Tag Archive | retreats

“Family”

Mim and Marian eating lutefisk dinner at St. Olaf College about 40 years ago.

Mim and Marian eating lutefisk dinner
at St. Olaf College about 40 years ago.

About 40 years ago, I went “home” with Mim for the first time. We drove from Chicago to Kenyon, Minnesota, at least a seven-hour drive, the first weekend in December. In Kenyon, we picked up Mim’s mom, Selma, and drove another 15 miles to go to the St. Olaf College Christmas concert. Mim’s mom, who worked in food service at St. Olaf, was able to get us tickets for the concert, a major achievement for a very popular annual concert.  That was the first of many St. Olaf Christmas concerts I went to with Mim and her mom.

That was also the first time I went with Mim to her home church, Gol Lutheran Church in rural Kenyon. It had been Mim’s family church on her mom’s side for four generations, ever since they immigrated from Norway. Also, Mim’s dad had been the pastor at Gol for 20years.

Mim - Selma outside church 125th adjMy first reaction to Mim’s church was – what a beautiful old country church. I was a little frustrated with trying to follow the liturgy, which was much more structured than I was used to, having grown up a Methodist. Mim’s mom was proud to have her daughter and her roommate home for the weekend, so we stood around and talked to a lot of people after the service. That was not my favorite part of the weekend! Making small talk with strangers has never been one of my strengths.

Over the next 20 years, Mim and I went to Kenyon to visit Selma one or two weekends a year, and we always went to church with her. Gradually, I got to know a few of the people in the church and I started to feel a little more at home there.

Mim - Selma by organ 125th cropped

Mim and Selma at Gol’s 125th Anniversary

In 1989, Gol celebrated its 125th anniversary in style. Mim and I joined Selma for the whole weekend, and we all enjoyed lots of music, lots of eating, lots of picture taking, and an original play that taught us lots about Gol church history.

Twenty-five years later, last weekend, Gol celebrated its 150th anniversary. Mim really wanted to participate in the celebration. I was considerably less enthusiastic about spending a whole weekend in Kenyon, Minnesota with a couple hundred people I didn’t know.  At best, I might know two or three people. But, I figured this is one of those things you have to do for family. So we spent the weekend in Minnesota.

Much to my surprise, I had a great time all weekend. “Family” really is the key word. As Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, has said, “I go to church as an expression of my need for God and for God’s family.” We spent the weekend with one particular branch of God’s family. We were with about 250 of God’s family members – almost all of Norwegian descent. I think everyone had great appreciation for Norwegian-American church history, food, and music. Of the 250 people, I recognized about a dozen of them from my previous visits to Gol. Mim introduced me to about another dozen of her old friends. All 24 of them were people I enjoyed visiting with. I’ll have to admit, it was kind of fun to get together with this big extended church family.

The Rev. John Hagen, a former pastor of Gol, preached briefly from the steps of the farmhouse where the congregation met before the church was built.

The Rev. John Hagen, a former pastor of Gol, preached briefly from the steps of the farmhouse where the congregation had met before the church was built.

Finally I’m beginning to understand that my extended church family is growing bigger and bigger. It started with the church of my childhood  – Willerup United Methodist Church in Cambridge. Even though Willerup is no longer the church where I regularly go to worship God, I still feel connected to some of God’s family members who worship there. I also feel connected to the building itself where I spent literally thousands of hours (on average 4 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, 18 years plus 4 summers during my college years) learning about God. I also feel a connection to the cemetery next door where my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and other relatives are buried.

My growing extended church family also includes members of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Chicago, Messiah Lutheran Church in Madison, as well as other churches I have been a part of over the years. And since Gol is a big part of Mim’s church family, it has also become part of my church family.

The more I think about my extended church family, the more I realize how big it really is. Beyond all the church family members I know personally, God’s family is described in the Bible this way:

Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian. What a foundation you stand on now: the apostles and the prophets; and the cornerstone of the building is Jesus Christ himself! We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God. And you also are joined with him and with each other by the Spirit, and are part of this dwelling place of God. [Ephesians 2:19-22 The Living Bible]

Spending last weekend with all the people celebrating the 150-year history of one small branch of God’s family in Minnesota reminded me of the Bill Gaither song, “The Family of God.” Here’s the chorus:

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod;
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.

Gol Group Picture 125th

“Part of the family, the family of God”

Delicious Solitude

Monastic Way 10-13During the month of October, the daily reflections in The Monastic Way pamphlet by Joan Chittister were on the theme of “Delicious Solitude.” I loved those reflections! Here’s a sampling.

October 1: Solitude, like black olives, is an acquired taste. But once it touches the soul it is the only place where we can come to know ourselves.

October 2: To be alone is to come to know the self for the first time.

October 7: Solitude is the place where we assess our blessings and choose the best of them to be grateful for so that when we go back into the throes of life we are more aware of life’s blessings as they go by.

October 18: Solitude and silence are those places where the creative fountains flow…

October 23: Solitude is outer separation from the frenzy of the world. Silence is inner separation from the frenzy in ourselves.

October 25: Solitude and silence heal the broken parts in us by exposing them to ourselves.

I’ve written before in this blog about how important it is to take time to be alone. Personally, I usually take a few days once or twice (or more) a year to go off by myself to our Christmas Mountain timeshare in Wisconsin Dells. The time away has always helped me reflect on life in general, or the time away has helped me think about specific issues I’m dealing with at the time. A time of solitude for me is a time to rest, to read, to play music, to talk at length with God, and invariably, to be refreshed. When I can’t get away for a few days of solitude, I treat my soul to a couple hours of playing the piano, or reading, or writing, or going for a walk.

Marian playing Baldwin wideWhen I was a child, I found a time of solitude by playing either the piano or the small electronic organ we had in the living room. When I came home from school, I was supposed to play every piece assigned in my piano and organ lessons ten times each. That’s not what I did. I usually played through each piece once or twice, and then I’d just play what I felt like playing – picking out a tune that was in my mind note by note, or learning some new songs in one of my mom’s gospel songbooks, or trying out all the pieces in a new music book I’d spent my allowance on (like “Greatest Hits of 1962”). I was usually alone in the house. Mom was still at work in Madison; Dad was in the barn; Danny was outside; and Nancy was away at college. I would often spend a couple hours being absorbed in the music, thinking about my feelings, talking with God. If I came home from school angry about something, I’d start by playing loud, discordant music, and gradually I’d work my way toward peaceful sounds. I loved my time of solitude. I still do.

In the introduction to October’s reflections, Chittister observed,

For the first time in history we are no longer an agricultural people who live miles away from one another. We are a people who live in a nest of noise, 24 hours a day, every day of the year…

Silence, solitude, and the contemplation of what it means to be a human being in a world of machines may be long overdue in this society. We take war for granted, crime for granted, cacophony for granted, everything for granted except the need to be alone, to think a bit about something besides the externals of life, to think about not wanting to think about anything at all…

Silence, solitude and contemplation have gifts to give all of us that no amount of frenetic activity can possibly provide. Rest, peace, insight, calm, concentration, serenity, energy and transcendence are no small bounty to garner in the midst of a world in perpetual motion.

Mim treeI’m thinking about trying to schedule a Christmas Mountain retreat sometime within the next few months. I’ll bring my keyboard along, and a brand new hymnal I just bought.

But first, it’s Mim’s turn to go away for some time of solitude. She’s leaving this afternoon to go to a timeshare in Oconomowoc, between Cambridge and Milwaukee, and she’ll come home on Friday.

It’s usually hard for Mim to get away. All of us who live in our house depend on her to take care of us. I’m sure we’ll survive, but we’ll sure miss her. Mim works all the time. She really needs a few days off.

As Joan Chittister said last month, “Silence and solitude are the Sabbaths of the heart…”

God Sent a Deer to Remind Me

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
[Psalm 42:1 NRSV]

A young deer was cautiously watching me as I stood at my copier making a few copies of some music to put in my organ binder for Sunday’s church service. I spied her as I looked through the patio door while I waited for the copies to print. Slowly and quietly I pulled my camera out of my desk drawer, slid open the patio door, took about ten steps toward the pond, and snapped the picture. One picture is all I got before the deer decided to flee into the cover of the woods behind her. I hope she was able to get her drink of water first. I hope she feels safe enough to come back for more drinks whenever she’s thirsty.

Seeing the deer beside the pond in my back yard immediately brought to mind the Psalm that begins – “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

Throughout the month of September, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the noisy and busy world we live in. “The Monastic Way” pamphlet written by Joan Chittister has been prompting me to think about these things, especially about how important it is to live my life intentionally rather than just going along with whatever happens. How important it is to take time to examine my life and to think about what I’m doing with the time that I have. It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The pond and woods outside my office, next to Whispering Winds.

It’s important to think about my life and how my daily activities are forming that life, but in order to do that self-examination in our busy, noisy world, it’s necessary to find some way to be where it is quiet, a place where we can take the time to meditate, away from the noise and distractions. Chittister quoted Hans Margolius as saying, “Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”

Is it really possible to quiet our minds in today’s fast-paced, noisy world? “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” We seem to have a natural thirst for quiet time together with God, “to see the world undistorted,” “to examine our lives,” and to think about the life God has called us to live.

Some days we may be able to set aside just a few minutes of quiet time with our thoughts and with God. Other times, perhaps, we can schedule more time, maybe even a whole day, or even several days to ponder our lives and focus our attention on drawing closer to God, on understanding our purpose in life.

Music is something that helps me quiet my soul for prayer and meditation. Here are links to four YouTube music videos that just might be a good start for some quiet meditation today.

AS THE DEER http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZv3jzOTE70&feature=related (with lyrics)

AS THE DEER http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wzWWggsOJI (piano only with wonderful pictures)

TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zut3rCzk6bw (Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but with less commonly used tune for this hymn)

TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMlsifnlQN8  (Instrumental version with original tune. Lyrics shown over scenic pictures.)

Great Expectations for this week – 7 of them!

For several weeks now, a friend of mine has been posting a list of three things she’s thankful for each day. Usually the lists are just that – three words or short phrases in a simple list format – just a quick statement of things she’s particularly thankful for that day. That practice got me thinking in lists. Today I made a list of some “Great Expectations” I have for this week. There are seven items on my list. I’m not nearly as concise as my friend, but here’s my list of “Great Expectations for this Week.”

  1. An inspiring and productive Writers Week at Whispering Winds. This week has been designated on our retreat calendar as “Retreat for Writers.” Several writers will be coming to Whispering Winds for a day or two to write, to be away from their distractions at home and to focus their energy entirely on writing. I expect each writer to have a wonderfully inspiring and productive time here.
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  2. Safe travel for weekend guests. This coming weekend a couple guests are coming to Cambridge for the wedding of a friend. One is coming from the east coast. The other is coming from Europe. I trust each guest will have safe travels, joyful celebrations with their friends, and a relaxing and refreshing time at Whispering Winds.
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  3. A good time of reflection at the women’s worship service at the county jail.  Reading Scripture, giving testimonies, singing hymns, and praying together with the chaplain and several inmates is a truly special time of sharing deep thoughts and feelings with each other and with God. I always look forward to playing the piano for these services and being invited to participate with the group in their sharing activities.
  4. Playing the pipe organ at Messiah

    Finding just the right organ music for next Sunday’s church service. As a church organist, I usually try to find a prelude and postlude, and sometimes other special music, that reinforces the main theme of the Scripture for that day. As I study the lectionary readings for Sunday, and flip through the pages of organ arrangements, I trust that just the right music will jump out at me. Almost always, that’s what happens. Sometimes the process takes an hour. Sometimes most of a day. My expectation is that the prelude will help people get in the right mindset for the message of the day, and that the postlude will help people remember what God is saying to them through the Scriptures, the sermon, and the hymns.
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  5. My brand new great-great-nephew and his mom will go home from the hospital early this week. Ethan is the 2-day-old son of Christina and Josh. Christina is the daughter of my nephew Terry and his wife, Eng (originally from Cambodia). Terry is the oldest son of my sister, Nancy, and her husband, Clark. Family connections are wonderful – especially the longer they get. Just think of all the people who are rejoicing over the birth of Ethan – literally all around the world – because of how we all are connected.
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    Marian’s grandfather plowing with horses.

  6. A smooth implementation of all the changes I just made on our website. Lots of new pictures. More information about the thread of hospitality that can be traced from the beginnings in 1908 when my grandparents bought the farm, through all the uses of the farm in the 104 years since then. Ending with some conjecture about how the farmhouse will be used next… Here’s a direct link to the new Past & Future section, http://whisperingwindsretreathaven.com/pastfuture.html.
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  7. That this blog post will prompt readers to ponder and be thankful for their own expectations for this week.

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.