top of page
Search

Letters From a Hospital Bed #17: Reflections From a 99 Year Old

Letters from a Hospital Bed is a series of reflections by Jim Houston, now entering his 100th year, in which Jim seeks to capture and reflect new insights of his ever-discoverable God, revealed through his own hospitalization, for the encouragement of all care givers.

An Exploration of the Strange Experience of Being Still…Well, More Still Than Normal!

March 10, 2022


Dear Friends;

For so much of my life I have been able to set the agenda for my days, to define the books I would read, lectures I would give, courses I would teach, students I would meet, projects that would consume me and timing that I would follow, as I was so inclined. To be sure, there were numerous obstacles, yet I recognize that the agenda was mine to set. It has taken running into the brick wall of aging and losing some faculties that render me dependent upon other people’s timing to slow me down enough to ask, “what should I do next?” It is a question I have called my son Chris to ask on more than a few occasions, and I think we both find it disorienting to be in that place together. In it all, I have been helped by my own book of letters, not only because the content is helpful, but because it follows the church calendar. God has given us seasons of not only weather, but for our spirits. And now, we are in Lent.


The Lenten season offers us six Sundays and each has a focus, or an invitation to reflection. I think we might be wiser to pay attention. Some years ago, I’m not sure I can remember just how many, I had been invited to speak at a Lenten conference, on the subject “the celebration of Ash Wednesday”. As I rose to my feet, and unaware of the Anglican tradition of the community I was to address, I was given a charcoal cross on my forehead before speaking. As the son of an itinerant Brethren preacher, the “imposition of ashes”, administered just before embarking on a message, was an interruption that I found both unusual and, upon reflection, prescient of the kinds of interruptions that would better prepare me for this stage of life. As we embark on even the best intentions, in our full stride, we need sometimes sharp reminders that our every breath comes at a huge cost, the cost of Christ’s death for us.


I was fortunate in my first encounter with the sign of ashes, a sign I carried throughout my talk, that I was to speak about the Armenian Church, a church that has survived even genocide at the hands of the Turks. In their tradition, Lent is the primary season of fasting among the 160 days of fasting assigned in their calendar. This time of reflection and of cleansing, of bodies and souls, prepares us to receive the gifts of Easter. This letter to you comes between the first and second Sundays of Lent. The first Sunday, now past, is our doorway into the Lenten season. In just a few days, we will meet the second Sunday that marks the expulsion of humanity from paradise and the loss of our happiness due to our disobedience. Later Sundays focus us elsewhere.


So, today, with limited capacity to set my own agenda and to find myself marked ‘figuratively’, at least by imposed ashes, I am between two thresholds, my entry to Lent and my expulsion from a paradise I rejected through disobedience. The first graciously offered by consequence of the second. I am welcomed to the Gift of Grace, in spite of my choice otherwise, but I must enter through this Lenten gate not on my terms, but with purified feelings, renewed faith, welcoming Him who by His death defeated death and granted life to us by His resurrection. This is the gift of this season. It stops me in my tracks. Insists on ashes for my face, so that I might enter so much more fully into the miracle of my salvation, in Christ. That He should grant me another such season, a ninety-ninth, is a cause of deep gratitude.

For you each I pray, “Grant, O Lord, to your faithful people – these dear friends of mine – that they enter the holy solemnities of this fast with true reverence and continue the same with steadfast devotion”.


Welcome to your Lenten season!


Affectionately yours,

Jim









728 views11 comments

Recent Posts

See All

11 Comments


Dear Jim,


I have found T.S. Eliot's beauty and bounty, "Ash Wednesday", such a gift at this Lenten season--his contemplative approach has many an affinity with the doors and portals you opened for many an eager student, ever longing to grow deeper and wiser.

amor vincit omnia

Ron Dart

Like

Oh dear, dear man who walks the path before us. Some of us have not run into the BRICK wall of aging yet, but a nevertheless a TALL Fence occasionally. Once again thank you for wisely and lovingly leading the way for us to follow in these times. My TALL Fence has been an illness that has run an up and down course for almost 3 months now. Often, I too, when I cannot think clearly, I ask Scott, what shall I do now? Either, what to do to help me feel better or help me see what I am forgetting.


Thank you for walking the path before us in a humbly loving manner that puts all things in proper…


Like

Craig Gallaway
Craig Gallaway
Mar 12, 2022

Dear Jim,


Thank you for staying at the task, bearing faithful witness to our Lord's power, especially in the midst of challenge and difficulty.


I am reminded of the Apostle Paul's similar witness to the Corinthian Christians who seem to have thought at times that facing difficulty or challenge or even suffering was not really something that Christians should have to do. How easy it is in our Epicurean culture for us to drift into that pattern of thought.


So, Paul, "But we have this treasure in earthenware pots, so that the extraordinary quality of the power may belong to God, not to us. We are under all kinds of pressure, but we are not crushed completely; we are at…


Like

Jerusha Lieow
Jerusha Lieow
Mar 11, 2022

Dear Jim,


I am grateful that you get to keep doing what you love and we get to continue enjoying the fruits of your labour. Such is a reminder of the LORD‘s gifts in all seasons! Thinking of you and praying for you often.


Yours,

Jerusha

Like
Replying to

DEAR JERUSHA,


THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS , WHICH WE ALL NEED.


WARMLY


JIM

Like

jwcsiu
jwcsiu
Mar 11, 2022

Dear Jim,


You reminded me of using your 'Letters of Faith Through the Seasons' as my devotion through this season of Lent. Thank you.


Blessings,

James.

Like
Replying to

James, Dad has loved his renewed appreciation of the many letters in the devotional. It is fun to watch him rediscover previous joys.

Claire

Like
bottom of page