January Bones

How I love the starkness of January!  I love that everything is shucked down to the bare bone essentials.  Oh, I love the lushness of June, too—the trees lavishly clothed in leaves, the outrageously vibrant greens of the grasses, the surprising flashes of color from flowers and birds, the blue, blue of the summer sky.

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 But January tells the truth.  It confesses the framework that holds everything together--the skeletons of the giant maples and oaks, cottonwoods and sycamores, black against the pale gray sky, the brave sticks of bushes and vines that in summer inched their way sunward through the thicket of obstructions while holding up the weight of foliage and fruit.

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 January exposes the crimes of men who under the guise of “tree trimming,” assault and rape the pride and grandeur of hardwoods, slashing the branches off like a privet hedge, wounding and forcing the proud oaks and maples to form knuckles of scar-tissue, making them vulnerable to disease and insects, and, eventually, making the tree send out twig shoots as if they were saplings.

 Nature does no such assassinating.  Even an ice storm picks and chooses, pulling down branches grown too heavy or eliminating limbs hollowed by disease. But January also lays bare the beauty of trees that have survived storms and injury to spread their giant arms over fields and meadows to shelter wild life, shade cattle herds, and cool homesteads.

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 January reminds me to be thankful for the framework that holds up our lives as well—thankful for the laws that protects our freedoms, the social systems, like hospitals, schools, government agencies, and churches, that hold the communities of breathing peoples together, giving society shape, structure, and strength.

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 The starkness of January reminds me to be thankful for the gracious mercies of God and for hope and love and faith that hold us together when we forget to be thankful.  And in the chill of winter when the sky is black and dotted with constellations, I am reminded to be grateful for the Greater Law, the very breath of God that holds together our fragile universe and those beyond, galaxies unending.

Thank you, God, for January, that reveals that you are the ultimate framework that
holds all things together.  Without you, we are just leaves and thistle down, fragile
grasses and chicken feathers the wind blows away.

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