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Posted Friday, January 4, 2013, at 3:03 PM

Watching out the window, the world was changing right in front of her eyes. The dry, dead leaves disappeared. Grass that has lost the green gloss of summer health faded. The world had gone from a world of color to sepia tones of gray and brown.

Now, the world was changing again. Moist flakes of white filled the sky, floating slowly and covering everything in their path. The world was becoming white and bathed in a light of bluish white that filled the night sky. It was beautiful to watch--the world being cleansed.

The next morning, as she looked out upon a world swept clean, the light sparkled from the snow. Wherever light touched a rainbow of color refracted from the snow flakes. It almost seemed as if the world was covered in diamonds. The beauty of it took her breathe away. All was beautiful.

Watching her dogs romp in the snow brought laughter to her lips. The pup would try to run, ended up tripping and rolling in the snow until she looked like a giant snow ball. Then she leapt from drift to drift as the older dogs ran around burrowing their noses in the cold, wet, white stuff trying to find their various toys or favorite "spots" in the yard. They were full of energy and played hard.

Neighbors could be heard shoveling their walks, starting cars, calling out to each other. Smoke could be seen lazily rising from chimneys and flues--disappearing into the cold crisp air. The fresh snow somehow bound them together.

Slowly, cars began to move along the streets. They left oddly comforting lines in the snow--as if connecting the fresh to the old. As more people began to stir and move about, the plows came through scraping the cleansing insulation from the street; leaving in its wake a combination of the clean with the dirty underside revealed. Greats chunks of frozen earth, snow, leaves, and dirt edged the side of the roadway. Exhaust fumes colored the snow. The fresh, clean state was dimming.

Mounds began to take shape again as plants, shrubs, or odds and ends in the yard. As the snow melted from the coats of the outdoor animals they lost their other worldliness. The world began to reclaim its shape. Yet somehow it was changed.

The moisture from the snow melted deep into the earth, nourishing the roots of the dormant plants. Water levels in streams and ponds slowly rose, moving the life giving source of water to those who needed it. Grime was washed from the land as the snow bathed it with its tender ministrations. All was changed--even if only slightly and difficult for the human eye to see.

If only attitudes, prejudices, bigotries, and misconceptions were so easily changed. We speak of our desire for peace; for a better world; for the pursuit of happiness. We speak of love--both to receive and give. We speak of community in which we are valued. We speak of a better world.

The feelings of good will toward mankind blanket us in the warmth and clean like the new fallen snow--for a few moments. We make a few strides toward unity; toward peace; and then we pause. Someone or something plows through our good intentions; the ugliness underneath is exposed. We lose our grasp on the warm, mellow blanket of good will.

We have a choice. Return to our base or allow the nurture to soak into our roots so that we grow and change. We can harden ourselves and only see the negative--shoveling, hard work, slipperiness, inconvenience, a change in routine. We can allow ourselves to embrace change; look at someone in a different light; find our points of similarity; consider another's welfare as well as our own; or seek the good in others.

God has made us all. Whether we share the same skin tone, facial features, ideological perspectives, or thought processes, we are all made in the image of God. The image of God is good. There is always good within us, worthy of redemption--no matter how badly we have behaved.

God's love . . . God's goodness gently surrounds us, like snow blanketing the earth and makes all things new. Rather than fighting against the elements, life is easier when we work with them. Instead of complaining about the snow, perhaps we should to see the beauty, enjoy it and work with it. Perhaps instead of complaining about the evil in the world we should look for the goodness of God and nurture that--in everyone.

God, we are easily confused when we see so many bad things. We lose sight of you in the grubbiness of inexplicable actions of violence, disasters, and hate for one another. Wrap us in your arms of love and open our eyes to your goodness, love, and compassion. Help us to allow you to be the cleansing snow in our lives so that we may see the good within each of your creations. Teach us to nurture one another and live in peace. So be it. Amen.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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