Sometimes, in these strange days of pandemic, and rioting in American streets, with often isolation and “lock-down” at home, we feel disoriented, out of place.
Some days feel as if they’ve lost their order. They seem to have lost their definition. A call came to me today saying I had missed a blood-draw appointment. I repented, for sure, and will go back tomorrow.
There are a few little things that fall to me to do, which help me get back on track.
I read a book – a good cowboy story. I take out the garbage and other trash, which Molly has reminded me to undertake. I find a legal pad and begin to write. Something for the website. Something to point my friends as well as me, back to the One Who alone gives real order to the lives of His followers. “Follow Me,” He says. So simple. So strangely forward-looking. A little bit of Jesus’ work and life which so many of us have promised to make our own.
Late at night, the last thing before sleep, I put an extra pillow behind my head, and read a chapter in the Bible. Some of them are quite surprising. Even the great teacher, the Apostle Paul, writes to his churches and says grating things. He uses words like “command” that don’t sound like 1 Corinthians 13. They don’t sound like loving, but rather, ordering, pushing around, things the modern day minister would have to be very careful saying. Things I would find trouble saying to people I cared about and deeply loved.
Then, there are other sentences that soften the tone. And I find I have to ponder the abrupt words of Paul. After all, he was a father in the faith to hundreds, across the ancient world. He was fighting, toe to toe, with might forces of evil which was trying to undo his good work, trying to undercut the great visions of hope he had given so many. He had a right, as God’s servant and messenger, to defend the great truths of God’s love and redemptive power that he had opened up to the conflicted world.
Thankfully, his words have stuck. His truth has proven to be God’s truth. And, it was saving lives across the Roman Empire.
So, I lie there, and think about Paul’s preaching, about his persuasive power, about how I too, need to be strong in whatever words of truth and life I get to declare to today’s conflicted world – even as I prepare to leave it.
I have something to think about as I lie down to sleep. I need to read deeper and deeper in the Bible – a great challenge to me in these Pandemic days.
The Bible has eternal words, which I need to hear. Words positive and powerful as winter comes and snow falls. What better help could I have for facing the winter, and living above it. You, too?
There was a poem read back in my secondary school days, called “The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay.” It recorded, with humor, the likeness of the human body to the one-horse shay. The similarity, that made for the moral of the story, was that the one-horse shay didn’t just grow old and deteriorate, but that it tended to break down in every part, all at once.
As in “if it isn’t one thing, it’s another.” It’s what old folks are talking about when they quote the over used observation, “Well, old age is not for sissies.”
They are referring to the surprising, unexpected discovery they make that while it’s a kind of achievement to grow old, that “ripe old age” carries with it a multitude of aches and pains. Body parts wear out. Some have been overused. And when you come to the days of limited strength in your life show the wear and tear of the years.
I’m finding that in my life. As an old oarsman, I find backaches ever ready to move in and produce a dull ache for some hours. I find knees weakening, neuropathy numbing, arthritis shooting pain into certain joints, and old muscles diminishing. Sometimes, these observations come as signs of something going on interiorly. Things that hide in the dark of vital organs and come to light as diseases that need swift attention.
Praise God for good doctors. Thank heaven for nurses who attend needs like angels. They work together to analyze the body’s needs. They administer medicines – often, in the middle of the night. They make beds. They answer bells. They escort you to the bathroom. Nothing puts them off. Nurses who come from African countries often go right into the bathroom with you. They give understanding, and counsel. They heroically stand on the front lines of pandemics like the current one. Too often they sacrifice their own lives.
These people in white help you fight for your life. They cheer you on. They give courage. Some dare to pray. What a force for good they are.
Then, there are those in our world who become the great healers. The Christian healers. Who remember that Jesus said to those who believe, “the works that I do you shall do, and greater works will you do.” So there rise up the Agnes Sanfords, and the Kuhlmans, and the former priest Frances MacNutt and his wife and their vital healing ministry.
I had, as a young minister, a wonderful week with Agnes Sanford. She encouraged me to pray for sick people’s healing, with the laying on of hands. Strangely, people always welcomed that: How well I remember a former Confirmation student of mine, All-American hockey player, captain of a Stanley Cup winning team, overtaken by cancer, came home to fight the final battle, permitting me to pray for him at his hospital bedside. I held his left hand, nearest me, laid my right hand on his forehead, and prayed.
When I was done, he looked up to me with startled eyes, and especially looked wonderingly at his free hand. “Arthur, someone was holding my other hand while you prayed for me.”
Jesus was there. He knew. And gave his heart to Him anew.
Wonderful are the ways of faith and prayer in those times when our bodies hurt, and know we are under attack. Jesus comes, to stand with us, hold our hand and see us through.
And we deepen, and grow, and are made more ready to be one day, maybe soon, led home to that place of “many mansions” where Jesus promised to take us.
The advertising season is upon us – with a vengeance. Election Time. Time to tell the world how good you are, what you’ll do for people. And, how dangerous, how ominous, how bad are the other people.
As the days pass, the charges become more blatant, more bizarre, more exaggerated.
We watch, we listen, and we are more divided.
The Bible tells us to look for the good in others. “...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
But the newspapers, the candidates, the ads, call us to think about the bad things, the dark possibilities. And that darkness begins to invade our souls, our minds, our view of a whole group of people.
And we, who are called to be people of the light, become in our minds and hearts, people of the dark – overtaken by the negative.
In the days of creation, each thing God made, He called good. He made us, as His children, His people, to be good.
Until suspicion, promoted by the Evil One, took over our human minds. Suspicion of others, and glorification of ourselves. Our thoughts, centered on ourselves.
It was called pride. And always, sooner or later, connected with power. Adam and Eve began to think of themselves as competitors with God. They wanted to have that power.
The human race has forever struggled with the desire for power. With competition. With being better than others.
We are taught to strive for success. To be the BEST. And – good things can come from that. But, the balance of life – between humility and pride – is hard to achieve. Almost impossible to keep.
In early America, candidates for high offices never spoke for themselves. Others spoke for them.
America right now needs the Church. Because the Church is the great reminder of the One Who gave Himself up for others. Gave up His life! How? By love.
We are the people called to love others. Love the unlovable. Love those who differ with us. Love those who irritate us.
We are called to be a strange people in our modern day. Who don’t react like everyone else. Who are not watching out for ourselves. And, who can gracefully accept politicians of the other party who win when our person doesn’t. Who can learn to love this land as one country. As people who hold in common, deep principles of community life.
What privilege to be Americans. What honor to be Christians. How good to be people who have a history, who have great tradition of relationship and working together, helping each other to live by them.
We can pray for that, for ourselves, in these political, pandemic days. For grace, for kindliness. For humor. For believing the best of others.
God honors that and blesses that, and will strengthen that as we give Him our heart for that purpose. What a good time to practice the art of kindly living.
God help us all.
[written on Sunday, October 11, 2020]
We headed out early Friday morning, Molly at the wheel, Oxford baseball cap shading her eyes, as we headed east, toward St. Paul and beyond to Woodbury’s Crossroads Church at the corner of Cottage Grove.
We were to spend the day in a vast TV studio, taping the various segments of our Pilgrim Center’s Annual Gala, a grand “virtual” gathering of our friends across these cities and the world, at 7:00 pm on Thursday, October 22, presented through technology. That large church’s technical staff would work with our Jan Leadholm and Crissy Ginther, and of course, Dr. Jim Olson, to record the various parts of that exciting evening coming.
The stage was set. The theme is GROWING HOPE. A wonderful welcome was offered by our granddaughter, Anna Jeide Detweiler and her husband, Nathan. Todd and Mary Bertelson were there to reflect on the experience of these years of African retreats, and to make their winsome appeal for support of this continuing, miraculous, and transforming ministry. Dr. Jim and his Annette had an inviting word, as did my “Mama Molly.”
Testimony was given by board member, Dr. Monica, just back from South Sudan, her homeland. Our other Annette offered beautiful music.
Finally, our Anna invited her Papa to close it out with a last word and benediction.
All hard work, taping and re-taping on that beautiful flaming-color day. Sara Tucker was there with her professional camera to gather us all for a picture together. And then, it was all done.
Lunch had been brought in. We prayed, and ate, and enjoyed last minutes together before we broke for the afternoon.
It was hard to leave. We wanted to linger. Suddenly, we said, “How about we all go to the Spirit-filled Zion Church in the northside for worship this Sunday?”
We miss church so much, since our church is only open in-person two Sundays per month this fall. And, through our Christian Visitors, and Gardner Gay’s invitation, we have found Zion to be a singing, swaying, Spirit-filled, wise and passionate-preaching company of increasingly good friends in Christ.
Today, Dr. Jim, Annette, and son Noah, met us there for a deep-praying, persuasive-preaching time. Pastor Brian’s lovely wife gave a beautifully planned, earnestly preached sermon, asking “Who am I?” and answering God’s child, in fact, through His Holy Spirit, “I am filled with Him.”
A stirring, encouraging word. We all blessed each other, went outside for another half-hour of introducing and fellowship as Christian brothers and sisters. Oh, what a time!
We just do need each other. So, come to the GALA on October 22. And pray to help “church” happen, across Minnesota, America, and the world – helping us all, in these coronavirus times, to be joyfully “one in the Spirit, and one in the Lord!”
[Let Crissy know that you’ll be at the Gala by calling 952-946-6990 or email your RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org].
Some days our mailbox is empty. Other days Talbots comes through with their seasonal magazine of winsome pictures and occasionally with it, old school alumni magazines are there. The Choate School. Greenwich Academy. Harvard. Radcliffe. Barnard. The University of Edinburgh. Union Seminary. Luther Seminary.
The “old school” doesn’t want to be forgotten. They need support from generous alumna and alumnas.
I had a college roommate who became a wealthy man. And he had a generous heart. He gave buildings at our prep school. He funded chairs at the Divinity School. He shared what he had.
It’s tempting to dismiss appeals, saying as one of our relatives does, “Well Harvard has more money than God!” An excuse for not giving.
I want to give to all. But Molly restrains me, wisely. Because there are missions and ministries we want to help, too. And our churches, and the Pilgrim Center, most of all.
And educational help for grandchildren. And major shares for our grown children from the “estate” we will leave when we die. All serious, faith considerations.
And yet, all those schools do have a claim. They gave me far more than I gave them. After all, I was a scholarship student those four high school years. Learning in that privileged place through the generosity of earlier generations who simply wanted to give me that amazing gift of education.
It was similarly true for college. For my aunt – my mother’s half-sister – with no children of her own, dying in middle-age of cancer, left enough for 31 nieces and nephews to have a full four-year college course.
Even in graduate school at Union Seminary, my parents paid my way. My parents paid for those additional three years of study. This minister’s kid was helped by so many, who wanted me to have the privilege of learning, to study with great teachers. And my coaches, who taught me to be a captain of my freshmen crew.
Always there were those who helped. Some who didn’t even know me. But, it has been that way through life. Molly always says, “There are so many who helped us.”
Because it can travel all through the years. Kind and generous parishioners – who cared about me, and my family, loving us all, wonderfully encouraging to Molly and me – and our children. People who gave, generously of their resources. Which meant also of their wisdom and insight. And, for some, of their prayers.
And it still happens. And I understand now, it is the bounty and blessing of God. The encouragers are on all sides today. Friends at our Senior Living home. Friends, who are my Christian comrades.
I don’t ever want to forget. And never stop giving myself. To so many. May we all remember. It is the Jesus way. The giving away of our lives.
Bless you as you carry on.
I sit in an examination room of Methodist Hospital, receiving my “invasion” treatment to diminish my CLL – leukemia side as the doctor outlines the new side effects possible if I switch to an old line chemical approach.
I listen closely, and am apprehensive, as I think of the number of brave women I know and love who have endured excruciating side effects from chemotherapy. Would it be the same, or any different? He hints that this would be much milder. Kind of a “not to worry” sort of assurance. I do worry, but I’m told it would be different.
It comes up against the question “How long do we get?” And I am 91 never having expected to come this far alive.
And now there seems so much to live for. We are still part of our children’s lives and have so much we can do to help them.
And this pandemic summer with the outbreak of killing and rioting and burning has brought new impetus for even us old folks to do what we can to bring healing in the human community, especially between us and our black neighbors. Like the meetings we’ve begun with our so-modest “Christian Visitors” program in which our first group sharing of worship was with our new friends at Zion Baptist Church. We can still do something. And I find myself very much wanting to stay alive for that.
The young doctor will explore the possibilities – which may even make some current limitations be overcome, some return of strength made possible. We shall see. And pray.
As if the present state of things could be improved, I would long to be able to claim that for my life with Molly and our family, our church, our healing mission through the Pilgrim Center needed now and here more than ever before.
After all, my own deepest sense after the wind and fire of the burning and looting that followed the George Floyd death, was that this all was a signal, a signal from heaven – a Pentecostal sign of revival coming, of spiritual changes coming, of repentance and new beginnings between God’s people was imminent, already happening. A signal that it is time to move: To get serious. To take steps. To pray. To reach out. To risk.
And so we are doing it. Molly went to her knees repenting and asking forgiveness at a time of prayer at Zion Church last Sunday – just like in our retreats in Africa.
When the pastor, preaching powerfully and acknowledging his own sin and coming back to Christ, came down and sat weeping on the steps before the pulpit, Molly pushed me, and said, “Go up and sit with him and pray with him!” – The Spirit speaking to me through my wife. Tears were everywhere, prayers were calling out, it was revival, right there in front of us.
And this Sunday our two teams will come together again – eat lunch, and pray, and talk, and seek the Spirit – under the tent, outside, at the Hilltop Restaurant.
Maybe it is the Time, the fullness of time, the Kairos that God is bringing to the people in Minneapolis to dare to take a chance on Him, and RISK FOR REVIVAL, for AWAKENING in our time, in our day.
Maybe God is calling us all to live in a new way, because this is already a New Day made ready by Him.
Let us see what will be, in His Day, using us all as we dare to risk decorum and DO A NEW THING!
Something worth living for! Bless you!
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES