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Upcoming Retreat at Whispering Winds: “Wrinkles Don’t Hurt”

There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it.
For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.
[Author unknown]

Guest blog post by Pastor and Spiritual Director Joan Gunderman

It is not difficult to talk and joke with friends about growing old, but how often do we have conversations with others about meaning, where we can honestly share our wisdom and peace, our fears and doubts, our faith, and the unique humor that comes from a lifetime of experience among that curious species, human beings.

Between myths about aging, and the worship of youth in our culture (not of kids themselves, but of the appearance of youth), many of us resist, and even fear, aging and, subsequently, dying.  Just look at the ads pitched our way: expensive hair dye to hide the gray because “I’m worth it!”; creams, salves, pills, diets, even surgery to make our well-earned wrinkles magically disappear; and how about the current trend of “60 is the new 40!”

Much of this seems so ironic to me.  Not just as a little girl, but even as a young adult,  I loved my grandma’s wrinkles!  She had lovely wrinkles that actually lit up her face, revealing a lifetime of smiles, warmth, and love.  I honestly didn’t look upon her countenance and think, “Wow she’s old.”  When I looked at her face, I saw love, grace, and the beauty of a life being lived well.  I don’t know exactly when or how I was taught that wrinkles were ugly betrayers of the fact that we were no longer young (as if that is bad?), but every time I head that way, I think of my grandma.

For many people the midlife years and beyond are a time of both reflection and discovery,  presenting opportunities for deep and meaningful spiritual growth.  In our retreat on Saturday we will look at the unique gifts that aging provides in terms of our spirituality — how we view ourselves, our lives, our world, and God.  I hope you’ll join me!

Saturday, May 26, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
$50 includes retreat and lunch
To register for the retreat, CALL 608.212.6197. 

Whispering Winds Retreat Haven

Summer Small Group Opportunities at Whispering Winds… Starting this month!

 

 

 

Joan Gunderman will be leading two small groups at Whispering Winds this summer. I asked her to tell us about these groups in today’s blog post.

“Great Reads”

3rd Mondays, May-October, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

The Whispering Winds front porch is a comfortable gathering space, the perfect spot to watch the sun setting over corn fields.

Are you someone who enjoys discussing a good book with others who have read it, too?   You’ll have a series of opportunities to do so, reading and discussing books with a spiritual bent, monthly from May through October at Whispering Winds.  Both fiction and non-fiction will be in the mix.  You can sign up for all of them, or for one at a time.  $10 per evening covers our modest expenses and yummy dessert (Whispering Winds style!). I will choose the first three reads, and the readers will join me in selecting the remaining three, from your suggestions.  Here are the first three:

May 21 – Imaginary Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos

Imaginary Jesus is an hilarious, fast-paced, not-quite-fictional story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before. When Matt Mikalatos realizes that his longtime buddy in the robe and sandals isn’t the real Jesus at all, but an imaginary one, he embarks on a mission to find the real thing. On his wild ride through time, space, and Portland, Oregon, he encounters hundreds of other Imaginary Jesuses determined to stand in his way (like Legalistic Jesus, Perpetually Angry Jesus, and Magic 8 Ball Jesus). But Matt won’t stop until he finds the real Jesus—and finally gets an answer to the question that’s haunted him for years.

June 18 – Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now, by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, one of the best-loved authors of our time, shares the wisdom of a remarkable life in this best-selling spiritual classic. This is Maya Angelou talking from the heart, down to earth and real, but also inspiring. This is a book to treasured, a book about being in all ways a woman, about living well, about the power of the word, and about the power of spirituality to move and shape your life. Passionate, lively, and lyrical, Maya Angelou’s unforgettable work offers a gem of truth on every page.

July 16 – Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish, by Sue Bender

“I had an obsession with the Amish. Plain and simple. Objectively it made no sense. I, who worked hard at being special, fell in love with a people who valued being ordinary.”

So begins Sue Bender’s story, the captivating and inspiring true story of a harried urban Californian moved by the beauty of a display of quilts to seek out and live with the Amish. Discovering lives shaped by unfamiliar yet comforting ideas about time, work, and community, Bender is gently coaxed to consider, “Is there another way to lead a good life?”

On nice summer evenings the small group may meet on the front porch.

Heeding a persistent inner voice, Bender searches for Amish families willing to allow her to visit and share in their daily lives. Plain and Simple vividly recounts sojourns with two Amish families, visits during which Bender enters a world without television, telephone, electric light, refrigerators, or computers; a world where clutter and hurry are replaced with inner quiet and calm ritual; a world where a sunny kitchen “glows” and “no distinction was made between the sacred and the everyday.”

Join me in a lovely and thought-provoking read.

Spiritual Formation Group

3rd Tuesday, May-October, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  (Psalm 63:1)

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)

Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee. Lord, teach me to know and understand (St. Augustine, 354-430 AD)

Deepening our connection with God, deepening our connection with our own soul, getting to know who we really are as a child of God, and following our God-led path, brings the greatest joy in life. [paraphrased from Ruth Fishel, author of Time for Joy.]  It has been a point of longing from as early as the Psalms (and earlier), through the time of Jesus himself, the early church, and still today.  Worship and church work take us part of the way, but more and more people are realizing they are hungry to meet and know the gracious and loving God/Christ/Spirit dwelling within them.

Spiritual formation is a sacred journey, not a destination, and has everything to do with the richness of life — your own life, and the life of the world God loves.  It is not navel-gazing for our own sake.  It is the rich soil from which trust, humility, peace, contentment, healthy relationships, and loving as Jesus loves grow.  It is a truly amazing journey!

Or, if the mosquitoes try to join us, the Gazebo is another great meeting space.

We will meet six times, reading and discussing together the book Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, by Marjorie J. Thompson.  It’s a classic and continuing favorite.

The registration for the spiritual formation series is $50. Even if you know you’ll have to miss one (or two at the most) feel free to register anyway.  We give and receive the most when we commit ourselves to one another and to gathering together each month.

Note for both “Great Reads” and Spiritual Formation participants: I have checked Amazon.com out for all of the books listed here.  They are all available and, if you’re willing to consider “Used – Like New” or “Used – Very Good” you can get some very good deals.  (This is what I do most of the time!)

To register for the “Great Reads” small group or the Spiritual Formation Group, call 608.212.6197 or email mariankorth@gmail.com.

 

Forgiveness – Challenge & Gift

Pastor Joan Gunderman
Spiritual Director & Retreat Leader

I asked Pastor Joan Gunderman to write today’s blog post. Joan and I have been friends for 13 years, ever since she started coming to our first bed & breakfast, Country Comforts, in the late 1990’s. Joan is a Lutheran pastor, retreat leader, and spiritual director. 

Joan will be leading three retreats this summer at Whispering Winds, along with a book discussion group and a spiritual formation group. I asked her to tell us what to expect in her first retreat, “Forgiveness – Challenge & Gift.”

More information is also available on our website (http://whisperingwindsretreathaven.com/retreatsevents/publicretreats.html)

If you would like to register for this retreat, please call me (608-212-6197) or email me (MarianKorth@Gmail.com).

 

I suspect you are much like me.  Things have happened in my life which were so unjust, so painful, that even the thought of forgiving the person or people behind it seemed out of the question.  Painful memories and anger served me too well.  Somehow it felt like justice.  And how could I stomach forgiving someone who would not admit he/she had done anything wrong; who insisted it was all my fault?

Yet, I regularly proclaim to God’s people:

In the night in which Jesus was betrayed…(and abandoned, by his closest friends)…

He gave himself to them, and to all people — his body (bread), his blood (wine) —

For the forgiveness of sin…

And when he was dying a torturous death on the cross, Jesus says, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

For him, it seemed so easy (though I’m not at all sure it was).  But for you and me, forgiving may be the most difficult challenge of our life of faith.  There are so many legitimate reasons why forgiving someone who has hurt us is so hard.  Yet, Jesus calls us to do so.  But how?

I am so looking forward to the one-day retreat on Saturday, April 28, when we can begin to explore the gifts and mercies the Spirit of God offers us as we struggle with the challenge and the gift of forgiveness; as we open ourselves to God’s holy love at work in us, moving us from fear, anger, resistance — to forgiveness.

We will look with great intention at some questions which most of us ask:

  • Is forgiveness a one-time event?
  • Does forgiveness mean we forget, or condone, or dismiss what someone has done to hurt us?
  • Is forgiveness part of Christ’s command that we love our neighbor?

In the quiet and safe environment of Whispering Winds, we will explore together, in a rhythm of group time and personal time, both the difficulties and the spiritual and emotional gifts of forgiveness.  We won’t just be dealing in theory.  We will experience and practice some sacred and practical ways to begin the journey.

I am praying for this retreat, and for the people God might move to attend — maybe you.  God’s greatest love is freeing us from all that keeps us in bondage, all that keeps us from embracing the abundant life Jesus came to give.  I hope to see you Saturday, April 28.

Eight Questions

Whispering Winds Retreat Haven

Eight Questions to think about:

  1. What wrongdoing is the hardest one for me to forgive?
  2. Why is growing old so hard to do, and why is maturity so under-valued?
  3. What is “centering prayer,” and is it something I should know about and maybe even do?
  4. Do I have any “spiritual gifts” – and if so, what are they, and what should I do with them?
  5. Would I really write if I had several days away from home with all that time set aside just to write?
  6. Where is the “Christian community” for LGBT Christians, and how does “the church” fit into that?
  7. Can reading the Bible do more than simply inform me about God – can it really change me?
  8. Why in the world would I ever want to be together with people and not talk?

Why am I asking these questions? I’ve been talking with Pastor Joan Gunderman and Spiritual Director Ken Lund about possible retreat topics for Whispering Winds to offer over the next several months. Each of the retreats we  now have scheduled addresses one of the above questions.

The retreat schedule is listed below. Most of the retreats are from 9am to 4pm on Saturdays, cost $50, and include lunch. More details are posted on our website. Here’s a direct link. http://whisperingwindsretreathaven.com/retreatsevents/publicretreats.html

If you would like to receive a flyer with more information about the retreats, please email me at MarianKorth@Gmail.com. Feel free to request any number of flyers if you would like to share them with your friends or church groups. I’ll be happy to mail you as many as you can use to help us spread the word about these retreats.

In addition to the public retreats listed below, Pastor Joan will be leading a “Great Reads” Group on Monday evenings from 7:00 – 8:30, a book discussion group that meets once a month. Pastor Joan will also lead a Spiritual Formation Group on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 – 8:30, also once a month. Information about these groups is also included on the website.

Here’s our current retreat schedule.

April 28  Forgiveness – Challenge & Gift.  Led by Joan Gunderman.  9am – 4pm.

May 26.  Wrinkles Don’t Hurt. Led by Joan Gunderman.  9am – 4pm.

June 2.  Centering Prayer – an Introductory Workshop.  Led by Ken Lund and another presenter commissioned by Contemplative Outreach International.  8:30 – 12:30.

June 16.  Spiritual Gifts.  Led by Joan Gunderman.  9am – 4pm.

July 1-8. Retreat for Writers. Hosted by Marian Korth. Flexible: from 1 to 7 days, day-time only or overnight.

July 21.  LGBT Christians and “the church.” Led by Ken Lund and Marian Korth. 9am – 4pm.

August 18.  Formational Scripture Reading: From Information to Transformation. Ken Lund. 9am – 4pm.

November 10.  Solitude Retreat. Led by Ken Lund. 9am – 4pm.

If you want to set aside more time to keep focused on the retreat topic, you are invited to  reserve a room to stay overnight the night before and/or the night after the retreat for any of the retreats. (Inquire about our special room rates during public retreats.)

So, which of the eight questions intrigues you most?

If the answer is “all of them,” great! I’ll look forward to seeing a lot of you over the next several months.

If the answer is “none of them,” let me know what questions you are thinking about. We can always make changes or additions to our retreat program – or we may be able to recommend other resources that may be helpful to you.

Bleeding Hearts

Remembering “Emma”

On an entirely different subject, we had a wonderful memorial service for “Emma” at Whispering Winds on Saturday. God gave us all an extra special remembrance of “Emma” – the redbud tree, the flowering crabs, the Korean Spice Viburnum tree, and the bleeding hearts were all in full bloom – from the palest pink to the brightest pink, and every shade in between. Pink was “Emma’s” favorite color. We couldn’t help but remember her wherever we looked on that beautiful, sunny day.

Parish Nurses, Nutty Knitters, and More Blessings

Country Comforts

The Farmhouse

This past weekend, a group of nine nurses gathered at Whispering Winds. Friday night was essentially a party, a time to relax and have fun together. Saturday was a more reflective time, an opportunity for sharing and contemplating ways to allow ourselves to be renewed physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I joined the nurses for some of the partying Friday evening. Most of the nurses had a Catholic background. Some were ex-nuns. As the director of Whispering Winds, I was jokingly asked to be the “mother superior” for the group. That was quite a stretch for a Methodist turned Lutheran.  I interpreted the role following the model of Jesus’ friend Martha rather than following the more usual Protestant stereotype of what a mother superior must be like. I did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen after enjoying drinks, appetizers, and a wonderful meal with the nurses.

This was probably the noisiest retreat we have ever hosted at Whispering Winds, but without a doubt, God kept her word, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” [Matthew 18:20] These nurses needed the opportunity to unwind, relax, and share their concerns among themselves. They needed to take care of their own needs rather than focusing only on the needs of others. Based on the comments of the nurses as they left, this 24-hour retreat had re-energized them. (If any of the nurses want to provide their perspective on the weekend retreat, please feel free to comment on this blog.)

As I reflected back on this nurses’ retreat, I thought about lots of different groups who have gathered at the farm, both when the farm was known as Country Comforts Bed & Breakfast and now as it’s known as Whispering Winds Retreat Haven.

The group that rivaled this weekend’s nurses for noisiness called themselves the “Nutty Knitters.” They were a group of 12 women who used to get together when they were high school students to knit scarves for the soldiers fighting overseas during World War II. Sometime in the 1950’s or 1960’s they started getting together for a week during the summer every year. In 2001, they came to Country Comforts for their annual reunion. About half of them lived in various places in Wisconsin. The rest flew in from all over the country – Washington D.C., Florida, Texas, Colorado, and California. When they came to Country Comforts they were in their retirement years, and they all had fascinating life stories to tell.

For breakfast they insisted on everyone squeezing around the dining room table together so that they could all be involved in every conversation. Throughout the day they explored Cambridge and surrounding communities. Usually in the late afternoon they’d gather around the piano and sing golden oldies. In the evening some of them played cards till midnight. Every morning, we found an empty cookie jar. We had promised to keep them supplied with homemade cookies, and they kept us to our word. We baked a different kind of cookies each day.

Along with the aroma of cookies baking in the oven, the house was filled with the love shared by the Nutty Knitters.  The woman who flew in from Florida was suffering with advanced stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease. She could no longer eat, and could barely talk. But she made it clear that she wanted to be together with her life-long friends one more time. Throughout the week, each woman spent some one-on-one time with her. Even that was a joyful experience, with so much love filling the house.

Another very memorable reunion happened several years ago. We welcomed two separate groups to the farm on the same weekend. One group was four sisters who had grown up on a farm in central Wisconsin. They were really excited about having their reunion in a similar farmhouse. The other guests were three girlfriends in their thirties, high school classmates who now lived in different cities. They were getting together to remember old times and renew their friendship.

The four sisters arrived first. Since they were so interested in the farmhouse, I took them on a little tour of all the rooms. When we walked into the upstairs guest room, one of the sisters gasped. She walked over to a coffee table book that illustrated Wisconsin farming practices from the early twentieth century. We displayed this book that had belonged to my dad in that room to honor our farming heritage. The sister picked up the book and said, “Our father wrote the text of this book.” The sisters all gathered around the book and paged through it, remembering their father writing the detailed descriptions of all the paintings.

While the sisters were looking at the book, the doorbell rang. The three girlfriends had arrived. I greeted them and led them upstairs to their room. I explained what the other women were so excited about. As I was about to introduce them, one of the girlfriends looked at the book and said, “I know that book. My uncle painted all the pictures. I remember watching him do it when I was a little girl.”

I’m sure God was chuckling over this “chance meeting.” The two sets of guests were delighted with the connection and spent a wonderful weekend together at the farm.

We have hosted all kinds of gatherings at Country Comforts Bed & Breakfast and Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. Family reunions are often scheduled for significant birthdays, like turning 90. That’s usually the age when people become quite proud of their age and begin to brag about it. Friends and families have also gathered here when coming to the area for a funeral. The farmhouse is a comfortable place to be together and share happy memories. Writers groups come to write in the seclusion of their own rooms during the day, and then get together for the evening in the living room to share their progress and to support each other. A group of teachers regularly comes here during long weekends to plan summer vacations to explore the world. They’ve been to China, Africa, and South America. Some senior groups combine a few days here with an evening at the nearby Fireside Dinner Theater.

The farmhouse has a long tradition of being a place for friends and family to gather for all kinds of reasons. My special reward for being the “Martha-style mother superior” who welcomes all these guests into our home is being able to witness God’s love showing up in hundreds of expected and unexpected ways.

A special thanks to the nurses this past weekend for inviting me to blog about their retreat. That prompted me to reminisce about so many of our wonderful guests over the years. What a blessing!