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In fall, I seldom think about the naked branches beneath the turning leaves. But, eventually and almost without my noticing, all the leaves will be gone (some still cling), decomposing into the soil.



And there they are—the denuded branches, stiff and clacking in the cold. This process of dying finds all of us.



So, winter comes and not without our complaints (except for those of us who love the snow and fires). This week I’ve been looking past the leaves and into their winter, into my winter. What is my winter?



Does winter equal personal pain? Breaking relationships; fear of the unknown; stresses of parenting; rage birthed from the undisciplined attitude? I think winter can symbolize pain.



But winter’s death is much more than the bleak times of life.



Winter moves in rhythm with the earth. The earth moves to the rhythm of God. Our hemisphere tilts away from the sun, the air clears, a more complete light blasts through our atmosphere, the sunsets blaze and the sunrises vault though the sun itself bends solstice low. In winter nature sleeps, driven into itself by the cold. Roots reach while snow and ice enchant the grey ridgelines.



The rhythm of the human winter mysteriously heals and deepens us; it strips us of our veneers so that we can stand and clack before God—the true us. We dive into the dark, hard soil of life; in cold corners we cower. We walk out into elements unkind. But walking does not end winter; no amount of hope can. Winter must pass; for it has its time.



Brothers and sisters, pull tight the pea coat, blanket or cowl and walk into the cold. Though God allows grief he does not afflict from his heart. Remember, though, the progression—the cross comes before resurrection. And so winter must pass. Remember, too, that His compassions are new each day (Lamentations 3:21-33). And this alone strengthens our stride.



One foot, in front, of the other. Step, again. Now, once more. Walk, clack, repeat.



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Winter preserves and strengthens a tree. Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth. In winter a tougher more resilient life is firmly established. Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish.



So often we hide our true condition with the surface virtues of pious activity, but, once the leaves of our frantic pace drop away, the transforming power of a wintry spirituality of a wintry spirituality can have effect.



—Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding The Hearts True Home



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— We Clack Before God http://bit.ly/YePZRw

Timothy Willard loves to sit with his wife by the bonfire and make up stories about Tom the Backyard-Badger for his three lovely daughters. When he's not carving up the Appalachian Mountains on his Salsa El Mariachi, you can find him busy writing a book, collaborating on a book, or reading a book written by someone dead and gone. Timothy studied beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis under theologian Alister McGrath. The author of five books, including Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society (Zondervan), Timothy is currently finishing The Life-Changing Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019), preparing his doctoral thesis for publication, and trying to find a publisher for his first novel The Tempest and the Bloom. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.