'Tis the (Longest, Coldest) Season
If you are familiar at all with the Northwoods of Wisconsin, you would know that once the word “winter” arrives, it will be here for a while. Well, winter has settled in at the Wolf River Refuge, and it is most assuredly here to stay.
The deep snow and even deeper cold adds some, well, excitement to our ministry. Instead of driving the speed limit of 55 MPH in anticipation to get to the Wolf River Refuge, because as much as I would love to live on site, I unfortunately do not, when the roads are icy and or not quite plowed yet, I am averaging a cautious speed of 35 MPH. Mostly that is because I am from the Chicagoland area and we really don’t get buckets of snow, and I do not drive much during this season when I am south. The time I am inching along in the little white Ford Ranger I drive begins to add up, and sometimes I contemplate if I really do, in fact, enjoy winter as I so often profess. I continue to contemplate this as I pull onto the long, snowy drive of the Wolf River Refuge, and even more-so, as I am introduced to anti-freeze, which is pink for some reason I do not know, and which I pour down the pipes in various cabins, so that we can prevent the instruction of how to unfreeze pipes.
Those are some of the struggles that we face with winter, but there are aspects of the cold season stretching from November until March or April of which I am a little fonder. The Wolf River Refuge is a wonderful place to escape the busyness of life, and the distractions that accompany it, and to reconnect with God and your family. One of the biggest things that hit me when I returned home to be with my family for the Christmas season was the seemingly never-ending noise. Whether that’s just from the average hustle and bustle of a full household, or the wheels of cars zooming down the pavement, or the sirens and trains and dogs barking in the distance of the suburbia I hail from, you can’t get away from some sort of noise, even when you lay your head down to sleep. Tucked away in Northern Wisconsin, there’s already less noise year-round. At the Wolf River Refuge, an entire new level of silence can be reached. It’s almost like a whole different dimension. Snow covers the ground like a thick and fluffy frosting, and the birds have ceased their chirping and brought it elsewhere. The trees stand tall, sturdy, and immobile, with the wind only whispering through them from time to time. While walking through the grounds of the Wolf River Refuge, along the paths and down by the river was assuredly solitude before, with only the company of the sounds that are characteristic of the warmer months, the only sounds to be heard now are those of your footsteps crunching through the snow.
Though water is constantly freezing, creating the unique snowflakes that gather to hide the ground, time most definitely has not come to a stop, and exciting new things are happening at the Wolf River Refuge. A vast portion of our Lodge building is scheduled to be torn down in the spring, and eventually rebuilt, to house a new Dining Hall and more rooms for our guests to stay in. While that statement sounds simple enough, the process of accomplishing this task is nowhere near to simple. A lot of time has been spent praying about any decision concerning this building and how we should go about dealing with it. We have searched far and wide to find someone willing to tear the building down, and the Lord has answered our prayer in more ways than we could have asked for. Not only do we have someone interested in taking it down, but he is also interested in taking as much of the building as possible and repurposing and selling it. That would include the old wood flooring, the windows, and a collection of items on the antique spectrum of things left in the building from the previous owner. Our hope is that the money acquired from potential sales would cover the cost of taking the building down, or at least put a dent in the cost.
Part of this entire process has included carrying, from the condemned lodge portion of the building, which has absolutely no heat in it, to the warmth of the part that will remain, items that we were storing that we are using occasionally currently, and also those that we are saving for the new building. A substantial amount of the various items had no purpose and or value to us, and were either discarded or donated elsewhere. Those had to be sorted, picked through, and eventually just removed from all the rest.
This brings to mind what we as Christians and believers in Jesus Christ should be doing in our own personal lives. Our human and sinful nature means that our lives are just riddled with things that do not belong in the lives that God had intended for us. Examples include pride, jealousy, hatred, selfishness, and lust: the list could go on. We all have areas of our lives that we need to work on, including me. The cool reality is that we have a loving Heavenly Father who looks upon us in our sinful ways, and yet still loves us unconditionally, and even sent His Son to die an excruciating death for us on a cross, knowing that we would continue to sin against Him. That is called grace--receiving forgiveness and love when we do not deserve it. That should drive us to not want to sin, and to start stripping away these sin issues in our lives, one by one. Will we stumble? Yes. Will we mess up? Yes. Does God still love us? Yes!
Colossians 3:5-10 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on a new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”