Archive | February 2016

Another Perspective on CLARK

Clark KornelsonLast week’s post, “CLARK – One of the best and worst guests in my life” was one of the most looked-at posts in my almost five years of blogging. Typically from 40 to 80 people look at my blog on the first day of a post, usually a Tuesday. The next day, about half that. Then it gradually tapers down until the next Tuesday, when I post again. All together, on average, each post is viewed by between 100 and 200 people during the first week, sporadically after that. For last Tuesday’s post, Whispering Winds had 156 views on the first day. The next day there were 113 views. By this morning, after seven days, there have been 407 views. I think this might have set a new record for my weekly blog. But more significantly, this response tells me that Clark influenced a lot of lives, and many of these people still care about him 12 years after his death.

The gist of last week’s post was that my brother-in-law, Clark Kornelsen, was a challenging person in my life. There was very little that we saw eye-to-eye on, but because we were family, we needed to get along. We were two imperfect souls doing the best we could. In retrospect, we were good for each other – which undoubtedly is why God provided us the opportunity to interact with each other so much. It was God’s way of helping both of us grow to be kinder people.

I was very careful when I wrote last week’s post to try not to offend anyone who knew Clark, especially his children, my niece and nephews. My purpose in the post was not to criticize their dad, but rather to share how God sometimes uses difficult relationships for everyone’s benefit. I was pretty sure many people could identify with having to deal with challenging relationships.

Family Portrait 12-25-02

Clark and Nancy with their kids and grandkids – Christmas 2002

The first reader comment I received on this post – just a few minutes after posting it – was from a regular reader, someone whom I have never met but is a friend of a friend. Betsy wrote, “You, and God, touched my heart this morning Marian. Thank you.” That made me feel good about writing the post, even if I was taking a chance that I might offend someone. I guess it made me feel it was worth the risk.

A few minutes later another regular reader commented – someone else I have never met. Claudia is a cousin of Clark’s who lives in California. On Facebook she wrote, “I did not realize that is your connection to my family. I know my cousin Mardelle absolutely adored her brother Clark!”

Oops! I wondered if Claudia felt she needed to defend her cousin’s reputation after reading my blog post. She and Clark’s sister Mardelle were very good friends. Perhaps she thought I was being too critical of Clark. (Mardelle, who passed away a couple years ago, had been an avid reader and frequent commenter on my blog.)

Later that day Mary, a college friend of mine, posted a comment on the blog. “The fall of 1968 Clark & Nancy hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving celebration for Wheaton student Jeannie Cardiff in their home & I was invited. At dinner that night Clark asked about my grad. plans & my interest in missions, & then suggested that I contact Greater Europe Mission re: their summer short term programs. That brief conversation resulted in my leaving with GEM for Germany 10 days after graduation (June 1969) as a summer worker, then extending to teach the next school year at the German Bible Institute. The lessons learned in my walk with the LORD that year have framed my outlook on the world, its desperate need for the Gospel, & living a Gospel-centered life. God’s faithfulness continues & Clark (as an instrument in the LORD’s hand) was a pivotal part of it.”

I hadn’t thought about that Canadian Thanksgiving hosted by Nancy and Clark for some of my Wheaton friends in over 40 years. It was fun to remember that evening, even though the memory may have been prompted by Mary trying to redeem Clark’s reputation from my blog.

Between Facebook and the blog itself, there were lots of reader comments last week, many more than usual. These comments confirmed for me one of the key messages in “The Monastic Way” devotional readings by Joan Chittister for this month. The entry for last Thursday, February 18, was:

It is not so much that what we see we must see correctly. Instead, we must remember that most of what we see, we see because of the filters we wear while we look at it. “Persons,” Laura Ingalls Wilder says of the situation, “appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.”

The filters I use when I remember Clark, and the filters Claudia and Mary use, are different. In all cases, Clark was a significant person in our lives. Based on the number of comments on last week’s blog post, Clark was a significant and positive influence on many lives. We just all saw him a little differently. We all saw Clark – as we see everyone – from our own perspective.

Clark - Terry on shoulders

Clark and his first son Terry going for a walk – with Clark “heightening” Terry’s perspective of the world.

 

CLARK – One of the best and worst guests in my life

Nancy-Clark college graduation-landscapeThe first time I met Clark was in 1959. I was almost 11. Mom, Dad, Danny, and I had driven to Wheaton College for my sister Nancy’s graduation. We had a picnic lunch on the front lawn of the college, and Nancy had convinced Clark to come over to meet us. Clark had just graduated, too, and he was Nancy’s new boyfriend. I don’t remember much from that first meeting, other than that he was tall – 6’ 3” – and handsome. He smiled a lot and seemed pleasant.

The next time I saw him was later that summer. He drove up to Cambridge with his tape recorder to record Nancy playing some hymns on the organ. He was sometimes asked to sing in churches and he had to accompany himself on his guitar. He wanted Nancy to play a few hymns and gospel songs that he could play for accompaniment instead of having to strum a guitar. We had a small electronic organ in the living room. He was able to connect the organ and tape recorder with a cable so Nancy could play and he could sing, and only the organ music would record. He won me over during that visit by having me play a couple songs on the organ, too.

A couple years later Nancy and Clark were married. I was one of the bridesmaids – my first time in that role.

Nancy-Clark wedding

Over the years, my appreciation for Clark has fluctuated more than for anyone else I’ve known. The biggest blow up came when I was a senior in college. At that time, Nancy and Clark and their three sons and one daughter were living in Wheaton in the house where Clark had grown up, and Clark had started up a handyman business. He had gone to seminary after college, and had served as a youth pastor of a church in another Chicago suburb for a few years, but he really didn’t like the job of being a pastor, especially with the requirement to spend most of his evenings in church-related meetings. He liked doing the work that he had done to earn his way through seminary better, mainly painting houses and doing home remodeling projects.

Marian college graduation w Steve and Cindy

Marian with nephew Steve and niece Cindy

During my last year in college, Nancy and Clark invited me to live with them to minimize my costs of going to college. Their house was about a mile and a half from campus. During that year I realized how differently Clark and I thought about many things, and how important it was for Clark to be able to control the actions of everyone in his family, including me. In my last few weeks before graduation, I was busy making plans for what I would do after college, and Clark was trying to tell me what I could and could not do. By the time graduation came, Clark and I were barely on speaking terms.

Over the next 30 years, we had many family dinners and other activities together, and we both had good enough manners to be civil, even pleasant to each other. Occasionally, we even enjoyed each other’s company. But mostly, we intentionally tried to minimize our interactions. We were both imperfect souls, trying to find our way through life the best way we knew how – and our ways were very different. But because we were family, we needed to learn how to interact with each other the best way we could.

But then everything changed. In 1999, Nancy suffered a major stroke that left her with limited mobility. She worked incredibly hard in rehab, and regained the ability to walk somewhat, but she never regained complete use of her left side. Somehow, Clark was transformed by her stroke. He became the kindest, most loving and considerate person you can imagine. Over the next five years Nancy and Clark and Mim and I, and the rest of our extended family enjoyed many special times together.

Nancy-Clark 2 adj

In 2004, Clark was diagnosed with advanced leukemia and he died quite suddenly, not long after the diagnosis. His funeral was on the day that would have been Nancy and Clark’s 42nd wedding anniversary. A few weeks before his death he led a small group Bible Study and prayer meeting, and someone recorded him spontaneously singing the song “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” That tape was played at his funeral. His low voice singing these words, unaccompanied, is what I think of whenever I hear the song.

Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

I came across the song this week as I was looking over some quiet, introspective music for Lent. That’s what I’ve chosen to do for my spiritual practice throughout Lent this year – to spend time at the piano every day with prayerful music.

Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

It was good to think about Clark again today. He was one of the most challenging people on “God’s Guest List” for my life (to borrow author Debbie Macomber’s term). But he was also one of God’s greatest blessings in my life.

Clark jpg adj

Clark Kornelsen

Let Me Introduce My Neighbors to You

Marian and kittenWhen I was a little girl growing up on a Wisconsin farm, I thought of four families as being our neighbors: the farmers across the road just west of us – the Henry Henderson family; the farmers who lived on the farm immediately south of us – The Mulcaheys; the farmers just east of us – the Scotts; and Ruth and Merrill Kenseth, a brother and sister who were double cousins of my mom (their moms were sisters and their dads were brothers) – and they lived on the farm across the road north of us. I didn’t really know any of the neighbors very well, except the cousins. Sometimes, on a nice summer evening, I would walk over to the Kenseth farm to play with their barn cats while Merrill was milking the cows, especially when there was a brand new litter of kittens to play with.

I think the main reason I didn’t know the other neighbors very well is that they didn’t go to the same church as we did, and we primarily socialized with the people within our own church. Occasionally, Danny and I would walk down to the Mulcaheys to play with Michael and Margaret, the two kids in their family who were about our ages, but they were Catholics, so we were discouraged from playing with them too much. We grew up thinking of Catholics almost like a different tribe. They didn’t really believe in God quite like we did. They believed in Mary and the pope and saints and who knows what all… We were Methodists and we knew Jesus Christ as our personal savior. Back then we were taught to avoid people who were different from us, even if they were neighbors.

When I went away to college, obviously I had new neighbors. Living in a dorm, I had roommates, who essentially became my on-campus family. My new neighbors were the young women who lived in the rooms adjacent to and across the hall from us. Since I went to a small Christian college, these neighbors were all members of the same “tribe” and we all became friends.

Williston Hall - cropped - adj

My dorm at Wheaton College

After college I moved to a small town in Connecticut where I was an English teacher. I rented an apartment in a relatively new apartment complex of about 20 units. I had two kinds of neighbors in the apartment complex – relatively poor families who couldn’t afford to buy a house, and young teachers who were new to the community. Basically, we became two tribes. I had very little contact with the other tribe.

4429-4433 N California

Our Chicago two-flat. Sidewalks separate us from our neighbors.

After a couple years in Connecticut I moved back to the Midwest, met Mim, and the two of us lived in Chicago together for 20 years. While we lived in Chicago, at first our concept of neighbor was not very different from what my concept of neighbor had been when I was a little girl on the farm. The houses next to us on all four sides were our neighbors, and to varying degrees, we became friends. Further down the block in any direction we didn’t even know the people, with a few rare exceptions – like when we got our first puppy, we got to know the other families on the block who had dogs.

Gradually, after living in Chicago several years, we began to think of the term “neighbor” in a little broader sense. We thought of neighborhoods, and neighboring neighborhoods. For a few years we attended LaSalle Street Church, located between Sandburg Village – an upscale high-rise residential development and Cabrini Green – the most notorious, gang-infested housing project in Chicago. The pastors at LaSalle prompted us to re-think how we should love and care for our neighbors, and just who our neighbors really are.

Back in Cambridge, after 20 years in Chicago, my concept of neighbor continued to evolve. I still thought of my neighbors as the people whose homes (or farms) were adjacent to ours. But then we subdivided the farm. Most of the acreage became new housing – a small apartment complex (The Hamptons), a condominium development (Stone Meadows, where Mim and I now live), and a couple residential subdivisions (Winterberry and Summer Prairie). Would all these new housing units, over 100, shelter a whole new community of neighbors for us? Mim and I tried to start out being neighborly by bringing homemade cookies or bread as a welcome gift to each new neighbor as they moved into their home. We kept that up for about the first half-dozen or so neighbors, then we stopped. I guess I need to think a little harder about just who my neighbor is, and how I should treat them…

Stone Meadows

This is where we live now. Our condo is on the right.

So why am I thinking so much about neighbors today?

Sheriff Mahoney

Sheriff Mahoney

A week and a half ago I went to the annual meeting of the Jail Ministry. Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney was a special guest at this meeting, and he gave a short talk about the needs of inmates. Sheriff Mahoney said that his biggest hope is that the people of Dane County would stop thinking of jail inmates as violent criminals getting exactly what they deserve by being incarcerated, but rather think of jail inmates as their neighbors. He said that 80% of the inmates are in jail for crimes related to their addiction to drugs or alcohol. They need healing, not punishment. Mahoney said that in his 35 years of law enforcement experience, he has not known even one inmate that was rehabilitated just by being kept in a cage for a while. For all inmates who have been successfully rehabilitated, they succeeded because they were in an environment that provided the resources that enabled them to heal. The chaplains and volunteers of the Jail Ministry are an important part of those resources – people who care, who listen, and who try to help the healing process.

Mahoney closed his remarks by coming back to his biggest hope – that we all start thinking of inmates as our neighbors.

The dictionary defines neighbor in geographic terms – “a person living near another.” [www.merriam-webster.com] But the Bible broadens the definition of neighbor significantly, as this New Testament incident illustrates.

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”

He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”

Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

Good Samaritan sketchJesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” [Luke 10:25-37 The Message]

Dulce Maria Family-cropped

Dulce Maria is the little girl on the left.

According to Jesus, it’s very important for me to love my neighbor, almost as important as it is for me to love God. In order for me to love my neighbor, I need to understand who my neighbor is, and Jesus makes it pretty clear that it’s not just the people living in the houses adjacent to my house. I think Jesus would agree with Sheriff Mahoney, that the inmates of the Dane County Jail are my neighbors. But that’s not all. Immigrants from Mexico and the Near East and actually all over the world are my neighbors, too. Dulce Maria, the little girl in Honduras that Mim and I sponsor, is our neighbor. Homeless people in Cambridge and Madison are our neighbors. Anyone who needs someone to listen and care and help. Anyone who needs to see God’s love in action in their life. These are my neighbors.

I guess I have more neighbors than I thought.

 

 

 

 

 

The Best New Thing since Sliced Bread

Sliced Bread

I remember the first time I heard that expression. I was living in Chicago and working at Northwest Industries, Inc., the fifth largest corporation in Chicago at the time. Northwest was a diversified holding company with about a dozen companies making products that ranged from tubular steel (as in the Alaska pipeline) to underwear (Fruit of the Loom) and cowboy boots (Acme Boot Company).  I worked in the corporate office located on the 63rd floor of the Sears Tower. As a business analyst in the Information Technology Department, I was part of a team that was always trying to come up with more creative and efficient ways of analyzing data to predict, report, and hopefully enhance profitability. Frequently someone would claim that their idea would become “the best new thing since sliced bread.”

sliced bread photo

I always liked that expression because it was so tangible. When I was a pre-schooler, before my mom got a job outside of the home, my mom used to bake our bread from scratch, once a week, four loaves at a time. My job was to brush a little Crisco on the top of the loaves when they came out of the oven so that the crust would be nice and shiny. Mom usually sliced the bread for all of us, but occasionally Mom wasn’t home, and I would have to cut a slice by myself. I remember how hard it was to cut a slice evenly. Whenever I tried, the top would be just the right thickness and the bottom would come to a sharp edge. Looking back, I can see the real value in being able to have bread that is already sliced.

I still occasionally use the “sliced bread” expression. A few weeks ago it came to mind as I was reading a new little devotional book, 101 Moments of Hope by Edward Grinnan, the Editor-in-Chief of Guideposts Magazine. 101 Moments of Hope is a tiny book that came along free when I ordered a larger book by the same author, The Promise of Hope. I guess I might describe the junior size book as the best thing since sliced bread, or maybe a better comparison would be the best devotional reading since Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, another one of my favorites that I kept re-reading for four years straight. For a glimpse into the engaging style of Grinnan’s reflections, here’s one reflection from the “Winter” section of the book.

101 Moments of Hope

SALLY BROWN MAKES A BEELINE

Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith…? [James 2:5 RSV]

cocker spaniel 2My little dog Sally Brown teaches me many things, and as usual I learn in spite of myself. The other day on my lunch hour I was impatiently walking her around the block (dragging might be a better word). I didn’t have much time, and I let her know it. But cocker spaniels have relentless noses.

Around the corner came a man – I’m tempted to say old man, but there was really no telling – dressed in a soiled and ragged overcoat, grubby strands of dark hair half-tucked up under a frayed watch cap, his eyes sagging and sad. I, a seasoned New Yorker, glanced away.

But Sally made a kind of scurrying beeline to him, her stubby remnant of a tail vibrating in excitement. It was an utter mystery to me why she picked out this sorry soul to greet with the joy of a long-lost friend. My hand tightened on the leash. I wanted to pull her back, but self-consciousness got the better of me and I slackened my grip.

Sally sat demurely, obligingly allowing herself to be adored and stroked by the grimy hands. She gazed up at her admirer appreciatively. His features softened, a spark ignited in his eyes, and he smiled. “You beeeaauutiful girl, you!” he exclaimed quietly. “Thanks for saying hello.”

He never looked at me. Quickly, he straightened up and was off. I stood and watched the man disappear down the street, wondering how he would have responded if it had been I who had stopped to say hello.

God, sometimes Your smallest creatures have the largest hearts. Help me to do unto others with a larger heart.

[Edward Grinnan, 101 Moments of Hope: Inspiring Thoughts for Everyday Living,
©2011, Guideposts, New York, pp. 10-11]

I’m about half done reading 101 Moments of Hope. I’m tempted to read more than one reflection a day, but I’m disciplining myself so that the book will last me 101 days. I can hardly wait to begin my devotional readings each morning with this little book waiting to be picked up. It’s the chocolate chip cookie of my devotional readings. To really mix my metaphors – see why I say it’s the best thing since sliced bread, or Jesus Calling, or a chocolate chip cookie?

chocolate chip cookie - split

Note: The book can be ordered online from Guideposts directly or from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other online bookstores.