The weather just keeps toying with your emotions, doesn’t it. On the weekend, you go outside in your short sleeved football jersey before the game, and it feels nice. You think about all the things that you’ll do next week and the weeks to come, now that it’s finally getting warm. Then Monday comes, and you forget what the word warm means. When the snow started falling at Lakeshore Monday afternoon, it didn’t seem like the kind of snow that would keep students and civil servants out of work all week, but you know what they say about looks and deception.
The Conference’s Licensing School for Local Ministers was here for most of the week. This is a class giving education to lay leaders who are getting into the ministry to serve as a local pastor or part-time pastor. This lays the foundation for them. The pastors got to do a lot of walking in the snow, because there was no other option for getting to the dining hall once the snow dropped. It was nice sitting in that warm dining hall around the table with this group, beginning this new step of their lives, hearing the stories of parents and grandparents that inspired them to this work, among many other topics of conversation.
The snow and ice was so thick for a few days that the kitchen staff couldn’t make it in to prepare meals. Martha, packed an overnight bag, snuggled up on the couch in the Administration Building, and had a camp sleepover. The next morning, Martha, Bill, my wife Allyson (who was also off work), and I teamed up to make breakfast. During that time, I took our dog, Digby, outside for a bathroom break. I was walking on the road that circles the hill. I was looking out onto the river, which is so blue right now with the white snow backdrop. I could hear gulls and ducks in the distance. Suddenly, I heard a bird noise that was definitely not one of the birds I’m used to hearing. They seemed to come quick out of nowhere, then perched right on the branch of a tree in front of me–two bald eagles. It is the closest I have ever been to a bald eagle, and here were two just yards from me. I was very still. Somehow, Digby realized it was in his best interest to be quiet as well. I watched them, amazed, for a few minutes. I could see them ruffling their white tail feathers, turning their heads back and forth to observe the landscape that they are king and queen of.
I had to share this with the rest of the staff, so I backed very slowly down the road, up the steps near the gazebo, and into the sunroom. Martha and Allyson got to catch a very good view of them both before they glided away towards Eva Beach. Martha said, “I know it’s going to be a good day today. We haven’t even eaten breakfast, and I’ve already seen two bald eagles.”
We had two big snows this week. One was slushy and stuck to everything. You can tell which way the wind blew by the snow plastered on the west side of the trees. The next was a dry, cold snow. This snow is like cold, dry sand. You kick it, and it flies like beach sand. I walked on the waterfront beach after this snow storm, and it was only slightly different from walking in the sand after we’ve just had a brand new load of sand delivered. I stood there for a time, looking at that deep blue water, feeling that cold wind from the river, hearing the crunch of the snow under my feet.
I love being the first to walk through after a good snow. You can track every living thing that has been through since the snow. Those marks are where two squirrels in chase, came down from one tree and crossed the ground to another. This space is where songbirds searched the ground for something to take up to their nests. Allyson and I followed fox prints that led to and ended in a culvert of a driveway near our house. You can see all these stories in your mind from these tracks. This weekend, the snow will melt, even from the deepest reaches of the woods. It will climb back to the 60s and many will pray that this is the start of spring, no looking back. Before we know it, it will be July, and we, in our sweat and sunburn, may think back to these times and take comfort in the memories of cold noses and ears.
Many of these stories will stick in our minds, though the prints melt away. We will glamorize the stories we like, keeping what we want to keep and throwing out what we don’t like–it’s all perspective, right? But, some of these things, there is no doubt. Like that time in a worship when everything makes sense and you know without doubt there is a God in this moment and you know no better feeling. We have seen glimpses of this even in the frustration of schedules and plans thrown out by snow. We don’t know what we’ll do about those missed days or maybe even how we’ll get home tonight if the car won’t move. But, something tells us today will be a good day. There were two bald eagles just outside our window.
This weekend, we are doing a Confirmation Retreat for youth in the Conference. Many pastors, youth directors, and district superintendents are helping us out. Be in prayer for the process these young people have committed to. Hope your weekend is a nice one.