A couple summers ago, I wrote about an imaginative trip to The Father’s Cabin to spend the weekend with Jesus. I wrote out of desperation, from a spiritually dry place, in hopes that the creative writing process would force me into a real conversation with Jesus. It worked! My soul was nourished as I spent time chatting with Jesus, riding shotgun in his car, walking with him in the woods, fishing with him in a boat, planting with him in his garden, dancing with him in the rain, and imagining the kind of room he goes to prepare for me out of love.
And then I stopped writing. The end of summer came, and as I launched into the fall of ministry, I left the story hanging with Jesus and I sitting peacefully in a rowboat on calm waters. Its been 2 or 3 years now, and its time to continue the story. However, unlike last time, this time I am writing in the middle of a cold Minnesota winter, and that will shape the scenery and experiences of this second part of my adventure at The Father’s Cabin. I invite you to come along and join me!
Jeremy Berg, Midwinter 2017
(For the record, the popular novel The Shack never even crossed my mind while I was writing. Any similarities are completely unintended. My experiences and conversations with Jesus have originated from within my own imagination shaped by the Scriptures.)
Read Part One (first 17 chapters) in PDF form HERE.
Read them all in blog post form HERE.
So, there I sat in a boat with my Lord, bobbing gently up and down on the calm waters of the ocean blue lake. The warmth of the midday sun on my neck, the fluttering of butterflies overhead, the sounds of June bugs all around. For a moment all was right in the world. Complete shalom.
Suddenly, without warning, a gust of frigid arctic air blew from the north, stirring up the calm waters into an angry tempest. The blue sky was replaced by a dark, ominous gray. The pleasant sounds of summer were replace by the angry howl of a whirlwind.
In an instant, like a great magician waving his wand, an arctic blast and blowing snow transformed the summer lake setting into a frozen, desolate winter wasteland. Green trees were now covered with frosty white snow. The blue sky was now a dull gray. The blue water was now a snow covered glacier. It felt like I was inside a snow globe that had just been violently shook.
Still sitting in the boat, now frozen solid into the lake, I turned to Jesus for some explanation and reassurance.
But he was gone.
“Jesus!” I yelled. “Jesus! Where are you?”
Fear began to creep in. Was this some kind of a divine joke? Was Jesus just pulling my chain, and having some fun at my expense?
“Jesus? This isn’t funny,” I yelled. “Please come back and make it warm again.”
Then I began to feel the cold air on my bare skin. I was dressed in khaki shorts and t-shirt, and I was standing in about a foot of fresh powdery snow on an frozen lake.
“Jesus, please. I’m cold.”
Then the Lord answered me out of the whirlwind. “Jeremy, don’t be afraid. I am near.” The sound of his voice brought comfort, but was strangely distant. The wind continued to howl, as my body continued to grow colder and shivers now overtook me.
Jesus spoke again out of the whirlwind: “I have brought you to the cabin to reveal things to you. Some lessons are more pleasant than others. But don’t be afraid, I am near.”
Shivering and exposed to the cold, I was anxious to get the lesson started! “What is this all about, Jesus? Why did you bring this winter storm upon us?” I yelled into the whirlwind.
“Jeremy, I didn’t bring this upon us. I’m sorry to say this is your own doing.”
“What? That’s…that’s impossible. I don’t understand.”
“Jeremy, this cold winter air and frozen lake is a picture of your soul’s condition lately. Its the very reason I invited you to the Father’s cabin, away from your busy life and ministry back home.”
I looked at the barren, icy landscape around me. I took in the bleak midwinter skies. I marveled at the stark contrast between the warm, lush green, peaceful summer scene I was enjoying an instant ago, and the lifeless, dead, colorless world I was now inhabiting.
“Do you remember in the very beginning of creation, Jeremy, how the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters of the deep” (Gen. 1:1)?
“Yes,” I yelled back.
“Then the Wind of the Spirit — brooding, hovering, blowing, stirring those primordial waters — soon brought forth from the waters all of creation?”
“Yep, I remember,” I responded, my body shuddering and shivering in the cold.
Jesus continued, “That’s also a picture of how the Spirit — the wind, the breath of God — longs to operate in every individual soul, bringing new life and order from the inner depths of your being. The waters of creation were teeming with remarkable potential, endless varieties of life and possibilities, and the Spirit just moved in, stirred things up, and BOOM! A new creation!”
“Now, imagine for a moment that scene from Genesis 1 with a tragic twist. Imagine the Spirit of God pulsating over the waters, trying to stir up new life from the deep, calling things into being that do not yet exist” (Rom. 4:17). But the Spirit is suddenly hindered, unable to access the riches of the Deep. The waters teeming with life-giving potential are covered over by a thick protective layer of frozen ice.”
I stood there frozen, in more ways than one, listening as Jesus’ diagnosed the condition of so many souls — yes, my own soul, too.
In what ways had I unknowingly managed to cut myself off from the activity of God in my life?
What behaviors and unhealthy patterns in my life had contributed to the frozen layer of ice preventing God access to my deepest self?
Jesus continued speaking out of the cloud, “The crowds of invalids who came to the Pool of Bethesda understood this (John 5). They believed healing could be found when the angel came down and ‘stirred’ the waters of the pool. When the Spirit stirred, they raced to the waters!”
Jesus let his words sink in before he added, with a tone mixed with compassion and tired resignation, “But the Spirit cannot stir waters that are frozen. A melting must first occur.”
Shivering in the cold breeze of my own doing, stranded and exposed — physically and, more importantly, spiritually — on the frozen surface of my own making, I called out to Jesus in desperation:
“What must I do, Lord? It’s so cold out here. I’m not dressed for this! What must I do? Help!”
For a moment I heard no response. Would Jesus leave me alone out here in the cold? Would he let the blizzard persist and blind me from finding my way back to the warmth of the Father’s Cabin?
The wind howled ferociously. The snow increased in intensity. The temperature dropped further. And I felt, or imagined, or possibly really saw, the eyes of hungry wolves surrounding me, waiting to devour me.
I felt alone and afraid.
Then suddenly another wind, a warmer wind, swept over the lake and momentarily silenced the cold icy wind. In the momentary lull between the competing winds, a Lion roared out of the cloud, and the wolves immediately scattered. Then that familiar, reassuring voice spoke again:
“Jeremy, I long to give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you. I will melt your cold, frozen heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). I will show you the way; just follow me carefully.”
I looked down at the snow covered lake, and saw the quickly disappearing footprints of Jesus leading away from the boat.
I placed my feet into his footsteps and began to trace his steps away from the boat and into the blinding snow of the whiteout blizzard.