Spending a few days in the mountains was a balm for my soul. After the busyness of the Christmas season, the slow pace of life was so welcome. And...there was snow...lots and lots of snow!
As the snow falls softly, I love the hush, the quiet. When the sun comes out, the snow glistens and sparkles like diamonds, beckoning me to stop and appreciate the beauty of the landscape bathed in white. To know that each snowflake is unique is mind boggling!
Though I was born during a snowy winter in Minnesota, my family soon moved to California. From there we moved to Brasil and did not return until I was 8 years old. After landing in Miami and then flying on to Minneapolis to spend time with my mother's family, Dad bought a car and we drove west, headed to Seattle. I still remember driving through the Rockies on Highway 2 and seeing snow off in the distance. We begged Dad stop as we drew near the icy patches of snow in the mountains...in August! Getting out the car, we scampered around, slipping and sliding, trying to form a snow ball...more like ice ball! The snow was icy...a little dirty...but we were still in awe. Since snow is not a common thing in the winter in the Seattle area, we were always thrilled when it came as we were growing up.
Even after living in the Midwest for 6 years and Alaska for 5 years, I am still in awe of the beauty of snow. As it covers the dirt and grass and rooftops, making everything sparkle, I am reminded again of what Christ did for us..."though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow," Isaiah 1:18. That I can come to Him with all my darkness and messiness, and ask forgiveness, and know that He sees me "white as snow" is an indescribable gift.
Snow often slows us down, forcing us to drive slower, move slower. As we took nightly walks with our dog, I was thinking of words to guide me in the New year. The words that came to me in the quiet and hush were, Be Still. What a comfort we have from Psalm 46:10, 11, "Be still and know that I am God...the Lord of Hosts is with us." As I was reading this Psalm a little later, I ran across a torn page from an old Our Daily Bread devotional booklet. The author of the post, Joe Stowell, said the Hebrew word for still means "to cease striving." He then said, "It's the concept of putting your hands down and letting God intervene in your situation without your interference." Isn't that good?
You may have guessed by now that I am one of the people that stick sermon notes or prayers or old devotional pages inside my Bible at the appropriate passage. Yes, my Bible is full...but I kind of like it that way. Beginning my Bible reading program for 2016 in Matthew, I also found sermon notes from Pastor Phil Strong, who pastored the Plain Community Church for a number of years. These words jumped out at me,
"Advent has led us through the journey, and reminded us that...
...ours is decidedly a "salvation story' into which we are invited to participate: at times, the saving action of God involves specific instruction. At other times, we are prompted toward the most strenuous form of saving activity...standing still."
...in the process, there will be a lot of "How can this be's?" and "How will I know's?". We are learning that confessing our weaknesses (and misunderstandings) connects us to God and others in ways that our successes/strengths cannot. We discover that we are not only learning to trust God, to trust ourselves with God.
...in the process, there will be significant stretches of time when nothing remotely resembling salvation is taking place. Those times will require a conviction to live "by means of the truth" (perseverance)...not only hoping for things to get better, but actually preparing to be transformed into people who will work to make things better."
Isn't that rich? ..."the most strenuous form of saving activity...standing still."
Hopefully we will stand a little straighter than this sweet snowman!
How about you? Do you have any specific words or thoughts to guide you in the New Year? Would love to hear them! Warmly, Gracia