Archive | April 2013

Love One Another – Reflections from Jail

Love One Another HANDSOne of the Bible readings in church yesterday was from the book of John.  Jesus said,

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you,
you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

 (John 13:34-35 NRSV)

But what does it really mean to love one another? Paul addressed this question in I Corinthians 13, a passage frequently read at weddings.

Love is patient;
Love is kind;
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
and endures all things.

[I Corinthians 13: 4-7 NRSV]

But even this reading is somewhat abstract. Tanya, one of the inmates in the county jail, wrote her own poetic reflection on what it means to her when Jesus says to love one another. I talked with Tanya last Thursday after the women’s worship service, and asked her if I could use her reflection in my blog sometime. She was happy to give me permission, although she prefers that I not identify her by her full name.

First, let me describe the context of Tanya writing this reflection. Several weeks ago, during Lent, in one of the worship services, the chaplain gave us about 15 minutes to do something creative to express our feelings. A couple of the women drew pictures. One young woman drew a picture of herself giving a birthday present to her little boy. She said she hoped to be out of jail in time to be home for his birthday. I played the piano – whatever hymns and spirituals came into my mind. One of the women told me she recognized every song I played. Tanya wrote a reflection on what love means to her. That 15 minutes was probably the most peaceful part of the day for all of us.

After listening again yesterday in church to what the Bible says about loving one another, I think now is a good time to share Tanya’s reflection on love.

Love is praying for my enemies –
In the same way I pray for my family

Love is growing in God –
Every day in every way

Love is not only knowing that angels are near –
But feeling them touch my soul

Love is willingness to give all –
And at the same time receive none

Love is a trust that never wavers –
No matter what stands in your way

Love is loving more than you know how –
Yet expecting nothing in return

Love is the melting of your soul –
In the coldest day you’ve known

 Tanya, 2013

Love in action: Mim's mom, Selma, caring for a stray kitten that had been dropped off at the farm.

Loving one another in our home 20 years ago:
Mim’s mom, Selma, caring for a stray kitten dropped off at the farm.




“Good morning, Abbey. You’re up bright and early this morning.”

“Yeah. Good morning, Mom. You moms sure got home late last night. I was waiting and waiting and waiting to talk with you, and when you finally came home, you went right to bed.”

Ann giving Abbey breakfast.

Ann giving Abbey breakfast.

“I’m sorry, Abbey. I didn’t know you wanted to talk. We had a wonderful day in Chicago yesterday, and we did stretch it a little more than we intended. I’ll tell you all about it, but first, tell me what you wanted to talk about all day yesterday.”

“Okay. I don’t know if you know it, or not, but every Sunday morning when you go to church, I spend some time thinking back over the previous week, and thinking ahead to what the upcoming week will bring. It’s my time for meditation.”

“I didn’t know that’s what you did, Abbey. That’s great!”

“Well yesterday, I thought a lot about the week in Boston, with the two bombings and everything that followed. It was a terrible tragedy. But, you know, I was SO PROUD of my cousins, the therapy dogs. They did such good work, comforting everyone in Boston from the injured and grieving to the police and other investigators, and everyone else in Boston who just couldn’t believe what was happening. My cousins did their jobs beautifully, showing everyone how to relax and take comfort knowing that we love them. You know, God created dogs for the primary purpose of demonstrating what real love is. I was so proud watching my cousins at work!”

Abbey welcoming Edith when she first came to live with us.

Abbey welcoming Edith when she first came to live with us.

“Yes, Abbey, your comfort dog cousins did beautiful work in Boston, just like you do beautiful work at home. I bet you spent time with Ann, letting her pet you, while we were gone yesterday.”

“Yup. I let her feed me, too. She likes that. She always tells me to chew my food and eat slowly. I don’t think she knows that every meal is a race for us dogs – to eat all our food before anyone else can get it. But she loves me, and I love her, too. Remember Edith? I loved her so much. I spent hours every day sitting by her side. And Patti. I crawled into bed with Patti to comfort her just a few days before she moved to heaven. Oh, and speaking of crawling into bed, remember how I used to wake Doris up every morning, by jumping in bed with her and licking her face until she woke up giggling! And Mary used to sneak me food from the table. I’ve had so many wonderful friends living here with you at Country Comforts Assisted Living.”

“Speaking of friends, Abbey, that’s why we went to Chicago yesterday, and why we came home so late. We went to the city to see lots of our old friends. We moved from Chicago to Wisconsin 21 years ago, but we still have lots of wonderful friends in Chicago. We started the day by going to Resurrection Lutheran Church. Before church started, we talked with a few old friends, then we worshiped together, and then we talked and talked and talked throughout coffee hour. We chatted with Gladys, Donna, May, Betsy, Brian, Harry, and we met some new people, too. It was so much fun to spend time with all these great friends, just like we used to do when we lived in Chicago.”

Abbey and Mary sharing a special moment together.

Abbey and Mary sharing a special moment together.

“Did you have time to eat any food, or did you just talk?”

“Oh, we took time to eat, too. And Gladys sent a coffee cake and some cookies home with us.”

“That’s good. What did you do next that kept you out so late?”

“We drove Gladys home from church. She’s in her 90s now, and doesn’t get around as easily as she used to. Then we drove a couple miles to North Park University, where Mim used to teach nursing. North Park was having a special service and reception to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of their chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing. Mim is a charter member of that organization, and she thought this would be a good opportunity to see some of her nursing colleagues. Did she ever talk a lot with them! We spent over three hours there. But one of her closest teaching buddies, Linda, wasn’t able to come to the event because she wasn’t feeling well. So Mim and I drove to her home in the suburbs to visit for a few minutes – which turned into an hour. Mim really enjoyed talking with all her old cronies. Then we came home.

Doris and Abbey comforting each other.

Doris and Abbey comforting each other.

“There’s an old saying that ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ I agree that laughter is a good medicine, but I think friendship is an even better medicine. Both Mim and I were so refreshed by being with some of our old friends again for a few hours. There’s another old quote that I like. ‘Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.’ (Marcel Proust) Our souls are blossoming again after our wonderful day with friends yesterday.”

“That’s good to hear, Mom. I have a quote about friendship that I really like, too. ‘The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.’ (Henry Nouwen) That’s the kind of friends dogs are.

“Abbey, I’m glad we’re not just family, we’re really good friends, too.”

“Me, too, Mom. And I’m thankful for all the new friends you bring home to live with us. Old friends, new friends, I love them all. That’s the way God made us dogs.”

Best friends and family.

Best friends and family.

Spring Cleaning

Part of my mom's set of nut cups.

Part of my mom’s set of nut cups.

When I was a little girl, I really liked the week every year that my mom set aside for spring cleaning. The best time was the day we took all the beautiful things out of their places for washing. The three places that housed the most treasures were the china cabinet and buffet in the dining room, and the shelves built into the back of my parents’ closet.

Nothing made me feel more special than drinking hot cocoa from one of these cups.

Nothing made me feel more special than drinking hot cocoa from one of these cups.

First, we emptied the china cabinet, which held the most beautiful treasures: a porcelain set of nut cups, a blue and gold teapot, hand-painted plates (frequently used for serving cookies), crystal water goblets and sherbets, and an iridescent, porcelain demitasse set – that I thought was a child’s tea party set. (Mom reinforced that thinking by using those little cups and saucers to serve me hot cocoa sometimes when I was sick with a cold and needed something to brighten my day.)

Second, we cleaned out the buffet. That held the good china (which we used whenever we had company) and Mom’s collection of vases of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The vases would be well used again for cut flowers throughout the upcoming summer.

Third, we removed all the treasures from the closet shelves. That’s where we stored a wide assortment of functional and non-functional pieces: pottery pitchers, dainty one-of-a kind cups and saucers, a few Depression glass pieces, and a brightly painted pottery rooster.

Mom's prettiest teapot.

Mom’s prettiest teapot.

My mom and I worked together well. She handed me each piece, one by one, and I carried it to the kitchen. She told me the background of each piece as she gave it to me. Many of the pieces had been wedding presents. I remember her laughing when she handed me the colorful rooster and said, “People give the goofiest things for wedding presents. I just don’t know what they were thinking.”

When the counter was full of these dusty treasures, Mom washed each piece, and I dried it and carried it to the dining room table to continue to air dry. Then, we went back to taking out more pieces to be washed. When everything had been washed, Mom wiped down the shelves. We took a little break to be sure the shelves were good and dry. Then we reversed the process – I carried each piece to Mom for her to put back in its place. Everything was sparkling clean, and the treasures looked even better.

Last week I read about spring cleaning in Mornings with Jesus 2013: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul, one of the books I’m using for devotional readings this year. The scripture referenced was Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is – what is proper, pleasing, and perfect.”

Lisa Watson, the writer of this particular devotion wrote, “Spring has arrived and with it the never-ending pull to cast off the winter blahs, and to get my house in order by doing some serious spring cleaning. The Lord speaks of renewal as well, but He isn’t talking about our residences or any earthly pursuits. He is referring to the renewal of our faith; our commitment to our spiritual side, and a cleansing of our mind, body and soul.”

I’m thinking about what it means to do some spring cleaning of my soul. Perhaps it means I should take a day every spring to take out all the spiritual treasures I’ve accumulated over my lifetime, to dust them off and think about how God has taken care of me over the years and given me so many blessings – people in my life, experiences, opportunities . . . And to think about what God may be preparing me to do next, to “continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is . . . “

Mom's china cabinet. It's in our dining room now, filled with Mom's china instead of all the other treasures it used to house.

Mom’s china cabinet. It’s in our dining room now, filled with Mom’s china instead of all the other treasures it used to house.

What’s in a Name?

I guess it’s a good thing I never had any kids. I have a really hard time coming up with names for anything. I don’t know how I would have chosen names for my own kids. And then I’m pretty sure I would have had second thoughts that I’d chosen the right names as the kids grew up.

Danny Marrian Kittens

My brother, Danny, and me with a few of our barn cats, quite a few years ago.

I named plenty of puppies and kittens when I was a kid, but as I got older, giving something a name gradually got harder. One of my biggest challenges was coming up with a name for my business consulting practice when I set up my first business in Chicago. I eventually settled on Korth Associates, Inc., although I was never happy with the name and kept trying to think of better names to change it to. When I moved to Wisconsin, I closed down the business, so I never did give it a new name.

In 1998 when Mim and I were trying to think up a name for our bed and breakfast, one of our Minneapolis friends suggested the name, “Country Comforts.” We liked that name, and have kept it, even though the business has changed from “Country Comforts Bed and Breakfast” to “Country Comforts Assisted Living.”

WW SignFive years ago when we were thinking up a name for our retreat center, one of our Chicago friends suggested that we incorporate the word “wind” to suggest the movement of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to include the word “retreat” to emphasize that we were a retreat center, but I didn’t like the word “center” – which implies something bigger and somewhat impersonal. After trying out dozens of word combinations, my piano tuner helped me settle on “Whispering Winds Retreat Haven.”

Naming my books has been a little easier than naming our businesses. My hospitality book that will become available in the next month or two has the name, Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest: Adventures in Hospitality. This title makes me smile because it reminds me of the table prayer I learned in kindergarten and still say at mealtime. Something I didn’t know when I first learned the prayer is that the prayer is really about being hospitable – about welcoming Jesus to join me – and that includes anyone Jesus sends my way.

My other book, the one that’s already published, was a little harder to name. The book is a compilation of 52 blog posts I’ve written over the last couple years. As I was trying to select which posts to include and how to arrange them, it occurred to me that most of the blog posts are about listening for messages God may be trying to send me through the everyday experiences of my life. With that insight, the title formed itself rather quickly, Listening for God: 52 Reflections on Everyday Life.

I’m in the process of writing a short companion booklet to go along with the Listening for God book. I decided to write the little booklet to give away with the book to make it easy for small groups to discuss the book. The booklet could also be used individually by anyone who wants some guidance in listening for God’s messages to them in their own life experiences.

Listening GuideThe creation of this booklet led to another naming opportunity. I first called it a “Discussion Guide” but I didn’t really like that because it didn’t include the possibility of it being used for individual study. Then I called it “Study Guide” but I didn’t like that either because it sounded too academic. Then I tried “Companion Guide” but those two words are kind of redundant. Then I came up with “Listening Guide.” That’s what I’m leaning toward using. It is the most descriptive of what the booklet is about – a guide to help readers learn to listen for God’s messages. I expect to finish writing the booklet this week, which means I’ll need to settle on the title by the end of the week.

If you would like to receive this free booklet, Listening for God – A Listening Guide (or whatever its title ends up being) send me an email ( with your physical mailing address, and I’ll drop one in the mail for you. Or, you can go to my author website ( and request it there. (Note: I’m still testing the new request form I added to my website. If it doesn’t seem to work, please email or call me. Thanks.)

Thinking so hard about naming things brought this quote to mind, “Our creator is the same and never changes despite the names given Him by people here and in all parts of the world. Even if we gave Him no name at all, He would still be there, within us, waiting to give us good on this earth.” (George Washington Carver)

I’m thankful God doesn’t judge me based on my naming ability! God loves me “Just as I am,” regardless of what name I use when I say, “Hey, God, ….”

My Favorite Guns

RR Gun and Holster SetMy First Gun.
When I was a child, my hero was Roy Rogers. I watched him on TV whenever I could. He was the good guy in the white hat. He used his six-guns to bring the bad guys to justice. I wanted to be like him when I grew up. That’s why my Roy Rogers gun and holster set, like the one pictured here, was one of my favorite toys. My brother, Danny, and I usually played cowboys and Indians when my cousins rode their bikes over to the farm to play with us. These cap guns were the only props we needed to transform us into our cowboy heroes.

Shooting Real Guns. When Danny and I got a little older, Danny got a BB gun. A few years later he got a pellet gun – a more modern-looking black pistol. Then he got a 22 rifle. We used all these guns for target practice in the back yard. We lined up tin cans in a row to see how many we could hit. I was never much of a sharpshooter, but occasionally I’d knock a tin can over.  I could still fantasize about being a cowboy hero with my cap guns – I never missed my targets in my imagination.

deringerAlmost Buying a Derringer. When Mim and I lived in Chicago, we became good friends with Lenie, a very independent woman, about thirty years our senior, who owned an antique shop in our neighborhood. She was a wonderful story teller, and she became our source of a lot of Chicago history – the personal stories. Lenie obtained most of her merchandise for her antique shop from estate sales. She specialized in jewelry, cut glass, and small household items. One Saturday Lenie told us she had something she wanted to show us when the other customers left the store. We browsed until everyone else was gone. Then she took out her special prize – a lady’s derringer.  She hadn’t decided for sure yet if she wanted to sell it, or keep it in her purse. If we wanted it, she’d let us have it for $100. I was fascinated by the pretty little gun, but I knew it wasn’t a toy, and conventional wisdom was that it’s dangerous to have a gun in the house.  I didn’t buy it – and Lenie kept it in her purse.

My Dad’s Rifle. In 1991 after my dad died, Mim and I decided to have Danny remodel the farmhouse for us and we would move to Cambridge. The first step in the process was to clear everything out of the house. One of the items in the coat closet was my dad’s 22 rifle. He had kept the gun handy to shoot at wild animals, not to kill them but to scare them away, animals like raccoons, opossums, and foxes. I thought it might be kind of fun to shoot at tin cans again, but Mim really didn’t want to have a gun in the house, so I let one of my nephews have it.

Danny’s Guns. One spring morning shortly after Mim and I had moved to Cambridge, we were outside picking asparagus. I suddenly saw a huge snake coiled up like a hose right next to Mim. I told Mim to step directly toward me and to do it immediately. She did it but she was a little confused why I was ordering her to do that. We had a lot more asparagus to pick. Then she saw the huge snake, too. This wasn’t a little garter snake. It was the biggest snake I’d ever seen outside of a zoo. We left the asparagus patch and went to the barn, which had become my brother’s carpentry workshop. I asked Danny to get one of his guns and get rid of the snake for us. He was delighted to oblige. He had several guns in his collection to choose from. He used one of his pistols, one that looked a lot like the Roy Rogers cap gun I used to have, except his gun shot real bullets, not caps.

With Roy Rogers as my childhood hero, I can understand the attraction for owning a gun. Cap guns were the prop that transformed me into a hero in my imagination. I enjoyed target practice. I thought about buying Lenie’s pretty little derringer. And, I’m really glad Danny had a gun and could use it to get rid of that menacing snake in our asparagus patch. There’s a place for guns in the homes of American families that want them.

But, I simply cannot understand why our Congress seems incapable of passing a law to limit access to high capacity assault weapons. Perhaps, such guns serve as props that enable some people to be war heroes in their imaginations, just like cap guns enabled me to be a cowboy hero in my own mind. But there’s a pretty big difference. Cap guns can’t kill 26 people in five minutes.

Because I cannot understand why everyone doesn’t see the need for reasonable gun legislation, I tend to get angry and think the people who are resisting new legislation are just stupid.  But then, I came across these words in the Bible:

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with – even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (Romans 14:1 The Message)

I guess I don’t need to agree with them, and they don’t need to agree with me. I can still stand up for what I believe to be best, but I need to treat with respect people who disagree with me, and I need to be kind to them. That’s another thing I need to pray about.