Search This Blog

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Finding Strength in Winter

Dear Ones,

In the human struggle to understand the nature of truth, winter has landed in New England. There is no falsehood in the depth of snow I see outside my window, or yours I suspect. From one perspective, the snow just is. "The Teacher," the voice we hear in the book of Ecclesiastes, might regard the snow and the cold with wisdom's gimlet eye. The snow is neither good nor bad, it is just what is there.
How about you?
A ramble through the internet encounters reasons why people say winter is not just winter – winter is a drag. Here's a list:
Winter is cold, dark, one is trapped indoors, there is snow shoveling, hazardous driving, slush of uncertain depth, winter seems to last forever, walkways are slippery, nature looks dead, New England heating costs, chapped, heavy clothes, and banging heat pipes.
Then there is a list of why winter is excellent. Consider:
Winter air is crisp, sunrises are viewable at a civilized hour, skiing, sledding, tubing, etc., hot chocolate, quilts, snow days, no mosquitos, poison ivy, ticks, or grass mowing, winter has much of Advent and Lent and all of Christmas, cozy clothing, snow on trees, snow on houses, snow on mountains, snow sculptures, snow falling.
How does it change our experience of this day and tomorrow to see winter as the second list rather than the first? Both lists contain truth so this question is not about what is true or "truer." My question for you, beloved, is about how you let various truths live in your speaking, your emotional response through a winter's day, and your prayers at morning and evening.
Perhaps, pastor is here advocating the theology of Pollyanna, Eleanor H. Parker's optimistic heroine in her bestselling 1913 book of the same name? Maybe. Or perhaps I am suggesting that you observe, as Masha says in Anton Chekov's 1901 play, "The Three Sisters," that, "Happy people don't notice whether it is winter or summer."  Well, no, I would rather you notice winter (and summer when it is summer.) No, I am not trying to judge you or give you cause to judge yourself for the way you approach winter. I have something else in mind.
I am advocating your morning and evening prayers; that you stick to them, never missing a day. And here is a way you can try to pray your way through winter. First, accept the challenge of praying daily, when you wake up and when you are about to close your eyes to sleep at night. Second, make it your intention to summon or acknowledge or provisionally accept that you are praying in the realm of the holy. You can even say to yourself, "Okay, now I'm orienting myself to the holy, toward God, in the direction of what means most to me." This is one of the reasons people get down on their knees, put their hands together, and bow their heads. It is a purposeful act to enter the outside and inside posture of prayer – even if for you it feels silly or "just an act." Do it anyway.
Third, review what you have seen of life since you last prayed. Look outward to the people you have encountered, the events, and the weather too! You are looking at the truth of life. 
Fourth, look inward at how you feel about those things and if you are anxious or grieving or puzzled or angry or whatever, let yourself name those feelings and see the truth that way. Tighten. Lament.
Fifth, look again and find your feelings of joy or humor or pleasure or accomplishment and let yourself see the truth that way. Open. Honor.
Finally, say, "Amen," and move on to your day or your sleep. Let me know how it goes if you like.
I have the feeling, or at least the hope, that this simple practice of prayer will realign you, return you to yourself, and make winter winter again. I have the certainty that the source of all we know and see, the infuser of life and grace, will be strengthened by your practice – and then you will feel how strengthened you have been in return.

Peace and Blessing,
Pastor Brad