Warm Thoughts On a Frosty Night

Our yule tree is still up but there are more pine needles and christmas balls on the floor than there are on the tree. Little Roxy has been busy shaking the tree and "trading" balls around with her older sisters. She thinks they should be carried around hanging from the fingers, like a vendor would when selling ready-to-eat rice wrapped in niyog (coconut) leaves. These vendors are usually found in the Philippines in places where people are on the move, usually get hungry and  have no time to spare for cooking, like bus terminals or stopovers.

There's a snowstorm brewing right now. Our second to be blessed with for this winter. Snow has been scarce and so it's welcome. The brick fence with all the snow that settled on it looks so dreamy. Every time I see fresh snow, this comes to mind:

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

The scene outside is like that of angels plucking feathers from each others' wings and flinging them all around in happy abandon. Maybe they're having a pillow fight with the pillows of clouds bursting white snow. So much activity going on outside, pretty much unlike the scene inside, well, without the children. In a weather like this, I don't need much, just some hot tea, a heated floor, family around, a book, my notebook and pen, and a warm blankie. And yes, my necessary zumba on some mornings to get the stiff out of my creaky bones.


Last time we had a blizzard, thoughts flirt with my mind every time I looked long enough outside of the window: "Go and plunge around the yard. It's going to be exciting!--- Are you nuts? I'll be frosted in no time at all in that kind of weather."  "Stay home, take out that huge mug with pictures of flowers and have tea. But--- and some Korovka sweets--- those milky crunchy ones--- are heavenly." So I stayed, staring at the window occasionally while I watched a film about a muscled man turned fairy, wearing tights and a pink skirt which looks like Ella's. I cannot make out the dialogues from the din of noises the children make. They were not interested. So was I. Something more exciting was happening outside and I wasn't in the middle of it, just at the fringe.

So at noon, reasoning that I had to take the baby from all of that bedlam outside and into the insipid indoors, I put on coat, boots and hat and did what I wanted to do. Get into the middle of things. The children who had been out in the snow for more than three hours were wet and snowy, but didn't want to come inside despite my repetitive urgings of lunch. They were not hungry, they said. And I know why--- they obtrusively had been snacking on the white, cold, fluffy manna despite reprimands from their dad and me. By the time everybody was ready for lunch it was already late afternoon.

Since then, the temperature has fallen to minus twenty degrees Celsius. The frost bites. I walked to work this week and I thought I had gone stiff frozen as my legs moved so slow. My nose froze up after just a couple of minutes outside. It was fun to thwang! it with my forefinger.

Despite freezing temperatures this time of the year, the Orthodox church, as tradition has it, has blessed some body of water for the devotees to plunge in for baptism. So kids and oldies alike, those who dare and believe, and even those who don't, have taken a dip in the frozen water. Some have a feeling that there's something mystical to it, so they seek to do the act annually. Others do it purely for experience or adventure, without any spiritual significance.

Remembering Jesus' baptism, I recall the Father's words after the Son of God came out of the water. Here's Matthew's account: "As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased""(Matthew 3:16, 17). There's nothing more precious than to hear the Father's voice and His commendation.

The ceremony of baptism is not an act to commend us for divine approval but a decision that we make in response to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We publicly declare that we are God's. Before baptism, there is an inner washing of the heart, which is more important, and which will produce a commitment to give our lives wholly to Him.

In baptism, our old self is dead and we are brought to life in God's life. "Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins" (Colossians 2:12, 13). Thus, we can truly say, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). This wonderful life that we have, it is His.

Another thing that we were missing this year were the ice sculptures. Without snow and in very warm atmosphere, they don't exist. And now that the temperature has fallen to minus twenty degrees, it's too late to make them at this time of year. Yeah, they don't just fall from the sky like snow. Some people, who have great talent and passion for this kind of art, make them. And those enormous masterpieces were brought over and set up in the center of town for thousands of eyes to enjoy... and smartphones to take photos.

Now, under the theory of evolution they would just come to be. Snow comes and they go on formation, shaping themselves into intricate shapes as complicated as a bear or a lion or twin swans. Then, visitors take selfies with them. Oh, no. That will never happen in a million years. Not even if they say that's how old our world is. Nah-uh.

Somebody much more intelligent than us humans, which others are afraid to admit, designed and created this world. And every time I look at our world, even how imperfect it is at the moment, marred with sin and its consequences, I can't help but marvel at its beauty and the beauty of the One who made it. Also, when I meet people and what they are capable of making--- especially those sculptures--- I cannot help but praise the One who has gifted us all with good gifts so we can enjoy life. God is simply amazing!

So as the snow falls outside, with me gazing out of the window again to watch the drama, I reflect on how the tiny flakes in their beautiful design bring comfort, directing my mind on the only Almighty God. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1)

The whole of Psalm 91 tells of God's work on this earth--- of how we see His glory through nature, His righteousness through His perfect law, and His grace through His working in our hearts. And yes, He is the Maker and Owner of our world and the Law that He gave us to follow, and if we allow Him to work in the hearts that He made, He will be the Lord of it, too.

Someday soon, I hope to hear Jesus' words and see Him reign when He comes back. For He...

"The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name" (Zechariah 14:9).

I can't wait for that day come, when only His righteousness, glory and grace will reign supreme. Much like the way the snow outside captures my attention with its beauty, power and grace. In a much lesser way. And much like our old yule tree reminds me of our fading away in death; when Jesus reigns, gone will be this old body subject to pain and sin, and in its place, one cleansed with noble powers dedicated to the worship of God.






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