These winter renewal ideas for your soul use the beauty of God’s creation, Scripture and prayer to renew a sense of peace when your soul feels frazzled.
Find Front Row Seats to the Splendor of Winter and Allow God to Bring Scripture to Your Heart
The “great conjunction”, the alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the fall and winter of 2020 is a spectacular astronomical event. Kelly and I sat huddled under sleeping bags on a beach front at Lake of the Arbuckles in Chickasaw National Park, and had front row seats as first Jupiter, then Saturn appeared over the horizon in the southwestern sky. We had the place to ourselves. The only sounds heard were from a raft of ducks settling down for the night, and the frogs starting their evening song.
It was just after sunset when we had arranged ourselves, chairs, blanket, and sleeping bags to face the sky and watch the show.
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9 NIV)
This particular night was of significance to me because it was a promise to myself that I had kept. I had determined to be outside on the night of the Winter Solstice and celebrate the longest night of the year, because it means that the days will now begin to get longer, ushering in the bountiful bloom of Spring.
Kelly and I watched the stars come out of their daily slumber and light up the night sky in the formations that God fashioned at the creation of the universe. As darkness consumed the night sky, we laid on the ground to look straight up and watched as several satellites moved across the constellations. For the first time in my life I saw four “shooting stars” in the same night. It is truly amazing what can be seen in a clear sky away from the ambient light of the city.
As Kelly and I lay on the ground bundled against the cold night, I could not get over the sense of peace that came over me. We had logged close to six miles of hiking in one day. It was almost like we had the national park to ourselves as we wandered across the prairie lands of Chickasaw, and picnicked on the side of the trail. As I watched the stars, and scanned for satellites, I was reminded of my Winter Solstice tradition and began to thank God for allowing me to enjoy such a day, not to mention the incredible view of the stars, with Kelly.
Be Still and Allow God to Bring Peace into Your Soul
Peace. My soul longed for peace. For this shortest day and longest night of the year, I had a measure of peace. My soul rested. My eyes took in the vast display of God’s handiwork. My mind slowed down as I concentrated on just making the trek up and down the trail we followed.
Earlier in the day, we watched as a nine-banded armadillo foraged for food. I had never seen a live armadillo out in the wilderness. Again, the Father reminded me of another verse of Scripture; words spoken by the Son of Righteousness to a mountain-side gathering of his followers:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25-30 NET)
We walked by tall stalks of wild grass. Some had puffs of white on top of them resembling the seeds of a Dandelion that children love to blow. We saw bushes with red berries, winter flowers on plants we couldn’t name, and yet, as much effort as God put into creation, He was more concerned with calming my soul.
Put Yourself Where You Can Make Your Plans and Allow God’s Plan to Unfold
Dear reader, even though Kelly and I planned for a relaxing trip to hike and enjoy the beauty of creation in its winter slumber, God had planned to bring peace to my frazzled soul. It was Kelly’s idea to bring the sleeping bags to use against the cold. It was God’s idea to show me the vast expanse of sky that we watched for a couple of hours, and bring me a level of peace I had not known in a long time.
I had told myself that every Winter Solstice would be my personal “New Year’s Day.” I kept that promise to myself. God used the occasion to remove the trepidations that had been working on me for a long time.
As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossae:
“Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15 NET, emphasis mine)
Take a moment to reflect: When was the last time you offered a silent prayer of thanks for everything God was giving me in your life? When was the last time you encountered God in such a way that you felt peace wash over you?
“For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6 NET)
“Deceit is in the heart of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.” (Proverbs 12:20 NET)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7 NET)
Thank God for All He Has Done for You During the Past Year
As we begin this new year, take some time to do a couple of things. First, if you haven’t done so already, take some time to thank God for everything He has done over the past year. Yes, I know that it has been hard for many, but God did not change. He was unaffected by anything that happened to us or because of us. He is still the same. He is still a good father, and still loves His children. Second, take some time to allow God to bring His peace to your life. This means getting away from social media, getting away from streaming videos or watching TV, and getting away from everything that will inhibit your ability to focus on God. I can tell you that because we were on a “date”, Kelly and I weren’t looking at our phones. We were being just the two of us on this outing, and this decision made the time star-gazing that much better. I can also attest that experiencing God’s peace was made possible by putting aside the distractions.
Is it time to take a look at your life and make a list of distractions? Is it time to take a look around at where you are in life and evaluate your daily routine? I would suggest that it’s time to let go of distractions and find the peace that God offers.
Prayer for Renewal of Your Soul
My prayer for you, dear reader, for the new year are the words found in Paul’s second letter to the Church at Thessalonica:
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16 NET)
If you are searching for peace, pray this prayer with me:
“God, I am in need of your peace. There is no one else who can give me peace in my life like You can give. There is no thing in my life that can give peace like You can give. Take my distracted, scarred, and wounded soul and repair it with Your peace that passes all understanding. Renew Your life within me. Shepherd my soul into and through this new year, and may my heart give you praise for everything you have done and everything you will do in and through me. In the name of Jesus I pray all of this, amen
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