Sunday, October 28, 2007

WILDFIRES -- October 27, 2007

In years past, my husband, Rex, and I have enjoyed gathering up fallen branches and cutting up dead trees in our woods and burning them. I was initially hesitant about doing this, not wanting to do harm to the environment that I love so much. The government’s proposal to reduce fires in national forests by clearing away the highly combustible dead wood got us thinking about doing the same. Our efforts were further inspired by the professional opinion of an arborist Rex knows who advocates clearing away debris to allow new plant life an opportunity to thrive.

Metaphorically and spiritually I also need to periodically clear away the “dead wood” in my life—those thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and actions that clutter my path and trip me up on my spiritual journey. I consider myself to be a “good person, certainly not someone who needs to chain saw my way through massive fallen-ness, like major addictions (do chocolate and Dr. Pepper count?), infidelities, criminal conduct, etc., but, truth be told, I have some logs, not only in my eye, but in my life!

Since the fire that destroyed the home next door, and threatened our own home, I feel no desire to smell burning leaves and wood this fall. What used to be a charming aspect of the ambiance of autumn is now an all too vivid reminder of tragedy. As I write this, I am watching the latest news report on the California fires. My daughter, Beth, just recently moved back to Indiana after living and teaching in San Diego for three years. I am SO THANKFUL that she is not out there right now, but I share her anxiety for her California friends and their families.

This national disaster also takes me back to my two weeks with the Red Cross in Louisiana, following Hurricane Katrina. A part of me would like to go and help, but I do not feel the call, like I did with Katrina. I knew then, without a doubt, that I was supposed to go. It’s so unlike me to step out of my comfort zone, to go into the unknown—and all by my lonesome. That was obviously a God thing!

Wildfires have roared across the California landscape, fueled by the Santa Ana winds, for hundreds, maybe even million of years, and will probably continue to do so. Fires, floods, and other monumental disasters have ravaged the earth for eons (Despite the current controversy over humanity’s culpability in global warming!). So, too, “wildfires” will roar across the landscapes of our lives, sometimes due to our own carelessness in not attending to “dead wood,” and sometimes simply because lightning strikes. Most, if not all of us, bear the scars of having been struck by divorce or the death of a loved one, struck by a car—or cancer, depression, job loss…

Like Yellowstone National Park, in which 988,975 acres of forests were devastated by fire in 1988, we, too can survive the searing heat and destruction of life’s wildfires. I was awed and inspired the second time I visited Yellowstone and witnessed the rebirth that is taking place among the charred, lifeless spires of once thriving trees. Fertilized by ash, and miraculously re-seeded from pine cones programmed to release their seeds only under intense heat, Yellowstone’s forests remind me that God wastes nothing and uses everything, in nature and in human life, to bless His creation and his creatures.

When have you risen from the ashes of wildfire? How and where have you reseeded yourself, proving that God works all things for good for those who love him and live according to his ordinances? As we rise out of the ashes in our lives, we are uniquely enabled to offer support to others in the midst of their fire storms. We can empathize, respond with compassion, offer encouragement, and be living proof that grace can and will prevail.

The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud
to lead them along the way,
and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.
Exodus 13:21

Can you see God in the fire?

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