As I write this, ash comes down like snowflakes. Wind gusts hitting 60 m.p.h. hurl the fire from ridge to mountain ridge, each time a bit closer to us. A battalion of firefighting helicopters passes by overhead, creating a constant drone. And authorities have told our community to prepare in case we suddenly need to evacuate.
So, the car is in the driveway pointing out, and we've tossed a few items in it. It's crazy, the stuff you momentarily think is important. Forget the china, but what about the photo album? The 16-year-old made sure to stash his homework in the car. Can you imagine that? I am in awe of how conscientious he is, and I wonder what it must be like to live life being that diligent.
We are in the line of the fire, but we don't yet know how far that line extends and if it will reach all the way to us. But more important - much more important - we are in the line of prayer. And we do know that it reaches all the way to us, encircles us, envelops us in the Almighty's care, just as it does our neighbors and the neighboring towns, including those in the midst of the blaze.
And taking time to acknowledge that fact is why I pause for a few minutes here at my computer. Of course, I may never send this dispatch. I may not even get to finish it. But I know that sitting here, writing, is one good way to focus my prayer, to remind myself of the wonderfully positive difference that the divine presence - realized as at hand with all its inspiring, protecting power - makes. I've seen that too many times to doubt.
An obvious Bible story leaps to mind. I think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the three young Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace as a punishment for their unflagging faith in God and their refusal to worship a golden image set up by the king. Suddenly, I think of how young many of the firefighters look as they're shown on TV this morning. Are they about the same age as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Do those firefighters, some of them at least, believe in the same God? I feel certain of that.
Then, I think again about how the king peered into the furnace and in amazement had this exchange with his staff: "Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Dan. 3:24-25).
I wonder, How did the king know what the Son of God looked like? This happened long before Christ Jesus. Then I conclude, for the moment at least, the king simply couldn't mistake something that wonderful. Besides, what else could he assume, looking in and seeing all four of them safe, all four untouched by the flames? The three young Hebrews were obviously in the presence of something that was saving and protecting them.
And I am intensely grateful to know that the Christ, in the form of the fourth, is right here now with all the young men and women on the front lines, who are battling this blaze. I know one way to think of Christ is as the message from God to human consciousness. I know that message is one of assurance and inspiration and power.
God is in control. No matter how things may look, I'm doing more good, I remind myself, to acknowledge the message from God that He is in control. And the more vividly I see that in prayer, the more I'll contribute to the practical good so needed; the more I'll be prayerfully engaging the inspiration that can give all of us, including my neighbors, including those fighting on the front lines, the insight to do the right thing and be in the right place. Can I recall that each one of us is in the presence of Christ and therefore has access to just the right inspired thoughts they may need? I can. I will.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, "Holy inspiration has created states of mind which have been able to nullify the action of the flames, as in the Bible case of the three young Hebrew captives, cast into the Babylonian furnace; while an opposite mental state might produce spontaneous combustion" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 161).
Gotta go now. I want to see more of what the king saw back in Bible times when he peered into the furnace and saw them all safe. All four of them.