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Oikos mou in winter

December 27, 2008
July 10, 2009 will mark the 500th anniversary of the birthday of John Calvin, theological architect of the Reformation. At our house, we are engaged in ongoing celebration.
Appropriately, each Saturday, as well as Christmas and New Year’s Day, my husband diligently brings the shower in our smaller bathroom closer to other, if less spiritual, aspirations of Western civilization: an effective flow of hot water effusing from a usable faucet, and a dry sub-floor.



We had more snow this winter than we have had in the 16 winters we have lived in the environs of Puget Sound. Our winters typically are temperate affairs, sometimes with some cold weather and a dusting of snow, and always with frequent rain. Every January has featured green grass that needed mowing. This winter, snow buried the leaves before we could rake the second windfall. In this year’s battle among many competing entropy fronts, the lawn lost rather badly.

The kids in our neighborhood won big. Snow days parlayed into an extra week of winter break. I was impressed at how prepared their families were: they all had boots, winter gear, and sleds. Our quiet, unplowed street was in use by sleds, a couple of snowmobiles, and a few intrepid drivers–including ourselves–in competent vehicles. One of our neighbors shoveled his driveway in shorts. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen him wearing anything else. I think Jim thinks slacks are for wimps. In any case, there’s nothing like eight inches of snow to bring out the neighbors, laughing and telling one another about the really cold places they’ve lived. I think snow is a good thing: it reminds us to prepare and then adjust when we must.

My Cat, Coolidge, too precious to go outside, looks out at the snow from his usual windows without perceptible wonder. Preparation and adjustment are not issues in his life. He is an existential creature. If thwarted, he fusses. If nothing changes, the world simply begins anew for the moment. His paws have never touched snow. He was a feral kitten, born in late spring, rescued at four weeks. The outdoors brought nothing good his way. We promised to provide him an indoor home and have kept our word. He monitors things from a series of windows that give him a 360-degree territorial view of his domain. I open windows year round so he can enjoy the fresh air. I can’t know how he interprets the snow he sees. He has no referent for snow. He has no reference for the idea of snow as a metaphoric whiteness that blots out David’s sin (Psalm 51:7).

I aspire to read more about Calvin’s life in the soon-coming year, as well as more of his own writings. A humble servant of the Gospel and his fellowmen, he was loved and hated, frail and formidable, righteous and fallible. In particular, I hope to read at least portions of Calvin’s Commentaries on the Psalms. Calvin regarded the Psalms as the Scriptural key to prayer:

“In short, as calling upon God is one of the principal means of securing our safety, and as a better and more unerring rule for guiding us in this exercise cannot be found elsewhere than in The Psalms, it follows, that in proportion to the proficiency which a man shall have attained in understanding them, will be his knowledge of the most important part of celestial doctrine.” (Baker, Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. IV, The Author’s Preface, xxxvii)

See how snow emboldens aspiration.


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