Southern Black Hills

I spent the last two weeks recovering from a cold, taking my mom to her second cataract surgery, helping pack up the house as my parents prepare for the next chapter (AZ this winter and we are not sure about next summer), catching up with family and friends, and exploring the beauty of the Southern Black Hills.

View from the house I grew up in

I spent a wonderful day with family friend Pastor Larry Peterson. He ran the retreat center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for almost twenty years and is now in the midst of getting the Woyatan Retreat Center up and running in Rapid City.


Construction of Woyotan Retreat Center

Larry and I met for coffee at Calamity Jane in downtown Custer and had a great conversation about Lakota spirituality, linking Biblical stories to daily life in various cultures, books, silence, hospitality, community, and empathy. Then we went up to Crazy Horse Memorial. I had not made a proper trip there since I was in high school and if the mountain has not changed much, the museum certainly has, and all for the better. It is a first-rate Indian Museum. I still think every United States citizen needs to visit the American Indian Boarding School Stories exhibit at Phoenix’s Heard Museum but Crazy Horse has an incredible collection of artifacts and the curator is doing a beautiful job.

Larry and my dad catching up

Larry and I got together on the day after I celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of my ordination. It was fitting because Larry, then serving on the synod’s candidacy committee, did my initial entrance interview for ordination and was part of the clergy group present for my ordination at Custer Lutheran Fellowship, see photo below. During my second week in Custer I had coffee with Chuck Hazlett, who served as pastor of Custer Lutheran Fellowship while I was growing up and who sang at my ordination. The welcome statement Chuck wrote in the 1980s (remember that if you follow the link to read it–the 1980s!) had a big impact on our congregation, me, and the way I think about ministry today. He and his wife Kaona retired to Custer a while back.

My sister-in-law Peggy and I decided to go for a hike this past Tuesday. We drove out to Sylvan Lake and had the intention of going up Trail 9 until we could get a good view. But we were both feeling good and it was a perfect day. We made it all the way up Black Elk Peak (the highest point in South Dakota).


I was able to hang out with my sixth grade classroom teacher Hank Fridell at The Custer Beacon one evening, meet a variety of my parents’ newer (last ten years) friends, and meet up with one of my best friends from junior high and high school, Mary Lappe.

Something I did not plan on was that two of my favorite cousins, Heidi and Sharman, were staying with their husbands at the old homestead home, just down the hill from my parents’ home. The three of us and my mom headed to Hot Springs to check out Moccasin Springs. It was an incredibly relaxing morning soaking in those beautiful pools and watching dragonflies chase each other.

The next evening, the who family went to dinner at Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City.

Heidi’s husband Tom, cousin Sharman, my brother Steve

My mom and I did a lot of work–packing boxes, shipping boxes, moving bins into storage, recycling electronics, delivering donations. One of my tough but joyful tasks was choosing which books from my parents’ shelves I wanted to ship to Nampa.

Wall/shelves on the lower level (just a sampling of the the Jerry/Linde library)

But Mom and I also did some re-creating. In keeping with my intentional sabbatical theme of storytelling and what has become an unanticipated but delightful secondary theme of music, we took in three of the first four segments of Ken Burns’ new documentary Country Music. We soaked at Moccasin Springs. We went on a full-moon nature walk at Custer State Park with 250 other people, not an intimate event.

We ate an incredible breakfast at Skogen Kitchen (Custer) and then rode the 1880 Train Wine Express from Hill City to Keystone and back.

It was a rich and full two weeks. In August I spent three weeks with the Benedictine Sisters of the Monastery at St. Gertrude’s in Idaho. Benedictines strive for life at the monastery to be a blend of prayer, work, and play. I feel like that blend was truly what I experienced in my hometown and for that I am incredibly thankful.

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