Archive | August 2013

Why Did God Create Wasps?

Wasp 1“Hey, Mom. Why did God create wasps?”

“That’s a good question, Abbey. I’ve been wondering the same thing myself. We’ve sure had a lot of them on our deck and our front porch this summer. An exterminator has been here three times this month, and we still have wasps. Some days I’m afraid to sit outside, just in case one of those angry little beasts might decide to sting me.”

“I know what you mean, Mom. One of those horrible things stung my front right paw Saturday evening. It hurt so much I just shook.”

“Yeah. Mim told me. She thought you might be having a seizure you were shaking so hard.”

“I was trying to shake that awful thing off my paw. I finally grabbed it with my mouth and ate it. That put an end to the buzzing beast. But my paw really hurt. I couldn’t step on it for almost an hour.”

“Does your paw still hurt, Abbey?”

“No. It got better pretty quick. But it sure hurt when it happened. Why would God create such awful beasts? I don’t think they’re good for anything. And they sure are nasty.”

“I’ll have to admit it’s hard for me to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation when I’m warily watching a wasp buzzing around my head. To help me give God the benefit of the doubt in having a good reason for creating wasps, I went to Wikipedia to learn more about wasps. The “Wasp” entry says,

Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their numbers, or natural biocontrol. Parasitic wasps are increasingly used in agricultural pest control as they prey mostly on pest insects and have little impact on crops.

Wasp face 2“So, Abbey, I guess there is a good reason for the existence of wasps. They just don’t belong around us – unless there are other pest insects around us that are bothering us even more than the wasps.”

“I guess life is pretty complicated, isn’t it, Mom.”

“Yeah. It is. It’s a good habit to always look for the good in something, no matter how bad it seems on the surface.”

“Even a stinging wasp, Mom? Really?”

“Well, we might not always find the good. But we can at least try to see what the evil doer was thinking, or maybe what good God originally had in mind.”

“Like I said, Mom. Life really is pretty complicated.”

Abbey relaxing on the deck - but on the look-out for wasps.

Abbey relaxing on the deck – but on the look-out for wasps.

Reclaiming Sunday

Do not let Sunday be taken from you.
If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan.
Albert Schweitzer

When I was a little kid, Sundays had a very different rhythm from every other day of the week. The day started with a different breakfast. We had cold cereal with milk and bananas. Every other day of the week we had eggs and toast. Putting boxes of cereal on the dining room table was less work for my mom than frying eggs, and Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest.

We also built go-karts.

We also built go-karts.

After breakfast we went to Sunday school and church. We got home from church about noon. Then my mom set aside the “minimize work rule” for an hour or so and fixed us a big Sunday dinner. After dinner my dad read the newspaper until he dozed off, my mom read a novel, and my brother and I went outside to play baseball or football or cowboys. If it was rainy we stayed inside and played Monopoly or checkers. Sometimes we’d watch an old movie on TV. Occasionally the family all went to Lake Mills to visit my cousins for a couple hours, but we had to be sure to be back in time for my dad to milk the cows and for the rest of us to go to evening church. Basically, Sunday afternoon was a slow-paced time, a time to relax, a time to play, a time that was totally care free. (We didn’t even do school work!)

Wildflowers along Highland Drive - our country road

Wildflowers along Highland Drive – our country road

When I was a little older, my mom and I would sometimes go for a walk down our country road for an hour or so before supper. We’d look at the wildflowers and listen to the birds singing. One of the things we talked about was how she spent her Sunday afternoons when she was young. Her parents were quite strict about not working on Sundays. She wasn’t allowed to use a scissors because that was considered work. Often her friends from church would come over to the farm to play baseball and her mother would make root beer for everyone.

When Mim and I lived in Chicago, we usually went to church Sunday morning and tried to do fun, relaxing things in the afternoon. For several years we had season tickets to a piano concert series at Orchestra Hall. Another favorite place to spend the afternoon was visiting with the animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo. On nice summer days we biked along the lakefront. When we were in grad school, studying and working often tried to barge in and take over quiet Sundays. After a while, we’d miss the relaxing time and resolve to take back our Sundays, with mixed results.

Since moving to Wisconsin 21 years ago, we have struggled to keep Sundays as a day to relax. When we had a bed and breakfast, we worked harder on Sundays than any other day of the week. Recently I realized that Sundays have again become the busiest day of the week for me. I usually play the organ in church in the morning, and in the afternoon I often work on writing something for my Monday blog post (as I’m doing right now). I’ve talked about designating another day of the week as my “Sabbath” but have never been able to be successful in implementing the practice.

As Maya Angelou said in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.

So …  I’ve decided to change my blogging day from Monday to Tuesday. Effective next week, my new blog entry will be posted by late morning on TUESDAY. Hopefully, this change will help me reclaim Sunday afternoons as a time to relax, to be care free.

Over the past sixty years our culture has drastically changed its attitude toward Sundays. The routine of going to church and having a quiet afternoon is just one way of spending the day. For many people, Sunday is a day for shopping. (When I was a kid, stores were closed on Sundays; shopping wasn’t an option.) For some people watching sports on TV is the favorite way to spend the afternoon. For others Sunday is a day to catch up on housework or yard work. Sunday still has a rhythm that is different from the other days of the week – even if the day is no longer a day of rest, it may be a day “in which no problems are confronted.”

Setting aside one day a week as a special day has Biblical origins.

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work – not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them, he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day, he set it apart as a holy day.
[Exodus 20:8-11 The Message]

Personally, I’ve decided to try to reclaim the Sunday of my childhood. I don’t think I can convince my brother Danny to play Monopoly with me, but I’m pretty sure my partner Mim will take a walk with me down our country road. Writing this blog, as well as most other things that try to creep into Sunday, can wait till tomorrow.

Our country road leads to CamRock Park, a place with perfect trails for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

Our country road leads to CamRock Park, a place with perfect trails for a Sunday afternoon stroll. This photo is from last October. Mim and Abbey got ahead of me.

Another Talk with Abbey

Abbey-Marian

Late Sunday morning, after I got home from church, I was sitting in the La-Z-Boy in my office reading the newspaper. Abbey came up to me and sat down. I could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to talk. She started by asking me about church.

“Mom, how did the music go in church this morning? I know you played one of my favorite songs for the prelude, ‘God Will Take Care of You.’ I heard you practicing it.”

I replied with, “It’s funny you should ask, Abbey. Before church started Pastor Jeff asked me if I was going to play that song today. He thought he had heard me practicing it when I was in church on Friday. When I told him that song would be part of the prelude, he said that was quite a coincidence. That’s the song he was going to sing in his sermon. I told him it’s more surprising that we don’t have these ‘coincidences’ more often, since we both are studying the same Scriptures as we select our music for the service.”

Abbey responded, “Oh, that’s no coincidence, Mom. God obviously wanted the people in church to think about the words of that wonderful old hymn today.”

GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU
(Words: Civilla D. Martin, Music: W. Stillman Martin, 1904)

Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.

Refrain:
God will take care of you.
Thru every day, o’er all the way,
He will take care of you;
God will take care of you.

Thru days of toil, when heart doth fail,
God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail,
God will take care of you.
Refrain

All you may need He will provide,
God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied,
God will take care of you.
Refrain

No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you.
Refrain

Dan and the dogs out for a ride. Holly on right. Sadie in background.

My brother Danny and the dogs out for a ride. Holly on right.

Abbey continued, “You know, Mom, I’m so glad you practiced that hymn all last week. That song has been on my mind ever since my cousin Holly was in an accident last Sunday and taken to the Emergency Animal Hospital in Madison. I know God takes care of us dogs, too. I really hoped that God would heal her body, but I guess God thought it was time for her to go to heaven instead.”

“You’re right, Abbey. We all love Holly so much. She has been an angel on earth for twelve years. Now it’s time for her to be an angel in heaven.”

“I guess so. But I’ll sure miss her.”

All the dogs get excited when Danny takes his recumbent bike out for a ride.

All the dogs get excited when Danny takes his recumbent bike out for a ride.

Abbey was quiet for a few minutes, obviously thinking deeply. Then she said, “That song is on my mind as I think about Uncle Dan, too. It’s been almost two months since he was diagnosed with leukemia. Even though it’s the “good” kind of leukemia, he’s really gotten sick from the chemo pill he takes every day. And then last Monday, he had to go to the hospital, too.”

“As the song says, Abbey, we can trust that God will take care of Uncle Dan, too. He’s got a team of some of the best doctors working together to make him better. He’s been accepted into a research study at the University of Wisconsin, which will give him the best, top priority, treatment possible. We certainly can be thankful for that. I think he might even be able to come home from the hospital early this week.”

"Sisters" - Holly and Sadie.

“Sisters” – Holly and Sadie.

“Oh, good! Cousin Sadie has been so lonely. First, her sister Holly left her. Then her mom and dad disappeared. She’ll be so happy to have them home again. Aunt Linda has been staying with Uncle Dan in the hospital, so it’s really been lonely for Sadie. I’ve been telling her about this comforting song all week. I wish I could sing it to her, but I don’t have much of a singing voice, so I’ve just been sending her the thoughts.”

God will take care of you.
Thru every day, o’er all the way,
He will take care of you;
God will take care of you.

“Those thoughts are good ones for all of us to keep in mind, all the time, Abbey. I’m glad we have that song to remind us that God loves us and is always with us.”

“Me, too, Mom. Can you keep playing it on the piano this week? Whenever I hear the tune, the words come to mind, and it feels just like I’m getting a hug from God.”

“I’ll remember that. I’ll keep playing the song and feel God hugging me, too.”

Abbey getting a big double hug

Abbey getting a big double hug from her two moms.

Working Together – Joy or Drudgery?

Chance Allies - David Allen, Tisha Brown, Lucas Koehler

Chance Allies – David Allen, Tisha Brown, Lucas Koehler

Last night Mim and I went to a fundraising concert for the jail ministry of Dane County. Chance Allies, a Madison group of three musicians – a female vocalist, a pianist, and a bass player, performed lots of jazz classics, mostly from the era of Cole Porter and George Gershwin. It was a wonderful evening.

Chance Allies - Tisha Brown singingTisha Brown, the vocalist, is a UCC pastor. Last night, she explained to the audience that she had an epiphany while on sabbatical a couple years ago. She has always liked music. For a few years she had even been a music major in college, playing a clarinet. While on sabbatical, she distinctly felt the Spirit telling her to use her desire to sing to accomplish good things. She responded by taking voice lessons, finding a pianist (David Allen – a pediatrician by day) to accompany her, and later adding a bass player (Lucas Koehler – the only full-time musician in the group) to add another dimension to their music. Their goal as a jazz group is to do as many fundraising concerts for non-profit and church-based organizations as they can. They brain-stormed to come up with their name – Chance Allies – which describes how the performers got together, by chance, and what their mission is, to be fundraising allies with organizations they want to support.

As a jazz combo, they play off each other very well. Naturally, the vocalist is the lead for most of the music, but she often turns the lead role over to the pianist or the bass for each of them to freely improvise. And when Tisha is singing, David and Lucas are creative in a totally supportive way to provide cool harmonies or smooth counter-melodies. Watching and listening to them work together so beautifully for a couple hours last night was a wonderful way to end the weekend. Plus, it was an added bonus to give support to the jail ministry. The chaplains work together well in their roles of counselor, advocate, and spiritual guide for the inmates of Dane County Jail. The chaplains need and deserve our support.

Marian Korth Family Portrait BW warmer 2As Mim and I were driving home from the concert Mim suggested, “Why don’t you write about improvisation and working together on your blog tomorrow. We just observed a great example of that happening.” Tisha, David, and Lucas are all great musicians. What makes them successful as a group is that they have so much trust and appreciation for each other’s artistry. They allow each other to freely improvise, and they work together to support the person in the lead as that position is rotated among them.

Can that model for working together apply in other work settings? When I look at how Mim and I work together in our different home-based businesses, I think it can. Mim is the lead in our assisted living business, Country Comforts Assisted Living. She is primarily responsible for addressing the physical and emotional needs of everyone who comes to live with us. I trust her completely in that role, and do whatever she asks me to do to support her. That may be going to the pharmacy to pick up medications, helping her make a bed, or building her a website, www.CountryComfortsAssistedLiving.com.

Conversely, when it comes to writing my books and my blog, Mim is in the supportive role.  She critiques every blog post before I publish it. She also proofs every version of my books before I move on to the next version. Sometimes she even gives me ideas to write about – like today!

Fortunately, Mim and I work together very well. My other work experiences have been mixed. Some good. Some not.

I think the three most important factors that determine whether or not a working relationship will be successful are respect, appreciation, and trust. When I feel that my co-workers respect my judgment in my area of expertise, appreciate what I do, and trust me to do the work – AND when those three factors are mutual among all co-workers, amazing things can be accomplished. That’s what we saw in the concert last night.

However, when any one of those three factors is missing – respect, appreciation, trust – not nearly as much, or as stunning quality work can be accomplished. And, even if some work is accomplished, no one feels very good about it. We all know we could have done better.

If you want to be inspired by watching three musicians work together very well, I encourage you to go to the next fundraising concert of Chance Allies. I may see you there. You can find their schedule on their website, http://www.tishabrown.com/events/.

Chance Allies - working together beautifully

Chance Allies – improvising and working together beautifully