There has apparently grown recently in the medical field an interest in COMPASSION, a word which in the Latin means "feeling with." It is about feeling for others, sensing their spirit, and caring to be with them.
Most of us who've been hospital patients have noticed how short the doctor's visits to our bedside are. There may be an attempt at cheeriness, but it is soon clear that the doctor's time is short, which often makes his or her attitude short, even abrupt.
And someone has figured out that that does not contribute to the patient's healing. More likely, it detracts from that process. It builds walls instead of friendship, or welcome, or openness, or any "feeling with" each other.
There are reasons, of course. The doctors are often paid for a prescribed or recommended schedule of visits - 15 minutes is about it.
To"feel with" another person takes time. Time to sit down, be at ease, pay attention, listen, watch, hear what is being said, catch the inflections in another's voice, pick up signals.
We have an effect on each other in life. Our "presence" makes a difference. Some people's presence makes other people feel better. "Presence" can calm troubled hearts. It can light up whole rooms. It can bring peace, even joy.
That's why families gather at Christmas. To share their lives. To ask about the others. Jesus did it around tables, over food.
Today a friend came to see me. Just to talk. We told stories. We talked of churches, and ministry, of our families, and friends. He smiled as we talked. Back and forth it went. We had caught up. We had spoken our affections for each other.
When he had to go, I asked him to pray for us. He did. We held hands. He lifted up my life and work to God. He held me in The Father's love. I was "blessed," over and over. It was a remarkable hour and a half.
Jesus said, after all, that not only was He the "Light of the world," but that we too, following Him, were also the "light of the world."
LIghted lives are an amazing phenomenon. Their faith makes them that way. Their love of Jesus makes them like Jesus.
We ourselves have a part to play in lighting up the world, in encouraging the world, in helping the world be healed, in overcoming the dark of this darkest time of the year.
We can be healers ourselves. We can help the doctors be better healers. We can help ourselves by remembering who we are, and Who lives within us, and Who intends to use us to heal, and change, and transform our world.
I'm a lover of tradition. Of doing things over and over, that have meaning beyond words. It is interesting to me how much people in the church confess to loving "the Gospel," and "the Bible," and how much they want to hear the old truths, and to sing the old carols, and to be told "the old, old story, of Jesus and His love."
One of our chaplains here at Covenant Living showed a video at Vespers that celebrates the tie between science and religion. Two professors doing very up-to-date things in science are also life-long believers in God. They were being interviewed by the very cheery minister of the nine-campus River Valley Church just south of the Twin Cities. I asked the chaplain to tell us about that church and his desire to go there with his wife and two grown children, and two grandchildren. He told about the church people welcoming them, and when they came back several weeks later, being remembered by them, and how the minister recalled their grandchildren's names. I thought, people come to church and want to be known, and loved. Simple as that!
Much more follows to be sure, but that was the real story. Recognition, old-fashioned love, more than the sermon and the music and the decor.
There's a hankering in people's hearts for something that is beyond words. Something that creates inside them a feeling, a sense. Of being wholly together. But not just with other people. With God. The invisible God. The One Who we know, comes unseen in His Spirit. The "Spirit of the Lord." The Holy Spirit.
Long ago Jesus told Nicodemus what He needed. "Nicodemus, you must be born again," You must allow a new Spirit to be born in you. It's not about theology. It's about welcoming God into your heart, so that you become a new person.
That's what people want. And, if they don't find it, they go away, looking for it elsewhere.
It is popular among church leaders today to say young people are abandoning the church. They're not finding there what they're looking for.
Maybe it's something in us that they don't find. Maybe we've lost something we once had. Could it be the Spirit? Are we afraid to let the Spirit come and take over our lives? Do we think the Spirit will be "too much" for people? Too much joy, too much wonder, too much power, too much love? Do we fear appearing unbalanced, too emotional, too committed?
Jesus told the disciples they would do even greater works than He did. Could that be true? Could our prayers bring healing, or joy, or new life to people? Perhaps hope in their hearts? A deep presence and assurance that they are in touch with the Living God, with Jesus in His Spirit.
I think people want that living thing. That Life to stir within theirs. That will bring them back that sense that once they had, perhaps when they were very young.
You know, this is Christmas time. The trees, the lighted candles, the sounds of the great organ, are already there, in church. The greatest tradition there is on earth. Of God coming. Coming to church, coming to you. In the mystery of this great celebration.
Simple things evoke it. Music. Carols. One has been going around in my Molly's head, and heart. It's called The Friendly Beasts. "It's my mother's favorite carol, she says.
Jesus our brother, kindly and good.
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood;
Jesus our brother, kindly and good.
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried his mother up hill and down;
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
What wonder. So simple. It brings back the beginning - of Jesus. And the beginning of Molly, when her mother sang to her.
It's Christmas time. Time for the simpler things. The great, yes greatest tradition. Bless you, these mystic days.
Molly and I attended a funeral a few days ago. It was for a handsome, composed, competent man. He had taken his own life. We hear of many shootings these days. Even this week. Often, before he's doine, the shooter also, in the end, kills himself.
As Christians, we feel called to compassion. We think about how hard life can be; about inner burdens people carry; about depression as illness that often overtakes everything. We think about the "blue" side of Christmas; of "the dark of the year."
We are sad. We shake our heads. We take into our own lives the wounds of others.
We find returning soldiers unable to bear the memories of war who then kill themselves. Out on "the Rez" our journeying Pilgrim Center friends were sometimes begged to come. "We need you," they'd say. "We are having a suicide a day."
We go through many emotions as we try to fathom the meaning of suicide in our time.
We know for sure that every life is precious. It is a life given by God. A life for which He had plans and hopes and dreams. It is not our right to take any life. But, how to protect it? How to keep any hand -- especially that person's own hand from rising against it.
As faith people, Jesus calls us to look at life: specifically His life. "Come with Me," was His call. "Come on the journey. I will show you many things." And so, He did. Sick people healed. Blind people seeing. Lame people walking. Dead people rising.
His Word was power. Power which came from the Spirit. And the Spirit, they saw, was full of love. Jesus said,"I am the Light. And, you are the light of the world."
Written on December 4, 2019
Today, December 4, we had a day of interpreting the intentions and understandings of "the founding fathers." In this case for supporting a certain view of what constitutes "impeachment" of America's president. One party wants it, and one doesn't.
At stake was the articulated fear of the dividing of our country. One side wants to impeach the president by Christmas. The other would like to see the people decide, in the next election.
I have just finished reading a book by the New York Times #1 best-selling author, Eric Metaxas. It is called "If You Can Keep It." Benjamin Franklin came out of the Constitutional Convention and was confronted by a certain Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia, who confronted him with this question: "Well, Doctor," she asked, "What have we got? A republic or a monarchy?" Franklin shot back: "A republic, madam -- if you can keep it." The people would have to make it work.
The Constitution was a promise. But the people, by their own lives, their own spirit and commitment, would be the ones to make it work.
John Adams, a member of that Convention, was to say something like "Democracy is for a believing people." This new land would be built upon the believing faith in God, of its people. Alexis de Tocqueville, the great student of America and its revolution said, "Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor without faith."
Freedom requires virtue, and virtue comes from faith. A quotation misattributed to de Toequevilles' famous book, "Democracy in America," says, "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."
We must be careful as we speak for the founders and their dream for America. By the end of his book, Metaxas goes back to the vision of the Puritans coming to Boston, and earlier the Pilgrims to Plimoth. They were a movement of courageous faith, seeking freedom for religion in the new world. John Winthrop cast the vision in his sermon aboard the Arabella, quoting scripture, "We are as a city set upon a hill, with the eyes of the world upon us." It was the shared Pilgrim-Puritan dream that what would grow here would be a servant nation to the world.
I dare to believe that this critical time must be a time when we reclaim our history, and understand the depth of its purpose, and that we stand for the things God wants for this land - that we have rights to live - every human being. That we be servants to each other. That we care for all people. That we work to be fair. That we be people of faith.
This is a time to recover Jesus' vision of our being one with Him and with each other, and with the Father in heaven Who made us and made this world for us.
It is time for a bold spirit, a deep faith, a certain daring in our living -- and not for a timid "political correctness."
A humble heart will be crucial. A brave faith will be our foundation. That is what will give unity a chance once again in the life of our nation, and of our communities.
God is giving us this time.
Written last week -
These are odd days for this Senior Guy. The cold creeps in from the dropping temperatures as weather people warn of "The Thanksgiving snow storm" that is on its way across the country. I would love to be warmer, but in America just now, getting to one of those places is a daunting prospect. A car trip would be too much to handle, and a plane trip would offer coughs and colds I just don't want to contemplate.
Which means enduring "in place." Making do. Bundling up. I'd rather stand and shiver. What I know I must do is exercise. So today I drove myself back to the Flagship Athletic Club for my second round toward getting back to my nearly daily routine from before summer.
All summer I'd paddled my canoe several times a week. It was exhilarating and inspiring. I was on Pine River. I looked at flowers on riverbanks. I watched the water flow. I plied the beautiful, large sup paddle Molly found for me perhaps five years ago. I yodeled out a greeting to the two occupied houses along the shore. My friends there called back, even came to the water's edge to chat with me. It was always the highlight of my day.
I felt I was gaining strength. I came back in late September expecting a busy fall. I began to see people. I preached on one Sunday afternoon at Friendship Village.
But then - whammo! I wasn't well. I knew it. Molly got me to the hospital. The diagnosis: pseudomonas pneumonia with sepsis.
Not good. Seven days in hospital. Weak again. Three weeks of Home Care from occupational and physical therapists. A nurse to check my blood. My breathing still compromised.
How was I ever going to get "on the road again"? I could only do about one thing a day. I knew I had to be careful. I could do nothing but go slow.
Today I made my second trip to the Flagship. That "old gang of mine" found in the locker room. Art, the NW curbside baggage man. Jim, from a locker near mine. John, 89-year-old pal next to him. Greg, one of the founders of Flagship. The ebullient Dave with profuse Irish welcome.
Encouraged, I managed a walk of 50 to 60 steps. I did some breathing exercises. I rowed - 40 strokes. Then, to the shower. What a sense of accomplishment and exhilaration as I drove home.
Earlier in the day was my 1-1/2 hour meeting with my wonderful helper Laury, who types sermons, mails letters, sends emails, runs the website, and "Keeps me in touch with the real world."
So there! Two things done today. Some encouraging emails. A GOOD day.
So, how will I "live usefully"? There isn't yet the strength to DO much. I can't go into the streets. But, I find, people will come to me. We sit by the fire in the common at Covenant Living. We talk, and pray. It is mutual encouragement.
Molly has urged me to "Be" rather than "Do." And helps me to be a friend. A little group will meet with me for Advent Bible Study at the Hilltop Restaurant - 7:00 am to 8:30 am - on three Thursdays, in the dark.
I pray for Christian usefulness - "BEING THERE" for whomever will have me. Enough for now. Praise God.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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