“He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast? He sends his word and melts them, he stirs up the breezes, and the waters flow.”
—Psalm 147:15-18 (NIV)
It wasn’t always this way. I can honestly say, there was a time when I did not appreciate all the seasons my northeast climate provides. But age and a change in attitude have contributed to my seeing things differently. Literally and figuratively.
While my mountainous area is famous for its fabulous falls, we all know what follows those beautiful colors. It is, as Psalm 147:17 records, God’s “icy blast.”
I’ve heard people say we enjoy winter up until the Christmas season, then we’re ready to fast- forward to spring.
The locals make all the usual complaints about snow shoveling, driving hassles, falling on ice, and not seeing enough sunlight. By the time February rolls around, they’re ready to head south.
But wait! It seems a shame to wish away our God-ordained seasons, including winter. After all, isn’t the “snow spread like wool and the frost scattered like ashes” a lovely thing?
My friend, Lynda, thinks so. “Snow is my favorite color!” she told me once.
I’m beginning to see what she means.
When we study Scripture, we begin to take in God’s big view of life. His plan for times and seasons. It provides a radical shift from our limited human perspective. And our tendency, like the Israelites, to grumble.
Right away in Genesis 1, we read of God creating the heavens and the earth. On the fourth day, He placed lights in the sky to separate the day from the night. Then He said, “Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days and years” (Genesis 1:14, NLT).
God saw that it was good.
Marking the seasons was good and still is good, despite the effects of sin. We may not enjoy the pristine nature of Eden, but there is still so much of God’s stunning work to admire—even when things appear to be frozen or stuck.
One of the changes I’ve noticed since losing my central vision is more sensitivity to hearing. Nothing physically happened to my ears, though. I simply listen more closely out of necessity.
Apparently, God has turned up the volume on the birds. I do miss seeing their faces and feathers clearly, but I hear their songs with new detail and purity. The doves cry out their mating call; the crows squawk loudly, and the owls’ hooting pierces the night.
A habit I began since vision loss is opening a window each morning and sitting near it, drinking coffee and listening for birds. The outside temperature does not deter me. In fact, sometimes the cold air on my face feels energizing. Strangely, this practice evolved without me planning it. I just realized one day I had developed a new pattern. A pattern of beginning my day by listening to God’s world.
Birds are usually one of the first harbingers of spring, but, in reality, some birds hang around all winter long. Not as many in my area, for sure, but still…life goes on despite the cold and snow.
And here’s a winter bonus: you can see wildlife better when the foliage is gone. For example, we regularly spot whitetail deer at dusk, as they begin feeding. And a squirrel darting across a snowy branch always makes me smile for his hopping, jerking movements. It’s an unmistakeable sight, even to my low-vision eyes.
The Purpose in the Plan
Storyteller Garrison Keillor says, “Winter brings us back to basics. There’s basic in-hereness, and there’s basic out-thereness. In winter, you are just happy to be an animal who is warm.”
I like that about winter! Appreciation of the basics reminds us of God. Our need for Him. His faithful provision. And the realization that He knows better, and this is His plan.
Again, looking at God’s original design in Genesis, we see Him working six days and resting on the seventh. Winter can be a resting, rejuvenating time before the new cycle of life begins in spring.
A slowdown in the rhythm of life is essential to offset our fast-paced lifestyles. Simply watching the outside world from a window, as I do each morning, can calm us. But better yet, a thirty-minute walk in the sharp air clears our heads, resetting our brains to take on the next challenge.
Last winter, the National Geographic published an article called, “This is Your Brain on Nature.” It cites numerous studies which show how nature is the antidote to relieve stress and improve mental function.
Cell phones, computers, and multi-tasking all contribute to brain fatigue. Experts say we need a break from the technology. A restorative trip outdoors actually lowers blood pressure and stress hormones in the blood.
It’s an old and basic concept. In fact, our national parks were founded upon the philosophy that nature has healing powers.
“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician,” said the sixteenth century Swiss German physician Paracelsus.
How did we forget this?
Because I believe children intuitively know it. The cold air, rain, and snow don’t minimize a child’s joy. A weather event can actually be exciting for them. Think snow days, ice skating, sledding, and snowball battles. Think watching a thunderstorm or splashing in puddles. Squish!
Soul-life happens as we connect with God by touching His ever-changing world.
What Jesus Did
Jesus did not stress because of modern technology, but He did carry a heavy burden. The burden of people—people with problems. Often the crowds would press in on Him, seeking teaching or healing. He had the Jewish leaders after Him, too, but they were seeking something quite different—a reason to take His life.
I can’t think of a better reason to escape. Here’s how He did it:
“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23, NIV).
All the gospels record such actions. Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”
The word “sacred” springs to mind when I picture Jesus being alone with His Father outside in prayer. Also “connectedness.” It’s so important for us in our human condition to reach out to the divine in this most fundamental way.
When we follow Jesus’ example, we recognize the whole of creation, not just our little sphere of problems. Things relax inside us, and we regain a right perspective. God is still on the throne, involved in our physical and spiritual world; our faith is not unfounded.
The seesaw between winter and spring begins around this time every year. Even though people may be counting down the days until the vernal equinox (the official start of spring), sometimes doubt sneaks in. Will we ever put away these heavy coats?
Then one day, as we are hunched over our bowls of chili, we notice it’s still light outside at suppertime. A glimmer of hope emerges. Could it be?
Yes, but not without a teetering back and forth. Days of ice and sub-freezing temperatures will alternate with days of sunshine and melting. Nature seems schizophrenic, unable to make up its mind. But the days are lengthening, no one can deny that.
More signs appear. The robins return to set up their nests, and rabbits suddenly seem to be everywhere all at once. Flower clusters appear on the silver maple. Overall, the warming trend continues.
Another season turning.
King Solomon offered the following reflection on times and seasons:
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJV).
I want to remember the wisdom of the king! I want to see God’s hand in all times and seasons…understanding His good purpose for those of us living under heaven.
And being about my Father’s business all the God-ordained seasons I am given.
How about you?