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Issue 9-01

What's Behind Your Kitchen Stove?

Every once in a while since we had a new kitchen stove installed seven years ago, I’ve thought, I really need to pull that out and clean behind it. This thought became increasingly pervasive as I noticed the dried spills that were clogging the quarter-inch opening between the enamel side of the stove and the wooden baking cupboard beside it.

So one morning, after Christmas week, the New Year now unfolding with all its possibilities before me, I looked at the kitchen stove and thought, I should use this morning to clean up that mess. David is home; he can help pull it out. I don’t have anything on the schedule for this day. How long will it take? An hour? Obviously, the time is at hand.

And sure enough, we pulled the stove out from the wall. The dirt and dried drippings behind and beside and underneath were as bad as I’d imagined they’d be. I contortioned my body to climb over the gas connector, wedged my tummy past the pan-storage cupboard, climbed back out to get a pan of soapy water, and with the aid of my spray jar of Greased Lightning, I began scrubbing down the adjoining cupboard walls, the overhead ventilator fan, the oven backside, and finally the filthy, dirty floor (my vacuum had been of little help since most of the dirt was caked to whatever surface I was scrubbing).

My task was complicated by the fact that this fall, my computer-desk cords finally grabbed my ankle, tripped me and sent me sprawling face-down, banging my knee hard as I landed. So I’ve been nursing a bum joint, which sometimes negotiates stair-climbing just fine and other days decides that I’m going to take them a baby step at a time. This day, bending and kneeling and hauling that knee behind the stove aggravated my injury, and I could tell I would be heading back to CURVES religiously to get the exercise I needed to strengthen the muscles designed by God to hold that knee joint in alignment.

But finally—about an hour and a half later—the filth beside, under and behind the stove was vanquished. We were sanitized again. I probably won’t think I really need to pull that out and clean behind it for another seven years. But the job is done. It feels good. I take a special housewifely pride in the fact that I know it is clean. And David even jumped on the sterilizing bandwagon that morning and cleaned out the refrigerator (which I HATE to do and count on him to accomplish during those times when he’s in the kitchen talking on the phone)! What a great way to start a New Year.

Little cleaning adventures like this always make me wonder: Why is it so hard for me to do the things at hand that I know I should do? Do you have any ideas? I went around positively crowing when I cleaned and organized the attic. What a sense of accomplishment I felt when we parked the car in the garage for the first time in two years (since I now had room in the attic for all those boxes that had been waiting to be shoved up the metal stairs and stored away).

I am still decorating portions of the house for Christmas (don’t even try to figure it out—I know some of you have torn everything down and have all the holiday stuff stored in marked boxes). But this year, I am loving what has happened with the decorating. I had time to use all the after-Christmas-sale stuff that I found in those boxes I organized in the attic—Spring and Summer Decorations, southeast corner; Fall Decorations, south wall; Christmas decorations, whole north side. This year, I want to take photos with the cheap digital camera Office Depot sent along with a Mainstay office supply order over $250. The idea is to pack everything away according to its usage (wreaths for hall doors and stairway draperies, for instance), take photos and put them in a Christmas decorating journal. That way, in case of early-onset Alzheimer’s, I can read the journal, look at the photos and get the house decorated next year with minimal memory-anxiety. (I don’t think this is the way cognitive dementia works, but it is a comforting thought.)

I’ve made a rule of thumb for this New Year: If it is on your mind to do it, DO IT! Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:26, NIV). Now, I’m smart enough to know He was not referring to odorous tasks like scrubbing behind the stove or cleaning out the attic. This text relates more to advancing the Kingdom of God in the world. But in another sense, when we are faithful in the small, unpleasant details of daily living, we develop the discipline to be faithful in the large, life-forming habits of daily discipleship. Keeping a clean house, ordering the Christmas decorating systems, clearing off the office desk are all practice sessions (as long as they don’t become so obsessive that we can’t get to discipleship issues because we have one more thing to clean up, one more thing before we finish the whole to-do list; obviously, this is not my problem).

How about this verse?—“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10, KJV). The little is prelude to the large.

So—take a little time over the next week and notice how often you think, I really should… Ask yourself: “Do I need to set my hand to the plow and not look back? How am I developing unfaithfulness by not doing the little (annoying, unpleasant, interrupting, messy, filthy) things that are at hand to do?” And then, guess what?—DO IT.

I bet I’m not the only person on Earth who needs to discover “what’s behind the kitchen stove?”

Karen Mains


Look the following 2010 growth opportunities over and see if there is anything here that is something the Holy Spirit is nudging you to do today.

Wannabe (Better) Writers: Personal Memoir Writing

Registration Deadline is January 31!!

Karen Mains tested this teleconference mentoring training for writers last year and found it such a joyful enterprise for her and seemingly profitable for the six writers (with various publishing experiences), who met via phone for one hour twice a month, that she is offering it as a major outreach for eight months, from Feb. 18 through Oct. 28, (with a break in August.)

The writers will meet via teleconference calls on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m., Central Standard Time. The cost is $40 a month ($20 for each conference call, including three manuscript evaluations—works in progress—or a lump sum fee of $320). If you are interested in looking over the curriculum for the 16 teleconference calls, the prerequisites for attending, and further details as to the goals of the training, click this link:

E-mail if you wish to register. You must set up your payment schedule by January 31, since you need to e-mail some work to Karen by the first teleconference call on February 18, 2010.

A couple distance-learning advisors have commented that no one is doing this kind of long-term mentoring at this price—but this eight-month learning curve is deliberately designed to give adult learners enough time to integrate what they are learning into their writing attempts. We have room for 12 participants.

“Listen to My Life Mapping” Listening Group

This is the only Listening Group Hungry Souls will offer in 2010 since the plan is to finish gathering data, organize our findings, do a better job of training Listening Group Leaders, and begin publishing articles and books about the Listening Group experience.

The Listen to My Life Mapping Listening Group will run for 8 months, from February to October 2010. We will begin with an introductory and get-acquainted session, work on one map per month on our own, then debrief that journey by using the Listening Group architecture (listening in silence to one another, responding only through asking questions). The groups will be 3-4 people in size, will take 2.5 hours once a month, and will meet in safe and comfortable homes. We predict that this self-reflective tool, which has been tested nationally and is beginning to be used internationally, will give you a unique opportunity to see how your life story intersects with God’s story. The fee for the Listen to My Life workbook is $35. If you want to register interest or have other questions, contact Sharon Swing at . More information can be obtained by visiting the Web site,

Three-Day Retreats of Silence

Hungry Souls spent last spring working with a group of retreat leaders to develop the schedule for 3-Day Retreats of Silence. We are planning to offer two 3-Day Retreats of Silence in 2010.

Retreat of Silence One.
The first, held at the lovely St. Mary’s Monastery in Rock Island, Illinois (about a 2.5-hour drive from Chicago’s western suburbs) will be April 18-21. This is for women only. The cost is $225 for a single room (with bath). Karen Franzen and Brenna Jones will be leading this women’s retreat.

Karen Franzen is the Executive Pastor for Willow Creek McHenry County Church. She is responsible for training and development of the staff team as well as overseeing the day-to-day running of the church. Prior to her joining the Willow Creek staff 10 years ago, Karen taught at Northern Illinois University and counseled individuals, couples and families at Kairos Family Center in Elgin. Brenna Jones is a spiritual director, retreat leader and teacher trained through the Christos Center for Spiritual Formation. She has graduate training in biblical and theological studies and leads an active ministry of discipleship and support for women. She and her husband Stan are coauthors of God’s Design for Sex, a resource series for family sex education published by NavPress.
Registration deadline is February 28.

Retreat of Silence Two.
A weekend retreat of silence will be offered for men and women and will be led by Gay and Tom Patten. The dates for this are September 10-12. This is also being held at St. Mary’s Monastery in Rock, Island. More details to follow.

We have room for ten retreatants at each retreat. If you want to make sure to reserve a space, contact Susan Hands at . Be warned: We have a waiting list, so you will want to get your name in early.

Recovering Your Inner Child

Several years ago, Hungry Souls offered a small-group venture into the drawing and writing techniques offered by Dr. Lucia Capacchione in her workbook Recovery of Your Inner Child: The Highly Acclaimed Method of Liberating Your Inner Self. By request, we have been asked to revisit this  and will do so during the months of March and April, meeting once a week for two hours in the Mainses’ home. We gather, enter into quiet and prayer, then work on the workbook as individuals in different rooms. After an hour or so, we reconvene to share in an informal, listening way, what we have learned (or encountered) in our time of working solitude. Susan Garrison, LCSW, is joining a practice in West Chicago and will be co-leading this journey with Karen Mains. The fee for the course is $75, which includes the price of the workbook. We are planning day sessions, Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. but can make room for one evening session. If you are interested, let Karen know at . We have a waiting list but have room for a few more.


Volunteers have been crucial in developing the growth tools offered by Hungry Souls. The Listening Groups, the Retreats of Silence, the Global Bag Project, and now major adult distance-learning programs have all and are all being developed by capable volunteers. If you would like to be a part of the teams exploring and creating any of the following growth programs, we would love to have you join us. Inquire of Karen Mains at .

Retreat-Leaders Training

Many of you have told us, “I’d love to be a retreat leader.” In answer to this desire, and because of the need for spiritually mature and discerning leaders, 12 of us spent part of this last year designing a curriculum we feel retreat leaders need in order to be effective in their roles. We would like to launch a two-day training event this spring at the Mainstay Ministries teaching center in West Chicago. This will be videotaped so we can build it into Webinar training on the Hungry Souls Web site. The cost for the two-day training is $150/person. Group discounts are given if more than three people from one church attend. If you are interested, please register intent to attend so we can get a head count (actual registration will come later). E-mail Susan Hands at and we will provide a training agenda later in the year, as well as details as to date and times.

Global Bag Project

After a successful pre-holiday home sales effort, the Global Bag Project is developing a template for Bag Parties in a Box, which we are planning to ship all around the country. We know the pre-Christmas parties are hugely successful, but how can we develop home parties that achieve as much income per guest (sometimes as much as $135 per individual attendee) for the rest of the year? Could you hold a party in February, March or April?

We need to sell 40 bags a week to underwrite our commitments to bag-producers in Africa as we work with the Kenyan model as our primary location with the hope that we will become so glitch-free we can use it to replicate other bag-producing models in other impoverished countries. Contact Global Bag Project Director Carla Boelkens at .

Play for the Play-Deprived

Some of us, sorry to say, just don’t play very well. We either never learned to play or we’ve forgotten how! And yet, scientists are discovering that play is an essential part of well-being, reaping huge benefits spiritually, physically and relationally when we practice it.

Sue Higgins, spiritual director, and Karen Mains will be experimenting with play (some of it outrageous) in the days ahead. We will be using the book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, M.D. As soon as you are interested, let Karen know. When we have four to five at a minimum ready to read the book, mark passages for discussion, take the “play history” provided, and determine your play type, then we will gather. Let Karen Mains know at or Sue Higgins at .

Our initial thinking is to design a once-a-month Play Date out of these discussions. We are embarking on a journey of discovery with one another and with God, for the sake of improving our own play capacities certainly, but also of coming closer to the Almighty, who it seems, has genetically designed humans, more than any other of His creatures, for play!

What is at hand out of this list for you to do? Are you going to DO IT?


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Karen Mains

Karen Mains

"Jesus said, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.' Now, He was not referring to odorous tasks like scrubbing behind the stove or cleaning out the attic. This text relates more to advancing the Kingdom of God in the world. But in another sense, when we are faithful in the small, unpleasant details of daily living, we develop the discipline to be faithful in the large, life-forming habits of daily discipleship."

Book Corner

The Help

The Help
By Kathryn Stockett

This is a book that attempts to raise the consciousness on black/white relationships in the South during the ‘50s and ‘60s. Kathryn Stockett, a white Southerner, attempts to enter the world of two black domestic workers in order to slice life finely during that time in U.S. history. The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi. What is amazing about this book is the discussion it is evoking in the reading public and it has bumped onto The New York Times bestseller list—a surprise to many—particularly its author, who was raised in Jackson. Michelle Norris at NPR interviewed Kathryn Stockett on the show All Things Considered. Read the book, go to the Web site for NPR, listen to the interview, and then read the comments that follow in response to the radio interview. Having worked for ten years in the inner city of Chicago during the ‘60s and ‘70s, I found them to be a microcosm of the discussions, all learning and stretching and most dismaying, that we experienced during those days. This is a good book, well-written, from a white woman trying to get into the shoes of black women in a certain period of our U.S. history. Do you think she is successful?

In the interview, Norris—who is writing a book on the hidden dialogue between the races in the States—asks Stockett about the response of the people of Jackson to her book. Stockett replies, “Well, many of the white folk are distressed that I didn’t emphasize the love between white families and the domestics who helped to raise their children [this is not a quote but my paraphrase], but I have never had any black people complain of that to me about this book.” And in that comment lies the clue to differing worldviews.

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