Pals of mine, and whoever may chance into our website this week: Love to you, and greetings, at the end of a rainy Sunday in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
It was our first of two preaching days. First, we needed to say goodbye at 12:30 AM to our grandson John Christian, and then at 8:00 AM - at "Tamsie's House" to John's sister Rachel, leaving with her sweet, effective husband and their two little girls. All heading in rental cars to Logan Airport in Boston, after five short but wonderful days with us.
What joy family gathering can be. How loving grown grandchildren can be - grateful to be here, to rejoice in childhood memories and to pass them on to their children.
And then, for us to jump in our car to drive up and up into the Sandwich Range and the mountain valley along the "Chinook Trail" and the pristine meeting house we know as Wonalancet Chapel.
We sang loved hymns, prayed for the world, offered a beautiful reconciliation word from Mama Molly, and a pilgrim sermon from me. A game pianist and a cellist friend of hers played beautiful music and led us in "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies" and "How Great Thou Art."
A young man darted up to me before service to say he'd driven up from Hopkinton, MA just for this service. He was Brad, oldest son of my prep school roommate, Jerry Fenn. We had coffee together in nearby Tamworth, reminiscing, about Brad's father, my friend, and about life in the world today. What a happy surprise, and particular honor.
Then home for a long summer's nap with 7:30 PM "breakfast" and calls in from traveling young, and from two of our daughters who had helped make the nostalgic week possible.
How dear are those grown up members of our family. How surprising and heartening are the generations. How precious are those "ties that bind." In family love, and Christian love.
We're overwhelmed by it all. We go to bed glad, so glad, for these days with our own - and with others God has sent along. Not only Brad from Massachusetts, but, in Minnesota, our dear colleagues in Rwanda who had shared in the reconciliation work with us for 20 years and now continue under our successor's gifted leadership. They told their story - movingly - to a "Living Reconciliation" crowd Thursday night in St. Paul. And then the appearance, in Minneapolis, of beautiful Patience, pastor to her Church of All Nations in Uganda, and friend, along with her mother and others, of the long years of our Africa sojourn.
Our cup of life is so full tonight. With joy, "Here's to you all, good friends"!
Jesus says, "Don't let the sun go down upon your anger." In other words, "Don't go to bed angry." Or, put another way: "Let go of it. Drop it. Put it behind you." Better yet, was "forgive your enemies."
Anger has a lot to do with our expectation of what we want from others. And how we feel when we don't get that.
Usually, people's motives are not nearly what we think they are. A sad divorce happened in a family near to us. Two young boys were farmed out to grandparents. Those who received one of the lads did it with love, feeding, housing, and comforting him.
He received it from his grandmother. But, toward his grandpa there was resentment - despite a history of twelve years of comradeship between them.
Something had happened to the grandpa, despite their fishing expeditions and other times together. Tragedy had befallen the competent, creative, strong grandfather. A surgically replaced knee became infected and was removed. A wheelchair came on the scene. Hospitals were a factor for two years. The world offered sympathy, but the grandfather was offered resentment from the 12-year-old who loved him and was now living in his home.
There were rages and outbursts from the boy. His world had fallen in. No more fishing and friendship. The grandpa was weakened, no longer seen as his grandson's champion.
The grandparents feel dismay, but they carry on. There seems no logic in the twisted feelings. How could this be?
A 12-year-old boy had expected so much - a home, loving parents, affection, support. Instead, a broken home. And worse, the grandfather, the beloved champion, was wounded, and the boy felt alone.
Expectations dashed. Too much for a kid to understand. He only knew his own world had fallen apart. What he had hoped could be his help, now needed help.
We saw that in our work in Rwanda, the land of the Genocide. Fathers were emasculated, made helpless, diminished before their own families. Expectations were dashed. Forgiveness was too hard to find. Healing seemed beyond help.
How complicated it is, what we expect of our dear ones. How often those expectations need to change, and a new faith needs to enter the picture. The factor of forgiveness and new understanding, and a new call, for love.
May we be the bearers of that love, in our time.
Written on July 3, 2018:
Today is July 3rd. I sit on the shaded back porch of our Ossipee home. I look out into the afternoon sun and shade of the beautiful New Hampshire forest that surrounds our house. The porch was lovingly built two decades ago, by a true New England craftsman, our friend. He labored, probably unconsciously, under a Puritan work ethic that lives on in this northeast corner of our country.
Tomorrow is "The Fourth," our national day of remembrance and celebration of the freedom we gained from the oppression of the British Crown through our War of Independence in those years around 1775.
There will be fireworks along the shore this night, and our Tamsie will ring wildly the big bell outside the second floor window, still there, since the growing years of the Rouner children.
It was John Adams, second president of our new Republic, who declared that this day of our independence should be celebrated by the loud firing of guns and ringing of bells.
Molly has given me a thick historical biography to read called, "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life," by Walter Isaacson. I am fascinated by the detailed account of the dozen or so generations of his ancestors who, it turns out, were part of the great Puritan migration that left their middle class life and trades to begin again in the New World beginning in 1630.
It is a fascinating story to see these not at all wealthy tradesmen and shopkeepers leave everything behind to make a new start in "the new world."
There was a certain work ethic to be sure. But, there was a faith that cared for community, and for public and private morality that they saw as the stuff of common life together, in any new country that was to be built in a new, and possibly hostile land, on the other side of the world.
They came with a vision of something God would do with them in this new place.
What is surprising is how much their descendant, the brilliant inventor, tradesman, and humorist Ben Franklin shared in those high ideals, and this sense of what the new country was to be.
He, who is often thought of today as a bespectacled, perhaps iconoclastic humorist, full of wise sayings, and new ideas, was one who also saw for this new land a unique place among all nations. And, it was a place faith gave it.
In these days of dark tension, and anger with those who differ from us, and sense of a divided nation, we who bear the insights and ethos of faith, tend to think we are lost, and left on the outside of all the political, social, and government's deciding groups who are shouting down all others in the debate about who, and whither, America.
Not so. We are of that same stream of thought and passionate faith of many of our "founding fathers." Their Puritan vision is ours as well. And, we are called to tell it, and declare it, and passionately persuade our fellow Americans that this "Way" is for all of us. And, for the good of the world.
July 4th is a day for all of us who walk in Jesus' way to be brave about who we are, and who and what America is called to be.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES