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January Thaw

Finally! Ol’ Man Winter lost his grip. After eight days of being housebound, I admit I almost lost mine.  But our little flock didn’t seem to mind the subzero temperatures. These mommas-to-be (+ Gabriel) were put up in the big barn with the horses and got nightly turndown service from Shepherd Ed, who braved the tundra (pasture) each evening to tuck everyone into fresh straw bedding and offer the equivalent of mints on their pillows in the form of fluffy flakes of hay. Shepherd Ed is a really good sport and never once shook his fist at the cold, black sky. I, on the other hand, am not always so magnanimous.

Eight days and seven nights is a long time to think. Grateful as I was for the warm house and nowhere pressing to be, I couldn’t help but feel stuck. At first, I was fixated on the frozen landscape. But as time dragged on, I got to thinking about some other things that were frozen too.  Before I knew it, I was holding a frozen bucket of cold, hard truths. Rather than dump the details, let’s just say these are a few of the questions I asked myself. Maybe you can relate to one or two.

Who have I iced-out of my life because of a real or magnified hurt or infraction? Hard grudges can only be worked through with the pick axe of forgiveness. Who, or what, do I need to forgive?

What keeps me from knowing and surrendering to the will of God? Am I dedicating serious time to prayer, praise, and discernment, or are my playful fingers flash-frozen to my phone or computer keyboard like the tongue of a child who licks a frosty pipe on a dare? What other vices or habits have set me on a slippery slope?

What God-given gifts and passions have I allowed to cool over the years to the point of becoming like icicles hanging from the eaves of my life? Is it time to defrost them and put them back into service? Am I open to new challenges and callings for the glory of God?

Am I motivated, energized, and keeping my eyes on the prize — my hope of heaven — or am I trying to run the race with my feet encased in blocks of ice, that is — weighed down and hobbled by the cares of this world?

Have I become, in any way, numb to the needs of my family, neighbors, or the poor and marginalized? Who can I invite in from the cold? Who can I invite into the light and warmth of faith in Christ?

And that, my friends, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

When the temperature finally rose and the flock returned to their sheep pen, Shepherd Ed turned their frozen water buckets upside down, leaving behind 5-gallon ice blocks to thaw in the sun. Maybe that’s what God is asking us to do too — to upend our own frozen buckets so that He can fill us with streams of living water and fresh outpourings of grace and inspiration. Perhaps January thaws (also known as “False Springs” here in the South) aren’t just a force of nature but also a powerful reminder that no matter how stuck or frozen we are in our selves, our thoughts, our ways, or our sin, the warm and tender mercies of God await our invitation to transform the landscape of our lives and souls with the fire of His love. Truly, there’s nothing “false” about the One who promises to "make all things new"… especially me and you.

Just as a warm, insistent, southern breeze can steer the temperature and seasons, the blazing breath of the Holy Spirit can steer (and thaw!) willing minds, hearts, and souls, leading us to a place of renewal that looks and feels like Spring, no matter the circumstances or time of year.

For our part, we need only repent and believe (Mark 1:15) ... then turn over those frozen buckets — and let the Son shine!

Take heart, y'all. Spring and the King are coming!

But for you who revere my name,

the sun of righteousness will rise

with healing in its rays.

~Malachi 4:2


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