Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Winter

"Dad, I heard that we might get six to eight inches tonight!" My oldest daughter was practically ecstatic this afternoon as she shared the weather man's predictions. At eleven years old, snow is still amazing. It is more than weather- it is possibility and anticipation. Even before the first flurries begin to fall, you can see it in her eyes. She can already feel the crunch underneath her boots, taste the flakes in her mouth and imagine the size and shape of the new snowman- or snow-woman, or snow-dog that will be built. I think she even made a snow-squirrel once. (She really does have quite an imagination.) In her mind, school is already cancelled and the toughest question she'll have to answer all day is, "which mug would you like to drink your hot chocolate from?"

I smiled as she shared the news with me. I mean, you almost have to smile at that kind of excitement. But as an adult (who has grown up with it), snow is not all that amazing. Actually, it can really be a drag. I will admit, the first snow of the year is still great. Everything changes and you are happy that the barren landscape has a new look. It's really a treat if it happens in the evening and you can watch it fall outside, while you enjoy the fireplace inside! But soon it's not new anymore. Then the snow represents driveways that will need to be shoveled and cars that will need their windows scraped and interesting commutes to work with lots of people that have seemingly forgotten how to drive overnight. Actually, I think there's more to it than that. As an adult it's not the snow that gets to you; it's what the snow represents- Winter.

Instead of snow men, you anticipate the sting of the icy wind on your face and the relentless gray sky that seems to want to invade the core of who you are. It's not even always about the time of the year. Winter is more than a landscape, or a weather pattern. It is a season of the soul. A time when, regardless of the temperature, you feel a chill deep within yourself. Like a tree that has lost all the grandeur of its leaves, you begin to feel barren and exposed. People who trust Christ are no more immune than anyone else, (although we sometimes have a harder time admitting it).

Tough times can bring the cold.

Sometimes it comes quickly with a call or a message.
"You've missed three payments in a row and we must advise you that..."
"Please see me in my office at the end to the day."
"I just don't love you anymore."
"It's malignant..."
Sometimes it's a hundred things that would seem small if they were by themselves. But stacked together, they carry the weight of a truck. Regardless of the circumstances, Winter has come and you must endure it.

Without a doubt, Winter is hard and I would never pretend that it isn't. Now please hang in there, because what I'm about to say may at first appear to be either cliche' or overly simplistic. When I really stop and think about these darker, lonely seasons though, and what is required to emerge on the other side, I have to go back to my daughter and her comments about the snow. I suppose the real insight comes less from her comments and more from what fuels them in the first place.

Matthew 18: 1-4 says, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'"

The verses before and after this story are teachings about walking in faith and avoiding sin, and the child is an example of innocence and purity. As adults, I think we typically view children from the perspective of what we can teach them, and typically this is correct. But in this case, Jesus told his disciples to look at a child as the example. The greatest in the kingdom of heaven will be the one who seeks to live a life of faith and humility and sets an example of innocence and purity.

I can learn a lot from my daughter's perspective on the snow. What I have "grown" to see as an obstacle, she sees as an opportunity. One of the most important elements of riding out a Winter of the soul is faith. Not the "adult" version of faith that has learned to spout holy-sounding phrases on cue and then proceed to rely on itself anyway. I'm talking about the cold-braving, snowman-making faith of a child that could honestly say "I don't understand this, but maybe with Your help we can make something." The kind of faith that would even admit "I don't like this, but I trust that You wont let me get so cold that I won't ever thaw out again."

If you're still exploring who God is and Winter is blowing, I hope you will dig deep into this. If you'll take a chance and read the stories about Jesus in any of the gospel books in the New Testament like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, I think you'll see that Jesus shows Himself to be someone that you can trust; someone who can restore the innocence and purity of a child in you.

If you already know Him and you're feeling barren, remember His promise to never leave you or forsake you, because He means it. Don't be afraid to tell him how you really feel- He can take it. Ask Him to renew that child-like faith in you again- trust me, He can do it.

And then decide which mug you are going to drink your hot chocolate from.

In Him We Live,

Jeff

9 comments:

Amy said...

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

2. Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

3. Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

4. What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

Christina Rossetti

The world hasn't changed, we only imagine that our world is all there ever is or was. Pain of loss is cold as winter and sometimes you think the spring will hever come. But it does, in bits and spurts, sometimes moving back into the cold, sometimes a hint of color, the touch of a warm breeze. Don't lose hope. Ebenezer.

ar

Anonymous said...

When I first opened this up today, I noticed the winter scene, and shuddered. OK, so cold is not my thing (hence the move to Texas!) And snow, while beautiful at first, usually had me huddling in my home in front of a fire. NOT my cup of tea if you will.
Then, I read your comments.
Now, along with Quinn, I've selected my cup with joy and have to be careful not to let its contents spill over the side. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, and reminding me of how wonderful it is to be a child of Christ, to look forward with anticipation to all the wonders that He has in store for me.
Praying for you and the family,
Cheryl

Susie said...

Jeff,

I really want to comment on your blog, but right now I'm just in shock at how you must've been reading my mind or just plain listening to God's voice while writing it. Want to thank you a gazillion times for taking the time for doing this. You have blessed me today more than you'll know...

God Bless you, Tamara and the girls!

Because He Lives,
-Susie

Fred said...

You are mister metaphor.


I like it!

-fletch

M&D 'tosca said...

Jeff,
According to Wikipedia, "...the bobcat does not tolerate deep snow, and will hole-up and wait out heavy snow storms." Upon reading this, Mike and I were again reminded that we are both most definitely bobcats. One of the great things about being married, though, is that when winter does come, you're not holed-up alone. It's even better when you're both utterly in love with Christ, because you can both remind each other that you are not forgotten and that summer will come again. I (Dorothea) was reminded of this upon reading this entry, and I thank God for Mike (the one who oftentimes does the reminding).

We've had our share of winters, and there is assuredly more to come. And as miserable as winter can be, it makes the summers brighter and the winters to come less daunting. God's brought us through before. He'll do it again. But it doesn't hurt to keep a pair of mittens handy!

Holed-up but not snowed in,
Mike and Dorothea

Kathy said...

"She was grown up now, and she discovered that being a grown-up was not quite what she had suspected it would be when she was a child. She had thought then that she would make a conscience decision one day to simply put her toys and games and little make-believes away. Now she discovered that was not what happened at all. Instead, she discovered, interest simply faded. It became less and less and less, until a dust of years drew over the bright pleasures of childhood, and they were forgotten."

(excerpt from "The Eyes of the Dragon" by Stephen King)

One of the greatest gifts God gives us through our children, if we allow Him to, is to allow us to steal small glimpes of His glory and wonder through their eyes. The trick is to be able to recognize a gift when it is offered. Thanks for sharing.

whooper and whoopette said...

Jeff:
I read your blog for Feb. 12. I may be 5 days behind but I thought it was appropriate for my current state of being. Here, in Rockport, Texas it snowed on Thurs. Feb. 15, 2007. I walked out to put some materials in my car and let it warm from the chilling weather. As I walked toward my car, I thought, “Oh. It’s snowing.” A few seconds passed. “OHHHHH!!! IT”S SNOWING AND IT”S ROCKPORT, TEXAS!!!!!” finally hits my frozen brain. It has been extremely cold here with day after day of overcast weather. It is the coldest winter in Rockport in over twenty years they say.

This cold has matched my brooding mood. On Feb. 28th it will be one year since we decided that God wanted us here. I showed up on Mar. 1 as a permanent resident and my husband showed up on April 1. I think you all remember that weekend, right?

So, we thought God wanted us here and that He wanted us “to wait”. And wait we have. And for what, Lord? We haven’t done anything that I can really see. He hasn’t revealed anything to us so far. So, we continue waiting. How do we occupy our time meanwhile?

I am working at the best teaching job I have ever had at school that just received notice that due to the work of the reading interventionists and other teachers at the school, our school is in the top ten this year in charter schools in our state. Little children smile up at me with shining eyes and say “I love you.” and I reply, “I love you, too.” They learn to read and love school and learn to trust that teachers are people who care about their school work and about them as individuals.

My principals are dedicated to the school like none I have ever seen. Yes, I occasionally wish they had had a different decision about something or other but I know they make it that way because they care about kids and teachers. In fact, they set up a program with a university to come to our campus and teach masters level courses so that we all could get our masters degrees and our master teacher certifications. All the while the school is paying our way with tuition and books and supper every Tues. before class. Now they are coming to our school so that we can possibly learn how to get our doctorate. My husband thinks I should do it. I had been trying to think of how I could teach at the university level and this might be the way to do it.

We are making good friends with our neighbors. They are kind and sharing with us. Art just brought us homemade gumbo.

Our church asked us to be involved with the VBS program this summer. Our congregation runs about 330 people. It is ½ over the age of sixty-five and they are winter Texans who give generously to the collection while they are here. They began building a debt free church some time ago and every quarter collect money above and beyond the regular weekly collection. In Oct. they collected $79,000 in one Sunday.

My husband is learning many things from his job in Corpus and is mostly learning extreme patience with people who exhibit symptoms of bi-polar management disease. Dale Carnegie would be a good course to have about now. Each day he says to me on the cell phone, “I have arrived at the job that God blessed my with.”

We are learning to live in very small quarters and what of our possessions are most important and what ones are not. We are getting to observe and revere God’s creations on the way to and from work each day since the migratory birds either come through here or roost here. We are learning about how to be intensely connected because we have none of you to rely on, on a daily basis (face-to-face). We have learned to keep on praying when it seems that we get no answer.

We attended a Dave Ramsey Debt-Free University and have been able to really do well with it to become more debt free at a higher rate than we had been able to do.

We have had visits from some of you to go see the whooping cranes that God brings this way every year.

We went to Italy in Dec. with our children and our granddaughter for a trip of a lifetime. It has changed their lives and ours forever. We saw Christ almost everywhere we looked in Rome. We saw Him even in the Coliseum (Colosseo Roma) because the Christians were what made it so famous in modern times. St. Peter’s is the most fantastic thing we have ever seen and we’ve been to fifteen countries. We saw the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, and built wonderful memories that only Alzheimer’s could take away.

But we keep on waiting for God and he hasn’t shown up yet. Ha. Ha.

whooper and whoopette said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Damon said...

All I have to say is wow. Now that Jennifer, Kaylynn and I are attending Crosspoint church in Bellaire, I think of our times together and the winter you all helped me through. God is good all the time.

To all or our friends we miss you dearly and hope to see you all soon.

I have now been at my job for over one year now, and I never want to leave it. God has given me joy that surpasses all understanding. Jennifer is a Lung Transplant Coordinator at Texas Childrens Hospital, and Kaylynn is in kindergartener at Mark Twain Elementary.

I like the snow. I am not from the north so I think like Quinn. Jennifer where is my mug? We don't spend time in a hole like the bobcats. Speaking of bobcats ours is in the foyer of our new home in the medical center. Mike and Dorthea both came by and said hello to Mr. Bob Cat. If anyone needs a place to sleep when they are in the medical center please let Jennifer and I know and we can put you up in our house. We are 10 minutes walking away from MD Anderson.

Now lets get to the child like faith. I just got back from India on a mission trip. God said go and I said ok. I have never needed a passport before. So this was my first time to travel overseas. My boss at work said "if he was asked to go on a mission trip the last place he would go was India." I never thought of it before, but when God says move you better start moving. I saw the poorest of poor over in India, but I saw what Acts was talking about. The Belivers get together daily and just talk about God and the Saving Power of his son, Jesus. People rely on God everyday to give them what they need. The average pay is eighty cents a day. God is moving are we going to stand on the sidelines and say go team or get in the huddle and listen to what God wants us to do. God is calling the plays and he has equipped us to make the play successful. The ministry group I went with was through my church. They have a website at http://peacegospel.org