CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
It was 15.4 degrees below zero when I got UP this morning. That’s minus 26.333 in Canada, which sounds even worse. Technically winter started on Dec. 21, but real winter starts UP here today. Our predicted HIGH for the WEEK will be three BELOW zero [F]. All the schools in the UP are closed today. Old people are still going to go out and warm up their cars and drive to church to play pickle ball, though. There are some natural instincts even the cold cannot stifle.
I haven’t checked the Siberian reading for this morning, but I imagine it’s even worse there. I remember reading Ken Follett’s THE MAN FROM ST. PETERSBURG. Said man is a political prisoner who has escaped and is riding a train hobo style through Siberia. Frigid to the bone, he vows that he will never be cold again. A lot of bad things happened just because he wanted to be warm.
A lot of bad things happen when people are cold, but too much heat is not a good thing either. Hell, for instance.
Once, on the first day of Vacation Bible School in June, we had a record crowd of kids, parents all over town suddenly realizing what it was like to have the little darlings home all day. Sharon Bickel, our highly efficient VBS leader, had anticipated this and bought extra craft kits. It still wasn’t enough. Whenever Sharon started toward me with that look on her face, it usually did not bode well for me, but this time she just wanted me to drive like a bat out of the hot place the necessary 20 miles to the Bible book store to get more kits. I drove as instructed. I ran in and grabbed the requisite number of kits. I got in line to pay. That’s when things stalled.
The line wasn’t long. Just one woman in front of me. But she was arguing with the couple who ran the store about how hot it would be in hell. They had all read III Esdras, but interpreted it differently. The woman thought it would be only 40 thousand degrees in hell while the couple though it would be 400 thousand degrees. I wanted to yell, “What the hell difference does it make? You’re going to be toast either way.” I didn’t, though. They knew who I was and already thought Methodists did not pay enough attention to the important parts of the Bible. They were willing to take Methodist money, though.
I worry more about people who are too cold in the here and now than those will be too hot in the hereafter. Through the years I have done little things to try to help people who are cold in winter. I worked the PADS homeless shelter. I contributed money to the organizations who help folks with heating bills. I even paid a few myself. And I would sneak over to the church building after dark and unlock the street-side doors so that some drunk stumbling around in the dark and unable to find his way home, or some teen who had run away to escape abuse, could get in out of the cold.
Still, though, I don’t think I ever did enough. I was like the man from St. Petersburg, who wanted to go to the other St. Petersburg to get warm, regardless of what happened to others who were cold. It wasn’t my body that was too cold, though, it was my heart. As Hank Williams wrote and warbled, “Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?”
We know that a cold heart is worse than a cold body. A cold heart here and now is likely to lead to way too much heat in the hereafter, regardless of how many degrees it is. I hope hell is in Canada, though. I think Celsius degrees won’t sound as bad.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
I have also started an author blog, about writing, in preparation for the publication, by Black Opal Books, of my novel, VETS, in 2015. http://johnrobertmcfarland-author.blogspot.com/
I tweet as yooper1721.