It’s a blizzard! Time to skip!

It is one of those days. A winter storm rolled in at noon, just like the weather forecasters said. The wind that got a jump start on the snow and ice pellets by a couple of hours has worked its way up to a steady gale force with gusts that take your breath away.

They say now that there are almost 5 inches of snow that have fallen, but nowhere on our farm could you get a true reading since the wind sweeps some places clean and in others the drifts are up about 5 feet.

The wind is whipping in from the northeast and then drops in on the lee side of things, so I have to break through one of those drifts at the south-facing opening from the barn to the feed lot. Holding a bale of hay up on my shoulders it’s a bit of a challenge to reach down and lift out the plastic basins from the metal frames of the feeders to dump out the snow. With the ewes bashing into me in their eagerness to get to the evening’s feed, I grumble and thrust out my hip to give myself some working space.

I have planned ahead this night. The wind was already whipping at this morning’s feeding and blasted bits of hay and dust into my eyes. So I had to spend quite a bit of time flushing my eyes at the sink before breakfast. But then I found my goggles, and I’m wearing them now in the feedlot, which makes me feel proud of my own cleverness.

And then it is the turn of the lambs. I grab a half bale, about 30 pounds worth, and make my way through three gates. These lambs from last March and April always go through the same routine. A couple of them have half climbed the last gate in eager anticipation. As soon as I open it three or four of them push past me and then brush all around my legs. Then we reach the door out to the feedlot and first one and then another and another do their thing. They buck. They leap high and kick up their back hooves. More than once I’ve seen one leap so high that another, making its way toward the feeder, runs clear underneath it, so that the leaper tumbles to the ground. But there is no embarrassment. No complaint.

It’s dark, the wind is whipping, the snow and ice pellets are slashing, but these lambs know I’m on my way with food. And they are filled with the thrill of life!

Connie and I have delighted many times to behold lambs a few weeks to a couple months old jumping and leaping and bucking around the pastures. We call these lamb frolics.  But this year’s crop has carried this carrying-on much further. These girls are now almost a full year old and tonight’s display impresses me as the most exuberant I’ve ever witnessed. 

And each time I see this bucking and abandonment, I myself forget all decorum. I have to yip and yipe and yippee and throw in a couple whoops and hollers. I get to taste a little bit of the amazed joy that the cosmos felt when the Lord flexed muscles to save a people from oppression. Then, at the Exodus, even mighty mountains skipped like rams and the hills like lambs. What a stormy day that must have been; but the Lord was surely in that storm (Psalm 114).

People can share in that kind of  crazy joy-in-the-face-of-adversity–that kind of glorious and godly abandonment. I once performed a marriage for a young man who survived leukemia. In the dark days, when he was a very young chemotherapy patient, he would don a ridiculous hat with a propeller on top and prowl the malls with a friend. They would accost unsuspecting passersby asking what time it was. When told the time he would whip off his hat, revealing his bald head, and shout, “Time to spin!” Then he and the friend would spin around and laugh themselves silly as they defied Death with magical, joyful abandonment.

So, of course I’m joyful too. After all, I’ve got my favorite jacket with its fourth replacement zipper recently installed. Warm boots on my feet. I’ve got a good store of hay and clean straw out for the sheep. I’ve just had a turn with the dogs around the farm on cross-country skis, so my body is stoked.

And, best of all, I’m feeling totally smug, because I’ve got my goggles on.

It’s a real, ripping blizzard! Yippee!

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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