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TRAVEL

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

The desert is clean physically & spiritually because the sun shines in every place and bakes it sinless. Nothing can hide from its righteouRead More...

FAITH

The High To Keep You Satisfied

The High To Keep You Satisfied

This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in May 2014. Not every difficulty is a storm: sometimes life is a drought. We do not aRead More...

INSPIRATION

Home Sounds: Chris Stapleton

Home Sounds: Chris Stapleton

I first became a fan of Chris Stapleton's voice during my bluegrass kick. He was the front man for The SteelDrivers at that time, and that voRead More...

WORLD

Ears to Hear: How Does the Gospel Speak to Racism?

Ears to Hear: How Does the Gospel Speak to Racism?

Will Rogers once said: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” We all have drums we like to beat. But never doubt the capacity of the human hearRead More...

After the Northern California Fires

Posted on: Monday, October 16, 2017

(Reposted in the wake of the October 2017 Northern California fires that affected our community here in Mendocino County. Originally written January 19, 2015.)

Growing up in California, you know about wildfire season. This is the time of year when helicopters circle the sky and the night lights up with smoke and flames and firefighters camp out in small towns like mine that border national forests. Sometimes during really bad years, ash falls in sheets for weeks, and you wake up with your car covered in it like snow. The city officials cancel Little League because children shouldn’t be running in that air. Smokey the Bear comes to your elementary school classroom to remind you that “only you can prevent forest fires.” Small diners provide free meals for weary fire crews.

Despite this annual devastation, the forests in California are green and beautiful all year round. There are places near where I live, where I can stand surrounded by nothing but miles of trees and feel like I just discovered the world.

This is because God designed forests to grow again after wildfires. Without the heat of those flames, the seeds beneath the soil would not release and grow. The fire that kills the old forest gives new woods life.

Every day, in and out of fire season, we pray for peace. We pray for a calm and even existence. Certainly no one in their right mind would wish havoc upon themselves. But when those seasons come, we should not be surprised.

This world isn’t the utopia you were promised. These are the Shadowlands. When I stand on a mountain and see nothing but God’s majesty for hundreds of miles all around me, it is marvelous to think this is just the scar tissue of the world that was, and is nothing but a shadow of the one yet to come. This, I think to myself at the Yosemite Valley, the Pacific Ocean, the Grand Canyon, the Marble Mountains—somehow this is a fallen world.

So in the meantime, there are earthquakes, famines, floods–the seizures and sobs of a broken world fighting its Maker. We suffer loss and pain. These are the fires of our lives.

And in those fires, many are consumed. Adult hearts grow small and hard, eager to bite back at the cruel world before it can sink its teeth into frail human flesh again. We bend and finally we break. Our selfishness becomes cemented. Our self-love grows roots and vines and becomes more subtle, more clever, more all-consuming. We lose our innocence, our trust, our hope. This is the fire apart from Christ.

But in Christ, we are new people. We have the capacity to love no matter what because we ourselves are loved. Not because we are better or stronger, but because Christ works in and through us, we are not consumed in the fire. Instead, He uses the heat to burn the old and to grow the good works and the virtues He planted in our hearts.

Whatever you are going through today, know that it is not random. If you belong to Jesus Christ, He is faithful to use the fire. Nothing is without purpose. This, too, is for your good. Let Him use the heat of your circumstances to soften your heart instead of harden it. May you become more loving, more selfless, more giving, more generous, more compassionate, more humble in the same fire that would have made your former self bitter and brittle and angry and hateful. This is the great work of God in the hearts and lives of the redeemed: We are not lost in the fire, we are only refined.

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