.I've been reading Billy Graham's fine little book, "Heading Home." A classic for old folks. A lovely and loving challenge for all folks.
About growing old. About passing the torch. About being an example. About drawing close to the Heavenly Father, and preparing for the final journey. Or, as Billy says, "The last mile."
When will it come? What will it be like? Will we recognize it when we're there?
His book is full of helpful suggestions, and wonderful scripture to assure us, and give us confidence. It is about Heaven, and the home that awaits us on the distant shore. It's a hopeful book, though for Christians, full of reminders of what we already believe.
We all hope for heaven. But, it was promised to those who receive Jesus and have given their lives to Him. It is straight forward, no kidding around.
Heaven is no myth Dr. Graham insists. And the Bible is full of affirmations about its reality, and about our going there - to be forever with Jesus, His Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.
"I will come and take you there, so you can be with Me where I am," He promised.
It's been encouraging to me. Jesus is the key. He'll be there and we'll be with Him. What a promise!
Bless you as we all walk the journey on, or toward the last mile.
Out of my day of exhilaration some insights have emerged. The importance of prayer, and the importance and place, of friends.
Prayer because it creates a context, a whole framework of life. It gives us a God-center. An awareness that all we are and all we have, comes from Him - He "from Whom all blessings flow." Despite our many distractions, we come from God. He put us here. He brought us into being. He sent us, much as He sent Jesus on His whole mission of salvation.
Us, too. We have a mission. Work to do. Light-shining out into the world. The work of caring about others. Listening. Loving. Encouraging. Being Jesus' person every day of our lives.
Which means praying: for the world. For America. For people to whom we've promised prayer. Being present to all sorts.
Which leads into friends. Staying in touch with them. Receiving the signals that point us toward people who are going through something, who would be encouraged to hear from us - in a letter. Over coffee. Listening and loving.
Even in my dotage, I find people say, "Let's get together." And they mean it. It's important to them. And, I realize, it's important to me. All part of our work in the world. Yours and mine.
Written on Monday, January 7, 2019:
Today I came home feeling good from being "out and about." It is a strange, intangible sensation. Feeling a little bit stronger. Feeling a tiny bit exhilarated. Feeling somehow not so tired. Hard to pinpoint. Hard to define.
During my twice-daily VEST chest-thumping treatment, I've been lately reading Billy Graham on "Nearing Home." A lot about old age, and the process of getting there. Of the things you can't do any more - but also the things of the Spirit you are drawn toward doing. A kind of wisdom into which you come, that you can actually pass on to others.
In some ways it's been a little more of old age than I wanted to hear. Some of that concentration can get you down. He even wrote about the tendencies toward depression of some older folks.
But, for me, the whole day turned around. A phone call reminded me that at 9:45 am I had a toenail clipping appointment. I quickly ended my vest-pounding treatment, jumped into my clothes and hurried downstairs.
My sweet practitioner washed my feet. It reminded me of the thousands of pairs of feet Molly and I had washed during our Pilgrim Center healing retreats in the genocide countries of Africa over the 23 years we were working regularly in that ministry.
Then my over-long toenails were clipped. Then filed. Then washed again. Sort of a healing exercise in itself.
Then upstairs to finish morning meds, a piece of toast, a bit of milk, and then off to Park Nicollet for my INR blood draw.
Suddenly one of the young men of our Advent 7:00 am Bible Study at the Hilltop Restaurant was standing before me. He'd brought his mother for her blood test. I knew all was not well between mother and son. "Look Mom, who I found here," he said to his mother, "Arthur of Colonial. Maybe he would pray for us." She grudgingly brightened up. I prayed for the peace that passes understanding to be upon them. An indirect prayer for reconciliation.
Then, I was on my way, realizing that meeting was not an accident. It was a "divine appointment." Perhaps the joy started within me then.
Out at the Flagship some of my coughing came on. "You all right? Want some water?" a stranger in the locker room said. "Oh, I'm fine. It's chronic." He disappeared and then reappeared. "I'm a poor listener," he said as he handed me a cup of cold water.
Then a former parishioner approached me. "Got your glasses?" he asked. "I'll read this to you" - from his iPhone. The day's faith reflection from my friend Steve Moore who sends out his word of encouragement daily to hundreds, perhaps more, across the country, if not the world. A shout out about a "great Minnesota pastor" who had taken many cold Minnesotans to Africa to help the poor of the world.
What a surprise. A quick affirmation, in a public place, from a friend on the Way.
Upstairs another coughing, and a young woman bore down on me from across the gym. "Are you all right? They told me you're an old regular here. You're...How old?" She was a cardio-therapist and wanted to help. We talked. I explained. "I'm Heather. We'll meet again and talk sometime."
Several of the little contacts with friends ensued, and finally I was home.
Something was happening to me. I confessed it to Molly at dinner. "I feel kind of good. Sort of exhilarated. Lifted. Not tired. Alive, and glad to BE alive. I think I'm feeling even stronger."
Well, who knows. All I know is there was a difference. It is lasting into the evening. I found I wanted to write about it, to say to my friends who might read this: "You know, He comes. He really does. He flings an arm around us and lifts us up. He lightens the load. Mysteriously. A visitation of the Spirit, working through a handful of people who attended me. Almost angel visitants who helped this old guy have joy on a drab day, and have his heart lifted, and his body lightened, and his spirit filled with hope.
There's a golden glow in our village courtyard, and slanting through the balcony doors and windows of our cozy home this first evening of 2019 for Molly and me.
Seven of us, who could, gathered at the Original Pancake House, our custom for probably three decades, for eggs, bacon, and pancakes to start off the New Year.
These have been blessed times, this Advent in church. And then, Christmas Morning. What a privilege to be asked by my successor, David, to preach. I did.
But today was a different day - bitterly cold, but with sunshine, and a blue sky. And, after our mid-morning breakfast together, it was off to the Iconic Theater in St. Louis Park's West End. Sgt. John Rouner, the only other grandfather in our family, had taken his Vivienne to see "Mary Poppins Returns." Thinking it would be good for children, he found it wonderful for grandparents as well, and commended it as a "must see film" for the afternoon half of our New Year's Day tradition.
Mama Molly came along, and there we sat, with our three daughters, entranced by the whole production.
Apparently, Mary Poppins floats in, out of the sky, held aloft by her umbrella, at times of need for unsuspecting earthbound people. And this young English family was about to lose, through foreclosure by the bank, their beautiful home in a lovely London neighborhood.
She quietly came in and took over the three children, leading them through fanciful adventures made possible by her magical umbrella.
The dancing lamplighter it turns out, was played by the author and actor in the Broadway play "Hamilton." He played a leading part in the rescue of the family's home from the dishonest scheme of the evil bank president.
A lovely piece was Meryl Streep as the upside-down fixer of everything. To the rescue came Dick Van Dyke playing the old uncle who was senior to the malevolent bank president and saved the day by revealing tuppence shares in the bank, owned by the young father, had matured into a fortune that could more than pay off the mortgage!
In the closing, climactic scene of a spring carnival in the quaint square in front of the rescued house, was the sung theme that when things go bad in life, there is "no way to go but up."
The old balloon lady, played by actress Angela Lansbury, was selling balloons that immediately lifted the buyer into the air, as everyone sang there's "no way to go but up!"
A perfect theme for the first day of the New Year 2019, as all floated into the sky, singing a song of hope. And of course, Mary Poppins left as she came - mission accomplished.
A lesson to all us people of faith, that Jesus calls us every day to look up, to watch, and see Him coming in the clouds, with great glory, to set all things right, by the will of God Who brings finally to earth His Reign of Righteousness, and Hope.
Bless you all in this New Year, given us who believe, by our great Lord of all Hopefulness.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES