Snow and Ice

I'm quickly learning about myself that I am most efficient when I have the most to do - strange, but I find that if I only have one project on my plate I often get easily distracted and take longer getting it done. This semester therefore was a challenge because all we have to do is a thesis, no class and no other assignments to complete. As a result, I'm starting to find some other projects to help work on which have provided a much needed boost to my productivity recently. One of those projects is a competition that our apartment has entered together to address sustainability within the paper recovery industry. It is hosted by Staples and International Paper and I am excited to apply much of what we've learned here to another real-world example.

As a break to the projects and thesis thinking, this afternoon a bunch of us from the program went cross country skiing at a groomed trail about 30 minutes outside of Karlskrona. Karlskrona has actually had more snow this year then the past 15 years so there was plenty of powder in the trails (something that we only dream about in skiing on at Roundtop back home).
Having only ever cross country skiied in my backyard on an ancient set of skiis, this was a big step up. We were at it for quite a few hours and had a blast trying to keep pace with the locals (which we quickly realized was not going to happen). The place had about 10 different trails all ranked with different difficulty levels much like alpine skiing back home.

It was also an excuse for me to finally use the camelback that I had brought with me for some reason. Excited to try it out, I strapped it onto my back and as I started off on the first trail, I bit down on the end expecting water to rush through the tube. Instead, I nearly cracked my teeth as it felt as if I were biting down onto rock. Turns out it's cold in Sweden, and water turns to ice fairly quicly. Lesson learned. The numerous falls that then proceeded also helped coat a layer of ice all over my jacket, which clearly identified me as anything but experienced when it comes to cross country skiing. Regardless, we had a great time and were glad to find ourselves outside of the city center for once.

With legs that are quite sore, I'm now ready to get back into the swing of thesis. We're working on finding more effective ways at communicating sustainability to the general public. We're actually pretty excited because we've found some neat theories that we're combining to address this issue, and our goal is to produce a tool or guidebook which media producers and consultants can use in their work. We've also just decided to attend a conference in Turkey this summer where we are planning on presenting our research and findings. So there's some interesting stuff ahead of us.

Oh, and the other exciting thing is that I walked out on the Baltic yesterday. In addition to freezing the water in my camelback, the Baltic has also froze and you can now walk out on it. We went out because we thought we saw other folks out there, but after getting out there we realized we were the only ones. For the most part it was solid ice, except for the tiny part in the beginning that started to slightly crack around our feet and left a foot imprint slightly filled with water. We quickly walked past that whole part and got to the more solid ice in the center. It was such a neat feeling and view to see downtown Karlskrona from the water - definitely one of the cooler experiences in Sweden so far. (and yes, there was snow angel making involved - perhaps my decision to just fall over backyards onto the ice/snow wasn't the best idea to make the angel - fortunately the ice held, ha)


I love watching the whirlwinds around me. Often, I find myself sitting with my back up against a wall and watching the world spin by in countless directions. Perhaps I do this as a reminder to myself - that my own personal whirlwind is not all that makes this planet spin.

This latest stage of life has been a true blessing and an adventure I would never have traded. I have criss-crossed the globe and throughout these years, have built and solidified friendships spanning from the foothills of Mt. Meru, to the towering waterfalls of Kakadu, to the snowy shores of Karlskrona. And amidst all of these, my bonds to those back home has never been stronger.

At times I question God's fairness, for my family and I have had life pretty good. We've had our ups and downs as any family does, but all-in-all, I don't have many complaints. I sometimes wonder how God chooses who is born to who. And as I continue to ask this question, the answer that I seem to be given over and over is that those things that I once thought were rewards, gifts and rights, are in fact, responsibilities. Education, wealth and freedoms are not given to me to help develop my own character and future, but rather, to serve those around me.

Over the past week, the world has been inundated with images and stories of those in Haiti who are facing struggles unimaginable to many of us watching and listening back home. We sit in our comfortable couches and beds watching images flash by us on the TV and computer and feel an overpowering sense of numbness. Sometimes I try to wipe that numbness away and think of other thoughts, but this time, with the situation in Haiti, the numbness doesn't seem to disappear.

This year I've been working on obtaining a master's degree in sustainability, and it's been fascinating to study the way the world ticks and in what ways we humans have an impact on this planet. That whole responsibility thing is starting to kick in. And sometimes it saddens me, sometimes it inspires me, but much of the time I am left realizing just how big the situation ahead of us is. And this doesn't intimidate me all that much, if anything it gets me more excited, but there are moments where the weight of what's happening seems to be resting entirely on my shoulders.

I think Haiti brought that weight to many of our shoulders.

And as devastating and heart-wrenching as the whole situation has been, it has also been incredible to see the support from around the world. And I've been re-inspired by how much humans do care. People seem to quickly see how their gifts, what could easily be viewed as their hard-earned rewards, are more importantly a responsibility.

A responsibility to love our neighbors.

This whole idea of loving our neighbors has also been challenging me a lot this year, and what it means if we truly want to follow Jesus' teachings. The more I read and re-read, the more I'm finding that Jesus didn't say many things from a comfortable couch watching the problems of the world pass him by through a screen. Jesus was dirty, he seemed to have a knack for getting in the middle of things and flipping the traditional views upside down.

Jesus' teachings are more messy and chaotic then the images I remember from my childhood. Perhaps that's why I find myself so often watching the whirlwinds spin around me - because that's where we tend to find Jesus most frequently.

So as I start to dive deeper into what Jesus calls us to be, I'm hoping to better understand his call to peace, to grace, to forgiveness, to humbleness. And hopefully, those terms that are too often abstract, become flesh in my life.

I have seen...

God only knows how many disasters will strike again,
Or the tears that fall around the world tonight, together in unison.
For we are one family, silently weeping for our brothers and sisters.

God only knows the last prayers of those left buried,
Or the inner agonies tearing apart at so many tonight.
For we are one family, with mixed, and at times, no feeling.

God only knows how tragedies strengthen and bond us,
Or the final picture that tonight, looks like merely broken pillars.
For we are one family, unsure what move to take next.

But I know that we are more than just an earthquake,
And the collective human spirit is not easily shattered.

What may shake the earth and bring buildings and humans to their knees,
Has no final weight over this family.

For I have seen an outpouring of love like no other,
And generous hearts giving freely and tirelessly.

I have seen differences cast aside,
And meetings placed on hold.

I have seen airspace restrictions removed,
And neighbors helping neighbors.

In support of one another,
I have seen the tired give up sleep,
And the hungry give up food -
All for the sake of another.

No longer are we seperated by geographical boundaries,
For we are bonded through a common yearning to see our family reunited and restored.

The tears will continue to fall,
And the questions will continue to be asked.
But the heart will only go stronger -
For it is through tragedy that our global heart is bonded between neighbors.

A Fighting Hope

There's been a bunch of thoughts on my mind recently. Between the constant news and personal decisions, it seems like I've been swimming pretty fast recently. But every now and then you slow down and get a chance to digest what's around you and where you're going.

A combination of things (from the sad situation in Haiti to a book called The Irresistible Revolution to watching the Passion) have created a whole collections of thoughts, and my hope is to better understand them and future thoughts over the next few months (both through this blog and personally). So, it may be a motley mixture of posts that turn up (which may not seem like they have any direction at all), but each little bit is helpful.

I can't answer why tragedies happen.
And I can't change the past like I hope to change the future.
But I do know this.

That there is hope that is fighting for us more than anything I've ever encountered.
It is constantly poking it's head into my life
Yet I am still at fault for frequently forgetting,

For at times I wish I could simply settle problems on my own,
According to my own time,
And my own ways.
For I am unable to consistently comprehend the patient way
The different way.

A way that works through the meek and the humble
The poor and powerless.
One which is dependent on neither money nor resources
Time nor strength.

And every now and then,
When that hope peaks into my life and I happen to take notice,
I stop and remember -

Remember the story of how that hope fought and died and won.
How that hope has changed me from the inside out,
A hope which continues to lead to tomorrow,
Regardless of how history has portrayed it or men have defended it.

Sometimes it's hard to look at today and envision tomorrow,
A today where the hope seems to be hidden in the rubble,
Buried directly beneath us,
Yet we can't do anything about it.

But that can't stop us, that can't stop me.
Because I believe that way and that hope are worth fighting for.
As much as they fought for us.

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