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Issue 15-2

The Ending-Well Project: Part One

After trying for months, juggling schedules that included overseas adventures, we were finally able to get together with another couple, Andy and Nancy Hagen, who have been friends for decades. It was an evening where we had time to enjoy good conversation over a well-prepared meal. We caught up on our friends’ walking pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, which is the ancient 490-mile trail that ends in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, where the body of the apostle James is buried.

Our friends also spent two months hosting a guest house in Dubai, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. The guests were Christian professionals who held special worker permits but needed a chance to recharge their faith in a safe environment and a place to debrief their experiences in this Muslim country. It was a fascinating conversation.

At a certain juncture in the evening, Andy (who is ordained and was an Army Chaplain—once a chaplain at West Point) asked David and me, “What kinds of things are you doing that will help you complete your earthly journey well?” This seemed appropriate after a discussion that had centered on the concepts of pilgrimage and of being aliens in a strange culture.

We clarified the question: “Do you mean ‘How are you going to end well’?” No one has ever asked us this question before—so we poked a bit at some answers. I turned 73 years of age this January, and David will be 80 in August. Undoubtedly, this a crucial personal discussion to have at this time in our lives. So still sitting at the dinner table, we attempted to frame some initial answers. For instance, “No matter what happens, choose to stay close to the Lord. Divest yourself of as many of your possessions as you can.”

So since our delightful evening, David and I have been asking this question of one another, “How are we going to end well?” What kinds of things should we be doing that will ensure, as best as we can, that the years leading up to the end will be honoring to the Lord we have served all our lives and give us the sense, as we die, that we have done our best?

Believe me, it is a crucial question, one every Christian should ask of themselves, no matter the stage of life they happen to be traversing. We obviously have not asked it enough of ourselves. Then, at each stage of this earthly adventure, the questions should be asked again and again—because we humans forget our resolves so easily, because we humans are caught up in the systems of the culture in which we find ourselves, because we American Christians are too content, often spoiled, certainly privileged and all too absorbed by the world around us.

Right now, one of the things David and I are doing to end well is reducing the material accumulations in our lives.

David and I are caught up in a major transition—we are reducing the office so that we can vacate our rented space (five large rooms) by the end of April. That will save the ministry some $800 per month. We need to clear out the basement at home so we can set up a diminished office there. We will move the furnishings from about three rooms out to the guest apartment in the barn house at Turtle Creek Farms in McHenry, Illinois. (This is where our son-in-law and daughter, Doug and Melissa Timberlake, live.) That move should be completed by the end of the summer, leaving us with our home in West Chicago, Illinois, which we plan eventually to sell. We will have reduced the office—files and bookcases and storage shelves and desks and furnishings and a large copier—to three rooms.

In addition, we have two large storage lockers of Mainstay Ministries products that need to be sorted, tossed and moved to a more convenient location; one unit is in Phoenix, the other in Wheaton, Illinois.

As you can see, there is major work ahead in just this one area of The Ending-Well Project. The interesting thing, however, about doing this much sorting and purging is that you find things you have forgotten. In a financial file cabinet, David discovered a folder with some 158 shares of stocks that had never been sold! I discovered a stack of boxes of books I forgot I had written. The book is Soul Alert: Thriving Spiritually as Aliens and Strangers in the World.

After re-reading it, I was convicted by the fact that the Bible repeatedly warns us that we are not of this world. I think I am guilty of being too absorbed by my culture. So another rule for The Ending-Well Project is to bring my life into conformity with this truth. “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God…” (1 Peter 2:11,12).

Consequently, I am now on Soul Alert, intentionally paying attention to the signs that warn: DANGER AHEAD. I’m asking myself, “What else needs to be eliminated from my life that is keeping me from ending my life well?”

How about you? Can I be a friend who leans across the table and asks, “What are YOU doing to ensure that you will end well?” Let me know if you have been wrestling with this question already and what it is you are answering.

Karen Mains


Memoir-Writing Teleconference Class Starting Again

NOTE: So far we have SIX people who have signed up for these classes. There is room for TWO more in this cycle.

WHEN: Starting in the second half of April through the second half of October—exact times to be determined by group availability.

FREQUENCY: We will meet by phone twice a month, with a few personal consultations thrown in.

WHO: Writers who are serious about publishing articles or books in the personal essay format. This is a writing journey into self discovery for both men and women.

HOW MANY: Having learned that I can’t service a large number of participants, this teleconference team will be limited to no more than EIGHT members.

HOW MUCH: The fee is $500. This includes 15 hour-and-a-half sessions, plus manuscript evaluations, make-up sessions, and a few personal coaching sessions. When you register, you will receive a bibliography of suggested memoir writings, a draft curriculum (this changes from teleconference class to teleconference class depending upon the questions of individual group members), and some samples of memoir-writing pieces.

HOW TO REGISTER: Because I will be traveling, please contact the Hungry Souls office manager, Heather Ann Martinez, at You must register and pay the fee by April 8. If you contact Heather, she can take a credit card payment, help you to send a payment through PayPal, or tell you where to mail a check.

Please send a sample of your writing. It doesn’t need to be a memoir, but something that would be helpful as far as giving me an idea about your approach.

Memoir writing is often an extraordinary journey into personal discovery. The teleconference format allows for privacy, and it surprisingly becomes another form of the Listening Group process that Hungry Souls has worked to develop.

Our goal is to create a safe, interactive environment where people can begin to explore the memoir form. This is not the place for critical literary analysis—too often that shuts down the writing initiative. We want to encourage and affirm and to gently question. We do not want to challenge judgmentally. These are personal stories, in which the writer often makes startling discoveries about his or her own journey. The rest of us listen and applaud and make constructive comments. My greatest hope is that you will slip into the joy of doing this work, not into the drudgery or dread of it. There will be simple assignments to get you started, then we will focus on what the particular personal story it is you want to tell.

Spiritual Mentoring: Keeping Spiritual Journals

Hungry Souls is launching a series of spiritual mentoring retreats at the beautiful 18-acre Turtle Creek Acres in McHenry, Illinois. Our first event will be on keeping spiritual journals, prayer diaries, records of your interactions with God.

Hungry Souls will be offering mentoring on spiritual practices that are good for the soul throughout the rest of 2016. Scripture teaches that we are all “displaced persons”—“Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God...” (1 Peter 2)

So, how is your soul doing in this cross-earth transit? Does it feel famished, starving, neglected or ill? Would you like to flourish? Would you like to discover some proven nutrients that will bring you back to health? Would you like to feel fed and nurtured?

The first spiritual practice that thousands through the centuries, starting with David in the Psalms, have discovered nurtures the soul is: Keeping a Spiritual Journal

We will spend a day at Turtle Creek Farms in McHenry, Illinois on Thursday April 21, starting at 9:00 in the morning and ending at 3:00 in the afternoon. Eighteen acres of protected marsh. Spring rising in the land. The barn-house lodge with plenty of comfortable nooks and lofts and     cushions and tartans for privacy and comfort. Plenty of housepets, but they will be confined for the day.
Fee for the first Soul Alert event is $150 and your registration must be in by April 16. Email Melissa Timberlake at For those in ministry, we will offer a reduced fee. Just inquire.

In the morning, we will introduce you to a variety of ways to journal your prayers and record your relationship with God. If you have a journaling practice that works for you, feel free to share your approach and how it has helped you tend to your own soul. Silence will begin at lunch (vegan and gluten-free)—then the afternoon will be given to thoughtful and prayerful time to journal what it is you are hearing the Holy Spirit speak to your heart. We will provide a series of questions to guide your thinking.


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Hungry Souls Contact Information

ADDRESS: 1800 W. Hawthorne Lane, Suite K
West Chicago, IL 60185
PHONE: 630-293-4500

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

David and I have been asking this question of one another, “How are we going to end well?” What kinds of things should we be doing that will ensure that the years leading up to the end will be honoring to the Lord we have served all our lives and give us the sense, as we die, that we have done our best?
Soul Alert: Thriving Spiritually as Aliens and Strangers in the World
by Karen Mains

I recently made a rather startling discovery: I came upon a box full of copies of a book I forgot I had written. The title is Soul Alert: Thriving Spiritually as Aliens and Strangers in the World. The reason I forgot about this book is that it was written as the guidebook for the 50-Day Spiritual Adventure More Than Survivors. It didn’t come through regular publishing channels, so neglectful creative parent that I am, I forgot about it.

Out of curiosity, I re-read my own book and found myself thinking, “Wow! This is really good.”

The book draws lessons from the waves of immigrants over the centuries who have come to our shores, then also studies the spiritual patterns of the displaced heroes of Scripture. How did they thrive in foreign cultures?

Moses: The Wonder-Working Wanderer
Paul: The Cross-Cultural Communicator
Joseph: This Displaced Person of Integrity
Daniel: The Exile Who Traveled Light
Esther: The Expatriate Who Preserved Her People
Ruth: The Refugee Who Risked Everything
Nehemiah: The Border Guard Who Built Walls
Christ: Our True Safe Haven

The point of the book Soul Alert is to draw metaphors from immigration history and from the Bible’s displaced persons to underline the fact that the Bible repeatedly warns us that we are “aliens and strangers on earth.”

As I wrote in Chapter One, “Scripture teaches us that any culture a Christian crosses is foreign land. … We cannot be used by God as change-agents in the world if we have become too attached and have lost sight of the heavenly destination. Nor can we profit if we long for the pleasures and treasures of the surrounding society and are confused because of our dual citizenship, or love our privileges so much we cannot empathize with the hoards oppressed by a violent enemy who is committed to their spiritual genocide. God cannot use us if we are not prepared to flee to the wilderness so he can strip our minds and grow our souls.”

Again, we have boxes of this paperback book in our storage locker and would love to give one copy to you for ANY financial gift of ANY size.

If you are part of a small group or Bible study, we will be happy to make quantities of Soul Alert available for $5 per book. For multiple orders, we will cover shipping and handling.

As I re-read this book, I kept thinking, Hm-m-m-m-m. Did I write this? This is really good! Then I remembered that our son Jeremy had met me in Guadalajara, Mexico after visiting with some of his clients. We took one week on a mother/son work vacation, and Jeremy, a multi-cultural specialist who had traveled and lived overseas, taught Spanish at Wheaton College as an adjunct professor, had worked as a immigration counselor at World Relief and now ran his own Dynamis Immigration Aid service, spent that time helping me pull illustrations, facts and information from his specialty that would be pertinent to the metaphor I was building in the book, that of being strangers and aliens.

Jeremy, as many of you know, is no longer holding alien status here on earth, but has transited the divide to his true home, the country toward which he always turned his eyes and now is a true citizen of that “kingdom that will not be shaken.” No wonder I thought the book was so good (and I didn’t even give my son a credit line!).

Do you feel your soul is in danger of traveling in the wrong direction? Are you losing sight of the goal of reaching that far off, long distant country?

This is a book that will give you specific, practical road signs of where to travel, how far to go, how to keep from getting lost, and how to always remember that you are really a displaced person here on earth.

Copyright 2006-2016 Mainstay Ministries. All rights reserved.

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