The agonizingly slow pace of my own pneumonia recovery has had some surprising benefits. On a few days when I have been at home, not yet started on my Flagship exercise program, I have had small extensive times to watch or listen to media coverage of the so-called "Impeachment" hearings in Washington.
I am surprised at how closely even the more reputable daily radio stations report the hearings following a pre-conceived narrative that derives from "narratives" already pre-determined that operate from guilt already assumed. Their time is limited, and reporters seem unable to resist the temptation to insert themselves into the picture they are trying to paint.
Unexpectedly, to me, the television cameras and the questions thrown at witnesses, as both political parties ask questions, allow something else that radio seems not able to do. As you watch the faces and the bearing of representatives on "both sides of the aisle," as well as watching the faces, and listening to the voice tones of the witnesses, we viewers get a chance to see motives and biases of the questioners, and the truth of witness responses.
Oddly, television interaction gives opportunity to see the souls of the players, and sift out what the questioners are trying to get the witnesses to say, and how carefully the witnesses are trying to answer truly, partly because of the dire consequences of being "under oath" in what they say.
Somehow, in watching, a viewer can almost see the traps being set and the witnesses' attempts to avoid them.
And, out of little insights a larger picture has begun to emerge and part of it is disheartening, because among the motives that come clear is the strange, so tempting, spirit of revenge. The will to indict the one person in our democratic society who has been elected by the people to be our leader. The one person who holds an office of leadership, rightly won, "at the ballot box" by the people of this land we love.
He has disappointed in crudities of speech and a nuance of self-centeredness. He is a new phenomenon in leadership. And yet when we look at much he has tried to do, he has defended the right of an unborn baby to live. He has taken steps to defend religious liberty. He has tried to find answers to untangle intractable problems that have gone unsolved for decades. He is a sinner - like the rest of us.
Like so many leaders in the Bible, he appears to be a fallen man. Yet, he, like so many leaders in biblical times, has been used by God to do good.
Our job as citizens is to pray for our leaders, faulty or not. Even to love them, blemished or not. To make our republic work requires a faith on the part of the people. It requires a certain spirit of goodness, a commitment on our part, to be servants too - of the nation and the world.
We need to catch and hold on to the mission that first brought pilgrim settlers to this land, and who, generation by generation, came to see themselves as a servant nation, caring about all people everywhere. We need to be deeply, followers of Jesus, Who in the end, gave everything for the saving of the world.
That calls us, ourselves, to be redemptive people. Reconciling people. Loving our neighbors people - following Jesus' last great commandment to his followers: "Love each other."
We need to work to see the best in other people. And, to be the best we can for other people.
We are a privileged people to be in this land, and to have received the gift of being Americans. These times are clearly a challenge to us all. And we are in need of God's mercy to help us through this time.
When our children were young and growing up, Molly and I made a practice of every Monday night taking one of our five children out for supper - so they could "get a word in edgewise," and so we could hear their hearts, and concentrate on each one, one at a time. We loved those times together.
But now our five are all mature adults, and they have busy lives of their own - even children of their own to attend to. Or, at least lives of hard work, and busy schedules.
We wait for celebration times, to be together. Birthdays. Easter. Thanksgiving. Christmas.
But today an invitation came, "out of the blue." "Could Dad have coffee with me at Starbucks this afternoon, about 2:00?" the message came from a daughter, through her mother, by phone.
Well, of course. What an honor. My daughter asking me, for a date. No agenda. Just coffee and conversation.
We did meet for 2-1/2 hours, to talk a little bit about everything. About times of change in life. About decisions. About church. And, about life outside of church. In the world - the world of need.
She wanted to expand. To see more. More people. More conditions of life. She wanted to understand more. Maybe help more.
We talked of faith. And, calling. I told a little of my struggling to understand the new stage of my life.
My child and I, sitting together, talking of life, being direct. Helping each other. Sharing what we knew. Learning from each other. Such an exciting exchange. It made my day. Indeed, much more than my day.
Could we do it again? Could I get an hour - or two - to do the same with each of my children?
I realize there is much I can yet learn from them. And, though they know much of what I think about, and care about, and have tried to stand for, my listening to them with new ears might be a way to encourage them, to help them still, as they, like I, endeavor to navigate new stages in life, especially in these changing times.
Surely, that is what Jesus did, with His nearest and dearest friends. He looked at the world around, and at God above, and told them what He saw, and what He believed was true.
Perhaps these are days for us all to try to find ways to see the same.
Bless you, friends.
Written on Veteran's Day, November 11, 2019
Molly and I had "lunch out" today. It wasn't at a familiar haunt in Edina. It was at the Nicollet Island Inn. Dear friends who've moved to a townhome just across the bridge from there came and got us, so we could "come down to the river to pray." And, we did pray, twice.
We had much to pray about. Prayers of gratitude, and for a thousand blessings. In their lives and ours. It was quiet, and beautiful. It is Veterans Day, this cold November Monday. The Mississippi River flowed by, just a few dozen feet from our window table. Across the way, was the historic Lourdes Catholic Church, where our granddaughter Rachel had been married - only a five-minute walk across an equally historic bridge.
We talked of espressos my friend and I had enjoyed together in Mumbai, India and Nairobi, Kenya, and the Minneapolis Club. We talked of the stages of life and the ways we need to change as we age, and how we learn deep things about God and ourselves, about many other people and holding our deep belief in one hand and the "new neighbors" God gives us in the other, without compromise.
It was such a lovely time with people so dear to us since they were children. And now they are new grandparents. They walk, and bike, and ski the high slopes of Colorado - wonderful, energetic ways to move about, despite amazing health issues they've faced and conquered. By faith.
It was exhilarating to be together - as it always is with people of the trail, who've shared the Great Journey with you.
Our host drove us home as the pale sun revealed we were nearing the "mid" of afternoon.
Our senior "village" was celebrating Veterans Day as we arrived home. In the little entry coffee space was a 93-year-old veteran in his World War sailor suit, talking with our war bride from England who makes much of her heritage by hosting an annual tea with a cut-out of Queen Elizabeth II standing by. It was a light moment when I could sing "Anchors Aweigh" to the Navy sailor, and then, on demand, a bar of "God save our gracious queen...long may she reign!" In the meantime, our keeper of the front desk, Marie, came out from the office enclosure, put a hand on the 93-yr-old sailor, and did a very acceptable chorus line step and and sang Anchors Aweigh with us.
A happy moment for us all. Before we walked slowly past 8 or 9 tables bearing uniforms, medals, pictures, and brief accounts of the military service of members of our "Covenant Living" compatriots.
So, we came close in prayer and reunion with dear friends by the banks of the Mississippi at the Nicollet Island Inn, and we remember America's past in the war that changed the world, and we came a little closer to those who live with us in our "covenant" community.
Then dinner with a couple who are heroes we watch in this humbling older life, before Faith Line words to whomever may call this night, and then home to the necessary medical disciplines required each morning and night, toward sustaining life as long as the dear Lord gives it. With love to all, on this good day.
We looked forward to it a long time, and will look back on it as a high point in our life. Three hundred people came - a wonderful mixture of dear friends from across our life of these last 25 years were there. Young people who've given their hearts to Rwanda. People from my Advent Bible Study mornings - eager to go at it again after Thanksgiving this year. People like Gilbert Habimana , a humble, gifted teacher in our retreats from the very beginning, generous donors who've never given up on us and this deep work.
Dr. Jim's organization and presentation was brilliant. Our Board Chair Ian Hardgrove and his wife Laurel made the work clear and understandable and were earnest and persuasive. The music of Annette Bittner and her group was uplifting and full of the Spirit. Dr. Jonathan Stuart welcomed and made us all feel at home. It was a grand gathering.
There was a sense of family in the Spirit - of a community created by God as an example of Jesus' "new commandment" to us all - simply "love each other." His love was there, binding us together.
It game me a great sense of hope for the long future of the Pilgrim Center and its work in the world, so needed in our time.
Many friends came round at the end of the meeting, almost all of them suggesting coffee or lunch together sometime soon.
I've missed so many dear friends over the summer while we've been away - at rest - at our lakeside in New Hampshire's mountains. While we were eager to dive in and catch up with so many who are important to us, we were hit with an unexpected surprise that nearly took me away: pneumonia, with sepsis. A very serious business that took a week in hospital and three weeks of "Home Care" following to get me back to some semblance of returning strength.
We're going slow for now with a few "devices" to help in walking and balance. My friend Laury will be setting up appointments for me. If you don't hear from us in a week or two, try to get in touch with Laury who is working to get us "back into the land of the living."
So, dear firnds, "God willing" I will be seeing you soon. Your prayers and kind concern have helped so much.
We now have plans with the Hilltop Restaurant in Edina to have three Advent gatherings on Thursday mornings at 7:00 - 8:30 am. They will be on Dec. 5, 12 and 19. We are sending out emails and snail mail trying to reach those who've have been on our list. But, please come to be with us, even if you do not receive a mailing.
You might want to know too that Daniel has invited me again to preach at Colonial Church on Christmas morning. Since his last preaching is on Christmas Eve, the Christmas Day service he intends to be the last celebration of Christmas Day. Some of you may want to be there.
We pray God will bless it all and help it happen.
With love to so many pals,
Three young women are my "handlers" during this three-week "Home Care" period following my pneumonia week in the hospital. One is Paige the nurse, who draws blood, to check my INR numbers in the battle against clots. Another is Paige #2, an Occupational Therapist, who gives me exercises toward the slow return of strength. The third is Amy, the salty Physical Therapist, whose interest is in my stability. "Take your time," she says, "slow down, conserve your energy." She helps me map out next steps for getting to the Flagship in Eden Prairie, making it from the parking lot to the front desk, and to my rowing machine, and the shower.
There have been doctors, too: at dermatology, at pulmonology, my generalist, and my dentist to complete the dreaded root canal procedure. The care contract has allowed me to go to church, and to a lunch with a dear Rwanda colleague who has worked with us 25 years in healing retreats in his country.
It's all to make me slow down, restore strength, and "get back into life." To stay alive and do whatever it is God yet has for me to do.
When a sudden cold seemed to overtake me one day last week, even my grown children said, "Dad, we need you still. God has more for you to do."
In my inner soul, I feel that's so. Not only Advent Bible Study at the Hilltop, and preaching one last time on Christmas morning, but being in the audience for choral concerts of my grandchildren, and perhaps a summer or two more at Ossipee, paddling my canoe, and even preaching there as well (to tiny congregation at Wonalancet Chapel of 10 people and a dog).
And just being present here to sit over coffee with the five or 10 people who've already asked for time together to talk and pray of life and faith. Maybe mostly to be a friend to those who need me, and encourage others in their journey through, with Jesus. Such a small thing, but so important to them and me.
And, still and always the family, dear Molly, and each grown child, and grandchildren who face such a strange world to live in.
And maybe, just sitting at home, writing about things I care about, the Christian life, for others to think about. Perhaps helping them, having done all, to stand - with the Lord and His people.
That's some of what I pray for...
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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