A lovely evening of faith talk with old friends meant a lot last week.
The friends were in from Kenya where they work. Several times they had hosted Molly and me in their home in Nairobi. The man is an under the radar missionary, winning friends for Jesus through friendship-evangelism - being a friend to people - especially men in government and business. Being interested in them as people. His wife worked alongside as hostess extraordinaire, feeding wonderfully the guests whom Sam brought home. A number of times, I was in their home. She remembers that one Thanksgiving, I held forth of the meaning of Thanksgiving as in the story of the Pilgrims and their safe voyage to America.
We shared various memories and the names of friends back in Kenya. It's been four years since we were there. It was an "old-times" kind of conversation.
Their hosts in Minnesota are eager supporters of their ministry, over a number of decades.
It was a quaint corner in a gracious setting. A young waitress named Georgia served us graciously and effectively. It was a wonderful gathering of old friends.
Then Sam said, "And Arthur, tell us how it was when you came to Christ." It wasn't a challenge. It was a sincere invitation. I told him Gil Dodds, new great indoor miler of the 1940's came to our town, and in the Jr. High auditorium, he preached Jesus and called us to come to Him and I walked "the sawdust trail." Carl Unger, the trombonist, led me to Jesus. I went in tears. I was 12 years old.
Of course, I knew Jesus. My parents were devout. My father was a minister. We had devotions at table every night after dinner. But I had actually never made a conscious decision to follow Him. It was a deeply moving, wonderful experience. Jesus would speak to me many times after that. All through my life.
From that point on, in our quiet corner, we friends of Jesus - old and new - talked of Him and our lives.
What a good thing to do, I thought, for friends to talk about their greatest friend. We should do it more often. We should open the door in conversation. We should tell others how much He means to us.
The conversation strengthened our tie to each other. We left, each with a new heart for the others. As friends. As Christians. Sharing a bond.
I've been remiss in not doing it more. I'm going to try to do better. Shouldn't we all? I urge us all to tell our story of faith daily, with love, to our friends. And theirs.
.Molly frequently reminds me of all those who have helped us through the years - in a thousand ways.
We are constantly more grateful to the dear Lord and all those He has sent to our side, through the many years of our life together.
Good things we may have done in life and ministry, we never could have done without the legions of helpers: Molly's parents, and mine, so generous. The Feikers and scores of others in little Williamsburg as we were learning the ministry. Ashley and Kay Day who called us to Newton and Eliot Church, and dear Ida Lockwood, and Bud and Libby Angier, and the P.F.'ers.
And, over the 32 years of Colonial Church so many, and dozens more in the Pilgrim Center years. And now friends in our Golden Valley Christian community years.
People step forward, unbidden, from the edges of life - our dear children, every one. Our grandchildren. And, nameless people in odd places. Like the athletic club, like church, like the neighborhood. They are countless.
Oh God, how we love them all, and thank you that you sent them! Are they somehow, a legion of angels? They have known our need and just stepped forward. And You led them.
Thursday evening, June 15, 2017
I was asked to write a word in the Pilgrim Center's most recent Journey Out called "Wonders from the Desert." At the end I concluded, "There's a 'holy highway' across the world that God wants to be a path for peace in our time. The Pilgrim family is a growing company. It needs you to be a part of this new day."
Our work is good. And it is broad. And it is growing. And it is deep. And it is doing healing work. But, it will have missed perhaps its most desperate call if it fails to heed what is suddenly happening at the top and in the deepest heart of this country that birthed the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation. This nation long ago was called to be a "servant nation" to the world. And it is the Church - the "Pilgrim Church, if you will - that needs to lead the way.
The news is out today that a special counsel will investigate the President of the United States for "obstruction of justice" in relation to the broader investigation of Russia's attempt to meddle in the 2016 Presidential election in the United States.
A radio talk show host tonight asked a writer from the Washington Post how long such an investigation could take. "A month maybe," he said, "or perhaps years." The new leader of the world's most influential nation for peace and democracy, will be hounded and dragged down from the huge and needed tasks the American people elected him to do. His health and his spirit will be under fire. HIs hours of daily service to the country he is trying to lead will be deflected from their central task.
The very country who called him is embarking on a broadside attack to defeat his work and destroy the good that he has set out to do.
In his defensiveness and sometimes petulance, as well as his abrupt and unruly manner, he has surely hurt himself. But, as the Speaker of the House has wisely reminded us, "He is learning. He has come from the world of business to the world of government." He has learning to do.
The Apostle Paul tells us God gives us leaders. And God it at work in their leadership. They need to be upheld. They need to be blessed. They need to be honored and encouraged. Our president deserves our prayers, and out of our prayers, our compassion, and our upholding strength.
And, we need to examine ourselves. Hatred is at work. Dismay and outrage at an election lost, is at work. Mean-spiritedness is at work.
We need to be healed of our anger. We need to humble ourselves and ask God how we can help our country and help our president. The raging spirit hurts us and destroys the good heart we need if we are to be a people of peace, working to reconcile an angry world to God and to each other.
Christ died for such healing work to be done. He died so that love could live in this world. He died and rose again so that God's children everywhere could live.
Let us who are "church" lead the way in building a new highway of hope and peace across the world. Let us be the bearers of love - the world's greatest power - to our world, in our time.
Written on Thursday, June 8, 2017
The media made sure we knew it was coming. The big Senate hearing of the past FBI Director, reporting on his meeting with the President.
And so it came. The careful questions. The discussions about words, and what they meant. The President had said, "I hope you'll go easy on... he's a good guy."
What did "I hope" mean? Was it a wish, a suggestion, or a direction?
Was the inference criminal, or simply inappropriate? The Speaker of the House said later of the President, "He's new at this. He's never held political office before. He doesn't understand all the culture and traditions of Washington...
Interpreters of the meaning of words will hold forth perhaps for days to come. Politicians say, "the American people have a right to know." They do, but will there be one clear understanding? Or will there be two, or maybe more, views, according to one's already arrived-at conclusion?
My question is a faith one, a pastoral one. Can we ever come together? What are the ways in which people find each other? Who, in all the world points a path toward coming together, toward reconciliation?
There is only One in all the world. And we know Him. We have read Him and studied Him. His words are immortal, timeless. He is Jesus. He is already our Friend. He calls us friends. We already belong to Him. And that tie, that relationship, is more precious, more profound, than any other tie we have in life. Far more important to us than any political relationship.
What way does Jesus offer? He says "a new commandment I have for you. Love one another." Just that - Love one another.
So, our first work is the work of finding ways to love each other. Loving these leaders who are so critical to our national life, the President -- and his detractors.
That means trying to see the good, praying for a good heart to grow in all people. Putting the best face on it all, that we can.
That will take forgiveness. "Forgive each other," Jesus says, "as God has forgiven you." Make way for second chances, for new beginnings. Believing we can go forward, together.
Be makers of peace. Back away from being a hater. Look to the heart of all these leaders, on every side.
I would say, from our own reconciliation work: WASH THEIR FEET. In your heart bow before them - even the betrayers - and wash their feet. Show your love. Show your Lord's love. That will change them.
Try being always on the side of peace. Being always the one offering love - the crucified love of Jesus.
What a hard path. How impossible it sounds. But we know it works. It has worked for 2000 years. It can still work.
I couldn't help myself today. It just burst out of me:
"Summertime, when the livin' is easy,
fish are jumpin', and the cotton is high,
Oh, your daddy's rich, and your ma is good lookin'
So hush little baby, don' you cry!"
So blue the sky. So warm the sun. So green the earth. So much it is not winter. Not even spring. And so obviously summer.
For this day I just want to be done with city driving. With formal streets, and close houses, and rigid sidewalks, and barriers to freedom. Things that fence you in, and tie you down. And set their noise and humming and honking around you, so that it's harder to hear the birds who are trying to sing to you.
Give me the old wood road - Hodsdon Shore Road - that winds down through the pine woods to the blue of Lake Ossipee, with the breeze coming down from the north, and the beach warm, and my racing shell and canoe within steps of the water's edge ready to take me for a morning row, and a swim, and later when the sun is down, to the quiet of the river, with the sudden sight of wild flowers among the grasses on the bank. Each day a discovery, a surprise.
And then Freedom Bob in his home-made kayak and Janet the boat mistress in her two-tone fancy kayak close behind. They look, and watch, slow down, with bemused faces and shout country greetings, to float a bit, and talk for only minutes. I'll see them later after they've crossed our bay, had a swim, and are heading home.
Further up the river I'll yodel toward Carolyn and Kenny's riverside house, and she'll call back and maybe even come out to tell me news of her dogs, or of the ducks she's feeding daily on the short slope that comes down to the river's edge.
At last I'll see the bridge, my destination, and then turn around and head for home myself, never knowing who - or what - yet will come into view on my way back toward the lake. By late summer the sun will be low over the Ossipee range, and my own shore will be shadowed, and the lights in Molly's kitchen will be visible through the trees, and there'll be supper and a bit of TV news, and after, reading by the fireplace, and talk of the day, and plans, and people...
Scripture is usually reserved for the breakfast table in summer, and prayer as the day begins.
I feel the need of that life that Molly gives to me, for the world I've loved since childhood, and what the sight of it does for the soul, and then later, finds its way onto reflective pages that become books, when the long thoughts of life are recorded, and kept and maybe sent out to others, who may, one day, be curious.
For summer, for whiling away, filling up, drinking in, and then coming back to the world of so many people we love, and will long to see.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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