Archives for posts with tag: Lindsborg

Visitors to Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, note a marker in front of Presser Hall.  There is a dove–the symbol of peace, flying against a field of blue.  Carved into the rock is this message “For all that has been–Thanks! To all that shall be–Yes!”  The marker was the gift from a family who both gave thanks for both the past and said “Yes!” to the future at this wonderful, small Lutheran college on the Great Plains.  The marker was dedicated on March 21, 2005, by Jan Eliasson, the Sweden’s Ambassador to the United States who had just been elected President of the United Nations General Assembly.

The quote is from Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish diplomat who became Secretary General of the United Nations sixty years ago this year, and is found in his spiritual diary known to the English world as “Markings”.

Hammarskjöld quietly began to record his spiritual journey when he was twenty years old, just after serving as a steward at the 1925 conference on Life and Work, organized by Archbishop Nathan Söderblom, and attended by Protestant and Orthodox communions. He wrote his last entry shortly before his peace-keeping mission to the Congo where he was killed in a mysterious plane crash September 18, 1961.  The diary was found in his New York apartment–not even his closest friends knew that it existed.  A note in the diary was addressed to the Swedish Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Leif Belfrage.  Hammarskjöld wrote “Dear Leif, Perhaps you may remember I once told you that, in spite of everything, I kept a diary which I wanted you to take charge of someday.  Here it is. ….If you find them worth publishing, you have my permission to do so–as a sort of white book concerning my negotiations with myself–and with God.”

Fifty years ago the Swedish publishing house, Albert Bonniers Förlag, introduced Hammarskjöld’s journal to the Swedish speaking world with the title Vägmärken.  A year later,  Alfred Knopf published the English translation under the title Markings. I purchased my copy in 1971 after a tour of the United Nations, and I’ve kept the book close ever since.  These passages have meant much to me over the years:

Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step: only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road.

Give me a pure heart–that I may see Thee,,

A humble heart–that I may hear Thee,

A heart of love–that I may serve Thee,

A heart of faith–that I may abide in Thee.

For all that has been–Thanks!

For all that shall be–Yes!

Composer Eskil Hemberg has set many of Hammarskjöld’s texts to music.


Here we are, January 9th already.  There are hints that the days getting longer and so we are assured that spring is coming.  But it is still Christmas….if one observes 20 days of Christmas.  While the commercial world long ago swept up all the remnants and ushered in a new season of buying, there are those of us who are sitting by the Christmas tree in the evening reading the books we received as gifts, admiring the ornaments collected throughout our lifetime, lighting candles, listening to the music of Christmas and Epiphany–and hearing more of its beauty.  

Twenty days of Christmas has been celebrated in Sweden since 1680–King Knut’s Day or Tjugondedag Knut.  And the idea of Tjugondedag Knut was brought with immigrants to America, too.  Older people in my home church–Scandian Grove Lutheran Church–founded in 1858, used to say “Tjugondedag Knut er Julen ut.”Image  Roughly translated, it means something like “Twentieth Day Knut and Christmas is out.”  In Lindsborg, Kansas–founded in 1869 and the most Swedish community in America–they will celebrate King Knut’s Day with a potluck dinner at Bethany Lutheran Church.  People will have put their Christmas trees on the street corner and volunteers with pickup trucks will haul the trees for recycling.  At the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis there will be a party for children and they will take the decorations off the trees as Christmas ends.

And so Merry Christmas, God Jul, Glaedelig Jul.  Enjoy these four more days of Christmas!

Here we are in the second week of Advent 2012.  We’re enjoying a beautiful 12 new inches of snow–perfect at this time of year.  Amid all the wonderful things to do this week are the moments to reflect, remember, and  celebrate.

Today, December 11, is the birthday of Alma Christina Lind.  She was born on this date in 1859 in Broddarp, Sweden (there may have been at least twelve inches of snow that day) to Johan and Fredrika Lind, an old soldier and his wife.  Alma was their first daughter and second child.  The days of Advent were a busy time for Scandinavian women in 1859, in a much different way than our lives today.  Women were in charge of butchering, brewing, candle making, baking, and intensive cleaning in preparation for the days of Christmas. Fredrika, as she recovered from the birth of her new baby, hopefully took time to rest a little, and ponder a new baby at Christmas.  There in her arms, the promise of a future yet unseen.

Within four years, Fredrika and Johan would leave Sweden for America– first to Andover and then to Moline, Illinois.  When Alma married Pastor Carl Aaron Swensson in 1880, she moved to Lindsborg, Kansas where her life and gift of music would influence generation upon generation.  In their old age, Fredrika and Johan would move to Lindsborg, too, and were witnesses to the great things their daughter accomplished.

ImageThe unadorned or softened faces I see carry their own congenital experiences of mother and grandmother, pioneer wives and mothers. Women who walked down the trail west with their men behind wagons and team that carried all that was left of home, knitting together East and West to shape farm and range with their step, to create homes, raise children, bury their dead.  They were creating America and Americans.  Their faces already were sculpted from granite.  Their should have been the faces on Mount Rushmore.  …..Betsey Brodahl (1923-2012)

Alma Christina Lind Swensson stepped into the landscape of Lindsborg, Kansas in the autumn of 1880–just about this time of the year.  She was twenty years old, musically gifted, and newly married to Carl Aaron Swensson, the pastor of Lindsborg’s Bethany Lutheran Church.  Like countless thousands of women of her time, she followed her husband west. Like a patient potter, would shape this frontier village and farming community into a culture that would sustain its people through times of difficulty and times of great joy.

To learn about the life of Alma Swensson, read my book, Grace Faith, and the Power of Singing:  The Alma Christina Lind Swensson Story.