Building anew in California

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

Overlooking an area burned by a California wildfire is eerie – almost otherworldly. I recall driving through Malibu in 1993, a couple of weeks after the "Old Topanga Fire" consumed hundreds of homes and thousands of acres. Stopping to take a closer look, I was touched by the minuscule signs of life that were already popping up – small animals scurrying through charred bushes, tender green leaves pushing aside the ash. It was just the evidence I needed to realize that life was being renewed, right where destruction seemed paramount.

Today, families are returning to their neighborhoods in southern California to see whether their homes are still standing or have been leveled by the devastating fires. My prayers, along with those of countless others, have been for those individuals, whose bricks and mortar have turned to ashes, to feel the spirit of hope and renewal.

I base my prayers on several fundamental points of conviction. First, that God is wholly good, so He didn't bring about this or any other catastrophe. I perceive God as a benevolent Father who is the source of all life, not death and destruction, and as a tender Mother, embracing every one of Her children. This loving Parent's handiwork will be seen in the regeneration that's sure to come.

Second, that the most important building blocks undergirding home are in the hearts of its inhabitants, not in the molecules of its structure. Sunday night on the Internet, stories of gratitude for family, friends, and firefighters emerged. During these times, we often tend to take stock of what's really important – our priceless possessions. A true home is shaped by God-given qualities expressed by those who reside within it. These can never be lost, overtaxed, or depleted.

And third, that the benevolent, tender Father-Mother God has already prepared a renewed sense of home, and He will guide each individual along the way. Christ Jesus promised such when he said, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you" (John 14:2).

In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy highlighted this sentiment when she wrote, "Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God" (p. 254). She also described heaven, in part, as: "harmony ... the atmosphere of Soul" (p. 587). Christ Jesus promised that the kingdom of heaven – that harmony and the atmosphere of Soul – is at hand, right here and now. No fire or loss has the capacity to overturn what God provides for each of Her children.

As I've thought about the ravages of the recent fires, I've been reminded of an anecdote about when Thomas Edison's laboratory, filled with the inventions he was working on, caught fire. When his son found him outside the plant, Edison told his son to find his mother and her friends because they'd never see a fire like that again!

Early the next morning, after everything was destroyed, he gathered his employees to announce that they were rebuilding. He queried if anyone knew where they might find the money to do so. At age 67, Edison saw this as an opportunity to begin again. He built a bigger and more efficient lab from which he provided humanity with many useful inventions.

The biblical figure Job frames a parallel. After he'd lost everything, his young friend Elihu, endeavoring to offer support, reminded Job that "there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8). Job could look to divine Love, the source of all good, to supply every need, rather than focusing on his losses. Recognizing that this infinite reservoir was available to him enabled him to regain his footing and to discover inspired solutions.

In like manner, God has planted that spirit in every man, woman, and child who faces unforeseen challenges. And that inspiration will provide the light to guide them safely home.

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