I checked the propane tank just before Christmas and the gauge said there was still 500 gallons left.
That means I’ve only used 200 gallons in a little under three months, which makes me very thankful for a mild fall and a very pleasant early winter.
Of course, everyone was wishing for a white Christmas and we got just enough snow over the four day Christmas weekend to fulfill those wishes.
And now, as I write this, a massive storm is moving in over the area that is expected to dump as much as 16 to 18 inches of fresh snow in some places.
Like most Minnesotans and Iowans, I’m in a comfortable, warm house safely protected from the wind and the snow and the cold. I have some firewood to supplement the forced-air furnace and plenty of food and other provisions. I was a little concerned that we were running low on toothpaste, but my lovely wife remembered to stop and buy some, so all is well.
I’ve been preparing for this day since about the same time I first turned the furnace on. I put the charcoal grill in the garage, coiled up the garden hose, made sure the tractor was ready to plow snow, and did all the things I do every year to prepare for winter.
So, as I sit here quietly typing away and hoping the Holy Spirit guides this train of thought into a station that is somehow useful to you and brings glory to God, the wind is howling and the snow is falling and it’s accumulating into some pretty impressive drifts—which I can see in the glow of the Christmas lights from inside my nice warm house.
The Christmas tree is still up, there’s a warm fire in the fireplace, and I haven’t even put away all of the loving gifts given to me for Christmas.
While I am comfortable and warm and safe, I think I am by no means alone in that the time between the end of Christmas and the return of the first robins is something I endure rather than treasure.
Sure, there are a variety of pleasant winter activities. I enjoy ice-fishing. Others like to ski, or snowmobile, or (give me a minute)… take vacations to warm tropical climates.
But actually, if you listen closely to the conversations of others during the January-March period, a compelling case can be made that the number one winter sport in this area is, in fact, complaining about winter.
Now, some of this is absolutely understandable.
Driving on ice-covered roads with limited visibility can be incredibly stressful and dangerous. Sometimes even a leisurely stroll down the sidewalk out to the garage can be risky.
And, doctors have long known that extended periods of time without sunlight can bring on serious depression in some people. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. (Which is quite possibly the cruelest acronym ever devised.)
And as I ponder that, it occurs to me that when Jesus said we are to be the salt of the earth, He was not talking about being salt for the roads or the sidewalks. (Matthew 5:13)
Nor do I believe that, in letting our lights shine before men, Jesus was talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder. (Matthew 5:16)
There is a point to which hermeneutics can be stretched, and there is a point beyond that.
But, He did say He came to give us life and give it to us abundantly. (John 10:10)
Jesus is the light of the world and His light and His warmth cannot and never will be extinguished by even the coldest, darkest winter. The fire of the Holy Spirit is not quenched by a northwest wind or the fiercest of blizzards.
So as we enter into this New Year with its long, cold, dark nights we will gain nothing by shouting our complaints into the face of the howling wind and its icy blast. No, our strength and our hope and our joy is in sharing our warmth with others.
The tempest comes out from its chamber,
the cold from the driving winds.
The breath of God produces ice,
and the broad waters become frozen.
He loads the clouds with moisture;
he scatters his lightning through them.
At his direction they swirl around
over the face of the whole earth
to do whatever he commands them.
Job 7: 9-12 NIV