As our plane decended over the Los Angeles Basin Sunday afternoon, we looked out the window and noticed giant black columns of what appeared to be smoke dotting the landscape. At first, I didn’t realize just what it was, asking my friend if some unknown volcano had erupted. It didn’t take long however for us to realize that our city of angels was once again confronted with wildfires. Only a few short months ago, we had faced a scare when a wildfire raced to within less than a mile of my home. My heart skipped a beat.
My weekend had been a gift for the soul; a relaxing trip up to San Francisco to celebrate my birthday with a couple of my closest friends. Leaving Paris at home (no, I didn’t leave my 9 year old home alone), turning off the TV, mobile phone and computer were part of the gift but now, I realized the downside to that. I was walking into a situation totally unprepared. I quickly placed a few strategic calls and was relieved to find that, for now, our home was in no danger. Arriving home, I quickly turned on the TV and found that nearly all the local channels were doing live coverage as wildfires raged. I noticed that Malibu Presbyterian Church had been gutted and I felt momentary saddness as it is where one of my favorite people is a member. I wondered how she and her husband were faring as they live just a short distance from the church. As the sun set Sunday evening, a haze settled eerily over the city. The news yesterday and again this morning shows increasing devestation. My eyes are watery; my throat hurts, and I worry!
Several years ago, my parents were pastoring a start-up church in a suburb of Kansas City. As a start-up project, they were faced with some unique challenges. Many of the people who began attending this work had little, if any, background in church and they were learning how to deal and cope with life’s problems while not relying on their “own understanding.” After several years, the struggle had been too much and the announcement was made that the church was being merged with another, larger, church in the area. It was a very difficult time for everyone who had invested so much into making it a sanctuary.
As you might imagine, this was an incredibly challenging time for my parents. They found themselves literally drained emotionally, physically and spiritually. On one of the last Sunday worship times, my dad asked one of the former worship pastors to sing a song especially for him. Something that would let him know that God was still in charge of everything that was going on; even pastors need to be reminded that God is in control sometimes.
Right before dad was to speak Jacque Cork walked to the front of the auditorium and began to sing. I remember listening as Jacque’s smoky voice rang out…
In the eye of the hurricane
In the center of the storm
The strong winds may blow
They can’t change what I know
As I hold to the One that the winds can’t control
This morning as I’ve watched the devestation the hurricane force Santa Ana winds, combined with these intense wildfires, continue to spread around my city, I find myself hurting. Hurting for those who have lost their homes (over 500 currently). Hurting for those, including family members, who have been evacuated and who are left facing an uncertain future. God…are you there?
In times of extreme distress, all of us need a little bit of reassurance that something or someone is in control. We need to know, that even if our world is ripped from us and we are left battered and bruised, that we will survive. State Farm Insurance has these great commercials on television that reminds us that no matter the catastrophe, just like a good neighbor they are there. Allstate Insurance reminds us, with a warm, soothing voice in their commercials, that we are in “good hands.”
As I was getting ready for work this morning, I heard Jacque’s voice reminding me that no matter the size, strength or fury of the firestorm I’m facing, I’m in “good hands.” The Creator of the universe knows my name and knows my situation. The scriptures remind us that in this life we will face troubles, but we are not to be afraid because the One who knows us best, loves us more.
I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. ~ John 16:33