In now 64 years, like you I have witnessed the wind in a thousand different settings. I felt it in my face as we sledded down the hill near the cemetery in Omaha, with our great-grandfather. I heard and felt it blow through the sunburst pines in the woods of South Carolina. It has blown constantly on the beaches of Myrtle Beach, California, Hawaii, Queensland, Australia, and the Mediterranean near Tyre in Israel. It blew around me in Okinawa, and at the DMZ between South and North Korea. We enjoyed the breezes at the Old Faithful Lodge at Yellowstone, and as we walked around Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills. It blew around me at Times Square, and as I stood waiting for the El in Chicago. It was strong and hot as we had our picture taken by the big Texas State sign as we came into the state, and down at Corpus Christi. Oh, and don’t forget Cabo, or Jamaica, where it had a near musical quality to it.
Of course, the champion of all wind blowing in my book is claimed by the record holder in the Red River Valley in North Dakota. In a place where it seems you can count the trees on one hand, the wind winds up for the pitch in Northern Alberta, and then fires the blast for hundreds of miles until it reaches our front yard. Of course, back in the 30s, it picked up most of the topsoil and shoved it under the drafty doors and windows of the prairie homes. Fortunately there is a bit more conservation now a days, but I remember even in the 70s when the winds would mix the topsoil with the snow, and blow the dirty mess over everything and everyone, so that when you came inside, you now only had snow on you, but what we called “snirt,” which would melt into muddy pools on the floor.
This morning, as the sun is rising, you can see the branches of the bushes and the trees acting as if they dancing to a Bee Gees hit, shaking and bobbing to the invisible music. The winds have come for the next couple of days to the Dakotas winter. It’s actually a deadly beast, because it brings the words more hated than “blizzard,” or “ice on the road.” The “wind chill” is actually a pretty benign title for the thing that happens. It sounds like something that keeps your ice tea cool, but in essence it is far worse. It changes the whole feeling as you go outside. I know it may seem silly to you when on a nice day we say, “Wow, it’s up to 25 degrees!” as we sometimes don’t even zip up our coats, and walk leisurely to go check the mail. When the wind chills are larger numbers, it’s always going the wrong way – the negative, below zero numbers climb as the wind blows harder and harder. I took Cheri to work this morning, and the first ten steps out our door was fine. It was 5 degrees at that time, but then we walked past the corner of the garage, and both of us lost our breath. The wind was gusting from the north at about 35 mph, but it created a wind chill – the way it feels – of about -25. That’s cold, and it promises to get worse as the day goes on.
Two things normally happen at this temperature: one, the kids probably won’t be able to go out for recess, although it’s surprising, after a morning cooped up in class, how sometimes no one checks to see what the wind chill actually is, and so they open the doors and gently toss the children outside to work some of the cabin fever off. Secondly, we tend to hear more planes take off, heading south with those who can afford to say goodbye to the north, and find the warm breezes of the south.
Language follows each culture, so in the south folks will talk about “sultry summers,” and perfect spring days in the Midwest, which is Ohio for some reason. It’s interesting that up here, people will refer to a “brisk morning,” or the need to “brace yourselves for the north wind” as you try to hang on to your car door if you park in the wrong direction, so that it nearly rips it off by the hinges. It’s not a gentle land when you have to “brace yourself.”
The good news is, this winter it seems as though our wind chill days have been fewer, and farther apart. Like I said, two days of bitter cold, and then we get to warm up to about 25 again. Of course, it will be just in time for the next snowstorm, but it’s almost February, and that means after March, and Easter, we indeed may start to leave a coat behind, and not have to start the car 10 minutes before we want to go somewhere.
Please know I’m not complaining – just describing. I have sat down with shorts on a black vinyl car seat in the middle of a “sultry” South Carolina afternoon in the summer, and truly wondered if I would be able to keep any of the skin from the back of my thighs that now seemed to be permanently sealed to the vinyl. I have also had to drive through flooded streets in New Orleans, carefully watching for manhole covers floating off, in the middle of driving rains. Each of us has our own very “special” weather that we get to own, don’t we? I just share mine today, because it’s a good reminder to me of just how little we can control what happens.
Of course, as I have said so many times – it’s not what happens to us that matters. Even weather, or other things out of our control and sway. It is instead what we do with what happens to us that really makes the difference, from our behavior, to our reactivity and anxiety, to our resilience, and ability to adapt to a quick change or an upheaval to our lives. What we do may indeed not determine the outcome, but it will certainly determine how we live out and cope with the windchills that come to our lives.
Of course, that begins with how we pray. If we are able to move our hearts and minds into a gentler state, a more flexible and again, adaptive way of seeing the world, by offering all we are to God, knowing that from start to finish we are in God’s care, and there are much worse things than wind chill, or any other “thing” that’s thrown at us, then indeed, we will find the path to a serene life, to a more joyful life, and to a stronger, face-the-mess- head on kind of life. Then indeed we will know the victory that is ours in Christ.
Saying for the day: sour grapes. When we hear someone (certainly not us!) grumbling or muttering because they didn’t get their way, or things didn’t quite turn out the way they wanted, we may often say that it’s all a matter of “sour grapes.” What we may not realize is that we are quoting the end of an Aesop’s fable. You remember the one, don’t you, where a fox attempts to eat the grapes off a grapevine, and after eating the low-hanging ones, he tries to reach the ones up higher. He leaps and leaps and finally wears himself out, failing to pull down the ones that are simply beyond his grasp.
His response: “Well,” said the fox, “I’ll bet those grapes way up there are probably sour! Who would ever want those anyway!” When “someone” grumbles about what they do not have, or were not given, it’s a matter of sour grapes.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.