Tonight I listened to the second of my pre-recorded broadcasts of stories on WPCA-FM. My diction is sloppy; I need to work on it. Words get “slid” into. This, in addition to the fact I sound like a geezer. It’s a far cry from the day when, in my late teens, I hosted Tuesday Night on KUSC-FM and my diction was precise. Better next month!
Today marked my return as its pastor a decade after I retired from the Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. It was a hot, humid morning, even at 8:15 a.m. but I wore an alb for Holy Communion. I did concede something and came without a tie. We had a good turnout and it was a good homecoming. They had a cake for coffee hour that read “Welcome back Mark and Marina”. Andy, Marina’s Seeing Eye dog, decided to chime in with whines as I preached and I’m not sure what he was thinking or trying to convey. We had problems with the portable mike so I was “tethered” for most of the service–something I don’t like.
Wolf Creek UMC is small and our challenges are several. First, we need to create structure that has not existed, such as a post office box, phone and email contacts, and other things where an office has not existed solely for this congregation. Second, we need to decide on what we want our future to be and then decide on the steps that we need to take to get us there. We need to be “praying in” the people who should be part of our congregation. Third, we need to become more of what our Lord expects us to be. All of this can be done!
This coming week Marina and I mark the 50th anniversary of our first date. We went to lunch–a long lunch that got Marina into trouble at the office–at Gates of Spain, a Santa Monica restaurant atop a tall apartment building. The view from there was powerful: you could see all the way from Palos Verdes up the coast to Malibu and beyond. The way to the restaurant was via an elevator, a glass-walled one that slid up and down the beach-side wall of the building. Marina was pushing back against me and I, who hate heights and am paralyzed by them, was jammed against the back wall of the elevator. My hero! We were married the end of August and I can’t believe where life has flown. But it was the best decision I’ve ever made! Easy? No. Good for both of us? Yes!
Today saw me at Holy Trinity United Methodist Church. It’s just outside Balsam Lake but has a Centuria address. The congregation added a new sanctuary almost two years ago and it is a nice space. Today was my first time in it. Once we got the sound system figured out, it was clear sailing. I knew many people there–more up in Frederic later–and I was well received. They had a good turnout and the congregation was very responsive. They also have a choir, something not every church can boast about. My message went very well, better I think than at St.Luke’s in Frederic.
The later service was at St.Luke’s, Frederic. Today’s turnout was small but the congregation is smaller than it used to be. No kids (there was one child and a teenager at Holy Trinity). Kordi Kurkowski used her guitar and voice to lead the music since their pianist was ill. I seem to do better with a full house. In addition, most of the people sat in the back so there was a big gulf between the lectern/pulpit and the people. I used Kordi’s mike to get down among them and that helped. After the service I enjoyed conversation with some old friends.
After the service, because I was in Frederic and it would not be much out of my way, I swung by the cabin to pick up my phone charger. I’d charged the phone while driving but it helps to have a charger in the office and at home, too. Marina is concerned about my forgetting things like that but I don’t believe I’m “losing it” yet.
Diane Stelton’s family called me to see if I could pray with her as she was dying. Diane is a former member of the St.Croix Falls United Methodist Church where I pastored from 1997-2008. I can’t go as clergy, but I can go as a friend. That the family sees me as clergy can’t be helped. I’d planned to stop in on Thursday but managed to work in a visit on Tuesday late in the afternoon. She died that evening.
The family asked me to do Diane’s funeral, but it turned out that Shannon, Diane’s daughter, is an active member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Almelund, Minnesota and the funeral was to be held there. Rev.Marla Amborn was most gracious and invited me to participate, although in reality I was being shoved into her service. I ended up doing the sermon, which for me really was more of a sharing that ended with John 14 aimed directly at the widower and his children and grandchildren.
Immanuel Lutheran is a majestic space in the middle of just about nowhere. All it needs is air conditioning, perhaps for some old person to say, “That’s enough! I’ll loan you the money for a/c; pay me back as you are able.” Save for the lack of a/c, the building is beautiful and an honoring to God. Driving there you just watch out for deer.
The service went well and people told me that my message spoke to them, as well as celebrating Diane’s life. I thank God for the opportunity and for the help that made up for a decade of being out of touch with Diane and her family.
So I was at Taylors Falls on Sunday and, per usual, well received by that generous congregation. Then, home to prepare the message for Tuesday’s devotions service at Good Sam and to unwind a bit and wind up for the coming week. Monday saw a bunch of business tasks in the a.m. and then Good Sam in the afternoon. Monday night had me in Amery for the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts writers group. I read “Shall We Dance?” which will be featured in the coming publication of “Soundings” magazine.
Today was Good Sam in the morning, followed by a lunch meeting of our town home association and all the decisions associated with that. Then, back to Good Sam for a meeting, then picking up food for the animals, then a visit with the family of a dying former parishioner and then home to do some catching up before a 6 p.m. meeting of the Osceola Village Board on behalf of the Osceola Seniors Club, of which I’m now president. Busy day! Tomorrow I get a break, Thursday sees some dementia training at Good Sam, after which I’ll try for a break at our cabin, and Saturday is two possible graduation parties and my reading Shakespear’s sonnets at the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. I’m supposed to be retired?
Truth is, I’ve not written on a story idea in weeks and I’m starting to try to focus on past incidents for inspiration for the next story. What I have now is enough for book #5 on Kindle. Books #4 and #5 will combine to be the next paperback, “The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories”.
So now it’s Thursday night and I just fished ironing some shirts. The long sleeved ones go to the closet in the garage for cooler weather. Monday saw me at the nursing home and Tuesday we traveled to Eau Claire, where Marina spoke to a good crowd on “The Effects of Trauma Growing Up In Berlin During World War II”. She had a large attendance; they gave her the large auditorium with a sound crew up in the sound booth. Per usual, she captivated the audience and took 15 minutes of questions in addition. I fielded the questions and repeated them so everyone could hear, including Marina, at whose cochlear implant ear I stood. Gretel and Andy, the Seeing Eye Dogs, were very good, even with four hours of driving and large crowds and shuttle buses. I think it did a number on Andy’s stomach, though, since he had diarrhea early in the morning that I duly stepped in when I went to my “stretching place” (a Persian rug) and in my office. I think I spent an hour cleaning up.
We got home in time for me to tune into WPCA-FM to hear my pre-recorded reading of “The Great Experiment”. The station has me scheduled to read a story every first Tuesday of the month until I run out of stories to share. What a privilege! On top of it, a bunch of my kids stopped everything to listen, too. The station streams online so anyone with a computer and modem can pick it up. (WPCAradio.org and the website will take you from there.)
The cleaning up after Andy was Wednesday morning. I made it to my piano lesson–something I wanted to do after I retired was to take piano lessons–a bit late and then I headed to the Osceola Seniors Club meeting, where I was formally elected as their group’s president. It’s a two year stint and I believe in term limits, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve been promised strong back-up and I’m counting on that. The Club is looking forward to moving into its new space in the now-under-construction civic center and that should help us gather new members and undertake more programming and activities.
Oh, did I tell you that we bought a pontoon boat? It’s a 25 foot Premier and has been almost directly across the lake from us since it was new. It’s in good shape and I should be able to find time to pick it up in two weeks and get it launched and to our dock. I rolled in the 70 feet of dock myself; it’s something I still can do. (Taking it out is another matter: there is a ridge pushed up by the ice and John, my son, has had to help me the past three seasons.) I was at the cabin today and adjust the ramp to the dock, brought down a ladder to facilitate getting to the dock from the water (instead of having to wade to the shore to get on the dock) and then I mowed the beach and our 2 acres. That meant I never got to some other tasks like taking out some baby trees growing in the wrong places, ensuring no leaks in the fifth wheel roof, and gathering things like anchors and dock lines from the Glasspar Sedan that will go on the pontoon.
Tonight I timed the reading of “Shall We Dance?” (20 minutes) that I’ll read next week for WPCA. think I’ll also record “Sinner Ella”, the latest mangled fairy tale.
After being the only administrator-type working on Memorial Day, today I worked at Good Samaritan St.Croix Valley in the morning and did the usual Devotions service, as well as lots of visiting with our permanent residents and with those in our care for rehabilitation. We lost one of our long-term people yesterday in the early hours and one of our “temps” made the difficult decision to become a permanent resident. Working at Good Sam is a rewarding ministry for me. We need to pray for Kelly, a 17 year old near-daughter of one of my Good Sam colleagues. Kelly was in an auto accident two nights ago and suffered serious brain damage, enough that pulling the plug is being considered.
Our weather has been unseasonably hot and humid, so some of the outside work I’d planned just didn’t get done. Thunderstorms don’t make for good widow washing! Tomorrow I record two more stories for future broadcast on WPCA-FM and then we’ll head for the cabin where I have a dock waiting to be put in for the season. I do that myself, rolling in 65+feet of dock and a platform. We plan to look at some pontoon boats, too, in the hopes that we can have something in the water to use this season. Next Sunday is Holy Communion at Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. We will meet afterwards to try to determine what 1/4 time really means for them and for me. I might find it difficult to stick to 1/4 time; I’m used to being at the hospital at 2 a.m. when needed and I was able to do a lot of in-home visiting when I was an active pastor.
Jack Starr is coming to pastor Osceola UMC. I think Jack is one of the best pastors in our Conference and I’m looking forward to having him as a neighbor.
Last Wednesday I recorded for future broadcast “The Great Experiment”, a story that will appear sometime this summer in the fifth Kindle story collection, “Another Four Break Time Stories”. Following the recording session, Bob Zenk, the station’s owner/manager, invited me to share a story every month at 7:00 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. I knew the reading had gone well; this is a story that lends itself to reading out loud. We’ve scheduled another reading session and I’ll probably record two stories then. The initial broadcast will be Tuesday, June 5th at 7:00 p.m. The broadcast streams online so anyone with a computer that can get online can listen. I’m having fun with this and if it causes people to buy some books, it will be even more fun!
Today I did the interment for Natividad Vasquez, a long-time friend, out at Fort Snelling. He was just an enlisted man in Korea but they gave him the royal treatment: full military, a three gun salute with five riflemen, taps, the flag presentation to Karolyn along with several certificates, members of the Minnesota State Patrol in uniform (co-workers of Ned’s son, Robert and a class act, as far as I’m concerned) and a large crowd of relatives from all over, as well as friends. Ned was a sweet man who lived a good life, was a devoted husband and a good father to his five children. We shared a meal afterwards at Yarusso’s, an East side St.Paul institution with a side room that had space to fit our crowd.
The Wolf Creek United Methodist Church and I had our introductory Holy Communion service on Sunday, during which I was introduced as their next pastor. There were cheers. It is heartening to be welcomed back so warmly.
I guess I just don’t have enough to do, so I accepted the Osceola Senior Citizens’ presidency, provided I had either a strong vice-president or a co-president. That was accommodated. Marina thinks the group needs a strong spokesperson during the time of the new building so that the Seniors won’t get trampled in the process. The group applied for-=-and got–the lead grant ($450,000+) to get the building project off to its start and there has been concern about the Seniors getting “shafted” in terms of space and use of the space.
I think I told you, also, that our town home association’s secretary/treasurer died and the responsibility for it was given to me. Thus far we’ve been able to get the bank account worked out, thanks to Rita Hernandez we have in our possession the keys to our safe deposit box, got the water turned on for the lawn watering, visited with the lawn service, and had someone on the roofs of the buildings to assess damage and began the process of filing a damage claim. That’s all in one week. Onward! The crumbling driveway awaits.
Thursday evening I will read “Shall We Dance?” at the Osceola Writers’ group that meets at the library. That story deals with a Spanish dance troupe and its issues. Amery’s writers’ group will not meet this month, due to scheduling difficulties. Next week I’m reading “The Great Experiment” for future broadcast over WPCA-FM radio. The station streams online so people can hear the story as it is broadcast.
I met with the leadership team of the Wolf Creek United Methodist Church and with our District Superintendent on Monday night. Surprised I’m to be their next pastor? You bet! (I’d asked if I should show up with a bag over my head.) Rev.Dr. Kate C. Jones hosted (SPPRC person) Melissa Swenson, Marina and me for dinner beforehand at The Pizzeria. Anyhow, the introduction/revelation was warmly received. Our task now is to create a vision for our future and then the steps necessary to get there, trusting that God will pave the way. We begin officially July 1st.
Meanwhile, on May 16th I’ll be recording a story or two for future broadcast by WPCA-FM, the community radio station out of Amery. WPCA streams online, so listeners can catch whatever I’ll be reading (have not decided yet).
Also last Monday I had a biopsy done of a spot on my left ear and Fairview has scheduled a follow-up to do whatever they intend to do about it.
Tonight is a meeting of our town home people. I think I told you that the accounting/financial/operations stuff has been dumped on me in a box. I can do the tasks involved but I want the feeling that we’re all in this together, as well as a backup person who can sign checks also on our account and who can take a look at the account every so often to see that I’m not embezzling.