One morning I climbed up a knoll on the eastern edge of our property, one of three sides that adjoin a national forest. Up there the view expands for miles. Scanning the horizon, I looked for any wisp of smoke. I braced myself against the Santa Ana winds that were already stiff on what everyone expected to be another fierce day of firefighting in California.
The winds were quiet overnight, but by 4 a.m. they’d kicked up again, gusting hard across our bone-dry valley. Although I didn’t see any sign of fire on the horizon, I knew I’d return later to check. Hiking back down to our mountain house, I was grateful for another moment without fire.
When we’d moved there, one of our first actions had been to create some defensible space around the house by clearing off the brush that hugged it too closely. It’s what every fire station in these parts pleads with homeowners to do.
At one time, I would have been thinking mainly about the safety of the house as I cleared the brush. But my concern shifted to focus on the safety of the firefighters who might one day be defending the house. I have a son who is trained as a firefighter. That day, he was somewhere in southern California with a fire crew. So it’s easy to feel that every firefighter, every man or woman on the front line, is, in some sense, kin.
As I think about wildfires, it’s almost automatic for me to want to envelop all the firefighters in prayer. I like to think that each of them is under the Almighty’s care, as the 91st Psalm makes so plain: “He [God] is my refuge and fortress … He shall deliver thee … He shall cover thee … His truth shall be thy shield and buckler” (verses 2-4). As the spiritual, infinitely loved children of God, no one can ever be without the care or intelligence that’s needed.
In the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments are brimming with inspiration that was key to enhancing safety for those most on the front line of whatever threat loomed at the time. It was inspiration that did not erase or replace intelligent strategy, but that acted like a kind of spiritual underpinning to that intelligent strategy. And it offers the same spiritual authority and protection in the face of whatever threatens us today.
For instance, I like to remember the Apostle Paul. He was not in the midst of a howling fire, but in a storm at sea (see Acts 27). Although a prisoner at the time, nothing could stop him from praying, from drawing on divine inspiration. He’d been inspired to advise against the journey. When the authorities ignored that advice, he continued his prayer. But when the ship was overcome in a severe storm, he was able to provide spiritual encouragement and support that led to wise steps being taken. This action gave them all – prisoners, sailors, and soldiers – time to escape to land. Although the ship was lost, everyone aboard survived.
God, the one divine Mind, is a present and powerful source of inspiration for all. When we’re willing to listen, ideas come that direct us to wise, even inspired strategies for combating fires and other threats.
Adapted from an article published in the Christian Science Sentinel, Oct. 24, 2007.