Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections by the Rev. Brook McBride First United Methodist Church This morning as I look out my office window, winter has stormed across the prairie once more. It's cold outside � the wind chill reads below zero � but as I look out my window what I notice more than anything is the barren nature of this year's winter.

We haven't had any snow, and while that seems to be a blessing for many of us who still shovel our own walks, for some of us it has brought a strange feeling of disappointment. Something is missing for us Midwesterners when we don't get snow.

Garrison Keeler, the great story teller from Prairie Home Companion, says a winter without snow is disappointing to most Midwesterners because it's almost as if they've spent most of the fall preparing for a war, and then when it doesn't happen they don't know what to do with themselves.

Somehow all that sidewalk salt stacked up in the garage next to that new $900 snow blower looks a little silly when the ground remains brown in January and February! For some reason it seems as if we are being robbed of our birthright � our identity � when we don't have snow in a South Dakota winter.

I mean, just what is a South Dakotan without a tough winter? In a lot of ways snow makes us come to life. It forces us to dig in, bear down, and produce! Without snow, we are forced to reconsider our purpose in life. Just who are we without snow?

But as I look at the barren ground outside my window, I wonder if that snow might have a different effect for many of us. The snow, I think, helps cover up the barren nature of our world. Like God's grace it covers up the ugliness of our lives. As I look out the window this morning, I begin to realize how ugly winter is without snow.

Everything is brown. The trees are lifeless. Garbage and dirt seem to be everywhere. My front lawn looks like it could easily be a picture out of the Dirty Thirties. And now it hits me that this winter has been somewhat of a desert experience for me. Left with no snow to shovel, I've been forced to deal with some of the barren trees and brown patches of dirt in my inner soul � parched and dry areas that I have never really had time or wanted to have time to explore.

One of the things that keeps coming up this winter, for me anyway, is a deep yearning for my father again. Just recently I've begun to realize that in a lot of ways I'm still mourning his death. I miss him. I long for his letters of encouragement written in bold x's and o's at the bottom of the page next to his "Love, Dad." I especially miss his cheerful "hang in there, Brook" when I get that feeling as if I'm getting lapped by the frontrunners in the race of life. Can I still be grieving for my father � it's been 13 years now!????

This Lenten season, we are asked, indeed called by God, to go into the desert and take a good look at the winter of our souls. In a way we are asked to blow all the snow off our inner soul and see ourselves for who we really are. Sometimes that can be a little scary.

Frankly there are times when I'd much rather go out and shovel a foot of snow off my sidewalk than do the work that God is asking us to do in the desert we call Lent! (Could it be that the reason I'm still grieving for my father, is that I have chosen to shovel snow for 13 years instead of deal with the emptiness in my heart caused by my father's death?)

But on the other hand, sometimes observing Lent can be a great blessing. For as we spend time in the wilderness, we often also discover wonderful patches of green pasture, and pools of cool water that we have never before experienced, nor would we if we hadn't decided heed God's call to enter. Angels bring us water. Indeed it has been my experience that we often find God there.

So as we wait with snow shovels in hand for a late winter blizzard, may God give us the courage and grace to drop them for just a moment and follow God's call to enter this barren place we call the soul. Take a look around. Where are the dry spots in my life? What is causing them? Why am I so afraid of them? Who can I share them with? What can I learn from them?

Is God here, too?

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