Monday, January 19, 2009

A Winter's Ramble

Thursday, January 16
6:03 AM
-0.4 degrees F

The first step on our back deck reports with a rifle-loud crack. Exiting through the sliding glass door is necessary as the front door knob is frozen in locked position.

The hatch-back of the car opens but doesn't want to re-latch at this temperature and takes three yanks down before the rear of the vehicle is secure and I need not worry my school books will scatter on the highway. The engine of the car hesitates only a little before firing, for which I am grateful and the warm-up begins. Returning to the house, the front door must be by-passed again. The lock will not give entry even with a key. Ahhh, January in the South, mountain-style!

I spoon freshly ground coffee and dispense filtered water into the coffee maker so that my wife may rise and walk into the kitchen and simply press the start button to have her morning coffee, the last of my routines before leaving for work. This school day will turn out to be only two hours and forty-five minutes long. We are starting late due to some icing on the roads and snow showers in the western part of the county close schools just after lunch. Over the next several days, the temperature moderates slightly and by yesterday, Sunday, a snow-maker system of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico collides with the cold air tethered to every peak and entrenched in every valley for forty miles. There are two inches of snow on the ground this MLK Day and four to six more are forecast before this all ends on Wednesday morning.

This January is a little unusual from recent winters. These are the coldest temperatures we have had this decade. A two day snow event has been uncommon, as well. Twenty-five years ago, foot snows over several days were experienced more than once in a winter. In February of 1984, we had one night that hit minus twenty-four degrees! I couldn't get the farm house we lived in warmer than sixty degrees even though the wood stove roared with a heat that hurt my hands when adding more wood...and I added wood every thirty minutes or so. I remember burning nearly a half cord of wood in three days. That one storm left two feet of snow behind. But since the beginning of this new millennium, the winters are "mild." They have also been relatively dry.

This January is unusual in the context of the current ten year period as the last week has been bitterly cold, and yet it is comforting. It's a throw-back to another time period, familiar but seemingly lost. How easily my feelings identify a remembrance fondly and connect past to present -- well, the minus 24 degrees is more freakish a memory than a fond one, I suppose; I am remembering winters with deep snows and temperatures that are "normal" as a pleasant experience here. I'll not argue man is causing the change, but I think global climate change, even if just cyclical, is evident. This winter is perhaps more "normal" but it doesn't produce any hope for me that climate change is reversing.

I barely remember another January, nearly fifty years ago. An inauguration was occurring which was making everyone excited over the hope and promise of what would come with the new president. Kennedy like Obama was young and charismatic with stirring oratorical skills. How easily our country in collective soulishness indulges in hope for change. The excitement on the TV is palpable. Is Obama such a complete change for Washington, that authentic reform will be embraced inside the DC belt-line? Does his ascension to power, a stunning and welcome capstone to fifty years of social change, mark the end of the curse on our nation that slavery sliced into our national psyche like cuts by a whip thrashed on a bare back? The scars are rendered a bit less painful perhaps.

...ummmm, forgive my pragmatism, but there will be no real change even if Obama fixes every national economic, social, and political ill. No matter how much we might want to hope, this man is not our spiritual state. We are still fallen and the curse of sin is still upon the earth. Greed is the name of the game in this world system, and the US government/economy is a cornerstone of that world system.

I watch the falling snow and marvel at the wonder of the beauty of the earth. Yet, I know in spirit not to be fooled by any promises of change. Only Jesus on the throne in New Jerusalem will mark a time when mankind is free from the curse of which slavery was but a symptom.


Steve Sensenig said...

I always love your writing. The metaphors and similes you use when describing a scene pull me right into the description.

I totally agree with you about "change". Our culture continues to place its trust in mere man to create change. Amazing that we don't seem to learn our lesson after having in trusted in so many men who ended up letting us down.

Your post reminds me of the opening lyrics of an old hymn: "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." Instead of mere men being the focus, I'm so thankful that our Father has given us a sure object for our hope, THE Man, Jesus Christ.

ded said...

Hey Steve,

Thanks for commenting and I am glad you get something from my writing.

For years, the Christians with whom I associated were in a lock step over Ronald Reagan. He accomplished some good. These same folks became virulent in their condemnation of Clintons one and two.

As I entered the end of my co-dependency with a religious system and chartered a course away from group-think as my identity, I realized no earthly ideology can represent my heart and thoughts in a democratic government. This peeled the blinders from eyes.

Obama, and if he had won, McCain, is limited within the system to serve the system. A man may champion causes dear to a majority of people, but the forces that sway government are much larger than any man. It will be interesting to see what Obama gets done. I am hopeful for positive change; yes, especially for the call to responsibility to gain real effect from the Congress down, but the sweep of the world system towards its ultimate complete rebellion against God will not be altered.

Evangelicals need to relent the dream of mandating the US to a place of honoring God through government (if that ever truly existed!) and recognize the US may in fact be one of the three big, ugly, dominant heads of the Dragon. I think such anyway.

How shall we live under the rule of an entity that abhors our God?

Christianity needs to become that which it once was, a separated group that lived brightly the antithesis of a heathen dominant culture. We were once known for our sobriety, charity, and gentleness in the face of the world's dark hatreds and selfish drives. There is no reason for this to not be so in our current day.

Affecting good works as justification for our theology while compromising to gain and share earthly power (the definition of spiritual whoring perhaps?) with other groups in the name of democratic citizenship is exposed as a failed spiritual walk. Or so I believe.

Carey said...

I hear you guys emphasizing the Lordship of Christ, rightly. And I agree with your final statement on this posting: "Only Jesus on the throne in New Jerusalem will mark a time when mankind is free from the curse of which slavery was but a symptom."
So true, my brothers.
And yet, my response to the growing pains of our collective identity is different from yours. I have arrived at a season of personal development in which I wish to emphasize our commonality with the general population of mankind, instead of our separation from them. Why?
1.)"The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until it was all leavened." (Matt 13:33) This means to me that our influence as Christians is to be distributed into the world and have its effect of raising the standards by which the world operates.
2.) "For i was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in." (Matt 25:35) These are real people in a real world, not distant people in a world that has been abandoned by God's people; furthermore, the emphasis is, I believe, on the relief of suffering, which is an activity that is very real and very significant in God's eyes. The Lord himself demonstrated this when I walked on the earth and set our example.
3.) We shouldn't neglect the "weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness." (Matt 23:23) These heavy matters are crying out for attention in our fallen world. As Christians, we should address them head on.
4.) I hear ya, ded, about the lockstep thing that we've seen among evangelicals for the last 28 years. But now it's time for us to withdraw our heads from the sand, forsake our critical cynicism, and step up to the plate to do our part in making America and the world a place in which God's justice and mercy can be manifested.
B.) Re: the -24 day in 1984. I remember it precisely. Some of us were watching the SuperBowl at SN's house in Mountain Shadows. I remember being amazed when we saw the temperature indicated on Steve's thermometer on the back deck of his newly-constructed house. I remember the -24, but do not remember the teams who were at that moment contending in the SuperBowl. Maybe this is a mini-lesson on what really sticks with us.
C.) Amen to Rick Warren's prayer at the Inauguration.

craig v. said...

What would your advice be to a Christian politician? We seem to alternate between trying to make the U.S. a Christian nation (with the mythology that we once were a Christian country) to washing our hands of politics.

Carey said...

Wow. Craig's question is a good one.
How 'bout this for a little reasoning:
1.)We will each stand before God in His judgement, as individuals. Maybe there's no such thing as a "Christian nation." Perhaps the idea really is a myth. With the close of the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush era we will have to learn some hard lessons. The history of Europe in the middle ages established the fact that nations are neutral.
There are only Christians, each one of us.
Our nation is like the Roman empire of Christ's day. It is corrupt; but there are benefits of which we can partake.
The corruption of power that was allowed to proliferate in the Roman empire allowed (assured) that Jesus would be crucified.
On the other hand, it was Paul's appeal to Caesar (a legal plea in a Roman system of law) that ultimately landed him in Rome where...well, a lot of things happened in Rome after that, but the net effect is that the message of God's salvation spread throughout the earth.
That Rome connection proved more evangelical in God's big scheme of things than the original Jerusalem venue had.
So, the American "empire" of today is analagous to Rome of old. It is morally neutral, and that is all we can expect. We can, however, if we are wise as serpents and gentle as doves, use the system for God's advantage, which is spreading His message.
We already know from the Old Testament and the Catholic Church that theocracy does not work, will not work, until Christ returns.
2.) The problem with the Obama administration will be its connection to the Democratic party and the abortion interests. A very real problem indeed. We won't wear rose-colored glasses about that. But my opinion is that we shouldn't let the continuing corruption of man in human government and society stop us from making an impact individually or collectively.
If we are willing to become responsible citizens, we'll be more effective in our witness for Jesus. The President's call, as I hear it in his inauguration message, is to become responsible citizens, with each of us pulling his own weight. We all,including entitlement-minded Democrats, need to hear that exhortation to responsibility.
Sorry to be rambling so, but I took the liberty since you, ded, entitled the posting "a Winter's ramble."
Now I will, as we used to say in the old South, shut my mouth.

ded said...


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your length, as you always bring in so many connections which are viable for discussion.

Regarding our out-reach to the lost and recognizing what we have in common with humanity: I agree completely. My sub-title here of "Imagination, Commonality, and the Supernatural" was selected for just such a reason. Christians have much more in common with one another than denominations indicate. Further, in devoting ourselves to the humility of Christ, we separate ourselves from the world; but when fakery and self-righteousness turn cold and distant hearts toward the lost, we lose ourselves. We are as common a human as there is to be found, if we would choose to live that way. Like you, I believe we should.

Craig V., thank you as well for your salient insights and probing questions. I think in recognizing that we put a false hope in democracy and legislation to bring obedience and honor to God by the masses, I do not see it a corollary to abdicate participation in the political realm around us. I think we must allow God to lead His people for His purposes. The influence of Christians upon the nation is needed. I find my strongest witness is currently in the public school. Though I never outwardly preach Christ, I seek to influence everyone, administration, colleagues, parents and the students with the way of Jesus and toward His truth. So I would expect the Christian involved in politics to do, as well.

I think the danger is in thinking we can place a holy agenda on things, however. We fulfill His agenda wherever we are. This is our obedience to Him. We are not His agents for change by our exercise of self will. Keeping those two differing motivations separate is a work of being "in the spirit." Or so it seems to me in this neck of the Wild Wood. ;)

Carey said...

Your last roundup comment, ded, has tied our rambling discourse into a comprehensive bundle, especially this: "We are not His agents for change by our exercise of self will. Keeping those two differing motivations separate is a work of being "in the spirit."
And this of course leads us once again toward your main theme of experiencing life in the Spirit instead of the soul.
Nicely done.