Friday, February 21, 2014

Down a Slippery Slope

Watching Olympic skiers and snowboarders fly down their slippery slopes has been so much fun. I’m amazed at how their strength, hours of practice, and natural athleticism enable these athletes to control their speed as they whiz down the mountain-side.

Occasionally, the unthinkable happens. The athlete loses control and careens down the mountain. The consequences are devastating. After all the years of hard work, the athlete is disqualified from the event. Even worse, an out-of-control fall sometimes results in a major injury.

This afternoon I had my own encounter with a slippery slope. No, it wasn’t in the mountains. My mid-western home state has only gentle hills that closely hug the earth. No, it wasn’t on snow. While it has been a bitterly cold winter with lots of snow and ice, the past few days have been warm. Temperatures in the 40s and even 50s have melted most of the snow, so I wandered out on the nature trails. Ice lingered in the shaded spots, and the trails were wet and muddy, but I stayed on the sides of the paths, allowing the dried grass to provide a secure foothold.

One misstep is all it took. Stepping with my left foot on the gently sloping right side of the path, I felt my foot slide out from under me, and bam! I found myself in the mud. Resting on my left knee, the shin side of my right leg, and my right hand, I hurt. I wondered for a moment how long it would take my husband to find me on these meandering paths. My right wrist and leg hurt, but I quickly realized I wasn’t injured. I was able to get to my feet and continue walking. The pain lingered for a while, and the jeans would have to be laundered, but I came out no worse for the fall.

I am thankful I wasn’t injured in my fall down the slippery slope. As I continued walking, I thought about spiritual slippery slopes. Some appear mountainous, like substance abuse or infidelity. Others seem like tiny little slopes, like gossip or criticism. We all have our own slippery slopes, don’t we? A fall down any of these, whether mountainous or tiny, can be deadly.

Unfortunately, we venture onto those slippery slopes of sin and we fall. Fortunately, our God is full of grace. He is willing to gently lift us up and dust us off. He whispers, "Go, and sin no more" and sets us back on level ground.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Through the Meadow (Reprise)

Walking the nature trails, I travel across the middle of a large, open meadow, at least ¼ mile long and just as wide. Everywhere I look across this open landscape, I see the dead, dry, dun-colored native grasses. Here and there a deciduous tree dots the landscape. Winter weather has shorn them of their green garments, and their barren branches stretch nakedly toward the wintry sky. A slight breeze blows, rustling the dried grasses. My view is dull and bare.

My soul feels as dried and barren as this meadow. The enemy has frosted the joy from my heart and I hear the rustling of negativity and loss of hope.

But then I think about the creator of the meadow, the grass, and the trees. I notice the graceful lines of the barren tree branches and the lovely contrast of those dark brown limbs against the pale blue sky. I look toward the light and notice the seed heads on the dried grasses shining in the winter’s low sun. In my heart I praise God for the stark beauty of this field. Without a whimper, the enemy slinks away. He is no match for my creator.

Once again, spring blooms in my soul.

Job 33:26 “He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shattering the Ice

Half full? Or half empty? How we view our glass of life changes our perspectives. I tend to be a glass-half-full person. I keep a joyful attitude by focusing on what I have, rather than what I don’t have. When I view the glass as half empty, however, the results are disastrous.

When a winter storm battered my community, I tossed and turned all night, hearing the freezing rain and sleet drumming on the roof and windows. I worried about the slippery roads I’d have to maneuver on my commute to work at the local high school. Finally, unable to sleep, I got up in the pre-dawn dark to watch the weather on television. I hoped school would be cancelled so I could stay home safe, warm, and able to sleep. Watching, I learned an inch of ice and sleet had fallen. Travel was treacherous. When I looked out the window, I saw the street glistening from its icy coating. I saw danger and a half empty glass.

The alphabetized list of school closings appeared on the television. Anxiously, I watched it scroll across the bottom, waiting for “Wichita” to appear: Andover, Augusta, Derby, Goddard, Haysville, Maize, Pratt, Valley Center, Wellington…. No “Wichita”! Every school district was closed except one, mine! I huffed about, upset that I had to venture out in the dangerous weather. I couldn’t see one drop of joy in my glass.

Anger bubbled as I anticipated the icy drive. Why had our superintendent decided to keep school open? Along with anger, I worried: getting safely to school, students driving on ice, scraping a one-inch layer of ice off my car, and driving 15 miles home in rush hour traffic.

Driving on the slippery streets, I gripped the steering wheel and prayed my car would stay on the road. After a forty-five minute commute, instead of the usual 15, I walked gingerly across the ice-covered parking lot, grumbling to myself.

When the bell rang, only one third of my students were present. School was in session, but little was accomplished because so few attended. Not a drop covered the bottom of my glass. Frustrated and tired, I fretted and complained. After school, I left early to beat the afternoon traffic. Still grumbling and complaining, I scraped windows in the bitter cold. As I pulled out of the parking lot, however, my attitude changed. At last, I began to see my glass full.

The low winter, late afternoon sun shone through the ice-covered world, changing the landscape into a magical fairyland. The dried winter grasses sparkled in the sun. The squares of ice-coated wire on the roadside fences glimmered and gleamed. The trees sparkled like huge crystal sculptures. Everything danced with light. Finally, I focused on what filled my glass. I forgot my frustrations and complaints as I viewed this breathtakingly beautiful world! All I could do was thank God and marvel at His winter beauty.

My spirits lifted and I rejoiced in the crystal world. I thought how my glass-half-empty, whiny attitude had clouded the entire day. With the light dancing on the ice, I drove home, thankful for so much: a good job, a warm house, a reliable car, and a God who opens my eyes to see beauty in every situation. His light shone through my grumbling, complaining attitude, letting me rejoice in the half-full glass. Joy shattered my complaints like ice crystals breaking off the tree branches.