Monday, December 31, 2012

Fresh Falling Snow

“…wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” 

Psalm 51:7

     Fresh snow--beautiful, soft, white--the earth pulls it up like a downy blanket under its chin.  It covers rocks, stones, jagged edges, imperfections in the landscape, and evens it out to where the terrain stretches out in a silken sweep, like the sleeve of a lovely dress.  It quiets the land.  As snow falls, all noise is enveloped, and for a moment, I marvel at the all-pervading sense of peace.  Somehow, in the midst of snowfall, it does seem that peace on earth and good will to men has fallen from the heavens as well.

     This is snow--at first.  Then, over time, it changes:  it becomes sharp, crusty, icy, not at all pleasant.  Mud and dirt discolor it, and leaves stick to it.  It holds on to the soil like a cat’s dirty paws, and loses all softness.  Rocks reappear out of it, and it hides in the cracks and crevices of the terrain, lingering in the shadows, and disappearing under a warming sun, so now the hillsides are a jumble of snow and soil, white and brown.

     What made the change from pristine white softness to dirty gray iciness?  Temperature:  pure and simple.  As the sun warms the snow, it melts, and yet the winter warmth doesn’t allow it to escape quickly into the atmosphere.  The temperature soon drops in the shortness of the day, and the melted snow turns to ice.  Now the surface, once powdery, is hard and uninviting to walk across.  It’s quite scary navigating across an icy driveway or walkway, without my feet sinking securely into the snow--the icy snow now will not yield, and although it still maintains a white gleam in the afternoon sun, it is not inviting to explore.

     How so like the Christian walk.  The first fallen snow of joy in the Lord, the saving touch of His hand, the repentant soul home at last:  all soft, white, and full of quiet promise.  The terrain of the past is gently and utterly covered:  no more can sinful stones and rocks be seen, and the outstretched sweep of forgiveness makes the land look young and even. 

     But, that changes over time:  the temperature of a fallen world with its warm sun that melts our resolve and slowly encrusts our hearts with an icy coat.  The mud and dirt of sin infiltrates the whiteness, and leaves sharp stones and particles of hurt and guilt on what was once white and pure in His sight.  What was once a pleasurable walk where our feet securely allowed us to walk in Him is now is treacherous, with us slipping and falling onto a hard unyielding surface of regret, hurting our hearts and shattering our hopes.

     What restores the loveliness of the hillsides?  What brings back the even softness, with the rocks and stones receding from view?  What covers the dirt again with beautiful white, and quiets again the land with peace?  Fresh snow! Fresh clean snow once again falling from Heaven.  The earth taints what is good--Heaven restores it.

     In my mountain home, there is never just one snowfall.  In my heavenly home--my heart--there is never just a one time forgiveness of sin.  David in his Psalm knew a cleansed soul has a special kind of purity--snow-like, freshly fallen from Heaven, knowing that the sun will come, but equally confident in what falls from His healing hand.

My life has felt Your cleansing touch--it has equally felt the dirt  of sin.  Help me, precious Lord, not to focus on the receding snow-- the melting and tainting of my spirit--but help me to ask again and again for fresh sweet snow, given from Heaven to a heart that sincerely desires it. Then may I wander over the terrain of Your will for my life, firm as I walk, confident as I hold the nail-scarred hand of my Savior.  In Your peace-bringing Name, amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Mighty Wind

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. 
You hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  
So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

 John 3:8

      The wind is mighty where I live.  My neighbor has a weather station attached to his roof and loves to monitor what goes on around here.  Quite a bit, apparently—the highest clocked winds thus far have been 57 miles per hour.  We have winds that roar up here—I thought how poetical to say “roar” until I lived up here and yes, they roar. 

     In the morning, it is quiet and yet I know what I heard the night before, in the darkness.  We have learned to situate our lawn chairs so they won’t blow away.  We have two cinder blocks sitting on our barbeque, and a “wall” of them around it, to prevent it from being thrown over—which it has happened many times.  The only thing that saved my neighbors from getting a "free" barbeque was the gas line that tethers it to the house.  I have tried to retrieve lawn chairs and rocking chairs in the middle of a windstorm, and I felt rather powerless against such a force.  The wind blows, pure and simple, and nothing will get in its way.

     The clouds in the mountains also demonstrate the mightiness of the winds in the upper atmosphere.  The clouds move very quickly up there and seem to writhe and twist like gigantic snakes in the sky as the winds move them.  Nothing in the sky is static—the winds change the form of the clouds, their location and their marching pace as the day progresses.  At night this demonstration is veiled, but I can hear the winds in their performance.

      It is no surprise that Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to wind.  Winds can be gentle breezes:  His quiet voice whispering to our hearts.  Or He can be a mighty rushing wind:  His conviction of sin calling to our hearts and His urgent call, inviting us to salvation. 

     The Spirit is mighty:  He moves hearts and reshapes them in the image of the Son.  He will not allow us to remain static.  He desires us to move across the sky of God’s kingdom and make a difference in our world. 

     Nothing will get in the Spirit’s way.  A person cannot stand down a hurricane, and the Spirit will not be quenched in the world, despite all the evil the world can muster. 

     Even when we cannot “see” the Spirit, we can still see evidence He is still active in the world.  Even if it’s not windy in the mountains, the clouds are proclaiming the wind up high—so too, is the work of the Spirit.  His presence means hope in the world—hope that lives can be changed, hearts can be healed, and that evil will be overcome.  Isaiah reminds us that God will “provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.” (61:13)

     Come, Holy Spirit…we need You more than ever.


We pray for those who grieve.  We pray for those who suffer loss and mourn with those whose hearts are shattered.  Come, Spirit, whisper to our hearts in our despair and draw us to the One Who is Hope: Jesus Christ.  In the Name of the Father Who also lost a Son, amen.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Under the Snow, There Lies Hope

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits--
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems you from the put and crowns you
with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”
Psalm 103:2-5

The snow fell and whitened the road that I was driving down.  It looked like large wisps of wool and silenced the hills.  Sitting on top of a fence post was a hawk.  The hawk wasn’t moving; he just sat there, wings folded, surveying the same white and silenced world I was looking at. 

I thought about what might be going through his mind:  how does his world now compare to the spring, where freshly sprung green grass dances on the hillsides with those surprising spots of color as the wildflowers make their appearance?  Or to the summer: where the wildflowers have withered away and the wild grasses now lie in the relentless sun and grow tawny brown?  Or to the fall, where the earth is spent and awaits the approaching cold and snow?

And yet, he still sat there, his world now white, silent and so very different from the hillsides of a few months back.  I started thinking:  he must know that somehow, someway, those hillsides will return.  They have every season he has been here.  He was not just surveying his world as it was; he saw it as it will become.  Therein lies his strength:  he knows change is coming--he can’t say when--but he knows that the world will awake from its snowy slumber.

Our poet and king, David, knew that too, and celebrated it in Psalm 103.  He knew the power of contemplating the green hillsides of the past with his Lord, and how his soul has been blessed, healed and loved by Him.  His contemplation of God’s provision back then gives him to the strength to face now.  Youth was bestowed upon him not by turning back the clock, but by an infusion of hope into his spirit, that was bending under the load of "now."

Memory is powerful:  we can close our eyes, and see back to where the Lord was so evident in our lives.  Even if snow covers the ground, or will in the future, by seeing what the Lord has graciously provided in the past, our strength is renewed.  We can see the green hillsides under the snow.

The hills are covered in snow, Lord, or I see clouds looming on the horizon that are bringing cold, biting winds.  I need renewal of my spirit:  joy in my heart, peace in my mind.  Help me to revisit those green hillsides of Your power in my life, and walk among the dancing grasses.  The snow is cold and I am weak; but I will be renewed by Your presence.  Change will come--I can’t say when--but it will come.  It has before.   Spring always follows winter.  In Jesus’ mighty Name, amen.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Book for Christmas

Many years ago, when I lived in northern California, a little girl was kidnapped from her home and later was found raped and murdered.  It was utterly devastating.  She was with her girlfriends, having a sleep-over at her house when this monster broke in and took her.  Her mother didn't hear what was going on, and the other little girls, whom he threatened with a knife, were too scared to react until he was gone with their friend.

People all over the area went looking in fields, parks, anywhere they could, looking for her.  I, too, went looking around the hillsides near where we lived.  It was a weird kind of feeling:  looking for a child, hoping to find her, yet dreading what I would find if I did.

Her body was discovered in a field about 20 miles or so from her home.  They arrested the man, and his history of criminality went way back.  When the verdict was read of his guilt at trial, he turned to the jury and with both hands, flipped them off.  No remorse, no connection to the pain he had inflicted, just anger and evil.  Despite receiving the death penalty, he is alive and well on Death Row in San Quentin prison.  Justice has not been served.  He is the reason for California's "Three-strikes" rule. 

When all of this occurred, I thought about the Slaughter of the Innocents in the New Testament.  Herod ordered his soldiers to kill all the baby boys under the age of two, and the order was carried out without remorse or any connection to the pain he inflicted on the residents of Bethlehem.  I sat down at my computer and started writing...trying to wrestle with the painful issues that both incidents raise:  the death of children and how people must carry on after such tragedy. 

This story I wrote is one of hope, despite the appalling pain.  I would encourage you to purchase it through Amazon.  It is available as a softcover book or as a Kindle version.  If you have wondered about such tragedy and where is God in all of it, or have personally suffered such loss or know someone who has, this book may provide a place of healing.

May God bless you in this most special of seasons, for Christ is the reason for our hope.

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