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IN THE CARPENTER’S WORKSHOP: Warm

These words are written on one of the coldest days of this year, and it seemed to me that warm thoughts which can thaw the most frozen of hearts should be set forth.  Only God can do this.

He can bring us healing, hope, even a smile when we discover his wonderful plans and our part in making them happen.  This warmth is more than anything the world might offer, but while we are here on earth, let’s do warm with God.

God sent warmth, or love, or faith, or all of the above, so that we could bring that warmth to others.  This is why we are created.  Whenever we are tempted to keep that warmth for ourselves, we are using it wrong.

For instance, backing up to a warm fireplace, with the logs crackling inside in the coldest of winter is warming from the outside in.  But sharing that fire, telling the stories, feeding those who are hungry, that is the essence of warm.

Henri Nouwen, a Catholic teacher who gave up a prominent position to spend his life helping the disabled, wrote,” When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”

He is right.  Those are the people who have meant the most to me. Parents, family, friends, teachers who have warmed my heart with encouragement and faith, they are the ones who went above and beyond to share that warmth because of how they were made.

I believe God made us warm, but we fell from warmth because of our own selfishness and desire to be like God.  If God indeed made us in his own image, he is warm as well.  He warms the earth with the sunshine and warms the soul with his holy spirit.

One way to begin to overflow that warmth to others is to think warm thoughts.  Like Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money,” we can find perspective which rises above all pettiness and shortsightness.

In the midst of tyranny, he and other citizens looked beyond the present to what a new country could be.  Instead of putting up with the way things had always been, an atmosphere of cold and indifferent government, they saw, sought and made a warm way which became the United States of America.

John the gospel writer tells of  Peter warming himself by the fire in the temple courtyard after he had betrayed Jesus.  When asked if he knew Jesus, he replied with an oath.   His heart had been warmed by the Savior Jesus, but it was not until later, after God’s holy spirit came upon him and the others at Pentecost, that this warmth became permanent and world-changing.

Fellowship, gathering together with other believers, is a good thing.  It brings warmth as well.  

Paul the apostle in his life had seen the coldness and difficulty of life.  He was shipwrecked, stoned with heavy rocks, run out of town, beaten, imprisoned for his faith.  So when he wrote these simple words, “ At Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly,” it was in context with all of these other receptions.

When we receive a cold reception, no matter where  it might be, things can get awkward.  We feel not wanted, and tend to back away.

Warmth is something the church should seek to find in mammoth proportions. We should stockpile it,  deliver it by the truckload, the trainload. When people walk in the door they should find holy warmth.  We should export warm, exude warm, and overflow warm  in community and world.

I don’t think Terry Pratchett was talking about faith when he came up with the following thought, but it finally applies.

“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day,” he writes. “Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

That’s what Jesus did.  He called ordinary fishermen, doctors and tax collectors to join him in fishing for men and women who seek the warmth of eternal life.  They didn’t need earthly fires to warm that spirit, even though gathering around a fire and telling stories can warm hearts of kindred souls.

I send warm thoughts your way and pray for God to fan into flame those embers of hope and love which wait to burn within you. This holy process, which warms even hearts of stone which never thought they could believe, is a blessing beyond description.

Paul the Apostle sent a warm greeting in his letter to the Corinthian church.  “Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house,” goes the message.

To what end?   To reassure God’s people that care and faith do exist.  And to warm hearts which heretofore could never be warmed. 

Warmest regards.