Today the winds rose and the temperature plunged; my mood did as well. Fumbling at 5am with Joanie’s leash in oversize gloves, I led her out into the dark and brought back a stinking remnant of her waste on those same gloves. Not a good start.

Prayer consisted of replaying old fears and hurts until I wondered how pure my devotion to Jesus actually was. Is silence merely ground for my self-concern?

My ideas imprisoned me until I entered the kitchen and thought of Annette. How hard she had worked the day before! All our kids had been scattered on the holiday itself and so she worked tirelessly to ensure that they all could come later; she even skyped seminary-bound Katie into the mix. Then she baked and mashed and fried and whipped up a masterpiece of a meal, merrily serving us all. In the early am, the kitchen sparkled with holiday décor and memories of the love shared hours earlier, a blend of lives bonded as one through her sacrifice of love.

The realization of pure love inspired pure gratitude. Yet even the heat of the kitchen could not warm me entirely. I grabbed a favorite coat, now familiar with many Thanksgivings under its fleece as well as stubborn dog hairs. The coat was a gift from a special friend years earlier; his unrelenting faith in me shatters self-preoccupation and has set me free to do God’s will, over and over. Each time I slip into the coat, I am insulated from the chill of doubt and gloom. Just thinking of him, closer than a brother, warms my soul.

I braved the cold for communion at the church down the street. The drafty sanctuary drew a few saints fighting like me to contain the Love that is there. We gathered around the flame at the altar, hungering for the Fire from which all love derives its source. Like the centurion, we know that nothing in us qualifies us for such love. We can only hear it, receive it, believe it. ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the Word, and Your servant will be healed.’ (Matt. 8:8)

In my heart, I walked stiffly then quickly until I raced like a madman to the Lord’s Table. There I consumed Heaven’s heat come down, igniting this lukewarm frame and raising it up for Love, by Love. ‘Fan into flame the gift of God…’ ( 2 Timothy 1:6 )