When I went off to hospital again, two weeks ago, I was bundled into an ambulance, with barely all my clothes on: As Molly said later "with no books, no Bible, no pens, no paper." And of course, no access to family visitors who were not even allowed in the hospital.
My life was in a quarantine section, where nurses and doctors came in with face masks, shields, hoods, gloves, gowns to do the necessities, fleeing as soon as their tasks were accomplished. It felt like visitors from another world - Mars, or beyond.
I'm one who thinks through his writing. So, thinking itself was hard work - resulting in too much television, too much day-dreaming, probably even too much sleep. Though that part was good, in the dark of the night.
I was there for returning pneumonia, but I walked into the cornavirus lockdown, which changed everything: no walks in the halls, no casual conversations with staff. But rather, the inward-turning of self reflection, including, in various ways, death itself.
When doctors brought up NO RESUSCITATION wishes, my answer was certain and sure: "I want to live, as long as I can, and still be useful. I'm not ready to have you let me go."
Perhaps I was too quick to claim life. After all, I'm not Caleb, or Abraham. And Jesus Himself had only 30 years of His life and work on earth!
I cling to the dear wife and family God has given me. But, I cling to Jesus, too, and know I am in His hands - as is Molly, and each of our children. And, a host of friends in Christ, dear companions on the Great Journey Road with Him.
Gradually, I see the self-centeredness of that, and try as I can to let go, and give my life totally to my Lord, for what ever He has for me.
I love life, and people, and the surprises God gives every day. I am grateful for the love of God, and the love of so many who are my companions on the Way.
I was given a virus test early on in my hospital stay, but, as days passed it became probable that, likely having been sent to Utah, it could have been lost. Finally, they gave me a second test, which proved negative. Doctors and nurses were glad to aid and abet my departure, which allowed me to resume a 4-week treatment program at the Invasion Center, where I sit for some hours receiving steroid treatment, aimed to send my old age chronic leukemia back into remission. The side effects got to me, but I pray to be stronger for the next rounds. Such wonders the good doctors have for me. I am so grateful. And for the healing touch of Jesus, the Great Physician.
And you know, so goes life in the last chapter. So much we don't know about what waits for us just ahead. The challenges are new, and all unexpected. It is a kind of "far country," where rivers bend, and hills are steep, and friends are ever dearer, and days are more beautiful, and we learn to hope.
Something sent to our hearts to help us through these pandemic days of distancing, washing hands and cleaning surfaces, and living close at home and distant outside.
Hugs will return, along with hope, and life, better than ever, will go on. We grow together. Bless you all.
The young serious doctor was giving us an option. A different treatment than the $2,600 per month recommended chemical treatment. Something involving steroids, and two-hour, four day infusions.
Dear Molly was standing by, with an appointment of her own to keep, with her miracle-working eye doctor. And, Kristen the minster. The oldest daughter. Listening. Taking notes.
Looking us in the eye, listing the possibilities and outcomes, the doctor concluded, "And then, there's 90." Meaning, after all, you'e outlived all sorts of people already, you are older and more vulnerable.
It's all for a quiescent leukemia that has broken out and affected my lymph system.
The young doctor is earnest, knowledgeable, patient, and encouraging. We trust him. He wants to give us life for as long as he can. So, we will take the new set of two or three pills, drink lots of water, and show up for the early morning week of "Infusions." (except for Thursday when he let me go to my Bible Study, which is joy to me - a gift of God to be "my work" for this season of Lent).
We gather at the Hilltop, have our coffee and muffins, introduce ourselves adding things that are in our hearts to report and encourage others, and read 'round the room our scripture message for the day, receive a small dissertation from me on what it means to be "A Praying People," finally pray and bless each other on our way.
I love the time with these 20 or more wonderfully believing people who love to be with each other - a diverse, motley, and wonderfully winsome early morning crowd.
They help me, in my heart and spirit, as we walk along the great journey of life together. I am deeply grateful for them all.
On the home front my lovely, dearly loving Molly watches over me, transports me when needed, smiles at me, holds my hand, reads me scripture, is our family pray-er, and quietly, kindly works at keeping me alive. She talks with the children, who care so much, and surprise us with their stop-bys.
We gather together for birthday "dinners out," laughing, and catching up. "And then, there is 90" also means there are a host of friends who pray, who write, and who wonderfully encourage.
I've become increasingly aware that one person can "make" a whole day, by the shining light of their lives. They have an instinctive spirit about their "presence" that makes the whole day glow. They are the wondrous good side of even, these latest unexpected health "issues."
That's something that we long for, and rejoice in, about "Church" - the company of believers who love each other, help each other, give hope to each other, creating a mystical "place" and "people of love." Made so, by Jesus, their Lord and Savior. And mine too.
So much is so good in these very different "getting ready" days. Yay!
Arthur, your friend on the journey.
Written on Saturday, February 29:
O, the bright sun of this last Saturday in February! And, how deep the blue of the skies. The warmer air brings even the sound of melting where snow lies in patches around us. The earth is turning. The sun is slanting its rays even into the early evening.
The soul stirs. Our human hearts long for spring. Our hope is for our own renewal. For our own bodies to be restored. For our eyes to look up, and our limbs to gather strength, for our lungs to breathe fresh air. We long for our very lives to be renewed.
This wonderful world God gave us does have intimate ties with our human bodies and spirits. We are all part of the one creation that made the miracle of our turning earth, and our growing, thinking, acting, working, beautiful bodies. Our souls are stirred by God, our Father. Our minds are touched by His dreams for us. We are wonderfully connected with God above, and the earth below.
But, we are also connected with other people. So much so that I have come to think that what makes a "good day" for me, is people: sometimes many, often, only one.
Lent began this week. We went to Ash Wednesday service - in fact two: morning chapel at Covenant Village, and the evening service at Colonial Church. I have long felt Ash Wednesday is a wonderful time for a commitment service.
A woman wrote me this week that the service at our church was the 46th anniversary of her hearing the call of Jesus and walking forward to kneel and commit her life to Jesus - a commitment that has never left her, but kept her true to Jesus her Lord.
The next morning began my own annual early morning Breakfast Bible Studies - six of them - at Edina's Hilltop Restaurant.
My friend Bruce had picked me up at 6:40 am in the pre-dawn light, to drive me from Golden Valley to Edina. Six or seven cars were already waiting for the 7:00 am opening of the doors for us. Suddenly, at three minutes of, all the car doors began opening and out poured my friends and into the Hilltop, to take seats at a horseshoe table set just for us, before the fireplace. Half a dozen were new. Among them Confirmation students from my early years, there, just to be together. One who has worked in politics, another a grade school teacher. Later, a smiling airline attendant, just in from far places. Along came Dan, world-traveler and publisher of Christian books.
Then a handful of folks all the way from the northwest suburbs: Forest, an early "confo kid," with his wife, and a doctor-friend, both having been mentored by a couple who claimed them as sons. The dad was with them, the mother now an angel to us all, in heaven.
A couple of hockey players came, too, and a young UCC minister, and a retired lawyer who's turned to preaching. Twenty-nine of us, gathered as the sun slowly rose, for prayer, and then introduction and personal stories round the room. A surprisingly diverse and lovely crowd - just to talk about what it is to be "believing people." They let me open the Bible and tell them what I thought it was saying to us about that kind of life in this kind of day.
Somehow, these motley gatherings, are a lot like the Pilgrim Center's healing retreats, here, and across Africa: JESUS ALWAYS COMES. He comes in these remarkable people, who speak of Him out of their own lives.
These ever-different groups are always a gift to me, lifting up my spirit, encouraging me as I sit among them.
The Africans have a saying: "WE ARE TOGETHER." So true for us - just loving Jesus, and each other, and going away lifted and loved, and energized for the day. And indeed, for all the days to come.
And, although this was our largest gathering of our years together, I should say "there is always room for one more." What a sweet, good way to start any one of these Pilgrim Days of Lent.
Arthur, with love.
I read the Prayer Corner each week, when it comes from church. So many names I know, but not all. I underline special ones for whom I feel called to pray. And I ask God to meet the need of each one as I put a mark beside, or underline their name.
It is always a great joy when I hear that someone is doing better, or is home from the hospital, or has been blessed with healing.
I have always believed in the power of prayer for healing. I know that, for many and many a person, stunning direct healing has come when we have asked, believing.
I never left a hospital bedside, in my pastoral days, without laying a hand on the one in bed, and asking for their healing from God Who loves them.
There have been times when I needed healing. One vivid time was when Molly and I were driving to Rochester's Mayo Clinic to see their eye specialist, Dr. Brubaker. My numbers had soared from 11-12 to the low 20's - a bad sign for those of us with glaucoma. I knew a little group of praying women had gathered back at church to hold me up in prayer. I had been told that the way glaucoma was going I could be blind at 60 years of age.
To this day I do not know who all of the women were who had gathered to pray for me. When we reached Dr. Brubaker's office in the mid-afternoon, and my eyes were tested, the numbers had dropped from the over-20's to 11 and 13 and in all the years since, they have never risen again! While I did eventually lose the sight in my right eye, my left eye kept its low number and my vision, when last measured was at a perfect 20/20 .
There are other wonderful answers to prayer along the way. When boils on my left leg were examined by my beloved dermatologist, a strange blood spot was noticed on my left foot. "You have a melanoma there," he said.
A young surgeon received the news with grim face, but excised the melanoma, took skin from elsewhere to cover it, and finally went up my left leg to the groin, taking out two ranks of lymph nodes, finding the third rank clean. That was all of 20 years ago. I am so grateful, and praise God the Great Healer. So many prayers!
In recent years, CLL or chronic leukemia has been discovered in my blood. "We'll just watch it," another young specialist counseled. "These low-level things sometimes go on many years, with no problem." But now a set of swellings in the upper lymph system have appeared, a PET scan taken, and a biopsy. While I wonder, without any word back yet, I have been led to great thanksgiving for my life, and these long years. Of course I feel there "is more for me to do." Prayer is still my great help. And hope.
Molly has helped me to find peace as I await further knowledge. I am eager to live my life at a new level, doing my Bible Study for now, reading books of good news for me, exercising as I can and working to be ready for that great going home that awaits all of us who love Jesus and believe His promises of heaven.
Should you pray for me, I ask your help in all these mysterious things, that I may be faithful, and have joy, and be "ready, ready, ready, when the time comes."
You are all so dear to me. Thank you for our continuing partnership in the great Journey with Jesus.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. . ."