Through the Fire: A Personal Perspective on the Impact of Waldo Canyon Fire

 Like thousands of others who call the west side foothills of Colorado Springs, CO, “home”, I wait today to learn the condition of that home.  Displaced since our Waldo Canyon Fire evacuation in a frenzy of thick, black billowing smoke and threatening flames pouring down a nearby ridge like lava from a volcano, I remain transfixed with neighbors and friends in a shroud of uncertainty.   Thousands of evacuees wait in Red Cross shelters, some in hotel rooms, countless others in homes of kind friends or family.  Exhausted and overwhelmed, we hold our breath, we fight back tears and we wait even as fire continues to savagely lap up the world around us.

Sleepless giants posing as television crews, radio announcers, internet media and the ever-present rumor mill gush information…and mis-information…with the force of water from fire hoses.  Images of burning homes, hovering clouds of smoke, fleeing wildlife, charred forests and weeping families sear our minds.  Headlines scream of despair, inflaming our worst fears and incinerating our hopes. 

In times like this many sense a call to pray.  Perhaps months have passed since they looked heavenward not because of any ill-will toward God but simply because life keeps us busy.    We lost track of spiritual hunger as we pursue other appetites.   We lost perspective.   We lost our sense of gratitude.  Yet, in a moment of clarity we stop to look around us at precious loved ones and we thank God we are alive and safe.

If we are blessed with even greater clarity we realize more than anything, what we lost is our sense of eternity.   If I asked anyone on the streets of Colorado Springs today, “Do you believe in eternity?” most would reply in the affirmative.  Of course, we believe in eternity.  But somewhere between the Alpha & Omega we stopped living like we believe.  We traverse day by day as if life was an all-you-can-consume buffet.  We belly up to life’s goodie bar hoping for things of this world to fill us.  And when our feast goes up in flames we easily feel cheated, maybe even question the Goodness of the One who provided the banquet in the first place, blaming Him when our meal is charred.

How senseless to live like I’m in control then blame God when tragedy strikes.  I’m NOT in control.  The harder I chase after earthly pleasures and possessions, the less they satisfy.  The faster I pursue my dreams the quicker they vanish before my eyes.  The more I strive for perfect relationships, the lonelier I become.  The more I demand control, the less I realize it. 

In a hasty evacuation, as I raced through my home gathering last-minute possessions to throw in my car, The phrase echoed through my mind, “You can’t take it with you.”  Take it with me whereInto eternity.

Today as I wait on news of my home, my community, even my future I rest  convinced that God wants me to hold tightly to an eternal perspective.  Those things easily consumed by fire were never intended to give me life.  Loss I may face before sundown, pain I may experience cannot rob me of peace.  In God’s grace he uses loss and pain to shape me into someone He would delight to spend eternity with.  Not yet ready for eternity, in His mercy He continues to transform me even through the fire.   Therein lies my hope today and every day.

“We do not lose heart! Our troubles are slight and short-lived and their outcome is an eternal glory which outweighs them by far.  Meanwhile our eyes are fixed not on the things that are seen but on things unseen, for that which is seen passes away.  What is unseen is eternal. 

For we know that if this earthly frame that houses us today should be demolished, we possess a building which God has provided—a house not made by human hands, eternal and in heaven…Therefore, we never cease to be confident.”  II Corinthians 4:17-18, 5:1 & 6

My hope is not based in things of this world.  I possess Joy—not an emotional high, but real peace prevailing even in the midst of uncertainty, devastation and ruin–because I am intimately familiar with the One unseen.  With eternity in mind I realize that world news headlines, even those involving me personally are not the main story.  The Greater Story is my Sovereign God, the One I will Live with eternally.


Grubs & Goodies: Accepting Bad with Good

Standing in my kitchen shucking corn I recalled childhood memories of racing through cornfields, selecting sweet prizes of gold, carting them home for grandma to prepare.  To this Kansas farm girl, nothing shouts “CELEBRATE SUMMER” to my taste buds quite like home-grown, hand-picked, freshly roasted corn on the cob.  Just imagining roastin’ ears dripping in sweet butter running down my elbows causes my chops to slobber like a teething baby.

 My drool quickly dried up at the sight of an oversized grub worm just beneath corn silk.  Nasty looking critter.  Covered in slime, shiny white with a jelly looking head chomping away on my corn.

 Fortunately, I’ve enough experience with sweet corn to know the little bugger doesn’t eat much.  Grubs, as disgusting and unsavory as they are, don’t affect the good stuff further down-cob.  I lopped off the tip, cooked up the remainder and minutes later savored sweet flavors nature intended.

 I could have discarded the entire roastin’ ear and shucked a new one.  I might have cursed the corn along with its occupant, let it ruin my dinner or perhaps my whole evening.  Ridiculous?  Of course, it is.  This was a minor grub on an otherwise delicious ear of goodness.

 So why is it I have enough sense to accept a little bad mixed with a lot of good in nature but I can’t seem to allow for it in me?  In other words, what’s up with feeling I must ooze perfection 24/7 or I’m no good at all?

 I struggle with messages in Scripture appearing contradictory about who I am.  How do I reconcile, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…and my soul knows it very well.” {Psalm 139:14 KJB, Cambridge Edition}, with “for he knows how we are formed and he remembers that we are dust…” {Psalm 103:14, NIV}?

 Which is it?  Am I wonderful? Or am I dust?  In simpler terms, am I good or am I bad?  The answer is, “YES!”  Good and bad exist side by side in all humans.  Denying that truth invites a split in our hearts, a lifetime of internal conflict as good and bad war against each other.

 If, like corn-cobs, at first glance I see worms in myself, I might be tempted to discount all value I have to offer.  But dig a little deeper, peel back the silk covering worms hide behind and I’ll discover a gift of goodness worms cannot destroy. 

 The truth is, in this flesh no one is either all good or all bad.  I can choose to hide “bad me”, cover it up with silky things like ministry, hard work, education, position, smooth words.  I can smother it with this world’s slime of addictions & fun fixes.  Or I can admit to battling worms of imperfections, alive and thriving. 

 I wasn’t born perfect.  I’ll never be perfect in this life.  Refusal to accept my imperfections, weaknesses and brokenness sets me on a pedestal of self-absorption & vanity above other mere mortals.  When I fall from my pedestal, I hit hard.  The house of mirrors I crafted to represent “good me” lies shattered in pieces and I’m left devastated, paralyzed at the sight, feeling there is nothing left but “bad me” exposed for all to see.

 In time, my natural remedy is to pick up bigger chunks of brokenness, piece them back together, try harder to exemplify good me.  Christians are notorious for this.  When we mess up we pray harder, memorize Scriptures, go to church every time doors are open, serve in multiple ministries.  If all else fails we throw a fat check in an offering plate.  Viola! Ideal me finds daylight again.

 But ideal me” isn’t “real me”Real me doesn’t need to strive harder for perfection.  Real me needs grace and acceptance.  I must realize because I live in an earthly body, I WILL screw up.  But my temporary failures don’t define me as a total failure any more than a minor grub ruins an entire ear of corn. 

 Because of Christ in me, I am wonderfulWith that assurance, I can learn from my mistakes, failures and imperfections.  Rather than tell myself “I’m worthless…” or venture in search of distractions and more corn silk to hide behind, I’m able to appreciate my strengths without exploiting them and I work honestly on changing things in me that aren’t strong. 

 In accepting bad me along with good me, I open up Real me. The more honest I am about my imperfections, the healthier…and braver…Real me becomes. I begin to forgive myself for not being perfect, to love myself in spite of my worminess, to taste goodness in my deeper parts, to delight in the delicious flavors of who I am instead of focusing on my grubs.

I Am the 70%…and 78%

Rasmussen released a poll a few days ago showing for the 3rd year in a row, Americans prefer “Merry Christmas” as opposed to “Happy Holidays”, this year by 70%.    A separate poll earlier in 2011 by this same organization revealed that 78% of Americans believe Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  Obviously, there is no way to tell how much overlap exists between the 70% and the 78%.  But would it be reasonable to assume that most people professing belief in Jesus as the Son of God prefer to acknowledge the birth of Christ as the Reason for this Season as opposed to merely wishing someone benign holiday sentiments?  I’m a bit curious about that 8% difference though.

Yesterday while waiting in my favorite line at Wal-Mart…the “20 items or less” {fewer} line, I counted 5 shoppers in front of me and 4 more behind me.  At the front of what should have been an express line, the cashier stood motionless waiting helplessly on a shopper who sent her son back to the far reaches of the store to retrieve one forgotten item.  As people became increasingly disgruntled by what most considered a selfish delay, I decided to break into song.

“JOY to the World, the Lord has come…everybody join in…”  The response surprised me.  Shoppers waiting with me in line initially turned to see who the crazy woman was.  In a flash of comic relief…or I prefer to think of it as Christmas Cheer…they decided to sing along.  In mere moments, tension and frustration dissolved into festive self-amusement as several off-pitch enthusiasts joined in singing, “Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and Wal-Mart sing, and heaven and Wal-mart sing, and heaven & heaven and Wal-Mart sing…”  Applause and laughter followed.

When finally my turn came to check out, the grateful cashier enthusiastically greeted me.  “Happy Holidays…and Merry Christmas,” she said smiling, as if somehow she knew I am in the 70%…and the 78%.

JOY to the World, the LORD has come!