Most of us, especially in the early years of life, take for granted the bodies we live in. They are the "housing" of our young lives. As we grow into them as children, young teenagers, and as 20- or 30-something young adults, our bodies, for so many of us, are serving us well.
We have remarkable strength, and even various agilities, which we rather assume about life. We climb stairs with generally, "the greatest of ease." We walk. We run. We breathe. We lift. We leap out of chairs. We carry things. All abilities that we largely assume.
But, as we age, things change. Especially to do with our bodies. We break things - like an arm or leg. And, for the most part, quickly heal. We find we need adjustments, and seek doctors and therapists to help us. We need glasses, or knee braces, or pills to ease pain.
When I was not yet a teenager, a great joy to me was climbing the mountains that were the "hills of home" to me. I swam daily during long summers. I paddled canoes, and rowed rowboats.
In secondary school I "went out" for crew, and became a captain of my school team. I went to college, and did the same. I loved the pull of the oars of eight boys, then four, as we learned how to make a rowing shell move, and eventually, to defeat others down the course, at Cornell on Lake Cayuga, and in Syracuse on Lake Onondaga, and Princeton, and Pennsylvania, and the Navy at Annapolis.
I later was to row in the 1952 Olympic Trials on Lake Quinsigamond. Even Scotland, while studying theology there, had rowing challenges, and victories.
Now, so many decades later, I paddle alone on Lake Ossipee's waters, both in my single shell, and in my canoe.
But these days, of my ninth decade, I am limited to a rowing machine at the Flagship Athletic Club in Eden Prairie.
And something has happened to make me think differently, about this body God gives me. It has suddenly changed, actually shrinking. I walk slowly, and not far. Mercifully, I can still row.
But now, I wonder about this amazing machine I was given at my birth. Things happen to it - inside, that I cannot see. But, I can feel the changes: swellings in various places. I am re-introduced to the lymph system, hardly knowing, even yet, what it is. It carries fluid through my body, to various places of swelling, and I think a lymph node. I am being scanned and biopsied toward understanding the mystery of it.
And today, in the midst of the gloom of having to postpone the biopsy till my blood count lowers, a great word of scripture has come to mind, to remind me of the greater reality, that like King David's discovery of hundreds of years ago, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" This body is a miracle, and has been for almost 91 years.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
How that beautiful outcry turns it all around for us, as we behold our wrinkled hands, and sagging middles, and spindly legs.
Our bodes are a beautiful time machine. Into what wonderful experiences they have carried us. What visions they have shown us. And how they comfort us.
God knows my days and the number of them. And I can stop so foolishly speculating on how many more there may be. It is enough that I am His, and that, by His grace, I can fill those days with the thoughts and acts He has planned for me.
God brings each day, and fulfills them as He wills. For me it is "not to worry." How about you?
I sat at Rotary Lunch today beside a man who is retiring. He owns a Hospice business. A young minister, very gifted as a pastor, will succeed him. I observed that letting your work go, and "passing the torch" to another, is hard to do. "Oh, you're right," he said, "My successor can't possibly love my people as much as I have."
There it was, the admission that his work was about loving the people, not the money. It is tempting to feel that nobody could come along and love the people as much as he had. He doesn't know that it will be different - that people in need will learn to love the new guy, while still loving the old man.
Sometimes, people come along, at least in a church, who open up doors, who want to hear the story, the history.
It is easy for successors, new and young, to come to a church, and say, "I don't want to hear the story. Don't tell me about the pain or the problems. We'll just begin all over, right here, without worrying about the past."
Many decades ago, a great black preacher came straight out of the racial stirrings in the South, and spoke to the secondary school where I was a student. I remember one great word he spoke. He said, "I am what I am because I stand upon the shoulders of an infinite number of yesterdays." He was not only a poet and a preacher, but he knew it was important to be a historian. You need to know what's gone before. You need to acknowledge history, and build upon its lessons of the past.
That same preacher came to our church here to preach and teach us for three weeks in the summer. It was an honor to have him, and learn from his wisdom.
Just this week, a new staff member came to Colonial Church. He wanted to sit by the fireplace at Covenant Village and learn what he could about our history, including those tumultuous decades of the 1960's and 1970's, which were so hard - and so wonderful.
He too, has a historian's heart. He wants to learn "how it was." I think he has hopes of being part of building on those foundations of the decades past, on so many good things that have gone before. Maybe many will join in to do together the things of God's plan that He has ahead.
In letting go, God has a great chance to build in our lives and institutions the things that are in His mind and heart for the future, that have long been His plans.
Bless you as you still work at the facture of your life, "letting go" so that God's plan can emerge.
Waiting. Waiting. Wanting others to move quickly, to help you. Thinking about yourself. About your life. And current things in your life.
Getting nervous. Not quite in control. Not quite your old self. Because there's something important about your life that you don't know. But a young hematology oncologist does know. He's read your PET scan of four days ago. He knows what those strange photos in the Nuclear Department of the hospital have shown about what your blood is doing. You know that the quiescent period of several years of this new health adventure is over, and that the sudden swellings in your neck and armpits declare that the lymph system is under attack.
The young, likable doctor knows now lots about you that you don't know. He doesn't realize how much you want to know it, too, and to find out the treatment and get on with it.
He has other patients to think about, and care about. Sicker than you. Maybe more gravely threatened than you.
You're getting selfish. You're putting yourself forward as #1, the way 21st Century American culture teaches you to do.
It's time for second thoughts. For slowing down and stepping back. And remembering who you are, and WHOSE you are. That you're in your Creator's hands. That He loves you and won't let you go.
And, would you believe it? Just as that thought comes, just as you take that step back and remember who you are and that Christian humility calls you to be patient, and to wait, the phone rings. It may not be "Godot." Better than that, you know it's the Lord Who loves you and holds your life in the hollow of His hands. He is on the phone under the guise of a woman named Betsy, the young doctor's nurse. She's heard my phone message. She knows I'm waiting and so wanting answers. "The doctor's out today. We hope he'll give us information tomorrow for us to send to you, to let you know the news."
The Angel Betsy was letting me know all she could. Between the lines she was saying, "Peace Arthur, be still. We care about you. Don't worry."
I thanked her. And when I said instinctively, "Bless you," there was a catch in her breath - a blessing back to me.
So, I wait. Not for "Godot." but for the good God Himself to let me know, and lead me on, in peace.
How swiftly the messages come, in life. How sure are the Hands that hold us. How safe we are in His good grip.
Bless you, friends.
We were on the way home from the hospital when I finally said to my dear wife, "Happy Valentine's Day, Molly." She laughed and said, "You are my dearest Valentine."
She had spent the day helping me get ready for our appointment at the Nuclear Medical Center at Methodist Hospital, where I was to have a PET Scan. I was apprehensive. I didn't quite know what that was, except that they would take deep pictures of my blood. Pictures of things X-rays could not see.
A young, cheery cancer doctor in internal medicine had been watching my blood for two or three years. "You have a low-grade CLL - a form of leukemia. That's why your energy is low and you feel tired. Sometimes it just lies there for years without doing anything. We hope it will stay that way. Of course, one day it could explode into something new."
But now a change had come. I discovered a swelling just above my right collarbone. It was very tender. Then I found a smaller swelling above my left collarbone along with a swelling under each armpit. The left one had grown larger and began to hurt by the time I saw my young specialist. "Your CLL has broken out and affected your lymph glands. We have new medicines to treat it, just one pill a day. The PET scan will tell us a lot."
So, I was apprehensive on the day of the PET scan. But my Molly was being my Valentine, and easing the way, at every step. So now it's wait and pray through the weekend.
I found there is lots of waiting and praying as you get into the "old-old" years. For dear friends all around you. For your grown children who need you more than you or they expected. For church. For country. For the world where viruses are running wild. In fact, prayer is the one sure thing in this whole uncertain world. We learn again and again that Jesus is the One we can count on. FOR ALL THINGS.
So much to pray for. And prayer, believe it or not, is real power. You can join me in prayer, and help me as I work to keep at it. But claim the whole world, too. God is so ready to answer. Let's make this season of Lent - soon to be upon us - a whole time of renewed prayer. We all need it. Thank you. Bless you.
They say all eyes are on Iowa. All those interesting people have offered themselves as candidates. They want to be President. Mostly they want our present president to be that no longer. Some say this is the era of impeachment. The era of anger, of rage, of shaming the Senate if it finally refuses to vote our president out of office.
So many currents flowing in the life of our country. So many feelings of antipathy, of alienation from each other. Can America be healed, and united, after these years of our life we're going through?
We can, because we are God's people. Because we have a Leader and a Lord Who is Christ the Righteous, Jesus the Savior, Christ, our King, forever.
It is too easy to forget that when we are caught up in the political goings-on. Already the eyes watching Iowa have widened as hours have turned to days and chaos came to Iowa's caucuses. Midnight planes carried candidates to New Hampshire after victory speeches without victory. It's all still undecided for the Democrats.
In the meantime, back at the Senate, after endless speeches the vote was taken, and the President was acquitted, but not without handshakes refused and the President's State of the Union speech torn up by the Speaker of the House. No peace yet. A mean spirit still prevails - on both sides.
There is a prayer group, and soon a Prayer Breakfast. We need to pray. We need to know prayer is heard, and answered. We are called to be obedient, and persistent.
Can we pray - daily and earnestly for a spirit of peace to descend upon our hearts? One that will be in our hearts and in the hearts of everyone we pray for? Can we pray for a spirit of repentance for ourselves and for Americans seeking out the many things for which we need to repent? Repentance puts us on the road to forgivenenss. A forgiving spirit to replace the spirit of revenge that is abroad in the land, the self-gratifying spirit of anger and getting back?
We have every reason to believe that turning to Jesus Who has endured all the crucifying abuse of people at their angriest can help us to follow Him, and not Satan who is the author of lies and revenge, will change our own spirits, and fill us with hope.
What good work that can be for us in this critical season of Lent coming up. Let us help each other to do it!
Love to you, by Jesus Lord of Love.
We live in the world of ME. We know about the ME GENERATION, who have been taught to think the world is all about themselves. Parents have brought them up to think life is about making your own way. Seeking opportunities for yourself. That it's okay to be a "me-first" sort of person. That you need that attitude in order to get ahead, get a job, be fulfilled. Be number one in your life.
It's terribly tempting, when you get older, to talk about yourself. Particularly, about your aches and pains, your new knee or other surgeries. After all, those are the things that hurt.
I had a hospital week in the fall. It was a "near miss." Insurance offered me home care for three weeks. My caregivers said I needed a walker. It felt like a defeat, as if I needed to explain it to people.
I didn't. Lots of people have wheels where we live. Something to steady us, to help us get places. I hope to graduate, but, who knows?
And along the way I realize other people have their dependencies. A wheelchair to ride in. A walker to push and stay upright. A cane to do the same.
And those who can walk unaided, walk slower and slower. And even those who don't, show that they hurt. They've had a surgery. The "One Horse Shay" is breaking down.
Finally, you realize you're there to encourage others. Because many of them bear greater burdens than yours. Their lives are in danger. There'll be a funeral coming. It's the way of the world. It's life.
Our own aches and pains can help us be sensitive to what others are going through. Sensitive enough so that we do not "pass by on the other side," ignoring the wounded, lonely, hurt lives around us.
It takes so little to stop and ask how it is today. Maybe there'll be new details, maybe not. But, just a word helps so much.
Jesus was a great listener. He had deep and perfect vision. He could see all the way to the heart of things. And always He had an answer. Quite frequently a totally unexpected answer to a wounded person's need.
There was, in fact, healing in His speaking. We too can have that power. Just being with Jesus ourselves can relieve so many things.
We can become listeners, too. We can touch some places. We can join the Great Physician in His work. God wants that. Let's try.
I love to row. To stretch this now-old body. At the Flagship, in the little harbor of the latest in rowing machines, I do 90 to 100 strokes. In my head I'm on Ossipee Lake in New Hampshire, rowing out to Pine River Point in increments of 30, then back to shore. And, while at the point, I rest on my oars and "Look to the Mountain," The very mountain I've looked to all my life, Chocorua. Gracefully rising along a north to south ridge of three low summits called The Three Sisters. Then steeply to a graceful point going south are Paugus, Passaconaway, and Whiteface.
The sight of them, in summer, feeds my soul, lifts my heart, speaks to me of God. "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth." I am taken out of myself, for a few restful moments.
But all of that is on the water, in the summer, with real oars, in the light graphite single shell Colonial friends gave me when we left our long ministry there, twenty-five years ago.
Now, sitting on the sliding seat on the stationary rowing machine, it's all in my head. It's remembering. It's imaginary. I have in my hands a delicately calibrated pulley to give the feeling of oars through the water.
I'm trying to be there three afternoons a week. I walk the perimeter too - 500/600 steps. I even lift a few light dumbbells.
They help me live, and feel whole, and maybe gain strength. There are friends there, too. There's Greg, a founder of the Flagship health club. He's taught some fine athletes to play tennis. And the Johnsons - Ken and son Brett - who own The Hilltop Restaurant. Fine, faithful, handsome men. And a former baseball player I call "Coach." And a downtown restaurateur who reminds me of Zorba the Greek.
We talk of idle things and sometimes serious things there, in the men's locker room. Sometimes faith comes up. And, there's Jim, who seems to be the encourager of all the others. He includes me in his encouragements. I'm grateful. And leave feeling better.
Even behind the front desk, there are pals who greet me and wave me off with shining smiles. We help each other live.
But after the drive home to "Covenant Living," I get to sit, and write. Just whatever's there, in my heart. About the passing parade of my old man's world. The people who actually make appointments to sit by the fireplace in our common area near the coffee pots and front entry way.
Today, before my appointed visitor arrived, a woman approached before heading to Byerly's: Do you have a high-five handshake for me today? I need it so much." A man from her town who had turned out to be her cousin, had died last week. She is bereft. But our little passing handshake means even more to her now in her grief.
There's a lot you see, from a sitting position, in a locker room and even in an old folks' home. People want "a word," a high-five, an acknowledgement that we are friends.
That's worth a lot. More than we think. Wonderful things from the sitting position. Bless you, as you sit, and rise up. The world is waiting.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES