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}



God Showed Up May 21, 2011

You’d have to be living under a polar ice cap to miss the news.  Predictions of the Rapture and tales of Doomsday dominated headlines all around the world yesterday and for weeks preceding. 

I don’t personally know a single individual who believed the hype about the end of the world though I enjoyed some friendly banter with Christian friends as we teased one another about being left behind… “Will you take care of my dog when I’m gone?”… “Will you sing at my memorial service?”… “Honey, you can finally have the remote control all you want after Saturday night.”  Another friend texted me that he was at the Pearly Gates saving me a place in line cos he knows I’m 3 minutes late for everything.  Nice. 

It doesn’t come as any surprise to me that “the Rapture” didn’t happen yesterday.  Any first year convert to Christianity can quote Scripture from Mark 13:32:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

I doubt very seriously God is going to reveal to an 89 year old Californian the “day or hour” before He tells Jesus.  Any legitimate follower of Christ would have a difficult time defending such a nonsensical prediction. The Rapture didn’t happen.  End of story.  You’d think we’d all just go back to life as normal today.

Yet this morning we awoke to even more hype. Indignant Christian leaders took to public microphones demanding an apology from Family Radio founder, Harold Camping for his “gross abuse of his followers trust”…not to mention their funds in the millions.  Concerned that one man’s wayward teaching somehow besmirched all of Christianity, they decried his errant eschatological prediction and insisted he repent immediately.

 Non-Christians flood cyber space with tweets and comments posted to on-line articles, gifting us predictable vitriol about how foolish & ignorant ALL Christians are.  Mocking abounds from self-proclaimed atheists in a “see, I told you so” smugness that there is no God. They revel in ridicule and extol their superior enlightenment taunting no one in particular and any believer in general, as if Deity failing to show up yesterday lends credence to their non-belief.   

But did God really fail to show up yesterday?  I don’t think so.  The Divine Creator showed up on May 21, 2011 just as He does every day. 

God showed up in the Colorado morning sky as infant sunlight stretched and yawned across a pink & blue celestial nursery illuminating snow atop Pikes Peak.  He showed up as stars cavorted and played across the galaxy.  He showed up in a silent hospital room as a family gathered to say their last goodbyes to a dying loved one. He showed up as a young woman gave birth for the first time and gently placed a joyful kiss on her newborns’ forehead. 

God showed up in an emotional outdoor service as a flag draped a soldier’s coffin. He showed up as a small group of devastated wives banded together to support one another & pray for combat veteran spouses ravaged with PTSD.  He showed up in forgiveness offered to someone undeserving of mercy.  He showed up as family and friends witnessed sacred vows spoken between a man & woman pledging their love & lives to one another in holy matrimony.   He showed up in a nursing home when someone took the time to encourage and hug an elderly man who hadn’t spoken in weeks. 

God showed up as committed activists rescued young girls from human trafficing in Mexico and sexual slavery in Asia.  He showed up in songs of praise shared in a secret worship service behind closed doors in Afghanistan.  He showed up as volunteers rocked babies in a Russian orphanage.  He showed up as tent-makers shared the Gospel of Christ with a Muslim in Turkey.

God showed up in gifts of outreach at food kitchens and homeless shelters. He showed up in a million acts of compassion, in simple, unselfish kindnesses demonstrated toward the poor and in countless words of encouragement for the brokenhearted. 

On May 21, 2011 God Showed Up.  The question is, “Did we see Him?” Or were we too busy watching the sky for something less miraculous?