There’s a chill in my bones. It has nothing to do with the unusual -6 degree weather in my city. It has nothing to do with the icy landscape that is my backyard or our front driveway. But somehow these things remind me of the chill I feel. A chill that sinks deeper than the cold on my skin. This chill sits in my spirit.
I never liked the cold. Growing up as a child in South Africa, my mom used to have a little electric heater in the kitchen in the winter. This is where she used to sit and write report cards or prepare lesson plans. She used to close the two doors into our small kitchen, so we could gather up as much heat as possible. Our kitchen had a laminate floor and a long fluorescent light that burned above a yellow formica table.
During the cold winters in the Cape, I would go to bed with a hot water bottle. My mom would put it inside our sheets a few minutes before bedtime, so by the time I crawled into bed, that one spot would be warm. It brought relief. A sense of shelter and comfort. It was warm enough, so I could fall asleep.
I hated getting out of bed on those cold winter mornings. I would dash to the bathroom, sit down on the cold toilet seat. I still shiver, just thinking about it. I can still feel the cold in our bathroom. How I would jump into the hot shower and hope the steam would fill up the room and warm it up a bit before I had to get out.
When I think of winter in South Africa, I still shiver. I remember it inside my body, like it is curled into me, an icy memory of a cold, cold time.
I feel a similar cold in our world right now.
Last month, some good friends went to Standing Rock to show solidarity and friendship and align with the vision and heart of the water protectors. They showed up with a group of faith leaders and army veterans.
One morning while they were there, they observed a water ceremony held by the Sioux women. Brian Nevins was there with his camera. Brad Corrigan emailed these photos along, wanting to spread the message of this sacred time at Standing Rock.
I sat with these photos for days. I was awed by the Life and colour displayed in them.
It’s impossible not to see the cold. Not to feel it in your bones.
For days, as I wondered how I could ever do justice to these images, I began to take notice of a rising in my own spirit. I watched as these women preached to me with their bodies and bright colours against the stark white landscape.
This is what they say to me: It is time to advance against the cold.
Can you feel the cold? Can you feel the icy weather, the wind, the temperatures so way below zero … dropping, dropping, deep deep down.
The elements are coming at us like Enemy. And yet, we stand.
We move into the cold. We gather the people. There are cold bodies here, but Love warms us. Love moves into the distances between us. Love lights the fires of friendship and solidarity.
These fires keep us burning.
These fires keep us standing.
We are the people, advancing against the cold.
We walk, we light fires, we gather. We pray. This is our active resistance against the cold. This is our bold resistance against the cold that wants to isolate us, freeze us and separate us from each other.
We refuse to give in to this cold.
We are human together. Even when we don’t agree and perhaps especially when we don’t agree, it’s time to carry the warmth of kindness and Love. O, how I wish we can remember this. And how our Jesus said, LOVE your enemies.
In this new year, I will continue to sit at my computer at 6am to pray as an act of resistance against the cold. (Join me on our SheLoves Facebook page starting again tomorrow morning (Wednesday) at 6am or play it at any time of the day.) My plan is to do so until our gathering on February 23-26.
In this new year, I hope you will join us at RiseUp, Sister to find warm conversation and strategies against the cold.
In this new year, I hope you will spread warmth and give warmth—a hug, a warm word of encouragement, an exchange of kindness.
In this new year, I hope you will nourish your own soul, too. One of my favourite places right now is a Facebook group created by Holly A. Grantham, called Cultivating Hygge. (She’s even told me how to pronounce it!) The speed at which this group is growing, tells me we are longing for warmth—not just for socks and scarves and fireplaces, but for the warmth between us as people. We long for community and gathering and a healing from harsh words. We long for fires of friendship kindled and sustained. We long for dreams to be stoked and for Love to melt the icy cold.
It may be a cold time, but we carry the warmth of Love inside of us. This Love is not just warm and fuzzy. This Love is for freezing temperatures and icy environments.
May we be inspired by our sisters and brothers at Standing Rock. May we carry the fire of Jesus, a rejected, despised and crucified Saviour, who gave everything to warm our cold, cold hearts.
Warm my heart, Lord. Help me advance against the Cold of hatred, apathy, judgement and self-righteousness. Help me to love You, myself, my neighbours and my enemies. Help me love those who are hardest to love. Help us to love each other across differences and ideas. Help us to find each other beyond the hard lines and ideologies we have drawn. Help us remember that we are Your children. Help us to carry kindness and Love. Help us to become ONE, just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. Give us strength for this journey, O God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
All these stunning images are by Brian Nevins.