A New Soul

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The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul.

– G.K. Chesterton

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Mt. Baker in December

We have had considerable winter already in the northwest with a white Christmas that soon melted away and then snowfall again on New Year’s Eve. It has been beautiful – a welcome change from our typical winter rain and mud-fest. It is natural to desire an overnight transformation of the old and dirty to something new and beautiful:  an all clean pristine white cottony sheet covering thrown over everything making it look completely different than before.

Similarly, at the tick of the clock past midnight on New Years’ Eve, we hope for just such an inner transformation as well, a fresh start, a leaving behind of the not-so-good from the past and moving ahead to the surely-it’ll-be-better in the future.

But it usually doesn’t stick, despite a flurry of good intentions and a skiff of newness plopped down here and there.  Even if we find ourselves in the midst of blizzard conditions, unable to see six inches ahead and immobilized by the furious storms of life,  that accumulation eventually will melt, leaving behind even more mud and raw mess.

It isn’t how flawless, how clean, or how new this year will be, but rather how to ensure our soul transformation stays whole and pure, unmelting from within, even when the heat is turned up and the sweat drips.  This is not about a covering thrown over the old and dirty but a full blown overhaul in order to never to be the same mess again.

I lift my eyes to the hills where the snow stays year round: sometimes more,  with a few hundred new inches over several weeks, or sometimes less,  on the hottest days of summer.  Our new souls this new year must be built of that same resiliency, withstanding what each day may bring, cold or hot.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…transformation that sticks within my soul.

 

Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow.
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
~James Nicholson (hymn chorus)

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Mt. Baker in August

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Listening to Lent — Whiter Than Snow

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Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.

Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.

Asperges me hysopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.

Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.

Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.

Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.
Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.

Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam.
Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.

Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.

Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.
Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta:
tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.
~Allegri’s Miserere — setting of Psalm 51

Translation:
Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness
According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offenses.

Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight:
that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged.

Behold, I was shaped in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.

Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness:
that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.

Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.

Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.

O give me the comfort of Thy help again: and establish me with Thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach Thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.

Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou that art the God of my health:
and my tongue shall sing of Thy righteousness.
Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew Thy praise.

For Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: but Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise.

O be favorable and gracious unto Sion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness,
with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon Thine altar.

 

Every day, as the sun goes down,
I pause to remember how often I messed up that day,
in big and small ways.
My mistakes seem illuminated,
weighing down my heart, and impossible to forget.
Yet, as I pray like David did in Psalm 51,
as I pray for mercy,
there follows a peacefulness at the end of the day,
as my errors are blotted out,
covered over by the descent of the night.
The slate, one more time,
is wiped clean,
whiter than snow.

I remember, once again,
as new morning dawns,
there is renewal,
there is cleansing brightness,
a promise provided within each new day.

I am given another chance to get it right.

Lenten Meditation: Whiter Than Snow

Psalm 51:7

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

It was a bright December day, she remembered, a great day for a snow shoeing trek near Artist’s Point, eat lunch, then head home.  All three college students wound their way slowly around the base of Table Mountain, enjoying a final day together before parting for the long Christmas break.

The avalanche came without warning; a sudden low rumble, then building to a roar, and the ground was moving beneath them, rolling them over and over helplessly in a wave of white that carried them down the slope.  It swooshed over top of them, everything awash in white.  There was no way to know up from down, and when finally coming to rest, the white became black, still, and suffocating.

Remembering her avalanche survival course, she waved her arms in front of her as hard as she could, creating a small open pocket beneath her face as she found herself bent forward, hunched into a folded crouched position.  There was a sense of light coming through the snow above her, but nothing but black below.  She tried to force her way up through the snow, to push her way out but it weighted her down like concrete blocks.  There was no moving from the small space that contained her.

She realized she was trapped and began to panic.  She tried to shout but her voice too was entombed in snow.

So she began to pray.   She prayed for her safety, for calmness, for a rescue, she prayed for her two friends, she prayed for her parents.  She remembered relaxing as she spoke to God, sensing Him in the darkness with her, knowing He was the only one to know where she was at that moment. He had found her.

Growing colder, she was unable to feel her feet or hands any longer.  She was fading; she tried to stay awake by praying harder, but it was no use.

_________

Sometime later she felt herself being pulled into the light, heard excited voices shouting, and then she was being carried on a stretcher.  In the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, she began to talk to her rescuers as they warmed her with blankets, and once her skin softened, they put warm intravenous fluids in her veins.  By the time she arrived in the emergency room, her face had some color, though her feet were blue, her toes white and completely numb.

It wasn’t until later that she was clear enough to ask about her friends.   One was the reason she had been rescued.  He had fought his way through his snow covering and thereby freeing himself, had gone for help.  With the help of dogs, she had been found.  Her third friend was still missing.

As she mentioned to a nurse what a close call she had, being buried under two feet of heavy snow for several minutes, and surviving relatively unscathed,  the nurse stopped what she was doing and looked at her oddly.

“Don’t you know?  You were buried for almost 24 hours before they found you! It’s amazing you are alive at all and look at you, barely a mark on you, only a little frostbite!”

A miracle whiter than snow.

based on a true story of avalanche survival near Mount Baker by two WWU students.  The third student perished.