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.

The Sound of Love’s Sacrifice

easter-2009-0643 

Some folks shot me strange looks as I was coming out of Home Depot a few days ago. 

 

I was carrying a 5’ wooden cross.  I also got some nods of partial understanding…it was, after all, Good Friday.  Members of my family in Christ didn’t need to know the reason for the cross I was carrying.  They simply did the math and reckoned it had something to do with Easter celebration.  I lugged the cross through the parking lot feeling the splinters of the oak beam dig into my shoulder.  For a moment I paused to consider the weight of the Cross Christ bore on the Via Dolorosa. 

 

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I love special occasions.  My domestic flair peaks with the approach of a holiday.  Determined not to permit decorating and cooking for 20+ people to overshadow the meaning of our Lord’s death and resurrection, I had gone to Home Depot with a mission in mind.  The cross would be placed out side my front door with 9” spikes partially nailed at opposite ends of the crossbeam.  A sign posted above the cross draped with a crimson sash read “It wasn’t the nails that held Him there.  It was His love for You.” Guests would be invited to hit one of the spikes with a hammer as a visual and auditory reminder, “Christ took the nails for me”.   

 

Predictably the guests began to arrive and each person was surprised to be greeted with a hug and a hammer.  Still all understood the powerful imagery and were sobered at the invitation to hit the spike.  The sound of the hammer driving the nail was powerful and sent chills down my spine each time I heard it.  It was the sound of Love’s sacrifice.

 

What must it have been like that day at Calvary?  Christ did not simply hear the spikes, He felt them.  Every blow.  In His wrists.  Through His ankles.  These were not little nails but large spikes ruthlessly driven deep into His flesh.  Did He grimace?  Did He cry aloud?  Did He weep?  Whatever His response to this torture, we know 2000 years later the nails were not what held Jesus to the Cross.  As a mob at His feet mocked Him to save Himself, Jesus could have called legions of angels to His rescue.  But love made a choice that day, a choice to hang there.  Love chose to endure the agony.  Love chose to die for the sin of mankind.  Love chose to pay a price man could never afford, to give a gift man would never deserve. 

 

He endured the suffering that should have been ours. Isaiah 53:4

 

Praise be to God that Calvary was not the end.  As I celebrated Easter Sunday with friends and family today, we gave thanks for the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and we rejoiced in His Resurrection.  Because He lives we have hope for this journey.  Beyond that, Christ’s victory over the final enemy…death…offers us the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven.

 

“God raised Him up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Acts 2:24

 

Jesus Christ is RISEN!