Written on March 19:
Sunday afternoon and I get to sit on our little balcony above the courtyard, our home here almost two years. The sun is dropping on this last day of winter. There is a hum of traffic, distant in the air. A few filmy clouds create a western curtain into which the day sun slowly sinks. Audible city sounds are distant enough to create a kind of silence, and out of that, peace for me.
I rejoice in the thought that tomorrow is spring's first day. I feel it as hope, here in the middle of Lent.
The old rugged cross stood free on the platform in church today. Our sermon was GREED, its presence, its justifications, among the Christians. We were asked, where are the Christians, giving up the money that seems to motivate most in our American culture? It would seem to be the motive for almost everything, according to the news each day.
We don't see them because they are following Jesus' dictum of quiet humbleness about what they do, and what they give, and how they try to help others. A young friend came and sat beside me in church this morning. "I had a little op-ed in the paper this morning," he said. I already knew its theme was "the world needs foreign aid." He is a determined giver. He wants his country to continue to be a giving people.
We are called to "feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to heal the sick". We are called to care - about the world. And yes, about our country. But not to fear to give away from what we have to those who have little.
How much? Each one's struggle. Spring is Resurrection time, rebirth time, born again time. Time to look anew at giving ourselves away, sharing the gifts we have. Learning how to help others in this word of our great privilege. Jesus is the Way. He's the One who can help us.
This is the week of "the wearing of the green." Of getting with the Irish in remembering the Patron Saint - with parades, and much drinking, and a concentration on Irish-ness.
It is really much more. Saint Patrick was a real man who lived from 372-466. St. Patrick was a Christian missionary to Ireland. He landed in Ireland in 432 to spread the Christian faith there. He had gone to Tara to confront the pagan High King of Ireland. Patrick and his followers halted at the Hill of Slaves, 10 miles from Tara and lit a huge fire to celebrate the eve of the Christian Festival of Easter. The pagan king was furious, and sent soldiers to destroy it.
But, on arrival, they feared Patrick might cast a spell on them. They drew back and Patrick recited the Twentieth Psalm, "Some trust in chariots and horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord, our God."
Patrick launched into his lyrica with its sense of the wholeness and holiness of nature - typical of Celtic Christianity. It was defiant brave faith that Patrick brought to Ireland and with which he won the Irish to Christianity. From this spirit came, "St. Patrick's Breastplate," which became a great Christian hymn which we'd do well to keep high in our hearts and sing it defiantly and joyfully in memory of the Saint of these days..
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity.
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me forever
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation.
His baptism in the Jordan River,
His death on cross for my salvation,
His bursting from the spice'd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at The Day of Doom,
I bind unto myself today.
What a brave song for us to say, with the words emblazoned on our own spiritual breastplate.
Three beautiful daughters for dinner Sunday night. At the Woodfire Grill. After the grandson found it "so cool" - meaning cozy by the fireplace, on a cold winter night. He loved being there, with his two aunties, who love him dearly.
"How blessed we are with our family," Molly said as we reached home,"They love and encourage each other, and do the same with us."
I'd been to church twice in the morning - one sermon on Lust, and one on the Secrets of the Dark - the good things we go through, and learn, when we have to go through the dark.
And then, off to a 90th birthday party in Lilydale, on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Paul. I married this nono-genarian to a dear and gracious pal of mine. She was a horse woman and a high-end shopkeeper in the Mall of America. He, a General Motors car guy and executive.
He brought an earnest faith to their marriage, that deepened them both. There were stories all around the room, of people I'd married and walked close with them in their new love. Now 15 years had passed. Life had changed. They'd all grown older. There was a richness to the years, of every one of them.
Molly was up early to take our Kristen to the airport to fly off to Naples to be with her husband. They are dear to each other. Their marriage is a treasure. There would be a resting time on the Gulf. They would renew, "The Tie that Binds," of their life.
Today, I recover from four big things. Sundays of my working years in parish ministry were filled with twice the appointments in a day. Now it takes rest to recover, to live out a different stage of life. More like my 90-year-old friend.
Yet today when I finally arose, the sky was blue - high and clear. The sun was a spring sun, despite the cold air and the snow on the ground.
The earth turns. Spring does come - to our hearts and our days.
So worthwhile in life. So good. Thank God. O yes, HE'S THE ONE.
Written on Amelia Island, FL beach on Feb 23, 2017
It's a day of wild winds and roiling sea, here on America's Atlantic coast in the Northeast corner of Florida, in sight of the St. Mary's River at the head of our beach, separating Florida from Georgia.
Molly and I walked as usual today down the beach, the sun still shining from the south, with a full wind at our backs. I'm not exactly a "strider" as I scramble to keep up with Molly, our "Hiking Master" newly turned 86, rejoicing in every element about us.
A thousand steps down the beach we sat in the shelter of a dune and first looked at the sea, and the remarkable surf it had stirred. Sun glistened on the rollers - white caps could be seen all the way to the horizon. It was stormy weather, but with sunshine. A few little sandpipers braved the wind and waves and scampered in the narrow wash of the surf, and gulls successfully swooped north into the wind.
Most of our fellow walkers were hunched as they turned northward, facing the wind. Partly to protect eyes and mouth, but instinctively to look down at the sand, or out at the turbulent water.
They stooped to pick up shells, a glorious treasure of them having been brought to shore in the all-night pounding surf. Our daughter-in-law's expertise in shark's teeth, most a thousand years old, browned by the water and those years under the sea. They are a treasure to her. She "has the eye" so many don't. There's a way they tend to lie in the sand that experts like Haseena know.
The rest of us content with shells--pure white, purple, brown and pink, all different, but graceful with swirl of their lines on their outer shell.
Something seems wonderful about these people from the north, walking beaches of the south to spy out treasures of nature God has put before them. They are slowed down. They are paying attention to very small things. And they are finding pleasure, a wonder, on beautiful things they haven't yet deemed to take time for on their streets.
How good for the soul it is, to slow down, and pay attention to small things.
Finally brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
Paul to the Philippians 4:8
In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul urges that congregation, as a spiritual discipline, to think about good things.
Since the election of our new president, television and radio talk shows have urged a seemingly growing number of our fellow citizens to think ill of our president. To think dark of him. To think of him in terms of failure, and mistakes. Of being out of step and wrong about everything he is attempting to do as our leader.
Dark thoughts, and dark talk do have their power. That is part of how the demonic works. But Paul is telling the people at Philippi that the opposite is true. Good thoughts have their power. They influence us toward health and strength, toward nobility, toward truth, toward righteousness, toward excellence, toward success.
In an effort to bless America, to help her be her best, finding ways to think good thoughts about the president, would help us be a peaceful land, a country of hope, instead of a people giving way to rising rage.
In one of the Presidential debates the question was asked of the two candidates if they could say something good about their opponent. I was struck by Hillary Clinton's immediate answer, which was something like, "Well, I do believe Donald Trump is a good father."
As a father of five grown children myself, I was moved by that assessment of her opponent. Because, though my own profession as a minister was trying to do good, I know in my heart I have many failures as a father.
Yet President Trump's children spoke movingly at the nominating convention, of the ways he had always been a good father to them. He had paid attention to them. He let them into his life. He took them to work with him. He encouraged them. And, they have clearly grown up to be graceful, intelligent, effective, whole young people.
We know less about the President's wife. But in a mid-winter Florida rally, Melania Trump, stepping forward to introduce her husband, said, without his knowing it: "Let us pray. Our Father, Who art in heaven..." A stunning, positive surprise.
She wanted to surround her husband, and that crowd, and her country, with prayer.
Those two things are both worth thinking about in relation to President Trump.
But, I find too, that he is an interesting man. That he has deep, instinctive skills of communicating with people. There is a sense about him that he loves and cares about people--that he wants to help them.
He has prompted many negative things to be said about him. But, we can find good things to say. We can choose to say them, as most of us want people to say good things about us.
When I was a Theological student at Union Seminary in New York in 1954, one of my professors was the famous Paul Tillich from Germany. He wrote heavy theological works, very important then, in the days of post liberal neo-orthodoxy theology. He also had a strong, difficult accent.
But the dictum of Paul Tillich I have never forgotten was his statement that "every Christian should spend at least two weeks a year, just looking at the sea."
That struck a romantic, real life note with me. I had grown up on the Atlantic Ocean in the historic seaport town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The city built submarines for the U.S. Navy then, and back in the days of The War of 1812, John Paul Jones built his ship, "The Ranger," there, to become famous for harassing the British Navy in America's first war, after its own War of Revolution.
As a child I went to bed with the sounds of the sea a rhythm in the air as I went to sleep.
On visits to Wallis Sands and Hampton Beach, I often sat and watched the sea with its endless rollers crashing along the beach. The ocean was a connection to everywhere--the outer Hebrides of Scotland, the World War II beaches of Normandy. And further south Gibraltar, and "The Med," and the coasts of West Africa that had sent its people to America, as slaves.
As a 17-year-old, I worked on a merchant vessel carrying 375 bred mares from Newport News, Virginia to Salonika, Greece, to help re-start European agriculture after World War II. Many a night after caring for my 75 horses in Hold #5, I went on deck and looked long at the strange little lights that whisked up from the wake of our steamship Alcee Fortier.
Many things came to mind as I contemplated far horizons of those days: the world beyond, and the world of those at sea with me. And now on this privileged two weeks at Amelia Island, Florida, so many thought of life. Of what a day means. Of the gift of health and strength enough to walk these infinite stretches of sand as now an old guy of almost 88.
My Molly read not long ago an article that said something like,"Those who live on water live longer and healthier than most people." Implying it could be a lake, or a river, or a stream, or a tiny brook.
Water trickles. It sings. It thunders or roars. It moves with grace. It carries fish and fresh plants--and all of us.
It tells us of life. Of moving on. Of meaning. And connections.
If you get a chance, get to the water's edge, and like my John and his sister Tamsie and Molly today, walk the endless stretches in the sunshine, noticing the seabirds, and the dolphins, and the ships on the horizon, and the wet-suited surfboarders. And, in the air the planes flying like birds in the great sky overhead, that God has so generously given us.
So much to see. Bless you in your watching.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES