The Gift of Time in Norway

It’s the Fall in Norway and with gratitude in our hearts, we find ourselves strolling about in it, appreciating the chill on our cheeks and scarves about our necks. Another adventure to call our own stored in a treasure trove of many memories made throughout the earth.

We arrived two days ago now, mid-afternoon on Monday in Oslo, sleep deprived but very happy to see our dear friends. These friends are some of our closest and the time we spend together has become less frequent over the years as they find themselves living in different countries as missionaries do. We have over a week with these beautiful hearts and their loving and hospitable Norwegian family. We are so blessed by this gift of time with people we love so much.

The more countries we visit, the more difficult it is to decide which nation has the best hospitality. Norway is incredible. Perhaps its for guests only, but we have yet to see anything different than breakfast being a delicious assortment of cheeses, crackers, bread, jams, fruit and vegetables. You stack it all up and make little sandwiches. Lunch can often be the same if you don’t end up with a sweet treat from a bakery instead. We enjoyed all of the breakfast goodies plus salmon, pork, cured meats, salad and almond cake for an early dinner upon our mid-afternoon arrival in Englesviken, a small coastal village outside the city of Fredrikstad.

It feels like home here. After our first visit in February of 2011, we longed to get back to this compound of sorts where aunts and uncles, parents and siblings all live within walking distance of one another and the sea shore; residing in brightly painted, white-trimmed homes.  The fresh sea air, the wooden swings in the trees, the lamps and orchids in the windows, the cozy warmth of the house and the exciting challenge of speaking english in such a way that we can have a conversation brings joy to my heart.

After overcoming some jet-lag at our host’s home on Tuesday, we set out on an adventure on Wednesday with our friends to the Hvaler Islands weaving over bridges and stoney shores. It reminds us of Maine’s seashore; wood boats, smooth rocks and plenty of charm. The final destination was a bakery on Skjeroya Island where we partook in coffee, chocolate rolls and (my favorite) school bread. School bread is a sweet bread with a creme filling and a light frosting sprinkled with coconut. We then scaled the rocks over the village to take in the view. It was time to be tired again so we drove home and I resigned to a nap before dinner.

It is a certainty that we won’t ‘do’ much while we are here, as the time spent in Engleviken is simply about time spent together. How many people have opportunity or time to spend a week with their nearest and dearest going on walks and sharing life together? This is the gift that so few have opportunity to give nor receive. So while I write this blog we settle in from our beautiful walk along the coast and share a snack of Norwegian waffles (with cardamon – my favorite), smeared with strawberry (or raspberry) jam, a bit of sour cream and caramely brown cheese. Time is a meal, friends, good conversations, babies being held, jokes being told, knowledge gained, culture observed, life, love, freedom; time will always be my favorite gift.

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Curtain Call

I wonder if reconciliation can truly be reality.

Its a strange feeling when you’ve willingly brought down the curtain on someone in your life and after years, the curtain comes up and the show has continued. Old characters are on stage and new actors have been added. The show has not ceased and it seems that as you watch, you missed some of the best acts.

I guess that’s the strange thing that occurs when the curtain comes down on a best friend. Someone who knew me well. Its an odd mix of emotions when you look someone in the face with great joy that you’ve been reconciled in some form but that look, likewise brings sadness. For what once was relating on such a deep level has been reduced to a knowing smile and a big hug.

I am content with this reality as I’ve known since the curtain came down that it was best to leave the performance and find another play house. But I’ve always loved a good show and loved even more the development of characters. I suppose I just wish I knew how this particular character reached the final scene. Maybe someday he’ll recall this history to me and along the way I’ll know what reconciliation looks like for this friendship. Perhaps the show, in reality, has only just begun.

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Monday Morning Memo from the Wizard of Ads

How Not To Be BoredRoy H. Williams, otherwise known as the Wizard of Ads, is an amazingly talented marketing consultant who carries amazing depth of heart. He spoke about passion this morning in his Monday Morning Memo and I am simply going to publish it here for your reading enjoyment. I hope it punches some of you in the face.


The average person would rather be angry than bored. Anger is exciting. Likewise, love and hate are not opposites. The opposite of both is indifference.

I’m not suggesting that you be angry all the time. I’m suggesting only that you care enough to take action. No, that’s not it either. I’m suggesting that you take action even when you don’t care. Curiosity and action are the only cures for boredom.

“I’ve an idea. Why don’t we have a little game? Let’s pretend that we’re human beings and that we’re actually alive. Just for a while. What do you say?”
– Jimmy Porter in John Osborne’s 1956 play, Look Back in Anger

Boredom and indifference are deadly poisons. “Just go with the flow,” “Don’t make waves,” and “Whatever…” are the mantras of the walking dead. Don’t be dead. Be alive. Make a choice. Commit. Hold your ground. Stand, chin in the air, ready to endure the coming storm or be utterly blown away by it to a strange and different land.

Welcome to Oz, Dorothy. Where did you get those shoes?

I grow weary of people who speak endlessly about goal setting. It’s like listening to someone agonize over where to take their vacation. I feel like shouting, “Just pick a place and GO there! Choose! Go! There’s cool stuff to do EVERYWHERE.”

“I just can’t find my passion.”

Whiner, I’ve got news for you: Passion does not trigger commitment. Commitment triggers passion.

Feelings follow actions. So make a choice. Commit irrevocably. Take action. Passion will explode like a flame, giving you energy and lighting your way. Congratulations! You’re about to embark on an adventure called Life.

Knowing how to do a thing is not the same as actually doing it.

“Many times after one of my six-week classes is completed, a student, excited by what he or she has just learned, has said to me, ‘You should teach an advanced class!’ I am always flattered, but always a little surprised. Advanced? I know for a fact that they have not mastered the most basic principles, and yet they feel that they are ready to move on to the next level.” – Brian McDonald

Wizard Academy equips people who have chosen a purpose. We don’t help you find a purpose; you’ve got to aim that arrow on your own. And then you’ve got to act. You’ve got to release that arrow and ride it. We just help you hit the bullseye.

I like committed people. I avoid people who are not committed. They waste my time and frustrate me with sad stories and soft sighs as they sing the song of the weasel. You’ve heard the song. All its verses begin with the words “If only”:

“If only I had the money.”
“If only I had gone to college.”
“If only I had chosen differently.”

A committed person paints a picture of a possible future and then works to bring that picture to life. They see it before it happens. They believe it before it’s true. And they take action.

Weasels are dreamers. They see possibilities and sigh wistfully, “If only.”

Committed people are dreamers, too. But they see possibilities and take action. When that action doesn’t work they take another. And another. And another and another and another and…

Weasels believe success and failure to be permanent.

Committed people know both to be flickering moments, points on scoreboards that are constantly changing, tiny adventures called victories and defeats.

What are you trying to make happen? Do you have the courage to say it out loud?

Do you believe in the future you see in your mind?
“You must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” And you must take action, because the person who does not take action “is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (Both quotes are from the first chapter of James in the New Testament.)

Some of you are offended by what I have written today. But honestly, wasn’t it better than being bored?

Roy H. Williams

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Opiate for the Masses

The Opiate Mass“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. ” – Karl Marx

Music speaks to my soul; like a hand coming out of the instruments and grabbing hold of my heart. Materializing my hidden understanding of hopes, emotions, fears, dreams, faith, relationships. Music dives head first in to my ears and swirls around in my head with its crescendos, eliciting an indescribable internal elation; like joy, like drug.

In February of 2010, I was introduced to a music I hadn’t yet encountered. I’m still not sure how I could best describe it to you. More like experience than music, the band The Opiate Mass, has created a sound that I’ve yet to hear anywhere else. The music is made to be performed in cathedral and though I’ve heard other groups that have performed in such venues or have a hint of similarity, I feel there is something that comes out of these musicians and arrests the on-listeners hearts; enticing them on a 1.5 hour journey. Sitting in the dark, listening, wondering, reflecting, participating in the work of art delivered through instrument.

I’m a big fan, though I wouldn’t say that the type of music that they play is a genre I follow much. The musicians categorize their style as something enjoyed by fans of ambient, trip-hop, and post rock in the likes of a Moby or Sigur Ros. I’m more of a acoustic guitar, singer/songwriter fan, but The Opiate Mass has captivated me; permeating my mind with their variable harmonies, unexpected time signature changes, electronic nuances, cathedral organ and lyrical poetry that forces you to examine the recesses of your faith.

The Mass musicians leave their entire beings on the stage, vulnerably and excellently bending and weaving you through their spiritual odyssey.  I come to engage with this music, because The Opiate Mass bares their souls to the audience in hopes that we might bare our own in return; overcoming the fear of being overwhelmed by the questions of life and belief. Permitting our bodies to breath in the music and let it pierce the uncertain darkness and crush our self-preserving walls. Listening. Breathing. Listening again and feeling the pleasure of spirit and freedom. This is the opiate for the masses.

Take a little listen, give a little love.

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The Goodness of Friday

Why is this Friday before Easter so good?

Because He really did love us that much; He really did desire to be that close; and that bloody, mangled mess was the truth that has the power to set us all free. Its really that good and that beautiful. He died, so I could live and live in abundance. He died so He could hold me close and love me when I couldn’t love myself. He gave me the freedom that I so desperately desired. Without Friday, I can’t survive in this world and I can’t know God very well. Without Friday, I believe the lies. Without Friday there is no hope for me or for anyone else. Friday came so that grace could be realized and resurrection could be reality.

Thank You, Friend. Always Thank You.

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Following Your Heart: The Sacrifice of Calling

Our friend Scott Erickson has an incredible story and he and his wife are an inspiration to us. This video was very encouraging to my heart and I hope it is to yours as well.

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Culture Can Indeed Be Shocking

From the Peace Corp Wiki site

I’m not sure whom we were speaking with, but in response to a discussion regarding our ‘re-entry’ in to ‘normal’ civilization and going through ‘culture shock’, they asked how ‘culture shock’ would be defined. This showed my ignorance, considering that I was under the impression that everyone used this term quite frequently. Apparently not the case.

I thought I would give a series of definitions or rather examples from our own lives and maybe some of you could contribute you’re own (please!) I would love to hear your shares.

Culture shock is children playing with sticks, dirt and flattened plastic water bottles in one setting and in another watching expectant mothers receiving not one, but two ‘play mats’ for a baby shower; equipped with mirrors, foot pianos, and dangling assortment of stuffed figurines, plastic loops and textiles.

Culture shock is leaving a restaurant satisfied in one setting and in another leaving a restaurant with a doggy bag full of an entire second meal.

Culture shock is listening to birds and breeze blow while waiting for an airplane at an airport in one setting and in another listening to a high volume television featuring no names sharing their passionate and often angry opinions on an assortment of political topics, all while picking up your rental car.

Culture shock is feeling fearless in one setting and in another feeling like every excuse to be fearful is speaking loudly and constantly in your ear.

The best conclusion I have gained is that the shocking transition from one culture to another is for further growth and shaping of my heart, mind and character and for the gleaning of what is great both at home and away. My shape must be very strange at this point and I find it difficult to articulate at times, but I’m sure its all for my betterment; like the shock of heart resuscitation bringing forth gratitude for life.

Okay. Your turn to share your culture shock stories. Remember, culture isn’t just country to country…

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