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}

 

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.

Breakfast on the Beach: Time for ‘seconds’

Colorado winter 

Was it the voice of the Lord, or merely my weariness of cold toes, that beckoned me to flee the frosty Colorado fortress this week?  Regardless, my soul cried out for yet another Breakfast on the Beach experience with my Jesus.  Gladly, I answered the call to meet Him on the shores of San Clemente.   It is always my delight to bask in the presence of the Lord.  My hungry heart is nourished once again.  His Word is washing over me as surely as the cool Southern California waves lap at my feet.  His unfailing love pours over me as the sun drenches me in bright beams all around.

 

Silence is broken only by steady rhythm of crashing waves and a repeating refrain of seagulls singing while dancing just above the waters.  It is God’s music to me in this moment and I picture Him dancing over me with JOY.  I am His Beloved.  He is passionate for me and He is calling me to dance with Him.  I rise to my feet, toes sinking into the sun baked sand.  We spin and sway to the melodic movement of the ocean’s song.  It is sublime.   seagulls

 

As glorious as this precious moment is, I am suddenly struck with the reality of what it means to pray without ceasing, to praise in ALL things.  Quietly, I begin to confess,

 

I do not need the ocean to begin to praise You, Lord.

I do not need a beach to come and dine.

I don’t require sunshine to rejoice in You.

I dare not wait to feel sand beneath my feet before we dance.

I am created for worship, no matter where I am or what’s happening in my life.

I am created for worship and YOU alone are worthy.

 

“Where shall I go from thy Spirit? Or where shall I flee from thy presence?…If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, YOU are there…” Psm 139: 7 & 9

His unfailing love envelopes me in all places.  His presence never leaves me.  In the blistery cold of Colorado.  In the radiant beams of the California sunshine.  In the stuffy small aircraft floating above the firmament between the two, God is WITH ME.  He is Immanuel, “God with us”.

 

It’s easy to feel Him with me in the sunshine.  Certainly He is here on the beach.  But also he is near in the darkness, in the quiet, in the shadows.  In the busy places…the airports, the office, the laundry room…God is near.  On the go…in traffic, on the runway, in the subway…God is near.  In the uncertainty of a doctor’s office or the unemployment line, God is with me.  In the stillness of a prayer closet, He is there.  Ever present, He never leaves me.

 

 For years I have read the Scripture, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psm. 46:10 It’s been the very reason I make it a regular practice to get away for personal retreats alone with my Lord…so I can be still.  Somehow in my mind I conjured up this image that by coming away to time alone with Jesus, He will find me and begin to speak.  But that is a false image made obvious to me as I meditate on the next verse… “The Lord of hosts is with us,” {46:11}.  Jesus does not need to find me because He never leaves me…the Lord of Hosts is with me!  And He never stops speaking.  It is I who must be still long enough to realize that He is speaking, to listen to what He is saying.  And it is in the listening that I learn anew what His purpose is for my life…

 

He is calling me to an awareness of His Holy presence that I, being mindful of His constancy, may worship him wherever life finds me. 

 

“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; he is also to be feared among all gods.  Glory and honor are in his presence, strength and gladness are in his place…give unto the Lord the glory due his name.  Bring an offering and come before him.  Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”  I Chronicles 16: 25, 27, 29

 

I am a musical instrument to be played in the presence of the Most Holy God, where music and dancing never cease.  To worship Him is the answer to the age old question “why am I here?”  It is the essence of who I am.

 

I am a worshipper.                        San Diego pier