wonderful time of worship and focus on Christ's birth. 
  
Finally the four candles of advent burning brightly and the Christ candle shining beside them.
The music was lovely with members of the Tatlow family providing piano, strings accompaniment.  Helen Downey sang a lovely rendition of Mary did you know and our choir led out with music from around the world.  Doug delighted the children by having them help him build the nativity out big, wooden characters. All in all, it was a joy-filled occasion indeed.
Afterward we had been invited to some dear friends for Christmas eve dinner and fun family time.  She is Swiss, he American and they have 3 wonderful children, two in college, one in high school who we take delight in.  They prepared a beautiful meal and we all ate until we could eat no more!They love Tanner so he was able to come along for the ride as well.  He behaved until dessert when he got hold of 3 pieces of the chocolate nut date cake that we left on the counter.  It seems that he can't get through an evening without doing something naughty!  At least we had all eaten our fill of a beautiful and delicious dinner.  We rounded out the evening by playing Christmas Charades which was really quite hilarious.  Grand Prize goes to William for acting out In Excelsis Deo in a most creative way.  Good for Valerie for guessing it as well!  Yes, my thoughts did wander to them when we sang it on the day after Christmas!  We got home in time to watch a bit of the mass from Rome and were soon resting peacefully, fully content with our Christmas Eve celebration.  Christ the Savior is born, hallelujah.

Thursday, December 23

There was very little time to update the blog over the big Christmas weekend so now I will try to recreate in digital form the wondrous days we shared with one another and with our church.  Thursday morning found both of us sitting with our computers, Doug working on his sermon for the day after Christmas, me finishing up Christmas Eve.  It was kind of a funny sight and a real picture of this day and age.  We laughed about how we could never share a computer and marveled that the PC really has become a very personal computer.  To think we got through college with a typewriter!
Because the 24th and 25th were going to be crazy busy with attention paid mainly to church matters, we decided to have our own special little Christmas dinner that night.  I had some gift certificates from one of the wonderful food halls here in town so I went and picked up a rib roast...a rare treat here as the cost is out of our league on a normal day.  But it looked so wonderful in the case and I was happy to bring it home and consider how to make it taste delicious!  The evening fell and we prepared the meal together.  The meat turned out great and it was a feast!  Tanner definitely wanted in on it. In the end, he got a few bits, but let's just say my sweet husband let the carnivore in me devour the lion's share of that beef!  We enjoyed a beautiful bottle of wine that my folks had given us back in October when I was home and shared many warm feelings about the year that had gone and our current journey through Advent.  It was the perfect calm before the storm of the weekend and we both delighted in being able to sit quietly, just the two of us, at our kitchen table and take in the moment.

Monday, December 20, 2010

When The Children Lead Us

There are fewer things more wonderful than a Children's Christmas Pageant.  Ours was yesterday and it was fabulous!  The storyline followed an angel who wanted wings and she eventually got them by showing a sheep, a donkey and a dove acts of kindness as they all made their way to the manger.Several kids sang solos and all were spectacular in their costumes, singing like cherubs and delivering their lines like pros.  Of course, an army of adult volunteers made this happen and we are so thankful for the hard work that so many put in to make this wonderful afternoon possible, especially those who worked with the acting, the costumes and the music.  And really, what warms your heart more than 2 and 3 year olds dressed up like angels and sheep?
There were the usual unplanned, hilarious moments.  One of the 4 year olds was dying to get her hands on the microphone and so she kept positioning herself in front of it.
Finally, she just grabbed it and got her 10 seconds of fame.
I would not be surprised to see this little one trying out for Idol a few years down the road.
We had a camel, requiring two people to walk almost blindly down the center aisle and up on the stage.  The cuteness factor jumped way up when they finally found their way to the manger.
What I really love about Immanuel International's program is the diversity of children participating.  Angels from Nigeria, the U.K., Uganda, the Philippines, the US and Eritrea to name a few.  An Indonesian Mary and an Eritrean Joseph.  Shepherds from the U.K., Pakistan, and Uganda. Animals from Kenya.  Wise men from Indonesia, Ghana, and Kenya.  The whole wide world coming together to tell the story of Jesus' birth and to let us know that the greatest gift we can give to Jesus is to love one another.  If only the real world could learn this.
The whole afternoon was filled with laughter, joy, meaning, and delight.  The children were so proud to participate.  The congregation was so filled with joy to see the pureness of the story unfold before them.  And everyone was thrilled to witness the old, old story in a brand new way...through the eyes of children once again.

4th Sunday in Advent

We had a most wonderful celebration yesterday, the 4th Sunday in Advent.  Our theme for 4th of Advent was the Incarnation.  Doug preached an amazing sermon that challenged us to think about how we REALLY feel about God coming so near to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He said that if we allow God to come really close to our lives then God will also see all of the messiness, all of the failure and sometimes we feel too much shame.  But that is when we must remember that the whole point of the incarnation is to redeem all of those sad points and usher us into a new and beautiful relationship with God.  One of Doug's points was that God ultimately became separated from his son in order for us to become his children.  It was a beautiful and poignant thought as we ponder Christ's entrance into our world once again.  Our music director, Rigael Drake, sang one of the most beautiful renditions of O Holy Night I've ever heard.  Rigael's usual style is gospel but he really captured the essence of this song on Sunday.  It brought me to tears, actually.  The whole day was such a warm celebration of the love that surrounds us.  The kids shared in a wonderful Christmas pageant after the service, we had some dear friends in for a beef burgundy stew lunch, and all in all I was wrapped in feelings of love and warmth all day.
I feel inspired and ready to enter these final days of our journey towards Christmas. Reading Bonhoeffer and Nouwen is defintely an amazing way to prepare for the incarnation once again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Doug is Healing

Last week we ventured to the hospital for x-rays, a cast change and an update on all that is happening with the tibia and fibula of Doug.  It was kind of sweet as we had a little unplanned reunion with the guys who shared Doug's hospital room!  Lars, the older man with the broken ankle who doesn't live too far from us in town, and Josh, the professional hockey player from Canada now playing for one of Stockholm's teams.  We met up in the waiting room and the boys shared their war stories from the winter weather and lugging their casts around.  Then we could hear the Dr.'s talking to one another whilst all were in their little curtained rooms.  Finally, we ended up at physical therapy together!  Forever bound together by various accidents in the winter of 2010!  I did end up giving my card to the Canadian couple and invited them to our Christmas Eve service.  They might discard it, but then again, they might come.  We'll see.  It would be fun to see them again, at any rate, and it would be great to get to see Josh play hockey, but that is likely not going to happen during this season.  But I digress.
Henrik with his magic saw that cuts away the cast but not the leg!
Doug is doing great!  Everyone oooed and awed at how great they felt his scar looked.  The leg looks tender however and there is still a bit of healing to come. 
Getting the plaster cast off has been a big blessing and he's finally adjusting to his Robocop type of cast.  He can remove it to shower and sleep and while he's sitting or lying down, but any steps taken must still be supported by the boot.  No crutches anymore so that's a big help.  We really have appreciated each member of the staff at the hospital.  Henrik the cast guy is a wonderful person and all of the Drs. and nurses have been just super.
He wears this one through New Year's and then hopefully he'll be able to begin to rehab.  We did find out that another minor surgery awaits him mid-January to remove one of the pins holding the leg together at the moment.  They warned us that if he stepped too hard on the foot prematurely, that pin could break inside the leg and we'd be back to square one.  Sounds like one of the worst things I could imagine so we're emphasizing BEING CAREFUL! 
His progress has been excellent even though he would like to be doing more.  He gets around well and while tired at the end of big days, is successfully figuring it out.  I know he really misses being able to walk Tanner and I think we'll all be glad when we can resume that activity again.

3rd Sunday in Advent

I'm late with this post but last Sunday was a great day in the life of our church.  We went to bed on Saturday night with the news that a car bomb had exploded about 5 blocks from where we live and another man carrying explosives had died while walking toward a busy shopping area.  Authorities called it a terrorist act that had failed.  We were very thankful that more damage was not wrought and that all in all, the incident seemed contained.  Still...to have this happen in Stockholm, Sweden has shaken many of us.  Sweden is a peace seeking nation with an official stance of neutrality in the world's conflicts.  Still, some have been angered by some things here and thus the offensive action.
As we gathered on Sunday morning for our 3rd Sunday in Advent celebration, I suppose it was more appropriate than we could have ever have guessed that our theme for the day was redemption.  We were also lighting the candle of joy, a joy that is based not on what the world brings, but the everlasting joy that knowing Christ offers.  As I lit the candles of hope and peace from the first two Sundays, I was struck by how badly our world needs the gifts that Christ brings to us at Christmas.
In my pastoral prayer for the day I prayed for those involved in the violent act that ensued in the streets of our city the previous night.  For those injured or shaken to their core, we asked for healing.  But I also prayed for those perpetuating the violence, that in the midst of their anger and disappointment they would see that there are better ways to solve problems or address issues than to reign down terror on others.  This is a good word for us all...we need to find peaceful and reasonable ways to make our point and listen to others.  When we don't get our way, we need to be able to humbly accept what we cannot change and continue to seek to live our lives with courage and integrity, whilst not oppressing others.
Another highlight of our morning together was watching Doug share in the children's time about how his broken leg was a real bummer, but that in the midst of this unwanted thing, God was teaching him many things.  The kids were rapt in their attention as they listened to Doug talk about learning to have compassion for those who are hurting.
The day was a blessing for me.  It came to a close with our church choirs concert and the honoring of one of our Sunday School teachers who gives tirelessly to the ministry of our church.  What a joyful place to be on the 3rd of Advent.
May the hope, peace and joy of Christ penetrate the dark places of our world and bring you personal peace and rest.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Dazzling Beauty of a Stockholm Winter

We've had loads of snow this year, far more and earlier in the season than I ever remember in years past.  When it has finally quit snowing, the sun has decided to show its face for the few hours that it rises above the horizon at this time of year.  I have actually enjoyed the winter weather as the snow makes everything incredibly beautiful and the sunshine has helped guard against the darkness hemming me in. 
1.30 pm 
When Doug first broke his leg, I was rather dreading having to get the dog out all the time.  But truth be told, I've enjoyed building these outings into my schedule and have used the time to take in the beauty that surrounds me. I play Christmas music on my Ipod, I delight in Tanner's antics as he buries his head deep in the snow, flips over and makes his own brand of snow angel!  He's really such a great companion.
The light has been dazzling this year.  Every day I'm out, I see something different on the horizon.  The sharp angles of the sun cast an incredibly magical hue and while it doesn't last for long, I'm thankful that I've been out during the few hours it's happening. I continue to realize how important it is to drink in the sunshine.  My mood has been greatly helped by even the small glimpses of daylight we're getting.  During the times when rain and clouds dominate, when the sun doesn't bother to break through the landscape and it feels like daytime never came, it is really tough.  But this year, my walk through this Advent season has been enhanced by my beautiful walks in the woods with my dog.  
I feel the presence of God doing something special as I delight in his marvelous creation.  The small but brilliant light of the midday sun draws me nearer to light that is Christ that I'm seeking to walk towards each day.  We are about halfway through our Advent journey.  I hope yours is marked by the light that truly sustains.