Hygge, on Earth as in Heaven?

Hygge, fuzzy blanket, mug of tea, Bible open
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Here we are traveling and our home is a distant home in another world...
Though we meet with traveler's fare sometimes yet it should not be grievous to us....
Consider what your condition is, you are pilgrims and strangers, so do not think to satisfy yourselves here.  
—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

What’s Not To Love About Hygge?

I’ve been wrestling this week. I mean really grappling, straining to pin two ideas down right. HYGGE (or “hue-guh“) is on one side of the ring. It’s the Danish word for comfy coziness, and the feeling of contentment and well-being (Anna Altman, The New Yorker) that mightcome as you savor that Gevalia Gold Roast with your Bible and journal open on a sunny Saturday morning.

On the other side of the ring of my mind is SELF-DENIAL. As in, go out in the dark 2 degree cold this morning because you’ve offered to do the carpool after work and it’ll be too late to get out then. As in, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

 Hygge is my good friend’s word of the year and was the subject of my workplace inservice last week.

What’s not to love about it? Shouldn’t Christians be all about hygge?

Is Hygge Living “As An Enemy of the Cross”?

But this morning I read this.

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 

Paul, Philippians 3:18-19 (NIV)

Their God is their stomach? Their mind is set on earthly things? What? Is that hygge I hear?

Theologian D.A. Carson explains, “There’s no principle of self-denial. There’s no no sold-out principle to die daily for the sake of the gospel.”

Which isn’t to say hygge isn’t a lovely thing. Only to say that idols form when, in Tim Keller’s words, we turn a good thing into an ultimate thing. (These 4 questions can help identify our idols.)

Hygge may not be idol, but comfort, health or security might.

Hygge, on Earth as in Heaven?

Carson continues,

Far from being drawn to suffer for Christ’s sake, they are endlessly drawn to creature comforts. Their mind is on earthly things. It’s not as if they focus on immoral, wicked things. Rather all their values and cherished goals and wishes are tied to what belongs to this earth.

Christianity prepares people for heaven. It is not about getting it all now. Someone said, Christians are “later people.” The meek will inherit the earth. Those who mourn will be comforted. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. These blessings will come later.

So does being a “later” person mean we have to hold out till heaven to enjoy hygge?

No. But whether or not we see ourselves as pilgrims on a journey and travelers passing through has everything to do with how we handle hygge. It determines whether we give thanks or grumble. Because pilgrims don’t grumble.

Here’s what I mean.

At Home Or On The Road?

When we are at home, we demand our just-right sleep number bed and just-right fluffy enough pillows. The thermostat is set so high and no higher and the food is just right. At home we can have it our way. 


But when we’re on the road as overnight guests, we make do. We put up with a too-flat pillow or a rock-hard bed, grateful for a place to stay. We’ll endure the stiff neck and sore back because we’ll be in our own bed next week. 


It’s the same with travel food. We don’t expect hygge on the road. We eat what’s put out for us—mushy French toast or weak French roast, runny eggs or rubbery yolks. It’s not how we fix them at home, but that’s okay. We’ll eat and drink what’s set before us because we are travelers, on our way. 

At home, we will feast.

Hygge In Another Man’s House?

This metaphor is not new. Four hundred years ago Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote,

If a man travels, perhaps he does not meet with conveniences as he desires, yet this thought may moderate his spirit: I am a traveler and I must not be finding fault, I am in another man’s house, and it would be bad manners to find fault in someone else’s house, even though things are not as much to my liking as at home. So they are contented while away with the thought that it shall be different when they come home…Thus it should be with us in this world…here we are traveling, and our home is a distant home in another world.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Our earth is another man’s house, and there is Christ-like self-denial.

But There Is Also Honey-Almond Peach Tea

Hygge tonight is sitting with my smart-wooled feet up, a mug of hot, honey-almond peach tea between my knees, a short stack of books and journals beside me and a Dorothy Sayers mystery in my hands.

All the while a wood fire crackles in the stove as Wisconsin winds blow wild. Oh, and there’s some happy Irish folk behind me.

As hyggeligt as all that is here at “home,” I don’t think we will ever feel completely comfy and cozy in this life, if only because we know this life won’t last. The world is not our home. We are “pilgrims” (Hebrews 11:13), travelers en route to a better country. I know this is true.

And Pleasant Inns Along The Way

But I also know—I mean, “experience” know—that God is kind and good. He gives us countless pleasures in this life.  C. S. Lewis captured this idea.

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast…It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world…: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

The Problem of Pain

Hygge is a pleasant inn. Enjoy it.

Hygge is a pleasant inn. Enjoy it. Embrace your creatureliness, Joe Rigney wrote. Go embrace the fact that creation is a magic glass, the kind that allows you to see God more clearly the thicker it becomes. Embrace your body and your five senses and the wonders that they can perceive and receive in the world… 

Anchor yourself in a supreme and expanding love for God and go enjoy his gifts.

Share them. Create that place. Refresh some souls.

Enjoy God’s gifts and give him thanks.

Italian Hygge And Prison Fare

But you’re still wondering, who won that wrestling match—HYGGE or SELF-DENIAL?

Well, back to the Bible for that.

Paul wrote to the Philippians, that he knew how to deny himself and make do at the inn. But he also knew about hygge. He didn’t call it hygge. The Danes hadn’t coined it yet. Paul said, instead, that he knew, “how to abound.”

I think Paul enjoyed some Italian hygge, some fine wine and bruschetta.

I know Paul handled prison fare. He was in prison when he wrote his letter to the Philippians, about learning to be content in any and every circumstance.

Jesus knew both too. Foxes have holes and birds have nests, he said, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). He came to serve (Matthew 20:28) and to pour himself out (Philippians 2:7-8).

Still, I think Jesus relished Judean hygge. Picture him reclined at Matthew’s table and resting in Mary and Martha’s hospitality. He enjoyed good gifts enough that his enemies accused him of being a glutton and drunkard (Matthew 11:19).

On earth, Jesus knew the delights of his senses, even as he obeyed unto death. He knew hygge and self-denial. I think it’s safe to say his followers will too.

Back in the ring, that’s why hygge and self-denial tie.

Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:20

Love Comes Down, At 1 O’Clock Christmas Morning

Empty bed love comes down
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Mama. Oh mom, oh mom, oh mom, oh mom, my 13 year-old moaned.

My stomach hurts so much. Mama, please come. 

I wished he’d called for Papa instead. Because Mama was nestled, all snuggled in bed. The heat was turned low and she didn’t want to go.

After a week of late nights, I’d set this Christmas Eve to be my long winter’s sleep.

Mama, please come, he cried again. I rolled over. It was 1:04 a.m. I’d knelt beside his bed at 9 p.m., rubbed his head at 10, and given meds at 11. After which I finished wrapping the gifts—yes, I am that mom—arranged them under the tree, then settled myself in bed.

But I couldn’t ignore his pitiful cry.

So This Is Christmas

Coming, I called with a sigh. 

So this is Christmas. I thought as I lay in the dark, groping about for glasses and socks. I forced myself out of my snuggly, warm bed and stumbled shivering toward my son’s groans. 

Then it hit me—this is Christmas. Rolling out of a warm bed to help a sick child is closer to the “real meaning of Christmas” than cozy and comfy and Silent Night by candlelight.

Christmas is a lot like leaving a warm bed to love in the cold. 

The creed says, “For us and for our salvation he came down.” The King of the Universe condescended. Almighty God came down.

Love Came Down

Paul told the Philippians, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

I crawled out of my warm bed to care for a sick, pitiful child. The Son of left the glories of heaven and the warmth of his Father’s side to care for his sin-sick, pitiful children. For our sake, God the Son left heaven for sick, cold earth.

I love how C.S. Lewis explains that.

The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.

Mere Christianity

A Measure Of Love

Leaving aside our comfort for the sake of others is one measure of love. 

Jesus Christ came out of heaven’s bright glory and was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger, “because there was no place…in the inn.” My Bible footnote on Luke 2:7 says that he could have been born in a stable or cave, but since mangers were often outdoors, “it’s possible that Jesus was born in the open air.”

Open air or stable or cave—they all sound uncomfortable and cold. 

But that is how Love came down.

How Long Do I Wait? The Only Safe Rule

How long to wait person with clock

How long do you wait? Not, how long do you wait in the drive-thru or the phone queue before you opt out?

I mean, how long until you remind or text the “❓“ or ask again? Do you anguish over that?

Sometimes I do.

How Long Do I Wait?

Lots of times I jump the gun. Ask my husband. Too many times to count I remind him of what he knows and, in a little way, betray the trust. And ask my sister-in-laws about the cherry Butter-braids I bought and the Horny Toad dress I lent—times my reminders hurt, not helped, the cause.

Because patience is a thing for me. Because the initiator, performer me likes to move. But the Jesus follower me needs to wait.

Yesterday I struggled. I drafted a friendly reminder to a friend who promised to send some key details about a project. But I deleted the text. But since Saturday was prime time to get this ball rolling, a few hours later, I drafted a text again. And deleted it again.

I have not so great a struggle with my vices, great and numerous as they are, as I have with my impatience. My efforts are not absolutely useless; yet I have never been able to conquer this ferocious wild beast.

French reformer John Calvin said that. I’m with him. My family and honest friends would agree.

How many times have I reminded my husband only to find he remembered? How many times have I sent a “❓“ when my text to a friend goes unanswered only to find she was on it?

Wait Beyond Your Waiting Point

Too many. For every one time I wait beyond my natural “waiting point,” there are two times I don’t. Times my impatience betrayed my weakness. Because strong people can wait.

But how do we grow and gain strength? Physically and spiritually, it’s the same. We must push ourselves, stretch ourselves past the pain point. To maintain we can do what we do—I can run the same 4 miles every day and do the same 150 saddle-backed pushups every other day and I’ll maintain fitness and muscle.

But I won’t grow. In order to grow stronger or faster, I’ve got to run the mile faster, or go two miles longer, or straighten my arms and my back for those push-ups.

To grow in spiritual strength, we must leave our comfort zones too. In his divine power (see 2 Peter 1), we must push my “patience-muscles” to new limits. When I wait it’s because I remember the truth that in our struggle we grow strong.

That means for me to grow more patient, I’ve got to make myself wait—to send or say—to the point where I feel like I can’t wait a second longer. And then wait.

And the times I’m able to do that, it’s because I’m playing by this rule.

The Only Safe Rule

C.S. Lewis was dealing with giving not waiting when he offered this rule. But when I anguish over how long I should wait, I find in his answer my only safe rule. [Mine.]

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give [wait]. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give [wait] more than we can spare. […] If our giving [waiting] does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small.

Mere Christianity, 82.

That’s the rule. Spend more time waiting than I can comfortably spare. My rule of thumb for waiting is that if I don’t feel pinched, I haven’t waited long enough.

My rule of thumb for waiting is that if I don’t feel pinched, I haven’t waited long enough.

Love Waits

Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient too and think of all the times when others have to wait for you.

I won’t lie. I sing Herbert the Snail’s song more now than I did in third grade. I’m not sure if I’m less patient or only more aware of my impatience. But when I remember how often others wait for me, it helps me wait for others.

Because my impatience is not love. It’s preferring my pace to theirs, and my time as more precious than theirs. It’s not thinking of others as better than myself. It’s not love. Because, love is patient. Love waits.

My loving friend waits for me when I’m late for our coffee date. My loving husband waits for me with the car pointed out Sunday morning. And my longsuffering Lord waits for me to wait every single day.

I’m not what I will be and I’m not what I should be. But, thank God, I am more patient than I was. I am learning— to wait longer before I hit send, to wait longer before I ask again, to wait longer before I text the “❓“.

Remember that text I drafted and deleted, then drafted and deleted again? How I waited longer than “I could spare”?

Well, round about 6 o’clock last night, this came.

“Sorry, Abigail, that I didn’t get back to you earlier.”

God smiled.

And I was so glad I waited.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy…

Colossians 1:11

Time To Let Go: How I Stopped Buzzing At The Window

Van loaded with boxes and crates windows open

We shall be like the bee

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers.

From C.S. Lewis, Poems

Writing on the Wall

So is that what everyone thinks I should do? I should switch schools? That’s the best solution?

It was already the second week of school. The kids were in the buildings. I’d met parents and prepped my new room.

But as I looked at my boss and eight colleagues sitting around the table, I knew. Some bowed their heads. A few nodded, ever so slightly. Two looked me in the eye and grimaced in symathy.

After 20 years working at the same school building with trusted co-workers, some treasured friends and, I’ll admit, a precious window —recall, I stalk natural light— it was time to go.

Buzzing at the Window

I can make this work, I buzzed to myself. I can handle all the trouble if I can stay here with the people I know and the room with a window.

It’s humbling to say. But if you know me, you already know I do this: I buzz.

I see a way and stay the course and sometimes to a fault. I’m loyal and steady. It makes marriage and marathon training easier and helps keep book club and dinner group going strong for so long.

Keeping commitments matters. Faithfulness is a virtue. It’s a fruit of the Spirit and a good and godly way to be.

But could it be that sometimes I disguise my selfishness or stubbornness as faithfulness?

I might have done that with the little red dress that I would not give away. And I might have done it last week—and died on the window sill. I might have withered at the old job site. Buzzing at that window stole my sleep and made me sick.

Faithfulness is a good thing. But this was not about keeping a commitment. This was about selfish refusal to change.

Those honest faces around the table told me the truth, they instructed me in the way: Now was the time to go.

Ripping off the BAND-AID

Abigail, it’s the best way to do this. It’s ripping off the Band-Aid, my colleague Kay, said. Now you can heal.

Or, I shall be like the bee

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers.

With help from Kay and other kind colleagues, we loaded and tossed and packed and hauled and unloaded and tossed and unpacked 20 years of desk entrails and materials in two hours—flat. The picture above is my van all packed. It took Kay and Tracy’s trunks, too, to pack up those 20 years.

I got watery saying a few unavoidable good-byes. The propped door set off the school alarm and, alas, I had to explain. As I crammed the van, I lamented. I grieved lunch walks with Kathy (this kindness post started with Kathy) and camaraderie with Jess and Michelle.

I’m not too proud to admit it. I mourned the big new window with light and breeze and Jiminy cricket singing round the clock to me. The new building had no Kathy, Michelle or Jess and the new room no windows.

But, as God would have it, I went to work Wednesday morning and sat down beside the window. I left for home that afternoon from a windowless room. Just like that.

Moving twenty years in two hours is ripping off the BAND-AID. The day shook out the bee in me.

Shaking out the Bee

Abigail, you might want to transfer after this year. I think you might be happier and it will be easier that way. But it’s up to you.

That, I sheepishly add, came during a rare after-hours phone call from Kay last May. Kay is the most senior in our department and she knew. Kay saw the writing on the wall.

But I buzzed on through the summer and into school’s first week. I wearied my wings and bruised my head. Anxiety was like a load of bricks on my chest all night.

‘If we could speak to her,’ my doctor said,

‘And tell her, “Not that way! All, all in vain

You weary out wings and bruise your head,”

Might she not answer, buzzing at the pane,

“Let queens and mystics and religious bees

Talk of such inconceivables as glass;

the blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,

Look there – ahead, ahead – the flowers, the grass!

”We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows

What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)

And shake her out – and gaily out she goes

Where quivering flowers and thick in summer air,

To drink their hearts. But left to her own will

She would have died upon the window-sill.

– C.S. Lewis, Poems, 1964. p. 127

Until I heard my Doctor speak to me, in those looks around the table on Wednesday. He made the way plain. There was no more buzzing at the window pane.

I knew the move was right.

But left to my own

Freeing up You and Me

My JoyPrO’s don’t always have bows tied. But this one kind of does. My new workplace is a delight. One week in, there’s so much to enjoy that I seldom miss the light, the breeze, and life outside my window.

Are you a bee like me sometimes? Do you buzz hard at the window thinking through it only is the way to life’s laden flowers? Do you hunker down and “faithfully” stay the course when God’s good way is to turn?

If you do, you are not alone. But I’m here to tell you that God is good. He instructs us buzzing sinners in the way—us humble, buzzing sinners.

And if we don’t let go, our faithful LORD might lovingly shake us free.

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness…

Psalm 25:8-10a