(I wrote this article in 2017 but accidentally deleted it from my blog. Because it seems extremely relevant to this hour, I am updating it and reposting it. I hope this inspires you!)
Fires, fires, and more fires. As I write this, California, Oregon, and Washington are suffering ravaging wildfires. As if in some diabolical competition, California has lost 2.5 million acres this year and Washington 3.1 million. I cannot find exact statistics for Oregon but see that in the past week alone, that state’s firestorm has consumed some 800,000 acres. I don’t know how many structures these statistics represent but I’m sure many thousands.
I grieve for those who are losing so much. In recent years, my own dear friends have lost homes to fire. Currently, I am praying and closely monitoring fires burning near other friends. Five days ago, I packed our car as the “Valley Fire” headed toward us. Thankfully for our area, the fire changed direction. I’m praying for our friends’ mountain retreat center in Oregon. A huge blaze has almost reached it.
What can we do in the face of such fear and loss? What is the right perspective? All I can think to do is to repent of sin, pray, trust, have hope, exercise faith. . . and try to encourage others. Perhaps my personal story may do that for someone.
Most people know that here in Southern California wildfires are as commonplace as tornadoes in the Midwest. During my childhood, every September and October my mom made sure she stayed close to home. We lived in a hilly neighborhood of nice homes bordered by a large field and a hill. In those months, the brush was tall and dry, just waiting for trouble. It was an anxious season for us.
Unsurprisingly, I have had my share of experiences with fires. When I was young, I remember watching the local high school burn to the ground. One night, I remember gazing for hours out our home’s picture windows at the San Gabriel mountain range lit up by various fires.
I grieve for those who have lost homes and businesses in the recent spate of fires, some of whom are my own friends.
What can we do in the face of such devastating loss? What is the right perspective? All I can think to do is to repent of sin, pray, and stand in trust, hope, and faith. . . and to try to encourage those who are suffering. I am not sure, but perhaps my personal story may help someone.
Here in California, wildfires are as commonplace as tornadoes in the Midwest. During my childhood, every September and October, my mom made sure she stayed close to home. We lived in a hilly neighborhood of nice homes bordered by a large fielded area with a hill and canyons. In those months, the brush was tall and dry, just waiting for trouble. My mom tried to stay ready.
It’s not surprising that I have had my share of experiences with fire. When I was very young, I remember watching the local high school burn to the ground. On another occasion, I remember gazing out our home’s picture windows one night and watching the San Gabriel mountain range lit up with various fires.
But let me tell you some miracle stories:
On one occasion, I had stayed home from school sick and was in a deep sleep. Suddenly, my grandfather walked in and bellowed, “What is all this smoke?” I saw little flames burning at the juncture between my bedroom wall and the ceiling. My fish were already dead from the smoke. That was a close call. A furnace fire. Thankfully, firefighters got there in time. I, along with most of the house, was spared. My grandfather driving up at just the right moment certainly seemed miraculous.
One day, when I was older, a home on the hill above us was on fire. People stood around watching, but no fire trucks came. I called the fire department and was shocked to hear I was the first one to call. The fire trucks came in time to save the house. That seemed like a miracle.
Another time, Clay and I saw a fire in a nice hillside residential area and drove over to see if we might help in some way. We went to one home on a slope. The homeowner was gone. Smoke was thick enough to trigger the smoke alarms inside. We noticed sprinklers and turned on what we could. When we drove through the area a couple of weeks later, I let the homeowner know what happened. Other homes perished, but his remained standing. A miracle?
There are other experiences, too, like the time in recent years when we evacuated in the night and slept at our church. And, of course, the Valley Fire scared us good this week before it turned away from us.* But I really want to tell you about the time when, beyond any doubt, I witnessed what I will always consider a miracle “of biblical proportions.”
I was months old in the Christian faith and about 21 years old. This was before I met Clay. I had a boyfriend named Joe. The two of us were downtown when we saw smoke out in the direction of my family’s home. We raced down city streets toward the hills. We drove up the driveway in time to see family members loaded in the car with the pets. They were on their way out. My dad, still an unbeliever, shook his head and lamented, “It’s over. There is no hope. Everything is lost. We need to leave.” They drove away.
Really, he felt hopeless for good reason. The fire was raging on the other side of the hills, and firefighters were unwilling to break away from that more highly populated side to help our side. We were on our own with almost no water pressure in our garden hose. I looked and saw an enormous wall of fire coming over the hill toward our home. Between those flames and the house was nothing but 3-4’ high dry brush. Once the flames would get to our fence, there was just more fuel to feed it. Our wooden fence was old and dried out. The property was lined with large ash trees. Layers of dried leaves 6 inches deep lay on the ground all along the house. One spark could ignite the home's old untreated shake roof (wood). Yes, things looked utterly hopeless.
Joe and I weren't ready to give up. I got on my knees in the middle of the driveway and cried out to the Lord. As I prayed, I watched the inferno coming over the hill begin to get smaller. As it progressed, instead of raging, it shrank! Finally, it crawled and then crept! We no longer feared it, so we stayed to do what we could. The fire finally reached our fence, and Joe swatted a few little licks of flames with a shovel. Miraculously, the fire petered out completely at the fence. I mean, it stopped for the entire length of the fence, perhaps 200 feet! It scorched the backside of the fence but did not cross that property line to even scorch the front side of the fence. How could that happen short of a miracle? I don't know why 13 other homes burned down that day, but I know God heard my desperate cry. The insurance company replaced my parents' worn out old fence. My parents came out ahead!
Years later, my mom reminisced and said, “Isn’t it wonderful how Joe saved our house that day?” I was quick to correct her. Joe had nothing to do with saving that house. It was ALL God! Isn’t it sad how so often we forget what God has done and find some other explanation for the miracle? But God DOES do miracles. I’m glad I got to remind my mom of God’s miracle.
(Here is a link to a similar story like my own. If anyone reading my story has trouble believing it, maybe you will believe this one from the Carr Fire in Redding a few years ago: https://bit.ly/3hhuwRB
A year or two ago, here in California, fires were raging, and Hume Lake Christian Campground was endangered. It looked bad. I was praying and following the progress on their website. I posted on their page that I had seen God come through for Christian campgrounds before and that God had a special spot in His heart for these places. Someone posted an angry retort. How dare I say that God would favor a Christian campground over a non-Christian one! I hadn’t said anything about the non-Christian ones but was affirming what I had seen over the years. All I know is that our prayers for the Hume Lake campground were heard. It was spared like others I have seen.
OK, granted, God loves everyone. Often, Christians suffer along with everyone else. Sometimes, God judges societies, and the righteous suffer, too. Then again, sometimes God spares a society for the sake of the righteous. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that God, “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Obviously, I have no easy answers to these issues, and I realize there are none. I just want to encourage others to believe that Jesus still rebukes storms and that He shows special care for His own.
Finally, may I end with the words God spoke to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14: When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
I’D LOVE IT IF YOU’D PRAY THIS PRAYER WITH ME: Dear Lord, so many people are suffering in various ways right now. I pray that Your grace and truth will sweep our nation and turn multitudes to You. Thank you that no matter what happens, we have an eternal refuge in You. Truly, Lord, you are the only way, truth, and life. In you, we are never without hope. Please have mercy on all those who are suffering and agonizing. Show them Your great love. Let them know that You are their answer, their hope, and their salvation. Thank you for the promises of Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Our eyes are on You, Lord. Please send miracles and bring forth many testimonies of Your salvation. Restore us for the praise of Your glory. Jesus, I pray this in Your mighty and matchless Name. Amen.
*God answers prayers! Here's a testimony from the Valley Fire that made it on our local news: https://bit.ly/3ilVcBV. Also, here is a surprising clip of a "smokenado" from the Valley Fire: https://yhoo.it/3bM3b8S
I look forward to receiving your input and also your prayer requests.
God bless you!!
(And one more thing. I may be sending a follow-up post soon. I have more ideas about what God is saying related to our current circumstances.)