How to survive the winter

This winter has been tough for a lot of Philadelphians.  Some have turned their ovens on to keep warm.  I used to be a winter sports-woman in my privileged youth: ice-fishing, snow-mobiling, downhill & cross-country skiing, ice-skating…but at times this winter I’ve been tempted to hibernate under my electric blanket from 8pm-8am.   I have become a wimp in the cold.  So here’s five practices that have kept me going this winter; you probably have other great ideas to add.

1.  Keep your prayer life hot.

Carve out a bit of space every day to be intentional about connecting with God.  God’s desires for the world will seep into our own as we open up this space in us.  I like to use our Daily Prayer blog; so many different writers contribute to this treasury.  I also started meeting with friends to pray one cold morning a week from 6-7am.  Let me know if you want to get in on that.  We are simply asking to move in us and in our neighborhood, and we’re already seeing God move.  

2.  Look for God in pop culture.  

A lot of us watch more TV, movies, and maybe even listen to more music in the winter because we’re stuck inside.  I think it’s fun to interpret how artists are channeling the philosophies of the day, expressing their goodness and their longing for God at the same time.  Sometimes it’s the same dumb stuff we’ve seen throughout history, like Bruno Mars’ misogynistic Young Girls (even my kids said, “why is he blaming the girls?”) and the prevailing ideas behind the entertainment biz seem to channel a new/old religion of ‘follow your desires/you are the sum of your experiences/love—mostly sexual love—will save us.’  But it’s sure to be entertaining.  And if you are interested in creating culture, something I think we’re all called to do, then it’s a good idea to see what’s being widely digested and compare it to what you’re hearing from God (see #1).  Loving people involves paying attention to what might be leading us around. (And if you have any doubt that lots of people are being “led around” by the entertainment biz then just stay awake this weekend around the Superbowl and it’s advertisements. One study I found indicated that some 50% of Americans search the internet for info about the Superbowl commercials before the Superbowl begins.  We’re literally entertained by advertising now.  That might be advertising success at it’s apex, and we’re buying it!) 

3.  Don’t give up meeting together.

We exercise our faith when we get together face-to-face.  A relationship with God isn’t something we can do in our heads.  A relationship with God is not a belief system.  It is happening with others.   If we know anything about the way humans are wired, I hope it’s that isolation is not healthy for us, spiritually or otherwise.  We don’t thrive in isolation, contrary to what technology and the entertainment biz affords us (see #2).  We’re made for love of God and others.  So I recommend:  if you’re not part of a faith community, find one.  Don’t let your preferences get in your way.  Show up to a public meeting, be part of a cell.  Of course it won’t solve all your problems—in fact it might give you more— but you might meet God and impact the world in deeper and bigger ways that you could do alone.  Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate with us this winter, lets keep trying. 

4.  Be like a tree & let your roots go down deep into Christ.

I learn a lot about God through creation.  When trees go into their dormant phase in wintertime, their roots do not stop growing.  Everything else generally shuts down to conserve energy, but the roots keep right on doing what they do, even in a frozen environment.  They keep growing—sucking up nutrients and moisture where they can get it—stabilizing the tree and preparing it for another season of growth.  I like to think that’s what we can do in the wintertime, electric blanket and all:  “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” Colossians 2:7-9

winter5.  Wear Under Armour & drink virgin hot toddies.

This is a matter of preference.  I discovered that Under Armour is not just for little-leaguers this winter, and that hot water with lemon and honey keeps me warm and in the reality zone with God that is most comforting of all, no matter what we’re facing.  So cheers to the rest of the winter!  Let’s suffer together.