Archives for posts with tag: Sweden

Roger Lipsey's new biography of Dag Hammarskjöld

Our nation is commemorating several historic and important anniversaries this year.  Especially mindful this week is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and a moral vision for our country set through the soaring words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It is well to observe another anniversary of international significance that occurred in  2013.  Sixty years ago, Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961), the Swedish economist and diplomat, stepped on the international stage when he became the second secretary-general of the United Nations.   Roger Lipsey has written the definitive biography of Hammarskjöld,  the diplomat, statesman, author, and one the world’s most recognized figures during the mid-century.

Lipsey’s book explores the personal and professional life of this very private man who held a  deep ethic of service to humanity–“a man of startling goodness.  His influence–or hope for his calming, reasonable influence–reached nearly into all corners of the earth.. ”

The author brings his readers closer to an understanding of Hammarskjöld’s spirituality and strength and integrity as he dealt with critical pressures and global issues in the Middle East, China, the Soviet Union, and the Congo.  Lipsey also draws our attention to Hammarskjöld’s encouragement of art and music as a way to lift people together to greater purpose.

“A great book about a great man who must not be forgotten in a time which more than ever needs to see the footprints of Dag Hammarskjöld–the combination of wholehearted engagement in the world and familiarity with the spiritual ‘journey inwards,'” writes K.G. Hammar about Lipsey’s book.  Hammarskjöld: A Life, was published this spring by the University of Michigan Press.

The book most closely identified with Hammarskjöld, his own spiritual diary Markings, was published in Sweden forty years ago this year.  That will be the next discussion.

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.

Remembrance lights, Stadtkirche, Wittenberg November 6, 2011

All Saints Day, one of the great holy days in Scandinavia, is observed in most  Lutheran churches in our country on the first Sunday in November–this year November 4th.  I love this holy day because of the deep connection it brings to all the people who have walked their journey ahead of mine, and for the journey that we share together.

In Norway and Sweden, the first day of November is a public holiday, one of dignity and reflection. Late in the afternoon, families visit the cemetery of their family graves, and on each grave they place a lit candle in a jar–one that will last 24 hours, perhaps a small spray of autumn flowers.  In the evening the families return to see the entire cemetery aglow with lights.  Just imagine the sacred scene.

My own tradition on this day is to visit the graves of my family at Norseland.  With the refrains of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ hymn For All the Saints ringing through my ears, I walk through the small rural cemeteries where members of my family rest from their labors–the oldest of them born in Norway in 1825.  And I visit the graves of the people whose lives still influence mine–my beloved parents and grandparents, Sunday School teachers, pastors, 4-H leaders, family friends and neighbors.  I bring nothing but my thanks.

“This is the time to give thanks and wave to one’s balcony people”, the preacher Carlyle Marney once said of All Saints Day.  Balcony people, he said, are those individuals who cheer us on and who have changed our lives. Our lives would be forever different without those people who helped us along the way.