Wednesday, October 3, 2007

RISING FROMN THE EMBERS - September 29, 2007

If you were afraid that your house was going to catch on fire, what would you grab as you headed out the door to safety? I know what I would grab: my two dogs, Panda and Hope, my children’s baby albums, my wedding ring, the necklace my husband gave me as a wedding gift, my mom’s antique watch, our passports—and this laptop on which I am typing. I know this with certainty, because at 1:00 a.m. this very morning, I did just this.

“Linda. Get up!” My husband said with urgency. “John’s house is on fire!” Instantly I was fully awake and quickly dashing out the front door, as Rex called 911. As we hurried across our lawn into John’s yard, a firm voice instructed us to, “Stay in your own yard, please!” “We just want to know if they got out of the house!” my husband shouted from behind me. They did! John and Donna were safe and the fire department was already there.

There was little we could do, except be present with them as they watched the beautiful log home, that they and their five children had built together thirty years ago, be devoured by fire. John had heard the smoke alarm and wakened Donna. As they descended the smoke-filled staircase from their second floor bedroom, they were scared that they would not make it out of the house.

As I sit here writing, thirteen hours have passed since my husband woke me. There are still fire engines and numerous other emergency vehicles lining the street, and I can hear heavy equipment at work. A massive plume of smoke is still rising from the hole in the ground where three levels of rubble are piled atop burning embers. The heavy equipment is raising the rubble up out of the hole so firefighters can extinguish the remainder of the fire.

In the wee hours of the morning, our yard was teeming with concerned neighbors and John and Donna’s family members. We all stood helplessly watching their beautiful home disappear before our eyes. As one of the tall trees standing between our two homes caught fire and burning embers drifted over our house, I became afraid that our house would also catch on fire. Rex hosed down our roof while I dashed around inside our house grabbing a few things, in the event we should fall prey to the fire.

When the firefighters turned their attention on our home, hosing down the roof, I felt guilty that precious water was being diverted to our house while my neighbors’ house was engulfed with flames. That was when I realized that their house was beyond saving.

Surrounded my by neighbors, I thought about all the crises that our few families have dealt with during the last year. The protective denial I live with—that surely my family is immune to tragedy because, “those things only happen to other people”—was juxtaposed with the reality that cancer, the death of loved ones, fires, car accidents, job loss, divorce, and on and on, ARE a part of life.

There is no immunity, for any of us. But in the midst of strive, there is grace. God’s presence was palpable this morning, embodied in the love and concern of neighbors and in the dedication of the many wonderful volunteer firefighters.

So what crossed your mind as you pondered my opening question—what would you grab? I bet that, like me, you immediately thought of things that connect you to your loved ones. A home is so much more than four walls, a roof, and the things housed within. It is a throbbing heart full of memories of the past, experiences of the present, and dreams for the future. A home is a haven of love and security. Home is something we carry in our hearts and I have no doubt that John and Donna have all that they need to create a new family haven.

Crises are powerful reminders of what is truly important in life. Hug your loved ones today. Tell them you love them and how very much they are a gift of grace in your life. Don’t wait. And, please, make sure your smoke alarms are in working order!

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

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