icicles at a roof

It was 25 degrees outside. Windchill of 5. The sun was just rising and the last thing I wanted to do was to put on my layers of running clothes, lace up my rarely-used, but guaranteed to make you want to exercise Hoka’s.

But I did. I was resolute.

When the wind blasted my face, I almost turned around and climbed the heated staircase up to my heated apartment to make a cup of coffee and start again tomorrow.

But I didn’t.

The first song that played from my IPhone cheered me on to run into the cold. It was a song my daughter gave me for Christmas. It’s a song that means a lot to me, because I know how hard my daughter has fought to live a life of service and intentionality and forgiveness and sobriety and compassion.

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song . . . .

Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if anyone else believes
Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me


 The picture is of Kristin “playing” her fight song!

I was starting to warm up and feel a little bit like Rocky running up those steps to victory (only I had just three stairs to climb to continue on the running path).

And then the next song hit me like a blizzard. It wasn’t so much the song that took the wind out of my run, it was the memory the song evoked.

It took me back to a very cold January morning in 2009. A few days earlier my friends had delivered me to treatment, because I relapsed in my alcoholism. I was mad and ashamed and hopeless. It was cold both inside and out.

My counselor asked me to think if there was any secret I was holding on to that might be keeping me from lasting in recovery.

I couldn’t think of any.
And then I remembered.
The secret I had never told anyone.
I hated myself.

I got up that January morning as the sun was rising to run in the little circle they allowed for exercise, jammed my headphones into my ears, and heard this song about being loved, forgiven . . . again, and still wanted. I didn’t even notice that the tears streaming down my face on that unforgettably cold morning were starting to freeze.

It was cold outside.

The next morning I awoke at 3 a.m.
We weren’t allowed to leave our rooms before 6:00.
I stared out at another freezing morning and God played me a song.
I mean He wrote a song just for me.
On my heart.

You are not alone. I delight to call you “daughter.” I am proud of who you are, not what you do. Yes, even when you are wandering in hopelessness and cannot find your way to your seat, I am proud to put my arm around you, gently lead you to your seat, sit beside you, and tell everyone,
“This is my daughter!”

You are not hopeless. I know that your heart is cold and you believe that your story is too much for anyone.
The truth is that I am too much for your story. I forgive you, heal you, renew you every day, and in the times when that is hardest to believe, my warmth will reach every nook and cranny of your cold heart.

You are not loverless. When you feel unwanted, instead of working so hard, will you seek my affection? When you are exhausted, can you lay down your head? And when you feel unworthy, oh, Sharon, will you believe you are my bride. Please look at me. Just look at me.
Bone of my bones.
Flesh of my flesh.
I will never be unfaithful to you.
I will never divorce you.
You are mine.
I have engraved your name on the palm of my hand.

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Remembering that resurrection morning when the warmth of the love of Jesus melted my heart allowed me to forget the present wind chill for a moment.

But, baby, it was cold outside.

I ran to the other side of the street to try to at least get some heat from the shining sun, but I feared my lips were turning blue and I might lose feelings in my feet and fingers and maybe I should start my resolute running when it warmed up.

That brought back 1000 memories of promises made, broken, re-made, re-broken.

I just completed a wonderful week of teaching about addiction, and the intensity and fierce engagement with students is invigorating.

But, honestly, it always leaves me feeling left out in the cold.  I imagine them going back to their spouses, families, and roommates, as I pack up my bags to fly home, call an Uber, and let myself into my cold, empty apartment. I know that it’s an illusion that everyone goes home to warm families, food, and fellowship.

I think the illusion is why I break so many of those darn resolutions. In fact, I keep a list handy just to remind me why it makes sense to break those promises – even if they are just promises to myself.

I feel justified.
I feel lonely.
I feel resentful.
I feel like I don’t matter.

There are many more times when it’s cold inside of me than it’s cold outside.

I was just about to turn into the door to the warm staircase leading to my warm apartment when another song began to play. I don’t think I ever listened to this song before.

I probably could have written this song, if I could write songs.
It’s a hymn about how unfair life and love are.
How cold and foolish love leaves us feeling.

I’ve sung these lyrics in different forms a thousand times.

I woke up singing them this morning.

It’s cold outside.
What difference will one day of exercise really make anyway?
I’m tired and have so much to do.
All by myself.
And, baby, it’s too cold outside.

And right through the magic chip in my iPhone came the answer.

Tell me now, where was my fault
In loving you with my whole heart
Oh tell me now, where was my fault
In loving you with my whole heart?
You did not think when you took me to the brink
You deserved my attention but denied my affections . . . .*

I turned back to finish my run.
I re-remembered what I learned that January years ago:

All my rage, doubts, cold indifference . . . all of me
that took all of Him to the brink,
the God who became man
the rich Son who became poor
the fiery Holy Spirit poured out in a cold world

came for the Love of me.

You’d think I’d get it someday.
Because of that coldest, darkest night in history that took Him to the brink,
my sin invites one response
my broken promises get one response
my justifications and rationalizations get one response
my cold heart gets one response

Because He is not like us
Perpetual prodigals
Freezing people

He presents the same response


A white blank page

 “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18

*”White Blank Page,” Mumford & Sons.