In our hemisphere “the dead of winter” is January. It can get very, very cold and the most bright and sunny days are also the coldest.
Chicago is famous for it’s wind- both politicians and actual blowing winds, mostly from the west or northwest and whew, it can just freeze one’s bones to walk around in such weather unless you are truly dressed for it.
This is part of why it is so hard to face those poor people who by choice (often mental illness or addiction issues, past problems with shelters, on it goes) or with no other option sleep outdoors. We do what we can to reach out to them. Every single one is somebody’s son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister. Imagine one of your own in zero degree weather with a pile of blankets and IF lucky, a tent.
From a very different angle, some of my fondest (as well as stark) memories are a juxtaposition with feeling like ice inside my heart and the warmth of God’s love, His immediate presence, the kindness of some of His people towards me even when I had nearly nothing to give them.
I was never fully the “Beggar in the Alleyway” my wife Wendi sang about from an early Rez Band record, but I came very, very close. Spiritually, I was absolutely that beggar.
Seems a while back I blogged about sleeping under bushes on Milwaukee’s lakefront on a very cold night at some point prior to following Jesus. I would have been about 16 or 17 at the time. I hardly slept and was freezing all night. Crazy. Not fun.
Then I remember very clearly busing around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with early Resurrection Band. I mean cold and snow times. From Duluth, Superior, Houghton, Baraga, and other up nort’ places where you were SO thankful for a heater that worked, warm blankets, a hot pasty (Finnish/Cornish savory baked dish) and most of all, friends to share those times with.
Lake Superior, Michigan, the bays and much of the countryside up there is lonely. You can see for a long way on clear days. If outdoors, except for possible ice cracking on lakes or creeks at night the quiet is extreme. Solitude over-against the warmth of not being alone, serving God with friends and The Friend, best of all.
So many concerts, speaking situations, visits to universities, colleges, coffeehouses, churches in those parts. So many amazing relationships built in those early days.
Chatting with a friend of mine this past weekend, he mentioned how kind and gracious so many in little traditional churches were to him. He was a hot mess and knew it, but all the horror talk about being talked down to and not accepted wasn’t his experience. It varies of course, but it was a minority of those sorts of people I met in the local churches throughout my early walk with the Lord. We certainly freaked many of ’em out with our hair, hippie clothes and cranking loud music, even with elements (mostly white folks up there) of blues/African-American styles. I suppose they could pick up plenty of us were heart-attack serious about Jesus and His Word, as well as open to hearing their views. THAT made the difference, at least in most cases. Still does.
As I write here in the inner city I am somehow reminded of those many journeys, the wood fires, saunas and amazing times of worship I have shared in the Upper Midwest. Plenty of young peeps who had zero to do with Christians much less any local church gathering came to the shows and services, and many -many- came to saving faith. A fair number of pharisees in those churches had their heads and hearts changed by God’s grace. Some we just forgave and moved on.
Time for another cup of coffee as I type.
Time for every purpose under heaven. A time to work and advocate for those in the cold, and to consider and grow beyond the coldness in our hearts by loving, serving, forgiving:
In the street, among “churchies” and no matter- because Jesus loves them all… even me and you 🙂
That’s what’s amazing about His grace!
As always, thanks for stopping by.