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Freezing up

Freezing up

There will be days when the object of my prayerful attention will be a subtle thing – a slight movement, an overheard word, the surprise of color. This was not one of those days.

From the moment I ease out of my car in the center of my small, Pennsylvania town and the bitter cold snatches me in its teeth, there is but one thing to think about. It is gaspingly frigid. Aggressively cold. It is a malevolent force that demands to be personified. Or beastified, as William Blake does in his poem about winter:

Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.

I am forced to think about our frailty. When I scuttle back to the car after five minutes, my painful hands are too cold to fish the keys out of my pocket, so I tuck them under my legs to warm. It is an amazing thing that we generate our own heat – a miracle we take for granted.

But how quickly our heat dissipates. How we have to clothe ourselves in the layers of our ingenuity to protect ourselves from winter’s touch. Were they to be stripped away, we would be desperate, indeed.

Given such a powerful lesson, I find my compassion rekindled for those who are out in the elements, without homes to shield them from this direful monster.


Lord, what frail creatures we are! Forgive us when we take for granted our warm coats, our insulated houses, and the furnaces inside our bodies. Care for those who are exposed to the elements – empower those who go to gather them, provide beds sufficient to the need. Bring them into the warmth. How can they know the radiance of your love if they are shivering in the cold?


Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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