Hips, Thighs, and the Nanaimo Factor

15380497_10154880210114515_1394830291038030524_nMany thanks to my good friend Jeff Buckman for introducing me to the sport of snowshoeing. Having spent most of my adult life in the Great White North, I shouldn’t have needed a guy from Pennsyltucky to perform this essential function. Nor should I need a guy from Michigan to introduce me to ice fishing, but my colleague Joe Stinson will be doing that this winter. But I digress.

This morning I took off down a narrow, frosted trail near the Ottawa River on my new Red Feather snowshoes. I’m an enthusiastic cross country skier, so I wondered how I would enjoy trudging along at a much slower pace, walking like a toddler with a load in his Huggies.

Neither scenario proved to be true. My gait was pretty much as it usually is, despite the additional width of the shoes–and I don’t walk anywhere slowly, either with or without snowshoes. I have to say, it was every bit the workout that skiing is–a very different movement, but with poles, a great way to get some much-needed exercise. In Jeff’s words, “It is fun–just another way to enjoy the snow.” Jeff is an avid downhill skier, so he should know. And now I know, too.

Whenever I use the words, “hips” and, “thighs” in the same sentence, I recall an incident that Donna and I still laughed about many years later. We were in the waiting room of our doctor’s office in Nova Scotia one time when a schoolgirl came by selling Girl Guide cookies. We bought some, but the lady next to us said to the girl, “My mouth says, ‘Yes,’ but my hips and thighs say, ‘No.'”  Donna borrowed that quip many times over the years.

Medical researchers and practitioners alike tell us that as we age, men and women collect our excess weight in different places. In men, fat goes to the gut; in women, it goes to the butt. Diagnostic imaging at Walmart will confirm this.  (If Donna were reading over my shoulder, she would have just slapped me lovingly on the back of the head and said with her delightful giggle, “Rob–delete that!” But she isn’t, so I won’t.)

So ladies, if you’re interested in firming your hips and thighs, etc., I highly recommend snowshoeing. (I know some of you will be, especially after all those holiday goodies. I call this the Nanaimo Factor. If you’re not Canadian, you won’t understand this medical jargon and will have to come up with your own factor.) That’s the region of my body where I really felt it today–far more so than when I ski. You’ll feel it there, too–of this I have no doubt. In fact, after shoeing a few kilometers, your hips and thighs may be on their knees begging you to go home.

Snowshoeing seems like a great family activity, as it can be mastered immediately by anyone who can walk. Poles help with equilibrium and lend an additional aerobic element to the motion. The sport can be enjoyed anywhere you find snow–no grooming is required, or even desirable. (I’m talking about the trail’s grooming, not yours. But wait until after your shower, which you will need.) It’s about blazing your own trail, exploring uncharted territory, and all that. A word of caution from a seasoned professional–don’t attempt using your snowshoes in a hard-packed, icy parking lot as you’re going back to your car. The teeth of the crampons may grab the ice and stop the shoes dead, resulting in serious injury to your face, your pride, or both.

One final comment about snowshoeing. Cross country skiing is a very enjoyable and therapeutic solo activity for me–especially at night, under a full moon. Somehow, snowshoeing seems different. It’s a little like drinking mate, the tea that is such an integral part of the South American cultures I so dearly love. It’s okay to do it alone, but I think it would be much more enjoyable with a partner.




So, What’s Under the Blanket?

ALet’s face it. Some properties look better under a thick blanket of snow.

It covers up the worn roof shingles, the toys strewn across the yard, the unkempt flower beds, the piles of tires or used lumber, the rusty tractor that hasn’t run in decades.

Today as I was shoveling my driveway, I was admiring the beauty of the foot of snow that has fallen on our city. It’s stunning–white and glistening, sagging off the roofs like duvets being aired by European housewives. Fresh snow makes the world seem quieter, friendlier, more peaceful–and cleaner.

Now as I sit here watching it snow and listening to Handel’s Messiah, I am reminded of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah doesn’t say our sins will be covered as with snow. In the Old Testament economy, sins and blood were irrevocably connected, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Heb 9.22) The Hebrews were required to offer sacrifices for sin, and the job of the priest was much like the job of a butcher. Priestly garments were undoubtedly covered with blood, and the blood of animals provided a temporary covering for sin.

My wife and I are involved with a local furniture bank. Just the other day, a colleague and I were looking at a beautiful leather sofa that had been donated to the bank. It was of a rich chocolate colour, big and bulky and masculine–the perfect sofa for a man cave, we decided. But there was a problem. The middle cushion was torn.  It wasn’t a large tear, but the ugly gash in the leather rendered the entire piece of furniture flawed.

Blanket to the rescue! We decided that a nice throw would cover the tear and still allow the sofa to be used with pleasure by someone who needed it. Blankets don’t remove flaws. They only cover them. Were I to see a sofa like this in a furniture store, I would immediately ask, “So, what’s under the blanket?”

The other place where the phrase, “white as snow” is used in Scripture is in Daniel 7.9:

As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.

In Daniel’s vision, he saw Christ adorned in clothing as white as snow. It is more than coincidental to me that Christ is pictured in this way, with clothes of blinding white, signifying His purity and righteousness–the very righteousness He gives to those who trust Him as their only Saviour from sin, as Paul declares in 2 Cor 5.21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Christmas not just about covering up our sin with something that looks nice but doesn’t remove what’s underneath. It’s about righteousness. The righteousness we don’t have and desperately need. The righteousness Jesus has and freely gives.

Isaiah promises that through Him who would come as a helpless infant in Bethlehem, our sins would not be covered by snow, but would become as the snow itself.

Only God can change scarlet to white, blood to snow. Only God can effect such a transformation in a human heart, so that when He whips off the blanket in the day of judgment, He sees in us the perfection of His own Son.

Scripture quotation, including Isaiah 1.18, are from the English Standard Version. The image is from the Alyeska Ski Resort.