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.


A Season of Waiting

Our summer garage sale concluded, my teen helped me drag unsold items back inside the garage.  Holding up a heavy winter coat he’d outgrown, my son turned to me with a puzzled look & a shrug.  His comical expression said it all.  Nearly 90 degree heat had been oppressive that day and before the words “what were you thinking?” could escape his lips, I cut him off. 

“Hey, winter is coming.  Somebody’s gonna need a warm coat soon.”

Later in the week I was walking and praying for the umpteenth hundred time about a longing of my heart.  It was a specific request I’ve repeatedly prayed over the course of several years.  I was tempted to fuss at God and ask what was taking so long. 

I wanted to tell Him, “If you’re trying to build character in me, I’ve been told by numerous folks that I have PLENTY.”

My request wasn’t a selfish one.  It wasn’t even predominantly about me.  Furthermore, something in my spirit told me that the Lord had not said “NO” to this petition.  I even felt led to continue to present this specific request to Him.  Still, I wondered aloud, “Lord, if you’re not saying NO, then what’s up with this lengthy delay?  A little clarity would be nice…” 

So many other times in my life I have prayed and had either an immediate answer or a definitive closed door.  Clearly this was not one of those times.  The door was not closed, God was not telling me to move on and forget about it.  I didn’t even get a sense God was annoyed with my repetition as if I was pestering Him.  In fact He had shown me on other occasions what I am seeking is in accordance with His will and is close to His heart.      

I’ve often said that, for me, the most frustrating pairing of two words is “wait patiently”.  I suppose no one likes to wait.  That morning on my walk I caught an image of the Lord putting my request…and my waiting…into perspective.

My mind wandered back to the garage scene with my son and then it hit me.  My petition to God was the equivalent of asking for a coat in the heat of summer.  All this time, in the heat of life’s circumstances, I had been ignoring the obvious.  This was not the right time for the fulfillment of my heart’s longing.

God wasn’t saying, “No, I’m not going to give you what you are asking for”.  He wasn’t even disagreeing with me that I would need an answer someday.  Just like asking for a coat in Colorado…anyone who’s ever experienced the Rocky Mountains in December knows it WILL get cold enough here to warrant a coat.  Eventually.  I wasn’t asking for anything out of the ordinary.  But my timing was waaaaay off.

My loving Lord gently whispered to me regarding my petition,  This isn’t the right season.  He knows a time will come when granting my request will be more appropriate.  Until then, God simply says, wait and be patient.  

 “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage.  He shall strengthen your heart.  Wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

 “My soul, wait only upon God for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5

 “Turn to God, keep mercy & judgment and wait on God continually.” Hosea 12:6
So often we think we know best what we need, and when we need it.  We take our petitions to God and ask him to sanction our desires and grant our requests as if He is some Holy Vending machine.  Of course, being deeply spiritual, we would never verbally describe God that way.  But our attitude betrays us.  We figure if we are following God closely, listening for His voice & obeying His directives, He will be more likely to give us “the desires of our hearts”.  That’s Biblical, right?
Not exactly.  When God says, “Delight yourself in me and I will give you the desires of your heart,” the translation has more to do with God gifting us with desires than it does granting fulfillment of those desires.  In other words, it is God who stirs in us to desire in the first place.  We desire peace, in the Middle East, in our home, or in our heart.  We desire a promotion at work…or a job just to make ends meet.   We desire a runaway child to return home or a wayward spouse to repent.  We desire a ministry or good health or someone to love us or any other of a million desires we may have in a lifetime. It isn’t that those desires are bad.  It’s simply a matter of asking in due season.  


God, the Giver of all good gifts, is not going to give us a coat in the heat of summer.  His timing is perfect.  He knows that often we need time for life’s circumstances to cool off a bit before we can receive what we are asking of Him.  I don’t know about you but if someone presented me a coat in the midst of a heat wave, I’d probably be foolish enough to wear it, then complain about being very uncomfortable.  Better to wait for God to move in His time, when the season is right.

 “For you have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” Hebrews 10:36

 “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined unto me and heard my cry,” Psalm 40:1

 “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him…”  Psalm 37:7

Indeed, I am resting in the Lord.  Even so, as long as God is not closing the door on my heart’s longings, I will continue to dialog with Him about them, asking in faith.  If His reply remains “WAIT” I will wait a bit more patiently than before.  After all, winter is just around the corner.


Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord…

Stillness does not come easy for me.  I find myself in another season of waiting, this time for a phone call from my physician. My mind is full of jumbled thoughts.  In the grips of apprehension escape to find time alone with the Lord becomes a priority.

Less than a quarter mile north of Roosevelt National Forest on Hwy 34 E lies a piece of real estate heaven called Dripping Springs Inn.  Without question the entire Estes Park, CO, area is extraordinarily scenic.  Yet something about this particular mountain retreat calls my heart to return again and again when solitude is beckoning. 

Dripping Springs is a quaint collection of small cottages and a B & B snuggled up to the Big Thompson River. Arriving  at the break of dawn, this place is as sleepy as I am. 

I’ve been coming here for years and it has never appeared more inviting.  Only a few short steps down a concrete stairway and I am immersed in woods.  A small walking trail outlined by rocks on each side follows the river.

Fire pits encircled by outdoor chairs dot the landscape and my mind’s eye envisions last night’s guests warming themselves in the cool mountain evening as they swapped life stories.  Small canopies will partner with ample aspen and prolific pine trees to offer shade in the afternoon.  Further on down the trail a wheel barrow rests against an old shed. 


Backing up to the river, a wooden platform with its tall, white wrought iron arch conjures up images of a blissful bride and groom exchanging vows.  

At last my eyes land on my favorite spot in this idyllic hideaway…an oversized hammock dangling between two aspen.  Over the years God has cradled me here as I penned numerous private thoughts, praying countless prayers for wisdom on various issues confounding my senses.  Here, too Scripture has often come alive for me as I incline my ear to hear from the Lord.

I sprawl into the swaying paradise and begin to sing praises in competition with raucous waves .  The Thompson is raging with waters higher than I have observed in 20 years.  As the river races furiously downstream, mud and silt paint the surface a copper hue crowned with white foam.  Swirling, crashing into boulders at a frantic pace, water bounces into the air and explodes like liquid fireworks.  The sight brought laughter and feeble attempts to photograph the elusive spray.

I wondered audibly, “God, why is wisdom so often this elusive to me?”  In the midst of the river’s thunderous roar I heard His silent reply, “Wisdom danced with me before waves were ever formed, before the foundations of earth were laid.  Wisdom is mine to give and it’s plentiful but it is not for those who utter a casual request.  Wisdom belongs to those who earnestly seek me.”

Recently I spoke to a group of single women about the necessity of waiting on God.  Today I groan over how long I’ve gone without a purposeful retreat alone with my Lord, to quietly wait on Him, seek Him, and hear from Him. 

The morning sun peeks down the canyon walls and smiles on my face as I read God’s Word,   

“You make me glad by your deeds, oh Lord.  I sing for joy at the work of your hands.” Psalm 92:4

 “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for JOY” Psalm 98:8

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not his benefits.  Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5 

Reaching into a folder for paper to jot down my thoughts I came across notes from my earlier talk to the singles… “my two least favorite words paired together? ‘Waiting patiently’.  I’m not good at it, never have been.”

Jesus beckons me to wait on God.  All through his earthly journey He exemplified the importance of withdrawing for time alone with the Father.  Christ’s final act of obedience before his arrest leading to his crucifixion involved a time of waiting in the Garden.  Friends had accompanied him but ultimately He waited alone while they slumbered.  It was in the waiting, seeking, praying, that He mounted up strength to face his destiny at Calvary.  To have approached the Cross without a time of waiting before God, would have meant to forgo the strength required to endure eminent suffering.

Christ’s example compels me.  His invitation is not to be missed.  He says, “Come to the Garden of waiting and find strength for whatever lies ahead.”

None of us know what tomorrow holds.  If we have been a follower of Christ for any length of time we know that this path we walk is not always smooth.  Yet in moments alone with Him, earnestly seeking, expectantly waiting, Christ re-emerges as the sole longing of our hearts.  In the process, He speaks and our path supernaturally becomes level again.

“The path of the righteous is level. O upright one, you make the way of the righteous smooth.  Yes Lord, walking in your ways, we wait for you.  Your name and renown are the desires of our hearts.  My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.” Isaiah 26:8-9