In our younger years, my dad would sometimes say to my brother, sister, and me, “Go outside and get the stink blown off!” As I recall, this usually occurred when there was a sense of restlessness, contrariness, or laziness among us. My naïve young self often wondered if Dad was the one who needed to go outdoors. (After all, the problem certainly couldn’t have been with me!)
Dad was usually right; the sunshine and fresh air improved our spirits, our pent-up energy was released, and everyone felt more peaceful once we came back inside. This practice has remained with me. My spirits are always uplifted when I spend time outdoors in God’s beautiful creation. My “stink is blown off.”
During this pandemic, Jim and I have especially appreciated our times outdoors – hiking area trails, walking the neighborhood streets, or sitting on our porch. The sunshine, fresh air, and soft rain showers lift our spirits and break up our routines. But our outdoor times will soon be less convenient, less comfortable, as this autumn season gives way to winter.
Normally, I look forward to this season of “cocooning,” but we have already been doing this for most of the year! The other joys normally found in the wintertime – inviting friends to visit, dining out, attending worship, or even holiday shopping with the crowds – will likely be postponed. How will I cope in this season?
I have begun compiling new ideas for stink removal…
~ I can dress warmly and continue going outdoors, keeping my daily walks as often as possible. Then I can add a few extra winter joys… gathering around a fire and toasting marshmallows, hiking in the snowy woods, taking nighttime walks to see the Christmas lights, photographing beautiful scenes, stepping outside to sip hot tea and breathe in the crisp air.
~ I will continue to worship online, but I can also light a few candles, read the Bible and other spiritual books, and spend more time in quiet reflection. I can learn new ideas from other books and documentaries, to keep my thoughts and conversations interesting and insightful.
~ For fellowship, I can host Zoom meetings with dear ones, play more board games with Jim, share cookies or other treats with neighbors, hike with friends while keeping space, email or message loved ones, send cards or letters to those who are far away.
~ To lighten our spirits, Jim and I can watch humorous movies, listen to comedians, play seasonal music, post uplifting words on social media. I can change some of my routines, try new recipes, creatively decorate our home to add warmth and cheer.
Best of all, I can ask the wind of the Spirit to blow my stink away when the need arises. The Spirit can be a cooling breeze to blow away the heat of my anger or irritability, or to comfort and soothe my cares and concerns. The Spirit can be a strong and refreshing wind when I need a push to change my ways or move to new understanding. The Spirit can be a mighty storm that tears down all that is no longer necessary or true, all that encumbers me from being more freely and fully of God. The Spirit can be a gentle caress, simply reminding me that I am beloved.
How will the wind of the Spirit blow my stink away in this new season?
I wait with eager anticipation! (And some trepidation! 😉 )
Psalm 51:10-12 (NRSV)
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.