Wintry weather pounded our classic two-story, antique-Iowan home during January 1998. Nancy and I did not yet have kids, but we had a houseful of “kids” that weekend. Our church regularly hosted worship team interns, all late-teen and early-twenty-something students. This crew of courageous collegians regularly traveled two hours from Ankeny to serve on weekends. Typical accommodations involved guys bunking at our place, and the girls staying at another leader’s house nearby.
In typical fashion, the car full of friends made their trek on Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, a surprise snowstorm was brewing. By evening, Old Man Winter was blasting our vintage house with all-out-blizzard gusto. Sunday church was cancelled as wind and whiteouts piled on a foot of fresh powder. The “kids”—including a gaggle of other local young adults from our church—ALL piled into our place for the long weekend.
Our house was abuzz for three days. We watched movies (Harrison Ford’s high-energy, action flick Air Force One had just come out. “GET OFF MY PLANE!”). We gobbled homemade pizza, toppings-piled-high nachos, and thick pans of lasagna. We laughed. We teased (two of our interns were in their early stages of flirtation and dating). Feeling some compulsion to add a dash of productivity, we held a worship arts planning meeting (well, sort of). We philosophized. We fought and made up. (After all, who doesn’t squabble after being cooped up that long with that many friends?) We sang outrageously goofy songs, made breakfast together both Sunday and Monday mornings, and otherwise created some of the most marvelous memories.
Eighteen years later, there is a snowpocalypse forecast for a large swath of the US east coast. Pictures of empty bread aisles and abandoned milk coolers are posted across social media. While I cannot recreate that one-of-a-kind, blizzard ’98 experience, I can envision a handful of must-dos we can each carry into the forthcoming labor of these snowy days.
First, there will be surprises. So, let’s roll with joy. Looking back, it would have been easy to tell those young adults a polite “no, you can’t stay,” or even “GET OFF MY PLANE.” I do recall that Nanc’ and I had already experienced a jam-packed week. No doubt it would have felt good to have our own space and breathing room. But we have never regretted those three hilarious days, and we are so glad we rolled with the opportunity.
Second, work will emerge, accompanied by opportunities to lovingly serve others. While we thoroughly enjoyed the cabin full of friends, it was some serious labor to host and navigate that flight. During this year’s blustering storm, will you find neighbors to assist with shoveling or nearby friends to serendipitously invite for a meal? While making bread, stacking wood, or washing dishes—tasks that certainly seem mundane—we must choose Christ’s joy and servant-hearts.
Finally, make the most of the space, the sweet grace of extra time. With that crew of young adults, we made delicious food, played hysterical practical jokes, planned for upcoming Sunday services, and unearthed a treasure trove of marvelous memories. Whatever you do during this storm, you must make something. If you have a woodworking shop, use the time to build that table or refinish an antique chair that’s been gathering dust. If you’re married, home alone, just the two of you, make the most of your time together. Wink-wink. (Need I really encourage this? All studies show there will be a significant spike in hospitals’ maternity traffic approximately nine months from this weekend.) So, why not make something? You get the idea.
Perhaps such gracious time carved out by snowstorms might, after all, be more like what God intends for our normal Sabbath rhythms (Genesis 2:1-3). I too often forget that intentional holy disruptions are commanded and encouraged, integral to practicing our workplace theology. We are too typically too busy. Snowstorms and accompanying Sabbath are indeed for our good. When Jesus and his disciples walked through the fields and plucked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ critique and Christ’s summative teaching proved unique and mildly puzzling (Mark 2:23-28). At least one of Christ’s intentions was to help us embrace the empowering tension of Sabbath. Yes, it’s commanded. Yes, we’re to be spontaneous. Yes, it’s God-like. And yes, it’s VERY good for us.
Every one of those characters who camped at our house for snowzilla ’98 is now all grown up, working hard, and serving strong in God’s kingdom. Nanc’ and I would never dream of taking credit for such marvelous adults—they had exceptional upbringings with brilliant parents. But we can relish the reality that we were privileged to play a brief role, including those seventy-two hours. And oh, what a fun plane ride it was!
Stephen Cottrell, describing more sensitive Sabbath principles, urges us: “So never speak of wasting time or spending time. Rather, say you are enjoying it or giving it away freely. Never say you have an hour to kill. Rather, say you have an hour to revive, to bring to life, to ravish.”
Let’s ravish our way through the upcoming snowy hours, fully embracing both the joyous work and wonderful people God brings onto our planes.
Stephen Cottrell. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. (New York: Seabury Books), 2008, p. 69.