Snowman on the Roof

Well, it is officially winter here in our nation’s capital.  Here in northern Virginia, we had our first measurable snowfall last week (a full inch – I’ll wait for those of you reading this in the Midwest to pick your jaws up from the floor).  This was, of course, accompanied by hysterical weather forecasters warning of the impending end of civilization, and the brave citizenry buying out local supermarkets of bread, water, beer, and other staples of life.  (I have often joked that if terrorists wanted to shut down our nation’s capital, they should forget about their nuclear weapons programs and instead divert their time and resources to finding a way to make it snow on command.  We’d be speaking Korean or Farsi in Washington by the end of the year.)

Snowman_Blueprint_cropThere was once a time when the the mention of snow didn’t inspire thoughts of dread and doom.  Instead, a forecast of snow brought with it the promise of new adventures.

Such were the heady days of junior high.  Creativity flourished and the usual daily responsibilities were postponed upon hearing the most beautiful two words of the English language: “Snow day.”

So it was for a certain redheaded eighth grader growing up in southwestern Ohio.  The promise of multiple inches of snow had come to fruition, and I was lying in bed, listening to my radio, waiting to hear my school’s name among the litany of closings.  Finally, the announcement I longed to hear: “Tri-County Christian Schools, closed.”

A moment earlier, I was too tired to budge from my nice warm bed.  Now, with a renewed vigor that can come only from the promise of a day without school, I jumped from the covers and pulled open the blinds, revealing a winter wonderland, softly illuminated by the slow-rising sun.

The mind raced with possibilities.  Was today a day to trek down to the park to try out our new sleds?  Perhaps my brothers and I could organize a massive snowball fight for all the kids in the neighborhood.  Would the local pond be frozen enough for a good game of broomball?  The menu was limited only by the imagination.

I looked out my second-story bedroom window, which overlooked an attached one-story garage.  A pristine blanket of new-fallen snow covered the roof of the garage.  The wind had caused some gentle drifting, creating a varying topography of hills and valleys across the expanse.  Looking back at it, the image seems quite beautiful.

But this is not how the mind of a 14-year-old boy thinks.

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The Agony of No Pain

The following article appears on the Prison Fellowship blog (my day job), and was originally written to appear in Inside Journal, a quarterly newspaper delivered to over 100,000 inmates nationwide.

A recently published article tells the story of Steven Pete.  Steven and his brother were both born with the rare genetic disorder congenital analgesia.  While Steven has the sense of touch, he is unable to experience anything that could be considered pain.

It is tempting to be envious of Steven.  Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a life free from hurt?  A life where you wouldn’t have to hesitate to try something that might result in discomfort, or worse?  Such a person wouldn’t have to fear the consequences of their actions, right?

As Steven states in the article, this is hardly the case.  In reality, everything he does is covered with the fear that he might do severe harm to himself without noticing it.  He tells the story of time he broke his leg at a roller-skating party, and didn’t realize it until he saw people pointing at him and his blood-soaked pants where the broken bone had actually come out of the skin.  Much of his childhood was spent at home or in hospitals recuperating from injuries that he never felt.

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Why the Incarnation Matters

A merry Christmas to everyone!  No, I am not late with that proclamation—it is, as I write this, the 10th day of Christmas.  (Be sure to go out and pick up your ten lords a-leaping while they are no doubt on sale.)  At least, this is what I plan to tell all those people who have yet to receive a Christmas card from me.

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Guido Remi
The Adoration of the Shepherds by Guido Remi

The holidays were enjoyably hectic at the Rempe house, which, I guess, is to be expected with three kids three and under.  Grace and Caleb have just recently bought into the seasonal hoopla, wanting to experience all the sights, sounds, and tastes that come with the holidays.  Grace in particular is going to be extremely disappointed when the Christmas tree is taken down, the decorations are removed, and the last of the Christmas cookies and candies are consumed.

To see Christmas through the eyes of a toddler is to be reminded how we all once viewed the holidays—the wide-eyed wonderment of tacky light displays; the top-of-the-lungs renditions of Christmas carols that have long since lost their significance to most grown-ups; the rapt attention viewing 50-year-old, poorly animated holiday specials.  Just watching Grace and Caleb embrace the season brings to mind memories of Christmas past, and the warmth that comes with a remembrance of a simpler, more innocent time.

It is this backdrop that makes the horrendous events that took place in Connecticut last month all the more gut-wrenching.  No doubt most of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School were preparing for their own holiday celebrations and family traditions.  Gifts had been purchased, decorations hung, plans made—all rendered moot by an unthinkable, evil act.

While the parents of the slain children mourn, those of us who are parents elsewhere are forced to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions.  What if my child was among the lost?  How would I respond?  Would I be able to offer any comfort or encouragement to those who had lost a child?  And perhaps most importantly, where was God in the midst of this suffering?

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