28
Oct
20

Standing Guard

I may have mentioned this before, but here in the northern Colorado part of the U.S., we are dealing with some pretty nasty forest fires at the moment. No one is quite sure how they started, but they have been fueled by high winds, dry conditions, and acres and acres of trees that were killed several years ago by the Japanese borer beetle. 

The fire closest to us – called the Cameron Peak Fire – has now attained the status of the largest forest fire in Colorado history. 

Even though the eastern edge of the fire is less than 10 miles away from us, Joan and I feel pretty safe. There is a 7500-foot mountain and a six-mile-long reservoir between us and the fire. That, plus God’s decision to dump about 20 inches of snow on the fire over the weekend helps us avoid pushing the panic button just yet.

As we have watched the heroic actions of both the volunteer and professional firefighters, we have seen them employ a tactic that seems particularly relevant for all of us… especially during this fraught time of politics, pandemic, and paranoia.

As they attempt to limit the spread of the fire – and protect homes – those firefighters strive to create a perimeter of safety. This can be accomplished by either removing trees (a.k.a., “fuel”), digging a trench, or even doing some kind of controlled pre-burning of patches of vegetation. 

Sometimes high winds foil their plans by carrying burning embers across those perimeters, but by and large it is an effective strategy for minimizing destruction.

And I don’t know about you, but lately I have been feeling the need to build some kind of “perimeter of safety” around my spirit to protect it from flames of an entirely different kind; 

  • … the flames of despair,
  • … the flames of hatred,
  • … the flames of bitterness,
  • … the flames of resentment,
  • … the flames of arrogance.

I look out and see them there… crackling and sparking in the pages of the newspaper, glowing in the posts and comments on social media, and popping and smoking in TV commercials and news stories. When I get too close, I can almost feel the edges of my soul starting to curl up as their heat intensifies. 

I am not an advocate of diving into the bunker and ignoring everything that is going on in the world. But I do believe we need to take great care when it comes to the matter of how those events – and their interpretations – affect our spirits. Just like with these forest fires, we can’t expect to keep dancing around the edge of the flames and not get burnt. 

King Solomon offers us this wise “fire protection” guidance in the book of Proverbs: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NRSV).

Jesus – at the most dangerous point in his earthly life – knew the importance of guarding his spirit with some kind of perimeter of safety. And he knew exactly how to build it, too. If ever there was a moment to give in to fear, anger, or despair, the moment before his arrest surely was that moment. 

And so, what did he do? Just before he was arrested by the Roman guards, tried for blasphemy, and executed, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. We know he prayed until he sweat drops of blood. We know he prayed for God’s will to ultimately be done… even if it did not necessarily sync with Jesus’ human will.

But he might also have prayed the words of Psalm 121 and said: I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, NRSV). 

The point is: JESUS PRAYED. He connected and communicated with God. He put his immediate dilemma into the perspective of eternity. He found a strong, godly refuge in the midst of the roaring flames. 

And even though his body was eventually consumed by that great inferno, his spirit remained intact and unscathed.

And I am guessing that today he would probably advise us to follow him and do the same.

Abundant blessings;


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