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Thich Nhat Hanh and me

“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” said Thich Nhat Hanh and I said ouch.


Understanding needs no language

Over the years I have done so much loving that I think I deserve champion status. I have loved cats (well, not so much) and dogs, kids, friends, neighbors, orphans, widows, aliens and some people whom have been considered unlovely by many. I have loved them to the best of my ability. Often, I admit, the love has been flawed. That little blond boy I had a crush on in second grade may not have appreciated my love so much. Neither have my teenage daughters when they, at times, have been approached by a relatively neurotic mother who wanted to know exactly where they had been, and with who.

The thing about my love is that it has often been offered with wrong intentions and with limited understanding. “Understanding is love’s other name,” continues Thich Nhat Hanh, and I think that this is where most of us miss the mark. We love the way we think love should be expressed, assuming that the receiver of our love sees things exactly how we do. Not only that, but we love based on what we think is right and good.Understanding is creative


Once my daughter loved a rabbit so much she hugged him to death. I think that may illustrate my point.

Years ago, getting to know refugees from Burma for the first time, I thought that the best way to love them was to give them all the stuff they didn’t have. I could give them clothes, food, old calendars with photos from Norway, medicines, and nail polish. Thinking I knew what they needed, my love was expressed from a sincere desire to be like Jesus. But over the years I have understood that I misunderstood Jesus, as well as the needs of the refugees. First off, I realized that what I think of as necessities are not always. Refugees don’t need coffee in the morning. I do. Also, I realized that handing them the stuff I thought they needed (and that they in fact did need) was not the best way to love them. Loving people more often means enabling them to provide for themselves.

If I may be so bold, I would like to add to Thich Nhat Hanh’s statement: If understanding is love’s other name, then listening is understanding’s other name. 

See,  I have come to understand that we cannot show true love to another person (nor people group or nation) without first understanding them. And there is no way we can understand them before we take a deep breath, stop thinking we know what the other person thinks and start listening.

So here is my challenge: Start loving with your ears. Become a detective that finds clues while observing the person or the group of people you want to love. You will be surprised to find that love is not always expressed the way you thought it ought to be expressed. It will take some self discipline and a wee bit of humility. But I have the faith that it can be done. It starts with me, and I am my biggest challenge. My heart is small, observes Thich Nhat Hanh. My compassion is limited. He recommends expanding my heart so I can love better.

His suggestions I find life-shattering. Because what he is proposing is that often I love because inside me there is an empty space that needs to be filled, and I try to fill it by loving others. It is only when that empty space is first filled that we can offer real love. When the focus of our love is them and not us, we can really start to understand. It is then that their suffering become our suffering, and their joy becomes ours.

And the question one must ask then, is: If it isn’t from loving others, where does our contentment and joy come from? Thich Nhat Hanh suggests practicing mindfulness which I think is a good place to start. My own personal opinion is that while practicing this mindfulness one will meet God who kindly whispers that his love is enough, and that the value he has given me does not depend on my deeds, but on the fact that I am a child of his.

So, this morning, I am thankful for the thoughts of Thich Nhat Hanh and for the chance to practice love to the people around me. I will seek to understand.

The article that inspired all this thoughts came from my, at the moment, favorite website: Brain pickings 






Running in the rain, wet, dark and windy world of unreached goals

Had I only looked THIS good, and had I only been accompanied by THIS guy.  Photo credit: Nike

Had I only looked THIS good, and had I only been accompanied by THIS guy.
Photo credit: Nike

My run tonight was wet, dark and extremely windy. I didn´t want to go, to be honest. The deal, however, is that I have a goal, and if I am going to reach my goal I must show up to my dates. My goal is a race I plan to run in December, and the only way I will be able to cross that finish line is by faithfully doing my duty in the weeks leading up to it. Unfortunately for me, most of my training will happen during the darkest, wettest, nastiest month of the year. Which is now. Not only that, but my routes all include uphills, and the one I ran tonight was the worst. It sucked.

At the same time as it sucked, it didn’t. This is the paradox of running in the dark, wet, windy and cold November nights. In a morbid kind of a way, it also feels good. It feels good that my legs move, that my face gets showered with playful raindrops, that my jacket keeps me dry against all odds, that there is a symphony playing all around and there is just me, the dark, the rain and the wind. Even the pain of conquering the hill was a good feeling. I was alive.

The analogy is too obvious, but I will share it anyway. I thought about my other goals while running. They are many. Some are grandiose, like changing the world. Others are more puny, like organising the messy drawer in the kitchen. But I was reminded that none of my goals will be accomplished unless I make an effort. I was also reminded that when one has a goal, there will be obstacles. One makes a choice every time one is faced with one. You can jump over the obstacle, or you can choose to turn and go home to the cozy and warm living room.

I read the most inspiring article today on Seems like van Gogh and I have a lot of similar thoughts. Just that van Gogh was able to express them so much better than me. In the book: Ever Yours: Essential Letters, he too writes about  goals and of success.

Van Gogh. What a man!

Van Gogh. What a man!

This is what he says to his brother, Theo:

For the great doesn´t happen through impulse alone, and it is a succession of little things brought together. 

Could it be said much better? No goal will be accomplished by good intentions, nor by excuses, such as bad weather. I don´t know everybody´s goals in life, nor do I know all the obstacles people face. But I DO know this: Impulse is not going to create great, unless there  are actions following. Van Gogh continues to tell his brother:

The great isn´t something accidental, it must be willed. 

Then van Gogh graciously continues:

Even if one loses here and there, and even if one sometimes feels a sort of decline, the point is nevertheless to revive and have courage, even though things don´t turn out as one first thought. 

I don´t know the goals people have. I am just barely able to state my own. But, like I am telling myself, I will tell others: Create goals, then reach the goals by stringing many little actions together. Do not let the rain, the wind or the dark stop you from taking step towards fulfilling your goals. If you get there, you can be assured it wasn´t by accident. It was willed, and you fought for it. What feeling could be better?

Way back then, the goal was 5K

Way back then, the goal was 5K

When my life is viewed from a mountain top

I was standing at a mountain top looking down at the world. From my point of view it all looked so small, like a toy-world.  Inside the houses people may have been arguing or making pancakes. Perhaps they were cleaning the fridge or reading a book. It was impossible to tell. And, quite frankly, from where I was standing, it didn’t matter at all. All I could sense was the calm of a world at peace. From my point of view the people in the houses became freakishly insignificant.


I was taking a peak at my own heart and it was going loopy with thoughts, worries, dreams, nightmares, poems, questions and ideas that I hope nobody else would ever see. There were deadlines I couldn’t possibly meet, bills I didn’t know how to pay, friends I didn’t know what to do with, laundry I didn’t want to deal with, books I wouldn’t ever write and emotions I didn’t know how to control.

I wondered how it was possible to be so noisy on the inside when what I was surrounded by was peace. It was a little bit like my shell was hard as desert tortoises’ shell, when it needed to be porous like sandstone.

You may think I am writing this in an attempt to be deep and poetic. That is actually not the case, because I have realized over the years that I am neither. I am writing it because I am trying to learn that in the big, big picture, my problems are really quite small. In the big, big picture, my problems don’t even show. The fruit flies in my kitchen that are driving my nutso-bananas? In the perspective I saw on the mountain they don’t matter at all. The lack of perfection in my life?  It is a nothing issue. The person who hurt me with remarks that actually stung? Can’t be seen from up on the mountain. The very important paper I need to write, but haven’t started yet? From the mountain top it is of no significance whatsoever.

It is liberating to be in a place where the perspective is different. It is really rather calming to understand that from a distance, big things become very small.


I think for that reason, we all need to climb some more mountains. We will then see that the things we thought were as important as air, and as big as giants, become small specks that hardly can be seen.

On the other hand…

Our small issues do matter, and they should be given some space. The broken heart? It may seem insignificant from a distance, but close-up, it hurts like a thousand bee-stings. The feeling of failure? It may only be a big deal for you, but it still makes you feel like shit. The worries about the future? It is a worry that can take on the personality of a hungry tiger, and eat you up right there.

See, our big and small problems and worries may be as small as flies poop in the big picture, but when you are the one experiencing it, they feel as big as Mt. Everest.

I think it is weird and confusing, and in the end, I feel like the one who can help me make sense of it, is the One who I believe created me. He cares about my big and small problems. At the same time, He wants me to remember that He is above it all and from his point of view, in the view of eternity, I can just take a chill pill.

His friend, and follower, the Psalmist says it better than I can:

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them

Psalm 8:3-4

How to create a storm that blows the crap away

There is a storm roaring outside my office window, branches are flying, leaves are dancing, the rain showers fall horizontally instead of vertically. The storm has been appropriately named: “Roar.” Incidentally, Roar is a boy’s name in Norway. 

From my office I have been watching branch falling and heard of roads closing today.

From my office I have been watching branch falling and heard of roads closing today.

Personally, I am not particularly fond of storms. It keeps me awake at night and I often feel like the house is going to collapse under the pressure of the strong wind. It makes it hard to be outside, and is often accompanied by a lot of rain. It blows things over, and debris fall on people’s heads.

As I am sitting here, barely daring to go outside, I am wondering what is causing a storm. The Internet reminds me of what I learned when I was in school: “Storms are caused when the movement of cold and warm air currents create extreme pressure difference.”

How fitting that it would be exactly like that! When warm air meets cold air, then there will be some extreme reaction. Like in my life. Like in the world in general.

There has been such an influx of evil recently. I hate it. Why bother reading the news? One will just be bombarded with images of more evil people doing more evil stuff to innocent beings. Crazy, mentally disturbed people shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun and walk into a school and shoot students who are taking notes. Crazy dictators shouldn’t be allowed to let their nation fall into ruins, and its children die from shrapnels. Ruthless businessmen shouldn’t be allowed to use their money and power to control the environment and the world’s resources. Corrupt politicians shouldn’t be allowed to stay in office when they are stealing the people’s wealth and getting away with it. Religious fundamentalists, whatever their religion, shouldn’t be allowed to kill, murder, injure and control decisions. They shouldn’t.

This is where the storm comes in. The movement of the cold air needs to be stopped. It is getting to freakishly cold here. (Climate change aside. I am talking allegorically here. That the planet is getting warmer, literally warmer, is beyond dispute. But are our hearts getting colder, perhaps?)

According to the weather pros, if enough warm air meets the cold air, then there will be extreme pressure and a storm will be the result. And a storm, scary as it may be, also has some good functions. It blows away all the crap.

I may be naive in my thinking, and I gladly admit it. But if enough of us start acting the opposite way of the world’s evildoers, won’t we also create a storm of sorts?

There are so many things we can do to create some warm air around us. Starting at home by replacing the toilet paper when it is out, is a feeble start. Moving on, we can try to be a bit more understanding of the people who don’t think like us. How about listening more than talking. And how about trying to understand what the person we are listening to is actually trying to say. (Not what his or her mouth is saying, but what his or her heart is trying to convey.) From there we can take a giant leap to how we spend our time and our money. Personally I am kind of into recycling and re-using at the moment. Also, I am on a time-thief quest. I am trying to figure out how a simpler lifestyle for me can make a better life for THEM. (And by THEM I mean the ones who have less just so I can have more.) 

Some children we visited a while back. What are their dreams, and can we make them happen?

Some children we visited a while back. What are their dreams, and can we make them happen?

Then we move on to decision-making and activism. One doesn’t have to be a banner-holding hippie with dreadlocks to be an activist (although those activists for sure have a place, a voice and great value as well.) I will not, and I repeat, will not, vote for politicians who don’t take the Bible’s mandate to care for the poor and oppressed seriously. Neither will I vote for the ones who care nothing for the climate. I will also use my money-spending power. Whenever possible, I will avoid spending money on businesses that stay in business  by breaking human rights.

Activism can take many forms

Activism can take many forms

Do you think that if many enough of us start working on creating warm air to meet the cold air on the planet, we can actually change things? We can’t afford to think not. We can’t afford to just sit by and do nothing. I am dead serious.

Now, where is the best place to buy fairtrade coffee and chocolate?

People are fleeing because I want too many shoes

Rohingya IDPs

Rohingya IDPs

My friend said this: The refugee crisis we have in the world at the moment is because we have too much stuff. For some seconds I thought he was not entirely in touch with the state of affairs we are in right now—here on planet Earth.

It seems to me we have a refugee crisis because rotten leaders are leading rottenly, and people fleeing just have rotten luck all the way. My cluttered attic has less to do with the current plight. Is my over-stuffed shoe-shelf the reason millions are fleeing warn-torn countries?

We live in an unjust world, my friend continued, and I thought he was getting closer to the core issue. But still I wasn’t sure about the issue of my stuff. My closet is bulging. This causes stress whenever I buy a new dress or shirt because I am out of hangers. But I never considered that it would cause families to pack a few belongings and head for an unknown future in an unknown land.

The uncomfortable truth is that my friend is right. I knew it all along, but didn’t want to admit it. Realizing one is part of the problem is never a good feeling. Realizing that solving the problem will require giving up some of what I think is rightfully mine stings. Fact: I have been teaching teenagers the exact same thing over the past week. I just didn’t want my theory to affect my own comfortable lifestyle.

Why do people get trafficked? I would ask the teens. Why do wars start? Why do people flee their homes, leaving all they know and love behind? The answer varied every time I asked. But sooner or later a bright youngster would raise his or her hand and ask: Is it because of poverty? Bingo! said I. Then somebody else would add: And oppression? Score! I replied.

When parents can’t feed their children, when governments don’t build schools in villages, when adults have no jobs to go to, when vaccines cost more than a family can pay, when doctor fees are higher than a monthly income, when privileges are not yours because of your race, skin color or religion, people feel desperate. When, in addition to an already impossible situation, soldiers come and attack, people  seem to do one of three things:

1. They continue to be desperate and hope the situation will change, trying their best to improve it. 2. They join a group that will use whatever means possible to bring what they perceive justice to be. This may not be justice the way we think of it. This may be “justice” in the form of revenge. 3. They flee.

Then there is the other question that is harder to answer: Why are people poor and oppressed? We could answer that they are poor because they come from poor countries. But that is not necessarily true. In Myanmar people are ranked among the world’s poorest. Yet, the country is bursting with natural resources. The reasons nations are poor are as many as beads on a pearl necklace. For many it started all those years ago when the countries were colonized and plundered. Kind of like getting polio as a child and never recovering. Not that I am an expert on the theme, but it seems to me that every country that once was a colony is still trying to learn how to walk. Think Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar and others. That the leaders who have led since have been as capable as sea slugs have made already big problems bigger.

One would think that western nations who once stole resources and distorted cultures would want to make things better now that we are wealthy and fine, and they are still stuck in the mud. What poor nations are given by the West, however, are unfair trade deals, aid dependency and climate change.

So I am getting myself into a tangle here, and while I am struggling to put my thoughts together, I see myself getting labels such as communist and worse. I am not. I am just trying to understand why the world it so unfair, and I am seeing that the answer is not black and white. There is no one correct answer to the question: Why do people flee their homes and their countries? There is no simple solution. All I know is this: It is so heart-wrenchingly unfair.

One can have many opinions on economics and the solution to poverty. I am not an economist, just an ordinary woman who knows about myself that I could do so much more. One of the things I could do is to stop spending my money on stuff that I don’t really need, just want. So in that respect my friend was absolutely right. If all of us just spent a little less on ourselves, and a little more on them, we would already be a on the way to solving the refugee crisis. If we also could convince our leaders that cheap gas, diamonds, teak furniture, new smart phones every two years and designer purses don’t matter that much to us, then they too may start changing their politics.

Jesus was ahead of us in his thinking, and I wish we would all be better at following his example and commands:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)












Can lives be saved on Facebook?

I am not sure why it has taken me so long to say something. It has been brewing for months. No, let’s say years. And now it is at the boiling point. Or, should we say it is boiling over. I am of course talking about the crazy, insane, terrible, heart wrenching, atrocious, to-cry-over refugee situation that is unfolding in front of our eyes in Europe.

The last couple of weeks the images of desperate people fleeing the horrors of war have haunted me. The photo of the weeping dad holding his children.

refugee crisis 3

Photo by Daniel Etter

The photo of families creeping under the barbed-wire fences built to keep them out. Children crying. The photo of the dad with a sleeping child on his shoulders, selling pens to provide for his family.

syrian dad

Unknown photographer

And today, the photos of little Aylan dead on a beach in Turkey.

refugee crisis 2


Later watching an interview with his dad, full of grief and guilt. He was not able to save his little family from drowning. Now his two sons and his wife are all gone. “All I want to do is to sit by their graves,” he said, lips quivering.

I have watched the news and read the papers, I have followed the trail of refugees online and I have marveled at our politicians and leaders who seem to be moving in molasses when decisions have to be made. Worse still are the politicians who consistently claim that our countries cannot and should not, under any circumstance, allow any of these desperate people to cross our borders. I watch, listen and wonder how they got in a position of power. Who were the people who elected them? Not my friends, I hope.

Little by little it is dawning on me: Why am I sitting here, watching the biggest refugee crisis the world has seen since WWII unfold in front of my eyes? Why am I waiting for our politicians to make up their minds about the value of human lives? Why do I think that I am personally exempt from getting involved? These people are me, they are my children, my husband, my friends and neighbors. Why should I not personally help them?

While discouraged about the lack of concern of the world leaders, and appalled by callous attitudes by some, I am also starting to see a movement across the world. I read today about a couple who sold their car and their vacation tickets to get money to help. I heard of a man seeing the photo of the dad selling pens for a living finding out who the man in the photo was, then raising thousands of dollars for him and his family. ( I hear of families giving away their clothes and other belongings, of others offering a place to stay. I hear of children doing bake sales, and of grandmothers raising funds.

There may be some big mouths with loud voices saying that we are over-burdened, and in no place to help desperate people. There may be people in power who are more concerned by the next election than by people coming to their shores. But am starting to see that there is also a new move, a wave of people who are willing to do more than talk. They are taking the issue in their own hands and they are doing the only right thing to do: Getting involved.

They are doing more than clicking Like on Facebook posts. They are doing something that involve sacrifice and work. They are refusing to let history to be made. They are making history. They are not the bystanders. They are the movers. May the number of people like these multiply many times!

As I am writing this I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr. who said “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”

Where is the easiest place to spot a fake Christian?

Today’s riddle: When can you see if a person is a real Christian or not?

My answer to my own, pretty lame riddle is this: When they are waiting in line to get food.

And why do I think so?

It’s because I have seen it with my own eyes.

See these girl/ladies? They handled the people with much more grace and friendliness than me. They were my heroes.

See these girl/ladies? They handled the people with much more grace and friendliness than me. They were my heroes.

Last week Partners was honored to get to serve two meals a day to the participants at a large Christian festival in the south of Norway. To the festival came well-known Christian leaders and preachers. Many of them carried labels stating their importance on their shirts. Many came to the festival to minister as either intercessors or as counselors. This I also noticed on their badges. Then there were the normal Christians who were there just to get some good spiritual fellowship and teaching. Not to mention worship and prayer. All of this is well. In the sanctuaries where the meetings were held people lifted their hands in worship. Words of the Lord were shared. Insightful teachings were delivered. Prayers were prayed.

Some people (not these) were real AHs. But our team was gracious and kind. Except me sometimes.

Some people (not these) were real AHs. But our team was gracious and kind. Except me sometimes.

But then there was time to get in the food line. The line was long, and the amount of food per person was calculated with pretty good accuracy. It was going to be enough for everyone if everyone ate just their share.

Something happens to Christians when they are hungry, and, even worse, when they think there may not be enough food for them. It appears all their Christian virtues were left in the sanctuary. Because while waiting in line, I saw more people pushing, cutting in line, taking more food for themselves than they were allowed, and using bad language to the servers if they didn’t get what they thought they were entitled to. They refused to move if they didn’t get more than we had given them. They rarely said thank you.

See me there? Compare my look to the look of Anne's. I look like I wanted to put poison in people's food. (I didn't want to do that, of course. I just looked that way.)

See me there? Compare my look to the look of Anne’s. I look like I wanted to put poison in people’s food. (I didn’t want to do that, of course. I just looked that way.)

You know the worst offenders? The big-shots. The ones who believed they had “the anointing.” The ones believing about themselves that since they were so spiritual, they deserved to cut ahead of others in line, and get seconds before the rest got firsts. I had a few intercessors forget about their calling too, and there were counselors in the lines that I would not recommend you get counseling from. If you know what I mean.

What was her problem? Anne was always smiling and happy. It could be why the young men asked for her phone number, not mine.

What was her problem? Anne was always smiling and happy. It could be why the young men asked for her phone number, not mine.

Then there were the ones who waited until everybody had eaten. By then, the best stuff was often gone. Left was pasta without sauce, or hamburgers with no hamburgers, just the buns and tomatoes. Some of them made loud complaints. Understandably. But there were also the precious few who smiled and thanked us for the dry pasta and said that this was all they needed.

I thought a lot about this during the week. The people waiting in the lines every day were mostly well-fed. Many of them too well-fed, I would have to say. I doubt that a single one of them had ever not had enough food to eat. None of them had ever really starved. So why were they so stressed, so selfish, so inconsiderate, and so greedy?

It dawned on me that what I saw in the food lines at the conference was a microcosm of our world. And now I talk about the Christian world. (I could talk about the world as a whole too, but this time I want to point fingers at Christians.)

How can we, in all sincerity, worship God and quote His word, and be all good Christians when in church, when among our own peers, when in places where it is easy to fake it, but then forget all about the teachings of Jesus when we are hungry? Why do we forget about what Jesus said about the first being the last (or was in vice versa?)

You know where I am going, don’t you? The thing about that there was enough food for everybody, if everybody just took their share. That is true. The problem is that you, I and millions of us, who call ourselves followers of Jesus even, don’t just take seconds before all have gotten to eat. We take thirds, fourths, fifths and sixth…we take a hundred portions before we allow somebody else to get a few dried macaronis.

I am trying to lose weight, for heaven’s sake! Today I ate too much—again. Portions too big, and too many.  I am saying to my family that we have got to get rid of some of all the clutter. We have stuff falling out the windows. Before the world’s starving children get to eat until they are full every day, I want a chance to have a  raw food, low carb, high protein, gluten free, grain free, Paleo, lactose free, vegan, vegetarian diet, with super foods such as quinoa, chia, goji, hemp, wheat grass, coconut oil and wild salmon. These are foods and diets that will make me stronger, prettier, live longer, have less wrinkles, run faster, do more push-ups and make my hair shiny. These are all such good things for me that I can’t afford not getting it, and, sorry to all the ones further back in the line. I hope there will be some Wonder bread and grape jelly left for you when it is your turn. I am sorry that you happened to be be born in the part of the world where you were born, and with the parents that you got, and the climate and the government you were given. I am really sorry, but not so sorry that I am willing to trade places with you. I need my green tea. 

I was so angry with some of the people in the food line that I at times just threw the food on their plate as a way to show my disgust with their selfishness. But when I got back in the evening, I was met with something scary: My own reflection in the mirror, and a message that I believe was from God himself: Dont judge others unless you want to be judged yourself. 

Explaining God and understanding falling in love

I could look at the sunset and marvel at the beauty, or I could just say: There is a chemical reaction in the sky that is causing this to happen.

I could look at the sunset and marvel at the beauty, or I could just say: There is a chemical reaction in the sky that is causing this to happen.

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious, said Albert Einstein. I agree with him. 

Its a little sad that we are able to explain everything, dissect everything, take everything apart until what you are left with is an atom, and even an atom has many parts that we can explain.

Some people try to explain falling in love.

falling in love

Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved when we fall in love; adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. The chemical dopamine triggers an intense rush of pleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine. But how sad is it to think that the person whose presence makes your heart beat faster, whose name you like to repeat to yourself over and over, and whose face you see when you close your eyes, is just causing a chemical reaction in your brain? The person you have fallen in love with doesn’t always pop into your head because he is great, no, he pops into your head because of the high levels of serotonin therein. The scientists are probably right, but the mystery of love has been removed, and, like Einstein, I say: If he can no longer feel amazement, he is as good as dead.

Others try to explain religious experiences. The other day Steve and I had a conversation where we tried to understand and explain God. Need I say that we failed?

The Bible is so full of contradictions, and strange stories. Many of the stories cannot be verified. Others can, and they don’t make you proud to be a follower of the God of Israel. The more we understand the world, and everything in it, the less important God seems to become. Thunder is no longer God getting angry, but a loud rumbling or crashing noise heard after a lightning flash due to the expansion of rapidly heated air. The more we analyze history, the less likely some of the stories in the Old Testament are. The better we understand math and baking, the less believable the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand is. If we try really hard, we can explain everything rationally and we will be left with: A cute story book called the Bible. A story book not much more relevant to our lives than One Thousand and One Night.

icecold beauty

I thought about this, and it made me feel small. Who am I, trying to explain and understand God? I can’t even understand how the internet works. Who are we, the world, who are trying to take control of the planet and rule it the way we think is right? The writing is on the wall: We suck at it. Who are we who think we can explain away all mystery and all wonders with formulas, numbers and scientific research? Perhaps we can explain falling in love as a chemical reaction. We can explain the feeling of oneness one can feel with that other person, and the closeness one can feel with a group of people we are totally comfortable with. We can explain the sense of awe when watching a sunset, and why we suddenly are filled with a sense of incredible joy. But, I say, lets keep it a mystery and be better people because of it. When we lose the sense of mystery, says Einstein, we are like a snuffed-out candle.

The Ugly Face of Suspicion

Tonight we invited a Ugandan inside for tea. I think my husband was won over when the smiling black man with teeth as white as snow told him that in Uganda Steve would be worth a lot of cows. That is the benefit of having many daughters in the African republic. Steve liked to think of himself as a rich cow-owner sitting by his straw hut by the African savannah. The Ugandan was selling books to raise money for his education. He is studying to become an electric engineer.

He was surprised by our friendliness. I was surprised that he was surprised. We only offered him some tea and bought a book. It wasn’t such a big deal was it? Apparently it was. He had experienced many more closed doors than open ones during his time in Norway. “I guess they are allowed to be suspicious of me,” he reasoned while he smiled and looked at us. “I am black.”

Some days ago a new report was released about the beggars in Norway. There are lots of beggars here from Eastern Europe. Most of them come from Romania. Our government has on more than one occasion tried to make begging illegal. They even suggested to make helping beggars illegal. One argument one often hears is that these beggars are not real beggars. They are owned by smugglers. They are dishonest and lazy. The report revealed what some of us had thought all along: None of the beggars were working for criminal gangs, smugglers or traffickers. They were simply poor people trying to make a living. They also told horrible stories of how they are being treated by the people passing them. Not with friendliness for sure.


In Burma (Myanmar, as I am trying to start calling it) people are marching in the streets demanding that the rest of the world stop telling them that they are responsible for the Rohingya people. They are asking, with the government’s help, that the whole people group be removed. All means are seemingly allowed. Murder, starvation, withholding of medical aid, drowning.

We are appalled by the stories we hear.

As I have been contemplating these stories today I have realized that we are all very similar. What the Burmese people are doing to the Rohingya is so terrible that words cannot describe it. But if we look at the root cause of all the violence and the hatred, I believe we find suspicion and fear. People act with hate and malice towards people when they don’t know who they are. They act with violence and injustice towards people they think are of less value than themselves. They act this way towards them because they don’t really know them, and they believe that these people cannot be trusted. This is why the Rohingya are hated and killed. But this is also why our new Ugandan friend is not welcome in many of the houses he goes to. Not only is he not invited inside, but he is asked to get lost. And the beggars on the street? Are they rejected, spat at and told to go back where they come from because people know them intimately? Not at all. The opposite is true. People DON’T know them, and therefore they are suspicious of them and assume the worst.

Suspicion is an attitude that has grown from insecurity and fear. There is the fear of something different, like a man with black skin and a strange accent, like a poor woman looking at you pleadingly, or a people group who follows a different religion, and has darker skin.

In my simple mind, the answer to the problem is easy. People need to get to know each other.


Dinner with our Thai friends. It’s the way to lose our suspicions.


The Norwegians need to invite people with different skin colors home for tea and a talk. People from Uganda have great stories to tell. We all need to stop looking at beggars as parasites, but as people just like us. Politicians should be required to have dinner with a beggar at least a few times a year. So should some other people I know. And in Myanmar (Burma) the population needs to be encouraged to get to know the Rohingya, and to have dinner with them. World peace, I believe, can be obtained by more people eating dinner together.




How far does your love reach?

It struck me that she was just like me

It hit me that she was just like me

It was the mother who kissed her baby girl I remember the most from my last trip to Sittwe, Myanmar, a few weeks ago. She held her baby up to her face and kissed her while she breathed deeply and smelled the lovely smell only one’s baby has. It hit me as I watched her that she was just like me. I always did the same when my kids were babies.

The woman I watched and observed was from the Rohingya people group. According to the UN, they are one of the world’s most persecuted people. The result of that persecution was right before my eyes: Hungry and sick people, primitive and crowded shacks without a scrap of privacy, children who have no access to an education, 140,000 people, displaced to an enclosed camp they are not allowed to leave. In their own country.

The Muslim people group, who counts around one million people, had their citizenship removed in 1982. “These people don’t belong in Myanmar,” says the government even today. “They don’t look like us, and they don’t have the same religion as us.” In spite of evidence proving the opposite, the public opinion in Myanmar is that the Rohingya is not an ethnic group, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The result of this demeaning treatment and the inhumane conditions they are forced to live in can now be seen on the Andaman ocean. Since this year begun an estimated  25,000 Rohingya have bought a ticket on a boat that is the promise to freedom. The problem is that no freedom, just more suffering, is in store for them.

Neither Thailand, nor Malaysia or Indonesia will allow the boats full of Rohingya refugees to come to land. Instead they use their own navy ships and pull them back out to sea. A death sentence.

My husband, Steve, together with a team from Partners and Fortify Rights, is out looking for these boats right now. They have water, food and medicines in their boat. They are also joined by lots of journalists from all the biggest news media in the world.

We can give them bottles of water. We can give them some bags of food. We can hand out fever-reducing medicines and pills to stop diarrhea. We can film and document. We can take pictures of crying mothers and begging men. We can show photos that the world can choose to see, or not to see. But we cannot save them! The only thing we have to offer is some relief from their pain, and we can buy them some time before they die on sea anyway. Unless a miracle happen.

The miracle would be if these people were allowed to return to their own villages and live the life they long for the most: A life without persecution and closed doors.

Recently I read a quote by a man named Jarle Haugland that has stuck with me ever since: How far do we have to be removed from our close relationships before other things become more important than other people’s lives?

Are these people’s lives as important as our own lives, or are they just too far away? Do the millions of refugees from Syria or Myanmar have the same value as our closest family? If the answer is YES, then why don’t we care more? If the answer is YES, then why do our elected leaders continue to trade with nations, like Myanmar, who treat people this way? If the answer is yes, then what do we answer a child who asks: Why don’t anybody want us? If we call ourselves Christians, how can we justify not loving our neighbor as ourselves.

There is a lot about this crisis on lots of news media. Start by checking out our Webpage. Then like our Facebook page. Thereafter you can read these articles.Do read Fortify’s latest publication as well.


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