Tag Archive | Come Lord Jesus

What Do I Really Do?

Sears Tower

In the 1980s Northwest Industries took up the 62nd and 63rd floors of the Sears Tower – about halfway to the top.

Last week I heard from some voices in my past thanks to social media. A couple colleagues from the late 1970s-early 1980s when I worked for Northwest Industries in Chicago emailed me through LinkedIn, the professional networking site. Then I heard from a coworker at TDS in Madison where I worked in the mid-1990s, and then a couple clients from my Cambridge-based consulting practice from the early 2000s.

What prompted all these emails is my “Experience Timeline” on the LinkedIn social networking site.  September of 2012 is when I got serious about completing and publishing my two books, Listening for God: 52 Reflections on Everyday Life and Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest: Adventures in Hospitality. I added an entry on my timeline for September 2012 of being a “Self-Employed Author.” This week LinkedIn announced my 2-year anniversary of being Self-Employed, which prompted the emails from some of my connections.

I haven’t seen Jerry and Jan in almost 30 years. Jerry was Assistant Treasurer at Northwest Industries. Jerry and I never worked closely together and we were never close friends, but there was mutual respect. Jerry must be pushing 80 by now, and he still does some financial consulting. Jan was a Disaster Recovery Consultant in the Information Technology Department. Jan and I traveled together a lot to work with a battery company in Pennsylvania that Northwest Industries owned. When Northwest Industries was acquired and most of the corporate staff lost their jobs, Jerry, Jan, and I, along with several other colleagues each formed our own consulting practices. It was an exciting time in our professional lives.

During that time, Jan and I collaborated on writing a book, The Virus Handbook. In the mid-1980s, computer viruses were just beginning to be recognized as a potentially serious problem. As a Disaster Recovery Consultant, Jan wanted to publish a manual of guidelines to minimize the risk of being infected by a computer virus, but he didn’t want to write it. We spent many hours together with Jan teaching me everything he knew about computer viruses. I tried to structure that information into a useful format and we copyrighted it. I wonder if the copy we sent to the Library of Congress is still sitting on their shelves… We sold a few copies, but the best part of our collaboration was the time we spent working together. We were a great encouragement to each other as we built our own businesses.

cat chemist heliumThose emails prompted me to reflect on the strange path my career has taken over the years – English teacher, editorial researcher for World Book Encyclopedia, systems analyst and eventually systems manager for a large corporation, independent business consultant, B&B owner, church organist, real estate broker, caregiver, and author. I guess that’s a rather strange progression of jobs. Not a typical career path. It’s no wonder I left high school thinking I would become a chemist. I had no idea what I would become. The closest I ever came to chemistry in my career was a consulting assignment I did for a pharmaceutical company in Chicago. I’m sure when I was in high school there’s no way I could conceive of the twists and turns my career would take.

An old concept that I’ve been thinking about seriously for the first time this year is the idea that my life, day by day, should be viewed as a pilgrimage back to God. This idea comes up frequently in the prayers I’m reading in Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays. Here’s an excerpt from one of the morning prayers for summer:

Prayers for a Planetary PilgrimWhatever this summer day holds for me,
may I find, among its many events,
signs to confirm and direct me
in my primary vocation of pilgrimhood.
May I be eager to assist my sister and brother pilgrims in their journeys.
May I do nothing by word or deed
that will detour them on their homeward path to you.
May I burn with the fire of the sun in loving all the Earth
and all members of your sacred family.
I bow before you, Divine Father, Holy Mother,
Eternal Source of my existence.
Your heart is my home,
from you I have come
and to you I journey this day.

I’m still not sure what the right answer is for the blank for “Occupation” I need to fill out on my tax returns. I’m afraid “pilgrim” might be a red flag. But I guess that’s what my real vocation is. All the other occupations I’ve had along my path just add flavor and spice to my true calling.

Pilgrim Cat

Success! I finally memorized it!

child playing piano 2“Jesus loves me, this I know … “That’s the first song I memorized as a child. That’s a song little children still memorize today. Sometimes when I’m practicing the piano or organ at church, a little child will timidly walk up to me to watch me play. I’ll stop what I’m playing and invite the child to play a key or a pedal so they can find out what it feels like and sounds like to play a note or two. Then I’ll play “Jesus loves me.” Without exception, the child will smile. Sometimes they sing along. I think it’s a universal truth that it’s both comforting and fun to respond to something we’ve memorized.

“God bless our food. Amen.” That’s the first table prayer I memorized. I repeated it before every meal until I went to kindergarten and learned “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let this food to us be blessed. Amen.” For the past 60 years, I’ve repeated this prayer before meals.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands …” I remember memorizing “The Pledge of Allegiance” in first grade.

Village Blacksmith“Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands …” I think I was in fifth grade when I had to memorize this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  I was surprised to hear my mom recite the whole poem when I was trying to memorize just a couple verses. She’d memorized it in grade school, too.  She also had memorized “October’s Bright Blue Weather” by Helen Hunt Jackson and just about every other poem I was assigned to memorize in school. She remembered them all.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) That was one of the first Bible verses I memorized in Sunday School. Apparently a lot of people memorized that verse, because nowadays you even see it posted on billboards.

Throughout my grade school and high school years my mom had my brother and me memorize one Bible verse a week. She wrote a verse on top of a chart. The days of the week were listed below the verse, across the top of a grid. All the chores Danny and I were supposed to do every day were listed down the left side of the grid. The top half of the grid was Danny’s. The bottom half was mine. Every time we completed a job (like make bed, wash dishes, etc.) we were supposed to read the verse on the top of the chart, and then write its reference in the grid. By the end of the week, the grid was filled and we had memorized the Bible verse. If we could still recite each verse by the end of the month, we would get a prize. As I recall, we had a 100 percent success rate. The first verse we memorized this way was Ephesian 4:32, “Be ye kind, one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (I think my mom’s real motive for having us memorize this verse was to help us remember to be nice to each other and not to always be squabbling.)

Memorization. Is that a thing of the past? Do we still memorize anything?

I thought about that quite a bit last week. I really wanted to memorize a short reading by Joan Chittister that I’d come across in my daily devotional reading. It was really hard for me to memorize two simple sentences, much harder than it seemed to be in my youth. I finally memorized the 20 words, but I’m making myself repeat those two simple sentences several times a day, until I’m sure I won’t forget the quote.

What are those 20 words that I’m struggling so hard to memorize? Here’s the quote:

We are not born simply for the sake of personal survival. We are here to make life better for everyone.

That was the daily reading in “The Monastic Way” for last Thursday, December 12. That was also the day that some of the women inmates at the worship service of the Dane County Jail were talking about how much the other women in their cell block were helping them learn how to live better lives. That kindness was giving them hope for a better future. It was a perfect illustration of the principle Joan Chittister was stating – that I’ve finally memorized. “We are not born simply for the sake of personal survival. We are here to make life better for everyone.”

helping hands 12-17-13

An Endless Supply of Grandmas

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

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

Doris and Abbey comforting each other.

Doris and Abbey reminding each other how much love there is in the world

Seven years ago, Mim and I were interviewed by a 12-year-old boy. We wanted to adopt his 3-year-old dog Abbey. He wasn’t able to keep her any more, and he put her up for adoption through the Humane Society.  We saw Abbey’s picture on the Internet, and called the number listed to schedule a time to meet Abbey and be interviewed by the 12-year-old. During the interview, we told him that Abbey would have an endless supply of grandmas to pet her if she would live with us. That clinched it. We were chosen to be the lucky ones among all the people who wanted to adopt Abbey.

Over the last couple weeks I’ve been developing new marketing materials for Country Comforts Assisted Living. That got me thinking about all the grandmas and grandpas that have lived with us for assisted living over the years. I remembered that promise to Abbey’s previous owner. Yes, Abbey has been fortunate to have all those grandmas and grandpas to pet her.

Abbey comforting Patti during her last days

Abbey comforting Patti during her last days

But Abbey isn’t the only one who’s been fortunate. Mim and I are the “middle generation” between Abbey and these grandmas and grandpas. We’ve been blessed with all these “moms” and “dads.” Most people get only one mom and one dad. Over the past ten years we’ve had almost twenty“moms” and three “dads.” How fortunate is that – to get all these bonus moms and dads after our own were no longer with us!

What prompted me to develop new marketing materials for Country Comforts is the fact that this year we changed our focus from general assisted living care to end-of-life care. When people draw near to the end of their life, often they choose to receive hospice care at home with their loved ones taking care of them. A hospice organization can provide help, but the majority of caregiving is done by family members. Sometimes, family members are not able to give the end-of-life care at home that their loved one needs. That’s where Country Comforts can help. Rather than going to a nursing home, their loved one can move into our home where we will provide the skilled and attentive care they need. We will work together with the hospice organization of the family’s choice to care for the loved one and help coordinate a wide range of end-of-life issues – physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and legal. Our role is to support the resident and their family in any way we can.

Abbey helping Anna celebrate her birthday

Abbey helping Anna celebrate her birthday

While putting together brochures to explain the end-of-life care we want to provide, I went through pictures of many of these special people who have entered our lives over the past ten years. Our lives really have been enriched by each person who has lived with us. One whole section of the book I wrote about hospitality (Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest) is about the people who have lived with us for assisted living. In the book, I tell a one- or two-page story about each person. I’ve re-read that section of the book many times to let my mind spend more time remembering each one. (You can find more information about the book at http://mariankorth.com/come-lord-jesus.html.)

Some of these bonus grandmas (or moms, depending on your perspective) are pictured here. More of them are included on our Country Comforts website (www.CountryComfortsAssistedLiving.com). I redesigned the website last weekend to reflect our new focus. If you take a peek at the website and are confused by any explanations that are unclear or find any bad links, please let me know. I’ll appreciate any suggestions you may have to make our website better. We want to be sure Abbey never runs out of the endless supply of grandmas we promised her.

A Peek at my Second Book

Come Lord Jesus FRONTMy goal for this week is to finish reviewing the proofs for my second book, Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest: Adventures in Hospitality . (My real goal was to finish this task last week, but lots of other things happened instead, including accepting the opportunity to be hospitable to the newest assisted living resident in our home.) Rather than take a couple hours this morning to write a new blog post, I decided to provide a peek at one of the stories in my new book.

The book traces my understanding of what it means to be kind and hospitable to others, as the Bible instructs us, by telling a total of 90 personal stories, spanning the time frame of my childhood up to the present. I firmly believe that one of the key (and most ignored) messages of the Bible is to be kind and hospitable to others. In my book each story begins with a Bible verse that states the principle I learned from the incident, or in some other way relates the story to the overall theme of hospitality.

The story I selected for today’s sneak preview is about when my mom and dad came to Chicago to live with us for the last six weeks of my mom’s life. We had some wonderful moments together during that time. Here’s the story.

Caring for Mom as She Was Dying

Anyone who neglects to care for family members in need repudiates the faith.
That’s worse than refusing to believe in the first place.” [I Timothy 5:8 MSG]

At age 78 my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer. After the diagnosis, Mim and I made weekly trips to Wisconsin to take her to the clinic for chemotherapy. After a few weeks she chose to discontinue the treatments because of how sick they made her feel. Her doctor predicted she would live only two or three months without more treatments, maybe a year or two with treatments.

A couple weeks after my mom stopped receiving chemo Mim and I went to Door County in northeastern Wisconsin for a week-long vacation. We stopped to see my parents on our way up there, mostly to see how my mom was doing. Already she was much weaker.

Mim and I had a wonderful week relaxing in Door County. Little did we know that God was providing a week of rest for us before what would become an intense six-week period of care giving.

On our way back to Chicago we stopped to see my parents again. My mom’s health had deteriorated further and she was quite weak. We offered to get Hospice and some local caregivers lined up to help my dad care for her at home. As an alternative, we invited her and my dad to come to Chicago to live with us, and we (mostly Mim) would take care of her.

We stayed with my parents for the night. The next morning, my mom got up and said she’d made up her mind. She wanted to come home with us to Chicago. We spent the next few hours helping my mom and dad pack up their things – a few clothes, my mom’s crocheting, and their Bibles. We told my brother and sister about the new plan, and they came over to help pack up for the move.

Dad rode with Mim and me in my car. My nephew, Dave, drove Mom in his parents’ van, so that she could be lying down for the two-hour drive. Then Dave carried her up the stairs to our second-floor apartment.

We called Hospice the next day to help us get a hospital bed and a local physician to prescribe pain medication. We also enlisted one of the physicians Mim had worked with to be Mom’s primary care physician.

Mim was teaching nursing at North Park College at the time, and had a flexible schedule. She also had very kind and highly skilled colleagues who volunteered to help care for Mom to give Mim and me a little time off from round-the-clock care giving. I had just left my corporate job and was in the process of starting up my own small business consulting practice, which meant that I also had a flexible schedule.

We turned our living room into Mom’s room. For the first couple weeks she was able to walk around the apartment and eat with us in the dining room. As she got weaker, she spent most of her time in the living room. I played her favorite hymns on the piano, over and over again. I read to her. She really liked The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, a good story that made her smile and laugh. My brother and sister and their families came down to visit her weekly. Her two brothers and their wives came to visit, too.

While Mom lived with us, Mim periodically asked her, “Do you know where you are?” as a means of monitoring her mental well-being and cognitive decline. One day Mom answered, “I know you want me to say I’m in Chicago, but I’m not. I’m at home.” That said to us we were providing the kind of hospitality she needed.

Mom lived with us for six weeks. She was the first of several people we have invited to live with us during their final weeks on earth. There can be many precious moments as the end of a person’s earthly life approaches. We’re thankful for the opportunity to share those special times.

Mom kept crocheting  afghans for babies of teenage mothers in Chicago until just a few weeks before she died.

Mom kept crocheting afghans for babies of poor teenage mothers in Chicago until just a few weeks before she died.

What’s in a Name?

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

Danny Marrian Kittens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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