death, Faithful Living, Hope, iceboating, Lessons from the Wilderness, Outdoor Adventures, Uncategorized, Winter, Winter Water Sports

At the Mercy of…

It is finally iceboating season in Michigan! Lake Michigan acts as a huge heat sink, and when its waters are warmer than the air, the significant evaporation results in lake effect snow showers for days on end. But, once the lake begins to cool off, the snow lets up so that the inland lakes can freeze slick and relatively snow-free. Our whole family gets impatient for the good ice to form!

My brother got his boat out last weekend. It takes some work, sharpening the runners (as you do your ice skates), checking the sail for holes (the mice can eat like horses), making sure the stays and halyard and sheet ropes are sound, and, of course, gauging the depth of the ice and the force of the wind.

As in all outdoor adventure, you put yourself at the mercy of prevailing elements when iceboating. That means you must withstand marrow-freezing cold, fickle winds, imperfections in the ice, and other ice boaters. Of course, you do your best to fend off the threats with the right equipment and sound judgment. A pot of chili on day-long simmer doesn’t hurt either.

I have been thinking a lot this year about “being at the mercy of…”. We typically think of mercy as something we extend to others-actions like charity, compassion, and nonjudgmental service. I wonder, though, if mercy isn’t so much bigger, and why we often fail to see ourselves in need of it; we are needy recipients, yet prefer to believe we are grandly altruistic in our smug self-sufficiency. God knows better. There is nothing we can do or buy to protect ourselves. In the end, we are incapable of saving ourselves because we can’t be enough-not good enough, or smart enough, or rich enough, nor can we work hard enough to avoid the ice cold truth that we will die.

Think about a God who would still love you despite all your imperfections and sins. One who would make a way for you to be fully prepared in life to accept and even welcome death, and to live forever with Him. That is mercy as deep and solid as good ice. All you have to do is believe it.

Happy sailing…into the arms of a savior!

~J.A.P. Walton

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Faithful Living, Hope, Lessons from the Wilderness, Life's Storms, Outdoor Adventures, Prayer, Uncategorized, Winter

Lessons from Trout Creek in Winter

A winter storm is blowing in from Lake Michigan, and we will be out on snowshoes later even though we are in town for the season. The cold, wind, and snow bear down on us, snarling traffic, calling on us to shovel the drive, creating in us an inner anticipation-a breath-holding hope really, that activities will be cancelled so we can all hole up with soup, hot cocoa, a fire in the fireplace, and a good book. The silence of the snow beckons us to hush our busy holiday “gottas”, a brake on our hectic lives that we might have the time to sit and think about being blanketed by and made white in God’s love.

Out back, along Trout Creek I can see the squirrels from my desk. They are busy snuffling through the snow, and scrabbling under the bird feeder. The chickadees are bursting with energy, and the wild turkeys’ tracks from yesterday are now just a memory. The deer will be here by afternoon on their daily rounds, hoping for an offering of apples. It seems irrelevant that it is cold-life goes on. In this very snow is stored the spring roots’ draught, underneath it the field mouse can travel unseen from the eyes of the hungry hawk.

Such big flakes now! What if each one were a prayer? For God to redouble his restraint on evil. For our many friends with cancer. For a woman at church burying her only daughter this weekend. For warm shelter and food for the homeless. For homes for the thousands of innocent children orphaned by the opioid crisis. For parents of special needs children. For our own aging parents and all those once-stalwart church elders who can no longer come to church. For people beleaguered by bills, addictions, depression, loneliness, and anxiety. For the oppressed who are trapped between war and inhospitable nations. My God, how can these prayers make any difference? I must trust that you hear my voice crying in this wide wilderness.

Oh how deeply I want to drink of wisdom and patience and mercy, for the snow to hide me from the predatory world, to sit wrapped, and silent, as flakes fall like grace from heaven. And after awhile, to bundle myself against white wilderness and go out and embrace it. To discover the beauty that veils the rot. Yes, the world is cold. It is counterfeit too- just sweep aside the snow to discover the season’s decay under the surface. But, remember too that you are loved, held, and comforted by the same God who assures us that spring is also under there, just waiting to shoot through with abundance and mercy and life. After all, he hasn’t missed a spring yet.

~ God’s deep peace be upon you,

J.A.P. Walton