“Growing in confidence daily”

This headline is for my daughter Rachel, who once had a good laugh after I uttered this line when I used it to explain the development of my watercolor painting skills. She probably thought this was just soooooo dad of me. I tackle everything with gusto and determination. Well, today I had another grand experience…

… I became a television star…

Well, not really but it was pretty interesting. I was asked by my friend Kevin if I would be willing to teach a Bible study on camera for national broadcast. At first the entire idea scared me since I have never done such a thing before. I kept thinking that we would be stopping over and over. In the back of my mind I could hear someone yelling, “CUT!” “RETAKE!” I could imagine the exasperation of working with me on such a project.

This is not some small deal. These are real television cameras. It’s a real studio. Real people are going to see it, so I almost said “No.” But then I remembered – I was just reading John Ortberg’s book, You Can’t Walk on Water Unless You Get Out of the Boat, and thought, “Okay, Tony, here’s a water walking moment if you ever had one.” At four o’clock today, I got out of the boat and had one heck of a time. There were no CUTS and no RETAKES. It seemed (according to Kevin the producer) to go like a charm with the oft asked question, “You mean you’ve never done this before?”

I did have fun and quite honestly I am growing in confidence daily – so much so I’m going to do another one on Friday. I don’t know very much about what I have just done, but as a complete amateur, I think it came off pretty good for a first try. I hope what I had to say makes it across Norway and into many homes.

Sunday Service at Oasen

While Peter is out walking in nature AGAIN – Pete loves nature – I took a nap (I love naps) and once awake decided to enter one more blog.

with my translator and friend Sara Anderson

I have no idea of how many blogs I have written in the past that have almost the same images in different locations. As similar as all of these blogs are, I suppose this is what it is all about. I am always on a platform preaching somewhere and often, thankfully, people make life altering decisions, though it has little to do with me or my messages. I know this is true because I ask them. I ask them in this way, “Was there something I said this morning that caused you to respond?” They almost always answer in the same way, “I don’t know what you said. I don’t think I was really paying much attention.” Well, that kind of comment can make a guy who spends hours praying, studying, thinking, writing, trying to find just the right way of saying a thing feel like he has wasted a colossal amount of his time. But, truthfully, this is often the way it turns out.

Many responded

I think my message was pretty interesting but who knows and especially when one has a translator – translation can always make it more “iffy.” I am not the easiest guy in the world to translate since I rely on a thousand idioms the translator has never heard before. Oh well, in spite of me, it all turned out well as it often does with many people responding and lives being changed along the way. When I return next spring or some other time, I will see the changes as I so often do.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”                                            JOHN 3:8

Confirmed, I do not like Edvard Munch or Klee

Friday afternoon…

In the remaining time available I briskly walked to the National Gallery and took in a show that featured the work of Munch and Klee. I always wanted to give Munch the benefit of the doubt, but I came away with a clear conviction that he is no artist of any measure. Included in the show was work by Paul Klee and I never really liked his work anymore than I do Mondrian or Picasso. I think the worth of all of these artists are grossly inflated. I do, however, like Tingley.

At any rate, once I came out of the feature salon I went upstairs where there are masterful works by Norwegian artists I have never heard of. You must see Johan Dahl and Christian Krohg. On the walls there also hung paintings by Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh, so though the gallery is small by Boston standards it turns out to be a rather deep collection and worth a visit if ever in the city. The main thing to remember is this: Norway has a stack of artists North Americans have never heard of that are first-rate.

          Oslo is a city of sculpture. Great pieces are on public display everywhere. Just this summer I was in Ottawa, Canada, my home city. Just below Parliament Hill, there on the corner, stood a sculpture in tribute to Terry Fox. I made comment to a friend that the figure was terribly disproportionate. The thighs, ankles and feet were far too large. It occurred to me that this kind of work does not honor Terry Fox at all since it is amateur. Surely, Canada must have an artist that can do this right, especially when thousands of dollars worth of taxpayers’ monies are ventured on trying to make the National Capitol a spectacular visit. I have walked the streets of Oslo and can tell you, there are hundreds of sculptures and not one of them unworthy of attention and praise. Ooooppps… there is one. In the middle of St. Olafs Plase stands one rather monstrous contemporary piece that fails to convince me of anything meritorious.

Your (ehr…God’s) money and sister Maria…

You may remember from an earlier blog that God sometimes prompts me to give your money away.

As I stood across the street from a gypsy I saw a rather common Norwegian stop by her, speak to her kindly, then kneel beside her, and the next thing, I saw him praying for her. It was a striking scene in the midst of Oslo’s affluence and bustle. He struck me tas a man of limited means so when he finished, I walked across the thoroughfare, came beside her, and asked politely, “Do you speak English?” She looked into my face and said, “Yes, I speak some English.” I asked her if the man I had just seen prayed for her. She said, “Yes, he many times stops only to pray with me.” To this I replied, “I am a Christian. Did he have any money to give you?” “No,” she answered, “he just prays.”  “What is your name?” I inquired. “My name is Maria.” “Well, Maria, I am the answer to his prayers. I have some money for you.” At this moment I handed her a fifty krone note ($8.37). She looked into my face and tears filled her eyes. I told her, “Maria, this is not for your husband. This is for you.” “Oh, thank you, thank you.”

I don’t know why I saw this scene. That’s not true. The Lord prompted me to see it. We miss so much that God wants to do because we simply don’t observe. I think it was C.S. Lewis who made the point that many people never “turn aside” (Exodus 3:3). They never see the burning bush, never detect the holy moment, never hear the voice of God but rather content themselves with picking blackberries.  I have been blessed by a keen sense of discernment and I believe it has made a difference in my ministry.

Sister Maria

As we spoke further, I learned that she was also a Christian. There are many Roma people who have understood the gospel and have received it. I believe she is one of those people. As I asked her questions about Jesus and salvation, she had all of her ducks lined up in a row. So, I was able to finish our conversation by saying, “Maria, you are not a gypsy. I am not an American. You are my sister in Christ,” to which tears filled her eyes once more. Meet your sister and mine, Maria – squatted on Grensen Street sidewalk in the center of Oslo.

In the end, effective ministry has little to do with the masses and more to do with the high-touch upon one life, here and there along the way.

Coffee with Roar

After breakfast, we packed our belongings and stored them for safekeeping while I walked Pete down to Oslo’s glamorous water front. Along the way I took a few pics of Pete standing in front of things so he would have proof that, at least for one fleeting day, he really did visit Oslo.

  

As far as we know, there is absolutely no significance to either of these pictures.

On the way back I took him by the King’s Palace, where a small crowd had gathered. Upon asking, I learned that momentarily the Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, was coming out of the palace doors to announce the winner(s) of the Noble Peace Prize. I thought it might make us seem more important than we are if we waited to get a glimpse and a picture of him. As though he was just waiting on our arrival, he appeared, I got the photo and listened for a brief moment to a statement too garbled for me to capture a word except for “Liberia” and “activist”.

After this historic interlude, Pete and I marched on over another six blocks to Roar’s office. Begun by Greg Livingstone, Roar is the director of Frontiers Norway, an organization which has as its mission statement, “With love and respect, inviting all Muslims to follow Jesus.”

So then, Roar has a heart for people of Arab descent and once he laid eyes on Pete, he took to him like a fish to water. As they talked and I listened (surprised?) Roar made the suggestion that he would show Pete around to places I have already visited and so an hour later we parted company until time to catch the bus.

Apparently, Pete had a grand time being chauffeured to many places we would have never reached by foot in a short time visiting the city. We met again at three, loaded our things and went to the bus for Svinvoll (Pigville).

Awesome Lebanese!!! Cafe Marhaba

Not our plates (they were already a mess) but typical

Okay, okay, I know what yer thinkun! Yer thinkun, “Some kinda missionary this Hedrick guy is. We give him money so he can eat his way through Europe.” Look! When I find something good, I tell folks about it, I don’t hide my light under the bed but put it on a candlestick so that it might light the whole house. I am a city set upon a hill. Actually, I have eat and drink, ye know not of.  If we are feasting on the riches of His grace we should tell people about it. See, there is a similarity between sharing Jesus and telling people about a fantastic place to eat.

Pete doesn't get out much

Since I am traveling with this Egyptian (Pete), I decided tonight would be special for him and I’d locate some good Mediterranean food and did I ever! The Marhaba was walkable so at around 5:30 we struck out for what turned out to be an incredible meal. Knowing that we would be in what amounts to a rural monastery for the coming week, we pulled out the stops.

The delighted chef

I ordered lamb chops which came with bulgur covered in a spicy rich sauce featuring tomato, sliced onion, tiny okra and chick peas. Next to this was a leafy mediterranean salad.

Pete and I decided to split, so he went with some kind of flavorful herbie beef (I have no idea what aromatic touch this happened to be), roasted potatoes, salad and tzatziki sauce. We divided and passed the food across the table, rolled up our sleeves and went to work. After a few sighs we leaned back in our chairs and slowed down to savour every bite. Let me define the experience this way… Have you ever seen a movie you never wanted to come to the end of?

I’m going to be completely honest, though our dinner was interrupted by a fire bell – the art school on the second floor did it again – this may have been one of my best meals EVER!!! If you visit Oslo I suggest you visit this cozy little spot only a few doors from the recent bombings. You’ll find Cafe Marhaba at Keysergi 1, 0165 Oslo. Reserve by calling 22 11 35 00.

On our way to Oslo

My traveling companion, Pete Boghdadi, and I left the Charlotte airport on Wednesday evening and flew overnight to London Gatwick and then caught a Norwegian Air flight that put us into Oslo Gardermoen by noon the following day. We quickly caught the Express train to the National Theatre and hoofed it the next three blocks to our hotel, a Best Western called “Bondeheimen.” Though our room turns out to be expensive real estate by American standards ($185.) for two singles, it is perfectly located and well-managed. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to be in the center of things. As the old adage goes, “You get what you pay for,” and that’s true.

I want the reader to know this. If coming to Oslo and should you choose to stay here, you will be met with the most extensive “included in the price – keep ya all day” breakfast you’ve ever had. I mean this! I am usually put off by what they call breakfast in most hotels and motels. I don’t like to build my own food in a microwave. When I was invited to go ahead into the restaurant and have breakfast, I was less than enthusiastic. I thought I’d just take a machine-made cappuccino but that would have been the worst mistake of the day (perhaps the week). I entered the restaurant to see a huge crowd all grabbing for stuff (lots of stuff!). Fresh breads, muffins, fruit, cereals, cream of wheat, yogurt, eggs (scrambled, soft and hard-boiled), potatoes, beans, bacon, ham, smoked salmon, sausages and more that I can’t remember at the moment. At Norwegian prices this turns out to be good value.