During these Pandemic days, while I've been sitting through my morning and evening medical treatments, I've been reading - thanks to Molly's strategic visits to our limited Covenant Village/Hennepin County Library - several cowboy novels of the great West of our country.
Louis L' Amour is one of the great storytellers of that wide, wide world of the opening of the American West. He, and others, wrote of the period just after the Civil War as many headed west of the Alleghenies, took river boats down the Ohio river, connected with the Mississippi, moved into the Indian lands of the Sioux native, and on beyond to, and through, the Great Rockies and out on to California and the Pacific.
It was a wild time from the 1860s through to the end of the 19th Century. It wasn't only a rush for gold. It was a longing for land of one's own, of ranches, and cattle, of tiny towns, with sheriffs and U.S. marshalls, and independent people with guns, and horses, and a yearning to settle down in lands that were wide open, with a sense of freedom, dominated by men - and women who dared to leave Eastern cities and civility, and carve out new lives, new ways of living.
They settled issues on their own. They learned the ways of the trails, of the animals, of the weather, and of their own bodies, their own skills, and became hunters, and fishermen, and horsemen, and rough ways and rough talk.
They lived and loved out-of-doors, under open skies, and moved among canyons, and high tablelands, and around and through impassable peaks.
They wanted the same things: the freedom of that wide, wide world, the chance to start a new life, the opportunity to begin again, start fresh, leave old failures behind.
Today, my young business friends talk of going from success to significance, of the great "second act" of life, and finally, of "finishing well."
Those ideas came from St. Paul, who again and again, calls us to "run the race" of life, "looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." He tells his colleagues, "I have fought the fight, I have kept the faith."
What a challenge, to hold to our dreams, to keep ever after Jesus, to not lose sight of Him.
That seems a narrow goal, a limited concentration. But, it is just the opposite. Following Jesus, being like Him, is to embrace the world. It is to see the eternal significance in very small things. It is to see the infinite dimensions of one human life, the vast intricacies of a person, in a cause, in a life, that embraces hundreds of realities - like our own world itself, amazingly complicated and varied, down to the tiniest ant, and on into molecules that defy comprehension.
In these pandemic days we are pressed into the simplicity, least complicated things: wearing a mask for safety, keeping a distance from others, staying home, reading a book, watching the news.
How quickly our lives can be reduced, retracted, simplified, made less. Jesus wants them to be made more, made deeper, made wiser, made broader, working at having more friends rather than fewer. Phoning them up, writing them letters.
I plead for our remembering still, the "wide, wide world" out there. The more, and new people to meet, and serve, and love. The deeper and wider life to be lived.
A little like our own "westward expansion." But for us, the EXPANSION OF THE HEART, THE MIND, THE SPIRIT. The broadening and deepening of life - as we take time to think, to contemplate, to pray, to read the Bible - to find Jesus, and let His hand lead us toward the infinite, the wonderful, that is all around us.
Love you, friends.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES