Posts Tagged ‘fire

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;

24
Aug
20

Clearing the Underbrush

WildfireIt hit me as soon as I walked out the door.

Patrick the dog and I were headed out for our long Saturday morning walk. But after five steps and two breaths, it became abundantly clear that our walk on this particular Saturday would just be to the end of the cul-de-sac and back.

You see, we have wildfires burning about 60 miles to the west of our house here in Fort Collins, Colorado. They aren’t as big as those currently burning in California (these only cover a mere 17,000 acres), but they are big enough.

At times, when the wind is just right, the city of Fort Collins is blanketed with thick smoke. It stings your eyes and burns your lungs. The air quality is listed as, “Hazardous for all individuals” by the county health authorities.

Not ideal dog-walking conditions.

As we listen to news reports on the status of the fire-fighting efforts, Joan and I were surprised to hear that very little is currently being done to fight this fire. There are teams on the ground monitoring the situation, yes. But there are no air tankers dropping flame retardants, no big buckets scooping water out of the lake to dump on it, no fire hoses being aimed at the flames.

It is just being watched as it burns.

When I expressed my frustration about this perplexing nonchalance to a neighbor, he smiled a knowing smile and explained, “These things happen every couple of years and are a part of the natural cycle of things. Right now, they are just making sure it doesn’t get out of control and threaten any houses.”

I nodded and thanked him for his insight, but inside I was saying, WHAT? You can’t be serious! Do you really think it is OK to let fire destroy all those trees and choke us with the smoke and ash? What kind of looney tunes philosophy is THAT?”

As it turns out, it is a very sound philosophy indeed.

You see, in the forest, trees die. Leaves fall to the ground. Underbrush accumulates. Dead vegetation threatens to choke out the living. And so periodically, it all needs to be cleaned out. And as it turns out, the cleaning tool that works best for Mother Nature is FIRE.

Every now and then a fire is needed to sweep through and destroy all the dead stuff… to clear the way for something new and fresh and green to be born.

And when I heard that explanation, I began wondering: does God ever take the same approach with us?

What I mean is; do you think we (the human population of Planet Earth) ever get to the point where too much “dead underbrush” has built up in our hearts or in the world? [Metaphorically speaking, of course.]

  • Do you think it’s possible that this “dead underbrush” ever becomes so vast that it threatens to choke out the possibility of anything new popping up and growing?
  • Do you think it is possible that God has identified a periodic need to do a massive “clearing out” of this spiritual and emotional underbrush?
  • Is it conceivable that something that looks like devastation and destruction (something like a global pandemic, for example) might actually be something more like a cosmic press of the “RESET” button?

And finally;

  • Do you think it is possible that the way is being cleared for something new and fresh and vibrant to emerge on the other side of the current devastation?

Please understand, I have grave hesitations about asking these questions. They could sound like I’m saying that God brought about the death and destruction of COVID-19 in order to bring about something new. These questions might make it sound as if I’m saying that God is indifferent to human suffering as long as there is a “greater good” to be accomplished on the other side.

That is not what I am saying at all.

Rather I am trying to point to God’s unlimited capacity to REDEEM. That is, to take a dire and disastrous situation and use it as the fodder for something wondrous, new, and remarkable.

You know… sort of like he did with his son who died on a Roman cross?

In the short run, that thought doesn’t make it a whole lot easier to put up with the coughing, stinging, fear, and wheezing.

But it does offer us the hope that – in the long run – all of this misery just might not be wasted after all.

 

Abundant blessings;




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