Where was God in Waldo Canyon Fire?

“Where was God in the Waldo Canyon Fire?”

Someone posed this question in comments on my last blog.  Not a surprising question, this seems to come up often in disaster or tragedy.  Where was God during 9-11?  Where was God during Oklahoma City bombing?  Or on a personal level: Where was God when my loved one got cancer?  Where was God when war ravaged my spouse?  Where was God when…

Possible versions of this question are as numerous as persons who utter it.

Evacuating our home in Foothills of Colorado Springs during “the worst fire in Colorado’s history”, I glanced back to find our entire neighborhood engulfed in smoke.  Flames and black clouds spanned the Front Range.  Many people later commented how it appeared all of Colorado Springs was on fire.  This catastrophic scene gripped my heart as adrenaline coursed through my veins and stole my breath.  Ravaging effects of fire exploding onto our ridge in 65 mph winds wholly obstructed my usual sublime view of mountain vistas, not the least of which our beloved Pikes Peak.

This rock solid, glorious mountain inspired Katharine Lee Bates in 1823 to pen lyrics to America the Beautiful.  She later referred to it as “Gate-of-Heaven Summit”.   America’s Mountain, 10 miles west of Colorado Springs, 14110 feet above sea level {or 14,117 depending on which account you believe}, 38 acres of grandeur, Majestic Pikes Peak,  vanished from view in a chilling haze of smoke and flames.

In chaos of incineration and devastation of the Waldo Canyon Fire, did Pikes Peak move?  Was this magnificent mound any less regal or glorious than days before?  Could unspeakable disaster minimize its majesty, stymie its strength or lessen its loveliness?

My agonizing inability to see Pikes Peak did not alter the mountain’s presence nor could it.  Despite cataclysmic crisis, “Gate of Heaven Summit” stood resolute.  Likewise, the God of Heaven and Earth, unsurprised by human events, remained steadfast, majestic throughout this travesty and countless others before.

 The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. Psalm 93:1-2 NIV

I understand and empathize with the question, “Where was God when…” In my life I’ve experienced numerous times when I couldn’t feel God.  Well-meaning friends advised me to stop relying on feelings because they aren’t real.  Mature Christians, I’m told, put no stock in their feelings.  I must respectfully disagree.  Jesus experienced a deep range of emotions…Joy for little children who came to Him, sorrow over deaths of His best friend Lazarus & cousin John the Baptist, compassion for those who sought healing of Him, betrayal at the kiss of a disciple, and agony & abandonment in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Feelings represent an integral part of the human condition.  They let us know we are fully alive.  They signal that something is wrong…or right…depending on the situation.  The key is not to let our feelings overtake Truth articulated in God’s Word.  Facing fire, evacuation and beyond a most compelling Truth comforts me,

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

In times of great human suffering, we may struggle to “see God”.  Yet His Presence never abandons us to our circumstances.  God takes no holy holidays or celestial coffee breaks.  God did not evacuate the premises during the Waldo Canyon Fire.  No vacancy sign hung from heaven.  No missing celestial person’s report needed filing.

Eyes of our soul play tricks on us and we cannot always see clearly what lies beyond the veil of dark clouds in our path.  Yet, inability to see grandeur cannot diminish its reality.  Our God remains our constant companion just as sure as Pikes Peak emerged from beyond a smoky haze, glorious and majestic.

True to His Word, “I Am with you always even to the ends of the earth…” {Matthew 28:20 American KJV}  God is here in Colorado Springs just as He has always been.

Even beyond this assurance of His Presence, God doesn’t expect us to merely believe He caused something tragic to happen in Colorado, and we just have to accept it.  That would stir an even greater ache than a fire’s devastation.  Instead, our Creator walks this painful journey through a broken world with us.  He is acquainted with our grief and bears our sorrows.

Immanuel, God with us, shares in this gut-wrenching tragedy.   His heart breaks with ours.  He weeps with those who mourn.  In anxiety and calamity we discover our deepest need for God and in these times, if we look for Him, He reveals himself most precious to us.

      God give us eyes to see.

 

 

 

 

{photo by Megan Gendron Howe}

 

Pretty Woman–God’s Perspective

On Thursday, January 26, I will be the guest speaker for Colorado Springs, CO, DreamMakers, a ministry for single women of ALL walks of life.  Whether you are widowed, never married, separated, divorced, young, young-at-heart or feeling REALLY OLD, if you’re a single woman, you are welcome to join us at Woodmen Valley Chapel’s Café area,  290 East Woodmen Road from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.   Here’s a sneak preview of my topic, “PRETTY WOMAN—God’s Perspective”.

Have you ever bumped into a girlfriend you haven’t seen in a long time and the first thing out of her mouth is, “YOU Look GREAT!”  Do you think to yourself…“Liar!”? 

Inside, you’re saying, “I’m overweight, my hair’s a mess, my tan has faded, I’ve got bags under my eyes, I bite my nails, I’m undisciplined, insecure, untalented, unworthy, and ugly.”  Then you hear these words spill out loud, “Thank you! You look Great too!!”? 

Why do we do that?  What in our spirit compels us to dig up all the junk we possibly can about ourselves and then accept it as gospel?  Why do we default to the negative voices in our head rather than cling to the truth of what God says about us?

In 1990 Julia Roberts starred in a movie called Pretty Woman.  You probably even saw this movie.  Roberts portrayed a beauty who made her way in the world by cashing in on her looks.  She lived as though she believed her only worth was in selling her body to the highest bidder.  Oddly though, an ache inside her told her there had to be something better out there.  I remember thinking how strange it was that her character would give herself from the neck down to just about anyone with cash in hand yet she had a hard & fast rule that she would not KISS any of her customers.  She so wanted to believe there was MORE for her than what she was getting paid for, and she held on to a tiny bastion of hope, allowing no one access to the sacred sanctuary of her lips.

What is it in my spirit that has caused me at times to live like this Pretty Woman?  No, I’m not a prostitute.  At least not in the literal sense defined by the law.  But you can bet there have been times in my life where I’ve compartmentalized my value and marketed myself for less than God says I’m worth.   I behaved as if I scarcely deserved 50 cents worth of Christ’s Love but not the full price of His Sacrifice.  Like the Pretty Woman I held certain small things sacred but would rummage through refuse in most other areas of life.  I didn’t value myself the way my Jesus does.

I see this so often in single women and it breaks my heart.  We might start out feeling like we are beautiful but somewhere along the road we lose touch with our true beauty.  Once like a stunning evening gown in Nordstrom, we hung in there for a while.  But the clock ticked off too many days, weeks, months and we were relegated to the sale rack.  Sadly, we did it to ourselves by taking a virtual red marker to our soul’s price tag. 

First, it was just a little…10% off.  We’re still feeling like we are worth a lot but we’re hoping this small mark down gets us noticed.   When it doesn’t, we pick up the pen again…20% off.  Surely now someone will snatch us up…for a date, a promotion, a relationship, a party invitation, a leadership role.  We’re looking for validation from someone, anyone.  And when we still don’t get what we think we need, we tell ourselves it’s because we don’t deserve good things.  Again we pick up the pen… 50% off.  The danger?  We keep discounting our worth until we end up in some bargain basement sale for 90% off.  Or donating ourselves to some guy named Good Will.  Trouble is, Good Will often has Bad Intentions.  What Happened?

In this presentation, we’re going to take a look at things single women use to define ourselves…the tools & traps this world offers us to trade not just our confidence but our true value for.  You may recognize several of these “tools” as ones you have applied to yourself.  You may even have others I don’t mention.  Our goal is to have some fun, maybe even laugh at ourselves, and to also thoughtfully consider who we think we are and who we REALLY are from the perspective of the Grand Designer of the ultimate Pretty Woman.  

Chair of Thanksgiving, Single Mom Style

I have a dear friend who has a Chair of Thanksgiving where she faithfully meets with Jesus each morning.  A pretty, decorated basket next to her prayer chair is filled with her Bible, journal, pens, highlighters, a box of tissue and note cards to write encouraging Scripture to others to remind them to be thankful as well.  I admire my friend’s discipline and her commitment to meet with Jesus daily, to talk with him, listen for Him and thank Him.  I’m a bit envious that she has the luxury of doing all this from the comfort & quietness of her special chair.  My friend, however, is NOT a single parent.

I am a single mom and My Chair of Thanksgiving is portable.

It’s a white wooden chair at my kitchen table with my family.

It’s a swivel chair at my desk.

It’s a patio chaise on my back deck overlooking our Colorado skyline.

It’s a swing in a nearby park, a boulder on a hiking trail, a bicycle seat, a bench on a firing range–anywhere I’m fortunate enough to hang out with my kiddos.

It’s the front seat of my automobile, sometimes on the passenger side while my teen drives and I thank God for nerves of steel.

It’s a stadium chair at my son’s sports events.

It’s a cold, stiff chair in a doctor’s office.

It’s a sofa in a counselor’s office.

It’s a beach towel on a sandy Pacific shore.

It’s a window seat 33,000 feet above & between majestic Colorado & Alaska mountains.

And anyone who’s ever been a single mom desperate for a few minutes of solitude will understand when I say sometimes my Chair of Thanksgiving is a toilet seat!

My Chair of Thanksgiving is portable because my Bible tells me that I am to never cease giving thanks…

“Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I Thessalonians 5:17-18

As a single mom, I often struggle with ingratitude.  Some days I don’t feel like giving thanks.  It’s easier to feel sorry for myself, having to parent solo for the better part of 14 years, than it is to say “Thank You, Jesus”.   But when I begin to consider Who it is I am thanking, my gratitude takes on a whole other dimension even as a single mom.

As a woman who parented 18 children through birth, fostering and adoption, I’ve learned that I can be thankful because:

When I feel alone Jesus is “Immanuel, God with Us”.  His presence never leaves me, no matter how lonely my heart feels Jesus is always here with me.  He sees every tear and He holds my heart.

When my world is full of chaos, juggling schedules and homework and carpools and sport practices and doctor’s appointments, He is my “Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is peace.”

When I am exhausted and desperate for rest from all those mothering responsibilities, God is “Maon & Machseh, My dwelling place & refuge.”

When I struggle to make financial ends meet, God is  “Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides.”  My children may not always have what they want, but He faithfully gives us all we need.

When my heart breaks from hurtful things my kids say about me & to me, God is my “Magen, my shield,” to protect me from the arrows of young, uncensored mouths.

When I am overwhelmed in the spiritual battle for the hearts of my children, God is “Yahweh Nissi, the Lord my Banner “ who goes before me in battle and protects us.  Confident of His protection, I can fight any battle in His power & prevail in His strength.

When my kids try to push me around and I just don’t feel that strong, He is “Metsuda & Migdal-Oz, my fortress and my strong tower.”

When I am overwhelmed with guilt at all my failures, mistakes and motherly imperfections, He is “Jehovah Rophe, the God who heals.”, healing my mind and my heart, allowing me to forgive myself.

When I am confused about right decisions to make for my children, He is ”Rabbi, teacher” who shows me the path to follow.

When I am discouraged and feel I can’t keep going, He is “Miqweh Yisrael, the Hope of Israel, the God of Hope”.  Hope that steadies me in fear & trials, not because everything in life is picture perfect but because the God of Hope can be trusted in every situation.

Finally, When I am tired of being single and I long for a husband, Jesus is “Nymphios, my Bridegroom”.  I am married to my Lord.  And I can give thanks that my husband not only loves me deeply & unconditionally, He doesn’t leave the toilet seat up.

In this holiday season, I encourage you to embrace your Chair of Thanksgiving, wherever it may be.