And Then There’s Winter

January 9, 2017

O LORD God of hosts,
who is as mighty as you?
Your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it—you have founded them.
The north and the south—you created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O GOD, in the light of your countenance;
they exult in your name all day long,
and extol your righteousness.
For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favor our horn is exalted.
For our shield belongs to Yahweh,
to the Holy One of Israel.
from Psalm 89

There is no thing and no place as awe inspiring as the eastern shores of Lake Michigan in summer. As far as the eye can see, the glory of God abounds: the gentle breezes; the soft and warm impressionable sand; the almost comfortable salt-less water that can lap its way to the shore with the rhythm of a gentle lullaby or can fiercely pound like a symphony crashing toward resolution. Kaleidoscope colored sunsets command an applause from audiences that assemble spellbound on the shore. The heavens are God’s. The earth is God’s. God’s faithfulness surrounds.

And then there’s winter. Winter in West Michigan can be brutal. Along with the endless days without even one minute of sunshine, there are the inches and then feet of snow. As winds howl and appendages freeze in spite of the hand and feet warmers shoved into place, the chorus rises, “How long, O God?” How long until we will see light in the sky? How long until we can walk without fear of slipping and sliding across the path? How long until we can shed the balaklava that masks our face and wear only two or three layers of “outdoor” apparel? Wrapped deep in warm clothes like Nanook of the North, it’s a challenge not to see one’s self as Elsa or Kristoff acting our part in the Disney movie, Frozen. How long, O God?  How long?

With Christmas behind and the New Year begun, it takes determination and grit to make it through a West Michigan winter. It is not a season or a scene for the faint of heart. One must intentionally determine to be inspired by a pittance of sunlight that stealthily makes its way through a relentless cover of clouds. One must take courage from a moment here or there when the wind ceases its howl.

This world of ours can be a harsh and merciless place to live out our winter days. The darkness that surrounds can be discouraging and disheartening. The shadows are long and hope can be lean. Still we are called to return to the waters where we have known God’s glory. We are encouraged to make that trek, bundled up with our face to the mighty gales that would rather push us back into our safe igloos of isolation. Yet, having been called, we go. When we arrive on the shore we witness the incredible transforming power of the winter winds and waves. Surprise of surprises. God is there still ruling the raging sea. In the frozen dunes and ice formations, God’s artistry continues to shape and reshape our world. If we risk venturing out we see that the light is beginning to return. At the water’s edge, with a hint of light on the horizon, we are encouraged to remember who and whose we are during the darkest and coldest of days.

We are encouraged to remember: The heavens are God’s. The earth is God’s. We are God’s own. God’s faithfulness surrounds.

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