Chapel in the Sauna (Guest Post)

Chapel in the Sauna
by Deanna-Marie A. Nicholson Haapala (Notes) on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 6:57pm

Today with the help of the Lord I got up and a walked very early. Alec got the sauna heated so I jumped in there around 9 am. I rarely sauna alone, without either Alec or the gals, so it was a real treat to be alone in the quiet of the day, without any hurry. I enter the cold room and throw another log on the fire. It is plenty hot in the sauna so I begin the ritual, the tradition; certainly not my ancestral tradition, me being from no great heritage, but a tradition just the same. With little known of my parent’s genealogy, it becomes quite easy to hang on to someone else’s tradition.  In a Finnish tradition like my husband’s, the Sauna is a very important. I lay the small rug like mat down on the cold room bench and open the sauna door. Getting a “Windfresh” detergent bucket leftover from Sam’s Club, I open the spigot on the wood stove’s hot water reservoir. Slowly the boiling water trickles out. I know better than to speed the process.


 I’m in my chapel of sorts. The last time I was in here alone I made remarks to the family of how it’s kind of like church. Instead of kneelers, a bench. Instead of an alter, a stove.


Privacy widow film makes do for stained glass, giving a subdued church effect.


And while you sweat off your sins in the “confessional” you then get baptized with cool water and take moments out of these blessings or rituals to reflect on your life in the cold room. This process is completed several times until the moment of perfection comes when your pores are so open and squeaky clean you can almost hear it. You come out of there feeling a very deep clean, very refreshed.


I turn on the faucet that brings the cold water straight from the well. This takes several attempts to turn it on. The metal parts on the thing have loosened over the years and need a little help connecting. I manage to bring the water out and mix it to the right temperature. Grabbing a wash cloth and hand towel I’m now ready. I sit in the corner spot close to the wooden steps. Grabbing a Chinese foot brush I sit down and wet my hand towel and dip my kitchen pot into the giant detergent bucket. I stick the towel over my head and throw the water on to the rocks. Missed. The stove hisses at me like a snake. Another dip into the water and my aim lands the water directly on the rocks. I sit back and brace myself. Here it comes. The hot steam rises up and angrily hits the wood ceiling and is driven into the all corners of the room. In the corner where I sit, the steam hits me like a swarm of bees on the sides of my shoulders and back at first. Then my fingers begin to sting as I try to protect my eyes from the self inflicted pain. How bad will it be? Under the towel my face is safe. Then the thought comes to me “The sting of death is Sin.” My mind wanders, “if we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” My cloth of protection is like the cloth of confession. Wow. Another pot of water thrown upon the rocks. Hissing steam sends me under the towel again. This time not so hot…hmm…

My mind thinks of the apostle Peter. His life. Wondering how he must have felt when Christ called him. There he stood with his boat full of fish. “Come with me I will make YOU a fisher of men.” And walking with him through the years, seeing for himself God’s heart in action. Being so in awe of Christ but not quite getting it right. There was the walking on the water thing, the “don’t wash my feet” thing. And when getting it right, “You are the Christ”…but then Jesus saying “Get thee behind me Satan” thing. And how about the denial thing? Wow. I wish I could have seen Jesus’ face when he turned and looked at Peter, and seen Peter look at Jesus. I really do.

 Getting to hot for me, carefully walking across the wood planks to the cold room door. I let Finney the cat in the cold room. Bad mistake. Sweat on leg and cat fur not a good mix. Out he goes. And now a bump on my head from the window pane that I had opened kind of gets me thinking again. Back in the sauna for more. Another splash of water, the spit and hiss of the stove and we are back in business. This time no need of towel. The steam this time is quite bearable. Peter, he did repent. “You are petros (little stone) on this petra (large boulder) I shall build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Satan would like have you and wants to sift you like wheat.” My mind imagines a sifter sifting. “But I have prayed for you. When you return strength your brothers.”


The scripture bank in my mind doesn’t parrot perfectly. My mind drifts to Peter and how much he loved Christ. And in the end he made a request to his killers asking them to allow him to die crucified upside down in respect of Christ. God honored that because his executioners did allow him to be crucified on a cross upside down.

The sauna is dark. I look at the widow pane’s pretty flower design and sigh. Time to pour water slowly over soapy head. Here is the best part of sauna. The pouring of water slowly on one’s head. As the water is slowly poured my mind thinks of someplace in the tropics with a typical waterfall and someone enjoying the water falling on their head. Then my mind thinks of Old Testament anointing of oil. Oil running down the face and the beard of the anointed one. I think of King David when he was just a shepherd boy. The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing that I want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he leads me. …. My head is anointed with oil, my cup over flows….(Sigh) A deep breath. Buckets dumped, water spigot opened to allow the last of the water to flow out, and back into the cold room. Feeling the sun on my back and smelling the smell of the sauna water on my skin, every pore alive and clean. There is nothing like a good sauna. If you’re sick they say take a sauna. Fever? A sauna. Achy? A sauna…For whatever ails you a sauna, sauna, sauna. Depressed? A sauna. Walking out of the chapel/sauna I feel refreshed. The sun is shining and standard bird is chirping. Made for a good morning.


About navyguns

Orthodox Christian, father of three, husband of the most wonderful woman in the world. Navy vet.
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