Fair weather gives us clarity

Posted 12/31/08

Winter arrived in the usual way last week — the longest night of the year and plenty of cold weather forecasts. It is fun to live in a place where …

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Fair weather gives us clarity


Winter arrived in the usual way last week — the longest night of the year and plenty of cold weather forecasts.

It is fun to live in a place where the arrival of winter and snowfall brings the excitement of hitting the slopes and suntans on our faces with the oddest facial tan lines produced by sunglasses. But within the beauty of a Colorado winter there is the reality of the need for warmth, dangerous driving conditions and scarce food supplies for God’s creatures that spend their entire lives outside.

Winter weather can be unpleasant and dangerous. In his book, “Waking the Dead,” John Eldredge describes a frightening visual flight restrictions flight with a bush pilot around Fairweather Mountain in Alaska. The mountain’s name is a total misnomer. It did not get its name from fair weather, but because one can only see it in fair-weather. In this region of Alaska there are about 20 fair-weather days a year.

Our lives and emotions have seasons too, and especially in our winters we need a little fair-weather or we too will crash. Sometimes the fair-weather is just a brief time of clarity that helps the wintry conditions make sense. I heard this illustration used at our church to comfort people who are experiencing a blue Christmas. Winter is a legitimate season and while it lacks the comforts and pleasures of summer, the dormancy of the trees and plants on top of the ground is related to root development beneath the surface. I would add, really cold winters can also kill off parasites and pests like the beetles that are ravaging our forests.

The financial and professional forecasts for the New Year look like we are in for long dark nights and plenty of cold. We would certainly like a bright future but the expectations for better times are scarce. Most of us are hoping for some episodes of fair-weather that will give us enough clarity to make a safe landing so we can survive our winter. Maybe we will also have some growth beneath the surface.

The churches of our town offer us fair-weather opportunities. The very meeting place for most churches is called a “sanctuary” — a warm refuge from the storm. The sanctuaries of some churches are available for people so they can experience silence and solitude as they talk to God and hear him talk to them. Parts of many worship services are designed to give opportunity to sit still and experience clarity from the dark and cold of life.

There is a verse that calls us to regain our focus. The Psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God.” The very concept of being still is foreign to most of us, but necessary. Our minds need time to know God, comprehend transcendent truths and think deep thoughts. We need “fair-weather” moments in the pressures of life.

Different regions and people have distinctive Sabbath observances, but the concept of a Sabbath day of rest and worship has been integral to people of faith and to many even apart from faith. Studies have revealed one of the downfalls of a culture comes when a Sabbath experience is lost. Taking one day in seven for “fair-weather” helps people do much better in their winters. Emotions are healthier and decisions are wiser. The spirit can soar to new heights because they have known God and caught a glimpse of his transcendent glory and his immediate presence.

During our winter weather of dark circumstances we need some fair-weather. The good news is, whatever the weather is and however bad our circumstances are, in our community the churches are providing opportunities to experience personal “fair-weather” — times of stillness. Being still is a lost art that we need to regain. Planning time for worship and reflection will bring stillness and fair-weather back into our lives.

A New Year’s resolution for more stillness and worship may be the brightest hope for dealing with the cold of this winter.

Pastor Dan Hettinger serves as director of community life at New Hope Presbyterian Church. E-mail him at dhettinger@newhopepres.org.


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