Aspen Grove in Winter
David Brock of Redmond, OR, USA
Agree with God, and be at peace; in this way good will come to you. -Job 22:21
In the slanted sunlight of the short days of winter we see a forest unclothed. Gone are the green canopy of summer and the gold of autumn. A few shrunken leaves cling to otherwise bare branches, but most are now a matted blanket we walk on, gradually turning the color of the earth they’re going back to.
This ensemble of wood and wind, playing in leaves and branches through summer and fall, now stands in profound silence. A distant V of geese speaks its name, a field mouse rustles briefly below the leaves, a lone deer lifts its head then bounds past, but mostly the sound is silence. “No bird song, no whistle in the wind, no crackle of a twig …” (Martin Marty and Micah Marty, The Promise of Winter, Eerdman’s Publishing, 1997).
We come to this quiet sanctuary because in its fallow season the forest teaches us the rhythms of our life with God. In other seasons we work to extend the canopy of peace so God can heal and shelter the whole creation. We serve and think, witness and teach, problem solve and proclaim. We put the hands and feet and voice and heart of Christ’s body into action.
But the season of bare branches is a stripping away and emptying time; a preparing and waiting time; a receptive, renewing, receiving time. Trees know when to rest. They know when to stand unprotected and attentive beneath God’s holy tent. In this vulnerable place one can see beyond and within; see and receive more of God’s dream of peace than ever before.
We need the arrested activity of winter. Winter invites us to drop slowly into a quiet, barren place; to be stripped of much of the outer self, to “Sit still, O my body, like an icy pond frozen at attention, at rest yet alert” (Edward Hays, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim, Forest of Peace, 2008).
A forest of trees beneath the infinity of space calls us to bow to a power greater than ourselves; to un-know what we thought we knew…and to trust! We may falter and fail, but the One who encounters us in winter’s silence can be trusted.
God with us.
Take time each day in this season to notice what feels most alive in you. Spend some time holding the feeling, and ask what it may be trying to tell you about the Spirit at work in your life. Notice what it may be forming in you. Pay attention to where it may lead. How can what is most life-giving reveal the presence and invitation of God in and around us.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
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