Archive | February 2013

The Three Big Questions in Life

Abbey-MarianWhat a walk! Sunday afternoon was a time for spring fever. Bright blue sky. Snow-covered fields. Temperatures in the upper 30’s. And no wind. Mim, Abbey, and I walked down country roads for well over an hour. The highlight of a weekend of highlights! After that refreshing walk, Abbey and I were ready for the conversation we meant to have for last week’s blog post.

“You’re right, Abbey. We need to take more of these long walks. They are so refreshing. We need to do everything we can to avoid being too busy,” I said to Abbey as we sat down in the living room.

She responded to me, “Now that I’m 70 years old – 10 in human years – maybe you’ll give me credit for having some wisdom. I know how important leisurely walks are for all of us.”

“You’re right, Abbey,” I conceded. “Even though this was an awfully busy weekend, I’m glad we found time for this walk.”

The birthday girls - Anna turns 92 and Abbey turns 70

The birthday girls –
Anna turns 92 and Abbey turns 70

Abbey smiled and said, “Saturday was the really busy day. I never knew anyone else had my birthday. I’m glad we celebrated Anna’s birthday. Turning 92 is quite an accomplishment. My turning 70 is nothing in comparison to that. I’m glad such a nice woman lives with us. It was fun to help Anna open her presents. She appreciated every gift she received, but I think what she liked most was having her family visit – all three generations of her offspring were reperesented. Oh, and getting lots of phone calls from other family and friends, too.”

I replied, “It was fun to see Anna and her family having such a good time together. Birthdays are so important because they bring friends and families together to specifically honor the birthday person. With birthday celebrations, everyone is reminded of how much their friends and family love them.  By the way, Abbey, there’s another person who’s special in my life and who shares February 23 as her birthday together with Anna and you.  My mom would have been 105 on Saturday. Actually, that’s why we set your birthday for that date. We think you were born in February, but we don’t know for sure. All we know is that you were about 3 years old when we adopted you. My mom loved dogs, and she would have loved to share her birthday with you.”

“That’s nice. I wish I had known her.” Abbey hesitated, then added, “I wish I knew more about my past. I’m glad you adopted me, but I wish I knew more about where I came from.”

“Interesting to hear you say that, Abbey.  Mim is reading the book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays. She just told me she read that the three big questions in life are Where did I come from? Where am I going? and Why am I here?”

“Well, I guess I’ll never know the answer to the first question.”

“That’s probably true, but you’re not alone with that, Abbey. Last week I read the book, Andrew, You Died Too Soon, by Corinne Chilstrom. Andrew, who had been adopted as an infant, committed suicide at age 18. His mother wrote this book. She said that trying to learn where he had come from was the biggest issue that plagued Andrew throughout his short life. Knowing our family roots is extremely important to understanding who we are and what we will become. Abbey, I’m sorry that you will never know your roots. At least you get to play with some of your distant cousins on the golden retriever side of your family. That must give you some clues about your family history.”

Abbey's cousins out for a ride.

Abbey’s cousins out for a ride.

“Yeah, playing with Holly and Sadie and Piper helps.” Abbey paused, then said, “Let’s talk some more about the three big questions in life. I don’t know about the second question – where I’m going – but I think I know the answer to the third question – why I’m here. I’m here to love. I love you, and Mim, and every one of the grandmas who have lived with us. A long time ago I figured out that my life mission is to love everyone. Remember, I even wrote it down as my personal mission statement.”

“That’s right, Abbey, and you do a very good job of loving everyone, especially all the grandmas who come to live with us. You definitely figured out why you are here on this earth! Now, about the middle question – where I’m going. Pastor Jeff hinted at it in his sermon Sunday. He said that we’re “citizens of heaven.”

Family portrait in our own little heaven - in front of the pond in our back yard.

Family portrait in our own little heaven – in front of the pond in our back yard.

“Do you think that means we’ll ultimately end up in heaven?”

“I think that’s what Pastor Jeff was suggesting. It’s what the Bible says. In The Message paraphrase it says, There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And If I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. (John 14:2-3)”

“Wow. That’s something to think about.” Abbey sighed.  “I’m going to ponder that for a while.Thanks for taking the time for this conversation. This has been quite a weekend – a birthday party, a long walk, and time to talk about the three biggest questions in life.”

“Thank you, Abbey. When I seem too busy to take time for things like this, keep on pestering me till I remember.”

 

A Time to Change Plans

Yesterday afternoon I wrote a blurb for the back cover of my new book on hospitality, COME, LORD JESUS, BE OUR GUEST. I plan to submit my edited manuscript along with cover suggestions to my publisher, Inspiring Voices (a division of GUIDEPOSTS) this afternoon. I’m pretty excited. This is the book I’ve been working on for more than three years. Here’s what I drafted for the back cover:

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.” And he came – as a homeless man, a stranger, a friend.

Marian Korth and her partner Mim Jacobson have served breakfast to thousands of overnight guests in their home, but they didn’t bother to offer a cup of coffee to a homeless man huddling on their doorstep one cold winter morning. Why didn’t they welcome this “Jesus” into their home?

Marian still has more to learn about hospitality, although she’s had more than 60 years of adventures in hospitality already. She can tell stories about being hospitable (or not) from:

    • Growing up on a farm
    • Living in Chicago
    • Turning their home into a bed and breakfast
    • Caring for people in their home as they are dying
    • Running their home as a spiritual retreat center

Kindness is the common thread that runs through all these adventures in hospitality. The first verse Marian memorized as a child was Ephesians 4:32, “Be ye kind, one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (She memorized it and still thinks about it in the King James Version.)

In these stories, Marian reflects on what God is telling her about living a life of hospitality. She thinks it’s pretty exciting to know that God has told us, “Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!” (Hebrews 13:2 The Message)

I’ll let you know when the book is available. I expect to hold it in my hands by summer, maybe earlier.

My first book, LISTENING FOR GOD: 52 REFLECTIONS ON EVERYDAY LIFE, is already available. The back cover blurb for that book begins,

Discover how God talks to us through everyday happenings.

    • One day, God tells us to hold our to-do lists lightly. There are more important things for today.
    • Another day, God’s message is to think a little harder about how we spend our money.
    • Some days, God just says to relax and enjoy the beauty of the earth…

The first bullet point on this cover certainly fits today’s to-do list for me. I had planned to write about a conversation I had with my dog, Abbey, for this morning’s blog post. I was going to talk about sometimes being too busy to take long walks, and the wisdom (or lack thereof) in that. Instead I spent time talking with my nephew about why people commit suicide. A friend of his killed himself yesterday.

On Mim’s recommendation, I’ve ordered a couple copies of the book, ANDREW, YOU DIED TOO SOON, by Corinne Chilstrom – one for my nephew and one for me. Mim says it’s an excellent book on suicide. Chilstrom is a Lutheran pastor and nurse whose son committed suicide.

Today’s revised to-do list makes time for listening. Maybe next week, I’ll have time to share the conversation between Abbey and me about being too busy… I might even offer my own paraphrase of Hebrews 13:2 – “Be ready with a meal or a bed or a listening ear when it’s needed…”

Abbey-Marian

Note:  If you want more information about either of my books, check out my author website, www.MarianKorth.com.

Attitude

In today’s reading of “The Monastic Way” Joan Chittister, OSB, said, “The attitude we bring to every day will determine the character and quality of that day.”

For me, that’s a timely statement to read on a Monday morning. That’s when I look ahead to everything on my calendar for the week and everything on my to-do list, as I try to plan my week. That’s a task that really needs to be done with a positive attitude.

starry skyChittister continued today’s reading by quoting Oscar Wilde, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

As I look at my calendar for the week I see three significant days coming up – Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and a “play day.” Regardless of what’s on my to-do list, this should be a very special week. I can see “the stars.”

Last year before Ash Wednesday I took a dozen hymnals down from the shelf and played through all the Lent sections to remind myself of the wonderful church music that has been written for the Season of Lent. I created a songbook consisting of 83 of my favorites from among these hymns and gospel songs and named it, “Songs about the Love of God.” I’m going to add the following item to my to-do list for this week – play through “Songs about the Love of God.” I expect I’ll keep that item on my to-do list for the next six weeks – not because I won’t get it done, but because I’ll want to keep doing it.

Valentines DayValentine’s Day was one of my favorite holidays when I was in grade school. Every year we decorated a great big box and set it on a table in the front of the classroom. On Valentine’s Day, everyone brought valentines for all their classmates and dropped them into the box. In the afternoon we had a Valentine’s party with cake, cookies, and candy. A few students were selected to distribute the cards from the box. We all opened our cards, and then I realized that every single classmate really liked me enough to give me a card. I guess everyone in the class realized that. It probably helped that our teacher had sent a list of classmate names home with us the week before. I remember going through that list and selecting just which valentine I wanted to give to each kid.

Valentine Candy BoxIn addition to the party in school, another thing that made Valentine’s Day extra special was that my brother and I pooled our money to buy our mom a beautiful, heart-shaped box of chocolates – which, of course, she shared with us. I have lots of happy memories of Valentine’s Day.

“Play Day” is something new that Mim and I have started doing a few times a year, when it looks like we both may be having a completely open day on our calendars. Since we started doing assisted living in our home over ten years ago, we are responsible for care giving 24/7. To give ourselves a break, we occasionally schedule at least a six-hour stretch that someone else will be caring for our residents so that we can “play.” That may be going out for lunch, seeing a movie, or shopping for fun (not just for groceries). From 9:00 to 3:00 this Friday is our planned “play day.”

This should be quite a week! In many ways, a mid-winter gift from God.

One more thought to share. Yesterday I read the book, “Great Quotes from Great Women” (compiled by Peggy Anderson, published by Simple Truths, LLC, ©2010). One quote stayed in my mind, and it relates to both attitude and God’s love, apparently the themes on my mind this week. Mother Teresa said,

I am a pencil in the hand of a writing God 

who is sending a love letter to the world.

That quote is packed with meaning. It provides an image that I am going to try hard to remember for Ash Wednesday and for Valentine’s Day, and for many other days, especially days when I need to see the big picture of life, and to think about how I fit into it.

Pencil

Remembering the past and getting excited about the present

Saturday evening Mim and I went to a fancy Italian restaurant for dinner. We celebrated forty years of living together.

Part of our Bible Study Group. Yes, that's really Mim on the left and me on the right. In the 70s everyone had long hair and weighed less. We wore dresses, too.

Part of our Bible Study Group.
Yes, that’s really Mim on the left and me on the right. In the 70s everyone had long hair and weighed less. We wore dresses, too.

As many of you know, Mim and I met forty years ago at a church Bible Study. I had just been offered a job in Chicago and was staying with a friend for a few days to look for an apartment. I tagged along with my friend to a small group Bible study. My friend introduced me to Mim, and Mim said I could stay with her until I found an apartment of my own.

Our first dinner together happened the next night. We went to the Buffalo Ice Cream Parlor for cheeseburgers and hot fudge sundaes to talk about the ground rules for living together. Fortunately, there was no limitation on the length of time I could live with her.

I’m not sure which dinner was better – the fancy Italian food with lots of reminiscing last Saturday night or the cheeseburgers and ice cream with all the excitement of planning my move to Chicago forty years ago. Both evenings were highlights in our lives.

Over the last several months, I’ve been remembering lots of highlights and stories as I’ve been writing my book on hospitality. I can hardly wait to get it published! That’s coming this summer.

But meanwhile, my other book has been published! I received my first copy in the mail last week. Listening for God: 52 Reflections on Everyday Life is now available online.

Remember the blog post I wrote last year about the value of things – like the $2,000 I paid for a new tooth (a dental implant)? And the story I told about life stages, now that I’m in the stage of riding a tricycle again? Remember the squirrel that threw hickory nuts at Abbey and Mim and me when we were out for a walk? Remember why he did it? And there was Gary Gopher who taught me that God forgives our mistakes. And Gregory Goose who sings “I want Jesus to walk (or fly) with me” whenever headwinds make flying difficult…

All these stories are in the book. What these stories have in common is that God was trying to tell me something by what was happening around me. I needed to listen carefully to hear the messages God had for me through everyday happenings. That’s why I named the book Listening for God.

My goal for this book is that people who read it will be inspired to be more intentional in listening for messages from God in the everyday happenings in their own lives.

The book is available for purchase several places online:

Listening for God FRONTwww.MarianKorth.com. I spent the last few days developing an author website for myself, so that I can sell copies of the book directly. (Let me know if you’d like me to sign your copy before I drop it in the mail.) The website provides more details about the book, as well as info about my other writing.

The book is also available through the publisher, WestBow Press, where you can purchase the book in paperback or as an e-book in a variety of formats (Kindle, Nook, PDF).   http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-000616226/Listening-for-God.aspx.

Amazon.com has the book in stock, both in paperback and Kindle e-book format. http://www.amazon.com/Listening-God-Marian-Korth/dp/1449779034/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359939357&sr=8-1&keywords=marian+korth

Barnes & Noble has the book, too. So far, it just shows up as available in paperback, but they should also have it in Nook e-book format shortly. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/listening-for-god-marian-korth/1114216950?ean=9781449779030

If you’re local, and would like to come over to get a book, please give me a call first (608-212-6197) to be sure I’m home. I’m expecting to receive a shipment of books early this week.

HAPPY READING and LISTENING FOR GOD!