Tag Archive | Christmas Mountain

This Is the Day

fullsizeoutput_204fLast week I posted a blog entry called “Progress.” It was an update on the progress I’m making on my latest writing project, a devotional series based on my favorite hymns. The first part of the series will be a booklet of reflections based on 31 of my favorite Psalm-based hymns. My first draft of last week’s blog post was too long to expect you to read all of it, so I chopped off the last several paragraphs of the post. Here’s the rest of it – what you didn’t get last week.

The next Psalm-based hymn I wrote about in my booklet (after the four hymns based on Psalm 100) is “This Is the Day.” This hymn, written just 50 years ago, is a short, simple song that is a direct quote from the King James Version of Psalm 118:24. Les Garrett put the words of this verse to music. He was a pastor and traveling evangelist, originally from New Zealand.

The music is based on a Fiji folk tune. Musically, it has a simple call and response pattern, which makes it easy to learn, and easy to add verses to. Garrett wrote only the first verse, or should I say copied the words of Psalm 118:24 as verse one. Today the hymn is often published in hymnals with additional verses that have been added anonymously by oral tradition, a good example of the call and response pattern prompting other people to add new verses to a hymn.

fullsizeoutput_2056One of the books I’m reading as part of my own devotional reading this year is JESUS ALWAYS by Sarah Young. In the “Introduction” to her book, Young writes, “I enjoy singing this short, simple song in the morning, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.’ It helps me approach the day as a precious gift from God – remembering that every breath I breathe is from Him.”

During my last stay at Christmas Mountain, I re-read Young’s “Introduction,” and I decided to place “This Is the Day” as the next hymn after the four Psalm 100 hymns in my booklet. I’ve adopted Sarah Young’s practice of singing “This Is the Day” every morning as I begin my day. I even started to play with the call and response pattern of the song, and came up with some of my own words.

What can I do, What can I do
to reflect God’s love, to reflect God’s love?
I can be kind, I can be kind
to everyone, to everyone.
What can I do to reflect God’s love?
I can be kind to everyone.
What can I do, What can I do,
to reflect God’s love.

I’m not a hymn writer, but it was a fun exercise, and it reinforced for me that music, and the Psalms in particular, are wonderful gifts from God. “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”

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Progress

imagesLast week I was at our Christmas Mountain timeshare in Wisconsin Dells again for a 4-day, solitary getaway. I packed heavier than usual this time. It took me 9 trips to bring everything from the car into the condo. I had one small suitcase with a few clothes, 3 briefcases full of books and notebooks, my computer, my piano keyboard with its ironing board-like stand and folding bench, a step stool so I can reach the top shelves of the kitchen cupboards (where the wine glasses are kept), an ice chest, and a bag of groceries. I’m not a backpacker when I travel. I like to have everything with me that I might “need.” Needless to say, I make myself comfortable in my 1100-square-foot timeshare.

I spent most of my 4 days sleeping, reading, working on my latest writing project, and going for walks when it wasn’t raining or snowing. I had a nice, relaxing time, and I made good progress on my writing project.

fullsizeoutput_2052Several months ago, when I stopped blogging weekly, I defined my next major writing project to be a daily devotional book that will be reflections on 365 of my favorite hymns. I started the project last fall by creating a list of all my favorite hymns and sorting them into the most appropriate month for each hymn.

By October, I was ready to start writing about the hymns for November – mostly hymns related to All Saints Day and Thanksgiving. I did my research on the background of each of those 30 hymns, and I contemplated my personal reasons for liking each hymn.

I designed a 2-page spread to follow for each hymn. The left page will include the hymn title, the tune name, the author of the hymn text including a brief bio of the author, the composer of the tune including a brief bio of the composer, the scripture the hymn is based on, and finally the story I want to tell about the significance of the hymn – what will make the book a devotional rather than just an annotated index to hymns I like. The right page will be a lead sheet for the hymn. I plan to create these lead sheets myself using Finale music writing software in order to address copyright concerns.

I have done most of this thinking, organizing, and writing during a few 2- or 3- day writing retreats at Christmas Mountain over the last several months. At home I’m too busy with other things to focus on such a big project. Over the past 10 years, most of my Christmas Mountain getaways have involved some writing – either writing blog posts or working on bigger projects like this.

fullsizeoutput_2051Late last fall when I had about a quarter of the November hymn devotions drafted, I decided to jump ahead to December’s hymns.

When I was about half done with December’s hymns, I decided to jump ahead to January’s hymns.

When I finished writing all 31 of January’s hymn devotions, I decided to change my approach. Rather than organizing the hymns seasonally, I decided to come up with 12 themes or styles of music, and to organize my favorite hymns within those 12 categories.

Each month will have a particular focus, rather than just being a collection of 30 or so separate hymns that loosely relate to the time of year. I’m currently envisioning this project as being twelve 68-page, self-published booklets. When they are all written I’ll decide whether or not I want to re-publish them as a single book.

My 12 themes, subject to change, are:

  1. Psalms
  2. God’s Love
  3. Lent
  4. Easter
  5. New Life
  6. Nature
  7. Classic Hymns
  8. Spirituals
  9. Gospel Songs
  10. Contemporary Styles
  11. Thankfulness
  12. Christmas

Obviously, many of my favorite hymns could fall into more than one category. Maybe I’ll incorporate cross references in the introduction to each section.

fullsizeoutput_204fI decided to start with Psalms because that’s where church music has it’s beginnings. In my “Introduction” to the Psalms booklet, I wrote:

God loved us so much that God gave us the ability to express ourselves through music. And God told us to use that gift. We are supposed to make music. The Bible is filled with examples of how to do that.…

The book of Psalms is often referred to as the hymnbook of the Bible. It consists of 150 poems set to music. Many of them are songs of praise addressed directly to God. Others are laments, sometimes blaming God for the sorry state the singer is in. Some of the Psalms plead with God for help. All the Psalms can be viewed as tools that can help us express our feelings to God, all kinds of feelings, both good and bad, or maybe it’s better to say happy and sad, peaceful and frustrated….

Over the years, many of these Psalm-based hymns have become favorites of mine. I can identify with the words, and the music helps me express the feelings within my soul….

I started the Psalm booklet with what is perhaps the most widely sung song throughout the English-speaking world today, Psalm 100, “All People That on Earth Do Dwell.” This well-known paraphrase of Psalm 100 was written by William Kethe for the Anglo-Genevan Psalter, published in 1561. The hymn has been published in more than 1,000 hymnals since that time. It is usually sung to a tune called “OLD HUNDREDTH,” composed by Louis Bourgeois in the mid-1500s.

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But this isn’t the only hymn out there that’s based on Psalm 100. About a hundred years later, Thomas Ken, an Anglican priest, wrote another paraphrase of Psalm 100, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” often referred to as the “Doxology.” This hymn is also sung to the “OLD HUNDREDTH” tune. (This is the hymn we sang every Sunday while the ushers brought our offerings to the front of the church in the Methodist church where I grew up. We also sang it as the blessing at potlucks.)

About the same time this hymn was first being sung in England, Joachim Neander, a German Reformed Church teacher, wrote a much looser paraphrase of Psalm 100, and adapted a German folk tune to serve as the music for “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” This tune is now referred to as “LOBE DEN HERREN.” Two hundred years later, Neander’s paraphrase was translated into English by Catherine Winkworth. Her translation of this hymn has been published in more than 300 hymnals.

Over the centuries, many other hymns have been written based closely or loosely on Psalm 100. One of the most recent hymns that falls into the “loosely” category is “Halle, Halle, Hallelujah” written by prolific contemporary hymn writer Marty Haugen. He used a Caribbean folk tune to carry his joyful hymn.

The first 8 pages of the Psalms section of my devotional hymns project are devoted to Psalm 100, as expressed in these 4 hymns.

037615d43a4eb23542337b122c5d54d1The original song writer of Psalm 100 must be delighted to know how far and wide this Psalm has spread, especially considering that the Psalm begins with the words, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing…” [Psalm 100:1-2 KJV] Millions of people have been singing this song of praise for thousands of years. I’m delighted to be counted among them!

That’s why I’m committed to undertaking this large writing project. I want to become even more aware of how valuable God’s gift of music is, and I want to share that awareness with others.

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Oh, No…

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Typical duplex-style condo at Christmas Mountain Village in Wisconsin Dells

I guess I still have more to learn about GRATITUDE – my special word for last year. As I checked into my timeshare condo at Christmas Mountain last week the last thing on my mind was gratitude. First came disappointment. Then anger. Then “what now?” But let me backtrack…

I wasn’t even supposed to be at Christmas Mountain last week. This was Mim’s turn. A couple months ago we specifically scheduled a few three-night getaways for Mim to have some uninterrupted time to go through several boxes that we had carted over to our condo from the farm in June when we emptied the farmhouse. The boxes contain lots of “important papers” that we had stored in the basement of the farmhouse. Our plan was for Mim to use these Christmas Mountain getaways to quietly go through the papers, to retrieve old family pictures, letters, etc. and to discard what had no continuing value. Our goal is to get the boxes out of the garage before the snow flies so that Mim’s car can return to its shelter instead of sitting on the driveway.

(A brief digression. Mim is thinking of selling her car. We don’t really need two cars. Let us know if you might be interested in buying a 2003 Toyota Matrix, all-wheel drive, in excellent condition and with low mileage for its age – just over 120,000 miles.)

This isn’t the first time we’ve scheduled a Christmas Mountain getaway for Mim, and I’ve had to make the “sacrifice” and take the getaway for her. It’s much harder for her to get away from our assisted living business than it is for me. Mim takes care of our residents physically – monitors their health, gives showers, helps them get dressed as needed, and so on. I help, too, but I do things like order hearing aid batteries on the Internet, scramble eggs, and bake cookies. If one of the people who helps us with real caregiving is unable to cover for Mim, or if a resident has a health concern that needs close monitoring, Mim can’t get away. I can.

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That’s why I went to Christmas Mountain last week. I was on the road at 2:45 Tuesday afternoon – as soon as Denise (one of three people who help us with caregiving several hours a week) finished assembling a small apple crisp just for me. She was making apple crisp for our residents for dinner that evening and decided to make a little one for me. The plan was for me to pop the mini-apple crisp into the oven of my timeshare unit to enjoy the aroma of it baking as I settled into the condo, and to savor it with some vanilla ice cream as dessert with my dinner. (That part of my day went as planned. The apple crisp was delicious!)

The drive up to Wisconsin Dells took exactly an hour and fifteen minutes, the usual, to the highway exit. I stopped at the Walmart near the exit to pick up a pint of vanilla ice cream for the apple crisp. It was sprinkling a little as I got out of the car, so I grabbed my jacket. The store was fairly busy, and no express lanes were open, so I had to wait in line to check out behind 2 large carts of groceries, but I tried to be patient. I was looking forward to this unexpected 3-night getaway, and I was almost there. By the time I left the store, it was raining harder, but at least I had my jacket on.

Ten minutes later I checked in at the registration desk of Christmas Mountain. No line there! I drove to the condo assigned to me. Usually we reserve 2-bedroom condos so we have plenty of space to spread out, but this week, the only unit available was a 1-bedroom condo. Most of the units at Christmas Mountain are duplexes, and that was the case this time, too. There were three parking spaces in front of this duplex, but all the spaces had cars in them. That was a little annoying, but the next duplex wasn’t far away, and there was an extra space there, which I took. It was still raining, and I knew I had at least six trips ahead of me to carry in my suitcase, all my food for three days, my computer, books, a step-stool (because they keep the glasses and mugs on the top shelf of the cupboard – well beyond my reach), and everything else I always pack to be sure I have whatever I might need.

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Carrying one briefcase, my purse, and the keycard, I splashed through the rain and opened the door. And I groaned, “I can’t believe how small this is!” I normally set up my computer at one end of the dining table and use the other end for eating. Obviously that won’t work here. The table is about 2-feet square. It’s smaller than a card table. Grumbling to myself, I went back into the rain to make the other five trips to carry in all my stuff.

When I had everything inside, I sat on the couch to think about how (or if) to settle in. The room was dark. The only overhead lights were two can lights above the kitchen counter. As I looked up I saw a centipede crawling across the ceiling. I looked for a fly swatter, which most units have. I couldn’t find one. I looked for anything I could use to kill the centipede. I finally settled on a long cooking spoon. I positioned my step stool and a dining chair under the centipede. I climbed up and tried to smash it with the long spoon, but I just stunned it, I think, and it fell – somewhere. Fortunately, I didn’t feel it crawling on me, and within seconds I found it scurrying along the floor to safety under the couch.

I sat down on the couch to consider my options. I could simply go home. Or, I could call the front desk to see if they could put me in another unit. Or, I could try to make the best of this unit. As I sat on the couch, I became more aware of how noisy it was. Instead of a furnace, the condo had two wall units for heating and cooling – one in the main room and one in the bedroom. They were almost as noisy as vacuum cleaners.

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Then my cellphone rang. It was my friend Peggy. She and Mim were out shopping in Madison, and they were in the liquor store of Woodman’s. Although Peggy does not drink, she wanted to know what my favorite red wines are. She was re-stocking her wine rack, and she wanted to do it with my favorites. Wow! What a friend to have!

After talking with Peggy, and then talking with Mim for a few minutes, my mood lifted a little. That’s when I thought of my special word from last year – GRATITUDE. I certainly am fortunate to have a good friend like Peggy in my life. And Mim for a life partner. And then I thought of the apple crisp still sitting in my ice chest. How grateful I am for that – and for Denise for thinking to make it for me.

And then I remembered what my plans were for these days – to read a couple books and start working on my 366-hymn devotional book. What a gift to have this unexpected time to do these things.

How quickly I had allowed a few little disappointments to make me forget about being grateful – grateful for time and grateful for friends. And grateful for lots more. Maybe that’s why this little getaway in this tiny condo at Christmas Mountain fell into my lap – I needed to be reminded of last year’s special word. Gratitude.

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Three candles glowing on top of a cardboard box set the tone for the rest of my getaway.

 

Talking with Floey about Forecasts

Floey sitting - profile croppedFloey jumped off the love seat in my home office, trotted over to my desk where I was sitting, and sat down next to me. “Mom, it’s been a week, and you still haven’t told me about the third thing you were thinking about during your getaway at your Christmas Mountain timeshare last week. Can you take time to tell me about it now?”

“Sure, Floey. I’m ready to take a break from my computer, anyway.”

“Good. Remember, you told me all about reading Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s book, THE GIFT OF PEACE, and how inspiring that book was. Then you told me about how frustrated you got with technical problems when you tried to post last week’s blog post, and how much you need to become more patient.”

“You have a good memory, Floey.”

“Let’s hope your memory is as good so you can tell me about the third thing you thought about during your Christmas Mountain getaway. You haven’t forgotten, have you?”

“Actually, Floey, I thought about some old, old memories during my week away. Last Wednesday was the 25th of the month. For the past forty years, on the 25th of the month, almost every month (except December), I think Forecast Day.”

“Forecast Day? What does that mean?”

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On clear days, I could see across Lake Michigan from my window office on the 63rd floor.

“In the summer of 1975 I started working for Northwest Industries in the Finance Systems Division. I was 27 at the time and living in Chicago with Mim.”

“What did you do at Northwest Industries?”

“I started out with the catch-all title of Coordinator of Financial Systems. Basically, I worked with accountants, analysts, and their managers to be sure all the newly computerized financial systems worked together smoothly.”

“How did you get that kind of job? I thought you were an English teacher and an editorial researcher.”

“I learned on the job. I took the job because they said they would teach me everything I needed to know, and they would also pay for me to get my MBA, taking one or two courses at a time in the evening.”

“Did you get your MBA?”

“Yes, I did. It took me five years of evening classes, but I got my MBA from the University of Chicago in 1981.”

“More important, did you like the job?”

“Most of the time I liked it. Northwest Industries was a good place to work. The corporate office was on the 63rd floor of the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower).

“What did Northwest Industries do? I’ve never heard of the company.”

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One of my treasures from my Northwest Industries days is this pencil holder – a child’s boot from Acme Boot Company.

“Northwest Industries called itself a diversified holding company. It owned about a dozen companies. Acme Boot Company in Tennessee was the world’s largest manufacturer of cowboy boots and paratrooper boots for the U.S. military. Union Underwear Company in Kentucky and Fruit of the Loom in New York made and sold lots of “union suits” and other underwear. Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Los Angeles was the largest bottler of Coke beverages. General Battery Corporation in Pennsylvania made replacement batteries for cars. Lone Star Steel manufactured tubular steel, like that used for the Alaska Pipeline. The Buckingham Corporation was the sole U.S. importer of Cutty Sark Scotch and Mouton Cadet wines.”

“Wow. I guess Northwest Industries was diversified!”

“Yes, it was. In order to manage these companies to make them as productive and profitable as possible, the corporate headquarters in Chicago, where I worked, used four cycles to plan and monitor performance for the companies. And that’s what I thought about at Christmas Mountain last week.”

“So last week at Christmas Mountain you realized it was the 25th, and you thought Forecast Day, and from there you thought about all four planning and monitoring cycles? I think you need to explain a little more.”

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“First, let me identify the four cycles: long-range plan, budget, forecast, and actual results. A brand new long-range plan was created every summer. That’s when everyone took some time to dream and plan how they would like to see Northwest Industries develop over the next four years. Each operating company prepared its own plan, and then our computer systems consolidated the plans.

In the fall an annual budget for the upcoming year was developed. This is where each company prepared specific plans for improving its productivity and profitability over the next twelve months, consistent with its long-range plan.

These two cycles were annual cycles and they focused everyone’s attention on planning. The other two cycles were monthly cycles and they turned everyone’s attention to monitoring progress against the plans.

The Forecast cycle was the most stressful cycle of all. On the 25th of the month, or if the 25th fell on a weekend or holiday, the last business day before the 25th, a complete set of financial statements was prepared along with narratives. The Forecast was intended to give corporate executives a preview of what actual results for the month and remainder of the year would be – before the month was over. The narratives explained why the forecast deviated from the budget, if it did, and what could be done to improve the numbers, if possible.”

“But, Mom, couldn’t those executives at least wait until the end of the month to get the final monthly numbers?”

“No, I think they thought if they knew ahead of time, they might be able to make some changes that would improve the final numbers, even for the current month.”

“Well, I think I understand the first three cycles – Long-Range Plan, Budget, and Forecast. Tell me about the Actual Results cycle.”

tumblr_m32egnnhYP1rsiwfpo1_500“The final numbers for the month were usually due from the operating companies by the 5th of the following month and they were consolidated by the end of that day. If Actual Results for any company differed from the numbers submitted for the Forecast cycle, individual company analysts were held accountable for not understanding and monitoring their businesses carefully enough. For example, one of the closest predictors of Sales for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Lost Angeles was the weather forecast. More Coke is sold when it’s hot and sunny than when it’s cold and rainy. If you want to know how much Coke will be sold for the whole month, and it’s only the 25th of the month, it makes sense to study the weather forecast.”

“That’s interesting, Mom, but why were you thinking about this stuff at Christmas Mountain? You haven’t had to care about these cycles for at least thirty years.”

“Well, like I said, on the 25th of the month I still think Forecast Day. At Christmas Mountain, on Wednesday, it was the 25th, and I thought Forecast Day. And, being at Christmas Mountain, I had time to think more about those days back in the 1970s and 1980s. I was probably more inclined to think about my Northwest Industries days because of my technology frustrations the day before when I was working on my blog. I remembered what it was like to wait for the computer to consolidate all the numbers, and then to wait again for the computer to print out complete sets of financial statements. I remember some months I physically ran copies of the statements to the executives at the last minute, just before they left for the day, so that they could carry these statements along with them to study on their train ride home. Thinking about these four planning and monitoring cycles brought back lots of memories. And then I thought, maybe it makes sense to think about how relevant these cycles could be in our personal lives today.”

“What do you mean, Mom?”

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“I think it might be a good idea to do a long-range plan for our own personal lives periodically – probably not every year, but at least more than one time – when we’re finishing school and beginning our careers. I also think it might be a good idea to come up with specific plans (like “Budgets”) every year. That may take the form of New Year’s Resolutions…”

Floey interjected, “Or choosing a special word to focus on all year, like we do.”

“Yeah, that’s the idea. And then comes the Forecast. I don’t know if that needs to be done monthly, although it probably wouldn’t hurt. I think it might be good to periodically review what we’ve observed and learned related to our word for the year and other experiences we’ve had so far in the year. As part of that Forecast review, we could decide if we need to make any changes to be sure we’re working toward the results we want to see in our lives. Following these cycles just might help us become the people God intended for us to become.”

“Wow, Mom. You’ve really been thinking hard about this. Are you sure you’re not taking this too far?”

“Maybe I am, Floey. But what is important is that at Christmas Mountain I have quiet time to think about things like this, and to listen hard to hear what God may be trying to tell me.”

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Floey and me taking a walk in the neighborhood.

“Okay, Mom. I’ll try not to be mad at you next time you go away like this and leave me behind. Maybe I can use the time when you’re gone to try to Forecast where I’ll be by the end of the year in learning all about my special word for this year – Meow – and learning how to communicate better with cats.”

“That’s the spirit, Floey. After all this heavy thinking, let’s go for a walk.”

“Great! We can’t let thinking get in the way of enjoying life! Let’s go!”

 

Talking with Floey about Peace and Patience

Floey-Marian faces selfie 2Floey came running up to me as I opened the door into our condo from the garage. She was so excited I had to drop my suitcase to give her a big hug. “Oh, Floey. I’m so glad to see you. I missed you so much!”

“I missed you, too, Mom? Where did you go this time? Were you at Christmas Mountain again?” Floey asked.

“Yup. That’s where I was, Floey.”

“Why do you go there so often, Mom. I really miss you when you’re gone.”

“Oh, I wish I could take you with me, but like most timeshares, they don’t allow dogs. But anyway, if you did come with me, who would take care of our residents? They need you at home to do the pre-wash of their dishes before they go into the dishwasher. And the ladies like to have you snuggle up close to them to be petted. You’re needed at home.”

“I guess you’re right, Mom. But why do you go away so often?”

“Well, Floey, whenever I’m home, I’m always working, seven days a week. That’s the nature of our business – round-the-clock caregiving in our home. That’s why Mim and I need to get away, and why we almost always go away separately – so someone will always be home with you and our residents.”

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Christmas Mountain Village, Wisconsin Dells

I guess I understand. But what do you do at Christmas Mountain? I know it’s a ski resort in the winter and a golf resort during the rest of the year, and you don’t do either.”

“That’s a good question. You know what things I like to do, Floey. Don’t you?”

“Sure. You like to read and write and play the piano and go for walks.”

“Yup. And that’s exactly what I do at Christmas Mountain. I always get a nice, comfortable condo where I can sprawl out and enjoy my time there. Sometimes I even take my little five octave keyboard along so I can play the ‘piano.’ And, of course, I have my computer, iPad, iPhone, books, a puzzle, and I’ve even started bringing along a coloring book and colored pencils.”

“Wow. That’s why you always pack up so many bags when you leave!”

“That’s right. I want to have everything I might need to relax, in whatever way I feel like relaxing. This time I was away for almost a whole week, so I packed a lot of stuff.”

“Did you use all your stuff?”

“I guess not. I didn’t do the puzzle this time. I did more reading and writing than usual. And I walked quite a bit, too. And I spent some time just thinking.”

“What did you think about?”

images“One of the things I thought about was one of the books I read, THE GIFT OF PEACE by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, former Archbishop of Chicago. It was an incredibly inspiring book.”

“What was it about?”

“Here, let me show you, Floey.” I pulled my briefcase out of the car and pulled out the little book.

“Cardinal Bernardin wrote this book during the final months of his life. Thirteen days before he died, he finished the book, and hand-wrote a letter to serve as a preface to the book. The letter is actually published in the book in hand-written form. Let me read you an excerpt from the letter, Floey. That will give you a good impression of the tone and content of the book itself.”

“Okay, Mom. Read away.”

I have decided to write this very personal letter explaining why I have written this little book, The Gift of Peace. It is not an autobiography but simply a reflection on my life and ministry during the past three years, years that have been as joyful as they have been difficult. My reflections begin with the allegation of sexual misconduct brought against me November 1993 and continue to the present as I prepare for the last stage of my life which began in June 1995 with the diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, “it has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times.” The worst because of the humiliation, physical pain, anxiety and fear. The best because of the reconciliation, love, pastoral sensitivity and peace that have resulted from God’s grace and the support and prayers of so many people. While not denying the former, this reflection focuses on the latter, showing how, if we let him, God can write straight with crooked lines. To put it another way, this reflection is intended to help others understand how the good and the bad are always present in our human condition and, that if we “let go,” if we place ourselves totally in the hands of the Lord, the good will prevail.

“Wow. Did you say he died less than two weeks after writing the book?”

“That’s right, Floey. Pretty inspiring, isn’t it? I’m so glad I had the time and a quiet place to read his book and to think about it this past week. That’s why going to Christmas Mountain is so good for me. I have the time to be quiet, to read, and to think.”

“What else did you think about?” Floey asked.

“Well, I thought a lot about patience, especially on Tuesday.”

“Patience? That’s not your word for the year. I think that was Mim’s word a couple years ago. Why did you think about patience? And, why on Tuesday?”

“Think, Floey. You know. What do I always do on Tuesday mornings?”

“That’s easy, Mom. Every Tuesday morning you add a post to your blog. Right?”

“That’s right. When I know I’m going to be away from home I usually try to write the post before I leave home so that all I have to do when I’m away is my final editing and posting it on the Internet. Then I send an email to let subscribers know it has been posted, and I post a comment on Facebook to let a lot of my friends know it’s there. The Tuesday morning process usually takes less than an hour. Well, the Internet connection at Christmas Mountain is always slow, but at least Internet service is available. Last Tuesday the Internet connection was the slowest I have ever experienced. I wasn’t even sure I could post my blog. I pounded the table a few times, and I paced all around the condo many times trying to think of where I could find a public Wi-Fi network I could use to post my blog – like maybe at McDonald’s or Culver’s. I finally was able to post my reflection about favorite hymns, “An Odd Favorite,” at Christmas Mountain. However, I’m sure my blood pressure was well above the healthy normal range!”

“You really were frustrated!”

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These terminals were the workhorses of the Finance Department. A telephone handset plugged into the modem on the right to communicate at 30 cps.

“I sure was, Floey. Once the post was out there, I went for a walk. That helped me calm down. I thought about how dependent upon – and demanding of – technology we have become. I remembered my first job where I worked with computers – Northwest Industries in Chicago. That company was widely considered leading edge in using information technology for making business decisions. In the mid-1970s we used a dial-up connection to transmit data at the rate of 30 cps (characters per second), about six times faster than a good typist can type a letter. Pretty fast, don’t you think? Whenever I wanted to see a report, I sent it to the printer (initially we had no monitors to view) and then went to get a cup of coffee while I waited for the report to print. After a couple years, the top executives were equipped with monitors that could display data at the rate of 120 cps. That’s when we were collaborating with decision support specialists at MIT, in the glory days of using computers to enhance management decision making.

“I can’t even remember how I could be so patient in those days! Patience. Maybe that was a virtue I possessed in the 1970s, but I certainly didn’t have it last Tuesday. I just wanted to add a post to my blog. That’s all. And technology was crawling along, not zipping by.”

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“I bet you were really, really frustrated, Mom. I can see you getting stressed out just talking about it.”

“You’re right, Floey. But I thought about it for a while. You know, patience is listed as one of the gifts of the spirit, right after peace. The Bible says in Galatians 5:22-23:

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. [New Living Translation]

“I don’t know, Floey. Maybe I need to spend more time pondering and praying for the gift of patience.”

“Hey, Mom. Maybe patience should be your special word next year.”

“Maybe… It’s a little early to think about next year’s special word. I still have seven months left to focus on kindness – my word for this year.”

“You’re right, Mom. That can wait. Did you think about anything else while you were at Christmas Mountain last week?”

“Well, yes, there was one more thing. But let’s talk about that later. I still have to empty the car and get settled in again at home.”

“Okay, Mom. But don’t forget we have to continue this conversation.”

 

Patience-is-not-about-how-long-you-can-wait-but-how-well-you-behave-while-youre-waiting.

I Planned and God Laughed

Marian at Messiah organ 5Thursday was just one of those days. I usually try to go to church to practice the organ for a couple hours about 9:00 every Thursday morning. Last Thursday I was running behind schedule because of being away at Christmas Mountain for a 3-day getaway earlier in the week, and I didn’t have any music picked out to play for the Saturday and Sunday services yet. I had tried to pick out the music Wednesday evening, but I was just too tired.

I always read the scriptures for the service and try to select a prelude, postlude, and any special music that relates to the theme of the service. Early Thursday morning I tried to think of appropriate music, but nothing came to mind. As I paged through several music books for ideas, I realized I’d be pretty late for my church practice time. I called Annette at church to let her know I was still coming, but would be there late morning or early afternoon. I got there about 11:30, carrying a dozen music books of possible preludes and postludes. The first book I opened up had the perfect prelude. The second book had just the right postlude. Amazing.

As I was practicing, my friend Peggy just happened to drop in the church. I hadn’t seen her in more than four months. What an unexpected, pleasant surprise! We made plans to go out to dinner that evening.

I went back to practicing, and then Clyde, the church director of music who just happens to work nearby, dropped in during his lunch hour. Great! I had some music questions for him about the hymns selected for Sunday. We had a good chance to go over them.

A few minutes later Pastor Jeff came into the sanctuary where I was practicing. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I reached for my phone to check my calendar to see if I would be available to play for a funeral in the next week or so.

As I finished up my practicing I thought about how good it was that I had practiced later than I had planned. God knew that a later practice time would enable me to meet up with all these people!

blueberry6ozAs I was sitting in my car, ready to leave the church parking lot, I called Mim, who was away for her 3-day getaway at Christmas Mountain. (We had split the week between us.) Our youngest resident (only 94) had asked me at breakfast if we could get some more fresh blueberries from Costco. They had been so big, sweet, and juicy, and she loved to have them on her cereal. Mim had been at Costco earlier in the week, and I wanted to ask her if she knew if they still had those special blueberries when she was there. If so, I would go to Costco on my way home. Mim said she thought they had some, but she suggested that I stop at Metro Market, right by church, instead. They have a big produce section and would probably have good blueberries, and they were much closer than Costco.

So that’s what I did. I left the church parking lot and drove to Metro Market. Unfortunately, they didn’t have nice big blueberries, but they did have honey crisp apples. So I bought a bag of them, checked out, and went to the car.

o-IPHONE-6-facebookI reached for my cellphone in my pocket, and it wasn’t there. It must have fallen out of my pocket when I got out of the car, so I searched the ground near the car, but I didn’t find it. I searched the car. No luck. I re-traced my steps through the parking lot into the store and throughout the store. No luck. I went to the information desk in the store to see if anyone had turned in the phone. No one had. A check-out clerk suggested that I take her phone, call my phone to make it ring, and re-trace my steps throughout the store. It must have fallen out of my pocket somewhere. I did what she suggested. No luck. I asked her if I could take her phone out to my car to see if I could hear my phone ringing in the parking lot or in my car. She said sure. Again, no luck. I returned her phone, and left my name and home phone number at the information desk at Metro Market so they could call me if anyone turned in my phone.

Pretty frustrated, but appreciative of the helpfulness of everyone at Metro Market, I left the parking lot and drove to Costco for blueberries. They still had them – and they really are delicious! About an hour had passed, so I decided to stop at Metro Market again before heading home – just in case someone had turned in the phone. No luck.

I arrived home about 4:00. The plan was for me to pick up Peggy at 5:00 and we would drive to a restaurant in Fort for an early dinner. I decided to call the US Cellular store in Fort to ask them to de-activate the phone and download my info onto a new phone for me to pick up the next day. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), my call went to voicemail, and I did not leave a message. Apparently, everyone was with customers. I tried calling the Lake Mills store. Same result.

I decided to call Peggy and suggest changing our plans. I said, “Let’s go to Lake Mills instead and stop at the US Cellular store first, and then go out to dinner in Lake Mills.” She was game for the change in plans.

I picked her up and we drove to Lake Mills. A US Cellular representative greeted us as we walked through the door of the store. I explained my predicament, and he said, “Let’s try to find your phone first.” I gave him my cell phone number and my Apple password. He keyed that info into his computer, and a green dot showed up on a map on his computer screen. There was my phone. The green dot was just north of Cottage Grove Road and just west of the Interstate. That looked like the location of church. The phone must have fallen out of my pocket in the parking lot of the church just before I drove away.

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I had parked my car in the first handicapped parking space, in front of the smaller window.

Peggy and I abandoned our plan to have dinner in Lake Mills, and drove back to Madison, to church. I looked around the handicapped parking space where I had parked earlier in the day. No phone. The church was locked, but I had a key, so we went inside to see if someone had brought the phone inside. It wasn’t in the gathering space. I checked my mail slot in the office. Not there. Maybe it would be in my music slot by the organ. As I walked toward the organ, I spied it sitting on the piano. That’s where I had put it after Pastor Jeff and I had talked and I had entered the funeral into my calendar in my phone. I was so happy to have my phone in my hands again.

As we were ready to leave the church, I saw an elderly man trying to get into the church, but the doors were locked. I went to see what he wanted, and he asked if this is where the “whittling” was happening. I had heard people downstairs, so I asked him to wait with Peggy while I ran downstairs to see if that was the group. Sure enough, it was a wood carving group meeting. I went back upstairs, and showed him to the elevator so that he could go downstairs and join the “whittlers.”

I guess God needed someone to be near the main entrance of the church about that time to welcome this elderly stranger. I’m not quite sure why God chose Peggy and me to be the ones to welcome him, but I’m glad we were at the right place at the right time.

Prius VAs I was thinking back over the day, one of the most amazing things is that I did not consider at all the possibility that I might have left my phone in church. I knew I had my phone with me when I left the church because I sat in my car and called Mim to ask about blueberries before I left the church parking lot. My fancy new Toyota Prius V has the feature that my phone automatically connects with the car when I step into the car if my phone is with me. I make and receive phone calls through buttons on the dash and steering wheel. Apparently, there was a straight shot where I left my phone on the piano in church, through the church window, through my windshield, and to the phone interface of the car. And the signal between the phone and the car interface was strong enough to connect.

I’m sure God had a good laugh all day long about the intersections of my plans and God’s plans. When God finally let Peggy and me in on the joke, we laughed, too, as we dined on a great dinner at Angelo’s Italian restaurant on Monona Drive, not far from church.

My day certainly didn’t go according to my plans. God’s plans were much better – especially the way they ended!

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Angelo’s – a great place to end our day!

The Joy of Being a Piece of the Puzzle

iStock_000017949838XSmallI’m drafting this blog post on Thursday morning. I plan to post it on Tuesday, my usual day for posting to WhisperingWindsBlog.com. I’m writing this post so early because I plan to spend a few days at our Christmas Mountain timeshare, and I want to spend my time reading, walking, and putting together a picture puzzle, not writing. I want to simply relax.

For that past 14 years that Mim and I have been doing assisted living in our home, most of our vacations have been taken separately, so that one of us is almost always at home to be able to care for our residents. We’ve learned that the most enjoyable way for us to take separate vacations is to go to a nearby timeshare, splitting the week between us. This time, I’ll go to Christmas Mountain Sunday afternoon. Mim will meet me for lunch on Wednesday and then I’ll go home, and she’ll stay at Christmas Mountain till Saturday morning.

Putting together a picture puzzle is something that relaxes me, and I often do one at Christmas Mountain. As a child, putting together a puzzle was an activity I often did with my grandma. She always had a card table set up in her living room with a puzzle in progress. We spent many hours together enjoying each other’s company as we worked on this shared task.

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Grandma and me in her living room, playing with her cat. I don’t have a picture of us working on a puzzle.

As I was thinking about which picture puzzle to take with me to Christmas Mountain this time, my mind wandered to an email I received a couple weeks ago from Tracy, a friend from church. Although she didn’t use these exact words, she marveled at how we are all pieces of a big puzzle that God is putting together. We may not know exactly how we fit into the big picture, but God does. Let me provide the background of our email correspondence.

For the past several years, our church (Messiah Lutheran Church in Madison, WI) has published a booklet of Lent Devotionals – 47 one-page reflections, each written by a member of Messiah. Catherine Puisto, Coordinator of Children’s and Family Ministry, has led this annual project, and has done an amazing job with it. Middle schoolers, teenagers, and adults all contribute their writings. Mim and I look forward to getting the booklet each year, and we usually pick up a few extra copies to share with some of our friends.

IMG_0929The devotional for Maundy Thursday, March 24, was written by Tracy Frank. The verse she was assigned to reflect on was Mark 14:34. “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’”

I’ve read the story many times about Jesus going into the garden to pray just before his arrest and crucifixion, and how he asked his disciples to stay awake with him during this agonizing time of trial, and how they fell asleep. But, I’d never thought about the event quite the way Tracy wrote about it. Here’s part of her reflection:

Who is grieving? Are we awake?

In the story of the life of our Savior, Jesus agonizes over His coming death with deep grief and sorrow. He calls on his friends to stay with him and keep awake for he knows what is coming. The disciples, not understanding the depth of his sorrow, fall asleep and cannot be trusted to be there for him. Can you and I be trusted to keep awake for Jesus?

Everyone around us has a story and many people have stories of deep, deep grief. I can’t imagine the grief held by a woman whose 12 year old son was shot dead by police while playing with a toy gun in a park, or the grief of parents running with their children from their home country because of war, or the grief of a mother whose newborn child has a disease with a diagnosis of only months of life. We live among this kind of pain yet sometimes we don’t respond to the calls of God to live fully awake. …

As Christians we are to trust that God can transfigure grief into joy and we are called to offer grace and compassion to those in pain. …

Maundy Thursday, the day I read this reflection, was a day I was scheduled to play the piano for the women’s worship service in the Dane County Jail. During the time of testimony when we go around the circle and share what’s on our mind loosely related to the Scripture we have just read, I shared Tracy’s reflection – that God has asked each of us to be on the watch for others who are grieving or struggling through difficult circumstances so that we can support them in their time of need.

One of the inmates seemed to be particularly teary that day, and everyone seemed very attuned to her, as well as to what I was saying. I later found out from the chaplain that the teary woman had just found out the day before that her brother had been killed, and she was in the depths of grieving that loss. The women sitting in our worship circle could easily identify with being asked by Jesus to sit together in support of this woman who was grieving.

The next day I emailed Tracy to tell her how her reflection had been used. She responded with, “Thank you for sharing Marian. Could have never guessed when I wrote it that it would be shared in this way. Thankful that God used the thoughts from my heart to connect to women at the Dane County Jail through your words and sharing. Humbled!”

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Pieces of God’s puzzle. That’s what came into my mind as I thought about picture puzzles today. We may not have a clue about how we fit into someone else’s life story, but God knows just how we all fit into the big picture.

Yes. I agree with Tracy. It’s very humbling. And sometimes a source of great joy. I’m glad to be a piece of the same puzzle as Tracy, and Catherine, and Chaplain Julia, and Mim, and my grandma, and you, and everyone else who has touched my life…

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