North of the 45th

Life north of the 45th Parallel is not for the faint-hearted. Winter is intense and long. 45th Parallel

Early last fall I suddenly found myself facing winter on my own, and ill-prepared to do so. Since I rely largely on wood for heat, splitting and stacking was my top priority. Through God’s faithful provision this was accomplished just in time.

Anyone who heats with wood knows that moving it takes a great deal of time and energy. So moving enough for each week’s use from the outside stacks to our garage became the weekend ritual for me and my kids, and there wasn’t time for much else as the weather got colder and we began to use more. Non-essential chores were temporarily neglected.

There is a large deck spanning the length of my house on the South side which gets full sun. In a typical winter, we will get some snow on-and-off throughout November and early December, but it usually melts away, not accumulating on the deck until late December. This year was very different. The snow came and came and just kept coming. And it stayed. Sub-zero temperatures beginning in December and lasting into March, along with record snowfalls, meant the snow didn’t melt away.

As the snow began to pile up, it crossed my mind that it should be removed, but other things demanded my immediate attention. Hauling wood in order to heat my home continued to be my priority. Isn’t it interesting how focused we can be, even with good intentions, that we fail to see a growing problem? Ignoring, procrastinating, or hoping it will resolve itself often leads to a bigger mess later.

The conditions were perfect for snow, and it continued to accumulate on the deck until it was impossible to ignore any longer. I vividly remember the morning I awoke to see snow piled over three feet high against my door wall, after another 15 inches fell overnight. I finally realized – This is going to be a problem when it starts to melt. Now what do I do? My son tried to shovel it away from the house, but under the top 2 feet or so, there was solid ice about a foot thick. It was overwhelming and unmanageable.

For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are full of inflammation, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me. Psalm 38:4-10

Like an open wound, sin left unattended will fester and eventually consume pieces of you. Who hasn’t let some small sin in their life slide? Careless words, selfishness, envy, a stubborn or unforgiving spirit. Maybe it seems trivial, especially in comparison to the sin of a neighbor, friend or relative. Perhaps it’s easier to spot their bigger sin – anger, jealousy, pride, self-righteousness. But who are we to draw a line? Does my sin require less sacrifice than yours? Does yours require less than your neighbor’s? In God’s eyes, is it not all sin? Jesus died on the cross once for all, so that, in accepting His blood as a covering for our sin, fellowship with God is restored. The same Salvation is freely offered to All.

For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God. Psalm 38:15

No matter how cold a winter, it eventually will begin to warm up, and ice will thaw. On a sunny 40 degree day, I came home to soggy carpet spanning three feet from the door wall and water creeping onto the kitchen tile. The melting ice had no place to go except into the house. We tried a shovel and then a fishing spear, but made little progress on the ice. I told my kids that it would still be there the next day and we were not missing a family group Bible study that I had connected with by phone through our church. We were new to this church and didn’t know many people yet, and I hungered for fellowship with other believers and time together in the Word.

What a blessing it was to meet the families who welcomed us in. In closing, each person including kids were asked to offer a prayer request or praise. I mentioned that my family was going through a difficult time, then tried to cover the pain by laughing about our wet mess. On the drive home, one of the ladies called me to say that the men insisted on coming out the next day after work to try to help clear the ice.

They came with pick axes and shovels, and cleared my entire deck. I was never more humbled or grateful. The next night brought an incredibly heavy rain. Thank God my deck was clear of the foot of ice which would have directed the rain straight toward the house.

Friends, let us be attentive to the little sins that sneak into our lives. Left unchecked, a little sin has the power to destroy. Examine your heart in earnest, spending time in prayer, in Scripture, and in silence as you listen for God’s speaking into your life. God wants a contrite spirit, giving way to confession and repentance, which leads to spiritual growth.

For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin. Psalm 38:18

…because I follow what is good. Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! Psalm 38:20b-22

We may stumble, but He will not let us fall. God knows our heart and He understands the struggles we face on this broken earth. He offers comfort and hope from the pain and hurt wrought by sin. Our obedience to Him brings restoration, peace and blessings.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

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