Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Things that are different are not necessarily:
  • Better
  • Worse

But different is just different.  Here’s what I mean.
Different Pumbing.

Big time recycling.

Traveling with US citizens on occasion, the temptation is to continuously compare whatever we see with "the way it is back home," and then render some judgement.

This is not the way to see the world.  

But we do need to make judgements on some things.

And there are numerous opportunities for comparison.

But there is only ONE standard for what is good, and what is bad.  And that's the standard that counts!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Swedes seem to spend a lot more time outdoors than we do in the USA.  We see people out Alpine and Nordic skiing, skating, strolling, shopping, walking their dogs, running, etc.  It doesn’t seem to matter if it is daytime or dark.
The other evening we came through the park and someone had built a fire in the fire-pit using wood apparently supplied by the city.  It was a nice fire.

The walking bridge counts the number of cyclists who cross it by the day and by the year.  It recorded almost 120,000 cyclists in 2011!

Most cars have ski carriers, and when I run through neighborhoods, I see skis propped up next to the door.
Though this may be a bit presumptuous, being outside more seems like a healthier way to live.
After all, Adam and Eve were created to live in a GARDEN, right?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Lent on our Clothing

Lent, (not lint) is sadly missing (just not on this shirt)!

Last night Brenda and I attended a Lenten "Mass" at the EFS Kyrka here.  It marked Ash Wednesday, the first day of 40 days (Sundays don't count) leading to the greatest Christian Holiday... no NOT Christmas, but Easter!

Although it is not really a parallel, to me Lent is reminiscent of the Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur.  Lent is an ideal time to reflect on the sacrifice that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit made on our behalf in the Crucifixion of the Christ.  In another tie-in to Yom Kippur, Lent is usually "celebrated" by some sort of fast (which is why Fat Tuesday comes day before Ash Wednesday, if you didn't grown up around Mobile; ).  The idea of the fast is to help us in our spiritual self-discipline and remind us to focus on the Death-Burial-Resurrection of our Messiah.

In contrast toYom Kippur, which is prescribed in Leviticus, Lent is not mandated anywhere in Scripture.  Therefore, in our zeal NOT to go overboard (i.e. our zeal not to be too zealous), many of us IGNORE Lent.

Is that such a good idea?  Just because something is not prescribed, doesn't mean it is proscribed.

It seems in our zeal not to be too zealous, we give up opportunities to help each other grow in Christ.

I need all the help I can get to live more like Christ.  I'll take any help I can get.

Well, enough preaching for now, I don't want to be too zealous!

Friday, February 24, 2012


Here at 63 N latitude, it gets dark pretty early.  Official sunrise here is about 0800, and sunset is just  after 1635 (4:35 PM).  This makes for a shorter day than in Alabama, but it is not quite as big an adjustment as we had anticipated.

But we have brighter days ahead.  In just the two weeks that we have been here, we have gained almost an hour and a half of light.  By the end of March, we will have gained over 6 hours of light, and by the end of April, we will have gained over 9 hours of daylight!!!  This will give us over 16 hours of light each day!!!  Wow!
(Our house is the roof to the left and down from the red house, behind the trees.)
Light, Glorious light!

And, one day, we will have light day in and day out.  That’s right.  One day, we will be with The Christ who is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Snow II

Pros and cons of SNOW!!

  • Can’t cross street just anywhere.
  • Makes everything clean.  Buries some problems.
  • Good for sledding, skiing, snowboarding.
  • Barrier from cars when your walking/running on sidewalk

  • Can’t cross street just anywhere.
  • Can get slick.
  • Too much is bad for roofs, for streets.
  • Gotta shovel out your driveway and walkway.
  •  Eventually it melts- tough on running and driving!
  • Eventually the melted snow re-freezes- then it's slick as ...well no metaphor is adequate.
So, like everything else, snow has good and bad aspects.  But snow comes on G^d's terms, not ours.  We can enjoy it or complain, but here it comes, like life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Svenska Folket

The people of Sweden have proven warmer than I (Phil) anticipated.  We asked a man today if we could warm up by his fire.  He appeared to be in his late 40’s, and spoke excellent English.  He was in charge of the set-up crew for the Ice Opening Festival that I mentioned earlier.  He was notably cordial.

As I mentioned early on, I have brought with me the Southern USA rural tradition of speaking to everyone, strangers included.  Because we only know a couple dozen folkets in Sverige, statistically, most everybody is a stranger.

I give a cheery ”hej” to anyone who gives eye contact, or close.   Over half will respond.  A bit surprisingly to me, older Swedes are more likely to respond than younger ones.
When we have asked for help or advice, people seem very open and warm.  Here's Byrum from Albania who remembered what we ordered in his kebab restaurant the Saturday before.  He even offered us an extra helping of kebab.

So why is that surprising?  Prejudice, that’s why.  Based on a little fact, we conjecture.  Reminds me of a favorite Mark Twain quote about conjecture and science.

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the old Oolitic Silurian Period, must a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have their streets joined together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
— Mark Twain
Life on the Mississippi (1883, 2000), 173.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Taking Blessings for Granted

Being new, and not sure about running on snow, I decided to run on the treadmill.  Besides I was testing some special clothing, and needed to sweat a bit, and I figured it would be easier to sweat inside.


Bad idea alert!

I have some friends in the USA who run on treadmills regularly.  I see folks in the Aquatic Center Weight room at UA running on the mill.  Not for me!

On three occasions I ran 20 min at 12 km/hr (just under a 9 min pace).  During that time I:
  • ·         I guess I looked at my watch every two minutes. 
  • ·         I counted to 40 in Swedish. 
  • ·         I rehearsed the few Swedish phrases I know.
  • ·         I counted my steps in 30 seconds, messed up and did it again and again (46 leg cycles in 30 sec).
  • ·         I prayed.
  • ·         I tried to read the sign in front of the treadmill, and got about 4 words total.
  • ·         I tried to think of some ways to distract myself - to no avail.
So, being desperate I went for a run outside.
Wow, what a difference!! Now I:
·         Explored town north, south, and east of campus (we live to west).
·         Saw how people live here in the suburbs.
·         Saw school kids playing in the snow.
·         Saw a lady of about 80 riding her “spark” down the street.
·         Saw tons of snow shovels.
·         Saw some a couple of small forests of pines.
·         Finished a 40-min run looking at my watch maybe 4 times (once I get the route down, I can do this less).
·         Loved it!!


Sometimes we don’t appreciate the little things, like being outside.  
L^rd let me never take the out of doors for granted!

The end.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Blog posts and Prayer letters

So, far, as Dennis painter would say, writing this blog has been pretty easy.  I think that is because:
·         We’re in a new environment where everything is interesting.

  • ·         The posts are short
  • ·         Photos are handy
  • ·         You readers seem at least somewhat to enjoy what we are doing.

I like writing.  I start out with the germ of an idea, then I start writing and then I’m done.  Even most of my freelance pieces seem to go that way.
I don’t write well, I just write often.

Maybe that’s not too different from our practice of Christianity.  You don’t have to be skilled, you don’t have to know exactly what you are doing.

You just have to start, and do it every day.

So where's the part about prayer letters?  Sorry, I forgot to include that.  Maybe next time.

An Equine Biomechanist?

Today I met a DVM who is an expert in the physics of horses.  He was invited here to give a talk on the newest methods he and his colleagues had developed for detecting lameness in horses (I thought of Dr. Joy L.).

Sounds kind of lame, eh?

It turns out to be quite interesting.

He was very personable, which always makes everything more pleasant.  So, seeing an opening, I did what I usually do, I asked a TON of questions:

  • 1)      Does fatigue impact traumatic lameness in horses?
  • 2)      Are sensors on the head more sensitive at detection than those on the withers?
  • 3)      Can you pinpoint the site of the injury from the data?
  • 4)      And,  a bunch more.

In fact, I sorta felt like I got my own private seminar, and I am not that interested in horses.  What I am interested in is people, and physiology, and taking advantage of a few hours with one of the world’s foremost experts on HORSE biomechanics! 

Asking questions is an acquired skill. I have done my best to teach our kids to ask good questions.  My favorite example is the time in Corning, NY visiting the glass factory.  A guy gave a great 30-min canned presentation on glass blowing.  When it was over, everyone filed out…except us.  We began asking questions, and the guy talked for another 20-25 minutes, giving us our own personal seminar.

Jesus was particularly good at asking questions.  If I want to be more like him, then I have to learn to do the same…
  • ·         What do you think? 
  • ·         Why? 
  • ·         What tips do you have for learning to ask questions? 
  • ·         What distinguishes a good question?
  • ·         What do you do when…?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The most Secular country? Not!

I have heard on more than one occasion that Sverige is the most secular country of the world.  I am now unsure of where this concept arose.

This was our second Sunday (Sondag) to be in church here.  I mentioned last week about Swedish missionaries, and these were mentioned again in service this week.  Our service was very nice, about an hour and a half, just like Grace Church at home.  Afterwards, there was another fika, which definitely adds to the sense of fellowship.

Today the fellow who directed the service welcomed us by name, and we sang a song in English, “come now is the time to worship”, which we enjoyed very much.

Church buildings are FAR more common here than in Japan.  Here are some church buildings I pass going to and from work each day.  The first two are of "our" congregation's building.

On campus, there is only one student group, but they meet to pray each Monday and Thursday at noon.  That’s TWICE a week.

We are starting to make some church friends.  The commitment to Christ here seems high to us.
Sweden is the most secular nation?  You won’t hear me say that now!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Things to appreciate about Living in warm Climes

It takes us, like maybe 15 secs to get out the door in Alabama.  Here, it takes us about 5 minutes to get the vest, coat, scarf, hat, gloves, and boots on.   I am supposing that families with 2-3 little kids must start getting dress the DAY before they intend to go out the door.

Packing to get here took about twice the space for coats and boots.  I can go to Costa Rica for 10 days with:
  • ·         Some underwear
  • ·         3 pairs of shorts
  • ·         10 t-shirts
  • ·         Two pairs of shoes (one to throw away when I leave).

Here, Brenda and I paid another $140 total for 2 extra bags.  And I could use another stocking cap.  Fortunately, that’s about all we need.  

Another good thing, for the trip to heaven, G^d provides, and we don’t have to pack!