The sun and blue sky finally came out today. It is a “late lie” day for me, as I came slowly into consciousness and presence. It has all been slow for me. Not for Molly. Up by 7:00, she was out the door by 8:00, joining senior shoppers in replenishing our grocery supplies. And then taking our car in for winterizing.
“You are such a busy bee!” I marveled. “Yes, I am a busy bee,” she said. It was an affirmation of her returning to full strength after her periodic needle in the eye ordeal which she faces with equanimity, but leaves her worn out for the day.
She is a brave stalwart in the art of living, and I observe, and rejoice and learn so much from her.
She also leads the way in telephone calls. And two came in fast succession which turned this into a day of wonder and warmth, laughter and renewed life.
The first call came from one of the dearest of friends in our life – the one known to our children as “Auntie Joanie.” She lives in a huge retirement center just north of Boston. She is 94, drives a Mustang, and loves everyone as a conscious discipline of her lively faith. She and Bill came to Edina from New England. They found our church, became deacons, and went about introducing Colonial members to each other. She wanted everyone to know everyone else.
Bill died an early death in his 50’s. He had taught hospital administration at the University of Minnesota. He knew something about everything. People loved to laugh with Bill. Their love of Jesus and of all of us enriched Colonial’s life. Bill, Joan, and their daughters were among the first costumed “Pilgrim Families” at our Thanksgiving Day Pilgrim Services. Bill’s death was a blow to all our people – and to his family. What was Joanie to do?
We invented a job for her with volunteers, at church. She became instantly the lover of Colonial. She soon was everywhere, touching people, visiting hospital bedsides, organizing “wedding ladies” and “funeral ladies.”
She wept. She prayed. She embraced. She made Colonial “a company of love.” She taught the staff to hang around after church to just talk to people in the common. Her parting word was always “luv-luv!”
Widowed men wanted to beau her to lunch. One 5-year-old boy, between his parents, announced as they passed Joanie in the greeting line, “That’s the lady who loves me.” Molly still advises young ministers, “If you want a church growth program, GET A JOANIE!”
As she called us today from Massachusetts, I could hear her voice across the room, laughing and talking with Molly. Reminiscing about shopping and other adventures they’d had together. She asked about each of our children, all dear to her, as she is to them.
We parted in love, thanking God for Joan’s healing phone call and praising God for the wonderful gift of this heaven-sent phone call.
“Now let’s return this other call which I think must have been from George Ross. “ It was in his soft, faithful, pastoral voice from Minnesota’s north country woods and lakes, spoken out of his Ojibwe tones of Christian love, wanting to know how we were, and how mutual friends like Bill and Val were.
George is a retired Episcopal minister who has made himself a dear friend to many of our Colonial people. He has been my dear friend and brother for a quarter-century or more. Teams from the Pilgrim Center have piled into a van and headed north to Walker on a late fall Saturday for many years to host lunch in the back room of Jimmy’s Restaurant with 25 of us Ojibwe and Pilgrim Center friends, to eat, and talk, and tell our stories, and weep and pray and be blessed by the friendship God has created between us for so long.
George and his Ojibwe Singers have come down for Colonial Church occasions to be with us as our friends. We have shared in his beloved Angie’s funeral. We’ve “done church” together in Redby on the shores of Red Lake. When it came time to say goodbye today, George said, “May I give a blessing?” which indeed he did, and a deeply touching prayer for us and all the friends. We hung up nearly in tears.
– Of joy. Such a blessing on our day. What a reminder of the greatest gift of friendship Jesus has given us in our precious friends Joanie and George, precious souls in our lives.
So, armed and enabled, we go on, so glad to still be alive, and part of such a company!
Love to you all, this Thanksgiving week.
I have found the days of November to be especially dark. Many days have been cloudy. And often cold. There is already snow on the ground. The chill around my torso demands an overcoat, or at least a heavy jacket.
I’ve thought of Florida, and those few years we got to walk the beach at Amelia Island. But, the thought of getting there is daunting. Nor could I do the walk, if I did get there.
Some days feel like life shutting down. I find the required masks are not for breathing. I miss regular exercise. I struggle to not be a grump. My heart longs for peace. And warmth. And joy.
And then, along comes a person. A human being smiling. Someone with a heart of laughter.
And the load lightens. I bask in that smile so freely offered. What a gift.
I realize there people who are just like that. For the most part they seem not to know that they light up the world. That they affect everyone around them. But they do, instinctively.
My wife says, “I was just born happy.” She was. She never holds a grudge. She does instinctively what Jesus tells us all to do. “Do not let the sun go down upon your anger.” Don’t take it to bed with you. Don’t seethe. Don’t submit to rage.
St. Paul says, “Whatsoever things are lovely and of good report, think about these things.”
There are so many good things, beautiful things, stirring, inspiring things in the world.
Paul Tillich, the theologian said, “Every Christian should take two weeks each year to just sit and look at the ocean.” Because it connects us with eternal things. It connects us with the world. It touches us with mystery.
In fact, almost any water will do. It is said that those fortunate enough to live near water, live longer. Water is life-giving. It feeds the soul as well as the body. What a blessing is life for those of us who love, “the land of 10,000 lakes!”
Yet, more than any of these, are the blessings of living in a world of other people. For so often – all unexpecting – they light up our lives. Their presence, their inner peace, their smiles, their laughter, their conversations, their words, their songs, their ideas, their love, their beams of light from their heart to our hearts. And so hope, and joy, and peace, and love are passed on, and multiplied in our lives.
They are simply other people. But, strangely, they are connected to THE great Person of the world. The Person of Jesus, who said “I am the Light of the world.”
What a mystery. What a wonder. A simple song we all know sings, “Shine, Jesus, shine!” And those who follow Him, are ignited by Him. And shine out, as He does, into our dark world, and our down days, and gives us – always – light for going on.
So, when days seem dark to you, look for the light in the persons who may pass near you. You may find they have been sent by the One who is Light, and has called you, too, to be light.
Bless you. And, the world around you.
It is mid-afternoon on the day of Decision for America. It was coming on through the morning. Changing numbers told the story. Votes in a number of states were being counted. We would know before the sun set on this historic day.
We lay down to rest after lunch. By the time I awakened the picture had changed. Two more states had been won and Joe Biden would be our new president.
Molly had gone to rake leaves in our daughter Kristen’s yard. She would be in the fresh air, and get exercise. I rose to the mid-afternoon beauty of this lovely fall day. I wanted to write – I suppose to myself. But more to my country. And quietly, to my people. Those I loved. My family. Dear Christian friends. People I know, in the church I care about. The First Congregational Church of Ossipee, NH. My new friends at our northside’s Zion Baptist and Colonial Church, so long served, and loved. Our Covenant Living as a faith community, where we live.
I have a sense of needing to “fix my face.” To think of “what face will I wear to the world?” “What will I ask my heart to say to the world through my face?”
People, according to the radio, were dancing in some parts of the nation’s capital. The President himself was apparently “lingering” over golf. Then back at the White House, his line of cars pulling up to a more obscure entrance. Today would not be a triumphal entry.
I pray for a face of peace, for me. Doing everything I could to let it rise from a heart of love. Love for those who had fought the long political battle, and lost. Knowing that across the country many millions had prayed, and the counters of ballots had labored endless hours to do it right, to serve the nation. God bless ‘em all.
Indeed, “God bless America, the land that I love.” Bless its people everywhere. Today is our day to walk in peace. To shine love. To pray within that every American will pray for every other American.
And pray too, for the beautiful places of America, dear to us – The Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The Rocky Mountains. The shorelines of our great coasts – the beaches of the Pacific, the headlands of the Atlantic, the “Whites” of New Hampshire. The Appalachian Trail. The favorite trails in those mountains that have nurtured our souls. Our own “Ole Man River,” mighty Mississippi. The towns we’ve called home. Portsmouth, Center Ossipee, and Williamsburg, and Newton, and Edina, and now Golden Valley.
They are places of blessing. And the people there have been part of the blessing. And – they are still with me. And I think of them today.
And of those who struggled to come here: my Grandmother Rouner, who lovingly raised my father. And my mother, raised in Lewisburg on her mother’s stories of Burma and Japan where she had been a missionary. And now my cousin who writes to me and says, “We’re the last.”
There are signs of heritage and hope in our grandchildren. They will live with love in their hearts – for us, and for Jesus. May they ever more earnestly seek Him, and be His. And, leave room in their hearts to be Americans, loving their country.
As I go out in days ahead, I go glad for heritage, for country, and most of all for faith-walking as I can, with Jesus, and returning still as He “walks with me, and talks with me, and tells me I am His own.”
Bless you all as a new, and surely interesting, chapter begins.
Harvard Magazine comes quarterly to our house. I read “The Classes” and the obituaries to see what old classmates are doing, and who has died. Occasionally particular articles catch my eye, and I am rewarded by reading them.
That happened with the recent November/December issue with an article titled, “The Conservative,” (New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s journey through America decadence and upheaval), by Lidialyle Gibson.
Ross is surely an interesting young man with surprising views to his many readers. He’s apparently a cool guy who can converse with people across the regular spectrum from liberal to conservative without being rude, angry, or obnoxious. Which is a good reason for many people to read him and listen to his views.
Recently he has apparently written much about the coronavirus pandemic, through the lens of his own experience with it. I was taken with his reaction to that experience. It was expressed with considerable thoughtfulness, real wisdom, and a refreshingly earnest faith.
I want to quote some of his conclusions for your encouragement, – taken from Gibson’s article, p. 39) – and some of my own.
In 2015, Ross Douthat and his family moved from Washington, DC to a country farmhouse in Connecticut. He was bitten by a tick, contracting Lyme disease. This led to years of suffering “wrecked and despairing,” he reported. He’s better now, “but I’ve learned a lot.” He’s had misdiagnoses, multiple antibiotics, and “doctors inclined to give up on Lyme disease patients who don’t get well right away.” He’s writing a book about his experience.
“In March, he wrote about the confusion and stress of conflicting coronavirus test results. In April, he wrote about pain and grief and the search for meaning in the pandemic’s suffering. And in a column in August he advised people with whom the virus had lasted months. He spoke from his own experience of both Lyme disease and also Covid19, which had made him sick most of the spring.
In that August column he wrote, “Trust your own experience of your body.” And: “if your doctor struggles to help you, you’ll need to help yourself.” And: “Ask God to help you...I mean this very seriously.” At the end he said, “You can get better.” “That belief is essential. Hold onto it.”
The latter leaks into profound understanding of God’s healing power and importance of believing that. Directly or indirectly, this leads to the wisest of counsels about living through the strange experience of pandemic and its illness and struggle. I include so much of the article because of its note of hope and help to us in times like these. We all need whatever help we can get – especially from the Highest Source.
Bless you all.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES