Dear Brothers and Sisters of Eastern Oregon,
A couple of weeks ago my wife, Jeanne, came up with me to visit Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for Christmas Eve Service, which was well received by my flock. We stayed at the Knights Motel, which is right by the Sunrise Café, my regular watering hole. That evening I couldn’t sleep, having an uneasy feeling in my chest – a feeling like heartburn. While my wife slept I paced around the hotel room until it subsided sufficiently for me to sleep. I thought little more of it.
Yesterday morning I had the same thing happen, and it felt more painful. I headed to the local Urgent Care and they ran an ECG (electrocardiogram) test, which gave them some interesting results, followed by lab work. Having peered into the mysteries, the answers came back. A test to reveal former problems came back positive, indicating that I had suffered a small heart attack in that motel room, and a test to reveal current problems indicated that I appeared to be suffering another attack right then.
It is fascinating to find how your status can jump from one state to another in the blink of an eye. One minute you are of unlimited age, and the next minute you are finite. My reliable ticker, no longer the well-honed and permanent atomic clock I thought it to be. Instead, more like the Samsung 7 Phone, unpredictable and likely to burst into flames when one least expected it.
These kinds of limits remind us of the usefulness of making use of the time we have. I am triply glad of my voyage to Eastern Oregon to preach the word of God. I am honored to be my church’s pastor. Like the altar candle, it appears that I have burned through more of it than I thought. But there are many candles still to light among us.
When I was a chaplain back in Santa Clara, California, I spent a great deal of time counseling people. I had a stroke many years before and, being given that experience, I found I was able to provide comfort and advice to those suffering those afflictions. I take it now that I have a new weapon in my arsenal of comfort, and can share stories with people about the struggles of having a wounded heart, with a sense of our humanity and vulnerability. All of us are subject to time’s afflictions and our graceful degradation. But we have an immortal core within the heart of Jesus Christ, whose vistas span from here to the kingdom beyond.
Many years ago I frivolously prayed for the heavenly father to give me another name I could use for him that would be one that he liked for our conversations. The name came back: “Heart” – the heart of the world. It’s a kind of reminder. Whenever I am in a low place I have looked up and seen signage with hearts. Once, traveling through deepest fog and I felt lost, a giant hole opened in the fog that was perfectly a heart shape — and I drove through it. The Father’s heart is always open to us, Jesus is always open to us, in the deepest night or the thickest fog.
Colin Brown is the pastor of Boardman’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Locust Road.