Sometimes you really do need to look pass the branding without fabricating analysis. True, one can carefully weigh the cons and pros on suffering through a befuddling February.

Some agonize, and complain over the conspicuous abuses February dishes out; others scrupulously – with feet and knees together – press forward.  Accepting a bruising blend of saint and squirrel, with heads held high, they snap to it.

Charles McDowell, the late RT-D columnist, wincingly wrote about February….about its artificiality – in sparkling fashion:  we can disabuse ourselves of February’s pretense to brevity – but it still gave us George Washington and Abraham Lincoln – It is the Silas Marner of months. Relying on McDowell’s chronicling, stealth reporting, with “ah shucks” demeanor and rumpled rain coat, he drew deluges of delight.

Clearly, February, 2015, means something quite different to those of us dwelling in the Decembers of our lives.

Drawing on decades of February life, including one’s spiritual acumen, I detected how this second month satirically teases. Young, snappy, college graduated – employed in the thriving paper industry, definitely on the fortune prowl – this writer tripped over, in local 1960’s service organizations, something unexpected:  Clergy Appreciation Week.

Clergy Week celebrated annually through North America honored all clergy; its goal: to give spiritual support for others’ freedom to observe different religious beliefs. Additionally, the week reeducated us on World War II history of The Four Chaplains, serving on the USAT Dorchester. After suffering a torpedo attack by German U-boat U-223, the incident became an ultimate story of faith and brotherhood.

Those chaplains included Methodist minister George L. Fox; Reformed Church in America minister Clark V. Poling; Catholic Church priest John P. Washington, and Rabbi Alexander B. Goode.  Later, Congress established February 3 as Four Chaplains Day. Medals were presented posthumously to next of kin by Secretary of the Army, Wilber M. Brucker, at Fort Myer, Virginia…on January 18, 1961.

These Four Chaplains gave their greatest gift – to four young, fearful soldiers; those soldiers stood waiting… probably knowing the supply of life jackets was gone. Quickly, the chaplains stripped off their jackets, forcing them upon the young soldiers. As the men left the Dorchester, they viewed the Four Chaplains clinging to each other on the slanting deck – arms linked, heads bowed in prayer. Faith, courage, and generosity reigned.

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Then there is The Rev. Robert G. Partlow (retired Episcopal priest) this February, 2015. In splendid solace, release – even joy, his example epitomizes another heroic example.  Our Thursday Men’s Group at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church views his demeanor mirroring similar bravery – faith – courage. Partlow holds values and riches not of this world, personifying the best character of the whole – especially to our group. Deep prayer swirls around our special priest, engulfing him, and those of us who love him.

This is the same Father Partlow who wrote about faithfully disagreeing: we do not call each other names or claim “orthodoxy.”  In my personal journey, I have crossed the street several times being for…against…for. I thank God for a faith community that allows me room to seek a deeper knowledge of God’s will. Partlow, with spiritual heft, became a RTD correspondent finalist.  His December 28, 2012 letter urging all to read Pope Francis’ exhortation on economics, and the worlds neediest, was ultimately the winner as Correspondent of the Year.

Today, Robert G. Partlow faces life’s awesome challenge – with grim-ridden prognosis. We watch him step by step – he, totally assured, peacefully content, faithful. Reminding our Men’s Group weekly about a constant monitoring of one’s ego – down; the current lesson convinces. A slight glance in my direction was, of course, bull’s eye.

Partlow’s acceptance of life’s perilous journey is calmed, serene – not “pony” deep. In the shadow of the valley, he spurns attempted personal concerns from fellow chums, remaining blissfully thankful for the life he’s living, and has lived. Yet, he quietly shares with one of us that he holds concerns for some in the group. And so he should.

It is, after all, in February, 2015, our celebration… giving thanks for inclusion on his journey of grace, courage, and personal generosity.

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer….something better, pushing right back…