Feb 26, 2013: cold slushy hope

It’s cold.

It’s wet.

We’ve gotten multiple layers of snow that hasn’t stuck or frozen, so we’ve got slush everywhere.

We’ve got cloud cover and rain and hail and heavy winds and…

Can I sue the groundhog for false advertising?

Every year, winter comes with death. The plants die off, the animals go away, the yards and forests are barren, the skies are bleak, and a cold starkness takes over for months at a time. Occasional interruptions of sunshine and warmth raise our hopes, only to have them stomped again by seemingly endless days of gloominess.

And yet…

Something green is poking up through the ground. Something new is growing. There is life, yet, and the promise of Spring.

Each year, we celebrate and feast at harvest. We fatten up for winter, and slowly eat all the food we’ve frozen and stored for bad weather. We go on fasts, diets, and exercise regimens in the dark times of January and February, and we face the discouragement of failure and hopelessness during Lent. In our weakness, we cry out for relief, and enjoy the celebration of Easter and the faithful, relentless arrival of Life every year. God’s picture in nature reflects the spiritual reality of God’s unconquerable plan of redemption and renewal. In spite of all the cold, all the wet, all the gloom, and no matter how long it seems, winter fails ultimately. Winter and death are found to be weak, unable to stifle the strength of life God put in every plant, every animal, and the spirit of every human being connected to Him. God wins. Life overcomes. If we will endure the winter, we will rejoice in the Spring, and Summer will follow. We witness this cycle every year of our lives; how can we miss the spiritual message of Easter?

Winter is a time to reflect on the year, to evaluate goals, dreams, and plans so our Spring energy is put to good use. Winter is time to read, research, and listen; a time to rest, recuperate, and be refreshed as we slow down along with nature. Winter is a time to exercise our faith in God as we exercise our faith in Spring, waiting and anticipating better times to come.

We have been stewing at Thorpeshire. We have plans for a new basement door, new wiring and ductwork, and other things for this Spring. My wife has planted seedlings, both in pots indoors and in the ground outside. We look forward to harvesting fruits and vegetables from our work in the hard times of winter, and we look forward to the fruit of good character in our children from our work in the difficulties of childhood. We also have plans for online expansion of Thorpeshire ministries and businesses, but  we are also learning that all things happen according to God’s schedule to further His ends, and we must not worry when we feel behind. God is the one who decides if we are behind, so if we are with Him, behind ceases to have meaning. I’m trying to learn this kind of patience, but my human nature doesn’t like it. It means I have to submit, wait, and trust. Bleah. Not like; want power, do it self…

But that wouldn’t be a very mature attitude, now, would it? Being mature is a lot of sacrifice and responsibility, and that’s hard. The more we try to be our own God, the harder it is, and the less maturity shows in us. Character is hard-won. It must be, or it won’t stand the tests of this world. You want something real? Get character. It’s real, and you will be, too.

I had an interesting conversation with a student about faith this week. She asked about what to do when you believe you know God’s will, and you pray for that, and it doesn’t happen. You can’t see how any good can come of the result, and you can’t understand how God could let it happen when you knew He wanted something else. All I could tell her was that God’s not done, He’s still good, we can’t grasp His whole plan at once like He can. All we can do is trust Him, and that’s where faith really gets established. Satan asked “Will a man serve God for nothing?” Job answered “Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him.” That’s faith – having no reason or motivation to believe in God’s goodness or power, and believing anyway. “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed,” Jesus said. If there were evidence or perks to motivate, it wouldn’t be true faith. All of us must take this step at some point, or our faith is untested, and not that strong.

Tested faith, however, is powerful. This is why God gives us smaller, more easily endured testings along the way, so our faith will be built up. This is why it’s so important for us to remember what God has done, for us and for others, so our faith remains strong for the difficult times. This means we need regular testing, regular times of having to trust God for what we can’t do, so we will see Him come through over and over again. Our faith, on some grand occasion of difficulty, will be the result of the smaller tests we have ventured into along the way. Check your faith: what are you prepared to believe? Are you believing God for big things, things beyond your own abilities? If you don’t, how will you be ready for something way beyond you? We must practice the power of God by believing, and acting, toward those dreams we can’t see ourselves accomplishing on our own. God will be faithful, and we will be filled with faith.

This is why Spring is so important to take in. Spring is so important to remind us to practice hoping in something we can’t make happen, something only God is able to do.  When we hope in Spring, we hope in God, we build up our faith, and we are sustained through the death of winter, physically and spiritually. Practice dreaming of what you’ll do in Spring and Summer even while the cold wind blows and the skies are gray. Build your faith while you wait for your faith to be fulfilled.

I look forward to drinking a cold slushy on a hot summer day even as I walk through cold slushy in my yard today. I look forward to a hot cup of coffee, too, because God provides blessings along the way. Winter isn’t all bleak all the time. There’s the music and lights and humble invasion story of Christmas, the seeking of God’s vision for the new year, the celebration of marriage and sacrificial love of St. Valentine’s Day, the inspiration of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and St. Patrick, and the 40 days of wilderness that draw us to our knees in God’s arms during Lent. There is still much to celebrate as we await the coming of our Lord and Savior at Easter, and at His second coming.

Just don’t drink coffee and slushy at the same time.

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