Snow and Panic

I’ve lived here all my life—in the South—and if you’re a transplant from the North, living in the South, I want to apologize for our behavior. As I write this, it’s snowing outside. The local weathermen and women have been predicting this snow and ice storm since last Saturday. It’s Friday and it’s finally here and panic has come with it.

When I was little, I remember frequent snowfalls. Yes, back in the day winter equaled snow, and of course snow boots, silly knit hats in bright colors, mittens that would freeze on the fingertips after a few snowballs, and the ever favorite snow cream. Since I have become an adult, however, there hasn’t been a snow like this in a decade or more. There was a frightening ice storm in December of 1998. Ice covered everything and many people lost power for several days. Then there was the huge surprise snowstorm of 2006. I was substituting that day and got caught in a valley on my way home. I had less than a tank of gas and a weak charge on my cell phone—scary. I made it home, though, safe and sound and greatly relieved.

For some odd reason, probably global warming right, this winter has brought snow. We had snow two weeks ago, if you can call it that. The local weather people were again predicting an accumulation of several inches. Before the first flake fell, schools were cancelled and bread and milk were cleaned out of the groceries. The results in my county? Less than an inch.

This one is predicted to be a big one and from the looks of things they could be right. Schools in the entire state were cancelled last night, bread and milk were again cleaned out of the groceries, AND there were no movies worth seeing in the Red Box by Thursday evening. The crazy thing is people who work for my husband are trying to keep from traveling next week. The forecasters are predicting more snow and the panicky emails against traveling east of here have been pouring in.

What people seem to forget is that we live in the South and snow melts quickly. Forty and fifty degree weather is also predicted for next week, which means warm and slushy streets. So, as the long anticipated flakes fall to the ground and as most everyone, including me, is holed up in their homes, peeking out wide-eyed and cancelling all appointments, I’ll think about my Northern friends and neighbors who are probably rolling their eyes right now.

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The Kingdom Within Us

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).

The command seems easy enough, right? I think all of us who think along these lines would agree that we should seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. I am learning, however, that it is not so easy. For years I’ve been giving a nod, if you will, to the first part of this verse in order to get to the second part–the goods–but if we take a closer look we will see that the beginning of the verse takes more than just a nod.

We know, for instance, that once we belong to Him, His kingdom then resides in us (Luke 17:20-21). I think, then, that seeking His kingdom and His righteousness means among other things to become the person He intended us to be—for us to reflect His kingdom. This means then that we cannot remain covered over with sin and shame. The shame that comes, say, with living in addiction be it the obvious like drugs or alcohol or food or porn or the less obvious like people-pleasing or anger or greed. We must then be free from this; we must become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). How do we do this? I wish there was an easy answer—a magic wand, perhaps, that we could wave and our addictions would be a distant memory. I am learning, though, that it takes work…a lot of work.

One of the most important requirements to becoming that new creation is a daily dying to self, so that when the Self calls and says, “Hey, I’m hurting today and need you to soothe the pain—temporarily—by taking a drug, having a drink, eating a package of cookies, visiting an Internet site, seeking approval from a friend, boss, or a stranger, picking a fight with someone, adding another task and paycheck to your already heavy workload, so I can feel better” then I can say “not today, Self. Today I’m going to ignore your yearnings and, instead, stop, count to ten if need be, and put my trust in God. Today I choose to look to Him for hope and for a better tomorrow.” Only then can we/I arrive at the second part of the verse which states, “and all these things will be given to you as well.”

I don’t think God is saying here, “Nanna nanna boo boo, you can’t have this until you trust Me,” although, admittedly, it has felt like this at times. I think, instead, that He is saying, “I love you, I know you, I created you and knew you even before you were born (Psalm 139), so let me show you what I can do for you. I will do for you something that is beyond your own efforts and beyond your wildest dreams” (Jeremiah 33:3). So, all those dreams that I dared to dream while cleaning a park restroom or sitting alone in an office hour after hour working on some mundane task will finally make their way out of my hazy dream world and become a reality. I don’t think it will happen for me, though, until there is a constant flow from myself to my Creator. As long as that “artery” is clogged with the above then I will remain in this place of drifting, marking time, settling.

Anyone who said that the Christian walk is easy did not give it their best effort. The idea is simple enough: give your life to Christ, but the daily implementation of it is much more difficult. It is a daily, sometimes hourly, undertaking. I like a good challenge, though, and this has been the best challenge so far. For even as I struggle, I feel God’s presence and His gentle, capable hand leading me on.

Two Worlds Collide

I’ve had the fortune to travel frequently. I say fortune because I have discovered that I really enjoy this unique diversion from routine. The change in scenery and environment is like witnessing the arrival of a best friend after a long absence. Training and “tours of duty” have taken my husband to various cities this year and I have had the grand opportunity to accompany him. The experience can be and has been a lonely one, however. While he has been away with the car and working, I have been left with the challenge of finding entertainment in a strange city. Long walks, photos, reading, writing, answering emails (when Internet is available), and exercising have made up most of my days. Recently, we visited Orlando, FL.

Our hotel was situated in the heart of downtown. With camera in hand, I began the usual task of exploring the city. After taking pictures of some wonderful architecture and manicured city streets, my adventures soon led me to the public library. I adore books, so I was happy to see this building appear around a corner. I was unprepared for what I saw inside.

The automatic doors opened and I walked into the cool air with the familiar and welcoming smell of books. I browsed the new releases on some tables and then studied the map of this old, three-story building. I walked up a flight of stairs, pulled some books from shelves, and then found a seat, enjoying the crack of a book’s spine as I opened the first one. Then I heard another sound—a terrible cough. It was low and deep and contagious. I looked around and noticed an unsavory character, leaning on one hand, clothes disheveled, and a decrepit backpack on the floor. Being the perpetual dreamer, I was glad to see that he was reading and imagined him finding a new passion in life that would take him off the streets. I went back to my reading.

Next, I was interrupted again by the sight of a policeman and a librarian quietly escorting another character out of the building. I began to really look around and wondered where the real patrons were…was I the only one on this floor? Later, I decided to find a more comfortable chair on another floor.

The next floor was set up for a book signing by Dara Torres, the 40-year-old Olympian, who was to appear later that month. There was a small stage and about 30 chairs stationed for her book talk. In the chairs, however, were seated about ten homeless men. They had that tell-tale exterior—one leg crossed, hands folded across the lap, head down. It was and is the appearance of someone who has been beaten down by life, has temporarily or not, lost a battle, given up, lost hope.

Walking back to my warm hotel room, I pondered with dismay my own struggles with employment, among other things. Consequently, I do not feel that far removed from their particular lot in life. It is a sad one and unsolvable. This community of the ignored is a constant reminder to us of how quickly the comforts of life can be taken away. Their appearance in “our world” is a nuisance, their clothing repulsive, but their message to us is loud and clear–be thankful.