Otis & Friends 3I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Have you met my friend Mary Nilsen? She and her husband, Roy, have been coming to Prairiewoods for years, participating in everything from programs to holistic services. Here she tells us about a spiritual book written by her son, Kai …

How could we have known years ago, when the phone rang and the plaintive voice of our son said, “Dad?” that that call would find its way into a book; that my husband’s words, “You may have to muddle through this for awhile,” would become something of a mantra for him? But most important, how could we have known that the reason for the call, the withering time he was going through would lead him? push him? force him? into new discoveries about the restorative love of the God he worshipped and preached about every Sunday but had lost touch with?

Our son, Kai Nilsen, pastored a large suburban congregation—a dream job, but he had fallen into despair (a despair not unfamiliar to pastors or most anyone involved in a helping vocation or avocation, including parents). Simply put, he didn’t care. Not about his parishioners. Not about his community. Not about his family. And especially not about himself. The call to us, his parents, was the cry of a middle-aged man trapped in an arid, frightening place.

We were caught off guard. And after the conversation we were left with the powerlessness parents feel when their adult children are in trouble. All we could do was pray and trust that he would find some way to access the same divine energy that had helped us muddle through similar times in our lives. And trust that in this wilderness struggle, God would provide all he needed.

Mary and Roy Nilsen 3The wisdom gained from that dark time is shared in this compelling book filled with stories both humorous and poignant. Beyond that, Kai sets his experience (and the experience of so many Christians) within the biblical foundation of the creation story, where he discovers the renewable energy of God, an energy available to us all. He also gives to his readers common sense practices that can help them move more quickly through those times of muddling through.

This book can give to individuals going through dark times a sense that they are not alone. It is also designed to be read and studied in groups—granting time and space for people to admit their plunges into apathy and doubt, share wisdom gained from such times, and grow in faith that the same God who walked with the Israelites through the wilderness and accompanied Jesus during his wilderness sojourn will be with them, giving them energy for the day and hope for tomorrow.

Kai explores seven energies released at the time of creation and available to all who are open to receiving them:

1. The energy of grace—How can I both accept and pass on the graces God is eager to bestow?

2. The energy of possibility—How can I tend to the life I now have and at the same time stay open to the possibilities for something new?

3. The energy of paradox—How can I learn to accept the “unwanted” as gift? To say yes to both light and storm?

4. The energy of the natural world—How can I regain my child-like wonder at the beauty of the day? The power of a storm? The delight of a rain shower? And in so doing, how can I learn to coexist with all of creation?

5. The energy of relationships—How can I open myself to both give and receive so that I can gain energy from relationships instead of letting them drain me?

6. The energy of fruitful work—How can I be energized to develop respect for and joy in both what I do for a living and what I do to keep living?

7. The energy of rest—How can I organize my life so that I can receive the energy that comes through rest, whether that rest is sleep or meditative prayer or a long walk in the woods?

We are grateful that Kai muddled through, that he learned in and through the muddling, that he was given the energy to move out of that place of frustration, and that he has done the hard work of writing it all down in a way that can be helpful to others who wake up one day and realize that they simply don’t care.

—Mary Nilsen, long-time friend of Prairiewoods