In America, the great goal of a life of hard work, was the chance to rest at the end. To have financial plans supported by your company, or your denomination, or the government's Social Security plan, or insurance schemes, and health care plans that would help pay for medical expenses as we aged.
There was the vision of going south to a warm climate to golf, or play tennis, or relax by the pool. We would turn off the various devices to compete, and be up and doing, and look at life as now a time of reward and rest.
Of course, when we come to the age of cashing in on the plans, we discover unexpected health issues that we hadn't anticipated. Suddenly we have to take time and money to treat the illnesses or accidents that come upon us in our later years. And all of us are subject to those later life surprises.
But, there are happy surprises, too. Without the daily disciplines of a regular job, there is freedom to try other things we've always wanted to do. For some, maybe hobbies, or skills in a workshop, or a volunteer job, or following some exotic interest you've had for a long time.
The great thing Molly and I have figured out is that you need to have some kind of purpose. For people of faith, a "higher purpose." A purpose that lifts you out of yourself. If it is something you can do - or be - by way of serving others, so much the better.
When I left the church I had served for 32 years, friends gathered around to help me figure out how I could do something of ministry, using what I had learned in those 40 years of pastoral ministry. We formed The Rouner Center for Mission and Ministry, which soon became The Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation.
At first, we took "Pilgrims" on journeys to see the sacred places of our Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers: to New England and old England. We studied the history and saw the places. They were all inspiring.
Two wonderful friends set out to raise funds that would support and expand this work, as it grew. One young woman went back to Wheaton College and earned a Master's degree in Pilgrim Studies, so she could be our historian.
We soon lifted up the idea of "The Journey Out." This meant for us journeys as a way of learning. Journeys in canoes into the Boundary Water Canoe Area of northern Minnesota - meeting Jesus on the trail. Journeys to Africa with World Vision to fight the famine there. All kinds of journeys.
God seemed to miraculously place opportunities before us. Who would have thought Molly and I together, at 65 and 63, would be called to the darkest place on earth to speak peace to broken and wounded people who were left to build a new nation after an angry, murderous genocide? But there we were, and God showed us how - beginning with asking them, in our healing retreats, to forgive us for our part, and our country's part, in dividing them from each other.
And then it grew, to a ministry in seven countries, and is still going on under wonderful new, imaginative, and energetic leadership.
And what joy, for Molly and me to minister together, telling the truth in love, and on our knees, washing their feet.
And so, God still has a place for us - at Starbucks over coffee, by the fireside at our Covenant Village residence; listening to the heart of people, encouraging them, praying for them, and even opening the Bible at the Hilltop Restaurant with 18 - 20 friends of the decades, who just want to be together, with Jesus and each other.
Kind of a miracle, for us. I still cherish the strokes I row in my racing shell on Ossipee Lake, my late afternoon paddles up Pine River on summer afternoons, writing what I can on the dock in summer, and in my little study in Golden Valley in the winter.
And mostly, being with people, trying to encourage, and passing on the Good News of the great story of Jesus. God has something for all of us to do, in days ahead, however slowly. People wait. And listen. What a late, great chapter, of this wonderful life. Praise God!
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES