About noon on Tuesday (June 14, 2016), I left the house to go to the grocery store. As I turned out of my drive way I noticed a small plume of smoke to the south and wondered if there was a car on fire on the freeway. I didn’t think much about it and continued on my way to buy milk and bread. During the 10 mile journey to the grocery store, I did what I do every time I run errands; I listened to J.S Bach on the car stereo and enjoyed the scenery. I stopped at the huge-big-honking discount store to get some vitamins and paper towels, and then I drove to the grocery store for my food items. When I exited the grocery store, I noticed southern sky was filled with billowing clouds of smoke from a forest fire. It only took a couple of hours for a small fire to become a blazing inferno.
The fire is over 20 miles away, but the magnitude of it fills the view from my home. On Wednesday, the fire went from a few hundred acres to a few thousand, burning its way through high-mountain terrain and toward small mountain communities. Smoke from the fire could be seen hundreds of miles away, and for those close by, the dense, thick smoke covered the sky. Wednesday evening, as I watched the fire’s eerie glow from my dining room window, the political idiocy and issues of the day seemed insignificant (they aren’t, they just seemed it in the moment). As the smoke-filled sky painted the moon a dark orange-red and obscured the view of the stars in the night sky, my petty worries gave way to a sense of wonder at how God can take something so ugly and still show His beauty.
As of this writing (1:30 a.m. Friday) the fire has scorched 16,000 acres, and it has taken at least 25 structures (homes and/or outbuildings). We will not know the full extent of the damage for weeks. Tonight, people are staying in evacuation centers, not knowing if their family homes are still standing or not. The community has pulled together to help in any way they can; there are even evacuation areas for the livestock. People are heartbroken and worried. Some of those homes have belonged to the same families of many generations. Meanwhile, hundreds of firefighters and emergency personnel are out there doing their dead-level best to fight a raging monster.
When tragedy strikes, people have no choice but to get real about life. Families come together and communities support their neighbors. Little things that seemed important this morning are now a dim, distant memory. Right here and right now are the only things that truly matter. Whatever calamity happens will end and recovery will begin. People will work together to rebuild and heal. This is where a nation’s strength begins; in the individual, the family and the community. For the better part of 200 years, America’s strength was in her people, not her government. In recent decades this country’s strength has not only diminished, but our core has atrophied and become almost completely disabled. We’ve lost the moral fortitude that comes from a strong family and community. We’ve gained a nation of selfish idolatry where people would rather spend time with their electronic gadgets than with their loved ones.
In our community tonight, people are concerned for each other; wondering what tomorrow will bring. We are praying for the safety of those brave individuals who have gone to fight the flames; we are praying for families who may have lost a home; we are praying for those who have lost livestock and hoping against hope that the inferno will leave no casualties. We are focused tonight on what Americans should focus on every night (and every day); our families and our communities. When we put the most important things at the top of our list, everything else will fall into place.
May God give us His mercy. May He heal our families, our communities and our nation. Amen.