Ravish your way through this snowy day. Make something!

Wind and the wintry mix were pounding our roof as I awoke. (‘Must confess, the little kid deep inside me said, “Ah, the storm did indeed deliver.”) After a foray outside with Musti, our Bernese-shepherd mutt, I began the joyous task of shoveling the driveway. I am well aware in light of the forecast, that is just round one.

Of course, I am contemplating when I’ll build the fire. This will require carefully stripping newspaper, strategically clumping kindling, and then lighting the flame. Snowy days like today certainly call for a fire. There is other work to do today, but a snowy day like this requires making a fire.

I’m struck with the integral connection between holy interruptions in our regular schedules—these God-appointed disturbances, like snowstorms—and the opportunity to make something. We learn of the God who oh-so-creatively makes things in Genesis 1. Many years later, Jesus reminded his critics that his Father is always working (John 5:16-18). So I’m challenged today with the opportunity.

I can make the most of the space, the sweet grace of extra time. I sense the Lord’s promptings today. “John, whatever you do during this storm, you must make something.” Just perhaps, we might each hear his whisper carried on the winds and driving flakes of snow. Perhaps we’ll dare to embrace our Father’s sacred dance of playful creation and a change of pace.

Build the fire and keep it burning all day. If you have a woodworking shop, use the time to build that table or refinish an antique chair that’s been gathering dust. Make french toast—and bacon, and eggs, and waffles. Go all out. Throw on your warmest snow clothes and go make memories—even just thirty minutes worth—with your kids. 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? It’s likely there will be a significant spike in hospital maternity traffic approximately nine months from this wintry blast.)

So, why not make something extra-special? You get the idea.

It’s an extra-crucial concept right now during this pandemic season. So many of us have become accustomed to working our normal jobs from home. No doubt you will need to do some of that normal work during the snowstorm. Just don’t miss the sacred chance to blow the whistle at least a few times along the way today.

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 God’s intentions for truly abundant, good life.

We are too typically too busy. Snowstorms and accompanying Sabbath are made by our all-wise Father, for our good. When Jesus and his disciples walked through the fields and plucked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ critique and Christ’s teaching proved unique and mildly puzzling (check out 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.

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.”[1]

Let’s ravish our way through the upcoming snowy hours. Now go make something!

Special note: this post has been adapted and refreshed from another post on a snow-stormy day back in 2017. It seems I needed reminded again.

[1]Stephen Cottrell. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. (New York: Seabury Books), 2008, p. 69.

A snowstorm is coming. Go to church anyway. Really!

The Abominable Snowman is stomping our way! Yes, a big snowstorm is predicted. Our region of PA has a forecast for an apocalyptic snow event starting sometime Sunday. And I can read your mind. You’re seriously contemplating just skipping the church service tomorrow, whether in-person or live-streaming.

Backstage secret. Here’s an underbelly-of-the-beast truth: Every Sunday on the calendar is tough work, but pastors dread such a wintertime collision of nature and scheduled worship gatherings.

Whether you live in our region under the threat of a storm or somewhere else across the U.S. there’s a really good chance you are contemplating skipping church tomorrow. Pre-COVID, church attendance was already trending downward. People had good reasons galore. Sunday kids’ sports, golf with buddies, sleeping in, better TV preachers, fabulous breakfast buffets, or more open treadmills at the gym. “Easy like Sunday morning” is a smooth, catchy song lyric, indeed. And it seems so delightful to roll with such easiness.

The pandemic has produced a host of additional complexities, fears, disruptions for everyone. In that whirlwind, faithful church involvement has become more optional than ever. Good excuses abound and are multiplied.

Icing on the cake for this weekend, there’s a snowstorm coming, and you’re thinking, “I don’t really need to connect via live-stream, and I certainly don’t need to get in the car and go attend in-person. After all, the flakes might start falling at 10:13 a.m. Yikes! That’s risky. And then they want me to wear a mask, stay six feet apart—certainly no hugs or handshakes—and the café menu is so scaled back. It just doesn’t feel like church like I liked it back in 2019.”  

Are you really contemplating skipping church again? Really?

Don’t do it. Really. Just determine right now you’ll be made of stronger stuff. Decide you’re still going to attend—or even go back for the first time—either in-person or online for live-streaming.

Here are three bigger reasons you should gather in-person or online this week. Hear me out.

Reason #1: Your local leaders have been uniquely planning, creating, studying, and crafting something really good for you.

Really. Trust me, no matter who your leaders are, their unique gift mix, passions, weaknesses, and expertise, they’ve got something very meaningful planned. If you skip tomorrow, you’ll miss the encouragement, the challenge, the conviction, the hope, and the good gracious help that’s being served up. You’ll miss the songs, the teaching, and the opportunity to fellowship with others. Every Sunday, these elements stir together so you can be inspired to be good and do good in the coming week. For fresh perspective, see Hebrews 10:19-25. Determine you’ll gather. It’s good for your heart. It’s good for others. You don’t want to miss out!

Reason #2: Your local leaders are uniquely available and accessible. After all, well, they’re local.

This should be so obvious, but in the YouTube and TV celebrity status of so many national and international ministries, it’s quickly forgotten.

Andy Stanley, his great dad Charles, Rick Warren, and Francis Chan. They’re awesome dudes, and they are indeed fantastic communicators. Out of sight. I’ve been blessed and learned from all of them. But stop and think about it. They’re not going to chat with you after the message regarding your questions, pray with you in the lobby, call you in the hospital, do your child’s wedding, or send you an encouragement card. They’re hundreds of miles away.

So why not jump into the mix this week with your local congregation? Tap into what’s been creatively crafted by your local leaders in your unique context.

Go to church this weekend. Really. You’re warmly welcome! And welcome back if you’ve been away for a while. Go online or in-person with an open heart, a level-head, with non-judgmental expectations about the music and preaching. Bring a serious others-orientation. Aim to be a blessing yourself, not just be blessed, fed-to-the-full, and encouraged yourself. Go to encourage others!

Reason #3: Jesus went to church faithfully. You should too.

There’s a little phrase that jumps at me in Luke 4, verse 16. We’re told Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. (Yes, it’s not precisely our present-day Sunday gatherings, but it’s a very similar, Jewish, first-century approximate of our twenty-first century worship gatherings.)

Now here’s the intriguing little phrase about Jesus. He went to the synagogue “as was his custom.”

What’s that mean? He went to synagogue every Sabbath. Jesus was a regular. He was faithful, whether it was going to snow or not.

You say, “Well of course he did, he’s JESUS.” Okay, but think about it; he already knew all the truth there is to know. By nature of his divine position before coming to earth, he was intimately familiar with the best worship and the most sublime teaching. Andy and Rick don’t hold a candle to what Jesus already heard and knew by heart. But he still “went to church,” and because he did, others were abundantly blessed.

You say you want to be like Jesus. You really want to grow to be more like him in 2021, in spite of the horrific pandemic, a sagging economy, and raucous political turmoil? Wonderful.

You say you’re aiming to be like Jesus? Fantastic. Start by gathering for church, either online or in-person. You won’t regret it!

And after all, the really heavy snow isn’t supposed to start until afternoon.

Go to church. You’ll be blessed, and you’ll be a blessing in the mix with others. Really!

Your Must-Do Work in the Snowstorm

blizzard

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.”[1]

Let’s ravish our way through the upcoming snowy hours, fully embracing both the joyous work and wonderful people God brings onto our planes.

[1]Stephen Cottrell. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. (New York: Seabury Books), 2008, p. 69.